Rehoboth Dining

July 13, 2011

For years, Rehoboth Beach has been a signature summer getaway for Washingtonians. From the beaches, to the boardwalk, to Funland, Rehoboth Beach offers tons of options for families visiting “The Nation’s Summer Capital.” More and more, Rehoboth is becoming known for its vast selection of restaurants. And we’re not just talking pizza or fried seafood.

The two-block stretch of Wilmington Avenue, adjacent to the beach, has exploded with new restaurants during the past year. Jenny Barger, of Rehoboth Beach Main Street, Inc. attributes the growth to a recovering economy. New restaurants, like Cypress and Tuscan Café, are in newly renovated spaces and are causing a stir in the neighborhood.

Bob Yesbek is a certified expert on restaurants in Rehoboth. On his website,, he reviews nearly every restaurant in the area. He gave us the scoop on what not miss on an eating pilgrimage to Rehoboth.

Back Porch Café has been a mainstay in the area for nearly 40 years. Located in a turn of the century house at 59 Rehoboth Avenue, this eatery includes a bar and not one, but two outdoor decks on its back porch in addition to its dining room. Their menu leans towards French cuisine, and features a wide selection of local seafood as well as lamb, veal and guinea hen. Prix-Fixe menus are offered on Thursdays, and Sunday brunch is also popular.

“The brunch is really popular, has been for years,” says Marilyn Spitz, co-owner of the restaurant.

The most popular item on their brunch menu is the Eggs Benedict. “How somebody can just so consistently poach so many eggs, and have each of them come out so perfectly is amazing,” says Yesbek.

The restaurant has a number of different rooms, which creates a charming, cozy atmosphere. In recent years, The Back Porch Café has lent its walls to local artists’ work and its relaxed ambiance has kept families coming back for generations.

The Back Porch Café is very good for families or groups celebrating a special occasion. If you’re looking for a little more excitement, your next destination is only a few blocks away at the Blue Moon.

Located at 35 Rehoboth Avenue, Blue Moon is a Rehoboth Beach landmark. It’s known for its late night entertainment and serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner until 1 a.m. The menu includes a long list of steak and chops, as well as short ribs and rockfish. The atmosphere is a little more raucous, a bit louder overall, but the food is divine.

At night, the Blue Moon is a great launch pad for a night out. The restaurant’s dance floor gets hopping nightly, and there’s live entertainment six nights a week.

If you’ve come to Rehoboth for a romantic retreat, Eden may be the place for you.

Eden is highly recommended by Yesbek. “They tend to be a little bit more daring with their dishes than Blue Moon will tend to be. At Eden, you’ll get a little more unusual preparation, and a lot of people like it. The chefs there will take a few more risks in coming up with unusual combinations.” For the sophisticated palette, Eden offers a selection of artisanal cheeses and flatbreads.

Eden’s subdued atmosphere lends itself to more formal gatherings. Where the Back Porch can air on casual, and Blue Moon on the in-your-face, Eden is very quiet and romantic. If you are planning a romantic evening, Eden is definitely your best bet.

Henlopen City Oyster House opened last June in a beautiful location at 50 Wilmington Avenue. With floor to ceiling windows and a clean, chic interior, “The Oyster House” is a favorite among locals.

“Love the Henlopen City Oyster House,” says Amanda Ryan, Rehoboth realtor and native Delawarean. “Food is delicious, the staff is very friendly, and the owners did a great job with the ambiance. It is always packed so obviously they are doing something right.”
Co-owner Joe Baker says that the restaurant is popular for its beer nights. No surprise, given that they have nine beers on draught, and over 50 more on their menu. The restaurant also features eight different types of oysters.

According to Baker, the restaurant emphasizes using local oysters and food. “Our chef is a local farmer, so we use a lot of local farms. We like to keep the menu as fresh as we can.”

Obviously, there are many options to choose from, but not everybody can eat out every single night. For those entertaining or cooking at home in Rehoboth, Nourish Specialty Foods Market, Cafe & Catering offers gourmet foods and a great selection of artisanal cheese. Founders Deberah Sutter and Lois Pellegrino work to promote healthy eating and organic, local, sustainable agriculture. Their goal is to use organic or chemical-free local produce, meats and dairy products from small independent farms where possible.

