eat like a burg: downtown dinner party.

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For fifteen years, Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance has been working to restore vitality to our history-rich downtown and turn it into the economic and social center it used to be. Millions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of volunteer hours later, Harrisonburg residents and visitors can enjoy living, working, playing, eating, shopping, and beer-ing in buildings and streets that were largely empty when I first moved here 25 years ago.

A Great American Main Street Award recipient, Harrisonburg can show other localities a thing or two about challenging suburbia and its glut of corporate-owned chain businesses and getting money back in the local coffers.

One way HDR has paid for all these improvements is through fundraisers. To be honest, that word — fundraiser — makes me cringe a bit. No one likes to ask others for money. No one likes being asked. HDR has a knack for raising money from generous folks who also get something great in return at events like Valley Fourth, the Friendly City Fortune, Skeleton Fest, Rocktown Beer and Music Festival, Renaissance Night, and more. Brandy and I got to attend the newest event — the Downtown Dinner Party — and it did not disappoint. Even the Turner Pavilion put on its fancy duds — long elegant drapes, plants and floral arrangements (from Fine Earth Landscaping and The Wishing Well), and string after whimsical string of twinkle lights. I heard many people refer to the evening as “enchanted” and “fairytale” and “magical.” Yes, the end result might have been magical. But the months of organizing this event involved no wands or potions — just innovation, grit, and sheer will.

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It started as a crazy idea, pitched to HDR by Jen Sodikoff and Kirsten Moore of Sub Rosa Supper Club. If you’re not familiar with Sub Rosa, it’s a secret supper club that (roughly once a month) hosts fantastic gourmet dinner parties for 24 people. Guests pay a flat fee, find out only the day before where the dinner party will be, and have no idea who else will be there until they arrive. Then they gobble up a five- to seven-course upscale meal, washed down with cocktails and wine and coffee. Bellies are filled, friendships are formed, and a professional photographer captures it all. Got it? Now multiply what I just described by twelve. (And a half.)

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Yep. Kirsten and Jen, over the course of several months, recruited and met with fifteen local restaurants to coordinate dinner for 300 people. Kirsten, you may or may not know, is behind The Hub Coworking space which won the Virginia Main Street Best Business award a couple years ago. Before that she owned and operated the food tour business Rocktown Bites and catering outfit Taste. Jen’s immense management, marketing, and event planning experience (she’s currently the Revenue and Marketing Manager at the brand new Hotel Madison) and hardcore can’t-NOT-do work ethic made this new endeavor a deliciously accomplishable challenge for them both.

Okay, let’s get to the food because GOOD GAWD I want to relive it!

Some of the restaurants represented that evening are new to Harrisonburg. Urgie’s Cheesesteaks, who have basically taken over Harrisonburg’s cheesesteak game, served up their authentic Philly Cheesesteaks with onions, peppers, mushrooms, cherry peppers, pepperoni, Griffin’s hot sauce, American cheese, provolone cheese, and — spoiler alert — Cheez Whiz. Hotel Madison chefs Michael Collins and Brian Bogan offered smoked + sous vide pork belly, pickled foraged ramps, with a damson plum gastrique, charred ramp bbq, and popped sorghum berries. Is your mouth watering yet?

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Chef Dilli Dangi of Taj of India brought warmth and comfort with his Chicken Malabar — chicken with coconut cream, Indian spices, onion, and garlic, served with rice and a clay oven-baked garlic naan. If you haven’t had their lunch buffet yet, gimme a call and I’ll join you. And new to Harrisonburg’s bakery scene is Bittersweet Bakery. Pastry Chefs Erica Ray and Alicia Barger presented a beautiful and delicious Ginger Blue-Barb, a ginger cremeux with blue-barb compote, white chocolate and a blueberry crunch. And Shirley’s Gourmet Popcorn was not going to miss this party! They brought their Cheddar Pretzel Ale, Polar Pop, and Afterburner varieties, made with non-GMO kernels from Green Acres Farm in Dayton. Whoever said you shouldn’t snack before, or through, dinner obviously hasn’t tried Shirley’s.

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It was fun to see whether Harrisonburg’s “old dogs” had any new tricks. Turns out they did! Matthew Clancy and William Bleeker of Clementine/Ruby’s Arcade showed up with an impressive five-spice beef brisket with shiitake mushroom slaw, wasabi aioli (I mean, daaaaang), sticky rice, chili gastrique, and shaved nori, served with a frisee, citrus, and endive salad with toasted almonds and goat cheese. Somehow, all these things worked together in an exceptionally delicious way. I ran into Kevin Gibson at that table and I literally saw him drool. Straight out of his mouth. Bella Luna’s chef Jacoby Dinges pulled out a much simpler but equally delicious spiced lamb hand pie that was the crispiest, butteriest thing ever, filled with succulent spiced lamb, currants, spinach, and feta.

