Monday, November 26, 2012

Many Thanks

My wife and I visited Staunton, Va., last summer to attend a performance of the American Shakespeare Center's production of THE MERCHANT OF VENICE. We felt at home in the quaint, surprisingly vibrant centerpiece in the Shenandoah Valley and enjoyed our experience at the theater so much we decided to return for Thanksgiving weekend.

During that first visit to Staunton, we learned that Frederick Ho

use serves as one of the American Shakespeare Center sponsors. We figured anyone who cared enough about a theater company to help ensure its longevity would — most likely — run an "inn" with aplomb. Happily, but not surprisingly, that's what we encountered during our stay at the impressive 25-room, multi-location bed and breakfast owned and run by Joe and Evy Harman.

We chose to arrive on Thanksgiving day, and I'd called earlier in the week and was told it would be fine to check in early. We arrived in Staunton at 12:45 p.m. and had our first meeting with the Harmans, who are gracious, witty, extremely articulate, and, as we soon discovered, quite kind.

Joe noticed that I limp because of bad knees and upgraded our room to a first floor suite at Patrick House. It's difficult to express just how much pleasure my wife and I felt when we strolled into that wondrous first floor space with hardwood flooring, high ceiling, tons of perfect light, and a four-poster king bed that provided a sublime sleeping experience.

We actually booked that very same room for NEXT Thanksgiving within 15 minutes of our arrival, but we're already looking ahead to returning earlier to Staunton and Frederick House— in addition to our Thanksgiving trip — to take advantage of the many enticing diversions that Staunton has to offer.

The American Shakespeare Center is reason enough to visit, but if theater is not your cup of mocha, allow me to suggest touring the region, visiting the wide range of art galleries, or simply putting the food bag on.

There are numerous dining options in Staunton. We chose Aioli (Saturday) and Zynodoa (Friday), and the Thanksgiving buffet at the Stonewall Jackson Hotel. I recommend all three. How does a Mediterranean Paella sound? Or a spicy gumbo with a twist? Or perhaps a mountain of jumbo shrimp surrounded by smoked salmon? Yes, we enjoyed our dinners.

Breakfast at Frederick House, however, proved to be our favorite food experience. Everything that Evy Harmon serves, Evy Harman has made. It's up to the guest to decide how healthy a breakfast he/she wants. From oatmeal to multigrain waffles, carnivores and vegetarians will have access to a powerful combination of high quality ingredients, flavor, and wise dining options. Fresh juice and coffee to start, and then, a guest is on his own. Do you have the quiche? Cold cereal? Granola? Or perhaps a sausage and egg combo? I recommend the waffle. Outstanding.

So there you have it — some thought for food, as well as food for thought.

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