by Anne Tate Bedarf, photos by Derek Bedarf
With a reputation for luxury hotel accommodations and fine dining, Keswick Hall at Monticello’s restaurant Fossett’s might not seem like an obvious choice to those looking for a locavore experience. But with a focus on local food and a homegrown chef, Fossett’s offers a journey into local culinary history that is both accessible and delicious.
Fossett’s is named after Thomas Jefferson’s chief cook at Monticello, Edith Fossett (1787-1854), who also served Jefferson during his presidential years at the White House. The restaurant’s chef, Dean Maupin, shares an authentic connection to Jefferson and Albemarle County. He is an eighth-generation Albemarle County native who developed his food-focused work ethic working with his grandfather at the Maupin Brothers Store in Crozet, which thrived in the 1970s and ’80s, and sourced its produce from the surrounding region.
The family remains well-known locally: Pete Maupin is the longtime produce buyer for the Great Valu Market (formerly IGA) in Crozet. Maupin’s wife, Erin Souder Maupin, is a pastry chef and, according to her husband, “quite special.” She does the majority of the cooking at home, with a focus on comfort dishes like pot roast and roasted chicken.
Maupin describes his cuisine as New American, with a constantly changing menu based on what he feels like cooking as well as the availability of local ingredients. Well-known local sources include Double H Farm, Gryffon’s Aerie, Polyface Farm, and the Local Food Hub. Niche farm sources include Sharondale Farm, which provides gourmet mushrooms; Autumn Olive Farms which provides goat meat; Free Union Grass Farm which provides duck; and Hall Autumn Harvest Farm, which provides Berkshire Hog meat. His fish choices include Virginia oysters, Rag Mountain trout, and Chesapeake Bay rockfish. And this fall he began bringing in an artisanal product designed specifically for Keswick Hall by Richmond-based Sausage Link: the “Albemarle Short Link.”
It is “a sweet-savory breakfast link tasting of pork, apples, funky apple cider, and a peppery punch,” says Maupin.
Albemarle Baking Company provides fresh bread daily, and an on-site pastry chef creates desserts such as the chocolate pavé. The Chef’s Garden is an integral part of the restaurant’s philosophy. Maupin explains that while there is a romantic notion to growing your own food, it serves a much more practical purpose. He says, “it’s a necessity, and very efficient. There’s a real economic connection and it makes total business sense.”
He envisions that he will always grow food, no matter his place of employ. When planning the garden, he focuses on the basics—mixed lettuces, Swiss chard, beets, pea tendrils, peppers, and tomatoes.The garden produces throughout the year; recently harvested baby beets are currently featured on the menu. The only downside Maupin sees to the garden is that the harvest “almost becomes too much—an intriguing challenge!” Virginia gardeners with overflowing baskets of zucchini and cucumbers can surely relate.
Maupin dreams of adding a greenhouse to the venture, allowing Keswick Hall to expand its home-grown bounty. In 2010, Keswick Hall planted its Courtside Vineyard with Petit Manseng, a rare grape from the Gironde region of southwestern France. Richard Hewitt, long-time Sommelier at Keswick Hall— not to be confused with Keswick Vineyards—described the story of the harvest of the first grapes in 2011 with passion. The season was terribly wet, which frustrated all grape growers in the region. His grapes had a 10-day harvest window. Thunderstorms threatened the crop, and Hewitt called on eight friends to help.
Using pool towels, the group picked and dried 600 pounds of grapes, which produced Keswick Hall’s first wine from grapes grown on its grounds. The wine is deliciously bright. The commitment to local food commitment is also reflected in Keswick Hall’s Villa Crawford, which offers a country lunch buffet for under $20. The circa-1912 boiler room has been transformed into a dark, luxe private dining room known as Treble. The name is drawn from Thomas Jefferson, who wrote: “I double the doctor’s recommendation of a glass and a half of wine each day and even treble it with a friend.”
701 Club Drive
Kewsick, VA 22947
Anne Bedarf lives in Albemarle County, Va., where she and her husband Derek keep chickens and run a “Garden Buddy” program from their land near Monticello.