Our Local Commons
OCTOBER 24, 2012

Dan Potter, Tim Edmond & Cider-Braised Chicken

Banner for Dan Potter, Tim Edmond & Cider-Braised Chicken
Banner for Dan Potter, Tim Edmond & Cider-Braised Chicken

Photos by Andrea Hubbell and Sarah Cramer Shields, words by Megan Headley.

The guys behind Potter’s Craft Cider, Dan Potter and Tim Edmond, are about as attractive as they come. Not only are they young, handsome, smart, and funny, but they make a tasty alcoholic beverage and can cook a fantastic meal to pair with it.

Dan’s outside throwing a ball for his roommate’s dog when we arrive at the house he rents off Break Heart Road near White Hall. Inside, Tim’s busy in the kitchen wearing a mushroom apron his mother made him over a crisp white shirt. He lives in town with his girlfriend, but is clearly comfortable in Dan’s kitchen, having cooked many meals there. They’re warm, welcoming, and don’t have a single pretense between the two of them.

The 27-year-olds, who met at Princeton, both went on to take jobs in their fields of study after graduating. Tim, originally from Tallahassee, moved to DC to work for a private equity real estate firm. Dan, who grew up in Chapel Hill, returned to North Carolina to work in environmental engineering. It wasn’t long before Dan took a job at the Tuckahoe Plantation, the 18th century estate and farm where Thomas Jefferson lived as a boy.

While there, Dan brewed beer for fun and tried fermenting freshly pressed apple juice in the fall of 2009 with tasty success. Tim would help with the batches when he’d visit on weekends and after realizing that the start-up costs of making cider were lower than beer (it requires one less piece of equipment) and that it was an underpopulated niche, the pair hatched a plan to start a cidery.

Dan was traveling up to Henley’s Orchard for most of his apples, so when they outgrew their production area at Tuckahoe last summer, he set his sights on a space near Charlottesville. An ad for an old vet clinic on a working horse farm in Free Union appeared on Craigslist and with cinder block walls, high ceilings, and floor drains, it was ideal. Dan and Tim quit their jobs and met in the middle, becoming the youngest of the eight Virginia cider makers to help revive this beverage’s colonial-era heyday that vanished after Prohibition.

PHOTO
PHOTO

And this is when those good looks and oodles of charm first came in handy. Over the past year, Dan and Tim have sold kegs and 750ml bottles of their Farmhouse Dry cider to restaurants and retailers the old-fashioned way, going place to place, sharing their story and their cider.

The first two places to carry Potter’s CraftThe Local and Blue Mountain Brewery–are still big supporters and they’ve added another 51 to the list (including a few accounts in Richmond and DC). Its $11 price tag and the label, a wood block of an apple tree by Kentucky artist John Lackey, make it especially appealing, but really, it’s an entirely local product (their apples come from a handful of area growers) that sells itself. “We’re happy to plug into this community that’s so aware,” says Tim.

This is an especially busy time of year for Potter’s Craft. They started pressing and fermenting in September and will continue to through January with apples kept in cold storage. Their second label, Oak Barrel Reserve which gains complexity (and a few additional percentage points of alcohol) from spending three to six months in Laird’s apple brandy barrels, will be on draught at restaurants any day now. Dan and Tim recently planted some apple trees near the cidery, and with their participation in Virginia’s first annual Cider Week November 9th through 18th, the duo has a lot going on.

PHOTO
PHOTO
PHOTO

They’ll always take time out to prepare a big meal for friends though, and they make a great team in the kitchen. Tim, whose father loved “hunkering down” and cooking gourmet meals on the weekends, has his eye on a skillet of crispy, golden potatoes in the oven. He’s following a recipe for duck fat-roasted potatoes from the Chez Panisse cookbook, always looking for an excuse to use the duck fat he gets from friends Joel Slezak and Erica Hellen just down the road at Free Union Grass Farm. The chicken thighs and legs that he browned and braised in apple brandy and cider earlier in the morning are from there too. “We watch their dogs in exchange for meat.”

Dan gets going on the collards, giving them a rough chop before sautéeing them lightly in olive oil, finishing them with a splash of cider vinegar. He didn’t grow up eating elaborate meals, but fondly recalls eating dinner with his family every night. Any free time he spends in his 100 square foot backyard garden, an interest that grew from his time at Tuckahoe. He’s got sweet potatoes, carrots, garlic, onions, radishes, kale, collards, and spinach in eight beds, roasts a Free Union Grass Farm chicken once a week, and entertains friends with meals like chuck roast. It’s a kind of domestic ambition that we’re not used to seeing in young men who live on their own, but one to which Dan’s committed. “You always wish you could do more.”

PHOTO
PHOTO
PHOTO
PHOTO
PHOTO

As if the smell coming from the kitchen could get any more enticing, Tim browns slices of apples and lardons of bacon in butter while he’s reducing the chicken’s braising liquid. He grabs a small pint of cream from the fridge, tries to open it, and then asks Dan for help. They laugh about this gesture and Tim’s apron as impediments in their effort to portray cider as a manly drink, but we, three happily married women, would buy anything they’re selling. (And we haven’t even tasted the potatoes yet.)

They’ve set the picnic table on the deck with placemats, salad forks (even though there were no salads), dinner forks, knives, and cider glasses etched with the Potter’s Craft label. They bring the spread out in cast iron skillets and pop the cork on a bottle of Potter’s. If they hadn’t handed us paper towels to use as napkins and arranged the flatware differently at each setting, we might have thought they were some new breed of man. The meal was the kind of rustic food we crave and absolutely perfect paired with a fall day and a bottle (or two) of cider. “This is a typical Tuesday, really,” jokes Dan.

PHOTO
PHOTO
PHOTO
PHOTO
PHOTO
PHOTO

We go back for seconds and thirds and Dan sucks the marrow from his chicken bones, a trick he learned from a farmer at Tuckahoe. Tim fetches an uncarbonated bottle of the Oak Barrel Reserve for us to try. It’s distinctly richer than the Farmhouse Dry with a savory hint of celery and fennel seed and, though totally dry, a sweetness that reminds us of crème caramel. We’re beyond full, yet still discuss what we’d eat with it.

Quitting their jobs to start a new business together was a huge risk, but one they haven’t regretted for a second. “I’m getting more out of my environmental engineering degree now than I ever was before,” said Dan. And Tim feels especially lucky to have landed in Charlottesville: “It’s a town where you can see yourself building roots. We’re angling towards building a community, making friends who are doing the same thing and we’re in for the long haul.”

Counting ourselves amongst those friends, we really like the sounds of that.

PHOTO

VIEW RECIPES FROM THIS POST

Cider-Braised Chicken, Duck-fat Potatoes

DEPARTMENTS

COMMENTS