hunt country

Aldie’s Little River Inn Celebrates 40 Years of Hospitality

Written by Diane Helentjaris
Photos by Gracie Withers

In the late 1970s, Tucker Withers ran two antique shops: one in Aldie and one in Maryland, the latter managed by his mother. As a reprieve from work, he often played poker on Tuesday nights. One evening around the card table with his buddies: a sheriff, a landscape architect, and a banker, the banker mentioned a piece of Aldie property which was coming up for sale. By Friday, Withers owned it. 

Withers telephoned his mother to share the news of his acquisition: a historic brick two-story house and outbuildings. Her response floored him: “I never told you this, but your father was from Aldie.” Withers’ parents had divorced when he was three. He grew up in Bethesda, Maryland, and did not know much about his paternal family history. Now he would not only discover it, but live it as well.

The epitome of small world connections, his great uncle had once owned the very same brick house Withers purchased. Withers later discovered his great-grandparents once lived in the property’s log cabin. All the older villagers knew his family. Years ago, he was given a family photograph by Sarah Love Douglass. Sarah and her husband James Edward Douglass owned and ran the Aldie Mill before donating it in 1981 to the Virginia Outdoors Foundation. “Your great grandmother was the nicest person,” she always shared with Withers.

In February of 1982, Withers decided to turn the property into an inn. Little River Inn opened four months later and his career as an innkeeper began. Affable by nature, the role of host suited him. In fact, Withers even taught hospitality at Northern Virginia Community College and would tell students, “The first thing is you have to like to get up early. You have to like people 24 hours a day, not just from eight to five. You get calls early in the day and late at night…by nature, you have to like people.”

Withers’ wife Mary Ann works at the inn alongside him. They met when Mary Ann, a former special education teacher, spent the summer waitressing at the iconic Coach Stop restaurant in Middleburg. And their three children, now adults, all worked at the inn growing up.

Little River Inn offers bed and breakfast-style stays in three buildings: the two-story house, the small Patent House, and the log cabin. Rooms are, as would be expected from a long-time antique dealer like Withers, furnished with period pieces and decor. The main brick house was built in 1810 by Rezin Willcoxon. 

The Patent House is the oldest building in Aldie dating somewhere between 1750 and 1760. The name refers to the building’s purpose. Patent Houses were built to claim and hold on to land received as a grant (or patent). Their minimum size was sixteen by twenty feet, which is roughly the size of the Aldie Patent House. Little River Inn accommodates a range of needs — from honeymooners who want to snuggle into their own private space to a family wishing to take over the second floor of the brick house.

Withers would like people to know that the Little River Inn is “…just like going home. It’s easy. It’s comfortable. It’s where you get good food and good company. [There is] just so much personality to the place, the town is just so welcoming.” 

As innkeeper, Withers is also the chef and is proud of his breakfasts. The menu rotates and includes specialties like eggs benedict with cottage-fried potatoes and eggs and mushrooms with tarragon cream sauce in a ham cup on an English muffin. After trying his banana bread, one customer declared, “I never thought anyone made banana bread as good as my mother.” Withers is quick to add that he also bakes blueberry and poppyseed muffins. 

“[There is] no microwave at the Little River Inn. Everything is made from scratch.” If someone asks him to nuke their cooled coffee in the microwave, Withers insists on making a fresh pot. He also refuses to carry a cell phone or use a computer. He communicates in person, by telephone, or with little notes left on tables. Mary Ann responds to emails, handles the website, and otherwise picks up the technology slack.

Few bed and breakfasts last 40 years. Mary Ann believes the longevity of the Little River Inn is partially due to the fact that the Withers family has maintained a separate, private home in the village apart from the commercial enterprise. They are always reachable but don’t live with their guests, even though she’s quick to emphasize their visitors are “as nice as they can be.” 

Affection for their guests is certainly part of the Withers family recipe for success. Withers believes the “best thing [about the inn] is the people who stay here.” He continues, “They really become our friends. One man stayed every Monday and Tuesday for twenty years. He was a landscape architect. Some have come each year for 40 years. One couple first came in 1982 and still comes back…That is the best part of it all. We have, over many years, [built] relationships with many nice people.” Early on, a couple honeymooned at the bed and breakfast. “They were so nice,” Mary Ann emphasizes. Withers called them up when they went home to Kentucky and offered them a job. They drove back to Virginia and helped manage the inn for 12 years.

