Finally,2016 Musing Awards!

 

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Tonna Crudo-tuna,cucumber,pickled fennel, fried capers, anchovy aioli

For me, 2016 pretty much sucked. I won’t bore you with all the specifics, but let’s just say if it wasn’t for my obsession with musing about eating and boozing, my guess is I would’ve withdrawn from all human interaction shortly after November 8th! That being said, I did manage to discover some wonderful culinary products and impressive restaurants throughout 2016 that deserve recognition as recipients of the 2nd Annual Musing Awards.

And the Musee goes to………

Favorite newly discovered Food and Beverage:

Savory- Eat Smart Beets and Greens Salad Kit. I’ve never been a fan of bagged salads. I tend to think I can taste the plastic bag on the lettuce. Thankfully, that doesn’t hold true for salads made of sturdier (and healthier) greens such as kale or brussels sprouts. I truly have enjoyed all the  Eat Smart Salad Kits I’ve tried with Beets and Greens being my favorite (and the one that’s out of stock most often).

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This one is good too w/ Poppy Seed Dressing.

Sweet-Betty Crocker Limited Edition Salted Caramel Cookie MixOkay, okay I realize this winner isn’t exactly all the way “prepared” but they sure make baking easy and delicious! Literally just add an egg and butter (REAL UNSALTED BUTTER) for sweet and salty home-baked heaven! If you care to, add my secret ingredient….1/2 tsp Almond Extract. 016000451025

Beverage- Cheribundi Cherry JuiceI’m not gonna lie, this stuff is pretty pricey but I find the flavor delicious! Maybe it’s just label persuasion, but I swear if I drink four 8oz servings through the week my joints actually do feel better as the product implies. I tend to purchase the “lite” version when available.20170103_164730633_ios

Favorite “new to me” Chef- Neal McTighe . I had the pleasure of meeting Neal at a community outreach program at Dickinson College that I was invited to by a dear friend who’s an alum. My friend and I had no idea what to expect from this particular event that was called “Italy in a Jar”, but what the heck it was free and appeared to involve food! Once seated with a glass of Italian Wine and a few nibbles provided by the Dickinson staff we got  to meet and hear the story behind the creator and founder of Nello’s Sauces, a red hot Italian Pasta Sauce Company that’s beginning to appear in shelves all over the place such as Wholefoods, Kroger, Harris Teeter, etc. Even the mail-order meal company, Plated, has begun to provide Nello’s Sauce with their dinner kits. Neal’s rise from Dickinson college student with limited Italian language skills, to teacher of Italian, to Pasta Sauce Chef extraordinaire is not only interesting (“click” on his name above to get to Nello’s website and read all about it) but inspiring too as it is a stunning example of someone pursuing their passion. After the talk, we all gathered into the college kitchen where Neal gave us sauce making tips (do you know the best canned tomatoes to use?) and prepared a huge pot of Pasta with Nello’s Marinara Sauce. I went home with a jar Nello’s sauce laced with lavender which was scrumptious! Ironically, Nello’s Sauce isn’t found near Dickinson College as of yet (closest in probably Wholefoods towards Philly?) but I have my fingers crossed.

Favorite “new to me” Winery- Grace Estate Winery . Like so many other things in 2016, I didn’t get to as many wineries (VA mostly) as I’d would’ve liked or usually do throughout a year. I’m awfully glad my two favorite girls and I were able to get to Grace Estate! Tasting Room-great, Wines-tasty, Outdoor seating and views-lovely. Don’t miss this one when you’re in the Charlottesville area. Look at my blog post from Nov 2016 for more photos of some Charlottesville area wineries visited this past year.20161016_195521473_ios

Favorite “new to me” Restaurant-Cosima, Baltimore MD I loved this place! Baltimore really has some gems and Cosima is at the top of my list. Look at my post from September 2016 titled “Charmed, I’m Sure” for further details on this and a few other places I discovered in the Charm City this past year.

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Ragu Di Cinghiale- slow cooked wild boar, fennel sausage, pancette in tomato sauce over polenta

Just Plain Delicious- Zunzi’s, Savannah GA I blogged about my trip to Savannah in July (“Oh, Savannah”) which provided details of my culinary experiences. Zunzi’s was without a doubt the “funnest” food I had. Truly coming out of a hole in the wall, you stand in line to order absolutely delicious South African (and a few other countries) concoctions. The “Oliver’s Lunch” shown below really is just plain delicious! Take a look at their website. You can order some of their sauces and Zunzi gear.

