Visiting the Jack Daniel’s Distillery

Lynchburg, Tennessee is an easy hour and a half drive from Nashville that makes for a fun day trip with plenty to see and do. The Jack Daniel’s Distillery offers a number of different tours, most concluding with a tasting. We took the “Flight of Jack” tour, which led us through the distilling, charcoal filtering, aging and bottling operations.

We were lucky enough to see Tennessee sugar maple being burned to make the charcoal that’s used to filter Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey. This extra step is what makes Tennessee whiskey different from bourbon. We also saw the spring where Jack Daniel’s sources the water it uses to distill its whiskey.

At the end of the tour, we sampled several Jack Daniel’s products before heading to Miss Mary Bobo’s restaurant for lunch. This unique dining experience takes place in a former boarding house where food is served family style. Every item was delicious, from the fried okra, cornbread and meatloaf to the cheese grits casserole, fried chicken and Jack Daniel’s whiskey-soaked baked apples. A dessert of coffee and pecan pie topped with whiskey-infused whipped cream topped off one of the best meals I’ve ever eaten.

Both Miss Mary Bobo’s and Lynchburg’s town square filled with shops are within walking distance across a short foot-bridge from the distillery.

If you’ll be visiting, be sure to pre-book your distillery tour and lunch, as lunch and the more popular distillery tours routinely sell out.

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?

Red Cap Patisserie visit

Recently I stopped by Red Cap Patisserie’s shop on Meadow Street to try out the croissants and pastries. The shop is small, with only a little space for seating, but has plenty of display space for their sweet and savory pastries, including pain au chocolat, kouign amman, scones and more.

The staff are friendly and knowledgeable, and the pastries are delicious.  I can’t wait to return and try more of their treats, including some of the savory ones.

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Drinking, ruins and antiques

Living in Virginia, I’m spoiled by having access to the best of everything. Whether it’s beaches, lakes or rivers you want to visit, or mountains and wineries, Virginia has a bit of it all. About an hour away from our house are some of the best wineries in Virginia, and there are plenty of antique shops on the way.

Gordonsville is a charming town between Richmond and Charlottesville with a quaint main street and plenty of antique shops and boutiques. The town is also home to a long tradition of fried chicken making, with a Fried Chicken Festival that takes place on May 20 this year and celebrates the days of train travel and the African American women who would prepare and sell the best fried chicken in the country to hungry travelers at this crossroads of the Shenandoah Valley.

At Gordonsville Antique and Flea Market, I found a beautiful decorative fireplace grate that looked to have once been cast iron, but had been painted white. It had a fleur de lys on its top and was just the right size to be a planter. Immediately, I knew I wanted to put it on my porch and put some flowers in it.

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We grabbed lunch at Restaurant Pomme in Gordonsville, a small French-inspired spot. I had a delicious croque monsieur and fries.

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After lunch, we made our way to Barboursville Vineyards. We tasted all of their amazing wines, including their flagship red, Octagon, then visited the ruins on-site. Designed by Thomas Jefferson and constructed between 1814-1822 for his friend James Barbour, Governor of Virginia from 1812-1814. The brick mansion was destroyed by fire on Christmas Day, 1884 and sits on the grounds of the vineyard, next to its bed and breakfast.

Barboursville and Gordonsville make a great day trip from Richmond. Where is your favorite to visit in Virginia?

 

 

 

 

DC Ramen, Lobster Rolls and Silver Spring Sushi

I was in DC on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week for a work conference, and got the chance to hit up a couple of awesome spots in the District. First up was Haikan, the new-ish ramen joint from the Daikaya team. It’s in Shaw near the Howard University campus, on the bottom floor of the Atlantic Plumbing apartment building in a slick, modern, light-filled space.

I started with the Smoke Show cocktail:  Ryukyu Awamori, a rice-based spirit similar to shoju that hails from Okinawa, mixed with Dolin Blanc vermouth and black peppercorn tincture with a torched cedar chip in the glass.  The aroma of the smoke mingled with the sweet and savory notes of the other ingredients and elevated the drink (plus I’m a sucker for a smoked cocktail).  I got the Smashed Cucumber Salad and the Shoyu ramen with spicebomb, nori and bamboo.  The salad was delicious, in a sweet, soy-sauce based Rayu-Shoyu dressing, but the ramen was the star of the show. The broth was rich, and the spicebomb lived up to its name, adding a ton of heat and flavor. As with everything the Daikaya team does, Haikan hits the sweet spot of Asian flavors that are hot right now, with the authenticity and attention to detail that will please any ramen purist.

