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Dining in Loudoun County


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After checking all the other sites and boards, it seemed to lead me to The Wine Kitchen as our best bet with spots like Tuscarora Mill and Lightfoot having very variable feedback with higher risk (higher prices).

I have not been to the Wine Kitchen but I love Tuscarora Mill and prefer it over Lightfoot. I'm an especial fan of Tuskie's front room which features an incisive wine list with about 25 to 30 bottles by the glass along with excellent in house soups (real stock), excellent dinner salads and available dinner entrees from the white table cloth restaurant next door. Counter to what you were told I have an impression that Tuscarora Mill is, indeed, the best of leesburg. Heidi Morf's Four and Twenty Blackbirds is quite another matter. the Flint Hill landmark is sorely missed by my wife and I; it was indeed EXCELLENT, at times justifiably rivally the Inn at Little Washington where she had earlier paid her dues. This was not an inexpensive restaurant: her entrees averaged in the mid '20's ten years ago with checks including wine running in the mid 100's for two with tax and tip. And worth every penny.

We've been searching now for seveal months with almost weekly drives into Loudoun, Rappahannock and Culpeper Counties trying to find a replacement. Once, we thought Foti's might do it in Culpeper but it has lacked consistency. Until six or seven years ago Beverly erected a tent at Patowmack Farm which, along with tiki torches framed an incredible setting overlooking the Potomac River. Loudoun county eventually forced her to put up a permanent structure which robbed it of a bit of rustic almost primitive charm. Grandale Farm may have the idyllic setting of the day but while the food is good it is not on par with the old Four and Twenty Blackbirds.

One thing has changed though: there is now excellent red Virginia wine available at several stops. Glen Manor's Hodder Hill is excellent as is Hillsborough's 2007 Bloodstone along with the $39 and almost worth it Tannat at Chateau O'Brien. (I have not had his "sold out" $80 wine...) None of these three existed when Heidi's restaurant was opened. All three by the way have incredibly scenic locations with Hillsborough and O'Brien evoking Tuscan ambience and at Glen Manor, sipping a glass at the base of the steep hill behind the winery could have you seemingly looking at an Austrian or German mountainside. Partenkirchen does not appear that far away. Breathtaking beauty and very good red is now available within one hour of the beltway. All of this worth bringing a case back of.

The best view of all however is at Bluemont which has unfortunately mediocre wine. Still, you really can see downtown Washington on a clear day which is a very real forty + air miles from the 1,200 foot high winery. The winery itself seems to be as popular for weddings as it is for tastings. Of course with this type of setting it is no wonder. Bluement winery is a very real exclamation point on the available breathtaking beauty of some of the Virginia countryside. Hillsborough, Chateau O'Brien and commendably several others contribute to this.

Simply, I believe this part of the Virginia wine country is as beautiful as any in America. Well worth the trip, well worth more Washingtonians knowing about it and visiting.

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[The following posts have been split into separate threads:

The Apple House (porcupine)]

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I have not been to the Wine Kitchen but I love Tuscarora Mill and prefer it over Lightfoot. I'm an especial fan of Tuskie's front room which features an incisive wine list with about 25 to 30 bottles by the glass along with excellent in house soups (real stock), excellent dinner salads and available dinner entrees from the white table cloth restaurant next door. Counter to what you were told I have an impression that Tuscarora Mill is, indeed, the best of leesburg. Heidi Morf's Four and Twenty Blackbirds is quite another matter. the Flint Hill landmark is sorely missed by my wife and I; it was indeed EXCELLENT, at times justifiably rivally the Inn at Little Washington where she had earlier paid her dues...

We've been searching now for seveal months with almost weekly drives into Loudoun, Rappahannock and Culpeper Counties trying to find a replacement. Once, we thought Foti's might do it in Culpeper but it has lacked consistency. Until six or seven years ago Beverly erected a tent at Patowmack Farm which, along with tiki torches framed an incredible setting overlooking the Potomac River. Loudoun county eventually forced her to put up a permanent structure which robbed it of a bit of rustic almost primitive charm.

One thing has changed though: there is now excellent red Virginia wine available at several stops.

Thanks Joe, great stuff here. We'll absolutely prioritize Tuskie's front room next time out. And, love the Four and Twenty recollections. We loved it also and thought it great. I wouldn't have thought to compare it to the Inn at Little Washington but that's not a knock at all on what Four and Twenty's food was. To us, the Inn is just more elevated, formal and classic in most every way than what Four and Twenty was doing. But doesn't matter. Both great for what they were (or are). Your Patowmack reference also reminds me I didn't post after we went there a month or so ago. Liked it quite a bit but, yes, it's not in the same league as what Four and Twenty was...though I really enjoyed meeting and talking with Beverly when there. This is all off topic from Wine Kitchen though...maybe someone will slice and dice it over to another existing or new thread more about the 'longing for great food with character somewhere in rural VA' theme. Thanks again.

