Tag Archive | fine dining

Circus Trip 2018: Gadby’s Tavern, Alexandria, VA

Day 59, Wednesday, September 12, 2018
Gadby’s Tavern, Alexandria, Virginia

After I left the Boston area, I had plans to visit a friend of mine who lives in Alexandria, Virginia.  I was going to spend a few days there, and use that as my jumping off point for visiting Washington, D.C.  I had left Quincy, Massachusetts, and embarked on a long drive through multiple states to get to Alexandria.  I split it over two days, as it is a total of about eight hours driving, through a lot of traffic.  Heading from Massachusetts to Alexandria meant I had to skip some great locations, but you can’t possibly see everything on a trip, I suppose.  It was tough to drive through so many great places and just pass them by!  Connecticut, New York City, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Delaware, and more!  I so very much want to go back and see all these places!

All that said, I rolled into Alexandria about 4 in the afternoon, and headed to Jason’s house.  He had planned a surprise for my visit! He knows how much I love history, so he made reservations at Gadsby’s Tavern!

Gadsby’s Tavern was originally built in 1785 by Marylander John Wise, and opened the building next door as the Federal City Tavern in 1792.  There was another tavern on the site before the current building though, which reportedly was in business from around 1770.  An Englishman named Gadsby leased the tavern in 1796; the current name is a nod to him. 

Back in the late 1700s, several notable guests frequented the tavern, including Founding Fathers and Presidents!  George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, and the Marquis de Lafayette were all known visitors to the taverns here.  A banquet was even held in Washington’s honor here in 1801; how cool to be in the same place where these men talked politics. 

Gadsby operated the tavern until 1815, and then passed through various hands and it was various businesses, until it fell into disrepair and abandonment.  In 1917, in this sad state, some of the ballroom woodwork was sold to the Metropolitan Museum in New York City, where it apparently remains today.  However, this was the catalyst for the historic preservation.  Gadsby’s Tavern was restored to the period of the late 1700s, and reopened as a restaurant in 1976.

There is a fine dining atmosphere, with delicious food and ambiance.  I had the herb encrusted grill salmon, finished with a balsamic glaze, and served with jasmine rice and sauteed spinach, and a glass of white wine.  To add to its charm, period actors make their way around the room, reciting the words of our Founding Fathers and engaging restaurant patrons in discussions on the governance of our young, budding country!

It was so much fun getting to see Jason and watch the actors engage with people!  An amazing experience for a history nerd like me!  

After dinner we wandered around Alexandria and got ice cream nearby, just chatting and catching up.  I certainly want to go back and see more of this fascinating and historic city!


Atlanta 2018: Polaris

Day 4, Wednesday, January 24, 2018

After the State Capitol Museum, I had a quick appetizer at Ted’s Montana Grill again – the Bison Chili Nachos – so messy and so YUMMY!

Then I went over to Polaris.  Polaris is the rotating restaurant at the top of the Hyatt Regency hotel.  It is so cool!  You check in with the receptionist and then she sends you up to the bar in a fancy high speed elevator.  I just went for appetizers, to make it more affordable, but they do offer dinner.

I had the charcuterie plate, which had a selection of delicious meats and cheeses along with honey harvested from their rooftop beehives (yea, this place is fancy!).  I also had a scallops appetizer that was to die for!  I had two cocktails too – the St. Nick, and a cranberry cocktail – both were excellent!


The service was great, and my server had been working for Polaris since they first opened years ago.  It was certainly worth the visit, and the sunset was great to see (but impossible to photograph well).

California Road Trip: Crush 29 – A Wine Country Experience

The last full day of our California Road Trip was going to be in Sacramento.  We headed over after doing the 17 Mile Drive at Pebble Beach, and had an uneventful drive with just a little bit of rush hour traffic just as we were heading into Sacramento.  After we got checked into our hotel, Jon and I had a chat about our dinner agenda.  Jon was craving some Thai food from a restaurant that he used to go to with his grandmother.  However, I had seen an ad in the hotel information book and I was intrigued.

Now, if you follow this blog, you know that food porn isn’t my primary focus.  I like a great meal on occasion but I can’t afford to have the kind of meal that you want to blog about every night – neither my wallet nor my waistline would hold up for very long.  But on this particular night, I gave Jon the puppy dog eyes until he agreed to take me to Crush 29.  Jon was skeptical – he thought that a restaurant that advertised itself as a wine country dining experience would be pretentious and snooty.

We got there and were seated right away and had a chance to look over their wine menu.  I selected the Chalk Hill 2006 Sauvignon Blanc from Sonoma.  Jon picked the Ferrari Carano 2009 Fume Blanc.  They were both excellent choices, but we each liked the other wine better.  So we traded!

Then we moved on to the food.  We started out ordering an appetizer – the Lamb Lollipops.  I don’t normally eat lamb, but I couldn’t resist this description: skewers of marinated lamb tenderloins around a sweet potato puree with a hot mustard-pomegranate drizzle.  But, for better or worse – they were sold out, so no Lamb Lollipops for us.  So instead, we ordered the Whole Sesame Artichoke, steamed in a spiced broth and flash grilled with a chipotle-basil aioli.  It was absolutely delicious!

