Posts Tagged ‘Restored area in Williamsburg VA’

Our Unusual Eastern Shore Thanksgiving Day 2012

Friday, November 23rd, 2012

With 5 kids,  spouses, “significant others”,  5 grandchildren,  a new great-grandchild, 2 huge bronze Newfoundland dogs  plus a partridge in a pear tree, Thanksgiving Day at our house here on the scenic Eastern Shore of Virginia is usually  a busy, noisy day of cooking, eating, talking.  This year was no different except that we didn’t do it on The Day.  Instead, we all got together for  Thanksgiving Day dinner on Thanksgiving eve.  First time ever,  but  the advantages turned out to be  numerous.  For those who also wanted to spend some time at the  in-laws house, the opportunity was there.  And for moi, it enabled us to not only enjoy time with the entire family but also to be able to make reservations to attend the very elegant Thanksgiving buffet at the The Lodge in Williamsburg. Talk about having  my cake and eating  it too !

In the South, preparations get underway several days before the day itself because special efforts have to be made to round up just the right ingredients.  For example, no traditional Thanksgiving dinner in Virginia is ever complete without a big mess  of  either turnip  or collard greens.  And not just  any old greens, only those tender and fresh- picked need apply.  And on  Virginia’s Eastern Shore, it is a time-honored  tradition to serve a creamy oyster stew, steaming hot, fragrant with plump, briny local oysters, preferably from our Seaside,  topped with pungent flakes of  chopped fresh parsley.  The sweet potatoes should be Haymans, a super-sweet white variety,  indigenous to the Shore.  Ham can be either country ham or fresh smoked but it must be served sliced very thin and, at our house,  ham has to be studded with whole cloves before baking and finished with a crackling sugar glaze at the very end.  Corn pudding,  a lusciously rich  mac and cheese as well as  fried apples rendolent  with  cinnamon and nutmeg are among the compulsory  side dishes.  If one is serving turkey instead of ham, then a stuffing made with chopped pecans and crumbled sausage must be added to the onion and celery mixture  and fluffy mashed potatoes are added to the “must-have” accompaniments.   Hot yeasty dinner rolls round out the edges.  The  fabulous homemade potato dinner rolls from Kate’s  Kupboard Bakery in Belle Haven, VA  are delightful– if   you remember  to get on Kate’s order list early. If not,  you are just plain out of luck and get ready to start soaking the yeast yourself !   ( Also great from Kate’s is her melt-in-your-mouth  coconut pound cake–  moist, tender, so delicious. In my book, better than either pecan or pumpkin pie.)  So, they came , they ate, they laughed, they talked and everyone departed the evening in a jolly mood.

And so, for the first time since I can remember, early Thanksgiving morning I was not up wrestling stuffing into a 28 pound turkey or getting ready to make my secret mac and cheese recipe.   Instead, I was relaxing with Hubby, enjoying several cups of  my favorite coffee, feet up, watching the Today show.  Wow !  It felt strange but I was really getting into it.  Then, about 10:30,   Hubby, Eldest Daughter,  boyfriend and I  piled into the car and set off for Williamsburg, roughly an hour and a half from the Eastern Shore,  heading for our noon reservation at the Williamsburg Lodge, an elegant hotel owned by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation and dedicated to continuing long traditions of Virginia hospitality.

One of the things I like best about the holiday buffets The Lodge offers is not just that they are  true foodie delights  but also that they make so much effort  to insure that everything is beautiful and presented in a really eye- pleasing manner, the colors and textures are real food art.  Beautiful  ice sculptures abound, some  co-ordinated to the holiday and some to the foods being served.  I especially loved the sculpture done for the cold steamed jumbo shrimp, which were cleverly arranged on a carved flat block of ice which was backstopped with a huge  scallop shell carved from crystal clear ice.  Ice carved pumpkins, an  ice sculptured cornucopia and watermelons carved into elaborate roses, the list goes on and on.

