The Williamsburg Inn: Remarkable Colonial Flavor in 21st Century America
By Ruth J. Katz
I awoke from a dreamy slumber, in an exceptionally comfy bed in my handsome chamber at the Williamsburg Inn, startled by a pre-dawn rattle. I shambled over to the window, and gazed out over the tranquil, still-moonlit, velvety green landscape—the first hole of the Gold Golf Course—which skirts the perimeter of the Inn’s back patio, the 7,000-square-foot Social Terrace. The landscape I spied was dotted with well over 75 ghostly golf carts, lined up like outsized, snow-white chess pieces on a verdant blanket.
Clearly too early to start my day, I padded back to bed. At 7:30, I ambled over to the window again, and much to my shock, all the little rooks and knights were gone, the grassy knoll denuded of the golf carts! Ever-eager duffers and pros were already out! Thinking myself a late-starting sloth, I shifted into turbo-drive, to begin the day’s activities, slated to include a serious exploration of Colonial Williamsburg’s famous DoG (Duke of Gloucester) Street, a living museum of 18th-century colonial life. The campus has been painstakingly restored, reflecting what was, for over 75 years—the political, cultural, and educational epicenter of what was then the biggest, most populous, and most influential of the American colonies. [
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Built in 1937 by John D. Rockefeller, Jr., (who spearheaded the development of the Foundation), the Inn combines the historic elegance of its original design with the amenities of a contemporary, luxurious property. (It is the recipient of AAA Five Diamonds and Forbes Travel Guide’s Five Star rating.) [Photo # 6 The Gold Golf Course.]
Before heading out to DoG Street, then, I did what I advise you to do: Tank up at the Goodwin Breakfast Room. Savory and sweet fare dot the tempting menu. Yes, there were traditional juices, but there was also a Renewing Red combo–beet, carrot, apple—and the Queen’s Greens (spinach, kale, cucumber, and ginger). You’ll be tempted by all: Porridges, layered “jars” of healthy victuals, do-nut hole treats with chocolate sauce, and surprise specialties, like sweet potato pancakes. And, of course, this being Williamsburg, there is the Old English Breakfast, a feast comparable to the classic known as the Full English in the UK.
If food is your passion, then explore the Inn’s Taste Studio, a short walk from the hotel. It is a full-service classroom-cum-demo-kitchen, where staff chefs and visiting culinary maestros ply their trade, offering lessons, lectures, demonstrations, hands-on experiences, and tastings. In the bright, well-equipped classroom, guests are seductively encouraged to learn, create, and share culinary capabilities. Is chocolate your passion? Take the American Heritage Historic Chocolate-Tasting class. Love fresh foods and the farm-to-table concept? Do the Garden to Guest tour, to see how seamlessly produce can move from the ground to the grill.
Another indulgence at the Inn is the destination spa, located in a Georgian Revival building (also a short walk from the Inn proper), housing a 33,000-square-foot sybarite’s dream. The very extensive menu of offerings is tweaked with some novelties, including five treatments, tied to a particular century, such as the 17th century detoxifying herbal wrap and hot stone massage. Classes range from high-intensity interval training to relaxing meditation sessions. The shop at the spa is the most well-merchandised I’ve ever seen—expected lotions, potions, and emollients, of course, but also sports equipment, cuddly jackets for post-workout, and new age-inspired accoutrements.
While here, a meal at the newly created Rockefeller Room is de rigueur. A grand and glamorous space, the menu reflects American favorites with a twist. My waiter recommended a few and I was delighted with them: The appetizer crab cake is among the bestsellers and was toothsome and flavorful, crowned with a halo of edible flowers. The cider-brined pork chop with leek and forest mushrooms, all nestled atop a potato rösti, with a swirl of apple butter adorning the plate, was a revelation. My server further twisted my arm to order the Rockefeller Collection dessert…five mini-pots of the pastry chef’s masterpieces. (If, as an aside, your passion is a post-prandial cigar, check in with the hotel’s resident cigar aficionado, who buys rarities from posh estates and has put together a collection with some exceptional offerings.)
As if I were not sated enough, when I returned to my room, there was a lovely bedside tray, laden with a bottle of Baileys Original Irish Cream and a handful of Dean & Deluca chocolates. The perfect ending to a lovely day and a delightful stay.
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The author of five books, Ruth J. Katz was the style/travel editor of Promenade magazine for eight years. She has written extensively for both The New York Times and New York magazine and has served as an editor or contributing editor at numerous magazines, including Redbook, Classic Home, Golf Connoisseur, and The Modern Estate. She has visited over 80 countries (and counting).