What’s Brewing Down in Northern Virginia?

Loudoun County, Virginia, has no shortage of local breweries, combining water, barley, yeast and hops in ways that are sure to please anyone’s palate. With the 7th annual D.C. Beer Week bubbling up Aug. 9 to 16, it’s the perfect time to try some of the crispest, most authentic and best-crafted beers in the region. Pinpointing a single top-notch brewery in Loudoun County is nearly impossible given the 19 contenders. But, to get you started, the following establishments are well worth checking out: Lost Rhino Brewing Company offers an extensive selection of year-round and seasonal beers to visitors, who can tour the brewery on Saturdays. Tours run every hour from 1 to 5 p.m. For $8, participants get a souvenir tasting glass and four sample fillings. Those unable to trek to this Ashburn establishment aren’t out of luck, since Lost Rhino is among the 25 regional breweries participating in D.C. Beer Week’s Blind and Bitter event on Aug. 14. Scion Restaurant, at 2100 P St. NW near Dupont Circle, will host the event, in which patrons blindly taste a hoppy brew from each of the breweries and vote for their favorite. Lost Rhino opened a second Ashburn location this year, the Lost Rhino Retreat, with a full food menu. Both have live musical entertainment on Fridays and Saturdays. Another Ashburn establishment, Old Ox Brewery, utilizes over 9,000 square feet of its building space for beer production. Old Ox has three core beers that are brewed year-round, plus a rotating selection of seasonal and experimental drinks. Tours of the production space take place Saturday afternoons on a first come, first served basis. The tasting room is open Wednesday through Sunday. Though no food is served at Old Ox, visiting food trucks are on the premises most weekends. In Fairfax County a selection of 22 local and regional craft beers are in store for those who visit Barrel and Bushel, an American-style restaurant and bar located in the Hyatt Regency Tysons Corner. Barrel and Bushel’s drink menu consists of lagers, stouts and ales, as well as wines and bourbon. For those looking to sample a variety of brews, flight trays are offered with four glasses of beer. Choose from one of five flights on the menu or create your own from the beers on tap. If hard cider, with its crisp, smooth taste, sounds more appealing than beer, Loudoun’s latest micro-cidery is not to be missed. Wild Hare Cider, which officially opened its Bluemont doors last month, specializes in transforming the ripest apples from Shenandoah Valley orchards into a fresh drink to be enjoyed any time of year. Wild Hare’s tasting room is open on weekends; Saturday hours vary and Sunday hours are noon to 5 p.m.

The White Elephant

Every trip to the town of Middleburg, VA, warrants a visit to a special place: The White Elephant. Since my church always had an annual white elephant sale, I immediately understood the significance of the name. It was 22 years ago that two sisters and their mother began what has become a must-visit, must-purchase-something store. Sisters Leslie and Cynthia Broockman, with their late mother Gloria, began in 1988 with what they considered a brief indoor garage sale. It was winter and too cold to sell on the sidewalk some of the furniture and other excess items they no longer needed after moving up from Florida. So, as fate would have it, they were offered an empty room, which happened to be an unused storefront in Middleburg, to conduct a sale. It was only meant to last two days. Instead, the idea of "consignments" flew into the picture and the "sale" continues to this day. "Follow your dreams," their mother advised her daughters. The dream became a reality as chance encounters led to the creation of what are now two consignment shops, one in Middleburg and one in nearby Warrenton. Cynthia says, "If you have the courage to dream and wait patiently with complete faith, they'll come true." Despite all the odds, and there were many, the story behind this family not only creating a consignment business (quite by accident) but allowing the venture to help others serves as an inspiration to anyone wishing to follow their dream. On a recent visit to Middleburg, I walked into The White Elephant and, not needing anything in particular, but always curious, headed down the aisle of antiquities. There are two sides to the store plus a basement divided into two sides. On the left, you will find a collection of apparel and accessories. Many of these are new. None are over two years old. Everything from jeans to evening gowns, jewelry to shoes. On the right are "decorative accents and furniture." All incoming consignments are carefully screened for quality. You will not have to search through "junk" to find valuable items. This particular day, I observed a man looking closely at certain items, making notes, and walking on to carefully study another object. I had to ask, "Are you an antique collector?" Yes, he was. Not only a collector but, I believe, although he would not tell me as much, he had a business selling antiques. I was not surprised. In our home are signs of The White Elephant everywhere. I won’t tell. Okay, maybe I will, just to entice you. But you must keep our secret! One day, we brought home an art nouveau side table for the living room. On another occasion, we came home with a three piece entertainment console for downstairs. And a few years ago, we could not resist a beautiful Oriental rug. Many items at The White Elephant are one of a kind, including paintings, jewelry, and china. The choices change constantly, so you must make a habit of snooping. Reasonably priced, many items are one of a kind and many are collectable. Their collections, which change almost daily (since the inventory and sales are continuous, seven days a week), are incredible. For wedding gifts, graduation gifts, birthdays, and for your personal collections, it is hard to resist a purchase at the White Elephant. There are always lovely, helpful ladies working at the shop should you have any questions. Plus I always meet fascinating people many of whom, like me, make it a priority to poke around the hidden treasures and rarely leave empty-handed. Visit The White Elephant at 103 West Federal Street in Middleburg or www.whitelephant.com. [gallery ids="102670,102609,102661,102652,102643,102619,102635,102628" nav="thumbs"]

