Thursday, June 28, 2012

RFC Visits Bearer Farms

The RFC had the absolute pleasure of visiting Cy Bearer on his farm in Louisa County. I'm sure you have all seen, and hopefully tasted, Cy's local honey before. You can find it pretty easily at area markets including Whole Foods and Ellwood Thompson's. 
We met Cy on the farm on a sunny Saturday afternoon, after a few wrong turns we found his decidedly nondescript drive off of a winding country road not too far from 64W in Louisa County. Cy owns a near twenty acre farm and is proud to call himself a "home owner" to a beautiful historic ruin on the property, originally one of the oldest farm houses in the county. He keeps a number of hives here on this property and also maintains hives in other rural locations as well as many urban hives in the city.
As a new beekeeper myself, it was a pleasure to watch Cy open and tend to his hives. He has a real ease with his lady bees and is no doubt a confident and studied beekeeper. Beekeeping is a long tradition in his family. His uncle is also a honey producer and vends his honey locally at South of the James Market.
Listening to Cy talk about his craft is a testament to his success as a beekeeper. He understands the simplicity of allowing the hive to do what it does naturally while also grasping the subtleties of when and how to intervene in their process. He values the meditative process of hive management, and you can sense that he equally reveres the land and the solitude that it gives him.

We had a lovely time touring his property which leads all the way down to the South Anna river. Cy also raises Japanese Maples and figs on his property. And hopes to expand this portion of his business in the future.
 Cy is one of those farmers who has very intentionally designed his life to fit into his work. And he'll readily admit that running this small farm is hard work. Maybe it's his piece of land, maybe it's this guy but something is really working for him. 
“I’ve always known that being outdoors was the secret to being happy. And I’ve learned that actually producing something and then taking it to market is an extremely rewarding way to make a living. Working on parts of things can be unfulfilling.” -Cy Bearer

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Slow Food Happy Hour, Wednesday June 27

I am definitely headed to this on Wednesday!

Freshen Up: A Taste of Summer with Slow Food RVA & Gourmand John Haddad
Wednesday, June 27, 5-7 pm
Anderson Gallery, 907 1/2 West Franklin Street

Happy Hour | Free and open to the public | Celebrate the season, connect with area growers, and learn about Richmond’s diverse food community—all while sampling local produce and cheeses and enjoying the sounds of Richmond’s Indigenous Gourd Orchestra.

Friday, June 22, 2012

A Day For Food (My Manakin Market and so much more)

Please note the "Real Housewives of Goochland Co." tank top that Lisa had made up
Okay,  so we RFC gals have a lot of days where food is the star, but this Saturday was one of the stand outs.  Erin, Casey and I took another day trip... something I highly recommend in general. We met up just about 9:30 in the morning, large coolers loaded with ice packs, and headed out to Goochland to visit the farmer's market.  The only thing is there are now two great markets in Goochland. We landed on our dear friend Lisa Dearden's 'My Manakin Market.'  This was our first trip out to this two year old market.  It's lovely.

We pull into the market surrounded by acres of open fields to see about two dozen folks standing in a huge circle learning to fly fish just to the right of the car .  It was a bit of a sight, and I swear Casey veered just a little to the left to avoid being hooked.  We parked with a long line of cars in the cool grass and wandered under the canopy of several large shade trees.  The vibe here is relaxed fun, very different from the hectic energy of my regular South of the James Market. 

I was dreaming of fresh fruit and to the rescue appeared Agriberry.  The three of us went in on a mixed flat of fruit.  Eight containers for $35 knocks about $1.60 off each, and we mixed blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries for a box full of late spring bounty.    Eggs, tomatoes, some lovely tender green beans, homemade granola, fried eggs served up by Ms. Michele Wright, new potatoes,  and squash all looked delicious.

That's me getting  some crazy hot Jalapenos ( if  only I'd known) and deliciously sweet dark cherry tomatoes
One of our finds on this morning was a vendor selling homemade mustard.  Pete's Mustard Company... The spicy horseradish mustard turned out to be too good to resist. There are different options here than at some of the biggest markets, and the atmosphere is perfect for a Saturday morning and  we all walked away having found what we were looking for as well as a couple of things we didn't even know we needed until we stumbled upon them.  This market also does  a nice job of incorporating some agricultural education... one of Lisa Deardens specialties.  Groundhog crossing signs where everywhere, a few square feet off to one side still had wool bits from a shearing demonstration and Lisa says that last week they had "Sheep Back Ridding" for the little ones!
 In the end, our Saturday involved farmer's market shopping, river walking, the opening up of a couple Bearer Farms bee hives, a perfect cafe' lunch at one of my favorite little spots, a trip to the gelato shop, and a near brush with some shootin'.  You'll hear more on that from Casey.
Arriving  home I was bushed... I think perhaps the Limoncello and Pear Brandy gelatos pushed me over the edge. Still Matt and I headed out to the grocery store for some staples, but once we returned  it was time for some real relaxing.  Dinner was going to have to be simple.  I poured a glass of wine.  Matt broke out a nice beer and we hung out between the patio, grill and open door kitchen while we tossed together dinner.  We made a quick Greek salad, and some butterflied lemon chicken on the grill, with the last of the garlic scapes and some of those whole jalapenos from the market.

