Virginia Wine Expo

My husband and I hit up the Virginia Wine Expo in Richmond yesterday, and I must say we had a great time. A wide range of Virginia wines were represented, from classic styles like Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay to those made from Virginia’s native grape, the Norton. We also got to sample some delicious Italian wines, as well as discover some new wineries making really unique and interesting wines.


As this year’s “Guest Region,” Italy was well-represented in tastings throughout the show. I discovered two reds from Sardinia, made by winery Argiolas.


Virginia standbys Barboursville Vineyards had a large tasting booth and plenty of wines to try.


Sumerduck, Virginia’s Rogers Ford Farm Winery brought a bevy of interesting wines. Standouts were their First Frost Vidal Blanc 2014 and Brandy Station Dulce.

Other favorites from the show:

Notaviva Vineyards‘ “Back Dat Glass Up” white

Byrd Cellars‘ Winter Solstice red

Mattaponi Winery‘s Miskwamin red (“grownup grape juice”)

Cobbler Mountain Cider‘s hard cider

Everybody’s opening a food hall concept!

A while back, when I first heard about Anthony Bourdain’s planned indoor market in New York, I was intrigued.  The concept of an indoor market/food hall dates nearly as far back in time as the concept of trade in food and spices itself, and most foodies can attest that the first and best place to visit in a new city to find out about its food culture is its local food market. Bourdain’s market, slated for Pier 57 in Chelsea, will feature heavy Asian influences, drawing from markets like Hong Kong’s Temple Street Night Market and Sapporo’s Ramen Alley. It’s already on my foodie bucket list, even though it won’t be open until at least 2017.

Apparently, other celebrity chefs want to get in on the market action too. Enter Mike Isabella of Top Chef fame, owner and restauranteur of Italian-concept Graffiato and Greek concept Kapnos, among others. Isabella is getting in the food hall game with a planned eatery in Tyson’s Corner that will showcase 10 different concepts, from Graffiato’s Italian small plates to Kapnos’ spit-roasting Greek fare, and adding Mexican cantina Pepita, Japanese/Korean restaurant Yona, a raw bar, Spanish tapas, coffee, ice cream and more.

Up and down the East Coast, the food hall concept is the hottest innovation in food retail. While many cities are hanging onto a proud food market history, such as Lancaster, Pennsylvania, home to the nation’s oldest continually-operating indoor food market, other cities are re-imagining the food emporium in the image of today’s in-the-know foodies. Atlanta’s Ponce City Market is home to concepts from James Beard award winners like Sean Brock, while Tampa’s Sundial shopping and dining complex boasts chef Michael Mina’s food market and restaurant, along with potential tenants like Masaharu Morimoto and Emeril Lagasse.

Here’s hoping the food hall trend will make its way to Richmond – perhaps in the guise of the new and improved 17th Street Farmer’s Market!


Lancaster Central Market, Lancaster, PA


Wine, rum and chocolate for Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is on the way, and what better way to celebrate with your special someone than by sharing some fancy chocolate, delicious red wine and spicy sweet rum?

Vosges Haut-Chocolat, a Chicago-based chocolatier crafting interesting and elegant “experiential” chocolates, is where we start. With studies at Paris’ prestigious Le Cordon Bleu and an apprenticeship in Spain under Ferran Adria, Vosges’ head chocolatier, Kristina Markoff, brings a worldly and refined palate to the creation of some of the finest chocolates available. My husband and I sampled the Smoke & Stout Caramel Bar and the Black Salt Caramel Bar, paired with Witching Hour, a California red blend I picked up after tasting it at our local Total Wine, and with Old New Orleans Cajun Spice rum.


The bitterness of the stout and dark chocolate in the Smoke & Stout bar paired very well with the dry but slightly sweet red blend. On the contrary, the Old New Orleans Cajun Spice rum’s sweetness brought out the lighter chocolate flavors and intense caramel sweetness in the Black Salt bar.

If you’re looking for a simple way to make your Valentine’s Day special, why not pick up some fancy chocolate for your love and pair it with a wine, a special spirit, or both?

Happy Valentine’s Day!