Taste of Summer: How to Shop at a Farmers Market

From the spring through the early summer, farmers markets around the Washington area swell with the season’s bounty. From asparagus and strawberries to fresh lettuce, zucchini and eggplant, there is a certain sensation about being able to simply eat nature’s offerings right out of the ground that is unique from other seasons. Perhaps it is the soft, crisp seasonality of these fruits and veggies, which lend themselves to a myriad of flavor sensations, but the varieties and flavors of local produce are stunning. They awaken a spirit within us of a more primal nature—and one that also wouldn’t mind drizzling olive oil and basil over a sliced red tomato and kicking back with a bottle of Viognier. Farmer’s markets, simply put, offer the best and freshest produce in the area. And with more than 160 farmers markets in and around the nation’s capital, you’re sure to find one no matter where you are or what day you shop. Farmers empty their trucks of recently harvested produce throughout the week, coming in from Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia with more than just fruits and vegetables, but local honey, homemade jams, fresh flowers, artisan bread, and even local meat and cheese. Here’s a guide to what to look for from your local farmers in farmer’s markets now, as well as a few recipes from local farmers. Lydia’s Fields is a Wheatland, Va., based farm that sells their produce at Arlington Courthouse Farmers Market in Va. and the Market at UMD in College Park, Md., as well as supplying restaurants around the area. Marsha, who helps run the farm, has a long list of her veggies to watch right now: kohlrabi, Swiss chard, squash blossoms, escarole, cucumbers, summer squash and eggplant are all on her list, with a few other curveballs. Dandelion greens, for instance, are a dense and bitter green leaf that looks like a weed—in fact, it is a weed—but is known throughout the farming community for its nutritional value, loaded with vitamin A and calcium. If you cook them the right way and pair them with the right ingredients, they become a unique and tasty treat. Because the greens are bitter, they pair perfectly with rich flavors: think goat cheese, egg yolk, bacon, potatoes. A long-standing favorite of many farmers is also kale—resilient and hearty, it is as nutritiously dense as it is tasty. Red Russian kale is a slightly softer variety which cooks faster and, if you can acclimate yourself, is even edible raw. Marsha’s recipe for red Russian kale salad is a winner. For the dressing, mix tahini with olive oil, pressed garlic, salt and pepper (think of it as hummus dressing), and squeeze a good amount of lemon over the kale about fifteen minutes beforehand to soften. Mix the greens with the dressing, and toss with roasted pine nuts, dried cranberries or raisins, and even chickpeas for texture, then serve as a starter salad or eat with a hunk of artisan bread for lunch. There’s easily enough flavor and nutrition in there for a light meal. Francis and Jean of Roland’s Farm operate their small plot in Friendly, Md., and they have been bringing their produce to the Arlington Farmers Market since it opened in 1979 with eight small vendors in the courthouse Judge’s parking lot. Like many local farmers, they remind us of the earth from which our food comes, offering the ripest cucumbers, yellow wax beans, turnips, cabbage, and herbs plucked fresh from the land. Gardeners Gourmet is a farm in Westminster, Md., that sells their produce at the farmers markets at Dupont Circle and Eastern Market. While they offer a variety of delicious vegetables, and other occasional treats like rhubarb squares, Gardeners Gourmet is renowned for their greens: mesclun, spinach, arugula, indigo frisee, pea shoots, sorrel and many others. The rich lemon-flavored sorrel serves as a unique bed for grilled or roasted fish, and as the juices drip down it form a natural sort of citrus dressing. Pea shoots are wonderful sautéed with eggs, and the spicy indigo is a great addition to a salad mix with real kick. Abundant stalks of basil, which are present at almost every farmer’s stall, beg for fresh pesto, and most of the market purveyors are happy to discuss their personal variations. Chad, who works for Laurel Grove Farms in Westmoreland, Va., substitutes pine nuts with sunflower seeds—it’s a unique flavor experience, a little easier on the wallet, and wonderfully nutritious. You can try substituting basil for sage, adding olives or sundried tomatoes, or combining a mix of herbs. The bottom line is: the year’s best produce is happening right now. Run to the nearest farmers market and pick it up while you can. The coming weeks will see the arrival of peaches and tomatoes, and with that whole new worlds of culinary delight. What are you waiting for? [gallery ids="101371,153200,153193,153198" nav="thumbs"]

