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Eat Local! 16 Dishes with Fresh, Local Flavor

by Casey | Posted on April 18th, 2014

“Fresh, not frozen” is the mantra of many, but you’re invited to really taste the difference when you dine at some of Virginia’s farm-to-table restaurants. Of note are these 16 locally-sourced dishes that were nominated by locals as their favorite meal. Perhaps one sounds palate-pleasing for your next out-and-about Virginia excursion?

Braised Shenandoah Lamb Shoulder. BRABO by Robert Wiedmaier.

Braised Shenandoah Lamb Shoulder. BRABO by Robert Wiedmaier.

1. Traditions, inside the Williamsburg Lodge in Williamsburg, cooks up a Fennel Dusted Virginia Coast Shrimp and Scallop Dish that utilizes Dave and Dee’s Sedley, Virginia-grown oyster mushrooms, local farmers’ produce, and cured Virginia bourbon bacon.

2. BRABO by Robert Wiedmaier is located in beautiful Old Town Alexandria. Just as beautiful is their Braised Shenandoah Lamb Shoulder served with hand-rolled pappardelle, dill, pearl onions, glazed parsnip and a natural jus.

3. In Staunton, try Zynodoa’s locally-sourced Autumn Olive Farm pork entrée, which includes Meadow Creek Dairy’s Mountaineer cheese bruleed cornbread, and Harvest Thyme Herbs’ corn shoot salad.

4. Shrimp is served atop locally-sourced Andouille sausage and stone-ground grits at Wild Wolf Brewing Company in Nellysford. Pair this dish-with-a-kick with one of their homemade brews for a divine lunch on the patio.

Gunness Ayrshire Beef Stew. Hunter's Head Tavern.

Gunness Ayrshire Beef Stew. Hunter’s Head Tavern.

5. Upperville is home to the English pub,  Hunter’s Head Tavern, where Ayrshire Farm’s certified organic, humane, heritage-bred beef is the main ingredient in their Guinness Ayrshire Beef Stew. It’s slow-simmered with red wine, stock and Guinness stout, and finished with carrots, celery, onion, and potatoes.

6. New Leaf Pastry Kitchen in Harrisonburg offers a filling Bruschetta that’s perfect for a quick lunch. House-made rosemary focaccia is split and spread with herbed goat cheese before being filled with roasted Portobella mushrooms, onions, Polyface Farms’ sausage, and shredded smoked Gouda. It’s served hot with a Parmesan crisp and Dijon crème fraiche.

Crispy Skinned Chesapeake Bay Rockfish. Lemaire.

Crispy Skinned Chesapeake Bay Rockfish. Lemaire.

7. Inside the famed Jefferson Hotel in Richmond is Lemaire, where a Crispy Skinned Chesapeake Bay Rockfish is a popular local dish. The Rockfish is served with stewed white beans, semi-dried tomatoes, Manakintowne Specialty Growers’ field arugula, smoked Surry County sausage, and truffled mushroom broth.

8. A historical dessert in honor of Thomas Jefferson, the Jefferson Brandied Peaches & Vanilla Ice Cream dessert that you’ll find at the Old Mill Room at Boar’s Head in Charlottesville includes raspberry sauce, meringue, locally-grown peaches, and Jefferson vanilla ice cream. Dessert first? Yes, please!

9. More dessert? You betcha! The Heartwood Cobbler at Heartwood in Abingdon is simply sugar, self-rising flour, Duchess Dairy milk, butter and fresh fruit from the farmer’s market topped with Homestead Creamery vanilla ice cream. Which type of cobbler you find on the menu depends on which fruit is fresh and in season.

10. Created from all local ingredients, the Bratwurst Pizza with Apples and Onions from Blue Mountain Brewery in Afton includes Double H Farms’ bratwurst and local apples. The dough includes Ashland Farms’ whole wheat flour and is infused with herbs, olive oil and Hungry Hill Farm honey.

The Savory Grain, Richmond.

The Savory Grain, Richmond.

11. Roanoke’s Local Roots Restaurant serves a Hollow Hill Farm’s Bison Pastrami sandwich topped with cheddar cheese, house sauerkraut and house barbecue sauce. It’s served atop a Breadcraft Bakery sesame seed bun.

