“A name is important. It speaks to the food; it speaks to the place,” says Barry Wildman, owner and head chef of Blue Crab and Purple Pig Bistro (BC&PP), a new restaurant near the intersection of Victory Boulevard and Wythe Creek Road in Poquoson.
Wildman has long held an appreciation for the importance that a name and a sense of place have on a dining experience. Long ago, during his time in the U.S. Coast Guard, Wildman was stationed in Attu, Alaska. Attu, a nearly uninhabited island off of the Alaskan coast, is the most remote installation operated by any branch of the U.S. military. One winter, when the island was blanketed by 10 feet of snow, Wildman sought to spend his leave in a place that is as different as possible from the conditions he was enduring in Attu. Says Wildman, “Four days later, I’m eating pasta and drinking red wine with my brother in Montepulciano, Italy. I literally go from the frozen tundra to the harvest season in one of the best wine regions of the world, eating pasta on a mountaintop overlooking Tuscany.” As the two ate and drank and took in their surroundings, Wildman had his revelation. He said to his brother, “I can take this wine back to Attu, and I can make this pasta, and it’s just not going to be as good.” That’s when Wildman says that “it clicked to me that all food is better with a sense of place.” At the time, Wildman didn’t have plans to open a Poquoson restaurant in the then-distant future, but that experience, nonetheless, has been integral to the creation and operation of BC&PP.
In choosing the name Blue Crab and Purple Pig, Wildman gave his restaurant a sense of place that touches on two Virginia staples: seafood and pork. The name’s uniqueness has also become a way for Wildman to engage with his dinner guests. Every night, Wildman at some point leaves the kitchen to speak with guests in his dining room. There, the name is a focal point, with guests frequently asking about its origins.
It was originally Wildman’s Coast Guard service that brought him to Virginia, a place he had never considered as a potential home state. Life in Virginia, though, quickly made a favorable impression. Specifically, it was on a fall drive along the Colonial Parkway that Wildman made two important realizations: first, he decided that he did, after all, like Virginia, and second, he decided that he never wanted to move away.
In addition to the wonderful culinary traditions with which most Virginian’s are intimately familiar, Virginia’s central location along the Atlantic coast facilitates Wildman’s endeavors as a restaurateur by placing him within reach of foods from neighboring states that might serve to augment his primarily locally sourced menu.
The food isn’t the only spectacular part of the BC&PP experience. Wine lovers will feel right at home enjoying a glass or sharing a bottle. Wildman’s curates his wine selection very carefully. As he puts it, “there is no filler on my wine list.” In fact, BC&PP hosts frequent wine dinners, when guests are treated to specially selected pairings. These, Wildman says, are a big hit with his regular customers.
Future plans of Wildman’s are currently in the works to make his restaurant a truly special location, using the entire property in addition to the building itself. By spring of this year, Blue Crab and Purple Pig Bistro will have patios in front and back, trellised grapes, an impressive (and working) herb garden, a beautiful pond, a large fire pit and an event space. These improvements, Wildman hopes, will create a truly unique restaurant among its competition.
These days, with so many plans in the works for his rapidly growing restaurant, Wildman spends nearly every waking hour on the job. This trend will continue, he believes, until he grows the Blue Crab and Purple Pig Bistro into a restaurant that no longer requires 80-plus weekly hours of his own labor. When he achieves that goal, Wildman has just one plan for his extra time: he plans to spend as much of it as possible with his wife and two children.
TO THE POINT:
Company: Blue Crab and Purple Pig Bistro
Address: 8 Victory Blvd., Poquoson, VA
Contact: Barry Wildman, chef and owner