Apple Blossom Festival for Out of Towners

Bloomin' Wine FestPart 1:  Weekend 1:  Wine, Beer, Cider and Blooms

Although the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival draws tens of thousands of out-of-town visitors to Winchester, in some ways it is, at heart, a local home-town festival.  It can be a bit of a challenge for someone unfamiliar with Winchester to navigate the town and sort through all the activities which have evolved through the past 88 festivals.  Clearly, the Ladies Horticultural Luncheon may not be for you, but are there not-to-be-missed activities?  Here’s the first in our two-part effort to help you sort it all out.

The Bloomin’ Wine Fest

Apple Blossom Wine FestivalFirst off, if you want to fit in and get with the spirit, you need to wear pink and green — even the most conservative bankers do.  And, you should know that the locals affectionately refer to the festival as “The Bloom”.  The official website is even thebloom.com.

The Apple Blossom Festival now contains 10 days of activities with over 40 events, kicking off April 24 with the two-day Bloomin’ Wine Fest.  Virginia now has over 300 wineries in the state and the proliferation of wine festivals has correspondingly exploded.  Some of our favorites (that we have never attended) are a festival dedicated to blacksmithing and wine tasting, one that features muskrat racing, and the Wine & Trotter Festival which features harness racing (not pigs’ feet I was disappointed to learn).  So, in this context, where does the Winchester festival fit?

Live Music at the Apple Blossom Wine Festival

Live Music at the Apple Blossom Wine Festival

To be fair, the top-tier of Virginia wineries probably will not be found at the Bloomin’ Wine Fest, but then again they probably will not be there with the blacksmiths, muskrats and trotters either.  The appeal is spending a spring afternoon sampling wines and craft beers in the historic section of Winchester, listening to a choice of live music in three different venues, snacking on Festival Food, and people-watching.  And you may just find a wine you really like.

The two-day event will run from Friday April 24 from 3 to 10 p.m. and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.  More details here.

Winchester Ciderworks Orchard Tour and Tasting

A new component to The Bloom this year will be an actual venture into a real apple orchard.  On Sunday April 26, Winchester Ciderworks will be offering tours and tastings at their site just outside Winchester.  The half hour walking tours promise a wealth of practical information on planting and growing of fruit trees, bloom temperature sensitivity, spraying, pruning, the latest “green” techniques, when and how to harvest, and more.  With any luck, some trees may be in bloom, but no guarantees.

cider tasting at Winchester Ciderworks After the tour, participants will return to the cider works for sampling and tasting.  Winchester Ciderworks specializes in the growing market for gourmet hard ciders.  Their cleverly named Malice hard cider (Malus domestica being the botanical name for apple trees) is a favorite of our own craft-brew-aficionado Chef Adam who says he normally is not a fan of hard ciders, but that Malice is deliciously dry. Cider Tasting at Winchester Ciderworks The ciderworks is still new but rapidly growing and you can find their ciders available in a growing number of places.  Their tasting room will be opening soon, so the Apple Blossom tour will provide a sneak peek for those interested in ciders.

The Real Bloom

DSC_0021A popular feature of early festivals was getting out into the countryside and touring the apple orchards in bloom.  In the 1920’s visitors were encouraged to climb into private cars and have the chauffeur take them on a tour.  Today, a drive in the country seems like an afterthought what with all the activities in town.  But maybe we should take a cue from the Japanese with their reverence for the fleeting cherry blossoms.  I still have a vivid memory of stopping to get spring asparagus from Rinker’s Orchard and being overwhelmed with the fragrance of apple blossoms.  Ruth Rinker told me that much fragrance was very unusual, but apparently if the conditions are just right, if you are at the right place at the right time, you will be rewarded with a rarity.  Kinda like life I think.

If you are staying here at the inn, we have created a map to help you explore orchard country.  Or maybe just set out and get lost.  Serendipity has its rewards.

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Virginia Garden Week Tour Recommendations

Dogwood, Virginia's state tree

Virginia Garden Week is a Big Deal!

