Thursday, April 1, 2010

Celebrating Us

First, some disclaimers.

1) If you don't want to read a long, detailed account of a married couple's romantic weekend getaway, stop reading now.
2) If you will be negatively affected by reading about us spending alot of money NOT on a social cause or you, stop reading now.
3) If you just want to find out about my 100th blog contest, tune in next time!

I'll set this up for you. This year has been awesome, but busy and emotionally weighty for John and I so far. We got a dog. We had a newborn with us for a month, then as that was coming to an end, John had his Reserve annual tour for two weeks in Germany, then the day he came home, his cousins' family came and stayed a week. These were all great things, but our quality time alone together was minimal.

There have also been some prayers answered, some things going back to our childhood, that have come to pass in the last few weeks.

We were due for some celebration and reconnecting time!

We had this restaurant picked out as a place we would go when these certain things happened. The Inn at Little Washington  was opened in 1978 by Chef Patrick O'Connell, a self-trained cook. He started then with $9 burgers and today it is the only establishment with both a 5-star and 5-diamond rating (for hotel and restaurant).

So, when our calendar cleared, we made a reservation for dinner and then I took it on to plan the rest of the weekend as a surprise for him. Let it be known that I am not a good surprise girl. I am not good at giving or receiving surprises. My husband has surprised me exactly 3 times and my reaction hasn't been worth the effort, so other than gifts, he knows better than to try. And my hyper-communicative self is surprise-keeping averse, though I can do it if I really try. John loves surprises, though, so I did my best.

Friday afternoon started with a scenic drive through some of Virginia's most beautiful countryside. Rolling hills, green pastures, white fences, spacious mansions had the Blue Ridge mountains as a backdrop. This wasn't really part of my plan, just the route we had to take to get to the B&B where we stayed.

We're driving past all these horse pastures and John says, "Sure are alot of horses out here." Me, "Yep, alot of cows too." (trying not to giggle. I'm really bad at this.) John, "I can't remember the last time I rode a horse, sure has been a while." Me, "Hmmm, interesting. We'll have to go sometime." (I know I'm busted.)

So I might have told him to bring his cowboy boots and jeans. But there are alot of things you can do in that attire!

Then we pull up to the Marriott Ranch, which I thought was just a property owned by Marriott. Turns out it was the actual Marriott's ranch. Like the one they bought way back when and lived on and raised horses on. And it's got this long Virginia history before the Marriotts owned it. Now it's the only B&B Marriott operates. It's beautiful!

(top photo mine, bottom photo courtesy of

We were greeted with a cheese and wine plate.

Our room was blue and huge!

I know you're eager to hear about dinner and what else we did, and I'm just as eager to tell you, but I have to tell you some funny stuff first. It'll be worth it once we get there.

So, for this special occasion, I had decided to get my hair cut. Nothing radical, it was just frumpy and in between a short cut and whatever I'm gonna do next, so it was time. My hairdresser, Fahima, who is normally fabulous, must have been in a hurry because when I was straightening it on Friday night, I noticed it was really uneven. Lopsided in the back and noticeably different lengths of layering on each side. Curly hair is pretty forgiving, straight hair- not so much.

John tried to assure me that the other patrons of The Inn wouldn't even notice, but I knew they would. Thankfully by switching my part and with massive amounts of hairspray, I was able to make it look presentable.

Then I put on the new blouse I bought for this date and notice that in combination with the skirt I brought, I look like a fancy French maid. Well, whatever. Nothing I could do about it.

As John ushers me out the door so we won't be late, I decide to put my earrings and lipstick on in the car. Which is all well and good until I realize that one of my earrings is missing a back and my lipstick is in my purse, which is in the room. And from a recent purse purging, I also know that I have an extra earring back in the aforementioned abandoned purse. Useless!

We finally get to the famous restaurant and the valet asks us our name, then ushers us into the lobby and introduces us. We have a tiny wait, so I ask the hostess if she has a pencil I could have the eraser from to use for an earring back. She did and gave it to me with no hesitation or condemnation. I knew I would love this place!

Just as I'm fastening it on, we are shown our table. I'll fast forward through dinner, because my food critic vocabulary is limited. Here are the highlights:
-Served by no fewer than 10 people, all who know our names. Many of them have worked here for more than 5 years and still love it.
-Personalized menus (that we got to keep of course)
-They have a wine team. Not just a sommelier, a whole team. The "team leader" helped us pair wine to each course. It was so freeing to just say "yes" to everything he recommended.
-After the first bite of the first course, we both decided we never needed to eat again. It was that good. Good just doesn't cover it, but neither does amazing, awesome, spectacular, outstanding, delicious. Our server came to check on us and I asked her to give us a moment because we needed to cry.
-Each plate was perfectly portioned, so we could eat everything on it and still have room for the next one. And the next one. And then desert!

