Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Clifton Forge and New York Hospitality

Clifton Forge, Virginia, a small town in the Allegheny Mountains, is home to the Masonic Amphitheater, a unique outdoor venue. The WannaBeatles first played there two years ago, as reported in an earlier blog (Virginia Tour, 30August2013)

Here's a photo of the Masonic Amphitheater from that earlier blog:

The design is very creative: the walls around the stage are interlocking panels of three different metals, while the exterior uses wood to imitate a stylized ocean wave. We learned it was the result of an architectural competition, with the winning design coming from students at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg.

Clifton Forge made us feel welcome. They provided a lovely local inn for our lodging, The Red Lantern Inn, with a wonderful hostess, Joanne, who even ironed our shirts before we went onstage.

We always had an enthusiastic crowd for our show. 

New York Hospitality

But the best part of Clifton Forge for us was probably Vic's, a local restaurant that provides authentic New York pizza and Italian food in a remote corner of northwestern Virginia.

All of that was true for our first visit to Clifton Forge in 2013, and gave us more to anticipate as we returned each year. This was our third visit in a row, and again we were looking forward to our encounter with Steve Greenblatt, the owner and main chef at Vic's restaurant. Since Dennis is from New York, and since the other WannaBeatles have been there and appreciate good food, we felt like hanging out with Steve was like being in New York. 

Steve went out of his way to accommodate us. First of all, it was a Sunday, when his restaurant was usually closed, but he opened it just for us. (This is starting to sound like something John, Paul, George and Ringo would have experienced.) Secondly, he actually took our orders as we were driving from Bethesda to Clifton Forge, so we could imagine the steaming plates of home-made lasagna as we neared our destination.

OK, here we are, Sunday, August 30, 2015, on our way to our last gig in a long weekend. This is actually Part 4 of the series, the final installment, including our trip home to Nashville.

Part 1 was Franklin, Indiana, and our first visit to the Artcraft Theater; Part 2, Springfield, Ohio featured a promotional video in the lobby of the Hampton Inn; Part 3 was our return to Bethesda Jazz and Blues Club.

And so, this day begins by saying goodbye to Bethesda.

Dennis saying goodbye with a luggage rack 
and a copy of "Fab Fan Memories"
Loading the trailer

We drove along the beltway, along the west side of Washington, then west past exits for Manassas Battlefield, and on across Virginia, looking forward to our next destination. Talking to Steve on our way there gave us a chance to order great Italian food and anticipate a delicious meal.

Our first stop in Clifton Forge was our familiar home, The Red Lantern Inn. 
WannaBeatle David relaxes on porch
One of four lovely rooms provided at Red Lantern Inn

Then we unloaded our gear at the amphitheater and set up.
David sets up drums as Dennis checks set list
 WannaBeatle Dennis sweats the details
Our sound man setting up mic

The Red Lantern Inn is about two blocks from the amphitheater, and walking back and forth is a pleasant trip across a creek.
View of creek beside amphitheater
View of amphitheater from bridge

We took care to prepare our "Wannabeatles Boutique," which other bands call their merch table.
Our products on display, along with our new pop-up banner

Then we headed over to Vic's. Walking through downtown, we passed a poster in the window of a store advertising our show.

When we arrived at Vic's, Steve joked around with us, pretending not to recognize us as we knocked on his door. Then he unlocked it and let us in, and we had the place to ourselves. 

As mentioned in the blog from two years ago, Vic's was built in 1922, and it still has the ambience of a restaurant that has been serving delicious home-made food for nearly a century.

Since Steve comes from New York, he brings that cuisine and attitude with him. Even though he's Jewish, he cooks great Italian food. 

Nathan with Steve at table, with salads served

Our host Steve, with WannaBeatles Nathan, Dennis, and David 

Steve had set the table with salads as our first course. Then he brought out the main dishes - for me, a thick lasagna with melted cheese draped over the top. 

Then he brought out his own bread, steaming in a basket, emanating a delicious aroma. It was about the best bread we had ever tasted, totally fresh from the oven. 

I asked Steve what his secret was, and he said pizza dough - something he's been making since his childhood, and he continues to experiment with the formula and temperature.
We were treated to great food, great stories, and the most unlikely New York hospitality in an unlikely corner of Virginia, and we were very grateful. 
Steve gives us the high sign after that fabulous meal

As usual, there are no photos from the show, due to Bloggin' Bryan being busy with other activities. Then after all the gear had been packed up, I got a couple of shots of the amphitheater at night, which is just as distinctive as its daytime appearance.
View of Masonic Amphitheater at night

Then, the next morning, it was our trip home.

But first, posing for a photo on the porch of the Red Lantern Inn.
WannaBeatles in civilian attire, arms outstretched

And then we made our way down I-81, toward Tennessee.
WannaBeatle Dennis pumping gas
WannaBeatle Nathan not quite awake
WannaBeatle David busy on the phone
WannaBeatle Bryan does selfie with Puffin

And had lunch at a Subway
Ordering lunch at the Subway counter
Salad being fixed

And appreciated the beautiful day, and lovely sights alongside the road.
Roadside barn along Blue Ridge Parkway

But best of all was getting home to Nashville.

Thanks to WannaBeatle Dennis for booking the tour, and to WannaBeatle David for driving, and to Steve Greenblatt in Clifton Forge for some delicious food and classic New York hospitality.

We felt very welcome, and enjoyed it tremendously. We would love to go back and enjoy it again.

Bloggin' Bryan 20October2015

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