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Heidi Morf worked at The Inn. No, it did not have the sumptuous luxury nor did it evoke its style. But some of her dishes were every bit as good. Patowmack Farm is different today: ten years ago Beverly erected a literal catering tent in front of her house on the hillside and framed it with tiki torches. It held about thirty people and was truly "dinner in the garden" which she promoted. Today the framed structure is still open but for us does not recapture the once extraordinarily rustic experience it once had. Then a particularly gusty storm could generate real insecurity that the tent might blow away! Still, we like Patowmack Farm; it's just that once it was even more unique.

The best country dining experience within two hours or so of the D. C. area is the Bichrunville Store Cafe in the obscure western reaches of Chester County, PA. We celebrated our anniversary there this year and will probably return every year for as long as we are able. It's actually because of this that we've become obsessed with finding something remotely similar west of D. C. So far nothing has approached it. Actually, given the comparactive amibence neither did Four and Twenty Blackbirds which I use as a local benchmark.

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Ha! I will do a head to head comparison. We have a gift certificate for Red Fox, thus the reservation on Friday night. Saturday we're planning on just taking a ride and actually discussed going to Hunter's Head.

 

Just past the Hunter's Head Tavern is the Blackthorne Inn's Wolfes Tone Pub.  I believe it is the single most romantic room in the entire metropolitan D. C. area.  It dates back a couple of hundred years and is on land once literally owned by George Washington.  I am not suggesting going for dinner.  I would go to Hunters Head for that.  I am suggesting going for a drink in the Pub.  I would also suggest going after dark when you can fully appreciate the stone, brick and exposed beams along with fireplaces and candles.  If it is warmer they have tables outside surrounding a pond that is beautiful.  On four visits to the Ashby Inn last year we stopped at Wolfes Tone Pub three times on the way back for a drink.

You also have the Goodstone Inn and the Ashby inn but I have no idea what the latter is like since Neal left.  The setting is similarly spectacular.

Both the Wolfes Tone Pub and Hunter's Head Tavern are extremely popular with locals. I must also note that you are going to be in the middle of Virginia wine country. There are probably as many as 30 or more wineries within 20-30 minutes of Middleburg. If you enjoy wine I believe that Delaplane Cellars, a couple of miles off of 50, is spectacularly sited, halfway up the side of "Lost Mountain."  I also think enough of their wine that I took a bottle of their '10 Williams Gap to Germany last weekend (and posted on here).   If RDV is open to the public now it would be worth a stop also.  If you are really into wine consider also stopping at Linden which is ten minutes from either or Glen Manor twenty minutes to the west.  It is no secret that I am a huge fan of these four.

The whole area from Middleburg west through Upperville and Delaplane to Front Royal and for miles both north and south is a kind of American Tuscany that is worth pointing your car and getting lost.

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Thanks Joe. We've been to the Ashby Inn right before the chef change and decided we made the best call. We're more likely to try Patowmack Farm before returning to Ashby. We're sort of planning on what you are suggesting - pointing the car that direction and driving.

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With regard to Joe H's suggestions I picked up a hard copy of Tuskie's Wine Trail.  Or as Tuskie's describes it, a lighthearted guide to the Wineries of Loudoun County and beyond.   The hard copies have 48 discount coupons to wineries, some hotels/motels in Leesburg, and discount to Tuskie's group of restaurants in Loudoun, including Tuscararora Mill, South Street, Magnolia's at the Mill, the Loudoun Fire Works and the Arlington Fire Works. Tuskie's website  covering all their restaurants.  (I picked up a copy at the Arlington restaurant so I suspect there are many sitting in the Loudoun restaurants as well)

Its a nice piece of artwork featuring the drawings of a local artist.  Tuskie's got discount participation from many wineries in Loudoun and nearby, plus the discounts at the hotels.  They suggest hiring a limo driver or using a designated driver if one takes a serious tour with a group of wineries and tastings.  Further they offer free corkage at their restaurants for day of purchase  of any of the wines from these wineries.  The free corkage opportunity is good for their restaurants in Loudoun and in Arlington.

All in all, a great deal, plus its beautiful country....though I must admit to NOT touring around there during the winter months.  Looks like a nice deal.

(btw:  I am NOT a paid mouthpiece for the Tuskie's group--the whole package looks rather attractive and fun though.)

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This is just a very general, high-level observation, but I would say that the eateries of Loudoun County, where I have lived for the past 12 years and really love, have not kept pace with the wineries of Loudoun County.

Middleburg's dining options are generally considered mediocre. Leesburg the same. Ashburn has a wider variety of places, but they are constantly coming and going. A very large shopping plaza (or even two, it's hard to tell) will soon be opening at the intersection of Route 50 and Loudoun County Parkway and, according to our Dulles District Supervisor, as of a couple weeks ago had signed leases with all of three eateries: Dunkin Donuts, Smashburger, and Which Wich. He reports that our area is proving very difficult for higher-end restaurants.

This in the county that is widely reported to be the "richest" in the US.

I'd like to hear what others have to say in this regard.

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This is just a very general, high-level observation, but I would say that the eateries of Loudoun County, where I have lived for the past 12 years and really love, have not kept pace with the wineries of Loudoun County.

