Influential food critic likes the taste of Rappahannock

Crowns county a ‘new Virginia dining destination’

In one fell swoop, Tom Sietsema, the influential food critic of the Washington Post, has done wonders for the Rappahannock County hospitality industry.

Chef John MacPherson and Connor Hartman get set up for the evening dinner at Three Blacksmiths restaurant in Sperryville. By Douglas Graham for the Piedmont Virginian

In the space of several days, Sietsema came calling to Rappahannock County to check out two brand new restaurants, in effect crowning them as worthwhile “destinations” for out of town visitors: Three Blacksmiths, the gastronomic creation of husband-and-wife-team John and Diane McPherson, which opened earlier this summer in Sperryville; and the uncommon Blue Door Kitchen & Inn in Flint Hill, whose talented hosts are Andrea Pace and Reem Arbid.

Sietsema could have easily well written of both restaurants, what’s not there to like?

The Post headline, “Discovering big things in a quaint package at a new Virginia dining destination,” speaks volumes of the snug 16-seat Three Blacksmiths on Main Street in Sperryville.

“Little touches,” Sietsema writes, “make big impressions.”

And then this: “Every table is a chef’s table.”

Music to the ears of the McPhersons — formerly for 13 years of the Foster Harris House in Washington — who painstakingly crafted every inch of the dining room, making sure to position John’s open kitchen and its wood fired hearth in the center of it all.

A solid review by Sietsema does wonders for a novel restaurant like Three Blacksmiths, and it’s no stretch to say that Sperryville and all of Rappahannock County will benefit from the critic’s fine dining experience.

As Sietsema ends his lengthy review, “Three Blacksmiths feels like the dinner party you don’t want to leave.”

As for the Blue Door, the Post food critic recalls how chef Andrea Pace, who last November shuttered the popular Villa Mozart in Fairfax City, got an out-of-the-blue call from a customer who knew he dreamed of opening an inn.

“The Public House in Flint Hill was on the market, she told Pace, and ‘your name is written all over it,’” Sietsema recalls. “No sooner did the chef and his partner, Reem Arbid, drive up the gravel path to the two-story, four-room inn in Rappahannock County than they fell in love with the place.”

By May, the couple were open for business on Zachary Taylor Highway, with Pace in the kitchen and Arbid the hostess and bartender.

“One of a handful of dishes to make the trek from city to country is Pace’s signature rye ravioli, so thin you can see the fresh spinach slipped inside, and rounded out with mountain cheese,” Sietsema writes.
“The Blue Door Kitchen is the uncommon restaurant to impress customers . . .”

His review adds that Pace’s fantasy about opening an inn had the avid skier thinking Colorado or Vermont, “not a mere six miles from the Inn at Little Washington.”

“I never imagined Rappahannock County,” the chef concurred.

“Neighbors seem grateful he’s among them,” the glowing review concludes, “judging from the grapevine and the nightly scene of locals popping up like jack-in-the-boxes when they find one another in the same spot.”

About John McCaslin 403 Articles
John McCaslin is the editor of the Rappahannock News. Email him at