Posts Tagged plantations

Jefferson & Coffee

14 November 2011

Jefferson's Monticello

On a mountaintop near Charlottesville, Virginia, Thomas Jefferson built the architectural wonder he called Monticello, or “little mountain.” It is the only house in America listed as a United Nations World Heritage Site. But did you know that besides being President, architect, inventor, world traveler, and all his other attributes, Jefferson was also a coffee afficianado? Not long ago, I was given a beautiful souvenir coffee mug from Monticello and with it an interesting little pamphlet I’ve reproduced below.

Grounds and Gardens

In 1824 Thomas Jefferson deemed coffee “the favorite drink of the civilized world.” Jefferson enjoyed the coffee houses of Williamsburg and Paris, and served coffee at the President’s House, Poplar Forest, and Monticello. He preferred beans imported from the East and West Indies, and abhorred the “green” or unripe beans that were popular in America at the time.

Jefferson estimated that a pound of coffee a day was consumed at Monticello during his retirement. His cellar was stocked with unroasted beans in barrels weighing as much as 60 pounds. Small quantities of beans were roasted and ground in the Monticello kitchen, and then prepared according to the recipe of Adrien Petit, Jefferson’s French maitre d’hotel: “On one measure of the coffee ground into meal pour three measures of boiling water. Boil it on hot ashes mixed with coal till the meal disappears from the top, when it will be precipitated. Pour it three times through a flannel strainer. It will yield 2 1/3 measures of clear coffee.” Coffee was served at breakfast, and likely after dinner, in a silver coffee urn made to Jefferson’s design.

For information on visiting Monticello, click here.

One Perfect Day: The James River Plantations

1 April 2011
The James River Plantations, located in Virginia between Williamsburg and Richmond, date back to 1613 and have witnessed much of America’s history, from the early settlements at nearby Jamestown to key events of the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. Be prepared to hear intriguing stories, fascinating historical tales, and to be dazzled by the homes’ stunning architectural features and breathtaking natural settings.

Tip: Before you take this memorable journey back in time, pack a few things that will make your day even more enjoyable: a picnic lunch, a blanket, cushions, binoculars, camera, book, and drinking water.

Sherwood Forest

9:00 am — Stop at Sherwood Forest, home of the 10th U.S. President John Tyler (president from 1841-1845). The plantation dates from 1616 and has been in use for almost 400 years. The house is America’s longest frame-house at 300 ft in length. If you have time, take the grounds tour ($10). There’s a little box for you to slip in your money and grab a brochure. The house is open by appointment only and tours cost $35 per person. Grounds are open from 9 am to 5 pm daily.

9:30 am — As you head to the next stop, Berkeley Plantation, take time to read the numerous historical markers lining both sides of Route 5. You can also stop at Evelynton, Westover, and other plantations along the way, though most are open for grounds tours only.

Berkeley Plantation

10:00 am — Stop at Berkeley Plantation, site of the first Thanksgiving and the place where “Taps” was composed. Berkeley Plantation is one of two plantations that cannot be missed (the other is Shirley Plantation). Allow 1- 1 1/2 hour to view the documentary film and to visit the house on a guided tour. Berkeley is open daily Jan to mid-March 10:30 am – 3:30 pm, mid-March to December 9:30 am – 4:30 pm. Admission: $11 adults, $6 children 6-12, $7.50 students 13-16. AAA, Military and Senior discounts available (10%).

12:00 pm — Berkeley is the perfect spot for a picnic lunch. You can either tailgate in the parking lot, take advantage of the picnic tables near the house, or lay a blanket under the willows on the vast lawn and lunch in full view of the majestic James River. 

12:30 pm — Walk the grounds and make your way down to the river, pausing at one of the many benches until fancy moves you on. Sit on a log with your back to the house and your feet in the James River. There is lots to see, including the “Taps” memorial,  the formal gardens, and the air-conditioned gazebo.

