Dinner Party in the Vines

A couple of summers ago I gathered my family, some home-cooked food, a photographer and a food writer together for a late lunch in the Virginia wine country. My family and I had recently moved to Virginia from NYC and in trying to shake off the Manhattan-centric blues, had discovered the riches of our newly local wine region.

I was approached by Anthology Magazine to host a dinner party for my dancing family, paired with local wines, smack dab in the middle of Virginia wine country, and I mean literally in the middle of it. We feasted, fancy picnic style, in between the lush Virginia vines of Paradise Springs Winery, just outside of DC. The stuff of dreams, a lot of cooking and prep went into this dinner, along with a lot of honest to God sweat as it was a 95 degree day, but there were definitely no tears. It was one for the books, er, magazines. As the story was only available in print, I’ve had a few requests to post it on the blog, so here it is dear readers- Enjoy and Cin Cin.

Anthology Family Issue Summer 2014

Dining Among the Vines
Text by Anna Watson Carl
Photography by Amy Dickerson
Styled by Kelly d’Amboise

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Hello Again, Hello

Slim Aarons Ill Pellicano

A swanky speedboat landing at Il Pellicano by Slim Aarons. Yes please. This place is forever on my hit list. For now, I might need to just procure myself a print and dream of this coastal Tuscan wonderland, Speedos and all.

Hi all. It’s me. I’m back from hiatus, or perhaps more appropriately put, the “no time for anything except motherhood and job”. And so it goes, what the hell did I do with all of that time pre-kids. Time is a funny thing, no matter how much of it you may have, you always manage to fill it up- kids, no kids, single, married- whatevs. There’s never enough of that precious commodity, I am constantly running against it, trying to find more, all the while promising myself that I will eventually “slow down” and use more of it to just be present and chill. “After the birthday party, after the show opens, after the company leaves, after after after…” Maybe I should just do it now, but honestly, I don’t know how. Help. Any brilliant time managers out there who know how to save a little time, put it in your pocket, and be sane for part of your day? Do share. Not complaining, just wondering.

I’ve been busy, yes but busy working on a pretty fun project and spending some pretty fun moments with the kiddos for their birthday celebration. I just finished work on “Cabaret”- that masterpiece of a show written by the incomparable duo, Kander & Ebb, is there a better written show? “West Side Story”, “A Little Night Music”? I don’t know, I think “Cabaret” might top my charts, it is masterfully woven together with a terrific book and killer songs that themselves are staples of the ultimate musical theater songbook. I was the Associate Choreographer on the show working with my friend and huge talent, Matthew Gardiner who directed and choreographed. Our cast is aces and the creative team top notch, it was an honor and a thrill the whole way around. If you live in the DC area, come to our Cabaret- it is truly good stuff.

The morning after opening night, we jumped on a plane and fled to DisneyWorld with the kiddos for their 3rd birthdays. It was awesome. More on that later.

For now, we are are settling in to summer- yay- and doing our damndest to eek out every last moment of this too-short season.

What I’m Drinking:

Pink stuff… of course. I’m digging this Corbiéres beauty, brought to us by the one and only Kermit Lynch. In Kermit we trust- the man can do no wrong.

A Few Things: 

I’m making this tonight. I’ll let you know how it comes out.

How cute are these little kid clothes? I know I know, they’re oh so hipster chic but they are pretty darn cute.

After debating whether or not to serve juice (one of the few things I have successfully managed to deny my own kids- it’s for your own good kiddos, I swear), I decided to forego the juice and instead serve fruit-infused water. Yes water. Boring? No way man. It was so good- I forgot just how good something as simple as some fruit thrown in a jug of water can be. I’m hooked and will permanently be leaving out a giant canister of the stuff- I’m liking these Jaime Oliver combos- especially the berries and mints- yum.

What in the world, Shia. I have to admit, I’ve watched this more than a few times. I love his little plié crotch-framing move, I might have to add that one in to my personal repertoire.

