Tuesday, January 8, 2013

almost heaven

A long time ago, Steve and I took a wonderful mini-break! And due to my lack of motivation and/or organization, you are just getting to hear about it!

Our destination for this wonderful weekend was Berkeley Springs, West Virginia, a place surprisingly accessible from the D.C. suburbs that simultaneously afforded us the feeling of having been transported somewhere far, far away.

Central to this was the presence of this claw-foot bathtub, aaaaaah.


I never wanted to leave.

My mom and my sister had taken a trip to Berkeley Springs and we ended up staying at the same B+B they did: the Highlawn Inn, which I highly recommend for its great ambiance and great service and great food and great TUBS!

But you do have to like/not be allergic to cats.


Look at Her Majesty on her throne :)

We arrived after a low-drama drive (hurray!) and checked out our digs, which had all the charm typical of a B+B.


Unsurprisingly we were hungry.

Our first stop boasted ice cream cones and $2 pizza, which had Steve real excited til he saw the lady behind the counter pull something out of the freezer and put it in the microwave…

Yeah, that pizza was pretty awful. He “accidentally” dropped it on the ground, he claims.


A few doors down, a coffee shop with great ambiance (and coffee facts on the wall!) offered a much better place to hang. Fairfax Coffee House had good java, good food, and promised live music that night.


I ordered a really yummy breakfast wrap (though since my pet peeve is inordinantly thick wraps drowning out filling flavor, I partially unwrapped it) as well as a cuppa coffee.


Steve, being on vacation and all (and the place was quite reasonably priced) ordered two sandwiches. Egg ‘n cheese on a bagel and a veggie and cheese sandwich, which came with a side of pasta salad.


Such a great veggie selection!


Though the town turned bleary and rainy in the afternoon, we did not despair. We stopped at the bookstore both to dry off and to grab a few selections to keep us entertained during the downpour. I ended up having a wonderful chat with the owner about our shared love of Barbara Kingsolver.

Then I read a collection of her short stories in the CLAW FOOT BATHTUB. Did I mentioned that I liked that?

For dinner we went to a place recommended by our B+B owners (and everyone around town): Panorama at the Peak.

Panorama had a lot of things going for it (which I’ll expound upon in a moment). Unfortunately, the view for which it was named was severely impeded by the gloomy, gloomy fog. We got occasional peeks at the surrounding mountains when the fog temporarily lifted, at least partially, but I want to go back someday to get the full view. Supposedly you can see three states!


So I knew I already loved the chef at Panorma because of this:


And unlike certain farm to table poseurs (*cough* Founding Farmers), they could name names:


And then there was this! Chef Scott, let’s be best friends!


And the fact that though it was a restaurant serving beautiful, refined food it also had folks in jeans and Christmas lights. West Virginia is pretty dope.


We began with beverages. I loved how much local beer they had on tap… but I don’t like beer.


So, I had a mojito with mint from their on-site garden.


We began with a dish that the lady at the bookstore had highly recommended: mushrooms. Oh, not any mushrooms. Mushrooms that involved a huge amount of butter, cream, and booze floating atop toasts, with their decadent gravy floating all around.

The kind of “appetizer” that makes you want to sleep for twelve hours before the entree arrives.

Ridiculously rich and delicious.


For my entree, I got a crab cake, figuring we’d been driving through the Chesapeake Bay watershed for our whole trip there.

Entrees come with potatoes and a side vegetable of your choice (I loved the old school Fancy Restaurant feel of this place!). I opted for the ginger carrots, which were a little bit of a yawn. The potatoes, though, were EXCELLENT- infused with this zesty seasoning, with I imagine a lot of paprika but I don’t know what else. And the crab cake was great, although I was so chock-full of cream from the appetizer I could not finish this plate.

Fortunately I was there with Steve :)


As for Steve, he got the lamb shank! I am so pleased how my Greek powers have totally converted Steve into a lamb lover. Lamb shanks are so great- my grandmother used to make them. These, like heres, were fall-off-the-bone tender. Steve opted for the summer squash for his vegetable and I was kicking myself for not getting it- it was SWIMMING in butter and so delicious!


I knew I couldnt leave without getting SOMETHING from the Julia Child menu, so we had no choice but to order dessert :)

I was recalling the whole saga involving the preparation of Floating Islands in Julie and Julia, so it was an easy pick for dessert.

So French :) Complicated egg concoctions (that end up oh-so light and airy), heavenly cream sauces.


We went back to our B+B along the country roads (get it?!) and did an awesome puzzle. Puzzles are great.

One blissful food coma later (I want to add that this was just after the food bank stress CLIMAX, and I was so in need of a good night’s sleep- God bless you, West Virginia), it was breakfast time.

We strolled out at a very reasonable hour onto the front deck, with its beautiful early morning sun and garden view.


The innkeepers fetched us hot beverages and OJ, and then we went in to help ourselves to the beautiful breakfast buffet, laid out amid the antiques.


I mean really.


This meal was HEAVEN. On par with the fanciest of restaurants, but eaten in the comfortable situation of climbing out of bed and walking down the stairs. With kitties keeping you company.

Going around the clock, up at the top left we have oh so rich cheesy grits, a heavenly creamy herbed summer squash bake (so, uh, a serving of vegetables…), a fruit salad that was the only letdown (mostly frozen), creamy and perfectly soft scrambled eggs, and a DELIGHTFUL and perfectly flaky blueberry scone.


The neighbor at the next table kept us amused for the meal.


Then we went off to a state park. Which was…. interesting.

It began with pretty lake views.


But then the trail, uh… disappeared? We ended up wandering through a creek bed but then I was scared I was going to get West Nile (a particularly ominous threat since I’d already agreed to do my stem cell donation and needed to keep my blood safe) so we took off.

I am physically incapable of not pulling over for farm stands.


Got some goodies to take home :)


The most charming man professed his corn to be “sweet as sugar” and we agreed when we got a free sample. Straight up raw. Delicious.


It was a hot day and iced tea sounded FAB.


As did an unorthodox, small, but exceedingly satisfying lunch/afternoon snack of:

- Deviled eggs.


- Waffle fries


- And ice cream.


Then we hopped into the springs for which Berkeley Springs is named. The springs were alleged to have all kinds of mystical healing properties and have been visited for hundreds of years by very noteworthy people (George Washington, anyone?). We opted for the cheapest way to swim in them- a good ol’ pool. (There were all kinds of spa and massage options, but we were on a budget).

Anyway, it was my only time swimming all summer and the pool felt GREAT. And I’m sure it was highly restorative :)

The trip home was sad, but we got to enjoy the INCREDIBLE bluegrass tunes coming live from the Berkeley Springs station.

DC-ers, I highly recommend this place for a weekend getaway!

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