12. Timbercreek Organics’ beef is slow cooked with whole grain mustard spaetzle, roasted Sharondale Farms’ mushrooms, braised red cabbage, and bleu cheese. You can find this fine dish at Fossett’s at Keswick Hall in Keswick.

13. The Savory Grain in Richmond serves a Roasted Quail stuffed with a nine-grain cranberry pecan medley and finished with Bold Rock Cider roasted red pepper and ginger jus. Beautiful and delicious.

14. A perfect farm-fresh egg is served on garlic-rubbed ciabatta and served with mixed baby greens topped in balsamic vinaigrette, Virginia country ham and Parmesan cheese at Foti’s Restaurant in Culpeper.

15. Fresh catfish is served with creamed farro, Surry County sausage, butter beans, hominy, and mustard cream at The Roosevelt in Richmond.

16. Also in Richmond is Rappahannock, serving a beautiful dish of braised Border Springs Farm lamb with a crispy cake of Arborio rice, fregola sarda and lentils, fermented vegetables, pea tendrils, and a blood orange vinaigrette.

What’s your favorite locally-sourced dish? Tell all about it by leaving a comment!

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Make Mine a Double! 12 Virginia Burger Favorites

by Tom | Posted on April 14th, 2014

Virginia has all your top-of-mind hamburgers, from the billion-served chains to the newer class of corporate-run, “gourmet” burger restaurants. But dig a little deeper, and you’ll run across some of the most unique patty places in the Mid-Atlantic, combining the best of Virginia with everything an experienced meat eater has come to expect in their ground sirloin sandwich. Check out the list below (in no particular order) and plan a visit if your travels take you nearby.

1. The Station Burger, aptly named for its home at Smithfield Station, compliments Angus beef with a slice of Smithfield ham and bacon, cheddar cheese, and jumbo lump crab meat. It’s the closest you’ll get to surf and turf on one bun.

The Wagyu Burger

2. The description of the Wagyu Burger from The Trellis Restaurant in Williamsburg reads like a who’s who of exotic ingredients. From Wagyu beef to house-made focaccia and truffle cheese, this masterpiece certainly wasn’t on the menu in Colonial times. Don’t forget the duck fat fries!

3. The Joel Lunchpail from George Bowers Grocery in Staunton was named for Virginia permaculture farmer Joel Salatin, and features grass-fed beef and bacon from his Polyface Farm in nearby Swoope, Virginia.

4. Crafted with local Timbercreek Organic beef and McClure Swiss cheese, The Citizen from Citizen Burger Bar in Charlottesville is topped with black onion, garlic aioli, iceberg lettuce, tomato, fried pickle, and served on house brioche.

5.From classic burger joint the Burger Bar in Bristol comes the Howlin’ at the Moon Chili Cheeseburger – a half pound slab with homemade chili and enough meat to satisfy the wolf in all of us.

6. The Apple Jack Burger at BabyCakes Unique Eats in Abingdon pairs fresh local grass-fed Angus beef with grilled Granny Smith apples, an Old Dominion staple.

7.For the adventurous burger fan, the Bison Burger at the Horseshoe Diner in South Hill might scratch that itch for something completely different. For starters, it’s locally-sourced Bison, but it’s topped with homemade pimento cheese, a house favorite at the Horseshoe.

8. If you’re near Smith Mountain Lake, stop in at Mango’s Bar and Grill in Moneta for the 8 oz cheeseburger topped with bacon, fried egg and chipotle mayonnaise. It’s an all-day burger to satisfy your breakfast, lunch and dinner cravings at one sitting.

9. The Fredericksburger from FOODE restaurant in, where else, Fredericksburg, certainly lives up to its lengthy name. It boasts local organic beef, sharp cheddar cheese, bacon aioli, and organic lettuce all on a freshly-baked Brioche bun. You’ll need a knife (or hinged jaw) for this one.

The Fredericksburger

10. The exotic sounding Wood-Grilled Teriyaki-Swiss Mushroom Burger brings together wide-ranging elements to down-home restaurant  Northern Neck Burger in Kilmarnock. Whether Italian, Swiss, or Japanese, these ingredients make for a distinctly Virginian take on a distinctly American food.

