Thursday, July 20, 2017  

The Sycamore at Hobb's Hole
Great Food and Fun Awaits

Nestled within the greens of the Hobb’s Hole Golf Course in Tappahannock you will find a gem of a restaurant. The Sycamore at Hobb’s Hole is quickly becoming a destination for Middle Peninsula and Northern Neck residents to enjoy a lovely meal with friends. Each meal that comes out of the kitchen is almost too beautiful to touch; yet after the first bite any hesitancy quickly melts away.

Frank and Melissa Norton opened the Sycamore at Hobb’s Hole in April 2008. Together, the husband and wife have over thirty years of restaurant experience. Frank, the chef, began working as a sous chef in Albany, New York after graduating from the Culinary Institute of America in 1991. Melissa began her restaurant career as a hostess at the Tobacco Company in Richmond, Virginia during college in 1993.

As Frank traveled throughout the United States advancing his career as a chef, Melissa worked her way up at the Tobacco Company from hostess, to cigarette girl, to cocktail waitress, to bartender, ending as the restaurant’s sales and marketing director. After working in New York, Ohio, and Georgia, Frank found himself accepting a position as Executive Chef for the Omni Hotel in Richmond, which happened to be just across the street from the Tobacco Company. The couple met in downtown Richmond, in 2001, and were married in 2004. They now have two beautiful children: Gavin, 3, and Vivian, 18 months.

During Frank’s four years at the Omni Hotel and two years as Executive Chef at the Dominion Club in Glen Allen, he and Melissa talked on and off about opening their own restaurant. Fate played a hand in this endeavor when Melissa’s best friend helped her father cater an event in Tappahannock. Melissa’s friend was introduced to Billy and Betty Anne Cook, owners of Hobb’s Hole Golf Course, who were looking to lease the restaurant. In December 2007 the two couples met and began working towards opening the restaurant.

While Frank and Melissa may not hail from Tappahannock, they have quickly fallen in love with the charm and beauty that makes this town beloved by its residents. It’s not uncommon to see Melissa or Frank out on the golf course with their guests or sitting to visit inside the restaurant, when they are not preparing food and serving drinks that is. Their fun-loving nature has made them and their food a huge hit in this small town.

Since opening their doors in April this year, the restaurant has garnered quite the following. They are open for dinner Wednesday through Saturday, lunch Tuesday through Saturday, and for Sunday Brunch. They also offer a wide selection of food to the Hobb’s Hole golfers from their Fairway Fare, which can be enjoyed inside the restaurant or picked up and carried back on the course between holes. The restaurant has a full ABC bar that serves both restaurant patrons and golfers.

For those looking for a snack to go with their cocktails the restaurant has created an Eagle Hour Tapas Menu. Each of the tapas items can be enjoyed at the bar, Tuesday through Sunday. Selections include tempura-fried tuna, steamed spiced shrimp, gourmet pretzels, and such finger foods.

Recently the restaurant has begun to offer dinner specials on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Each of the dinner specials is served with a salad, two sides, and a dessert for $25. On Wednesdays guests can enjoy steamed blue crabs, Thursday’s special is Smithfield BBQ Pork Ribs, and on Fridays guests can look forward to Prime Rib.

Aside from these weeknight dinner specials guests can also enjoy selections from their menu, which includes Traditional American, Eclectic Cuisine; ranging in cost between $20-$28. The menu changes weekly based upon the available local produce, seafood, and meats. Everything on the menu is made from scratch; be it the sauces, sides, or even the sausage. All of the meats and seafood are hand cut or filleted to order and all of the vegetables come from local produce stands. All of this is done to ensure that the food is as fresh and flavorful as possible.

Just as you may find Gavin and Vivian doing, Frank is a big fan of playing with food; luckily his variation of playing with food doesn’t make quite the mess. Frank uses his classical training to prepare local favorites in a way his customers may not have tried before. We look at mashed potatoes as a staple here in the South. This classic dish may be prepared at the Sycamore a little differently; perhaps with goat cheese, lobster, or even substituted entirely for whipped Virginia peanuts out of Smithfield. It is these small touches that tantalize the palates of his customers.

While these dishes sound quite delightful, Frank believes that it isn’t one feature to a dish that makes the meal. Each of the entrées served at the Sycamore are closely considered to ensure that the meat, sides, and sauces work together to bring out a beautiful bouquet of flavors.

In classical cuisine each dish is prepared to have four main components; salty, sweet, bitter, and neutral. Each of the plates that come from the kitchen has these qualities. Last week’s menu featured potato wrapped rockfish served with onions braised in butter and a red wine reduction sauce. This meal broke down so that the rockfish was sweet, the potato neutral, the onions salty, and the red wine reduction was bitter. Serving food in this manner ensures a burst of flavor with each bite.

It is Frank’s opinion that dinner should not be something couples and friends do in conjunction with other activities; dinner should be the main event. Food and wine should flow through a group of friends just as conversation does. While food can be prepared quickly when there is a rush, Frank believes it is best when enjoyed without time restraints. Order several appetizers. Try new wines between courses. Take a moment to savor the meal presented to you, and most importantly, enjoy the company you are with. These components all add up to the perfect dining experience; where a movie, dancing, and all other activities can be put off for another day.

When visiting the Sycamore, allow your food to intrigue all of your senses. Take in the sight, smell, sound, and feel of your dish, not just the taste. Some can say that fine dining should be similar to visiting an art museum; all of your senses are awakened. This is just the experience you will have when dining at the Sycamore at Hobb’s Hole. For reservations, or information on this week’s dinner selection, please call the Sycamore at 804-443-4451.