This month I celebrate my 8th wedding anniversary with my husband. Every year for our anniversary we go somewhere special for dinner. For our first anniversary, we went to dinner at the Inn at Little Washington, which was absolutely lovely but hard to top in year two. Last year, we went to my favorite restaurant in DC, CityZen at the Mandarin Oriental. And for our 10th anniversary, I fully expect to be taken to French Laundry in Napa Valley (I've been hinting at this for YEARS and posting in this blog makes it official!), one of the few restaurants awarded 3 Michelin stars in the US. I know, it probably sounds a little demanding but I like GOOD food. I want to taste a dish and be knocked off my feet wondering "how did they come up with that!?!" or think "I have never tasted anything like that in my LIFE!" It's a tall order to fill. But it's who I am.
This year, my husband (bless his heart) spent a lot of time trying to come up with a good place to go dinner for our anniversary. Ultimately, he decided on a two-night stay and dinner at the Joshua Wilton House in Harrisonburg, VA. Given that I went to college in North Carolina, I had never heard of the Joshua Wilton House. But my husband went to JMU (located in Harrisonburg, VA) and apparently, the Joshua Wilton House is a legend unto itself for those familiar with the Harrisonburg area.
The Joshua Wilton House is a bed and breakfast in an elegantly restored Victorian home in downtown Harrisonburg. We spent two nights at the inn, enjoying a luxurious four-poster bed, a little sitting area and terry cloth robes. It was quite lovely (not to mention, peaceful and quiet). The inn also offers a full service restaurant on its main level featuring fine dining with locally grown produce and meat. The inn boasts a charming, simple and cozy dining area coupled with a quaint bar area complete with fireplace and leather arm chairs.
Our package at the Joshua Wilton House featured a 5-course tasting menu for dinner. To start off our evening, I ordered the Grace, a specialty cocktail featuring Dibon Sparkling wine, Hendrick’s gin, St~Germain, Chambord and house-made sweet and sour mix. This little cocktail was crisp and light, a delicious aperitif.
Before our first course, we received an amuse bouche (a tasty little tidbit some restaurant kitchens send out "compliments of the chef"). An amuse bouche is a way of teasing your appetite and setting the tone for meal. For our dinner, it was a date stuffed with blue cheese, wrapped in bacon and drizzled with balsamic vinegar. The date was baked to perfection, soft and tender with gooey cheese oozing from the middle. The balsamic vinegar was a wonderful compliment to the blue cheese and savory date.
The first course consisted of lamb served with shaved Manchego cheese, capers and white truffle oil over a bed of arugula. The dish was simple and classic, focusing on the lamb and Manchego pairing. It was good, but did not offer anything distinct or innovative.
The second course was one of my favorite courses of the evening. The Chef offered scallop and pork belly accompanied by corn and zucchini served over grits with a roasted red pepper sauce. The scallop was delicious - pan-seared to perfection, light and flaky. The grits with the corn and zuchini, with the touch of the red pepper sauce were absolutely wonderful with the scallop - they added a sweet southern flare and flavoring to the scallop. I realize that these were supposed to giveway to the salty, meaty flavors provided in the pork belly. But for some reason, the pork belly didn't hit the mark. The pork was just sort of an add-on, it didn't really create the 'ying and yang' that I think they were going for by pairing with the scallop. I would have been perfectly happy with just the scallop topped with bacon crumbles.
The third course featured swordfish served over soba noodles with shiitake mushrooms and red peppers accompained by ginger infused wasabi aioli. This was a good dish but the Asian-inspired dish with the soba noddles and wasabi didn't really follow the flow of the first few courses. It sort of seemed out of place. It was definitely good, but not really in line with the tasting menu.
The fourth course won out as the star of the evening. This dish was truly remarkable -- duck breast served over pureed sweet potatoes topped with a blueberry hickory glaze accompanied by chili-glazed green beans. It was the perfect symphony of the four flavors (sweet, sour, salty and bitter). And the most intriguing part about the dish was the house-made hickory-blackberry sauce. It highlighted the sweet undertones of the potatoes while adding a rich finish to the duck. Truly a dish that 'knocked me off my feet.'
The fifth and final course was dessert. I was definitely full at this point and then they brought out chocolate. A bittersweet chocolate ganache tart topped with hazelnuts and served with a pistaschio crisp. Silky smooth and decadent.
Our anniversary celebration at the Joshua Wilton House was exceptional. A quiet and elegant bed and breakfast with delicious dining and a knowledgeable, friendly staff. Truly, a night to remember.