August 20, 2010

Seasonally Inspired, Locally Acquired

Even Danny Meyer admits that it can take up to three to five years for a restaurant to find it's soul. If Danny Meyer says it's okay, then it's okay.

Zinc is about halfway through it's fourth year and I finally feel like we're finding our soul. And when I say "we" I mean, me. Thomas Leroy opted to leave the precarious world of restaurant ownership to focus on a secure future for his new family. This left me with a unique opportunity to make some changes without appearing to be constantly flip-flopping on our concept.

A dear regular asked me, soon after the sale of shares, to describe my vision for Zinc in five words or less. I knew what I didn't want to be: French or Tapas. But how would I describe to someone what kind of restaurant we are? "Not French"? American Bistro? Do we have to subscribe to a particular cuisine? It's good food, using French techniques and sensibilities but not necessarily French cuisine. Too long. So let's be vague but poignant at the same time: "Seasonally Inspired, Locally Acquired". Hey, if the glove fits....

So what has changed? We dropped the small plates, tapas thing and went back to full size coursed meals. Aesthetically, I'm trying to changing the lighting (expensive!) and trying to outfit the place with a vintage automotive motif to harken to building's original function:

I realize that oil is not the most popular theme these days but at least I'm not buying BP signs. I've got feelers out at three different antique stores for more signs but if anyone comes across some neat ones, holler.

I realize that I say "I" and "me " a lot but I am not ignorant of the fact that I would not be in this position without the staff at Zinc, past and present. I owe a debt of gratitude to Jarrett Freeman's contribution to the development of Zinc's soul. Without him, his enthusiasm, and his urgency, the movement towards farm to table at Zinc would have taken much longer. I wish him all the best back home in Poquoson. I also owe a debt of gratitude to Chef Justin Hershey. His food has elevated Zinc from benchwarmer status to starter material. To be sure, this is his menu, his food. It's clean, it's smart, it's delicious, and I couldn't be happier. Well, I could, if everybody else thought the same...

We didn't make the Best of C-Ville list this year but I'm not too torn up about it. While it would be nice to be recognized, I appreciate all the other buzz we've been getting. Somehow we've been mentioned in the Restaurantarama section for what seems like two or three months in a row for some reason or another. Other mentions have appeared in Edible Blue Ridge magazine, CBS 19 News (both thanks to Edible Blue Ridge editors Steve and Natalie Russell) and on the web on food blogs, MasToMillers. Can't beat free press! And I can't ignore all the love from Best of Cville Winner at Edible Cville via facebook.

Yes, I finally broke down and made a proper facebook page for Zinc to keep followers updated on our specials, upcoming news and events such as: being contacted by the Newsplex once again to do another farm to table story. Which reminds me of a plaque I came across at Colonial Williamsburg:

But enough about me. Here are some food pictures. Everybody likes food pictures:

Justin plates sweetbreads:

Sweetbreads with sauteed baby spinach, bacon, heirloom tomatoes:

Cook Christian Johnston:

Mix of heirloom tomatoes from cook Mike Goeke's garden and Zinc's garden:


  1. You certainly made *my* "Best Of" list this year! (post to be uploaded any day now, lol) and so glad CBS-19 contacted you again. "Seasonally-inspired, locally acquired" is an awesome vision. One I wish other local restaurants would aspire to. Cheers!

  2. You're in many of our best-of categories, too! Next year. Thanks for all the fantastic meals and conversation...

  3. Was just saying that you are in my top 2 C-ville restaurants. I love the local sourcing, and food crafting.