Oliver’s Lunch at Nunzi’s. The best!

Favorite “new to me” recipe-Chicken Tagine with Lemon and Olives . I guess I must’ve cut this out of a Cooking Light magazine in 2007 but didn’t get around to making it until this past year. I made up for lost time though, because I bet I’ve made this succulent dish at least a dozen times in the past 12 months. It’s that good. Atypically for me, I follow this recipe to a tee except for the cilantro- I never add the Cilantro. Originally I thought 1 hour seemed to be a heck of a long time to simmer chicken thighs but they turn out perfect after a long, slow simmer. Please note that this is a Cooking Light recipe so it won’t infringe on any New Year’s resolution.20170113_172146093_ios

Life Time Achievement Award-Shrimp Spread. The LTAA this year has to go to the family Shrimp Spread recipe featured in my blog post “History, It’s in the Making” April 2016 and dedicated to my dad who passed away last February. I can now say that this recipe has gotten my family through the best of times and worst of times. It’s been served at countless parties and holidays to include this year at Thanksgiving and Christmas. My mom also made it for my Dad’s Military Honors Ceremony and following Reception as a tribute and sweet remembrance of a great husband, father, Officer and gentleman.

So there you have it- the Musing Awards for 2016. Please be so kind as to “click” on a few of the websites I have highlighted. I’d enjoy hearing your thoughts on any of the award recipients and would be honored if you’d pass this post to anyone you think might be interested.

I truly hope 2017 brings you all happiness, peace and a multitude of culinary adventures. Next up for me is the Culinary Immersion Weekend at the Omni Bedford Springs!

“They say I need to be seasoned; they say I need to be stewed. They say, ‘We need to boil all the hope out of him — like us — and then he’ll be ready’.”- Barack Obama while campaigning in 2008

Today Online Exhibit: The View from the Winery

20161017_183034156_iosAs far as I’m concerned in order to thoroughly enjoy eating and boozing your surroundings are extremely important! I’ll go so far as too say when I visit a winery the “view” can enhance the quality of the wine I’m drinking by leaps and bounds. Take a look at the Charlottesville area wineries I visited recently and the sights I got to behold……

 

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Clear blue sky at Stinson Vineyards

 

 

 

 

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The lovely entrance to Grace Estate Winery

 

 

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The rolling hills you see from King Family Vineyards

 

 

 

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Directly above at First Colony Winery

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The garden and view from Barboursville Winery

Stayed tuned for the 2nd Annual Musing awards the be published soon (in the meantime you may want to review last year’s winners published in March of 2015)!

“Wine is a gateway drug to environmentalism.”
Katherine Cole

The Paris Vacation that Wasn’t

In early years, the alligators in the fountains at The Jefferson in Richmond Virginia were real

In early years, the alligators in the fountains at The Jefferson in Richmond Virginia were real

If I had a nickel for every time I’ve planned a vacation to Paris and it was canceled because of a Terrorist Attack I’d have…well, a nickel and that is exactly what I have! Abhorrent timing made the trip my daughter and I planned for months disappear that awful Friday. We were supposed to depart for Paris on Saturday. Instead, we spent the morning frantically canceling what we could and keeping a close watch on what was happening to the beloved city of Paris. When it became clear that our European vacation was not to be, we decided to quickly put together a State-side alternative that became affectionately known as the Non-Paris Vacation……. new destination: the State of Virginia.

Let me just say that the Old Dominion State was very kind to us and made it very easy to enjoy ourselves without wallowing in self-pity for the Paris vacation that wasn’t. Our first stop was the Sassafras Shade Vineyard just off I-95 on our way to Richmond. It’s certainly worth a stop to taste the wines from this relatively new winery. www.sassafrasshade.com

