The Piedmont Virginian's Blog

Serving and Celebrating America's Historic Heart

Category: Culpeper County (page 1 of 10)

The Piedmont Weekend Roundup: February 26 – 28

Pouring red wine from bottle into glass with wooden wine casks on background

Fauquier County Wine Tasting & Competition at Airlie (Saturday, Warrenton). Come out and sample the wines of sixteen local vineyards and vote for your favorites in the People’s Choice Wine Competition. Delicious food pairings, prepared by the Airlie Chef, and live music. Please note that, to accommodate more visitors, this year’s wine tastings will be offered during two time periods. All tickets must be pre-purchased.

Riverside Group Show postcard-3 copy-1Art in Its Natural Habitat: An Exhibit of Paintings in a Model Home (Friday, 5-7 p.m., Charlottesville). Interior designer Robin Ellis invites you to celebrate Stony Point Design/Build as well as Charlottesville artists Helen Hillard, Chris Tucker, and Nancy Wallace.

Lighting the Creative Spark lightingthecreativespark(Thursday, Live An Artful Life Gallery, The Plains). This workshop, led by Dr. Celia Im, utilizes the power of music to ignite attendees’ creative potential. By engaging this part of ourselves, we are driven to finish that creative project, sculpt the next stage of our lives, and live in the moment.

Winemaker for a Day: Blending Seminar at Narmada Winery (Saturday, Amissville). Have you always dreamed of being a winemaker? Challenge yourself and your friends at our interactive winemaking seminar. Join our winemaker Sudha Patil and guest speaker Duane Harris for this workshop and experience the excitement of combining both the art and the science that goes into making a distinctive wine! You’ll be sampling and blending cabernet franc, malbec, merlot, cabernet sauvignon, and petit verdot. Once your perfect blend is bottled, teams compete, imbibe, and select the most spectacular wine of the day!

FB_Motown-768x284Motown & More: A Tribute to Motown and Soul Legends (Friday, State Theatre, Culpeper).  An ensemble of today’s most talented artists brings it all back! Vocalists Bryan Fox, Gene McBride, Jeffrey Walker and Shang (each phenomenal in their own right) come together with exquisite harmonies to recreate classics and develop new musical arrangements. Less than a year old, Motown & More has become a popular production in the Baltimore/Washington/Virginia region.

An Evening with Groucho (Sunday, Louisa Arts Center, Louisa). Award-winning actor Frank Ferrante reprises his New York and London hit in this fast-paced hilarious tour-de-force. You will swear legendary comedian Groucho Marx is alive and well and making you laugh. Accompanied by his pianist, the comedy, one-liners, and songs of Groucho Marx make for an all-ages treat!

Six Pack Songwriter Series: An Evening of Central Virginia Songwriting (Friday, The Paramount, Charlottesville). With the goal of allowing audiences to experience a mixture of our best local artists at once, each “Six Pack Songwriter Series” event features 6 artists for one evening of live and local music. This year’s  production welcomes an all-new lineup to The Paramount stage. This year’s roster includes Michael Clem, Ben Eppard, Paulo Franco, Julia Kwolyk, Anne O’Brien, and David Tewksbury, all backed by a live band.

National Theatre Live in HD Presents: “As You Like It” at the Paramount (Sunday, The Paramount, Charlottesville). Shakespeare’s glorious comedy of love and change comes to the National Theatre for the first time in over 30 years, with Rosalie Craig (London Road, Macbeth at MIF) as Rosalind.  With her father, the Duke, banished and in exile, Rosalind and her cousin Celia leave their lives in the court behind them and journey into the Forest of Arden. There, released from convention, Rosalind experiences the liberating rush of transformation. Disguising herself as a boy, she embraces a different way of living and falls spectacularly in love.

Smithsonian at Little Washington Concert Series: Haydn Piano Trios (Sunday, Theatre at Washington, Washington). Pianist Kenneth Slowik is an artistic director of the Smithsonian Chamber Music Society. Violinist Heather Green joined the National Symphony Orchestra in 2005, and became a member of the first violin section in 2007. Cellist James Lee made his debut with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra at the age of 15. These three come together for a marvelous performance.

