Edible Afield: A Trip to Virginia’s Central Piedmont

Words and photography by Hannah and Stuart Hudson

Two hours is all you need to escape from DC to Virginia’s central Piedmont region, a world away where you can see the stars at night and find hidden gems around every corner. Whether you drive or take the hour and half train ride from Union Station to Culpeper, Virginia, pack a cooler—you’ll want to fill it with all the delicious food the area has to offer.  

First stop, Cibola Farms just outside of downtown Culpeper. Specializing in bison and free-range pork, their farm store is a great first stop on the way to cooking a tasty lunch or dinner. Ground meat and short ribs went right into our cooler. If you have the urge to roam after your travel, the farm also offers self-guided walking tours to see their bison herd and learn more about the farm’s operations. 

Next, head to charming downtown Culpeper, which is well worth exploration. We started at Moving Meadows Farm and Bakery. Located on a well-kept and recently rehabbed thoroughfare of East Davis Street, Moving Meadows is an excellent place to round out your picnic basket. The Hudson family (no relation tous) owns and operates this store and their passion for providing their community with quality products is apparent the moment you walk through the door. They mill their own flour using all non-GMO grains; make sure to ask for a demo of how they make “cool flour” with their mill.  

Heading west towards Main Street, stop in Raven’s Nest Coffee House for a quick pick me up on your way to Culpeper Cheese Shop. This boutique cheese shop maintains a selection of local artisan foods any store in DC would envy, including a wine room and home brewing equipment. Jeffery Mitchell, a former DC resident, offers cheese, meats and more for a Blue Ridge Mountain picnic and or for touring area wineries, where you might want your own cheese and crackers to enjoy with the local wine.  

Planning a weekend getaway? Twenty minutes down the road in Orange, the Inn at Willow Grove provides a wonderful respite. Housed in a stunning historic manor, the hotel was top notch in every way, with beignets and coffee delivered to bedside in the morning. Vintage, the Inn’s restaurant, offers fine dining that pulls local and regional ingredients to create a menu that changes based on seasonal produce. The Inn is also one of the few area hotels that welcomes dogs, so you don’t have to leave the pup behind.  

Saturday morning should be reserved for visiting local farmers markets. Perched atop a green hill, you’ll see the Madison County Farmers Market. It’s truly a community event, where local vendors come together to not only to sell their goods but also to catch up with friends. Standouts include bottled elderflower cordial from Brightwood Vineyard and Farm and local sausage from Rider’s Backfield Beef Farm. Mark your calendars because their harvest festival is October 29, a perfect weekend to visit. Culpeper Farmers Market is in the heart of Culpeper and just steps away from the train station and local shops. Make sure and grab a treat from Little House Bakers. This family-run stop has tasty freshly baked goods and also has gluten-free items!  

Esquire magazine named Virginia one of the best food regions in the country in 2014. We agree, it’s true. Wonderful local food is everywhere. For a quick, inventive and satisfying lunch, Real Food is a true gem. The menu changes weekly and offers only the freshest ingredients. Sweet but unassuming from the outside, the inside offers a clean, mod setting and creative food from the imaginations of Paul and Sarah Deigl, the wonderful couple who are the power behind all this deliciousness. Madison Inn Restaurant is also a great stop for lunch or dinner. Their pet-friendly patio is the perfect place to dine with the dogs and enjoy some creative cocktails.  

The Orange County area is chock-full of outdoor fall activity options. Fly fishing, horseback riding and hiking in the Shenandoah Valley are just a few. Should American history and architecture be your guide, James Madison’s home of Montpelier lies just down the road from the Inn at Willow Grove. The Montpelier Hunt Races will be Saturday, November 5, with the distinction of being the only horse race to take place at a presidential home.  

