Although I have live in Virginia for almost three years now, this is the first year that I found out about the Virginia Historic Gardens Tour. An avid gardener myself, I had to go to at least one of several tours offered in and around Richmond. I chose the Windsor Farms tour: a glorious neighborhood planned in the 1920’s to resemble an English village. One of the homes that was moved to the neighborhood dates back to 1745. The gardens were beautifully manicured. Some were quite old, originally designed and landscaped by Gillette. The tour also included a tour inside the homes, which were as stunning as their gardens. The last stop on the tour was Jefferson’s boyhood summer haunt, Tuckahoe Plantation.
The ticket was expensive $45 at various vendors prior to the event, or $50 at the tour site. However, since the proceeds go to restore and maintain historic public gardens and state parks, I felt it was worth it. If the cause wasn’t worthy enough, the inspiration certainly was.
My photos don’t begin to capture the beauty of the tour, but they will at least give a glimpse. STYLE MAGAZINE did a wonderful feature on the tour…that’s how I found out about it. Check out their article.
A $15 luncheon was offered at the Tuckahoe women’s club, but I was too determined to visit every garden, so I did not bother to take a lunch break. Free water bottles and comfort stations were also offered along the tour route.
I plan to take a different Richmond tour every year, before I venture out to Virginia’s many other historic gardens. The tour is certainly well attended-I met visitors from Kentucky, North Carolina, and Maryland as well as from all over Virginia. Large tour buses jostled between patrons and parked cars throughout the neighborhood.
Kitchen on Cary’s appetizers at this year’s Gator Gourmet lured us to their restaurant last night. Chef Michael MacNight knows how to wow with farm to table offerings. Located in historic Shockoe Slip, this sleek eatery offers more than great food and atmosphere…the live guitar music made for an extra special date night.
We started our meal with with a Golden Beet Salad and some Truffle Fries. The golden beets are a bit sweeter and milder than the common red variety. Served on a bed of baby mixed greens, sprinkled with goat cheese then topped with a bright vinaigrette the beets were a triumph. We tried to save some of the Truffle Fries to eat with the meal, but they were just too delicious.
The menu said meatloaf, but when our server delivered it to the table…well, let me tell you, it wasn’t Mom’s meatloaf! This meatloaf was more like a chopped steak, wrapped in bacon and topped with a gluten free onion ring served over broccolini and a cloud of mashed potatoes and gravy. Oh my, sooo good.
I opted for the Lamb Chops. Grilled to medium perfection, the generous serving of 3 chops with pomegranate seed sauce over broccolini and mashed potatoes satisfied my longing for lamb.The dessert menu tempted, but Lent isn’t over yet, so I finished the meal with a lovely cup of tea. I coming back for the Rum Chocolata!
My husband and I had the pleasure of spending a day in D.C. with some Minnesota friends. Lunch combined some of our favorites: Friends, Food and History. Old Ebbitt Grill has been a Washington D.C. watering hole of Presidents and dignitaries since President Grant. The current location is not the original, but the beer stein collection is. The bar is a replica of the F Street location and the clock above the entrance was saved from the previous location. The gas lamps look authentic for the period.
Marble floors and staircases, original to the old National Metropolitan Bank next door, grace the restaurant as well. The whole atmosphere tells the tale of powerful men meeting amid masculine symbols of hunting, strong spirits, fine dining and wealth.
The food is spectacular as well. Old Ebbitt’s serves the best lump crab cakes I have ever tasted, bar none. The trout was praiseworthy as well. Attentive service completed our memorable luncheon. If you want to dine there, don’t forget reservations…the place was packed on a Tuesday afternoon!
Afterwards, enjoy a walk and take in the White House, Eisenhower Executive office building complex, Washington Monument and some clever D.C. humor.
Daffodils and tulips abounded; cherry and dogwood blossoms revealed their glory in time to welcome Saint Patrick to Church Hill. The annual St. Patrick Festival offered plenty of wonderful Irish food: corned beef, beef brisket, bangers (sausages), Irish soda bread, gingerbread, and scones, fish and chips or even a burger if you wouldn’t venture to try the Irish fare. I opted for the Irish twist on BBQ by Alamo BBQ: The Irish Train Wreck.
