Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Claire's, Warrenton

I met Claire some years ago when we were both at the studio in Harrisonburg shooting some TV shows and have been meaning to get down to her restaurant in Warrenton ever since. November weather does not get any nicer than it was yesterday, so I had the idea to visit Claire's and then run by Jeff and Kelly's to confirm some details about a forthcoming event, but mostly to sit outside and enjoy the glorious view on a glorious day with a wonderful woman and a great glass of Glen Manor wine.

We arrived at Claire's ten minutes early for our table and Ann asked if we could sit outside, out back of the old refurbished train depot that houses the restaurant. Despite a 2/3 full restaurant, we were the first table of the day to sit outside and we had to battle the falling red maple leaves all during our brunch, but that was part of the beauty of sitting out on such a glorious day. Behind the old depot is a beautiful backyard of sorts that gives on to what appears to be a public pocket park just behind the restaurant. We saw dozens of people out there walking their dogs and enjoying the delightful day.


The back yard was framed by a raised bed garden on one end, a trickling water feature overlooked by a threadleaf maple along the park fence, and by an old caboose on the other. It was against this backdrop that we sat and ordered a bottle of Argyle sparkling wine. It's not a bad bottle of sparkling wine. I've had a lot better and a lot worse, but I wouldn't go out of my way to order it again. It just didn't have any personality: it could have been a bubbly from anywhere.

Argyle Brut 2008
For food, Ann ordered fried oysters to start. They were plump and tasty, but the fryer wasn't up to temperature and they came out really greasy and needed salt. I kept tasting fryer oil for the rest of the afternoon and that is not a good thing.

Fried Oysters
For brunch proper, I had rainbow trout and grits and Ann had a portabella Benedict, one of the off-menu specials, both of which we enjoyed. Everything on my plate wanted a bit of salt or other seasoning. The eggs were tasty enough and apparently cooked in clarified butter—a nice touch—but were slightly overcooked to my liking. Granted, it is very hard to manage quality of scrambled eggs in a restaurant setting with such a long time between plating and delivery to the customer. My grits were really nice and coarse and probably the same ones (Anson Mills) that we serve at the restaurant, but again, they were screaming for salt. The trout was well done although I would have preferred that the kitchen remove the ventral and pelvic fins on the butterflied trout before cooking it.

Both Ann and I had envisioned her portabella being stuffed with the artichoke and spinach mix. It was instead cut up and mixed with the artichokes and spinach. A stuffed portabella would have plated a bit nicer, but Ann had no other issue with her meal other than a lack of seasoning and that her English muffins were not toasted. She liked her hollandaise which she called "light and lemony." Bottom line, we had a good time, an enjoyable meal, and an OK bottle of wine. We'll go back.

Trout and Grits

Portabella Benedict

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