Touting the Best of Maryland’s Farm

The goals of the Maryland’s Best Program -- now in its 11th year and run by the Maryland Department of Agriculture’s Office of Marketing -- are to promote Maryland agricultural products and to encourage consumers to buy locally produced and grown products in the Maryland and D.C. areas through advertising and marketing promotions. The program works closely with grocery retailers, restaurants and institutional buyers to help them source locally and show them the benefits of carrying locally grown and produced food. In 2012, a poll conducted by the University of Baltimore’s Schaefer Center found that 78 percent of Marylanders said they would prefer to purchase and consume fruits and vegetables identified as having been grown in Maryland. We strive to increase consumer preference towards local and help to identify local products so that they can be easily found. We also look to continue and increase our partnership with restaurant and retailer buyers to raise awareness of the great local options in Maryland when sourcing ingredients and food. This was our primary purpose for helping to sponsor this year’s Chefs Go Fresh tour. Another event which we put on to help restaurants and grocery retail buyers connect with local producers is our Buyer-Grower Event, held every January in Annapolis. Be sure to visit our web site -- www.marylandsbest.net -- where consumers can search for locally produced agriculture products. -- Stone Slade of Maryland Department of Agriculture’s Office of Marketing

Mixing Health and Hedonism: The Little Washington Spa

The mountains in the early summer light were luminescent. The wildflowers swayed in the morning breeze. And the sun cast languid shadows across Main Street in the charming, historic town of Washington, Va. It was one of those perfect days in Rappahannock County that those who live here never seem to take for granted – the days that make visitors wonder why they never discovered the place or why it took them so long to return. A smiling Buddha and the peaceful tinkling of flowing water welcome the lucky spa-goer as she enters Little Washington Wellness and Spa. One thinks, “It doesn’t get any better than this.” But – it did. Soft greens, blues and lavenders – tones of the meadows, the rivers and the Blue Ridge Mountains outside – reflect the spa’s connection to the land, to naturopathic pursuits and spiritual harmony. The calming, candlelit treatment rooms, smelling of fresh linens, are a prelude to the repose and relaxation to come. The spa’s approach is best described as a union of natural healing and serenity with a hefty dollop of luxury. Spa founder Jackie Meuse wanted to create a retreat where patrons could restore the body as well as the spirit. She is constantly refining, making sure that all of the elements –talented technicians, the best organic products, a setting that is both pretty and restful – coalesce into an excellent spa experience. After lots of searching for and testing green, nature-based products, she discovered Eminence Organic Skin Care, a Hungarian line that touts its products as being good enough to eat. I can attest to being tempted. “Having traveled to special healing and wellness places in the States and in China and Thailand, I made it a point to notice all the extra touches that I appreciated in those spots,” said Meuse. “I was sure that I wanted to have a center of wellness that draws upon the positive energy from the mountains and from the people in this wonderful place that is Rappahannock County.” Her team of experienced and friendly specialists offers a full menu of spa services and detox treatments, with an emphasis on the holistic approach. The massage menu includes hot stone massage, Thai massage and reflexology, plus romantic and relaxing couples massages. An array of facials and body and nail treatments – including microdermabrasion, waxing and brow tinting – is also available. My Spa Wellness Massage, an hour’s worth of bliss, easily compared to great massages I have had in many a far-flung, exotic location. Massage therapist Dustin Pennington, a graduate of the Virginia School of Massage in Charlottesville, expertly “read” my muscles (including a tightly clenched jaw muscle, a consequence of city living) and vanquished all remnants of soreness and stress. The aromas of warmed herbal and fruit-based unguents and oils seeped into my consciousness as I surrendered to total stress relief. The Signature Facial, deftly administered by esthetician Ciera Backe, gently dislodged exhausted skin cells and toxins with fragrant strawberry rhubarb dermafoliant and soothing chamomile tonic. Although I was drawn to many of the ambrosial sounding hydrating and skin-boosting masques and serums – including Pumpkin Latte Hydration, Apricot Masque, Lime Stimulating Serum and Key Lime Vanilla Cream, redolent of healthy smoothies – I was guided to the Firm Skin Acai Masque, which limbered up my normally very dry skin. My face felt rejuvenated, gleaming and fresh. It is important to Meuse, a county resident with her husband, Joe, and mom to two young boys, Hunt and Bo (plus two dogs, three horses, a few dozen chickens and two baby ducks), to ensure that her business serves the community. “I have always felt so honored to be living where I do,” she said. “I want my neighbors in the county to know that this is for everyone, not just tourists. And I want the talented wellness practitioners who live and work in the county to know that together we are creating a place where everybody can come to feel happy and balanced. In a tight-knit community like ours, you have old-timers and newcomers who want to know they are equally cherished.” In addition to in-house services, her staff provides mobile spa services to county residents in their homes – including Washingtonians with homes in the county who crawl out through the traffic on weekends. Once they get here, in-home spa services are a very attractive alternative to leaving their country cocoons. Acknowledging its location in one of the most stunning rural counties in the state, the spa offers guided hikes in the gorgeous Rappahannock County countryside and the Shenandoah National Park, located nearby in Sperryville. For those who just can’t bear to leave, there is even a lovely suite available for weekend stays. There is a trove of outdoor activities in the county, notably hiking and horseback-riding, along with beautiful wineries, a local distillery of fine bourbon and rye, terrific restaurants and a number of distinctive galleries, antiques shops and boutiques, including the well-stocked spa shop. Little Washington Wellness and Spa aligns location and setting, making it the perfect spot to unplug and recharge. Even better, there is no need for planes or trains: it’s a pleasant 90-minute drive from Big Washington. 261 Main Street, Washington, Va. 540-675-1031 littlewashingtonspa.com Michelle Galler, a resident of both Georgetown and Rappahannock County, Va., is a realtor with TTR Sotheby’s and an antiques dealer. [gallery ids="101795,140748,140745" nav="thumbs"]