Virginia’s Historic Garden Week is our nation’s oldest house and garden tour, the first being conducted in 1929.  Held during the last week of April, it is considered “America’s largest open house”.

With 3400 volunteers, it’s Virginia’s largest ongoing volunteer effort.  There will be a small army of garden clubbers out there (mostly ladies, but a few men too) putting up and taking down the white signs with green arrows.  Volunteers serve as docents-for-a-day and create over 2,000 incredible floral displays that make professional florists weep with envy.

Virginia Garden Week is huge.  In 2014, 30,000 visitors toured 234 private homes on 31 tours across the state.  The 2014 tour had an estimated $11 million economic impact.

Proceeds from the tour have funded landscape restoration projects at the big and famous (Mt. Vernon, Monticello, and Montpelier) and smaller, not as famous but local to us (Belle Grove Plantation, Burwell-Morgan Mill in Millwood, Virginia State Arboretum at Blandy, and even Handley High School in Winchester).

Local Recommendations:  Warrenton Tour

The Warrenton tour will be held on Wednesday and Thursday, April 22 and 23, and has something for everyone.  For real garden aficionados, the Appleton Gardens at Marshfield were designed by noted garden author and designer Colston Burrell.  See woodland azaleas, ferns and hellebores, a boxwood allee, a secret garden, a druidic circle, and a serenity pool incorporated into the foundation of the 19th Century house on the site that burned.

For historic preservationists, The Oaks is a 1930’s Classical Revival home filled with seven generations of family possessions and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  Want to see how to create some history of your own?  Visit Springlea where the owners incorporated three 18th and 19th century buildings brought to the site within the “skin” of a clapboard house that has commanding views of the Blue Ridge.

Gourmet box lunches are available at Whiffletree Farm from 11:30 to 2:30, ONLY by advance reservations and prepayment made by April 16.  Email warrentonlunches@vagardenweek.org for lunch selections and reservations.  The restored Wiffletree carriage house will be open.  Not exactly a two-car garage, it was built to house the First Lady of Foxhunting’s collection of over 100 carriages.

AttackeIf possible, try to be at Elway Hall around 2:00 either day of the tour where local packs of hounds will be shown.  This IS Virginia, right?  A 1907 Edwardian mansion, Elway was the largest private residence in the Warrenton area at the time it was built.


Local Recommendations:  Winchester Tour

The Winchester tour on Saturday April 25 features two museum houses and three private homes, all within a three-mile radius.  The Glen Burnie House, described in our blog last week, and its six acres of gardens are well worth a visit.  The English and Asian style gardens contain three crab apple allées, folly buildings, fountains, sculpture, and a newly completed spring garden containing 13,000 spring bulbs.  The other museum house is an 1854 Gothic Revival that served as Stonewall Jackson’s headquarters for four months during the Civil War.

Glen Burnie Historic House

Glen Burnie Historic House

The private homes on the tour include an award-winning design connecting two adjacent 18th Century homes with a common Japanese and English-style gardens.  The other two homes on the tour are a 1915 Craftsman house and an 1870’s Italianate house with vibrantly painted rooms filled with light from the large original windows.

Box lunches are available by emailing winchester@vagardenweek.org with “Box Lunches” in the subject line.  Pre-payment is required by April 21.  Alternatively, lunch will be available in the area at Bonnie Blue Southern Market and Bakery on the tour day.

Local Recommendations:  Front Royal Tour

The Front Royal tour will also be held on Saturday April 25 and features a historic church, three private homes and two historic house museums.  The home at 67 Pollys Court is a 2012 Timberframe Hybrid home with geothermal heating, pegged mortise joints, stacked stone walls, and a spectacular 20 foot high window framing a view of the Shenandoah River and surrounding mountains.  The house is filled with art and artifacts from Asia, Africa and the Middle East.  The grounds contain extensive plantings; the custom Timberframe barn will also be open.

A buffet lunch will be served at the Parish Hall of the 1892 Victorian Gothic Calvary Episcopal Church which is also on the tour.  Reservations can be made by contacting Mrs. Peg Goodyear at (540) 636-9321.

