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Just Outside D.C.

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WHAT IS IT? An 18th-century Federal manor house-hotel off the beaten cobblestone path in the heart of Old Town Alexandria, Virginia. Owner Peter Greenberg runs the inn like an intime Relais & Château hotel (which it just recently became), with period furnishings and tea in the library, but it's just 15 minutes from Reagan National Airport—perfect for a quiet D.C. weekend.

WHAT WE LOVE At the Elysium Dining Room there is no set menu. Gian Piero Mazzi prefers to create one based on what you want and what's fresh at market. Take my recent multi-course menu (served sans beef, as requested, and in tapas-like portions): chilled melon-mango soup; soppressata and buffalo mozzarella; kajiki with goat-cheese gnocchi and radicchio; halibut with truffled eggplant risotto; thumb-sized leaves of wild arugula with apple carpaccio in lemon-verbena vinaigrette; and a chocolate-almond macaroon with coconut flan.

OUR FAVORITE ROOM Light and airy no. 303, with its ivory walls, Audubon prints, and decorative fireplaces; next door is red-and-white 302, with its Baccarat chandelier, brass wall sconces, and canopy bed. Both rooms have charming views of the tree-lined streets.

CAVEAT EMPTOR Some of the 42 rooms are small with little closet space and decor that verges on department-store "ye olde Colonial." Suite 509 (one of three suites) was large enough but dark and looked more like a corporate boardroom.

Rooms, $175-$575. At 116 South Alfred Street; 800-367-0800, 703-838-8000;


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