Home Farm, perhaps the region's most striking butcher shop, opened over the holidays in the center of downtown Middleburg. The distinctive stone building with two-story Palladian windows, built in 1924 to house the town's first bank, is a showplace for humanely raised and organic meats, poultry and game. The owners are Sandy Lerner, who made her fortune as co-founder of Cisco Systems, and businessman Don Roden. The pair also own the cozy Hunter's Head Tavern in nearby Upperville.
On a recent afternoon, butchers wearing straw boater hats carved thick steaks from a Scottish Highland steer that was raised on Lerner's Ayrshire Farm in Upperville. Side by side in the showcase were attractive and expensive rib-eye steaks labeled prime, Angus and heirloom ($27 to $25 per pound).
Some customers may be shocked by the beef prices. But the owners say that their purebred, heritage breeds of cattle are raised under "high standards of humane animal husbandry and environmentally sustainable farming methods."
"We track every cow from birth," says Home Farm spokesman Carol Jenkins. In that way, any outbreak of disease can be traced quickly to the source. "Our customers know that organics are generally higher [in price]."
Lovely legs of fresh ham ($5.29 per pound) are from Gloucester Old Spot pigs. Seven kinds of sausage ($7 to $8 per pound) including English bangers and German bratwurst are made by master butcher Paul Branner. In addition, there are plump, free-range chickens ($3.99 per pound).
Of particular note, in a prepared food area, are tasty Cornish pasties -- savory turnovers filled with seasoned meat and vegetables ($5 to $6 each). They are available hot for a quick bite on the run or frozen for later use. The beautiful, blue-shelled eggs ($3.50 per dozen) are from Araucana chickens. The Italian-style Pub bread ($4.50 a loaf), baked at Hunter's Head, is a delicious combination of crusty on the outside and soft and chewy within.
-- Walter Nicholls (December 29, 2004)