The two museum houses are at the same location.  The 1788 Balthis House had its last addition in 1859 and features multiple outbuildings and two living history gardens.  The Belle Boyd Cottage is restored to the time of the Civil War when it was home to Confederate spy Isabella Boyd, complete with replication of an 1860’s garden.

Make a Plan

Wisteria at Vaucluse

Wisteria at Vaucluse

In our view of course, the best way to enjoy any or all of these local tours is to incorporate them into a stay at The Inn at Vaucluse Spring.  We are 45 minutes from Warrenton, 25 minutes from Front Royal, and 20 from Winchester.  You can tour our 1820’s historic Manor House and even spend the night!  Our grounds and gardens aren’t too shabby either.  Get full details about times, tickets and directions for tours at vagardenweek.org.  Check room availability at the inn here.

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Winchester’s Glen Burnie Historic House Opens for Season

Glen Burnie Historic HouseThe Glen Burnie Historic House on the grounds of the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley (MSV) in Winchester, Virginia, opens for the 2015 season on Wednesday April 1.

Touring Glen Burnie is not your typical docent-led tour of a historic house recreated to look as it last did as of a certain date or era.  Rather, Glen Burnie offers a self-guided tour of a house filled with exhibit panels that interpret the lives of the previous occupants, where you can actually (gasp!) sit on a chair.

The oldest portions of Glen Burnie, dating to 1793 and 1794, were built by the son of the founder of Winchester.  But perhaps the most interesting occupants were the most recent, descendant Julian Wood Glass Jr. (1910-1992) and his partner Lee Taylor (1924-2000).  In between were an array of family and slaves, many depicted in the interpretive panels placed throughout the house.

The breakfast room explains Glass and Taylor’s tradition of brunch at Glen Burnie, with an impressive display of porcelain, crystal and silver.  In the drawing room, visitors learn more about Glass and Taylor’s flair for entertaining, both inside the house as well as in the spectacular gardens they created.  Michael Lesperance, a principal on the interpretive planning and design firm The Design Minds, Inc., was part of the team that developed the new Glen Burnie exhibition that debuted last summer.  In an article about the design process, Lesperance commends MSV for its willingness to acknowledge the relationship between Glass and Taylor.  “…we have reached a point where visitors are open to understanding the cultural attributes that shaped the collecting, entertaining, and – as at Glen Burnie – architectural decisions that reflected homosexual lives.”

Glen Burnie model house

House interior, scale model is in room to the right.

So, the house and its exhibits give us a peek into the lives of its occupants, but the most fascinating look comes from peering into the scale model of Glen Burnie created by Lee Taylor.  He used clay brick for the exterior and real wood for the floors to create the 1:12 scale model which is now on display in what was most recently the home’s dining room.  A fascinating article in the February 2015 issue of Virginia Living entitled A World in Miniature outlines details of the house, but also gives insightful background details of the Glass-Taylor relationship as well.  It’s definitely worth a read.

botanical painting

Mayapple, Podophyllum peltatum
By Ann Currie

When the house opens for the season on April 1, the Glen Burnie drawing room will be the site of its first exhibition, entitled Beauty in Botany, featuring 22 works by seven regional botanical artists.  Works included in the exhibition range from beautiful but accurate illustrations of various stages of a plant’s life cycle to more expressive renderings of flowers.  The drawing room will be a fitting venue to carry on Glen Burnie’s legacy as a home dedicated to art, beauty and gardening.

The MSV is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. until 4:00 p.m.  The Museum is open year-round: the house and gardens are open April through October.  Admission is free on Wednesdays thanks to a corporate sponsor; other days admission is $10 for adults and $8 for seniors and youth (ages 13 to 18).

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Great Virginia Wineries to Visit in Winter

Winter wine tasting in Virginia is a mellow affair.  With fewer people to serve than other times of year, the pourers/educators can spend more time with each guest.  Many wineries are warm and cozy with fireplaces or woodstoves.  Most have light fare available to accompany a glass of your favorite wine.  These are places that entice you to linger.  As to who has the best wine, you will need to be the judge.  That’s the point of tasting, right?

