Virginia Summer Fun

School’s out, and it’s time to find some fun this summer. Virginia has plenty to do, especially if you’re a foodie or history buff.

A handful of Virginia wineries rely on volunteer labor to harvest and bottle their wines. In exchange for working in the vineyard or the processing facility, volunteers receive credits towards purchases of wine or special wine events. Gray Ghost Vineyards, in Amissville, offers a special day for volunteers with a lavish breakfast, lunch with Gray Ghost wines and a volunteer t-shirt. Grayhaven Winery, in Mineral, offers credits towards their wines with a day of volunteering at the harvest. Near the Inn at Little Washington, Gadino Cellars‘ Harvest Day offers live music and a picnic for volunteers.

If you’re a fan of tacos (and who isn’t?), the DC Taco, Beer, Tequila Festival at the Capitol Riverfront will be a day filled with deliciousness. Two sessions offer five taco tickets, unlimited beer and the chance to try a variety of tequila’s and mezcal’s. Access to unlimited tequila and mezcal tastings are available if you opt for the Tequila or VIP ticket. Tickets start at $45 per person, and the event occurs in two sessions on Saturday, July 15.

If you enjoy living history events, you’ll love the family-friendly James River Batteau Festival, taking place June 17-24 along the James River from Lynchburg to Powhatan. Showcasing the long, flat boats, called batteau’s, that were used to transport tobacco along the river to market in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s.

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What’s on your summer agenda?

 

Memorial Day Feast

In its evolution from a day of remembrance to honor those who fought in the Civil War, to a memorial for soldiers who gave their lives in World War I, then to memorialize American soldiers lost in all wars, this day has a long, proud history as a purely American day. We honor all those who have fought and lost their lives to protect our freedom. Memorial Day also marks the informal beginning of the summer. Swimming pools open for the season and all across America grills are fired up to cook delicious meals.

The best way to cook a steak on the grill is to marinate it all day. I use a marinade of vegetable oil, balsamic vinegar, diced garlic and steak seasoning.

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A “hobo pack” of squash, zucchini, shallots, thyme, olive oil, salt, pepper and lemon juice can be thrown on the grill as well and cooked over charcoal. Just make sure it’s fully secured so none of the juices leak out into the grill.

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You can grill ears of corn still in the husks. Just peel them back, remove the silks and coat the ears of corn with butter and whatever seasonings you like. We prefer salt, pepper and Old Bay. A tray of garlic knots and a boxed pasta salad round out this Memorial Day Feast.

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The end of our meal was a sweet red, white and blue berry trifle.

Ingredients: 1 quart strawberries (diced), 1 pint blueberries, 8 oz. package cream cheese at room temperature, 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, 2/3 cup whipped cream, 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract, 1 small pound cake cut into squares

Directions:

  1. Put several of each kind of berries aside for topping.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and powdered sugar until smooth. Beat in the vanilla, then a third of the whipped cream. Fold in the rest of the whipped cream.
  3. Cover the bottom of a trifle dish or glass bowl with a layer of diced pound cake pieces. Add 1/3 of each type of fruit, then cover with 1/3 of the cream cheese/whipped cream mixture. Alternate adding diced pound cake, fruit and cream cheese/whipped cream, then top with a thin layer of whipped cream. Sprinkle the reserved berries on top. Refrigerate overnight before serving.

 

Enjoy your Memorial Day with family and friends. What are your favorite Memorial Day foods?

Antique Store Cookbook Find

This weekend we visited the Cold Harbor Antiques Mall in Mechanicsville. This huge antique mall could have kept me busy for the entire day, but we had the kids with us and they sped through, loving the “old” stuff they found. They thought the rotary dial telephones were awesome, and they loved seeing the old microscopes, hand mixers and kitchen equipment.

I, on the other hand, was digging through my favorite thing in the world – old books. I especially love old cookbooks. Seeing the types of food that were important culturally during different time periods is my thing, so you can imagine my excitement when I discovered a copy of Life magazine’s Photo Cook Book from 1958 for only five bucks.

In the 1950’s, America was moving into the post WWII era of prosperity. Kitchen technology meant that most housewives had refrigerators, ovens, ranges and other tools, so meal preparation was easier and quicker than ever. This cookbook mixes recipes from America’s past with mid-century recipes for party foods and home entertaining.

There’s an illustration of a man roasting steaks over a fire pit at home, as well as illustrations of Manhattan vs. New England clam chowders.

