The Times West Virginian

Business

December 8, 2013

Foxfire Restaurant has new facility, menu

PLEASANT VALLEY — Foxfire Restaurant at Heston Farm Winery is giving customers what they want.

Today marks the restaurant’s first day open at its new facility and the launch of its brand new menu. In the last two and a half years, the restaurant has become an increasingly significant part of Heston Farm’s business.

Heston Farm Winery and Pinch Gut Hollow Distillery, owned by Mickey Heston and his wife Julie Smith, opened on May 21, 2011. The 200-acre farm stretches a little over a mile along the Tygart River south of Fairmont. In addition to the two-story winery/distillery facility, Heston Farm features an outdoor venue that can be used for weddings, family reunions, parties and other special occasions.

Smith said the initial plan was to only offer soups, sandwiches and cheese plates in terms of food at the facility, which had a small kitchen to meet those needs. But she and Heston found that people wanted to spend more time in the outdoor courtyard in front of the building. Also, customers began visiting in the evening once a music series was started at the venue, which led the owners to bring in a chef to design a dinner menu.

With increased restaurant business and more people wanting to book parties, they quickly saw that customers wanted more and that they needed to expand the upstairs dining space and the kitchen. Those areas went through further expansions to meet the demand, changes were made to the menu, another build-out took place downstairs, and additional parking was added.

“What was supposed to be a private tasting room wound up being more restaurant space,” Smith said. “It became clear that people really liked the food.”

At the request of customers, Heston Farm Winery began doing its own catering for weddings on the property. Heston and Smith spent the last four months creating a professional kitchen to allow their business to cater special events.

But they also wanted to be able to balance the special events with the restaurant business, and as a result dedicated about three months to expanding the downstairs of the facility in order to put all the dining on one level.

Now, customers don’t have to struggle with the stairs, and the upper level can be designated for overflow seating and special events or meetings.

While the winery and distillery side of the building has the atmosphere of a farmhouse, the new restaurant space has the feel of a horse barn.

The space features booths that look like the horse stalls in a stable, similar to the Biltmore Estate’s restaurant in Asheville, N.C. Customers will also notice carriage doors and other themed decor. Many of the features of the restaurant were custom-made by local businesses.

The restaurant also has a new manager, Devann Hoffman.

With the buildout of the facility’s bottom level, the owners also decided to evaluate the restaurant menu. After getting two years of customer feedback and suggestions, Smith and Heston recognized that people really wanted good seafood and steak, as well as some health options, particularly gluten-free and vegetarian.

So all of those items — and more — were incorporated into a completely new menu with a lot of variety.

“We spent two months getting all our customers — old and new ones — involved in taste-testing,” Smith said. “People have been so helpful. We’ve gotten great reviews on the menu so far. People love it.”

Heston added that the business offers different types and variety of wines, including red, white and rose, and from dry to sweet. Homemade buckwheat whiskey is available, as well as domestic and imported beers and microbrews.

Smith said Foxfire Restaurant’s Sunday brunch, which was started about six months ago, has been a big hit with customers. It features everything from shrimp and grits, chicken pot pie and pot roast, to salads, homemade cinnamon rolls and desserts.

New to Sunday brunch is an omelette station, a Greek yogurt bar with toppings, coffees and fruit smoothies from Beach Coffee Company in Mannington, and specialty teas from The Tea Shoppe in Morgantown.

In the coming weeks, Heston Farm Winery will enclose the porch so that people can move freely between the winery and the restaurant, and will finishing building a kids’ play area this summer. Also, the road leading to the venue was recently widened, and streetlights were added along the road.

About 40 employees help run Foxfire Restaurant, Heston Farm Winery and Pinch Gut Hollow Distillery, Heston said. Smith praised the staff for their hard work and dedication.

Foxfire Restaurant at Heston Farm Winery is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. The winery and distillery’s hours of operation are 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday. For more information, call 304-366-WINE (9463)

Email Jessica Borders at jborders@timeswv.com or follow her on Twitter @JBordersTWV.

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