I’m not going to lie. Blogging sure hasn’t paid the bills around here, but what it has done is it has opened up a lot of really cool experiences for me in the past year. And this one is definitely one for the list.
As you may recall, I wrote a piece in February about a fantastic local food photographer, Sandrine Brubaker of Cayenne Pepper Studio: https://jenniferthebeholder.com/2018/02/23/guest-sandrine-brubaker-cayenne-pepper-studio/. At the time, she was launching into a new project where she was polling the public, via social media, to get a list of favorite restaurants/chefs/dishes from local, Northern Virginia establishments. With that information, she was going to reach out to those who were nominated, interview them, have them create a dish or two, photograph the dishes, collect the recipes and put it all in one cookbook to be sold to benefit *The Tree of Life in Purcellville, VA.
I was so intrigued by this project that I reached out to San to learn more. Sandrine’s is a lovely story in and of itself. She has turned her gifts and talents into a successful photography business as well as using it as therapy to help her combat the mental fatigue of living with a chronic illness.
Well, because she was so pleased with the article that I wrote about her, she asked me to be the writer for her upcoming cookbook. How could I say no?! I loved this project, and getting to be a part of it was a gift for me. I don’t often find ways that I can give back to my community, but I can through writing. I appreciated the opportunity to do something for others outside of my kids’ schools and my own church.
Sandrine’s notes from her interviews with the chefs began coming in. I worked through them, did my own research, and put together each profile for the cookbook. The most historic site that she visited was The Ashby Inn in Paris, VA. She had loads of notes from the Executive Chef and there was a great amount of historical data that I could use to put together a nice bio. It was a great experience and I learned a ton.
One evening last month, I decided to rush out at the last minute to walk in for a manicure and pedicure at our local nail salon. They were booked at that time, but they asked if I could come back in an hour and they would stay open late for me to finish my services. Not really thinking, I agreed.
I returned later that evening for my appointment. While I was in my chair, they seated another woman right next to me. I’m a talker, but I try to be respectful of those who may not be or who just want some alone time, so I didn’t engage the lady in conversation.
I did, however, hear her say to her tech that she was sorry that they would have to stay late to work with her. At that, I chimed in and said, “They told me the same, so if we stick together, we’ll be fine.” A little polite giggle and end of conversation.
I moved on to have my nails done. At this point, the other woman and I were the only customers left in the shop. Only our two techs and the manager remained and it was getting late. They seated the woman right next to me. So we began to chat.
The standard…do you live in the neighborhood? What do you do?
Lindsay, as I came to find out her name, had worked for an international hotel chain for many years and had been living in Singapore until relocating back home to Virginia. Being from Charlottesville, she didn’t know very many people in the area. She had just purchased a home in Middleburg and was setting down roots here. Oh, and she was the General Manager from a little place called The Ashby Inn, had I ever heard of it?
Are you kidding me?! I was sitting next to the GM of The Ashby Inn. Sandrine was featuring their restaurant in the book! Uh, yes I had heard of it! I then began to totally geek out. We talked about all of the things that I had learned writing the piece for the book. I admitted that I had never been out to The Ashby and that my wedding anniversary was coming up. Maybe my husband and I would go there for our celebration. And that we did.
The Ashby Inn restaurant surely delivered. They offer a nightly chef’s tasting menu with or without wine pairings, and a vegetarian tasting menu, which I found fascinating and uniquely modern. You could also choose a 3 course al a carte menu. That’s where we landed.
The food was deliciously prepared. The presentation was picture perfect as was the service. The Inn is deceiving large. They have 5 dining areas, one being an ample outdoor area. We opted for an indoor seat (which bummed me out. I love to eat outside, but hadn’t come prepared with a jacket and this late September night was chilly ….for me.)
The building was constructed pre civil war and retained all of the charm one would expect would come with that era of architecture. In the room where we dined, there were brass nameplates above the tables. We inquired and learned that those plaques were earned by frequently visiting guests. These guests lay claim to their favorite table in this way. When they call in for a reservation, they trump any non-regular for their table. It’s quite a special way to repay returning guests for their repeat patronage.
I can’t say enough about the meal we had. Although Paris, VA, is about a 40 minute drive from our neck of the woods, it’s a drive through one of the most scenic routes in Northern Virginia of rolling hills, historical homes and structures, and glorious wide open horse farms. Go the other direction for 40 minutes and you will make your way into Washington, DC. But at The Ashby, you can enjoy a fabulous meal, with zero traffic and a no stress parking situation.
There’s a lot to take in from this post. My life as a blogger, thus far, has been quite serendipitous. I encourage you to look back at my article on Sandrine from Cayenne Pepper Studio and learn more about her and her cookbook project. Stay tuned about the release of the cookbook as a potential holiday gift as holiday shopping is ramping up. And please do yourself a favor and get yourself out to The Ashby Inn. If not to stay as an overnight guest, at least to eat at their spectacular restaurant.
Follow where your path leads you. You will meet fantastic people and it may lead you to your most delicious life.
*The Tree of Life Ministries provides meals on the weekend to children who receive their meals from their public school.