Overlooking I-66 from Barrel Oak Winery

View from Barrel Oak Winery

The following wineries are worthy of winter visits.  The first four are within two to four miles of an exit off Interstate I-66.  Think of the descending exit numbers along I-66 heading west as a countdown to Vaucluse and the Shenandoah Valley. Although we have listed the appropriate exit numbers, consider getting off I-66 at Marshall, Virginia (exit 25) and following Route 55 west (which parallels I-66) for 12 miles, getting back onto I-66 at Linden (exit 13).  This is a much more relaxed way to see the Virginia countryside, which is beautiful in winter as well as summer.  You will see signs along Route 55 to all these wineries and several others.

Barrel Oak, Fireplace in Main Tasting Room

Barrel Oak, Fireplace in Main Tasting Room

Barrel Oak Winery, 3 miles off I-66 exit 25 (Marshall).  This is the winery for people who love lots of dogs, lots of kids and lots of activity, especially on weekends.  It is large – two-stories/three indoor tasting rooms– friendly, a casual sort of place, less frenetic in winter but still plenty going on.  There’s a large woodburning fireplace in the main tasting area and a woodstove in the other first floor tasting area.

Woodstove at Barrel Oak

Woodstove at Barrel Oak

There is a variety of casual food available at Barrel Oak, even food trucks on some weekends.  Check their website schedule for live music and activities.  On milder winter days, take advantage of several outdoor firepits.  A very social spot.





Fireplace at Philip Carter Winery

Fireplace at Philip Carter Winery

Philip Carter Winery of Virginia, 4 miles off I-66 exit 18 (Markham).  The owners of this winery are descended from some of the very first winemakers in Virginia, dating back to the 1700’s, although the winery itself is relatively newly established.  The cathedral-ceilinged Palladian-windowed tasting room is surrounded by vineyards and is enlivened with bright acrylic paintings.

Vineyard View at Philip Carter

Vineyard View at Philip Carter

The tasting room at Philip Carter has a woodburning fireplace and there are outdoor firepits lit if it is not too cold outdoors.  Their light fare includes local cheese, summer sausage and chutney.






Fireplace at Naked Mountain

Fireplace at Naked Mountain

Naked Mountain Winery and Vineyards, 2 miles off I-66 exit 18 (Markham). Perched on a mountainside, reached by way of a one-lane winding but paved drive, the chalet-style tasting room has a cozy fireplace and great views.  Outdoors, there’s a firepit for mild days and Adirondaks spread around the hillside.  Naked Mountain has a long and popular tradition of offering gourmet Lasagna Lunches on Saturdays, Sundays and holiday Mondays in January through March.  It’s a good idea to call ahead to make a reservation for the lunch.  During the week, they offer light fare to enjoy with a glass of wine.


Linden in Winter

Linden in Winter

Linden Vineyards, 3 miles off I-66 exit 13 (Linden).  Closed Tuesday through Thursday.  With fresh flowers and an artsy vibe, Linden has the feel of an upscale restaurant (without the food).  Their no-limo/no-parties-of-more-than-six rules are consistent with the goal of creating a place where visitors can learn about and experience Virginia wine-making first hand.  A woodburning stove adds warmth.  Although the most sophisticated of the tasting rooms listed, Linden is located up a long unpaved driveway that is beautiful but may not be suitable for 2-wheel drive vehicles in bad winter weather.  Call ahead if in doubt.

Once you have made it to Vaucluse and are looking for a winery nearby, we have the perfect recommendation.

Front Parlor at Valerie Hill

Front Parlor at Valerie Hill

Valerie Hill Vineyard and Winery, 3 miles from the inn, is the closest winery to us.   Vaucluse and Valerie Hill have a special bond, both houses having been built by former Captains from the Revolutionary War.  The 1807 brick manor house contains the winery’s tasting room, definitely not your typical Virginia wine-tasting venue.  Light fare is available (such as meats, cheeses, and baguettes) every day, and on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in winter they are likely to have something heartier such as chili.  Not only is the house historic, however, it seems to be haunted and the winery hosts periodic “History and Hauntings”, a buffet dinner, with wine of course, and a tour of the house focusing on its history and the reported hauntings.  Check their website for dates and prices, as well as a schedule for live music on weekends.

