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?

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

 

Summer in Virginia – Foods and Events

Virginia has been home to many traditional foods since the colonial era. From tomatoes to seafood, wine and beer to barbecue, Virginia has historically been home to a blend of foods and preparation techniques handed down from generations of native peoples, enslaved Africans and European settlers.

If you’re traveling around Virginia this summer, make sure to check out some of these Virginia foods:

Seafood – Virginia’s coastal and Chesapeake Bay regions offer a wealth of delicious fish and seafood. Try some of Coastal Living’s best Virginia seafood restaurants, or check out some recommendations from Virginia Tourism Corporation.

Tomatoes – Visit The 38th Annual Hanover Tomato Festival on Saturday, July 9 (Hanover County, Pole Green Park).  This fun festival highlights the most delicious tomato in the south:  the Hanover Tomato. Vendors, tomato dishes, live music and plenty of fun for kids and families make this all-day festival a must-do.

Pork, Peanuts and Pine – Head out to the 41st Annual Pork, Peanut and Pine Festival  on Saturday and Sunday, July 16 and 17 (Surry County, Chippokes Plantation State Park) to celebrate the southern coastal region of Virginia and its most traditional foods. With a barbecue cookoff, fun for the kids and an expo highlighting Surry County’s three main products, there’s plenty of food, fun and tradition for everyone.

Peaches, Blackberries, Nectarines, Canteloupe and other summer fruit – Visit PickYourOwn.org to find a farm or orchard near you where you can pick your own fruit.

Watermelon – Celebrate everyone’s favorite fruit at the 33rd Annual Carytown Watermelon Festival. On Sunday, August 14, you can discover all the different ways to eat watermelon, and plenty of fun for kids.

Beer, Wine and Cider – Learn what types of beverages Thomas Jefferson, his family and the enslaved peoples on his plantation drank during the summer months at the Barrels, Bottles and Casks event on Friday, July 29 and Saturday, July 30 at Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest.

Enjoy your Virginia travels this summer!

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Smoking Barbecue with Bourbon Barrel Char

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to take a tour of the A. Smith Bowman Distillery in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Master Distiller Brian Prewitt led our special tour as he explained the distillation and aging process of A. Smith Bowman’s bourbons. From the giant stills to the high-quality barrels to the final bottling, the process of crafting small batch bourbon was fascinating to see.

At the end of our tour, my group sampled some of A. Smith Bowman’s products, like John J. Bowman bourbon, George Bowman colonial era dark Caribbean rum and Mary Hite Bowman Caramel Cream liqueur. We also visited the gift shop, which was full of everything you could think of that has anything to do with bourbon, from barbecue sauces to bourbon-scented candles. I picked up a bag of barrel char – the blackened, bourbon-soaked shavings from the charred inside of a used bourbon barrel – and decided to give it a try along with some hickory chips when my husband smoked a pork shoulder recently.

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Here’s the barrel char soaking with some hickory chips.

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Mixing up the dry rub – coarse salt, fresh ground black pepper, paprika, cayenne pepper and a bunch of other good stuff.

Before (applying the dry rub) and after smoking.

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The finished product!

The barrel char definitely added a layer of flavor to this delicious smoked pork shoulder. Of course, this yummy barbecue is best served with a pour of your favorite bourbon.

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.”

 

 

It’s a Sausage Fest!

Recently, a co-worker of my husband’s offered him several pounds of homemade sausage. Apparently every year his co-worker and a friend go down to Smithfield, Virginia, home of the finest hams in the country, to buy a whole hog and make their own sausage. The ham industry in Smithfield dates from colonial times, as early as 1779. The pork and peanut industries in this part of Virginia were closely intertwined for many years. In fact, until 1966 Smithfield hams were required to come from peanut-fed hogs in order to claim the Smithfield moniker. This year, my husband’s co-worker and his friend were only able to get some Boston butt, but they still made country-style sausage in two flavors: regular and sage.

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Of course, we tried making some into patties and frying it up, and it was delicious! But I wanted to try it in a recipe, so I found one for sausage and cheese picnic bread:

Picnic Sausage Bread

1 lb. sausage (I mixed the regular and sage flavors of our homemade sausage)

1 package refrigerated pizza dough (like Pillsbury)

2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Brown the sausage and drain any extra grease. Unroll the pizza dough flat on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with cooked sausage and shredded cheese. Roll up, crimp and seal the seams and ends and brush with a bit of olive oil. Poke a few holes in the top to vent. Bake 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.

The sausage roll came out bubbly and warm. I paired it with Breckenridge Ophelia Hoppy Wheat Ale from Growlers To Go (who, by the way, offers a Happy Hour special on Wednesdays from 4-7 PM of buy one, get one half off on growler fills).

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The verdict? This sausage fest was delicious!

