July 1, 2014
Photo credit Jordan Wright
Special to the Alexandria Times
2015 Hyundai Genesis at Salamander Resort & Spa
An hour’s drive to the tony village of Middleburg doesn’t seem far at all when the end game is a posh five-star resort. An overnight stay was planned to coincide with a test drive in Hyundai’s recently launched 2015 Genesis. It seemed an appropriately prestigious match for the latest in luxury properties from founder, Sheila C. Johnson.
For our one-night getaway we chose Salamander Resort & Spa, a spectacularly posh destination in the heart of wine country where horses, spa treatments and gourmet dining were on our “to do” list.
The restored Aldie Mill
Just past Gilbert’s Corners where Route 50 and Route 15 meet, you’ll come into the quaint town of Aldie. If you have an hour or so be sure to stop in at the Aldie Mill Historic Park to tour the four-story grain mill where President James Monroe had his grain ground when he lived at Oak Hill. Flanked by the merchant mill, storehouse and granary, the early 19th century mill is powered by tandem water wheels that still use the original French burr stones. It is quite a sight to behold.
Arriving at the luxury resort midday, we checked in at the concierge desk where guests are offered a complimentary glass of the day’s featured Virginia wine. Very civilized. Strolling around we began to notice the elegance of the hotel and its equestrian themed touches – room numbers decorated with stirrups, horse-and-rider silhouettes emblazoned on porch rails, lamps adorned with horseshoes, and grand reception rooms decorated in the style of many of the manor houses in hunt country. Even the bellmen sport riding breeches here. It’s all quite tasteful and understated. But once you’re on a mission to find these elements you can spy them everywhere, even in the Main reception room, said to have been designed after Dr. Johnson’s private living room.
Sushi in the Gold Cup Wine Bar
We took a simple lunch of sushi with a glass of Virginia wine in the Gold Cup Wine Bar, that takes its name from the area’s august biannual steeplechase race of which Salamander is a major sponsor. Then it was off to a Gluten-Free Cooking Class given by Chef de Cuisine, Chris Edwards. Held in the state-of-the-art demonstration kitchen, the classes are part of an ongoing culinary teaching program, popular with both guests and locals, and overseen by the resort’s Culinary Director, famed DC Chef, Todd Gray.
Chef de Cuisine Chris Edwards teaching the Gluten-Free cooking class
As we learned the science of baking with grains as diverse as buckwheat, sorghum, quinoa and millet, and turning them into popovers and pizza dough, we sipped complimentary champagne and nibbled on Pastry Chef Jason Reaves’ herb-infused version of ice cream sandwiches – - Blackberry Basil, bracketed by almond cookies, and Mint Chocolate, homemade spearmint ice cream swathed in chocolate cookies and dipped in bittersweet curls. Learning can be so stressful.
Herb infused ice cream sandwiches
Next on the agenda was the Mindfulness Trail Ride, a leisurely amble across some of the resort’s 340 acres. Down at the stables, however, we discovered that the previous day’s gullywasher had rendered the trail too slippery, even for our sure-footed steeds. Thankfully all was not lost when at Equestrian Director Sheryl Jordan’s suggestion, we substituted a woodsy ride for a riding lesson with one of the instructors, and after a carriage ride into the village with our coachman, James.
A carriage ride through the storied village of Middleburg
Dinner was in Harrimans Virginia Piedmont Grill. Named after Pamela Harriman, the socialite and former Ambassador to France who owned the original estate, it is the more formal of the two restaurants and a stunning showcase for the skills of Executive Chef Sean McKee. Especially lovely were dishes enhanced by herbs and produce from the property’s two-acre kitchen garden. Mozzarella Caprese salad was really a ball of creamy burrata nestled beside grape tomatoes, olives and fresh basil and came with a tableside drizzle of aged balsamic. Lobster Seviche, served in a glass-lidded box, was strewn with microgreens and cilantro clipped fresh from the kitchen garden.