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It was great to see the Friendly City Food Co-op in the house — Melissa Lapp prepared a light and refreshing radish and quinoa salad with mint, cherry tomatoes, and feta cheese. In addition to usual grocery store items (which, by the way, come from more than 150 local vendors), FCFC offers bulk items like dry beans and spices AND a fantastic deli and hot bar where you can get a surprisingly fresh and delicious lunch.

When I saw Thom Metroka of The Artful Dodger serving up artisanal French toast, I was first a little surprised since this was a “dinner” party… but good grief, how many of us have been at the Dodger late enough that it was practically time for breakfast?? So it made sense. And it was absolutely dinner-worthy: fresh hearth bread with a fruit compote, whiskey maple syrup, whipped cream, and nuts. On a side note, the hearth bread came from Bella Luna. I love to see these supportive collaborations among local restaurants.

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Chef Cameron Grant of Union Station Restaurant & Bar brought his Louisiana roots to the dinner party with his alligator sauce piquant containing alligator tale and smoked andouille sausage, highlighted by tomatoes, green pepper, onion, and celery, and served over rice, a perfect warm-up when the sun was getting lower and the wind was growing cooler. Old dog Jacktown (Billy Jack’s/Jack Brown’s) REALLY stepped out of its usual game with Chef Mike Sabin’s Jacktown Poke, a beautiful and flavorful dish featuring Hawaiian big eye tuna, macadamia nuts, hijiki, avocado, shoyu, and sesame oil. Not sure they’ll add this dish on their regular menu, but I predict it would be a big hit. Maybe they can make it an occasional special and Aaron can wear his Captain Stubing outfit again.

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Even Harrisonburg classic Tim Richardson of Pulp Organic Acai Bowls and Smoothies whipped out a new sensation: the Vegan Acai Cheesecake, with a date and walnut crust (and perfect cheesecake-to-crust ratio, I might add), cashew and coconut milk, mixed berry sauce, and cacao nibs. Amanda Cannon, owner of one of my fave’s Food.Bar.Food, also brought dessert: an Irish chocolate milkshake make with Kline’s ice cream. Kline’s uses an old-school continuous freeze method that results in an exceptionally smooth and creamy product, perfect for blending into a milkshake. And Kline’s makes their ice cream every single morning so it’s as fresh as it can get. The “Irish” part of the milkshake was housemade Irish cream. All the cocktails being passed around that evening also came from Food.Bar.Food: a sparkling rose with roasted rhubarb-strawberry sorbet, a hibiscus ginger greyhound, and an Indochine soda mocktail with lemon, ginger, and Thai basil syrup.

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And rounding out the restaurant offerings was Chef Isaac Coles of Jimmy Madison’s Southern Kitchen and Whiskey Bar, serving his Hand-Pulled Mozz Caprese with whole wheat focaccia, perfectly sweet-tart rhubarb jam, Turner country ham, and basil grown right on the roof!

It’s worth noting that all of these restaurants and chefs make every effort to use ingredients that are local, fresh, and high quality. That night, we ate products from 18 local or very nearby producers, including Seven Hills Food, Golden Angels Apiary, Edgewood Farm, Wayside Produce, Season’s Bounty Farm, Green Haven Farm, Main Street Farmstead, Turner Ham House, Woods Edge Farm, Wade’s Mill, Autumn Olive Farms, Virginia Vinegar Works, Hickory Hill Farm, Radical Roots Farm, North Mountain Produce, Mt. Crawford Creamery, Virginia Distillery, and Green Acres Farm.

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Also in the house were Bluestone Vineyard serving a chardonnay, a vidal blanc, and their 2015 Market and Main, Old Hill Cider pouring Yesteryear, four Harrisonburg breweries (Pale Fire, Restless Moons, Brothers Craft Brewing, and Three Notch’d), and coffee drinks from Black Sheep, Broad Porch Coffee, and Shenandoah Joe. As I milled about, eating and drinking, it struck me that this is like, you know, having a friendly potluck dinner at your house. Everyone brings something to share.  Except in this case, all your friends are professional chefs with access to amazing ingredients, a wealth of knowledge and experience, and exceptional talent. Miles and miles and miles beyond a crockpot of meatballs, y’all.

