Now that the weather has warmed up, our chefs are back in the gardens, continuing the agricultural mission of our founding fathers. They don’t just experiment with fresh herbs, fruits, and vegetables in their recipes—they actually grow most of the plants themselves right here in the Historic Area and use them for cooking demonstrations inside our Taste Studio!
Every Tuesday morning, our executive and apprentice chefs shed their white coats and fancy hats for jeans and t-shirts—and get down and dirty! In a little reserved plot of earth behind King’s Arms Tavern—they dig, cultivate, and prune an array of heirloom herbs and vegetables. Each seed that’s planted will eventually sprout into a food that was once grown in 18th-century Williamsburg. This reality adds to the authenticity of not just our culinary programs but every meal that’s prepped in one of our hotel or tavern kitchens. Most are colonial versions of produce we find in supermarkets today. The flavors may be sweeter, the leaves larger, or they could have a different color than what we’re used to seeing.
The root of this passion for fresh, locally-grown ingredients goes back…. way back! Did you know that Thomas Jefferson was an avid experimental gardener who dabbled in more than 700 different food plants? In fact, he said of fennel (his favorite), “It’s unique in flavor above all other vegetables.” We know because Jefferson took meticulous notes. He often exchanged them with George Washington who also had a green thumb and was big into composting—before it was even a “thing!”
The goal of our Chef’s Garden Tour & Tastings is to mix little nuggets of history like this into actual cooking sessions where you then get to sample what you’ve learned about. Tickets are $33.50 and each program lasts two hours; they’re usually in the morning. You meet at our Taste Studio (adjacent to the Inn and across from the Lodge) where you can drop off your coats, purses, and other personal belongings. Then, you walk the two blocks or so (be sure to wear comfortable shoes) to the King’s Arms Garden where our chef will talk more about the growing processes, answer any questions, and provide some fun history along the way!
Here’s a link to the schedule to see if any of these sessions will be taking place during your vacation. You’ll find a little bit of everything: mushrooms, leeks, carrots, asparagus, and the list goes on. I’m personally excited about the upcoming summer events featuring blueberries and strawberries!