There are so many restaurants in such a small area. People come from all around the Mid-Atlantic. Chefs must be distinctive to stand apart. Ryan puts it like this, “Restaurants see people from many of the hottest metro areas, Philly, DC, Baltimore, and we’re seeing more and more from New York and New Jersey. You never know who you could be cooking for!”

Events for Foodies in Rehoboth
June 26
Dining Out For Life At The Beach
Participating restaurants will donate 33 percent of your bill to AIDS Delaware.

October 2
Ninth Annual Celebrity Chefs Beach Brunch
Top area chefs gather for a foodie festival at the Rusty Rudder in Dewey Beach, DE. Proceeds Benefit Meals on Wheels.

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June 29, 2011

Although Annapolis may be best known for being the home of the U.S. Naval Academy, the serene, bayside town is also the perfect location for a quick and easy getaway from the hustle and bustle of D.C. No more than an hour’s drive away (around 32 miles), this charming town is a mere hop, skip and jump from the city. Unique shops, restaurants and bars line the main street and quiet B & B’s are within walking distance, making it easy to enjoy the downtown social scene before escaping into the cozy solitude of a old-fashioned inn.

Where to Stay

Chez Amis Bed & Breakfast is a quaint four-bedroom B&B that was once a corner grocery store and is located in the heart of historic Annapolis. Neighboring The U.S. Naval Academy, St. John’s College, the City Dock and State Capital, there is no need for a car when everything from the historic landmarks to the entertainment of Main Street is within walking distance.

There is also The Annapolis Inn, a historic landmark townhouse poised on prestigious Prince George Street right downtown.

Where to Eat

Best known for their customized all-you-can-eat crab feast package, Cantler’s Riverside Inn offers farm-grown sweet corn, spiced shrimp, French fries, coleslaw, beer, wine and of course… crabs. So stop by with your friends and family while sailing the Cheaspeake Bay or sightseeing in downtown Annapolis. With exceptional service, a bright, contemporary interior, and an extensive menu featuring buffets for kids and adults, Buddy’s Crabs and Ribs restaurant is the perfect stop for a relaxing fine dining experience.

What to Do

Shopping is also a main attraction in Annapolis. Specializing in unique hand-woven rugs with outdoor or nautical patterns and themes, Claire Murray offers special keepsakes or gifts from your time spent in Annapolis. Easy Street Gallery was founded in 1979 by Marsha and Terry Moore. This American craft gallery is a family business that offers beautiful and vibrant glasswork, wall art, paperweights, pottery and more from over 300 established and emerging artists.

Indepedence Day Fireworks Cruise is coming up soon and offers a perfect way to spend the holiday on the Chesapeake Bay. The cruise runs July 4 from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $45 for adults and $25 for children. Another unique Annapolis attraction is the Annapolis Carriage Ride where you can tour in style on a vintage carriage ride and learn about the town’s 300 years of history.

If you’re more of a hands-on person, you can learn how to sail at the Annapolis Sailing School where they provide a safe, enjoyable introduction to recreational sailing for the whole family.
But of course, this is Annapolis after all, and your trip wouldn’t be complete without touring the U.S. Naval Academy. Take a public or historical walking tour to experience life on the Yard.

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Quaint shops, hotels and restaurants line the streets of downtown Lexington, which teems with local flavor and small-town charm.

Where to Stay

Many of the nearby hotels and inns offer good deals and are walking distance from the main drag, including the Hampton Inn Con Alto. For those looking to be right in the middle of everything, the Sheridan Livery Inn is located right on Main Street and offers quiet, spacious rooms for a reasonable price. Guests and non-guests can enjoy a nice lunch or dinner in the Livery’s restaurant, or head across the street to some of Lexington’s most popular restaurants.

Where to Eat

The menu at the Bistro on Main features creations made with local produce. One can enjoy pizza and pasta accompanied by atmospheric piano music at Tuscany, or for a more casual experience, hang out at Macado’s and choose from over 60 different sandwiches. A few blocks away, Blue Sky Bakery is another local lunch favorite for its sandwiches served on bread made fresh daily. The Red Hen is one of Lexington’s more upscale dining options serving dishes that are a bit pricier, but made with fresh, local ingredients. The menu at Brix also features local foods, but serves them tapas-style, perfect for small group dining whether inside the restaurant or out on the patio.

