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On the Hunt… for Everything Mint Julep!

By Summer Stanley

At long last, springtime in Virginia comes breezing in through open windows, riding on the scent of azaleas, magnolias, peonies and honeysuckle, and I find myself craving the kind of southern comfort that most would associate with derby fever. However, for me, Mint Juleps are warm weather refreshments to be enjoyed long after the “run for the roses” is over.

The Mint Julep has been the traditional beverage of Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby since 1938 when they started selling the cocktail in signature glasses for 75 cents each. Not surprisingly, it’s also the official cocktail of the Virginia Gold Cup. Virginia, after all, gets some credit for the earliest printed references of Mint Juleps. In his book, Travels of Four Years and a Half in the United States of America, British traveler John Davis mentions drinking them at a Northern Virginia plantation in the early 19th century.

Originally, a Julep was known for being any sweet and syrupy drink, often used as a vehicle for medicine. In the early days, it was likely made with rye whiskey or rum, and it wasn’t until the 20th century that Kentucky, proud of its bourbon, popularized it in the traditional recipe we know today: sugar, water, bourbon, fresh mint leaves and crushed ice.

Though sometimes served in a highball glass or even a pewter stirrup cup, you’ll most often find the drink served in a sterling silver julep cup, which in itself is a symbol of southern hospitality and makes for an appropriate gift on many occasions. The cups can be engraved with monograms or special sentiments, used for floral arrangements and centerpieces, and add instant class to a vanity or desk.

If you’re like me and can’t get enough of all things mint julep, there are plenty of ways to get your fix. I’ll bet on it! 

Where to hunt in Middleburg this weekend:

  •  Goodstone Inn & Restaurant in Middleburg has won many awards for its Virginia fine dining. The Restaurant at Goodstone features state-of-the-art, seasonally inspired cuisine with a farm-to-table emphasis. One of their specialty drinks happens to be the Mint Julep, and they have shared that recipe on their web site so you can create this refreshing cocktail at home, too. (Recipe below)
  • Join Salamander Resort & Spa on the terrace on May 7th from 3-7 pm as they celebrate with a Kentucky Derby event. You can sip Mint Juleps, delight in derby bite size fair, listen to live music, and experience “the most exciting two minutes in sports.” ($20/pp, Mint Julep bar and service bar are a la carte)

Where to hunt for julep cups:

Goodstone’s Mint Julep Specialty Cocktail

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups water

2 cups white sugar

1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh mint leaves

32 fluid ounces Kentucky bourbon

8 sprigs fresh mint leaves for garnish

DIRECTIONS:

1. Combine water, sugar and chopped mint leaves in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat until the sugar is completely dissolved. Allow syrup to cool approximately 1 hour. Pour syrup through a strainer to remove mint leaves.

2. Fill eight cups or frozen goblets with crushed ice and pour 4 ounces of bourbon and 1/4 cup mint syrup in each. (Proportions can be adjusted depending on each person’s sweet tooth). Top each cup with a mint sprig and a straw. Trim straws to just barely protrude from the top of the cups. Serve juleps on a silver platter.

On the Hunt… For Side Saddle Attire

By Summer Stanley

Imagine Lady Mary sitting on her horse appearing refined, graceful and elegantly dressed for the occasion. We love her, we hate her, but mostly we adore her polished looks. Last month, Downton Abbey fans said goodbye to a show in which our longings for a stylishly poised era were more than fulfilled.

Because of the recent fascination, it’s no surprise that even more women are being drawn into the lost art and sport of riding aside – in a side saddle, after nearly a century of riding astride. Of course, the UK has revived the tradition a bit ahead of the US, but we’re more than happy to catch up with three races alone planned for this spring.

The 2nd annual Mrs. George C. Everhart Memorial Invitational Side Saddle Chase kicks off the 50th annual running of the Loudoun Hunt Point to Point Races at the Oatlands Historic House and Gardens on Sunday April 17. This race follows the Cheshire Hunt in Pennsylvania held in March, and precedes the High Hope Steeplechase in Kentucky in May. Be prepared to be impressed!

A lady’s ensemble, referred to as a habit, generally depends on the riding discipline, and for fox hunting, it depends on the season and your hunt’s attire guidelines. The basic rule of thumb for riding aside is somewhat similar to what’s worn from the waist up for contemporary attire; a well fitted, perhaps cutaway styled jacket, vest, shirt and stock tie. With the addition of an apron in a matching or coordinating fabric you then have a habit, which is most traditional for women riding aside.

