As the sun slowly descends over Carter’s Creek, the evening is just beginning at The Tides Inn, located on Virginia’s Northern Neck. Out on the Chesapeake Terrace, fire pits are blazing, guests are mingling, beer is flowing, and I’m preparing my palate for consuming as many oysters as I can—in as many ways possible—in just one weekend.
My husband, Patrick, and I have traveled here on a Friday evening after work, easily accomplished in less than two hours from Norfolk. Tonight, the inn is hosting a Brewmaster’s Dinner where four delectable courses are paired with Devil’s Backbone brews selected by the brewery’s founder, Jason Oliver. Culinary offerings are prepared by The Tides’ executive chef, TV Flynn, who’s known for incorporating local and seasonal produce from Irvington farms and seafood from the Rappahannock River into his recipes.
Carter’s Creek is a tributary of the Rappahannock River, and oysters are a staple here at The Tides. Therefore, it’s no surprise that the first course is roasted Rappahannock oysters topped with a pickled watermelon rind mignonette. This pairs remarkably well with a tangy, crisp and fruity Cran-Gose from Devil’s Backbone.
As the mid-April chill begins to set in for the evening, we happily move the party indoors. We’re seated at a communal table with fresh spring flowers as a colorful plate of Northern Neck charcuterie comes our way. Guests pass around canning jars containing pickled vegetables of various sorts while sipping Five Apostles Saison Belgian-Inspired Farmhouse Ale, lending hints of fruit, coriander and spices.
For the main course, platters of roasted beef tenderloin, local rockfish and assorted vegetables are passed family-style for each guest to help themselves while enjoying a Golden Stag, a blended beer that starts off hoppy and ends smooth.
The evening culminates on The Tides’ beach as we huddle by a bonfire and roast marshmallows to be smooshed between two graham crackers and chocolate pieces. What better to go with s’mores than Devil’s Backbone’s Black Rock Milk Stout? After the roasting and toasting has concluded, we retreat to a guest room decorated in British colonial style and melt into the Egyptian cotton sheets.
The next morning, the sun seeps through the wooden blinds, coaxing us out of bed for coffees on the balcony overlooking Carter’s Creek. In need of an extra perk, we head to the inn’s Chesapeake Restaurant to enjoy cappuccinos and a hearty breakfast that includes fried oysters (hey, it’s never too early).
Afterward, we meet up with The Tides’ general manager, Gordon Slatford, a lively Englishman whose charming wit is equally as endearing and captivating as his accent. Slatford gives a tour of the inn, starting in the Chesapeake Club, where he asks, “All these little lockers—do you know why those are here?” We pause at a wall of small, walnut lockers, hesitantly attempting to formulate a guess before giving up. Happy to explain, Slatford tells that from the 1940s until about 1965, Lancaster County was dry, meaning folks couldn’t imbibe here (legally, that is). To get around this, the Chesapeake Club allowed their members to bring their own alcohol and store it inside the lockers. “We had a vessel down here; it was called Miss Ann,” Slatford explains. Passengers would board Miss Ann and head to the other side of the river where Urbanna is located to buy wine, beer and spirits to bring back to the inn. At dinnertime, club members would place their key on the table for a waiter to access the alcohol inside their locker and bring it to the table. “[Membership] would cost you a dollar,” Slatford says. “I think it went up to five dollars at the end.”
Gazing around the inn, it’s hard to imagine a ban on alcohol, especially today when they’re hosting the annual Taste of Spring event featuring unlimited beer tastings from nine Virginia breweries. There’s also local artisans and vendors, live music and food (including oysters, of course). We slurp a sampling from Windmill Point Oysters based in White Stone and then determine that we need more—many more.
Seated on the Chesapeake Terrace, we order a dozen Rappahannock Roasted oysters, topped with parmesan butter and gremolata, and a half dozen Angry Oysters. “We’ve got two products here that you absolutely have to do,” Slatford notes. “One is Angry Oysters.” Inspired by the popularity of America’s favorite appetizer, Slatford and Flynn decided to turn oysters into “buffalo wings” for a wine and oyster competition they had entered. The oysters are floured in breadcrumbs, deep fried, tossed in butter and hot sauce and served on a bed of cabbage slaw with watermelon rind relish. “I’ll tell you what—they are fantastic—absolutely fantastic,” Slatford says with unyielding confidence. “We won first prize.”
The other must-try is a Lancaster Lemonade (limoncello base with juice of half a lemon poured over ice and topped with Northern Neck Ginger Ale). “It’s got a bite to it,” Slatford declares. “It’s cold; its’ refreshing. And we top it off with lemon balm.” Better yet, when guests order a Lancaster Lemonade, they receive a packet of seeds to grow their own lemon balm at home.
Having each sampled a Lancaster Lemonade, Patrick and I take a brief intermission from the festival to borrow a couple bicycles (available for inn guests) and explore Irvington on two wheels. We won’t be gone for long, though. The sun will soon be setting over Carter’s Creek, and that means that there’s plenty more incredible moments to experience at The Tides—and plenty more oysters to eat, too.
Around the Resort
Premier Sailing, The Tides’ on-site sailing school, has options for adults, kids, families and corporate parties to learn to sail, no matter your skill level.
Golden Eagle Golf Club features exciting elevation changes and well placed bunkers. There’s also a Little Eagle Golf experience for youngsters to perfect their swing.
Journey Spa offers a full range of massage, facial and body treatments inspired by the waterfront setting.
Outside the Tides
The Dandelion, a delightful, lemon meringue-hued boutique (a former church parsonage) sells women’s apparel and accessories with some gifts, too.
Jimmy and Sook specializes in men, women and children’s clothing and accessories, all embroidered with a signature crab.
The Local, an inviting coffee shop serves breakfast, lunch and libations.
Trick Dog Bar & Bistro, a chic, contemporary restaurant serves wonderfully creative dinner options and fabulous cocktails.
Hope & Glory Inn is a boutique hotel with a charming schoolhouse vibe (including a detention-themed bar that guests just adore). Hope & Glory is owned by the same folks as The Dog and Oyster Vineyard (just five minutes away from The Tides).
Merroir, Rappahannock Oyster Co.’s tasting room, is located just 15 minutes across the river. As the name suggests, they specialize in oysters served all different ways, as well as artisanal plates with ever-changing creations.
Learn more and book an experience at TidesInn.com, and be sure to save the date for The Tides' 2017 Taste of Spring event on Saturday, April 22.