Monthly Archives: August 2013

Take Me Back To Old Virginia

We had such a fabulous time during our trip to the Virginia countryside earlier this month that we wanted to share it all with you. See our previous blog for full disclosure on the first 36 hours of our stay.

After a beautiful evening at Keswick Hall, where the Capitol Grille’s Executive Chef Tyler Brown joined forces with chefs Walter Bundy and Aaron Cross to prepare a four-course meal for guests of the hotel’s Summer Bounty Garden Party, we retired to our rooms for a good night’s sleep. If the delicious food and wine we sampled throughout the evening weren’t enough to put us into a deep, peaceful rest, the beds at Keswick Hall were so luxurious that we were in dreamland before we could count to three.

We woke the next morning well rested and ready to continue our adventure in Old Virginia.

Saturday morning & early afternoon – Edible Orange Fest

Tyler, Walter and Aaron were asked to participate in Orange, Va.’s second annual Edible Orange Fest. The drive to Orange was gorgeous. Rt. 22 was a patchwork quilt of farm after farm with a pocket of Keswick Vineyard peeking through. When we arrived at the festival, the bottom dropped out; the sky opened up and, as we unloaded our supplies from the cars, we got drenched. We had passed a co-op on the drive there, so we hiked back and bought the first dry shirts and jackets we could grab. Now, one of my favorite pieces of clothing is my new, pink John Deere t-shirt.

john deere

Once we were settled, the master chefs went to work and, naturally, the sun came out. We had a beautiful day and the visitors at the festival crowded into the demonstration tent to listen to the chef-farmers talk about the bounty of summer harvests and how they incorporate the seasonal produce in their kitchens.

First up was Tyler, who showcased some of summer’s freshest fruits with a melon soup.

Melon Soup

  • 1 ea. cantaloupe melon
  • 2 ea. lemon
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup water

Mix sugar and water together until sugar is dissolved. Next, mix all remaining ingredients together in a blender and chill. Garnish with anything fresh from the garden such as thinly sliced yum yum peppers and shaved fennel with lemon juice.


Tyler's melon soup

Chef Tyler’s melon soup

Chefs Walter Bundy was up second. He taught guests how to prepare a Hanover Tomato Gazpacho and Aaron Cross finished it out with a chilled Henley Orchard Peach and Lavender Soup with Caromont feta. The recipes for their soups may be found on each of their websites.


Chef Walter Bundy’s Hanover Tomato Gazpacho

Chef Aaron Cross preparing his Henley Orchard Peach and Lavender Soup

Chef Aaron Cross preparing his Henley Orchard Peach and Lavender Soup

The three chefs had as much fun preparing and serving their dishes for guests as the guests, a well-heeled group of food growers and lovers, had tasting them. They swapped stories about gardening and the things they’ve learned from tending to their gardens.

Saturday late afternoon & evening – Polyface Farm

Once the chefs finished their demos, we headed to Polyface Farm, a family owned, pasture-based farm that is beyond organic and perfectly situated in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley.

Three generations of the Salatin family support the farm. And it’s their unconventional way of running Polyface that intrigued us so much that we had to visit.

Their mission is to develop emotionally, economically, environmentally enhancing agricultural enterprises and facilitate their duplication throughout the world.

We got an up-close view of just how they fulfill this mission. They run the farm their own way, disregarding conventional farming techniques and wisdom. The Salatins invented portable sheltering systems, which allow them to produce their animals on perennial prairie polycultures.

This should give you an idea of just what we’re talking about…


The image above is a photo from our tour with Joel Salatin, a third generation alternative farmer at Polyface. Joel spent three hours showing us around his farm and teaching us all about his and his family’s nontraditional ways of farming.

Displayed in the image above is one of the farm’s portable sheltering systems—this one’s specifically for the farm’s stewing hens. As you can see, it’s basically a moveable chicken coop.


But what’s the point? The chickens eat ticks and other bugs that the cows leave behind. The farmers then move the coops around from pasture to pasture so that the animals are always on fresh grass. So, the purpose of the moveable shelter is to produce a truly organic environment for the animals.

It’s no surprise that Polyface Farm, which means “the farm of many faces,” doesn’t just specialize in raising and producing one animal. Their production models include all of the following:

  • Pastured eggs
  • Pastured turkeys
  • Salad bar beef (not breed specific)
  • Pastured broilers
  • Forage-based rabbits
  • Stewing hens
  • Pigaerator pork
  • Forestry/lumber





The Salatins also keep bees, which produce local honey that is known to treat allergies.


Touring Polyface with Joel was a real treat and the perfect ending to a beautiful weekend. We certainly didn’t want to leave, but were excited to get back to our own farms after learning so much from Joel and the rest of the Salatin farmers. Tyler and Greg came back completely inspired by the visit—if you see any unconventional farming techniques taking place at Double H Farm or Glen Leven, you’ll know where the inspiration came from.