The next night, after my work event, my husband headed up to meet me so we could go to a show at The Fillmore in Silver Spring, one of our favorite venues.  We always stay at the Hampton Inn or Homewood Suites (they’re in the same building) the next block over from The Fillmore.  We parked the car, checked into the hotel and headed out to find somewhere to eat dinner.

A block away from the hotel, we found Sushi Jin, a narrow sushi spot sandwiched between a hair salon and a Quizno’s.  They had a bunch of special rolls on the menu.  We got a roll called “Lobster Lasagna” and a bunch of other rolls and some Japanese craft beer – Hitachino White Ale from Kiuchi Brewery in Ibaraki.

The sushi rolls were all delicious and filling.  The Lobster Lasagna was topped with mounds and mounds of fresh lobster, and the other special roll we ordered was full of Maryland crab.  Sushi Jin was a hit – my new favorite sushi restaurant in Silver Spring.

On the way out of DC the next day, we made a point of stopping at Metro Center where the food trucks line 12th Street at lunch, so that we could grab lunch from the DC outpost of the always-delicious Red Hook Lobster Pound. My husband and I visited the original Red Hook location on our last NYC trip, and when I found out they had a DC food truck, I decided I had to give it a try.

It was pricey, but it is lobster after all (funny considering lobster used to be so plentiful it was considered the food of the poor).  I got the BLT lobster roll and my husband got the Maine Style.  Both were served on a warm, buttered roll with a huge pickle spear.  We got some Cape Cod chips and the truck had Maine Root fountain beverages, so we got a Mexi-Vanilla Cola.

This was a delicious DC trip.  I can’t wait to return to try out more food spots!

 

Pop’s Market on Grace

Before a show at The National on Friday night, my husband and I stopped for dinner at Pop’s Market on Grace. The casual restaurant and market is located just down the block from the Carpenter Center and is convenient to galleries and entertainment on Broad Street as well. This section of Grace Street has historically been a part of the downtown shopping district, and is even a designated historic district with the National Park Service.

Pop’s Market offers a wide range of quick-service foods, like sandwiches and salads, as well as prepared meals like pastas. I had the Caprese on focaccia and my husband tried the pulled pork hoagie. Both were ENORMOUS – enough that we had a whole meal for Saturday’s lunch.

Pop’s also has refrigerated prepared foods, coffee and breakfast items and other local products. The space is expansive, with high ceilings and a prime corner location, as well as architectural details like exposed brick.

Dinner at Pop’s Market was fairly inexpensive, delicious and filling. They also have local draft beers for $5 each.

Favorite Richmond Cocktail Bars

Richmond has so many awesome bars and restaurants, and I haven’t had the time to make the rounds of all of them (yet!). But here are a few of my favorites:

Grandstaff & Stein Booksellers – This speakeasy requires you to follow them on Facebook to get that day’s secret password. Once you have it, you can slip past the bookshelves out front into the bar area. There’s a large wooden bar and an inventive cocktail menu, or you can ask the bartender to whip something up based on your tastes and preferences. Above are the Bean Picker, the Fist City and a Rye Old Fashioned.

Belle & James – Located right in the heart of downtown on East Main Street, this elegant bar has loads of signature drinks and delicious French-inspired food. From classic Old Fashioned’s to fun drinks like the Jack Skellington, a not-too-sweet treat topped with a freshly-toasted marshmallow, the bartenders have created a fun, hip drink menu. Above are an Old Fashioned and the Jack Skellington.

Saison – This place gets my vote for the best food and drinks in Richmond. I first came here for an event during the Fire, Flour & Fork Festival in 2014, and I’ve returned several times for the delicious Southern and Mexican menu and the most creative cocktails in Richmond. Try anything on the menu – I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.