Looking forward, Withers has no plans to change. And when asked if he would do it again, he says,  “Oh, yeah — in a heartbeat. We enjoy it so much.” He adds, “Don’t know if the kids will take it over. Don’t know how long [it will go on].” Luckily, his children and a growing group of grandchildren all live within twenty minutes of the inn. “[I don’t] know what will happen but for now I am sticking with running the Little River Inn.” ML

For more information on this historic inn, visit aldie.com or call 703-327-6742. Little River Inn is located at 39307 John Mosby Highway (Rt. 50), Aldie, Virginia 20105.

This article first appeared in the June 2022 Issue.

Seven Food Trucks Worth Tracking

SEVEN FOOD TRUCKS WORTH TRACKING

Story and photos by Kaitlin Hill

With endless variety, low prices, and a novelty that hasn’t yet worn off, it’s no wonder food trucks are still popular, even 149 years since the first meal on wheels hit the street.

A LESSON IN HISTORY

Food historians tend to agree that the first food truck can be attributed to Walter Scott, a Rhode Island man who cut windows into his wagon’s cover to sell sandwiches and coffee to night-owl journalists in 1872. As wagons transitioned to automobiles, the concept of food trucks evolved as well. In the 1950s, ice cream trucks were road-ready with their signature jingles and frozen treats. And, in the 1960s, “roach coaches,” named for their substandard sanitation practices, served burgers to suburban-bound gardeners and home servicemen.

The early 2000s found food trucks being transformed from gritty to gourmet, with professionally trained chefs like Roy Choi behind the wheel. Choi, a Culinary Institute of America graduate, is credited with spurring the modern food truck movement with his Korean-Mexican taco truck, Kogi, based out of Los Angeles.

Now, nearly 20 years later, food trucks seem to be on every corner. Parked at breweries, wineries, farmers markets, and even weddings, there is a food truck for every occasion and every cuisine. Here are a few favorites that find their way to Hunt Country.

FLAVOUR

Established in 2016, Flavour is the brainchild of husband and wife team, Ammar Ikram and Emily Casanova. Ikram’s Pakistani roots and Casanova’s time spent in Charleston inspire the unique menu, which could be described as Halal with a southern twist.

“I call it global fusion,” Ikram says. “It’s Southern comfort food mixed with Middle Eastern influence.”

Meat lovers will rejoice when devouring the short rib “Sammy.” Ikram stacks a brioche bun sky-high with tender short rib, pickled onions, arugula, and creamy cilantro sauce. Or try the chicken quesadilla, which is big enough to feed a football team and absolutely oozing cheese. They have vegetarian tacos, too.

For now, the truck is parked behind Blend Coffee Bar in Ashburn on Fridays from 4 – 8 p.m. and weekends from noon to 8 p.m. And, it is also available to hire for private events all over Virginia.

“If you are open to a new concept with familiar food, come try me out,” Ikram says.

For more information, check Flavour out at eatflavour.kitchen/about or find them on social media @eat_flavour.

FROM TUSCANY WITH LOVE

To find From Tuscany with Love, follow the smell of fresh tomato sauce and look for the long lines. The bright blue, Sterling-based food truck, owned and operated by chefs Luciano and Sabrina Catanusco, is a fan favorite for its lovingly crafted and authentic Italian fare. Luciano explains the recipes are what “we grew up with as children” and “inherited from our mothers and grandmothers.” Other recipes come from Sabrina, who owned two restaurants in Tuscany before coming stateside.

The meatball sub is a crowd-pleaser and the cannoli makes for a tasty finish. They also have daily specials inspired by fresh ingredients. Whatever you order, come hungry because the portions are extremely generous. The truck makes stops all over Virginia, from Hamilton to Herndon, and is available to hire for private events with specially tailored menus.

To book a private event, visit their website fromtus- canywithlove.com.

