Monthly Archives: July 2014

A Brief Introduction

Our readers may have noticed that a new writer has recently begun contributing to our blog! Kimberly Barr has been a valuable asset at the Holladay House for years. She knows our operations “inn” and out, and she is a native of Orange County. She has plenty of personal interests that dovetail nicely with the Holladay House and all the fun things to do in the Virginia Piedmont region: cooking, traveling, hiking, photography, history, theater, and the arts. These interests, plus her sharp wit and natural passion for writing make her the ideal person to write about all the things that make our historic inn and the Orange County and Charlottesville areas a great place to visit!

So, please check in with us as often as you can to see what Kim is writing about! Also, leave her a comment or two to give her some encouragement, or to request an article on a topic of interest to you!

- Sam

Orange’s Edible Food Fest: “Celebrating Food From Earth To Table” on August 9th

At last year’s Edible Food Fest I discovered that I love goat cheese. Previously I’d been unimpressed (and rather revolted, frankly) by the grocery-store variety, so I was initially dubious about trying it. Still, you can’t claim to love cheese without being willing to sample every variety, so I reached for a Romano-laden toothpick and gingerly nibbled off the edge. And, that quickly, I was hooked. There was just something special about it. Maybe it was the simple, straightforward way it was presented, or maybe it was just that it was amazing, flavorful hard cheese, straight from the brine. Regardless, it was mouthwateringly good: strong, salty, and pungent. Needless to say, I took home a package—and a business card, so I could reorder.Blog--edible Food Fest in Orange--7-25-14

This seems to be a common experience of many who have flocked to the Edible Food Fest during the past two years. Whether it’s a homemade granola, a locally made cider, or a line of jams and jellies, most people find something new and exciting they want to take home and talk about. Also extremely popular are the chef demonstration tents (they’ve added a second one this year!) which late-comers find to be standing-room-only.

The fest is a great chance to meet fellow foodies and get a hands-on look at some of the best local, organic, and homemade offerings the area is producing. Among the vendors this year: Plantation Peanuts of Wakefield, Bees n’ Blossoms (raw honey), Croftburn Market (meats), Spring Mill Farm (goat cheese), Wildwood’s Hickory Syrup, and Family Ties and Pies.

Located within walking distance of the festival, the Holladay House is the perfect place to stay if you’re planning to attend this year. If you book two nights with us, we’ll even sweeten the deal and provide free admission to the fest.

Orange’s Edible Food Fest is scheduled for August 9, 2014, and will be open 10AM—6PM. See complete schedules and vendor lists at

Hops & Chops 2014

Like fastidious cooks everywhere, the “Chef-In-Chief” of Holladay House’s annual Hops & Chops couldn’t help but regard the food with a critical eye. However, judging by the enthusiastic response (and the scarcity of leftovers!) at the July 5th event, innkeeper Sam was alone in his severe evaluation of his own cooking. The general consensus: 2014′s edition hit the mark yet again.

The family-style dinner went off without a hitch. CBlog--Hops&ChopsFollowup--FamilyStyle--7-16-14onversation flowed throughout the evening, the food selections were well-received, and the festivities wrapped up just in time for guests to venture out for fireworks.

The “chops” for this year were “cider-brined pork rib chops with dried cherries and apple chips.” Rounding out the menu were fresh vegetables from local gardens, such as “spicy honey-lime radish slaw” “just-picked cucumbers in a yogurt and fresh dill sauce” and an assortment of freshly baked breads – Sharon baked them “from scratch” and the aroma delighted everyone in the house! Wrapping things up were several types of dessert, including a blueberry cheesecake and Sharon’s freshly-baked “amazing all-american apple pie”.

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Diners also enjoyed the beer selections, “hops”, complementing each course. All the beers were carefully selected to pair with the flavors of the meal, and all were craft microbrews from Virginia. Of special note was the Hardywood Park Cream Ale from Richmond, VA, picked for its distinctly American origins. Cream Ale has a long history in America. Until the late 19th century, British-style ales and porters dominated the US beer market. Then, in the mid 19th century, German immigrants began to arrive in larger numbers, bringing with them a tradition of their own: lager-brewing. Lager quickly became popular, forcing British-style ale makers to up their game. Their answer to the lager-craze was an all-new beverage, unique to America: cream ale. According to the menu, “this flavorful style of beer has the characteristics of a great lager, but is brewed like an ale.”

A quick (and probably over-simplified) distinction for anyone out there as unfamiliar with beer-brewing as I am: ale-brewing uses a type of yeast that performs best in a warm fermentation environment. Lager employs yeast that ferments best in a colder environment.