2015 90th Gold Cup 1

photo by Doug Lees

“Virginia Steeplechasing: The History and Future of the Sport in the Piedmont” (Sunday, National Sporting Library, Middleburg). This steeplechasing panel discussion is mediated by Robert Banner, President of Great Meadow Foundation. Panelists are Dr. William Allison (Ex-MFH and President and Race Chairman of the Virginia Gold Cup Races), Dr. Alfred Griffin (Ex-MFH and Director of Racing of the Virginia Gold Cup), Will O’Keefe (Race Director of the Virginia Fall Races), and Don Yovanovich (President of the Virginia Point-to-Point). Panelists discuss the history and future of this region’s beloved steeplechasing and equine sports. The audience will have an opportunity to ask questions of the panelists. Also at NSLM currently are the exhibits “Side by Side with Gun and Dog” and “Line Dance: the Art of Fly Fishing.”

“Sunrise, Sunset” (Byrne Gallery, Middleburg). This weekend is the last chance to see this juried show featuring artworks inspired by sunrises and sunsets, bringing joy and warmth to the cold month of February.

“Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story” at Riverside Dinner Theater (Through Mar. 13, Fredericksburg). Starring Todd Meredith as Holly, with the Buddy Holly tribute band, The Rave-Ons, this musical is the true story of the last few years of Buddy Holly’s life, spotlighting his meteoric rise to fame from the moment in 1957 when “That’ll be the Day” hit the airwaves until his tragic death on “The Day the Music Died.” Featuring many of his timeless hits, “Buddy” is a celebration of the life and times of “the young man with the glasses” that captures the unique mixture of innocence, determination, humor, and charm that was Buddy Holly and wraps it all up into a package that has become “The World’s Most Successful Rock-n-Roll Musical.”

Throw-back Thursday…History and a bit of the paranormal for Halloween!

These Walls Do Talk

The aptly named Graffiti House attracts Civil War and other history buffs as well as paranormal-believing “ghost hunters.”

Article by Richard Deardoff
Photos by Jan Kamphuis

“The Dancing Lady” During the five month winter encampment following the Gettysburg campaign, families of officers were allowed to come to camp.  Here a female visitor carefully picks her way through the mud between the Graffiti House and the railroad tracks

“The Dancing Lady”

A few miles south of the Rappahannock River in Culpeper County lays one of the nation’s historical treasures – the Graffiti House on the Brandy Station Battlefield. Built in 1858 as an adjunct to the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, it served both sides during the Civil War. For the Confederates it was a field hospital, while the Federals used it as a divisional headquarters for the five months they wintered over in 1863-1864.

It was because of this utilitarian value that the small frame house escaped the destruction visited upon many other buildings as soldiers from both sides searched for material to use in constructing shelters, or simply for firewood.

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The Graffiti House
before & after

Nearby Fleetwood Hill may be the most fought over piece of real estate in American warfare: opposing armies either sought to defend or gain this valuable high ground for use as an artillery platform. After each clash of arms, the wounded and prisoners would be brought to this house either for medical help or to be transported to distant hospitals or POW camps.

During the five month winter encampment following the Gettysburg campaign, families of officers were allowed to come to camp.  In the above drawing “Dancing Lady,” a female visitor carefully picks her way through the mud between the Graffiti House and the railroad tracks

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Period photograph
of Michael Bowman

In addition to its historical value, the building has also proved to be of interest to a variety of paranormal groups, who have described it as one of the most active sites for research in the area. These investigators have spent numerous nights at the house tracing spirits and tape recording conversations from beyond. A DVD of their experiences is available for viewing at the Graffiti House. At left is the “Ghost Room,” where most of the paranormal activity has been detected.

Michael Bowman was a confederate private who was paid $11 a month. He spent $2 to have his picture taken. His portrait (pictured) – and perhaps his presence – remains in the Graffiti House.

Click here to read the full story

Visit the Graffiti House website and don’t miss their Holiday Open House on Sat. Dec. 12.

About the author: Richard Deardoff is a docent at the Graffiti House and has served on the Board of Directors for the Brandy Station Foundation, has been named Teacher of the Year for Fauquier County Public Schools twice, and is a former Civil War Trust Teacher of the Year.  He and his wife, Suzanne, live in Culpeper County; he is currently teaching at Kettle Run High school.


“Real Food” is Real Good: locally sourced lunch restaurant in Culpeper

By Meghan Scalea

Producing a weekly lunch menu focused on locally sourced food is a challenging feat, yet it is exactly what Paul and Sarah Diegl, owners of Real Food in Orange, have been committed to doing every Wednesday since 2008. Their journey to simple, seasonal food started, as all good food journeys do, with degrees in philosophy and psychology and a resume of greasy spoons in Charlottesville.

IMG_0757The husband and wife team spent 15 years working in restaurants and inns, teaching themselves about food and restaurant management. When Paul left the Inn at Meander Plantation near Orange to become a personal chef, the couple got their first taste of the community’s appetite for seasonal, locally sourced meals.

