Cocktail Convos: Side Saddle Cafe in Middleburg
We gathered with friends for another one of Inside Loudoun’s Cocktail Convo Series at Side Saddle Cafe in the heart of historic Middleburg. Elaine Boland, businesswoman, mother, grandmother, activist and more, oversees Side Saddle Cafe, Deli and Fields of Athenry, the family farm sourcing operation in nearby Purcellville.
Stepping down through a large wooden door, we enter the lowest level of an old stone house. Inside, freezers stand loaded with high quality meats from nationally known Athenry Family Farm. In the corner is an antique dresser covered with memorabilia in honor of Elaine’s nephew, US Navy Seal Charlie Keating IV, tragically killed by ISIS in Iraq. Side Saddle dedicates this area to Charlie and Navy Seals around the world.
The dining and pub area is a cozy room with an equestrian theme. Signatures etched in black marker cover the beams and walls. “Airborne USA, Desert Storm”, “Semper Paratus”, “USAF 1986 Commando”, “Damn the Torpedoes 1984-89”. Elaine passes around the black marker inviting veterans and active duty military to add their tributes.
Our group gathers at the bar where we are met by Side Saddle bartender extraordinaire, Jeff Van Allen. A guitarist in one corner asks, “Who knows what movie this is from?” and follows up with spirited renditions. Keeps us guessing all night long.Meanwhile, Bartender Jeff is working his craft. His Gin Cooler starts with muddlement of Tanqueray, cucumber, lime wedge, mint and simple syrup served with a splash of bubbly. Lemon Thyme Lemonade – ginger puree, lime juice, vodka, lime wedge and club soda – is a spicy twist on a traditional refresher.
Arriving from the kitchen are large platters of appetizer samples like Portobello Mushrooms – sautéed, covered in Colby and sharp Romano and farm fresh antipasto of pepperoni, ham, raw milk cheddar. Gone in a flash! Next are platters bearing hearty entrée samples like farm pork chops and Duck Duck Goose Bowl – a southwestern flavored concoction with pulled duck and goose. All annihilated by fork!
Back to the cocktails. Jeff’s “On the Fly” is comprised of Titos Vodka from Austin, Texas and homemade ginger-lime puree cooked down in fresh lime juice. Jeff places ginger candy on the edge, sprinkles pink Himalayan salt, adds candied grapes, lime sorbet and a sparkling white wine. We named the next improv drink “The Jefferita”. This time, a muddlement by mortar and pestle of blueberries, blackberries, key lime. Adding tequila, triple sec (a little), a homemade mix of limes and lemons squeezed with simple syrup over fresh ice with lime. Our comment: “Mmmmmm”.
Yet another is the new special Bloody Mary with 30 different ingredients all made from scratch. It’s Elaine’s recipe made in big batches with Side Saddle’s own vodka infusion. In the glass, this Mary is adorned with very large olives, lemon, and two homemade additions, pepperoni and cheese.
The last of the platters arrive with desserts of Bongo Bongo which is caramelized bananas atop homemade banana bread drizzled in secret sauce and Grandma’s Berry Drizzle pound cake loaded with warm, organic Berry Compote. Nice to know these desserts come in three sizes on the menu!
You’ll leave Side Saddle Cafe like you’d leave a celebration. Reluctantly!
Side Saddle Cafe, Deli and Pub is located at 7 Washington St, Middleburg, VA, 540-326-8177 (Call this number for to-go orders). Cafe Hours: Closed Monday and Tuesday; Wednesday 11 a.m.-4p.m.;Thursday 11 a.m.-4 p.m. and Happy Hour 4:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 9 a.m.-8 p.m. with Live Music 6 p.m.-8 p.m. and Sunday 10 a.m.-4 p.m. with Live music from 1 p.m.-3 p.m.