Posts Tagged ‘Williamsburg Virginia’

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)

Spending An Indian Summer Day In Williamsburg, Virginia

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

A few weeks  ago I woke up on a beautiful fall morning on a day that promised to be one of the last days of Indian Summer here on the Eastern Shore of Virginia.   Temperatures were forecast  to be in the low-70’s,  sunny,  not too breezy —  in other words,  virtually perfect.  As I got the coffee started,  I began plotting as to the best way to get my husband,  who was in the middle of a project,   to  turn the potential  of this virtually perfect day into a little trip I’d been wanting to take to Williamsburg.   Now there are three crucial stops when first visiting  Williamsburg, Virginia:   1) Its amazing historic area,  a world class restoration project done by the Colonial  Williamsburg Foundation,  2) The College of William and Mary,  a college with a stellar reputation,  attended by Thomas Jefferson, among others,  and 3) The  Williamsburg Outlet Malls .  Or you could put them in reverse order– ha,  ha,  just kidding,  Freudian slip.

Lunch at Gabriel Archer Tavern

So it was a leisurely walk down Duke of Gloucester Street that beckoned to me that fine day.  ( And afterwards,  if truth be told,  a brief side trip  to the Outlets,   just a tiny little visit,  hardly anything at all,  really.)  From my house to Colonial Williamsburg is about an hour and a half drive down I-64 west, which for much of the trip  cuts through beautiful wooded scenery and over small bridges with winding waterways below,  an easy and pleasant drive.   Although we often have lunch at the Cheese Shop or the Trellis on Merchant’s Square when we visit,  that day I wanted to stop at  Williamsburg Winery  (  ),  located  just a few miles from the historic area,  for lunch at  Gabriel Archer Tavern.  On a beautiful day this pretty cafe  with an outdoor seating area overlooking the vineyards at the Winery is  especially delightful.  And its  French Country Platter,  a medley of pates,  assorted cheeses and fruits served with a crusty baguette,  is excellent,  especially when accompanied by a glass of the Winery’s buttery  Chardonnay.


The Shoemaker's Shop

After lunch we were ready for our walk in the historic area,  the warm day so pleasant,  the fall foliage on the huge  oaks and  maples absolutely vibrant.   Although I’ve been to Colonial Williamsburg  (  ) dozens and dozens of times I never tire of  it– thank you,  John D. Rockefeller,  your money and your interest made this fabulous restoration happen.  The historic area is located on about three hundred acres and involves the full restoration and reconstruction of  hundreds of  Colonial  buildings including homes, out buildings and commercial buildings  ( including the reconstructed taverns,  the restaurants of  olden days,  now re-opened serving delicious food prepared from Colonial recipes,  my favorite being  King’s Arms Tavern ), common greenway areas with grazing oxen and sheep,  beautiful Colonial style vegetable gardens and  interpreters in costumes  ready to explain the history and answer just about any question.   The Williamsburg Foundation bills this fascinating slice of 18th century Virginia as  “the world’s largest living history museum”.   Something new is always going on,  new restorations  are constantly getting  underway,  new historical features are  frequently popping up on their excellent website,  one of the latest being Thomas Jefferson’s  “blog”.  In my opinion,  Williamsburg is one of Virginia’s greatest treasures,  worthy of  repeated visits,  especially in different seasons,  with Christmas as a  “must visit”  time for us nearly every year.


Just A Little Peek, See What's New

And then,  like a small but tasty after- dinner mint,  a quick trip to the Williamsburg Premium Outlet,  my favorite outlet mall,  primarily for a peek around to see what’s new.  Also a stop at Bass for a pair of boat shoes and a stop at Nautica for a shirt for my oldest grandson.   Did the quick peek,  got the new shoes and shirt,  also checked out  the brand new Calphalon  cookware store,  poked a quick nose in at Harry and David for a jar of their cherry preserves,  tempted but said  “no”  to a bag of Moose Munch.   Then,  lickity-split,  as requested by my husband who was hoping  to get back to his project,  on the road again headed back to the Eastern Shore,  our delightful Indian Summer day in Williamsburg officially over.