Saturday, May 01, 2010
Uncorking a new chapter
Owners of The Landing continue to reach for new heights
Delectable meal, warm breeze, soft lights, waves lapping the nearby shore of Smith Mountain Lake. Does it get much better than a summer evening on the deck at The Landing Restaurant?
Bruno and Tiffany Silva, who are entering their sixth season as owners of the popular SML restaurant, say yes,it can.
"We're always looking for ways to improve the experience here," said Tiffany Silva, citing the couple's newest off-season ventures: conducting intimate cooking classes, perfecting anew menu, organizing special five-course tasting evenings and developing their own private-label wine, which will debut in May.
The Silvas were introduced to the wine idea by Holly Falk, a long-time friend who works in the retail wine business in Northern Virginia and also serves as a wine consultant for The Landing. The trio met last year with the winemaking team at Vint Hill Craft Winery near Warrenton to get the ball rolling on producing a barrel each of Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.
"We were immediately sold on the concept," Tiffany Silva said. "The excitement of the staff at Vint Hill about the whole process was really appealing. When you see that people truly care, you know they are going to put out a great product. The attention to detail is exactly what we strive for here at our restaurant, and we really felt it would be a great match."
Vint Hill, located on a former Army base, doesn't grow its own grapes. Instead, the company imports grapes grown in California and elsewhere in Virginia. An expert team of winemakers then works with individuals and groups to craft customized barrels of wine.
The process starts with design and style selection in the spring and summer. Winemaking starts during the fall harvest,and most wines are bottled between April and August, depending on the type of wine. Each barrel produces approximately 300 bottles of wine, which the Silvas plan to introduce as the restaurant's house offering. Bottles also will be available for individual purchase.
The wine's name – BTZ – combines the first initials of the couple and their 4-year-old daughter Zoe. Tiffany Silva's brother, Ryan Flanders, who earned a fine arts degree from Roberts Wesleyan in Rochester, N.Y.,designed the label.
"He has some artwork in the restaurant and we just love it," Tiffany Silva said. "It was a no-brainer to have him design the label for us. He drew it in ink, and then digitized it. The gold goes with the Chardonnay and will match the foils on the label. When I look at it, I think it's whimsical, something different."
Bruno Silva, the restaurant's executive chef, also has come up with something different for the summertime menu. From Buffalo wing egg rolls ($13) to chocolate beef short ribs ($25), diners will find a wide variety of distinctive appetizers, salads, sandwiches, pasta, seafood and steak.
"The whole concept of the menu is just to have fun," said Bruno Silva, a native of Peru whose culinary style is primarily classic with French influences. "Take the Buffalo wing egg rolls, for example. Take a bite and you taste all of the components – chicken wing sauce, carrots, celery, blue cheese – but you put it in an egg roll and it takes it to a new level."
The chef said his goal is to keep items light, crisp and fresh. In season, most fruits and vegetables are purchased from local growers who avoid using pesticides.
"The quality of the product you're getting is just better," Tiffany Silva said. "It's picked when it's ripe, which is so much better than when someone has to pick it early and then transport it."
New appetizers on the menu include Scallop Benedict ($16), three pan-seared sea scallops topped with a crab Hollandaise sauce and bacon; and Far East Chicken ($12), Asian-spiced chicken atop two crispy sushi rice cakes and served with roasted peanuts.
Bruno Silva said other popular items from the new menu include Pesto Mondolini (fresh pasta topped with basil pesto, roasted pistachio nuts, pecorino romano cheese and fresh ricotta for $21) and the chocolate beef short ribs (boneless braised short ribs served with parmesan potatoes and fresh snow peas for $25).
Some menu favorites were retained,including the Ahi tuna duet ($18), Thai Basil mussels ($14) and mini Kobe burgers ($12).
"Sometimes when I take things off, people will ask, ‘What's going on?'" Bruno Silva said. "People get used to things, but I tell them they need to try something new."
During the winter, the restaurant staff conducted popular cooking classes. In May, "Sunday's with the Chef," a five-course tasting menu that will change each week, will be introduced. The evening will be limited to 30 people and reservations can be made for individuals, couples or small groups.
"Everyone will sit at a community table," Tiffany Silva said. "It will be a great way to enjoy the food together, make new friends and have fun."