Virginia country cont.: breakfast(s) extraordinaire and food celebrity spottings
Now where did I leave off? Oh yes, waking up to the Blue Ridge Mountains layered with morning fog… and a Keurig coffee maker waiting to meet our beck and call. It’s a happy three-year-anniversary, bed-and-breakfast style! After a morning run (those ridge roads are a bit hilly in spots), we moseyed down to the Farmhouse kitchen for our first — and best — meal of the day.
One of my favorite things about the Farmhouse at Veritas Vineyards was the layout of the kitchen. Its openness allowed us to chat with chef Jonathan Burroughs as he skillfully prepared our breakfast, an experience I don’t recall having at any other B&B (and, as a military couple, we’ve had our share of pre- and post-deployment B&B getaways.) Burroughs and the other staff made us feel like royalty, changing their plans to accommodate my husband’s recently developed egg allergy and seeming to relish the challenge. The chef met it with fervor, presenting a gorgeous pile of french toast with his caramel sauce, raspberries and peaches from Critzers Farm up the road.
And for me? The most perfectly poached eggs running over a bed of roast vegetables and sausage all tucked into a crispy wonton. And the sauces — of an orange saffrony variety and a lemon-buttery hollandaise — called for a complete happy dance in my mouth, washed down with fresh-squeezed mimosas and French-pressed coffee. I rarely make sauces at home because A) I didn’t go to culinary school, and that’s the sort of thing you do after going to culinary school and B) I don’t even want to know how much butter is necessary to make them taste that good. Chef Burroughs gave me a glimpse into his method after I showered him with compliments, which convinced me that, yeah, that sounds like a lot of effort for breakfast.
After recovering from our food comas, we headed of for another day of galavanting among the vineyards and orchards of the Charlottesville area. We had to pick up a take-home portion of peaches from Critzer’s Farm, and then accidentally had some lunch (in the form of blackberry cobbler) at the century-old Chiles Peach Orchard. We couldn’t resist. And we were a bit warm watching all the sweat-drenched parents coming in from a seemingly strenuous morning of peach-picking with their children (the children seemed, so I wonder who did the picking?).
Then it was off to King Family Vineyards, where we found yet another reason to return to this part of the state: polo matches. The King family doesn’t just have an equestrian themed tasting room for kicks, no they own enough horses to host Sunday afternoon polo parties on this beautiful expanse of lawn. Can’t you just picture yourself sitting there with a glass of wine and an Audrey Hepburn-inspired (or Pretty Woman-inspired, choose your style) racing hat?
The matches are BYO-chair and free of charge, complete with a golf-cart delivery of wine selections (not free of charge, of course), according to our tasting room guide, another Matthew. Matthew also fit the horsey theme, wearing what might have been the coolest belt ever, made from horse strap leather and with a hoof pick as the latch. I had to tell my husband, “Christmas is coming.”
We went from there to Pollak Vineyards, based on good reviews of its red wines. But a few sips in we were smitten with the winery’s Viognier. By the third or fourth Virginia winery, you’re basically an expert in Viogniers, since they almost all offer a rendition of it. As much as I felt like an expert in the moment, all I remember now is that it was good, and so we bought it.
After regrouping at the B&B for a trip into Charlottesville, we hit up the historic University of Virginia. If it is difficult to navigate on any given day, that is especially true when it is covered in construction scaffolding in preparation for the start of school. But I got the general sense that it was awe-inducing and bursting at the seems with potential knowledge, just as Thomas Jefferson (whose image and vision is all over campus) would have wanted. And it has a Delta Gamma chapter, so it must be a good place.
We were decidedly indecisive about where to have our anniversary dinner. We knew that nothing short of a six-course dinner would compare with the breakfast that started our day, and we didn’t want to shell out the funds for that. So we settled on a Charlottesville spot called The Local, which I figured would at least give us a glimpse into local fare. The highlight was the vodka-and-tomato-sauced gnocchi with hearty chunks of lamb. My Asian-inspired salmon was OK (I guess I became a Pacific Northwest salmon snob) and Cole’s bacon-wrapped meatloaf was phenomenal. We did, however, regret ordering sugary mixed drinks at the start, which made us into irresistible snacks for the neighborhood mosquitoes that evening.
Day three, I’ll zoom in for some highlights. Breakfast was another version of incredible, with pineapple chutney topping both homemade biscuits and a giant Belgian waffle for my husband. And the poached eggs were served on another version of flaky homemade biscuits with roasted red peppers and other goodies. And then it was out of wine country and off to real farm country, east of Staunton.
Man I am just not a city girl. I can’t resist these views, the rolling pasturelands and old farmhouses and churches. Our destination on this particular day was, of course, Polyface Farms. I secretly hoped we’d run into Joel Salatin, the “high priest of the pasture,” as the NY Times called him, featured in Food, Inc., The Omnivore’s Dilemma and his own revolutionary books, to name a few. We met Jill Powers in front of the house after realizing the farm store had closed at noon. Whoops. The good thing is the people are just so nice. Jill interrupted what looked like a hearty session of chicken coop-building to ask if someone could open up the register for us. And then she just mentions that Joel is on his way back. I tried not to get too (outwardly) excited. I loved talking to Jill about her adventures marrying her way into farming earlier this year. They had just slaughtered some chickens that morning and I think she was still in I-can’t-believe-this-is-my-life mode (in a good way).
So while we’re chatting, guess who walks up…
Jill obliged to taking our picture, since she was already preparing to take an update mug shot of Joel for his column for Flavor Magazine. Joel’s face lit up when I said I have the pleasure of writing for Flavor, and then we just talked. To Joel Salatin! At lunch in Staunton that afternoon, reflecting on our blessed little anniversary trip, my husband and I agreed that this was the highlight.