And so concluded a magical visit to a beautiful state. We can’t wait to visit our sister property, Keswick Hall, again. In the mean time, be sure to put Keswick Hall at the top of your travel list. Be sure to say hello to everyone from us.

Until next time, Virginia.


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Filed under Janet Kurtz, Director of Sales and Marketing

The Plumpest, Juiciest, Virginia-iest Feast You’ve Ever Heard About (The First 36 Hours)

It was a good time to be a tomato in the South.

Thanks to a healthy serving of both rain and sunshine this summer, vegetable gardens are bursting with luscious produce of every variety, including the queen of the vine, the original passion fruit and veggiest of vegetables – the indomitable homegrown tomato. I’m having flavor flashbacks just thinking about it.

It was an even better time to be a renowned Southern chef who knows his way around a tomato patch… or a row of beans, stand of corn, hill of squash or mess of okra.

Bring all of this together in the state that has been Southern longer than any other, Old Virginia, and you have the fixings for a feast like no other.

Which is exactly what we – the Capitol Grille crew – had a couple of weekends ago, when Tyler Brown—executive chef of the Capitol Grille—traveled to Virginia to join two chefs in celebrating Keswick Hall’s Summer Bounty Garden Party. Together, the three chefs prepared a four-course meal for guests of the event using the season’s freshest ingredients. The two chefs Tyler collaborated with on Aug. 8-10- were: Walter Bundy of Lemaire Restaurant at The Jefferson Hotel in Richmond, Va., and Aaron Cross of Fossett’s at Keswick Hall in Charlottesville, Va.

Summer's Bounty Garden Party at Keswick Hall

Chefs Walter Bundy, Aaron Cross and Tyler Brown

The Hermitage Hotel is a member of the same ownership group with The Jefferson Hotel and Keswick Hall, so this unique opportunity allowed guests to experience regional creations of three executive chefs from sister properties. This was the first time the three joined forces to prepare a meal together…it’s no surprise that the garden bounty party sold out in less than five days.

The chefs were also asked to participate in downtown Orange, Va.’s Edible Orange Fest on Saturday, Aug. 10. The Summer’s Bounty Garden Party was the perfect prelude to the cooking demonstration given by the three chefs the second annual food festival. Check back soon for photos and recipes from the festival.

For now, here’s a recap of our first 36 hours in the beautiful Virginia countryside:

Thursday evening

We arrived in Charlottesville on Thursday, Aug. 8 to give ourselves plenty of time to explore the area before the Summer Bounty dinner the next night.

First, we set out to experience some of Charlottesville’s best and freshest culinary delicacies. We decided on Peter Chang’s China Grill for dinner. China Grill is an unassuming restaurant that serves authentic and legendary Chinese delicacies. Peter Chang, the restaurant’s namesake, owner and chef, trained in China and has cooked for Chinese president Hu Jintao as well as other dignitaries at the Chinese Embassy in Washington D.C. He’s seriously good at what he does.

Chang’s restaurant is a must when you’re in the area, not just because of his delicious Szechwan cuisine, but also because he’s known to pick up and leave as soon as his restaurant is really popular. He’s been crisscrossing the South for most of the last decade. You never know where he’ll pop up next.

Peter Chang Dry-Fried Eggplant

Dry-Fried Eggplant

Peter Chang Fragrant and Sweet Ribs

Fragrant and Sweet Ribs

Szechuan Dan Dan Noodles

Szechuan Dan Dan Noodles

With full bellies and happy hearts, we headed to Keswick Hall, where Tyler would join chefs Walter and Aaron the following evening for the Summer’s Bounty Garden Party.

Keswick Hall at Monticello is a spectacular mansion nestled on a 600-acre private estate at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains near Charlottesville, Va. Built in 1912 as a gorgeous, Italianate-style estate, it was converted to a country club in 1948 and restored in the early 1990s as part of the world-class hotel that now graces a beautiful piece of Virginia countryside.01_29RoomatKeswick

Each of the 48 rooms is individually and beautifully furnished with a special touch that creates the warmth of a bygone era. The rooms also offer spacious lounging areas with wood burning fireplaces and expansive terraces that overlook impeccable views of the mountains. We couldn’t help but relax in this tranquil environment. It’s easy to see why it has been named Conde Nast’s “Number One Small Resort in Mainland U.S.” twice in the last three years (first in 2010 and again in 2011).

Friday morning & afternoon

The next morning we traveled a few minutes down the road to tour Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s historic home and gardens. It was inspiring to learn about one of our founding fathers who shared our passion for gardening, good food and delightful wines. His understanding of the interrelationship between humans and the environment branded him as one of our country’s earliest agronomists. Maybe he was the “Founding Father” of the farm-to-table movement, too.

Tyler in the garden at Monticello

Tyler in the garden at Monticello

Beautiful Monticello

Beautiful Monticello

The vineyard at Monticello

The vineyard at Monticello

Over lunch with the planning and development team, we sampled dishes made with fresh, seasonal vegetables served straight from the gardens at Monticello, and marveled at Jefferson’s interest in and use of agricultural practices, such as crop rotation, fertilization and contour plowing. We also reflected on our own experiences with farming back home in Nashville at Glen Leven.

