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Trip Report Culpeper, VA and The Inn at Little Washington. Warning: very long

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This is my first trip report and will probably be the last for a long time.

To celebrate my husband's birthday, we had a weekend away in Culpeper and Washington, VA. We are fortunate to be a short drive to a lovely town and to one of the most wonderful Inns in the country.

Friday morning we left Richmond and arrived in Culpeper in time for lunch at Foti's http://www.fotisrestaurant.com/. Culpeper is a quaint town with a downtown of shops and restaurant and Foti's is not to be missed as it never disappoints. Pacing ourselves for a weekend full of food and cheer, we each decided on the lobster bisque and the Chicken Wrap. The bisque arrived and was smooth with pieces of lobster meat throughout and drizzled with a bit of garlic oil and topped with a few garlic crisps. It was perfect for a rainy spring day. The chicken wrap (whose name does not do it justice) was made with their BBQ chicken, blue cheese, fries (yep fries in the wrap), spinach and tomato surrounded by a spinach wrap. This was so neatly wrapped around the nice thin tortilla and made so each bite gave you every ingredient.

After lunch we ventured through the shops including the Frenchmen's Corner (a lovely chocolate, cheese and wine shop also offering various gourmet foods and kitchen/cooking ware. I'm not a chocolate lover, but for those who are this is a great place. http://frenchmancorner.com/ We picked up some spices, some hot pepper jelly and were on our way.

Our favorite shop in Culpeper is the Cameleer. http://www.thecameleer.com/ Offering a number of interesting items from cards, to clothing, to jewelry to accessories we always find something new and exciting.

At this point we were ready to check into our room at The Thyme Inn. We have stayed in the Thyme Room each visit since the Inn opened. http://www.thymeinfo.com/overnightsuites/thyme.html

We have been customers of their restaurant, It's About Thyme, over ten years starting when our daughter would compete in horse shows and we've seen it grown from a restaurant to an Inn, to a Market and now complete with a seafood restaurant. http://www.thymeinfo.com/index.html With each addition to the business the owners John, Jodi and Joclyn impress even more. And of course it's always nice to go to places that are familiar and one is remembered.

After settling into our room, we went to their newest restaurant, The Copper Fish, for happy hour. The usual Beefeaters and Tonic for the Dh, the cocktail of the day “Peach Martini” (Absolute Citron, Cointreu, peach puree and a touch of cranberry) for me. I had a few raw Blue Point Oysters, we talked to the staff and locals and had a nice time before heading next door to It’s About Thyme for dinner.

We each had a glass of Prosecco while reviewing the menu and specials. We decided to split a salad of local mixed greens, goat cheese, Peppedew peppers, and olives with balsamic and olive oil dressing. Culpeper has a lot of local farmers and places like It’s About Thyme and Foti’s take advantage of having the best veggies, meats and cheeses nearby. Dh ordered a bottle of Bordeaux to go with our dinner of grilled lamb chops over red rice with an asparagus salsa. Local lamb cooked to a perfect medium rare over hearty rice with the salsa was exactly what we wanted. Dessert was pineapple and coconut cake with banana gelato for him and grasshopper pie for me. We took our wine back to the room and settled in for the night.

The next morning we brought the festivities down a notch with breakfast at Frost’s Diner. A hearty, old fashioned Southern breakfast was in order. I had sausage gravy over biscuits and my husband had Virginia country ham with eggs, grits and biscuits. With coffee, we were ready for the day ahead.

I thought to bring a cooler and we headed to the Thyme Market for their signature “better cheddar” spread, some baked flatbreads and lunch stuff to have on the road. This is no ordinary market. There were sucking pigs roasting, various salads and entrees being made and they also offer many gourmet food items for travel as well as wood fired pizzas, paninis and wraps.

We headed out of town and took the scenic route to Washington, VA. We stopped here and there along with way, got lost a few times, found our way back and had a picnic lunch as well.

Taking our time, we arrived in Washington early afternoon and took advantage of a gallery opening, and visiting the local merchants.

