Saturday, March 29, 2014

It's Spring, But I Got Them Ole Winter Blues...A Retreat to the Virginia Countryside

Spring is here, but Winter lingers on.  After an unseasonable snowstorm on March 17 in the Washington DC metro area, and a gloomy rainy weekend prediction, KO and I decided to get out of Dodge.  Thanks to a Living Social Promotion, we were introduced to the Historic Rosemont Manor in Berryville, Virginia(  So we packed up one simple valise with our Travel Scrabble, various magazines we had promised ourselves to read, my book club book and one change of clothes.  In our cooler we stashed our macro meal, just in case we could not find anywhere to purchase a gluten free vegan meal in the hunt country of Virginia.

As we headed down the road, we were doused with a sprinkling of rain, but as we entered Virginia, the rains subsided and we had hopes of a relaxing walk through Middleburg, Virginia.  In Upperville, we spied the quaint Hunter's Head Tavern(, tucked along a desolate country road.  The main building is composed of the 1750"s log cabin with its original log beams, fireplace with lofty mantle and wood hewn floors.  This restaurant prides itself on sourcing local farms and using organic produce.  Lucky for us, there is a daily vegan special.  The wrapped cabbage with heirloom grains of quinoa and brown rice and delicate sauce was quite delicious. There is an English pub atmosphere and we could easily picture ourselves back in England with the authentic phone booth outside.

Middleburg, known for its horsy set is a twenty minute ride away.  There are quaint shops and a wonderful specialty grocery there where I recently rubbed shoulders with Robert Duvall, the actor.  Potomac Overlook Regional Park is nearby and nice for strolling on a clear day.

Meandering through the now heavier downpour, we reached our destination of the Rosemont Manor. Rolling up the long gravel driveway, adorned with rows of enormous oaks and poplars, toward the manor, it was as if we had been transported to the era of Downton Abbey. Tall graceful columns line the entrance and beckon the weary traveler in.  The gazebo on the West Lawn, the South Lawn's fountain or the spacious green  where JFK's helicopter frequently landed, can be the setting for the sixty weddings that occur here each year.  We were treated to a tour of the mansion with Amanda who led us through the stately dining room, cozy parlor, and main hall where we observed the Shenandoah Mountains in the distance through the floor to ceiling windows.  In the attic we learned about the senior staff who, back in the day, were "fortunate" to live in the stable like compartments where they froze in the winter and boiled in the summer.  The home was last owned by Harry Byrd Sr, a conservative democrat, who entertained many statesmen and celebrities on the sixty acres of grounds. Amanda had prepared a thoughtful snack of avocado rice crackers, fruit, nuts and complimentary wine for us and we consume it while watching a wedding rehearsal outside.

Our cozy room was refreshing due to its lack of technology.  While there is WIFI in the manor, I opted to go tech free for twenty four hours and enjoy quiet conversation, catching up on my reading and some pleasant meditation.  I can't say the same for KO. (Lol) We did enjoy our macro food from home and the convenient use of the frig outside our door.

In the morning, after a relaxing and country silent restful night, our dietary needs were gracefully respected as we discussed our breakfast options.  The chef provided us with our oatmeal prepared with water and a fruit salad.  Vegetarians could have enjoyed the spinach frittata with homemade biscuits.  One of the nicest things about bed and breakfasts is getting a chance to chat with the other guests.  We met a lovely couple from Boulder, Colorado and got into an interesting discussion on being gluten free.  We exchanged suggestions about local Baltimore restaurants that have gluten free options, chatted about the lack of nutrition training in the Public Health graduate programs, and finished with discussing the blog.

Before leaving, we strolled the grounds and pictured life in the 1700s on these 200 acres, before cars, iPhones and electricity.  Listening to the sounds of nature, the trilling of the birds, the gentle patter of a drizzle and the scurrying about of woodland wildlife, I could just imagine how relaxing it might have been to be manor born.

Our next stop was the State Arboretum of Virginia.  About ten minutes from the Manor, the Arboretum is a nice spot to stroll off your breakfast.  There is a circular road that surrounds the property and takes about an hour to complete.  Many exotic trees, including rows and rows of Cedars of Lebanon, line the walking trail.  We hoofed it along the path so as to not get drenched in the persistent rain, but still enjoyed our chat and constitutional.

