A Visit to Mayberry

After hearing my late grandmother’s stories about her father’s birth and family in Mt. Airy, North Carolina, I’ve wanted to visit this place where a branch of my family lived during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. As luck would have it, this year my son’s Boy Scout troop decided to attend a summer camp nearby, so my mom and I and my other two kids made the four-hour trek from Richmond to spend the weekend in the town made famous by the Andy Griffith Show as Mayberry.

Mt. Airy is just across the North Carolina line from Virginia, and lies near the old wagon road that brought settlers, many of them German, from Pennsylvania into the wilderness of Virginia. After a bunch of research on Ancestry.com, I’ve been able to trace some of my Mt. Airy ancestors to this path – arriving in Pennsylvania from Germany in the late 1700’s and coming down the wagon road to Mt. Airy.

The town is small and charming and lies between Wytheville, Virginia and Winston-Salem, North Carolina. It has a quaint Main Street with antique shops, restaurants and tourist attractions from the Andy Griffith Show.

We visited the Mt. Airy Regional History Museum to get an overview of the town’s history and to see where “our people” fit in. The museum is housed on the site of a former saloon and later hardware store (which we found out the next night on the Mt. Airy Ghost Tour was haunted by the former manager of the hardware store).

There was a classic car and hot rod cruise-in, with old cars lined up on Main Street, and we walked around and got ice cream at Hillbilly Ice & Creamery.

More to come…

 

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.

Ham and peanuts in Smithfield

A while back, I discovered through genealogy research that one of my ancestors was originally from Smithfield, Virginia. When my younger son told me out of the blue one day that he wanted to “find a really good ham,” I knew Smithfield was the place to go.

We headed to Jamestown to take the free ferry across the James River to Surry, then we drove about fifteen miles to the town of Smithfield.

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When we first arrived, we were hungry and craving some ham, so we visited Taste of Smithfield, a combination restaurant and country store that serves some delicious Southern food and sells a variety of Smithfield meats, Virginia peanuts and other local food and gift items. I had the sliced ham, mashed potatoes with ham gravy and green beans with bacon and onions. The ham was divine, and the mashed potatoes were the creamiest and tastiest I’ve ever had.

After our lunch, we took a walk around town, crossing Church Street to see some beautiful old homes. We visited the Isle of Wight County Museum, where we looked up information on our ancestors and discovered that one of them, my 4th great-grandfather, was actually the first mayor of Smithfield, as well as an attorney, state delegate and U.S. representative. We explored the museum, learning about Smithfield’s history in the curing of ham and growing of peanuts.

We also visited the old Smithfield courthouse, dating from 1750. Over the years, this building has been used as a private residence, courthouse and hotel. It was restored to its 1750 footprint beginning in 1959.

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My boys wanted some ice cream, so we went to the Smithfield Ice Cream Parlor on Main Street. It was a slice of the past, with wood-paneled walls, old-fashioned milkshakes, floats and malts and delicious ice cream.

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We finished our day discovering my ancestor’s home on historic Church Street, and his grave at Historic St. Luke’s Church, Virginia’s oldest church.

It was a beautiful spring day, and my boys and I enjoyed Smithfield’s old-town charm and learning more about our family history!

My Favorite Old-Fashioned

Some classic cocktail enthusiasts may not know this, but the Old Fashioned was originally created as a gin cocktail. In 1862, renowned bartender Jerry Thomas published his “Bartenders’ Guide.” In it, he described the Old Fashioned Holland Gin cocktail as containing sugar, water, ice, Angostura bitters, a small piece of lemon peel and a jigger of Holland gin. A few years later in 1880, Louisville bartender James E. Pepper made his version of the drink, exchanging the gin for bourbon. The rest was history.

Bartenders around the world have created their own versions of this classic drink, substituting various types of liquors and garnishes, but the bones of the Old Fashioned remain the same: sugar or syrup, water, ice, bitters, citrus and liquor.

Here’s how I make my favorite:  Rub a slice of orange peel around the rim of a highball glass, then drop it in the glass. Add 1/2 oz. of Tippleman’s Burnt Sugar simple syrup and a splash of water. Muddle and mix. Add a large ice cube. Add 1 1/2 to 2 oz. Buffalo Trace Bourbon or Rittenhouse Rye Whiskey. Drop in a Filthy Foods Red or Black Cherry and a barspoon of cherry juice and stir. Voila!

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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.

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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