HAPPY FAMILY RANCH

Run by husband and wife team Juan and Maria Pineda and their daughter Andrea, the Happy

Family Ranch truck is aptly named. They make customers feel like family with a warm welcome and food made with love.

Maria and Juan started the family business in 2013 when they bought a 125-acre Midland, Virginia farm. Six years later, they opened the food truck to share their wares.

“We always had this passion for Mexican food,” Maria says. “So, we decided to share that with the community.”

At the farm, they raise Angus beef, Wagyu beef, and Yorkshire pork, which the Pineda family sells at farmer’s markets and features on their food truck menu. They offer Birria tacos, carne asada quesadillas, and a classic cheeseburger showcasing their homegrown Angus beef.


If you find them early enough, they even have breakfast burritos with chorizo. As you enjoy your order, stick around to chat with Maria, Juan, and Andrea, who are as nice as their food is delicious.


“We personally want to thank the community because they believe in us and they keep inviting us to different events and different places,” Maria says.

The community support shows — The Happy Family Ranch truck was named Fauquier Times Readers Choice Best Food Truck of 2020. You can find the Pineda Family at farmer’s markets, breweries, wineries, and festivals from Warren- ton to Ashburn and everywhere in between, or hire them for a private event.

To find the food truck, visit happyfamily-ranch. net/foodtruck.

THE INSIDE SCOOP

For a sweet treat, look no further than The Inside Scoop. What at first glance looks like a standard ice cream truck is actually a “mobile ice cream parlor,” says owner, operator, and ice cream man Daniel Azar.

Daniel and his brother Raji offer sundaes, milkshakes, banana splits, root beer floats, and custom ice cream cookie sandwiches, all featuring their organic, grass-fed, non-GMO ice cream.

And the list of flavors is seemingly endless. The Inside Scoop hand dips classics like vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, and cookie dough, alongside butter pecan, blueberries and cream, mint chip, orange sherbet, black raspberry, moose tracks, and birthday cake.

With all those flavors, Azar is often asked for his favorite. “Honestly, it depends on the weather,” he says. “When it’s hotter, I feel like I want mint chip. When it is rainy or I’m feeling in more of a ‘Seattle mood,’ I’m going for java chip. But most other days, it’s the peanut butter ones or the cookie dough.”

Whatever the weather, tracking down this family-run business is worth it. They are based in Fairfax but travel all over Virginia and love to do corporate events, weddings, fundraisers, and birthday parties. Azar’s dedication to providing frozen treats to his customers is only matched by his love for his family that helped him build his business.

“I love my parents very much,” Azar says. “They have helped me throughout the entire process, emotionally, physically, financially. I can’t thank them enough.”

To get the inside scoop on The Inside Scoop, visit theinsidescoopcreamery.com or find them on Instagram (@tiscreamery) and Facebook (@theins- idescoopicecream).

NOMAD PROVISIONS

Nomad Provisions, established by owners Georg and Karen Seyrlehner earlier this year, is making a splash with their rotisserie-roasted meats and chef-crafted sandwiches. Georg started his chef career as a pastry chef with a degree from the San Francisco Baking Institute. When he moved to Paris, Virginia, he had the idea for a mobile food trailer offering sandwiches, wraps, salads, and a slew of sides that showcase “The Art of Rotisserie Cooking.”

While the focus is on the rotisserie, take note of the bread variety and spreads, too. His Caprese sandwich is served on ciabatta, the rotisserie chicken sammie with gouda is on a Portuguese sweet roll, and the vegetarian Middle Eastern wrap is on fresh lavash.

“And we make all our own spreads and do some pretty unique ones,” Georg says. Most unique is the smoked tomato and herb spread. “I don’t know anyone in this area smoking tomatoes and putting that on a dish,” he says, laughing.

Perhaps the result of his days running a wine bar, Georg, Karen, and the truck partner with Virginia’s vineyards, offering custom tastings paired with the vineyard’s wine.

As for where to find the food trailer, “Most of the time we stay closer towards Upperville and Middleburg,” Georg says, as he prepares for service outside 50 West Vineyard. “We’re at Mt. Defiance, we’re at Slater Run quite a bit.”

