We needed some time away but did not want to drive too far. I knew immediately that I would book us into one of West Virginia’s gems: the Cafe Cimino in Sutton, West Virginia. Located in a very small town about an hour north of Charleston, the restaurant and bed and breakfast provides a cocoon of high quality attention to detail long forgotten by most establishments. Cafe Cimino Country Inn is a full scale country inn, with a gourmet restaurant, luxurious lodging, a full bar by the river, spa services, a wine and a MountainMade giftshop, a firepit, verandas, and lots of places to enjoy on the grounds. Sutton is the county seat of Braxton County. Settled early in the late 1770s because of saltworks, timber and coal resources soon provided an economic reason for continued development. Due to its location on the Elk River and on the regional turnpike, the area was occupied and almost completely destroyed during the Civil War. Most of today’s downtown is of 1890s-1920s construction. A dam across the Elk River forming Sutton Lake provides outdoor recreational opportunities. Although quite small (2010 population around 1000) the town exhibits a strong arts community with the Landmark Studio presenting several plays during the year and the West Virginia Film Makers Festival this past first weekend in October. Controled Eccentrics is one of several art studios in the area.
Tim Urbanic and his wife Melody established the restaurant with the goal of providing excellent food prepared to entice the palate. Much of the food comes from local farms so it is fresh and he can be assured of the quality. He strives to serve organic foods to maximize the healthy aspects of his ingredients. They have a small farm as well as a kitchen garden that provides tomatoes, peppers and much more.
We requested to spend an hour with Chef Tim so he could show us his gardens and plantings on the property but opted to sit inside because of the rain, enjoying a glass of wine and a wonderful appetizer of polenta. We heard of his childhood garden that gave him a love of fresh produce. We learned that the restaurant and the B&B added in 2007 are a second (or perhaps third) career for them. We admired that he was not a culinary school trained chef, but one that turned a love of preparing good food into a commercial enterprise that has been “paying the bills from the first month”, a statement few restaurants can match. Located in county with a small population, they market to the entire state and are consistently rated one of the top restaurants. The 2011 Governor’s Tourism Conference presented Tim and Melody both the 2011 Award for the West Virginia Tourism Professional of the Year as well as the Mountain State Award. The word has spread that this is the place for local food superbly prepared . Andrew Zimmern of the Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods show visited West Virginia a couple of weeks ago for Pocahontas County’s Roadkill Cookoff. He spent some time at Café Cimino and Chef Tim prepared groundhog. Watch for the show to air in March or April.
Tim invited us into the kitchen where Chef Eli and other staff were busy preparing for the evening meal.
Tim showed us wild mushrooms and other ingredients as well as the polenta, prepared in a large pan, and then found paper and pen for Graham to write a family sized version of the recipe.
I enjoyed watching the choreography as the Intermezzo was prepared, a slice of cucumber, topped with mascarpone and a strawberry slice….who would think how well that would go together. It does!
We left them for a few hours with instructions that they were to decide on our meals. When we returned we enjoyed a six course meal including
The other dessert we shared, creme brulee, was gone before we realized that we had forgotten to take a photo!
Meanwhile a local guitarist provided soft music.
Later, TarabRags, a West Virginia family who had been to Morrocco and had a film showing at the West Virginia Film Makers’ Festival, came in and performed Moroccan music and belly dancing.
With all that good food and more than usual wine consumption, we made it to our room in the
Breakfast continued the high quality of food, with a plate of fresh fruit fully ripened and peak flavor, scones and muffins, and a vegetable frittata with two lean strips of bacon and another serving of the polenta. Wonderful coffee topped it off.
We will return. While not inexpensive, the Café Cimino provides an experience of a caliber found in few places. In fact, as we savored the dinner, Graham and I discussed where on the spectrum of our five best restaurants Café Cimino can be placed. We believed it has edged out our previous number one.