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Fall Weekends 2009: Dinner Is Served

Three lovely inns where you’ll feel well cared for—and they serve terrific meals

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L’Auberge Provençale: Fall Foliage, French Flair

L’Auberge Provençale’s owners—Alain Borel, a native of Avignon, France, and his wife, Celeste—have brought a slice of Provence to the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

The restaurant alone is a major draw. Alain, a trained chef, prepares meals such as red-wine-and-espresso lamb shank with white beans and maple-cardamom-smoked duck breast with braised wheat berries, often tapping herbs and vegetables grown in the inn’s garden. He uses lamb, chicken, pork, and eggs from neighboring farms.

The inn, set on eight acres in Boyce, is decorated in Provençal fabrics. Each room has plenty of space for lounging; most have fireplaces and aromatherapy steam showers. 

Fall foliage is at your fingertips. Skyline Drive, one of America’s great mountain passes, is within miles of the inn.  

Want a memorable view of foliage? Blue Ridge Hot Air will take you up in a balloon at sunset—the inn can help arrange a trip. There’s also World War II Fighter Ride Air Adventures, a unique outfit specializing in fighter and biplane rides. 

Nearby are orchards where you can pick your own apples and pumpkins and grab homemade cider before heading home.

Our tip: Last-minute specials make this getaway easier on the wallet. Call the day you want to arrive and if there’s a room, you’ll get it at 20 percent off.

Travel time from Washington: 90 minutes.

What it costs: $155 to $325 a night; five-course dinner is $88 a person; à la carte options available Wednesday and Thursday (restaurant closed Tuesday).

More information:

—Andrea C. Poe

Ashby Inn: Dine Under the Stars

Known for its cuisine, the Ashby Inn in Paris, Virginia, has long had the reputation of being a restaurant with an inn rather than an inn with a restaurant—even though the inn is plenty nice. Modern American-French fare, much of it sourced from local farmers and producers, is what sets apart this former home dating to 1829. Its location in the foothills of the Blue Ridge is another draw, especially on warm nights when you can dine in the garden under the stars.

A full country breakfast—think plates such as Eggs Virginia with poached eggs, butter biscuits, and cured Virginia ham—is included in the room rate. Dinner is an elaborate affair (entrées $26 to $34), while the three-course Sunday brunch ($35) is a longstanding tradition. For a more casual repast, the inn’s snug Tapp Room has a lunch-and-dinner menu of soups, salads, sandwiches, and usually entrée specials ($16 to $33).

We like lazing with Jane Austen in the cozy library warmed by a crackling fire. Come spring, a new in-house spa is scheduled to open for massages, wraps, and facials.

Sky Meadows State Park, with miles of hiking trails—the North Ridge route to Piedmont Overlook has stellar vistas—is a mile away, and orchards, wineries, riding stables, and the shops of Middleburg are less than a 20-minute drive.

Our tip: Though all the Ashby rooms are airy and beautifully furnished with antiques and hand-painted wardrobes, the ones in the historic Schoolhouse have larger sitting areas, wood-burning fireplaces, private porches, soaking tubs, televisions, phones, coffee makers, and fridges.

Travel time from Washington: One hour.

What it costs: The five rooms at the main inn range from $165 to $195; four rooms at the Schoolhouse are $275. Look for specials online, generally offered in winter, spring, and summer.

More information:

—Cynthia Hacinli

Antrim 1844: For a Special Occasion

One of Maryland’s best-loved restaurants, the Smokehouse, is at Antrim 1844. It features such traditional fare as filet in a Madeira demi-glace, and Wine Spectator has called its wine list one of the best in the world. Try not to come late; the best part of the evening unfolds in the formal parlor as diners sample hors d’oeuvres before being beckoned to the dining room.

The moment you set foot in this Greek Revival mansion in Taneytown, you’ll feel transported to the 19th century, thanks to high ceilings, wide moldings, festooned draperies, gilded mirrors, and Victorian chintz. In addition to nine guest rooms in the mansion, 31 rooms are scattered about the 24-acre property in charming outbuildings such as the restored Ice House.

In autumn, the croquet green sees a good deal of action, as do the tennis court and putting green. In warmer weather, you can enjoy a swimming pool. Gettysburg battlefield is close enough that General George Meade used the widow’s walk atop the mansion to keep track of his troops in 1863.

Breakfast is so nice they do it twice. A generous “wake-up tray” with muffins and jam is delivered to your door before you venture into the restaurant for a full hot breakfast.

Our tip: On a chilly night, tuck into the inn’s clubby pub for a single-malt in front of the fire.

Travel time from Washington: 90 minutes.

What it costs: $160 to $400 a night; the six-course dinner is $68.50 a person. The Gettysburg Package—which includes a battlefield tour, museum tickets, and a six-course dinner—starts at $195 a person.

More information:

—Andrea C. Poe 

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