FOOD BUZZ: Virginia Is For Food Lovers

Food pilgrims can now make the journey to the acclaimed Town House restaurant in Chilhowie, VA and stay overnight at the Riverstead Inn.

Chefs John Shields and his wife Karen Urie Shields have been blazing the food trail from Chicago to Chilhowie since 2002 and, recently, put the Town House on the national culinary map when John was cited as one of Food & Wine’s 2010 Best New Chefs. Guests come from far and wide to dine at this haute-country cuisine hotspot, which food critics, bloggers and the admiring cognoscenti have been raving about since 2008. The couple is committed to providing the best in forward-thinking American cuisine and John was a semi-finalist in the 2011 James Beard Foundation Awards – the “Oscars” of the gourmet food world.

Located in the rolling blue hills of southwestern Virginia, five hours from Washington DC, the scenic drive is worth the effort because now you can stay for the weekend at their sister property, the Riverstead Inn, situated on a bucolic 30-acre farm overlooking the serene South Fork of the Holston River. Riverstead is a luxurious historical Inn with pedigree, comfort and style in keeping with its rich colonial heritage. The original building was constructed in the Victorian style in 1903 and renovated by craftsmen to retain the property’s original artistry and woodwork in 2009. The beautiful interiors are “farmhouse chic” and local antiques mingle effortlessly in light-filled spaces with modern touches.

The Inn is a peaceful retreat from urban madness with only two guestrooms; each with king beds and fine Italian-made linens and fluffy duvets to snuggle into on cool nights. The bathrooms have large claw-foot tubs to soak in complete with fragrant lavender bath products to soothe your senses. And just in case your feet should get cold, the floors have been fitted with radiant heat. Guests can also make themselves at home in the comfortable living room, elegant dining room and luxurious farm kitchen fully stocked with drinks, breakfast items, and other delicious snacks from John and Karen’s Town House kitchen.

Built in 1750, the original “Town House” was first used as an inn, and eventually evolved into a post office, home, and finally, a resting point for people passing though during the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, and the Civil War. Inside, the walls are adorned with oil paintings and historic Chilhowie photographs below tin ceilings. Renovated in 2008, the design of the restaurant is local and sustainable – fresh flowers and natural objects from southwest Virginia are the only items used to adorn the beautifully set tables in the dining room.

Highlights from the changing seasonal menus include: Thorntree Farms Lamb cooked in ash, with black garlic marmalade, powdered leek, wild rice “polenta,” black trumpet mushrooms, and salsify, paired with a 2005 Domaine Tempier Bandol by the resident sommelier, Charlie Berg; a dish called “Representing Spring Rain,” incorporating spring peas, shaved avocado, banana ice cream, and horseradish with nasturtium leaves, parsley, and parmesan water, lushly presented with droplets of lavender water on the plate, which can be nicely digested with a local hard cider called Foggy Ridge’s “Sweet Stayman”.

And for desert, “Powdered Chocolates” features pure Venezuelan dark and milk chocolates that have been frozen in liquid nitrogen and then pulsed in a blender to powder form. Bergamot ice cream, steamed yuzu sponge, and an aromatic “salad” of herbs gently washed down with a glass of 2007 Vidal-Fleury Muscat Beaumes de Venise in a lemon verbena-scented glass completes the meal, and will have you floating on a cloud as if you had died and gone to heaven.

RATES: Riverstead nightly rates are $425 on Tuesday-Saturday and $300 Sunday-Monday. Room rates are for two guests, and include nightly accommodations with a simple gourmet breakfast prepared by the Town House chefs. Tuesday through Saturday nights, the room rate includes a five-course dinner at Town House (exclusive of tax and gratuity). And wandermelon readers can enjoy a complimentary glass of sparkling wine. Please note the restaurant is annually closed from January to early February.

The Town House also has a food blog and an online shop that sells gourmet maple syrup, granola, oats, faro, coffee, cookie, and pancake mix, as well as a selection of handpicked wines by the sommelier.

To inquire about availability, please call + 1 276 646 8787 or visit: www.townhouseva.com.

Photos courtesy of Town House.

Latest posts by Kate Ayrton


  1. susan stitt on November 4, 2011 at 4:48 am

    great article………. and the food…….dreamy………x

  2. Jennifer on November 10, 2011 at 12:39 pm

    The Town House is amazing… as is the new Riverstead Inn. Recently, my husband and I drove up to Chilhowie from Winston-Salem to eat at the TH and spent the night at Riverstead. It was fabulous… keep in mind that the Town House staff will come to the Inn and pick you up, then drive you back after dinner, so you can take full advantage of Charlie Berg’s services as sommelier. 😉

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