Saturday, September 20, 2008

Experience the Food, Wine and History of Virginia

I traveled through the Virginia countryside in August 2008, discovering the local food, history and hospitality of what is called “the birthplace of the nation.” My itinerary offers something for epicureans, hikers and history buffs:

Day One: Check-in at the Foster Harris House, a charming bed & breakfast in Little Washington, Virginia. Owners Diane and John MacPherson offer a luxurious retreat at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the four-course breakfast is nothing short of an edible work of art.

Day Two: Visit Monticello, home of Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence and America’s third President. Jefferson was America’s gourmet president, and the meticulously recreated kitchen garden is bursting with heirloom vegetables during the summer months.

Stop for a wine tasting at Jefferson Vineyards, located on the same land where Jefferson first attempted to establish viticulture in Virginia.

Day Three: Hike Old Rag in Shenandoah National Park, one of the park’s most challenging and popular hikes. The final scramble to the summit takes you through tight crevices and over and under towering prehistoric boulders. You will be rewarded with sweeping views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the surrounding valley.

Once you’ve worked up an appetite, dine at the world-famous Inn at Little Washington. Ask to visit the kitchen for a glimpse of world-renowned Chef Patrick O’Connell at work.

Day Four: Visit Montpelier the home of James and Dolley Madision, in Orange, Virginia. Madison was the fourth President of the United States and the Father of the Constitution.

Dolley Madison was known as a great hostess and entertainer and was the first presidential spouse to be called “First Lady.” Montpelier has gone through many architectural changes but has just been restored to the period of 1820 when Madison resided there.

Day Five: Visit Skyline Drive in Shenadoah National Park and hike to Camp Rapidan, the summer retreat of President Herbert Hoover. The trailhead is located just beyond Big Meadows at the Milam Gap Parking area. The rustic Presidential fishing lodge is open for tours during the summer and is decorated in the Arts and Crafts style.

Later, drive to Culpepper, Virginia and explore the shops along its classic main street. Dine at Foti’s and enjoy the eclectic cuisine and warm hospitality of owners Frank and Sue Maragos, alumni of the Inn at Little Washington. Foti’s luscious Dark Chocolate, Raisin, Lavender and Goat Cheese Ice Cream was inspired by the outstanding local produce available throughout the region.

Day Six – For the true Jeffersonian, make the long drive beyond Lynchburg, Virginia to visit Poplar Forest, Thomas Jefferson’s private retreat. There, a team is carefully restoring the octagon house that Jefferson designed in the image of an Italian villa. Poplar trees from the time of Jefferson dot the landscape.

Day Seven – Tour the Copper Fox Distillery in Sperryville, Virginia, where owner Rick Wasmund produces the distinctly American Wasmund’s Single Malt Whiskey, flavored with toasted applewood, cherrywood and oak.

©2008 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved