Clifton Inn & Restaurant

1296 Clifton Inn Dr, Charlottesville, VA 22911, USA

A year ago I had dinner at the Clifton, then under the supervision of Tucker Yoder. Mr. Yoder was elsewhere that evening, but I spent several hours at the “chef’s counter” in the kitchen, watching executive sous-chef Jarad Adams work his own delicious magic. Naturally Mr. Adams was meticulous with his food prep, but he was also surprisingly generous with his time for me. Imagine my delight when I returned this year to find Mr. Adams had been promoted to Executive Chef. On this visit, Mr. Adams’s tasting menu showed the same attention to detail as I remembered, but with a greater sense of adventure — even whimsy. From the amuse bouche (a spoonful of polenta topped with pork belly, apple, and a sprig of fennel) all the way through to the sticky toffee pudding with candied pecans, dates, and caramel ice cream for dessert, I was enchanted. The tasting menu consists of four courses and varies by the season. My first course was a toss-up between the butternut squash and apple soup and the shaved winter vegetable salad with hazelnuts, black cocoa, and a buttermilk dressing. I had no regrets about my choice of the salad, especially as butternut squash was the foundation of my next course: the most perfectly seared sea scallop I can remember. From there it was onto monkfish with beluga lentils, with Brussels sprout leaves dancing on top. Mr. Adams knows what he’s doing in the kitchen, and the Clifton — and Charlottesville — is lucky to have him.

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The Hotel

When you’re in the Charlottesville area I recommend the following: Visit the UVA campus; take a tour of Jefferson’s Monticello and Madison’s Ash Lawn; check out the numerous vineyards; and check into the historic Clifton Inn, a destination in itself that’s only minutes from all of the above. Turning in the driveway provides your first view of the white-columned Federal-style house that sits majestically – or should I say presidentially – on a perch looking toward Monticello Mountain. Walking through the front doorway is like walking into the past—a past of high design, chic comforts, and the best of service. Having stayed at the Clifton numerous times now, including in the Carriage House and the “big house” itself, I have to say this Relais & Chateaux property is one of my favorite places to take afternoon tea, walk around the lake, swim a few laps, forage for herbs and berries, and — most of all — sleep in heavenly peace. But the heart and soul of this Inn is its staff, many of whom have been there for years. Whether it’s the folks checking you in, the maître d’ or the servers in the fine restaurant, hospitality seems to be so much more than a job. I’d call it a way of life at the Clifton. “In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock,” said Jefferson more than two centuries ago. With its up-to-date style and its commitment to its guests unsurpassed, The Clifton follows Jefferson’s advice to a T (as in Thomas).

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