Why are you so right, Ina. Her lemon vinaigrette is my salad dressing go-to.

This cocktail from Chaplin’s is making my day. A giant sprig of rosemary lit on fire, a splash of amaro and vodka- come on.

Yum. Just yum. Berries and cheese. Can you tell I’m hungry?

Fourth of July Cupcakes- cute.

We just had a Pirates and Princesses Birthday Party- it was a big hit. Give kids a bunch of foam swords and a backyard and you’re kind of golden. I love the looks of this galactic-themed party- maybe for next year?

20 Design Mistakes You Don’t Even Know You’re Making- or maybe you do.?

If I had $1500 to blow on some barstools, I might have to snag these.

Cin Cin y’all. Hope you are having a lovely June week.

 

 

 

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Happy Weekending!

awesome people hanging out
I love this photo. 

What are you all up to this fine spring weekend? We might brave the crowds and take in the wonder of the Cherry Blossom during peak bloom. My friend Rashmi advises to get there at sunrise, that’s what her family does to capture the true beauty of the blooms sans crowds. Sounds magical, we will aim for it with the expectation that we will probably arrive around 10:30 just in time to whisper swears out of ear reach of the kiddos when there is not a parking spot left to be had. We’ll take in my talented friend Karen Reedy’s dance company at DC’s Dance Place as well, where they are tag-teaming with San Francisco’s Project B. in performance. If you live in the area, get yourself a ticket! Karen’s choreography is so swoonful, I wish it could dance me to sleep every night.

What I’m Drinking:

The cherry blossoms are blooming- just another good reason to drink pink. I’m liking this one lately- a perky pink Pinot from Sonoma, yum.

In Other News:

My friend Liz Larsen is playing Carole King’s mother on Broadway in “Beautiful” (NEED TO SEE THIS SHOW!). It was just another day on the Broad-way last night when the legend herself popped in to see the show. She sat down backstage with the cast for an impromptu master class. What the what! That’s Liz in the corner wiping away tears as she videos and sings harmony.

How brunch is taking over the world.

A Navy Seal explains why making your bed may the most important thing you do today.

Dove’s new beauty campaign spawning spoofs all over the blogosphere including this one and criticisms across the interwebs like this one. What say you to all of this?

Which iconic movie house should you live in? (I got Cameron’s house from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off- I always loved that house!)

These little beach radios remind me of my pink Sharp QT-50 boombox circa 1986- that thing was awesome, do you guys remember these?

The cookbook I’m drooling over and its restaurant I need to patronize.

I love this little chambray blazer.

Hilary hires this Google gal to head up her tech dept. It looks like she’ll make the big Hil for Prez. announcement this weekend.

This Atlanta designers’ patternful and color-filled home is the cat’s meow. That lighting fixture- that coffee table- those prints on prints. Love it.

Turns out it wasn’t just bad teeth, a few reasons why nobody smiled in old photographs.

If you’re short on space in your kitchen, this is a stylish storage solution.

An afternoon at Georgia O’Keefe’s Ghost Ranch.

Hip Hip Hooray- the Brontosaurus is back! Next up- we need to get Pluto back in the game.

Cin Cin ya’ll and Enjoy!

 

 

 

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Happy Monday!

Black Sesame Ice CreamBlack Sesame Ice Cream, anyone? Yum. 

Well, I missed my weekly Weekending post, so here’s a Happy Monday for you all. In the midst of being a bit overwhelmed with work/life balance (what’s new, right), I have been slowly and surely finding my way to a more simplified way of life, it’s on my mind a lot lately. After accepting too many gigs here and there that have left me exhausted and feeling like I rarely my family, I have decided to study and learn the art of the graceful decline. The problem is- I’m a city girl with a built-in hustle. You can take the girl out of the city but…, well you know. I need to learn to shake the hustle off because the truth is, since having my kiddos, I don’t love the hustle like I used to. I’m actually starting to hate it. I’m in the fortunate position of not having to work full time, but I do work part-time. It’s a constant balancing act of figuring out just how much is enough- financially, logistically and emotionally. You want to do what you love but you also want to be with those you love- the ongoing conundrum.

