With a world-class resume that includes engagements with the Belgian royal family, the Belgian embassies in Australia and D.C., and a pair of three Michelin-starred restaurants, Belgian-born Executive Chef Jan Van Haute came to Goodstone with Michelin ambitions of his own.
Starting with a salad of micro-greens, vegetables and edible flowers harvested from Goodstone’s onsite garden and greenhouse, his six-course Chef’s Tasting experience is a star-worthy showcase of his talent. Other standouts of my three-hour Virginia-meets-Europe culinary journey included the Leek Soup with King Crab and Seared Squab Breast. Honey-infusions from Goodstone’s beekeeping program also sweeten the menu.
Moroccan-born Wine Director and Sommelier Stephen Elhafdi, an acclaimed 30-year veteran of the D.C. scene, oversees the Wine Spectator award-winning wine program, including private tastings and dinners in the 820-label wine cellar.
His mix of global, domestic and Virginian wines includes several prized local labels, such as the “La Boheme” Viognier from idyllic Three Fox Vineyards (10100 Three Fox Lane, Delaplane. Tel: 540-364- 6073. threefoxvineyards.com).
Also represented are Greenhill Winery & Vineyards (23595 Winery Lane, Middleburg. Tel: 540-687-6968. experiencegreenhill.com); Sunset Hills Vineyard (38295 Fremont Overlook Lane, Purcellville. Tel: 540-882-4560. sunsethillsvineyard.com), featuring mountain views, a restored Amish barn, and sustainably cultivated 100 percent Virginia wines; and Bluemont Vineyard (18755 Foggy Bottom Road, Bluemont. Tel: 540-554-8439 bluemontvineyard.com), which offers stunning panoramas from its hilltop perch and outdoor patio.
Touring Loudon’s wineries by car, a chase of meandering country roads, historic villages and pastoral farms, is essential of course.
Stone Tower Winery (19925 Hogback Mountain Road. stonetowerwinery.com) is another scenic choice just south of historic Leesburg, where unique culinary draws include The Conche (1605 Village Market Blvd SE. the-conche.com). Inspired by the early 18th century chocolate-making technique of “conching,” this boutique restaurant serves chocolate- infused cuisine and other savory fare, plus chocolate-making and mixology classes.
Updating a landmark 1888 bank, Lightfoot Restaurant (11 North King St., Leesburg. Tel: 703-771-2233. lightfootrestaurant.com) serves American-inspired cuisine amid hand-painted Venetian chandeliers and vintage poster art. Wine is stored in the bank’s former vault. Middleburg’s other premier property, the 168-room Salamander Resort & Spa (500 North Pendleton Street. Tel: 844-303-2723. salamanderresort.com), has a unique back story.
Bruce Sundlun was a decorated WWII bomber pilot whose B-17 was shot down over Nazi-occupied Belgium. After evading capture for months, he was recruited by a resistance group that called him “Salamander” after the mythical fire-walking amphibian. Sundlun later gave his 200-acre farm in Middleburg his former code name, which he then granted to Black Entertainment Television founding partner Sheila Johnson when she purchased the property. In 2005, Johnson chose the name for her hospitality company, Salamander Hotels and Resorts.
Renowned for its spa and equestrian programs, her 340-acre Middleburg flagship features fine-dining Harriman’s, where menu highlights include 48-hour brined “Not Your Mother’s Pork Chop” and small plates from the event-capable Culinary Garden. The Cooking Studio offers classes and the four-person Chef ’s Table, while the Gold Cup Wine Bar offers monthly tastings from local wineries.
In town, Market Salamander offers private dining, chef-led cooking programs and catering. Favored by celebs including Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Elizabeth Taylor, and Paul Newman, the Red Fox Inn & Tavern (2 East Washington Street. Tel: 540-687-6301. redfox.com) is a local treasure from 1728.
Speaking of VIPs, few chefs have the perennial star power of Patrick O’Connell, whose three Michelin-starred Inn at Little Washington (Middle and Main Streets, Washington. Tel: 540- 675-3800. theinnatlittlewashington.com), some 35 miles southwest of Middleburg, is an enduring sensation.
Originally from D.C., O’Connell worked in restaurants as a teenager and while majoring in theater at a local college. Inspired by a summer trip to Paris and apprenticeship with an Alsatian chef, he set his sights on culinary fame. His remarkable self-taught success began in 1972 with a small catering business that O’Connell operated for six years with his then romantic partner out of a wood cabin in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains.
In 1977, their transformation of an abandoned garage in tiny Washington, Virginia into a country inn and restaurant was met locally with some antagonism. It was a bold move for two long-haired gay men in the rural outpost. But just months after opening in January 1978 in an epic blizzard, the rave reviews were in, and O’Connell, later anointed the “Pope of American Cuisine” has never looked back. Since expanded to an English-style village of cottages, guesthouses, and gardens, his “magnificent obsession” remains one of the world’s consummate gastronomic destinations.
Another must see, located adjacent to Manassas Battlefield Park, family- run The Winery at Bull Run (15950 Lee Highway, Centreville. Tel: 703-815-2233. wineryatbullrun.com) is a 225-acre farm vineyard that features historic house ruins.
Forming Virginia’s western edge, the storied Shenandoah Valley (shenandoahvalleywinetrail.com) is another distinguished American Viticultural Area (AVA) with some 30 vineyards and cideries. Theses include picturesque Rockbridge County, home to family-owned Rockbridge Vineyard (35 Hill View Lane, Raphine. Tel: 540-377-6204. rockbridgevineyard.com), and Halcyon Days (4135 S. Lee Highway, Tel: 540-554-6694. www.halcyondayscider.com), a cidery near landmark Natural Bridge State Park (naturalbridgestatepark.org), the geological wonder once owned by Thomas Jefferson.