Lobster Seviche – Mozzarella Caprese Salad – Spring Collection vegetarian entree
Entrées are listed separately from “Cuts” which include beef, lamb and pork from neighboring farms. A choice of seven different gourmet sauces includes escargot in garlic butter, chimichurri and foie gras butter. A vegetarian entrée we found especially delightful was “Spring Collection” – a colorful array of seasonal veggies served with a cylinder of pan-seared polenta. After dinner enjoy a stroll into the field for s’mores at one of the firepits, or catch a game of pool in the wood-paneled game room.
Ribeye steak at Harrimans
Regrettably we passed up sunrise yoga on horseback. It sounded terrific in the brochure, but a dawn-breaking class was not part of our agenda, even if it does involve horses and getting your inner spirit in balance. Instead we languished in the room (all have private patios overlooking the rolling countryside) with a full-on breakfast and freshly made green smoothies, before heading downstairs to the spa where I had booked a rejuvenating Vitamin C facial. The sumptuous treatment involved a face massage with reparative serum, and while that was being absorbed into the skin, a relaxing foot massage. Facials are just one of the dozens of restorative treatments and massages available in the holistically-inspired full-service luxury spa.
The heated infinity pool, one of three
Afterwards a dip in the heated infinity pool, a jungle rain shower, replete with lightening and thunder, and a power nap on mosaic-tiled warming beds, prepared us for our departure.
Mosaic tiled warming beds in the spa
Though the hotel was abuzz with guests due to the Upperville Horse Show (Salamander is also a major sponsor of this oldest horse show in America), we managed to secure a late departure. It wasn’t easy to leave the comfort and luxe, but we toddled off along winding country lanes for a planned tour of RdV Vineyards, where Bordeaux grapes planted on a granite hillside mimic the terroir of the Bordeaux region. Inspired by the unconventional owner’s vision – he lives in an Air Stream trailer on the property – they are producing some of the most revered wines to emerge from Virginia.
RdV vineyards overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains
It is a quiet and modern place, built primarily underground in German Bauhaus style. You won’t see buses filled with tourists, pets, kids or BBQ grills. This is an exclusive and serious experience befitting wines of the highest caliber. You’ll need to reserve in advance, but the informative tour includes a tasting of their premium wines, an experience you won’t soon forget. We left laden with a few bottles, if only to keep the memories alive…
Traveling back on Route 50 in Upperville we decided to while away a few hours at the horse show, where the country’s top riders and their million dollar mounts are put through their paces. We even spied former New York City Mayor Bloomberg’s daughter, Georgina, soaring over some daunting jumps while keeping an ear to owners’ and competitors’ running commentary.
Taking the jumps at the Upperville Horse Show
Building up a ferocious appetite from mentally riding our imaginary horses, we fueled up at Hunter’s Head Tavern in the village. Built in 1750, the restored Colonial log house serves superb British pub fare sourcing meat and eggs from the owner’s nearby Ayrshire farm. Here you’ll find bangers and mash, bubble and squeak, and a terrific shepherd’s pie.
At Hunter’s Head Tavern with the charming patio in the background
I swooned over the liver and onions, a dish as scarce as hen’s teeth these days. Before heading home we raised a pint to one of the tavern’s reputed ghosts.
Liver and Onions sourced from the owner’s Ayrshire Farm certified humanely raised beef
For information and reservations at Salamander Resort & Spa or to learn about their new Tree Top Canopy zipline tours visit www.SalamanderResort.com. For a tour and tasting at RdV in Delaplane, VA, go to www.RdVVineyards.com.
June 18, 2014
Special to The Alexandria Times
The Black Horse Inn in Warrenton
Less than an hour’s drive from Alexandria lies the small burg of Warrenton where tree-lined streets reveal a pedigree that goes back centuries. Its stately architecture reflected in a Classical Revival courthouse, 18th and 19th century mansions, and the Old Jail Museum, an 1808 brick-and-stone structure filled with intriguing arcana and an alleged ghost. The area is known as a refuge for old line Virginia families raising thoroughbreds and children in understated elegance. Unlike avid history buffs exploring Fauquier County for traces of the Civil War and its battlefields, we were in search of good food, good wine, and a luxurious country inn.
