A young chef who’s worked for a handful of nationally celebrated kitchens across the South just started a new business that will host elaborate outdoor dinners showcasing ingredients from Rappahannock County, Virginia.
Connor Hartman, the culinary brain behind Cicely & Sorrel, is based out of Sperryville, about 80 miles west of D.C. The 29-year-old has an impressive resume that includes a stint as a stagiaire at Husk — the Charleston, South Carolina, restaurant that celebrity chef Sean Brock made famous. Hartman has also worked at the Inn at Little Washington, the only D.C. area restaurant with three Michelin stars, and was most recently a sous chef at Three Blacksmiths, a Sperryville spot near Shenandoah National Park that Washington Post critic Tom Sietsema included in his spring dining guide as one the 10 best new restaurants in the area.
Cicely & Sorrel’s first dinners will be Saturday, August 31, and Sunday, September 1. Nine-course tasting menus will center around mushrooms and berries. So customers can expect foraged wineberries, blackberries, and mulberries, as well as regionally raised red and white currants, raspberries, and black gooseberries. Hartman will be gathering oyster mushrooms, chanterelles, and black trumpets and complementing them with products from Madison Mushrooms.
Through October, Cicely & Sorrel’s dinners will take place on the hillside of a 28-acre farm in Amissville, Virginia, that overlooks the Blue Ridge Mountains.
The menu is not finalized, but the chef has discussed preparing berries in sweetgrass broth with wild fennel and hyssop and placing marinated, grilled king trumpet mushroom on top of a turnip risotto with seaweed emulsion.
Since the startup doesn’t have an alcohol license yet, the meal will be complemented by a series of zero-proof beverages, including kombucha and fresh juice.
Hartman has partnered with Nicole Giller, 23, of Amissville, Virginia, who has worked as a server at several Virginia establishments.
The name of the venture comes from Hartman’s love of foraging, botanicals, and the outdoors. Sweet cicely is a wild herb with flavors similar to vanilla and anise. Wood sorrel is a tart, lemony herb.
“We liked the play between a sweet and a sour note,” Hartman says.
The duo plans to do one weekend’s worth of dinners every month, which will be announced through their email list. Each of the meals will have a theme, though they won’t necessarily be based around certain ingredients.
Meals will be served at a communal table dressed up with floral arrangements and succulents. There is no dress code.
“Come however you want,” Hartman says. “You’re welcome to wear a full-blown suit and tie or basketball shorts and flip flops.”
As the weather cools, the duo will move the supper series to a to-be-determined indoor venue in Rappahannock County. These dinners could be the start of a more permanent venture. “We’ve discussed a brick and mortar, but we’re still figuring out the logistics,” Hartman says.
In the meantime, the partnership is available for catering gigs in between their dinners.
Tickets to Cicely & Sorrel’s dinners are $105 per person, which includes the nine-course tasting menu, beverages, tax, and gratuity. Reservations are available via email.
Updated Tuesday, August 6: This article has been updated to reflect that Connor Hartman was a stagiaire at Husk.