middleburg life

Seven Loaves Services: Fighting Food Insecurity For 28 Years

Written by Victoria Peace

Photos by Gracie Withers 

If there is one thing that Tami Erickson, the pantry manager of Seven Loaves Services, wishes Hunt Country residents would keep in mind, it’s that despite living in one of the richest counties in America, surrounded by wealth and opportunity, there are still people in the community who struggle with food insecurity on a daily basis. “It’s hard in our area to remember that the need still exists,” Erickson emphasizes. “I wish people recognized how quickly any of us could be food insecure.”

 In Loudoun County, over 15,000 people experience food insecurity on an annual basis. Unfortunately, this number only increased as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Seven Loaves Services was established in 1994 in order to help combat food insecurity by supplying nutritious food to those in need in Middleburg and the surrounding area. Today, the pantry provides approximately 90 families per week with shelf-stable goods, dairy items, meat, breads, and pastries, in addition to special snack packs for households with children.

The food is primarily donated from four local, Loudoun County grocery stores that Seven Loaves has formed partnerships with. The stores donate items to the pantry which would otherwise go to waste including deli items, frozen foods, and meat. Seven Loaves also purchases some canned goods and fresh fruits and vegetables wholesale and receives large quantities of donated vegetables from local farmers. In fact, the day of this interview with Middleburg Life, Erickson received 300 pounds of fresh produce from the Oak Spring Garden Foundation.

About 50 percent of the families that the pantry serves live in Loudoun County. The other 50 percent come from 15 other surrounding counties. According to Erickson, this sets Seven Loaves apart from many of the Loudoun-based pantries that exclusively serve local households. The majority of patrons travel to Seven Loaves each week to pick up groceries from the pantry located in the basement of the Middleburg United Methodist Church. However, Seven Loaves volunteers also do weekly home deliveries to a small group of Middleburg-based at-risk seniors.

Currently there are around 50 to 60 Seven Loaves volunteers. According to Erickson, they do everything from food distribution, to repackaging food, to sorting grocery store donations, and driving to pick up food from local stores.

If you’re looking to get involved, the best way to find opportunities is through the volunteer tab of the Seven Loaves website. The biggest volunteer need that the pantry currently has is for drivers. However, they can always use people to help out with assembly and organization on distribution days.

If you can’t volunteer but you are still looking for a way to support Seven Loaves, the pantry also accepts both food and monetary donations. Monetary donations can be made through Paypal on Seven Loaves’ website, and shelf-stable food donations can be dropped off at the pantry on Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and on Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Right now, the Seven Loaves team has already started gearing up for the holiday season. “It sounds crazy to say this but we are beginning our holiday food collection,” Erickson says. “Every year we give our families a special bag around Thanksgiving and the winter holidays that includes everything for a holiday meal.” Seven Loaves is specifically looking for donations of boxed mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, canned yams, cranberries, green beans, oil, chicken broth, and canned pumpkin. People can reach out to the pantry at sevenloavesservices@gmail.com if they are interested in dropping off one or more of these items. 

Erickson has been the pantry manager at Seven Loaves for almost a year now. For her, the most fulfilling aspect of her job is “providing for families what they wouldn’t otherwise be able to have.” With the rising costs of fruits, vegetables, and meats, it has never been more important to have an organization that ensures that all members of the community can have access to healthy, nutritious meals. 

If you are looking for a way to have a direct impact on the lives of your fellow community members, consider donating to or volunteering with Seven Loaves this fall. Even here in Hunt Country, “There are still families in need,” Erickson says. “Don’t forget about your local food pantries.” ML 

For more information about donation and volunteer opportunities, please visit sevenloavesmiddleburg.org.

This article first appeared in the September 2022 issue.

Gatherings for Good: Local Events Impacting Important Causes

Written by Lia Hobel

As summer cools off, charitable giving is just heating up for Hunt Country residents. From signature polo matches to exceptional galas boasting fine dining and entertainment, September is the start of sizzling fun and fundraising for notable causes. Read on to learn more about the biggest local benefits and the organizations they support.

2022 NSLM Polo Classic

Sunday, September 11 | 10 a.m.

Great Meadow, The Plains, VA

The National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) will host its largest fundraising event of the year — the NSLM Polo Classic presented by MARS EQUESTRIAN™ — the second Sunday of September at Great Meadow. The renowned research library and fine art museum is dedicated to highlighting the rich heritage and tradition of country pursuits. 

Gates will open at 10 a.m. with two exciting matches taking place. First up is the Founders Cup at 11 a.m. followed by the Mars Cup at 2 p.m. The event will feature all the favorite NSLM Polo Classic traditions with the Dog Divot Stomp sponsored by NUTRO,™ a parade of the Middleburg Hunt hounds, and more.

Proceeds from the NSLM Polo Classic benefit the NSLM in its mission to “preserve, promote, and share the literature, art, and culture of equestrian, angling, and field sports,” as well as helping to fund dynamic exhibitions, programs, and community events throughout the year.

According to Elizabeth von Hassell, executive director of the NSLM, “Not only does the event benefit the library and museum, but it is also a fun way for people to experience our mission first-hand and to enjoy an exciting day of polo at the beautiful Great Meadow.”

Visit nationalsporting.org for more information. 

Cloverleaf (Formerly NVTRP) Polo Classic

Saturday, September 24 | 12 p.m.

Great Meadow, The Plains, VA

This year’s Polo Classic is a chance to celebrate the new name of Northern Virginia Therapeutic Riding Program (NVTRP). The Cloverleaf Polo Classic is the nonprofit’s largest annual fundraiser. It will include live and silent auctions and a rider demonstration by military riders and students of the therapeutic riding program. 