A short drive away, we reached our next destination of Winchester, Virginia and its inviting Pedestrian Mall in the historic district.  We enjoyed dipping in and out of the clothing, handicraft and artisan stores.  
Of note was the gallery of Eugene B. Smith.  His watercolor paintings of seasons, pastoral farm settings and Japanese scenery was a treat to behold.  He came out to greet us and was very willing to discuss his career, history and some thoughts about the town.  Our rest stop for tea at the local coffeehouse was a welcome break from the rain and we ended with a visit to the town bookstore.  I love to support local independent bookstores so I bought a copy of the Atlantic's editor, Scott Stossel's new book, My Age of Anxiety.  I could have easily bought it on Amazon, but then these bookstores will go the route of Meg Ryan's independent bookstore in I've Got Mail!

Our weekend was turning out to be so much fun, despite the torrential downpours, that we decided to head to Strasburg, Virginia and catch some local music at Christina's Cafe.  While munching on a corn tortilla "pizza" topped with onion, asparagus, cabbage, black beans, mushrooms and rice, we were treated to some Americana acoustic music from a local trio.  Weary from our travels we rested our heads and bodies at the Victorian Hotel Strasburg.  Built in 1902 as a hospital when the tariff was four dollars to see the doc, the hotel converted to a hostelry in 1913.  The lilting British accent of the clerk and the floral wallpaper and antique trappings took us back to our wonderful visit to Cornwall and St. Ives in the U.K. last summer.

As we turn in for the night, I feel so happy that I did not allow poor weather conditions and a dreary winter outlook to keep me from enjoying this wonderful break from the city and all the stresses I left there, if only for a two day respite.  Somehow these weekend breaks really make it easier to carry on with our everyday life, and nearby Virginia was just the relaxing spot to take a breather.

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Atlantic View Inn

Winter at the shore can be an enchanting experience. When twenty eight inches of snow falls, the Atlantic View Inn in Avon-by-the-Sea, New Jersey is the perfect place to nest for a few days. Starting with the warmth and hospitality exuded by Chris, the owner, when I call on the phone to make my reservation, the innkeepers will make my stay here similar to the feeling of being with fun, interesting and loving extended family for the holidays. Debbie and Chris are a dynamic couple who have created a space filled with antiques and charm which makes me feel right at home, whether I am sitting by the living room fireplace listening to calming music, having a delicious breakfast in the grand dining room or snuggling up under my featherbed comforter in my comfortable room. From many of the rooms, I can view the rolling Atlantic Ocean and the nearby beach and boardwalk. There is also a nearby pool for summer use as well as badges, provided by the hosts, for beach use.

I have had many challenges as a vegan macrobiotic traveller, but the Atlantic View Inn made staying healthy on vacation a breeze. Chris, the resident chef, is refreshingly conscientious about discussing my dietary needs and makes a concerted effort to meet them. Each day he creates a breakfast repast of baked pears, gluten free porridge, tofu scramble dotted with broccoli and onions, and steamed kale and collard greens. When an afternoon snack of wine, cheeses and crackers is provided for the other guests I can have carrots, guacamole and salsa. I have an urge for chocolate one night and Deb produces some truffles for me! Other afternoon treats were homemade chocolate chip cookies, banana bread, brownies, bags of chips and endless tea and hot water. Additionally the food I bring to keep in my room frig are graciously warmed up by my hosts every day. From home I have brown rice, pea soup, blanched veggies, hummous and sushi rolls. I supplement these with a trip to a local health food store where I secure lentil loaf, sweet potato mash, steamed greens and quinoa. This provides all of my lunch and dinners except for one. As a treat I sample Kaya's Kitchen. They are located in Belmar and noted for their vegetarian and organic menu. I try the lentil soup, quesadilla, and gluten free cupcakes. I am not disappointed.

I am thrilled to find destinations such as the Atlantic View Inn where I am able to be among amazing hosts, and an inviting setting, and still be frugal and healthy on vacation! This century old inn is a "must try" for anyone committing to staying healthy in the New Year.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Good Eatz

Traveling during the holiday season can be problematic for a vegan macrobiotic person, but with a little planning ahead, you can manifest some amazing eating experiences. With the help of I found myself sitting in Reading, Pa. at the Good Eatz cafe. Surrounded by leafy green plants, brightly colored primitive art, and jade walls, I perused the generous menu.