Chris Pearmund of Pearmund Winery
Our first stop was Pearmund Cellars, a mile or so off Route 29. Awarded Virginia Wine Lover magazine’s “Best of Readers’ Choice Award for Best Winery” in 2014, the winery credits its success with stunning viogniers, petit verdots, chardonnays and a superb Ameritage (a Bordeaux blend that took gold at the Virginia Governor’s Cup this year).
The tasting room is low-key, wood-paneled and cozy – nothing elaborate with the exception of the wines, which are stellar. Chris Pearmund, a legend among Virginia’s winemakers, was waiting for us. Gracious and knowledgeable, he brought out bottle after bottle, including older wines from his private cellar, which he then generously offered to a small group, who were beyond ecstatic to sample from such precious vintages.
Every summer Pearmund leads wine tours to a different European country. This year, he’ll take a group on a ten-day trip along the Danube. In 2015 he will conduct a tour along the Rhone River in France. Trip info is on the winery’s website www.PearmundCellars.com
We took lunch at the Red Truck Bakery & Market across from the courthouse. Housed in a former filling station it is instantly recognizable by the cherry red ‘54 Ford truck parked out front. Owner Brian Noyes bought it from fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger and christened the store after it. The small shop with the rustic décor is where Noyes turns out notoriously decadent granola and mouth-watering baked goods. Try the Double Chocolate Moonshine Cake made with corn whiskey from the next county.
Curried Chicken Salad sandwich at Red Truck Bakery
Sitting at a communal farm table we gobbled up tomato peach gazpacho, homemade meatloaf and curried chicken salad sandwiches followed by first-of-the-season strawberry rhubarb pie. Noyes sources all his fruits from nearby farms. We left with cranberry orange muffins as big as your fist, whole wheat bread studded with nuts and fruit and bags of the addictive granola. www.RedTruckBakery.com
Along Main Street you’ll find tons of shops. Check out Be Boutique for clothing, handbags and accessories, The Town Duck for gifts and upscale home accessories, and G. Whillikers for old time toys and children’s books. Drop in at Jimmie’s Market for a proper cuppa in the Madison Tea Room while browsing vintage tchotchkes and furnishings from its former life as a 1950’s barbershop. You might like to pick up a bauble or two from Carter & Spence, a particularly fine jeweler featuring high-end designer pieces. And if a horse enthusiast is on your list, you’ll need to stop in at Horse Country Saddlery, where riding gear and tweed jackets share space with fashionable hats suitable for Gold Cup.
The foyer at the Black Horse Inn
The rain was coming down in sheets as we headed to the Black Horse Inn, our sanctuary for the night. Minutes from the center of town, the inn is a stunning 19th century colonial with spacious receiving rooms furnished in elegant period antiques and hunt country décor. Innkeeper Lynn Pirozzoli graciously welcomes guests with an open bar along with cheeses and fresh berries. Since you’re in Virginia Hunt Country, Lynn will arrange for guests to ride in any one of ten local hunts. Guests can bring their own horses or rent made horses from her stables. The estate also offers a novice cross-country course on the property.
Bouillabaisse at The Bridge
Dinner at The Bridge Restaurant and Wine Company, where tables are surrounded by an impressive collection of floor-to-ceiling bottles of wine, was outstanding. The charming two-story restaurant is known for innovative and locally-sourced cuisine, exemplified by a rich rendition of a Marseille-inspired bouillabaisse and giant lump crab cakes over fennel slaw. Locals cherish Monday’s all-you-can-eat mussel nights, gooey Irish cheddar grits, Lobster Mac n’ Cheese, and plates of charcuterie and artisanal cheeses. On Thursdays sample the free tastings of Virginia wines in the stone cellar. www.TheBridgeWarrenton.com.
Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes at The Bridge
On our way back to the inn the skies opened up (so much for a refreshing spring rain) and we returned to the inn where we stayed in the honeymoon suite, amusingly called “Great Expectations”. All nine of the inn’s well-appointed guest rooms have private baths, fine linens and fireplaces. There’s even a separate cottage, the “Hunt Box Suite”, with its own kitchen, Jacuzzi and wet bar. We nodded off to the mesmerizing sounds of torrential rains pinging from the roof of our very own screen porch.