Executive director of Cloverleaf, Kelsey Gallagher, notes that the new name reflects the growing range of services the organization offers to the community. 

“This event is the perfect opportunity to celebrate the power of equine-based services to improve lives,” Gallagher says.

Cloverleaf focuses on helping individuals realize their highest potential by providing equine-assisted activities to people with disabilities, youth-at-risk, recovering military personnel, and others in need of an inclusive, community setting. Founded in 1980, Cloverleaf operates out of a 17-acre farm in Clifton, Virginia, with the help of 15 dedicated staff members and 20 equine partners.

“It [has] become a cherished tradition for hundreds of people who return year after year for a dazzling day of polo, food, and wine to support Cloverleaf Equine Center,” says Will Thomas, Polo Classic co-chair and Cloverleaf board member. 

Thomas notes that the fundraising as a result of this event allows Cloverleaf to serve more than a hundred weekly clients from the D.C. Metro region.

Visit nvtrp.org/polo for more information.

Sprout Therapeutic Riding Gallop Gala

September 17 | 6 p.m.

Sprout Center, Aldie, VA

Get ready for a whimsical evening at Sprout’s Therapeutic Riding Gallop Gala. According to founder and Executive Director Brooke Waldron, the 2022 gala will “celebrate the magic of Sprout in honor of the barn’s ‘King of Hearts’— Peter, a Dartmoor x Thoroughbred, Middleburg-bred horse.” 

Guests are invited to dress to impress and embrace the magic of Sprout. The gala includes drinks and dinner, a professional magician, auctions, and live music that will have attendees dancing all night long. 

Sprout’s mission is to provide hope, healing, empowerment, and recovery through equestrian-assisted activities and therapies. The organization serves individuals with disabilities and provides life-changing opportunities and treatment in a farm environment. 

“Together, with Middleburg’s support, we will pursue the ‘impossible’ and make magic for those needing hope, healing, empowerment, and community,” Waldron says. 

Visit sproutcenter.org/events/gala/ for more information.

Loudoun Therapeutic Riding Dining in the Dark Gala 

Thursday, October 13 | 6 p.m.

Bourbon Bayou Kitchen, Ashburn, VA 

Snag a seat at a truly unique culinary adventure in October while supporting Loudoun Therapeutic Riding. On October 13 (don’t worry, it’s a Thursday), put your taste buds to the test with an opportunity to dine while wearing eye shades in low light conditions — and raise awareness and resources for Loudoun Therapeutic Riding. 

“Dining in the Dark will be an exercise in ‘experiential empathy,’” explains Executive Director Paul Shane. “For one night only, our guests will have a unique opportunity to experience what it means to have a disability by having their vision taken from them and will gain a small level of understanding into what our clients struggle with on a daily basis.”

Located in Lovettsville, Loudoun Therapeutic Riding “embraces the power of horse-assisted services to promote well-being and community inclusion for people with physical, cognitive, and mental health challenges.” The foundation has been serving the community for 47 years. 

The Dining in the Dark Gala will bring together community leaders, industry professionals, and caring citizens for an evening of fine dining and entertainment. Celebrity chefs will be part of the fun including Chef Christine Ha, “MasterChef” season 3 winner, who is visually impaired. Guests of honor from the visually impaired community will include musician Scott Macintyre and YouTuber Tommy Edison, known for his channel, Blind Film Critic.Visit dininginthedark.net for more informationML

2022 Cloverleaf Polo Classic

The 2022 Cloverleaf Polo Classic will feature:

Halftime Demo

Cloverleaf clients Andrew, Angelica, Joyce and Zoe will soon be hard at work prepping for their 2022 Polo Classic halftime performance.

Guests will be treated to an unforgettable quadrille – a choreographed drill pattern on horseback set to music – that you won’t want to miss!

The performance features skills that the clients are currently working on during their therapeutic riding or physical therapy sessions; demonstrating some of the patterns and use of props that they would use in weekly lessons.

NFL’s Vernon Davis to serve as Hat Contest Judge

A special thank you to this year’s Hat Contest Judge, Vernon Davis.

Vernon is a retired NFL superstar, successful businessman and trained actor and producer. He attended the University of Maryland and played nine seasons with the 49ers, one season with the Denver Broncos and four seasons with his hometown team, the Washington Commanders (formerly Redskins).

He was selected to the NFL Pro Bowl twice and won a Super Bowl with Payton Manning and the Denver Broncos in 2016.

After a successful NFL career, Vernon transitioned into business acquiring an impressive investment portfolio in real estate and started his own production company “Reel 85 Productions” in 2020. 

Vernon has been recognized for his film credits including starring alongside notable actors such as Bruce Willis, John Malkovich and Morgan Freeman. His television credits include Dancing With The Stars, Going Home, MTVChallenge, The ESPYS, Name That Tune, Domino Masters, Cooking With The Stars, Inside Amy Schumer and The League.

Most recently, Vernon joined the ownership group of the Brisbane Bullets of the Australian National Basketball League (NBL) as one of their newest minority owners.

Live Music by 2MB

When best friends get together to make music and perform classic jams you get 2MB!

Kendall, Chris and Dave are all locals that grew up in the Northern Virginia area. They are all NoVa professionals, parents, and freaking awesome multi-talented musicians.

Their vibe is fun, smooth and easy; playing everything from 90s alt faves, classics from the 70s, to country covers that everyone knows the words to.

