Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Oh Henry.

There's a certain amount of trepidation and excitement felt when moving and beginning a new job.  For me, High Meadows was an instant hit, but still, you know some things will be different.  High Meadows itself is truly different; what do you expect from two houses built within 40 years of each other during plantation days, and then joined at the hip? I expected to work hard, meet new people, and enjoy the beautiful Virginia countryside.  I did not expect Henry.

If you've stayed with us before, then you've probably met or heard of the late, great Mr. Henry, our resident peacock.  Henry was stately and handsome, and boy did he know it.  His favorite past time was strutting along the stone path towards the gazebo, fanning out his brilliant plume, and slowly rotating like a model on a runway for the inevitable visitor standing 10 feet away with a camera.  Of course, being from Missouri originally, I didn't know people sometimes owned what I thought of as exotic, zoo-only birds.  I felt that, over time, Henry and I developed a sort of professional-ish bond; he watched me as I worked, and I took pictures of him on my phone and echoed his calls with an admiring whistle when I thought he looked lonely.

However, Henry was unfortunately lost to us this summer.  A few theories float around to try and make sense of his disappearance, but no none can explain for sure what happened to poor, lovely Henry.  It has been far too quiet this fall and winter without him.

Needless to say, I was ecstatic when Cynthia announced we'd recently accepted a new member into the High Meadows family--a young peacock! It's too early in the year for his beautiful tail feathers to be shown off, but his neck is a lovely, iridescent green.  He's a wee teenager compared to Henry, but he is sure to enjoy the grounds and visitors to the inn just as much as his predecessor.

We haven't yet named the new peacock, but I'll follow up with it as soon as a decision is made.  In the mean time, leave your suggestions in the comments and come see our new peacock!

--Written by Dannah

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Martin Luther King Jr Day Approaches!

Hi, I'm Dannah!

Since moving to Virginia in April, I have been working as an assistant innkeeper here at High Meadows and have now witnessed the house in each season.  It seems winter has moved in; the cold snow lightly settled among the trees sets a comforting contrast to the warm coziness inside High Meadows.  Excited children celebrate the area's first official snow day today, while we are taking advantage of the quiet day to prepare for the upcoming three day weekend that is Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

I am looking forward to the warmer weather expected to come just in time for the holiday.  What a holiday it is going to be--we are booked! Nothing like an extra long weekend to enjoy the area's wineries and attractions, like Monticello...and nothing like cuddling by the fireplace at the end of a full day.

If you are unfortunate enough not to be amongst the lucky travelers who booked a room here at High Meadows this weekend, alas I feel your pain.  You will most definitely miss out on an excellently cooked breakfast prepared by Cynthia, and truly warm welcome by Nancy this weekend.  You will not take a luxurious bubble bath in one of our house rooms.  Nor will you book a massage with our talented masseuse, Tarja, pondering briefly while you relax the sad lot of those who are not enjoying your three day weekend vacation.  However I offer this word of hope to you, my forlorn traveler: winter is not over and there are still many opportunities to come stay with us!

Winter is such an underrated season to travel when there is still so much to offer.  Tourist attractions and restaurants are less busy, and the hills and mountains of the area are beautifully highlighted for the season.  High Meadows is a short distance to the slopes when you feel the call of winter sports.  Not to mention that the quickest fix for seasonal depression is taking an extra two days off work to get away and unwind (in fact we're conducting a non-clinical survey here at the inn; side-effects include: happiness, sleeping in, and a reluctance to return to the office).  In short, take a winter retreat to High Meadows.  We can't wait to have you!

Friday, September 5, 2014

September...Fall Specials and our local food bank

Fall is here...despite a bit of hot weather welcoming in September - we are expecting a cold front coming through this weekend!  A nice snap of cold will make the apples crisp, and get the leaves jumpstarted...are you ready?

We are - during the months of October and November, we are offering a special rate for 2 night stays Sundays thru Thursdays.  I know it's hard sometimes to get away during the week...but trust me...if you saw the weekend crowds at the breweries, wineries & orchards - you would take that extra day or two and enjoy relaxing at all those same places...with the views nearly all to yourself.
Just some of the best reasons for a weekday getaway:
     *  Same great views...without other people in the way!
     *  Often you'll get a visit from the winemaker or winery owner...the weekdays are when they get to     enjoy their places too!
     * reservations required, and you might get to meet the chef
     *  Farmers Markets are later in the day, nearby on Tuesdays, Wednesdays & Thursdays.
     *  Sleeping in on a workday...THAT'S luxury!
     *  Reduced rates - our special happens to be $359 for 2 nights, (and if you reserve by Sunday, we will throw in lunch!)...but pretty much all the area B&B's offer midweek prices less than on the weekends.

