Culinary Artist David McClure Working His Magic for Habitat Fundraiser That Promises to be an Epic Evening

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An open fire.

Freshly sourced local ingredients.

Chef David McClure and the team from Amber Ox Public House.

That three-way combination is culinary magic expressed in a four-course dinner that will benefit the House That Small Business Built, a Habitat for Humanity Peninsula and Greater Williamsburg home under construction and funded by the efforts of small businesses throughout the region.

All of the proceeds of Home Grown, a farm-to-table dinner set for Oct. 11 in the pasture of Reckon Acres, a Charles City County working farm, will go toward the fundraiser.

“Making any dinner where 100% of the proceeds go toward building a house for a family, being able to cook and do something you love that will end up helping other people, is amazing,” says David, one of the signature chefs in the region who put the themed menu together with Against the Grain Restaurants owners Andrew Voss and Chris Cook.

Against the Grain Restaurants is a modern restaurant and hospitality company located in Williamsburg, Virginia. Featuring four dynamic restaurant brands, and their new Reckon Acres farm, they are known for creating exceptional food and beverage experiences unlike any other around.

This Habitat home will be sold to a widowed father, who will live there with four of his six children.

The Home Grown evening will begin with hors d’oeuvres, what David describes as a Peruvian ceviche, blue crab potato causa with salsa Macha, pastrami cured beef tongue and papa rellena with eggplant tapenade.

The vegetables will be charred directly on the embers of an open fire, a nod to the simpler times when open fire cooking was the only choice. The potatoes will be fried and stuffed with eggplant. The beef tongue, a tender, pleasant chew that meat lovers often describe as the most flavorful beef they’ve tasted, is a treat that will be an introduction for most diners.

“It all starts with taking Virginia products and doing something special with them,” David says. “This is cooking in its simplest form using live fire. There’s going to be all these flavors introduced to Virginia products that we’re not used to.”

Dinner in the pasture will showcase the best of Amber Ox, where David has been Executive Chef since the summer of 2020. The seasonally inspired, progressive brewpub that specializes in classic Southern fare with a contemporary twist reminds us that we connect to our roots and each other with every bite.

Assorted dips, spreads, humus, cultured butter, jam and preserves will accompany cold vegetables, Bake Shop sourdough and biscuits as part of the first course.

“The second course will show what we do well – vegetable cookery, pickling, fermentation,” David says. “We’ll have charred pumpkin, glazed and cooked over the open fire. We’ll be using some of the spent grain from the brewery. We’ll smoke whole salmon and get it along with the spent grain into a salad.”

David will smoke the salmon over several hours and serve it shortly after removing it from the fire.

Add to that “four whole pigs we’re smoking with a ton of glaze,” David says, a process that will start 24 hours prior to dinner. He plans to arrive at the farm as early as 8 a.m., 10 hours before guests arrive.

The pigs for the Peril Aji Amarillo Pork Jus are raised at Reckon Acres, which prides itself in healthy land and sustainable farming techniques, including regenerative grazing practices that help build soil health and increase biodiversity at the farm.

“We’ll serve lamb that has been cooked over the smoke,” David says. “We will have six of these that will be more rotisserie style with yogurt and black garlic. Hazelnut-mint gremolata will bring out the flavors of the lamb.”

Wood-roasted petite potatoes and heirloom shelling bean root and vegetable salad are additional sides.

Dessert is a play on Tres leches, a sponge cake soaked in three different kinds of milk, all fresh, of course, along with honey and grilled apples, also fresh.

“It’s actually my wife’s favorite dessert,” David says.

Refreshments range from fall inspired signature cocktails to Virginia wines to craft beer, including draft offerings from the Precious Beer Project.

Everything for the dinner is donated by local businesses, including the white oak wood, an ideal fuel for smoking that imbues a rich, sweet flavor without overwhelming.

The full meal will be laid out family style – a long table with guests seated alongside each other, sharing as one community. One plate will be used for the dinner enjoyed in a pastoral setting. This is the first time Reckon Acres will open to the public.

The entire team from Amber Ox is donating its time and talent that night, led by David, who fell in love with restaurants at a young age. Originally from Philadelphia, he filled up on cheesesteaks and scrapple regularly, but moving to Virginia, he discovered a true bounty — fresh seafood from the Chesapeake Bay.

As a teen he bussed tables and graduated to washing dishes for Berret’s Seafood with its rock star cast of chefs. David remembers meeting Hans Schadler when the iconic chef worked at the Williamsburg Inn.

“He’d give me cookies and veal sweetbread,” David says. “I was probably the only kid who liked liver sandwiches.”

Being mentored by local chefs encouraged David to complete culinary school at Johnson & Wales. He went on to work at Berret’s Seafood and the Williamsburg Winery before joining the team at Amber Ox.

Much of Chef David’s passion is related to being able to cook every part of the meal himself.

“Why buy it if I can do it myself? Why buy smoked bacon when I can smoke it and perfect it?” he asks. “This is what I love to do.”

Purchase tix for Home Grown here.