After a late night on the road last night, we slept in a little, and awoke in Yorktown for our first day of activities in the Virginia’s Historic Triangle (Jamestown, Yorktown, and Williamsburg).
Faith and I were awake first, so we headed out to find some caffeine and breakfast for everyone while Cody and Morgan got Lizzie ready for the day. After realizing it would be difficult to walk due to the very steep embankment off the townhome’s back deck, we drove a short distance to historic downtown Yorktown to Mobjack Bay Coffee Roasters and Petite Cafe. The cafe is in a historic building that was a residence and mercantile in the early 18th century. We got some coffees to go, a blueberry muffin, blueberry danish, banana bread, crumb cake, and a vanilla cream filled “bombalini” (kind of like a mini cream puff). It was an excellent start to the day, albeit late.
We loaded up the car, and after stopping at Target to grab some provisions, we headed over to the Colonial Williamsburg Visitor Center to orient ourselves and validate our weekend entrance passes.
King's Arms Tavern
By the time we got to Williamsburg, found a parking spot, fed the babies again, and walked over to Duke of Gloucester Street, it was already time to eat lunch. Cody had planned for us to eat the “Midday Bill of Fare” at the King’s Arms Tavern, a restaurant first opened in 1772 that serves period-accurate dishes created from original 18th century recipes. While expensive, it’s a neat experience, and I’m glad we did it once. On the menu, items are listed alongside the original recipe text. I’ll list below what we ordered, and the recipes for each dish.
Starters: Proper rules to be observed in making soups and broths. In the first place, take great care that your soup-pots and covers are kept very clean inside and out…Lastly, for all brown and white soups cut the crust of a French roll in round or square pieces and crisp them before the fire.
Westphalia Ham: Rub with sugar & let it lie till night…then rub salt peter beatfine a pound of common salt & let lie three weeks…dry with wood smoke. Sent to the table with cheese, good chutney & bread toasted on the gird iron.
Peanut Soupe: Take clear butter, onions, shred fine carrots and celery, stew them with your peanuts… when they are enough pass through a sieve…send to take with cream whipped to stand having pepper & nutmeg beat fine…
A Soupe of Squash: Having prepared a good broth take your squash, a bunch of sweet herbs & bring to a boil…when enough add new cream & pass through a sieve.
To Stew a Duck in the French Way: Roasted leg quarter to a light brown then placed in a step pan with claret, thyme, marjoram, savory, rosemary, peppercorns & mace.
Chicken Hash: Take a chicken & stew it in good broth with onion, sweet herbs & parsley…thicken with butter & some flour…served on trenchers.
An Onion Pye: Pare some potatoes…apples…onions & slice them…make a good crust. Lay in a layer of potatoes, layer of onion, a layer of apple, & a layer of eggs until you have filled your pie, strewing seasoning between each layer. Close your pye & bake it an hour & a half.
King's Arms Tavern
Colonial Williamsburg, VA
Period fare in a setting that’s more about experience than quality. The food is very good, though.
After lunch, we strolled to the east end of Duke of Gloucester Street to the historic capitol building, arriving just in time to take one of their guided tours. We learned how the existing British system of government effected the structure of the American government soon to be shaped by discussions in Williamsburg, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and throughout the other colonies.
Next, we toured the Raleigh Tavern, stopping first at the Tavern’s bakery to get some cookies for a snack. The tour of the tavern was very interesting, especially the billiard’s room in the back. This room could be rented out by the hour, and since it was in the back, and had shuttered windows for even more privacy, many of the Founding Fathers rented out this room to host their treasonous discussions when in town. The tavern’s operator was a Patriot sympathizer, so he hosted the likes of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Patrick Henry at the Raleigh Tavern.
We spent the remainder of the afternoon popping in and out of the trade shops in Williamsburg. I won’t bore you by trying to inadequately explain the physical, economic, political, etc. details of each craft, but I will say each one was very interesting in its own way. I’ll simply list each shop we visited. First up: the silversmith, milliner, and a stroll down one of Williamsburg’s scenic backstreets.
Next, we went to the shop that housed the cabinetmaker and harpsichord maker.
After this, we headed to the tin plate worker and blacksmith.
Next up: the bookbinder, printer, and tanner.
Finally, we walked through the gardener’s rows, and enjoyed strolling through some of the gardens behind Williamburg’s historic houses.
Fife and Drum Corps
Faith and I walked towards the campus of William and Mary to find a place for her to fill up her water bottle, and then met Cody and Morgan back at the courthouse, passing by the governor’s mansion on the way.
The Fife & Drum Corps plays on the lawn at 16:30 most days. We grabbed a spot on the grass and watched their 20 minute performance.
Back to Yorktown
By this time, we were all very hungry from walking around all day (we’d logged many miles!), so we decided to head back to the car and drive back to Yorktown in search of dinner. We made a quick detour to see some horses, which the babies very much enjoyed.
It was only a temporary distraction though, because everyone’s stomachs were growling. We took the scenic Colonial Parkway back to Yorktown, enjoying the fall colors as we drove. The drive reminded me a lot of the Blue Ridge Parkway. We also enjoyed a nice sunset over the York River.
We picked up dinner from Umi Sushi, a tiny shack that apparently serves up a ton of rolls (800+) per day.
We ordered a variety of rolls, including a large “Maki roll”, and after convincing the owner and patrons that we were ordering food for four very hungry people and not just the two of us, we pick up our food and headed back to the townhome. The food was outstanding, and you could tell the ingredients were high quality. Everything we tried was delicious!
Delicious sushi in an unassuming shack by the York River. Would highly recommend this place; everything we had was top-notch.
After dinner, I drove out to Italian Delights, a bakery and cafe close to Newport News. I picked up a slice of lemon cream cake, two servings of tiramisu, and two cannoli for dessert. The cannoli were pretty good and the cake was okay, but the tiramisu was not good at all – it basically had no coffee flavor, and was 95% cream with none of the other ingredients.
Bad dessert aside, it had been a great day. We’re looking forward to going at it again tomorrow!
Here’s a short video from today’s adventures.
The Best Things we Saw Today
The best thing I saw today was… “the woodworking shop at Williamsburg, also the tour guides were excellent”.
The best thing I ate today was… “sushi”.
The best thing I saw today was… “the silversmith’s shop and the fife & drum corps”.
The best thing I ate today was… “sushi and the squash soupe”.
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Tomorrow, we’ll explore Yorktown and Colonial National Historic Park, and drive to Norfolk for a football game.
– The Churches and McKinneys