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Charlottesville, VA Weekend Vacation Getaway

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Where To Dine

To us dining is a total experience; food, ambiance and service. Miss one and it just isn’t that special. Have them all and it will be a night you’ll remember for some time. Good food is a given in our recommendations, but alone it is just not enough. Our recommendations include all three elements and hope your experience is as good as ours.

Fossett's  |  Clifton Inn
C and O Restaurant  |  Hamilton's at First & Main
Zinc/Mas Tapas

Fossett's
Keswick Hall
701 Club Drive
HALL OF FAME

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Fossett’s is named in honor of Thomas Jefferson’s chief cook at Monticello, Edith Fosset, who learned the art of French cooking while serving in the White House during Jefferson’s Presidential years.

It is every chef's dream to have a job like this, a magnificent setting, with the freedom to be creative, the resources to procure the best ingredients and the opportunity to teach and create special events. We were fortunate on our visit to experience both the signature restaurant, Fossett's, and the catering side of the operation at a wedding we attended.

Arrive early and have a drink and maybe a snack at Fossett's Bar, next to the dining room. Try the “Signature” Fries, tossed in truffle oil and
Freshly shaved Parmesan cheese or the Garlic and Truffle Tortilla Chips with tomato salsa, guacamole and hummus for dipping

The crisp white dining room is accented with beige carpeting, dark wood furniture, hand painted murals and historical artwork. Floor to ceiling windows around three quarters of the room offer spectacular views of the golf course and mountains. When the weather is nice, dining out on the terrace is about as romantic as it gets.

We started our meal with a complimentary glass of Champagne and an amuse bouclé of fresh cauliflower soup. Now, I am not a cauliflower fan but this was absolutely delicious. For appetizers we had seared diver scallops with 4 kinds of seasonal onions and a shrimp soufflé with a white cheddar grits sauce. Entrees were a delicious pan seared halibut with a green pea risotto, green and white asparagus, fava beans and a tomato coulis and a filet mignon of veal (had never heard of this) with truffle potato fondue, sauteed spinach and a Bernaise sauce. Dessert was a white chocolate pecan pie with a red wine syrup and vanilla bean gelato.

The Wine List is a Wine Spectator Best of Award Winner and features some 20 wines by the glass; nearly 75 half bottles which is wonderful and some 20 large bottles. This carefully crafted list, assembled by Sommelier Richard Hewitt, has all the major regions represented, some very interesting choices and the best pricing we have seen on a resort list in some time. This is a wine heaven!

If you are traveling with friends, the Signature Table is a great dining option. Set by the Infinity pool, you'll be welcomed with a glass of Champagne, have your own server and select your own 5 course meal. Great fun.

Appetizers: $11-$20, Entrees: $28-$39, Desserts: $-$15.



ROMANTIC QUOTIENT: Very romantic especially on the Terrace on a beautiful night.



WHAT OTHERS SAY...
"Fossett's has its own surprising charms. Its ante rooms festooned with over the top swags open onto an elegant white dining room with enormous arrangements of cala lilies. Here we found the best service of the trip and some of Virginia's most compelling seasonal food. ....the extensive wine list, heavy with the state's best bottles, included some exciting discoveries..." National Geographic Traveler



You can make dining reservations by going to our Weekend Planner for contact information.
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Clifton Inn
1296 Clifton Inn Drive
SPECIAL OCCASION

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You would not have experienced the best Charlottesville has to offer if you missed dinner at the Clifton Inn during your stay. Housed in a magnificent 18th century building on 100 acres of wooded beauty, the restaurant sits perched above a private lake in a setting sure to set hearts aflutter. The evening should begin in the chic Veranda bar for a sample of its fantastic martini list and then it’s on to dinner in the stylish dining room or the preferred glass enclosed veranda. When the weather is nice, the doors are thrown open and the romantic quotient hits a new high.