After enjoying some Rose’ we headed to Richmond to spend one glorious night at the historic Jefferson Hotel. I’ve wanted to stay at The Jefferson for years and timing for this visit was perfect. A Sunday night stay in mid-November is quite affordable, not very crowded and the accomodations are superb. We ate dinner in their upscale Restaurant “Lemaire” (it sounds French, doesn’t it?) which was delicious. I also must note that I had the best peanuts ever while sipping my Dirty Martini in the Lounge…..Smoked, but not with a spice coating on them, just smoked. If anyone knows where I can purchase such a delight, PLEASE leave a comment!  Make sure to take a look at the website to get an idea of how lovely this place truly is. http://www.jeffersonhotel.com/

edward's bacon / caramelized cipollini bulbs / field arugula / walnut banana bread croutons / pomegranate reduction

edward’s bacon / caramelized cipollini bulbs / field arugula / walnut banana bread croutons / pomegranate reduction

Monday in Richmond included a perfectly delightful visit to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts where we went directly to the French wing in order to keep with the Paris theme of our vacation. While my heart will always remain with the Baltimore Museum of Art where I am a member, the VMFA is an exceptional attraction. Admission costs nothing yet the artwork is vast and of excellent caliber. In an amazing stroke of luck, the Cafe in VMFA is called Amuse and is french themed. We had their version of French 75 Cocktails for Lunch which only added to our quest for Parisian ambience.

Virginia Museaum of Fine Art

Virginia Museum of Fine Art

 Citadel Gin | Rose | Lemon

Citadel Gin | Rose | Lemon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After a few more stops in Richmond and a return visit to Saude Creek Winery http://saudecreek.com/ (love that place), we made the short trip to Colonial Williamsburg where we would be spend two fun-filled days and nights at the Williamsburg Lodge.

I could go on and on about our short stay in Revolutionary City. Let me just say that the week before Thanksgiving is the perfect time to visit the historic site. There are no crowds! We had our own private tour of the Governor’s Palace. We sipped hot chocolate in one of the Colonial Homes while discussing King George with a Pastor and played a gambling game with a housekeeper in another. But I digress, this blog is about food and drink.

Fat Canary http://www.fatcanarywilliamsburg.com is located in Merchant Square at the tip of Revolutionary City. Within easy walking distance from the Williamsburg Lodge, FC is an outstanding restaurant in my opinion. Our dinner there was extremely enjoyable and enhanced with a Bottle of Moët Champagne as we were supposed to have been touring the Moët & Chandon Cellars http://www.moet.com that very day had we been in Paris.

Chilled Maine Lobster, Avocado, Serrano Chili, Beet, Cumin

Chilled Maine Lobster, Avocado, Serrano Chili, Beet, Cumin

I credit my daughter in finding the perfect venue for our Wednesday night stay…..The Inn at Warner Hall. Again, I can’t say enough about traveling the week before Thanksgiving (and mid-week no less). It allowed us to reserve the lovely Washington Suite in this beautiful 11-room Inn. The Chef on site was not preparing a served meal the evening we stayed so we opted for the Cold Supper Basket that suited us just fine as we ate it by our in-suite fireplace. Shrimp Cocktail, Salad with Poached Salmon, Quinoa Salad and a Chocolate Terrine were just some of the deliciousness in our basket! We even had a glass of French Wine at the adorable boathouse that is on the property as well. Consider this charming Inn for a Special Occasion or when your European Vacation gets postponed….I’m glad we did! http://www.warnerhall.com/

My French Wine and the view from the Boat House at Warner Hall

My French Wine and the view from the Boat House at Warner Hall

The Inn at Warner Hall

The Inn at Warner Hall

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After a made-to-order breakfast at the Inn the next morning, we headed to our final destination: a three-night stay at my beloved Tides Inn http://www.tidesinn.com. If you’re familiar with my blog, you already know how I feel about the Tides…….it’s a jewel. I highly recommend an Autumn stay, especially the weekend of the Taste of the Bay festival (this was the 3rd Annual). The Festival is held on the premises which makes staying there all the better.  Tastings of Food, Wine, Beer and Ale are plentiful not to mention a sundry of arts and crafts. The surroundings of the Tides Inn are glorious and the weather was absolutely perfect which made this particular stay fabulous. In addition to attending Taste of the Bay, this visit we did a few new things such as  toured the Christ Church, took a Cove Cruise and finally ate breakfast at the Car Wash Cafe in Kilmarnock! The Northern Neck area is a great place to visit in Virginia I tell you!

 

 

Dirty Martinis at our tableside FirePit at the Tides Inn.

Dirty Martinis at our tableside FirePit at the Tides Inn.

