A former head chef at two Michelin-starred tasting room Pineapple & Pearls has a new job in the rolling hills of Virginia’s Rappahannock County, but don’t make the hour and a half drive from D.C. expecting to find the same kind of experience.
Bin Lu says he’s tuning into his new, rural surroundings by bringing a high-end approach to American comfort food at Blue Rock, a renovated inn and restaurant that sits on an 80-acre property in Washington, Virginia, already known in dining circles as the location of chef Patrick O’Connell’s three Michelin-starred Inn at Little Washington. At Blue Rock, the full spread includes a five-bedroom guest house, a 34-seat restaurant, and an a la carte tasting room, all with an idyllic view of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The hotel, formerly the Blue Rock Inn under past ownership, is celebrating a grand reopening Saturday, October 23, with a day of live music and an open house from noon to 6 p.m.
The Restaurant at Blue Rock (12567 Lee Highway) offers a $99, four-course prix-fixe with two or three options for each course. Dishes include a buttered peekytoe crab with a burnt caramel vinaigrette, a triple-seared New York strip with roasted alliums, and madeira-poached figs served with a warm olive oil cake. The menu (full versions below) also features a add-ons like ciabatta with chili butter ($8) and an $80 caviar supplement that comes with sourdough donuts. For a Southern touch, Lu serves the crab dish with Carolina Gold rice, an heirloom crop revived by Glenn Roberts and Anson Mills.
“When creating a menu, it’s about thinking about the time, the space, and how the food you are serving fits within that,” Lu says. “The worst thing I could have done was put together a menu that would’ve made sense in D.C. and drop it in Rappahannock County.”
Blue Rock’s tasting room (walk-in only) has a less fussy Foothills menu that lists a la carte options such as a $20 dry-aged beef burger, a Thanksgiving au jus sandwich, and a charcuterie plate that comes with red eye gravy and pimento cheese. From the bar, customers can order a smoked maple Old Fashioned, mezcal palomas, and flights of whiskey or wine from Virginia labels like Late Harvest, Linden, and Boxwood Winery.
Visitors who would prefer to roam while eating and drinking can take their food and drinks from the tasting room to the seating areas on the grounds, including fire pits where they can roast their own s’mores. There are also lawn games such as bocce, croquet, and cornhole.
Blue Rock has history as a working farm and inn that spans across four decades and a handful of owners. Entrepreneur Nick Dowling bought the property in 2019, and has spent more than a year fixing it up. The beginnings of a vineyard are visible, and Blue Rock general manager Liz Carpenter says bottling won’t start for a few years.
The Tasting Room is open Thursday through Saturday from noon to 9 p.m. and closes at sunset on Sundays. The Restaurant, which requires reservations, opens those days for dinner (5 p.m. to 9 p.m.). Guest rooms start at $399 per night.
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