Interesting Find – Rappahannock Oyster Company, Topping, VA

I am always looking for new food ventures and tracking food trends.  Since everywhere you turn, oysters are playing a starring role, I wanted to check out the oyster world.  I have to admit my knowledge was very limited.  All of that changed after my visit to Rappahannock Oyster Company in Topping, VA.  After driving through abundant farm land with brief glimpses of the water we finally approached our destination.  You can’t blink when you get near your next turn on to Lockies Road or you will cruise right past your turn, make a note since that is exactly what I did.  What appears to be a neighborhood street dead-ends into the most beautiful point on the Chesapeake Bay.  With almost a 360 degree view, you have to pinch yourself and wish you had this view to look at each and every day. After taking in the amazing surroundings, I met Anthony Marchetti, Rappannock Chief Operating Officer, who gave me the most incredible look into the world of oyster farming.  I had a very hands on tour from the early stages of an oyster larvae to the dynamics involved in farming oysters and eventually landing on the table of oyster lovers. 

After the incredible tour, we were certainly ready to start tasting oysters.  On site, they have their Merrior Tasting Room, the oyster equivalent of a Napa wine tasting room.  This structure has evolved over the years from a one room office to the most beautiful venue on the water to enjoy spectacular views and fantastic food.  During our tour, we met Pete Woods their resident chef.  After meeting him, he asked what we were interested in having.  I said, anything you would like us to try.  What a taste treat we had.  Our food adventure started with a selection of their oysters.  Rappahannock River Oysters (sweet), Older Salt Oysters (briny), and Stingrays (mild).  I love oysters, but these were hands down the best oysters I have ever had.  I am sure having oysters that have been out of the water less than 24 hours is one reason these were so sensational.  The oysters were followed by two of Pete’s signature dishes, Crab Cake on grilled bread topped with Créole remoulade and “Stuffin Muffin”, oyster stuffing, Edwards’ bacon and peppercorn cream sauce.  The ‘Stuffin Muffin” is his creation from his childhood memories of this mothers after Thanksgiving meals where she would take her leftover oyster stuffing and top it with cream gravy. I can see why it is so popular – just amazing.  We just couldn’t leave until we finished with their S’mores donut.  A thin slice of cake donut topped with ganache and marshmallow.  We washed all of this down with Procesco (on tap) and Tangerine Wheat beer. 

I cannot think of a better way than to spend an afternoon.  If you are anywhere on the East Coast and the 95 corridor, this is one side trip that is definitely worth the trip.  I am already planning my second visit!.

oysters with anthony

On the oyster dock with Anthony Marchetti, Rappahannock Oyster Company, COO

floating bins oysters

Stages of oysters floating in the Chesapeake

eli and patrick oysters

Some of the farm crew, Eli Nichols, Nursery Manager and Patrick Oliver, Chief Farm Officer

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The final product – delicious!

 

 

 

 

 

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Interesting Find – Corndance Tavern, Mishawaka, Indiana

How many times have you taken a road trip to find yourself in the middle of a town that you know nothing about?  Well, it happened to us on a recent road trip and being the foodie I am, I am always looking for a great place to eat.  When checking into our hotel, they graciously gave us a list of local restaurants.  After checking this list carefully, it looked to me to be a list that the hotel used to advertise various local restaurants, many of them large local chain restaurants.  When we are visiting a new town, the last place I want to go is to a large chain restaurant.  As a matter of fact, I don’t frequent large chain restaurants in our own home town.  There are so many more interesting restaurants to find, I avoid those large chains at all costs.

So, back to my restaurant searching.  First stop on the internet, Trip Advisor. This at least gives me a starting point in my search.  Next search, best local restaurants.  After a few searches, I happened to find Midwest Magazines list of best restaurants.  There I found Corndance Tavern in the South Bend area.  Hands down one the best restaurants I have visited in a very long time.  Farm to table and a very creative menu.  Our server, Herman Fritz, was extremely knowledgeable and shared detailed descriptions of the menu which I really appreciated.  Did I also mention they have a wonderful wine cellar. Definitely worth a try if you are in the South Bend area. 

corndance 1

Below are a few of the excellent dishes we tried.