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I was so distracted by all the tastes and smells surrounding me that I didn’t notice the cute little photo booth at first. The Rosy Co. mobile photo booth is a bright red 1968 Shasta Lo-Flyte travel trailer outfitted with a camera, a bunch of props, and a printer. All night long, guests of the dinner party enjoyed getting in that thing and being silly, sexy, or serious and were thrilled when they got to take their photos with them for free! You can rent this adorable vintage photo booth for your event, too. It’s great for outdoor events and the rental fee includes free prints for everyone. If your event is indoors, you can opt for the open air photo booth, which can accommodate larger groups than the trailer.

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The musical stylings of Ryan Clark provided the soundtrack for the evening. While everyone was eating, his original piano compositions filled the pavilion, punctuated by laughter and conversation and excitement.

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You know, this evening IS starting to sound magical, but we can’t forget the reasons for this event: to celebrate HDR’s 15th anniversary AND to raise funds for their continued efforts. It was time for the auction, hosted by auctioneer John Puffenbarger. Each announcement of an auction item brought hoots and cheers from the crowd — seriously some of the most unique auction items I’ve ever seen, and ALL LOCAL. Local items made by local people being used to raise money for local initiatives. It’s a new level of local. It’s, like, meta-local. Auction items included a beer-brewing session from the Friendly Fermenter where you get to leave with your own unique beer accented by a custom label created by Matt Leech. Pottery sensei Kassy Newman offered a 25-piece pottery set plus six private lessons for four people!! If you haven’t seen her work, you must.

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Mossy Creek Fly Fishing and Jacktown owner Aaron Ludwig donated a full-day fishing trip for two, dinner at Jacktown, and a free night in the all-new Jacktown loft. AND there’s beer in the fridge waiting for you. !!! How about a private Off the Eaten Path Ride and Dinner for ten? This bike-to-farm-to-table event was generously provided by Dusty Burchnall. Next up, an item from event co-planner Kirsten Moore, Amy Nesbit, and Taste catering — a day enjoying the Shenandoah River followed by a low country shrimp boil and gourmet s’mores around the firepit. Other outdoor items included a farm-to-table dinner for twelve at Second Mountain Farm accompanied by live music from The Walking Roots Band, or a 3-hour plein air painting lesson from local artist Erin Murray at Showalter’s Orchard, plus a French picnic provided by Heritage Bakery and Cafe.

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Not feeling so rugged? Hotel Madison and the Arts Council teamed up to donate a private 8-person dinner prepared by chefs Collins and Bogan at the Smith House Gallery with music by Mark Whetzel. The Romantic Downtown Getaway, provided by Hugo Kohl, Local Chop & Grill House, and the Joshua Wilton House, starts with AN ACTUAL PIECE OF JEWELRY! Put on your new sterling silver and blue sapphire bracelet and take your hungry self + 1 to the Chop House for a fantastic dinner, followed by a night at our beloved Joshua Wilton House. What a treat!! Rounding out the auction items was something that got all the Dukes in the crowd pumped up — twelve football tickets to the season opener in September, parking passes for tailgating, and Urgie’s Cheesesteaks catering just for you!

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After the auction, Ryan Clark stood up from the piano and put on his DJ-ing hat, spinning vinyl while we all spun on the dance floor. Sometimes, there are no words.

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Things were winding down. Everyone was feeling exhilarated and exhausted and joyful and a bit sweaty. Maybe Ryan felt we were all too hepped up to get any sleep that night, or maybe he thought we’d never leave if the music kept playing, or maybe he was just inspired by the energy in that moment, but his piano serenade at the end of the night was pretty magical. Everyone fell silent and just listened, buzzing with connection.

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What the HDR team and the Sub Rosa Supper Club were able to create using only locally- available resources was not “magical.” It was not lucky or superhuman or miraculous or even unbelievable. It was innovative. It was intelligent, creative, intentional, and inspired. It was meticulously planned and organized by a group of smart, dedicated individuals willing to commit to a large project and donate their time and goods and services to their community.

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Innovation is not new to Harrisonburg. I remember when Calhoun’s first opened. I thought, “Holy cow, we have a BEER FACTORY right downtown!” It made Harrisonburg unique. And since then, lots of folks have introduced all kinds of innovative ideas, products, services, and experiences. Like Harrisonburg’s new Pedicab. New shopping experiences at Agora Downtown Market and Bring Your Own. New art experiences like Art Lotto and the Super Gr8 Film Festival. New community initiatives like the Northend Greenway and improved bike lanes. I can buy beer at a movie theater, and there’s a living, breathing permaculture community on the north end of town, Vine & Fig. All because people had an idea and worked hard to make it happen.

