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Chef behind Veritas Supper Series promises to have diners' 'eyes rolling back in their heads'

When Veritas Vineyard & Winery opens the second season of its Supper Series at 6:30 p.m. Friday, guest chef Rachael Harris will be sharing “a kind of a menu of things I make for my friends.”

Harris, who draws on culinary experiences from her time serving in the U.S. Navy and working in Washington, D.C.-area restaurants and blends in her own farm-to-table fondness for Appalachian and Shenandoah Valley foodways, enjoys presenting simple foods with emotional impact.

“I just want it to be really nice,” Harris said. She savors seeing when “something simple, like a biscuit or a cookie,” send diners’ “eyes rolling back in their heads.”

“My menu is fairly simple compared to everybody else’s,” Harris said of the Supper Series. “There’s so much good food here, and there are so many good people.”

Biscuits are one of Harris’ deceptively simple specialties, and she opens her menu with petite country ham biscuits served with local jam. They’re followed by Burner’s Beef tartare with sourdough crackers and pickled local vegetables.

Her red-eye mushroom grits include local mushrooms, miso, coffee, Bloody Butcher grits and egg. Lamb ribs are next, served with satsuma, kale, sumac-carrot puree, blistered dates and radicchio.

“It’s my favorite part of the lamb,” Harris said. “Some people are put off by the fat, but if you cut them correctly, the fat renders out.”

Her pavlova features meringue, citrus ambrosia, black cardamom chantilly, passionfruit and lemongrass Pop Rocks.

“Our finisher is a pavlova. Some people are intimidated by it,” Harris said. “Sometimes, it’s not as pretty as it should be, because I’m impatient.”

The wine selections include Scintilla ‘16, Rosé ‘23, Common Wealth Crush “Let’s Be Friends,” Petit Verdot ‘21 and Petit Manseng ‘19. Two of the selections are non-Veritas wines from a Waynesboro wine incubator that offers wider exposure to emerging winemakers who don’t have their own tasting rooms.

That generous approach to bringing people together in both the kitchen and the dining room is important to Harris. Her favorite cuisines range from Louisiana to Turkey, and her exposure to California cooking gave her a new fondness for creative combinations of vegetables and vinegars. Harris values being adaptable, versatile and ready to embrace new flavors that can entice people of all backgrounds to her table.

“I was a chef in the Navy, and the Navy has the best cooks in the world,” Harris said. “I got to learn about cultures I’d never learned about before.”

And there’s always room on the menu for her versions of the satisfying Virginia fare she grew up with.

“My big influences are my dad’s mom and my mom’s mom. A lot of my stuff is Appalachian cooking, and I also love French cooking,” she said. “I’m super blessed to be able to work under people who share the wealth and are willing to teach other people.”

Coming up in the series will be meals prepared by John Sleasman of the Bar at Willett on April 19; Randi Brady, bringing cultural fusion influenced by Georgia, Harlem and hip-hop, on May 10; Sarah Rennie of Two Fire Kitchen on June 21; and Adam Bean of Veritas, who will introduce “La Maison Veritas,” evoking a Parisian sidewalk cafe with family-style classics, on July 19.

Jean-Paul Bourgeois will be back for a second season on Aug. 16 with elements of Louisiana cooking and Southern cuisine. On Sept. 13, Michael Hunter of Antler in Toronto, Canada, will be the series’ first international chef. The Supper Series ends with a meal by Andy Shipman, Veritas’ executive chef, on Oct. 18 that will salute the 2024 harvest.

Harris said diners can expect a great meal when her friend Rennie is in the kitchen in June.

“She has the most amazing flavor profiles,” Harris said. “She could just do some toast or something, and it would just be awesome.”

Throughout the rain-or-shine series, meals will range from $200 to $150. In honor of Harris’ service to our country, veterans will receive a 10% discount.

“It’s very important,” Harris said. “Veterans are underserved, and things like this are kind of expensive.” It’s a neighborly matter of “everybody looking out for each other,” she said.

“We go from people telling us where to go and what to eat, and when we get out, we have none of that,” Harris said of the transition to life after military service. “It can be hard to adjust.”

The series’ meals are for ages 21 and older. Wines and sparkling wines are included in the meal prices; soft drinks and water also are available and will be included in the price.

If you have any dietary restrictions or allergies, be sure to get in touch with Veritas 72 hours before the event. The staff can accommodate a wide range of restrictions, including milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, soy and sesame. For details, go to veritaswines.com.

Source: www.dailyprogress.com

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