flatbread

Merguez Sausage Flatbread with baba ghanoush spread, crumbled merguez sausage, roasted patty pan squash, charred cherry tomatoes, feta, topped with cucumber salad.

meatloaf

Bison meatloaf, spinach, fontinella cheese, toast points, bourbon shallot demi-glace, grilled caeser salad, crispy shoestring tobacco onions

 

 

 

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Interesting Find – The St. Regis, Washington DC

I had the pleasure of meeting Lance Mion, food and beverage manager for The St. Regis in Washington DC. I had arranged a wine tasting for an upcoming event, we tasted some fantastic wines and learned about the food, menus and food service offers at the DC location. This is definitely a restaurant were I am planning on going in the near future, their dinner menu looks terrific. Lance is a trained chef with many years in the culinary world and now is at the helm of the food and beverage department at this glorious and stately hotel. During our wine tasting we also tried some of their appetizers from their signature restaurant Decanter; everything was just sensational.   The ambiance is beautiful, the food delicious and this Washington DC location is perfect.  If you are in the area and looking for a special place to dine, I highly recommend stopping in.     Remember too, that The St. Regis is known for their Bloody Mary’s, defiantly worth a try.  Below are a few photos I took during our visit.

 

 St Regis 1

Wine tasting in their bar!   What a great way to spend an afternoon.

 

St Regis 2

Delicious!

Panko breaded Maryland crab cake  Homemade cabbage and apple slaw, yuzu pepper aioli

 Sesame crusted yellow fin tuna carpaccio.  Bed of finely sliced fennel & arugula, soy mustard dressing 

Mediterranean trio. Hummus, tapenade & artichokes, garlic oil toasted pita bread

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Interesting Find – Southern Season, Richmond, VA

I was recently invited to Southern Season in Richmond, VA to view their new store.  I previously had visited their Chapel Hill, NC store and was excited to see their newest venture.  My day long experience was a great food adventure.  I was greated by Aaron Brooks, General Manager and the leadership team from the store.  The first stop was a gourmet experience.  We were treated to some of their newest and interesting dishes to try from their restaurant.  From roasted beets with a curried banana foam and elderflower goat cheese, grilled chicken with grilled freese(curly endive) and beet purée, and pork tenderloin with a potato shell, wild mushroom ragu and candied carrots, the food adventure began.  Every bite was a taste experience and one I will not forget soon.  After our tasting, the store tour began.  One thing I learned is Southern Season features small food producers and highlights many local and regional products.  Many of their cheeses are from local farms that produce seasonal cheeses when the dairy cows are grass fed.  Dany Schutte, Southern Season, corporate cheese buyer, was a wealth of knowledge and I learned an enormous amount about various cheeses and brines used in cheese making during her presentation. Then we were off to one of my favorite areas, wine and beer.  Sergio Pinzon, resident wine and beer manager, described how they are closer to a private wine boutique than a large store wine department and you can special-order anything.  Needless to say, I left with a few new bottles of wine and a new friend in the wine industry.  We then headed to the endless shelves of gourmet products, cooking supplies and did I mention the largest assortment of Jelly Belly jelly beans I have ever seen.  One thing not to be missed is their Cooking School, they have classes available for almost any cooking adventure. They did mention that Biscuits 101 is one of their most popular classes. I too think this class looks very interesting -check out this menu featured for this class -Biscuits, Sausage Gravy, Creamy Girls and Plum Rum Jam – sounds like a winner to me!  A few more areas not to miss is their coffee bar that features an oversized Yama cold drip coffee maker and their coffee creations menu, and an all inclusive cookware and gift section.  I am always interested in the newest and greatest in the food industry and Southern Season is hitting the mark in all areas.  Definitely worth a trip.  Check out their website http://www.southernseason.com/our-stores/richmond/ for more store information.

