There’s a treat waiting for Washingtonians in Rappahannock County, Virginia. The Castleton Festival (castletonfestival.org) is performing Madama Butterfly by Puccini and Don Giovanni by Mozart this summer, and there are still tickets available for some performances before the festival ends on July 20th.
The festival takes place very summer on the estate of composer/conductor Maestro Lorin Maazel. Performances are beautifully staged with professional singers. The festival is only about an hour and a half by car from Washington and well worth the trip.
A little bit further on Highway 211, just beyond Washington, Virginia, is the Blue Rock Inn, a B & B where you can spend the night, or just stop in for a meal. The restaurant is open for dinner on Wednesday through Sunday, and for lunch on Friday and Saturday with brunch served on Sunday. The chef, John Moss, combines his training in French classical cuisine with American regional specialties and a dose of imaginative creations. The food is excellent, better than what you would get at many a French country inn. Prices are reasonable, varying from $8 to $15 for appetizers and sandwiches, and $15 to $36 for entrees. Most desserts are $5.
At a recent dinner on the attractive covered porch overlooking a large pond, surrounded by trees with the hills of the Shenandoah in the background, grazing horses in the field and grapevines growing on the other side of the pond, it could not have been more pleasant to sip a glass of wine, nibble some of the excellent warm, chewy multi grain bread and wait for the dishes we ordered to arrive.
Appetizers of creamy eggplant baba ghanoush topped with diced tomatoes and olives, crisp spring rolls filled with pulled pork and accompanied by a light dill-jogurt sauce, and a fabulous Napoleon of layered crab, mascarpone, spinach and a touch of mango salsa, could not have been better.
A main course of the day was a delicate walleye from the Great Lakes, served with a combination of white and wild rice. The fish was sweet and fresh, cooked just the right amount of time to retain its tenderness. An interesting and tasty vegetarian special is a cake of black eyed peas and red peppers served on a beet coulis and a mound of seasonal vegetables.
The summer menu includes a daily soup, a refreshing salad of vegetables with a green goddess dressing, Peruvian style ceviche, duck breast, pork loin steak, lentil carrot croquettes, crab cakes and pasta with a mix of vegetables and herbs. Bison burgers are another specialty, served with bacon and Manchego cheese.
Desserts, made in house, are not to be missed. A creamy, rich cheesecake was splendid, as was a blueberry cobbler with vanilla ice cream. The blueberries were fresh, the pastry warm and the dish prettily decorated with edible flowers. What could be better than enjoying all this with a view that included a golden sunset through the green trees. (Blue Rock Inn, 12567 Lee Highway, Washington, Virginia. 540-987-3388)