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Lunch queens

Women of Ashby Ponds find recipe for food, friendship, fun

Created date

May 25th, 2010

The quickest way to a friend s heart may be through the stomach, at least for many at Ashby Ponds. Within months after the Ashburn community opened, Natalie Margiotta started a monthly dining out group Women Out to Lunch as a way to meet new friends while enjoying delicious meals at some of the D.C. area s finest restaurants. I wanted our first outing to be a guaranteed success, so I selected Tuscarora Mill in historic Leesburg, Va., says Margiotta. Everyone loved it, and we were off and running. What started as a group of about 15 women quickly grew into 25 to 45 people each month. Recent dining destinations include Not Your Average Joe s, Sweetwater Tavern, L Auberge Chez Francois, P.F.Chang s, and the Oatlands Plantation.

The Lunch Queen

Planning lunch dates is nothing new for Margiotta, who earned the nickname The Lunch Queen during her career at The Washington Post. I went out to lunch just about every day with other employees or managers, she says. As personnel manager, it was a good way to understand the workings of each department. Margiotta used her expertise to organize a women s luncheon group at Heritage Hunt Golf & Country Club, an over-55 active adult community in Gainesville, Va., where she and her husband, Frank, resided before moving to Ashby Ponds. Fortunately, I already have a long list of restaurants I ve visited in the past, she says. But we still make sure to double-check them. Prior to selecting a venue for each Women Out to Lunch event, she and Frank scout out the restaurant. Natalie does a wonderful job putting together our out-to-lunch dates, says Liz Brueckmann. Because she has researched each restaurant before our luncheon, we know that it will be a unique and exciting dining experience. She has found restaurants that I never knew existed. Breaking bread with others is a wonderful way to make new friends. Patricia Lund, member of Women Out to Lunch club Once a venue is selected, Margiotta works directly with the restaurant on selecting a menu, typically an entr e and dessert. She is often successful at negotiating a flat rate that includes beverages, tax, and gratuity. A few days before the event, Margiotta e-mails the restaurant with the final order and prints out a place card for each attendee that lists her order. Natalie always makes sure to include a variety of menu options to choose from with a list of ingredients, says Dottie Kraft. This careful planning ensures that service is quick and problem-free.

Meal plan

The Women Out to Lunch group is open to any woman at Ashby Ponds. Margiotta posts flyers and sends e-mails with details on each month s excursion. She then provides the menu options, collects the money, and develops a carpool list. This hard work allows each attendee to enjoy a wonderful afternoon out, without having to worry about the details. In selecting a place for our luncheons, I take into account both the ambiance and prices, explains Margiotta. If there is shopping or an historic tour nearby, that s always a plus. I try to offer a variety of locations, prices, and types of food. I have enjoyed each of the lunch outings I ve gone on, says Kraft. Seeing new parts of Loudoun County, experiencing different restaurants, visiting with new and old friends along the way, and having it all organized by Natalie down to the tip, tax, and carpool is just wonderful. In addition to being a guaranteed great meal, the Women Out to Lunch group is an unbeatable way to make connections. Breaking bread with others is a wonderful way to make new friends, says Patricia Lund. I find that it s easier to learn about others in a more intimate setting. When we went to Magnolias in Purcellville, I had the opportunity to share more about myself while giving some of the women a tour of the area in my car, since I had lived there before moving to Ashby Ponds. Joan Lehman agrees that the club s social element is often as nourishing as the meals. Friendships abound at Ashby Ponds, and these outings reinforce many of them, she says. It s fun to spend time in different settings with women we may pass in the halls, see at activities and at meals, but never get the chance to talk to in-depth. It s always interesting to find out what life before Ashby was like and possibly to find shared interests. It s fun to dine with so many people who ve led interesting lives, enjoyed various hobbies, and have stayed involved in what s happening in the world and the community, says Margiotta. It makes for good conversation and lots of laughter. I m delighted the luncheons have been such a hit, and I look forward to continuing. Currently, Margiotta is planning a return luncheon to L Auberge Chez Francois in Great Falls, Va., which for one time only will be open to the men of the community.