by: Amy Ciarametaro
The folks at Harper’s Table show their ”Virginia spirit” year-round. That’s why we picked them as featured Tastemakers for September #VaSpiritsMonth!
Executive Chef and Owner Harper Bradshaw has a deep respect for local traditions; and the provisions of the Tidewater region are effortlessly crafted into every dish because quite simply, there’s a rich story to be told. As a personal side note, Chef Bradshaw is perhaps one of the most gracious and humble chefs I’ve had to good fortune of meeting – and his staff exudes just as much warm hospitality as him. If you haven’t dined at Harpers Table in downtown Suffolk yet, you’re missing out on an authentic, welcoming (did I mention affordable?) culinary experience that is truly representative of Virginia’s spirit.
“We love being able to feature local ingredients, whether they are from our garden (just a mile down the road) or from other local sources,” says Whitney Sacdalan, Assistant Manager and Barkeep for Harper’s Table. Whitney is explaining this to me just as Chef Bradshaw walks into the restaurant with heirloom watermelons picked just moments prior as a garnish for her September #VaSpirits cocktail Watermelon Daisy. She continues, “Of course, our most noted item would have to be our softshell crabs from Ben Johnson; however, we also have our house-made sausages with pork from the Cartwright Family Farm in Pungo, the beef for our Table Burger comes from Windhaven in Windsor, and we also have so many beautiful veggies coming from other local farmers.”
Behind the bar Whitney keeps things pretty classic, but she also likes to have fun with newer spirits and local ingredients. “This past summer, I really enjoyed going to the farmer’s market and picking up fresh fruits and turning them into shrubs and syrups for the bar. Not only does it create some great cocktails, but also it is an awesome way to enjoy summer fruits into the early autumn.”
Bartenders and mixologists in our area are just beginning to understand the importance and quality of the spirits that are being distilled right in our back yards. “For such a long time our options were so limited, but now we have access to some amazing vodkas, gins, moonshines and more. I am excited to see how Virginia whiskies will take off even more in the next few years with so many distilleries still aging their whiskey.” Whitney brings up a point that we are seeing more Virginia distilleries aging spirits long term, such as Virginia Distillery Company who is maturing their Virginia Highland Malt Whisky for up to 18 years.
If you’re in Suffolk, make sure you stop by Harper’s Table and ask Whitney Sacdalan for her September #VaSpiritsMonth special cocktails: the Filibuster Ransom or the Watermelon Daisy (or better yet BOTH)! Or, try your hand at prepping these delicious cocktails at home.
Filibuster Ransom, featuring Filibuster Distillery’s Dual Cask Rye
2.5 oz. Filibuster Dual Cask Rye
1 oz. Ransom Vermouth
1 oz. Cappeletti
½ oz. Fresh Lemon Juice
½ oz. 1-1 Simple Syrup
5 Drops of Bittermens Orange Bitters
Add all ingredients into a mixing glass and stir until well chilled. Strain into a rocks glass and garnish with a flamed orange peel.
Watermelon Daisy, featuring James River Distillery’s Commonwealth Gin
2.5 oz. Commonwealth Gin
1 oz. Dolin Blanc
1 oz. Watermelon Syrup
½ oz. Fresh Lime Juice
Add all ingredients into a mixing glass and stir until well chilled. Strain the contents into a coupe glass and garnish with a piece of watermelon.
*Rapid Fire with Whitney Sacdalan of Harper’s Table*
#VaSpirits: Where were you born?
Whitney: I was born in Virginia Beach, but moved to Suffolk when I was in the fifth grade.
#VaSpirits: Tell us some fun tidbits about your daily routine.
Whitney: I used to stop at the Starbucks by my house every day before work, but now I usually just wait to get coffee at work. The blend we use is just unbeatable, so I just keep a coffee creamer stashed in my bar fridge for when I first come in. At the end of the evening, my boyfriend Mike and I will generally meet at Gosport Tavern in Portsmouth for a night cap and a snack; it is just a great place to unwind.
#VaSpirits: Why do you support Virginia producers?
Whitney: I have always thought it was important to support local everything. When I was a kid, my mom would take me with her to the farmer’s market by what used to be the Virginia Beach Amphitheater. In the summertime she would pick out sweet white corn for fritters, tomatoes for the most epic tomato sandwiches, and snap beans so fresh they would stick to your shirt. It was just how I was brought up.
We not only carry spirits from local distilleries behind our bar, but also wines, beers, and ciders from local purveyors. I think it is so awesome being able to change the perception that people seem to have about Virginia products.
#VaSpirits: When you’re not drinking Virginia spirits, what do you enjoy drinking and why?
Whitney: ROSÉ! I cannot get enough dry French rosé in my life. It is just the perfect beverage with fresh seafood, salads, and even pork dishes. Another beverage I have really gotten into recently has been cider, my favorite being The Charred Ordinary from Blue Bee in Richmond. Unlike a lot of ciders, it is super dry with nice acidity, and is almost as effervescent as champagne.
#VaSpirits: Lastly, tell us something unique about the restaurant that we might not already know.
Whitney: The mural behind the bar, it’s an old Coca-Cola sign painted on the outside of the building before the alleyway was built into a building itself. For about 25 years our spot was a Sherwin Williams, but when they started renovations to build Harper’s Table they found the mural behind the wall. It has been covered with a clear coat of paint to help protect it, but otherwise it is untouched. The wooden canopy above our booths is from the old Suffolk Peanut Company, the tables and booths themselves were made with reclaimed wood from old Suffolk barns, while the chairs were all made from wine and whiskey barrels.
Photo credit: Jay Paul