For weeks my dad has been talking about Hopkins Farm Creamery ice cream, specifically their butter pecan. It is has turned into a tradition that on our way home from the beach we stop for ice cream. They have their own cows and starting in 2008, sell their own homemade ice cream. The scope shop is not open all year so it is difficult for us to get their ice creams since the house is rented in the summer months.
We had family in town for a long weekend and on Saturday we were all getting together for dinner. I checked HFC website and they opened on Friday. What luck they would be open in time for me to pickup ice cream. Saturday morning I packed up my car and drove all the way to Delaware for some ice cream. The weather was perfect so I drove with the windows down listening to some good tons.
When I arrived in town I made my first stop at Dogfish Head which is in downtown. I purchased a growler of their seasonal Aprihop and one of their generally available Shelter Pale Ale. Then it was off to the farm for a half gallon of butter pecan and a pint of maple walnut. I even managed to score a cone for myself for the drive home. With all my items procured, I started the drive back to Virginia for dinner. Matt was cooking ribs and said they would be finished around 7pm, my target time for arrival.
When I arrived my dad was sitting in his chair as usual. I was exhausted from the trip but I was excited. I carried the cooler full of ice, beer, and butter pecan to him. When I opened the cooler and handed my dad the half gallon he saw the title on the lid and thanked me. It had the initials “H.C.F.” but it didn’t register. I told him the butter pecan was from Hopkins Farm and then he realized how special the ice cream was.
That night we ate some good ribs and had a wonderful family dinner together. Everyone enjoyed the fresh Dogfish beer and after dinner we all ate the best ice cream any of us have had. I think I brought a tear to my dad’s eye for bringing him his favorite ice cream. The plan was to always make one last trip to the beach but unfortunately that never happened. I was glad I could at least bring a small portion of the beach to him instead.
My dad turned 65 over the weekend so we helped him celebrate another year on earth by going to Foti’s in Culpeper, VA. Pat got a room at a B&B in Remington with dinner at Foti’s to complete the celebration. Pat coordinated with the family to get as many of us as possible to show up for dinner and it turned out wonderful. We have done this in the past so it was not a big surprise when he saw everyone there to help him celebrate. Matt, Tracy, Bobby, Nancy and myself all made the trip out for the evening.
We were told to meet at the only pub in town by 7pm for drinks before heading to the restaurant. Pubs have always been a “go to” place when we get together for drinks. Usually the beer selection is good and the atmosphere is relaxed. This place was anything but, in fact it was a dump. Our caravan of merry people arrived right on time to find the place not officially open, the staff was getting ready for some beach party that night. We grabbed a drink and headed to the upstairs balcony to relax where we meet the folks.
At the appointed time we headed down the block to the restaurant for our reservations. Walking into the place it was well appointed with just enough light to see things but dim enough for perfect ambiance. The restaurant was full but not crowded which was nice. Looking over the menu it was not extensive but the selection looked amazing. Chef, Frank Maragos, worked at the Inn at Little Washington before opening Foti’s and put together an good menu of diverse dishes. He obviously has talent if he worked at the Inn and put this menu together.
We sampled several of the appetizers and they all where amazing. I got the special appetizer for the night, shaved lamb on toasted bread and what looked like bruschetta topping. This was a cold dish with the meat tender and the flavor pairings worked nicely. Nancy wanted to try the escargot, I know they are snails but I have never eaten them before. On Nancy’s recommendation I tried it and was impressed, they were tender and flavorful. The last appetizer for the table was vanilla roasted Maine lobster and it was huge. It must have been a 1/2 pound of tail and call with a hint of vanilla flavor, tender and not rubbery. So far things are off to a good start, I have quelled my hunger paints a little yet still wanting more.
For the main course I got the black pepper corn encrusted salmon and it was amazing like everything else. It came with roasted local vegetables and couscous as the sides. Everyone’s food was amazing and for about 15 minutes there was silence at the table as we all ate our meals and drank our wine. Nancy got the chicken, Matt the rib eye, Pat and Bobby the beef tenderloin, my dad the duck (he’s a sucker for duck), Tracy scallops. Everyone raved about their choice and some even licked their plates clean it was so good.
After such a great meal it would be a shame to not have some dessert so we ordered that to finish the night off. I got the hazel nut ice cream with cookies and because it was my dad’s birthday they gave him a special “Happy Birthday” dessert which he at least sampled. We even got a visit from the chef which was really cool.
By now we could do little more than just sit there and enjoy the last few sips of wine and marvel at the exceptional dinner we just completed. I can’t stress enough how good the food was that night. It was certainly not cheap but for a nice evening out it is a real winner. Being Culpeper we closed the restaurant down just after 10pm but the night was not complete yet. We headed back to the pub which was in full swing as a night club, complete with trashy woman and pumping music. We instead went to the only other open place that night the Smoking House just down the street. It is a real country bar with country music, I saw a guy with spurs on his boots and several pin ball machines. Here we had a few drinks before closing this bar down as well around midnight. I was not to thrilled with this after party and was looking forward to get back home.
