April 21 marked the 98th running of the Middleburg Spring Races at Glenwood Park Racecourse, established back in 1911. Follow rolling Foxcroft Road from town, and in mere minutes you will arrive at a sea of tents, horses, and yes, hats! Shops about town are fine purveyors of the very accoutrements you might seek for the races — Tully Rector for those festive spring dresses for the ladies and Highcliffe Clothiers in all its sartorial splendor for the gentlemen. The town is all aflutter getting ready for this annual event.
Race Day Tailgate Tips – Delightful Stops Along the Way
- On your way toward town on Route 50, stop in historic Aldie to see witty Wally at the Aldie Peddler for all your viticultural needs. With a fine wine selection, a hundred bottles under $10, and a bit of banter to boot, you really can’t go wrong. I even picked up some locally pickled okra!
- Next quick stop just after the historic Aldie Mill — Aldie General Store for an eclectic assortment of cold drinks, authentic Aussie pies, feta and spinach and beef pies. Owner and pie-maker extraordinaire Penny Gulick will hand it to you with a smile and a lovely Australian accent.
- Fill your growlers at Mt. Defiance Cidery & Distillery right in town with Farmhouse Cider, Old Volstead’s with English ale yeast, Triple Berry, or Sweet Spice. Maybe even a pick up a bottle of Pommeau Apple Port, Old Volstead’s Straight Bourbon Whiskey, or deliciously caramelized Mt. Defiance Dark Rum. If there’s a chill in the air, don’t miss the Hot Buttered Rum with brown sugar butter balls with cinnamon, nutmeg, and ground cloves. Ed Jenkins and the team are always honing the flavor profiles when working with the spirits. The gregarious Robin Perine assures us, “We’ll get you situated!” Indeed they will.
- For something simple and sweet for you and your guests to nibble on under the tent on race day, don’t skip the cow puddles at the Upper Crust at 4 N. Pendleton Street right in town.
- Order a housemade charcuterie, fruit, and cheese platter at the Whole Ox in Marshall for your upscale tailgate picnic with the likes of reddish-orange British Leicestershire and dried figs. The porchetta sandwich with its oozing grilled onion aioli and grainy mustard is by all accounts divine.
Red Fox Inn & Tavern
The Red Fox Inn & Tavern, established in 1728, is neatly situated at the center crossroads of Middleburg, Virginia, a quaint historic village in the foothills of the Blue Ridge and Bull Run Mountains in Virginia’s fabled horse and wine country. Current owner Turner Reuter is also a board member of the Middleburg Spring Races; the Inn is a key sponsor of this venerable race. All of Middleburg is an equestrian’s delight. The National Sporting Library & Museum houses the Paul Mellon collection of British sporting art from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond on exhibition from April 13 to July 22.
The amiable Mindy Stewart introduced me to adopted cat Mrs. Fox, who “rules the roost” outside on the terrace. Quite the find is the Burch Suite of the Stray Fox Inn, complete with screen porch overlooking the Courtyard Gardens, the entrance guarded by a pair of bronze whippets and a golden fox on the door. Out back is the Gardener’s Cottage. Other parts of the property are strategically placed about town. Five guest rooms in the 12 East Building are perched above Middleburg’s Finest Chocolates, as well as the Middleburg House.
The Tavern’s wooden plank floors, stone fireplaces, hand-hewn ceiling beams, and thick fieldstone walls adorned with equestrian paintings with lively foxhunting hounds, bronze horse statues, and pewter goblets are wistfully reminiscent of another time. Peruse the Red Fox Fine Art Gallery as well.
“Just The Way You Look Tonight” pipes in the tickling of the ivories of a vintage piano of a forgotten era and inspires the meaningful kind of intimate conversation you have by the fireplace. One such couple reveling in the romance of the atmosphere cooed, “This is so delightful. I’d really like to do this again.”
The historic main building houses 2-bedroom suites upstairs, such as the Martha Washington Suite. President Kennedy held his first press conference in a handsome room warmed by one of the five fireplaces on the second floor. Jackie Kennedy Onassis wrote in her gracious letter that the Red Fox Inn was the coziest, most enchanting house in Virginia, and that it “exudes happiness.” Jackie O. always had an eye for things. Thirty-four years hence, trusted nightwatch person Peggy remains at her post. Loyalty abounds with Assistant Manager-during-the-day Debbie, clocking in at 32 years strong. I guess they must like the place.
In the morning, warm up by the fire, sip some English Breakfast tea, and dig in to a Fried Green Tomato Benedict with a nice crusty English muffin, tangy fried green tomatoes, soft-poached eggs, and the ever-delectable hollandaise for an irresistible flavor combination.
After the races, stop in for a signature spring cocktail. Run It through the Garden features Catoctin Creek Watershed gin, basil, cilantro, cucumbers, soda water, and a splash of fresh sour. The Night Fox Pub serves up Virginia craft beers and ciders and a diverse selection of wine varietals. Cheers!
Briar Patch Inn, Circa 1805
Nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains near the Shenandoah Valley, this charming inn is situated on 47 rolling acres with majestic mountain views. Owner Ellen Goldberg was a VP at Fannie Mae for 15 years in downtown DC. One autumn afternoon in 2001, she noticed the Briar Patch was for sale, and after much thoughtful renovation, the rest is history. Ellen is currently president of the Loudoun County Bed & Breakfast Guild. In the green-shuttered main house, rooms like Hyacinth and Violet are decorated with four-poster beds and quilts.
The reconverted Chicken Coop houses the more modern Rooster, Hen, and Chick Suites gaze out to grazing horses and the dairy barn. Relax by the pool or in the year-round hot tub. The Tractor Barn is now the stunning event building. This is a weekend wedding destination; the bridal party often gets ready in the rustic cottage. The cheerful Ali enjoys working at the Briar Patch and rightly declares, “You’ll never feel more relaxed than at the Briar Patch.” Set a spell indeed.