Sitting Area at Valerie Hill

Sitting Area at Valerie Hill

The wineries listed are open daily year-round.  The exceptions are major holidays, such as Christmas and New Years, and for Linden which is closed every Tuesday through Thursday.  If in doubt about road conditions or accessibility, please call the winery that day to make sure they are open.

If the weather is good and you are ready to venture out to wineries that are a bit further afield, just ask us here at the inn and we will be happy to help with suggestions.  Happy tastings!

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Nearby Buzzard Rock Hike:  Old Rag Lite?

IMG_0816Buzzard Rock gives the greatest payoff in views for the least amount of effort, while providing the option for fun rock scrambles.  Located in the Fort Valley section of Virginia’s George Washington National Forest, the start point for the hike is midway between Strasburg and Front Royal, only 30 minutes from the Inn.  It’s a 4-mile out-and-back hike with a gentle ascent through the woods and a walk along the rocky ridge-line with great views overlooking Passage Creek below and the beautiful Fort Valley.





Front Royal Fish Hatchery

Front Royal Fish Hatchery

The first overlook actually looks back over the way you drive in on Mountain Road past the Front Royal Fish Hatchery, which is open for visits during the week (closed on weekends).  From the overlook,you can see the ponds where they raise mostly walleye and smallmouth bass fingerlings.



IMG_0808The remainder of the hike follows the ridgeline for as far as you care to go.









Looking toward Signal Knob

Looking toward Signal Knob

There are several accessible overlooks on and off the trail.  The rocks form a sort of “stadium seating” in several places for sitting to enjoy the views and have a picnic.







The ridgeline has several places to scramble up the rocks, which very accommodatingly have lots of hand-holds and toe-holds.







IMG_0843Clearly, Buzzard Rock is not Old Rag, but it is a much loved hike for local folks in the area.  On a smaller scale, it also has some of Old Rag’s problems of popularity.  The parking lot is very small and the trail can be crowded on weekends.  The trail up to the ridge can be a bit of a shock if you are used to hiking in the Shenandoah National Park where trails are meticulously maintained and visitors seem to have more of the “Leave No Trace” ethic.  The trail is heavily eroded in some spots.


IMG_0839In spite of these considerations, we agree with Hiking Upwards’ ranking of the Buzzard Rock [North access] hike as a 2 for difficulty and a 5 for views.  Not a bad combination in our book!

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Taylor Pavilion in Old Town Winchester

Taylor Hotel, Winchester, Virginia

Old Town Winchester just keeps getting better.

DSC_0056The latest excitement is the completion of the Taylor Pavilion, an open-sided pavilion that is part of the newly created pocket park behind the recently restored Taylor Hotel.





Pocket park at Taylor Pavilion

Pocket park at Taylor Pavilion

The tiny green space and the remaining side wall are all that remains after the collapse of the mid-portion of the hotel.





Taylor Pavilion, Fly Tower in background


The pavilion will be used for weekly farmer’s market stalls and as an event venue.





Taylor Hotel, Pavilion, and Fly Tower Sunday Jazz in Old Town Winchester is a 3-part series featuring the SV Jazz ensemble (hear them here) on the afternoons of September 14 and 28 and October 12.




Defend the ValleyThose familiar with Defend the Valley (which includes the story of the Jones family here at Vaucluse during the Civil War) may recognize the columns of the old Taylor Hotel from the book jacket cover.  With the sounds of live jazz wafting from behind the hotel on a Sunday afternoon, Winchester has come a long way.  Our gratitude to all who have worked so long and hard to make this happen!

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Potomac Eagle Scenic Railroad

posted by Neil Myers

Steel wheels

See West Virginia Fall Colors and Eagles too!Young Eagle Flying

Train buffs and nature lovers alike agree that the Potomac Eagle out of Romney, West Virginia, is an ideal way to see West Virginia at its best, particularly in October’s fall foliage season.  The operators don’t guarantee that you will see an eagle, but say that eagle sightings occur on over 90% of their trips.