We said our goodbyes and piled into Bobby’s 4Runner for the hour drive back to there house. It was past 1:30 when we arrived but the party was still going. We sat on the deck to enjoy another round of drinks and I was enjoying the mostly full moon on a clear night. By the time 3am rolled around it was finally time for bed. All we can hope for it to wake up the next morning and enjoy another day. My dad has been saying these words for years now and I am inspired by this simple outlook on life. He doesn’t require much, just wants to get up each morning.
This local brewery from Delaware has blown up in the last 5 years or so. I remember going to the original ale house in downtown Rehoboth Beach long before they became popular. We would go to get some great craft beer and honestly, some ok food. But it was the beer that set this place apart. Over the years they have increased their distribution area and it is very easy for me to find this beer in my local super market here in Norther Virginia. Discover Channel even had a short lived tv show featuring Sam and Dogfish called Brew Masters.
Enough with the brewery, this post is about the incredible dinner they had. Father’s Day was a few weeks ago and I missed it because I was on Phish tour (night 1, night 2, night 3). For the last few years Phish has played on Father’s Day, usually in Saratoga Springs (2004, 2009 and 2010) and this year in Portsmouth. When I am getting tickets I never realize what the date is, I am just looking for some close shows to attend. Back in 2010 I got called back home and missed the SPAC Father’s Day show, but I caught the first year at SPAC and I was making the Portsmouth show this year. I did of course call my Dad from the road and wished him happy Father’s Day and that I would take him out for dinner on my return to celebrate.
For a few years now my Dad has always paid when just the two of us go out for dinner and I thought it should be my turn to treat him. It had been a while since our last dinner together and we both love beer so when I saw the announcement I jumped at the chance. Since they opened their ale house in Fairfax and Seven Corners I have gotten their emails about dinners but never had the chance to attend one. This I was looking forward to trying.
My Dad and I meet Nancy at the bar before the dinner for a quick drink before dinning. Work has been crazy for Nancy so it was good to get her mind off work and enjoy a beer. Later she went to dinner with Pat at Madigan’s Waterfront in Occoquan. When the dinner started my Dad and I took our beers to the table and were surprised to find a full class of Festina Peche waiting for us, this was what I ordered from the bar. It is a tart wheat beer with a hint of peach and I love it. It certainly is not for everyone, but I dig the tartness and the hint of peach. Many times when a brewer add fruit to their beer all you taste is the fruit and I hate that. This one is well balanced and extra special with the tartness. Abita Purple Haze and Magic Hat #9 are two other “fruit” beers I think are really good.
We got put into a booth and quickly meet our dinner quests for the night, two really cool guys who’s names I can’t remember. We talked all night about beer and life in general. One of the guys is an Archer fan so he got mad brownie points with me. Thankfully he informed us that as the night went on the size of the beers would get smaller, after all there were five courses. But as the glasses got smaller the alcohol content went up so it was really just a wash.
The night started off with three large bacon wrapped scallops that I thought was for the table but in fact was for each person. They were cooked perfectly and I thought the peach wheat beer paired nicely. Second course was potato salad with lobster paired with Burton Baton. The potato salad was good, nothing special and I am not a big fan of the giant insects called lobster. Even the beer was just ok, high alcohol content and a strong taste. I thought they should have paired a lighter beer to go with the delicate salad. I would have also preferred a lettuce salad, but that is just me. In fact this was the only miss of the whole night.
Next up was the soup course and it was clam chowder paired with Shelter Pale Ale. First thing we all noticed was the soup was broth based and not the traditional cream based chowder I am use to. The broth was light but you could still taste the clam/sea/salt. The beer was light of course and didn’t overpower the subtle flavors of the soup. Surprisingly the guy who grew up in New Jersey never had clam chowder before and ate every last drop of it.
Next up is the main course, blue cheese stuff petite filet. By this point we are all getting full but I was determined to eat all the courses. My jaw dropped as I cut into the filet and tasted it. It was perfectly cooked medium-rare and the flavor combo of blue cheese and port wine reduction was incredible. The potatoes had a great flavor of bacon and cheese, creamy yet still a little lumpy, just the way I like it. Even the brussel sprouts had a great tang and flavor. The Raison D’Etre was a so so beer, like the name suggests it has a raisin flavor and was heavy as crap. This beer was hard to finish but I forced myself to drinking it all. Now and again I kept going back to the Festina Peche to cleanse my pallet. By the time I was half done with the main course I had already eaten and drunken a ton and was completely full. If this was a normal meal I would have yelled uncle and taken it home with me. I wad determined to finish everything, even if I did happen to slow down a bit. It was just to good to not finish.
