Enjoy a taste of history at Wayside Inn

Published 1:43am Saturday, September 29, 2012

We began our two-day journey to the North American Devon Association Meeting in New York by spending the first day driving up the Shenandoah Valley through Virginia. The leaves had not begun to turn but the drive was lovely with the Blue Ridge Mountains all around us.

We are always on the lookout for an interesting place to eat and found one in Middletown, Va., right at the crossroads of Rt. 11 and 1-81. This was the Wayside Inn which was proud to say it was the

oldest continuously operating inn in America. The tradition went back more 210 years for fine food and lodging. It was a nicely restored 18th Century Inn nestled in the Shenandoah Valley. It was in 1797 that the first travelers came to the Inn, stopping for food and lodging on their journey through the Shenandoah Valley. Known then as the Wilkerson Tavern, the Inn remained a popular spot for rest and refreshment into the 19th Century, when it became a relay station for stagecoaches.

During the Civil War, soldiers from both the North and South sought refuge and friendship at the Inn.

And because the Inn served both sides in this conflict, it was spared the ravages of war. After the Civil War, Jacob Larrick bought the Inn and changed its name to Larrick’s Hotel. In the early 1900s, the inn was sold to Samuel Rhodes who added a third floor, wings on each side, and a new name, the Wayside

Inn.

In the 1960s, Leo Bernstein, a Washington, DC, financier and collector with a love for Americana, bought the Inn and meticulously restored and refurbished it. The Inn was purchased in 2009 by Jacob and Lois Charon, who became the first new innkeepers in more than 50 years.

We arrived around lunch time and the charming owner greeted us but I do have to say we were the only guests. It’s a tiny village and I think they do more events than week day lunches. The Inn was dark, a nice place for the evening, but lunch on that sunny day needed to be in another room with windows.

We were asked if we would like spoon bread, since it needed 20 minutes to cook (you needed to order ahead of time) and of course we said yes. They were famous for their chicken pot pie and peanut soup. Of course, we tried both. Some Food Network star was working on a book on inns so they had their recipes for spoon bread and peanut soup ready. I felt lucky since they were willing to give them to me.

No recipe for the chicken pot pie! A recipe they had used for six generations, they said. The vegetables tasted like frozen vegetables anyway, so I got the best recipes. I am not putting down the restaurant since I thought the soup and spoon bread was delicious. This place is worth a stop if in the area.

 

Wayside Inn Peanut Soup

Makes 6 servings

 

3 ½ cups chicken stock or two 14 ½ oz. cans chicken broth

1 stalk celery, finely diced

1 medium carrot, finely diced

1 small onion, finely chopped

1 cup creamy peanut butter

13 oz. can evaporated milk or light cream

Dash sugar

 

In large saucepan sauté celery, carrot, and onion until tender. (Recipe does not say what to sauté with so I used 1 tablespoon of butter—olive oil would be fine also). Add stock, bring to a boil and reduce heat. Gradually add peanut butter, stirring constantly. (Mixture will stiffen at first, but will become

smooth.)

Add evaporated milk and a dash of sugar. Heat through, but do not boil. Strain, discarding vegetables.

 

I added some chopped peanuts on top for decoration as they had in the restaurant.

 

Spoon Bread

Makes 6 servings

 

1-quart milk (I used whole milk)

3 tablespoons sugar

1 ¼ cup corn meal

3 eggs (separated)

 

Bring milk to a boil with butter and sugar. Meanwhile, separate 3 eggs and whip the whites until stiff.

Add cornmeal to the milk; cook 3 minutes, stirring constantly until quite stiff. Allow to cool. Fold in whipped whites and bake at 400 degrees in a shallow casserole dish until souffléd and lightly browned.

Approximately 20-30 minutes. It should be served immediately but tastes good even later.

 

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