Fall Mountain ScenicFortunately for our guests here at The Inn at Vaucluse Spring, the train’s starting point in Romney is only a little over an hour away, making the 11:00 a.m. departure time quite doable following our delicious breakfast that starts at 8:30.  We can get you on the road by 9:00 a.m.  See directions to the train station from the inn here.

The 3-hour narrated excursion winds past historic farms and through the narrow mountain valley created by the South Branch of the Potomac River, rather inelegantly named “The Trough”.

The train is hauled by a vintage 1950’s locomotive. There are open air cars with benches, open air covered cars, passenger coaches with seats that reverse for the return trip, cars with seating at tables, a snack bar, and first class dining cars complete with Chesapeake and Ohio china and tableware.

Railroad Track Scenic

The TripAdvisor reviews are overwhelmingly positive, although there are a few grumblings that the “gourmet” food isn’t really, that the train was too hot, too cold, too basic, etc.  Just don’t expect the Orient Express — it IS West-By-God-Virginia after all — and “Wild and Wonderful” is what it’s all about.  Tips gleaned from Trip Advisor:

  • sit on the left for best views,
  • bring a picnic lunch if you are picky about food,
  • bring warmer clothing in the fall than you might think you would need, and
  • travel mid-week if you want to avoid children and just generally have a better experience.



In addition, our suggestions are:

  • plan on staying at the inn two nights (the nights before and after your trip), and
  • if you are still up for more scenery after your train ride, return to the inn by way of  routes 220 and 55–it’s only 30 minutes longer than the shorter route and takes you past entirely different scenery.

The Potomac Eagle runs on a Saturday-only schedule through September, and starts October daily service on October 3.  Check their website for more information including schedules and prices.

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Raspberry Coffecake Recipe

posted by Neil Myers

raspberry coffeecakeThis coffee cake is a hoot to make and tastes fantastic!  You get to poke berries into a half-baked cake, which sounds weird I’ll grant, but it’s strangely satisfying to push them in just right.  Plus, there is something about the fresh raspberries that make it indescribably delicious.  Blueberries, black berries, or even wine berries work just as well, but raspberries are our favorite.  We’ve had lots of requests for this recipe from our guests here at The Inn at Vaucluse Spring, so it’s time to share.


Raspberry-Lemon Coffee Cake
(one 9×13 baking pan)

Dry mix:
*  2 1/4 cups flour
*  2 1/4 tsp. baking powder
*  1/2 tsp. baking soda
*  1/2 tsp. salt

Cream mixture:
*  3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) soft butter
*  1 1/2 cups sugar
*  2 eggs, room temp
*  1 ½ tsp. vanilla

1 cup plus 2 T. buttermilk

Lemon Cream Cheese filling:
*  4 oz. cream cheese
*  ¼ cup plus 2 T. sugar
*  1 ½ tsp. lemon zest
*  2 eggs

Glaze:  1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam, melted over low heat with lemon juice added to thin out

1 cup fresh raspberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter 9” x 13” Pyrex pan.  Mix dry ingredients and set aside.

Cream butter and sugar together.  Beat in eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Beat in vanilla.

Alternately add in dry mix and buttermilk to butter-sugar mixture, beating just until combined after each addition.  Set aside.

For cream cheese filling, beat cream cheese and sugar together in another bowl.  Add lemon zest and eggs and beat until combined

Spoon half of cake batter into bottom of buttered pan, spreading to edges.  Pour cream cheese mixture on cake batter, spreading to edges.  Dollop remaining batter on cream cheese layer, carefully spreading to edges of pan.

