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Cambridge, Maryland

Jordan Wright
August 31, 2014
Special to The Alexandria Times
 

Cambridge city mural

Cambridge city mural

In an area where watermen and their history have customarily been the prime subject of writerly interest, it was “Chesapeake” author James Michener who noted the architecture of Cambridge’s High Street, referring to its splendors as “one of the most beautiful streets in America”, which is precisely where we begin our exploration.

Richardson Maritime Museum - Photo credit to Cambridge Artist Michael Rosato

Richardson Maritime Museum

Start in the center of town at the Richardson Maritime Museum where a wealth of artifacts and expertly crafted replicas of historic ships are on display.  Around the corner is the Ruark Boatworks, which affords a fascinating look at modern-day boat restoration and the building of traditional wooden bay craft.

Along the Choptank River

Along the Choptank River

Follow the cobblestone High Street toward the Choptank River and along the way admire stately 18th and 19th century homes, some meticulously restored, others awaiting a fresh coat of paint and some new shutters to be brought back to their original splendor.

Cambridge House Bed and Breakfast

Cambridge House Bed and Breakfast

A stone’s throw from the river is the Cambridge House Bed and Breakfast.  Built in 1847 in the Queen Anne style of architecture, the manor boasts six large guest rooms with private baths.  Mine was on the second floor with a private porch overlooking a lily pond.  The elegant home is furnished in the style of the period.  Wicker chairs provide the perfect respite for reading or watching passersby from an expansive front porch.  Jim and Marianne Benson and their adorable pooch Max (rescued by the couple while Jim was stationed in Cuba with the Foreign Service), are the gracious innkeepers.  They will gladly share their stories (Max is available to play fetch) and describe the history of the former sea captain’s home.  www.CambridgeHousebandb.com.

Homes along Cambridge's High Street

Homes along Cambridge’s High Street

A five-minute stroll towards the river will take you to the picturesque boat docks and self-guided tour of the replica Choptank Lighthouse, a six-sided screwpile lighthouse that contains a small museum focused on the nautical history of the area.

A mess of crabs ready for steaming at JM Clayton Seafood Company & The steam pots

A mess of crabs ready for steaming at JM Clayton Seafood Company and the steam pots

Turning back towards town I dropped in on Joe Clayton, great-great grandson of Captain Johnnie, founder of the JM Clayton Seafood Company where watermen have been bringing their crabs for picking and cleaning for five generations.  To arrange a tour of the plant, visit www.JMClayton.com.  Behind the old single-story brick building is local artist Michael Rosato’s hyper-realistic mural.  Painted on the side of an old caboose it depicts life along the river.

Mural Photo by Cambridge Artist Michael Rosato on JM Clayton Seafood

Mural Photo by Cambridge Artist Michael Rosato

Continuing along High Street stop in at Christ Episcopal Church and Cemetery, the burial place of four Maryland governors. Though the church was built in 1883, the lovely parish dates back to 1692.

The High Spot Gastropub

The High Spot Gastropub

Cambridge has recently undergone an exciting restaurant renaissance offering both chef-helmed dining as well as casual fare.  Try The High Spot Gastropub on Muir Street where Executive Chef Patrick Fanning lures guests with his elegant twist on classic American dishes using locally caught fish and farm-sourced ingredients.   Head-over-heels creations are Zinfandel Braised Beef Cheeks & Blue Crab Hash, Conch Chowder with a splash of Gosling’s Rum, and Oyster Pot Pie.

Oyster Pot Pie at High Spot & Zinfandel Beef Cheeks & Blue Crab Hash

Oyster Pot Pie at High Spot and Zinfandel Beef Cheeks & Blue Crab Hash

Back on High Street we pass scores of recently restored historic buildings, one of which houses the Dorchester Center for the Arts.  The 17,000 sq. ft. space is home to state-of-the-art classrooms, galleries, artisans’ gift shop and a large performing arts stage.

 Pastry Chef Adam Powley of Elliot’s Baking Company shows off his brioche

Pastry Chef Adam Powley of Elliot’s Baking Company with his braided challah bread

A few days before my arrival Elliott’s Baking Company opened in one of these beautifully restored turn of the century buildings.  Owner and longtime resident, Bernie Elliott, hired French Culinary School grad, Aaron Powley, whose repertoire includes traditionally made brioche, croissants, sumptuous French pastries and hearty artisanal breads.  Many of the local restaurants feature Powley’s breads and rolls.