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I’m sure I’ll enjoy preparing some of these mid-century recipes in the days ahead. From the international section on Indian, Chinese, French and Italian recipes to wine buying guides, brunch and summer recipes and more, this 1950’s cookbook is a piece of history that I’m glad I had the opportunity to buy.

Do you enjoy historical cookbooks? Which is your favorite?

Summer Food Events in Virginia

Summer in Virginia is a time for festivals, and the best festivals celebrate the foods the Commonwealth is known for. Here are some of the best:

*Gordonsville’s Famous Fried Chicken Festival – Saturday, May 20, 11 AM-5 PM, Gordonsville Fire Company Fairgrounds – Celebrate the “chicken-leg center of the universe” and Gordonsville’s long history of fried chicken-making with fried chicken and pie contests, a wine garden and arts and crafts vendors.

*Broad Appetit – Sunday, June 4, 11 AM-6 PM, Richmond’s West Broad Street between Henry and Adams Streets – Try $3 mini dishes from some of Richmond’s most renowned chefs and restaurants. Africanne on Main, Casa del Barco, Comfort, Graffiato, Pasture and more will create small plates to try. Beverage options from across Virginia, including beers, wines and ciders, plus local dessert makers will round out your meal. Live music and cooking demos will make this a fun day for the whole family.

*Father’s Field Day – Sunday, June 18, 11 AM-6 PM, Early Mountain Vineyards, Madison – Enjoy a variety of local food, including barbecue and various local desserts while tasting some of Early Mountain’s best wines and taking in live music and views of the Blue Ridge foothills from the patio.

*Hanover Tomato Festival – Saturday, July 8, 9 AM-4 PM, Pole Green Park, Hanover – This celebration of the juiciest, most delicious tomato in the world offers rides, games, a petting zoo and local vendors plus more tomato dishes than you can shake a fork at.

*Pork, Peanut and Pine Festival – Saturday, July 15, 10 AM-7 PM and Sunday, July 16, 10 AM-5 PM, Chippokes Plantation State Park, Surry – A barbecue cookoff and local food vendors share what Southern Virginia is best known for: pork, peanuts and pine. A petting zoo, rock climbing wall and inflatable slide mean the kids will have plenty to do and see too.

*Henricus Discovery Program Days Program Series: Food of the 17th Century – Thursday, July 27, 10 AM-1 PM, Henricus Historical Park, Chester – Learn what breakfast, lunch and dinner would have looked like for a colonist or a Powhatan Indian. This program is perfect for kids ages 3-10 and includes a take-home craft.

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Get out there and have fun exploring this summer! What are your favorite places to visit in Virginia (or your state)?

Corn Chowder and Old Bay Potato Chips

It’s fall! My favorite season of the year means it’s time for hearty soups and big flavors.

Chowders are the type of thick, rich stews that have long been important in American cooking. Most settlers, whether they were in the northern Massachusetts or southern Virginia colony, had easy access to the main ingredients for a good chowder:  potatoes, milk, vegetables (like corn), chicken or clams. While the north is known more for seafood chowders, owing to its abundance of clams and fish, the south had plenty of corn, shared with the English by the native Americans, and peppers, brought from Africa by enslaved Africans. Colonial Williamsburg even has a corn chowder recipe in their cookbook.

I sauteed onions and bacon in a little bit of canola oil, then added the diced peppers (You can add red peppers too, if you like. I stuck with green) and corn. Chicken stock, heavy cream and some cheddar cheese rounded out this delicious and hearty chowder. I ate some for dinner on Sunday, then packed the rest for lunches for the work week.

I didn’t use potatoes in my chowder because I knew I wanted to try chef and Vice contributor Matty Matheson‘s Old Bay potato chips.  They’re super easy to make. Peel some potatoes (or don’t, if you don’t want to), slice them very thin (I used a mandolin slicer), fry them in vegetable oil until they just start to brown, drain them on some paper towels and toss them in Old Bay seasoning. They were easily the most delicious potato chips I’ve ever eaten.

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Mid-Atlantic Fall Foodie Events

Fall is prime time for foodie events, and there are plenty to choose from in the mid-Atlantic region. These are some of the best:

Fire, Flour and Fork (Richmond, VA) – Nov. 17-20.  Since its inaugural year in 2014, this Richmond food extravaganza has evolved into a premier food showcase. This unique event offers an insider view of the food scene in the Capital City, from themed brunches, lunches and dinners to a full slate of classes, tours of regional food areas like the Rappahannock River with Merroir and culinary history events, like an Edna Lewis Sunday Supper.