And for catering and working with high-end restaurants, he goes back to his pastry roots, offering artisanal bread, baked goods, and custom plated desserts.

For more information about where to find the truck or how to book an event or culinary consultation, visit nomadprova.com.

TWO SMOOTH DUDES

Best known for its loaded, gourmet tater tots, Two Smooth Dudes is actually named for its signature pineapple smoothie. Max Bawarski, a physical education teacher at Providence Elementary School in Fairfax, formulated the idea for Two Smooth Dudes as a side hustle nearly seven years ago. An advocate for balance, Bawarski created a menu with both indulgent and healthy options to satisfy any craving.

If you’re looking for decadence, try Maryland crab tots that are covered in crab, slathered in lobster bisque, and drizzled with remoulade for good measure. And for pizza fans, try the Italian tots with melted mozzarella, tomato sauce, and Italian seasoning. On the lighter side, Two Smooth Dudes has wraps that can also be salads like the quinoa wrap with sautéed veggies, tomatoes, and cucumbers finished with balsamic vinaigrette.

“You can make everyone happy with our options and a lot of people like the healthy choices,” Bawarski says.

Or just cool off with a fresh pineapple smoothie that has a touch of organic blue agave and is served inside a whole pineapple. Two Smooth Dudes is based in Manassas but can be found at local markets or booked for private events.

For more information, visit twosmoothdudes.com.

MAMA’S DONUT BITES

“We kind of fell backward into donuts,” Rod Hosein, the owner of Mama’s Donut Bites, says. “And then we came up with the cider donut recipe and it put us on the map.”

Hosein started the truck in 2011 with his mom and sister after his mom, Jeanette, lost her job.

“‘Mama’ is my mama,” he shares. “She got laid off … and we just needed something to keep her busy.”

The bright pink food truck sells mini apple cider cake donuts that are fresh from the fryer and coated in cinnamon and sugar. Customers have a choice of dipping sauces and toppings, including raspberry, caramel, white chocolate, chocolate, powdered sugar, and sprinkles. Mama’s Donut Bites got their start at the Vienna Farmers Market, where they still return frequently, but they will travel essentially anywhere for an event.

“We do a lot of weddings, mitzvahs, all that good stuff … and we go anywhere,” he notes.

Perfectly portable in their paper baggies and only one bite (maybe two, if you’re being polite), the minis at Mama’s are the perfect sweet treat for any event or a Saturday morning stroll through the farmer’s market. ML

To track the truck, visit mamasdonutbites.com or follow them on Facebook at Mama’s Donut Bites.

This article first appeared in the August 2021 Issue.

Hot New Eateries

HOT NEW EATERIES

OPENING IN HUNT COUNTRY

By Chelsea Moore

From bubble tea to wild-caught fish, there are hot new eateries popping up throughout Hunt Country. Whenever you’re ready for a summer foodie staycation, we’ve got your stops covered with three new destinations.

The Market at Bluewater Kitchen

Bluewater Kitchen is doing it again. Although they started as a full-service catering and events company in 2013, they have grown far beyond exclusively catering. They are opening a new seafood and meat shop with the same high quality and attention to detail customers have come to expect from them.

Co-owners and husband-and-wife team Christina and Michael Kozich opened The Market at Bluewater Kitchen in Upperville’s old country store in November 2019 as an expansion of their catering business. Customers could choose from the hot order menu or purchase prepared dinners to eat at home. But during COVID, the shop turned into a local grocery store out of necessity. Customers were asking to buy products directly off the menu as a way of avoiding the grocery store, which got the Kozichs thinking about expanding their offerings.

“People would ask, ‘Can we just buy the fish raw from the fish sandwich, instead of going to the grocery store?’” Christina said.

When the stone building next door became available, they decided to open up a seafood and meat market, giving their customers the opportunity to buy high-quality fish and meat directly from their expanded market.

“Everybody in the area has to drive to Gainesville or Leesburg to go to Wegmans to get good seafood,” Michael said.