Of course, no trip to the area would be complete without experiencing Virginia’s wine. The first standout is Barboursville Winery (with their dog-friendly tasting room!). A visit to Barboursville will make you feel like you’ve stepped into the heart of Italy. Not a surprise since award-winning winemaker Luca Paschina, resident winemaker here since 1990, is from the Italy’s Piemonte region; he has certainly put Virginia on the map as a major wine region. You’ll want to make sure and do a tasting here. Our next stop, Early Mountain Vineyards, was equally satisfying but completely different, with its gorgeous modern tasting room that is Californian in style with a beautiful patio that overlooks the vineyards. Early Mountain makes great Virginia wine that you can you can taste your way through; their rosé has developed a cult following. A unique pleasure at Early Mountain is that they also provide a curated selection of other area winemakers’ products. So if you are interested in Virginia wine, this is a wonderful place to grab lunch, do some tasting and listen to live music, which they offer every weekend. They also host a lot of fun special events here, so make sure and check out the calendar on their website.  

As your weekend comes to an end, the drive back home can be made all the more exciting by a stop at the Inn at Little Washington’s Farmers Market in Washington, VA. Every Sunday until October 30, the Inn hosts a European-style farmers market with fresh produce, local products, flowers, music and, of course, food from the Inn. We loved our Carolina-style barbecue and baked goods and just the general ambience of the market. Don’t miss it.  

Mini Pumpkin Bundt Cakes with Spiced Pumpkin Seeds

 by AJ Dronkers, Associate Publisher EdibleDC PumpkinBundts2

I was enjoying my weekly tradition of watching Whine About It video series - the topic this week, "The Worst Things About Fall".


Between laughing and listening to an internet rant about fake pumpkin favors a la Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte, I realized I've seen far too many basic pumpkin recipes being spread across the internet. These pumpkin popups sometimes even just use pumpkin spice as a stand-in for the real thing, too many of these things are really just lazy cooking where brands pay online sites to gin up recipes so that they too can hop on the pumpkin spice train in the hope they go viral.

To restore my faith in cooking I reached out to our baking muse, Meredith Tomason, of RareSweets, and asked her for an inspired pumpkin recipe. What she gave me defied my expectations - mini pumpkin bundt cakes with bourbon cinnamon glaze. Also the spiced pumpkin seeds were a crunchy surprise and are now my go-to fall snack.


Pumpkin Bundt Cake (enough for 4 mini bundts)

  • 7 oz. butter
  • 6.5 oz. sugar
  • 6 oz. light brown sugar

Cream together in mixer with paddle attachment.

  • 4 eggs
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract

Add and combine well to butter mixture.

11 oz. pumpkin puree

(We prefer to roast our own pumpkins to create the puree, but canned can work fine too.)

Add to mixture, it may look broken but it is fine. Just make sure the puree is evenly distributed

  • 9 oz all purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/3 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 6 oz buttermilk

Sift dry ingredients together, and alternate adding to butter mixture with the buttermilk.

Preheat oven to 350, spray mini bundt pans and dust with flour. Pour batter evenly into each pan and bake for approximately 20-30 minutes, until cake springs back.

Let cakes cool in pans for 5-10 minutes, then remove and let cool completely on wire rack.

Bourbon Cinnamon Glaze

  • 6 oz butter
  • 6 oz confectioners sugar
  • 2 Tbs bourbon
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 2 ½ Tbs milk

Melt butter, set aside until room temperature. Mix dry ingredients in a bowl and then add the butter, followed by the bourbon and milk. Whisk together and pour over bundt cakes while on a wire rack. Top with Spiced Pumpkin Seeds when set.

Spiced Pumpkin Seeds

  • 2 cups pumpkin seeds
  • 3/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • 1 ½ tbs dark brown sugar
  • 1 egg white

Set oven to 300.

Mix dry ingredients with a whisk into the egg whites. Add the pumpkin seeds, toss until well coated and spread evenly onto a silpat, baking mat or parchment paper.

Bake 5-7 minutes until dry and lightly golden.

*Can be stored up to 10 days in an air-tight container




Meredith Tomason is Pastry Chef and Founder of her bakery, Rare Sweets, located in DC's City Center. After stints at Tribeca Treats and Magnolia Bakery, she joined the pastry department of Craft Restaurant and ultimately became Pastry Chef of Craft Restaurant.