Whole Sesame Artichoke

Whole Sesame Artichoke

For the main course, I chose the Achiote Glazed Mahi-Mahi, with a blood orange gastrique, sweet corn sauce, forbidden rice, sautéed spinach and a picante pepper-pineapple chutney.  I hadn’t even heard of Achiote, so I had to look it up.  Apparently it is a paste, used in Yucatán, Oaxacan, and Belizean cuisine, made from the slightly bitter, earthy flavored, red annatto seeds, mixed with other spices and ground into a paste.  The paste is dissolved in either lemon juice, water, oil or vinegar to create a marinade, and marinated or rubbed directly upon meat. It is also sometimes it is added to corn dough to create a zesty flavor and color in empanadas and red tamales.
Achiote Glazed Mahi-Mahi

Achiote Glazed Mahi-Mahi

Jon ordered the Hawaiian Spiced Ahi, on a macadamia nut rice with a ginger infused coconut plum wine sauce.  I knew all of the ingredients in his, so no having to google his meal!  Our server accidentally switched our meals, so we each tried the other first.  I thought Jon’s meal was fantastic!  Then when we traded, my meal was even better!  I think Jon was jealous…
Hawaiian Spiced Ahi

Hawaiian Spiced Ahi

We were so impressed with all of the food – everything that we had was so full of flavor and so well done!  I thought it couldn’t get any better, until I saw the dessert delivered to the table next to us.  The Chocolate Bomb.  Oh. My. God.  It looked so good that I immediately found more room for dessert in my belly.  The Chocolate Bomb was presented on a hazelnut crust with creme anglaise and fresh berry sticks.  Here’s the photo:
The Chocolate Bomb - Pure Heaven!

The Chocolate Bomb – Pure Heaven!

I don’t think any more words are required.  If you are near there – GO.

The Grand Tour – Day 5 – Savannah!

At the end of our drive for the day, Savannah was waiting for us!  And so was the Marshall House!  The Marshall House was the lodging I was most excited about during our trip. It is a historic hotel right in the downtown historic district of Savannah, built in 1851.  We got there and parked and had our first true experience with a valet! Jon had never used a valet or bellhop before, and I have only had very limited experience. But you can imagine how excited Jon was to find out they had a wine and cheese social each evening from 5:00 to 6:30 pm.

The Marshall House Hotel – Built in 1851

We got checked in to our room on the fourth floor, room 405, a petite queen. The petite queens are small and value priced. They are advertised as small, so you know what you are getting, and it gave us the opportunity to spend a couple of nights in this beautiful hotel that offers luxury amenities like wine and cheese social hours and turndown service without busting out budget. Frankly though, we didn’t think that the room was that small, and it didn’t need to be very large, considering that we were going to spend most of our time outside touristing!

The Wrought Iron Balcony of the Marshall House – Reproduced to Look Like the Original Balcony

The hotel has been renovated with up to date features like bathrooms in each room, flat screen TVs and mini-fridges, but it maintains the character of the original hotel, using the original doors, and wood floors.  Walking in the hotel hallways, you can tell that the floors are uneven, but I thought it just added to its charm and character.  The walls are decorated with historical prints and portraits of historical figures, like Robert E. Lee.

Room 405 – Courtesy of the Marshall House Website

The Marshall House (Savannah’s oldest hotel, by the way) served as a Union hospital during the Civil War, after Sherman occupied Savannah just before Christmas Day 1864. The second floor of the hotel served as the operating rooms and the third floor housed the recovery rooms. With all that suffering, it is a guarantee that the place would be haunted, and it is.  The story goes that the body parts from the amputations were thrown out the back windows from the second floor into the alley below.  Then they buried the limbs beneath the floorboards in the basement of the building because the ground outside was frozen during the extremely cold winter of 1864.  During renovations, workers found the bones, and to avoid disturbing the spirits, the owners of the hotel decided to rebury the bones in the basement.

The Stairwell of the Marshall House

People staying at the hotel have reported hearing groans like sick and dying men, and seeing a man with no arm wandering around asking for a surgeon.  Apparently maids have also opened the door to a room and seen a Civil War hospital operating room, with people laid out on tables and bloody bandages littering the floor.  A little girl has been seen and heard running up and down the hallways.  Apparently she was friends with the children whose parents owned the Marshall House, and she died tragically at the age of 7.  She used to haunt her own home, but when it was torn down she came over to the Marshall House, where she had played as a child.  There is also reportedly a woman in the lobby ladies room who will lock the door to one particular stall.