11. Harrisonburg’s Cuban Burger serves up the flavorful El Vaquero, A Burger topped with Vaca Frita (seared, crispy steak with citrus and garlic), rum-caramelized onions, swiss cheese and a house-made smokey aioli.

12. Last but not least, and in honor of all the meat-eaters who have reached the end of this list, is the Double BLT at the Barbecue Exchange in Gordonsville. This monster features bacon, pork belly and baconnaise on a homemade roll. Though this sandwich might be better suited for our 17 barbecue favorites list, it’s fair to say this is the only true ham-burger on the list (sorry – couldn’t resist).

A few of these burgers are still alive in the Virginia is for Lovers Culinary Madness challenge. Go to http://www.virginia.org/culinarymadness/ and VOTE for your favorite Virginia dish.

Each entry above was suggested by a loyal local fan. Leave a comment below in support of your favorite (and its restaurant home) and we’ll compile a list of some of the best nominations during Burger month in May.

 

 



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10 Pies Worth the Drive

by Casey | Posted on November 8th, 2013

Have you ever loved a specific dish so much that you drove well out of your way just to enjoy it? My parents did that for a cup of coffee once, and my mother-in-law drove across the Commonwealth to get a hot, fresh Smithfield ham biscuit once, too. I’m convinced a renowned slice of pie will garner the same craving and willingness to go. Let’s try it out!

Old Chickahominy House

Old Chickahominy House

Our trusted source of “locals” have filled us in on their favorite places for pie, and we’d love to hear about yours, too. Let your mouth water and then leave a comment.

The Old Chickahominy House in Williamsburg has been serving southern breakfast and lunch specialties since 1955, but it’s the homemade chocolate pie that Terri raves about. She says it’s “the creamiest, chocolatiest filling in a flaky crust that’s the most delicious pie you’ll ever put into your mouth.”

Visit to try a slice. If you love it, place an order for Thanksgiving. Choose from coconut, buttermilk, chocolate, apple crumb, “no sugar added” apple, cherry crumb, pecan, and sweet potato.

If you find yourself in Abingdon (which I hope you do), put JJ’s Restaurant and Sports Bar on your list of “musts.” They call themselves “Abingdon’s classiest little dive,” but Tenille’s note really says it all. “They serve chocolate, coconut, butterscotch, and peanut butter. Their pies are homemade by a 70 year old lady, who makes them everyday fresh and ready to eat. These are the pies that your grandmother made but never gave you the recipe.

Tenille didn’t stop there. She has another pie hot-spot in Abingdon, Chick-N-Little. She says this family-owned restaurant offers great food at a cheap price, plus “they have the BEST homemade pies.”

Mom's Apple Pie

Mom’s Apple Pie

“This was the best sour cherry pie that I’ve ever had,” proclaims Jane in regard to Mom’s Apple Pie in Leesburg. Jane learned that the owner grows her own fruits for the purpose of crafting amazing pies. With Thanksgiving in mind, Jane assures, “You can buy about 15 flavors daily, either by the slice or whole. I recommend buying the whole pie … or even five!!!”

River City Grill in Radford offers breakfast all day, plus lunch and dinner. Deb promises they’ll serve you the “most amazing chocolate chess pie ever, rich and decadent.”

Meringue lovers, Betsy has found your heaven. Pat’s Kountry Diner in Lebanon is named for, well, Pat. She makes a mean coconut pie with “piled high meringue,” according to Betsy, that’s pure “melt in your mouth goodness!”

The Cabin Point Mercantile in Spring Grove specializes in the sweet stuff. They’re a bakery creating homemade brownies, cakes, fudge, cookies, and of course, pie! Kimberly is a fan of the cheesecake pies, writing, “cheesecake pies are amazing, pie crust with a layer of cheesecake topped with all types of flavors – pineapple, cherry, peach, strawberry, blueberry, blackberry! Amazing!”