Garlic scapes and jalapeno's for the grill
Matt put the jalapenos under the chicken breast and cooked the chicken that way.  The jalapenos were then cooled slightly, de-seeded and sliced, and served atop some crusty bread with goat cheese.  I love jalapenos and Matt loved them prepared this way, but to my surprise these jalapenos were hotter than many other hot peppers I've eaten... I got through two slivers and had to give it up, shoveling plain goat cheese topped bread into my mouth to try and cool the flames in vain...whoosh!!  These guys were hotter than most to start and roasting just spread the most intense oils throughout the pepper I think.  All in all a day full of fun... I can't wait to see what Casey has to say, and for our next day trip adventure!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Stocking the audience at the i.e. Start-up competition!

Hi all,

Just a quick note to let you know that the i.e. competition is tomorrow (Thursday, June 21) and Little House Green Grocery is a finalist!  We would love to see you there, show off what we've got planned.  The event is from CenterStage.  You can register here.  We hear that there will be an audience favorite category too- you know what that means...

We may head over to Pasture between 5 and 6, if we can.  We'd love to see you there for some pre- show appetizers!

Thanks for your continued support!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Grilled Garlic Scapes

This is so easy and delicious it should be a sin. But since garlic is usually reference warding off evil we will go with heavenly.    To make these delicious devils cut scapes (the unopened flower head, and the stalk it's connected to) off the top of your garlic. (You can also find them at farmers markets. ) Drop rinsed scapes into a pot of boiling water for less than one minute to blanch.  Dump into a colander and put into an ice bath. Poor out water, pat the scapes dry... all at once no individual drying stuffs... use the same bowl to toss scapes with olive oil, course salt, and fresh ground black pepper.  Lay out on a sheet of aluminum foil on the grill.  Cook on medium high heat for about 3-5 minutes.  They should be somewhat firm, but tender like perfectly cook asparagus.  All but the very thin strand coming off the top tip of the flower is perfect eating.Eat 'em up!
Grilled garlic scapes with grilled potatoes and grilled chicken

Thursday, June 7, 2012

RFC Visits Merroir at Rappahannock River Oysters

A few of the RFC ladies enjoyed a lovely afternoon at Rappahannock River Oysters tasting room this past weekend. Not hard to find but beautifully hidden, it sits at the end of an unassuming road that looks out over the Rappahannock River. This is a fabulous day trip from Richmond.
We were not at all sure what we'd find on the menu.  They admit to a decidedly low internet presence- you can find only the basics on their facebook page.  Now, I grew up watching my family put away raw oysters by the dozen, but I am a somewhat recent convert to these briny, slimy little guys myself. But it seems you either love them or hate them. To be honest, I was a little nervous to be leading my non-oyster loving friends down a country road that leading to our local oyster mecca. I promptly ordered some raw "Olde Salts" (my personal favorite) and set to work. I think the "when in Rome" mentality started to set in, and after some mild coaxing, a bit of taunting and some old fashioned bravery I may have converted at least one of us that day.

View of the river from Merrior
The company is a legacy dating back to 1899.  Today it is owned and run by Travis and Ryan Croxton, grandsons of the original owners. They have successfully revived the family business and have succeeded in making Bay oysters known not just locally, but with a large, much acclaimed following on the national culinary scene.
Beautiful plate of fresh raw oysters"Olde Salts" 
RRO proudly cultivates and serves only Crassostrea virginica, an oyster native to the Chesapeake Bay. The tasting room offers oysters raw and roasted, as well as fresh steamed shrimp and clams. A lovely sampling of local (and non local) beer and wine, the Rose we ordered paired beautifully with the oysters. And the small plates menu offered seafood along with local meats and produce. We were pleasantly surprised and impressed with their offerings.

Grilling done outside on the patio...nearly table- side.
The RRO primarily produces three types of oysters. 
The original is the Rappahannok River Oyster described as, "Deep cupped and mineral rich, with an understated saltiness that lets the oyster's natural flavor come though, our Rappahannocks offer up a sweet, buttery, full-bodied taste with a refreshingly clean, crisp finish. It's the very same oyster we started growing in 1899."
Second is the Stingray Oyster, "Drawn from the pristine waters of Mobjack Bay, Stingrays are the quintessential Chesapeake Bay oyster: sweet and mildly briny with a clean, crisp finish. Named after the Bay oyster's chief predator, these Stingrays bite back!"
And last, my personal favorite, the Olde Salts, "The truest taste of the ocean, our Olde Salt oyster brings together a bold sea-side brininess with a smooth, clean follow-through. Grown off the coast of Chincoteague (think Misty), our Olde Salt oyster is more than a classic, it’s a legend."
So whether or not I managed to convert the oyster skeptics among us, I think RRO and Merroir make a fabulous day trip. And if you just can't make it to the river you can order online here, or look for them in a local grocery near you! We have also learned that there will be a new Merroir tasting room coming to RVA in September!  Read all about this development here.