After ordering a bottle of  Virginia Chardonay, we headed for the goodie- laden tables– the Lodge had really outdone itself  with this spectacular Thanksgiving buffet.  First order of business,  check out  the Cold Salads and Appetizers table.  Then mosey on over to check out the long line of Hot Food Stations where  a cute mini-tankard shaped mug of pumpkin bisque called out,  “try me first”.   Deliciously different, flecked with tiny chunks of scallion and spiced delicately with a bit of nutmeg, it paired beautifully with the white wine.  Next up, I grazed among the cold salads and appetizers, highlighted by a mirrored tray of dazzling terrines, a delicious rainbow of  eatable colors and textures.  Down the line, my husband was drawn in by long,  glistening filets of Scottish salmon, both hot smoked and cold smoked, thin sliced,  accompanied by a horseradish aioli and a dill cream sauce,  presented alongside cold grilled fennel and artichoke hearts.   My pumpkin bisque was followed up by a bit of crisp Ceasar salad, few of the perfectly chilled shrimp and some fat stuffed olives, all wheting the appitite for the hot offerings to come. In fact, I ended up circling the  Carving Stations and the Hot Foods Stations twice before making up my mind what to try first.

I finally opted for the grilled beef tenderloin, perfection in pink, piping hot, sliced thin and accompanied by a creamy horseradish sauce with  pasta in a lush white clam sauce and green beans with crisp bacon as side dishes.  Hubby was  working on a whole new selection of  terrines, pate’ and cheeses from the Appetizer Station alongside his healthy serving of  Ceasar salad. Eldest Daughter on the other hand was swooning over the chicken piccata,  lightly drizzled in a Madeira sauce and tossed with quartered baby bella mushrooms, with a few dollops of onion-garlic mashed Yukon Gold’s and some of the crunchy green beans on the side. By that time, we were all just trying to save a little room for the indulgent pastries beckoning like the Sirens from  the Dessert Station.  Delights like demi-tasse cups of baked Pumpkin Creme’ Brulee,  open-faced apple cranberry tart, tiny chocolate molds filled with a delicious liqueur laden mousse, tiny scoops of house- made chocolate and strawberry ice cream, best I ever tasted and, of course, pecan, pumpkin and apple pie.  And a Cupcake Station where, amazingly,  more adults than children were lining up to ice and decorate their cupcakes  !  A hot cup of  aromatic coffee and a last bite of fruit tart brought this delicious meal to a close.  And then, off to the historic restored Colonial area to walk it all off in the warm afternoon sun, another fine holiday coming to a close. (Posted by Marlene Cree, licensed Virginia agent with Blue Heron Realty Co., 7134  Wilsonia Neck Dr., Machipongo, VA)

On The Eastern Shore of Virginia, January 1, 2012 Dawned Auspiciously Bright And Beautiful

Friday, January 6th, 2012

There may have been  blizzards  raging across other parts of the US  but here on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, January 1, 2012 dawned as a bright and beautiful day which,  ever the optimist,  I took as a sign of good things to come for our area this year !   And it was particularly auspicious for our plans for the day which were to go to Williamsburg  for brunch and a walk  through the  historic area before they take down the Christmas decorations in Colonial Williamsburg’s Restored Area.   Clear blue skies, temps forcast for the mid-60’s — who could ask for anything more for a New Year’s Day stroll  down cobblestone streets in the historic area, a living museum harkening  back to the early 1700’s  ?

Setting off about 11 am, we breezed right along.  Views  from the Chesapeake Bay Bridge were spectacular, water shimmering in the morning sun, seemingly thousands of seabirds out to greet the New Year, soaring gaily above the Bridge, calling to their fellow revelers,  diving for a  fine fishy feast for the holiday.  Out on Rt. 64 west, the roads were nearly traffic free, likely thanks to the ever-popular Rose Bowl parade and we made excellent time, arriving at the luxurious  Williamsburg Inn well in advance of our 1 pm brunch reservation so we took a moment to just sit and relax,  soaking up some sun outdoors on the Inn’s peaceful back patio overlooking  the golf course.

The Regency Room at the Williamsburg Inn is a truly beautiful dining room, filled with soft light streaming in from a full wall of windows running along one entire side, beautifully decorated , lovely and quiet,  just a wonderful restaurant to celebrate the arrival of the New Year,  a  surprise treat from my very thoughtful husband.   But they really outdid themselves with a spectacular brunch buffet,  a true foodie’s delight.   After ordering a bottle of Virginia wine, a  Barboursville  Chardonay, we set off for  the Cold Salads Station where my husband helped himself to some Eastern Shore oysters on the half shell, salty and flavorful, straight from our pristine waters, shucked before his very eyes, while I sampled the marinated shrimp, perfectly chilled,  a smige of Ceasar salad and a tiny wedge of Stilton cheese.   There were so many delicious hot offerings at the Hot Foods Station I had to circle  around twice before I could decide on what to try first whereas hubby loves breakfast and opted right off the bat for  a  slice of  the shrimp, scallop and sausage fritatta, some eggs benedict served with choron sauce and the  grilled fingerling potatoes with carmalized onions.


