The Inn at Vaucluse Spring- Stephens City, VA

The Inn at Vaucluse Spring- Stephens City, VA

We discovered this hidden Inn a few years back. We don’t live far, so we’ve never actually stayed there overnight, but we have eaten dinner there quite a few times. It was the bee’s knees when we first started going. It was something different within a comfortable driving distance. The owners are the most pleasant people and waitress we always seemed to have so warm and welcoming. We love out-of-the-way places and the Inn at Vaucluse Spring offers a large old farm house setting to dine in. Mike grew up in a similar house and he’s even commented that certain details, like the big floor to ceiling doors and doorknobs, remind him of his old home. It’s quaint and grand all at the same time. There are about seven tables per dining room, with the addition of one sitting area for everyone to gather pre-dinner for whatever punch concoction they put out for you. Those concoctions are really spectacular by the way, I believe I’ve had a few ginger lemonades, ciders, and sangrias that taste just as good going down as they look in that ornate crystal bowl.

Again, the food has been great over the years, but we have noticed certain cooking trends and can pretty much expect every main course to be sous vide. That’s wonderful for some proteins that can be tough or even helpful to infuse certain flavors into the meat. Fillet of Beef, however, does not benefit from this cooking style. It can turn it into bland mush. Pork has always be sous vide here and that is disheartening because getting that fat to melt into the meat and crisping up the skin on a tenderloin is really a culinary delight. You put a sliced, pink, water infused essence in front of me and I can’t tell if it’s pork or chicken or mutton. All the flavor that we’ve come to love in a particular protein can be sous vide right out of it.

Our last trip to the Inn at Vaucluse Spring just happened to be a wine dinner for a local Virginia winery. Knowing beforehand that local wine isn’t the quality we prefer, we were really going for the food and setting. It had been about a year since we had been there and we were ready to see what had changed and what had stayed the same. The farm house was still as charming as ever. Hard wood floors, ceiling height that could easily double what is standard for today’s houses. Beautiful wide entryways and tastefully decorated so that you really feel like you are in an old Virginia farm home. The owner was happy and welcoming as he greeted us at the door as usual. It was nice that he remembered us as well. The pre-dinner gathering drink was a Sav Blanc from the local winery hosting the dinner. It was good, but I missed my Vaucluse punch. We had an introduction to the winery owners and Chef Adam Policinski as well. Before every meal, he comes out to greet the guests and give them a brief summary of what is to come in the meal. He will also come out at the end for a round of applause and questions. It’s homey and a nice touch.

We sat down to dinner and our menus were placed at our setting so we could keep track of what we ate and what was to come. Oooo…two proteins on this one! Pork tenderloin, and smoked fillet of beef. Surely both wouldn’t be sous vided? Alas, they were. While the entire meal was good, it made us think that maybe he cooked every protein in this way because he wasn’t confident doing it any other. We began to doubt the ability only because we had only ever eaten a main dish that was sous vide by this chef. Is it difficult? When I was 22, I cooked my first turkey in a bag. They told me it would be the easiest way for a beginner. It came out fine, but had no flavor or crispy skin! Thank goodness for age and experience because now I pride myself on my beautiful brown, juicy, flavorful turkey with the crispiest skin in three counties. I think Chef Adam would benefit by stepping out of his “easy” and will probably be surprised at how good his food can get without a sous vide safety net. Needless to say, our applause was half-hearted at the end of the night. This Chef has an interesting palate and his combinations in dishes are curious, with most of them being quite appealing. If we could just get him to char, grill, sauté, or roast something, he would get a standing ovation for sure.

Below is our menu from the wine dinner:

Compressed melon, sparkling strawberry, tomato lavender dressing, serrano ham, and micro pea tendril

Spicy scallop dashi, Chinese greens, house made bacon, with fried wonton crisps

Pork tenderloin, cambozola polenta, sautéed beets, and sesame beet vinaigrette

Smoked fillet of beef, braised fennel, pistachio, potato puree, and coffee hazelnut demi-glace

Grilled vanilla pudding, rosemary ice cream, almond cake, orange Pernod syrup, and curried marcona almond brittle.

 

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