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but let’s just say if it wasn’t for my obsession with musing about eating and boozing, my guess is I would’ve withdrawn from all human interaction shortly after November 8th!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.

Northern Neck Paradise

View from the Tides Inn Terrace

View from the Tides Inn Terrace


I love my home. I even like my day job. I gotta tell you though, leaving the Tides Inn and the beautiful views like you see above is always gut wrenching for me. The Tides Inn is a Virginian Paradise! Located in Irvington, part of Virginia’s Northern Neck, the Tides offers a perfect vacation spot….lovely setting, the perfect mix of activity and relaxation, but most important for me great food and libations. This trip had us eating dinner three out of six nights right at the Inn. Each meal was quite delicious with my favorite being a succulent duo of Beef Tenderloin and Sea Scallops.
Perfectly prepared Sea Scallops and Beef Tenderloin

Perfectly prepared Sea Scallops and Beef Tenderloin


While at the Tides, I was delighted to meet and talk with the very personable Chef David Schmidt, Executive Chef at Enchantment Resort in Sedona Arizona. It turns out the Tides Inn and Enchantment are sister resorts hence Chef Schmidt and family were on vacation. Upon meeting, I immediately googled Enchantment Resort and became, um…….enchanted! Consider it if ever staying in Arizona. I know I will. Checkout Chef David Schmidt’s Facebook page and the resort website http://enchantmentresort.com.
There’s other fun and tasty food choices in and around Irvington. A favorite is Merrior along the water in Topping, the restaurant at the home of Rappahannock River Oyster Company. This summer was my second visit and the second time I ate the least amount of oysters of anyone in my party. That being said, I find sipping on something cold and bubbly (the ladies in my group had a French Rose’) while eating an oyster or two a very pleasurable experience. Rest assured everyone else at my table will attest the Oysters at Merrior are very, very good. I believe Chef Schmidt thinks so as well since he told us that he gets Rappahannock Oysters for the restaurants at the Enchantment Resort…….who knew the Oysters from the Northern Neck area made it all the way to Arizona?
Something cold and bubbly, the very best with Oysters!

Something cold and bubbly, the very best with Oysters!


If you go and can’t embrace eating dozens of raw oysters like me, I’m happy to report there are lots of other delectable options. I recommend the Stuffin Muffin (just the right amount of oyster flavor mixed in a moist bread stuffing) or the Peel and Eat Shrimp with Spiced Vegetables not to mention the assorted specials they have each day. You can read all about the Rappahannock River Oyster Company at http://www.rroysters.com
Nate’s Trick Dog Cafe is another great eating establishment within walking distance from the Tides Inn. It’s only open for dinner and closed both Sunday and Monday, however. We’ve been there several times and have always enjoyed the food. This trip my entrée of a Pork Shank braised in coffee and cocoa with chorizo and spinach ravioli was superb. The favorite appetizer for the table was the Salmon Tartare. Make sure to call for reservations as this place fills up with vacationers and locals alike.
A loaded Bloody Mary at the Kilmarnock Inn

A loaded Bloody Mary at the Kilmarnock Inn


The only other meal I’m going to highlight in this post is lunch at the Kilmarnock Inn. This lovely Inn is a Presidential-themed Bed and Breakfast of sorts serving breakfast, lunch and dinner 7 days a week. If I didn’t suffer from my Tides Inn addiction, I’d be liable to stay here once in a while. Alas, that is not to be so I settled for lunch in the charming dining room. My husband ordered a Bloody Mary that could serve as an entire meal for someone with a small appetite. He found it delicious while I was more than pleased with my Roasted Tomato and Corn Chowder and Poached Salmon Salad. I will definitely try dinner at the Kilmarnock Inn next time I’m in the heavenly Northern Neck area.
I’ll close with just a few more recommendations. For food, try the relatively new Northern Neck Burger Company in Kilmarnock or drive a bit to Reedville for an incredibly reasonably priced meal at the Crazy Crab (get the Sugar Toads if they have’em in season!). For Winery visits, don’t miss the Dog and Oyster Vineyards (you can ride a bike from the Tides Inn) or Good Luck Cellars only a few miles away. For the best in scenic views, by all means go to the Tides Inn.
Just another day at the Tides Inn

Just another day at the Tides Inn

Call Peppa

Just one of the lovely areas used for entertaining in the 1960s at the Glen Burnie House and Gardens

Just one of the lovely areas used for entertaining in the 1960s at the Glen Burnie House and Gardens


http://themsv.org
My long-awaited summer vacation had arrived. This year my husband and I decided to meander down south to our beloved Tides Inn by way of Winchester and Culpeper Virginia (re-read the title to this post to get the proper pronunciation according to my dear friend born and raised in Roanoke). While in Winchester, I practiced my southern drawl by sweet talking my husband into stopping at the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley to get a glimpse of the gardens. Once we arrived we were told no admittance into the gardens without a ticket purchase for the whole museum, so we trudged up to the building to pay a whopping $8 each expecting to exit the building immediately and head back to the gardens. An hour and a half later we had yet to make it back outside! Turns out the MSV had one particular gallery that was right down my alley and tied in nicely with the gardens I would see later. Called the “Edible Feast”, the gallery is an interactive display chronicling the entertaining that went on at the Glen Burnie House (on the Museum property) during the 1960s while occupied by Julian Wood Glass Jr. and his partner R. Lee Taylor. Not only did I read about lavish menus and gaze upon tablescapes made of heirloom serving pieces but I got to play games too. What fun I had helping Alfred the Butler guess how to properly set the table for a formal dinner party in two minutes or less via video game! I suppose I should mention that the MSV has several other outstanding galleries as well it’s just that this one spoke to the foodie in me.
The wonderful café on MSV property is run by Bonnie Blue Southern Market and Bakery also in Winchester