Also on the beer menu this year was the Chin Music Amber Lager from Center of the Universe Brewing ( and the Woodbooger Belgian-Style Brown Ale from Strangeways Brewing ( Sam grew up in Ashland, VA, (locally known to be the “center of the Universe”), and was eager to try this new brewery’s selections. Strangeways Brewing provides a unique and eccentric twist to the Virginia craft brewing business, and the Woodbooger brown ale was a favorite at the table, particularly during dessert.Blog--Hops&ChopsFollowup--Herbs--7-16-14

Bold Rock’s Virginia Draft hard cider rounded out the list, appearing not only in bottled form (“balancing soft sweetness with a bright apple taste”) but also serving as the main ingredient in the brine for the pork-rib chops.

All in all, a good evening with good people and good food. We’re looking forward to next year!






Shenandoah National Park, Part Two: White Oak Canyon

White Oak Canyon: Two Novices Take A Hiking Trip

First, here’s a disclaimer: this isn’t The Ultimate Guide to Hiking. What this is is the account of a pair of novice hikers (me and my husband, Timmy) who wanted to feel outdoorsy and athletic, enjoy the beauty of Shenandoah National Park, and get some quality couple time—all while still arriving home in time for dinner.

Preparing For White Oak   Canyon: The Boring Logistical Section

 Step one, obviously, was figuring out all we could about White Oak Canyon. Foreknowledge turned out to be pretty important, because, once we got into the mountains, our cell-service was no longer reliable (or even existent).

What we discovered is this: basically, there are two main ways to hop onto White Oak Canyon trail. We could either start at the trailhead at the top (across from Skyland at Skyline Drive Mile Marker 42.6), walk down to the first main falls, and then have an uphill return the way we’d come, or we could park in the lot off of Weakley Hollow Road, draBlog--WhiteOakCanyon--Trailhead--7-14-14g our tails up the side of the mountain, and then have a steep descent back to the car. A certain amount of Googling revealed that the “best” waterfall for our viewing pleasure was located closer to the top, so we decided to start at Skyland and hike down.

We found this link to be particularly helpful:

Our White Oak Quest Gets Underway

We got on the road before 8 AM, trying to avoid being caught out in the weather if a projected late-afternoon thunderstorm materialized. (It didn’t) We also made a point of going mid-week, as we’d heard the trail is popular enough to be fairly busy on pleasant weekends.

Our first stop was at Sheetz on Rt.15 to load up on a few extra liters of Aquafina to add to our stash of homemade sandwiches and snacks. If you want a picnic lunch without the trouble, check with Sharon before you head out. We do picnic lunches, made up for you fresh in the kitchen at the Holladay House.

We figured out pretty quickly that we wouldn’t be relying on GPS to get us there. ( even made a point of warning us about it.) Skyline Drive is old school: the entrance we needed to use, Thornton Gap, isn’t actually located at a GPS-programmable address. Instead, Timmy Google-searched directions to Skyland, which is adjacent, and we used our best sign-spotting skills to navigate.

Thornton Gap: Entering Shenandoah National Park

 We made good time and reached the Thornton Gap entrance in about an hour and a half. We forked over $15 for a week-long pass, and accepted the complimentary map of Skyline Drive from the park ranger. We took a few photos along Skyline Drive (viewable in the preceding post) and made a quick pit-stop at Skyland before setting out.

White Oak Canyon: The Saga Begins!!

 Parking at the specifically-desBlog--WhiteOakCanyon--Footbridge--7-14-14ignated White Oak Canyon Parking Lot, we hoisted on our packs and set off. For the first half-hour it was a stereotypical, Ranger Rick-style nature hike. Gravel crunched like granola-breakfast-cereal underfoot, birds twittered, squirrels chattered, and the sun slanted down through the fresh green leaves overhead. I’d heard accounts of encountering bears, but we actually saw not even a single squirrel.

It had rained a few days previously, and the path occasionally grew mucky. That’s something you’ll want to think about when choosing your footwear: plan for mud, and uneven, rocky segments throughout.

About 30 minutes in, we encountered our first inkling of water: a waterfall in extreme miniature, trickling down over the smooth stones at the bottom of the creek. Here our childhood instincts to puddle-hop kicked in, and we stopped to dabble for a few minutes.


White Oak CBlog--WhiteOakCanyon--Falls--7-14-14anyon: “View” Of The Falls

 About one o’clock (about two hours after setting out) we veered to the left to cross a footbridge, and descended to a spot marked “View” with an obelisk. I trekked out onto the rocks above the falls and plunked down to take in the scenery: clear, cold water spilling down over the craggy faces of the boulders and disappearing again into the trees far below us. Timmy, who doesn’t care for heights, edged dutifully out after me, and sighed audibly with relief when we headed back for solid ground.

 The “Getting Back” Part Is Always The Hardest

The trail turned out to be much steeper than I’d surmised on our original descent. I had to take a few quick breathers, but it wasn’t unreasonably taxing. Despite these delays, we halved our original time and made it back to the trail-head in about an hour. This was partially because I recalled seeing a chocolate bar in the gift-shop at Skyland, and it was sounding tastier the more I thought about it. Consequently, I set a brutal pace.

