It's hard to say what I love best about L'Auberge Provençale, an oh-so-French country inn located in the small town of White Post, Virginia.
Perhaps it's the cushy bed waiting in my guest room. Or it could be the in-house restaurant's world-class cuisine and impeccable service. I'm fond, too, of watching the sun climb over the Blue Ridge Mountains and spill into the Shenandoah Valley.
But there is one thing I can tell you for sure: L'Auberge Provençale ranks among the finest inns in America.
Chef Alain Borel, who hails from Avignon, France, and his wife, Celeste, planted their inn in the heart of Virginia horse country, on the outskirts of Winchester, in 1981. Since then, they've garnered praise for both food and accommodations.
The inn boasts 11 well-appointed guest rooms and suites, all with private baths, rustic antiques, and original art. The rooms have been in such high demand that Alain and Celeste opened a second inn, Villa la Campagnette, 3 miles up the road in Boyce. Here, they offer one master bedroom and two suites.
Thankfully, dinner here is more than just an afterthought. The inn features a four-course, prix fixe menu that rivals the region's finest restaurants. Top that with exemplary service, not to mention a long and impressive wine list, and you have reason to celebrate.
Start with hot-and-cold foie gras with house brioche and Bing cherries or tender scallops, seared to perfection. The salads tempt, but I favor the chef's homemade soups. Recently they had a creamy chestnut. Entreés such as pistachio-crusted rack of lamb wow, but my favorite remains the crispy skin sea bass served with pan-roasted pork belly and a lemony white bean cassoulet.
After dinner, sit on the front porch, and drink in your surroundings (and possibly a glass of port). Put your arm around your honey, take a deep breath, and listen for the call of whip-poor-will and the wail of a distant train.
L'Auberge Provençale: 13630 Lord Fairfax Highway, White Post, VA 22663; www.laubergeprovencale.com or 1-800-638-1702. Rates: $155-$325. Prix fixe dinner: $88 per person.
"Best of the Shenandoah" is from the May 2007 issue of Southern Living. Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it's still current before making your travel plans.