Another beautiful view from the Tides Inn, Irvinton VA

Another beautiful view from the Tides Inn, Irvinton VA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although our hearts were heavy with the realization of what had happened to the people of Paris and the extended terror threats in Brussels (the last leg of our planned European trip) we really had a great alternative trip State-side. Paris- We WILL see you in the Spring.

We should feel sorrow, but not sink in its oppression- Confucious

 

Fitbits and Fit Bites

Handmade Tiles with Herb Imprints from the garden

Handmade Tiles with Herb Imprints from the garden

Family health issues kept my culinary adventures close to home for the last couple of months. That being said I thought it perhaps was time to rewind, recap and share some of my summer highlights that involved my passion for food and drink. Here goes:

-I got a fitbit. It’s proved to be not only helpful in tracking my steps, but also has energized my garden and kitchen prep to a new level! I find my self purposely making multiple trips to my 2nd fridge just in order to chalk up additional steps. Outside, I pace back and forth taking one watering can at a time to water my edibles just to trick my device into thinking I’m actually working out. Heck, I even wander through the house with cheese and cracker in hand to get to my step goal (hey 10K steps a day is HUGE ala Republican candidate for President Donald Trump). I had two dear friends over for lunch a few weeks ago and I told them of the night before when I walked through my hallway, all after sipping 3 rather large glasses of wine, just so I could get my last few hundred steps in. I’m starting to consider myself an athlete and may compete if Iron Chef ever becomes an Olympic sport.

A good day's bounty

A good day’s bounty

-I feel I got the very most out of my garden this year and for that matter  I still have stuff coming. Certainly not a fresh herb has been purchased for the last three months and my usual household of two easily stayed stocked with tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, chard and various other greens. Naturally, I made some of my by now famous spice mixture, Jen Blen (in dried/packaged and fresh form) and I also created and dried a limited edition signature blend simply called “Thanksgiving”. I added potpourri to the mix this year by creating a blend I call “Sweet MariAnnie”. I’d like to thank “Everyday with Rachel Ray”http://RACHELRAYMAG.COM September 2015 edition page 39″Make a great Impression” for the great idea/inspiration for the tiles I made.

 Potpourri!

Potpourri!

-As always, I was able to make a few visits to my most favorite local restaurants that I’ve posted about previously: Boiling Springs Tavern http://www.boilingspringstavern.com, Restaurant Sidney   www.restaurantsidney.com, and Fidler and Company Craft Kitchen http://fidlerandcompany.com. I’m happy that Carlisle PA has added a few new eating spots downtown. While I haven’t been moved yet to actually include in a blog post, I think Brick Kitchen and Bar http://www.brickcarlisle.com and 1794 The Whiskey Rebellion  http:// www.comfortsuitescarlisle.com/1794 are certainly worth a visit.

-I had delicious food at EAT-an American Bistro in Virginia Beach http://www.eatbistro.net . While down by the Oceanfront, EAT doesn’t have a touristy feeling at all. I’ll definitely go again when in the area. Speaking of Virginia Beach, we vacationed at Sandbridge Beach for the first time this summer. We were so pleased with our rental at Sanctuary Condos and equally happy with the establishment right across the street, Baja Restaurant http://bajasandbridge.com…….lots of good food and drink. My favorite Winery visit this summer was probably at Morais Vineyards in Bealeton VA http://www.moraisvineyards.com. The wines are Portuguese style and quite delicious with Touriga being one of my favorites. Heck even the so sweet but very “port-ish” Cherry Wine is good. I really like that the tasting includes food pairings. It makes the experience all that more fun. The setting at Morais is lovely as well. I highly recommend.

Corn growing amid the flowers

Corn growing amid the flowers

The green and yellow of the Herb Garden

The green and yellow of the Herb Garden

-Edible Landscaping continued to be a real treat for me during the summer months. Corn grown in the midst of of the flowers along with zucchinii created a Ornamental Grass effect that I really liked. I was even able to save myself 5 bucks by making my own corn stalks at the end of the season. Celebrity and Mortgage Lifter tomato varieties (just one plant each) did great and looked smashing among the Beebalm with a few Giant Marigolds added for color and pest control. The Herb garden was (still is) awesome this year and provided me with the freshest tasting recipes ever.

