Friday, December 6, 2013

Small Town Christmas & Dinner at Salamander

There's Christmas.  Then there's small town Christmas.

This week, I peeked at a little glimpse of small town Christmas on my way to a dinner party at Salamander Resort & Spa in Middleburg, VA.

For the DC/Maryland/Northern VA folks - the directions include "take the Dulles Toll Road to the end."  Doesn't this sound like "go to the end of I-95"? Who knew the thing ended? And what's beyond that?  As it turns out, there's miles that are much longer than city miles of horses and farm houses.  And then eventually, you get to the little town of Middleburg.

Here's a little bit about me. I don't live in a little town, but I love wandering through them.  Fresh ice cream, yarn shops, and an artsy little shop.  There's always these spots in a small town.  And 2-lane streets with stop signs where folks really do stop.
1st sign I was in a small town - free parking meters?!  Nice.
Since I was going to dinner, I skipped the ice cream shop.  And of course, I found the yarn like a magnet, except, this wasn't actually a yarn shop.  It was a needlepoint store, Stitches.  They had one collection of yarn from a local farm, Gum Tree Farm, with natural wool.  Wool can be funny, sometimes it can be scratchy as heck, sometimes really soft. This one, I wasn't too sure about, but they had mittens that had been made from the wool and, well, I bought 2 skeins.
Organic wool from Gum Tree Farm
I stopped in a funky little clothes store, picked up a Christmas present (shhh...) and then spent most of my time in Salamander Touch.  Its one of those shops that has a little of this and a little of that - bath soaps, lavender sachets, tea pots, hand lotion, and barn blankets designed by Sheila Johnson.  And there's Fern. Not the plant, but a NYC transplant who after decades out of the city still has the recognizable accent that will tell you about everything in the shop and help you find exactly what you need. I got hand lotion because that is one of my other secret addictions.  There were shop-folks up and down the street putting up wreaths and bows and Christmas lights. The fox hunting Christmas parade is on Saturday.  I admit, I wouldn't mind seeing that.

A friend of mine lives nearby, so she met me for pre-dinner drinks at the Salamander Resort.  We sipped on Parlays - a refreshing vodka based drink with muddled basil and lime juice - yumm - in the dark wood, cozy bar.  Over in the living room, next to the bar, we munched on chocolate chip pecan cookies that were set out for the Christmas tree lighting.  There was hot chocolate, children dressed up in their holiday velvet and bows, a children's chorus singing carols, a bell choir, and Santa - I told you, small town Christmas. The festivities were led by Sheila Johnson, the owner of the Resort.

One of the horse barns as you drive up to Salamander Resort

Our dinner party was in the Cooking Studio.
The Cooking Studio ready for dinner
I was really excited, I love watching a little behind the scenes in the restaurant kitchen. I was waiting for the chef to throw a pan and curse someone out for undercooking the risotto, but alas, there was no risotto and the chef, Dean, was a very nice guy from South Africa.  Our first course included a Pumpkin Cappucino, one of the other ladies frothed the milk foam for those.  For the main course, I had the swordfish, sweet potatoes, and collard greens.  Swordfish can sometimes come out a bit dry, because it's thick and steaky, but this one was moist and well-cooked.

The chef plating our dinner
Swordfish with sweet potatoes & collard greens
Making our own dinner - yukon gold potato gnocchi
What happens when quality control has wine on the job
- but they tasted good.
And for dessert, well, if you know anything about this blog or me, you know what I had. The 10-layer chocolate cake.  I don't even remember what the other option was, I'm not even sure I looked.
 10-layer chocolate cake with
pumpkin ice cream & dark chocolate lace
It was a delicious dinner, but the best part was the company. I know folks always say that, but really it was.  The party was organized by a business associate/friend of my husband and mine and it was a gathering of her invited guests. So unlike most social events in my life, I didn't know most of the other guests; only another couple and a woman that were at the same get together last year, too.  Business also mixed in with social as our host graciously chose my novel, Life in Spades, as a gift for all the guests.  It was fun to meet new folks (the couple who grew up next to each other as kids, but then just eloped last year), laugh over the random connections in our lives (the woman next to me travels to Seoul for work), and celebrate being happy with nice people.

I wanted to stay overnight and indulge in the spa.  However, the place is a bit expensive, and having to get back the next morning for mommy-duty, I didn't think I'd get all my dollars' worth.  It would be more justifiable for a special occasion (like an upcoming birthday, hint hint, dear husband) or a getaway treat, when you could really hang out and relax.  I'd love to wander around the grounds, watch the horses (you can even bring your own, if you got one in the backyard), and of course, melt into the hot towel chaise lounges in the spa that one of the other dinner guests swooned about.

Looking for small town living for a day or two? Go right on out, way past the airplanes and the traffic, look for the horses, and enjoy the sunset.

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Anonymous said...

love the description. Totally agree

mackyton said...

Hey, I just loved the Small Town Christmas & Dinner at Salamander. These photos are just outstanding. For our employees and some regular clients we also would be hosting a pre Xmas bash soon. We have booked one of the most appropriate corporate event venues San Francisco for that.