Whew. I’m exhausted just writing that but it’s Monday morning, it’s a new week and it felt apropos to do so. If you, dear readers, have any advice- please send some my way.

In the Meantime:

What I’m Sipping: Cue the Angels, Go on the Spotlight- AHHHHHH! (read in Soprano)- it’s officially Rosé season folks. Truth be told, I drink the pink nectar of the Gods year round, but spring feels especially ripe to start popping the tops on the pink stuff. Here’s my all-time favorite, it’s a pretty penny and a bit more than I’d like to spend for a Tuesday night wine, but the beginning of a season only comes once a year, so what the hell- Tempier Bandol Rosé it is. Trust me, one sip of this stuff and you will totally get it- it is such a special wine. Maybe I’ll get really motivated and make a proper Bouillabaisse- the perfect pairing for this wine that boasts bright fruit, hints of dark chocolate and tangy spice- a most delicious and unique rosé from a most royal family in wine (The Peyraud/Tempier family has supplied Alice Waters’ go-to juice at Chez Panisse for decades and is responsible for getting their local Bandol grape officially classified in France. More on this stellar family here. P.S.: Lulu Peyraud is a personal hero, she is 90+ and takes a daily swim in the Meditteranean every morning, her cookbook is one of my favorites too.

In Other News: 

I got a kick out of this. Noel Gallagher on Beyoncé, “artistry”, how Apple is ruining youth culture, being a pussy, and much much more.

“25 Expressions You Should Have in Your Vocabulary”. I don’t know about everyday use- unless you don’t mind ostracizing yourself from society at the risk of sounding like you are speaking in tongues- but these are some pretty cool words.

GAP is still having that crazy ass sale at 40% off. Use Code: HOP

Tuscany’s Villa Lena looks pretty dreamy.

Mackenzie Horan’s NYC guide, if you’re due for a trip anytime soon. Good stuff here including some of my favorites- Palma, Rosemary’s, Buvette and Cafe Cluny- the stuff of dinner dreams.

How fresh are your eggs? A quick little test to find out.

Mix yourself up a fresh whiff of spring with this yummy maple syrup lemonade.

A day in Point Reyes and Tomales Bay- one of my favorite spots on the planet, this post sent to me by my pal Amy- she and I explored this pretty part of the world last September. My personal favorite stop on the bivalvian blessed coast is Hog’s Island Oyster Co. in Marshall- I wrote about it here.

I’m digging the Finns.

I love this outfit. This chick is just constantly shopping- it’s enviable.

Which led me to these pretty necklaces. A bit pricey for me at the moment, but so cool.

A day in the work life of Ira Glass.

Ahhh- I need to try this app but am a little scared of what it will reveal. Have you tried it?

This wallpaper! Happy-Making.

The Surf Lodge- Montauk. Another one for the list. Let’s get real- anyone that knows me well knows there’s no way in hell I would ever get more than shin-deep in Montauk waters. Hello Carcharadon Carcharius- but I’ll put my toes in and am happy to soak up a little Montauk goodness anytime.

Silver Espadrilles- yep! Just nabbed a pair of these- will wear through September.

Elizabeth Banks solves all your problems in 68 seconds.

Easter Brunching at home? Here’s a few great recipes.

Put that swiss chard to use.

Cin Cin ya’ll. Have an awesome week!

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Happy Weekending!

Press for Champagne
I need one of these next to my pillow. 