The Horseshoe Restaurant in South Hill is no stranger to our local recommendations. It was mentioned in the 14 Places to Enjoy Fall Foliage in Virginia, as well as one of 22 Places to Eat Like a Local. In the 22 Places article, the peanut butter and chocolate walnut pies were touted. For this article, it was the chocolate walnut that rose to the top again. All of the desserts at Horseshoe are made from scratch daily.

Proper Pie Co.

Proper Pie Co.

With a name like Pie Gourmet, one would expect top-of-the-line pie. Fortunately, Pie Gourmet in Vienna delivers just that. In fact, The Washington Post calls it “a gem among local bakeries.” Enjoy a range of fruit pies, cream pies, cheesecake, dessert pies, and even dinner pies, like lasagna.

Relatively new to Richmond’s food scene is Proper Pie Co., serving New Zealand-style savory pie as well as sweet pies. Think Mince & Cheese finished with a slice of Blueberry Apple.

Hill High Country Store in Round Hill has a lot to offer, including more than 30 fresh-baked pies daily. You’ll find local foods, produce, wine, and an all-day deli with chef specialties. Take the trip for lunch and top it off with a great slice of pie.

Share your favorite pie! Leave a comment and spread the love.

Virginia is for Lovers.



Food, Locals | 3 Comments

10 of Virginia’s Tastiest Fall Food Festivals

by Casey | Posted on September 16th, 2013

You’re right on time for fall flavors. Taste your way from the mountains to the shore this fall in Virginia.

Graves Mountain Apples

Graves Mountain Apples

Apples

The Apple Butter Celebration in Shenandoah National Park is Saturday, September 21 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Skyland Resort. Take the ride up the mountain to see the early turners and get your fill of fresh-from-the-kettle apple butter, apple smoked BBQ, apple salsa, granny apple cole slaw, caramel apples, apple cobbler, and apple cider. Various entertainers will keep the day lively. The Celebration is free; admission to Shenandoah National Park is $15 per car.

The Apple Harvest & Apple Butter Festival at Drumheller’s Orchard occurs Saturday and Sunday, September 28-29 and October 19-20. Come out anytime from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for tasty fresh-picked apples, apple butter, cider, honey, and plenty of family fun. Apple sling shot, anyone?  Free parking and entertainment.

Head to Syria for the Graves’ Mountain Apple Harvest Festival Saturdays and Sundays from October 5 through October 20, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. 2013 marks the festival’s 44th year. Don’t miss out on the kettle-cooked apple butter, applesauce, apple cider, apple butter donuts, and apple pies. Feel free to pick your own apples, too! Entertainment includes Bluegrass musicians, cloggers, a hay maze, hay mountain, hayrides, and horseback rides. A taste of southwest Virginia is available here, too … Brunswick Stew! Free parking and entertainment.

 

Bluegrass, Barbeque & Brew Festival

Bluegrass, Barbeque & Brew Festival

Barbecue

A brand new event in Norfolk is Ribtoberfest! Held at Town Point Park this Saturday, September 21 from noon to 8 p.m., Ribtoberfest brings beer and BBQ into one delicious waterside feast. Blues musicians will keep the day hoppin’ while restaurants pull out the stops to serve up their best ribs, pulled pork and other barbecue creations. More than 20 breweries will be on hand with 40+ Autumn-style beers. Admission is free.

Bands, Brews and Barbecue will be held Saturday, September 28 from noon to 7 p.m. on the Manassas Museum Lawn in Manassas. Purchase tickets to sample the brews (with a valid ID) and some great Virginia barbecue while the bands play away the day. Free admission.

Patrick Henry’s Red Hill will host the Bluegrass, Barbecue and Brew Festival on Saturday, November 2 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Local grillmasters includes Drug Store Grill from Brookneal, True Q BBQ from Lynchburg, and Tater Bugs Barbeque from South Boston. Four Virginia craft breweries and one cidery will be pouring while Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia bluegrass musicians entertain. Admission is $10 for music only and $15 for those who wish to sample the beverages. Buy Now

 

Chincoteague Island Oyster Festival

Chincoteague Island Oyster Festival

Seafood

A beautiful view from Farley Vale Farm in King George is the icing on the Rappahanock Riverfest happening this Saturday, September 21 from 3 to 8 p.m. Riverfest is an all-you-can-eat Blue Crab and barbecue event with open bar, live entertainment and auctions. Tickets are $85 and available in advance only. Buy Now

