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.

IMG_5447

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.

IMG_5366

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.

Batteau-Festival-0010

What’s on your summer agenda?

 

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.

16730482_1602177786474105_967782491250328690_n

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.

img_3533

 

Quick trip to the mountains

This summer, rather than a weeklong vacation to one location, we’re trying to take smaller overnight trips to places closer to home. This weekend, we headed to the mountains of Virginia for a quick trip to visit some of my favorite places in the state.

We started by heading to the Green Valley Book Fair, a warehouse full of closeout books and toys in Mount Crawford, about fifteen minutes south of Harrisonburg. My kids adored exploring the aisles and aisles of books, and we all picked out some treasures. One of mine was a book on Virginia food called “Food Lover’s Guide to Virginia,” a guidebook covering every region of Virginia with recipes, restaurant lists and information on foods native to that region.

IMG_2727

After our visit to the book fair, we headed to the Dayton Farmers Market for some lunch. We had barbecue sandwiches, hot dogs, macaroni and cheese and wraps from Hank’s BBQ inside the market, which were amazingly delicious, then browsed the shops. Warfel’s Sweet Shoppe featured homemade chocolates and sweet treats of all kinds. Other vendors offered trays of homemade cinnamon rolls and various baked goods, bulk kitchen staples, soup mixes and candies, cheeses, deli meats and coffees and teas. There were plenty of other vendors selling home decor, jewelry and more. The location couldn’t be prettier either. The small town of Dayton, Virginia lies in the rolling hills just a few minutes’ drive from the Green Valley Book Fair.

IMG_2680

We stayed at the Quality Inn in Harrisonburg, and we spent our evening having dinner at the Bob Evans across the street from the hotel, then walking around in downtown Harrisonburg looking for Pokemon (my kids and I are addicted to Pokemon Go). Breakfast was complimentary and was a decent buffet with eggs, sausage, biscuits, waffles, bagels, muffins, danish, cereal, hardboiled eggs, yogurt, fruit, etc. Our hotel had a nice pool behind it, so when we were finished with breakfast we headed out to the pool for a bit before checkout.

Once we got on the road heading for home, we decided we wanted to stop in Charlottesville for lunch. We walked around the Downtown Mall area and decided on Cinema Taco, a small taco shop next to the Jefferson Theater. They had a few different taco options, including a Baja fish taco and a couple of vegan options. Their burrito bowl and fresh limeade were yummy and my kids loved sitting in the little window alcoves watching people walk by.

IMG_2717

After lunch, we took the free T trolley around town to see the sights (and hunt Pokemon!), then we drove back home. I loved our quick trip to the mountains!

 

Seafood and fun on the Outer Banks

This past weekend was full of fun, food and relaxation! My husband and I took our family to Hatteras Island, NC to stay in a “tiny house” cottage at Hatteras Sands Campground, just down the road from the Hatteras/Ocracoke ferry. The cottages are all painted in fun colors, and have a downstairs bedroom with a queen bed, tv (which, unfortunately, did not work while we were there), microwave and mini fridge. Upstairs, there are two twin beds for the kids. The cottages are air-conditioned and a recently-updated bathhouse is right behind the row of “tiny houses.” The campground has a nice pool and plenty of tent and RV sites, smaller cabins and even single and double wide trailers to rent. A canal runs through the campground, and kayak excursions are offered.

IMG_2484

We started our visit with a stop at Burruss Red & White Market in Hatteras Village to pick up some food for quick breakfasts and lunches:  cereal and milk, bread, peanut butter and jelly, a few bags of chips, paper plates, utensils and plastic cups. The Market has fresh-sliced meats and cheeses too, and homemade sandwiches.The staff are super-friendly and will make sure you find everything you need for your trip.

Dinner at a local seafood restaurant was next on the agenda, and we picked Quarterdeck Restaurant in Frisco. They had several daily food and drink specials, and the wait for a table wasn’t long, even though the restaurant is small. My husband and I split a fried seafood platter with fish, scallops, shrimp and oysters plus baked potatoes, and the kids shared fresh steamed crab legs and fries. Hushpuppies were served on the side. The food was fresh and delicious and I’d definitely return again for seafood.

On a camping trip, one of the most important things to find is COFFEE! Our cottage rental did not have a coffee maker, so it was imperative that we head out in the mornings to discover where we could buy some good coffee. On Hatteras Island, there are a handful of coffee shops. We tried two:  Red Drum Pottery and Coffee and The Dancing Turtle. Red Drum is a tiny coffeeshop housed inside a pottery and jewelry store on Route 12 that also offers visitors the chance to paint and fire their own pottery, hear live music or stay in the facility’s new Airbnb.com rental. Closer to Hatteras Village, The Dancing Turtle is a charming little coffeeshop with a huge range of fancy coffee and tea drinks, as well as yummy desserts and souvenirs.

For a quick snack in the afternoon after a morning at the beach, we stopped at Lee Robinson General Store in Hatteras Village. The kids all got ice cream and souvenirs, I picked up a bottle of Duplin Winery’s Carolina Red Sweet Muscadine Wine and some homemade asiago cheese bagels for breakfast the next morning. The muscadine grape is native to the southeast, particularly to North Carolina, and a number of wineries in the Tarheel state produce muscadine or scuppernong (a variety of muscadine) wines. These wines tend to be red and sweet, and are delicious to sip on their own or with dessert.

In the evening on Saturday, we drove down the road a bit to the Hatteras-Ocracoke ferry. This free ferry ride takes about an hour and puts you off at the end of Ocracoke island, about 13 miles from the village of Ocracoke. There are beaches and campgrounds on Route 12 along the island, and plenty of motels, marinas, restaurants and bars in the village. We ate at the Ocracoke Bar and Grille, a breezy spot with surfing and sports on the numerous televisions and delicious Baja-style food, like fish tacos and freshly-made guacamole. The vibe was laid back and the service was terrific. They get fresh fish and seafood in from the docks almost daily and the reggae on the radio and Hawaiian craft beer give this place the perfect island vibe. We will definitely be back to the O’Bar!

IMG_2513 (1)

Our quick Hatteras weekend was a great appetizer, and I can’t wait to bring our family back to Hatteras Sands’ “tiny house” cottages for a longer getaway next time!