For formal days, the smart and tailored rider wears a habit in a darker color. Black, navy or charcoal with a canary or tattersall waistcoat (vest) and white or cream stock tie. To complete the look, a ladies’ top hat, with veil is proper for married women. Women who are not married may wear a bowler without a veil. Of course a safety rated helmet with a chin strap is always correct and often required. For cubbing days in the hunt field or for informal hunt outtings one might see habits in subtle checks and tweeds patterns. Button down shirts and a man’s ties vs. a stock tie or even nowadays a stock tie in an elegant paisley or checkered pattern would be considered correct. Brown gloves (for a woman who is not widowed), a hunt whip and a sandwich case make for a lovely look!

Locally, TriCounty, Feeds, Fashions, Finds in Marshall provides consultations for ordering side saddle attire directly from English label Alexander James, offering ready to wear items in the finest material from some of the oldest mills and weavers in Britain. Middleburg Tack Exchange has been in business for 25 years, specializing in both new and used English riding tack and apparel, including consignment habits and accessories. Alexander James will be featured at TriCounty on May 27 and 28. For information or an appointment email events@tricountyfeeds.com.  

Alternatively, some side saddle riders might prefer more historically correct and period inspired dress, whether for show, parades or historical reenactments in which case these habits and costumes are often purchased vintage, or custom made. Here you might see more vivid colors, varied fabrics and elaborate details.

Cindy Westbroek, owner of Wildhorse Fashion in Utah, has been making side saddle clothing for over a decade. Combining her passion for horses, living history and sewing she began making the clothes when she started riding aside, and quickly discovered there were very few affordable resources for acquiring these pieces. Specializing in period riding habits of the 1800s, she creates everything from late 1700s to modern day styling.

“I take great pride in every piece I make or have ever made. Each one takes on a personality of it’s own as it evolves,” Cindy says.

Across the pond, the Vintage Tack Room, in Midhurst, West Sussex, England, was established in 2013 to curate, buy and sell the best in vintage riding clothes.

“The company has grown enormously since starting and now is the first call for any hunting man or woman, and for any side saddle rider, to either sell their cherished coats and habits, or to buy a ‘new’ one. Although by new, we can mean as old as 150 years!” says shop owner, Mia Woodford.

The growth in side saddle has been so fast, that they have set up a separate web site to cater to this special audience. The Vintage Sidesaddle Company, already running on Facebook, will open its doors officially in May. For those equestriennes ready to ride aside and replicate the romance of the Victorian and Edwardian eras, joining the likes of Elizabeth Taylor, Grace Kelly and Elsa Martinelli (all filmed in the side saddle), it’s time to look the part!

Where to hunt in Northern Virginia and the US:

Cherry Blossom Farm LLC, Middleburg, VA; 5402872034; http://www.cherryblossomfarm.net/sidesaddle.html

Middleburg Tack Exchange, 103 West Federal St., Middleburg, VA; 5406876608; middleburgtack.com

TriCounty Feeds, Fashions, Finds, 7408 John Marshall Hwy, Marshall, VA; 5403641891; tricountyfeeds.com in partnership with Alexander James

The Side Saddlery, 554 Morley Ct., Belford, NJ; 7329628747; thesidesaddlery.com

Recollections, Inc., 7956 County Road 451, Hawks, MI; 18004525925; recollections.biz

Custom & Tailoring Services:

Wildhorse Fashion, Clearfield, Utah; 8014586488; wildhorsefashion.com

Tracy Michele Designs, Neptune, NJ; 7328047088; tracymicheledesigns.com

Ewbank Clothiers, 6807A Lord Fairfax Hwy, Berryville; 5405149565; Facebook

Highcliffe Clothiers, 112 West Washington St., Middleburg; 5406875633; highcliffeclothiers.com

Where to hunt in the UK:

Alexander James, 6 Mossfield Rd., Pendlebury, Manchester; +44 (0)161 793 6340; alexanderjames.co.uk

The Vintage Sidesaddle Co., Hoyle Ln., Midhurst, West Sussex; 01798 867517; vintagesidesaddlecompany.com; vintagetackroom.com; Facebook

The Old Hunting Habit & Co., Mellor Rd., New Mills Derbyshire; 07855 433 770; theoldhuntinghabit.co.uk

Side Saddles, Burnt Hill, Thatcham, West Berkshire; 07770 954 367; sidesaddles.co.uk

Showtime Supplies, Forest Barn, Salem, Carmarthenshire; 01558 824 163; showtimesupplies.co.uk

Side Saddle Lady, 60 Argyll Rd., Pennsylvania, Exetor, Devon, England; +44 1392 271080; http://users.tinyworld.co.uk/sidesaddlelady/

Photos provided by:

Nico Morgan Photography (Dianas of the Chase, photographed), Wildhorse Fashion, Cindy Westbroek (photographed with her horse, Tanka), The Vintage Sidesaddle Company, and Middleburg Photo

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Virginia Wine Summit comes to Middleburg

Image copyright of Virginia Wine

Image copyright of Virginia Wine

by Len Shapiro

Loudoun County again will be a destination for wine experts when the Virginia Wine Summit comes to the Salamander Resort and Spa in Middleburg this spring.

