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?

Midtown State Fair

This afternoon, I hit up the Midtown State Fair at Libbie Mill Midtown. Presented by C.F. Sauer, King Arthur Flour, Libbie Mill Midtown, Richmond Region Tourism, the Virginia Tourism Corporation, Real Richmond Food Tours and Wolf, this fun, family-friendly food event showcased the best of Richmond region food with vendor booths, food trucks and special activities like a cakewalk, watermelon seed spitting contest and cookoffs between local farmers.

The tented area hosted vendor booths from Mama J’s, Merroir, Caromont Cheese, Dayum This Is My Jam, Craft Brew Bread, Real Richmond Food Tours, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, Belle Isle Moonshine and Libbie Market. There were plenty of delicious treats to try, plus free snowcones for the kids, giveaways from Richmond Family Magazine and The Valentine Museum and a fun cakewalk where participants had the chance to win yummy baked treats.

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Crabcakes from Merroir

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Music, seeds and veggies with Southern Exposure Seed Exchange

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The awesome names of pickles and jam from Dayum This Is My Jam

Grapefruit spritzer from Belle Isle Craft Spirits

Cochon 555 Wrapup

Nearly a month ago, my husband and I had the privilege of experiencing the porcine insanity of Washington, DC’s Cochon 555 event. With the insanity of work and activities for our three kids, it’s taken me until now to sit down and wrapup my thoughts about the event. Here goes:

Cochon 555 is a traveling, nationwide event combining five heritage-breed pigs, five local chefs and five winemakers to put together a competition to crown the prince or princess of pork. Local winners then travel to the national Cochon event, where a king or queen of pork is crowned. Raising funds for heritage farming, the Cochon events have become showcases of the best in culinary arts in major cities across the country.

DC’s stop on the Cochon 555 tour took place at the Loews Madison hotel downtown. As the home of Cochon chef Louis Goral from on-property restaurant Rural Society Argentine steakhouse, the hotel seemed a fitting location for the event. We arrived a bit early and were greeted with three “welcome cocktails,” all featuring Buffalo Trace Bourbon:  “Five the Hard Way,” a blend of rhubarb, tamarind puree, hard cider and vermouth; “Peaches & Mazuma,” combining blood orange, white peach puree, black tea and pineapple and “Mango Derby Day,” a mint julep riff featuring flavors of vanilla and mango.

Those who had purchased VIP tickets had an hour to check out the first room without the rest of the ticket holders, however it seemed that either the VIP hour was not properly explained to arriving guests or they chose to ignore the instructions and no one was there to enforce the VIP policy. My husband and I noticed a number of non-VIP guests in the room well before VIP hour ended.

Once we were able to enter, we discovered a relatively tiny room that was filled to bursting with Cochon guests, all shoulder-to-shoulder in an attempt to discover the interesting experiences that had been arranged by the event organizers. From smoked Old Fashioned’s to a tiki bar to gourmet cheese sampling, oysters and fresh beef tartare, the “appetizer” portion of the event did not disappoint. But the space chosen for the event did. Unfortunately, the first room (as well as both other rooms) were simply too small for the number of attendees, leading to a feeling of being a sardine as my husband and I squeezed our way through the cramped room to try to see everything.

When we reached the beef tartare station on the opposite side of the room, the MC announced that the main room was about to open, and immediately the crowd began to move towards the doors of the main room. We pretty much completely missed the second room filled with wines, since we wanted to get into the main room as soon as the doors opened.

Once inside, our senses were overwhelmed by the crowd, the urgency and intensity of the prep and serving of the various pork dishes and the sounds and smells all around. In fact, due to the small space and large crowd, we eventually had to duck out for some air before venturing back inside to taste every dish so we could cast our votes. Chefs cooking at the event were Jennifer Carroll of Requin, Anthony Lombardo of The Hamilton, Louis Goral of Rural Society, Jonah Kim of Yona and Marjorie Meek-Bradley of Ripple.

Each chef created as many dishes as they could from their heritage-breed pig. Dishes ranged from soups to hot dogs to barbecue and Asian flavors. Preparations were simple and rustic or intensive and complex. Most of the dishes offered only a bite or two by which to gauge the creativity and skill of the chef.

Though the event organizers explained that there would be plenty of food for all guests, in reality this was not the case. Because of the “free-for-all” crowded atmosphere, there was no organization, no lines and no way to ensure that the more pushy and rowdy guests did not come back for seconds, thirds and more before other guests had a chance to try some of the dishes. There was no clear flow through the room, and my husband and I ended up completely missing dishes from one of the chefs because, by the time we made it to that end of the room through the crowd, all the food had been plated and given out.