Tables were set with white linens topped with grass cloth place mats and sea foam colored frosted glass chargers with a fresh orchid and votive candle, perfect for a June evening. Servers were dressed in white shirts with black aprons and "team" served each course. A goat cheese stuffed smoked salmon over an olive tapenade crisp amuse bouclé got us started and we never looked back. Raviolis of grated pear and Pecorino Romano with sage butter and duck tortellini’s with foe grass sauce and shaved duck prosciutto were the appetizers, Hawaiian Blue Prawns with lump crab in a cioppino broth with saffron rouille and Carolina grouper with a sesame ginger aioli and shiitake mushrooms were the fish course. Strip loin of dry aged beef with potato gratin, bacon and onions in a red wine sauce and lamb chops with a cannellini bean puree with rosemary smoked feta rounded out the main courses. A glass of port, some artisan cheeses and a vanilla crème Brule with warm ricotta beignets completed a truly amazing meal.

The wine list is a nice mix of French, Italian, California, Spanish and Virginia wines. There are about 14 wines by the glass and about 8 half bottle choices. My favorite cab, Darioush, seldom seen on a wine list was here, and a $49 Louis Latour Chablis was a bargain. You'll find plenty of good choices here under $60. Hurray!

3 courses-$51, 4-$68 and 5-$85. I suggest you do the 4 course and pair it with wines.



ROMANTIC QUOTIENT: Very high, this is what romance is about.



WHAT OTHERS SAY...
"Indeed, the Restaurant at Clifton is among the best dining options in the Charlottesville area, providing an international a la carte menu (main courses $20-$32) as well as fixed-priced tasting dinners (a relative bargain at $65 per person, $90 with paired vintages). You can partake in the main dining room, which overlooks the back yard through a wall of paned windows, or at a table in the kitchen." Frommer's



You can make dining reservations by going to our Weekend Planner for contact information.

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C and O Restaurant
515 East Water Street
EXCELLENT

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Driving by you'll almost miss this brick former railroad flop house on East Water Street until you see the C&O Pepsi Cola sign out front. You begin to wonder if this is the right place until you step inside the dark and intimate mezzanine area with its brick walls, hardwood floors and beamed ceilings. With light splashing on the wonderful artwork, the room is cozy and warm and other than the casual Bistro downstairs is my favorite of the five different rooms.

The restaurant has been a favorite of locals and visitors since 1976 and it is easy to understand why. It can be a wonderful special occasion destination in the cozy mezzanine room or a fun spot for a casual meal, a glass of wine or a late night snack in the Bistro. The people are nice, the service is excellent and the food is terrific. It is the restaurant most often mentioned by locals when you ask them for dining recommendations.

The menu changes frequently, but here's a sampling of appetizers; jumbo shrimp with chipotle-hoison glaze, ahi tuna tartar w/salad Nicoise and roasted garlic vinaigrette, sweetbreads with green peppercorns & sultanas in a Marsala cream sauce with homemade brioche and entrees; rabbit w/ Riesling jus, parsnip fries, haricots verts and cherry tomato salad, Cuban steak, rib eye marinated in Dijon and Tabasco and rainbow trout baked in a salt crust with jasmine rice pilaf and Meyer lemon beurre blanc. For dessert there's a wonderful cheese course where you select two cheeses that are served with grapes, apples and bread or try the "Coupe Maison" 3 scoops of vanilla Haagen Daz, with warm Belgian chocolate whipped cream and toasted almonds. So good.

There's a lot of attention to detail that makes this a very satisfying experience; the breads are homemade and served hot, the drinks are made with freshly squeezed juices, the menus are hand written and much of what is served is sourced from local producers. They don't just mail it in here.

The wine program is run by Elaine Futhey and it is great list for its quality, depth and very fair pricing. There's a whimsy to the list that is fun, "wines to charm and intrigue you..." Most wines are under $50 or not far from it which makes it the best place in town to enjoy this many wonderful wines. There's even a wine from Crete! Where? The restaurant has received the Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence for 16 consecutive years.

Appetizers $4-$14, entrees $19-$35.


 
ROMANTIC QUOTIENT:
High in the mezzanine area.