-Speaking of recipes, I subscribed to one those mail-order fresh ingredient meal delivery companies. The one I use is “Plated”. I like it because I can opt for an every-other week delivery, pick my own menus and I can block out weeks for non-delivery anytime I wish. Some of you who follow me on Facebook might’ve seen some of my “Meatless Monday” pics.  Plated is definitely for those who like to cook, but want to have someone else do the shopping every now and then. I invite you to take a look at the website https://www.plated.com/

As summer has come to a close, I hope to post a tad more frequently and certainly intend to add more fun and frolic! Until then, may we all be mindful of the quote below:

Let my words, like vegetables, be tender and sweet, for tomorrow I may have to eat them.
–  Author Unknown

Today Online: The Beauty of Virginia Wineries

Probably my favorite, the patio at King Family near Charlottesville. Gorgeous!

Probably my favorite, the patio at King Family near Charlottesville. Gorgeous!

 

After just coming off a 4 night, 5 day stay in Virginia that included as always a few winery visits, I was moved to post my 2nd online photography exhibit this time highlighting SOME of the wineries I’ve visited. For me, winery visits can be the ultimate in sensory indulgence with the TASTE of the wine being only one factor of consideration. My preference is that any winery I visit is a SIGHT to behold. In addition, if there’s music, sweet music (hopefully a live performance) that I can HEAR, I typically enjoy the experience more. Oh! and the blessed aromas…whether it’s the grapey fermentation smell or the freshly baked baguette coming from the kitchen, I love it when my sense of SMELL goes into overload. Last but certainly not least, have you ever just run your hands over a finely polished handcrafted wood bar or stepped on a stone laden path that was painstakingly made for your enjoyment or used your sense of TOUCH for that matter to shake the hand of the talented winemaker.

“Wine is one of the most civilized things in the world”- Ernest Hemingway

 

Hillsborough Winery and Vineyards near Leesburg

Hillsborough Winery and Vineyards near Leesburg

The outside of the restored barn at Sunset Hills near Purceville-Leesburg

The outside of the restored barn at Sunset Hills near Purceville-Leesburg

The ever-friendly and truly unique Old House Vineyard near Culpeper

The ever-friendly and truly unique Old House Vineyard near Culpeper

The sweet Merlot who stayed with us at Lost Creek near Leesburg

The sweet Merlot who stayed with us at Lost Creek near Leesburg

The wonderful tasting room at Jefferson Winery in Charlottesville.

The wonderful tasting room at Jefferson Vineyards in Charlottesville.

The whimsical Twin Oaks close to Fredericksburg

The whimsical Twin Oaks Tavern Winery in Bluemont, VA

The Thatched Roof of First Colony

The Thatched Roof of First Colony near Charlottesville

At Michael Shaps Wineworks near Charlottesville you taste amongst the barrels!

At Michael Shaps Wineworks near Charlottesville you taste amongst the barrels!

 

 

 

 

 

The 1st Annual Musing Awards

The first Foodie Buddy

The first Foodie Buddy

It’s coming up on a year of blogging. It’s been such a hoot for me and I intend to continue and I hope you’ll stick with me! I’m going to wrap up my first 12 months of blogging by bestowing the much coveted (not) Musing Awards to some of my favorite persons, places and things I experienced for the FIRST time this past year.

The results are in and the “Musee” (patent pending) goes to……..

Favorite Prepared Foods and Beverages:

Savory: Blue Hill Butternut Yogurt-this stuff is the bomb! Currently, the only place around me where it’s available is Wegman’s and it’s a bit pricey but worth every penny. Check out Blue Hill’s website for locations, other fun products and recipes. My own concoction is the yogurt, hot sauce, and almonds…a perfect at the office breakfast yum. http://bluehillyogurt.com

My fav is the Butternut Squash, but there's beet and Sweet Potato at Wegman's as well

My fav is the Butternut Squash, but there’s beet and Sweet Potato at Wegman’s as well

Sweet: Garden Lites Carrot Berry Muffins– found in the freezer in the Organic Foods Section (at Giant at least) these muffins are just a moist 4-bite piece of Carrot Cake only nutritious too. I swear spread some cream cheese on the top and you have dessert! 35 seconds in the microwave from the freezer and you’ll be in guilt free heaven.

