Weekend getaway: the Blue Ridge Mountains’ Clifton Inn [classic article]

In the heart of Charlottesville, nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, and with stunning views of the Rivanna River, is the Clifton Inn. This classically elegant Relais & Chateaux property was once owned by Thomas Jefferson’s son-in-law, Thomas Mann Randolph.

Overnight guests are welcomed into their spacious, antique-adorned rooms with Madeira – Thomas Jefferson’s favorite wine – and fresh fruit, and treated to blues music piped in from Bose stereos. One of the suites, the Randolph, is a duplex, with the luxurious bathroom downstairs featuring a clawfoot tub and rain showerhead.

During warm weather, guests can use a seasonal outdoor infinity pool and hot tub made private by a waterfall and stone formation. Pool lounging is enhanced by a gazebo, grill and special pool menu that includes garden lavender lemonade.

The Clifton Inn is known far and wide for its gourmet dining. Guests can enjoy complimentary Afternoon Tea (or coffee, if you prefer) served by the fire. For a unique and extravagant tea, have the Encounter with Thomas Jefferson: $995**: Mr. Jefferson (portrayed by historical interpreter Steve Edenbo) will spend up to four hours with you, either touring Monticello or sharing a conversation over a cup of tea or dinner at Clifton (this enhancement must be booked at least 2 weeks in advance; food & beverages are additional).

The Clifton’s small bar is a secret gem that should not be missed. Cool jazz and R&B play throughout this intimate nook of a bar where vermouth made on property is served. The bar snacks are portion controlled, but beautifully presented on a wooden carving board. The kitchen puts together bits of Surryano ham from Edwards in Surry County, Virginia, pickled pork tenderloin, shiitake mushrooms, cauliflower puree’, sweet potato puree’ with pie spice, autumn olives, broccoli slaw, tempura mushrooms, and autumn onions. These are all subject to change with seasonal offerings, but you get the idea. Little bits of intriguing flavors, working as amuses bouches; fu to share and a delightful accompaniment to drinks.

The chef’s table has a few seats and is available on a first come, first serve basis for dinner for no extra fee. You can order off the menu or from the chef’s tasting menu. It makes for a terrific date night or is perfect for solo dining. The new Executive Chef at Clifton Inn, Tucker Yoder, prefers a cleaner type of cuisine than the traditional dishes laden with cream and butter sauces. Herbs are grown on-site and meats are cured in-house. If you are ordering from the a la carte menu, the courses are arranged into “delicate,” “light,” “full” and “robust” categories.

An excellent choice is the slow poached farm egg with confit pine nuts, arugula and farro risotto. Eat it with a spoon to get every last drop. The egg is perfectly poached, with a rich, runny yolk, having been cooked in the shell using an immersion circulator, in a sous vide technique. The dish is incredibly fresh-tasting and served in a large pasta-sized bowl, and showcases the restaurant’s habit of use of modern techniques and classic methods.

**All enhancement prices are exclusive of tax and service fee.

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