Following  the long-time  southern tradition of eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day for good luck,  I started with some black-eyed pea and ham chowder, smoky and delicious,  followed by 3 cheese ravioli in a sauce of oyster mushrooms, a slice of  breast of duck and a slice of cold prime rib, sliced paper-thin, served with with horseradish cream, all  accompanied by a salad of wild greens and spinach dressed with a luscious vinaigrette,  everything pairing well with our chardonay.   Hubby was back at the Cold Salads Station for another little bit of the  Scottish smoked salmon, which he declared “the best I ever ate” and some of the  Caesar salad.  For my final go-round ( before dessert),   I visited the elaborate Carving Station, opting  for a thin slice of beef  fillet, piping hot, rare and juicy,  along with some of the roasted potatoes.   Even though we  had been taking care  to only have very small tastes of everything, we were both getting pretty full.  But…… I never miss a wonderful dessert if I can help it so I just had to visit the Crepe Station for one of the little crepes, made while you watch, topped with fresh berries and a drizzle of rich caramel sauce.  And I did save room for what I was pretty sure would be the piece’ de resistance,  the Bananas Foster.  Was I right or was I right ??    Expertly wielding  an omelet pan,  Chef’s assistant  Michael Ellis made the best Bananas Foster that I have ever had,  possibly  that I may ever have,  a supreme combination of  banana slices, spices, sugars and rum  flaming nearly to the sky and then dying down into a simmering ambrosial concoction, poured over a creamy scoop of rum raisin ice cream,  the perfect end to a very special  meal.

And then,  off  for our stroll through the historic area, an absolute necessity after all those  Regency Room calories !   For those not familiar with the Colonial Williamsburg  historic  area,  it is the amazing restoration and re-construction of  many of the most important buildings that existed in Williamsburg during the Colonial era including  the Capitol building, the Governor’s Palace and the Bruton Parish Church.  As the capitol of  colonial Virginia, Williamsburg  was a well-known and very important city,  really the center of  commerce and government of the colony as well as the location of most respected college of that era,  the College of William and Mary,  alma mater of  George Washington and  Thomas Jefferson,  among its many  famous graduates.  In the early 1930’s,  John D. Rockefeller and his wife created the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation  ( ) , whose mission was and is to re-create a Colonial era town and educate visitors about life in that period, to be in effect a living museum for  that period of American history.   Re-enactors work and dress in contumes  of the period and speak to visitors about Colonial customs, all of  which is always a lot of fun.  Holiday traditions of the era are observed which is how the door and window decorations of  Williamsburg have come to be so famous.


Virtually every  house in the Restored Area is decorated by a  wreath made  only of material which would have been available and used by residents of that time.  Boxwood, cedar and pine woven into roping,  decorated with fruits, seed pods, plant materials, shells, cloth, etc.  which are the allowable materials for the beautiful wreathes desplayed each year in the Foundation’s  blue ribbon door contest.  Numerous books and articles have been written on how to make a Williamsburg style natural wreath, no plastics, no doo-dads,  just raw materials straight from Mother Nature,  fashioned into a festive, eye pleasing decoration.  It’s  such an easy drive from the Eastern Shore to  Williamsburg and we try to come every year  during the holiday season to see the decorations,  usually eating  in one of the authentic period taverns which serve a menu of 1700’s holiday fare. Sunday happened to be a day when all the horse drawn carriages, elegant reproductions which according to one of the drivers were handmade in Austria ( except for the wheels,  which are fashioned by  Colonial Williamsburg’s very own wheelwright) and cost in the vacinity of $250,000 apiece.  That’s a pretty steep price but  they are truly gorgeous and a 15 minute ride for 4 people costs about $15/ person so it doesn’t take too many years to amortize the investment.  At any rate, there’s  always something new to see in Williamsburg and its   a wonderful way to kick off a brand new year .


(Posted by Marlene Cree, licensed Virginia agent with Blue Heron Realty Co., 7134  Wilsonia Neck Dr., Machipongo, VA)