Breakfast at the Black Horse Inn
Morning brought clear skies and sun glistening off fiery pink azaleas, dappling the gazebo and streaming through venerable oaks. After a hearty breakfast augmented by specially requested green smoothies, we toured the inn’s spectacular event space, “The Gilded Fox”. Situated beyond the house in a pretty vale the stately building is framed by boxwood gardens and a garden terrace. www.BlackHorseInn.com
Back in town we stopped for lunch with Shelley Ross, the owner of the Natural Marketplace. A Certified Nutritional Consultant, member of the American Association of Holistic Practitioners and certified in raw food nutrition, when we met she had just returned from a transformational journey to a healing center in Phuket, Thailand.
Reuben sandwiches at the Natural Marketplace
The store can only claim 2,600 square feet of a Colonial house, yet it is filled to the rafters with a comprehensive selection of organic and nutritious foods, cookbooks on healthy eating, and natural supplements. Recently they beat out thousands of stores to win the “The National Retail Award of Excellence”, especially singled out for their sense of mission.
Sitting on the front porch we ate grilled Reuben sammies on sprouted multi-grain bread and sipped on Lemon Cayenne KeVita probiotic drinks, while locals streamed in for fruit smoothies, organic veggie juices and monster stuffed sandwiches – all made to order. The store and small take-out restaurant is a health food lover’s fantasy realized. For information about the marketplace’s holistic therapies and other wellness services, visit www.NaturalMarketplace.com.
Winemaker Sudha Patil of Narmada Winery
On the way home we popped into Narmada Winery in Amissville. Situated on 51 acres of rolling countryside, owners Pandit Patil and his wife, Sudha, brought a slice of India to Amissville, Virginia when they bought their property in 1998, planting acres of vines as a hedge against the boredom of retirement. The tasting room is quite pretty with sage-colored walls adorned with curry-colored Indian scrollwork and the winery’s peacock symbol. Gorgeous handmade ceramic tiles by local artisan Libet Henze of Far Ridge Ceramics frame a large fireplace. A nice variety of Indian foods are offered.
The winery opened in 2009 and almost immediately won the Riverside Wine Competition Chairman’s Award for “1st in Class” for their Cabernet Franc Reserve. Soon after their viognier garnered a Gold Medal in California. While they currently use 75% of their grapes from the property, they soon will up that to 95% estate grown grapes.
We were looking for reds and Sudha brought out her best for us to taste – a 2010 Tannat, a rich, plummy wine – very fruit forward; a 2009 Cab Franc Reserve with echoes of mulberries; and their 2009 Allure, a port-style wine perfect for after dinner cheeses. www.NarmadaWinery.com.
Photo credit Jordan Wright
May issue 2014
Special to Washingtonian Magazine
Hop aboard Amtrak from DC’s Union Station to the newly hip, historic town of Culpeper, Virginia, where the train lets you off at a visitors’ center in a restored 1904 train station. Across the street, a giant “Love” sculpture made from old film reels hints at your mission: Thursday through Saturday nights, plus Saturday afternoons, the Packard Campus Theater at Mount Pony (19053
Mount Pony Rd.; 202-707-9994)—the Library of Congress’s state-of-the-art auditorium—shows free classic films and foreign documentaries, while Sunday matinees ($6) are in downtown’s newly restored State Theatre (305 S. Main St.; 540-829-0292).
When not watching movies, you can browse East Davis Street’s shops, such as Harriet’s General (172 E. Davis St.; 540-317-5995) for American-made wares, the Culpeper Cheese Company (129 E. Davis St.; 540-827-4757) with 100-plus varieties, and My Secret Stash (162 E. Davis St.; 540-825-4694), where throwback candies share real estate with vintage jewelry and furniture.
Book ahead for a Mediterranean inspired dinner at Foti’s Restaurant (219 E. Davis St.; 540-829-8400). Stay at the Euro-elegant Thyme Inn (thymeinfo.com; from $125), with downy duvets and fireplaces. — JORDAN WRIGHT
November 19, 2013
Special to The Alexandria Times
Gaylord National’s ICE Santa Reindeer
Santa and Company won’t get a moment’s rest this holiday season at the Gaylord National Resort. And neither, it seems certain, will his merry elves. If you haven’t gotten the Christmas spirit yet, a visit to the resort will kick it into high gear. Named one of the “Twelve Most Festive Places to Find Holiday Spirit” by AAA, the Gaylord National’s ICE! is bringing a magical Arctic paradise to our region from now until January 5th.