IMG_0637Bake for 20 minutes.  Remove from oven and gently press raspberries into cake.  Cake will still be wet in center and just starting to dry out on the edges.  Don’t worry about making a pattern with the berries – they move around anyway, and are easy to cut through.  Bake another 25-30 minutes until cake springs back & toothpick comes out clean.IMG_0641


Place on wire rack to cool before cutting.  Cut into 15 pieces large pieces, 18 medium, or 24 small.  Drizzle pieces with glaze and sprinkle with powdered sugar.  Stand back and watch it disappear!cropped coffecake

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Wine Berries

wine berries at Vaucluse Spring
posted by Neil Myers

Part of the mystique of Vaucluse Woods are the wild wine berries.  If you have ever walked the back fence-line through our woods here at The Inn at Vaucluse Spring, you have seen the bushes.  Right now in July the berries are at their peak, and I’ve never seen them better.  Just the right amount of rain has made them not too small and sour, and not too large and bland, but, as Goldilocks says, “Just right.”

cow friendsI met these new friends along the fence-line path.  They do not care for either the berries or the vine foliage; they just like to check the fence to see if they can get out, and coincidentally they keep a path open.


wine berries on the vineTurns out the wine berries are (another) invasive exotic plant from Asia that have taken over some woodlands in the eastern part of the U.S.  According to Wikipedia, Rubus phoenicolasius was introduced as an ornamental plant [hard to believe] and for its potential for breeding hybrid raspberries [makes more sense].


wine berry vinesThe berries are easy to pick here since the cattle have made such a nice access path.  Probably their best use is to just pop them into your mouth as you pick them while you take a walk in the woods.  We’ve also served them with fresh bananas at breakfast for a great color and tartness contrast.  They would also be lovely mixed with other fresh berries or used as a raspberry substitute, keeping in mind that they are tarter than domesticated raspberries.

wine berriesThe great thing about wine berries is that since their vines are considered a pest, you can enjoy eating all you want and hack away at the vines with a clear conscience.  You’ll be helping the environment!

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A Healthier Bed-and-Breakfast Breakfast

posted by Neil Myers

In our 19th year of innkeeping here at The Inn at Vaucluse Spring, we are re-thinking the idea of what it means to serve an indulgent B&B breakfast.  More and more of our guests are looking for a healthier breakfast.  The problem is that many health claims are diametrically opposed and there is no one menu which would strictly meet everyone’s idea of health.  The Paleo/Gluten-Free crowd is not going to be happy with what the Whole-Grain/Low Fat/Vegetarian folks want and vice versa.  Plus, we still have a lot of guests who just want to take a small vacation from these concerns and indulge themselves with their old way of eating for a couple of days.  Without becoming a short-order cook, what’s an innkeeper to do?

Our evolving approach is to follow The Middle Way (with apologies to the Buddha) and encourage our guests to relax a little bit about food.  In a world of Extreme-Everything, our choice is to be Extremely Balanced (can there can be such a thing?).  Our goal, as ever, is to serve delicious food, beautifully presented, that delightfully nourishes body and soul.  We will continue to accommodate allergies, food intolerances, and medically-imposed restrictions (as well as personal food preferences as best we can).

With the new Middle Way approach, we are considering calling our first course our Breakfast Appetizer or Starter so we have the leeway to serve something other that a breakfast bread.  The Appetizer/Starter may well be one of our traditional breakfast breads or muffins, or it might be a miniature version of one of our “sweet-day” breakfasts.  We just noticed the other morning how a breakfast strata filled with apples looked remarkably like an apple strudel; a smaller portion of this would make a lovely appetizer.  Last winter we got rave reviews on our Apple, Blueberry, and Carrot Muffins which (behind the scenes) we called the “stealth health” muffins because they contain a large portion of flaxseed meal and oat bran in addition to the goodness of apples, dried blueberries, carrots and walnuts.  We will be tinkering with the Breakfast Appetizer/Starter idea and getting guest feedback as we go.

The second course, Fruit for the Day, will continue to feature fruit, whether fresh or roasted.  We still believe perfectly ripe fruit, simply prepared, is an indulgence of which we don’t partake often enough.  It’s fun to try different combinations of fruits and sauces, and although there’s never been a lot of sugar in our sauces, there will now be even less.

