Turning the big 4-0? Celebrating an anniversary? There are few more over-the-top occasion markers in the country than Patrick O’Connell’s baroque Rappahannock County getaway. The grande-dame decor, with its mauve silk lampshades and tapestries, isn’t for every taste, but the place somehow doesn’t feel stuffy. Credit O’Connell’s seamless fusion of folksy and fancy. Each of the three five-course menus—one seasonal, one vegetarian, one comprising the kitchen’s classics (you can mix them up)—kick off with an array of perfect amuse-bouches, including a shot of red-pepper soup, one of the best bisques we’ve tasted, and a tiny potato chip stuffed with pimiento cheese. (One thing we’d avoid: having them with the bill-jacking cocktails, which include an unfortunate $25 mix of Champagne and root-beer-flavored liqueur.) What’s that mooing sound? That would be Faira, a cow/cheese cart that makes the whole place break out in laughs every time she rolls in.
Don’t miss: Foie gras torchon; macaroni and cheese; veal tongue with horseradish ice cream; lamb carpaccio with Caesar-salad ice cream; sea bass with tiny dumplings; butter-pecan ice-cream sandwich.