Middleburg's dining options are generally considered mediocre. Leesburg the same. Ashburn has a wider variety of places, but they are constantly coming and going. A very large shopping plaza (or even two, it's hard to tell) will soon be opening at the intersection of Route 50 and Loudoun County Parkway and, according to our Dulles District Supervisor, as of a couple weeks ago had signed leases with all of three eateries: Dunkin Donuts, Smashburger, and Which Wich. He reports that our area is proving very difficult for higher-end restaurants.

This in the county that is widely reported to be the "richest" in the US.

I'd like to hear what others have to say in this regard.

Couldn't agree more about the lack of good, higher end dining in Loudoun.  If you go to any of the 'higher end' options (and its hard to call Clyde's, Ford's, Lightfoot, etc higher end) Sunday through Wednesday, they're largely empty.  Sure, on Friday and Saturday those places are busy, but it has to be difficult to make a restaurant work from 2-3 days of solid revenue each week since the eastern half of the county seems to have such a large 'bedroom community' population.  Areas like Middleburg and western Loudoun have less of that problem, but also have less population density/customers.

I have no idea if the Salamander is living up to financial expectations or not - the few times I've visited it seemed to have quite a few guests but is not a resort you hear much about in the city.  It's too bad their dining options don't live up to the potential - I would think if one area of Loudoun could really hold up a higher end, fine dining option, the Salamander would be the most likely case.

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We get take out in Loudoun... a lot.  Between the recently mentioned lack of many good upscale options around here and my wife being pregnant, I end up running out to pick up food 4-5 times a week, sometimes more.  After a recent post on Spinfire at One Loudoun, I heard from several users on other places we frequent, so wanted to draw attention to a few diamonds in the rough that may not warrant their own independent thread.

Kabobs and Curries - Indian restaurants in Ashburn are a bit like grocery stores around here - there are way too many of them and none of them are all that great (seriously, there is a bizarre number of supermarkets in Ashburn, but I digress).  Then I noticed signs for Kabobs and Curries, located in the Ryan Park Center behind Giant a few months back, but didn't take a second look until a few coupons found their way to the mailbox more recently.  The restaurant itself is pleasant and feels a step above similar area Indian restaurants in terms of ambiance.  They also have a large, full bar that seems to be sadly under utilized.

Chicken Kadai Curry ($14 with choice of rice or naan) is my go-to meat curry - big chunks of chicken in tomato, onion, pepper, ginger, garlic sauce.  Great flavor that is even better when ordered with lamb ($16).  The Lamb RoganJosh ($17) is one of their signature curries and works well for those who aren't as interested in spice - the sauce is a bit sweeter.  Baigan Bharta ($12) is my personal favorite - eggplant cooked with peas and tomatoes, and trends a bit spicier than the Kadai, even when ordered medium.  The Chicken Tikka kebab ($14) is well-seasoned and not dried out, as many times chicken kebabs tend to be.  The Lahsooni Gobhi (crispy cauliflower in a garlicky sauce) ($6) is an addictive appetizer and manages to hold up ok when getting to go.  The naan is good but I haven't gone beyond the basic version into the breadbasket.

Staff is friendly and they're very takeout friendly.  Only minor quibble is it would be nice to be able to order some of the vegetable options as a smaller side size.  Even my wife, who does not normally care for Indian foods, will usually go for it if I say Kebabs and Curries.  It hasn't been busy during the various times I've been there so hopefully some more will check it out.

Opa! Mezze Grill is a place mentioned a few times in various threads on here and was reviewed by Sietsema a few years back, but hasn't picked up a lot of traction.  This is the very definition of a mom and pop place and has comfortable seating but a little light in the ambiance department.

The greek comfort classics are well done here.  Moussaka ($15) is a HUGE slab of the dish covered with an impossibly thick bechamel custard - best rendition I've had in the United States, and I'm a guy who likes my moussaka.  Pastitsio ($14) is also quite good and also enough for two meals.  Chicken Kabob ($16) is well seasoned, but like many of the chicken dishes here, tends to be a little on the dry side.  Lamb Kabob ($18)  is a better option, the lamb cooked so that its tender but not dried out, even when taken to go and eaten later.

On the mezze side of the menu, Tyrokafteri ($6.50) is a bit like Cava's Crazy Feta, Spanikopita ($7) and Tzatziki ($6.50) are good, and the zucchini fritters ($8) are like crack - also available on a pita as another vegetarian option in addition to falafel.

They do have beer and wine service but not full bar, and they DO stock Mythos (which I miss from the Tysons Lebanese Taverna in recent years)

Chin-Chin Cafe - there isn't too much to say about this place except that its the best Americanized Chinese food I've come across in Loudoun, and they are really good about customizing pretty much anything you'd like.  Nothing worth driving across the metro for - just solid chinese food and sushi that doesn't disappoint.

Fords (love), Clydes Willow Creek (seems to be on the decline in food quality recently), Cava and Urban BBQ are places most people know about and all are happy to do takeout, but would encourage people to give Opa! and K&C a chance if in the area.

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