2:00 pm — Leave for Shirley Plantation. Note historical markers along the way.

Shirley Plantation

2:15 pm — Arrive at Shirley Plantation and purchase tickets for the next available tour. Walk around the gardens while you wait for the bell to ring, announcing your tour. There’s a lovely covered area to wait outside of the gift shop, or you can sit under the pergola in the flower garden. Allow 45 minutes for the house tour and additional time for visiting the grounds and out buildings. Shirley is open daily from 9:30 am – 4:30 pm. Admission: $11 adults, $10 seniors, $7.50 Youth (6-18), free under 6, AAA and Military discounts available.
4:30 pm — Visit grounds of other plantations in the area, like Piney Grove. Head back towards Williamsburg on Route 5 at a leisurely pace.

5:30 pm — Eat at Charles City Tavern (reservations recommended, especially on weekends). For a review of Charles City Tavern and hours of operation, click here. If you are looking for seafood on the water, consider the Blue Heron; if looking for sandwich-type fare, check out Cul’s Courthouse Grille. None of these options suit your fancy? Keep driving to Williamsburg where there’s plenty of variety. 

Ferry View of the James River

7:00 pm — After dinner, head out again on Route 5 in the direction of Williamsburg. Follow signs for the ferry.  Take the ferry over to Scotland (it’s free) and back again. You can see the replicas of the 3 ships at Jamestown and other beautiful views. There’s not much to see in Scotland except countryside, but it makes for a nice and peaceful drive. 

Those who live in amazing historical places often think to themselves, “Someday I’ll explore this area, but not now: I’m too busy.” And the days turn into years. To anyone contemplating a visit to the James River Plantations, I say go and go now: clear your calendar, get a road map, and make your way down scenic Route 5 and its beautiful plantation homes. You’ll be glad you did.

Restaurant Review — Charles City Tavern

1 November 2010

Looks Like Green Gables!

Charles City Tavern
9220 John Tyler Memorial Highway
Charles City County, Virginia

Located in a circa 1889 farmhouse between Williamsburg and Richmond, Charles City Tavern is a charming restaurant right at the heart of Virginia’s James River Plantation country. The food is classified as Seasonal American Regional Cuisine — which is basically code for “fresh, local, and delicious”!   

We recently stopped off at the Charles City Tavern after a delightful fall-themed progressive tour of some historic houses in the area. It was our third time dining here and we’d been positively thrilled by our previous meals.   

We said hello to Bobby the Cat on our way up the porch and he gave us a cold look in return. Ah! Who knew he’d hold a grudge because we’d asked Cate McNight, the co-owner of the Tavern, to put him out the last time we were here, as one of us is highly allergic.   

Even as early as 5:30pm the rooms were filling up and we were thankful we’d made reservations. It was Richmond’s Restaurant Week, when participating eating establishments offer prix fixe menus, a percentage of which proceeds go to local charities. We were glad to see our favorite menu item, shrimp and grits, had made it to the preset menu.   

Just reading the menu was enough to send our taste buds into a frenzy.  Ultimately, we chose:   

First Course:   

He had – Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Jumbo Lump Crab   

She had – Crispy Duck Confit on Artisan Lettuces with Candied Walnuts, Autumn Pears, Bleu Cheese and cranberry vinaigrette   

Second Course:   

He had – Stone-ground Byrd Mill White Cheddar Grits with Carolina Shrimp and Surry Sausage   

She had – Fried Oysters and French Fries   

Third Course:   

He had – Chocolate Brownie with Fudge Sauce   

She had – (a mere bite of …) English Bread Pudding with Brown Sugar Rum Butter Glaze   

Almost two hours went by in sheer culinary delight. My companion wafted his food to inhale the delightful smell and enjoyed the look and smell of his food so long that I began to worry that it would get cold before he’d actually had a chance to taste it. Reluctantly we pushed our chairs back and headed out into the crisp autumn twilight, warmed by the knowledge that we had discovered a gem.