Palate Cleanser

All I can think about lately is the election. And, since a tremendous amount of nervous, nauseated fretting won’t affect the outcome, all I’m going to write about today is food. I would suggest this piece is refreshingly free of controversy and discord but since I posit the best place to get a New York-style bagel in the region, I’m not guaranteeing there won’t be passionate disagreements on all sides.


My sister arrived in town a couple of weeks ago. She visits once or twice a year and we make a long weekend out of lounging, with the occasional burst of energy that affords a local winery visit or trip to town for browsing antiques.

The shared genetics between us are strong and this is best exemplified in our passionate love for super tasty food. Janet and I both adore a great meal. So, when she visits, one of our primary goals is to seek out delicious eats. We’re not food snobs by any means. More akin to Joey Tribbiani in the Thanksgiving trifle scene from Friends. We just really like good food, wherever it is found.

I especially appreciate food that I don’t have to: plan for, shop for, prepare with my own hands, listen to people complain about or clean up. And, since Bob and I have three young children and therefore never seem to leave the confines of our own home for a meal (Chick-fil-A doesn’t count), this time, I loaded Janet’s visit with reservations at a host of restaurants. It was a record-setting out-to-eat pace for a four-day visit but we managed it all like the champion eaters we are.

If you are local or semi-local or not-local-at-all but also adore good food and would like to visit, here’s where you should eat:

Stop #1 – Royalicious Bagel Bakery, Charles Town, WV

We literally drove straight from the airport to Royalicious. This nondescript bakery is located in the – ahem – Wal-Mart shopping plaza in Charles Town, West Virginia. You will be suspicious. I get it. I was, too. But I wasn’t suspicious enough to decline the lox, which was delicious. Royalicious serves a New York-style boiled bagel that is amazing. This place received high marks from Janet, too. It’s a no frills joint but that’s part of the adventure.

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Stop #2 – West End Wine Bar & Pub, Purcellville, VA

Since Janet arrived for a visit on her birthday, we headed to West End for a big celebratory dinner. This newer restaurant is located right in town and I’m delighted we have some additional options for finer dining closer to the house. I snapped a picture of one of the starter plates we ordered to share. It’s some sort of a mozzarella-sauce-sprouts concoction that is all farm-to-table and local and organic and happy and what-not but all you need to know is that it was gooooooood. The starters were definitely the stars here although the service was excellent, too.

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Stop #3 – Roots 657, Leesburg, VA

I ended up having to work for a few hours the Friday evening of Janet’s visit so we grabbed a late lunch at Roots 657, a new cafe that just opened a few weeks ago right down the street from the winery where I’m employed. There aren’t a lot of easy places to grab a bite in the Route 15 corridor north of Leesburg so this explains why the parking lot has been packed since Roots opened. The other explanation could be that the food is amazing. Basically, you should go eat here immediately. Just drop what you’re doing and go order this ham and cheese mess in the picture below. It was delicious. All of it. So, so good. Also, super filling as Janet and I were not even the least bit hungry some seven hours later.

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Stop #4 – Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards, North Garden, VA

On Saturday, Janet and I ventured down to Charlottesville, Virginia. I needed a little trip away after a very busy few weeks at work and Janet joked that she needed a getaway from her getaway. Pippin Hill is a favorite place of mine and I was eager to show Janet the winery. A couple of friends were meeting us there for lunch and, in hindsight, I’m really glad I made reservations (which I initially thought was over-planning on my part). Pippin Hill has become extremely popular and they frequently close admittance on Saturdays when they reach capacity. So, a reservation to dine is a necessity. Our friends eventually made it past the gate and were able to join us but Janet and I had already worked our way through TWO wine tastings by then so when presented with a cheese and charcuterie board, well, there wasn’t anything left to photograph. In summary: delicious, great service, amazing view. The End.

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Stop #5 – Yearbook Taco Bar, Charlottesville, VA

On Saturday night, we ventured to the downtown mall in Charlottesville. I had never explored the area but had heard it was an experience. It was homecoming weekend for the University of Virginia so characters abounded but we eventually made our way to Yearbook Taco based on the recommendation of a Facebook friend. It was delicious and the shrimp tacos were light and perfect following an afternoon of indulgence at Pippin Hill. The best part was the used book store next door where I found an antique tome on Ulysses S. Grant for Charlie. Sadly, it appears Yearbook Taco is closing at the end of this year so you’ll have to hurry for the shrimp tacos.

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Stop #6 – Bodo’s Bagels, Charlottesville, VA

Look. Here’s the deal. The bagel sandwich I devoured Sunday morning at Bodo’s Bagels on the UVA campus was quite possibly the best bagel sandwich I have ever had in my entire life. That’s not hyperbole. Like Royalicious, Bodo’s also makes a New York-style boiled bagel and it was far superior to any others. The line was out the door and we stood in it, amongst all of the bodies and shrapnel from the Homecoming parties the evening prior, waiting patiently to try something that I had read somewhere was supposed to be really good. And, it was so good. So worth the wait. So worth smelling all of the hungover college students surrounding us. A++, would eat again. Also, currently wondering if they same-day ship.

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Janet and I arrived back home Sunday afternoon and settled for a home-cooked meal later that evening.

Here’s where I admit that at this point in the weekend, we were pretty much done with eating out. We were full. Maximum capacity reached. Time for a bowl of Cheerios. In fact, when errands kept us out of the house the next day, we could both barely muster up enthusiasm for lunch at Chipotle.

Good thing we were airport-bound.

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A Whole Hand

She was one.

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Then, two.

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Next came three.

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Followed by four.

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And, now five.

img_9225It’s Millie’s fifth birthday today. She was once a baby and now she’s not. She’s five.

At five years of age, Millie’s favorite thing in life is stuff. Food also ranks pretty high up there but mostly it’s her “stuff” that she treasures most. It seems like such a distinctly Girl Thing (the boys aren’t like this) but Millie surrounds herself with little odds and ends from every corner and crevice of the house. She fills her bedroom with random cardboard boxes, an array of Lego pieces, torn slips of paper too important to toss, broken toys, extra blankets, costume jewelry, innumerable barrettes and hairbands, bread bag ties, instruction manuals, rocks, flower petals, stuffed animals, American Girl catalogues and an assortment of other flotsam that all takes up valuable real estate in her small space.

I’ve never known a child to be so content surrounded by so much chaos. But, Millie is. And, although we certainly try, I can’t fault her for her belongings. Millie has an incredible imagination and each of her treasures has a place in it. Her mind turns an Amazon delivery box into a three part play and a lowly piece of wobbly furniture becomes a fully stocked writer’s desk. She spends hours upon hours in her bedroom creating a world with all of her special things. Everything makes sense to her even if the rest of us find the accumulation of crap maddening.

Sometimes, when Bob and I check on her at night before heading to bed, we find she has relocated to the floor to sleep; a selection of her favorite items surrounding her head. Sort of like a halo made entirely of junk from the recycling bin. We try to tuck her in the best we can, removing the piece of cutlery from beneath her arm and the produce rubber band from her wrist.

A couple of months ago, I tried to get Millie to tackle her messy bedroom. As I stood there, chastising her for the condition of her room, she looked at me, pointed a finger in my direction and said, “But, Moooo-oooom. This is my fun zone.”

Indeed, Millie. Happy birthday to the biggest fan of fun I’ve ever known.