5/15/2011

Thyme in Culpeper is a time of quality cuisine


From where we live, first you go: West. Then, at your destination, in Culpeper, Virginia, at the Thyme Market you will likely meet Connie East. And she will treat you as someone who enjoys the finer things in life!

Connie East, Ms Hospitality at the Thyme Market.
For Grazyna and me, Culpeper had been a destination where we enjoy quality of life’s culture, its food and all. We consider the Thyme Market, on 134 East Davis Street, established in 2007, as a very special place for us. Here we are able to experience a European-style establishment with an Old World ambiance and approach to cuisine that matters. So, consider a selection of hard-to-find culinary treats, marinades, seasonings and locally grown produce. Take a selection home, or get smoked with the roasted meats and a wood fired pizza with your own selection of toppings (mine always includes gorgonzola and basil!), and enjoy it on the outside veranda.

Better Cheddar spread is home made and a must at
the Thyme Market.

The added value to our visit to the Thyme-themed home-away-from-home Culpeper cuisine is a personal contact with Connie, the rotisserie-patisserie manageress, and John Yarnall, the owner. We talk and we soon become a part of their family activities and dreams. Grazyna's gardening and nutrition interests take a note of the Thyme's cuisine ingredients - many of which are grown on the Yarnall estate. Soon, you feel like missing out on the adventures of their last vacationing on St. Maarten. They also express their interest in what’s ahead of us, my ever continuing job search, as we exchange numerous family stories.

Our rendezvous with Culpeper goes back to a Washington Post informative write-up in November 30, 2005, Food Section review of a Civil War town, some 70 miles from Washington D.C. The reading itself hit the spot already that day, and four days later we tried the recommended chic dining in a town undergoing it’s welcomed Renaissance.

Gathering of facts reveals that the town’s name comes after Lord Thomas Culpeper, Colonial Governor of Virginia, was first named as Town of Fairfax, and was surveyed in 1749 by a 17-years old George Washington. The area was hotly contested during the Civil War. The town’s historic district, built between 1880 and 1920 saw subsequent decay and neglect with front show windows boarded up. In addition, the town’s claim to fame sport an exciting fact that if you are standing in front of the Visitors Center now, General George Armstrong Custer had his horse shot out from under him on this very spot during the Civil War.

From another corner: It's About Thyme, Thyme Market, Thyme Inn,
and The Copper Fish.

So, we tried the Hazel River Inn Restaurant, on 195 East Davis Street, whose Chef and owner, Peter Stochbuchner of the White House Residence fame, serves Austrian cuisine.

We then proceeded for a much-needed Neuhaus Belgian chocolate sampling at The Frenchman’s Corner store of everything you need for your kitchen, plus a counter with the locally made and European cheeses. Located opposite to the Market, the store is owned by a Paris native Marc Ast, the ever evolving and expanding store, the Corner is now also a destination. Marc soon became a confidant whose Polish roots were immediately explored and evolved into family-style conversations of three Europeans meeting together. These days, we continue where we left at the previous visit.

The first visit also included a stop at the Cameleer store of International Giftware and Aboriginal Handcrafts – a world of native simplicity offering an escape from the usual made in China products. It was on one of the first visits when we stepped into a European-style market called Food for Thought, which offered an outlet to a locally produced grass-fed meats, a stock of local cheeses, pies, and other homemade products. Today, the market is no more. Its then presence was now to be experienced by John and Connie’s Thyme Market.

A few weeks later, we “parked” at the It’s About Thyme, the first in the Thyme cuisine empire in Culpeper, opened in 1995, for a serving of ravioli and other fine foods. During the subsequent visits, we learned about what drives John Yarnall, his two daughters – Joclyn, now a Head Chef trained at Cordon Bleu in Paris, pictured with President Bill Clinton when he visited the spot in 2008, and Jodi, a Penn State graduate, now House Manager – and of course, Connie. As we met, Connie was ever so eager to take us through the stages of the Thyme establishments, including when a Thyme Inn was being added in a renovated space above the Market, adding an up-scale B&B space.

An obvious conclusion: It's like being in Europe.

Last-November, the Yarnalls extended their business by opening an adjacent to the Market, The Copper Fish Seafood Market and Raw Bar, co-owned with Dave Young. Connie insists, and we agree, that during our next visit we will be teased by a culinary experience with quality fish.

After we meet our friends, and enjoy the Virginia hospitality at the Thyme Market, we also take away a trinity of smells, tastes and creativity, all merged into an unforgettable moment that will carry us until the next Thyme in Culpeper experience, as they refer to an encounter with their town on http://www.thymeinfo.com.

Web sites to consider:www.visitculpeperva.com, www.frenchmancorner.com, www.cameleer.com, www.hazelriverinn.com.

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