Fire, Flour & Fork’s Carnaval Latino

This year’s Fire, Flour & Fork food festival brought chefs, food personalities, foodies and “the food curious” from across the country to the Richmond, Virginia region to explore the best of Richmond’s food culture and history. The Carnaval Latino, a street festival held on the block of East Clay Street in front of the Valentine Museum, as well as inside the museum itself, showcased the region’s Latino heritage. From food and drinks to music, dancing, fashion and history, this event was a delicious and fun-filled evening.

First, let’s talk food. Some of Richmond’s best restaurants serving Mexican and South American specialties were represented, including Pao’s Bakery, Bocata Latin Grill, Shelly’s Comida, Flora Restaurant, Empanadas Market and more. From shrimp ceviche to lamb tacos and the most delicious tres leches cake I’ve ever had, the food was the star of the show!

There was also plenty of wine from Spain and other regions, as well as Steam Bell Beer Works, which had a delicious stout brewed with Mexican spices.

The entertainment was varied, from traditional dancing of Mexico to Colombian salsa dancing. A fashion show from a promising fashion designer who is only sixteen years old was a highlight! The Valentine Museum also had an exhibit of Latino heritage in the Richmond region, which was filled with unique artifacts and history.

My mom and I attended the Carnaval Latino to celebrate our birthdays (hers is two days before mine at the end of October), and it was a festive night out with plenty of great food and entertainment. I hope Fire, Flour & Fork does another Carnaval Latino at next year’s festival.

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Fire, Flour & Fork is Coming Up!

Richmond’s annual festival “for the food curious,” Fire, Flour & Fork takes place November 2-5 in and around the city. This fun and informative festival highlights the city’s and the region’s food history and local ingredients. From signature dining events to classes and discussions, there’s plenty to discover as we celebrate the Richmond region’s cuisine.

This year’s festival features a wine tour and luncheon at Barboursville Vineyards, a “Liquid Launch” sponsored by the Richmond Beer Trail, a Street Art and Street Food Tour and much more. Local chefs and food experts like bbq master Tuffy Stone of Q Barbecue, John Maher of The Rogue Gentleman and Yaki, Jason Alley of Pasture and Comfort and many more will be cooking and discussing foods and beverages from around the world and from right in our backyard in the Richmond region.

If your interests lie in Richmond’s booming craft beverage scene, you won’t want to miss Sake at Yaki, the Gathered and Grown Cider Dinner with local restauranteur Joy Crump at Blue Bee Cider or Mezcal: Time, Place & Family at Flora on Friday, Nov. 3. Saturday’s Turning Tea on its Head at The Jefferson features tea cocktails, and Sunday’s Put a Shine on Your Holiday Cocktails with Belle Isle Craft Spirits will show you how to class up your festive drinks. Sunday’s Bartender Battle at Brenner Pass is a can’t miss event too!

The Third Annual Dabney Dinner, honoring the legacy of 18th century Richmond caterer, restauranteur and barman John Dabney, features remarks from Michael Twitty, culinary historian and author of The Cooking Gene, an exploration of food, family history and the history of the American south.

Saturday’s class pass offers a kickoff talk from James Beard award-winning chef and author Gabrielle Hamilton, then splits into concurrent sessions divided into Fire, Flour and Fork. Sessions on corn as an ingredient, Ethiopian spices, heritage grains, specialty breads and much more fill out the packed schedule.

Tickets for some of the most popular signature events have already sold out, so be sure to get your tickets early. Special “signature event and class pass” and other combination options are available this year.

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Montross Oktoberfest & Port Royal Antique Shopping

My husband and I got a rare kid-free weekend this weekend, so we headed to a part of Virginia we rarely visit – the Northern Neck. Our first stop was Port Royal, a tiny town on the banks of the Rappahannock River with a history that is long and colorful. Beginning as a colonial port town, Port Royal was also where Abraham Lincoln’s killer, John Wilkes Booth, hid out before being captured and hanged for his crime. All this information and more can be learned at the Port Royal Museum of American History, where you can also view artifacts from the local area’s history and a selection of White House china sets.

The Port Royal Trading Post has a wide selection of antiques and vintage finds, from rustic homegoods and antique books to tobacco memorabilia, movie posters and props and more.

After visiting Port Royal, we crossed the Rappahannock River and headed to the tiny town of Montross, stopping in another antique shop on the way. The annual Oktoberfest, held on the grounds of the Inn at Montross, features live music, wine tastings from Ingleside Vineyards, delicious seafood and German fare and crafts from local vendors. We had fried oyster sandwiches with cole slaw and potato wedges, and did a wine tasting before checking out the local vendors.

On our way back home, we stopped at Red Barn Antiques in Colonial Beach for some flea market shopping. We found this amazing mid-century bar, but alas, had nowhere to put it so we had to pass it by!

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Adorable Rustic Cabin in the Virginia mountains

The mountains of Virginia, my home state, are one of my favorite places on earth. Madison County, especially, has such a wide variety of fun activities for kids and family, delicious food and natural beauty that it’s a region I love to come back to often. My parents and I took my three children to stay at a beautiful, modern and stylish rental house up the road from Graves Mountain Lodge for two fun-filled, off-grid nights to celebrate the end of summer.