Two sustainable seafood markets — Blue Ocean Market Fresh Seafood in Morehead City, North Carolina, and Harbor Docks Seafood Market in Destin, Florida — will ship their fresh catches of the day overnight to Bluewater multiple times a week. While Bluewater will have some consistent offerings, like salmon and gulf shrimp, they will have a rotating selection of fish based on whatever is migrating at the time.

“It’s fresh, wild-caught seafood,” Michael said.

For their meat offerings, they will have both high-quality and everyday steaks. They will stock pork chops, sausage, and other pork products, as well as chicken from Long Stone Farm in Lovettsville. Some steaks will be sourced from Ovoka Farm in Paris, Virginia.

Bluewater’s meat selection is designed to make small dinner parties and family dinners simple, healthy, and delicious. Pick up what you need and cook it at home — or don’t. If you aren’t comfortable cooking something at home, they will cook it for you at the market.

“When we started catering events in 2013, our goal was to showcase the amazing products be- ing produced in the immediate area and the people behind them,” Christina said. “We will never lose that hyper-local focus. It will always be part of our platform, but we will also be highlighting artisans and farmers, not in the immediate area, who are stewards of the land and waterways, doing their part to responsibly raise and cultivate their products. They supply us with quality items, and our culinary team is inspired to create tasty dishes.”

The Kozich’s favorite part of all of this? “Being a positive part of the community,” Christina said. “Thank you to Upperville for the support,” Michael said. “We wouldn’t be here without them. We hope the residents are proud to have both shops in the area.”


As of the writing of this article, there is no firm opening date. Some of the equipment needed to open the shop has been delayed because of COVID. The Kozichs are keeping their fingers crossed and hope to open the seafood and meat market sometime in mid-August.

The Market at Bluewater Kitchen is located at 9036 John S Mosby Hwy, Upperville, Va. Learn more by visiting themarketatbluewaterkitchen.com.

Empress Pearl Tea

A peaceful oasis in the center of Purcellville, Empress Pearl Tea opened on June 14, giving Loudoun residents a little taste of Taiwan. The powerhouse duo that brought us Petite LouLou Creperie, Dusty Lockhart, and Stefano Frigerio, is back with Empress Pearl Tea as their second restaurant. It is located in the same shopping center as the town’s beloved Petite LouLou and has been met with just as much favor.

“For our first day, our soft opening, we had a line all the way out the door for four hours,” Mark Goings, one of the supervisors, said. “I made 475 drinks in four hours.”

He credits the shop’s popularity to the unique taste of its drinks. The shop’s commitment to staying true to the original taste of bubble tea makes it stand apart from other bubble tea locations. Before opening, the team did bubble tea tastings at other shops, and Empress Pearl Tea’s unique flavor and fun toppings make the drinks all the more exciting.

Bubble tea, or boba, is a Taiwanese beverage. While all of Empress Pearl Tea’s drinks are fully customizable, they offer traditional milk teas, fruit teas, and frappes. Select large or small tapioca pearls in your drink or leave the tapioca out altogether. Or choose flavored tapioca pearls (cherry-strawberry popping pearls, anyone?).

Playful drink lovers can choose a “cookies and cream” or “piña colada” flavored frappe or a delicious “strawberry milk tea.” Traditional tea lovers can select a green jasmine milk tea or a black oolong tea. Customers can even choose the sweetness level of their drink. Fun toppings such as cotton candy can be added to any beverage, making the entire drink a memorable experience. The shop also sells desserts, such as mochi and jellies.

And then there’s the look and feel of the shop that exudes positivity from every corner. Sit in the egg chair and snap an Instagram photo, work on your laptop, read a book, or chat with friends — but whatever you do, it will be done amongst a plethora of plants.

“People like the aesthetic,” Goings said. “There are plants everywhere and so many places to sit and be comfy.”

Empress Pearl Tea is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily at 737 E Main St., Purcellville, Va.

Locust Hill Farm

Locust Hill Farm, owned by the late Magalen O. Bryant, now run by her grandson Michael Webert, is getting a facelift. A couple of years ago, Michael and his wife Rebecca decided to go direct to the consumer by selling online and offering pick up. But last year, at the start of COVID, they decided to try something new: They planted sweet corn. They added it to the farm stand with the ability to pay on the honor system.