Visitors can also enjoy wine tasting and tours of the Rockbridge Vineyard and the Lexington Valley Vineyard.

What to Do

The shops downtown are a collective cache of local treasures, from the tchotchkes and home accents at Pumpkinseeds to paintings and jewelry created by residents of Lexington and the surrounding Rockbridge area sold in art shops throughout the city. If shopping isn’t your thing, take a horse-drawn ride with Lexington Carriage Company and learn more about local history. After dark, visitors can relive the past in the present on a candlelit ghost tour through the city in the company of Civil War heroes Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson and Lee’s horse Traveller.

Just a short drive away from the downtown area, Hull’s Drive-In offers double features in the evenings for only $6, which you can enjoy from the comfort of your own car. Also on the outskirts are the Natural Bridge, an all-natural rock formation and caverns, or Foamhendge, a man-made foam replica of Stonehendge – something fun and quirky you don’t see everyday. The nearby Boxerwood Gardens and Chessie Trail are perfect for relaxing nature strolls after an exciting day of shopping and sightseeing.

If the timing is right, visit the Virginia Horse Center for horse shows, dining, shopping and other events hosted throughout the summer season. The Lime Kiln offers a unique theater experience and hosts concerts and local theater productions in its outdoor amphitheater.

The Blue Ridge outdoors offers beautiful scenery and fun hiking trails for the outdoorsy and the first-time adventurers alike, just minutes outside of historic downtown Lexington. Whether you climb the boulders of Devils Marbleyard or swimming in Panther Falls, you’ll get in a great day hike and perfect photo opportunities.
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Orange County, Virginia

A short two-hour drive southwest of D.C. lays the hidden treasure of Orange County, Va., waiting for weekenders to enjoy the quietness of the hills and the warmth of the sun. Noted for quaint bed and breakfasts and scenic, historic sites, Orange County is a great local escape.

Where to Stay

The Inn at Willow Grove in Orange, Va. greets visitors with great white columns, a cream-yellow exterior decorated with black shutters and lush gardens. Each room is unique in design, but incomparable in comfort. Personal butler services and five star dinning give the feeling of pure luxury, yet the elegant comfort allows visitors to relax just like they were at home.

A charming house with luxurious details and an atmosphere for romance, Chestnut Hill Bed & Breakfast is a great escape into Virginia’s beautiful countryside. With evening wine and cheese events and a library stacks tall with books, this B&B has the lavish amenities to take your weekend getaway to the next level.

Other Great Places to Stay

Keswick Hall Hotel: a grand and lavish hotel right in the heart of Monticello.
Clifton Inn: a charming southern place to relax and enjoy the countryside.
Inn at Westwood Farm: a historic inn rich with Civil War history and southern comfort.

Where to Eat

The menu at Silk Mill Grille prides itself on its American cuisine “featuring fine sandwiches, poultry, seafood, steaks, and spirits.” Black leather booths line walls decorated with odds and ends from the Virginia countryside, combining the luxury of the old south with the elegance of contemporary dining.

Bringing the French countryside to the Blue Ridge Mountains, Restaurant Pomme with Chef Gerard Gasparini serves the finest traditional French brunch, lunch and dinner. The warmly decorated dining room with traditional French accents ensures that the experience is full of French style and atmosphere.

Other Great Places to Dine

Marshall Farms Corner: a family fun deli made with farm-fresh ingredients.
Double D’s Ice Cream Parlor: a fun place to drop in for a sweet treat.

What to Do

The home of Former President James Madison, Montpelier Estate is a must-see location in Orange County, Va.. From outdoor cooking demonstrations and historic sites, to Civil War restorations,and museum exhibits, visitors can spend a full day learning about the history of Montpelier and the area.

Dating back to the beginning of the 19th century, Barboursville Vineyards entertains with excellence, highlighting their award-winning wine Octagon. Come enjoy the grapes in the vineyard, the food at the Palladio restaurant, or the calmness of the 1804 Inn.

Other Attractions in the Area

Castle Hill Cidery: opening in July 2011, a great alternative to wineries.
Lake Orange: for the outdoorsman, the lake offers family fun all day in the sun.
Civil War Trails: another great outdoor adventure full of history and sunshine.
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Be the Player at the Polo Match

June 20, 2011

With the summer season here, what better way to embrace the D.C. social scene than by attending a polo event? Never been? Well here is a quick how-to guide on breaking into the polo scene and becoming a polo-ite with ease and class.