Middleburg: Local-Food Capital

District restaurants may boast menus featuring local, organic foods, but if you want the real thing, the freshest food out there, head to the source (or close to it) in Middleburg, Virginia. Artisanal food is plentiful there and in nearby Upperville and The Plains, all about an hour from Washington, D.C. These small towns offer not only an abundance of country charm, but also a plethora of fresh foods in their quaint restaurants, inns, groceries and butcher shops. Here are a few highlights of the artisanal and organic food offerings in the Middleburg area: The Hunter’s Head Tavern The Hunter’s Head is a must-see – and must-eat – attraction in Upperville. Originally built as a log cabin in 1750, this English pub-themed restaurant maintains all the charm and character of the 1700s in its ambience and décor, with original log-cabin walls, fireplaces, floors and mantels. While those are the most striking features when one enters, the food is the real selling point here. The menu leans heavily toward English fare: meat pies and sausage dishes, sometimes with an American twist (sweet-potato biscuits with gravy, for instance). There are also a number of internationally-inspired dishes, including vegetable curry, whole-wheat pizza, risotto bites and stroganoff (topped with melt-in-your-mouth veal). The menu uses icons to tell patrons which items are made with organic and local ingredients, the large majority falling into one or both categories. The Hunter’s Head team prides itself on the local-ness of their food, even displaying a map of vendors by the restaurant’s entrance to show customers where their food is coming from. The Hunter’s Head Tavern, 9048 John S. Mosby Hwy., Upperville. Monday through Sunday, 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. (opens 11 a.m. on Sunday for brunch). 540-592-9020 The Whole Ox Housed in an old train station, the Whole Ox is owned and operated by Derek and Amanda Luhowiak, two impressively badass characters living their dream of butchering humanely-raised local meat. “We carry humanely raised, antibiotic and hormone free meat from our neighboring farms and various small distributors around the country,” the duo says on the company website. Their offerings include beef, lamb, chicken, turkey and a huge, ever-changing selection of sausage. 6364 Stuart St., The Plains. Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. 540-253-5600 The Home Farm Store The Home Farm Store, the outlet for meats and produce from nearby Ayrshire Farm, is becoming as much of an institution as the former bank that it occupies. Located in the heart of Middleburg, the store sells Certified Humane and Certified Organic pork, beef, veal, chicken and turkey. Larger orders for special occasions include succulent meats and delicious, inventive side dishes. The Home Farm Store also sells local wines, ciders, honeys, jams and fresh-baked goods, and sandwiches for lunch. 1 E. Washington St., Middleburg. Seven days a week, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (until 7 p.m. on Friday). 540-687-8882 [gallery ids="102024,134912" nav="thumbs"]