Each day, they picked between 400 and 500 ears of corn and were amazed to sell out in 30 minutes. Between traffic from both locals and tourists, and feedback from the community, their success with the sweet corn made them think about expanding and opening a true farm store.

With the goal of opening in mid-August, they will continue offering beef cuts and sweet corn, along with adding a few other delicious things. They will sell eggs raised by their sons, aged 9 and 6. The money from the eggs will go back into the boys’ chicken business.

They will also be adding beef boxes with a selection of cuts, rather than limiting customers to a whole or half cow. If you don’t have the freezer space but still want to stock your fridge for a few weeks, a box will be a great in-between solution.

In addition to the beef, sweet corn, and eggs, they are planning to grow pumpkins for the fall. They are also talking to local artisans and makers about adding cheeses, fruit, baked goods, and fresh flowers to the store. They are sourcing products primarily from Loudoun and Fauquier counties.

Above all, their mission is to provide quality products and quality meats. They believe it’s important to keep their grass-fed, grain-finished beef affordable by pricing it competitively with grocery stores.

“Those of us in agriculture wake up every morning and face a lot of things that can make your day go pretty hard south,” Michael said. “At times, it can be a very challenging thing to do. We are putting food on people’s tables. Every once in a while you need a lawyer, but three times a day you need a farmer. It is rewarding when customers taste and enjoy what we’ve worked very, very hard to produce.”

Michael loves showing his customers around the farm. When people ask to see a photo of their steer, he shows them pictures and points out the growing corn that feeds the steers.

“It’s also amazing when someone comes to you and says they had the best steak they ever had, and it’s from your steers,” Michael said. “It’s wildly rewarding.”

“I’ve been in [agriculture] my whole life,” Rebecca said. “I am super passionate about farmers and ranchers. To be able to do this and connect people to my food and help them put food on their table in a way that they feel comfortable with is [a joy].” ML

The Locust Hill Farm Store is located at 2152 Zulla Rd, Middleburg, Va. Learn more at locusthill.com.

This article first appeared in the August 2021 Issue.

The field following the hounds.

Opening day for Snickersville Hounds

Photos by Joanne Maisano

The chilly weather arrived right on time for the kick off of the formal hunt season. On Sunday, Oct 21, Snickersville Hounds had their Opening Meet from Creekside, home of MFH Gregg Ryan.

The field following the hounds.

The field following the hounds.

Katrina Balding Bills leads the junior field with daughter Keara (r-l), son Kenny and John Ryan.

Katrina Balding Bills leads the junior field with daughter Keara (r-l), son Kenny and John Ryan.

Jt-MFH Gregg Ryan and his son, John.

Jt-MFH Gregg Ryan and his son, John.

Blackwater Beef of Middleburg catered a delicious breakfast after the meet. It was the perfect way to end a very cold morning.

 

This article first appeared in the November 2018 issue of Middleburg Life. 

 

 

64th Virginia Fall Races

Celebrating 64 Years of Racing 

The Theadora A. Randolph Field Hunter Championship

Experience the annual fall tradition in the lovely Middleburg hunt country at The Virginia Fall Races, where your only interruption to a relaxing day will be the cheer of 10,000 excited fans and the storming of thundering hooves! Come sense the history while watching steeplechase action at the oldest continuous race course in the state of Virginia. Glenwood Park and the rolling race course on its grounds, sits amongst the lush hunt country one mile off of Route 50 in Middleburg. Event features a petting zoo, pony rides, vendors, and food trucks.

Take part in The National Steeplechase Association’s 123rd year and 64th running of the the Virginia Fall Races on Saturday, Oct. 13 happening at Glenwood park, Middleburg Va.

The day starts at 9:00 A.M. with the Finals of the Theodora A. Randolph Field Hunter Championship. The flag drops for the first race of the afternoon at 1:00 P.M. with an afternoon of first class timber and hurdle racing.

Reserved parking and boxes available

General Admission $50 per car

For the benefit of INova Loudoun Hospital Foundation

For more information visit www.vafallraces.com
Contact virginiafallraces@gmail.com or (540) 687-9797

 

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