Tag Archives: virginia


Quick Bites in VA: Luray and Manassas

Have you ever had that weird moment of realization when you think you’re in a new place, but then it occurs to you that you’ve actually been there before? That’s what happened in New Market, Virginia as I pulled into the parking lot of the Days Inn. It suddenly dawned on me – Wait a second, I know this hotel! Turns out I’d stayed there about eight years ago for work. Talk about random.

A triathlon in Luray brought me down to VA last weekend. Downtown Luray is about two blocks long, but it’s a cute two blocks: some shops, a cool outdoors apparel store and a few restaurants, including this one, Gathering Grounds Patisserie & Cafe, where we went for dinner.

The decor is quite charming and cozy.

I’ve mentioned this in previous posts, but the night before a race, you generally don’t want to eat foods that are spicy, heavy, or out of the ordinary… basically anything that could potentially upset your stomach. Keep it simple, get your carbs in, and call it a night. Save the foie gras and pickle sandwich for after the race.

I started with a very nice tomato basil soup.

And moved on to the baked pasta.

Truthfully, it wasn’t anything special and the pasta was rather overcooked and mushy. But as pre-race food it worked just fine.

On the way home from the race I stopped at Manassas National Battlefield Park. If you have any interest in American history, particularly the Civil War, you owe it to yourself to visit. Between their iPhone app, the visitor center, and the ranger-led tours, you’ll learn a lot. The area’s also quite beautiful and the battlefield looks relatively unchanged from 150 years ago.

Afterwards, in my search to grab a bite in Manassas, I saw this sign:

Two reasons why this piqued my interest: 1) a recent episode of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” had Larry and Jeff eating at restaurant called Palestinian Chicken; they made it look so good that I’ve had chicken on the brain ever since. And 2) the logo bore an uncanny resemblance to the fictional Los Pollos Hermanos fast-food chain on “Breaking Bad.” Two inane reasons to stop at a restaurant, and the two reasons why I sauntered in.

I can’t vouch for the fried chicken, but it looked damn good; practically everyone was ordering it. I opted for a grilled chicken sandwich with a side of sweet plantains and a sinfully refreshing horchata drink.

Tasty stuff, and that white dipping sauce makes the chicken sandwich.

All in all, a very good weekend in Virginia: a little racing, a little history, a little eating.

Gathering Grounds Patisserie & Cafe
55 East Main St.
Luray, VA

Pollo Campero
7913 Sudley Rd Ste 101
Manassas, VA



A Perfect DC Day Trip

As summer activities go, berry picking is highly underrated. Mention it to people and you’re bound to get a few blank looks. “Why would I want to pick berries when I can buy them at the supermarket?” someone asked me.  Well, because a) it’s nice to be outdoors, b) freshly picked berries taste miles better than anything in a store, and c) sometimes it’s worth it to work a little for your food.

Back on a Sunday in late June, a few friends and I piled into a car and headed west into Virginia to pick berries, have lunch and visit a vineyard.

Our first stop was Hollin Farms, about an hour outside of DC.

Beautiful rolling hills.

And rows of strawberry patches. This was the last weekend for the strawberries, so the patches were well picked out, but there were still gems to be found. The four of us split up and began searching for strawberries with intense concentration.

We weren’t alone. These plump chickens were rooting around the patches as well, looking for bugs. Apparently they had wandered over from a neighboring farm. “I’d love to fry one of those up,” I said, only half kidding.

My pint of freshly picked berries. Not the biggest strawberries in the world, but so sweet.

At Hollin Farms, you can also pick vegetables. I dug up a head of lettuce.

And these short but fat carrots.

Further up on the hill were the raspberry patches. They had some nasty thorns, requiring extra care not to get pricked.

Filled up another pint with ripe raspberries.

A little grimy and a lot hungry, we drove to Hunter’s Head Tavern in Upperville for lunch. The inside resembles a rustic, old-timey tavern. Outside is a nice patio.

I’d worked up quite an appetite picking berries and opted for something hearty: good old fashioned meatloaf.

After lunch, it was off to Bluemont Vineyard.

The vineyard, and the whole area, really, reminded me so much of the Shawangunk Wine Trail in my former home of NY.

Spectacular views.

And a large outdoor seating area to take in all the sights.

We shared a bottle of red.

And a cheese plate plus baguette.

Doesn’t get much better than kicking back on a vineyard patio while sipping wine and noshing on local cheese.

This sign, spotted on the drive back, required a picture. Must be quite the adventurous feline to warrant its own crossing sign.

So yes, I highly recommend adding berry picking and vineyard hopping to your summer bucket list. Strawberry season is long over at Hollin Farms, but there’s plenty left to pick, including peaches, pears, tomatoes and a whole raft of veggies. Get out of the city for a bit, pick some fruit and drink some wine.  Makes for a very good day.

Hollin Farms
11324 Pearlstone Lane
Delaplane, VA

Hunter’s Head Tavern
9048 John S. Mosby Highway (Route 50)
Upperville, VA

Bluemont Vineyard
18755 Foggy Bottom Rd.
Bluemont, VA