Archive for January, 2016


Historic Mimslyn Inn offers cottage lodging

Posted on Jan 26 2016 | By

Upscale inn takes luxury to next level

Since 1931, The Mimslyn Inn has been a jewel in Virginia lodging. Situated on a high knoll in the town of Luray with views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, its first guests were pampered in an era when luxury getaways were rare, especially during the Great Depression.

But such was the attraction of the hostelry that it prospered and attracted clientele from around the world. Of course, it didn’t hurt to be situated minutes from the world famous Luray Caverns.

In 2005, the Asam family purchased the inn and undertook an $8 million restoration project returning the establishment to its glory days. The Asam’s knew from lodging and dining having created the successful Bavarian Inn in Shepherdstown in W.Va.

Mimslyn Inn

Mimslyn Inn

The Mimslyn’s 45 rooms were historically restored and updated to provide all the amenities expected by today’s vacationers. Fine dining was also a focus since the Asam’s philosophy is “food first.” The inn’s two restaurants serve both hotel guests and the general public year round.

Since 2008, the restored hotel has seen a steady increase in business under the leadership of General Manager Jim Sims.

The fortuitous hiring of Sims occurred because the hotelier was seeking a less stressful working environment after more than three decades in the hospitality business. The resume he brought to the Mimslyn was impressive having worked as a celebrity chef, major ski resort manager, CEO of the YMCA and other restaurant management positions around the country.

“I started as a bellman at Skyland in the Shenandoah National Park and managed the Park City ski resort in Utah among many other jobs. At Park City I had 36 restaurants under one roof,” Sims said.

While the Mimslyn job enabled him to throttle back, he acknowledges it took a serious commitment to manage the inn’s large public spaces available for weddings and other group events. There have been 27 weddings held at the hotel in the last two years alone.

Jim Sims

Jim Sims

Sunday brunches have proven successful with both guests and locals. The full service buffet brunch typically serves 150 people each Sunday. “We have folks from Culpeper, Warrenton and Winchester who regularly join us for the buffet,” Sims said.

Unique special events are held once a month. Dinner shows featuring Frank Sinatra, Elvis and other tribute acts are consistently sold out.

The town of Luray has also benefited from his success. In 2004, the hotel generated $27,000 in occupancy taxes. Last year, it totaled $72,000.

In 2011, Sims was named lodging manager of the year by the Virginia Hospitality and Travel Association. Trip Advisor bestows the inn with a 4.5 star rating.

In an effort to further provide guests a quality lodging experience, Sims launched a cottage program in 2014. Today there are four cottages and a house for lease behind the hotel.

The six bedroom Manor House comes with a full service kitchen, fireplace, two dining areas that can accommodate up to 20 people, front porch with rocking chairs, pool, and Wi-Fi. The four cottages offer similar privacy and luxury accommodations.

“The occupancy rate of the house and cottages in the summer outpaces the hotel rooms,” said Sims. In March 2016, six additional cottages will be made available. Construction will occur during the winter months.

The cottages will feature a bedroom and living room design with heated tile floors and towel racks, mini kitchens and more. “All the luxuries you would expect in an upscale rental cottage will be incorporated in their design.”

Sims says tourism is up in Virginia and 2015 has been the best year The Mimslyn Inn has experienced. “It will continue. There is pent up demand, especially for visiting the national parks. It’s just the tip of the iceberg. Our guests are both local, regional and national.”

For more information on The Mimslyn Inn, its lodging rates and special events visit


John’s pick of the month

Stags Leap Wine Cellars


$75 (Circa ’31 restaurant)

The Mimslyn Inn’s wine list is a diverse selection of quality wines. Given that chilly winter winds have begun to blow, a bottle of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is the perfect match for a December dinner in the Circa ’31 dining room. The wine is fairly priced for a restaurant selection.

International wine critic Robert Parker rated the wine 90 points saying it “offers delicious blackcurrant fruit…an attractive meaty, rich blackcurrant fruitiness, well-integrated wood, and hints of spice and oak. Fleshy and medium-bodied but also made in the elegant style sought by this winery, it should drink well for 10-15 years.”


Published in the January 14, 2016 edition of the Culpeper times.

Categories : WINE ARTICLES

A guy walks into a bar

Posted on Jan 24 2016 | By

Part mixologist part psychiatrist bartenders pour from the heart

It may not be the oldest profession in the world but it runs a close second. Shortly after adult beverages were created some 9,000 years ago, variations of “Can I get you a drink?” have echoed down through the ages.

drinksToday, bartending has evolved into a noble—and demanding—profession. Top guns can pull down as much as $100,000 a year in wages and tips. But big money demands big talent, a prodigious memory and highly calibrated social skills.

Have trouble remembering recipes, names or dealing with irritating people? Then stick to the day job. And the big money? Only for the anointed few.

