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!

 

Favorite food bloggers, vloggers and podcasters

Besides writing a food blog, I’m also an avid follower of various other food blogs, YouTube channels and podcasts. If you’re into food history as much as I am, I’m sure you’ll adore these links:

The Grandmas Project – Many foodies credit their love of cooking to their families, especially their grandmothers. I still remember some of the simple recipes my Granny made, especially at Thanksgiving and other family gatherings, like her Pocketbook Rolls and quick fudge from this post. The Grandmas Project aims to preserve family food history by collecting videos recorded by grandchildren learning about food and recipes from their grandmothers. The recipes collected by the Project come from all over the world, and offer insight into the food and familial traditions of a number of different cultures.

A Taste of the Past podcast – Culinary historian Linda Pelaccio presents this weekly podcast on the Heritage Radio Network, a Brooklyn, New York based radio and online station offering numerous podcasts dealing with food and drink. From “Paletas and the History of Mexican Sweets” to the foods of Alsace and “Foodways and Cooking of Appalachia,” this well-researched show interviews the best food history writers and brings food history’s past into the culinary present.

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MAD YouTube channel – Sometimes referred to as “the TED of food,” MAD, Danish for “food,” offers culinary talks from some of the best and brightest chefs and culinarians around the world. Discussions range from reducing food waste in the restaurant industry and foraging for wild food to kitchen techniques and addressing poverty and hunger. Luminaries like Roy Choi, David Chang, Albert Adria, Michael Twitty and Dr. Vandana Shiva present engrossing and inspiring talks for foodies of all stripes.

Researching Food History – This culinary history blog offers bite-size tidbits of food history, covering topics like “A Colonial Kitchen in 1864,” “Mint Juleps for the Kentucky Derby,” “Jellies whipped or with whipped cream or ice cream” and “Robert Burns’ birthday and birthplace kitchen.” Culinary historian Pat Reber focuses on foodways and cooking apparatus, such as ovens and cooking vessels of various time periods. Besides her blog posts, she has a number of PowerPoint presentations on her website from talks she’s given, and a Historic Culinary Resources online database cataloging over 1,000 historic cookbooks and receipt books.

BBC Food Programme – BBC Radio 4’s food radio show and podcast offers an in-depth perspective on current food trends and issues in culinary history. The “Brexit and Food” special sends host Dan Saladino on the road throughout Britain to discover how Brexit will affect the UK’s food supply and trade relations with nations in the EU and worldwide. In a multi-part series called “The Ark of Taste,” the programme chronicles some of the most unique indigenous foods and food growing and preparation methods from around the planet.

 

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.

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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!

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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!

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.

Trying the “Try the World” Box

I love trying new subscription boxes and discovering new foods and cultures, so when I came across the “Try the World” box, I knew I had to give it a whirl.

This monthly subscription box curates a collection of the best ingredients from a given country. The box I received contained ingredients from Thailand packed into a box with an insert detailing each product and offering recipes using the ingredients to create a full, authentic Thai meal.

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(From left to right:  Jasberry Rice, Taro Chips, Organic Tom Yum Soup Set)

My Thailand box contained:  Soft Dried Jackfruit, Green Curry Paste, Jasberry Rice, Taro Chips, Organic Tom Yum Soup Set, Thai Iced Tea, Virgin Coco Coconut Crispy Rolls and Coconut Flower Syrup. All the products were fresh and yummy, from the mildly sweet dried jackfruit to the Thai iced tea that I sweetened with the coconut flower syrup.

I love the concept for this subscription box. The creators source local, organic ingredients where possible and provide usage instructions and recipe cards to create an authentic meal. They also provide a playlist for each box with music from the featured country. If you visit Try the World’s website now, you’ll receive an offer for a free box when you purchase your first box. And once you’ve “tried the world,” you can shop for the best ingredients from around the world in Try the World’s web shop.

Busch Gardens Williamsburg Opens New Craft Bier Brauhaus

In keeping with the craft beer trend, Busch Gardens in Williamsburg has opened a brand new “brauhaus” featuring 30 rotating craft beers on tap. This cozy spot is located inside “Das Festhaus” in Germany, and is tucked away at the back of the building, offering a quiet place to enjoy a craft beer or beer flight accompanied by various bar snacks.

On the day of our visit, there were beers on draft from DuClaw, Starr Hill, Bold Rock Cider and St. George, among others. My husband and I each got a beer flight of four different beers. I tried the Flying Dog Blood Orange Ale, Hofbrau Dunkel, Founders Dirty Bastard Scotch Ale and DuClaw Sweet Baby Jesus Chocolate Peanut Butter Porter. We got a meat and cheese platter and a pretzel and hung out in the brauhaus for a bit. It was great to sit down and rest a bit after walking around the park all day, and the tucked-away location and great selection of craft beers make this a spot I’m sure we’ll hit up whenever we visit the park.

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