I purchased two discounted vouchers via AAA Member Deals for $29 each. (Regular adult admission price is $59 each). I called to reserve a spot and found that Friday and Saturday nights fill up many weeks in advance, so I settled on a Thursday evening. When I called, the woman that answered the phone never broke character and always addressed me as "My Lady" which I thought was a nice touch as I envisioned the person on the other end of the phone dressed in full medieval garb.
We arrived at 6:40pm for the 7:00pm show and were immediately addressed as "My Lord" and "My Lady". They pre-assigned seats as our names were on pieces of paper on top of our plates. There were several returning guests and it seemed that they seated them at the front of the room. However, there was not a bad seat in the house. There are two long tables and guests are seated along both sides of the tables. I would guess the room fits about 100 people.
Upon being seated our "wench" explained the rules. If we needed her service, we were to exclaim, "WENCH!", which was amusing. There were baskets of bread on the table as well as bowls of blueberries, butter, honey mustard sauce and homemade pear sauce (which is delicious, made fresh daily, and can be purchased to take home with you). The bread was warm and tasty with the butter and pear sauce. We were also told that we would be eating with our hands which caused us to Google when the fork was invented. (If you're wondering, the fork was most likely invented during the Byzantine Empire, but did not become common in most of Europe until the 18th century.) It's not really awkward eating with your hands when everyone else is doing it. They give you towels as napkins to make up for it!
Included with your dinner is one chalice of mead (raspberry flavored honey wine) or two mugs of ale. They give you the chalice or mug at the beginning of the evening and you have to return them in order to leave. (The mugs apparently cost $20 each and they had 20 of them disappear in one evening, so they have this new policy of personally returning your drinkware before you leave.) My husband does not like beer OR wine, but he enjoyed the mead. I tasted it as well and it was very good. I had the ale and it was cold and delicious! There is a bar in the back of the room where you can purchase additional beers and wines which all have a heritage dating back to the 1400s. They also had sodas for purchase, and if you brought your soda can back to the bar, they would give you a free refill.
When it was time for the meal, the four courses were explained to us. The food was served family-style meaning that they would put a plate of each food on the table for every 6 guests and you were to pass it among the six people you were assigned to share with. The first course was the bread on the table. The second course was sausage (which was good with the pear sauce), spiced carrots and roast beef. The third course was roasted chicken and yam puffs (sweet potato tater tots). The final course was a slice of pound cake. Since they were trying to prepare food as it would have been prepared in the 1400s, it was fairly simply, but very tasty. I try to eat all-natural as much as possible, so it was easy for me to eat the food. They do not prepare the food with any salt, so they hand a salt shaker to a few people and deem them the "High Keeper of the Salt". You are supposed to ask the High Keeper permission to use the salt, but it's just another fun thing thrown in. The only thing that needed salt was the carrots. Normally I don't like sausage, but this sausage was delicious and went well with the pear sauce. The roast beef was well done, but tender. The chicken was mostly dark meat and was moist and delicious. The yam puffs were just sweet potato tater tots, but were good as well. The only thing that was disappointing was the pound cake. They explained to us that there weren't really desserts in the 1400s. In that case they should have just given us all a bowl of berries because the pound cake was dry, tasteless and obviously store-bought. We were encouraged to put the pear sauce on the pound cake, but then it just tasted like I was eating foam covered in pear sauce.
The show itself was mildly humorous. The theme of the show was a debate between the Duke and Duchess. The banter between the two was always sexually charged. Every joke seemed to be about lack of sexual endurance or the duke having an affair. The fair maidens (server wenches) would sing naughty songs in between acts. The most humorous part of the show was when Friar Muck would walk around the room with signs between each debate question. There were several pre-teen children in attendance, but it seemed that most of them weren't paying close attention to what the actors were saying and may or may not have understood the sexual nature of the comedy. After the show, we were treated to a sword battle between two knights. The two that were dueling were actual students of "medieval martial arts". A bowl was passed around to collect a purse for the winner. The winning knight ended up with $100.
At the end of the show we were invited to hang out and keep drinking, but since we both had to go to work the next day we turned in our drinkware, tipped our wench and hit the road. (On another note, street parking in Old Town Alexandria is free after 7pm, so we only had to pay 80 cents for the 20 minutes we were parked before 7pm.) We departed the Great Hall at 9:45pm so we were there for 3 hours total.
My husband and I both enjoyed ourselves and were happy we found something new to do in the DC area. I'd probably go back if there was another coupon deal, but I wouldn't pay full price.
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