We pulled up to our home for the night, The Inn at Little Washington. I consider it one of my favorite places ever and a sentimental favorite. My first visit to the Inn was in 1982 when I was 18 and visiting my boyfriend over Christmas break. He and his twin were original employees of the Inn and we stopped by (at that time it was a restaurant) and I was given a tour and Patrick came out and showed us the plans for the future and we shared a glass of champagne and I was hooked. Now it is one of (maybe the only) five star hotel and five star restaurant in the United States .http://www.theinnatlittlewashington.com/

Friday was my 6th visit to the Inn and the 4th time staying there with my husband of nearly 12 years and I wanted to give him a wonderful birthday experience and I knew the Inn would not disappoint.

When we pulled up, we were immediately greeted, and our car and luggage were taken care of while we enjoyed a welcome cocktail of strawberry & rhubarb with ginger and sparkling wine and given the updated tour of the gardens, shops and new ballroom.

Afternoon tea awaited us. We each chose “Patrick’s blend” a green tea blended with citrus and served with house smoked salmon and cucumber sandwiches, country ham biscuits with mascarpone pepper jelly, scones, tarts, a pistachio cake and pecan shortbread. Wonderful little bites to tie us over until dinner.

We were escorted to our suite, The Charlie Trotter Garden Suite at the Norman House, and took in the accommodations, our private patio and garden and the breathtaking mountain view. Fresh flowers, including orchids, filled the suite and there were strawberries and lemon curd to welcome us along with a note from Patrick O’Connell. The suite was filled with books and tributes to Charlie Trotter.

We walked through the town and the garden path (for those of you who love to garden, The Inn’s gardens are masterpieces) and enjoyed the lovely town.

It was soon time for dinner. We arrived early so that we could review the 77 page wine list and my husband loved discussing the wine with the sommelier. My husband had his requisite gin and tonic and I had a glass of Philippe Gonet, Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, Champagne, Brut (N.V.) Rosé.

We were seated and presented with our menus welcoming us and personalize with a birthday greeting to my husband. After much discussion we ordered two bottles of wine for the evening: Francois Lump, Petite Marole, Givry 1er Cru (2006) and Château Pichon Longueville-Comtesse de Lalande (2006).

While deciding on dinner and enjoying the wine we were brought a shot of asparagus soup with a Gruyere puff and offerings of truffle risotto, the world’s smallest baked potato, tomato polenta with parmesan and pork belly. Each of these were one bite miniatures and perfectly executed.

For our first course, I had a quartet of Virginia Oyster Slurpees. Four Virginia oysters served on the half shell with assorted sorbets: lemon, apple, cocktail and wasabi. My husband had the Carpaccio of Herb Crusted Baby Lamb with Caesar salad ice cream.

For the second course I had the Lasagna of Local Morels, Country Ham and Asparagus and my husband had the Macaroni and Cheese with Country Ham and Shaved Black Truffle.

For our main courses we ended up having the same dish Beef Two Ways: a pecan crusted barbequed short rib paired with a minature Filet Mignon wrapped in Swiss chard and served with miniature scalloped potatoes.

I cannot go the Inn without having cheese for dessert. I had the fromager choose five selections and cheese from Utah to Israel and everywhere in between were served with pecans, honey, crackers and bread. My husband had the granny smith apple tart (great with the cheese) with buttermilk ice cream. We were given the miniature “Inn at Little Washington” box filled with candies, shortbread and dried fruit.

With finished our meal, had some coffee and headed back to our suite. Of course the Inn staff handled our remaining wine and delivered it back to the room along with stemware.

We were able to sleep with the patio doors open in an incredibly comfortable bed and the next morning breakfast (which I believe is the Inn’s unsung hero) awaited us. Greeted with coffee and four shot glasses of fresh juice (pineapple, green apple, strawberry and raspberry) were served along with fresh baked breads, muffins and croissants with housemade lemon blueberry jam and strawberry jam.

I chose the “Miniature of American Breakfast Favorites” for breakfast which consisted of scrambled eggs with dill and housemade smoked salmon served in a glass egg, corned beef hash with sunny side up quail egg and oatmeal soufflé with rum soaked currants and maple syrup. My husband had the eggs benedict and both came with the housemade bacon and sausage.

We took one last walk around town, visited the gift shop for some goodies and headed back to reality.

Once again I was reminded why I love Virginia, the mountains and why I am so passionate about food and cheer. And I was able to give my husband a birthday he will always treasure.

The question is often asked “Is the Inn worth the price?” In my opinion, definitely.

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