Rudy’s: The Best Pizza In Sperryville, VA

After my candy splurge, we went in search of real food and wound up at Rudy’s– combination grocery store and pizzeria. Our server’s t-shirt proclaimed that Rudy’s served the best pizza in Sperryville. Not sure if this was a boast or an ironic wink, because they arguably serve the only pizza in Sperryville. Nevertheless, we thoroughly enjoyed the pizza, and give them our thumbs-up. The restaurant itself was clearly well-loved, dinged and nicked around the edges, but we liked the gritty local-pizzeria feel. The menu was clever, featuring hiker-centric pizzas such as “the Old Rag” and “the White Oak Canyon.”Blog--WhiteOakCanyon--Rudys--7-14-14

White Oak Canyon: A Summary…..

If you need a picturesque view to make your hike memorable, White Oak Canyon is your trail. Challenging without being overwhelming, and rugged without requiring extreme agility to maneuver, it combines all the best parts of hiking into one beloved old trail. If you’re like us, you’ll come back feeling “just enough” outdoorsy without being too exhausted to enjoy the rest of your evening.

Shenandoah National Park, Part One: Skyline Drive

Virginia’s Chunk of the Blue Ridge Mountains

The Blue Ridge Mountains are arguably one of Virginia’s most memorable natural landmarks, providing a panoramic background for most road-trips in the central part of the state. Clearly visible throughout many parts of Orange County, they’re every bit as much a part of “who we are” as farmer’s markets, local wineries, and Montpelier. They’re also easily accessible (Shenandoah National Park is only a little over an hour away) which is why I’m ashamed to admit that it took me 23 years to visit. However, that situation has been rectified, and I can now say: a trip to the Blue Ridge Mountains needs to be on your vacation bucket-list.

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My “Mission Statement”

 In this post and an upcoming follow-up, I’ll be talking about my personal adventure to Shenandoah National Park. Part One will focus on an overview of Skyline Drive, while Part Two will delve a little deeper into our experiences on one of SNP’s most popular waterfall hiking trails, White Oak Canyon. The posts do overlap somewhat chronologically, so you’ll need to read both to get a comprehensive view of the trip.

Along the way I’ll try to share with you a few tips I found useful and a few places I found memorable, to help you in planning your own visit.

Your Journey to Skyline Drive

 The best way to visit the Blue Ridge Mountains is to drive (or cycle!) at least part of the 105 miles of roadway that meanders up through the rocky ranges. Skyline Drive is best known for its annual display of crimson-and-gold foliage in the fall, but you won’t be disappointed any time of the year.

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Here’s a link to the National Park Service site, which provides directions to the 4 entrances, ticket information, and other “rules of the road” you’ll need to know.

Speeding Through Sperryville (And Stopping, Too)

If you travel to Skyline Drive from the Holladay House, my recommendation is to take Route 211 up through Madison (a beautiful drive in and of itself) and enter through the Thornton Gap entrance. If you do take this route, you’ll pass through quaint downtown Madison and, later, Sperryville. When my husband and I went we encountered this little gift-shop in Sperryville, which fell on the spectrum somewhere between organic and groovy and made us wish we weren’t penniless newlyweds. The inventory was hugely varied, stocking everything from a treasure trove of Beech honey and jams to handmade jewelry and quilts, to Polish pottery and knickknacks. There was even a collection of bar soaps that were touted as being edible. If, you know, edible soap is your thing.

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You’ll want to stop for a pint of their delicious apple cider, and a locally-made snack or two.

On Skyline Drive

 Once on Skyline Drive (which will cost you $15 per vehicle) you’ll want to pull off into a few of the overlook lanes to take photos of the valley, which drops off sharply beyond the wall and stretches like a rumpled blanket to the mountain ridges in the distance.

Houses are strewn across the green expanse, spattered here and there like flecks of white paint from the brush of an Impressionist. This is how Monet might have painted the Shenandoah: at once both vague and vivid, shrouded in a hazy fog that softens the outlines and bleeds one color into the next.

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There are over one hundred miles of such scenery to browse through, ranging from the domestic view described above to stretches of pristine wilderness. Each overlook lane provides a different panorama, so you’ll want to take in at least a few.

Why You’ll Want To Go

 You haven’t fully experienced Virginia until you’ve seen what it looks like from the top. If you’re looking for a place to pop the question, folks—I can’t think of a more memorable backdrop than this. It’s also perfect for a picnic, or (if you’re in serious shape) taking a cycling tour. If you’re looking to hike, Shenandoah National Park is also home to a medley of popular trails of different lengths and difficulties, for every skill level. (I’ll talk more about that in the next post.) There’s a something for everyone–you’re not going to find better drive-through tourism than this.