 If that doesn't convince you, then hey, we would still love to have you on the weekends!  

On another note - the best B&B's and inns in Virginia belong to different associations...Select Registry, Relais & Chateau, Diamond Collection, and our own Bed & Breakfast Association of Virginia.  To belong to one of these means the inn has been inspected, keeps some pretty high standards, and generally - even if the place is still the innkeepers home - it's a professionally run place, where hospitality comes first.  Many of these groups fund-raise for different charities.  Last month, for the first time - the Virginia group (BBAV) partnered with the Virginia Area Food Banks.  We thought that since 'breakfast', the most important meal of the day, is part of our name - what better way to give back to our communities than to help make sure EVERYONE in our areas has enough to eat.

Some inns provided food collection bins, and gave discounts for guests who brought a contribution.  Some made envelopes available to guests, and encouraged donations to local food banks.  We, like several other inns, committed to donating a portion of our income to our local food bank.  I am pleased to be donating 1% of our August sales to our Blue Ridge Area Food Bank.  Turns out, just before the holidays - food banks are often very low on funds.  It's just before people really feel compelled to give during the Thanksgiving and Christmas season, so they are especially grateful.  Our donation provided over 1,000 meals!  Thank you to all of our guests, for helping make this happen - even if you didn't realize you were helping, you were.  And also - thank you to neighboring inn Afton Mountain Bed & Breakfast for being the engine behind this wonderful fundraiser...Dan & Orquida are remarkable people - and super fun, so if you need a place near Wintergreen skiing this winter - look them up!
Just a reminder...if you are reserving a room in October & November, checking in Sunday thru Wednesday - be sure to select the Fall2014 package!  We are looking forward to those leaves!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

We had the sweetest wedding here at High Meadows last month...a bride and groom, and their closest family and friends...what joy! Big parties are always fun, but something about the sincere simplicity of this wedding was just delightful.  There is no doubt that sometimes, it's just easy to see when a couple is 'made' for each other, and this was one of those times.

I had the pleasure of making their wedding cake, a lovely raspberry & lemon cake with lemon buttercream was as pretty as could be, and since there wasn't much left - delicious too! Flowers for the bride came from our gardens, and a few select blooms from my favorite florist Hedge Fine Blooms in Charlottesville. A simple summer luncheon, and games in the yard that afternoon, then off to dinner at our place The Smokehouse Grille.  They had the entire balcony for themselves upstairs, and the entire evening to enjoy celebrating with family and friends...what could be better?  Oh, and the weather?  Rain clouds parted for the outdoor ceremony, and a light cloud cover the rest of the afternoon kept off the summer heat.  Perfect!

We love to host weddings...though we may be changing it up a bit...our friend Jan at Belle Haven has such a talent for welcoming brides, we encourage anyone looking for a magical location to seek her out first.  High Meadows is just 1/2 mile we'd like to be your place to stay!  Jan's barn and beautiful gardens, and our overnight rooms make just about the perfect combination for larger events.  In 2015, we'll be focusing on the intimate weddings we love...and being the best place for Jan's wedding parties to stay overnight nearby!  If you just have your heart set on High Meadows, however, please get in touch - a good party here and there never hurts...:)  Enjoy the fleeting last bits of summer - and plan a fall visit to see us!

Monday, July 28, 2014

A day in the life of an Affineuse...