If you missed the Downtown Dinner and would like to contribute to the Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance, you can do so in multiple ways. You can purchase Downtown Dollars — gift certificates that can be redeemed at many downtown locations. Keep your dollars local! You can also by a Friendly City Fortune raffle ticket — $100 buys you a chance at winning cash, a vehicle, a vacation, a shopping spree, and more! Or you can just click the big ol’ Donate button and give what you can!

The next HDR event is Valley Fourth. See y’all there!

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Copyright © 2012-18 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Words by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

 

a little rough and ready: the shack.

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When you arrive at The Shack on Coalter Street in Staunton, please do not expect it to be something else.

It is a shack.

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It was a very windy day.

It sits somehow level on a hilly street, its numerous layers of paint no doubt cutting in on its already scant square footage. Mismatched light fixtures illuminate mismatched chairs, and no one is fooled by that bright red rug — it does not hide the haggard concrete floor.

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What you see is what you get at The Shack, with no coy pretenses or disguises.

Take the artwork: real, actual photos of the chef’s (Ian) wife’s (Leslie) grandmother’s (Tissy) family. These faded, haphazardly hung, mostly out-of-focus runes of memory will carry you to a previous reality: one of corded phones and Corning cornflower coffee percolators and hideous plaid pants I think everyone my age was forced to wear at some point. Grandmother Tissy’s home in Swope, Virginia, was nicknamed “the shack,” and this modern iteration reflects all that is real and true about her life and her Southern and Appalachian cooking.

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What you see on the menu, and on your plate, is what you get, too — no hidden chemical warfare or unpronounceable ingredients that’ll blow holes in your coronary artery or cause a processed-food hangover the next day. Despite the size of the building (room for roughly 26, not including the patio space), the menu is by no means skimpy or lacking variety. And it changes frequently, sometimes day to day, depending on the availability of local ingredients and what’s naturally in season, which Chef Boden makes a point of integrating into the eclectic menu. Brandy and I ordered four items (two starters and two main dishes) and shared everything. First up: Creamed Ramps on Toast with lardo and a fried egg. Ramps are a variety of wild onion/wild leek that have an oniony and garlicky flavor and are used widely in Appalachian cooking. Such a simple recipe… but all the ingredients were so fresh that the flavors shouted on full blast.

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For our second appetizer, we didn’t know what to choose, so we asked them to bring us the prettiest one, lol. Out came the Salmon Gravlox with barbecue beets, benne seeds, goat’s milk yogurt, mandarinquat, trout roe, and dill. It was definitely pretty, as you can see, but the taste! Those flavors! The dill contrasting with the mandarinquat, the creaminess of the yogurt with the tender salmon! And the barbecue beets —  what the heck? The beets are smoked and then dehydrated and chopped into little bits. Sort of a beet jerky. Sooooo good.

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For main dishes, we had to try the burger, topped with cheddar, schmaltz roasted onions, bacon, and black garlic mayo. The Shack gets its beef from a co-op, and this particular grass-fed, black angus beef came from Monrovia Farm in Westmoreland County. The Shack cuts and grinds all its meat on the premises. Our burger arrived in a rectangular metal tray next to a giant heap of fries and it was gone in a flash.

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The other entree we chose was the Monkfish Schnitzel with soft boiled egg, arugula, mandarinquat, and lime pickle aioli. Honestly, this was one of the most delicious things I’ve ever eaten. Firm texture but not tough. Perfect ratio of breading to fish. Crispy without being greasy or dry. And that freaking lime pickle aioil — I want it on everything now.

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At this point we were thanking our lucky stars we were wearing things that were high waisted or just shapeless. No room for dessert, unfortunately, but that Apple Sorghum Bourbon Fry Pie with thyme custard was damn tempting.

To give you an idea of the variety available at The Shack, the rest of the menu included Fried Mortadella Sandwiches, Country Pork Cracklin’, Chestnut Spaghetti, Squid Ink Rigatoni, Southern Fried Quail, Wild Blue Channel Catfish, and several other items. They offer 30 (!) varieties of wine and cider, including the Ferreira Late Bottled Vintage Porto that was DELISH, and five beers from Full Steam, Alewerks, Champion, and Port City. All in that teeny tiny shack and that tight space of a kitchen.

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On your way out, you can snag some candy, stored in old Cafe Du Monde coffee cans, a Shack tee shirt, or a sticker. Chef Boden also sells two varieties of homemade southern-cuisine inspired Sorghum sauces. The Sorghum BBQ sauce is a mustard-based sauce with a kick, and the Sorghum Hot Sauce will heat up whatever you’re eating with serrano and ghost peppers! You can order these online, too, and soon, Black Sheep Coffee in downtown Harrisonburg now sells both of these sauces!