The wonderful café on MSV property is run by Bonnie Blue Southern Market and Bakery also in Winchester

Gazpacho at Bonnie Blue Café

Gazpacho at Bonnie Blue Café


Speaking of food, after spending time looking at the great indoor galleries, we were hungry. To my delight, the café downstairs not only served wine (remember, I was on vacation) but had Gazpacho….my all time summer favorite. The gazpacho was of the smooth variety and came with a drizzle of basil oil on top. I also ordered a salad of mixed greens, candied walnuts and dried cranberries topped with a herb dressing. The goat cheese croutons that accompanied the salad were what I can only describe as two heavenly quarters of a toasted cheese Panini filled with gooey goat cheese. We were fortunate to be able to talk to Christian, one of the owners of Bonnie Blue (the café as well as the market, bakery and catering business), who shared a lot about the local produce and meats they use in the operation of their businesses. When in Winchester, definitely go the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley and Bonnie Blue. Check out the Bonnie Blue website at: http://www.bonnieblue.us On to the gardens……..
Marigolds used keep pests away from the grapes at Old House Vineyards

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


On the way to Culpeper (remember, say call peppa) the plan was to stop at the Old House Vineyard. Boy, am I glad we did! We had a delightful time tasting wine and talking with Alison, the owner of this very beautiful property. I’m especially fond of the Chambourcin called Wicked Bottom and the port-style dessert wine called Mutage. Many of the wine labels feature artwork that translate into local folklore. We were fortunate that Bill, quite a historian of the area, was there during our visit so we learned a lot. Proving once again it’s a small world, it turns out Bill was once the ROTC Instructor at Dickinson College in Carlisle Pennsylvania (where I spent most of my time growing up) and graduated from West Point in the late 50s when my dad was an instructor there. Who knows how many times our paths may have crossed! Old House Vineyard is a must see and taste destination.
http://www.oldhousevineyards.com
Next we checked into our lodgings for the night, the Suites at 249. I could go on and on about this place but as it doesn’t fit the Food and Drink category of my blog, I’ll just sum it up this way: GO….I recommend the Verde Suite. http://www.suitesat249.com
Dinner at Culpepper was at It’s about Thyme (thanks for the recommendation Alison). I know, I know, I had Gazpacho for lunch but I couldn’t resist ordering it again in the evening when I saw this version included baby shrimp. True to form that no gazpacho is alike, this one was chunky, had lots of baby shrimp and was equally delicious. My entrée of Veal Shank was superb as well, but alas was a special so won’t always be available.
It's About Thyme rendition of Gazpacho

It’s About Thyme rendition of Gazpacho

http://www.thymeinfo.com
We had such a grand time on our way down to the Tides Inn. Stay tuned for more musing….

An Epic Time in Revolutionary City

The breathtaking view from Saude Creek Winery The breathtaking view from Saude Creek Winery

What a great long weekend! After attending a wedding and the reception that followed at Green Grove Gardens in Greencastle PA (a lovely venue), my husband and I took off for Williamsburg VA to enjoy one of my favorite bands of all time…Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. On the way there, my man was a good sport and agreed to stop at two wineries: New Kent Vineyards and Saude Creek Winery. It’s no wonder that Saude Creek was our hands down favorite given the view, the interesting history we received from Ben the wine pourer and the tasty wines. To make the visit perfect, we sat on the lovely deck, listened to music and shared the perfect winery snack in the form of a BBQ Sundae…shredded pork, topped with baked beans, topped with a scoop of coleslaw-Bliss! Go there if you want to do a wine tasting around Williamsburg that’s not over crowded.

My meal at Fat Canary My meal at Fat Canary

The second night at Williamsburg was planned as our quasi-Anniversary Dinner with reservations at the Fat Canary. Sometimes I amaze myself with my uncanny knack for picking great dining. Let me tell you, FC did not disappoint! We were in good hands with Darcy, our server, and server-in-training Brian. I started out with an appetizer of House-made Mozzarella, Edward’s Ham, Baby Artichokes, Grilled Escarole and Onions with Balsamic which was delicious. My entrée was simply scrumptious…Grilled King Salmon, Cauliflower, Romanesco, Bacon, Hazelnut and Mushroom Duxelle. I will definitely be back and urge all foodies to go there while visiting Colonial Williamsburg. Located on Merchant Square, the Fat Canary was an easy walk from our room at the Williamsburg Lodge.

Kilkenny..a very tasty Irish Beer Kilkenny..a very tasty Irish Beer

On the way home we stopped at a favorite Virginia town of ours, Fredericksburg. This time we had lunch at the Blarney Stone Public House. You’ll rarely read a comment about beer from me, but I must admit the recommendation by Graham the barkeep was spot on…Kilkenny is delicious! Our lunch was superb as well. I had a Hiberian Burger which basically consisted of a perfectly prepared burger topped with Dubliner Cheese and Caesar Salad. The Corned Beef on my Hubby’s Rueben was as good as what I make and that’s saying something. I have to give a shout out to Graham for being a perfect host at his fine establishment. Just another place in Fredericksburg to return to!

Again, I’ve tried to contain my comments to the subject matter of my blog. I can’t close however without saying BBVD rocks and Colonial Williamsburg has great gardens!