Happy Weekend folks. What are you up to this winter’s-still-holding-on-but-officially-spring weekend? We’ll be hanging with the kiddos and then venturing into DC to see the legendary Rebirth Brass Band with some pals (thanks for the invite Linz!). Sunday, we’ll drive up to a wedding at NYC’s Four Seasons Restaurant (cue Bauhaus geekout- I’m such a nerd for this place). Our friends’ nuptials will be officiated by the incomparable duo of one James Lipton and one Betty Fussell (cue Actors Studio and culinary geekout). I have been dying to meet the iconic Fussell since my friend Amy D. so beautifully profiled her here and here. I pretty much just want to be Betty when I grow up.

Let’s hope the snow and wintery mix weather subsides, this time of year is such a tease. What adventures are you all off to?


What I’m Drinking:

Meryl and Stuart’s Signature Cocktail: “Wedding in Springtime” which, in Meryl’s words, features “bubbly Prosecco, the Italian aperitif Aperol, club soda, and a splash of rhubarb amaro, rhubarb being a harbinger of much-longed for spring!” Sounds delicious. 
A Few Things:

An award winning app that allows us all to catalog the family story. This is cool.

Julia’s trick to poach the perfect egg.

These wedges are both gold and Dr. Scholl’s- that’s my kind of shoe. Win win.

The best and fastest way to make a delicious scrambled egg taco.

What is means to “hold space” for the ones we hold dear.

7 Super Tuscan dishes that will take you right to the heart of Italia.

Just one of the reasons that Jimmy Fallon may be one of the greatest talk show hosts of all time. Love this guy- this is awesome.

The 5 things one woman learned when she said YES to her daughter for 24 hours.

A Lavender Eye for Spring? I like it.

18 Pinterest-staged photo fails- this is pretty funny.

These flowers! Spotted on The Yellow Table- I can’t stand it, so pretty I want to eat them.

I just ordered up this pretty floral skirt for spring. I never wear skirts- giving them the old college try again.

And just to send you off to the weekend the right way, here you go and… you’re welcome.

 

Cin Cin good people. Happy Weekend!

 

{Image: Elle Decor re: Lisa Golightly}

 

 

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Happy Weekending!

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We had a little taste of summer this past week in Charleston, this photo seemed apropos for the way it made me feel.

Hello good people of the world and Happy Weekend to you. We have just returned from a whirlwind week of Spring Breaking in glorious Charleston- what a gem of a city, I can’t wait to round up my favorite spots. We stayed at the beach so we had the best of both worlds- town and country- we got charming city, crazy good food (I mean, really kind of nuts- full report to come), and long empty beaches with summertime breezes. More on all of that later next week.

What are you all up to this weekend? Spring may finally be peeking its head around the corner for us here in the Mid-Atlantic. At least it’s raining these days and not snowing, it can’t come soon enough.

What I’m Drinking: 

This amazing Loire sparkling wine I discovered at the cuter-than-can-be Charleston coffee and wine shop, The Daily. It’s so crisp and delicious- tasting note to follow, this one’s worth seeking out.

In Other News: 

London opens a bar where you can pet owls- I’m there.

I love these photos of Japanese dancer, Mickael Jou.

Big sale at the Gap. Use code FFBEST for 40% off little numbers like this.

I’m attempting a paleo-esque diet for the next month starting tomorrow. After all of that Charleston goodness, something’s got to give. We’ll see how it goes. This book on baking with natural sugars seems like a step in the right direction.

And speaking of books, I just ordered this one to inspire me to dig a little deeper in my spring clean this year. Spotted on my pal Rashmi’s Insta.

And speaking of tidying up, this cleaning guru shares her secrets for a tidy home.

Green fondue for St. Paddy’s Day? Maybe. This white chocolate matcha mix doesn’t quite jive with my paleo ambitions, but it sure looks fun (and yummy).

This springy green floral cape just made it to my wish list.

Cafe Clover- on my NYC list. This little West Village spot looks fab.

“This is what happens when you put your phone away for a week.”

This raw kale caesar with beet microgreens and poached egg reminds me of a transcendent salad I just had at Charleston’s The Macintosh- except their’s had tiny little pieces of fried cauliflower- what the what!

