Illness and a few holiday events

In the last post, I mentioned had been/was sick.  Well, I felt better, ran around doing holiday business and work and landed right back in bed for four more days missing a few holiday parties and emerging on Saturday the 21st for a visit to Jefferson Vineyards with my dear friend Jacquie O’Connor and road tripping to Staunton with Jacquie and 7 other good pals to see THE SANTALAND DIARIES at American Shakespeare Center. It was, as usual, great fun.  I adore David Sedaris and have laughed at this monolog countless times.  After the show we all went to dinner at Emilio’s in Staunton and other than the arrangement of a private room (which, as wine was consumed and the group became quite loud, was a godsend), I cannot recommend it.  In fact at least two people in our party felt quite ill later in the evening but we had a great time anyway and next time I will make sure to get a reservation at Zynodoa, Aoli or the Mill well in advance (they were booked that night and it was inconvenient trying to find a better place to eat with a group of nine to herd).

Christmas Eve found me at Pearl’s bake shoppe picking up a gorgeous chocolate/mocha bouche de Noel for an afternoon tea party at some good friend’s in Richmond then off I went with my daughter in tow to the Virginia Museum of Fine Art to see the Hollywood Costume Exhibit.  I bought her a membership to the VMFA for part of her Christmas present (the student membership cost the same as her admission to the exhibit) which turned out to be a brilliant idea.  She felt very grown up having her own membership and she actually squealed with glee at some of the costumes she saw worn by a few of her idols like Edward Norton and Robert De Niro (she has strange taste for a 13 year old) plus she discovered some new films and actors.  She thanked me profusely for taking her to the exhibit as we enjoyed a coffee and a ginger ale in the Best Cafe. My favorite costume was one worn by Ginger Rogers, a sequined number with mink on the back of the skirt.  The exhibit leaves in early February (I think) so get there soon- this is the only east coast stop. After tea and carol singing at my friend’s, Sam (my daughter) and I went to my favorite Indian restaurant, Lehja for Christmas Eve dinner.  As usual, Sunny and his staff offered up good service and good food warming us on a chilly night and fortifying us for the drive back to Cville to feed our cat, Norton (yes, named ofter Edward Norton- told you my daughter is a fan) and wait for Santa. I had the corn soup for a starter and we split the Saag Paneer for our entree.  Lehja simply has the best Saag Paneer I have ever tasted, a spinach and cheese dish that means Indian comfort food to me.

We spent Christmas at Keswick Hall where we dined with several members of my extended family.  Talk about decking the Halls, Keswick is especially festive at Christmas with loads of garland, several decorated trees and a buffet lunch with items to satisfy everyone in your party.  I particularly enjoyed the prime rib and the duck salad. I just adore Keswick Hall as a place to take visitors and simple to feel like I am in that certain part of Charlottesville that is gracious, beautiful and embodies the mood that Ralph Lauren strives for in his preppy collection.  I just always feel so at home in the lounge seated next to the blazing fire and just enjoying the sumptuous country life to which Jefferson prescribed.

Friday night found me at The Livery Stable, a new restaurant/pub on the west end of Charlottesville’s downtown mall. There is a drink featured there named something like A Russian Mule, vodka, ginger beer and something else served in a special copper mug. It is my new favorite cocktail.  I also indulged in a pot roast slider (without the bread, of course) which was so delicious I was sorry to have only one order.  Chef Felix has plans to bump up the menu in 2014 possibly including adding Korean bbq. YUM!

Saturday was a day of shopping the sales with my Mum at Short Pump- part of my Christmas present.  We shopped for hours and enjoyed a nice lunch at the Cafe in Nordtrom.  My Tuscan Salmon was pretty good and would have been better had it been served a bit warmer but overall a lovely lunch.

Sam is gone and I am basically basking in the stillness and quiet but if I do go somewhere you will learn about it next week.

Happy New Year!

Mary

The Culture Maven

PS: WNRN Culture Connect, the extended version with me and Matt Slaats, premiers on Sunday January 5th at 11:00am on WNRN. Go to worn.org to stream it.

Thankfully Stuffing My Face

I really like food.  I adore really good food.  Since the last couple of weeks has been about good food and some of Charlottesville’s rather Anglophile traditions I have been fatly happy.

It all began on Friday the 22nd with a business dinner at Fleurie, one of Charlottesville’s finest restaurants and a particular favorite of mine because the owner/very talented chef, Brian Helleburg, is one of the first friends I made after moving here about 2.5 years ago while working on a story for VIRGiNIA LIVING. Brian cooked up some Chinese Mystery snails for a story I wrote on invasive species and I knew right then that a guy who could make those things taste good was someone worthy of pal-dom.