A Day in the Field with American Lamb

by Eden Stiffman, special to EdibleDC Lamb6

Virginia Sheep and Lamb Producers Find Niche Markets

The American Lamb Board, an industry association for sheep and lamb producers, organized a field trip designed to educate food influencers about local lamb. And so, a group of around 15 DC-area food writers, bloggers, chefs and their friends boarded a bus in Clarendon on Sunday, October 4 to visit Virginia sheep producers. Our trip also included a butchery tutorial, whole animal utilization discussion and a lamb-centric lunch.

Our first stop was at Zephaniah Farm Vineyard in Leesburg, VA owned by brothers Bill and Chris Hatch. These farmers also have Mill Road Farm, which produces pasture-fed Angus, lamb and honey just a short walk away. The group sampled wines while nibbling on savory bites of rosemary-flavored lamb sausage made by Patchwork Pastures in Luray, VA.

Gary Hornbaker, Loudoun County Rural Resources Coordinator and owner of Mutton Bustin' Farm in Berryville, VA shared some of the changes that have taken place in the regional lamb industry in recent years.

Lambs have gotten larger, to where a restaurant-grade animal may be 120-140 pounds. There's been a shift towards hair sheep, which tend to be leaner than wool sheep.

There has also been a focus on selling to ethnic communities in the region. While in the past, many farmers would try to have their lambs ready by Easter or Christmas, there is now a recognition that the Muslim holiday calendar also increases demand; family celebrations often feature lamb. Many immigrants from Africa and the Middle East, especially Muslims, favor lamb or goat over beef. And at the retail level, Muslim and Hispanic food markets control a large part of the sheep and goat industry.

One of  the fastest growing areas of lamb sales is direct to consumer at farm markets or sold from farmer's own on-premise stores. According to the American Sheep Industry, one-third of all lamb is now sold direct from producer to customer. Many farmers have carved out their own niche, from raising lambs for fiber to selling to grass-fed lamb to restaurants to raising the animals for research purposes, as Hornbaker does.

But one thing has remained the same, he said: “Everybody loves lamb chops.”

Lunch featured platters of sliced leg of lamb, rib chops, shanks, and burgers with seasonal vegetable sides.



The meal was followed by a whole-lamb butchering demo by Matt Levere of Silver Spring's Urban Butcher. Levere broke down the animal as he would for the restaurant, to maximize the use for both the kitchen and butcher shop, as the group gathered around a table outside, including Zatinya chef, Michael Costa and the Maketto kitchen staff.


Eden Stiffman is a reporter for the Chronicle of Philanthropy where she writes about nonprofits. She's an avid home cook, and freelance food writer focused on food and farming.

Food and Dirt: A Day of Learning at the Rodale Institute

Rodale group By Melissa Jones, special to Edible DC

A group of eleven gardeners, farmers, foodies, and environmental advocates from the DMV took an August road trip to Pennsylvania to visit a one-of-a-kind research institute that has been on the forefront of organic farming since 1947. “Healthy Soil = Healthy Food = Healthy People” has been the Rodale Institute's motto since 1947. I'm the founder of Good Soil Events, a developing social enterprise that celebrates sustainable agriculture, advocates healthy soil and raises awareness through food-focused experiences. Considering that the United Nations Food & Agriculture Organization declared 2015 the International Year of the Soils, this was an important trip for me to host and make available to others.

We kicked off our journey with a farm-fresh meal prepared by The Market Café at the Rodale Farm with a spread of Mediterranean sandwiches, fresh gazpacho, cucumber and tomato salad, kale salad, and a refreshing fruit salad. The attendees shared their food stories at the table – because food is an event, a connector and everyone has a food story to share.

Dr. Kristine Nichols, chief scientist at the Rodale Institute farm, greeted us during lunch and led the tour. Dr. Nichols is a Midwesterner who grew up in the heart of farm country. An expert on soil, she holds a PhD in Soil Science from the University of Maryland. She was the perfect tour guide for our trip.

Rodale soil

Our first stop was the soil pit at Rodale’s Farming System Trial (FST), America’s longest running, side-by-side comparison of organic and chemical agriculture. As we stood in the pit – Dr. Nichols pointed out the different layers or horizons of soil, so we could see the differences in soil that has been managed organically and conventionally. The organic and conventional crops are grown side-by-side, so we saw firsthand the differences between the two. We also had the opportunity to run soil tests.