Who cares if the weather is frightful! Inside this winter wonderland you’ll find twice-nightly indoor snowfalls in the 1½-acre atrium replete with gardens and a small stream set amidst a colonial village and a 60-foot-tall glimmering glass “Tree of Light”. Sit beside a water fountain to watch colorful waterspouts soar three stories while dancing to Christmas carols every hour until nine at night.
ICE 2013 at Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center
Just off the 19-story atrium is the main event — ICE! – - a breathtaking village of larger-than-life ice sculptures hand-carved from two million pounds of real ice. This year’s theme interprets Clement C. Moore’s classic poem, “Twas the Night Before Christmas”. The winter wonderland was created by forty master artisans sculpting 5,000 blocks of ice from China’s Songhua River into the most popular themes of Christmas.
ICE 2013 Slide Room
Roaming through the enormous white tent you’ll see all the trappings of the holiday in living color – - from adorable mice all snug in their beds (actually giant teacups) awaiting Santa’s arrival, to Santa on his sleigh with his nine not-so-tiny reindeer. And you needn’t travel to New York when this year’s highlight is the city-in-ice at Christmas. Just hop inside a bright yellow ice taxi and you’re on your way to Rockefeller Center. The interactive exhibit is kept at an icy 9-degrees so despite the big blue loaner parkas issued at the door, be sure to wear your hat and gloves.
Gingy’s Gingerbread Decorating
But the Christmas spirit doesn’t end there. Beneath the tree is a Peeps & Company old-fashioned “Potomac Express Train” for the little ones and Gingy’s Gingerbread Decorating center where the whole family can create a gingerbread house or gingerbread family together. All the sweetest decorations from icing to gumdrops are provided. A life-size “Gingy” presides over the shop giving out heart-warming hugs to all the children.
Another fun activity is getting up close and personal with King Julien, Alex the Lion and their friends at their Madagascar Crack’ A Lackin’ Cook-in Character Breakfast. These crazy guys are always ready to party while you dine on Madagascar-themed breakfast items including a Flingin’ Chimps chocolate fountain. Afterwards join the self-guided interactive scavenger hunt for clues from the Madagascar movie to solve the puzzle. Shrek, Fionna, Donkey and Puss in Boots are there too sharing the meaning of Christmas.
Up on the rooftop overlooking the Potomac River from the 18th floor, Sunday brunch is served. Reservations are strongly advised for this event that sells out every year. The lavish brunch includes delicious savory selections along with gorgeous desserts like Yule log cakes, peppermint whoopee pies, chocolate chestnut s’mores and sticky toffee pudding. Santa is on hand to pose for keepsake photos.
Christmas – Nighty Tree Lighting Show
Dazzling light displays are everywhere from Christmas trees throughout the lobby to two million twinkling LED lights. At night you can even witness the changing colors of the Northern Lights.
The best view and most romantic spot for viewing the snow cascading down is two stories above the garden level at the Old Hickory Steakhouse bar where you can pass the time while sipping Yule time spirits.
To purchase tickets to ICE! and ‘Brunch with Santa’ or to check on schedules for the hotel’s free events visit http://nationalharbor.com/event/ice-at-gaylord-national for information or call 301 965-4000.
Potomac Express in Atrium
October 10, 2013
Special to The Alexandria Times
The “Love” sign crafted from old film reels welcomes visitors to Culpeper
Historians have recorded Culpeper’s impact on the Civil War from its battlefields to its illustrious residents and their military legacy. Better known for battle re-enactments, a biplane “Flying Circus” airshow and “living history” encampments the area is currently celebrating the sesquicentennial of the American Civil War. And that’s just fine by me though my only experience with Culpeper’s residents were the rough-hewn guys in pickup trucks who arrive in fall with racks of firewood to sell to us “city slickers”. Locals call them “woodchucks”.