This book looks fun. The difference between the Queen’s English and our English.

“The sulfites give me a headache.” Chances are this is probably not the reason you’re getting a headache, so pop the cork on the bottle of red. Thank you Lettie Teague.

These flared high-waisted jeans are rocking my world. Let’s hope this paleo thing works so I can get back to zippers post-bebes.

This documentary looks amazing- Sailing the Sinking Sea.

Bjork and The Secret to a Pop Tune Hit on this week’s Studio 360- I loved this episode.

Cin Cin ya’ll and Happy Weekending!

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Happy Weekending!

citrus scents

Happy Weekend dear readers. What are you up to this winter weekend? I am off to visit my dear grandmother in Texas (if I can get there, seems the winter weather is worse there than on the East Coast). She is fighting the good fight after a long and tedious surgery to remove an aneurysm. She is 90 and my hero. I wrote about her here and feel so lucky to have her as my darling grandmother and source of constant inspiration. My Meme is a woman who fully embraces life and lives with an artful and interested eye- she manages to find interest in just about everything and is the quintessential observer of all things great and small. She inspires me to pay more attention to the world and move at a slower, more interested and engaged pace. She is a painter who works wonders with watercolors and is always effortlessly chic- a woman to love and cherish. Please send well wishes that she may start to feel better soon as she is in a tough place.


What I’m Drinking: 

Whatever my mom’s got in her Texas fridge.

A Few Things:

This just made my day- the definition of true sportsmanship in a Texas high school gym.

One couple’s idea of a retirement plan- hopping the globe one AirBnB house at a time. Sounds like my kind of couple.

He lived long and prospered. RIP Leonard Nimoy.

Life lessons from Ruth Bader Ginsberg.

10 Perfect Parisian Food Experiences by Chocolate and Zucchini’s Clotilde Dusoulier.

‘Tis the season to spritz up your home and bring on the scents of spring. DIY Home Lavender Spray anyone?

And while we’re on that topic- these natural DIY home scents seem pretty great and easy to drum up too.

And why have I never thought of this before? My long shower is my down time, this just upped my game.

Spicy crab linguine with mustard, creme fraiche and herbs- doesn’t this look delish!

The Farmer’s Almanac nails it once again.

Want to sound smart, read this- “39 Incorrectly Used Words That Can Make You Look Bad.”

Want to sound smart in a corporate meeting, read this. Hilarious- I love the fractions.

High impact home updates in an hour or less- clutter-free countertops- my daily goal (it never happens).

“Eat, Pray, Love” author Elizabeth Gilbert on failure and lightening up already.

Conan Goes to Cuba- is he our next Charles Kuralt?

Coconut macaroons- not to be confused with macarons, now these I can make! Thanks Rashmi!

When you’re in 50 Shades of Grey and your mom’s Melanie Griffith, it’s all just so embarrassing.

20 minute Teriyaki Salmon- why not.

This is a fun way to hang art.

Happy Weekending to you and Cin Cin!
{Photo by: Alpha Smoot Photography}

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Citrus Cumin Salt or (How To Up Your Avocado Toast Game)

The easiest way to wake up your taste buds in the morning- homemade Citrus Cumin Salt. I was inspired to recreate this recipe after a bite of the stuff at my local Le Pain Quotidien, it really does just take things up a notch- instant elevation.

Citrus Cumin Salt

Once again, it’s really all about the zest. As I’ve learned from watching the pros, whether it’s Ina on the telly or my pal Anna Watson Carl in my own kitchen, lemon zest is a key component to fresh, bright flavor. With this simple salt recipe you get the earthiness of cumin, the bite of sea salt, the zing of fresh lemon zest and the kick of red pepper flakes all in a sprinkling- my new favorite thing. Try this not only sprinked on your avocado toast, but also on your fried egg, grilled chicken and lamb. It will keep sealed in a jar for a month or so but is at its best freshly made.

