Welcome to Wednesday, and a hot one it is. Why not avoid today’s stifling temperatures by staying indoors for your lunch break and joining us for the weekly Free Range chat, your chance to discuss all things culinary with the Food section team?
A few subjects worth exploring: today’s stories about pimento cheese, a time-honored Southern favorite; area chefs who are making their own cheese; and a little-known pasta from Italy you can make without using a machine of any kind.
So come one, come all and join us at noon. We’ll do our best to answer your questions. And if we can’t get to all of them, I’ll tackle a leftover in this space next week.
In fact, here’s one from last week’s chat:
I’m looking for a good picnic spot one or two hours outside the city (to the west/north, toward Leesburg or the Harpers Ferry area, not to the beach). What’s your favorite? Also, are there any picnic spots where alcohol is allowed? It would be nice to enjoy a glass of wine with a cheese/charcuterie spread.
Did you know that many nearby wineries — in peaceful rural locations with beautiful scenery — welcome picnickers, and even the family dog? That’s my suggestion for a great picnic spot.
Many wineries include shops where you can pick up cheese, charcuterie, sandwiches, soft drinks and other picnic items if you don’t want to shlep your own. Many provide tables and seating, and at least one has outdoor grills that visitors are welcome to use. And of course, since they’re wineries, drinking wine is allowed. The only catch is that you can’t bring it in from the outside , so you need to buy it from the winery. And really, it would be pretty tacky to take advantage of a winery’s free picnic accommodations while you’re sipping the product of a Califormia competitor.
Finding a place that welcomes picnickers is as simple as going to a Web site. For Virginia, which has scores of wineries, and Maryland, which has far fewer, there are industry Web sites that include maps showing winery locations and contact information. Pick one, visit their Web site or give them a call to make sure what the policies are before you head out. Also, although some of the larger destinations are open daily or several days a week, the smaller ones might be open on weekends only, so make sure you know the business hours..
Among the nearby Virginia choices: Chrysalis Vineyards near Middleburg has two grills available for use. Breaux Vineyards in Purcellville sells light fare including local cheeses and freshly baked bread. Unicorn Winery in Amissville has a picnic area on the banks of the Rappahannock River.
In Maryland, Black Ankle Vineyards in Mt. Airy sells picnic items; unlike the others I’m mentioning here, however, it doesn’t allow dogs. Berrywine Plantations/Linganore Winecellars is open nearly every day of the year and also offers winery tours.
Remember that visiting dogs need to be leashed at all times. And remember that you should spend a little money at whichever winery is hosting you. These are businesses, after all, not state parks.
And speaking of state parks, although there are many in the area that have lovely picnic facilities, both Virginia and Maryland prohibit alcohol for park visitors except in special cases, such as for those who have permits to camp there. So if I were you, ISO a picnic spot with wine privileges, I’d check out the vibrant vineyard scene.