Saturday, January 29, 2011

Lafayette Inn

January is our anniversary month, and for the past few years, we’ve been taking romantic getaways to historic inns to celebrate. This year, we targeted the Lafayette Inn in beautiful downtown Stanardsville, Virginia. We’d seen it on a brief stop in the town not that long ago, and when friends stayed there overnight and gave it pretty good reviews, we thought we’d give it a try. We went with realistic expectations, and had a lovely visit.

We’ve been to a lot of Virginia inns, many of them quite upscale. Oh, not of the Inn at Little Washington caliber, since that’s way out of our budget. But many places with the pricey antiques and the trillion thread count linens and the spa bathrooms and the his-and-her robes. The Lafayette Inn isn’t quite like that. It’s an old building, owned by a lovely couple trying to provide a quality experience without breaking the bank. So it’s a bit quirky. Some of the antiques are pricey, and some look like Sears circa 1963. No robes, nothing-too-special linens, the room was chilly, the fan in the small bathroom squealed, and the hot water ran out mid-shower. But the hosts were friendly and enthusiastic, they brought us a split of champagne and some gourmet chocolates as a welcome gift, and the gas fireplace worked like a charm. My husband and I have been married for 33 years. We enjoy spending these little getaways together. We’re not overly sensitive to things like noisy plumbing or rumbling street traffic or creaky floorboards. Just give me a room with charm and a working fireplace and a bottle of wine and a good book, and I’ll be happy all day.

There’s nothing much in the town of Stanardsville. We visited a couple of nearby wineries (more about that later), meandered through the Noon Whistle Pottery, and took the 5-minute walking tour of the town. But that’s all we really needed. We enjoyed dinner in the restaurant of the inn, where the innkeepers do most of the cooking, serving up mostly Southern comfort foods with a slightly gourmet touch. We ate till our buttons popped (enormous portions of tender pot roast and braised pork shank), and then were able to just hoist ourselves upstairs to bed.

Our room, the "Jefferson":

The lovely dining room:

Full breakfast in the morning. More diner than gourmet, but filling:

Here's an example of one of the more quirky pieces:

View of not much from the 2nd floor balcony:

The Noon Whistle Pottery:

Another local business:

Stanardsville streetscape:

Monday, January 3, 2011

Hello 909 Saloon, Goodbye Beijing

We’d been waiting for months for the opening of a number of new restaurants downtown. Huck’s never made it and FoodÄ“ is still “coming soon,” but a couple of weeks ago, the 909 Saloon finally opened its doors at 909 Caroline St., in the space formerly occupied by Basil’s. We’d been watching its progress all fall, and had gotten a preview one day when we peered in and were invited on a little private tour. And finally, on a downtown walk last week, the place was open and we stopped in for a drink.

The decor looks like it was designed specifically for my demographic: the walls are filled with photos, posters and album covers of iconic musicians, mostly 60’s and 70’s rockers. The restaurant area is pretty tiny, but in the back, they’ve carved out a small music venue where another shop in the Galleria used to be, where they plan to host musical acts on a regular basis.

The place is owned by Brian Hyland, formerly of J. Brian’s (some of the art will be familiar to long-time customers of J. Brian’s), and the menu is similar: soups, salads, sandwiches and bar fare, but I expect it will all be pretty well done, if the soups we sampled were any indication. We had a “cup” each (really, a pretty good sized bowl) of their black bean soup and chili, and both were very good (I recommend the black bean). They had a relatively small selection of beers, but the ambiance was right up my alley. I expect it will be a go-to place for us when we’re downtown, and I’m hoping it strikes a chord with lots of other F’burgers as well.

In sad news for us, our favorite Chinese restaurant, Beijing on Rt. 3 West, closed its doors at the end of the year. We considered this our “neighborhood” place, since it was only a short drive from home, and it had been a regular stop for our family. Over the many years we’d been going, we had come to know the family, shared the progress of our kids as they grew up, and enjoyed the warm welcome, good food, and wonderful memories we experienced there. I know the recession has hit many restaurants hard, but I always expected that such an established and popular restaurant could weather the storm. We wish the De family all the best in the future, and will hold out hope that we may see them back in business again somewhere.