Nestled at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains / Shenandoah National Park, and just an hour drive from Washington D.C, Culpeper, Virginia has so much to offer with its vast history and nicely preserved historic buildings. (Coincidentally, just a few short weeks ago, we were visiting friends at the HEAD of the Blue Ridge Mountains near Nazareth, PA.)
We were in town to attend a friend’s daughter’s wedding, so a little bonding time with Culpeper was in order—as it was our first time in the area. After a slight mishap at checkin (our friends had mistakenly reserved the room for a Russell Bishop instead of Russell Hartman), we familiarized ourselves with the layout of the town via online maps. On the ride down I made early dinner reservations because we were invited for an after-the-rehearsal get together with the bridal party and families.
For this dinner we stepped back in time at Flavor on Main, a roaring twenties and thirties themed restaurant on an historical art deco style main street that was voted “Top Ten Main Streets in America.” History comes to life in this beautifully decorated restaurant with its wonderful ambiance, delicious cuisine and amazing specialty and prohibition cocktails. They also have hotel rooms that can accommodate everyone from the curious tourist to a large bridal party.
The Chaplin Room.
While we chose to sit outside on the veranda, inside dining options include rooms with elaborate 1920’s and ‘30’s detail, with the décor vibe in Prohibition jazz style showcasing hand-stamped ceilings and chrome, exuding an overall slick, clean look. These theme inspired dining rooms are appropriately named The Great Gatsby and The Chaplin Room. When combined, the private dining area can seat up to 80 guests. (I was so impressed with the bathroom, below, that I had to take a photo!)
ONE CANNOT THINK WELL, LOVE WELL, SLEEP WELL, IF ONE HAS NOT DINED WELL.
In addition to the regular menu, our waitress informed us of the night’s specials, and one intriguing appetizer, Bison Carpaccio, caught my immediate attention. It arrived on a piece of slate with a smooth river rock heated to 500 degrees. The tenderloin of bison came uniformly sliced atop a bed of chimichurri sauce with healthy dollops of an olive tapenade and a delicious cherry compote accompanied by a lightly dressed arugula salad offering a bright note to the dish.
It was worth ordering for the visual presentation alone, but then you add in the interactivity of searing each slice of bison on top of the hot rock to cook to your desired doneness, what fun, and oh how amazingly delicious! I was so caught up in it that the Executive Chef Garth Hansen—a very young guy—came out to personally thank me for my enthusiasm over his creation.
Russ enjoyed Flavor’s Caesar Salad with grilled baby romaine hearts, buttermilk caesar, homemade croutons, parmesan, heirloom tomatoes and anchovies. Simple in it’s origin, you can tell they used the best local ingredients. And to his delight, Russ noticed the anchovies were “fresh cured”—in Spain known as boquerones.
For our main entrees we went with items from the regular menu. I chose the Crispy Crab Cakes on a mound of crisp-tender brussels sprouts (in exchange for the white truffle whipped potatoes), topped with asparagus spears and playfully surrounded with quarter-sized balls of a Cajun remoulade.
Russ’s Southern Comfort, was a new take on fried chicken because it was pickled. It came plated over a mound of the most creamiest white truffle mashed potatoes he’s ever tasted with red-eyed gravy and the aforementioned brussels sprouts. So good that this Northern boy almost licked the plate!
During our meal we engaged in a conversation with another couple who were born and bred in Culpeper and have remained there for their entire lives. They got to describing some of the sights and happenings around town which we were able to take advantage of the next day before the onset of the late afternoon wedding.
In addition to a Friday evening festival, a Saturday morning farmer’s market, historical museums, famous distilleries, breweries and wineries, Davis Street is the place for shopping—offering quintessential Southern boutiques in spades. And we contributed generously to their local economy… not surprisingly, most of it food-related with imported chocolates from Frenchman’s Corner, gluten-free uncommon pasta shapes and flavored vinegars and oils from Taste, and fabulous imported and local cheeses from Culpeper Cheese Company, to name a few.
Shopping aside, I have to mention the wedding venue. OMG, what a place! Walden Hall, a luxury bed and breakfast, is a short drive from Culpeper and sits on 10 acres of rolling farmland in the tranquil countryside of Reva, Virginia.
It was a mostly cloudy day, until just minutes before the ceremony began when the clouds parted and brilliant sunshine lit up the countryside.
The barn is getting ready to receive guests for a reception after the ceremony.
Cocktail hour was held by the pool prior to heading for the barn reception.
The owners, Dave and Julie, took possession of the property (appropriately) on Valentine’s Day, 2015, and over the next three months, oversaw an incredible renovation that included adding two bathrooms, knocking down walls, adding windows, and repainting, decorating and furnishing the 16,000 square foot home. The final product was revealed on May 1, 2015, and Walden Hall opened for business.
Five guest rooms, each with en suite bathroom, feature hand-picked furniture inspired by the 19th-century poets for whom they are named. The bridal suite where the bride and groom stayed was a four-room affair with a shower as big as someone’s bedroom!
Just one of the attention to details scattered about the barn reception.
A live band played an array of tunes long into the night.
If you ever get the opportunity, take a trip to Culpeper and check out all the town has to offer, and top it off with a visit to Walden Hall. After all, it is a fantastic destination for weekend jaunts with interesting places to stay, fantastic food, and plenty of liquid love to go around.