These three came together just a year ago and their momentum continues to grow while playing consistently at favorite local spots, events, vineyards, and breweries. Pop, rock, alt, country…you’ll be entertained by it all when you chill with 2MB.

Diane Roberts Returns as Emcee

We are honored to have Diane Roberts return as the emcee for the 2022 Polo Classic!

With more than 25 years of experience in various communications platforms, including television, radio, and social media, Diane has compiled industry insights from experience in reporting and anchoring for both news and sports on a national and local level. She also coaches clients on the ins and outs of public speaking and being ready for all facets of the media.

Thank you to…

Cloverleaf Equine Center is once again beyond grateful for our Polo Classic co-chairs Will Thomas and Sherrie Beckstead, joined again this year by honorary chair Sheila Johnson. 

This group works tirelessly year round to make the Polo Classic such a fun and successful event.

Will Thomas is a Vice President at TTR Sotheby’s International Realty and veteran TV anchor.

Sherrie Beckstead is President of The Lockkeepers Collection Group, and a Principal at Liljenquist & Beckstead, co-founded by the Beckstead family.

Both are also members of Cloverleaf’s Board of Directors.

Sheila Johnson has been involved in the equestrian community for many years including serving as President of the Washington International Horse Show. 

In addition to her efforts to support equestrian interests and among her many business endeavors, Johnson is the Founder and CEO of Salamander Hotels & Resorts, which operates a collection of luxury properties including the equestrian-inspired Salamander Resort & Spa in Middleburg, VA.

About Cloverleaf Equine Center

The Northern Virginia Therapeutic Riding Program recently completed an extensive rebrand effort in response to organizational growth and future expansion. At the heart of the rebrand is a change of the program name to Cloverleaf Equine Center – representing that services offered now extend beyond the Northern Virginia area – and an update to the center’s logo. 

Founded in 1980, the organization began as a small operation in Clifton, Virginia with a couple borrowed horses and a handful of clients and volunteers. Today, Cloverleaf Equine Center serves over 100 weekly clients from the DC Metro area with the help of more than 250 active volunteers and a herd of 18 horses on a 17-acre farm in Fairfax County. In addition to therapeutic riding, Cloverleaf’s services include physical therapy incorporating horses, equine-assisted learning and psychotherapy incorporating horses. 

MISSION:   Cloverleaf Equine Center, at O’Shaughnessy Farm, is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) that helps each individual realize their highest potential by providing equine-assisted activities to people with disabilities, youth-at-risk, recovering military personnel, and others in need in an inclusive, community setting.

​VISION: To inspire and enrich people, families and communities through the power of the horse.

Summer Foraging with Clay Morris

Story by Victoria Peace

In January 2022, I took one of Clay Morris’ winter foraging classes at the Salamander Resort & Spa. I came away from the experience amazed at how much the natural world had to offer during a time of year that I usually consider to be extremely barren. You can read the article I wrote about my experience and about Morris’ background here.

Six months later when I was invited to participate in one of Morris’ summer foraging classes, I jumped at the opportunity. I couldn’t wait to see what new and exciting foods and flavors came along with the changing of the seasons.

Morris starts each one of his foraging classes with a walk through the grounds of the Salamander Resort & Spa. He likes to teach his classes there because it’s a very diverse habitat in a small area. Morris explained that the months of June and July are what he calls “the vegetable stage” of the year. All of the plants that emerged in the spring have started producing flowers, berries, pods, and vegetables.

The Walk 

On our summer foraging walk, we discovered a wide variety of plants and trees including black locust, milkweed, chicory, wild grapes, wild berries, overcup, poke, walnut trees, sumac, coneflowers, cattails, juniper, and heirloom pear trees. Their qualities ranged from utilitarian to delicious  — and often, encompassed both the same time.

One plant that Morris identified as seamlessly blending utility and culinary value is overcup. Its large leaves curl in such a way that they create a cup which acts as a condenser for any mist in the air. When water collects in these cups, it provides a place for hummingbirds, bees, butterflies, and other pollinators to stay hydrated. Morris likes to blanch overcup leaves and use them to make a roulade, which he proudly calls “his version of sushi.”

Cattails are another plant Morris pointed out which serves a wide variety of functions. Native Americans used their fluff to stuff diapers and their leaves to make mats. However, the stem of the cattail can also be eaten —  it tastes similar to a cucumber. After our walk, we were able to sample both raw cattail stem and a cattail root and tomato relish that Morris prepared.

On our walk, Morris underscored the importance of being in tune with seasonal and environmental changes in order to know the right time to harvest different plants. Windows of opportunities can be small, and once you miss them, they’re gone. For example, every bit of the milkweed plant can be eaten if prepared properly. However, it has to be harvested within a very specific timeframe. When the plant first starts to emerge in the spring, the stems can be eaten like asparagus. Before it flowers, it looks a bit like broccoli rabe, and can be sautéed or dried and stored for later use. The pods can be blanched and taste similar to okra, however, you have to make sure you catch them when they are very small or else they are poisonous. And finally, when the flower opens, it can be made into a cordial for a refreshing summer drink.

The Tasting

After our walk, we had the chance to sample a milkweed flower cordial along with a variety of other dishes made with foraged ingredients. Morris prepares these dishes in advance so participants can better understand how the flavors and textures of foraged food can fit into our typical everyday diet. His goal is not just to make foraged food edible, but delicious.

The menu that I sampled included lots of picked items, which are traditional for both the season and the region we live in. There were pickled, spice keeper pears, pickled wild onion flowers, and pickled mini pine cones. The pickled mini pine cones were probably my favorite bite of the day because their flavor was unlike anything I had ever tasted before. It was simultaneously, tangy, minty, and spicy, with just a hint of sweetness.