What You Need: 

Citrus Cumin Salt Ingredients

1 teaspoon ground cumin
3 tablespoons course sea salt
1 heaping teaspoon lemon zest
a pinch of red pepper flakes
Mortar and Pestle (you can also use a food processor, but I prefer the old school hands-on method- you can control your texture better this way, I like mine a bit course, plus it’s more fun)

What You Do:

1. Combine all ingredients into your Mortar.

Citrus Cumin Salt Combine

2. Grind.

Making Citrus Cumin Salt

3. Sprinkle.
4. Eat.

Citrus Cumin Salt Avocado Toast

Cin Cin and Bon Appetit!

WINE PAIRING: If you’re serving this up at brunch and vino is involved, I like mine with a zippy yet juicy and honeyed Bordeaux White- a Graves like this would do you quite nicely here. I’d also opt for a mouth-watering Australian dry Rielsing like this one- Pikes Clare Valley Traditional Riesling ’13- that stuff is absolutely delicious. But if you can get your hands on some Nun-made orange wine, that would be the jam- this bottle is a personal favorite, you will be so psyched.

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4 comments | Tags: eats

Mon Petit Chef

I have two little budding chefs in my house. I think most kids love to cook, it’s such fun to do together- my little ones also like to read about food (well, read along with me), complete foodie puzzles, and dress up like chefs. Again, I’ll bet most kids do. My kiddos don’t even seem to mind when The Barefoot Contessa is spreading culinary wisdom throughout the house (she provides excellent background ambience- I am hoping that I will somehow ambiently soak up her goodness), I know they’d rather have Daniel Tiger spouting wisdom, but they can be cool like that. These two have not yet graduated to excellent diners in restaurants, they’re just pretty good, but really not the best, but then again- they’re 2 1/2 so we cut them a break. We try to take them out pretty frequently but honestly, it really needs to be loud and casual or I end up in a full blown sweat.

For the meantime, most of our meals and meal-making happens at home. I have started giving the kiddos their own little bowls of flour and sugar to mix when we bake cookies or else again, it becomes a little crazy up in here and we never actually get anything baked. Maybe that’s the twin thing? What sort of things do you all do with your little ones while cooking?

Here are some chef-y things we’re enjoying at home:

mon petit chef

1. Lavender Lulu Apron- I spotted this at my favorite little cook shop, La Cuisine- so darling. Not just for the little chefs, Marcy Butler makes the most fabulous aprons, they have a great cut and the softest twill. She makes them all in the U.S. and lives in Washington D.C. This makes a great gift for the super cook in your life.

2. Cupcake Puzzle- great for the tiny tots- my little girl keeps trying to take a bite.

3. Dinner: The Playbook- this one’s really more for me than for them but Jenny Rosenstrach’s blog, Dinner: A Love Story is one of my favorite family food blogs.

4. Chef’s Hat- for the mini set, they love their hats.

5. Let’s Make Some Great Placemat Art- because art + food= always a good idea.

6. Fanny at Chez Panisse- the foodie version of Eloise. Fanny’s adventures at Alice Waters’ legendary restaurant Chez Panisse tells tales of restaurant life plus 46 recipes. I love me some Alice Waters and it’s never too early to start the Waters love fest with the littles.

7. Bon Appetit! top- Julia lives on. My sister-in-law gave this to my daughter for Christmas- too cute.

* I also love this cookbook for kids: The Sesame Street Cookbook- Mark Bittman and Lidia Bastianich share their favorite kid-friendly recipes here.

What are your favorite kid chef-y blogs, books, accoutrement?

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1 comment | Tags: eats, kiddos

The Art of Creatively Retreating

Creatively Retreating
One Nest Project (photo by Rashmi Pappu)

There comes a time- and no better time than the middle of the deep-freezing winter- when your body and brain wish to simply retreat. Retreat- just what does that mean anyway? I don’t know, I guess it can really mean anything from retreating to your bedroom for a quick nap and a think, to going Hollywood and retreating to your Golden Door or Canyon Ranch, with lots of room for variation in between.

