Last weekend we traveled to SW Virginia as part of a belated ten-year anniversary celebration. The Husband wanted to go to the mountains to ride bikes. I think mountains are creepy, but since we did the beach for our 5th, I figured it was fair.
We drove out to Damascus on Friday, and as soon as we got into town we had to hit the bike shop as I had a flat tire and needed a new gear shifter dealiething. We got that squared away and checked into our B & B, the Victorian Inn.
We changed and headed over to Chilhowie to have dinner at the Town House. Perhaps you have heard of it–they have gotten lots of press, including articles in the NYT, the Washington Post, etc, as they are doing fantastic things, essentially in the middle of nowhere. The husband of the husband/wife chef duo won a Food & Wine magazine best new chef award this year.
The Town House offers a couple of items a la carte, but focuses on its four and ten course dinners. We opted for the four course, and between the two of us we tried everything on the menu, I think. My first course was crab and pumpkin–it was quite lovely, but I don’t remember much about it. The Husband got the baked apple that had been hollowed out and filled with a melted foie gras, with some kind of cider-y sauce. I don’t normally like foie gras, but it was very good. How did they do it?
My second course was peeky toe crab, grilled onions, what I initially thought was a potato slice that turned out to be a banana, lemon grass and a broth that the chef brought out to pour in the bowl. It was amazing!! I never would have thought that crab and banana would go together, but it did. The husband couldn’t eat either of the second course options (shellfish) so he got the scrambled egg mousse, which was very smooth and silky, served atop some chad roe. The mousse was sprinkled with nutmeg and contained sorghum, so it was a tad like a pumpkin pie. How they can combine those flavors with roe and have it be delicious really boggles the mind!
Third courses were abalone and chicken confit, served with various seaweeds, and roasted lamb. The lamb stole the show. It tasted nothing like lamb, as it was very smoky and looked more like a ham in appearance. It was roasted in edible ash, which consisted of dehydrated bacon fat, onions, and leeks. Amazing. It looked just like the ash you see in the bottom of your camp fire, except it was delicious.
Desserts were the candied parsnip plate for me: candied parsnips three ways, parsnip ice cream, banana pudding, a coconut mousse cube (how did it hold its shape?!), lemongrass ice, a macaroon bit, and some sponge cake. OMG, it was so good. The Husband had the chocolate dessert plate, with different chocolate mousses and a sorrel ice. He said it was yumtastic. There were some edible flowers and such on the plates–the one on mine looked a bit like Queen Anne’s lace, but I am not sure what it was.
It was one of the best meals of my life. If I had seen these dishes described on a menu I would have expected them to taste awful, but it was truly magical how everything worked together. The wine list, by the way, was fantastic. Prices for a bottle ranged from about $30 up to $800, with all sorts of yummy things to tempt. We got bubbly due to the occasion, but would love to get the pairings next time.
There are no photos of the meal–I would have felt very awkward pulling out my camera in that atmosphere (although one of the other diners didn’t seem to mind). The service was excellent, and I appreciated that the tables were spaced far enough apart that we had privacy.
The next morning we woke early and took a shuttle up White Top Mountain to ride the VA Creeper Trail. It’s the former railroad trestle for the VA Creeper train, and runs 18 miles downhill into Damascus (then another 17 into Abingdon). It was one of the most fun things I have ever done! The scenery was gorgeous–the leaves were about at their peak fall colors, and the path takes you through forest, farm land, and along a stream. There are several former depots along the way that sell snacks (one is a cafe), and one is a museum. I cannot recommend the trail enough! Everyone must do it. Or else.
By the time we got to the bottom of the mountain I was starving (no breakfast) so we stopped in at the Whistle Pig Cafe for a snack–sweet potato and black eyed pea soup for me and chili for The Husband. Both were house made and quite good. We had reservations at our inn for high tea, and that was a hit as well. The proprietress made a butternut squash and pear soup (with a homegrown squash), an assortment of savory sandwiches, a homemade poppy seed scone with homemade lemon curd and clotted cream, plus a pumpkin roll and macadamia cookies. All delicious.
Later that night we popped into the Trail Cafe in Abingdon, and the owners kept giving us soup to try–the green turkey chili was quite good. The owner gave us the recipe and I made some the other day and loved it. We split a shepherd’s pie then went to the movies.
All in all, it was a very fun trip. Maybe mountains don’t have to always be creepy.