The tour was an ongoing education about soil as we moved throughout the farm. We saw their impressive composting site, an on-farm experiment designed to combat stink bugs and more. Time and time again we were reminded that Mother Nature has her own answers to many of the challenges we face.

Rodale_donkey2Other experimental projects are their Tree as a Crop program and The Honeybee Conservancy. Rodale was designed, operates and evolves as an institute to meet the needs of modern day farmers, so the scientists there utilize and try to maximize output on all their farmland for growing food or other crops that could be used by farmers to generate income to continue to learn more. Rodale studies the entire food ecosystem which includes animals. From raising organic and heritage breed hogs to roosters and chickens, Rodale farm even had two rescue donkeys – Rodale is an environmental sanctuary for all things in a farm's ecosystem.

Rodale field

Our trip ended with a visit to Rodale’s farm shop that many of us visited. We walked out with fresh preserves, maple syrup, soil, educational books, t-shirts and more. On the bus ride back to DC, everyone had a chance to reflect on what an amazing day they’d had. They also dug into the road-trip goody bags we’d put together filled with snacks and other travel-friendly items from local D.C. artisans including Baklava Couture, Goldilocks Goodies, KateBakes, Karmalades, FruitCycle, and Watusee Foods.

The Rodale experience was truly remarkable – an opportunity to connect the dots of their great work with something we all love - food.

Savvy Shoppers Support National Farmers Market Week in the DC Region!

by AJ Dronkers, EdibleDC Associate Publisher & Digital Editor MAIN

Did you know that August 2-8 is National Farmers Market Week? We are half way through it and in case you haven't visited one yet, we wanted to give you some quick tips to support your local farmers market!


There are over 200+ farmers markets across our region. Find one near you easily with this handy tool from The Washington Post. Just enter your preferred day and region and the they will quickly filter the results. I entered Wednesday & DC and the map displayed the below graphic and list:

Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 10.31.07 AM

Okay, great now I know where my closest farmer market is but aren't they more expensive? First, if you haven't been in a while you should check out the prices - they are probably better than you expect. Second, you are paying for quality, freshness and hand grown food--not industrial farmed stuff--doesn't your body and taste buds deserve the best, most fresh seasonal produce? Of course!


Also, fresh food lasts longer - ever buy something at the grocery store and the next day it goes bad? Don't be afraid to ask your farmer the best way to store their food to get maximum shelf-life.


Discover exciting new vegetables and fruit varieties that will inspire your home cooking and entice your kids.


Did you know Chipotle Mexican Grill and ShopHouse are sponsoring a bunch of FreshFarm Markets across our region? They are giving out $5 currency tokens redeemable at any of the stands (read: FREE MONEY).

  • Wednesday, 8/5 3-7 PM @FreshFarm Foggy Bottom (Chipotle)
  • Thursday, 8/6 3-7 PM @FreshFarm Penn Quarter (ShopHouse)
  • Saturday, 8/8 9 AM - 1 PM @FreshFarm Silver Spring (Chipotle)


Some area farm markets such as FreshFarm and Arcadia Mobile Market also accept nutrition assistance programs such as SNAP (EBT/Food Stamps) better yet they even offer matching dollars program. If you take your SNAP EBT card and ask for $15 dollars in credits, they will give you an additional $15 dollars through their program for a total of $30 of farm fresh produce.


Some of our favorite area farmers markets:

Goat Cheese and Blackberries, A Summer Love Affair

Words and photos by Sara Axelrod, special to Edible DC DSC01880

French chef Jacques Pepin once said, “If you have extraordinary bread and extraordinary butter, it's hard to beat bread and butter.” That's how I feel about blackberries this summer. They have reached the peak of their growing season right now and have been exceptional, standing up to the heat, plump and sweet. The epitome of the perfect summer berry, blackberries are the perfect accompaniment to both sweet and savory dishes.

The recipes here really showcase blackberries at their peak. Simple ingredients, unassumingly prepared, coming together to create a delicious dish that tastes the way summer should.

Warm Goat Cheese and Blackberry Salad with Honey Thyme Vinaigrette

This salad pairs the sweet and complex berry with creamy warm goat cheese medallions perfectly accentuating the summer’s best ingredients. (Serves 2.)