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Heritage Harvest Festival (Charlottesville, VA) – Sept. 9-11. Set at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, Heritage Harvest encompasses the world of gardening, farming, homesteading and food history. Beginning with an old-fashioned seed swap, this event offers a tomato, pepper and melon tasting, classes and tours based around Thomas Jefferson’s garden, talks by culinary historians and gardeners and much more. With luminary talent like Michael Twitty, Peter J. Hatch, Libby H. O’Connell and Joel Salatin on tap, this event promises to provide a wide range of voices on our founding father and his food.

Smithsonian Food History Weekend (Washington, DC) – Oct. 27-29. Each year, the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History presents a weekend of culinary history events. This year’s plans include an opening gala, “Dine Out for Smithsonian Food History” featuring Julia Child inspired dishes at local restaurants, a day of roundtable discussions, a food history festival and an evening devoted to the history of brewing in America.

Beast Feast (Beaverdam, VA) – Sept. 25. Put on at Patrick Henry’s Scotchtown by Richmond area butchers and food producers, this year’s Beast Feast celebrates Belmont Butchery’s 10th anniversary. This event features various meats cooked over an open fire, as well as local chef-made dishes, beers, wines and cocktails, all from local producers and bars.

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Cocktail Classes at Barmini (Washington, DC) – Bites, drinks and education on how to make some of the creative cocktails at the renowned Minibar by Jose Andres. Wednesdays at 5:30 pm on Sept. 28, Oct. 26, Nov. 23 and Dec. 21.

Uncorked Wine Festival (Washington, DC) – Sept. 24, 5-9 pm. Featuring over 50 regional wineries, local food trucks, live music and more, this new wine festival promises a good time. Held at the DC Armory in partnership with several local wine stores, Uncorked will also have a fun photo booth and wines from many countries around the world.

Underground Kitchen dining events (East Coast) – Throughout the coming months, Underground Kitchen offers a number of private dining events with well-known chefs. Whether you’re in Virginia (Richmond, Fredericksburg, Charlottesville or NoVA) or in another state (Raleigh, Asheville, Columbia or Baltimore), you’ll find interesting and engaging culinary events throughout the fall. From an “Alice in Wonderland”-themed meal to The Culinary Mosaic and even a single ingredient meal focused on saffron, there are plenty of fun events to enjoy.

Ironbound Wine and Food Expo (Newark, NJ) – Oct. 7-8. The inaugural Ironbound food expo centers around Spain’s tapas tradition, showcasing food and wine from the region. Carnival dancers, a cigar and porto lounge and a food expo round out the events for this exciting weekend.

I’m planning on hitting up a few of these. What about you?

Summer in Virginia – Foods and Events

Virginia has been home to many traditional foods since the colonial era. From tomatoes to seafood, wine and beer to barbecue, Virginia has historically been home to a blend of foods and preparation techniques handed down from generations of native peoples, enslaved Africans and European settlers.

If you’re traveling around Virginia this summer, make sure to check out some of these Virginia foods:

Seafood – Virginia’s coastal and Chesapeake Bay regions offer a wealth of delicious fish and seafood. Try some of Coastal Living’s best Virginia seafood restaurants, or check out some recommendations from Virginia Tourism Corporation.

Tomatoes – Visit The 38th Annual Hanover Tomato Festival on Saturday, July 9 (Hanover County, Pole Green Park).  This fun festival highlights the most delicious tomato in the south:  the Hanover Tomato. Vendors, tomato dishes, live music and plenty of fun for kids and families make this all-day festival a must-do.

Pork, Peanuts and Pine – Head out to the 41st Annual Pork, Peanut and Pine Festival  on Saturday and Sunday, July 16 and 17 (Surry County, Chippokes Plantation State Park) to celebrate the southern coastal region of Virginia and its most traditional foods. With a barbecue cookoff, fun for the kids and an expo highlighting Surry County’s three main products, there’s plenty of food, fun and tradition for everyone.

Peaches, Blackberries, Nectarines, Canteloupe and other summer fruit – Visit PickYourOwn.org to find a farm or orchard near you where you can pick your own fruit.

Watermelon – Celebrate everyone’s favorite fruit at the 33rd Annual Carytown Watermelon Festival. On Sunday, August 14, you can discover all the different ways to eat watermelon, and plenty of fun for kids.

Beer, Wine and Cider – Learn what types of beverages Thomas Jefferson, his family and the enslaved peoples on his plantation drank during the summer months at the Barrels, Bottles and Casks event on Friday, July 29 and Saturday, July 30 at Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest.

Enjoy your Virginia travels this summer!

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