Origins and Rules of Polo

Polo originated in Northern Persia around 600 BCE, but became the game we know today in Northern India in the 19th century. The word polo comes from the Indian word “pulu” which is the name of the wood from which the ball was made. Polo can be played either on a large grass field or in an enclosed area. A full game consists of six chukkas, or seven and a half minute long periods of play. Players score goals, located at opposite ends of the field, and after each goal, teams switch sides. The four players per team are designated by their jersey numbers. Player number one is offense and player two covers both offense and defense. Jersey number three is saved for the best player: the quarterback and the playmaker. Player four defends by keeping the ball up field with long, accurate hits. There are three-minute breaks between each chukka, and a five-minute halftime for divot stomping.

Stomping Divots

The best part about being a spectator at a polo match is that you get to participate and socialize with the players. During halftime, spectators get to stomp the chipped away pieces of turf back into the field. Players frequently join their spectators for divot stomping, taking time to entertain and mingle.

Polo Fashion

Summer fashion will follow you to the polo field. Base your outfit on a whimsical romantic flirting with a preppy style, and lots and lots of white. White linen shorts, white structured blazers, white crop dresses, white ruffle blouses… White is in! Show off your summer legs with some gold wedges; heels will only sink into the turf and wedges will keep you walking above the ground. To compliment the white, accessorize with leather and gold. Knee high riding style boots are always a classic, and gold statement jewelry will sparkle in the sun. To keep the sun out of your eyes and on the polo ponies, hats are a must; fedoras and dramatic floppy hats will get the job done. If you need some color in your fashion life, mix in a preppy color piece like a navy polo or a pastel pleated skirt. A great pair of sunglasses that compliment your face will complete your outfit.

Happy Polo Hour

Many polo-ites never leave their seat without their champagne flute, but there are more than just bubbles to tickle your nose on the sidelines. Mimosas and Bellini’s are a classic cocktail and a tasty alternative. Watermelon mojitos are breaking out in the summer happy hour scene as the new ‘it drink’: something fresh to keep you cool. However, nothing tops the Polo Cocktail: one ounce gin, one tablespoon of lemon juice, and one teaspoon of orange juice. This drink sends the message that you are a serious divot-stomping polo-it.

Players and Ponies

For the time in between the chukkas, chat about the important part of polo: the ponies and the players. Nicholas ‘Nic’ Roldan, grew up in the life of polo. His father played for the Sultan of Brunei in Southeast Asia. Nic is currently the captain of Prince Harry’s charity polo team Sentebale, and a model for Wihelmina Modeling Agency. According to the World Polo Tour Player Rankings, the current leading polo player is Juan Martin Nero from Argentina. His 2011 highlights include a U.S. Open Championship and Finalist at the USPA Gold Cup. Of course there is the beautiful Nacho Figueras, model and top ranked polo player. He plays on the Black Watch Polo Team and frequently models for Ralph Lauren’s Black Label. 2010’s American Polo Horse Associations top ranking pony was Dolfina Noruega, with winning performances in the U.S. Open, Pacific Coast Open and many other shows.

D.C. Polo

Great Meadows Polo Club is only an hour away and offers the perfect atmosphere for the up-and-coming polo-ite. Every Saturday night, weather pending, Great Meadows presents Twilight Polo, open to spectators to wine, dine, and enjoy an evening of polo. They also host weekly summer events such as Girls Night Out and Latin Dance Night. From lists of events to social memberships and even polo lessons, Capitol Polo Club is a great place to start on the polo scene. Located about an hour away from Georgetown, Capitol Polo sports games that members and public can attend.

Great Meadows Polo Club: The Plains, VA,

Capitol Polo Club: Poolsville, MD,

Polo Events

These are some upcoming events in the D.C. area to start your polo summer off. Contact the Polo Club for more information about each event.