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So, here’s your to-do list.
1. Get out your planner and choose a date to go to The Shack.
2. Visit their web site to make a reservation. You can also call them.
3. Put on some loose-fitting clothes and go stuff your face.
4. Bring some sauce home with you!

The Shack is open Wednesday through Saturday 5 – 9pm and Sunday 10:30 – 2.

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Copyright © 2012-18 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Words by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

 

underground society: the friendly fermenter.

burgIMG_3222I remember my dad’s basement fondly. On one side, his workshop. I remember spinning the pin on the vise clamp — open, shut… open, shut. Sometimes with a Barbie perilously squished inside. Other times holding a piece of wood Daddy asked me to sand for probably no purpose at all. All his screwdrivers and hammers and wrenches hung on hooks, arranged neatly in rows by size, with every square inch of space on the pegboard used to its maximum potential. I remember little olive or pimento jars of nails and screws and pins and such. I remember a lot of sawdust.

On the other side of the basement sat a ping pong table and a sofa, flanked by boxes of Christmas decorations, outgrown clothing, National Geographic magazines, and mementos. Mom and Dad would hold neighborhood cocktail parties and inevitably, the party would migrate to the basement, as parties are wont to do. Unfortunately I was still little when we moved from that house and I never had the distinct pleasure of “drinking in Dad’s basement,” but I’m sure he threw back a few.

The Friendly Fermenter, Harrisonburg’s first brew-on-site brew shop and nanobrewery, feels like your dad’s basement and also a little like Cheers — you can see people’s feet through the window as they traipse down the stairs and into the taproom. A large L-shaped bar with TVs and big barrel tables, made by owner Shawn and his dad, fill the space, with shelves on the side holding the brewing supplies: beakers and tubes and thermometers, scales and long-ass spoons and all the ingredients you could need. Staring at all that science lab stuff was intimidating, but then I found out that The Friendly Fermenter offers a variety of classes and on-site brewing sessions to help demystify brewing for the average Joe or Jane. In the on-site brewing workshops, participants leave with five gallons of beer they’ve brewed themselves!

burgIMG_3253burgIMG_3225burgIMG_3224The Friendly Fermenter uses a one-barrel brewing system which produces 2 – 4 kegs at a time. For this reason, their selection changes frequently. On the day Brandy and I were there, they offered seven beers. We ordered a flight and tried them all. First was The McGary, an Irish Stout. It’s your classic smooth stout with an ample head and full flavor. I admit I was not looking forward to the next beer, the Fudge N Beer Choco PB Porter, simply because I’m not a fan of what I call “dessert beers.” They’re just so sweet. But this one possessed a decadent richness without excessive sweetness. It still tasted like beer. GOOD beer.

burgIMG_3237burgIMG_3239The Woof! Russet IPA was more malty than other IPAs if that’s the end of the IPA spectrum you enjoy, unlike the Waning Light APA which to me seemed hoppier. Both were fantastic.

Next was Lily of the Valley — an Irish blonde named after Shawn’s daughter, with a grassy, earthy flavor, followed by Brehfuss Blonde Coffee Stout. Yes, a blonde coffee stout. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I looked at the glass — how is this sunny light thing a STOUT?! I also couldn’t believe my nose — when I smelled it, it smelled like a hot steaming cup of coffee. Or as Brandy put it, “like a holiday kitchen.” That holiday feel might come from the homemade vanilla extract incorporated into this brew. Brehfuss inspired a short respite from the flight during which we theorized about how extracts are even made, and we imagined desperate 1950s housewives boozing it up on high-price vanilla extract when the cooking sherry was all gone. The flight rounded out with The Bee’s Knees Honey DIPA, a flavorful yet mild beer with a light sweetness, supple like a bee’s knees might be.

burgIMG_3259burgIMG_3241In addition to the classes and supplies and delicious beers, The Friendly Fermenter hosts live music pretty much every Friday and Saturday, including The Lamp Man on April 5, Damn Four on April 6, and Crop Circle Conspiracy on April 7. If you were planning on cleaning out your own basement that weekend, don’t bother. You’ll find all you need at this one.

The Friendly Fermenter is located at 20 S Mason St, Suite B10 (they share the building with Lafah Cafe) and are open Monday 5 – 7pm, Tuesday and Wednesday noon – 9pm, Thursday – Saturday noon – 11pm, and Sunday 12:30 – 8pm.

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Copyright © 2012-18 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Words by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

friendly (city) TACOver: magnolia’s tacos and tequila.

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‘Twas the day after Christmas and all through my body, I wanted tacos tacos tacos. Turns out Brandy had a hankering, too, so we headed on down to one of Harrisonburg’s many awesome taco joints — Magnolia’s Tacos and Tequila.