As defined by Merriam-Websters, a retreat is:  a period of group withdrawal for prayer, meditation, study, or instruction under a director.

So, yes- it’s pretty vague, although it does stipulate “group withdrawal”- Girl Trip! Truthfully, it doesn’t really matter what it is as long your retreat provides a little cleansing and refreshing of the body and mind, right? I’m a big fan of the daily long shower retreat myself. But as for a bit more of a commitment involving a group withdrawal, it’s nice to make the effort to travel outside your local geographical zone and get your retreat on with some like-minded peeps.

Recently, my pal Rashmi Pappu suggested that a few of us creatively-inclined folks get together for a creative retreat. I jumped at the chance, as a bit of simple time spent away in a quieter place with some good folks, food, and drink is always a welcome respite. And if you are the creative type, always dreaming up new ideas and full of old ones that you haven’t quite grasped how to turn into actual creations (I’ve got a boatload of those jumbled in my brain), I highly suggest the retreat of the creative kind with kindred spirits as it’s a great opportunity to bounce said ideas off of one another, and really just enjoy some space, scenery and laughs- because that’s kind of what life’s all about, right? Add in a sustainably designed home, a world class winery, a charming country village and a top rated restaurant and you’ve got the makings for one inspired weekend.

We stayed at the small footprint but big thinking One Nest Project in nearby Delaplane. And when I say nearby, I mean pretty darn nearby. For the record, it took me 47 minutes to get to the house (if you subtract the wrong turn I took up a country lane which just added to the mystique and fun of it all- you have to get lost at least once, right?), yet another point for DC area living- it’s got this vast vineyard/countryside directly to the left of it that sits pretty and beautifully unspoiled. Once I hit Delaplane, VA., my shoulders literally dropped and out came a lengthy exhale. Ahh- country life. Bring on the retreating.

one nest project
One Nest sits on stilts, eschewing a traditional foundation. 

As I drove up the steep and winding road to One Nest, I was immediately impressed by how it is both perched and somehow nestled into its landscape. I was simultaneously wowed by its design and impressed by its respectfulness to its surrounds- it made me want to, I don’t know, bow my head and whisper “Namaste” to it or something. I didn’t do that, but still… One Nest is a residence and project by developer Mark Turner- a thoughtfully and beautifully designed home on a hillside with bucolic views of grazing cattle, horses and sheep, boasting a modern design that embraces its terrain. With soaring ceilings and drool-worthy iron-framed windows, this property is an experimental one- built in under 100 days for $150,000, it feels like a generous sized home but is actually a mere 1,000 square feet. One Nest is Mark’s attempt at a new style of living, one that is more conscious of space, sustainability and community. Read the feature on his One Nest Project in the Washington Post here.

one nest at dusk
One Nest Project 

After a beautiful pesto pasta lunch made by my pal Amy Rutherford of Alexandria’s immaculately edited Red Barn Mercantile, we set off to RDV Vineyards to take in a glorious sunset and a bottle of their ’09 RDV Rendezvous. I don’t normally share the penchant for Points or opinions of critic Robert Parker, but in this case I have to agree with his spirited tweets about this particular vintage and bottle- this is some seriously good stuff. Sold out, you can still buy yourself a bottle at the vineyard. The Bordeaux of Virginia right here in our backyard (well, at least One Nest Project’s backyard and ours for a day).

RDV
Pink skies at RDV

silo
Interior of the Silo- RDV (Photo by Rashmi Pappu)

And as for that sunset, I imagine that the city folks saw an impressive sunset that evening as well, but somehow I think ours wins by virtue of the countryside and the creative retreating and all.

Sunset
Photographer Rashmi Pappu capturing and enjoying the moment. 