John followed the advice of a coworker and requested a tour of the kitchen. Now, we could've eaten in the kitchen if we wanted to pay an extra $250 just for the table, but we settled for a free tour. After our dinner, a gentleman came to take us on our tour and gave us a little history of the place as well. I was just as excited to be in that kitchen as a kid at Disney World (or Disneyland for you west coasters). It was beautiful and gleaming, and busy but so efficient. Much of the hardware (ovens and such) was designed and created by the chef, so it really is a one-of-a-kind kitchen.

Then. Oh, and then.

The chef, Patrick O'Connell himself, came over to meet us.

Now, if you've been reading this blog for about a month, you know how I get around celebrities. This does not bode well, because by now after the world's best meal and wine, and reading all the articles on the wall on the way to the bathroom, I am totally star struck.

Chef O'Connell was chosen to cook for Queen Elizabeth when she came to America a few years ago. She was only going to be at the event for 15 minutes, so he had to create a whole meal that could be consumed and appreciated in that much time. Apparently he did it, because Laura Bush asked for a doggy bag to take home to W.

Surprising even myself, I keep my comments to "Wow, it was amazing, thank you so much!" He chatted with us, asked us questions, said he was so glad we could come and then said he would love to see us back there any time. I mean, I know he is supposed to say that stuff, but this guy cooked for the queen!! I'm sure compliments from a lopsided hair-doed fancy maid with an eraser earring back couldn't mean too much after that, but I did what I could!

But wait. I couldn't get out of there without saying at least one un-cool thing. I asked our guide, Pierre, I think, if Chef O'Connell had ever been on the Food Network, like Iron Chef or anything. He gave me a look and I got my answer. I answered myself saying that something like that was way below someone of Chef O'Connell's status, and he gave me a more approving look. I am so glad I didn't ask the Chef that!!

The next morning, the Marriott Ranch fed us a three-course breakfast before we started the rest of the "surprise."

I had signed up for a package called "Chaps and Chardonnay," which said it was a 90-minute horseback ride and a visit to three wineries. I pictured us riding the horses up to the wineries, doing wine tastings and then riding on to the next one. Nope. First one, then the other. Okay, that does make more sense.

Even though it was a trail ride, where we had to stay in single file with our group and just walk the horses, it was still cool. I got a horse named Harley! John's horse, Gus, apparently was a picky guy and had to be at the back, so we got a chance to talk to one of the wranglers who is also a social worker looking for a job.

(trying to take a picture one-handed)

After the ride, we went back to the ranch for a gourmet picnic lunch. We even got to keep the picnic basket!

The next part of the package was wine-tasting at three local vineyards. Virginia wine has been around since Thomas Jefferson, but in the last 20 years, it is really taking off and winning some major awards. We even have our own grape, the Norton. I love doing wine-tastings as I always learn a little bit and feel more confident in ordering wine at restaurants that don't have wine teams.

After just one we were ready to call it a day and headed slowly back to our real lives. I love Virginia. That I can go from the most powerful city in the world full of marble and tension and drive 90 minutes into a peaceful retreat of vintage countryside. Just knowing it's out there helps us relax when traffic jams and busy schedules get us tightly wound.

(photo courtesy of ranhar2)

Thanks for letting me share our weekend with you. How do you like to relax? What was the best mini-vacation you have ever taken?


  1. I totally lived vicariously through you in this post. What fun fun fun!!! Glad you had a chance to rest and relax and celebrate you guys!!! I'm sure you will treasure this trip for.ever.!!

    We still replay our honeymoon trip and talk about all the fun we had when we drove from NM to Las Vegas, then to Lake Tahoe, to San Francisco and down the coast to San Diego. We stopped in little seaside villas, and dined in wonderful hole in the wall was spectacular!!
    Thanks again for sharing your trip with us!!

  2. Awesome! Good for you guys! Sounds like you had a blast.

  3. Sounds like an amazing time!!! You both sure deserved it!

  4. I was totally laughing and almost spit out my coffee at your "I'm sure compliments from a lopsided hair-doed fancy maid with an eraser earring back couldn't mean too much after that, but I did what I could!" Sounds like a wonderful weekend. I want to go there. This weekend. :D

  5. Nice save on the Food Network faux pas ;) Sounds like you had an amazing time all around!

  6. Absolutely amazing! I loved every detail about your weekend. Looks like a wonderful getaway!

  7. I'm full after that post! Amazing! Your "funny moments" sound exactly like my everday life! Amazing! So glad you got to enjoy this time! :)

  8. i so want to do this trip!!!
    i'm trying to plan a quick trip to toronto for the 2-4th of july right now so ryan and i can see U2, but am so worried that i won't get it right... i know pathetic right?


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