I know – you’ve been sitting and refreshing the page for days, waiting for my last day of antics in Williamsburg! Well, here we go.
It was a pretty leisurely day, which was good considering that this trip also confirmed that I really need a new pair of boots. The day started with lunch at Chownings and retrieving my notebook. (Seriously, I’ll say it again – if you are there, get the Welsh Rarebit. It is so, so good.)
Then it was on to “Bits & Bridles” – a cool tour of the stables and tack room where all the carriage horses are taken care of. I tried to get a few pictures, but they didn’t turn out and I was too busy talking to the horses anyway. (Yes, anyone that knows me knows that this is completely normal behavior for me.) We got to see the horses that worked on the carriage that Queen Elizabeth was in during her visit. All these horses are just gorgeous and it’s a really neat tour – I think they do it year around, so check it out. This also where I heard the phrase “horse manure zamboni” – that’s certainly one way to clean up after the horses! (And a phrase I will never forget.)
Though I didn’t get any good horse pictures, I did manage to catch these guys:
In between the stable tour and the next program, I wandered about, grabbing a coffee & chocolate chip cookie at the Raleigh Tavern bakeshop. (It’s right behind Raleigh Tavern and has coffee, sodas, and a wide variety of snacks.) There’s lots of space out back to sit and relax, but be ready for very inquisitive squirrels to come around and hope that you drop something.
The view from behind Raleigh Bakery.
Then it was on to the Victory Ball at Raleigh Tavern. It’s the companion piece to the “Behind the Ballroom Doors” and it’s pretty much all about the dancing. We had some kids in that were on a school trip and all the girls could talk about was how they wanted to dance when they got in – and I almost fell off my chair laughing at the horror in their eyes when they realized they really were going to be pulled onto the dance floor to try to learn some of these dances on the fly. What I also thought was adorable was that when the women dancers were picking out male partners from the crowd, the older a man was, the more likely he was to be chosen. It’s fun and kind of frothy, but damn, those dances are not easy to learn. Hats off to the folks who work that room and can remember all the places their feet have to be.
Then it was on to the Christmas Decoration Walking Tour. It’s all outside, so you can take your coffee with you! (Thanks to my brother for letting me know about that detail.) It’s fairly unstructured and you just wander around and look at all the decorations with a guide who explains how it all works. All the houses in the historic area have to be decorated – it’s a requirement of living there. The foundation makes it interesting by making a couple contests out of it – prizes for great decorations, and then later they are judged again for how well they hold up. All the decorations have to be made from natural, native materials, and it’s fantastic how creative some people can get. I didn’t get a lot of pictures cause I was too busy just going, “Ooh, look at that!” It runs about an hour and if you’re down there at the holidays, definitely sign up for it.
Finishing off the day was dinner at Christiana Campbell’s Tavern, where my server Tim was just fantastic and fun. It’s quite possibly my favorite place to eat in Williamsburg, in no small part because they have spoonbread, and I am hooked on it. (Tim understood. I got extra.) They focus mainly on seafood, but everything is really good. Sadly, I just found out that they are closed for renovation/maintenance until April 8th, 2014.
One of the features of the restaurant are the very oversized napkins (which have a specific name which escapes me now) and you’re supposed to tie them around your neck – because back in the day, they didn’t have dry cleaning or coin op laundry, so yeah, cover everything. One time I was there I overheard a little kid go, “Dad, I think they gave me a tablecloth by mistake. Should I say something?” Now, I don’t wrap them around my neck because I am clumsy and quite convinced that I will strangle myself with it. Tim was very gracious about this and told me, “Well, this is an educational institution, so I am going to have to spill something on you before the night to make sure you have learned something.”
Now on to the important stuff: The food. I started off with the seafood stew – clams, shrimp, oysters (I think?) in a tomato cream broth with veggies and potatoes. Tim said he thought it was better than the Brunswick stew – don’t know if it was better/worse, but it was really good and I didn’t regret the choice. The bread is tavern rolls (which are just rolls – perfectly fine, but just rolls) and sweet potato muffins – and those are fantastic. (I have used the mixes for the muffins and spoonbread in the links – they come out just as well at home.) The other side that you get with everything is the tavern slaw. As he was bringing it to me, Tim was saying I shouldn’t feel bad if I didn’t go nuts over it – apparently it’s not necessarily a fan favorite. I think it’s terrific and I’ve always liked it – it’s not like your traditional summer coleslaw, which might be what throws people off. It’s got a vinegar based dressing and has a nice bite to it. Tim said, “Well, if you want seconds, trust me, we have plenty of it!”
For my main dish, I went with the beef tenderloin. It had a wonderful red wine sauce and was served over polenta and just hit the spot. Perfectly cooked, tender, and wonderful. I kind of wondered if the polenta would be overkill given that there is already spoonbread (and extra spoonbread) in the mix – nope, not at all. (There might have been a vegetable. If there was, I have no recollection of it.) Once again, when all was said and done, I was too full to even contemplate dessert, so a port and a coffee finished things off.
Overall, it was a fantastic trip and exactly what I needed to wind-down from a very challenging semester and get charged up for the holidays. Can’t wait to go back.