Spring Food History Events in Virginia

The weather’s getting warmer, and that means historic sites across the Commonwealth are hosting spring events, many of which focus on culinary history. Virginia is also gearing up for a busy year of food festivals, and nearly all parts of the state have a special dish or food they’re known for. Explore Virginia’s many food history offerings this spring:

*Saturday, April 2 – Beers in the ‘Burg (Colonial Williamsburg) – Enjoy an 18th-century alehouse experience and discover brews from Williamsburg Alewerks, including a few created specially for Colonial Williamsburg. You’ll also have the chance to meet the brewer and hear live music.

*Saturday, April 9 – Hearth Cooking Workshop (Louisa County Historical Society) – Learn how to prepare historic recipes with traditional hearth cooking methods in the ca. 1790 Michie House.

*Saturday, April 9 – Rum Punch Challenge (Gadsby’s Tavern, Alexandria) – Local restaurants and distilleries vie for the crown as creator of the best rum punch at this historic Alexandria museum and restaurant. Period and modern food will be served, and at the end of the evening the Alexandria town crier will announce the winner.

*Friday, April 22 – A Dinner With Benedict Arnold (Walkerton Tavern, Henrico County) – Enjoy period music and historically authentic food from the late 1700’s while meeting notorious British spy Benedict Arnold and hearing about his time in Richmond.

*Friday, April 22 and Saturday, April 23 – Franklin County Moonshine Festival (Franklin County) – This family-friendly event kicks off Friday evening with a bluegrass concert and features the Chug for the Jug 5k, a Prohibition-era car show, children’s activities and Shine n’Dine, a local foods and moonshine tasting under the stars.

*Saturday, April 23 – Open Hearth Cooking Class (Brentsville Courthouse Historic Centre, Bristow) – Learn how to build a fire, then prepare, cook and enjoy three historic dishes in the ca. 1850 Haislip farmhouse.

*Saturday, April 23 – North vs. South Dinner Duel (Pharsalia, Nelson County) – Two chefs – one representing the North, and one representing the South – will cook their way through a seated dinner, course by course. At the end of the meal, diners will decide on the winning chef, and the winning side!

*Saturday, May 7 – Chincoteague Seafood Festival (Chincoteague) – For more than forty years, Chincoteague Island has hosted a spring seafood festival to showcase the bounty of the sea, from littleneck steamed clams and oysters to fried fish, shrimp, hushpuppies and more. Enjoy all your steamed and fried favorites at this all-you-can-eat seafood bonanza.

*Friday, May 13 through Sunday, May 15 – Spring Wine Festival and Sunset Tour (Mt. Vernon) – In its 20th year this year, Mt. Vernon’s Spring Wine Festival offers the opportunity to sample wines from 20 different Virginia wineries while enjoying stunning sunset views of George and Martha Washington’s home and grounds. Guests can tour the property, greet costumed interpreters and purchase wine and cheese boxes for an evening picnic.

*Saturday, May 21 – Gordonsville Fried Chicken Festival (Gordonsville) – Famous for its fried chicken that was served to passengers on departing trains, the town of Gordonsville welcomes visitors with the best fried chicken in the country. Take in fried chicken and pie contests, a wine garden and a craft fair at this charming food festival.

*Saturday, June 4 – Dinner With the Lee’s (Stratford Hall, Stratford) – This all-day event encompasses a lecture on hearthside cooking, tours of Stratford Hall’s Great House and kitchen and an 18th-century mid-day meal featuring historic recipes such as Maryland crab soup and “carrots dressed the Dutch way.”

 

 

It’s a Sausage Fest!

Recently, a co-worker of my husband’s offered him several pounds of homemade sausage. Apparently every year his co-worker and a friend go down to Smithfield, Virginia, home of the finest hams in the country, to buy a whole hog and make their own sausage. The ham industry in Smithfield dates from colonial times, as early as 1779. The pork and peanut industries in this part of Virginia were closely intertwined for many years. In fact, until 1966 Smithfield hams were required to come from peanut-fed hogs in order to claim the Smithfield moniker. This year, my husband’s co-worker and his friend were only able to get some Boston butt, but they still made country-style sausage in two flavors: regular and sage.

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Of course, we tried making some into patties and frying it up, and it was delicious! But I wanted to try it in a recipe, so I found one for sausage and cheese picnic bread:

Picnic Sausage Bread

1 lb. sausage (I mixed the regular and sage flavors of our homemade sausage)

1 package refrigerated pizza dough (like Pillsbury)

2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Brown the sausage and drain any extra grease. Unroll the pizza dough flat on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with cooked sausage and shredded cheese. Roll up, crimp and seal the seams and ends and brush with a bit of olive oil. Poke a few holes in the top to vent. Bake 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.

The sausage roll came out bubbly and warm. I paired it with Breckenridge Ophelia Hoppy Wheat Ale from Growlers To Go (who, by the way, offers a Happy Hour special on Wednesdays from 4-7 PM of buy one, get one half off on growler fills).

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The verdict? This sausage fest was delicious!

 

Make your plans for DC’s Cochon 555!

This April, I’ll be heading to DC to partake of some of the most delicious pork, wine, bourbon and cocktails in the country at Cochon 555. If you’ve never heard of this celebration of all things pig, don’t worry – there’s plenty of time to buy your tickets and find out what you’ve been missing!

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Cochon 555 is a national tour promoting heritage breed pigs by inviting five chefs and five winemakers in each stop on the tour to cook one of five pigs in whichever ways they choose, and to pair the dishes with the best wines. Besides the most interesting and innovative nose-to-tail bites of pork, each event features tastes of other foods, sips of bourbon and brews and popup cocktail bars featuring themed drinks.

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Cochon 555 events take place from coast to coast, and additional events have been added in recent years, such as Asian Speakeasy and Heritage BBQ events.

Washington, DC’s Cochon 555 event will be held on Sunday, April 17, with an Asian Speakeasy the preceding Friday evening and a Chef’s Course dinner series that Saturday. I hope to see you there! If not, be sure to follow all the excitement on my Instagram account.

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