For more savory offerings, Morris prepared fermented grape leaves filled with creole rice and a lambs quarters callaloo. The callaloo, a traditional Caribbean dish, was inspired by one of Chef Kwame Onwuachi’s recipes. Onwuachi will be hosting The Family Reunion at Salamander later this month. Lambs quarters is a fast-growing weed which can be used as a spinach substitute and has a significantly less slimy texture when cooked. 

As discussed previously, every part of the milkweed plant can be eaten at the right time of year. During our class, the pods were in season. Morris prepared them by lightly frying them in a tempura batter. They tasted similar to okra and had a fascinating texture — the inside was almost like mozzarella cheese. 

While the milkweed pods were a more adventurous snack, Morris also created a beautiful charcuterie spread so that guests could make their own canapés using mix of familiar and foreign ingredients. Garlic mustard pesto, cattail root relish, wild greens aioli, and fermented elderberry capers could all be paired with more typical meats and cheeses to create unique bites. “Play with it, there’s no wrong way to do it,” Morris encouraged.

I am already looking forward to seeing what Morris has in store for his fall classes — the focus will be on roots and nuts. To sign up, please visit Salamander Resort & Spa’s website. To be put on Morris’ mailing list, please reach out to jclaymorris@hotmail.com. ML

Foxcroft School Earns Prestigious VAIS Accreditation

MIDDLEBURG, VA — Foxcroft School, an independent college-preparatory boarding and day school for girls in grades 9-12 and post-graduate in Middleburg, VA, has earned full reaccreditation from the Virginia Association of Independent Schools (VAIS). Founded in 1973, VAIS is the leader in advancing and advocating for independent school education in Virginia. The VAIS accreditation program is one of the select few recognized at the international level through the International Council Advancing Independent School Accreditation (ICAISA). VAIS also is recognized and approved by the Virginia Board of Education through the Virginia Council for Private Education (VCPE).

Foxcroft received the highest report a school can receive in addition to meeting or exceeding all standards for accreditation. A visiting team comprised of the VAIS Director of Accreditation and administrators and faculty from five VAIS member schools also commended Foxcroft in several key areas, including Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB); Curriculum and Pedagogy; Wellness; and Financial Well-Being.

“Parents can be sure that when choosing a VAIS-accredited school for their children, the school has been through an intense period of self-reflection and evaluation, which strengthens the entire institution,” said Betsy Hunroe, Executive Director of VAIS.

The voluntary accreditation process is a rigorous undertaking involving a comprehensive self-study, including input from all school constituents. A team of peer evaluators from VAIS member schools spends several days on campus reviewing the self-study report, documentation, and curriculum; meeting with administrators, trustees, students, parents, and teachers; and observing campus life. The team concludes the in-depth visit with a detailed written assessment. The finalized report is then submitted for accreditation approval by the VAIS Board of Directors.

“As a School community, we have much to celebrate and the success of this process engenders a sense of pride,” shared Head of School Cathy McGehee. “At the same time, this important procedure encourages us to keep working to make sure Foxcroft stays strong for the future.”

To learn more about Foxcroft School, visit www.foxcroft.org. To learn more about VAIS accreditation, visit vais.org.

Photo Courtesy of Foxcroft School.

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About Foxcroft School Founded in 1914, Foxcroft School is a college-preparatory boarding and day school for girls in grades 9-12 and PG with a mission of helping every girl explore her unique voice and develop the skills, confidence, and courage to share it with the world. Foxcroft offers 72-76 courses, including 16+ AP classes and 5+ post-AP offerings, and a STEM program that inspires girls to pursue studies in fields where women are underrepresented. Foxcroft fields athletic teams in 11 sports and has a nationally known riding program. For more information about the School, please explore our website at www.foxcroft.org or call 540.687.5555.

New Culinary Talent at Salamander Resort & Spa 

Written by Lia Hobel
Photos by Michael Butcher 

Over the last two years, the Salamander Resort & Spa has welcomed new culinary talent to Market Salamander and Harrimans Virginia Piedmont Grill. Get to know the chefs who are using their wide array of skills to carefully curate every delightful bite at Salamander Resort & Spa in an exclusive Q&A with Middleburg Life.

 From left to right: Pete Smith, Jean Baptiste-Lawson, and Jose Linares in Salamander Resort & Spa’s culinary garden. 

Pete Smith, Executive Chef at Market Salamander

Market Salamander has been around for a few years, but Jacksonville, Florida, native Chef Roderick “Pete” Smith has added a distinct southern pizazz since joining the team. Smith graduated from the Southeast Institute of Culinary Arts in St. Augustine in 2000. At the age of 22, Smith became the chef de cuisine at Medure in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, making him the youngest Black chef to run a Forbes Four-Star, AAA Four-Diamond restaurant in Florida. With over 22 years of professional experience, Smith has mastered a wide range of responsibilities in the culinary industry.

ML: What brought you to Salamander?

PS: My culinary brother and good friend Chef Bill Welch is the executive chef at Salamander Resort & Spa. We used to work together at Sea Island Resort in southeast Georgia. [When] I told him [that] my dream job was to have a market that sells local products and produce, makes cool, gourmet sandwiches, creates tasting menus, executes incredible catering, and teaches cooking classes, Bill told me he had the perfect place for me. And, that it was a Black-owned business. I met Ms. Sheila Johnson and some of the leaders on the Food and Beverage Team and knew it was where I was supposed to be. 

