Chefs John and Karen Shields leaving Town House (Chilhowie, VA)
Just got an e-mail blast from them. They're in winter break right now and apparently aren't coming back. Town House and Riverstead will shut down as a result.
Well shoot. Never made it up the hill to visit. It may have been the best restaurant in VA and one of the best in the South, but in a completely oddball location. These culinary destinations in the middle of nowhere unfortunately usually end up pipe dreams. Avenue Sea in Apalachicola, FL was another such gem that just couldn't pull magic in light of reality.
In this case I don't think the location kept customers away. I always ate there mid-week and it generally was pretty full at peak dining time.
The chefs had a baby last year and I suspect that may have had a bit to do with their decision to move. Sometimes once a little one arrives an area is not as appealing especially if you don't have close family and friends nearby. Total speculation on my part though.
I'm so sorry Town House closed! It was on my list of places to try. I remember having the Old Chatham Sheepherding Inn (in New York) on my list of places to try - and it closed before I made the trip.
We have been there twice - once in April of '10 and again last summer in August. We stayed at the Riverstead house in the summer as well. While the stay in the house, the chauffeuring to and from and service were wonderful the food was not as memorable as our first visit. We got to go in the kitchen after and talk to the kitchen staff. I brought up the noticeable change in their veg minestrone soup (the one that went national in photos etc) as it all tasted the same and at our earlier visit was absolutely remarkable with each little veg piece being distinct in flavor. He commented that they changed the way the made it to speed up prep. I sensed a bit of lack of inspiration while Karen was out on maternity as the menu was all a slight variation on the same theme. Most memorable was the dessert Purple Hills. While in the kitchen I asked about the Anti Griddle that chills items super fast on a flat surface. That was used to make Purple Hills but they haven't used it too much since. While there this summer we were one of a handful of tables on a Saturday night. Will be interesting to see what happens next.
Oh darn! I had grand plans to have a meal there when I went up for the FSU v. VT football game this fall. By the way, mikeh, my fellow Tallahassean, this year's SI swimsuit issue was shot at St. George Island and Apalach!