It was a whirlwind to get out of Charlottesville (sort of) on time. Brian and I let out a deep sigh of relief as our car followed the Shields' to the Northern Neck. We arrived at dusk, after a quick stop for fresh oysters, the pink sky reflecting in the windows of the 19th century house evidence of a just-set sun. Sarah quickly showed us around, in the back door and out the front to admire the expansive river view. Circling around the back again we carefully stepped through the woods to the dock on the quieter inlet, the sky now a brilliant royal blue.
In the house Matt had a crackling fire going in the kitchen and oysters out, ready to be shucked. The dogs watched patiently as one by one the creatures were released from their shells, their briney juice mingling with the tang of fresh lemon. We each downed our share, then set to work preparing dinner.
With another fire roaring in the living room, we all settled in with a dinner inspired by Beyond the Flavor; steaks with avocado + jalepeno salad and potatoes roasted in duck fat. The red wine flowed and the dogs finally settled in, satisfied that we were there to stay, and eventually joining us on the furniture.
The next morning brought sunshine and warmth, and the opportunity to fully explore and get acquainted with the house Sarah's known her entire life. Charming and modest, without the modern conveniences of heat or dishwasher, the house forced us to get back to basics. We donned extra layers and fuzzy slippers and made our way downstairs to the waiting pot of coffee.
After a Hubbell breakfast of cheesy polenta, home-cured bacon, arugula, mushrooms, and a poached egg, we took turns at the sink washing away the remains of a very satisfying meal. The dogs had the run of the property, and convinced us that it was time to make our way down to the dock for a swim.
Back inside, a few hours and bottles of champagne and VA cider later, we started prepping for an early evening meal. Butternut squash roasted until completely tender while beets and carrots were sliced for salad. The perfect fall lasagne was assembled and baked as brussels sprouts married bacon in a saute pan on the gas range.
With such perfect weather, and knowing that there would be few opportunities to eat outside until Spring, we set up a table out on the lawn. The sun set as we dug into the bubbling pan and clinked glasses in celebration of a very relaxing day. More about this meal, photographed for a magazine, soon.
The next morning brought even more warmth and the desire for coffee on the dock. Inside, Team Shields prepared breakfast; kalamata toast with roasted garlicky tomatoes + thyme, sauteed mushrooms, Hubbell bacon, and a poached egg. There may have been ginger cake for dessert, too.
With just a couple of hours remaining before packing up the cars for our drive home, Matt shucked the last of the oysters on the dock as the dogs swam laps around us. With sweatshirt sleeves pushed up we all exclaimed over the warmth of the November Sunday, wishing we could stay for just one more day. Promises were made for more weekends like this one in 2013, and we're holding the Shields to it.
Thank you Matt, Sarah, Charley, and Crosby for sharing with the Hubbells a place so dear to your hearts. We are so grateful.