But there’s another Culpeper – - a small Southern town that has blossomed into a hip destination for foodies, shoppers, equestrians and even classic film buffs. That’s the Culpeper I’d been hearing about and the one I wanted to experience – - though I knew there’d be plenty of history along the way. What I found to my delight was a charming town eager to embrace change with open arms.
The Depot in historic downtown Culpeper
Housed in a working 1904 train depot is the visitor’s center where guided walking tours begin and folks disembark from the Amtrak line. At The Depot I fall into step with Mary Jo Browning, a sprightly octogenarian whose knowledge of the town’s historic homes and churches is legendary. Everyone knows Mary including Pastor Smith of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church who has come to the station to await his daughter’s arrival on the train from New York. She cordially greets him before we trot off to his church, key in hand. At the 19th century church, adorned with Tiffany stained glass windows, Mary regales me with a story of its old bell and how it survived the “War Between the States”. As we stroll she points out things I had seen but not processed – - the window bars on the Civil War period jail, still firmly in place, the town’s giant “LOVE” sculpture whose letters are formed from old movie reels, the farm store where you can buy feed and baby chicks, and a gargoyle roosting atop a roofline.
Clark Hardware Store on East and Davis Streets in Culpeper
We pass the grandiose columns of Clarke’s Hardware, a 100-year old store still vital to the town sailing past dozens of meticulously restored buildings to get to the Museum of Culpeper History, a low brick structure surrounded by a modest white picket fence. Inside a set of 215 million-year old dinosaur tracks found in a local quarry share space with Manahoac Indian artifacts from Culpeper’s first residents, an interactive topographical map, and relics from the Civil War. Burgandine House, an early 19th century log structure, once used as a tavern and furnished as though still occupied, is a few steps away along a garden path.
Ready for a game or two at the Burgandine House, a log structure once a tavern and home
To take your own walking tour pick up a free pair of ear buds at the Depot’s Visitor’s Center. www.VisitCulpeperVA.com
Culpeper Cheese Company
Style has come to Culpeper with a host of independently owned specialty shops. Try David Eddy’s for chic gifts and home décor, Quail at the Wood for unique antiques, Reigning Cats & Dogs for pampered pets, Taste for unusual oils, balsamic vinegars and organic spices, Jeffery Mitchell’s Culpeper Cheese Company with over 100 local and international cheeses, craft beers and a wine lounge that houses a Wine Station, where you can sample eight different wines. Calhoun’s Ham House for bacon, ham, sausage, and Wade’s Mill stone-ground flours and grits is around the corner. Pick up a country ham. They’re legendary.
The country hams and bacon at Calhoun’s Ham and Deli
Candy-aholics will be in their element at the Frenchman’s Corner for posh European chocolates and Allison Haught’s, My Secret Stash, an old-time candy store chock-a-block with classic treats like Cow Tails, Mary Janes and Red Hots. Best sellers are the faux pimento olives (Okay, they’re really chocolate almonds.), sugar-sanded grapefruit gummies and chocolate sea salt caramels. Scoop up some pumpkin malt balls too. The glass apothecary jars filled with candies share space with a well-culled selection of unusual antiques and funky collectibles, like vintage fans and 50’s barware.
My Secret Stash for vintage-themed candy
At the Herbal Connection, Mary R. Benson, a Reiki master and specialist in nutrition and homeopathy welcomes questions. Her herb-lined shelves, vitamins and Ezekiel bread highlight her twenty-two years dispensing kindness and healing.
Kim Kelly’s Vinosity reveals an astonishingly comprehensive, hand-selected collection of wines. Step up to chest-height tables for informal tastings with fellow wine enthusiasts.
World travelers, or those who aspire to be, will have plenty of ethnic souvenirs to bring home from a visit to The Camaleer. Housed in two restored historic buildings are international giftware, aboriginal arts and crafts, and clothing from over 80 countries.