Friday evening

We ventured back to Keswick Hall to give the chefs plenty of time to begin prepping for the evening’s dinner party. Along the way, we passed sign after sign for Virginia’s many farms while enjoying the view. The ride was quite picturesque and our afternoon was the perfect way to kick off the evening’s festivities.

Virginia farm signs

Virginia farm signs

Driving through the Virginia countryside to the historic Keswick Hall inspired Tyler to go foraging through the property for some Queen Anne’s lace to use as a garnish for his dish—the Carolina Flounder—that night. The menu included four courses—each of them as fresh and delicious tasting as the next.

Chef Walter kicked it off with tender Chesapeake crabmeat served over slices of heirloom tomatoes and surrounded by Camembert cheese from Goats “R” Us. To garnish, Walter added grilled Vidalia onions and a homemade garden basil pesto from the Jefferson Hotel’s garden. His garden-fresh dish was complimented with Barboursville Vineyards’ 2011 vermentino.

Tyler's Peak of the Season Heirloom Tomatoes

Walter’s Peak of the Season Heirloom Tomatoes

Our own chef Tyler prepared the second course: a Carolina flounder served with sweet cucumber and sprite melon relish from The Hermitage Hotel’s Glen Leven Farm, a sharp Swiss chard and a black garlic sauce. To top off the summery catch, Tyler paired his course with Michael Shaps’ 2009 chardonnay.

Tyler's Carolina Flounder

Tyler’s Carolina Flounder

Chef Aaron prepared the third course: Bubba’s Bison Rib Eye. The bison rib eye rested on gratin potatoes and an arrangement of Keswick’s summer giardiniera and was accompanied by a toasted anise seed sauce. The dish was paired with Pollak Vineyards’ 2010 meritage.

Aaron's Bubba’s Bison Rib Eye

Aaron’s Bubba’s Bison Rib Eye

The Keswick Hall culinary team prepared dessert: a raspberry and lemon balm posset, which included crispy honeyed groats, white peach sorbet and vanilla pickled cherries. Paired with White Hall Vineyards’ 2011 soliterre, it was the perfect ending to a delicious meal.

Raspberry and Lemon Balm Posset

Raspberry and Lemon Balm Posset

The Summer’s Bounty Garden Party was held in Keswick Hall’s restaurant, Fossett’s, which has spectacular panoramic views of the estate’s immaculate landscape and the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains.

We’d like to thank all of those at Keswick Hall and Fossett’s for opening your doors— and kitchen—to make our weekend so memorable. If you find yourself in the Virginia countryside anytime soon, Keswick Hall is the perfect retreat no matter what type of vacation you’re looking for. For more photos from the first 36 hours of our trip, view our Facebook page at

We’ll cover the rest of our trip in our next blog, so stay tuned for recipes from the festival and photos from our tour of Polyface Farm.

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The Hermitage Hotel Named Charter Member Of Exclusive Southern Living Hotel Collection

We’re honored to announce that The Hermitage Hotel has been named a charter member of the new Southern Living Hotel Collection—a carefully selected group of hotels, independent resorts and inns hand-picked by Southern Living editors as epitomizing the gracious hospitality and culture of the South.

The Southern Living Hotel Collection officially launched this month and includes 15 properties throughout the South, but will continue to select additional properties throughout the coming years until the list reaches up to 100 locations across the South.logo

One of only three properties in Tennessee invited to join the Collection, The Hermitage Hotel was selected for its excellence in staff and service, facility design and décor, culinary concept, amenities and services and for its community alliance, involvement and integration.

Few organizations speak with more authority or authenticity about the South than Southern Living magazine. Travelers seeking to experience the best the South has to offer will find this new collection to be an invaluable guide. We are certainly honored to be included as a charter member with so many other truly iconic properties.

“Our Collection of unique and special resorts, hotels and inns will bring to life what the writers of Southern Living have been sharing with the readers for generations,” said Scott Tigchelaar, president of the Southern Living Hotel Collection. “This ‘missing piece’ will complete the collage of providing our loyal readers with the best of undiscovered experiences, breathtaking destinations and the assurance that Southern Living has hand-picked each and every chosen property.”

This isn’t the first time Southern Living has turned to Nashville for an example of gracious living recently. The 2013 Southern Living Idea House opened on June 29 in Nashville at Fontenel, former home of country legend Barbara Mandrell. Inspired by a 2012 automobile tour of Lieper’s Fork, the $1.6 million Southern showcase farmhouse is expected to attract thousands of visitors from throughout the country.

We look forward to welcoming many visitors who come to Nashville to tour the Idea House. After all, after seeing the Southern Living Idea House, what better place to stay the night than with a member of the Southern Living Hotel Collection? Add a glass of single barrel bourbon from the Oak Bar and a dinner of locally grown Southern cuisine from Capitol Grille, and you may just have the ultimate Southern experience.

The Hermitage Hotel exterior

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