The Old Church Cottage is an Airbnb.com rental in what was formerly a Mennonite church. It has rustic charm with a fully modern kitchen, and is outside the range of both cell service and wifi (although the Syria Mercantile up the road has wifi). 100 yards behind the property is the Rose River, a picturesque stream shallow enough for wading.

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Graves Mountain offers breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as horseback riding and other activities. If you’re in the area during the fall, you can pick apples and visit the apple harvest festival. In downtown Madison, you can visit the Feed Store, an antique store packed to the rafters with old and interesting things to look at and buy. A quick lunch of delicious barbecue can be had at Pig N’ Steak, and the best dessert is at Tastee Freeze on Route 29. For grocery staples, visit Yoder’s Country Market, also on Route 29.

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Madison County has several wineries. DuCard Vineyards is near Graves Mountain, nestled in a small valley. Standouts at the solar-powered tasting room are C’est Trop, a dessert-style port wine and 2nd Corps, a slightly sweet white. Early Mountain Vineyards offers beautiful views and an award-winning tasting room and patio for outdoor events and live music. Heading up Route 29 towards Culpeper, Prince Michel Vineyard and Winery has a wide range of wines to taste your way through, including a line of fruit wines. The newest additions to Madison County’s gourmet offerings are Bald Top Brewing Co., Virginia’s first historic farm brewery, and Mad Local, a veteran-owned restaurant in downtown Madison featuring local meats and veggies, beers and wines.

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If you’re looking for a little slice of heaven for a weekend getaway this fall, make the trip to Madison! And don’t miss the 25th annual Taste of the Mountains Street Festival, with local vendors, arts and crafts, a beer and wine tasting tent and more.

Louisville Weekend Road Trip – Part Two

After a fun-filled Friday, my husband and I woke up bright and early Saturday to visit another distillery. Located in Lawrenceburg, about an hour outside downtown Louisville, Four Roses Distillery makes three standard bourbon offerings, as well as a handful of special, limited-edition offerings each year. The distillery is currently expanding its operations and while construction takes place, the distillery tour has been modified and does not include the stillhouse. My husband and I didn’t want to wait until the hourly distillery tour, so we opted for the tasting only.

Outside on a covered patio, we received an education in the history of the Four Roses Distillery, from its romantic origin to its place of prominence in one of the most famous American photographs ever taken. Complimentary Four Roses tasting glasses were passed out and our tasting host walked us through Four Roses Yellow Label, Small Batch and Single Barrel offerings.

A short drive away through beautiful horse country and back roads, Woodford Reserve Distillery offers tours throughout the day. Unfortunately, we hadn’t made a reservation, and when we arrived the distillery was overrun with visitors and tour buses.  I’d highly recommend reserving your tour online, which you can do the day before (or even earlier). We did check out the gift shop, and from what we saw the facility looked gorgeous. I’d definitely like to come back for the full tour.

Heading back into Louisville, we visited the Louisville Slugger Museum, which was about a 15-minute walk from our hotel. The museum offers a factory tour, which provides information on the history of the brand and how they manufacture baseball bats today, as well as how bats have been made through the years. An exhibit showcases special bats made for the greats of baseball, and when the tour is over, visitors have the chance to pose with bats used by various heavy hitters.

The home team was in town, so after our museum visit we headed back down Main Street to Louisville Slugger Field to see the local team, the Bats, who are the AAA affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds. The stadium was gorgeous, and offered a special package with a premium game ticket, hot dog, soda, program and Bats hat for $25 a person. My husband and I had a great time at the game – there’s nothing better in the summertime than a baseball game, hot dogs and cold beer! Local brewery Against the Grain, which has a brewery and smokehouse attached to the stadium, offers beers inside the stadium as well. Unfortunately, the “Bats Win” golden ale I bought wasn’t enough of a good luck charm – the Bats were shut out by their opponents.

We headed back to our hotel after the game and woke up bright and early on Sunday, ready for our 7 1/2 hour drive back to Richmond. If you’re making Louisville a weekend road trip and planning to grab some bourbon souvenirs, be aware that many liquor stores outside the city don’t open until 1 pm, and some counties don’t sell liquor at all on Sundays.

Our quick weekend getaway was a great time. We both decided we’d love to go back to check out more distilleries. Next time, we’ll be sure to pre-reserve our tours, especially in the busy summer season.

 

Midtown State Fair

On July 16, the kids and I headed to Libbie Mill for Fire, Flour & Fork‘s “Midtown State Fair.” Held behind the Libbie Mill Library, this fun, family-friendly food festival had plenty for us to do, from great eats to crafts to cooking demonstrations and more.

When we arrived, the Virginia heat and humidity made King of Pops gourmet popsicles a necessity.

Next, we checked out the tent area, full of local specialty foods and activities for the kids. They got to spin a prize wheel and make crafts, and we all sampled some of southern-favorite Birdie’s Pimento Cheese, Nate’s Bagels and more.

 

There was a petting zoo where my kids enjoyed petting the goats, and a booth from Wandering Cow Farm with goat-milk soaps and other natural body care products.

The highlights of the day were the Filipino folk dance demonstration and the old-fashioned cakewalk.

The event was put on by the team behind the Fire, Flour & Fork food festival. Tickets for this year’s FFF, to be held in the beginning of November, go on sale August 1. Some of the events will sell out quickly, so get your tickets early!

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?