Editors' pick

Epicurious Cow

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Editorial Review

Epicurious Cow, a one-year-old specialty grocer on Lee Highway in Rappahannock County, Va., sits in the center of a 3,000-acre cattle farm. The market's owners, Terri Lehman and John Oravec, turned an elderly auto service station/country store into a pleasant place to stop. Many county homeowners and a growing number of those who enjoy a weekend drive in the Shenandoah National Park know that the Cow can satisfy the shopping needs of the most discriminating cook.

"Our product mix has a lot to do with what we like to eat," says Lehman, a former produce buyer for Sutton Place Gourmet.

Lehman's domain is the "produce garage" section of the market where organic and conventional vegetables -- beautiful things such as candy-cane-striped beets, scarlet turnips and hen-of-the-woods mushrooms -- are artfully arranged. An impressive display of heirloom tomatoes hides the hydraulic lift.

Oravec, a chef who has worked at Cashion's Eat Place in Adams Morgan, fixes yellowtail snapper wraps and ancho-chili-roasted duck burritos in the adjoining "cow room." Under foot, the floor is painted with Holstein spots. In the prepared foods case roasted chickens, red bell pepper soup and Yukon gold mashed potatoes are ready to go.

The Cow carries things such as Japanese panko bread crumbs and the proper noodles for Vietnamese soup. The exceptional meats are from Niman Ranch and the breads from La Brea Bakery, both in California. Banana leaves have turned out to be a strong seller.

"We tell people to wrap fish in them and throw them on the grill," says Oravec. "It's so simple for fish to take on the sweet flavor of banana."

-- Walter Nicholls