52 dates // 25

52 dates // a thousand threads
The date // A late birthday dinner down south.

On Saturday, still dazed from our 12am return from Alt and 6am swim team wake-up call the next morning, I’d just ordered Chinese and settled into a zombie-like state on the couch when Mark — slowly, carefully, so as not to provoke the tired beast — proposed an adventure.

And hey, who am I to turn down an adventure?

Or, more accurately, who am I to turn down an adventure that involves food?

We’ve wanted to visit The Shack for months now, and haven’t had the time to make the 3 hour drive down to Staunton. But given that we pretty much forgot to celebrate that whole birthday thing (and let’s be honest, Father’s Day before it) we were overdue for a little party.

52 dates // a thousand threads
Along the way, we chatted about Alt, made a few new plans, and stopped off for pictures on the side of the road. Because what else do you do when you’re out on a 3 hour drive for food?

Then we made our way to The Shack just in time to sit down for the pré fixe menu they only offer on Friday and Saturday nights.

… and just in time to wonder what’s taken us so damn long to get there.

Chef Ian Boden’s 26 seat “Shack” serves up an expertly crafted 3 or 4 course menu at a price that’s tough to beat (just $45-$55). And if the idea is to under promise and over deliver, well the first part didn’t pan out for us – we had high expectations walking in – but the second still stood. Melt-in-your-mouth herb gnocchi topped with tender duck breast, chanterelles, pickled cherries and spiced duck jus; an inspired pea salad with bacon and creme fraiche; and one of the most delicate panna cottas I’ve ever tasted (with a crisp, chewy chocolate chip cookie on the side) were just a few of the amazing things we were lucky enough to try.

But the chef himself was the icing on the cake. If you don’t catch the uber-cool, down to earth Ian in between dishes, chatting with guests, take a trip to the bathroom and wave on the way by.

52 dates // a thousand threads
The tiny place, not big enough to even think to separate the two, doesn’t need to resort to fancy digs to prove its worth. The tiny dining room gives way to a tinier space in the back, in the kind of atmosphere where only the best kind of magic happens.

Having just embarked on our own tiny food venture, maybe it’s just us… but it’s the places like this that keep us moving forward. Eavesdropping on another table, we listened to Ian recount the sacrifices he’s made to build his Shack, graciously accepting the praise he so deserves, and were reminded – just as we were by our new best friends from Alt (seriously they’re never getting rid of us… but more on Alt to come…) – that success isn’t easy. Long nights, early mornings, aching hands and more than a few minor breakdowns have become a daily occurrence in our lives, but we’re making it happen, slowly, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

We spent the drive home still buzzing about the good food, the great place, and the fantastic chef who’s blowing everybody else away down south.

Then we set back to making more plans.

52 dates // a thousand threads
P.S. See the rest of our 52 dates series here!


  1. Posted June 23, 2014 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    This sounds like the most amazing evening! I love little unexpected gems like this.

  2. Posted June 23, 2014 at 11:26 pm | Permalink

    I seriously love how you are such a trooper… and driving 3 hours for food? Totally have done that. But this place seems amazing – the chef chatting with guests? You don’t see that too often. Hope you had a wonderful birthday, pretty lady! xo

  3. Posted June 24, 2014 at 12:59 am | Permalink

    victoria’s right, you’re a trooper! you look great too 😉

  4. Posted June 24, 2014 at 1:13 am | Permalink

    I heard great things about your editorial calendar roundtable – looking forward to hearing what else you thought about Alt this time around!

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