Goat Cheese Medallions

- 1 large egg white

- 1 teaspoon of water

- 4 (1/3 inch thick) medallions of soft goat cheese (keep the log in the

refrigerator until ready to cut)

- 3 tablespoons of dried breadcrumbs

- 1 tablespoon olive oil

Honey Thyme Vinaigrette

- 1 teaspoon of white wine vinegar

- 1 teaspoon of fresh lemon juice

- 2 tablespoons of extra virgin-olive oil

- 1 teaspoon of honey

- ½ teaspoon of fresh thyme, finely minced (dried can also be used)

- Salt and Pepper to taste


- 4 cups of mesclun greens or an assortment of summer greens

- 3 spears of hearts of palm, sliced into ¼ inch coins

- ¼ cup of thinly sliced sweet onion


Whisk together egg white and water. Dip cheese rounds in egg wash, evenly coating. Shake off the excess then dredge in breadcrumbs, pressing lightly to adhere. Chill 15 minutes.

Whisk together vinaigrette ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in small skillet on high heat until hot but not smoking. Place cheese medallions in oil and sear evenly on both sides until crisp and golden brown. About 30-40 seconds per side. Remove from heat and set aside.

Assemble the greens, hearts of palm rounds and onion slivers on a plate. Gently place goat cheese medallions on greens. Drizzle with vinaigrette and serve.

Note: The easiest way to cut goat cheese into perfect rounds is with a piece of unflavored dental floss.

Goat Cheese and Blackberry Grilled Cheese with Basil and Summer Greens


Accompanied by a simple summer green salad, this is the perfect treat for a lazy afternoon. Look for firm, plump berries at your local farmers market. The goal is to choose berries that are firm enough to hold their shape when surrounded by melted cheese—so that when you bite into the sandwich the berry juice bursts in your mouth. (Makes 2 sandwiches.)

Goat Cheese and Blackberry Grilled Cheese with Basil


- 4 slices of your favorite bread (I prefer the Seeduction bread from Whole Foods)

- 1 small log of fresh goat cheese- with herbs or without based on your preference

- 1 pint of blackberries

- High quality butter for spreading

- 5-6 leaves of fresh basil


Spread one side of each slice of bread with butter and place bread, buttered-side down, in a pan over medium-high heat. Top each slice with crumbled goat cheese, roughly ½ tablespoon-1tablespoon depending on the size of the bread slices. Cover pan. Slice blackberries in half and set aside. Chiffonade the basil so you have very thin strips and set aside.

Once the bread has the beginnings of a nice golden crisp and the cheese is beginning to melt, top each slice with the halved blackberries (roughly 4-8 halves depending on the bread) and top with the basil to your own taste. I prefer a light layer of basil, about 5-6 pieces per sandwich.

Combine the 4 separate tartines into two sandwiches. Cover and continue to cook over medium heat for another minute being careful not to burn the bread. Flip the sandwich and sear the other side. Remove from the heat and leave covered until the cheese is melted.

Slice in half and serve with a simple salad of summer greens.

Summer Green Salad



- 3 cups of assorted and available summer greens (arugula, dandelion greens, spinach, purslane)

- ¼ cup of shaved pecorino

- ¼ cup of sweet onion thinly sliced


- ½ teaspoon of finely grated lemon zest

- 2 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice

- 1 teaspoon of honey

- ½ teaspoon of mustard seed

- ¼ teaspoon of fine sea salt, or to taste

- 3-4 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil

- Ground white pepper to taste


Wash greens and set aside to dry. Combine all dressing ingredients and stir vigorously until combined. Toss dressing with greens and garnish with pecorino and onion. Serve alongside Goat Cheese and Blackberry Grilled Cheese with Basil.



Axelrod_Sara_headshotHawaii/Colorado native and DC transplant, Sara Axelrod is a frequenter of farmers markets, vegetable enthusiast and constantly lusts after the perfect French fry. When she is not cooking or exploring DC’s thriving restaurant scene, she works at the DC-based public affairs firm, The Glover Park Group, as a communications professional on the Energy and Sustainability team, with a focus on food policy and sustainable agriculture.