 

ss with aaron

Here I am with Dany Schutte, Cheese Buyer and Aaron Brooks, General Manager

 

 ss chickenss porkss pastries.                                     Delicious food samples

ss cooking school

Southern Season Cooking School

 

 

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Interesting Find – Wausome Wafers

I always love to find new gourmet food products.  Every time I travel or attend food festivals, I am always on the look-out for the next new and greatest food item.  I didn’t have to go far to find one of my favorite new products.  Having a connection to Wisconsin, I found the most fantastic cheese crisps.  These crisps have one ingredient – Wisconsin cheese.  They are gluten free, crispy and delicious.  I always add them to my appetizer trays and they pair well with so many items.  Sliced apples and other fruits, honey, sliced meats and even dipped in chocolate.  Perfect with a glass of wine, mug of cold beer or a refreshing glass of lemonade.  Check out their website http://wausome.com/ – it is a great read and very informative.  I definitely suggest you try these outstanding cheese crisps!

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Interesting Find/Catoctin Creek Distilling Company and Whisky Glazed Mushrooms

Recently, we had the opportunity to visit Catoctin Creek Distilling Company in Purcellville, VA.  I had read about the distillery and was interested in learning more about their products.  We joined in one of their bottling sessions where you help bottle their award winning Roundstone Rye Whiskey.  We are still commenting on how much we learned during this session and what a great experience it was.  After the bottling session was over, we then had a tasting session which was also delightful.  We had the opportunity to meet Scott and Becky, the owners, and heard their story of how they became involved in the distilling business.  We came home with two bottles of Roundstone Rye that we helped bottle.  You all know that I am always experimenting with ingredients and trying to develop new recipes using new ingredients.  With two New York Strip steaks in the refrigerator, I thought I would make Whiskey Glazed Mushrooms to serve with our steaks.  I am glad I did, try these the next time you are grilling a steak – the perfect addition.   Check out their website catoctincreekdistilling.com/  if you are ever in the Purcellville, VA area, I highly recommend a visit.

carol with scott

whiskey glazed mushrooms

 

Whiskey Glazed Mushrooms
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Ingredients
  1. 1 tablespoons butter
  2. 1 clove garlic, minced
  3. 1 small onion, diced
  4. 8 oz. Baby Bella mushrooms
  5. 1 teaspoon Herbs de Provence
  6. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  7. 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  8. 2 tablespoons rye whiskey
Instructions
  1. Melt butter in sauce pan over medium heat. Add and saute onion until transparent. Add garlic, mushrooms, salt, pepper and Herbs de Provence. Reduce heat and cook, approx. 20 minutes, stirring frequently until mushrooms are cooked and liquid is reduced. Slowly add whiskey and continue cooking over low heat for 5 minutes. Serve over grilled meats.
http://apassionforentertaining.com/
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Interesting Find – The Essential Table

I frequently attend food festivals, gourmet stores, emporiums and specialty food stores searching for interesting products that I can use in my recipes.  This past weekend, I attended the Vintage Virginia Food and Wine Festival.  I came across a new product that I am looking forward to using in upcoming recipes. Bethany and Beth the purveyors have developed an interesting assortment of jams.  All are delicious (yes, I tasted them all).  Their recipes are unique and not typical store varieties.  Check out their website, I think you will agree these are ones to try.  Check back, I will be featuring recipes using their jams.  Here is their website The Essential Table, I think you too will enjoy their delicious products.

essential table jams

carol at essential table

 

 

 

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Bigelow Hand Wash – An Interesting Find

Who would think that hand wash would become a topic of conversation.  This hand wash smells so sensational that your guests will comment every time they use it.  I have not seen this hand wash on any local shelves but a good friend of mine purchased a bottle for me online from their New York City store.  Bigelow Co. is the oldest apothecary in the US.  Here is their website, I just love the rosemary mint hand wash.

http://www.bigelowchemists.com/search?q=co+bigelow+rosemary+mint

 

rosemary hand soap

 

 

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Interesting Find – Sydney Hale Candles

Every once is awhile you come across a product that looks interesting.  That is exactly what I did over the holidays.  I was intrigued when I saw natural soy candles from a company located here in Virginia.  I also noted that 10% of their sales is donated to animal rescue.  I just had to purchase a candle; I am very happy I did.  The two wick soy candle I purchased burns beautifully and the scent is perfect.  Not overpowering as some fragrance candles are, these candles burn for approximately 50 hours and I think I am hooked.  I highly recommend these candles, check out their website.  I see more Sydney Hale candles in my future!   

http://sydneyhaleco.com

 

Sydney HALE CANDLE

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