Despite my hunger and excitement, I was a wee bit nervous. The week before Thanksgiving, while eating (ugh, I am so dumb sometimes), I knocked a freaking tooth loose. One of the itty-bitty bottom front ones. I’ve never had a dental procedure before, other than cleaning, so I was instantly terrified. The dentist determined that the tooth was not broken, but he wasn’t sure if it would tighten up on its own. We’d have to “give it time.” And if it would not tighten up on its own, he was not sure the little ridge of bone on my lower jaw was wide enough to drill into. WHAT. So if this thing didn’t tighten up, I’d be supergluing a Tic Tac in its place. Okay. Okay.

Thankfully, the tooth did tighten up (it’s still healing, really), and I got the green light to use my lower teeth to eat again. Which meant, these tacos would be the first thing I’d sink my teeth into in more than a month. Well, actually, the chicken nachos.

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Magnolia’s has a fantastic happy hour: $3 Chicken Nachos, $3 Drafts, and $3 Bartender’s Special from 2 – 7pm Monday through Friday, plus rotating daily specials. I cannot tell you how amazing it was to bite into crunchy, cheesy, spicy nachos after a month of eating crap like apple sauce. Brandy had a similar reaction and there was absolutely nothing wrong with her mouth. Big portion, all the ingredients evenly distributed… no weird skin of cheese on the very top and a big pile of plain chips underneath. We got a little of everything in every bite.

This day happened to be a Tuesday, which I think we all know is Taco Tuesday! It was like Christmas all over again. Magnolia’s offers any of their tacos for $2.50 (normally $3.25 each) with no restrictions. We ordered the Masa Crusted Shrimp with lime slaw and poblano avocado ranch; the Kelty, which is roasted sweet potatoes, lime agave nectar, black beans, sweet corn, and cilantro; and Fish Tacos, made with guajillo black pepper tilapia, red cabbage, mango pico, and poblano avocado ranch. I won’t tell you how many we ordered, but we ate every last bite and could barely move afterwards. In addition to the traditional carne asada and pork tacos, they also offer tacos with eggs, short ribs, and blackened chicken.

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Once mobile, we moved downstairs to sit at the bar. Seventy-eight bottles of tequila and one Scottish bartender greeted us, smiling. After perusing the impressive bar menu, we ordered jalapeno cucumber margaritas and Mexican mules. You could also choose mango, raspberry, coconut, organic lime, or strawberry margaritas, or other creative cocktails like the Tequila Mockingbird. All made, of course, with the tequila of your choosing. Last but not least, they offer tequila flights featuring many distilleries: Patron, Don Julio, 1800, Cabo Wabo, Lunazul, El Jimador, Casamigos, Herradura, and Tres Agaves, to name a few.

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So guess what tomorrow is? Taco Tuesday! Magnolia’s will be ready for ya!

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Copyright © 2012-18 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Words by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

destination celebration: arts council progressive party 2017.

Copy of burgSMALL_Progressive_brandy_somers10It’s always a good sign when there’s crusted food on my notebook.

When deciding what to wear for the 6th Annual Progressive Party hosted by the Arts Council of the Valley, I made sure I wore something roomy and with pockets. Room for eating everything in sight, and pockets because everyone needs pockets, and they should not be excluded from cocktail attire. 

Upon our arrival at The Columns at Six Penny Farm, Brandy, Austin, and I were greeted on the patio and handed a cocktail, a program of events, and a bid number. The cocktail was just what this warm, humid day required: the “Art Splash,” compliments of The Golden Pony, featured vodka, raspberry liqueur, sour mix and soda, with a cherry on top. Got Strings, a three-piece strings ensemble, played softly under the portico. I took this as a good omen and couldn’t wait to see what the evening would hold. The view from Six Penny Farm of Massanutten, stippled in intermittent sunshine, was a masterpiece of a backdrop for the evening. Occasionally the peak disappeared behind a blur, and we wondered, “Is that rain?” Nope, nope, it’s just haze. “Are those raindrops I just felt on my arm?” Nope, nope, it’s just sweat. Sweat and haze. We’re going with that.

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And before we had to find out if it was indeed rain, we progressed inside the building for the second stop on this Destination Celebration!

The Annual Progressive Party, the Arts Council’s biggest fundraiser of the year, celebrates and supports the success and continued growth of the arts in our community. Proceeds allow  ACV to continue to provide First Friday art exhibits at more than 30 local venues, culturally and artistically important films and performances in the Court Square Theater, and grant money for future art endeavors.