Get Shuckin’! Oyster Festivals Around the Region

Oysters occupy a unique intersection on the cultural and culinary map. The salty little pearls bring us together, bridging the gap between working class bar fare and high-society gastronomic opulence. As far back as ancient Rome, where an oyster would fetch its weight in gold, the seduction of these bivalve delicacies is proven to be irresistible to coastal dwellers. And for a Washingtonians, it’s in the blood. Going back to the turn of the 20th century, Washington had more than 150 oyster bars, which were frequented by all members of society. Fueled by the oyster populations of the Chesapeake Bay, it is part of our city’s cultural heritage. Unfortunately, Chesapeake Bay oysters had dwindled to about one percent of their population from the late 19th century due to overfishing, bay pollution and disease. Thankfully, due to population restoration efforts, sanctuary reefs have been set up to redeem the species, and more efforts are in the works. The reefs, set up almost a decade ago, are now home to over 180 million native oysters. Washington is full of places to indulge oyster cravings, from Old Ebbitt Grill—where tickets for their Annual Oyster Riot last year sold out in ten minutes flat—to Hank’s Oyster Bar, which offers a half-priced raw bar every night from 10 p.m. to midnight. Now is the time of year that the surrounding area holds its most popular oyster festivals. From wine and beer pairings, to barbecuing and shucking contests, there are plenty of ways to enjoy oysters in the next few weeks. So don’t waste these prime “R” months, and make sure to catch these seaside festivals for all the shucking oysters you could ask for. Old Ebbitt Grill’s Oyster Riot Washington, D.C. November 16 & 17 Back for the 18th consecutive year, the Oyster Riot is one of Washington’s most anticipated annual events. Traditionally held on the Friday and Saturday before Thanksgiving, each night sees nearly 1,000 guests devour tens of thousands of oysters, paired with the gold medal winners of the International Wines for Oysters Competition, which selects the best “oyster pairing” wines from over 200 entries from vineyards worldwide. And, of course, there will be some righteous tunes. The Saturday afternoon Matinee Riot, a recent addition to the festival, will be from noon to 3 p.m. on Saturday, with a portion of proceeds benefiting the oyster restoration efforts of the Oyster Recovery Partnership. The music won’t be quite as riotous as the evening before, so those who want to slurp and taste without the usual cacophony of sounds are free to do so. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.Ebbitt.com. Urbanna Oyster Festival Urbanna, Va. November 2 & 3 The official oyster festival of the Commonwealth, the Urbanna Oyster Festival is a celebration of the town of Urbanna and the oyster’s role in its economy. The festival has grown steadily over the years, and so have the crowds, which no approach nearly 75,000 for the two-day event. Food and craft booths number well over 100, and the Oyster Festival Parade has become the focal point of the weekend. With numerous marching bands, all the bizarre oyster costumes you could dream of, and the crowning of a “Queen” and “Little Miss Spat” (a “spat” is a baby oyster), this is an annual tradition that cannot be missed. Let’s not forget the food. Over fifty vendors will be there to deliver the goods, in ample supply and in a variety of presentations: raw, roasted, fried, smoked, steamed, in fritters, in a stew and everything in between. For more information, visit www.UrbannaOysterFestival.com. St. Mary’s County Oyster Festival Leonardtown, Md. October 20 & 21 On the weekend of October 20 the St. Mary’s County fairgrounds, just an hour and a half outside of Washington, turn into an oyster lover’s Mecca. Among the annual festival events, there is the National Oyster Cook-Off, where nine finalists from all over the country compete for the $1,000 prize. There is also the National Oyster Shucking Championship Contest, held both days of the festival, featuring the fastest shuckers representing ten states and the fastest local tidewater shuckers. On Saturday, at 2 p.m., an amateur oyster-shucking contest will also take place. As far as eating goes, “Oysters any way you like ‘em” has always been the trademark of the festival: served up raw, scalded, grilled, on bread, on the half shell, stewed, nude, cooked in savory sauces, in salads, even in desserts—just about every way imaginable, and a few more to boot. Other seafood lovers can feast on fried clams, scallops, softshell crab, crabcakes, shrimp, fried fish, seafood chowder and more. For more information visit www.USOysterFest.com. OysterFest St. Michael’s, Md. November 3 In St. Michael’s, Md., the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum’s (CBMM) OysterFest will celebrate the local oyster heritage. The event features live music, oysters and other food, children’s activities, boat rides, oyster demonstrations, harvesting displays, an oyster stew competition among regional chefs and more. Festival-goers can join in or just watch an oyster slurping contest, while others enjoy sampling the oyster stew by local restaurants, who will also perform cooking demonstrations of signature oyster dishes throughout the day. This festival also boasts plenty of family-friendly waterfront activities designed to help kids get to know the oyster and its importance to the Chesapeake Bay. You can explore an oyster nursery, learn how oysters clean the Bay by building your own filter, participate in a scavenger hunt or face painting, or watch dip-net making and knot-tying demonstrations. For more information, visit www.cbmm.org/ OysterFest. [gallery ids="102488,120247" nav="thumbs"]