Great Meadows Polo Club

– Twilight Polo: Every Saturday Night

– Capital Hospice Cup/College Night: June 18

– Disco Fever: June 25

– Military Appreciation Night: July 2

– Girls Night Out: July 9

– Hawaiian Beach Night: July 16

Capitol Polo Club

– Commus Sky Polo Tournament: June 18-19

– 4 Goal Club Tournament: June 25-26

– BBQ & Fireworks: July 4

– Eastern Circuit Constitutional Cup: July 9-10

– USPA 2 Goal Master Cup: July 16-17

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The Upperville Horse Show

June 16, 2011

When Colonel Richard Henry Dulany organized the first Upperville Show in 1853, the program listed two classes: one for colts, the other for fillies. 158 years later, the Upperville Colt and Horse Show spans seven days and includes over two thousand horse and rider combinations, 28 awards and eight competitive events.

This year’s event kicks off on Monday, June 6, “Under The Oaks,” 40 miles west of Washington D.C. Since 1853, Grafton Farms has been the site of the oldest horse show in the United States.

How it all Began

Colonel Dulany had the idea to begin the first Upperville Horse Show after coming across an abandoned and struggling colt during the winter of 1853. Determined to encourage surrounding breeders to take better care of young fouls and breed better stock, Dulany hosted the first Upperville Horse Show in June of that year. The show garnered so many entries and interest that a sponsorship club was started with Colonel Dulany as the president. The Upperville Union Club published their first account of the Upperville Horse show in 1857 in The Southern Planter.

By 1902, the organization was renamed the Upperville Colt and Horse Club and sponsored a two-day show in June of that year, expanding to include more classes, entries and events. In the years that followed, the Upperville Horse Show expanded over five days and included entries and riders from all over the country.

Since then, the Virginia Horse Shows Association has voted Upperville the Horse Show of the Year, and its been designated as a World Championship Hunter Rider Show and selected as the National Show Hunter Hall of Fame’s Horse Show of the Year.

Into The Present

Whether you are an equestrian, breeder, exhibitor or spectator, this event showcases the best of the best, as they compete for highly-coveted titles and awards. The competition is fierce, with over two thousand riders and horses ranging from children on ponies to Olympic and World Cup riders and horses.

Riders and horses are either scored or judged depending on the event. In a jumper competition, the main objective is to get the horse to jump over the jump without knocking it down, without concern for form or style while jumping. Grand prix show jumping, the highest level of show jumping, has become a popular and important spectator sport in the United States. Show jumping is also one of the few sports where men and women compete on equal levels, and range in age from 16 to 60.

Horses in the hunter class are judged not only on their ability to get to the other side of the jump, but also on their ease and grace while completing the various obstacles, such as a farmer’s fence, gates, stone walls and posts. The main objective is for both the horse and rider to navigate all the obstacles willingly and effortlessly.

Don’t Miss These Highlights!

Here, we share our favorite events, which we anxiously await each year. Publisher Sonya Bernhardt anticipates the Ladies Sidesaddle Hunter Under Saddle event, which displays women donning old-fashioned Victorian garb as they elegantly perch sidesaddle on their beautifully-bred horses. One of the most formal classes in the event, these women are the epitome of class and grace that represents the Victorian Era. It takes place on Saturday, June 11.

Evelyn Keyes, head of the In Country section, loves watching the Family Classes and the popular Piedmont Foxhounds invitational hack for the “silver foxes” of showing. The event is held “under the oaks” on Saturday, June 11, in the main ring in front of the grand stand.

Daily admission to the show is $10.00 per person. Children under 12 are admitted free when accompanied by an adult. Gates open at 8 a.m. daily.

For special arrangements, entertainment, reserved parking, or box seat information, please call 540 687-5740 or, during the show, 540-592-3858

For a complete schedule of the seven-day show visit

The National Sporting Library

June 10, 2011

Escape from the midday heat of the Upperville Horse Show and stop into the neighboring National Sporting Library.

Founded by sporting enthusiasts George Ohrstrom and Alexander Mackay-Smith in 1954, the collection that started with 7,000 assorted volumes has grown to 17,000 meticulously categorized titles.

The library is dedicated to preserving and sharing the literature, art and culture of horse and field sports. It houses extensive collections of 16th-21st century books and manuscripts on equitation, along with hunt diaries, scrapbooks and photo albums.

Besides a healthy collection of first editions throughout, the rare book section houses the library’s oldest volume (on dueling, dating to the 1520s), along with an original manuscript penned by a young Theodore Roosevelt.