Michelle Burris of Whole Heart Farm at Saturday’s Farmers Market in downtown Culpeper
On Saturday morning the Farmers Market fills a parking lot across from the Depot. There you’ll find locally grown goods from vegetables and herbs to meats, honey and pretty flowers. Specialty items like salmon from East Street Fish (smoked by Pranas Rimeikis, Culpeper’s former mayor), home baked goodies, scented soaps made with goat’s milk, and pretty crafts entice buyers.
Stop in at Harriet’s General where made in America products shine and where you can pick up a pair of Red Wing work boots or the Green Roost for a life-size paper sculpture of a moose and earth-friendly gear for men, women, baby and home. Check out the license plate end of an aqua-and-white Airstream on display in the stylish shop.
Within a few blocks there are a myriad of dining options. For the gourmand there’s exceptional dining at Foti’s, whose Chef/Owner Frank Maragos is an Inn at Little Washington alumnus. The horsey set will appreciate the Pimm’s Cup cocktail properly served with a ribbon of cucumber.
Foti’s refreshing autumn salad uses fresh local figs, pears and goat cheese – A hearty lamb dish with eggplant and sweet potatoes – A caramelized crust distinguishes Foti’s luscious apple bread pudding with caramel sauce
Mediterranean-influenced cuisine tempts from It’s About Thyme, while fresh caught seafood lures like a sea goddess at the Copper Fish Seafood & Raw Bar where from 4 till 7PM you can slurp raw oysters at half price.
For downhome cooking there’s Frost Café, a 50’s throwback diner boasting booth jukeboxes and mega portions of Southern-style comfort food with all the fixin’s.
The rhubarb pie at Raven’s Best Coffee House
At the Raven’s Nest Coffee House you’ll find fabulous pies, quiches, scones, cakes and muffins baked by owner Jessica Hall. Local artists’ paintings grace homey brick walls, and the world music vibe is downright groovy.
Raven’s Nest Coffee House
Breakfast is a pastime in Culpeper and many purposely ease into their day with coffee and delicious muffins from Thyme Market whose umbrella-lined alleyway serves as a desirable respite for a glass of wine and cheese or a slice of “Orange Dreamsicle” cheesecake. Later in the day the pace quickens as locals pick up wood-fired pizzas and herb-crusted roast chickens for supper.
What to Do
Chuck Miller, Master Distiller at Belmont Farm Distillery amidst his whiskey barrels
In addition to the spots listed here, you’ll find wineries and farms to visit nearby. The Stillhouse Distillery at Belmont Farm is a half dozen miles out of town, but well worth the visit. It is the oldest craft distillery in the United States and where the corn, wheat and barley used to make the whiskey is grown on the 195-acre farm. Chuck Miller presides over the distillery and the family’s secret recipe that was developed by his grandfather during Prohibition. Try the “Virginia Lightning Whiskey”, a classic moonshine, or the “Kopper Kettle Whiskey” aged in charred oak barrels and similar to bourbon. Tours are offered throughout the day.
Among the many places to hop on a horse is the Equestrian Center at the beautiful Inn at Kelly’s Ford, a 500-acre property just off Route 29 where you can trail ride along the Rappahannock River. Afterwards stop in at Pelham’s Pub in the Main House for a hand-pulled pint to wet your whistle. On October 27th the inn will host a special Canoe/Kayak Wine Run and Gourmet Lunch. Call 540 399.1800 for reservations.
The restored State Theatre of Culpeper
City leaders are betting that the $10M restoration of the town’s Art Deco State Theatre will lure audiences from far and wide with live music, comedy and dance and screenings of classic films. Working in partnership with the Smithsonian’s Library of Congress, whose Packard Campus houses the National Audio-Visual Conservation Center with its voluminous archives of classic films, the theater shows some of the greatest classic films ever known and has a highly active year-round schedule of performances including live comedy, dance and music. For tickets and information visit www.CulpeperTheatre.org.
Where to Stay
The country chic Thyme Inn is smack dab in the center of downtown Culpeper and offers Jacuzzi tubs, gorgeous high-ceilinged rooms with gas fireplaces, and downy duvets in a distinctly Old World European style. www.Thymeinfo.com
Or go modern at the Suites at 249, an equally posh boutique hotel adjacent to the railroad station. www.Suitesat249.com
All photo credit Jordan Wright.