“All of a sudden, people were really wanting him to cater their dinner parties,” says Sarah. “He was working out of the back of the Subaru. It was limited the number of people we could serve.

We started looking for a physical location so we could have refrigerators.”

That was seven years ago. Today, Real Food resides in an unassuming, signless building off Old Gordonsville Road that was formerly home to a hamburger stand, another reminder of their humble beginnings “on the line.” The Diegls took over the building intending to use it just for Paul’s catering. Those catering requests that launched his independent cooking career now make up roughly half of Real Food’s business, complemented by a steady flow of weekday lunch customers.

It was Sarah, a native of Orange, who recognized the need for a local lunch place. The only option in town was a little ice cream parlor that made deli sandwiches. When they closed shop for a long holiday weekend and never returned, the Diegls seized the opportunity to support a lunch crowd and show off the best of central Virginia agriculture.

At the time they opened their doors, very few other places were sourcing locally.

“I started to feel like food was becoming this overwhelming number of customizations,” says Sarah. “I said, let’s just do what we do in a really focused way.”

The mission of Real Food has always been to keep it simple, right down to the sparse interior of the restaurant and the minimalistic web site. This way the focus remains on the food.

IMG_1438Each Wednesday, Paul and Sarah stand in front of the lunch counter and contemplate what to do for the next week’s menu. They talk about what their local farms have available based on emails Paul gets from his farmer friends. But email can get trumped by visits from farmers who show up at Real Food’s back door with fresh produce or livestock. Last summer a grower showed up with fresh turmeric and another one with fresh ginger. The Diegls were giddy.

These impromptu visits from farmers help the Diegls stay nimble in their weekly expressions with food. But changing the menu every seven days poses a challenge in their partnerships with many local farmers, admits Sarah.

“We are a tough client for some farmers. Our needs are so different because we only need ingredients for a week at a time. Sometimes we just need a pound of chutney, which isn’t worth bothering with for a large supplier. But then we might need 40 pounds of asparagus for a week of asparagus sandwiches, which is tough for a small farmer.”

But customers love knowing they can try new foods every week. It’s a business model that keeps both the owners and the patrons coming back for more. “People will plan their week with us,” says Sarah. “They say, ‘I’ll have the salad on Monday, then I’ll come back for the sandwich on Wednesday.’”

The Diegls agree that they have built a trust with their regular customers. People who would otherwise be hesitant to try a hard-boiled egg sandwich with olives, for example, will give it a try because they’ve enjoyed other menu items and trust Paul and Sarah to only serve food that tastes great.

IMG_1370Part of the reason it tastes so good is because at least part of each menu item always contains ingredients that are local and in season. Sarah references a hail storm that occurred the night before this interview. “If one of our farmers walked in, I would ask him, ‘how did you fare in the hail storm?’ We hear that the chefs in [Washington] DC don’t understand when their orders are delayed or altered because they aren’t living among their suppliers. It is so helpful to live where our food comes from.”

Sourcing locally can be costly, and Real Food aims to make good food accessible to everyone. Recipes are often tailored to cut ingredients that put them over a certain price point, trading pine nuts for house made focaccia croutons, for example. The Diegls work to protect the integrity of the food while still keeping it budget-friendly for a casual lunch crowd.

Real Food is currently open for lunch only from Monday through Friday, despite popular demand for a Saturday option. The Diegls currently plan to keep Saturdays for catering only, so perhaps a “sick day” is the way to go to get a taste of some real food.

Meat We Know: Available at Croftburn Market

By Meghan Scalea

IMGP2166It’s no secret that over the years the American public has grown increasingly interested – even skeptical – about knowing exactly where their meat comes from. So it made sense in 2011 for a young man from a Culpeper farming family to help guide his community to meat they could feel good about eating.

Several years ago, Andrew Campbell was fresh off the slopes of Colorado’s ski resorts when he returned to his family’s Croftburn Farm with a vision to help his neighbors in their quest to eat locally raised food. He had seen people lined up at the weekly farmers markets to buy naturally raised meats and knew there had to be a way to make these products available more than once a week.

Campbell opened Croftburn Market as a retail location in 2011 to sell locally raised meats direct to customers Monday through Friday. The Market, located just off route 29 on Braggs Corner Road, was chosen for its proximity to other retail outlets and those traveling to central Virginia from Washington, DC.

