Red Fox Inn & Tavern, Middleburg, VA – A Review

by artfuldiner on November 16, 2020

in Artful Diner Review, Opinion, Washington DC, Wining and Dining

Red Fox Inn & Tavern

2 East Washington Street

Middleburg, Virginia

(540) 687-6301

Red Fox Inn - ExteriorDuring our recent stay at the Salamander Resort & Spa – see my previous post, Savoring Salamander – my permanent dining partner and I enjoyed dinner at the nearby Red Fox Inn & Tavern. Established in 1728, and originally known as Chinn’s Ordinary, this charming inn has offered uninterrupted hospitality to travelers for more than 275 years, making it the oldest continually operated inn in the United States. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and steeped in the lore of the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, each of its cozy dining rooms exudes a piece of history.

Over the years, the Inn has played host to many notable politicians, authors, musicians, athletes, and celebrities, including, in 1748, an enthusiastic young surveyor named… Yes, George Washington really did sleep here.

Owned and operated by three generations of the Reuter Family since 1976, family members continue to oversee the inn’s daily operations, including its highly praised culinary aspects. The tavern’s menu highlights local ingredients and genuine home-style dishes that are both lovingly prepared and beautifully presented.

Unfortunately, because of the ever-changing environment prompted by the coronavirus, the inn’s indoor dining spaces are not open at this time. However, we thoroughly enjoyed our al fresco experience on their cozy and spacious tented garden terrace.

The only bill of fare currently being offered is the kitchen’s four course autumn tasting menu (with three options for appetizers, three options for soup/salad, six options for entrées, and three options for dessert), which also includes bottled water and non-alcoholic beverages, for $125.00 per person. Virginia wine pairing with each course is priced at an additional $38.00 per person. This may at first appear rather restrictive; but the options available for each course are certainly broad enough to appease a variety of tastes and temperaments, and the menu may also be customized to accommodate food allergies or other dietary requirements. The menu may also seem rather pricey; but, trust me, it’s worth every penny… As was the wine pairing, which married exceedingly well with my choices.

Red Fox - Roasted Pear CrostiniAppetizer Course: I ordered the Roasted Pear Crostini. In Italian, crostini refer to small slices of grilled or toasted bread with a variety of toppings. In this instance, roasted pear slices were paired with a brandy & gorgonzola spread and topped with walnut bits and crisp prosciutto. Pears & blue cheese are an unbeatable combo… and this delectable presentation certainly proved the case.  Wine Pairing: NV Extra Brut, Thibaut-Janisson Winery, Charlottesville, VA. The dryness of the bubbly provided a marvelous contrast to both the sweetness of the pears and the earthiness of the blue cheese.

Red Fox - Lamb MeatballsOn the other hand, taste-wise, my dining partner’s Lamb Meatballs simply stole the show. Rife with feta & pine nuts, set on islands of charred red onion surrounded by a sea of mint-infused yogurt, they were utterly irresistible. One bite and I was saying to myself: “Why didn’t I order these?” Flavor… texture… everything was just right. And there was just enough mint to complement rather than overwhelm the perfectly seasoned lamb. Kudos to the kitchen. Third Appetizer Option: Butternut Squash & Sage Wontons with goat cheese, hazelnuts, and plum chutney.

Soup/Salad Course: I know my choice of the Roasted Pear & Arugula Salad sounds like a repeat performance, but I just couldn’t resist that pear/blue cheese combo once again. Add candied walnuts, and a delightfully creamy Champagne vinaigrette providing a tasty textural counterpoint to that peppery greenery and you have a perfect prelude to any meal. Wine Pairing: 2019 Viognier, Greenhill Vineyards, Middleburg, VA. I’m usually not a fan of viognier, but this was simply a lovely wine – elegant, crisp, clean – and just right with the salad.

Red Fox - Beets w Goat CheeseMy dining partner’s Beets with Goat Cheese (pictured) also set off some bells and whistles. A marinade of zippy whole grain mustard gave the red and yellow beets a lively kick; the Monocacy Ash Farmstead Soft Ripened Goat Cheese struck a decidedly decadent chord; and a smattering of baby arugula and crispy rye toast were excellent in their supporting roles. Third Salad/Soup Option: Butternut Squash Bisque, crème fraiche, candied pumpkin seeds.