Caromont Cave...Red Row raw cows milk

 Word of the week...'affinage'!  I spent today learning a little about aging cheese from a wonderful woman who makes delicious cheese, Gail Hobbs-Page of Caromont Farm. After a tour of the dairy - including an audience with her awesome Kickstarter-acquired new cheese vat, Gail and cheesemaker Alhena set me to work in the 'cave'. Anyone who has visited High Meadows has had Caromont cheese in one form or another - cheeseplates or crepes, or even cheesecake - my favorites include the fresh chevre, the amazing Red Row, and now...Tinto. It was my job today, in the cave, to flip the Tinto and to wash and flip the Esmontonian. These are all raw milk cheeses, aged for a minimum of 60 days. Gail and I tasted several of the Red Row batches - it was amazing to taste, feel and smell the difference that a few weeks of ripening can add to a cheese!
After donning hairnet, rubber shoes, rubber apron and rubber gloves - I got to work in front of a pan of brine...the cheese wash - in this case, a mixture of local vinegar and water.  Using a small delicate brush, and starting with the youngest cheese - each round was carefully brushed to remove surface mold, washed, then flipped and placed back on the shelf to continue aging. The Esmontonian is made in basket-like forms, so there is a lovely 'woven' pattern all over the outside of the cheese's beautiful! The vinegar solution clouds as the youngest cheeses are washed, and it begins to thicken.  By the time the oldest cheeses are being washed, it is an almost creamy solution that is somehow beautiful.  It coats the cheese rounds, and you just know that in that perfect humidity and temperature, good things are going to happen.

I can't say the outfit was the most glamorous (see hairnet photo above) - but being alone in the cave, with the pungent smell of the cheeses, in the company of those glorious cheesemites doing their work - I can easily see how one could become obsessed with the art of making cheese. I suppose it helps that I am an admirer of chef-turned-cheesemaker Gail - we met soon after we came to High Meadows, when she brought me a gift of her amazing chevre.  Her husband Daniel, is a fixture at the Nellysford farmer's market on Saturday mornings, smiling behind the cheese, and at his restaurant in Charlottesville, Hamilton's at First & Main. Point is, I think the cheese is so lovely because there are such lovely people nurturing it!  Gail says she thinks it helps that the goats are milked about 10 feet from the cheese making room...the milk doesn't travel - talk about local food!

I will be acting as affineuse as often as I can - it was a wonderful, peaceful experience.  The photos below are of the Red Row in the foreground, the Esmontonain on the back shelves, and the Tinto (the very dark rind cheese) in the bottom picture.  That cheese is washed in red wine(!) and my new favorite. Maybe next time that one will be on my list to care for!

And now for the really cool news...if you've visited all the wineries, but you still like coming back to Charlottesville - you can work with the cheese at Caromont for a day!  Washing takes place on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, from about 9am til sometime after lunch.  The Friday worker gets lunch cooked by Gail!  We are still putting the package together - breakfast early at High Meadows, we will send you to Caromont with a picnic, and you will get a tour of the dairy and instructions for the day. Back to High Meadows for a massage, and a cheese tray to taste all the goodies from Caromont. Email us if you are interested - it's a once in a lifetime experience!

Caromont Cave...Red Row (foreground) Esmontonian (background)
Caromont Cave...Tinto - raw goats milk

Friday, July 25, 2014

Yes...those are PUMPKINS ripe in the garden!  We had some gourds, pumpkins, melons and spaghetti squash sprout from the compost pile...and these two beauties were ready to pick JULY!  Thankfully, fall isn't here quite yet - as is evidenced by the amazing blackberries we have been picking for a month, and are STILL ripening on the canes.  Figs are getting plump, basil is DELICIOUS, and dahlias and zinnias are blooming.  Summer is in full force...maybe the pumpkins are just trying to reflect the beautiful sunshine we have had all month.

Coming along also is our "Flower Bed"'s one of those things that will either be really cool, or really NOT.  Preparing with plantings to match a wedding in October...before and after pics to come.  Any guesses which bed we used?  You'll soon see!  (Hint:  It was beautiful, but a bit too small by todays standards, and would have needed a custom mattress to fit around the posts)  Stay tuned - so far, I am liking it a lot.  We'll be taking votes though...sometimes my artistic sense is questionable...

Monday, July 14, 2014

Ahhhh....summer!  It's hot in Virginia, but swimming holes many have you been to?  At High Meadows last month, we hosted a lovely group of bicyclists, and they were hoping for a secret place nearby to swim.  While none on this list are within biking of us - there are a couple within an hour's drive!  And if you don't want to go quite that far...we have the incredible James River just 1/2 mile away -we are happy to arrange for a picnic and a canoe with our friends at James River Reeling and Rafting.

We also have some really nice neighboring inns and B&B's with their own swimming pools...if the river isn't for you, try Afton Mountain Bed & Breakfast over near Nellysford...that's our favorite farmer's market location, too!

If swimming isn't your least you can beat the heat with some cold beer or cider...and for something unique - we'll send you over to Thistle Gate Vineyard for their AMAZING sangria...available in their tasting room!

So come see us - it's hot, but we've got lots of cool things to do.