Marvelously delicious with no effort

Beverage: American Harvest Vodka- When I’m not drinking tea, I’m drinking wine. When I’m not drinking wine, I’m drinking Vodka (I think in that order…sometimes I forget). A mid=priced Vodka this Organic-American made Vodka has a wonderfully crisp, clean flavor that in my opinion stands up to being “dirtied” or sipped straight (very chilled of course).

http://americanharvestspirit.com/

Favorite “New to Me” Chef: Chef David Schmidt of Enchantment Resort in Sedona Arizona- I mentioned Chef Schmidt in my post “Northern Neck Paradise”. I met him while vacationing this summer and became enchanted…..with the chef and the resort where he is the executive chef. Check out the website to learn about the Resort and David Schmidt (Chef also has a facebook and twitter page). http://www.enchantmentresort.com/

As a side note, I made the Granola Recipe on the resort website as Christmas gifts to my Office employees at my real job this year.

Granola Gifts for my Office. Double the recipe made 20 bags!

Granola Gifts for my Office. Double the recipe made 20 bags!

Favorite “New to Me” Winery:first ever tie. First Colony Winery, Charlottesville VA and Old House Vineyards, Culpeper VA. I go to lots of wineries, especially in Virginia. Out of a dozen or so that were new to me this year, these two stand out as favorites-great venues, good wines and personable staff! I truly find something to like at every winery I go to (sometimes it just the Corgi!), but at times I find a winery that has it all…go to these two when in VA. http://www.firstcolonywinery.com and http://www.oldhousevineyards.com

 

Marigolds used keep pests away from the grapes at Old House Vineyards

Marigolds used keep pests away from the grapes at Old House Vineyards

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Thatched Roof of First Colony

The Thatched Roof of First Colony

 

 

 

Favorite “New to Me” Restaurants:

Upscale to the Max- Te at the Inn at Leola Village-If you happen to be in the Lancaster PA area and you want to indulge in an award winning meal go to Te. Matter of fact, stay over night in the lovely accommodations available at the Inn at Leola Village. Our meal at Te was exquisite and I hope to go again sometime soon! http://www.theinnatleolavillage.com

In the Windy City- The Purple Pig-this was tough. I realize we didn’t even scratch the surface of all the fabulous restaurants in Chicago and literally ALL of the places we went to had merit. The Pig though has a certain flair that I found interesting, comforting and just darn tasty. It’s not everywhere you can order bones filled with fat and consider it delicious….you can at The Purple Pig!

Roasted Bone Marrow was just one of the exciting choices at the Purple Pig

Roasted Bone Marrow was just one of the exciting choices at the Purple Pig

Just Plain Delicious-Restaurant Sidney (Willoughby Run in Gettysburg or the Original in East Berlin PA)- Love, Love, Love my Sidney. Great Food, relaxing atmosphere at both locations and a Chef and servers who try to please. http://restaurantsidney.com/#!/main

Classic Sidney Pate

Classic Sidney Pate

Favorite “New to Me” recipe to me- Easy Cioppino- the recipe is found in a previous post titled “Easy Peasy”. I swear, I must try 100 different recipes each year (have I mentioned that I love to cook?). This particular recipe is very easy, very delicious and quite healthy.

This is my adaptation of the recipe found Better Homes and Garden Special Interest Publication "30-Minute Dinners"

This is my adaptation of the recipe found Better Homes and Garden Special Interest Publication “30-Minute Dinners”

Life Time Achievement Award: Gazebo Room Salad Dressing-This is a no-brainer for the first award of this kind. Please refer to the previous post titled “Location, Location, Location”. GRSD is a must-have for all household that are lucky enough to live in a State that stocks the dressing at local grocers.

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Unlike the Oscars, winners don’t go home with gift bags. Instead, I’ve tried to supply contact info when possible so do me a favor and click on a couple of sites that interest you. It’ll show the winners you care and I get a kick out of seeing the number of “clicks” I get on my stats page (anonymous of course)

It’s been a fun year. I look forward to testing out next year’s winners for the next 12 months…stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wine about C-ville

Our Wine Flights at Early Mountain après la tasting

Our Wine Flights at Early Mountain après la tasting

This past weekend was my annual Fall Winery Mecca to Charlottesville Virginia. Whether it’s my husband or daughter (or anyone else for that matter) who ends up being my travel companion, there are a few rules I strictly enforce: 3 Wineries on the way down on Friday, 3 more Wineries on Saturday, Lodging on the Pedestrian Mall at the Omni or at least close like you can get at the Courtyard by Marriott and Dinner reservations made by me at the restaurants of my choice. This weekend was no different with the exception that the weather didn’t cooperate like it usually does thus my pictures are good, just not great. Here are the highlights:

As we drove up to Early Mountain Vineyards http://www.earlymountain.com/ I had a distinct sense I’d been there before. When we walked into the tasting room I was less sure until the pourer cleared up everything for me. This Winery used to be called Sweely until about a 1 1/2 years ago. My daughter and I had been there and as I recall the interior was very dark almost Gothic in décor. Now the tasting room is beyond lovely…light and airy along with a full service dining facility.
Tasting Room at Early Mountain Vineyards
What I found especially fun is that after we had a traditional wine tasting, we were able to order interesting flights of wine that featured wines from other local vineyards as well. I got a “Taste of Fall” that featured a wine from Blenheim and Barboursville. We also ordered cheese, olives and charcuterie… perfect with our wine flights.
Next up Reynard Florence reynardflorence.com . It’s a very small tasting room venue and I’m not sure they want to expand their clientele, but the wines aren’t bad and for me being able to spend time with T-Ray the Corgi was all I needed. My family is totally against me dream of having a Corgi someday so when I can get a “fix” I take it!
T-Ray the Corgi..my dream dog
After checking into the Omni in Charlottesville, we dined at the Downtowne Grill  https://downtowngrille.com/. If Steak is what your craving, I’d highly recommend it. My Filet topped with Crabmeat and Asparagus was superb.
A cloudy, but still lovely day at First Colony
Our visit to First Colony Winery is the stop I’d like to highlight for Saturday. http://www.firstcolonywinery.com/

The Thatched Roof of First Colony

The Thatched Roof of First Colony

I loved, loved, loved my experience at First Colony. Upon arrival, we were lucky enough to be greeted by Bruce, one of the owners, and a precious Beagle named Dudley. Once inside the cozy and pretty tasting room (being made even prettier due to a wedding taking place that evening) we were fortunate to have Abby as our pourer. We chatted quite a bit during our tasting about lots of things, wine…not so much. That was okay though because the wine tasted good and I was far more interested when Abby told us of her husband’s recent endeavors of making small-batch chocolate bars by roasting the cacao with the machine he uses for coffee beans at his shop, Shark Mountain Coffee (www.sharkmountaincoffee.com). Although we didn’t have time to stop before coming home, the chocolate must be good because it’s featured in Fall publication of “Edible” Magazine (Blue Ridge edition). There are several features of First Colony I enjoyed such as the various scenic views available, woodsy in the back and a panoramic view of field and mountain in the front with all sorts of seating and tables for your wine drinking in enjoyment. Visitors are welcome to bring picnics, but they have a selection of cheese, crackers and other snacks as well.

A wall of growing edibles at Red Pump Kitchen

A wall of growing edibles at Red Pump Kitchen

Saturday night we dined at Red Pump Kitchen www.redpumpkitchen.com. and we enjoyed our meals immensely. Only opened since July, this Tuscan-style kitchen is supremely located on the Pedestrian Mall and has already received a host of positive reviews. I was especially enamored with the wall of live edibles. A closer look and a couple of questions later, I found out when they had first opened the attempt was to grow all their herbs on the wall. When that didn’t work, they opted for some edibles and mixed with a few house plant….it still looks very cool though and the mint is harvested! For an appetizer, we shared a Fennel Sausage, Shaved Brussels Sprouts, Roasted Red Onion and Mozzarella Pizza (the menu told us to do it!). My entrée of Mushroom Agnolotti(that’s pasta), Butternut Puree, Parmesan Cream and Shaved Black Burgundy Truffle was delicious and while I don’t always mention my dining partner’s meal, I would be remiss if I didn’t say that the Squid Tagliatelle, Clams, PEI Mussels, Bay Scallops (can you say that PD?) with Uni Butter was a pleasure as well. Check out the Red Pump Kitchen. You’ll be glad you did.

What a Pizza Pie!

Dear readers, I encourage you to “click” on the websites I’ve highlighted or check out other Charlottesville wineries and restaurants. C-ville is a great weekend destination and while I always focus on food and drink, Virginia history and culture abounds. Please also share your thoughts about the many, many wineries in this region.