The Library offers educational lectures, book-signings and film-screenings. Art exhibits include paintings and bronzes from rarely seen private collections and museums. Art from the Library’s permanent collection is found throughout the Library, including eye-catching weathervanes from the estate of the late philanthropist Paul Mellon. Paul Mellon also donated the bronze Civil War Horse, a memorial on the NSL campus to the 1 1/2 million horses and mules that died in the Civil War.

The Library’s current exhibition is Horses at Work and Play, which displays the Library’s collection of artifacts and antique toys. This exhibit is on display until June 30th.

The Sporting Library is a historical treasure that is free and open to the public. For more information visit

The National Sporting Library has also received an extremely generous donation of $250,000 from Ronald M Bradley and fiancé Danielle Kazmier, both pictured in our Social Scene Section attending this year’s fundraiser in Washington D.C.

The Library is open Tuesday-Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and on Saturday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
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Middleburg’s National Sporting Library Shows Off in the Federal City

June 8, 2011

Horse and hunt country lovers traveled from as far as Middleburg, Va., as well as nearby Georgetown to the Kalorama townhouse of the Johnsons for a cocktail reception to benefit the National Sporting Library and Museum in Middleburg, May 19. The library’s board chairman Manuel (Manley) Johnson and vice chairman Jacqueline Badger Mars served as event hosts.

With its historic buildings and grounds, the Middleburg non-profit boasts the finest collection of books on horse and field sports in the world. “It is the largest collection of rare books in equine and fishing sports books,” Johnson told the crowd, which included Tom McMillen, former U.S. representative from Maryland and retired NBA basketball player, Scott Wilson, Hector Alcade and Robin Phillips. The library holds a 1683 first edition of ‘The Compleat Angler” along with essays on hunting from Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Grover Cleveland and extensive photos of President John Kennedy in Middleburg. The National Sporting Library Gala is scheduled for October.
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Wintry Weekends

May 5, 2011

Every year around late February, the air begins to swell with a certain potential. As the mornings go by, the accumulating whistles of tree sparrows echo like a symphony reaching a familiar crescendo. The slog of post-Christmas drudgery lies vaster in our wake than in our precession. Legs begin to twitch inadvertently beneath office desks. We have done our time cooped up in our beds, fighting the cold, not knowing when we will escape again. Winter is on its last leg. It’s time to get out.

This year, unfortunately, there is still two feet of snow on the ground.

With this surplus of residual snow, however, comes a unique opportunity for those itching for a relaxing weekend getaway. Pastoral bed and breakfasts and luxury hotels surround the D.C. area. The landscapes of these mountain and riverside resorts are still in a rare, delicate state of wintry serenity, while the weather has become warm enough to enjoy nearby attractions. With the leftover snow keeping most people at home, it is an ideal time to take advantage of countryside luxuries with extraordinary intimacy.

The Shenandoah and Charlottesville

Just a stone’s throw from Monticello proper, The Inn at Monticello is a five-acre bed and breakfast, and a convenient base of operations while exploring all that nearby Charlottesville has to offer. Just far enough outside the city to enjoy the rolling landscapes from your private porch or cottage, and down the street from a handful of vineyards, the inn is still only a 10-minute drive from the center of town.

Once in Charlottesville, across the street from the UVA campus, visit the Corner. A stretch of coffee shops, restaurants, bookstores and nightspots frequented by the academic and local community, the Corner is a local watering hole, and a perfect place to enjoy a simple cup of coffee with a good book, grab dinner, or have a few drinks. Among the scenery, UVA’s historic chapel and the “Academical Village” are noteworthy sites that have been temporarily beautified by the snow.

For a more inclusive package, the Boar’s Head Inn offers enough amenities and activities to help you recharge your batteries for a weekend without having to leave the premise. With four restaurants and an in-room dining option, guests can dine as casually as they please. A sports club and spa, complete with a dozen indoor tennis courts, allows guests to strap on sneakers and shorts despite the snow.

Restaurants to check out around Charlottesville include The Ivy Inn Restaurant and Hamilton’s at First and Main. Producing cuisine inspired by seasonal and locally grown ingredients, The Ivy Inn offers classic American fare with modern twists, such as pumpkin ravioli or veal osso buco with sautéed local bok choy. At Hamilton’s at First and Main, inventive pairings such as roasted halibut stuffed with chèvre or crab cakes with lemon-basil aioli are the highlights of the menu.