Wine tasting at A Few of My Favorite Things

Wine tasting at A Few of My Favorite Things

Look around to find trendy boutiques and specialty stores like Squoze, a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it grab-and-go spot for freshly made green juices, smoothies, sandwiches and wraps and a well curated selection of health foods.  Another can’t-miss is A Few of My Favorite Things, a gourmet gift and wine bar.  Here samples of their wines are poured by a sommelier while you nosh on delicious cheeses, spreads and charcuterie.  They are one of many spots in town to hear live music at night.

J. T. Merryweather of Reale Revival Brewery

J. T. Merryweather of Reale Revival Brewery

Stop in Reale Revival, known by locals as RAR, where industrial chic dominates the quirky cool décor.  The brewery, bar and lounge was started by Dorchester County natives, Chris Brohawn and J. T. Merryweather, who decided to quit their day jobs to make beer – – every armchair beer drinker’s fantasy.  Luckily for them their palates matched their enthusiasm and they have been producing exceptional artisanal beers.  On a hot day the Mine Layer Saison, an unfiltered summer beer in the Belgian Farm style pairs well with sushi and fish tacos from their extensive small bites menu.

On the road to Hooper's Island

On the road to Hooper’s Island

What’s the must-have meal on the Eastern Shore?  Why a mess of steamed blue crabs dredged in Old Bay seasoning and served with local corn on the cob, of course!  Try the Ocean Odyssey, a family-friendly spot with an outdoor deck on the Ocean Highway.  You’ll also find bison burgers, fish tacos and a large selection of beers on tap.  For a touch of French bistro cuisine, you’ll need reservations for the new Bistro Poplar.

Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge

Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge

The next day a brilliant summer sun broke through the morning’s haze and after a hearty breakfast at the inn, I headed off for Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, a breathtaking 25,000 acre waterfowl sanctuary with a new visitor’s center, wildlife exhibits featuring Osprey and Bald Eagle cam monitors, and native wildflower gardens.  This spectacular gem lies 12 miles south of Cambridge along Bucktown Road.  Drivable roads and boardwalks wind through much of the forests and tidal wetlands affording miles of flat trails for hikers, cyclists and birders.

Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge

Tim Devine checks his oysters

A few miles southwest lies the windswept chain of islands known collectively as Hoopers Island, where I visited Barren Island Oysters, an oyster aquaculture farm owned and operated by internationally famed nature photographer Tim Devine.  Grown in a pristine cove and transferred to cages in the bay off Barren Island, the conditions offer a desirable salinity, producing  the sustainably raised plump, buttery-tasting triploid oysters that are preferred by many area chefs.  A well-known client in DC is BlackSalt restaurant.

Sold to top DC restaurants as the "Ugly Oyster"

Sold to top DC restaurants as the “Ugly Oyster”

Farther down the road is Fishing Creek, a small community dotted with crab houses alongside a warren of wooden docks harboring boats for watermen and sport fishing.  Founded in the 1700’s, it’s where Phillip’s Seafood began operations 100 years ago.

Old Salty's on Fishing Creek & Old Salty's killer all-crab crab cakes

Old Salty’s on Fishing Creek & Old Salty’s killer all-crab crab cakes

Have lunch at Old Salty’s, a seafood restaurant in operation for 31 years in a historic schoolhouse with sweeping views of the Chesapeake Bay.  The crab cakes here are luscious and destination-worthy – barely held together, lightly broiled mounds of creamy white, jumbo lump crabmeat.  Rockfish, scallops and other locally caught seafood are another big draw.  But before toddling back to civilization complete the journey with a slice of their towering coconut, lemon meringue or chocolate pies.

Towering Key Lime and Coconut Cream pies

Towering Key Lime and Coconut Cream pies

Mark your Fall calendar for these upcoming Cambridge events:

September 20th and 21st – The IRONMAN Maryland Triathlon is expected to draw 100’s of racers and their families and will dovetail with the town’s 38th Annual Outdoor “Summer Sendoff” street fair of “Blues, Brews and Barbecue”.

Photo credit to Jordan Wright

October 10th to 12th – The Cambridge City Art Fair – UK and Outdoor Street Festival at Guild Hall hosts where local and national dealers and gallerists feature current, as well as antique 18th and 19th century, paintings to view and buy.  For more information visit www.TourDorchester.org.