The mission of this cute cozy refuge is to " be friendly to the environment while featuring local, organic, sustainable resources promoting social responsibility." I have great respect for places that follow their ethics regarding food as I try to do myself.

On the menu I find an abundance of yummy choices. The offerings are vegan, vegetarian, dairy free and gluten free. I settle on a vegan grilled reuben sandwich. It comes on gluten free bread, with tofu and a dollop of dairy free 1000 Island dressing. The build your own omelet has scrambled tofu with broccoli, asparagus, squash, and vegan cheddar cheese. Other options were vegan mac and cheese, five bean chili, vegan shepherds pie, and vegan lasagna. Dishes come with sweet potato hash browns or slaw.

The desserts are all gluten free and look delectable. I choose the Fat Elvis Mousse Cake. It is a chocolate layer cake with chocolate mousse between the layers and a banana peanut butter flavor. It is fluffy and rich and better than any gluten free offering I have ever had. Other choices are mint chocolate chip cake, pumpkin cheesecake, gingerbread cake, cherry crumb cake, peach crumb pie and vegan buttercream cake with eggnog. They ship everywhere and anyone with special dietary needs would be thrilled with these goodies!

The owner, Rick Allenbach, is a friendly entrepreneur with an easy manner. His history before opening this place two years ago, was having a restaurant in New Hope where macro food was served, and working at a center for addicts. He observed the beneficial effect of good healthy food on the behavior of these troubled people and how they changed their diets and changed their lives. In addition he described how gluten free food has improved the lives of the autistic children who come to eat here at Good Eatz.
This restaurant is a wonderful find for a traveler to the Reading. Lancaster area!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Mark's Kitchen

Lately I have been on a quest for restaurants in the Washington DC, Maryland area that suit special diets. That would include vegetarian, vegan, macrobiotic, low sugar and just generally healthier. The idea is to be able to go to a place and have a lovely time and not to have to drink a gallon of water later because there was so much salt in the meal. In addition, it is nice to have waiters who do not look at you strangely when you ask them to steam something with no oil, no salt and no sugar.

I found such an elusive place in Takoma Park, Md. Mark's Kitchen, at 7006 Carroll Avenue, serves a variety of dishes which include both vegan and vegetarian options as well as meat for our friends. A patron can order delicious miso soup and a vegetarian vegetable soup. The mung bean pancakes, composed of spring onions, cabbage and mung beans formed into a delicate pancake and served with soy sauce, are quite tasty. There is a vegetarian appetizer sampler that has these pancakes plus edamame, and tofu/veggie skewers. After you have whetted your appetite on these, you can sample the bento box comprised of tofu with soybeans, seaweed salad, marinated shitake mushrooms, brown rice and a mung bean pancake. Instead of tofu, chicken or fish can be substituted. The bibimbap is shredded veggies marinated in sesame oil and served over brown rice. A delectable choice might be the stuffed acorn squash with barley and mushrooms, a salad and a side of green beans. As you can see, Mark's provides fresh vegetables and , in contrast to other places, they have diversified away from the baked potatoes and fries offered elsewhere. Another nice feature of this find is that pickled items, steamed vegetables, seaweed and brown rice can be ordered as an inexpensive side dish. This is a great improvement over having to pay extra to get brown rice and only have spinach or french fries or salad as options.
For the non vegetarian eater there is a delicious and ample bulgogi (according to my husband), grilled flounder, crab cakes and enormous triple decker sandwiches. For dessert, they supply Sweet and Natural Vegan treats and some of the choices were carrot cake and peanut butter cake. For the others, a bulletin board boasts the treats of the day which might include gingerbread, brownies and various pies.

The atmosphere at Mark's Kitchen is cafe cozy and the service is swift and friendly. These waiters aim to please and if they can not answer a question about specific ingredients, the owner is brought over to clarify things for you. They are more than willing to steam veggies without oil or salt. The management wants you to be happy and this translates into a patron friendly menu where vegetarian items are marked with a V.

Takoma Park is a nice area to visit for the afternoon. In the spring and summer, the main street is closed off and a busy farmers market takes over the area. There are boutiques and shops and a nice food coop nearby. There is a small town feeling even though it is so close to downtown DC.

