Many of our “local” apples, hams, cheeses, etc., that you buy in Baltimore’s grocery stores are from the Shenandoah Valley and often Rappahannock County, Virginia. What? You thought there were actual farms under the JFX? And yes, Rappahannock County is home to the Inn at Little Washington, but that is in a whole ‘nother category and article. There are definitely other destinations in the county to enjoy the fresh, local bounty and farm-to-table creations – including rare heirloom produce — at all price points.
Not all farm markets are created the same. Roy’s Orchard and Fruit Market in Sperryville has pretty much anything you’d like to make a Southern dinner on hand, both fresh and preserved, along with a large section of heirloom apples, like (old) Yorks, Ida Red, Crispin, and Virginia Gold. Sunset Hills Farm Store makes their very own recipes of old fashioned preserves from their farm, as well as pies. They are also a (now, not so secret) source for the rare Holy Grail of apples, “Arkansas Black”. You’ve read about them in Oxford American Magazine’s Southern Food Issue, as well as historic Southern cookbooks. They’re interesting! Dark blacked red, they have tough leathery skins. This keeps moisture out – oh, how I HATE mealy apples! – and they will stay hard for months in the fridge. The insides do turn instantly brown as soon as you bite into themI learned a new insider term: don’t say “crisp” apples if what you are looking for is a “hard” apple. Everyone says their apples are “crisp”, but what you might want is the real deal.
The Blue Rock Inn is a B & B with a casual pub and fine dining restaurant as well. The pub has outdoor dining with stunning views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and you can order off the fine dining menu there as well. Both menus have gourmet items like duck confit-fois gras salad feel Big City. Virginia beers are available, too. Walk around the grounds and see the organic produce that will be used in your meal!
Stonyman Gourmet Farmer is located in the oldest continuous working mercantile establishment in the US, almost 200 years old. They sell award-winning farmstead cheeses and more. Oh, I know that sometimes farm cheeses come off so mild and innocuous, but Stonyman Gourmet Farmer is artisan and sophisticated. Their goat cheese is purchased by the Inn at Little Washington for their blanc mange. Their “stinky cheese”, which you can get melted in a sandwich, is like a Taleggio or Epoisses. Heirloom veggies are available as well as soups chock full of herbs and flavor. Their carrot muffins are phenomenal and wildly popular: instead of a spice cake base, they have a light white cake base, filled with carrot slices and topped with crunchy sugar. You can take your food to eat in their gorgeous gardens – very romantic.
High on the Hog BBQ in Sperryville is the real deal and biker-friendly. They have an outdoor courtyard where you can eat with your dog. They make homemade soups – on this occasion, white bean and collard greens – that might be a touch expensive at $5, but I will be re-creating some at home tonight! Imitation is the best flattery, they say. They serve desserts made with local Wasmund’s Single Malt Whiskey.