ML: What inspires your cooking style? 

PS: I’ve been lucky and blessed to do this for a long time now. Working in multiple places around the country as well as internationally and owning a couple of restaurants has provided endless inspiration. My style varies, but I do tell people I specialize in international cuisine with Southern and French techniques. 

ML: What is your most memorable experience as a chef?

PS: The Jacksonville 2005 Super Bowl and the Miami 2007 Super Bowl. I’ll never forget cooking for everyone. It was an incredible experience working [for], meeting, and hanging out with celebrities as well.

ML: What do you enjoy most about working in Middleburg? 

PS: The community is very welcoming, supportive, and transparent. The locals here have been nothing but supportive and loving to me and my family.

ML: What are your signature creations?

PS: Foie gras BBQ short ribs, waffle soufflé, pimento cheese risotto, truffle fried black-eyed peas, and low country blue crab tartare, just to name a few. And, of course, we can’t forget the southern fried chicken and shrimp & grits.

ML: How have all your past cooking experiences shaped you? 

PS: It’s a non-stop learning process. I’m more understanding, relatable, humble, and consistent. You have to always be willing to learn more. 

ML: Do you have any other favorite spots in Hunt Country?

PS: Market Salamander for breakfast and lunch, Field & Main for dinner, Stone Tower Winery and Cana Vineyards for wine and lunch, Front Porch for drinks and music outside, Chrysalis and Teddy’s for good pizza, Knead Wine for upscale pizza, and The Rail Stop for classic (old school) dishes. I have a long way to go and have a lot more to experience.

ML: Anything more you’d like to share with readers?

PS: I am very passionate about the history of food and I am highly addicted to gummy candies and French fries.

Jose Linares, Chef De Cuisine at Harrimans Virginia Piedmont Grill

Born and raised in San Salvador, El Salvador, Jose Linares grew up enjoying an abundance of street food and traditional homemade recipes. He joined the culinary team in December 2020 as chef de cuisine of Harrimans Virginia Piedmont Grill. He brings with him a distinctive approach to food and enjoys using local ingredients and international cooking techniques.

At 16 years old, Linares moved to the U.S. where he attended Monroe Technology Center in Leesburg for his last two years of high school. During that time, he participated in an exchange program with a sister school in Frankfurt, Germany. This helped him hone fundamentals of European cooking techniques.

Linares went on to attend Stratford University, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Culinary and Hospitality Management. While in school, Jose started his professional career with the Four Seasons Hotels in Washington D.C. His kitchen talents have taken him all over the globe to various luxury properties including Jumeirah Beach in Dubai.

ML: What do you enjoy most about working in Middleburg? 

JL: I really like the fact that I’m surrounded by so many cool farms, dairy farms, wineries, [and] breweries. I feel like that is the dream for many chefs. We are in the heart of the wine and horse country in Virginia, and it is something very different from what I was used to and I love it. 

ML: What inspires your cooking style? 

JL: I would have to say that the main driver is to create menus seasonally. I get the most inspiration from what is available in the season and the reason why is because I get to pick the best ingredients at the time, resulting in very interesting dishes and flavors. I also really enjoy the sense of tradition and history when it comes to cooking, and different countries and cultures have their own approach in this sense. I have been able to travel and see many different styles of food but concentrating them into the dining experience is very inspiring. 

ML: Do local ingredients influence your cuisine?

JL: Definitely! Understanding your local ingredients and regional foods is super important both in the creative process as well as when you are sourcing the ingredient itself. And as I mentioned before, Middleburg provides the right location to get some of the best products in Virginia.

ML: What is your favorite dish to create and why?

JL: Foie gras has always been an ingredient that I enjoy working with because you can go very seasonal or very classic. Working in between the two makes it a nice yet challenging dish. This particular dish has allowed me to utilize sweeter ingredients in a more savory preparation. Whether it is a cold or hot preparation, foie gras is very versatile. 

ML: How have all your past cooking experiences shaped you? 

JL: As a cook, I learned through what I was told at the time. A recipe, a technique, an ingredient, how to be clean, the importance of certain things that might not be so obvious at the beginning of your career. There are a lot of mistakes involved, and it’s the lessons following them which shape you the most. For example, as a “green cook,” I remember one time my chef came to me and said that I was a very hard worker. But, he didn’t necessarily mean it as a good thing. He said he wanted me to work “smarter” rather than “harder,” and that stuck with me. My chef not only pointed out that I needed to be smarter, but he showed me how. That made me a better, cleaner, faster, more organized cook. Those lessons are very, very important.

ML: Do you have any other favorite spots in Hunt Country?

JL: I like how the area has become so diverse and so trendy without losing its character. A few of my favorites are Great Country Farms, Long Stone Farm, and Locksley Farmstead. They all produce truly top-shelf quality products.

ML: After working all over the world, what is it like to return to Loudoun? What initially brought you to the area at the age of 16? 

JL: Well, initially I moved to the area back when I was 16 because [I had] family [members who were] already living here. It was easy to settle here with my mother, brother, and sister. A few years later after living abroad, I wanted to come back home and also keep working in Washington, D.C. For example, all that I learned in Dubai, from techniques and ingredients to simply how some things were done over there, was very useful here. The knowledge that I’ve learned throughout my travels still helps me when I’m writing menus or creating new dining experiences.

ML: What has been one of your most memorable experiences as a chef? 

JL: I have been lucky to have had the opportunity to work with various chefs and cook for very important people including celebrities like the Rolling Stones, Michelle Obama, and President Joe Biden.

ML: Tell us a bit more about Harrimans and the experience for guests?