If you are looking for a great casual restaurant in a cute town that will allow you to stay healthy while having a very pleasant dining experience, be sure to try Mark's Kitchen.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Gramercy Mansion Baltimore

On a wintry January day, we set out for the beautiful Gramercy Mansion in the rolling hills outside Baltimore. The snow was falling rapidly and the winding roads were becoming impassable. We careened down the treacherous slides of the landscape and rolled, thankfully, up the bending drive to the Mansion. Inside, a roaring fireplace awaited us and the welcome greetings of the innkeepers. We had prepared our dinner and brought it with us and planned to not venture out again on that treacherous night.

The Gramercy Mansion is the perfect place to hibernate in the winter. Built in 1902 by Alexander Cassatt, brother of the painter Mary Cassatt, the mansion was a wedding gift for his daughter. Alas, she never had the pleasure of living there. Surrounded by 45 acres in the Greenspring Valley, there is a pool, tennis courts and woodland trails to discover. The rooms come with fireplaces, whirlpool baths, refrigerators and microwaves. The public rooms have fireplaces as well and there is a library with DVDs to share. High ceilings, antiques, oriental carpets, and chandeliers complete the picture.

Complimentary to the guests is an endless supply of teas, chocolates and snacks. In addition, the breakfast is totally scrumptious. You fill out a menu with choices and leave it on your door at night. To my delight, vegan and macrobiotic food were among my choices! The inn caters to different diets, including gluten free. In the morning, guests sit in the lovely candlelit dining room and gaze out on the serene scene. Our view was of a winter wonderland after the night's snow. Choices of fare included banana, apple, apple, blueberry or oatmeal pancakes, rice, miso soup, oatmeal, vegan bacon and sausage, traditional bacon and sausage, eggs benedict, omelets, coffeecake, teas and coffee.

The inn boasts a location only ten minutes from Baltimore. Excursions might include the charming Fells Point are with its quaint shops and restaurants, Hampton Town, scene of the John Waters movies, the Aquarium, the Maryland Science Center, Little Italy, the Jewish Museum on Lloyd Street, the Inner Harbor, Lexington Market, the huge outdoor Farmers Market in the summer, a trip on the ferry which takes you to several stops in downtown, the Fort McHenry National Monument, the American Visionary Art Museum, or a game at Camden Yards. Contact me for even more ideas for fun!

The Gramercy Mansion is a perfect place for a birthday or Valentine weekend if you want to really treat yourself or your significant other. I really enjoyed my special birthday getaway with the added bonus of being able to keep to my healthy diet, except for a few of those chocolates!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Speedwell Forge Bed and Breakfast, Lititz, Pa.

This weekend, my hubbie and I took a break from our daily stresses to travel to the idyllic countryside of Lititz, Pennsylvania. It was a downcast day that turned into torrential downpours, but these conditions could not dampen the charm of the quaint village of Lititz. We roamed the antique, cookery and clothing shops and then took a break for lunch. We could not resist Cafe Chocolate where hubbie enjoyed a chocolate chili and I devoured a lovely vegan vegetable soup. Cafe Chocolate also features chocolate crepes and a fountain brimming with the dark liquid in which to dip fruits and cakes. They make their own sugar free chocolates and they were beautiful as well as yummy.

Next we journeyed along the winding road to our lodging for the night. Speedwell Forge Bed and Breakfast was built in 1760. It is a stunning structure which stood empty for twenty years and in 2006 was lovingly restored by Dawn, the owner. Dawn prides herself on providing meals for people with special diets in addition to her usual fare. She prepared a delicious warm grain cereal, poached pear and a creamy tofu scramble for me and a hearty quiche, baked apple and homemade granola for the others. Dawn can cater to celiacs, vegans, vegetarians, macrobiotics, wheat allergies and other special diets. In the afternoon we relaxed in the lovely parlor overflowing with games, dvds and books that are available to the guests as well as the menus from nearby restaurants. A glass bowl of Wilbur chocolate buds from town was offered to us as well as a multitude of teas.

Our room was the Boys Room and it boasted two comfortable beds, a private bath and an electric fireplace. The wood floors have been restored to their original sheen and it was comforting to read in front of the fireplace in the two fabric chairs that stand in front of the fireplace.

