A Go-To Guide to a Culinary Journey Through Loudoun
With so many family farms, access to fresh seasonal ingredients, grass-fed meats and even wild foraged produce such as chanterelles and ramps, it’s perhaps no surprise Loudoun has become such a popular foodie destination. What makes it more appealing to locals and visitors alike is that pretty much every corner of the county, from the Potomac River in the north to the tumbling hills of Middleburg down south, has a fabulous farm-to-table restaurant. The question becomes: where to choose?
Let’s start in the north with the most famous of them all, the place that helped pioneer America’s farm-to-table movement in the 1990s: The Restaurant at Patowmack Farm. It was in 1986 that Beverly Morton Billand, a nurse and mother of five girls, bought a 40-acre property on a hillside overlooking the Potomac River north of Lucketts. Long before “locavore” was a thing, she was raising her daughters on food grown and foraged on her land. In the early 90s she opened a restaurant in a greenhouse on the farm and began serving what she called back then “Earth to Table” food. Lo, a movement was born.
Today the restaurant is one of the most exclusive dining experiences in the U.S., recently rated by Conde Nast Traveler as one of the Top 50 Restaurants in the World in 2021. Book well in advance to sample unique flavors such as farm egg with sultanas and fennel; roasted rabbit with eggplant butter and sweetcorn agnolotti with chanterelle mushrooms and pine needle cream on the ever-changing nine-course Progression Menu. The view of the river snaking through emerald-green forest below as you dine is almost as breathtaking as the food.
A short drive west, make your way to the historic German Settlement of Lovettsville where the sublime Market Table Bistro awaits. For a tiny town, Lovettsville punches well above its weight when it comes to dining, and this modish bistro has helped lead the way for more than a decade. Chef-owner Jason Lage (who also has the more downhome Market Burger in Purcellville) partners with local growers, vintners and culinary artisans to offer what he calls “origin specific cuisine.” How local can you get? Well, the goat cheese gnocchi comprises of cheeses from nearby Georges Mill Farm; the pork belly comes from rare Mangalitsa pigs that you can see from the sun-drenched porch and the drinks menu includes wine from nearby Creek’s Edge Winery as well as beer from Wheatland Spring Farm + Brewery down the road. As for the setting, you can watch the locals go by from the covered porch or take a table inside and watch the chefs at work in the open-plan kitchen.
On to Purcellville, western Loudoun. You can’t go wrong with the farm raised beef patties at the aforementioned Market Burger but the real locavore landmark in town is beloved Magnolias at the Mill, a 1905-built Purcellville grain mill that’s been immaculately restored into a cozy, upscale farm-to-fork restaurant. Enter through wooden swing doors, bar on your right, booth seating to the left, and look up at the exposed beams, wheels and pulleys of the old millworks. The care that’s gone into the design and décor is replicated in the menu, with local farms and purveyors providing everything from the tomatoes and greens in the salads to the root vegetable sides and even the basil in the signature Basil Martini (perfectly poured by bartender Katherine). What to order? While it’s tempting to fill up on the insanely delicious ciabatta made in-house, save space for specialties such as fried green heirloom tomatoes, bacon wrapped scallops and a succulent prime rib with horseradish that can easily feed three. How local does it get? They will waive the corkage fee if you bring local wine.
Talking wine, it’s time to head east to The Wine Kitchen on bustling King Street in downtown Leesburg. The cozy nook of chef-owners Tim Rowley and Jason Miller is famous for pairing local, national and world wines with sublime small plates created from regional produce, the farms and suppliers listed on the menu. A sample dish: beef tenderloin, sautéed summer squash, green beans, cherry tomatoes and eggplant caponata paired with Walsh Family Wine’s 2020 Loudoun County Rosé. The restaurant also does superb cheese plates utilizing the likes of Loudoun based Georges Mill Farm and Locksley Farmstead Cheese. Make sure to leave space at the end for the chocolate and dessert wine flight.
And finally, to those tumbling hills of Middleburg in the south of the county. Here, find the sublime Goodstone Inn & Restaurant. Located on a gorgeous 265-acre estate in the heart of horse country, Goodstone guests get stay in one of 18 elegant rooms at the inn, explore the surrounding fields, forests and gardens of the working farm and then dine in the luxurious glassed-in Conservatory Bistro. What to eat? You can order a la carte, or try one of the multi-course tasting menus, the dishes made with seasonal local produce and paired with world class wines. While the menus change frequently, a recent sampling included heirloom beets with horseradish, lavash and satsuma mandarins and a locally farmed lamb loin with merguez sausage and brassicas – a mélange of local vegetables such as cauliflower, brussels sprouts, broccoli, collards and rutabaga. All this and an 820-label wine cellar at your disposal.