JL: At Harrimans, we try to provide a service in which an experience is created. We have many guests that come to celebrate special occasions and we also have our regulars that visit us on a weekly or monthly basis. We try to stay as approachable as possible from a humble yet sophisticated fried chicken dish to some of the best oysters on the East Coast, caviar service, truffles, etc. 

ML: What do you do in your free time? 

JL: If I’m not talking about cooking, I really enjoy history, spending time with my family and friends, and traveling. More recently I got myself a kitten named Sumy (her name comes from Sumac which is my favorite spice!) and she keeps me pretty busy when I’m not at work.

Jean Baptiste-Lawson, Head Baker at Harrimans Virginia Piedmont Grill

A native of Paris, France, Jean Baptiste-Lawson developed a love of baking a decade ago and has since honed the art of bread making. He joined Salamander’s pastry team in July 2021 and is responsible for all the bread that is used in various dishes at the resort and sold at the Market.

Chef Baptiste-Lawson attended the French baking school École Professionnelle de Boulangerie et Pâtisserie in Champigny-sur-Marne where he specialized in the production of artisan breads, gourmet pastries, and high-end chocolates. He moved to the United States in 2015 to begin his career as a baker at Fresh Baguette in Rockville, Maryland, where he was responsible for mixing, shaping, and baking bread and pastries.

ML: What brought you to Salamander?

JBL: I was curious about working at a luxury hotel property. I had initially applied to be a pastry chef because that was the position that was open. When they told me they really needed a baker, I was excited because baking is where my passion is.

ML: July marks your one year anniversary at Salamander? How would you describe your experience? 

JBL: It has been fun and challenging. The pastry equipment is not meant for traditional bread baking, so it has been a fun challenge learning how to adapt to making bread with pastry equipment.

ML: What do you enjoy most about working in Middleburg?

JBL: I start work at 1 a.m. every day so I enjoy how peaceful and calm the town is when I am coming to work. 

ML: Tell us a bit about the art of bread making? What is your favorite type of bread to bake and why?

JBL: My favorite type of bread to make is a traditional baguette. You have to be very patient when making a baguette and it requires more skill than loaves. The total process to simply make the dough is two hours. That does not account for baking time. It is a lengthy but rewarding process.

ML: When was your last visit to Paris? Any future travel plans?

JBL: My last visit to France was for a month in March. I plan to go back for two weeks in September.

ML: What has been one of your most memorable experiences as a baker?

JBL: Back when I was beginning my career, I was doing an internship working 40 hours a week for two months. On my last day, my payment was five small pastry cakes. I was disappointed, but I learned a lot and can laugh about the experience now.

ML: When did you realize that baking was your passion? Did it come naturally?

JBL: When I started working in a kitchen, one of my friends who owned a bakery nearby would ask me to help. I took every opportunity I could to bake and learn. Baking came very naturally to me.

ML: What do you do in your free time?

JBL: I enjoy seeing my cousin who lives nearby, and we love to cook together. Cooking is one of my passions and I enjoy doing that when I am at home.

ML: Anything more you’d like to share with our readers?

JBL: I was born in Togo but grew up in France. I love to travel and hope to visit Togo soon to see my family. ML

This article first appeared in the August 2022 Issue

The Tack Box Thrives at 75

Written by Diane Helentjaris

“I’m not much for ceremony… We’ll probably have cupcakes,” shares Berk Lee, owner of The Tack Box, Inc. This July marks a major milestone for the equine supply store — the 75th anniversary of its founding by Lee’s father, John B. “Chub” Lee.

Back in 1947, Chub Lee began selling tack out of the back of his Chevy panel truck. He grew up around horses, rode his pony to school, and ran a horse transport service. His mother, Dorothy Lee, was the catalyst to start the shop. “She showed horses, foxhunted, rode sidesaddle, and kept other people’s horses.” Dorothy also trained racehorses. Her stable was located where the Middleburg Community Center now stands. 

Laura Furr, Berk Lee, and Rachel Efird. Photo by Joanne Maisano. 

Within three years, The Tack Box’s business outgrew Chub Lee’s Chevy truck. He hired a saddler and opened a shop in an old carriage garage on Liberty Street in Middleburg which he shared with Wilson Horse Transportation. 

In 1978, Lee began working at her father’s shop. In 1985, The Tack Box moved to its current location at 7 West Federal Street, Chub retired, and Lee assumed leadership. Today, she oversees five employees carrying on her father’s legacy.  

“It’s kind of cool because it’s all I know. Horses are all I know. I grew up in it [and have] been deeply immersed all my life…Glad to carry it on because it’s what I know,” Lee shares.

She takes pride in offering the goods and a multitude of services needed for horse care. Horse people can outfit their barn, pick up leather soap, purchase half-inch elastic bands for braiding their horse’s manes, get fitted for custom riding boots, and browse leashes for their dog at The Tack Box. “Horses and dogs go together, they just do. Anyone who has a horse usually has a dog,” Lee explains. She herself has two Corgi rescues to go along with the nine horses she boards.

Lee takes a common sense approach. She would like customers to know that “we are a practical horse store with good, usable stuff. I’m kind of a quality snob…[who would] rather spend $200 on something that lasts 20 years than $100 for something that lasts 10 years.” She also emphasizes that the best piece of equipment is not necessarily the most expensive. “I really believe what is tried and true is more simple. Don’t think you can beat it.” She notes some modern tack might appear more fashionable but that is not a guarantee it is more functional.

