Hammerdown is Hands Down the Best BBQ


Hammerdown Barbeque
41153 John Mosby Hwy
Aldie, VA 20105

BBQ | $


Not far from the Rt. 50 traffic circles in Aldie, Hammerdown is hard to miss. There is plenty of signage and they park a large truck with their logo out front often.


The interior if classic BBQ joint with a bar.


Ordering is easy, platters or sandwiches with sides.


Just as I was about to order a whole brisket came out of the warmer.




I ordered the Brisket Sandwich with Mac & Cheese. The brisket melts in your mouth, it has a gentle hickory flavor with a perfect thin crispy bark. This is among the best brisket I have had, certainly the best in Virginia. The Mac & Cheese is wonderful and better than any I have had offered at other BBQ restaurants.


The ribs are cooked perfectly, juicy, and fall off the bone.


My wife ordered the platter which comes with your choice of 2 meats and 2 sides.


The collards were the best she has had, which coming from this Virginia girl is saying something. They are cooked in a home-made pork broth that creates a delicious flavor.


The mashed potatoes with chives were smooth and tasty.


Sausage 2

The sausage was smoky and juicy. The links are long and you get a good size portion.


Sodas and ice tea refills are free.


They smoke with a combination of hickory and oak.


On the day we visited they were using the smallest of their 3 smokers. During the summer, their peak BBQ season, they can smoke up to 40 briskets and still run out. The smoking starts around 5pm on the previous day, being a Pitmaster is not a 9 to 5 job. The fist class BBQ is awesome but what really got my attention was the sides. Many BBQ joints concentrate on the barbeque and view sides as something they must offer. In the past I have had Mac & Cheese with an order that was obviously Kraft Mac & Cheese or macaroni that had bits of cheese mixed in. It’s wonderful to see high quality well prepared sides offered with exceptional BBQ making for a great dinning experience.

While I always measure noise in a restaurant it was not an issue here. At times it was eerily quiet as everyone chowed down on the best BBQ of their life. It is self serve and  all the staff behind the counter and bar was open, friendly, and genuinely  interested in offering great BBQ. If you live within 100 miles of Aldie, VA and love BBQ you need to make the trip to Hammerdown. For BBQ lovers it’s what they imagine Heaven will be like.

How to Spend a Big Fat Weekend in Austin, Texas

Austin is a lot like Charleston, there are almost too many good places to eat. Bon Appétit says:

“Yes, there is barbecue and Tex Mex, but Austin’s delicious things per capita ratio is so high that you’ll want to come for so much more—including lamb pizza, marshmallow fluff brownie, oysters, and more.”

Source: How to Spend a Big Fat Weekend in Austin, Texas

Here Are D.C.’s 2019 James Beard Awards Semifinalists

Eater DC has a list of the local players who made the first cut Beard season has officially arrived: Today the James Beard Foundation released its list of Restaurant and Chef Awards semifinalists for 2019. On Wednesday, March 27, James Beard Award-winning chef Hugo Ortega will announce the (much shorter) list of final nominees at his namesake Mexican restaurant, Hugo’s, in Houston. (For the majority who can’t be present, they’ll also be announced via Twitter and Facebook Live.) Winners will be announced Monday, May 6 at a gala at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Source: Here Are D.C.’s 2019 James Beard Awards Semifinalists

The Joshua Wilton House

The Joshua Wilton House
412 South Main Street
Harrisonburg, VA 22802

American | $$$


You know you are in for a treat when dining in a beautifully restored Victorian home.



We arrived a early and waited for our table in the comfortable bar.



The dining rooms are elegant and spacious.



Attention to detail is everywhere.


Homemade bread came out first and disappeared quickly.


We joined friends for dinner the weekend after Valentine’s Day and were treated to a special holiday fixed-price menu created by Executive  Chef Tom French.  My wife started with these wonderful Fried Oysters with Avocado, Cilantro, Lime, Brussel Slaw, and a Tomato Concasse.


This Lobster Bisque was amazing. It was full bodied and super smooth. With each sip I pictured a Sous Chef pushing it through a chinois 20 times.


Duck & Foie Gras Rillettes with Pickled Blackberry, Orange Gastrique, and Frisee.


