Tucked away on Goodstone Inn & Restaurant’s sprawling 265-acre estate, you’ll find a series of quaint guest cottages, a spa, a farm and The Restaurant at Goodstone. The Middleburg, Virginia, hotel is a popular weekend getaway for those looking for a quiet bed and breakfast about an hour from Washington, D.C. But if you’re short on time, a day trip there for some French-inspired cooking may have you dreaming of faraway places, like Burgundy or Bordeaux.
It’s here that chef John Leonard uses classic French cooking to highlight the best in Virginia’s food and wine. The chef and his ingredients can both be described as farm-to-table. Leonard grew up in nearby Lovettsville, Virginia, and went to high school with most of the farmers he now sources for meats, cheeses and vegetables. He plays pick-up basketball with a goat cheese supplier and walks to Goodstone’s farm (within sight distance of the restaurant) for herbs and eggs. These are the farm-fresh ingredients that other chefs will brag about on their menus, but no need to do that here, Leonard says.
Although bragging rights are certainly in order for Goodstone’s wine list. There are more than 1,500 bottles in the Carriage House’s wine cellar. Most varieties are French, but a few dozen come from vineyards in Virginia wine country. Sommelier Stephen Elhafdi knows a thing or two about Leonard’s cooking style, too. The duo spent four years working together at the now-shuttered Kinkead’s in Washington, D.C., and most wines are paired to complement specific dishes.
Leonard isn’t classically trained, but that hasn’t stopped the young chef from working inside kitchens. At six years old, he started at his grandfather’s butcher shop, and by 16 he was a line cook. Since then, Leonard has studied under chefs in New York City, Washington, D.C., and North Carolina. And that experience has paid off. At Goodstone, savor his skills in dishes such as the mushroom strudel, which has a flaky outer crust and a creamy mushroom stuffing. Foie gras is seared then served on roasted French toast in a sour cherry sauce. The dish melds sweet, savory and sour. Whether it’s his kitchen experience or just the fact that Leonard is at home doing what he loves, his French cooking demonstrates a sense of ease and comfort in rural Virginia.