Dawn suggested Lilys on Main in Ephrata for our dinner. I called ahead and spoke to the chef and he was eager to meet my needs. He prepared a delicate red snapper, a wheatberry pilaf and steamed green beans. The sauce on hubbie's scallops was huckleberry sauce and quite delicious and the warm homemade whole wheat cranberry bread was delectable, or so I am told. There is a dessert tray of selections and they included a pumpkin tarte and deep dark chocolate cake. The atmosphere was art deco, quiet and classy. This place could compete with any restaurant in DC.

The next morning we went on a tour of the Wolf Sanctuary, located on the property. These tours are given every weekend and very well attended. We learned about the forty four wolves that have been rescued and brought to the sanctuary. Some were pets that people thought they could house in their apartments! Thankfully, the workers at the Sanctuary , who receive no pay, have given their time and love to these wolves. There are some interesting stories about many of the wolves who, by the way, are scared of humans. They even have a tour called the Full Moon Tour on Halloween, but we did not see a single werewolf while we were there, but I did hear some howling at night!

Sunday was a sunny fall day and the colorful trees were dazzling in the sunshine. There is a beautiful trail opposite the B and B and we finished with a walk in nature. It was the perfect end to our de-stress weekend.

You can contact Dawn at or 717-626-1760.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Brampton Bed & Breakfast Inn

On Valentine's Day, my sweetheart surprised me with a visit to the Brampton Bed & Breakfast Inn in Chestertown, Maryland. Only 100 miles from the Washington area, the ride to Chestertown carries you over the Bay Bridge and onto the eastern shore with its lovely views of the water.

The Brampton Bed & Breakfast Inn is a 12 room stately wonder built in the 1800s on a tree lined estate. As we entered through the porch, lined with columns, a high central hall led us into the home. Rita greeted us with her smile and helpful manner. She is the go to gal for restaurant choices or suggestions on how to spend your time here at Brampton. She led us into a parlor with a fireplace and floor to ceiling bookcases filled with interesting novels, non fiction books, and binders that detail the things to do in the area and restaurant menus to peruse. Across the hall is the elegant dining room where, between four and five, a delicious afternoon tea is served beside a roaring fire. We enjoyed yummy deviled eggs and dark decadent chocolate pie accompanied by a plethora of hot teas. Further down the hall is the living room. My eyes opened wide when I spied the "endless cookie jar" and the homemade marshmallows. We sampled rich chocolate chocolate chip, delicate macaroon, pink iced heart shaped, tiny thumbprint, and buttery checkerboard cookies. There went my low carb diet! A nearby gust fridge is stocked with beer, wine, and a variety of sodas. My husband chose to sample the amber sherry offered as liquid relaxation. Guests can also help themselves to tea and popcorn at any hour and we did, at midnight.

Our room was perfect. We had a converted closed in porch on which to watch DVDs and read our books. Connected to this was a roomy bedroom with a comfortable king bed, cozy gas fireplace, and romantic two person jacuzzi bathtub located in the spacious bathroom. Stress and worries are not an option in this peaceful haven.

In the morning, guests are treated to a three course breakfast. Our meal started with a delectable cherry almond scone with blueberry jam and butter. Next, we sampled a fresh grapefruit and then we had a choice of banana blueberry pancakes, omelets with asparagus and parmesan cheese, or eggs done as we wished and served with sausages. Unlimited coffee, tea, or hot chocolate was included with our meal. Our omelets were light and tasty and the pancake we had to try melted in our mouths.

This area of the eastern shore offers many options of things to do. We ambled through the lovely art galleries and adorable stores of Chestertown. There is also a historical walking tour that you can try. Nearby is the Eastern Neck Wildlife Refuge and the 18th century schooner, Sultana, which offers sunset sails in the summer. From March to December there is a farmers market on Saturdays. It includes homemade foods and arts and crafts. Free concerts are offered in the park in Betterton.

This 24 hour getaway to Brampton Bed & Breakfast Inn and the Chestertown area was just the ticket to remove those winter blues. What a great place to remember what is really important in life, to renew relationships, or to just veg out when life get to be too cluttered. Give yourself the gift of a visit to this inn any time of the year.

For rates, directions, and reservations, check out