For my entrée I chose the Sea Scallops with Braised Pork Belly, Vanilla Parsnip Puree, Apple Fennel Chutney, and a Beet Vinaigrette. The charred scallops were cooked perfectly, not an easy feat. Often they are over cooked trying to get them blackened, these were not. The pork belly, well it’s bacon, enough said. The vanilla parsnip puree was luscious and smooth like the bisque.


My wife went with the Halibut on a bed of Creamy Polenta, Sweet & Sour Peppers, and ringed with a Basil Pesto. The halibut was divine. It had a nice sear and paired well with the creamy polenta. If you favor fish this is the dish for you.


While the food is first class, we eat with our eyes and the plating is exceptional. This Chocolate & Raspberry Mille Feuille was the perfect blend of chocolate with a hint of raspberry.


The Crème Brûlée was rich and creamy with a nice caramelized top, one of the best I have had.

The service was first class, always attentive and ahead of our needs.  Noise volume was not an issue, it’s an older home with a décor that doesn’t lend itself to bouncing sound like a spy satellite. Joshua Wilton House is at the pinnacle of fine dining in Harrisonburg. It may be perceived by some as a special occasion destination, and it is, but every time you visit and enjoy the food it will be a special occasion.

Get Spicy for a Good Cause


Manassas, VA based Dizzy Pig BBQ Company has created a spicy version of their top selling Dizzy Dust seasoning. Owner Chris Capell says a portion of the proceeds from the new Spicy Dizzy Dust will be donated as way for the company to give back to the community through local charities. We are thrilled the Dizzy Pig team chose the Visiting Chef Program at the Warrior Retreat at Bull Run to be their first charity.

If you like to spice up your food, then you will love Spicy Dizzy Dust. It works on everything you put regular Dizzy Dust on. I have used it on chicken and pork schnitzel to add heat for a great taste. The schnitzel is a lightly breaded pork cutlet. To get Spicy Dizzy Dust on the cutlet you need to add it to the panko just before you coat each side of the cutlet. Mixing it directly into the panko doesn’t work well because it is heavier than the panko and settles to the bottom. Like any spicy seasoning you will need to experiment on different foods and with  varying amounts to find your spice tolerance sweet spot. Dizzy Pig has some great spicy recipes on their web page.

You can purchase Spicy Dizzy Dust online  or at one of many retail locations selling the line of Dizzy Pig BBQ spices. Try it, you won’t be disappointed and will be supporting the Warrior Retreat at Bull Run.

Awesome Seafood in Ashburn

Ford’s Fish Shack
44260 Ice Rink Plaza
Ashburn, VA 20147

Seafood | $$


This is one of three Northern Virginia locations. Addresses and directions can be found on their web page.



Home-made corn muffins is always a great way to start any meal. They were great tasting and perfectly moist.


Our Rhode Island Calamari appetizer was wonderful. A nice light flavorful batter and ginger aioli. More thank enough for two people.


My wife loved this Lobstah Bisque with a Sambuca Cream and Chives.


I had to go for the Crab Cakes with Chorizo Mac & Cheese. The Crab Cakes were excellent, better than any I get at the shore and almost a good as what I had at Lemaire in Richmond. The Chorizo Mac and Cheese was wonderful, not overly cheesy and the Chorizo gives it just enough spice for my taste.


My wife’s seafood platter gave her a selection of perfectly cooked shrimp, scallops, clams, and oysters. All are some of her favorites and delicious. It’s a large portion of seafood and the sides, while very good, didn’t get touched much. When asked she quickly said she would order it again in a heartbeat.

With the calamari, soup, and two sizable entrées there was no room for dessert. Based on our overall experience with dinner there is no reason to think dessert would not be tasty. The noise level was moderate. Service was excellent, attentive and welcoming.

Quality well prepared fish is hard to find, even in places where you would expect all seafood to be spectacular, like the shore. We have been meaning to try Ford’s Fish Shack for some time. I have heard good things and our experience proved them  true. The day we visited Chef/Owner Tony Stafford was overseeing operations and everything ran like clockwork. Before you decide to drive to the Eastern Shore or go to Passion Fish in the impossible to park Reston Town Center, find the nearest Ford’s Fish Shack and give it a try. You will be impressed.