Anyway…

The crab appetizer was divine.  Served on an elegant skinny rectangular plate, substantial chunks of sweet blue crab meat swam in a shallow pool of some yummy sauce.  I followed up with the venison, two tender, juicy medallions that melted in my mouth served over thinly sliced potatoes au gratin (because I don’t eat spatzel which I love but contains gluten). It is a rare meal that is prepared with such perfection and really I would marry Brian if I could eat like that everyday but I’m afraid his girlfriend might not like that.

Saturday found me at a tourist standard, Michie Tavern, on 53 on the way to Monticello.  It was my sister’s birthday celebration and she wanted to eat there (she is from out of town) and visit Carter Mountain Orchard.  Michie Tavern serves plain old Southern fare, like spoon bread, fried chicken and green beans boiled with ham for flavoring.  I grew up on this type of food so it is hardly a delicacy for me but I can see the appeal to foreigners and the nostalgia this type of cooking holds for my sister.  We sat at a long wooden table in front of a roaring fire, the perfect place to be on a chilly autumn day while being served by a woman in colonial garb.  It is all quite charming.

Following the obligatory cider purchase at Carter Mountain and sufficiently celebrating my sister, I dropped my daughter off at her friend’s house to watch the season opener of DR. WHO and went for a short hike.  Evening plans included dinner next to a roaring fire, this time in the bar at Keswick Hall.  I adore this particular venue for cold weather dinners because one may choose from the bar menu (which offers the best truffle oil fries I have ever tasted) or the dinner menu from Fosset’s, Keswick’s more formal dining area.  The bar is intimate and cozy and there is a lovely fire place to make it even cozier.  I dined on muscles in tomato broth and seared brussel sprouts which were so good – just tender on the inside and slightly crunchy on the outside- that my escort, who is not particularly a veggie fan, devoured at least half of the ample serving. After dinner we sauntered across the street to the Keswick Hunt Club (my friend is a member) for the tail end of a clam bake and dance party.  We danced to about 7 songs before the party shut down and it was time to head home.

Sunday I attended the final performance of BYE BYE BIRDIE at Tandem Friends School. The play was performed solely by TFS eighth graders offering a variety of skill and enthusiasm levels making the show a total hoot to watch.  Director and Middle School drama teacher, Lydia Horan, is brilliantly talented and somehow is able to get these young teens to put together a pretty good show.

The next event on my calendar was Love Cannon at the Jefferson Theatre on Wednesday the 27th.  I took my daughter and we delighted in the catchy, kitchy-ness of ’80’s pop tunes orchestrated to blue grass instruments.  It is just such happy music one MUST move to it.

Thursday morning I experienced another horsey tradition, the Blessing of the Hounds at Grace Church in Keswick before the annual Thanksgiving Fox Hunt.  People gather in front of the adorable stone church as mounted riders are blessed along with the hounds.  There is a ten minute ceremony then the riders, all dolled up in their English hunting costumes, head across rt.22 to a large field, give out some awards, then when the hunt master gives the signal, begin their ride. Apparently they actually hunt wild foxes. What happens to the fox or foxes once they are caught is unknown to me and I thought it impolite to ask at the time.  The event is pretty and pastoral and it is my dream to go out with them one year.

Thanksgiving dinner in Richmond at my sisters. Yum. Then on Friday, dinner of peanut soup (a personal favorite dish) and salad at TJ’s at the Jefferson Hotel in Richmond before celebrating Chanukah at Virginia Rep’s production of FIDDLER ON THE ROOF. This was my friend, Christina’s first visit to the Jefferson (she lives in Charlottesville and her daughter, Mila shares the part of one of the daughters in the show) so I was reminded through her eyes of the splendor of the place.

It was fun to see FIDDLER during Chanukah.  It just added extra meaning to the story. Va Rep even had a menorah displayed in the theatre lobby which I found quite touching and thoughtful. I enjoyed the show, particularly David Benoit’s embodiment of Tevya, the choreography and the dancing. Everyone on stage looked like they were having fun.  At the end of the show, I chatted with WCVE theatre critic, the formidable John Porter, who said this was the best production of FIDDLER he had ever seen.

show_fiddler_on_6_fs-1

I laid low the remainder of the weekend, hiding from the shopping crowds venturing out (other than for long walks) only for groceries on Sunday and to be interviewed about Radio Resource (a partnership between Music Resource Center and WNRN designed to give MRC members and other high school aged kids the opportunity to generate a half-hour radio program featuring music created by local teens) before the premier of the 30 Minute Throwdown on WNRN. Damani Harrison of MRC was supposed to be on the show but he was caught up in holiday travels making it impossible for him to be there so as a coordinator of the project, I filled in. 30 Minute Throwdown is full of youthful energy and showcases some amazing young local artists. You can learn more by going to the 30 Minute Throwdown FB page.  By the way, Trader Joe’s has outdone themselves with holiday treats this year, especially the caramels- go for them.