“A lot of downtown Culpeper is built on people coming in to visit and in for dinner and overnight, getting away from their lives in northern Virginia just as a little close vacation. That spills over to the retail side – people coming down once a week to their vacation house, or once a month they send me an email and pick up a freezer full of stuff to be filled up for a bit,” explains Campbell.

But opening a store that sells only meat seemed too limited in an age where people are used to one-stop shopping at big box stores. He stocked the Market with cheese, wines and beers, and limited local produce – the staples that complement a meat-based menu. All the elements are there to prepare a gourmet dinner or summer picnic.

Inside, a large glass display showcases beautiful cuts of red meat and sausages, and upright freezers are packed with products from local farmers and USDA cuts. Campbell and the staff behind the counter serve as meat ambassadors, helping customers fumble through questions about how much meat to buy, which cut best suits a recipe they’ve chosen, and how to prepare it.

“Meat can be intimidating,” Campbell acknowledges. “We try to create a pretty hospitable atmosphere that isn’t pretentious, and you can ask questions without feeling silly.”

baby lambsThe bulk of his business is pork, poultry and beef, although they also sell rabbit, goat and other novelty type meats. Campbell sources from farmers within three to four surrounding counties where he knows exactly how the animals are being raised.

“We are giving people a better product than what you can find elsewhere, and that varies product to product. For example, the local beef is not certified organic, but it’s local, so it’s coming from a place X miles from here. The animals aren’t being fed antibiotics or growth hormones like you’re finding in U.S. feedlots out west. Being exclusively organic is very, very difficult, so we tend to go for products that simply aren’t fed with additives and are as natural as possible, which means it’s not fed and finished in the normal commercial way.”

IMGP2196-001.PEFDozens of varieties of sausage, for example, are cured in-house at Croftburn Market. They aren’t loaded with preservatives and cooked, which means it doesn’t keep as long as grocery store sausage, but the quality is better. Customers tell Campbell they like knowing it was made right there, and that’s what keeps them coming back.

The same goes for the local beef he sells. “You can see this wasn’t a steak cut a week ago and hit with gas so it will stay cherry red. People are interested in where things come from, and that’s why they come to see us.”

While the store sells some products from his family’s farm, Campbell also stocks products from more than half a dozen other local farms. He understands how little time farmers have to market their own products or attend farmers markets. He wants Croftburn Market to serve as a point of sale for the full-time farmers who have a great product but need help sharing it with others. His inventory is balanced to cater to a broad spectrum of customers ranging from those who only want locally raised grass-fed meats to those who simply want a great cut at an affordable price.

Some people still can’t fathom leaving the grocery store meat department behind to explore a privately owned butcher shop. Campbell advises first-time customers to come in and start small. “Buy a steak or ground beef we make fresh every morning before you commit to half a beef. I’m always encouraging people to cook different products side by side and see if you can taste the difference between our dry aged products and the wet aged beef you get at the grocery store. Part of the fun is finding something that works for your tastebuds.”

His no-pressure approach to meat education is something that sets customers at ease. “Meat is an investment, and you don’t want to mess that up. I try to be cognizant of whether someone wants to be told what to do and how to do it. Other customers want to do it their way, which is fine, too. We are here to help.”

Croftburn Market is located at 16178 Rogers Rd, Culpeper.

The Incredible Egg | Recent rationing and buying local


You probably saw it across social media and the nightly news — avian flu hit the U.S.A. hard this year. While it rarely affected the small backyard flock or small farms, it permanently indented the commercial egg and chicken industry. This Spring, more than 49 million chickens and turkeys died or were euthanized in the U.S. due to Avian Influenza.  Fifteen different states across the Pacific North-West, deep into mid-west commercial farms, we severely affected.  The impact was treacherous, and now it’s beginning to hit the every day consumer.

About a month ago I saw the first article — “eggs being rationed” and “egg prices increasing due to shortage”. It’s happening, it’s for real. It’s not the end of the world and I really don’t expect the apocalypse to happen anytime soon. But if you’re an egg lover, then it’s time to listen up.

It is now cheaper to buy eggs from your local farmer or farmer’s market than it is to buy at the store. Yes, you read that right. While it may not have hit Mayberry towns just yet, it has already started in the larger cities. Eventually, and inevitably, it will trickle down. Here’s your chance to support your local market and buy directly from a trusted backyard chicken enthusiast or farmer. Most local eggs sell for $4-$5 a dozen. Here on our homestead, we sell them for $4/dozen and we do not plan to increase the value just because the commercial industry has increased their rates.

The bigger question, however, is what’s the difference between commercial eggs and pastured or free range eggs? It’s hard to understand, but I’ll explain it to you quickly and easily.

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