The entre will be full of vegetables and protein, mostly in the form of eggs.  We’re still looking for a snappy name for this, so would love to hear your ideas.  We agree with Jefferson that meat is an excellent “condiment”, not the star of the show.  Eggs can be prepared in an infinite number of ways and they no longer seem to be considered the bad boys of the dietary world (after all those years of bad press!).  Fresh vegetables are as much an indulgence as fruit – in our daily rush we don’t always take the time to prepare them with care and imagination.  One of our favorite entrees right now is a Quinoa and Greens Breakfast Pie which we serve with a Prosciutto Crisp for a little crunch and ping of salt.  You might think there would be some hesitancy about the pie, but we’ve found that the overwhelming majority of guests really, really enjoy it.  Maybe it’s all those onions, leeks, red pepper flakes, and a great white cheddar.

So, we are looking to our guests for reactions, whether positive, negative, or indifferent.  Do you have an all-time favorite Vaucluse breakfast dish that you believe we should never abandon?  Any recipes of your own you would you like to share?  (We’ve gotten some fantastic recipes from guests over the years.)  Tell us about any new foods you have tried that you recommend.  Let’s hear from the silent majority who may think things should stay exactly the same.  Please email your thoughts directly to Neil.  I would love to hear from you.

* * *


Apple, Blueberry, and Carrot Muffins
aka The A-B-C “Stealth Health” Muffins
(12 muffins)

This is a substantial muffin with lots of super-food ingredients.  We like to serve them with cinnamon-sugar butter, but you could serve them plain.  They are good “keepers”, but the sooner you serve them after they come out of the oven, the better they will taste.  Ours come out just minutes before breakfast starts.

Whisk together dry ingredients and set aside:
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup flaxseed meal
½ cup oat bran
1 ½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
¾ tsp. baking powder
1 ½ tsp. cinnamon

Whisk together and then add to the dry ingredients:
1 egg, lightly beaten
½ cup milk
2/3 cup brown sugar
¾ tsp. vanilla

Add in:
2 cups shredded carrots
1 large Granny Smith apple (unpeeled), shredded
1/3 cup dried blueberries
2/3 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped

Scoop batter with 1/3 cup measure into muffin tins that have been sprayed with vegetable oil spray.  Bake in 350 degree oven for 25 minutes or until muffins spring back when poked or toothpick comes out clean.


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Quinoa and Greens Breakfast Pie

(serves 6)

We have experimented with several versions of this.  This is the current favorite, but you could certainly try other greens and cheeses depending on what you have available.  After nibbling on all the greens in the market, mustard greens are our current favorite for that extra zing of flavor. Sharp/tart cheeses are preferable; just think what a little splash of vinegar does for greens and you get the idea.  Go heavier on the red pepper if you like – we need to follow The Middle Way here at the inn.

½ cup quinoa (a mix of red and white looks especially nice)
1 cup water

1 small sweet onion, chopped medium fine
1 bunch leeks, white and light green parts, halved longways and cut into 1/8” semi-circles
1 bunch mustard greens, stemmed and coarse chopped
¼ tsp. red pepper flakes
½ cup grated Cabot White 3-Year Cheddar

5 oz. goat cheese, softened
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
4 eggs, room temp.

Cook quinoa according to package instructions.  Dump into large mixing bowl to cool.

Sauté onion in a little olive oil until soft.  Add leeks (make sure they are well washed) to the pan and continue until they are soft as well.  Dump into the quinoa bowl.  Sauté greens with red pepper flakes until wilted.  Add to the big bowl and toss until evenly distributed.  Add white cheddar to the bowl mixture and toss again.

Beat goat cheese until soft and fluffy.  Mix salt and pepper together with each other before adding to goat cheese.  Beat until blended.  Continue beating, adding eggs, and mix well.  Pour goat cheese mixture over the big-bowl ingredients and mix well.  Put into a 9” pie pan that has been sprayed with vegetable oil spray.

Bake in 350 degree oven about 45 minutes until edges begin to brown and eggs are set (knife comes out clean).  Allow to cool 10-15 minutes before serving.


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