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FOOD- THE DISH- Blue refuge<span class="s1">: <i>Post</i> highlights gay-friendly inn</span>

As the Hook pointed out in its November 16, 2006, cover story, "Is our town the Little Apple?", Charlottesville is a gay-friendly refuge in a largely gay-unfriendly state. While Virginians voted overwhelmingly (58 percent) to approve the state's marriage amendment last November– which essentially amounted to a ban on gay marriage– Charlottesville voters rejected it by the largest margin in the state, nearly 80 percent.

In a Washington Post article last week, that reputation for tolerance received a further boost, as the paper called the Inn at Court Square "one of the most gay-friendly hotels in Virginia." The article profiled Court Square's owner, Candace DeLoach, who says she's "thrilled" by the special attention. 

The popular inn– which also offers one of the best breakfast and lunch menus in town– has been featured in high-profile magazines and newspapers before, says DeLoach, but never from a gay-friendly angle.

"The Post writer said he visited a number of gay-friendly places in Virginia," says DeLoach, who is gay, "but he chose to feature the Inn at Court Square... I was very honored."

Of course, the article mentions our blue politics as a reason for our tolerance, but it also focuses on the Downtown Mall's urban culture, where same-sex couples can be seen strolling and dining, and where clubs like Gravity Lounge and Club 216 cater to gay clientele.

"I've always felt comfortable walking down the mall with my partner," says DeLoach, who adds, "I've been here 15 years, and I've always felt comfortable."

Still, DeLoach acknowledges that there are places in the Virginia hinterlands, places not so far away, that are not so accepting. "I'm careful not to go to places where I might make people uncomfortable," she says magnanimously.

As for Charlottesville, she thinks the growth and popularity of the Mall, combined with the growing acceptance of gays nationally, has made it even more accepting in recent years.

One question she was asked didn't make it into the article, says DeLoach.

"The writer asked me how I train my staff," she says. "I thought it was an interesting question. Apparently, some places need to train their staffs to deal with gay people, but the answer came to me immediately. I didn't train them. I didn't have to train them. They wouldn't work for me, and wouldn't want to, if they didn't like gay people."

Northern progression

Northern Exposure manager Jeff Hale tells Dish that the West Main eatery, which was added to Coran Capshaw's collection of restaurants last year, has decided to close its doors to walk-in business and concentrate exclusively on catering. In a move that clearly speaks to the increasingly competitive restaurant biz, Hale and Capshaw hope to keep Northern Exposure's name alive by focusing on where the money is. 

"The Northern Exposure is unique in that it has three separate banquets rooms and, of course, the roof-top deck," says Hale. "We already specialized in rehearsal dinners, having hosted 28 last year, and as of today we have 15 on the books for this year."

To that end, Hale and Capshaw have aquired Applause Catering to offer full off-premises catering as well as event hosting at the former restaurant.

"While it's sad to see an institution like Northern change gears," says Hale, "I think this is just the natural progression of the business."

Kisses from Ms. Kluge

Lastly, Fuel Co. and Kluge Estate Farm Shop spokesperson Kristin Moses informs Dish that Patricia Kluge's duo of dining destinations is offering some special Valentine's Day treats. At the Farm Shop, gift baskets will feature Kluge's SP Blanc de Blanc sparkling wine and their award-winning pink sparkler, SP Rosé. The baskets will also contain limited edition chocolates and caramels by Serge Torres and a selection of artisanal cheeses, among "other goodies to pamper the palate," says Moses. Children's baskets with heart-shaped cookies and sparkling apple cider will also be available. 

Closer to town, Fuel Co. will be offering a prix fixe dinner on February 14 for $65 per sweetheart. According to Moses, highlights will include oysters with caviar, wild sea bass with butter vanilla vinaigrette, grilled rack of lamb and "simply "red risotto, with dessert by Serge Torres. 

Yum. Sounds so good Dish might have to find a date! 

The Washington Post recently called the Court Square Inn "one of the most gay-friendly hotels in Virginia."