Sperryville’s Renaissance continues unabated and the newest enterprise, namely Off the Grid, is a delightful and delicious epicurean gastronome addition. It’s a Net-Zero, Zero Waste, Plant Centric, Local, Eco-Conscious, Farm to Table establishment. How’s that for a mouthful?
Sarah Meservey, the owner and longtime Rappahannock resident, along with her core team, whom she proudly calls her pillars of talent — Anita Carshult, Ivan the maestro chef, Elizabeth his wife and Off the Grid’s farmer, and Matthew — have forged together an extraordinary venture.
In a recent visit I toured the edible gardens, checked out their solar arrays, built by Rappahannock resident Aron Weisgerber. If I had an electric car I could have charged up at their Tesla and universal EV charging stations. We toured the mini farm, the chickens who happily forage and with the soil that Off the Grid folks make, enjoy the compost.
We viewed the rain barrels as well as the expansive vegetable gardens and hemp plantings. I learned through Elizabeth of their participation in the re-emerging crop of industrial hemp, through VDAC’s registered program and all the potential uses of this plant that can feed us, clothe us, house us, fuel us and heal the land. Elizabeth shared the intended Off the Grid uses of this remarkable plant include juicing, syrups, teas, greens cooked much like Kale, and more.
Sitting with Sarah under the shade of glorious mature trees lining the rushing Thornton river, amidst deep green lush grass dotted with comfy picnic tables, she spoke animatedly of her journey. She’s enjoyed several professional incarnations, owned and operated a cafe in Sommerville, Mass. (affectionately known to locals as Slumberville), and while she hails from Lexington, Mass., her family is primarily Virginian. She taught Math at George Mason High School in Falls Church, and held several other long term occupations as well. She and her husband own The House on the Hill directly behind Off the Grid. She had a vision to found a cafe, and as her passion is all about energy, and humane health food. A self- described climate activist, she’s also interested in energy and champions free range animals and organic feed for chickens.
Her pillars, as she calls them, are similarly impassioned folks. Together they represent years of expertise in Farm to Table experience from sourcing to cooking to advising and providing consultation to local area farmers. Ivan ran Intelligent Skullery among other enterprises; Elizabeth ran Farm to Table Solutions which she still operates. Anita has extensive experience as well with all things farm to table, and Elizabeth shares with a smile that Anita was hired by Sarah, who in turn recruited Elizabeth and in turn Elizabeth recruited Ivan. Sarah tells that Anita is the mover and shaker, the main point person for the establishment, and Matthew the master of all.
Sarah’s vision is to have a Net Zero Cafe, meaning they source all their own energy. The foods are locally sourced and global, in fact Ivan related, “Taste Global, Eat Local” using locally sourced foods. The menu, which will enjoy core offerings, will have ever changing choices and will be seasonal and include vegetarian, vegan and what Ivan called Flexitarian, meaning meats eaten responsibly. A platter for example with veggies in center plate and choices of pork, beef and more including Ivan’s trademark brined pulled pork and chicken.
His presentations are fabulous. I enjoyed an extraordinary smoked trout open faced sandwich dripping in delicious, rich sauces and marinated fresh vegetables, paper thin sliced carrots and complemented with huge slices of watermelon radishes. Ivan’s homemade chips are from potatoes, beets and sweet potatoes. Ivan relates that they are starting with a limited menu and will build up. It didn’t seem limited to me when I visited! The choices were extensive and included breakfast and lunch; like Banh Mi, local organic roasted chicken with smoked provolone, cucumbers and greens; handmade English muffins, folded with egg with herbs, cheese and sriracha mayo — add Whiffletree farm sausage, avocado and Shiitake bacon, myriad assorted salads, sides and scrumptious desserts. They make their own blended organic teas, juices and syrups, kombucha, smoothies and their own sodas including a ginger ale made with real ginger, the best I’ve ever had. It is a place that offers what Elizabeth calls, “Boutiquey Gourmet.”
Sarah envisions it to be a place for everyone, from local farmers and neighbors to weekenders, and folks simply passing through. The interior, after massive renovations, oozes ambiance and of course the quaint picnic tables that line the banks of the Thornton River can be described as nothing less than homey and country. Norman Rockwell, I’m sure is looking down from above, wishing he could paint the people and scenery.
Sarah shares of future plans, including perhaps soft music on the river to accompany the picnickers, a liquor license, developing flash frozen meals to go, for 2 or 4, what she calls “Farm to Freezer” wherein the nutrients are captured almost 100 percent. She laughs and tells, “I thought I invented the term and concept but apparently not!” She shared that many folks, don’t realize that refrigerating fresh foods even over a short period of time results in a 50 percent loss in nutrients..
Clearly, good stewardship is the philosophy of Off the Grid, a philosophy celebrated in this beautiful county by many and so to Sarah, Matt, Elizabeth, Anita and Ivan, a hearty welcome, we wish you the best. Visit their FB site: https://www.facebook.com/OTGSperryville/ Current hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, soon to change to 7 p.m.