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Luxury Hotels and Dining

Home Away from Home for the Holidays

Jordan Wright
December 2010
Special to the Washington Examiner and San Francisco Examiner

Charlottesville and The Piedmont

The Boar's Head Inn at Christmas - photo courtesy of the inn

The Boar's Head Inn at Christmas - photo courtesy of the inn

The Boar’s Head Inn is a perfect destination for couples or families. Horse and carriage rides with a Blue Ridge backdrop, breakfast with Santa, Christmas Dinner in the Old Mill and gingerbread workshops are some of the holiday activities to choose from. New Year’s Eve celebrations feature the Kings of Swing and Executive Chef Bill Justus’ lavish Virginia-centric menu offering choices like Braised Veal Cheek Ravioli with Wild Mushrooms, Porcini Marmalade and Leek Froth, Beef Carpaccio with Watercress, Arugula and White Truffle Oil, Lobster Consommé with Black Trumpet Mushrooms and Lobster Quenelles, and Stuffed Veal Chop with Foie Gras, Black Truffle, Fontina and Prosciutto with Chestnut Spaetzle and Brussels Sprouts. Desserts will wow with Green Apple Terrine with Vanilla Bean Sponge and Mascarpone Sabayon, and Milk Chocolate Gateau with Chocolate Mousse, Kettle Corn and Banana Rum Ice Cream.

For a special treat the “Radio City Christmas Spectacular Package” includes dinner, overnight stay and tickets to see The Rockettes perform in nearby Charlottesville. Luxuriate in the full-service spa or hit the state-of-the-art fitness center and sports club offering indoor tennis and dozens of classes in zumba, yoga and kickboxing.

Christmas at Keswick Hall - photo courtesy of the inn

Christmas at Keswick Hall - photo courtesy of the inn

Keswick Hall’s 48-room Tuscan-style villa sets the gold standard for luxury country inns in Virginia. Enjoy underwater music in the outdoor heated pool, beauty treatments in the spa and fitness facilities, or just relax in the 400-volume library and Tea Room with antique snooker table. In the evenings chestnuts will roast and s’mores will melt on an open fire. Ladle creamy hot chocolate from a copper pot beside the grand fireplace in the hotel’s spacious lobby. On Christmas Eve there’s caroling and a special holiday Sunday Brunch is served throughout December.

Christmas dinner at Fossett’s offers plenty of choices from recently named “Rising Star Chef”, Dean Maupin. Indulge in his Maine lobster bisque, Osetra caviar, seared foie gras, Wagyu beef, Rack of Fluvanna County lamb or Carolina Flounder. For dessert traditional Buche de Noel beckons, as does an over-the-top version of Sticky Toffee Pudding.

At the nearby Barboursville Winery’s upscale Palladio Restaurant Executive Chef Melissa Close Hart, who has prepared many a meal at New York’s James Beard House, cooks her delicate version of Northern Italian cuisine that pairs brilliantly with the estate’s wines. Most products are sourced from local farms and the exquisite pasta is house made.

While staying in the area view Colonial holiday decorations at nearby Montpelier, the home of James Madison, and at Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s house and gardens. For ski and snowboarding facilities Wintergreen Resort is about an hour’s drive away.

On Maryland’s Eastern Shore

The Inn at 202 Dover - photo courtesy of the inn

The Inn at 202 Dover - photo courtesy of the inn

The Inn at 202 Dover in Easton, MD is certainly one of the most stunning mansions on the Eastern Shore. Boasting five-star luxury appointments, an elegant library, glass conservatory and antique-filled rooms, it has only five suites, each a private themed retreat with six-foot jetted Jacuzzis and in-room saunas and gas fireplaces.

Ron and Shelby Mitchell, transplanted New Yorkers, have brought a sophisticated dynamic to the art of innkeeping. On New Year’s Eve guests will be dancing to DC music man Joe Holt and singer Beth MacDonald following a five-course dinner in the intimate Peacock Restaurant prepared by the inn’s Cordon Bleu-trained Chef Mark Knipp, formerly Chef de Partie at The Inn at Little Washington. They’ll have a four-course dinner with dishes like Poached Carolina Flounder with Sun-dried Tomato Meyer Lemon Risotto, Roast Duckling Gabor with Chestnuts with Pistachios, Vanilla-Poached Lobster with Truffled Root Vegetables, Tournedos of Beef Tenderloin with Truffle Mushroom Port Jus and Cippolino Onion and Potato Puree. Dessert is a decadent Chocolate Flourless Torte with Chambord and Chantilly Cream.