Chefs Go Fresh: The Stops Along the Route

With the 2nd Annual Chefs Go Fresh event on July 16, here is a closer look at some of the local country farms that will be participating. England Acres Farm: a Pasture-Fed Welcome Mat Do you enjoy fresh produce, locally raised animals and home-baked goods? Look no further than the England Acres Farm, in Mt. Airy in Fredrick County, Maryland. The farm, which has been used since the 1870s is owned and operated by Jeff and Judy England. “We’re friendly,” says Judy England. “We welcome the public to come experience what we have and taste the difference in our products.” England Acres Farm and Market raises Angus cattle, sheep and Cornish Rock X chickens. The animals are all pasture fed or are fed farm-grown forage. All the meats can be bought individually or in a sampler pack from the market. The England Acres Farm Market and Bakery is open on Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The store offers a selection of fresh baked goods, freshly picked seasonal produce, grass fed beef and lamb and pasture raised chickens, hens and eggs. The market also offers some friendly advice on how to cook and prepare the fresh ingredients. The working farm welcomes people to come and experience what it’s really like on a farm, and it encourages people to buy local products. For more information or to plan your trip, visit www.EnglandAcres.com Black Ankle Vineyards: Award Winner in Mt. Airy “A truly great wine comes only from a truly great vineyard,” according to Black Ankle Vineyards, a winery located in Mt. Airy, Maryland and known for its award-wining wines. With a wide selection of red-and-white wines, including Chardonnay, Terra Dulce II, Passeggiata and Crumbling Rock, it’s a winery not to miss. “We grow all our grapes on farms and harvest once a year. We’re able to come up with new wines every year,” said Sarah O’Herron, owner and wine maker at Black Ankle Vineyards. Its most popular selection of wine is Crumbling Rock, with a blend of traditional grapes. It won the Maryland Governor’s Cup for two years in a row. “It’s the wine that made us famous,” O’Herron said. Have an urge to taste some of the selections? The Black Ankle Vineyards Tasting Room is open Friday, noon to 9 p.m.; Saturday, noon to 6 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.; other days and times are by appointment. A selection of local cheeses is also offered to customers for something to eat alongside the wine. In addition to the sale of wines and food products, Black Ankle Vineyarsds also provides local realtors and restaurants with selections of wine. “We want people who are wine lovers and who are interested in really good wines. We want them to find us,” O’Herron said. Black Ankle Vineyards offers tours every Saturday and Sunday at 1 p.m. For more information, visit www.BlackAnkle.com. ? [gallery ids="100879,127484" nav="thumbs"]

Return to Rehoboth Beach

Soaked in history and packed with energy, the small, seaside city of Rehoboth Beach, Del., has long been a Washington favorite for summer weekends. Just over one square mile, this coastal community is filled with charming shopping (tax free), outdoor activities, ample accommodations and perhaps one of the best dining scenes in the country for its size. Thanks to the state’s attractive tax structure, a lot of Rehoboth’s recent growth has been fueled by retirees from D.C., Philadelphia and Wilmington, and even from New Jersey and New York. These Boomers are not ready to be idle – many are starting businesses and nonprofits to serve community needs. As soon as you arrive, you will see that there is more to Rehoboth than Funland, the boardwalk, the famous pizza joints (we can’t choose), Thrashers fries and Dolle’s salt water taffy. And while the beach, where the Atlantic Ocean delivers wave after wave, is the main event, here is a quick guide for your next visit… Eat Known as the Culinary Coast, southern Delaware is quickly gaining attention for the restaurants in Rehoboth and neighboring Lewes Beach. From upscale dining to the craft brewpubs, there is something for everyone and much to be enjoyed. In addition to the popular Eating Rehoboth, a three-hour walking and tasting tour, the town’s 9th Annual Restaurant