The Apple House

If you happen to find yourself in Front Royal, like I did for work on Monday, do yourself a favor and stop at The Apple House. You’ll find plenty of Virginia-made barbecue sauces, jellies, jams, dips and snacks, as well as a full-service kitchen cooking up breakfast, lunch and dinner. There’s a wide selection of Virginia wines, ciders and beers. They even have pork rinds in a dizzying array of flavors, from hot and spicy, to garlic parmesan. But the piece de resistance are the fresh apple cider donuts. The moment you step into the dining area, the delicious aroma of apples and donuts cooking smacks you in the face. There’s no way you can leave without enjoying at least one.

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Where’s your favorite spot to get some apple cider donuts?

Making fake-ass Dole Whips with Monkey Rum

So my husband and I are, to put it mildly, OBSESSED with California. To the point that we’re thinking about taking a family trip to Disneyland next year and watching tons of YouTube videos about Disneyland and Southern California. One of the items that seems pretty consistently well-loved about Disneyland is the Dole Whip, a unique concoction sold at the park that draws on Disney’s partnership with the Dole fruit company to offer park guests a delicious, creamy, frozen treat full of real pineapple and pineapple juice.

The praises of the Dole Whip are sung far and wide on ye olde YouTube, from copycat recipes and hacks to keep from waiting in line for your treat to spicing up the fruit flavor with Tajin spice powder and even grown-up versions including alcohol. It is to one of these recipes I turned when I wanted to make my own fake-ass Dole Whips at home and add some Monkey Rum we picked up in Wildwood, New Jersey at The Race of Gentlemen a few weeks ago.

I threw all the ingredients in the blender, added some Monkey Toasted Coconut Rum and poured everything in a gallon freezer bag. After a few hours chilling in the freezer, I poured our fake-ass Dole Whips into some glasses and popped in some straws. Our drinks were yummy, with plenty of sweet and tangy real pineapple, plenty of creaminess and a kick of rum. And there you have it: frozen deliciousness while daydreaming about our Disneyland trip!

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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