A Taste of the Good Life, Without the Dress Code

Friday, August 15, 2008

There's a certain spot you hit on Route 50, traveling west from the city, where "your whole body just relaxes," JoAnn Hazard says.

The roads are suddenly wrapped by outstretched trees. Black pavement gives way to yawing green fields. Horses prance along your peripheral vision.

"You're surrounded by all this beauty," Hazard raves of Middleburg, her adopted home. She moved to the storied town three years ago to take over the Middleburg Country Inn with husband Kevin; now just going back into Fairfax County for an errand makes her blood pressure rise, she says.

Sure, the foothills of Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains have found fans among the rich and famous (the Kennedys, Elizabeth Taylor, Robert Duvall, Sheila Johnson), but a daytrip doesn't require millions.

"Go west, young man," Hazard always sings to her guests. And see if life isn't better already.

10 a.m. Breakfast at the Coach Stop ( 9 W. Washington St.; 540-687-5515). Start your day with eggs, sausage and a side of local gossip. This 50-year-old haunt prides itself on home-style cooking and the adoration of its regulars. Former NFL player "Sam Huff sits in there and eats his breakfast just about every morning," Hazard says.

11 a.m. Browse downtown. Hazard's tour of the many shops would start at Creme de la Creme ( 23 E. Washington St.; 540-687-8360), a boutique brimming with elegant linens and stationery. Work your way down the main drag to the Middleburg Antique Emporium ( 107 W. Washington St.; 540-687- 8680) to sort through the wares of more than 40 dealers.

12:30 p.m. The National Sporting Library ( 102 The Plains Rd.; 540-687-6542). To get a sense of the region's history and culture, swing by this collection of more than 15,000 books on horse and field sports.

1:30 p.m. Lunch and something sweet. Pop into Market Salamander ( 200 W. Washington St.; 540-687-8011) for a gourmet sandwich. It's owned by local mogul Johnson, so you should consider the Sheila: turkey, Swiss cheese, remoulade and slaw on grilled rye. Then carry on to the Upper Crust Bakery ( 4 N. Pendleton St.; 540-687-5666) for a homemade snickerdoodle. If they were good enough for Jackie O . . .

3 p.m. Winery time. You can't come to this neck of the woods without visiting some local vineyards. Start with Three Fox Vineyards ( 10100 Three Fox Lane, Delaplane; 540-364-6073), which "has a Tuscan feel," Hazard says. Then wrap around to Chrysalis Vineyards ( 23876 Champe Ford Rd.; 540-687-8222) and on to the Swedenburg Estate Vineyard ( 23595 Winery Lane; 540-687-5219), which "has a Riesling people really like," Hazard says.

6 p.m. French Hound ( 101 S. Madison St.; 540-687-3018). If you decide to stay in town for dinner, consider heading to this airy French bistro for steak frites or boeuf bourguignon. Don't worry about what you're wearing: "What I tell all of our people," Hazard says, "is that there are no dress codes in Middleburg."

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