The Middle Piedmont Region

When discussing luxury dining and accommodations in Virginia, The Inn at Little Washington garners the same reactions that one gets if mentioning Disney World to a four-year-old. The love child of renowned restaurateur Patrick O’Connell, a self-taught chef often accused of having “perfect taste” and a pioneer of the local, organic movement, The Inn at Little Washington is one of the most highly decorated restaurants and hotels in the country — and just about the only nationally lauded two-for-one.

This time of year, O’Connell’s celebrated kitchen is honoring the tail end of black truffle season, one of O’Connell’s favorite occasions to have a bit of elegant fun. Expect such menu items as Maine Diver Scallops with leek purée, caramelized onions, and black truffle. As an additional, limited-time treat that comes out with the meal if you behave: black truffle popcorn with truffle oil, Parmesan, parsley, and a sprinkling of black truffle. “It sounds ridiculous,” says Rachel Hayden, marketing director for the inn, “but it’s insanely addictive.”

The Middleton Inn, an award winning bed and breakfast just down the street from The Inn At Little Washington, sits on a knoll of a country estate with unparalleled views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Enjoy a four-course breakfast or a wine and cheese hour surrounded by bucolic landscapes and the crisp mountain air. Art galleries and quaint boutiques such as the Middle Street Gallery and R.H. Ballard make for great day shopping.

While rusticating the winter weekends away, vineyards are ideal day trips. Linden Vineyards is a seamless compliment to low-key winter months, maintaining a philosophy of “quiet and calm.” A vineyard of considerable acclaim and prestige, the small-scale producer has earned a reputation as one of Virginia’s finest wineries — and likewise has had a large hand in opening the world’s eyes to the viticultural possibilities of Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley. Their chardonnays are regularly compared with California’s, while the variety of reds all have considerable aroma and full, rich flavors. Perfect to drink on the vineyard’s premise or in front of the fireplace later in the evening.

The Narmada Winery is quite new to the area, and already creating quite a stir. Among a full offering of different varieties, their dessert wine was voted the best in Virginia in 2009. This time of year, while visitors are sparse, visitors have a chance for intimate tours with an up and coming vineyard.

With the mountains still blanketed by a layer of soft, white snow, and streets clear enough for walking around town, now is a unique time to experience rare beauty in the Shenandoahs.

Hot Springs

Let’s be honest with each other. There might not be all that much in Hot Springs, Virginia (although George Washington National Forest is rather pretty). And, yes, it might be a little out of the way. But what Hot Springs does have is The Homestead. This is what matters, and it is worth the trip.

Resting on 3,000 acres of Allegheny Mountain terrain, The Homestead is a luxury mountain resort that has been spoiling their guests since before the American Revolution. This National Historic Landmark of a retreat is ranked among the world’s finest spa destinations, and has enough activities to keep someone busy through the entirety of winter.

There are a variety of suite accommodations from which to choose, including pet friendly rooms. Their world-class spa alone would nearly be worth the trip — even more so in these dragging winter months when skin begins to crave an escape from the dry, cold atmosphere. Revitalize the mind, body and spirit with a hydrotherapy treatment, and then, if the mood is right, go see a movie at the in-house theater or swim in the naturally heated indoor pool, play tennis on the indoor courts, go skiing, ice skating, bowling, snow tubing. To say the least, The Homestead understands how to make the most out of winter.

With nine restaurants to choose from, guests can dine in almost any manner they please. Put on a your evening’s best to enjoy French American cuisine at 1766 Grille, or enjoy a poolside lunch wrapped in a beach towel with a view of the snowcapped mountains just outside the window.

Spring is coming, and, as we stagger around slush puddles at intersections and flip up our collars to deflect renegade snow clumps falling from waning rooftops, most of us agree that it couldn’t get here sooner. Even still, life should be enjoyed in the here and now. With so many unique opportunities just hours away, there are plenty of reasons to enjoy the intimacy and the solitude of the last weeks of winter.
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Spring is for Equestrians

May 4, 2011

Driving southwest beyond the bustle of DC, the edges of the city begin to melt away into its suburbs where high-rise buildings are fewer and farther between and new condos and housing complexes spring up along the highway, accommodating residents of the nation’s expanding capital. Continue still further south and even those images of city living begin to fade. Low-lying fences of dry, stacked stone run along the twisting roadsides, separating the asphalt from the rolling country beyond. What could be taken as a picturesque scene from an English painting is actually Virginia’s Loudoun County, the heart of America’s Horse Country.

