While you were working and taking care of the kids, a different concept in dining has taken hold in Troutville, just across the road behind the Bank of Botetourt. At Diana Dixon’s Pomegranate, fine dining, meaning excellently and professionally prepared and presented food, paired with live music, makes for a destination evening. As she calls it, a “casually elegant” time, not stuffy, where everything’s in one location with easy parking, too. “Come enjoy the food and stay – the live music starts around 8.”
The secret of the wonderful food at Pomegranate lies in the artistry of the executive chef, Tony Pope, 38. He had owned Le Bistro in downtown Roanoke for 4 years, but sold out last summer. Then a friend recommended him to Dixon, where he now dazzles diners.
Pope started life in West Virginia, but worked throughout the country for the past 14 years. He studied at the culinary school in Charleston, SC, after college. “In college, I worked in restaurants, waiting tables. I always enjoyed cooking, so I got a job cooking part time. That made me think about it as a career. I love everything about the restaurant business, working in restaurants and going to them.”
His talent shone through. Afer a spell at the Greenbrier as a sous chef, the second in command in the kitchen, he rose to executive chef in New York. Then came Le Bistro in Roanoke, and now he manages the kitchen at Pomegranate.
What does an executive chef do? “I manage food costs, do the buying, plan menus, also cook. I’m in charge of all of the duties of the operation.” Like so many management people, he averages a 10-hour day, sometimes going to 12.
When cooking, he loves to make fresh pastas, such as ravioli, and to prepare seafood and wild game. “I’ve had quail on my menu, and done a lot of venison and rabbit. We source local ingredients and support local farms as much as we possibly can.” And they grow many of their own herbs and tomatoes, some right there on the restaurant grounds. “I don’t do anything out of a can,” he emphasized.
Although he and his wife enjoy traveling, golfing, and hiking, for his work hours “I’m doing what I wanted to do, making people happy. It’s gratifying.”
Now what would fine dining do without wine? House and wine manager Alejandro Rivera suggests the perfect bottle to go with the food. He also uses the expertise of Botetourt’s own wine expert, Kimberly Eakin, who started her Wine Gourmet here in Daleville. Plus he sees to it that Botetourt wines appear.
How did Rivera, a native of Arizona, come to live in Botetourt’s Troutville? Easy. He met DeeAnn Bishop, Diana Dixon’s daughter, when she was studying Asian medicine. She now runs the Blue Ridge Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine Clinic and has been living with Rivera for 10 years.
“When I moved here,” Rivera said, “I worked at Frankie Rowland’s steak house as manager and wine buyer and trainer. I left to help open this restaurant. We’d been planning this for at least four years prior to opening the doors in November of ‘08.”
Planning continues. Dixon wants to add outdoor dining and a cigar lounge. And turn a huge second story into an art gallery, with space for banquets and weddings. To this end, she’s looking for investors.
Dixon has promised the use of her cellar for a Halloween haunted house. Appropriate, since she and some of her staff have seen a ghost. Mostly, as Pope said, “we’re eager to get word out. We want everybody in this area to know what we’re doing.”
For information about Pomegranate’s restaurant hours and names of bands performing, call 540-966-6052, or go to www.pomegranateva.com.