There were green beards, kilts and bagpipes a plenty. Wandering the Broad St. blocks between 24th and 26th Streets, I was entertained by traditional Irish folk music, Irish rock n’ roll and young Irish dancing troupes at the various pavilions all for a free will offering of $5, or whatever you could spare.
If you fancied a souvenir T-shirt, St. Balderick’s offered some great options. If you were looking for a traditional Irish wool sweater, Irish coat of arms or crosses, or some traditional Irish jewelry there were some beautiful offerings from the vending tents. Definitely something to make an annual tradition.
This year, I decided to celebrate the father of our country at his own home: Mount Vernon. Despite the lack luster presentation, the peanut and chestnut soup and the hoecake made for a delightful and tasty lunch. The soup was warm, liquid peanut butter with a fun crunch added by the chestnuts. I was surprised that the hoecakes were not swimming in honey, the way Washington preferred them. However, the crab, shaved ham and hollandaise sauce made a far superior accompaniment than the honey would have.
Mt. Vernon is an amazing living museum worthy of an entire day’s visit. I thoroughly enjoyed touring the mansion, walking the beautiful grounds, observing signs of an early Spring and remnants of Winter harvests. The greenhouse and slave quarters has been rebuilt and restored to its former grandeur. Meticulous attention has been given to authentically restoring the gardens to their original designs, witnessed in the Fleur -de -lis boxwood garden, fruit tree lined vegetable gardens and flower beds.
The farm animals also reflect the original livestock of oxen, sheep and pigs.
I enjoyed watching the colonial costumed characters roam the grounds, answer questions and carry out common chores.
I even witnessed a naturalization ceremony for newly minted American citizens. Mt. Vernon hosts the ceremony three times a year.
The education center houses a fabulous museum of Washington’s personal belongings or replicas, slave accounts, simulated escape as a runaway slave, diary entries, painting, clothing and weapons. The gift shop offers plenty of gorgeous replicas of the Washingtons’ various china plate settings, costumes, food and fine whiskey and brandy from Mt. Vernon or nearby farms, witty T-shirts, the usual Christmas ornaments and small souvenirs and of course a bounty of my favorite: books.
Finally, I ended the day on a sweet and spicy note with a historic chocolate stick covered with powdered cinnamon.
I was on one of my neighborhood walks when I had the pleasure of meeting a former resident who was on a nostalgic pilgrimage, recalling her childhood. We both stopped to look down the ravine at the site of Bloody Run. Richmond has a long history as far as American history goes, and I was contemplating the beginnings of Richmond’s long and infamous history of unjust shenanigans beginning with Native Americans.
The elderly pilgrim told me the story of her childhood romps up and down the steep staircase and her father’s warnings to stay out of the bootleggers’ woods. I asked her if there was ever a raid on their stills. She could not remember any and remarked that everyone knew that they were there, but no one bothered them and they bothered no one. Nothing like the famed Virginia bootleggers depicted in Lawless.
Prohibition was one of America’s more interesting failed experiments. When lawmen tried and failed to convict Al Capone for violating Prohibition, they turned to tax evasion to finally put an end to his criminal activities. Hmm…tax evasion as a way to put a criminal out of commission.
I remember my own grandparents telling me stories of how they thought they were a daring young couple, frequenting Chicago speakeasies and drinking Slow Gin Fizzes. Of course gin could be made in bath tubs throughout the city, but I think Virginians preferred Moonshine. Curiously enough, “Moonshine” is becoming legitimized and can be found in liquor stores across the country. Ah the curious evolution of food, drink and culture.
If you haven’t yet seen the Christmas splendor at the Jefferson Hotel, you’ve missed a treat. My mom, my three daughters and I made sure to bask in the Christmas glow that the Jefferson Hotel graciously bestows on Richmond.
Don’t forget to visit the upstairs lobby as well. Sara Ayyash has succeeded again at wowing Richmond with her amazing gingerbread display. This year it’s Santa and his sleigh!