When in doubt, ask a ‘local’ for dinner direction

Published 11:05 am Friday, August 25, 2017

When in doubt, ask a ‘local’ for dinner direction

For the second time, I didn’t get to stay in the famous Martha Washington Inn at Abingdon, Virginia. DW and I had stopped in that historic town, barely over the Tennessee line, for the night several years ago. Then I didn’t know about The Martha, as it is called, but I certainly noticed it as we drove to supper that night. It’s a very nice well-preserved home predating the Civil War.
Later a friend from Holly Springs recommended the hotel and noted that the town was a good stop for antique shopping. So, I decided that next time we traveled to that area we’d stay at The Martha and do a little shopping.
But we didn’t. I sure thought about it last week as we drove again to Virginia. But our timing wasn’t right and we needed to get further down the road before stopping for the night. We had to make it to Norfolk the next afternoon for DW’s conference, so we decided to go on to Roanoke for the night.
But we did stop for supper. We remembered supper in Abingdon the first time was delicious. If I’m in Virginia I’m having crab cakes, so we located the same restaurant and went in. Our mistake. We failed to note that the name of the establishment had changed. After looking at the lunch menu we were handed, we asked for a dinner menu. There wasn’t one; burgers and sandwiches (albeit organic and farmed locally) were the only options. But, we had burgers for lunch and were wanting something a little more tasty and not so fast.
What to do? Our server apologized, they were developing a new dinner menu and would we like to come back on Thursday? Ah, no. It seemed that everyone in the place was watching us and listening to our predicament. She kindly said it would be okay if we decided to leave, she understood, and that the restaurant we had enjoyed previously had closed two years ago. We sat looking at each other, seriously not wanting a grass-fed, chemical free, homegrown burger with organic French fries.
A local patron sitting behind DW turned around and suggested that we drive on down Main Street to The Peppermill Restaurant. Everyone was still looking at us, though the server had disappeared. We mustered up our courage, thanked her for the recommendation, and headed to the car without looking back.
Good decision. This restaurant in an early 1900’s era grand old home was the place to be on that Saturday night. Luckily we were seated quickly on the wide front porch with its nice breeze and view of Main Street. I felt so relieved as I looked at the menu. Crab cakes, yes! And for DW, pork loin on a bed of spicy rice, corn, and black beans. Tender and flavorful, he commented, and sure better than a burger.
And the crab cakes were delicious as expected, but it was the soup that tickled my taste buds that night. There were four choices and I selected the curried mushroom with orange marmalade…oh my goodness. I wish I had the recipe to share and maybe I will figure it out eventually, but with the homemade European whole grain dinner roll (with honey butter) it was worth the embarrassment of having to walk out of another restaurant. Our server instructed me to stir up the marmalade from the bottom. I did and sopped up every drop.
Afterward we finished with dessert and coffee from our vantage point on the porch. The menu noted that the old place was haunted and that customers should feel free to speak to the ghosts. I would imagine they’d be found in the kitchen raiding the fridge for a midnight snack of leftover soup and dinner rolls.
Meanwhile back at the Martha Washington. We passed on by the lovely old place (again) once the magnificent home of the Francis Prestons and their nine children and later a prestigious school for young women named in honor of the first First Lady. Somehow the building with most of its charm managed to survive war, typhoid fever, the Depression, neglect and time until it was rescued. Today it has 63 beautifully appointed guest rooms, none of which I’ve ever seen.
Maybe next time.

Recipe of the Week

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Grilled Eggplant Parmesan Pomodoro
Enjoy this dish from Kraft foods with dinner on the porch!

3 tomatoes
2 eggplants, cut into ½-inch thick slices
1 large onion, cut into ½-inch slices
1 ½ cups shredded mozzarella cheese
½ cup balsamic vinaigrette dressing
4 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons shredded parmesan cheese
¼ cup seasoned croutons, crushed

Grill vegetables over medium heat 10 – 15 minutes or until tender. Turn after 8 minutes. Top eggplant with mozzarella for the last minutes of cooking. Transfer to a platter and keep warm. Place tomatoes and onions in food processor. Add dressing and garlic; process until smooth. Drizzle sauce over eggplant; top with parmesan and crushed croutons. Serving suggestion: serve with grilled flank steak, boiled new potatoes, chilled fresh fruit, and whole grain dinner rolls.