Last year, the National Wine Tourism Conference was held at Lansdowne Resort, the first time the event was held on the East Coast.

The summit location was announced by Governor Terry McAuliffe’s office. “We are pleased to host this annual event to showcase our world-class Virginia wines, and invite national and international opinion leaders to see and taste the recent developments in the Virginia wine industry,” McAuliffe stated in the announcement.

The full-day program takes place April 5. In its fourth year, the summit brings industry leaders and wine enthusiasts together to discuss the state’s burgeoning wine industry, and celebrate Virginia’s wine and food culture.

The summit will feature remarks by keynote speaker Jon Bonné, one of the leading American voices on wine. About 20 other influential wine professionals will join talented winemakers to discuss regional and vintage differentiations that continue to raise the profile of the Virginia wine industry. Those expected to attend the summit include restaurateurs, sommeliers, wine-shop owners, winemakers, wine enthusiasts, media representatives and other industry professionals.

Virginia is the nation’s fifth largest wine producer. Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Todd Haymore said the governor’s priority is to continue to improve and expand the Virginia wine industry, raising its profile and recognition around the world.

Registration for the wine summit is $225, and includes lunch and post-event reception. To register or for more information on individual panel topics and speakers, go to virginiawinesummit.com.

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Creative Juices Flowing in Marshall Shop

by Sophie Schepps

Dustin Aliff finds himself completely consumed with creativity on a daily basis. After spending his working daytime hours repairing antique oriental rugs with his father David at David’s Oriental Rugs in Marshall, he shifts to music, poetry, and painting in the evenings.

As a high school student at Liberty High School in the mid-1990s, Aliff suffered from seizures, fainting spells and terrible migraines. After several hospital visits, he found relief from the same doctor who performed surgery on the late Christopher Reeve.

“I had brain surgery in 1996,” he said. “My brain stem was being squeezed in my spinal cord. They were able to make some cuts so now there is enough room for proper blood flow. Ever since then, I’m a different person. Ideas and images just flow into me. I can’t keep it inside of me. I have to put it on paper.”

Aliff has been accumulating his poetry in hopes of publishing a book within the next year entitled “X-ray Your Zip Code.” He’s developed a new style, which he calls A-to-Z poetry.

“Each poem has a subject or emotion like family, business or sadness,” he said. “And starting at A, each word is the subsequent letter so it tells a story.”

He also writes in more traditional styles. Writing, he said, is often a coping mechanism for overwhelming emotions, whether they’re happy or sad.

 “His poetry is fabulous, very deep. It’s solid,” said Bailey Davis of Middleburg, who often frequents the Marshall shop.

Working with oriental rugs means that Aliff is surrounded by art and creativity all day. After three trips to Istanbul, he became a master weaver after many hours of instruction.

“I first went when I was 22,” he said. “We had a Turkish man come into the shop and he brought me over to Istanbul. I was there for 30 days to watch and learn. I took a lot of reference pictures. Then I went back three years later and again last year. So in three trips I have learned pretty much everything I can. I sat there for 12-hour days, learned as much Turkish as I could and really put the effort into it.”

Some of the rugs Dustin and his father repair are hundreds of years old and come from all over the country. They’ve been chewed or soiled by pets, stained by dropped glasses of wine and so much more. The painstaking work they perform makes the carpets look new again. Their true appreciation for the work involved in the creation of the rugs is apparent.

“I love the nomadic rugs,” Dustin said. “The materials aren’t easy for them to get as they travel. They will use horsehair or their own hair to make sure they have enough when they run out of wool. There is more of a connection from the weaver when it’s not mass produced.”

Aliff also weaves his own rugs, sometimes experimenting with unusual products like copper. His ancestry includes Native American and he has improved his connection to the culture by creating tribal pieces.

Aliff’s schedule allows little time for a social life, but his passion for inspiring others is too strong to allow for distractions. He hopes that sharing his art and poetry will encourage others to lead more fulfilling, creative lives.

“I say I am a weaver, a writer, a poet and a painter,” he said. “There is so much and my brain just gets filled. I have to find a way to release it in my poetry and my writing. I still want more. Once you create and you’re actually pleased with it, that’s where true happiness comes from.” 

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