After checking in we washed off the grit and grime from Magnolia Gardens (you haven’t forgotten us sloshing around in all those puddles, have you? My feet were pretty gross!) before we went back downstairs for the wine and cheese social hour.  We are never late for happy hour!  We had some wine and cheese and did some relaxing while we pondered dinner. The wine was an everyday selection of Merlot, White Zinfandel or Chardonnay, and you could have cheddar, pepperjack, and a white cheese (provolone maybe?) with a variety of crackers and grapes.  While none of the food was fancy, the wine was decent – something I would even buy for a regular occasion, if only I could remember what kind it was!

The Lobby Area of the Marshall House

After having a bit of refreshment, we set out to check out Savannah. We ended up at the Pirate’s House restaurant, a seafood restaurant which has been operating continuously as an Inn and restaurant since 1753! Part of the building is the original Gardener’s house for the Savannah colony, and was built in 1734 (it is thought to be the oldest house in the state of Georgia). The original community garden area was turned into a residential area in 1753, and the Gardener’s house was expanded and turned into an inn and restaurant for sailors who were stopping over in Savannah.

Legend has is that there were tunnels beginning at the liquor cellar under the Pirate’s House and extending to the harbor, enabling unscrupulous captains to shanghai drunken sailors and depart with them. They would take an unconscious drunken man through the tunnel and out to a ship, and the ship would set sail before the sailor woke up. By the time he realized where he was, they were well out at sea, and the sailor had no way to get back to port. What a way to get free labor! One shanghai story involves a policeman who stopped by the inn for a drink, and next thing he knew, he was on his way to China. It took him two years to make his way back to Savannah.

Now, you aren’t at risk of being kidnapped, and the food is amazing. They serve all sorts of fresh fish; so Jon and I of course ordered fish! Jon had the flounder stuffed with crab meat, and I had the trout. This was some of the best fish we have ever had! We paired our entrees with a bottle of New Zealand Pinot Noir, but sadly, neither of us remembers the winery name, and the Pirate’s House doesn’t post their wine list online (I’m  considering emailing them to ask them what the Pinot was). Our server James was fantastic too – he was friendly and courteous and a first rate server. And outside, we got a view of female pirates. Judging by the knee brace that one of them was wearing, I would say they weren’t authentic pirates though.

My Trout Meal with Mashed Sweet Potatoes and Grilled Vegetables

The Pirate’s House also has another fun history – it is one of Savannah’s many haunted houses – the placemat under your plate gives you the rundown of the residential ghostly experiences. I suppose any Inn that has been around over 250 years is bound to have a few ghosts!  Apparently, in the seat I sat in for dinner, a man brazenly scoffed aloud at the idea that the restaurant could be haunted and the Treasure Island art print hanging over the spot fell off the wall at that moment and hit him in the head!  I tried saying aloud that I didn’t believe in ghosts, but I must not have been very convincing, because nothing happened to me.

The Fireplace in the Captain’s Room at the Pirate’s House

After our fabulous dinner, we wandered down to the riverfront and checked things out. Savannah has an open container law, so you can wander around with your beer, as long as it is in a plastic cup.  Having wine in a plastic cup isn’t quite as appealing though, so we didn’t take ours to go. After walking the length of the riverfront tourist area it was pretty dark, so we headed back to the Marshall House to call it a night.  We needed a good night’s rest so we could get in a full day of sightseeing the next day!

The Grand Tour – Day 2 – Downtown Asheville!

After leaving the Biltmore Estate, we went into downtown Asheville to check out the local flavor. It was actually a lot like home, certainly a bit different than other Southern cities I have visited. I hadn’t heard much about Asheville except that is was a cool city, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.  There were lots of hippies and tattooed, pierced people with dyed black and pink hair, and several crystal (the spiritual stones, not meth) and head shops.

Downtown Asheville

Asheville Side Street – So Quaint!

We wandered around for awhile and looked in the galleries and bookshops and eventually settled down for dinner at a restaurant called The Market Place. Our meal was amazing! Chef William Dissen’s goal is to make healthful food that is locally sourced, and he succeeds! If you ever have an opportunity, GO TO THIS RESTAURANT! I had the wood grilled coulotte steak, duck fat fingerling potato hash, local farm egg, and house made thyme ketchup. My steak was so wonderfully tender! Jon had the Wreckfish, with caramelized mushrooms on a bed of Swiss chard.  Wreckfish is so named because they are frequently found in and around shipwrecks – I had never heard of this fish before – but they are apparently also known as Stone Bass.  I paired my meal with a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc called The Seeker. It was so fantastic that Jon tried to trade his Chardonnay with me. I said no, so he had to order his own glass. We sat outside at our table near the sidewalk where it was warm but not hot, and enjoyed our meal. We felt a couple of raindrops, but it didn’t rain!  You can find The Market Place website here, if you want to drool over the other meals you can find there.

The Market Place Restaurant – Amazing Food!

Waiting for Dinner at The Market Place

Jon’s Wreckfish Meal

My Grilled Steak – YUM!

After dinner, we did some more wandering and then went back to our home for the night and had a swim in the pool. We horsed around like kids and swam laps, and watched some cable TV before bed. That’s a real luxury for us, since we only get limited cable at home!