Entrée Course: With the arrival of the main courses, the kitchen’s prowess became even more impressive. My dining partner will tend to order either shrimp or scallops – or both – at the mere drop of a fork, so her choice of Caramelized Sea Scallops was certainly no surprise… And they were excellent. Beautifully seared, the moist & meaty bivalves were pillowed on a seabed of mushroom & pearl barley risotto and accompanied by bacon lardons, sautéed kale, and micro tarragon salad. There was obviously a lot going on here; but nothing felt (or tasted) out of sync, as a lovely white wine sauce served as a splendid culinary catalyst.

Red Fox - Pecan Curry Crusted HalibutThe Pecan Curry Crusted Halibut immediately caught my eye. Halibut, I must admit, always grabs my attention, as it is my all-time favorite seafood indulgence. But I hesitated at first, as curry can be a bit overwhelming; add pecans and it struck me as a double whammy, an ill-conceived assault on this ever-so-delicate denizen of the deep… And I wasn’t particularly overjoyed with the accoutrements either. The carrot and sweet potato purée could be downright cloying, especially when added to the curry/pecan combo; and the spiced & roasted cauliflower with currants could very easily make this particular entrée entirely too convoluted for its own good.

Fortunately, my assumptions were wrong on all counts, as the presentation was a nearly perfect gastronomic gestalt. Each element had its own individual part to play, but the whole of the dish was infinitely more than the mere sum of the particular parts. And despite my fears that the curry/pecan concoction might overwhelm the halibut’s delicate disposition, the crust caressed rather than smothered the object of its affection. Wine Pairing: 2015 Hardscrabble Chardonnay, Linden Vineyards, Linden, VA. There’s a touch of oak here, but it’s breathtakingly subtle. This beautiful wine exhibits the finesse and sophistication of a fine white Burgundy.

Other Entrée Options: Seared Duck Breast, Leek & Gruyère, Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Currants, Apple & Onion Cider Sauce… Filet Mignon, Sweet Potato Au Gratin, Sautéed Kale & Bacon Lardons, Herb Butter Au Poivre Sauce… Rack of Lamb, Parsnip Purée, Orange Rosemary Roasted Carrots, Pinot Noir Sauce… Stuffed Portobello Mushroom, Walnut & Tarragon Filling, Sweet Potato & Carrot Purée, Sautéed Kale & Frizzled Onions.

Dessert Course: When it came to a choice of sweet endings, as far as my dining partner was concerned, there was never a moment of doubt… She went straight for her old favorite, the Panna Cotta. Italian for “cooked cream,” The Red Fox’s rendition was topped with a semi-interesting cranberry cardamom compote.

Unlike my partner, however, I confess that I’ve never been able to drum up much enthusiasm for this particular denouement

… With the exception of one rather humorous erotic gastronomic diversion. Several years ago, we were dining in Toqué, one of my favorite Montreal restaurants. Dessert that evening was a provocative vanilla flavored panna cotta. And this lovely amalgam of cream and gelatin bore uncanny resemblance to a white Hershey’s kiss with a case of the bouncies… or… (just let your imagination run wild😊). Needless to say, its gyrating journey to table caused more than a few chuckles among the assembled diners.

Red Fox - Banana Bread PuddingSo much for panna cotta. Do pardon the aside… My evening at the Red Fox concluded with an absolutely scrumptious Caramelized Banana Bread Pudding (pictured). Built upon a delicate foundational layer of dark chocolate and crowned with a tiara of crème anglaise, this decadently rich dessert was a real crowd-pleaser. Wine Pairing: And the 2015 Paxxito, Barboursville Vineyards, Barboursville, VA, was the ideal complement. This is a distinctive wine created via the traditional Passito process in which Moscato Ottonel & Vidal grapes are carefully hand-selected and set aside to rest and air-dry for up to 120 days before crushing and pressing. Six months of slow, cool fermentation followed by extended barrel aging produces an intense, rich, balanced wine of luscious sweetness and excellent acidity. Third Dessert Option: Flourless Chocolate Torte, Candied Hazelnuts, Mascarpone Cream.

If you’re planning a road trip to the Middleburg area, bear in mind that the Red Fox Inn & Tavern is also an enchanting place to spend a night or two. Centrally located in the heart of Middleburg Village, the Inn is comprised of five buildings that encompass twenty-two inn rooms, suites and cottages, each with their own individual charm…

But whether you decide to stay here, or at the Salamander Resort & Spa as we did, dinner at the Red Fox is something of a must. The cuisine is exceptional, the service personable, and the atmosphere warm and inviting. I guarantee you will not be disappointed.

Bon Appétit!

Be Well & Stay Safe


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