Once upon a time, in a different life…ok, in a different job, I had occasion to plan a couple special events at a restaurant down in a darling area of Northeast Virginia. In the intervening years, I have referred other friends who have moved to this area to this restaurant, and always received positive feedback of their experiences there. So when we heard we were having a conference in Middleburg, VA a couple months back, and Boss L asked me to find a spot for a team dinner, I knew exactly what to do: hop on the Lightfoot and do the rad thing.
But before I can even talk to you about dinner, I need to tell you about where they let us stay. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: my job is hard, but it has perks. Our offsite was at the Salamander Resort and Spa, an idyllic, sprawling destination for the toniest of horse and hunt enthusiasts. This joint was built by the ex-wife of the dude who owns the BET Network, and I’m so glad she used her settlement to provide me with a TV in my claw-footed tub-equipped bathroom, replete with dimmable lighting and a little across-the-tub shelf in which to place my phone. It was Heaven. If you ever have a couple thousand bucks to blow in Northern Virginia, do not miss this pristine, lux accommodation.
But back to Leesburg and the eats. Lightfoot Restaurant is a housed in a 17th Century-era building which once was home to a bank. Decked out in Romanesque Revival style, it’s quite simply gorgeous and unique. To be able to hang out in places this gorgeous while also working is one of those perks to which I was referring earlier. It sure beats my office. Back in the early aughts, when I was planning dinners at Lightfoot, the meals were pretty straightforward, though always tasty. I was excited to eat here and be able to order off the regular menu with my colleagues.
Perusing the starters menu, there was no way I was ignoring those country ham biscuits, and fried green tomatoes are something I can never seem to deny myself. Neither really fits in to the healthy eating plan I’ve been working pretty successfully in 2014, but then again, what BHS-worthy food does? The biscuit were diminutive and yummy. While not the most tender of southern pastries, the smoked ham inside them was salty and finely textured. I loved the little smear of honey butter gracing each, which countered the salinity of the cured pork perfectly, and leant these little suckers a lip-smacking salty/sweet punch.
The fried green tomato had good flavor, which is tough to come by this time of year. The tomato was a bit mushy, of course; Unavoidable in February. The Szechuan chile cream and the perfectly steamed shrimp topping each fried slice were the kickers here, and I quite liked them both. The jalapeno cheddar cheese was a nice touch, too. You don’t usually get cheese with fried green tomatoes, so the spicy, creamy flavor was a welcome difference on the plate.
If you check out the entrée selections, can you guess what I ordered? I vacillated a bit between the shrimp and grits and the pork shank, but there wasn’t really that much competition. What can I say? I love caveman food, and anything with a shank in it qualifies. This offering reminded me a lot of Ryan’s Lookout’s version, enriched with a boozy glaze and sporting crunchy, roasted bits to offset all that unctuous, tender meat. What made it a standout was the side dish: a bread pudding of bacon, cheddar and thyme. The smokiness of this starch set off the sweetness of the brandy sauce on the meat, and with the tender-crisp broccoli on the side, made for a superbly balanced dish. I loved it, and ate way more than I had any business doing whilst also trying to lose weight.
My other colleagues went for the salmon with artichoke gratin and the surf and turf special. Of these, I did taste the filet, and it was quite good, though it didn’t knock my socks off. I wish someone had gone for the lamb or the duck – this is what happens when you’re understaffed!
For dessert, coworker P was treated to a birthday surprise:
He hates us.
I went for a straight-up chocolate sundae, and I refuse to apologize for it. It was goooood, Clark. Again, nothing truly exceptional here, except that it’s winter and I don’t get nearly enough chocolate sundaes this time of year.
Our waiter was a wee bit standoffish, and I kind of liked that. After all, to a table full of PR people, you don’t need to add in a chatty waiter. We were chatty enough on our own. I would give Lightfoot an eight on the BHS Scale. It’s an above-average, special occasion kind of place. But if you’re in Leesburg to do a spot of outlet shopping, equestrian shenanigans or sightseeing of historic battlefields and such, try it out. I know you’ll love it, and what are vacations for, if not a bit of pampering? My personality is big; my hunger is bigger!