FARE IS MORE THAN FAIR
IT’S FANTASTIC AT THE RESTAURANTS OF THE PIEDMONT
Maybe Epicurus was right: pleasure is the only intrinsic value. Well, at least up to a point. When it comes to fine food, hedonists, epicureans, connoisseurs, gourmets, and gourmands alike recognize and revere the Piedmont as a world-class DDR (Designated Dining Region!).
The area boasts it all from Michelin-starred haute cuisine to down-home country cookin’, and everything in between. There’s not a regional cookery, national or international, that isn’t exquisitely represented, and that which is known as “American” is here in abundance at the highest level. In fact, there are so many fine establishments that it would take years and many editions to catalog them all. We won’t even try.
However, in an effort to help those seeking unique dining experiences, we’ve asked several area chefs to visit favorite restaurants of their choice and report their findings. This mini-mini guide, which is by no means exhaustive, highlights some of the outstanding fare diners can enjoy. It’s road-trip time. Bon appetit!
VINTAGE AT THE INN AT WILLOW GROVE, ORANGE
Photos by Jaclyn Dyrholm
If you are up for a beautiful drive through the countryside of rolling hills and old Virginia farms, then the Inn at Willow Grow is your perfect destination. As you pull up, this elegant Revolutionary War-era historic building will give you a sense of tranquility, especially when you look around at the mountain scenery. Make sure to get there a few minutes before your reservation so you are able to take time to rest for a cocktail at the beautiful bar. As you are seated for dinner, the elegant place settings and the immediate tranquil ambiance will put you in the right mood for what’s to come.
For an appetizer, the sip of soup is a great idea, beautifully presented. We had a cheese platter that offered a variety of three cheeses, fresh berries, and wedges of fresh homemade bread … perfect. The roasted sweet tomato and phyllo dough tart came as surprise; as opposed to a traditionally shaped tart, the phyllo dough was shredded and toasted and served with the tomatoes. It was delicious.
Then we had the wild roasted mushroom fettuccine with garlic cloves, grape tomatoes, and mixed greens with sweet vermouth butter. The pasta was homemade, which gave it a variance in thickness and width. The dish was very rich but delicious. The rice-crusted ahi tuna (one of the chef’s favorite recommendations) came out just as it was ordered, rare and slightly warm in the middle. The crust was exquisite; the fried polenta that came with it was divine, as was as the espresso barbecue sauce that was drizzled over it. Other recommendations from the chef included the grilled rack of lamb (from Retreat Farm in Rapidan), the seafood trio (he notes the scallops are as big as biscuits), and the chicken paillard, served with a warm black-eyed pea and thyme vinaigrette. This dish is versatile enough to be satisfyingly warm and homey in the cooler spring weather, but fresh enough for the warmer late spring temperatures.
And then, desserts! The chef identified the strawberry cake as a favorite, and mentioned the interestingly prepared lemon and blueberry fried pie, and the house-made sorbets. We chose instead the blood orange crème brulée because, well, who would’ve thought? Nicely presented and yummy.
Overall, the experience was wonderful. The ambiance, the setting, and the people made for a beautiful Sunday evening. We are looking forward to going back for a Sunday brunch. Anyone looking for a rehearsal dinner or wedding venue, or just a romantic getaway, this is your place. The Inn at Willow Grove has a lot to offer: history, beautiful views, a great staff, and wonderful, locally sourced food.
—Andrea and Amber Ferrero