Historic Stratford Hall hosts the Stratford Hall Wine and Oyster Festival this weekend, September 21-22 beginning at 11 a.m. each day. A variety of oysters will be available, as will shrimp, clams, and the fine vintages of 13 Virginia wineries. Admission for oyster and wine tasting is $45 (in advance) and includes three oysters from each of the seven oyster growers, and a wine tasting from each of the wineries. A ticket for wine tasting only is $25 in advance; Non-tasting is $10 in advance; Children 6-12 are $5 in advance. Buy Now

Head to the Shore for the Chincoteague Island Oyster Festival, Saturday October 12 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. It’s an all-you-can-eat smorgasbord of oysters (half shell, steamed, fried, fritters …), crabs, hush puppies, clam chowder, and more. Admission is $40. Buy Now

You don’t want to miss the Official Oyster Festival of the Commonwealth, the Urbanna Oyster Festival. The entire town of Urbanna turns into festival grounds Friday and Saturday, November 1 and 2, with oyster shucking competitions, a parade, oysters served anyway you like, and the crowning of the Oyster Festival Queen and Little Miss Spat. The festival is free and pay-as-you-go.

 

+1! Late Fall Bonus Event:

Sample the best of the bay at Taste by the Bay in Irvington on Saturday, November 23. Virginia wineries, breweries, and local restaurants will serve samples to ticket holders from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $30 in advance or $35 at the gate.

 

Find more flavors to love at Virginia.org/FoodFestivals!

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*Fall Foliage Reports will begin on or about September 25.

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Fall in Virginia, Festivals, Food | 3 Comments

22 Places to Eat Like a Local

by Casey | Posted on August 16th, 2013

We’ve asked and received recommendations for the most amazing Virginia breakfasts, highly acclaimed BBQ, comfortable patio dining, best places to enjoy a craft beer and favorite ice cream spots. All of these recommendations came from locals in the know. Yet, there was one more thing we had to ask:

Where is the best place to eat like a local, regardless of the time of day or menu specialty?

It turns out that some familiar names popped up. In addition, local pride and loyalty made appearances. Read on.

Central Virginia

Millie's Diner

Millie’s Diner

By a wide margin, Millie’s Diner in Richmond was the most recommended place to eat like a local. What’s more, Millie’s was also one of the most recommended establishments for a great breakfast. Why so hot? “One word — scallops — the best in the U.S.” Or more words, if you’re not a fan of scallops:

- “The most delicious place to eat in all of Richmond, hands down. I have ordered things there that I never would have tried anywhere else, just because I know that there is NO WAY it wouldn’t be absolutely delicious coming from Millie’s kitchen.”
- “I live in Reston, VA and make it a point to eat at Millie’s EVERY time I am in Richmond.”
- “It was the place I chose to pop the question a couple years ago.”
- “I ate there every Sunday for two years … they saved a stool for me at the end of the counter. Now THAT is local.”

So what’s good to eat at Millie’s?

- “Thai Shrimp! I ordered it every Friday night the first year Millie’s was open, then decided the rest of the menu was probably good as well (and it is). We have been eating there for 25 years.”
- “Any one of the messes, though my favorite is Castro’s Mess.”
- “Devil’s Mess, Cajun Mess, or anything really. Especially the Bloody Mary.”
- “Love their vegetarian selections!”

Other great places to eat like a local in Central Virginia:

 

Southern Virginia

The Horseshoe Restaurant's Pimento Cheeseburger

The Horseshoe Restaurant’s Pimento Cheeseburger

The Horseshoe Restaurant in South Hill is a classic diner operating since the 1930s. Southern eats like pimento cheese and fried pickles are daily offerings, as are stories of Roy Kelly (“Second Machine Gun Kelly”) and his arrest at the restaurant. The front page of the South Hill Enterprise dated December 31, 1938 stretches across one wall of the restaurant and features Kelly peering from behind bars. It’s just one of the cool pieces of this historic establishment that feeds the locals and travelers alike.