Off we went, happily plied with a bit of Bordeaux-esque vino, to the top notch Ashby Inn- an impossibly cozy and charming combination of local haunt meets destination restaurant nestled in tiny Paris, VA. (I had to love that we ventured to Paris, VA. for dinner- that alone just made me happy.) Great food and drink ensued. My favorite dish of the night- a dashi custard seafood small plate, but honestly everything was delicious from the perfectly roasted quail to the house-made ricotta. After some conversation with our friendly sommelier, Stuart Brennen, I knew immediately what our bottle of wine would be. His eyes positively lit up while his hands theatrically gestured as he described the German Pinot he had recently acquired. Sold. The ’11 Baden Huber Pinot was a vino to love- vinified candy, juicy yet refined and light to medium-bodied, it proved a perfect pairing to the array of dishes on the table.

baden pinot
Baden Huber ’11 Pinot at The Ashby Inn. If you can get your hands on a bottle of this- please do so. 

With happy tummies, we headed home to enjoy a bit more conversation and a slice (or two) of Sucré’s delicious King Cake courtesy of one King Cake afficionado, Lindsay Boudreaux. A satisfying end to our first day of retreat.

breakfast and baby king cake
The breakfast of champions- avocado toast, a perfectly fried egg, and a bit of King Cake (not seen here because already ingested). P.S.: Rashmi got the baby! (Photo by Rashmi Pappu)

morning retreating

Paper and pencils in hand- the spitballing session begins.

The next morning provided a perfect opportunity for brainstorming, spitballing, and of course, lounging. Lindsay made fried egg and avocado toasts with a bevy of fixins and we noshed and enjoyed our environs. Hungry from all that brainstorming, we made our way into Middleburg for a cozy lunch at The French Hound. Chef’d and owned by John Gustin Birkitt, a Virginia local who made his mark at Napa’s Brix and Domaine Chandon, later making the culinary rounds in Provence, his menu is just the one you want to choose from on a chilly Sunday in February. We sat next to a roaring fire and dined on salted radishes, pommes frites, burgers and BLT’s. Yum, I highly recommend.

the french hound
Lunch at The French Hound= happy-making

A brisk walk around town and a cup of coffee later, I headed home. Another added bonus of retreating- it’s always nice to return.

I don’t know why we don’t do this creative retreating thing more often. I walked away from this brief moment away full of inspiration and ideas and more importantly, good memories and a bit more space in my usually cluttered brain. It’s always a good idea to gather- both the gathering of one’s thoughts and the gathering of one’s good people- throw in a beautiful backdrop (cue super cool house, countryside and awe-inspiring sunset), add in some good food and drink- and bam- you’ve got yourself a retreat to write home (or on le blog) about.

countryside
I wonder if these sheep are creatively retreating? (Photo by Rashmi Pappu)


The Makings of the Perfect Virginia Countryside Retreat:

THE HOUSE:
One Nest Project- 3 bedrooms (plus loft) from $399/night

THE WINE:
RDV Vineyards- call to book a tour and tasting, $50/pp

THE FOOD:
The Ashby Inn- fine dining in the chic little country town of Paris with new(ish) chef to the Ashby Inn, David Dunlap.
Market Salamander- get your gourmet on here, a terrific little market stocked with lots of yummies.
Home Farm Store- a grand food hall in a stunning old bank building packed with foodstuffs galore.
The French Hound- beautiful French country cuisine in the heart of Middleburg.

THE COFFEE:
Middleburg Common Grounds
- for a great cup of countryside joe.

THE PAPER GOODS:
Creme de la Creme- a busy little shop, stock up on your paper and pens here for your spitballing session or stop in at Amy’s shop on the way out to the country.

THE PEOPLE:
your adventurous, fun and creative pals
Do you make a habit of retreating? What do you do, where do you go? Do tell.

Cin Cin Ya’ll and Happy Retreating!

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