Terrapin 2.0: Farm-fueled, color-blazed, and fired up

by | Jan 30, 2020 | Other News

Einhorn’s Grateful Dead tickets.

If you ask chef Amy Brandt what makes Terrapin in Virginia Beach the area’s marriage proposal mecca, she’ll propose two main ingredients.

“There’s only one restaurant in the area with the intimacy of Terrapin and 100% integrity in everything they do,” says the former Lucky Star chef/co-owner and farm-to-table trailblazer. “Every facet of Terrapin, from the service to the consistency, makes you feel so comfortable when you’re there. Like family.”

Chef co-owner Rodney Einhorn confesses to anxiety-stirring perfectionism. “What most people don’t know about me is I’m a nervous wreck,” he says. “I’m very shy. I have anxiety about cooking for people. Not everyone is going to love what you do and I’m ok with that, but people are quick to cut you down. It took me a long time to deal with that. I used to do a ton of events. Not anymore. Most people wouldn’t peg me as shy, but I’d rather be out in the woods with my dog!”

Einhorn was born and raised in Tidewater, the only son of Gerald and Dianne Einhorn. His paternal grandfather, William “Willie” Einhorn, was one of the founders of Hebrew Academy of Tidewater (now Strelitz International Academy). “We went to Ohef Sholom on Friday nights and always had wonderful holiday dinners,” says Einhorn.

Terrapin is Einhorn’s first ‘baby.’ Its namesake dates back to the 1990s when he worked for Greenpeace and became a Deadhead. It’s not every day that a Jerry Garcia-inspired restaurant, conceived by a lanky Jewish chef from Virginia Beach, is honored with James Beard AAA four-diamond distinction.

Last year, Einhorn and GM/co-owner Brian Williams fulfilled their vision to make Terrapin more fun and less fancy, completing the first rebranding and major cosmetic makeover since 2006.

“Instead of coming to dine, people come just for a meal,” says Einhorn. “We got tired of the white tablecloths, the dark décor, and the high prices.”

The new vibe, with way more Grateful Dead music, morphed Terrapin from formal to fun; dark to light; serious to simple, and pricey to palatable.

Jerry Garcia’s psychedelic handprint.

Visual references to the restaurant’s origin story spring to life on the walls in the form of a multi-hued soundwave of ‘the Dead’s’ song Terrapin Station, Jerry Garcia’s psychedelic handprint (sans a middle finger) and Einhorn’s Grateful Dead concert ticket stubs.

A remastered menu was designed for sharable, family-style meals fueled by new kitchen toys such as the Josper charcoal/grill/oven, and the pasta extruder, prodding the jump from two handmade pastas to six or more. Josper-blessed dishes, with taste you can’t miss, such as whole chickens, grass-fed burgers, and crispy duck, are the result of Chef de Cuisine Patrick Dunn’s Josper awakening. Many Terrapin originals such as bouillabaisse and truffle mac-n-cheese survived the rebrand. Foraging forward, farm meets fantasy in deserts and pastries by pastry chefs, each of whom has been an unstoppable match for Einhorn’s originality and mastery.

The Terrapin family expanded in September 2019 when Rodney and Amanda Einhorn welcomed first child Ella Hope. Before Amanda returned to work from maternity leave, the first-time parents enrolled their daughter at Strelitz International Academy’s pre-school because of their “implicit trust” in SIA. “We absolutely love Strelitz,” says Einhorn. “Every single person at Strelitz is wonderful.”

Swaddled in juxtapositions, Terrapin 2.0, makes the point that special occasions and no occasion can co-exist. Ditto for obsessively sourced, and impossibly simple and sharable. The Terrapin package is a rare combination of elements. “You can enjoy a thoughtfully sourced meal without having to wear your finest duds,” says Brandt.

Einhorn says, “People tell me, ‘I come here for special occasions. I can’t come in a T-shirt.’ I say, ‘yes you can.’

Second to Einhorn’s passion for the Grateful Dead is his relationship with local farmers. That indoctrination took place working in New York and Aspen, before returning to Virginia Beach where he’s been hailed as a farm-to-table early adopter.

Einhorn calls it “thoughtful sourcing.” What it means is, “who am I buying from? How do they do business? I have to buy from people I trust and care about.” This loops back to the implicit trust he has in SIA. Relinquishing control is not easy for a new parent, or a perfectionist creative force. I’m trying not to ruin what they {the farmers} did. My goal is to keep it simple.”

Conscious coupling meets culinary wizardry
“Everything I do here is based on love. Love of food. Love of commitment. Love of sourcing and love for my local farmers,” says Einhorn.

Einhorn tossed all those elements together into the most popular (and romantic) salad in Terrapin history. “My wife loves beets. I hate them,” he says. “I just met John Cromwell and we hit it off.” So, Einhorn did what any husband would do. He asked the farmer to grow the baby beets his wife loved so he could compose a beet salad just for her. “It was the first time a chef approached John to grow something for a restaurant,” says Einhorn. Whenever people ask Einhorn for the ‘garden of love salad’ recipe, he gladly shares it.

“I never hold anything to myself,” says Einhorn. “Almost everything that comes through here is something Patrick and I have fallen in love with and need to share. Giving and sharing like that comes from my mother. And, my grandmother.”

Terrapin has been the go-to for countless marriage proposals and anniversary dinners. “One couple came back and let us do their wedding here,” says Einhorn, “Chuppah and all.”

“Those peace and love vibes just keep flowing making it the spot to make a memory,” says Brandt.