Nonetheless, almost 600,000 “bar tenders” nationwide play a valued role within the restaurant industry, often being the image of the restaurant or bar where they ply their trade.

Yes, a man walks into a bar but he is often drawn there by the genial and knowledgeable person manning it.

Bartenders can tie on the apron after graduating from an in-depth course costing around $500; or engage in on-the-job training as a bar-back, or assistant, as is more often case.

Schooling enables a student to learn how to make dozens of different cocktails and evaluate quality beer and wine. It also teaches the aspirant how to deal with the drinking public; a difficult and ultimately learned, not taught, skill.

So let’s recap the requirements: a quick mind, long hours on the feet, an assertive yet friendly personality and a multi-tasker with a sharp memory.

Bear all this in mind when it comes to the tip.

Fauquier County

Unlike big city nightlife, Fauquier supports a host of eating and drinking establishments that are spread across a relatively wide area. Traditional bar hopping in the Piedmont would require a sturdy pair of hiking boots.

The automobile—not walking—is the favored mode of transportation when planning to step up to the rail. It also typically means fewer drinks and less time face-to-face with your bartender. All the more reason to select a barkeep that you can connect with.

With the holidays upon us, let’s chat with a couple of Fauquier’s finest to get their take on the profession.

Connal Finn
McMahon’s Irish Pub & Restaurant
Finn, 30, is a native Irishman with a hospitality management background and the perfect brogue to work in an Irish pub. Arriving here is 2011 from the old sod, he was recruited by an agency looking for Irish talent to quench American thirsts.

Most popular drink? “The Fireball shooter (cinnamon-flavored whiskey) and Guinness draft.”

Fan club? “I’ve got my regulars but wouldn’t call it a fan club. My customers are laid back and come in for a few drinks and some conversation and are on their way. The fireplace in the winter is a draw too.

“And yes, some customers do cry on your shoulder so you become part of the conversation whether you intend to or not.”

Busiest time? “From November through St. Patrick’s Day; lots of parties around Thanksgiving and Christmas.”

The job? “As along as you’ve got your head on your shoulders and decent social skills it’s a good job. I enjoy it.”

Ivan Melson
The New Bridge
Melson, 38, is the General Manger with a bartending background of seven years at the restaurant. He’s been behind bars for a total of 16 years (no, not that kind) and has some sage observations on the profession.

Most popular drink? “Martinis; Dirty, Vodka and 007s. Scotch is a favorite too, especially our scotch and cigar tastings.”

Fan club? “Not a fan club but people do come in and ask advice or seek consolation, absolutely. I’ve said I’m an underpaid psychiatrist. People will say they shouldn’t be sharing with me but I tell them I’m paid to keep secrets.”

Busiest time? “November through March. The day before Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve are the busiest.”

Toughest customer? “Somebody who knows exactly what they want. A good friend of mine wants a Martini with just one drop of Vermouth and two olives not three.

“Also someone who has had too much to drink. Unlike most service jobs, in this business the customer is not always right. You need to tell them when they’ve had enough. I’m responsible for them and won’t continue to serve just because they’ve had a bad day. Often they will come back the next day and thank me.”

The job? “It’s not for everybody. You have to love what you’re doing and be a people person. There are challenges every day. But I’m a social creature and I like a little chaos in my life.”

Unleash your inner bartender
BarThe pros know dozens of cocktail recipes by heart. But who has the time or inclination to follow suit? Simply pick a few of your favorites and commit them to memory. Here’s a starter kit of three faves.

Dirty Martini
2 ounces of vodka or gin
1 dash dry vermouth
3 stuffed green olives
1 ounce brine from olive jar
In a tumbler combine the vodka, vermouth, brine and olives. Pour ingredients over ice and strain into chilled cocktail glass.

Fireball Tart
1 ounce Fireball Whiskey
½ ounce pomegranate liqueur
Squeeze of lemon juice
Pour each ingredient into a rocks glass filled with ice. Stir well and serve.

1.5 ounces of spiced rum
10 pieces of mint
1 tsp. sugar
½ lime juice
2 oz. soda water
Place majority of mint leaves in bottom of glass. Add crushed ice, rum, sugar and lime juice and gently stir. Add soda water and garnish with remaining mint leaves.

Published in the Winter 2015 edition of inFauquier magazine.

Categories : HAGARTY TALES

Let it snow!

Posted on Jan 19 2016 | By

VDOT and Town of Warrenton poised to plow

Typically two camps form when the white stuff falls; lovers and aginners. But eventually most folks meld into a single mindset; melt already.

Welcome to the paradox of a winter wonderland. As snowflakes drift down on our pastoral Piedmont landscapes, scenes unfold reminisce of a Currier and Ives print.

It’s simply beautiful.