The many stories that make up Loudoun’s long, rich history of equestrian life are housed in the National Sporting Library and Museum, where over 17,000 books dating back to the 16th century, as well as cycles of exhibitions, chart the county’s sporting traditions back to their roots. The current exhibit, on display through June 30, is “Horses at Work and Play,” which showcases literature and toys from the National Sporting Library’s collections and the renowned Athelstan and Kathleen Spilhaus collection.

This fall a new wing adjoining the library’s old brick building will open. The renovated hall will be the home of American and European fine sporting art, celebrating horse culture and field sports with through artistic representations.

Horse culture is also the life and blood of many shops in Loudoun, such as Middleburg’s Journeymen, a tack store and workshop creating custom-made leather goods such as chaps and saddles. It’s also the only place in town to get repairs and adjustments for your gear. The front of the store is home to a boutique where a tailor can outfit you with fitted suits in addition to riding attire.

Punkin Lee, the owner of the store whose strong hands and piercing eyes are at odds with her unique name, has been working with leather as the head of Journeymen for the past 34 years. A Middleburg native, Lee, grew up around horses, hunting and showing throughout her youth. At one time her grandmother’s barn was even the stomping ground for General George S. Patton’s horses, she said.

“It’s the industry here,” Lee said. “Annapolis has boats, we have horses.”

Having made every repair from a camel saddle to handmade leather boots for a dog, Lee stresses that the quality of her work is what keeps her customers from Middleburg and around the world coming back to her store. Pieces of Lee’s world-class gear have even made their way to the Olympics.

For the past 157 years, Loudoun residents and horse enthusiasts from across the world gather in Upperville for the Upperville Colt and Horse Show, the oldest horse show in the U.S. featuring events from children’s competitions to Olympic-level riders and horses. June 6 through 12, the show will enter its 158th season at The Oaks, the event’s beautiful, grass-covered showgrounds nestled in Loudoun’s rolling foothills. For just $10 per person, visitors can watch a packed schedule of daily events with competitions for hunters, jumpers and breeders. Visit for more information.

On May 7, about 50,000 people will travel to Great Meadow in The Plains region of Loudoun for the 86th annual Virginia Gold Cup steeplechase. The day’s six hurdle and timber horse races as well as its Jack Russell Terrier races are famous nationwide, and draw countless vendors, tents and tailgaters. The spectators will also have a chance to compete in the hat contest. Ladies sporting the biggest and best derby hats will be judged in the afternoon on Members Hill. To learn more about the steeplechase, go to

Another tradition in Loudoun County is the Annual Hunt Country Stable Tour hosted by Trinity Episcopal Church. This self-driven auto tour will enter its 52nd year the weekend of May 28, when drivers will tour a circuit of Upperville, Middleburg and The Plains, visiting the areas thoroughbred breeding farms, show hunger barns, fox hunting barns and country estates. Call 540.592.3408 or visit for more information and tickets.

But riding in Loudoun County isn’t just for equestrian addicts and professionals. It’s a part of life for everyone, including visitors and first-timers. The area abounds with stables and fields where just about anyone can learn to ride. At the southern tip of Loudon, Aldie Dam Stable occupies more than 450 acres of land and offers lessons and trail rides for riders with all levels of experience. Call 540.931.8779 to find out more.

Although Loudoun’s title of Horse Country is rich in history and tradition, the area also holds another prestigious title: Wine Country. More than 54 wineries are scattered throughout the area, their presence marked by the sprawling vineyards interspersed among the farms and grazing fields. The wineries are grouped into five clusters: the Loudoun Heights Cluster, the Waterford Cluster, the Potomac Cluster, the Mosby Cluster and the Harmony Cluster. This arrangement, in addition to the long, beautiful country roads, makes touring the vineyards an incredibly relaxing experience. These picture-perfect venues are wonderful settings to enjoy the slow pace of the countryside while sampling some of Virginia’s best wines. [gallery ids="99655,105340,105336,105334" nav="thumbs"]