Finally dessert came out which was a waffle, ice cream, maple syrup and MORE BACON. The desert was incredible and I was surprised my Dad actually finished his, not just sampled. He is known for not eating desserts but on rare occasions and this was that rare occasion. Unfortunately as good as the dessert was the beer was anything but. It was the Sah’ Tea which is brewed with juniper berries just like gin. Next they add all these spices and add them to the mix. The beer is brewed in a traditional style with heated river bed rocks but I must say the smell is awful. All you can smell is flowers and taste nothing but juniper. This one I could barely drink, back to my Festina Peche.
Around 9:30 we finally finished, stuffed and fully satisfied we headed home. We were thoroughly impressed with the operation and I can’t wait to go back for another beer dinner. One of our table mates has been to several of these and says the menus have never been repeated. The only thing I was disappointed about was my Dad and I never really talked. We chit chatted all night of course, but usually when he and I go to dinner we have some deep discussions. Guess I will have to take him out for another dinner here shortly.
For most federal holiday they happen on Monday or Friday and often the government shifts around the day off to fit this ideal model. So having Veterans Day in the middle of the week just felt odd and out of place. On top of that Hurricane Ida hit the Gulf Coast and decided to sit on top of Virginia ALL day. I was planning on getting outside to do a little hiking but that got washed out, literally. So when my dad called saying he was going to DC to visit the Vietnam Memorial, possible Arlington National Cemetery, and the Smithsonian’s American History Museum I decided that was a better day spent than inside my house.
We got some what of an early start, I went to his house around 10am so we could take Metro into the city. I was not overly concerned with high traffic today, middle of the week and rain would keep most people away. Plus the more people I talked to it was about a 50/50 split on who had off. Needless to say there was plenty of parking in the garage and seats on the train.
When we got to the Smithsonian stop and took the long escalator ride up we got our first taste of just how miserable the weather was going to be. I was hoping that the further north we traveled things would improve, but of course that was wishful thinking. The wind would howl blowing cold moisture soaked air, layers of warm cloths were the only defense against this onslaught of mother nature. A good rain jacket or umbrella was a must too. My dad’s umbrella decided to break down and provide only minimal defense against the rain, but for today it would do the job well enough. The rain falling was never heavy, just a steady, even, rainfall. Enough to make it not fun to be outside.
The walk from the Metro stop to the Vietnam Memorial is about a mile and half, not that far, but no fun in the rain. We made the most of it and I was able to get a couple nice shots considering the day. We passed the Washington Monument and the WWII Memorial before we reach our destination. Around the memorial were a ton of veterans mingling and reminiscing about days of old. The cold and rain were not enough to keep these guys from honoring the memories of their fallen brothers. It was inspiring really, I imagine many of them dealt with much worse in the jungle to let a little rain bother them today. We tried to get close and walk along the wall but police had it blocked off to the public. An officer said they were preparing for a ceremony at 1pm and we should come back around 3pm if we wanted to get closer.
We spent a good amount of time standing around looking at the wall talking about Vietnam and the current war. The conversation around the memorial was definitely different than the one on the train ride up or the walk over. My dad was in country for 17 months as a MP at a southern airfield. He has never talked about it and I never bring it up. But I know it affected him. We talked a little about what the American public was like back then and again now. To me it is eerily similar now as it was back then. The public is loosing patience with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, just like in the late sixties with Vietnam. It will be interesting to see what happens in the next couple of years. Will history repeat itself?
With our sole searching done we trudged along towards the American History Museum. They recently remolded the museum and opened it back up to the public, plus we wanted to get out of the rain. Walking along Constitution Avenue we quickly noticed that the roads were blocked off, not even pedestrians were allowed to cross the road. We knew it was for someone important, and we assumed the President. A few minutes later we see police motorcycles drive by followed by three heavily armored limousine and 10 or so black SUV’s. The motorcade even had an ambulance thrown in for good measure. One of the SUV’s looked like it could have communicated with Spirit and Opportunity on Mars. That’s just the way he rolls.
Getting to the museum we made a quick stop at the cafe on the first floor for some lunch and much needed hot coffee. It felt good to be inside and out of the rain. Next we got a map of the museum and started exploring. The guide we talked to recommended the Star-Spangled Banner, Julia Child’s Kitchen, and American Presidency. But before we saw any of these we started with America on the Move since it is on the first floor. My dad loves trains so it was an obvious first choice. It is pretty amazing to see how far we have come in this country. But when you considering how massive it is, it’s no wonder we love to travel.