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Deja vu....

Last week I let you know about my new adventure, a pocket grocery in Bellevue called Little House Green Grocery.  I even bugged you for a vote in the i.e.* Start- up Competition, a move that helped to  crash the server and halt the voting.  We were in second place!

You guys have been so supportive of this venture- and Jess and I could not be more appreciative.  Your interest is keeping us going!  So, I hope you will be able to be able and willing to summon the enthusiasm you had last week and vote again when the voting resumes today.  Here's the story from the i.e.* headquarters:
The public voting period for the i.e.* Start-Up Competition will be reinstated at 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday, June 5, 2012, on Record high traffic during the initial vote this week overloaded the server so that one-quarter of the 143 contestant entries were unable to capture votes. The new voting period, from June 5th at 9:00 a.m. to June 7th at 11:00 p.m., will serve as a replacement for the initial vote. In the meantime, the site will be migrated to a server with larger capacity.
After the online vote, finalists will be notified and prepped to compete before a panel of judges at an exciting, “American Idol”-style event on June 21st at Richmond CenterStage (competition begins at 7pm; doors open at 6pm). The winner will be announced that evening and will receive a $10,000 cash prize and six months free office space.
The Chamber launched the i.e.* initiative in June 2011 to highlight the Richmond Region’s talented workforce, make cross-industry connections and encourage new innovation and growth. The first of its kind in the area, the Chamber’s i.e.* initiative also produces and partners on programming such as idea salons and shop talks, and is working closely with Governor McDonnell’s office on promoting 2012 as the Year of the Entrepreneur in Virginia.
Look for this logo under the 'Food' section, and vote every 24 hours from Tuesday, June 5 at 9:00 am through Thursday, June 7 at 11:00pm at

Again, many many thanks for your support!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Homemade Dressings- the basics and five recipes

Olive oil, white balsamic, salt, pepper, herbs

Convenience is, well, convenient.  Only sometimes the most convenient thing is not really what you think it is, and sometimes other considerations simply trump this one uber- American criteria. Take dressings for instance.  Pull just about any dressing of the shelf at the grocery store and you find a crazy long list of ingredients, many of them mysterious to most of us. For a bit more money, the dressings kept in the refrigerated section tend to have fewer ingredients including preservatives, and fewer of them are unrecognizable.  But for us, it's all homemade.  (The one exception is a jar of refrigerated ranch dressing I bought for my July Fourth Potato Salad a couple of years ago. ) In under a minute a great tasting balsamic, red wine vinegar, or mustard seed and tarragon dressing can be put together and ready to serve.
Olive Oil and Sherry Vinegar-waiting for balsamic to be added
Homemade dressings can be fun to make, save on glass and plastic, taste great, and are bound to be way better for you.   They can also save you money depending on what dressings you are buying now, how much you tend to actually use up before you have to toss 'em out, and how fancy you get with your ingredients. Having grown up with a family 'fridge that was always jam packed (this cannot be overstated) with dozens of purchased dressings and condiments, I'll attest that homemade dressing can save you some serious space as well.  I also think they can be beautiful.  The photos above are taken just prior to the ingredients being shaken together. 

Olive oil, fresh lemon juice, salt and pepper to go over a salad of romaine, radish, feta, and toasted pumpkin seeds.

Olive oil, vinegar, dried basil, oregano and crushed garlic
All the dressings use some form of acid, be it citrus or vinegar.  We use close to equal portions of oil and vinegar, but about 1/3 acid to oil is best for most dressings and taste buds. Check out two of our favorite oils and vinegars here. Check out Erin's recipe for homemade strawberry vinaigrette here.

As for convenience, all of the above are super fast and easy.  A few of my favorite homemade dressings take as much as 5 minutes to put together, and one needs to sit for ten.  In addition to being absolutely delicious, these slightly more involved dressings are just as handy to have in your back pocket.  Here's are a few that I've posted earlier... my favorite vegetarian CaesarCreamy Basil Dressing, and honey mustard.

The fresh taste, flexibility, simply ingredients, and yes, I'll have to say convenience, of being able to whip up a tasty dressing in no time flat makes this one of the easiest ways to cut preservatives, sugars, and Omega 6 high vegetable seed oils out of your diet.

In addition to all their other culinary uses these items are great to have on hand for many quick, delicious dressings...
Oils: Olive, sesame, grape seed, walnut.
Vinegars: Balsalmic, white balsamic, red wine, orange champagne
Dijon Mustard
Mustard Seed
fresh garlic
powered garlic
Dried Herbs (love Penzey's herbs and spices) , course salt, fresh ground pepper, dried onion
jams, or preserves
Parmesan cheese
pickles or relish