Convivial young hosts, Jordan and Alice Lloyd opened the Bartlett Pear Inn in a 220-year old home in Easton, MD. Jordan, who trained with French chef extraordinaire Michel Richard at Citronelle and Thomas Keller at New York’s Per Se, emerged with his own style, reworking classic dishes with a clean finish. The small bar has become a big draw among upscale locals, but the food is the main draw at this very pretty pear-themed property in Easton, MD. New Year’s Eve dinner features a five-course dinner. Roasted Chestnut Soup with Duck Leg Confit, Truffled Maitake Mushroom Velouté Fricassee, Chicken Ballotine with Truffled Sweetbreads, Roasted Apple and Madeira Wine Jus, Braised Beef Short Ribs with Potato Agnolotti are a few of the choices on this elegant menu that finishes with Bûche de Nöel, Pavlova with Pomegranate Sorbet or Valrhona Hot Chocolate with house made Sugar Doughnuts.

The Robert Morris Inn - photo courtesy of the inn

The Robert Morris Inn - photo courtesy of the inn

In Oxford, MD America’s oldest inn dates back to 1710. This year the historic Robert Morris Inn, recently purchased by British hotelier, Ian Fleming, celebrates 300 years in operation. In period-inspired guest rooms you can channel your inner James Michener…he outlined his sweeping saga “Chesapeake” here overlooking the Tred Avon River.

On Christmas Day renowned international chef and proprietor Mark Salter will serve an eclectic menu of favorites culled from his background in Welsh, Scottish, British and French cuisine with dishes like Potato Soup with Lobster and Chives, Oysters Rockefeller with Spinach, Bacon and Parmesan Cheese, Chicken Liver Parfait with Beet Apple Chutney and Toasted Brioche, Seared Scallops with char-grilled Red Onion, Scottish Salmon with French Lentils and Kale, Smoked Bacon and Five-Onion Sauce, Pennsylvania Dutch Turkey and Baked Ham with Sage, Onion and Chestnut stuffing, Grilled Tenderloin of Beef with layered Goat Cheese and Potato and Truffled Celery Root Purée with Madeira-Black Pepper Jus. Desserts beckon with a traditional Christmas Pudding, Caramelized Apple and Frangipane Tart and Milk Chocolate Crème Brûlée with Hazelnut Shortbread. A jazz band accompanies the lavish five-course The New Year’s Eve dinner beginning with champagne and canapés.

Christmas tree at The Inn at Perry Cabin - photo courtesy of the inn

Christmas tree at The Inn at Perry Cabin - photo courtesy of the inn

The Inn at Perry Cabin is a magnificent destination resort with a chic nautical look reminiscent of the Ralph Lauren style. It overlooks the Miles River within walking distance of the Victorian village of St. Michael’s, MD. Executive Chef Greg Brandberg, who earned his stripes under Lydia Bastianich and Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto, brings an Eastern Shore sensibility. Brandberg plans a sumptuous Christmas feast that includes, Yellow Fin Tuna and Local Crab, Maine Lobster Bisque and Oysters Rockefeller, Grilled Scottish Salmon with Port Wine Glaze, Herb Roasted Beef Tenderloin and Juniper-Scented Braised Pork.

The inn’s New Year’s Eve gala features Herb Stuffed Pheasant Roulade, Atlantic Halibut with Black Trumpet Mushrooms, and Beef Wellington plus a ballroom dedicated to divine desserts made by Pastry Chef Elise Broz who will ring in the New Year by featuring over 20 different delectable sweets. The ten-piece Eric Felten Jazz Orchestra will play big band standards á la Cole Porter, Duke Ellington and Gershwin. How romantic!

Throughout December horse-drawn wagons ferry passengers around historic downtown Easton, and on New Year’s Eve the town hosts “First Night Talbot” with a parade of sea creature puppets led by a giant mermaid. Bands, gospel choirs, jugglers and scads of other family-friendly acts perform around town culminating in fireworks and a countdown to the kitschy, must-see “Crab Drop”.