All-in-all we enjoyed ourselves because of the nature of the event and the interesting experiences offered by the different brands and chefs (including Anthony Lombardo’s faux food truck and Requin’s elegant table in the back corner of a raised area). However, we saw a lot of room for improvement. With a ticket price of over $100, this event should be far better organized. The VIP hour should be monitored to ensure that those who pay extra for VIP truly receive their money’s worth without non-VIP guests nosing in on the action. For next year’s event in DC, a bigger venue is a must. Bigger rooms for the pre-event festivities, as well as a much bigger room for the main Cochon event would allow event attendees to mingle comfortably and really enjoy and experience each chef’s repertoire rather than feeling rushed and shoehorned into tight spaces. The pre-event cocktail experiences were amazing, but the overwhelming crowd made for a stressful rather than relaxing event.

Would I come back to Cochon 555 next year?  You bet I would.  IF the venue were big enough to accommodate the crowd and the number of tickets sold is limited to the size of the venue.

Did you go to Cochon 555 in DC this year?  What did you think?  Who was your choice for prince or princess of pork?  (Spoiler alert – I picked Jennifer Carroll of Requin.)

Foodie Fun at Empori-Yum Baltimore

On the weekend of April 16-17, the third installment of Baltimore’s Empori-yum food market hit the city, offering foodies the chance to sip, sample and shop with some of the East Coast’s best artisan food producers. The event, held in a former Best Buy on Pratt Street, showcased food and beverages, with plenty of samples, snacks and meals for purchase and the opportunity to shop for food products from desserts to cocktail mixers and everything in between.

Here are some of my photos from the event:

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Buredo sushi burritos

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Bmore Tasteful homemade pies

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Hex Ferments kombuchas

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The Empori-Yum banner

Empori-yum was awesome. The space was large and accommodating, there were plenty of sample bites to try and all kinds of artisan food vendors from up and down the East Coast, including plenty of vendors local to the DC/Baltimore area. My standouts were Buredo’s sushi burritos, Hex Ferments kombucha, Rujero Singani Bolivian brandy and B’more Tasteful pies and desserts.

After our visit to the Empori-yum, my husband and I walked over to Fells Point, where we stumbled upon the Privateer (“Pirate” in layman’s terms) Festival. We roamed the neighborhood and ended up at at The Wharf Rat pub for beer flights and a dinner of delicious pub fish and chips.

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The next day we left Baltimore after a behind-the-scenes tour of Oriole Park at Camden Yards and headed to DC for the Cochon 555 event.  More on that to come!

 

Empori-yum and Cochon 555 – Foodie weekend in Baltimore & DC

This weekend, my husband and I will run the Monument Avenue 10k for the third time. We always go out to eat the night before, usually to somewhere Greek or Italian. This year, we’re planning to have dinner at The Grapevine Greek and Italian restaurant, a cozy little spot in Richmond’s West End with plenty of Richmond magazine “Best Of” awards to its name.

To celebrate finishing another 10k, we’re planning to head up to Baltimore and DC the weekend after for a foodie getaway. On Saturday, we’ll visit Baltimore’s Empori-yum, a curated food market featuring prepared food, meals, snacks, food samples, packaged artisan foods and local spirits, beer and wine. I’m looking forward to checking out some of the restaurants and food producers I’ve heard a lot about recently, like Toki Underground, Element Shrub, CakeLove jar cakes and Crude small batch bitters and sodas.  The V.I.P. tickets, which include a swag bag and early admission, are nearly sold out, so get your tickets now!

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On Sunday, we’ll be attending DC’s stop on the Cochon 555 tour. I’m so excited to see five of DC’s hottest chefs create a bevy of dishes from each of their heritage-breed pigs. This year, chefs Jennifer Carroll of Requin, Anthony Lombardo of The Hamilton, Louis Goral of Rural Society Argentine Steakhouse, Jonah Kim of Yona and Marjorie Meek-Bradley of Ripple will be up for the top honors as the prince or princess of porc to move on to the national Cochon event for a chance to be crowned this year’s king or queen of porc. In addition to the many pork dishes on the menu, artisan butters, cheeses and seafood will be featured, along with ramen dishes and a pop-up pie shop. In the beverage department, the wines of Germany will be represented, and special beverage experiences will be popping up throughout the event, such as the “Welcome Punch” reception featuring Buffalo Trace, The Perfect Margarita experience featuring tequilas from Don Julio, a tiki bar with heritage rums and the “Chupito” mezcal experience. Tickets for Sunday’s Cochon 555 event, as well as Friday’s and Saturday’s pre-event dinners, are available at Cochon 555’s website.

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.”