If The Tack Box doesn’t have what you are looking for, staff will find it for you. After 75 years of customer service, they know the suppliers. Lee’s stepdaughter Laura Furr has worked at The Tack Box for 19 years. She is the “head honcho [who] does all the ordering for the store. She’s the ordering sleuth. If we need it, she finds it,” Lee says. 

Lee emphasizes the ability to accommodate customizations in their services — whether fitting boots on a rider or personalizing a fancy sheet for a horse. Lee can often be found attaching personalized metal name plates to leatherwork. The store offers such niche services as vacuum repair and the cleaning and repair of horse blankets. And, The Tack Box’s staff can make recommendations uniquely suited to the needs of horses and riders in the Virginia Piedmont based on the region’s environment and climate.

Left: Ruby, a fixture at the store. Photo by Joanne Maisano. Right: The Tack Box, Inc. interior. Photo by Callie Broaddus. 

Many academics theorize about why some businesses survive and others fail. A recent Harvard Business Review article may explain The Tack Box’s success. In a study of companies which have survived a century, researchers observed that these companies were all “radically traditional — with a stable core, but a disruptive edge.”

Few things could be more traditional than selling English leather bridles to foxhunters. Yet, The Tack Box also participates in “disruptive edge” activities. Lee notes the constant quest for new ideas, new supplies, and new ways to do things. Her staff listens carefully to customer requests. Lee believes if one person wants something, someone else might want it too. 

The Tack Box is about more than horse care. It’s about traditional services, quality products, and consideration of customers. For 75 years, thousands of horses and riders have experienced the excellence that is synonymous with The Tack Box. As Lee puts it, “I just try to provide a good service and leave it at that.” ML

The Tack Box, 7 West Federal Street, Middleburg, Virginia 20117. Telephone: (540) 687-3231. Website: thetackboxinc.com.

This article first appeared in the July 2022 Issue.

NVTRP Announces Rebrand, Changes Name to Cloverleaf Equine Center 

Northern Virginia Therapeutic Riding Program unveiled a new name and logo as part of rebrand initiative

Contact:
Shelby Morrison
Grants and Communications Manager
Equine Specialist in Mental Health and Learning (ESMHL)

Photos by Tony Gibson

Clifton, VA – July 11, 2022 – The Northern Virginia Therapeutic Riding Program, a leading provider of equine-assisted services to children and adults with disabilities, youth from marginalized communities, recovering military personnel, and others in need, has completed an extensive rebrand effort in response to organizational growth and future expansion. At the heart of the rebrand is a change of the program name to Cloverleaf Equine Center – representing services offered extend beyond the Northern Virginia area – and an update to the center’s logo. 

Founded in 1980, the organization began as a small operation in Clifton, Virginia with a couple borrowed horses and a handful of clients and volunteers. Today, Cloverleaf Equine Center serves over 100 weekly clients from the DC Metro area with the help of more than 250 active volunteers and a herd of 18 horses on a 17-acre farm in Fairfax County. In addition to therapeutic riding, Cloverleaf’s services include physical therapy incorporating horses, equine-assisted learning and psychotherapy incorporating horses.

“This is a major milestone for the organization. We have grown so much in the last 20 years and are excited that our brand now reflects all we do,” said Kelsey Gallagher, executive director. “We are looking forward to the unlimited potential equine-assisted services brings to our clients and our community now and for many years to come.” 

A cloverleaf symbol already had great significance to the organization: The Cloverleaf name is a nod to the center’s early beginnings as the Fairfax County 4-H Therapeutic Riding Program. The property is also located in an area that is called Cloverleaf Farm Estates, honoring the organization’s historical ties to the town of Clifton. Each leaf of a clover represents the different programs offered and the populations served through equine-assisted services. 

In addition to the name and logo change, a new website – cloverleafequinecenter.org – will launch later this summer.

About Cloverleaf: Originally chartered in 1980, Cloverleaf Equine Center is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to providing equine-assisted services to children and adults with disabilities, youth from marginalized communities, military service personnel and their families in an inclusive, community setting. Learning to ride and care for a horse not only improves the physical health of the rider but also generates a critically important sense of accomplishment. Clients participating in Cloverleaf programs represent a range of disabilities including attention deficit disorder, autism, cerebral palsy, developmental disabilities, vision and hearing impairments, and genetic syndromes. Cloverleaf is a Premier Center accredited by the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH Intl), and a member center of the Therapeutic Riding Association of Virginia (TRAV). Cloverleaf Equine Center is located in Clifton, VA. 

# # # 

Cloverleaf Equine Center

703-764-0269

Middleburg Sidewalk Sale Returns August 5 – 7

Press Contact: Marcia Massenberg
(540) 687-8990

August Brings Sales Galore in Middleburg: Annual Summer Sidewalk Sale Returns with Bargains for Everyone, August 5 – 7

What: Middleburg, the quaint historic town nestled in Virginia’s horse country, is cleaning out its closets and storage areas and moving onto the sidewalks, August 5 – 7 for the 16th annual Summer Sidewalk Sale. The sale, sponsored by the Town of Middleburg and the Middleburg Business and Professional Association, will be held on Friday and Saturdayfrom 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and on Sunday as posted by shops. Look for balloons outside participating shops and restaurants!

Where: The Town of Middleburg, Washington St., Madison St., and Federal St., Middleburg, Va. 20118         

When: The 16th Annual Middleburg Sidewalk Sale will be held August 5 – 7 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and on Sunday as posted by shops.

Additional Information: For additional information, please contact the Middleburg Town Office at 540-687-5152.