Week is June 1-6. Proof that these two events are not enough to satisfy the truly foodie town, a friendly chef “throwdown” will take place at the Rehoboth Convention Center on June 12 during the Top Chef of the Culinary Coast competition. Chefs from a number of the area’s best restaurants will be competing for the title, including Bramble and Brine, Nage, Salt Air and Touch of Italy, all recently named to the “Eight Hottest Restaurants in Rehoboth Beach” list by Zagat. The remaining four were a(MUSE.), Cultured Pearl, Eden and Henlopen City Oyster House. New restaurants on the block include Bramble and Brine, which opened in October to rave reviews and multiple awards. The popular Fins Ale House and Raw Bar opened a second location on Coastal Highway. James Beard-nominated chef-owner Hari Cameron serves up artistic dishes at his restaurant a(MUSE.), which offers several tasting menus. Bistro and wine bar Nage turns 10 over Memorial Day weekend. Extending the restaurant’s tradition of bringing in new and upcoming chefs, a new chef and sous chef will be joining the Nage team, headed by owner Josh Grapski. “We’ve continued to grow every year and continue to get better and better,” says Grapski. “It’s a fun, steady project.” Also on Grapski’s plate is Root Gourmet, a takeout deli next door to Nage, and Big Chill Surf Cantina, a Southern California-inspired beach bar on Coastal Highway. “I can’t think of another 10,000-person population that has as much culinary ability and talent as what’s going on in Rehoboth and Lewes,” Grapski notes proudly. A long-time favorite is the Blue Moon Restaurant on Baltimore Avenue. It is part of Rehoboth’s vibrant and influential gay community, which has ties to D.C. as well. Another favorite, on Coastal Highway, is Bin 66, known for its great wine selection and popular tastings every Friday and Saturday evening. More information on Rehoboth’s dining scene can be found at RehobothFoodie.com Get Active Along the mile-long stretch of beach are a number of watersport activities, including stand-up paddle boarding (SUP), wind surfing and kayaking. Learn to surf with lessons from Liquid Surf Shop. DelMarVa Board Sport Adventures offers rentals of stand-up paddle boards, kayaks and windsurfing gear, as well as lessons and SUP fitness and yoga classes. Spend a few hours like a local surf fishing at popular spots such as Tower Road, 3R’s Road, the area just north of Indian River Inlet, Cape Henlopen Point, Haven Road and the Navy Jetty area within Cape Henlopen State Park. Miles of trails for both hiking and biking link Rehoboth to neighboring beaches and parks. The newly completed Gordon’s Pond Trail links Cape Henlopen State Park to Gordon’s Pond and connects with the existing Junction and Breakwater Trail. This year marks the 50th anniversary of both Cape Henlopen State Park and the Cape May-Lewes Ferry, which travels 17 miles on an 85-minute cruise between New Jersey and Delaware. Passing historic lighthouses and harbors, the ferry connects points such as Wildwood, Stone Harbor, Avalon, Ocean City and the rest of the Jersey Shore with Rehoboth and other southern Delaware beaches. The Cape Water Taxi Tours provide residents and visitors of Lewes, Rehoboth, Dewey and Long Neck (Millsboro) a hassle- and traffic-free way to travel up and down the coast and within the inland waterways. Different types of tours, from taxi services to historic tours, are available. The tours are also picnic- and alcohol-friendly. Stay From boardwalk hotels to charming bed-and-breakfasts – not to mention rentals by the week – there are many options to stay over in Rehoboth. New hotels to the area include The Dogfish Inn, located in the previous Vesuvio Motel overlooking the harbor in downtown Lewes. Dogfish Head Brewery owners Sam and Mariah Calagione opened the inn next to their popular brewpub. The Bellmoor Inn and Spa seaside resort features quaint cottage décor with full-service day spa amenities. At Melissa’s is the only completely gluten-free B&B in Rehoboth Beach. The new oceanfront saltwater pool and Sandcrab beach bar at the Atlantic Sands Hotel and Conference Center both overlook the boardwalk. In addition, the property’s Atlantic Boardwalk Grille is introducing new menus.