The beautifully restored Avalon Theatre in downtown Easton plays host over the holidays to a Messiah Sing In night and DC’s Eric Byrd Trio doing “A Charlie Brown Christmas”.

On Virginia’s Northern Neck

The Hope and Glory Inn - photo courtesy of the inn

The Hope and Glory Inn - photo courtesy of the inn

The Hope and Glory in the tiny town of Irvington, VA is a circa 1890 former schoolhouse now bed and breakfast, whose proprietors Dudley and Peggy Patteson encourage its guests to talk amongst themselves. With a zinc-topped bar encourages collegial truancy it sports No. 2 pencils and black-and-white composition books to write down your drink order. A large reception area with desks, chess boards and a welcoming fireplace offers itself up for reading a book, sipping a cocktail or meeting your fellow travelers.

The harvest table prompts guests to share their adventures at their wonderful breakfast. Painted furniture, overstuffed chairs and antiques mix chock-a-block with stylish décor in an irreverent elegance. No frilly doilies or tea cozies here. It feels just like home…decorated by Aunt Martha Stewart.

Since dinner is not available at the inn the hip Nate’s Trick Dog Restaurant, which had its ups and downs in the past, has bounced back with new chef-to-watch Nate Myers, who along with his wife Courtney have recently resurrected the cool vibe and eclectic food.

Look for creative and deliciously memorable cuisine driven by bold fusion flavors. Myers will serve a couples-oriented holiday menu for Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day with classic French dishes like Cassoulet, Chateaubriand, and a deconstructed Beef Wellington.

The Tides Inn at Christmas  - photo courtesy of The Tides Inn

The Tides Inn at Christmas - photo courtesy of The Tides Inn

Also in Irvington The Tides Inn is one of the country’s most distinctive resorts. Four generations of the Stephens family have been welcoming both DC area and international guests to the hotel’s 106 rooms and suites since 1947 by yacht or motorcar to this quietly luxurious top-drawer destination on Virginia’s Northern Neck. Chef Thomas Flynn plans several different four-course dinners for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve. A few choices are the Rappahannock Oysters with pickled watermelon salsa and Tamarind Ginger Sauce, She-Crab Soup, Herb Roasted Chesapeake Bay Rockfish, Pecan Crusted Rack of Lamb with Cranberry Gastrique and always their famous Crab Cakes. Desserts range from White Chocolate Crème Brûlée to Triple Chocolate Bread Pudding. Be sure to book an appointment to enjoy the posh spa.

In Richmond

The lobby of The Jefferson Hotel - photo courtesy of the hotel

The lobby of The Jefferson Hotel - photo courtesy of the hotel

The Jefferson Hotel is one of the nation’s most spectacular historic properties. Built in 1895 to compete with Europe’s most magnificent hotels, everything about it spells graciousness and grandeur. Executive Chef Walter Bundy, who trained with Mark Miller in Santa Fe and Thomas Keller in the Napa Valley, grows herbs in the hotel’s garden and includes a myriad of gorgeous vegetables with his main dishes. He will be serving such delicious offerings as Bourbon Braised Ayrshire Farm Pork Belly with Apple Cider Gastrique, Diver Scallops with Ginger Infused Vanilla Bean Orange Butter, and Loch Duart Salmon with Spicy Spaghetti Squash, Edwards & Sons Surryano Ham and Cauliflower Coulis. Desserts are unique and non-traditional – Peanut Butter Semifreddo with Dark Chocolate Ganache, Pumpkin and Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding with Bourbon Anglaise and Pumpkin Seed Tuile, and a Pear Raisin Cobbler. If you are there for the weekend be sure to enjoy the spoon bread at their legendary Sunday brunch served in the Rotunda beneath soaring 70-foot ceilings. Tweaked and lightened up Southern classics like Surry County Sausage Stuffing, Jamerson Farms Brunswick Stew, and Jefferson Spoonbread share space with all the other fabulous brunch items.

While in town catch the Richmond Ballet’s Nutcracker, hop a free ride on the horse-drawn sleigh rides around Carytown, visit the newly renovated Virginia Museum of Fine Arts open 365 days of the year including free access to their exhibitions on Christmas Day, and see the festive display of lights at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens.

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