23 May 2010


Tamarack, WV

We’re up fairly early this morning. CA goes to the lobby for coffee and cream cheese (for our Great American bagels) while I roll out of bed and shower. It’s a hair washing morning and so I need 20 extra minutes to prepare to meet the day. Coffee helps.

We dial up some southern gospel as we head east on Int 64. After a few tries and a few minutes of several sermons (one from a strong southern drawler, who curiously says about the Canadian way—aboot), we settle into some good old hymnal singing and I carol along—even though CA is looking askance!

As we near Beckley, WV I remember Tamarack and the fact that they serve food prepared by The Greenbrier, so we determine to stop there for a late morning brunch and some fantastic Greenbrier coffee. Tamarack is chock-full of WV crafts and country music memorabilia, so we spend about an hour over brunch and browsing. Enjoying the journey.

At brunch at Tamarack we both choose the quiche of the day—Roma tomato, Gruyere cheese, ham, and fresh dill—with a Caesar salad that, in addition to the requisite croutons, includes some finely minced red onion and sliced black olives.

I see the road signs for Lewisburg and then White Sulfur Springs and get enthusiastic about driving up The Greenbrier driveway so that CA can view the magnificence. My cousin BZ and I took a series of cooking classes at The Greenbrier in the spring of 1994. I actually got very sick from dehydration during the trip that spiraled into a couple of weeks of roller coaster experiences after I got home.

The dehydration and resulting electrolyte depletion was compounded by food poisoning I experienced when I used some bad dehydrated mushrooms in a springtime asparagus risotto recipe the week I returned from The Greenbrier.

To be perfectly clear here, I had wonderful and exquisite food at The Greenbrier. It was a culinary pinnacle experience. The food poisoning occurred in my own home and during the following week. I have many stories about those two weeks, but those are for another time and another place—most probably in my Stories I Don’t Remember blog.

The guard at the entrance to The Greenbrier encourages us to drive on through and to explore the buildings and grounds. WOW! I might have just turned around at the guard post if CA had not asked the guard if we could drive through.

We have a spectacular time exploring the main buildings and I take tons of photos. I can’t resist calling BZ in southern Michigan to announce just where I am. We reminisce a bit (our instructor that week was Anne Willan of LaVarenne and Patrick McCormick of The Inn at Little Washington was also on the cooking faculty that week). We talk about a return trip to the culinary school. CA is encouraging, but I have to think that the current prices are astronomical. When I went in 1994, I began saving a year earlier. CA had gifted me with his entire soccer camp check the previous summer to further my savings goal. Of course Dr. BZ didn’t have to save up to go. I remember being thrilled when she stated her interest in going along with me. We did have a fantastic week.

We arrive in Virginia Beach—resisting temptations around Charlottesville and Williamsburg—around 7:00pm and easily find the Ocean Beach Club. We’re impressed. So impressed that I willingly enlist CA in a dreaded timeshare presentation for later in the week. They’re giving us 90 dining dollars, and we are interested in seeing what the Gold Key deal is. We made our concierge, Tim Gavin, a very happy fellow, and he reciprocated by blessing us with a boatload of restaurant and menu recommendations. Tim’s a fellow foodie.

After parking the car and unloading our necessaries, we walk across 34th Street to Baltic and over to 31st and the Surf Rider Restaurant for some crab cakes, fried shrimp, baked potatoes, hush puppies, and salad. To-die-for! This restaurant is so unprepossessing that they have no business cards or takeout menus, very little signage, and an obscure location. Tim is right! The food is FINE! We’re stuffed and glad that we walked over since we need to walk off these fat calories.

As we toward Atlantic and 31st, the music is almost deafening. The Brothership are just finishing their set in the Ocean 31 band shell as we wander through and end up on the boardwalk. We walk to the Ocean Beach Club and make a quick stop in our room before heading back down the boardwalk for a post-dinner, post-two day car ride fitness walk. It feels good.

I’m still very much in the moments, and smiling lots. Glad to be at the beach and looking forward to exploring beaches we’ve never seen and those we’ve visited in another lifetime, eating healthy and fresh foods, indulging a bit, and practicing yoga in the studio just catty corner across Atlantic from the OBC.

As the t-shirt says, Life is Good.

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