Inside, an impressive variety of beer (thank you, Midtowne Bottle Shop!) and wine (thank you, Brix and Columns Vineyard!) lined the bar while people sipped and mingled. When the doors to the ballroom opened, revealing table after table of freshly prepared, steaming, aromatic food from eight (EIGHT!!) local restaurants, it was like Bob Barker opened the doors to the Showcase Showdown. People clapped, people shrieked (okay, maybe that was me), people gasped and gawked and drooled.

Copy of burgSMALL_Progressive_brandy_somers44Copy of burgSMALL_Progressive_brandy_somers41And then we ate. And ate. We ate all of it. We ate from A Bowl of Good, Black Forest German Restaurant, and Cafe 33. We devoured Joshua Wilton House, Oriental Cafe, and Taj of India. We gorged on Paella Perfecta and we topped it off with Nathy’s Cakes & Fine Pastries. My dress held up just fine, thank you.

While we ate, we were treated to performances by the Harrisonburg Dance Cooperative and JMU’s The Madison Project. Golly, so much talent!

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The third stop of the evening was a live auction of several gorgeous pieces of artwork and three art packages, including a case of wine from Brix and Columns Vineyard, an Art Party for 10 with Laura Thompson at Larkin Arts, and a D.C. Art Excursion! Artists who graciously participated in the auction include Denise Kanter Allen, Jennifer Lockard Connerley, Mia LaBerge, Nadia Louderback, Allison Nickens, Morgan Fink Paixao, John Rose, and Bruce Rosenwasser. Several people went home with a memento from the evening that they’ll enjoy for a lifetime!

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Copy of burgSMALL_Progressive_brandy_somers94The last stop on the journey was DANCING! DJ Finks turned it up, everybody got down, and these photos say the rest!


Copy of burgSMALL_Progressive_brandy_somers89Copy of burgSMALL_Progressive_brandy_somers86Copy of burgSMALL_Progressive_brandy_somers84Copy of burgSMALL_Progressive_brandy_somers82Copy of burgSMALL_Progressive_brandy_somers72Copy of burgSMALL_Progressive_brandy_somers66The Arts Council of the Valley would like to thank their Progressive Party sponsors. The list is LONG. Without continued support from caring businesses and individuals,  art tends to disappear from communities. I am so grateful to live in a place where art is alive and well.

Food Sponsors
Louise & Alden Hostetter
Don Albright & Earlynn Miller
Diane & David Ehrenpreis
Patricia Kidd
Laura & Paul Riner
Emily McCarty
Joanne & Alexander Gabbin
Susan & Bill Cale
Union Bank & Trust

Party Sponsors
Kathy Moran Wealth Group
The Community Foundation
Graves • Light Wealth Management Group
E&M Auto Paint and Supply Co.
JMU College of Visual and Performing Arts
Association of Property Management Services, LLC
Blue Ridge Architects
Blue Ridge Bank
Blue Ridge Community College
Brown & Co. Hair Design
Hess Financial
James McHone Jewelry
LD&B Insurance and Financial Services
The Myrias Group
Summit Community Bank
Bia Events & Decorating
The Columns at Six Penny Farm
The Daily News Record
Garrison Press
Joshua Wilton House
Larkin Arts

Event Sponsors
Larry and Kathy Whitten and the Community Foundation
Riner Rentals
Paul Somers and The Golden Pony
Union Bank & Trust
Eugene Stoltzfus Architects

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Copyright © 2012-17 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Words by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

a hop and a skip: swover creek farms and brewery.

burgimg_7371I was excited enough about seeing a real life chainsaw artist and drinking some new beer. I totally didn’t anticipate the beauty of the drive.

If you leave my house in Timberville and head north on 42, you’ll drive over a high ridge — a narrow ribbon with rolling farmland falling away on both sides. The naked trees of winter are no longer a visual barrier to the golden mountains in the distance, and the wind howls around your car. Onward through Forestville, Getz Corner, and Hudson Crossroads, you’ll see centuries-old farmhouses, barns, and buildings that in the suburbs would translate into “dilapidated.” Here, though, in this rocky and imperfect terrain, they are rustic, if not downright beautiful. It’s like driving through the landscape of history itself. There is something comforting about traveling over that ancient bedrock, so heavy, solid, and rooted to the earth.

When you get to Conicville, you’re close. Swover Creek Farms and Brewery, officially located in Edinburg, feels like a combination of everything outdoorsy: a little bit summer camp, a little bit ski lodge, a little bit cabin on the river, a little bit grandpa’s farm. Plus a chainsaw artist. I’ll get to that in a minute.