Directions: Middleburg is located approximately 45 minutes from Washington, DC and is in close proximity to Dulles International Airport.  To get there from metropolitan Washington, take I-66 West to Route 50 West (Exit 57B) toward Winchester. Drive approximately 25 miles to Middleburg.  

Meet Your Neighbor: Taylor Thistlethwaite

Written by Lia Hobel 
Photos by Michael Butcher 

Thistlethwaite Americana, an antique gallery on Washington Street, has an inviting atmosphere with a gracious host. The proprietor, Taylor Thistlethwaite, loves to offer up stories that delight novice and established antique collectors alike. The traditional “don’t touch” mentality is not what you’ll find here. “Let’s sit down at an 18th-century table and have a cup of coffee,” he says. Thistlethwaite wants to get to know his customers, share stories about the items in his collection, and help potential patrons discover something that makes them happy. “I always say, you should be able to sit in a room at night and an object should speak to you.”

Everything displayed on the walls and showcased on the floor is hand-selected by Thistlethwaite and is a reflection of his personal taste. His collection includes elegant furniture, folk art, mid-century items, and belongings that are perfect conversation pieces. At age 35, Thistlethwaite has earned a reputation in the antique world for his fine eye and exquisite taste. He is the youngest dealer to ever be accepted to The Winter Show, a prestigious art, antiques, and design fair held in New York City. He also participates in some of the country’s top antique shows including the Delaware Antiques Show and The Philadelphia Show.

“The piece behind you was designed by a guy named Paul Evans who was the father of American Brutalist furniture and on top we have a Harriet Frishmuth bronze. She was one of the greatest Art Deco American sculpturists. Then above that is a painting from the 1970s by Ernie Barnes who is one of the most seminal 1970s African American artists that we have right now,” he points out with excitement. Without skipping a beat, Thistlethwaite continues to exhibit his expertise and rich historical knowledge of every furnishing in the space. He points out an easy chair made in Philadelphia around 1750. “It’s one of the earliest known easy chairs of this form,” he says. “You look at the crazy lines and kind of spookiness of the arms compared to the brutal edge of the Brutalist piece next to it, and you see that this stuff doesn’t go perfectly together but it relates.”

Connecting the pieces to historical timelines and interpreting an artist’s logic in designing their work is just one of many facets of Thistlethwaite’s job. It’s not a skill you develop overnight —  it has to be acquired over time and through formal training. Thistlethwaite’s parents and grandparents were all collectors. He credits them for instilling his appreciation for antiques during his childhood. He grew up in Bethesda, Maryland, and moved to Glasgow, Kentucky, when he was around 13 years old. His family has had a farm in Glasgow since the late 1700s. “I fell in love with treasure hunting as a kid,” he says reminiscently about antique road trips with his father. “We used to go to Middleburg and then out to the [Shenandoah] Valley and hit all these antique shops and old estates. I remember him throwing me up in the attics and telling me to go find something up there.” That passion for treasure hunting never dwindled. 

His father, a surgeon, collected antiques as a hobby. Thistlethwaite knew early on that a medical path was not for him. “I made a C in freshman biology so I knew I had to find something else,” he explains. He attended Centre College and earned a degree in American history with an emphasis on the colonial period. He then went to the University of Kentucky for a master’s in historic preservation. During this time, Thistlethwaite gained a wealth of knowledge as an intern for Sumpter Priddy, one of the foremost scholars on southern antiques. “I was doing work for him in the summer while I was in college and then when I went to grad school. I even helped him at The Winter Show, so it kind of came full circle that I was able to come back and do this on my own.”

In 2013, Thistlethwaite and his wife, Rebecca, opened a showroom on the first floor of his Alexandria home to display his inventory for collectors. In the midst of COVID-19, when many antique shows were canceled, Thistlethwaite was eating dinner in Middleburg and saw the for-lease sign in the space where Thistlethwaite Americana now lives. “What makes Middleburg so unique is the fact that we have so many people coming through from different areas and there’s already a strong collector base.” As Thistlethwaite explains, having a physical storefront is wonderful because he can serve everyone who walks in the door  — not just dealers. 

The furnishings in his showroom are all unique to their place of origin. “Little markers” on the pieces help Thistlethwaite trace each object back to the individual cities in which they were made. This is all part of the allure of collecting antiques. “You have so much history combined into one piece. Maybe we don’t know who owned it initially, but these pieces have been treasured for hundreds of years so at least we can get some points,” he says.

As opposed to previous decades when people may have wanted a house entirely full of antiques, Thistlethwaite says people are shifting toward having just a few individual accent pieces. “You got to have fun with this stuff,” he says. “I have things in here for the novice collector or somebody who just is interested in getting started, all the way up to museum and collector grade.”

Given the passion that Thistlethwaite has for his inventory, one might wonder if it is difficult for him to part with the items. However, Thistlethwaite says discovering, photographing, and living with the items before passing them on to collectors is gratifying. “It’s not even about a sale, it’s more about adding to the next generation of the history [of the object].”

Thistlethwaite now lives in Upperville with his wife and their new son, William, who was born in April. He hopes to pass down his love for antiques and treasure hunts to his son. In the backroom of his shop, Thistlethwaite has an antique highchair waiting for William once he is old enough to sit at the table. 


For Thistlethwaite, love of his profession stems from the joy his clients experience as new owners of his preloved pieces. He says, “As long as it’s something that captures your fancy or makes you smile, that’s what it’s all about.” ML

Thistlethwaite Americana is located in Middleburg at 116 Washington Street. For more information, please visit thistleamericana.com

This article first appeared in the June 2022 Issue.

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