Next it was up to the third floor and work our way down. The big attraction here is the Price of Freedom display which shows every war America has been in. From our countries the little known wars in our early history all the way up to the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan we are bravely fighting. We took our time especially walking through the Vietnam section. I am pretty sure it brought bake memories for my dad. He pointed out on a giant map the place he was stationed in country which was pretty neat.
On the second floor is the Star-Spangled Banner, this is the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write what eventually became the national anthem of our country. When I was a kid the flag use to be displayed so when you walked in from the Mall entrance it was the first thing you saw. As time went on they covered it and would only display it for a brief time during the day. Now, it is entirely encased in a environmentally controlled chamber away from people and light. Throughout the flags history people have not taken the best care of it. Large sections were cut out and sold and at one time it was displayed outside on the museum wall.
We had time to check a few other section of the museum in our limited time. Of course we couldn’t see everything in the few hours we had, but we saw everything we wanted to. It was great spending the day with my dad in the city. It reminded me of my youth when he would take my brother and I up regularly to check out the museums. Even in my thirties going to the museums with my dad is a lot of fun.
Don’t get my wrong, I love my dad and I wish he could live forever. The other day it was his birthday so we all got together for a little surprise party to celebrate another year this earth. At 63 he is grateful for each year and he says all the time he is “living on borrowed time” because of some things that happened early in his life. All I care about is he is still alive and kickin’, he actually things he is in his 40’s with how active he is. He helped me move into my new townhouse a few weeks ago, travels all the time on vacation, and does a ton of yard work each weekend at his house.
So Pat organized a little dinner at the Red Fox Inn in Middleburg as a nice place to celebrate. She got a room at the inn and the attached restaurant comes highly recommended. When I told a few others I was going to the Red Fox everyone agreed that it was a nice place and the food was impeccable. To top off the nice setting and wonderful food I found out my brother would be there. I was so excited to catch up with him, the last time I saw him was Christmas and actually only talked to him once since then.
We arrived on the outskirts of town with about 10 minutes to spare before the 7:30 meeting time. We quickly noticed Middleburg was a ghost town. Not a single business was open other than “essential services” and the street were empty. We had all the street parking we could have wanted. When we walked into the restaurant the hostess quickly sat us at the table, the last to arrive. With so few people in the restaurant it was easy to know what party we where with.
The house that has the restaurant was originally built in 1728 using field stones from the surrounding area. When you walk in the decor has not changed much since it was first built. There are stucco walls with giant exposed wood beams holding the whole place up. One aspect of such an old building that I quickly noticed was the slow ceiling height. People back then were much shorter than they are today. See, milk does a body good is not just a good slogan, but the truth. There are old paintings hung on the wall and a few stuffed animals around as well. You could say they are an originator of putting nick nack crap on the walls. Even with cliche stuff on the wall it is very intimate, and by intimate I mean dark, on the inside. There are not a ton of windows to let in natural light and very few lights. Again back when this was built they just didn’t have large bay windows to allow natural light in.
After we sat down we all greeted each other and quickly looked over the menu. After a drink order was placed it was back to talking. I sat next to my brother and we started catching up. It literally had been 7 months since we last saw each other so we had a lot to talk about. Finally I forced myself to study the menu and decide what I wanted for dinner. I noticed a brazed duck breast with potatoes, carrots, and some sauce. It was so good, the proportions were just right and the sauce made the dish. Very rich and added to the flavor of the duck without over powering it. Even had a dessert, lavender creme brulee. I am a sucker for some creme brulee and thought I would give this a try. Even though the lavender was just a hint, I thought it ruined an otherwise great dessert. All the food was excellent and I would definitely come back again to have dinner. Might even stay at the inn considering it is so far away from my house.
When we finally were finished with dinner it was only 9:30 but the restaurant was completely empty, we had closed the place down. This small little town closes up at 5 and there is not much to do. For all of us the evening is just getting started so it was hard to wrap my head around a town that closes down so early. We were hoping to find a bar for a drink because the restaurant doesn’t have one. When we asked the hostess if there was any place to get an after dinner drink she told us the Red Horse Tavern was a couple blocks down the street and open till 1am. I was shocked anyplace in this town was open that late.
After a short walk we took a seat at one of the tables on their large patio and ordered a round of drinks. It was a nice evening to sit outside. Only issue was the live music blasting from inside the bar. It made things very difficult to talk to anyone. I wouldn’t have cared so much if the music was good, but of course it was just loud and obnoxious. Half way through the beer it started to rain so we headed inside to enjoy the last of our drinks.
Once finished we all headed back to our cars and my Dad and Pat headed to their room for the night. Dad was surprised by everyone showing up and had a wonderful evening. I think Stephen coming for dinner was definitely the highlight for him. It is not often that my brother comes to family events so we all enjoyed it while we could.
Not sure what we will do for his 64th birthday next year. But it certainly will involve the family and doing something fun, can’t wait.