[Ed. Note: This post has been updated to reflect the final planned menu for the March 18 Hill and Holler dinner.]
It bills itself as “a modern configuration of the farm table,” and in many ways, it is.
With no two dinners alike, Hill and Holler supports varying nonprofits while showcasing the talent of Virginia winemakers, chefs and farmers. The cast of players reads like a who’s who of Virginia food celebrity.
The organization's first dinner of the year carries out that theme in spades and focuses on Aaron Cross, whom Hill and Holler advertised as the new chef of the highly anticipated restaurant Rancho T. Cross, formerly of Charlottesville's Keswick Hall and Lemaire at The Jefferson Hotel, will be serving a coursed meal for 20 with wine pairings designed by Tracey Love, the organizer and owner of Hill and Holler.
"He has been recipe testing and working things out," says Love. "This will be the first time the public will get to taste that food. I know that it swings toward Tex-Mex — Aaron has Puerto Rican heritage. The idea is to keep it pretty casual. Everything will be served family-style with a cocktail hour and maybe an aperitif. Andy Thacker, a friend of mine from Love Canon, will play a little music. Everything needs a little music.”
Though there is still no opening date for Rancho T, the new venture from RVA restaurant greats Ed Vasaio and Tuffy Stone, the sold-out event's lucky diners can get a taste of what's to come at this March 18 dinner in Batesville.
“I met [Cross] when he was at Keswick," Love says. "He wanted to do a premiere for the restaurant but keep it small. And Batesville Market was on board. They have one long farm table that runs down the middle of the store; the place is pretty perfect for the dinner. It will be the menu exclusive premiere for Rancho T."
Here is the final menu planned for March 18:
Rancho T/ Hill & Holler Pop-Up Dinner Menu
Columbian Style Seafood Empanadas with Tomatillo Sauce
Bodegas Cueva Tardana Espumoso Blanco 2013
Oaxacan Green Salad with Cotija and Citrus Vinaigrette
Slow Cooked Pork Shoulder Tamales with Guajillo Salsa and Soft Scrambled Eggs (Sweet Corn if Vegetarian needed)
Traditional Goat Birria
Swiss Chard with Pigeon Peas
Attis Rias Baixas Albarino "Xion" 2013
Vina Ijalba Rioja Tinto Joven "Livor" 2013
Flan con Queso
Castell d'Age Cava Reserva Brut Nature "Anne Marie" NV
Unsurprisingly, the event sold out almost immediately, though Love promises that more dining events are on the way.
“There might be a dinner in Richmond or D.C.," she shares. "We are going to try and do a dinner in the parking lot of Harvest Grocery + Supply on Main Street with Matt Greene of JM Stock Provisions, and perhaps another chef or two, around the first week in June."
Love is intimately familiar with Richmond, holding her first dinner in October of 2011 with The Roosevelt's Lee Gregory. What began as a brainstorming session with Gail Hobbs-Page of Caromont Farm is now a full-fledged effort to bring a different type of local experience to the dining public, where you truly rub elbows with the people who provide the food you're enjoying.
“I want people to trust and expect that they will get a meal that is good," she says, "and not something they can get everywhere.”