In Country Calendar

June 6 Twilight Polo at Great Meadow Gates open at 6:30 p.m. for Twilight Polo, with the first match beginning at 7. Great Meadow hosts Twilight Polo every Saturday night through Sept. 19, except June 20 and July 4. 5089 Old Tavern Rd., The Plains, Virginia. June 9 June Biz Buzz At the June mixer of the Middleburg Business and Professional Association there will be a 10-minute Biz Buzz to bring attendees up to date. RSVP by emailing info@visitmiddleburgva.com. Nonmember admission is $5. Goodstone Inn, 36205 Snake Hill Rd., Middleburg, Virginia. June 12 Sips and Snacks Middleburg’s Home Farm Store invites visitors to a showcase of local artisan foods, at which they may taste and comment on wine, ciders or beer. There will be samples and recipe cards to take home. 1 East Washington St., Middleburg, Virginia. June 13 Birding Banshee On the second Saturday of each month, Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy and Friends of Banshee Reeks run a bird walk at the Banshee Reeks Nature Preserve, a birding hot spot. Participants are asked to bring binoculars if they have them. For details, contact Joe Coleman at 540-554-2542 or jcoleman@loudounwildlife.org. 17263 Southern Plantation La., Leesburg, Virginia. June 14 Middleburg Summer Concert Soprano Medea Namoradez-Ruhadze, a professor of voice at Shenandoah University, will be one of several featured performers at the second concert in the Middleburg Chamber Music Concert Series at Middleburg United Methodist Church. Refreshments will follow the concert. Admission is by free will offering. 15 W. Washington St. (across from the Safeway), Middleburg, Virginia.