 

Looking Forward to Fire, Flour and Fork

When I first heard about Fire, Flour and Fork, I thought it sounded like a great way to celebrate Richmond’s diverse food scene from a food history perspective.  Planned by Real Richmond Food Tours, the weekend-long event spans tastings, dinners and educational sessions.  Now that the schedule of events has been released, I can’t wait to get my tickets!

For the Saturday sessions, my dream schedule would be:

10 AM – At the Counters | Nicole A. Taylor, Dr. Raymond Hylton and Elizabeth Thalhimer Smartt | 10 a.m.
History books tell the story of segregation. Better still, “If We So Choose” is a documentary short film, produced by Athens, Georgia native Nicole Taylor, which introduces audiences to the people in Athens who not only lived through Jim Crow separatism but fought against it and won. Through the lens of a little-known protest demonstration at the lingo laden fast-food restaurant, The Varsity, new light is shed on unsung, young African American heroes. Turning the lens on Richmond, Dr. Raymond Hylton, chair of the department of  History at Virginia Union University and author Elizabeth Thalhimer Smartt will share the story of the Richmond 34 and their sit-in at the Thalhimer’s lunch counter on Feb. 22, 1960. We’ll see the new trailer of The Richmond 34 by Bundy Films as well.

In light of the events in Ferguson, MO, it’s more important than ever for Americans to come together to discuss our shared history and the importance of the civil disobedience of the 1960’s to the Civil Rights movement.  When I visited Memphis last summer to study the history of barbecue, I learned much about how race has played into food history.  My mother, a lifelong Richmonder, has told me of the Thalhimer’s sit-in and other actions in the 60’s, and I’d love to check out the film and get a new perspective on Richmond’s role in the larger movement.

11:15 AM – “Queen Molly” and the Enslaved Women with whom she Worked | Leni Sorensen | Culinary Historian
Known as “Queen Molly” the woman who set the finest table in early 19th-century Richmond, Mary Randolph and the unnamed enslaved cooks in her kitchens produced food that set the standard for excellence in Southern cookery. Historian Leni Sorensen is cooking her way through the recipes in Randolph’s book, The Virginia House-Wife, first published in 1824. The book is considered to be the nation’s first truly regional American cookbook and the most influential of its time. “If I’m talking about food, I’m also talking about history,” Sorensen says.

I’ll admit, I’ve kinda got a thing for Mary Randolph.  I was born and raised in Virginia and have traced my Virginia ancestors back to the 1600’s, so I’m partial to learning about colonial cooking methods and recipes.  In my study of “The Virginia House-Wife,” I’ve come across Leni Sorensen’s work, and I’m excited to learn more about Mary and the enslaved women of her kitchen.  I’ve tried a few of her recipes (including her Tavern Biscuits, which are pretty much my favorite cookie ever), and want to try more!

2 PM – Apple Stack Cake | Travis Milton | Comfort
Travis Milton, chef de cuisine at Comfort, left his beloved Appalachia to cook and write, emerging as an authority on Appalachian food ways. Heirloom apples are just one of the treasures of Appalachia and Travis knows which varieties work best for making his trademark vinegars, applesauce, apple butter and of course, his version of his great-grandmother’s Apple Stack Cake. Only a few of the 1,600 known varieties of apples that once grew in the Appalachians and Southeastern U.S. have been conserved. Once you learn the secrets of Apple Stack Cake, you’ll want to plant your own heirloom apple tree. Demo

Come on, what Richmond foodie worth their salt (see what I did there?) wouldn’t want to attend a session with Comfort’s chef de cuisine?  Besides, Virginia has a long history of apple growing and processing, dating back to Jefferson’s Monticello, if not further.  That Apple Stack Cake sounds delicious!

3:30 PM – On a Roll | Drew Thomasson | The Rogue Gentlemen
There’s a reason Drew Thomasson, baker at The Rogue Gentlemen in Jackson Ward, and formerly pastry chef at D’lish, has a whisk, spatula and rolling pin tattoo on his arm–those tools are extensions of himself as he whips up the Parkerhouse Rolls, breads and croissants that have given him a following around town. This demo will whip you into baking shape just in time for the holidays. Demo

It’s not just the baking-themed tattoo that draws me to this session.  My first “real” job was at a local gourmet bakery, and baking is one of my passions.  I always love to pick up new tips and tricks, but have had trouble with breads and yeast-based baked goods (cookies, cakes and brownies are my specialty).  I’ve got a crowd to bake for at Thanksgiving, so hopefully I can pick up some good recipes and techniques.

You can purchase your tickets here – https://www.eventbrite.com/e/fire-flour-and-fork-registration-12176238457?ref=ebtn

The event runs from Thursday, Oct. 30 with a reception at the “rarely-open” Eclectic Electric Appliance Museum to benefit Lewis Ginter Community Kitchen Garden, and concludes Sunday, Nov. 2 with “Queen” Molly Randolph’s Monumental Moveable Feast and tours of Monumental Church, and a tour of food-related art at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.