Dining with Dan

L’Auberge Provençale

 

Story and Photos by Daniel M. Walker, Contributing Writer

 

Dan Walker

If you are unable to spend your holiday in the Provence region of France, you can at least capture the flavors at a true French country inn in the lush Virginia hunt countryside. The landscape surrounding L’Auberge Provençale Bed & Breakfast near White Post, Va., is similar to the Provence region of France with its luxuriant valleys and mountains.

The region is dotted with roaming cattle grazing on fertile, alluvial soil. That soil is part of the reason for the rich cuisine that so delightfully showcases butter, cream, and cheese. It is this region that not only inspired the L’Auberge Provençale menu, but also was the childhood home in Avignon, France, of Alain Borel, who is the chef and owner of L’Auberge along with his wife, Celeste.

Alain learned the Provençale cooking style from four generations of French chefs, beginning his career as early as age 6 when he was taught to peel and cut potatoes.

Owner Celeste Borel and son Christian are the restaurant’s sommeliers.

After coming to America, Alain opened a French restaurant in Key West, where he met Celeste. As Celeste explains, “Key West did not offer the ambiance to complement the flair of French cuisine. Later, we started in Vermont looking for just the right setting for our bed and breakfast. When we found this limestone villa near White Post with this idyllic countryside, we knew we had found home.” The main house was built in 1753 — George Washington was an early trustee of the property. Celeste and Alain started a 30-year mission to transform the property into an authentic French country inn with herb gardens, fruit orchards, romantic suites, and a first-class destination restaurant. Appointments in the 11 rooms and suites include faux-painted walls, aromatic steam showers, fireplaces, and handcrafted antique furniture.

The restaurant menu offers three- or five-course dinners. If you are adventurous, L’Auberge offers the chefs’ Tasting Menu of seven gourmet treasures. After surveying the kitchen with a stable of young, imaginative chefs, I decided on the Tasting Menu in order to experience the widest variety of flavors. Before finding my table in one of the three beautifully decorated dining rooms, I observed one of the chefs picking herbs and tomatoes from the garden — the smell of fresh herbs and vegetables permeated the kitchen and hallways.

Fresh herbs are harvested from the inn’s on-site garden.

The small plate Tasting Menu consisted of a steak-and-egg dish with caramelized onions and tomato confit, scallops with citrus pickled ginger, risotto with walnuts and lemon yuzu, foie gras with smoked pistachio, pork belly with lavender and compressed peach, and a small portion of Kobe beef with saffron potatoes and sauce au poivre. The after-dinner delight was a white chocolate espuma topped with green apple sorbet and vanilla ice cream. Each dish was exceptional, not only in appearance, but full of delightful flavors. I was quite pleased with the concept of small dishes because this was a true gourmet adventure, with each server sharing a clear explanation of the wonderful preparations set before me.  

I noticed L’Auberge had a wide selection of both French and domestic wines. Celeste suggested that I try a special cabernet from the RdV Vineyard located in Delaplane, Va. You may know from past articles that I do not consider myself a wine connoisseur. I do, however, think I can recognize an exceptional wine. The RdV “Friends and Family” is by far the best red wine I have ever tasted. Unfortunately, Celeste said the wine is not sold in shops, and can only be found in a few fine restaurants.

One of three charmingly appointed dining rooms.

My entire experience at L’Auberge Provençale was mirific (wonderful), skookum (excellent) and … how do I express exceptional? So I have no reservations recommending L’Auberge to Cooperative Living readers. The restaurant has been recognized for its superb food and hospitality in many ways by many entities, from being named one of the Top 10 Romantic Inns by American Historic Inns to being lauded by Fodor’s Travel. Chef Alain has been featured on the Discovery Channels’ “Great Chef’s of the East” and has lectured at the Smithsonian before huge crowds. This could be just the place for a getaway to enjoy a gourmet breakfast and/or a special dinner, a midweek escape, or a long, winter weekend where the charm of the Provence region of France can be healing medicine for the winter blues.

 13630 Lord Fairfax Highway, White Post, VA 22620 • (800) 638-1702 • http://www.laubergeprovencale.com/

Dinner: Mon.-Sat. 6-10 p.m., Sun. 5-10 p.m. • Closed Tues.

Breakfast served only to overnight guests.

 

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