Dylan Fultineer was in a van driving north when it started snowing Tuesday. He was hauling dozens of Chesapeake Bay oysters up I-95 with cousins Ryan and Travis Croxton, who own Rappahannock Oyster Company and Rappahannock Restaurant in Richmond, Virginia. The gentlemen were en route to City Grit, a venue Sara Simmons opened on Prince Street in 2011 as a place for people to gather and enjoy themselves, and eat inspired food while doing so. Simmons creates the menu for some of the occasions. For others she calls on chefs from around the country. Last night was Fultineer's turn.
"When I came back from Richmond, I was blown away," Simmons said. "I did not eat one thing over the course of three days that was not impeccable, creative, and delicious." Rappahannock was part of that experience and a bigger part of why Simmons chose the restaurant to be first up in City Grit's City Spotlight: Richmond series. "I thought it would be the perfect match to bring the guys from Rappahannock and Dylan up here to be the first chef to kick off the program," she said. On the idea behind City Spotlight, she explained, "Basically, when we go to these cities and we eat our way through, we put together our top picks: where to eat dinner, where you can eat lunch, where you should stay—the things that are most important to us at City Grit. For all the dinners throughout the year," she continued, "every guest will get a dining guide."
The Rappahannock name took root as an oyster farm. "We're oyster farmers first and foremost," Travis noted. The restaurants came later. Rappahannock, their flagship eatery on Grace Street where Fultineer runs the kitchen, just turned one last month. "The first ten years of resurrecting our Grandfather's oyster company we focused on meeting with a lot of producers," Travis said, "and whether it was shepherds, cheese artisans, or wine makers, by opening a restaurant, it allowed us to promote those friendships."
"As farmers, it really meant a lot to us to connect with a chef who cared about farmers," Ryan explained. "Not just to say it or put it on their menu, but really cared about farmers."
"Dylan walks the walk," Travis added.
Fultineer is from Pennsylvania. After stints in Chicago (Blackbird) and California (Hungry Cat), he was ready to return to his home coast. Ryan explained, "Two years ago Travis and I got this wild hair to start thinking about a full-scale restaurant. We always wanted to have some kind of venue where we talked to consumers and brought all these great people that we met in the food industry together. Right about the time we started thinking about this we got a call from Dylan saying he wanted to get back east."
"My style is to keep it very simple," Fultineer said. "I do not go to great lengths to manipulate things. I just like really great products." So that's what he served in various guises in six courses last night. "The idea is to not go above and beyond what we actually do in Richmond," he explained. "It's just to come here and showcase exactly what we do in the restaurant and the products that we get."
In addition to the bounty of seafood from the Chesapeake Bay, the six-course dinner included locally grown/sourced ingredients like persimmon, mushrooms, greens, herbs, cheese, and pig skin. Take a look at each course in the slideshow, and head over to City Grit's website for a list of upcoming events.
About the Author: Craig Cavallo is a writer with an addiction to New York City's food and drink. Learn more about his problem at digestny.com.