But the reality shifts from delight to work after the storm moves on. Let’s get those driveways and walks cleared. And oh by the way, “Where are the snow plows?”

Fortunately, Fauquier County answers that question before the snow begins accumulating. It’s taken for granted that our highways and byways will be asphalt black in short order. Why?

Because there’s no plan like a snow plan.

snowplowFauquier County has two entities responsible for clearing its roadways; Virginia Department of Transportation and the Town of Warrenton.

Throughout the Old Dominion VDOT is responsible for the vast majority of the state’s more than 57,000 miles of roads.

Larger towns typically clear its snow-clogged streets without state assistance.

The scope of VDOT’s responsibilities is impressive. In Fauquier the agency maintains 2,040 lane-miles of roadway. A lane mile is the length of a road at its centerline multiplied by the number of lanes. A one-mile section of a four-lane road equals four lane-miles.

The county is maintained by the VDOT Culpeper District that has responsibility for nine counties; Fauquier being the northernmost. About 50 personnel and an equal number of trucks are assigned to snow duty in the county. Contractors augment the force when conditions dictate.

Planning for an upcoming winter begins in the spring. New snow crew employees are trained, routes assigned and equipment repairs made to assure the fleet is in action-ready mode by fall.

County roadways are segmented into three priority categories:

I-66 and major routes connected to airports, major cities, hospitals and military bases are targeted first. When those roads are cleared, primary roads with route numbers 1 through 599 are the focus of the cleanup. Finally, secondary roads with route numbers 600 and above are plowed.

Subdivisions with route numbers 1,000 and up are included in the third category. As each category of roadway is cleared, plows move on to the next segment. The goal is have all roads cleared within 48 hours of the end of a storm; a target that is often achieved in less time.

One way VDOT gets a jump start on roadbeds is to spray brine on I-66 and primary roads before a storm hits. “The liquid salt spray will only be employed if temperatures are below freezing and a weather system is expected to begin as snow not rain,” said Stacy Londrey, acting communications director with the Culpeper District.

In a heavy snowfall the agency will employ a one lane clearing approach to subdivision plowing. This enables residents to break free from their homes and head to work or go shopping. Hours later the crews return to finish plowing the entire roadbed.

Londrey advises, “The VDOT customer service center number is 1-800-367-7623.” However, she underscores that during snow storms immediate call backs may be difficult to make. Nonetheless, calls to the center will alert field management of possible plowing delays.

Town of Warrenton
The Public Works department is responsible for snow removal of the town’s 95 lane miles. John Ward, superintendent of public works, directs the town’s snow removal. He has a staff of 22 workers assigned to 12 hour shifts around the clock until all roads are cleared.

Eleven pieces of equipment are employed, including six dump trucks with plows and spreaders, one dump truck with a plow and four pickups with plows. One truck is assigned to continuously clear Broadview Avenue.

In addition to the town’s roads, he is responsible for clearing all the municipal parking lots and the access road and parking lot of the Warrenton Aquatic and Recreation Facility.

One tricky challenge his crews face is learning the location of the town’s manhole covers. “Some of the manholes stick up a little and if you don’t know where they are you are going to get a big jolt when you are plowing. After they learn the locations they lift the plow just a touch and go over it,” Ward said.

Sounds like a cavity rattling experience for newbie drivers.

The town has a dispatch center that residents can call with questions about road conditions or status of unplowed roads. “Most citizens are very appreciative of all our snow plowing efforts,” Ward said.

The center is manned 24 hours a day and can be reached at (540) 347-1107.

Easy does it when wheeling in the snow
Compared to years ago, driving in snow has become less challenging. Tire chains and rear-wheel drive vehicles have faded from today’s snowy roads. Four-wheel and front wheel cars and trucks now make getting stuck less likely.

Nonetheless, a bit of skill needs to be employed when the white stuff sticks. Arriving safely at your destination is pretty much a given when you drive with care.

Here are few tips for mastering the white stuff when behind the wheel
*Accelerate and deaccelerate slowly to maximize traction. A deft touch will eliminate fishtailing and skidding off roadbeds.
*Do not use cruise control. Much like the mystics you want to be in touch with your inner car. Reaction times are much quicker in the white stuff.
*Gas your car up when storms threaten to avoid gas line freeze-up.
*Never move the car until your seat belt is securely fasten.
*Create an emergency box in the trunk consisting of a blanket, power snacks, gloves, hat and water. If you become snowbound, remain in your car. Help will likely arrive shortly.
*Don’t stop on hills if you can avoid it. A steady firm acceleration up steep grades will help eliminate spinning tires.
*And finally, consider staying at home until the roads are clear. If you don’t have obligations, sit back in the easy chair and enjoy the winter wonderland from indoors.

Published in the Winter 2016 edition of inFauquier magazine.

Categories : HAGARTY TALES