So until next week…be safe, be healthy and have fun.

Gratefully,

Mary

The Culture Maven

Destinations for Weddings and Other Romantic Adventures

Valentines is fast approaching, and though it is of late not my favorite holiday, I encourage the rest of you hopeless romantics to knock your socks off.  To me there is nothing more romantic than a wedding. In our culture, weddings are where two people who hopefully love each other profess their undying love, loyalty and devotion in front of friends, family and other sundry connected peoples.  Since, also in our culture, at least half of those who make those statements will end their unions in divorce and roughly half of marriages have at least one unfaithful partner the 50/50 chance of those vows being kept (is that the correct stat based on the numbers provided?) makes weddings exceedingly idealistic aka romantic.
The above paragraph may make me sound like a hardened cynic but au contra ire, I am a hopeless, dyed- in- the- wool, grade A romantic.  I adore weddings.  I cry my eyes out at romantic movies.  I am still distraught over the recent death of a nameless Downton Abbey character four days since the fateful episode aired in my country. Why I am such a romantic that even after two failed marriages (does the first one REALLY count?) I hope to find Mr. Right for me and walk down the isle once again – AND I will probably wear white!
So…
for all of you lucky dogs out there with sweethearts, I suggest you think about visiting one of these wonderful places for a special romantic visit.
A Destination in your Mind
You can be transported during your wedding without leaving Virginia
BY MARY BURRUSS
Issue: Richmond Bride Winter/Spring 2013
Posted: 12/11/12 10:10 AM
Photo by Jen Fariello

You want your wedding to be someplace out of town but wish to spare yourselves (and your guests) the airfare? Here are three full-service resorts within a day’s drive of Richmond that will give you the feel of a destination wedding. All three have spas and activities such as swimming, golf and croquet to please you and all your visiting guests while offering distinct details to make your wedding day as special as the two of you are.

Ralph Lauren Country
Keswick Hall at Monticello is about an hour away from Richmond, but the softly rolling landscape and its views of the Blue Ridge Mountains give it that upscale hunt-country look like nothing else around. In addition to gorgeous vistas, fantastic catering and classically beautiful facilities, this resort has a meticulous wedding coordinator, Adam Donovan-Groves, who says he has walked every foot of the property to determine the best backdrops for wedding photos. Other extras include a child-care room with kid-friendly entertainment during the reception, plus complimentary massages or a day of golf for brides and grooms. keswick.com/weddings

Photos courtesy Tides Inn

Upon the Water
What separates the Tides Inn from other close-to-home wedding destinations is its relaxed, casually elegant atmosphere and proximity to water. Nestled on the north side of the Rappahannock in Irvington about an hour-and-a-half drive from Richmond, the inn has been a favorite destination for area families for generations. Brides can choose from a variety of indoor or outdoor venues, including the Carter Room with views of Carter’s Creek, the croquet lawn or a private beach. For a special grand exit, the newlyweds can arrange to be whisked away from the dock on a boat and deposited near their suite on the other side of the inn. There awaits a matted watercolor painting of the terrace — inscribed with their names and wedding date — as a special token of the occasion.tidesinn.com/weddings-events  

Mountain Springs
A traditional destination for Richmond brides throughout the centuries is The Homestead, amid the mystical Allegheny Mountains in Hot Springs, roughly two-and-a-half hours from our city. This grand landmark of Southern hospitality offers a multitude of options for weddings, the most popular being the simple Pergola on the Casino lawn and the stunning Crystal Room with its graceful arched windows, white pillars and gleaming chandeliers. “The festivities begin from the moment the guests arrive,” says conference service manager Tricia Fry, who also acts as wedding coordinator. The resort can handle weddings with up to 800 guests. The Homestead also offers horseback riding, skeet shooting, mountain biking, guided hiking or Segway tours, falconry, fly fishing, archery, a back-country driving school, paintball and an on-site water park to entertain guests and create memorable bridal-party activities. Brides and grooms can book a carriage to make their grand exit from the reception and will find a bottle of bubbly waiting in their room on their wedding night as a special gift. thehomestead.com/weddings

 

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