WHAT OTHERS SAY...
"...this unprepossessing brick front might make you think twice, but don't be deterred, for this unusual setting has been home to acclaimed fare for more than 2 decades. From all appearances, the creaky floors in this charming old building were around in Jefferson's day. Changing monthly, the menu is basically country French but ranges across the globe -- from Thailand to New Mexico and Louisiana -- for additional inspiration. Many patrons stop in the downstairs Bistro, a rustic setting of exposed brick and rough-hewn barn wood, while others proceed upstairs to a more formal venue or to the covered garden." Frommer's



You can make dining reservations by going to our Weekend Planner for contact information.
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Hamilton's at First & Main
101 W. Main Street
EXCELLENT

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Hamiltons, located on the Mall is the perfect place for lunch or dinner especially in the warm months when you can sit outside on the patio and people watch. Inside it's bright and cheerful, decorated in yellows, blues and pinks with hardwood floors, an oak bar, exposed duct work and funky artwork. Floral fabric booths line the walls and make for an intimate diversion from the crowds on the Mall. This is another local favorite in part because everyone seems to like the owners.

The menu changes often and it is not lengthy, but what is there is delicious and perfectly prepared. For appetizers we enjoyed a risotto cake stuffed with Buffalo Mozzarella and topped with basil pesto and a fresh tomato sauce and a Thai red curry pork tenderloin on soba noodles with shiitake mushrooms and a minted yogurt sauce. Entrees were pan roasted crab cakes with tropical fruit mustard, ginger rice and sautéed baby spinach and grilled rack of lamb with white beans, eggplant caponata and a burgundy reduction.

We were too full for dessert, until we saw the list and couldn't resist a wonderful Lemoncello crème Brule and a passion fruit cheese cake with macadamia nut crust. Yum, as Rachel Ray would say.

The wine list favors Virginia and California with a touch of France, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Oregon. There are about 18 wines by the glass at $7.95. Because there were so many Virginia choices, we decided to give them a try and were pleasantly surprised. The Blenheim Chardonnay and the Barboursville Merlot were delicious.

Every Saturday night and some Wednesdays the restaurant hosts the live jazz stylings of guitarist Peter Richardson and clarinetist Dave Kannahnson.

Appetizers:$5-$10, entrees: $18-$32. All credit cards. Dress casual. Closed Sunday.



ROMANTIC QUOTIENT: This is a lively and fun place....the romance can come later.



WHAT OTHERS SAY...
"Marble-top tables, crisp linen napkins, and fresh flowers let you know you're in for some high style at this urbane bistro in the Downtown Mall. It's the kind of place you'd take a special date, but not necessarily propose marriage. The menu changes frequently, but if offered, the pan roasted crab cakes on Jasmine rice and red pepper purée will demonstrate the chef's prowess. Frommer's



You can make dining reservations by going to our Weekend Planner for contact information.

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Zinc/Mas Tapas
420 W. Main Street/501 Monticello Road
EXCELLENT

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Sometimes when I am away, I need a break from the upscale restaurants we go to every night and just want to kick back, drink some wine, have a casual meal....and a bill that doesn't break the bank.

Two of my favorites in Charlottesville to do just that are Zinc and Mas. Zinc is a charming gastro pub serving primarily French comfort food housed in a former gas station where they can still open the bay doors when the weather is nice. It's a place people come to watch football, soccer and rugby and enjoy unusual beers and wonderful wines. The menu has the staples of a French bistro like onion soup, croque monsieur, country pates and cheese, steak frites, comfit du canard and a touch of Britain with fish & chips. The wines are good and reasonably priced and the drink menu has some interesting twists like DuPont Cider and a "French Kiss. Everything is under $20. Yeah!

Mas is the neighborhood restaurant we all wish we had. Casual, laid back, a place to meet friends, to linger over a bottle of wine on the patio. The tapas here are just amazing and paired with a great selection of Spanish wines makes this a wonderful stop. Here's a sampling; Yukon Gold potatoes roasted w/ a spicy rub, served w/ our own hand-made aioli, grilled pork terrine served w/ mango chutney, warm artichoke and goat cheese spread w/ brick-oven bread, jamon Serrano, Manchego cheese and aioli on wood-oven bread, roasted spicy chicken wings tossed in mojo verde w/ creamy blue cheese dressing, grilled, marinated chicken tenderloins w/ garlic-yogurt dressing, flatbread, Niman's Ranch pork shank slow braised w/ sweet onions, juniper berries, and anise served w/ brick oven bread to name just a few. Order from the "Very Special Wines" list for the best of Spain, many only $50-$60. There's a killer cheese plate and a great selection of vintage ports. tapas: $4-$15.



ROMANTIC QUOTIENT: Not so high, but that's not why you came here.



You can make dining reservations by going to our Weekend Planner for contact information.

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