What to eat at The Horseshoe?

- “The Fried Green Tomato BLT is the best sandwich. Peanut Butter Pie and Chocolate Walnut are both out of this world.”
- “Everything on the menu is awesome.”

 

Blue Ridge Highlands

Burger Bar

Burger Bar

Wytheville loves their skeeterdogs. What’s a skeeterdog? A “World Famous Hot Dog” from Skeeter’s Restaurant, operating in historic downtown since 1920. Skeeter’s shares space in a building that was also the birthplace of First Lady Edith Bolling Wilson. Presidential hot dogs, perhaps?

Burger Bar is an authentic Bristol original. A mainstay since 1942, it’s been long-said that Hank Williams enjoyed his last meal here. Pair your country music history with a classic burger and you get menu items like “Hey Good Looking,” in honor of one-time devoted customer Ernie Ford. The locals love “Oh My Cheese!,” two grilled cheese sandwiches with a burger between them.

Other great places to eat like a local in the Blue Ridge Highlands:

 

Coastal Virginia

Ham is a typical Virginia staple and you can enjoy a fresh ham biscuit on the front porch at Edwards Ham Shoppe in Surry. One local suggests you “wash it down with a cold, old-fashioned bottled soda” for a true local experience.

Smitty’s Better Burger has been a local favorite in Hampton since 1956. A true drive-in with car hops, Smitty’s is a classic Old School experience that one local says is used “to impress visitors from out of town.” We do like to show off the things that are quintessentially “ours,” don’t we? Recommended menu item is the Better Burger, of course, “with cheese, fries and a drink!”

 

Northern Virginia

Tim's Rivershore Restaurant & Crabhouse

Tim’s Rivershore Restaurant & Crabhouse

It’s a neat little historic tavern, but what you really want to know about Amy’s Cafe in Fredericksburg is what one local said: “The ribs are to die for!” Find Amy on West Cambridge Street and tell her someone really loves chef’s baby back ribs.

Waterside dining at Tim’s Rivershore Restaurant & Crabhouse is beautiful. Find Tim’s in Dumfries. The restaurant sits at one of the widest points of the Potomac River, offering sweeping views that are incredible from inside or out. The tiki bar is a great place to hang out and enjoy a beer with your seafood, burger or sandwich.

Don’t be deterred by the name. Old Town Caterers & Deli in Manassas offers a diverse menu with international flair. The local favorite is the shrimp bisque.

 

Shenandoah Valley

Texas Tavern

Texas Tavern

Have you ever heard of a Liars Table? I had not and so inquired with our local about his recommendation of Hi Neighbor Country Restaurant in Strasburg. He mentioned the Liars Table as one of the main draws and I had to know why. He wrote, “The Liars Table is one of those things that really make a small town local restaurant.” He elaborated, naming names, to tell me that groups of “local characters” keep one particular table full all day long from about 5:30 a.m. until closing. One group coming in after the next, shooting the breeze, talking “local politics, news, etc.”

I imagine that Hi Neighbor, a community staple since 1949, serves great food along with warm hospitality. What to eat? Our local says the “homemade biscuits with homemade sausage or chipped beef gravy are awesome,” but notes that the burgers and sandwiches are, too.

In Roanoke, the name Texas Tavern dates to 1930. This love-worn establishment has been in the same family for four generations and is acclaimed for “Best Chili,” “Best Hot Dogs,” “Best Local Hamburgers,” and “Best Late-Night Dinner” by readers of  Roanoker magazine. Saunter up to the counter and enjoy home-cooked food 24 hours a day.

Sal’s Italian Bistro in Edinburg is best summed up by the local B&B owner who wrote, “Sal, the owner, is the ‘real deal’ from Naples, Italy. The food is authentic and fabulous. Huge portions. We send all our B&B guests there.”

Staunton’s Mill Street Grill offers a variety of menu items, but the one thing our local raved about was the ribs (look out Amy!). “Ribs are fall off the bone excellent. I’ve yet to have something that wasn’t excellent.”

Other great places to eat like a local in the Shenandoah Valley:

Where is your favorite place to eat like a local? Leave a comment to let us know!



Food, Locals | 6 Comments