Very, Very Vegan Friendly
The Clifton Inn Welcomes All Diners with Open Arms and Creative Vegetable Cuisine
It is safe to say that even in this era of enlightened eating, not all fine dining chefs, especially in highly acclaimed hotels, are thrilled when vegetarians make a reservation -- let alone vegans. Not so Tucker Yoder, executive chef of Charlottesville’s Clifton Inn. For running the kitchen [and kitchen garden] of this Relais & Châteaux property is a most gentle and harmonious being, for whom farm-to-table is not about following the trendy chef pack -- but a way of life. In the glorious rural countryside just beyond Charlottesville proper, Tucker and his wife home-school their children, using the earth and their kitchen as classroom. Milling their own flour, making their own laundry detergent, and tending to their treasured vegetable garden, are perfectly natural parts of the curriculum. On Saturdays, they visit close friends whose farm supplies the Clifton kitchen, gaining a fuller understanding of the wide seasonal scope of delicious organic ingredients. The dishes they prepare and eat at home highlight the distinctly stand-alone flavor and quality of the ingredients – an approach that Tucker applies in his professional kitchen, as well.
His vegan menu responds, as do all his dishes, to the given season. It might begin with his Mixed Green Salad with Roasted Beets, Candied Pecans, Albemarle Pippin Apples, and Lemon Vinaigrette, followed by a Rutabaga and Pear Soup with Crispy Sage, pickled Apples and Crispy Parsnips. All of the pastas at the Clifton Inn are lovingly hand-made, and the twisted egg-less noodles in the next course are an even match for the precious truffles: Whole Wheat Trofie Pasta with Roasted Wild Mushrooms, Black Truffle, Oregano and Garlic – Yoder is an ardent wild mushroom gatherer. His genius for texture shines in the course of Smoked Celery Root with Housemade Tofu, Celery Root Kraut, Pickled Ginger, and Almond Granola. Dessert, always a delightful moment at Clifton, might feature unexpected herbal notes or a refreshing hint of charred sugar, as in the Poached Apples with Rosemary Sorbet, Brown Sugar Polenta and Burnt Caramel.
Thanks to Tucker Yoder’s inspired palate and ease with his medium, vegan and vegetarian dining at the Clifton Inn is proof positive that, in the right hands, they are art forms equal to the highest classical cuisine.