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Falls Church Farmers Market Shines a Light on Local Chefs

Jordan Wright
July 17, 2014 

Summer's bounty from Tree and Leaf Farm

Summer’s bounty from Tree and Leaf Farm

Beckoning the supermarket-weary shopper are our local farmers markets and closest to me are the markets in Del Ray, Old Town Alexandria, Crystal City and Mount Vernon – four markets who have had my business for many years.  Recently I discovered the Falls Church Farmers Market, a producer-only market that is twice the size of the markets I have near home.

Kale Salad from Oh Mercy!

Kale Salad from Oh Mercy!

Here you can find Mercy Duncan-Bloomgarden’s “Oh Mercy!” line of Ghanaian-inspired sauces, salads and condiments.  Her kale, Fuji apple and goat cheese salad, green salsa and fiery hot sauces reveal a distinctly African dynamic.

Flower display

Flower display

This two-street rambling market is chock-a-block with fresh local products.  Herbs and flowers both cut and abloom in pots, sit alongside tents filled with dozens of varieties of farm fresh vegetables.  I found honey, juicy white and yellow peaches (I even spied watermelon with bright yellow flesh), turnips, beans, peas, heirloom tomatoes, green leafy veggies and tubers, all straight from local farms.  Handcrafted sausages, sustainably raised beef, lamb, rabbit and free-range chickens’ eggs could be found here alongside crusty Euro-style breads and scrumptious baked goods – to wit – pies to die for.

Nutella Crepes from Kate's Crepes - The Mushroom Man

Nutella Crepes from Kate’s Crepes – The Mushroom Man

What I didn’t expect to find were wines, doughnuts deep-fried on site, smoked salmon, made-to-order Nutella crepes, spun wool from a sheep farm, six varieties of gourmet mushrooms, home baked doggie treats, Turkish pastries, savory pastries, cheeses, fresh fish and soft shell crabs.  Just don’t expect to find what doesn’t grow, isn’t made or isn’t raised in the Mid Atlantic region.

Deep fried doughnuts

Deep fried doughnuts

What surprised me most was meeting Bonnie Driggers who teaches Botanical Art in the town’s library.  Editor of the new “Native Plants of the Mid Atlantic”, a stunning and informative book illustrated with beautiful botanical paintings by local artists interpreting the flora common to our area, she was there to field questions and sign copies of the book.

Christophe and Michelle Poteaux of Bastille Restaurant - Tasting the Zucchini Soup

Christophe and Michelle Poteaux of Bastille Restaurant – Tasting the Zucchini Soup

The Saturday I visited noted Chefs Michelle and Christophe Poteaux of Bastille restaurant in Alexandria were in the monthly “Chef Series” tent preparing and serving a delicious rendition of their Cold Zucchini Soup.

Caitlin Dysart/ Award-winning (Pastry Chef of the Year/ RAMMYS 2014) Pastry Chef/ 2941 Restaurant

Caitlin Dysart/ Award-winning (Pastry Chef of the Year/ RAMMYS 2014) Pastry Chef/ 2941 Restaurant

Tomorrow morning at 9am RAMW Award-winning Pastry Chef, Caitlin Dysart from 2941 Restaurant, will prepare and serve Butterscotch Budino with Stone Fruit and Thyme.  Dysart will source fruit and herbs from the market.

The Falls Church Farmers Market is located in the City Hall Parking Lot at 300 Park Avenue, Falls Church, VA 22046.   It is open every Saturday year round from 9am till noon. www.fallschurchva.gov/547/Farmers-Market

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Twenty-four Hours In the Lap of Luxury at Salamander Resort & Spa

Jordan Wright
July 1, 2014
Photo credit Jordan Wright
Special to the Alexandria Times

2015 Hyundai Genesis at Salamander Resort & Spa

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

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

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 Edwards teaching the Gluten-Free cooking class

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

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 oh Middleburg

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

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

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

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

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

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…

RdV Vineyards

RdV Vineyards

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

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

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

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.

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A Trip to Warrenton and the Black Horse Inn

Jordan Wright
June 18, 2014
Special to The Alexandria Times
 

The Black Horse Inn in Warrenton

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

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

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 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

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

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

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

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

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

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Take the Train to Historic Culpeper, Virginia – 90 minutes from DC Union Station

 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

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