Lynn and Dave St. Clair started Swover Creek Farms in 1998. In 2011, the farm began producing sausages, and little by little, yet with consistent progress, beer came along — starting with the planting of hops in 2013, the nano-brewery in the old tractor garage in 2014, and then in 2015 moving into the current brewery building with a 3.5 barrel brew system. In fact, up until 2014, the land where the brewery now sits was mostly land and cows.

burgimg_7458When you arrive, you might think you’re at someone’s private residence, because that’s how it looks. You’ll see a wide front porch with colorful Adirondack chairs, a patio with a fire pit, and some dogs and kids running around in the yard. Yep, you’re welcome to bring your dogs and your children. The owners of the place are quite friendly and love company: on Fridays they host Dart Night (7pm) and the third Thursday of the month is Trivia Night (7pm).

Just inside the front door is the taproom. A long bar runs along the back wall, and comfortable seating (and a couple TVs) fill the rest of the warm and cozy (yes, fireplace) space. The large room to the right is called the “Loafing Shed.” It’s an enclosed and heated space where the farm’s cows used to hang out. This room boasts seating for nearly 50 guests, a little play area for the kiddos, two dart boards, and an 11-foot TV screen! You can access the patio from this room, and beyond the patio is a nice grassy area.

burgimg_7404So, the beer and the menu. On tap they usually have six or eight beers, like the Dirty Blonde, the Vanilla Sour Wheat, or the Nitro Oatmeal Porter. You can order a flight, fill your growler, or even join their Farmer in the Ale club and get your very own, one-of-a-kind mug crafted by SENK Pottery. Looking around the place, you might not realize how close to Interstate 81 it is. But the brewery enjoys consistent patronage from locals and from travelers passing through. We’ve all had that point on a long trip where you say, “GAHD I NEED A DANG BEER.” Plus, there are three wineries within just a few miles, which makes for a nice little tour. This is one reason why Swover Creek tries to keep a Belgian on tap — Belgians appeal to wine drinkers. Since business at the brewery is hopping, there are no plans for distribution. For now, they’re happy to be a beer destination. However, they will start bottling soon (12 and 22oz) for purchase at the brewery. Also on tap for 2017 is a non-alcoholic beer, a gluten-free beer, and “Firkin Friday,” when they’ll brew a special firkin (11 gallon cask).

burgimg_7382In the Swover Creek Farm Store and Kitchen (on the other side of their parking lot), you can buy many many many wonderful items. Made-on-site quiche using local duck eggs, jams, pretzels, mustard. About a dozen kinds of smoked sausage, produced on site. Black raspberries, blackberries, gooseberries, and blueberries. Smoked chicken salad and sweet zucchini relish. And you can even pick your own hops in their hop yard (but this requires a reservation, so call first!).

You can order food in the brewery: the Farm Store and Kitchen makes it and then delivers it to the brewery. They offer about ten different brick-oven pizzas (and they make the dough on site), about a dozen smoked sausage products served on homemade pretzel rolls (such as andouille, chorizo, bratwurst, kielbasa, and even apple maple), plus pepperoni rolls, baked jalapeño poppers, chipotle cheese dip, beer cheese, and Firefly Hot Sauces, made at nearby Passage Creek Farm.

There is a story in here… I know it.

So on this particular day, Brandy and I drove on out to Swover Creek Brewery for the purpose of (drinking beer and) seeing a chainsaw portrait artist doing live portraits on the patio. His name is Glen Richardson, and it was a sight to behold. His subject sat in a chair with a barber cape around his neck while Glen carved (WITH A CHAIN SAW) the man’s profile into a slab of tree. It took about 20 or 30 minutes to complete the carving, and then Glen charred the portrait with a propane torch, and he let the subject help with that part, too. He advised the subject to lightly sand the portrait once it cooled down. It was amazing.

burgimg_7387burgimg_7386burgimg_7420burgimg_7427burgimg_7426burgimg_7425burgimg_7422burgimg_7438At Glen’s website called Sawaddict, you’ll see photos of the many characters he creates, such as Fraidy Dance and Slug Boy. He’s done series like “Rabbit Folk” and “Wackadoodles,” and he’s created lawn furniture based on the phrases “putting your butt in danger” or “bite my ass.” You can follow Glen on Facebook to keep up with his events or to reach out if you’re interested in a carving.

burgimg_7372Once the sun went down, Glen’s carving demonstration ended and we all piled into the Loafing Shed for another beer, some pizza, and an awesome chorizo/pretzel sandwich. The brewery has a friendly, welcoming, relaxed vibe that’ll leave you warm and fuzzy. It’s open Thursday from 4 –  8pm, Friday and Saturday from noon – 8pm, and Sunday from noon – 7pm. Go try ’em out — it’s just a hop and a skip, and well worth the journey.

burgimg_7460Copyright © 2012-17 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.