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.

 

gaining ground(s): black sheep coffee.

burgIMG_4552Remember when Black Sheep Coffee was tiny? It was so cute, this little fledgling coffee shop testing the water in downtown Harrisonburg. The barista was also the cashier; money changed hands on the same sliver of countertop as coffee was served; and you were freaking lucky if you were able to get a seat in the itty bitty internet cafe area. Another reason for the cuteness is that Black Sheep’s wife, The Yellow Button, was right next door! That’s right, Black Sheep and The Yellow Button are owned by Harrisonburg’s power couple, Chance and Miranda Ebersold. But after a while, relationships change. The Yellow Button wanted some new scenery, and Black Sheep Coffee needed space. So the two businesses separated. Don’t worry: Chance and Miranda are still very much married (with two children who make their story even MORE adorable)… they just work a couple blocks from each other now.

So Black Sheep was able to stretch its legs into the old Yellow Button space, and WHAT A DIFFERENCE! Now, directly in front of you when you walk in is the cashier — she’ll take your order. The baristas at the old counter on the right will make your crafted espresso drink, drip coffee, or pour-over and serve it to you there. And you’ll have MULTIPLE seats to choose from. There are a couple of cozy areas with armchairs and coffee tables and chess sets and such, plus a looooong counter along the wall of windows on the left side of the place. They even installed a counter and stools around a concrete pillar in the middle of the space, maximizing the number of folks they can seat. And, the old Yellow Button dressing rooms are now cute little cubicles for when you need to buckle down and get something accomplished. There’s even space for a Multicade arcade-style video game.

burgIMG_4555burgIMG_4545burgIMG_4500Their food selection expanded with the space. On the Sunday we were there, the pastry case held biscotti, banana bread, cinnamon buns, oatmeal creme pies, sundried tomato pesto goat cheese wheels, Nilla wafer cupcakes (!!), grapefruit pound cake, vegan powerballs, scones, cookies, muffins, donuts, coffee cake, quiche, and veggie pies, ALL of which are made in house, and some of which are gluten free and/or vegan. PLUS, they have a made-to-order menu, too! Breakfast and lunch, including items like salads and paninis. And if you don’t want coffee, you can get Rishi brand tea or a soda — they carry Fentiman’s, Maine Root, Harmony Springs, and Blenheim.

burgIMG_4566burgIMG_4560burgIMG_4541burgIMG_4532burgIMG_4521burgIMG_4514burgIMG_4505All this new space allows them to sell some retail items, as well. They have Chemex supplies and coffee mugs, plus bags of coffee like Mudhouse, Bob & Tom’s, Lone Oak, and Red Rooster. The newest addition to the shelf are sauces from The Shack in Staunton — Sorghum BBQ Sauce and Sorghum Hot Sauce, made by Chef Ian Boden. Miranda and Chance were so impressed with the sauces when they tried them at The Shack that they just had to bring a whole bunch back to share with Harrisonburg.

Get into Black Sheep soon! Order something fresh and stay a while. There’s plenty of room for ya.

Black Sheep Coffee is located in the Ice House building, 217 S Liberty St, and are open every day from 7am – 7pm.

burgIMG_4509Copyright © 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.

love nest: gray jay provisions.

burgIMG_2721A chef walks into a sandwich shop… and creates something Harrisonburg hasn’t had before.

You might notice the light first, streaming in through the wall of plate glass windows. To the right you’ll see the glory of a 1950s living room, an old console stereo flanked by handsome books and two mid-century chairs. Local artwork compliments the simple, uncluttered space. It’s the perfect place to grab a sandwich and hunker down with your laptop or a good book, or meet a friend for food and conversation. It’s Harrisonburg’s newest: Gray Jay Provisions.

burgIMG_2605burgIMG_2611burgIMG_2675Both a market and a sandwich shop, Gray Jay has what you need if you’re hungry now or will be later. On the market side, there are dry provisions and chilled provisions and provisions for every occasion. Like charcuterie provisions. And I’m-Not-Sure-What-To-Bring-To-This-Party provisions. My-In-Laws-Are-Coming provisions. Or I-Just-Need-A-Damn-Bloody-Mary provisions.


burgIMG_2720burgIMG_2685They’ve got crackers and salami, assorted vinegars and oils, multiple flavors of Backpocket Provisions Bloody Mary Mix. They’ve got mustard and honey and cheeses and sausages. Prosciutto spread and jars of kimchi and curtido.


burgIMG_2703burgIMG_2680burgIMG_2628They’ve got Gearharts chocolates and Tate’s Bake Shop cookies, Field Trip brand jerky, veggie burgers, and ice cream. And a wide selection of Grown Up Sodas, Maine Root sodas, and Fentimans botanically brewed sodas.


burgIMG_2695At the counter, you’ll see their small but sophisticated and thoughtfully designed menu. It changes with the availability of fresh, local ingredients; on the day we were there, they offered a roasted tempeh sandwich with sweet potato, pickled red onion, and mushrooms; a sliced pork sandwich with sweet potato and kimchi; a line-caught tuna sandwich with caper aioli, pickled red onion, and arugula; a baked tofu sandwich with shiitake aioli and kimchi; a chicken confit sandwich with herb mayo, arugula, and pickled red onion; and a sunflower butter open face sandwich with honey and
crème fraîche. On the side, they offer tots, chick peas, and soup — that day, lentil and creamy tomato. Gluten-free bread and vegan options are always available.

burgIMG_2656burgIMG_2645burgIMG_2643burgIMG_2640burgIMG_2636All sandwiches are served on their house-made sourdough bread. This sourdough goes back a long time. Its starter is a blend of co-owner Michelle’s starter from Austria, created from wild airborne yeast and spring water, and co-owner Seth’s starter. The bread holds up to the demands of a hefty sandwich, yet gives easily between the teeth. And you can take a loaf of your own home with you: $6 for a small loaf and $9 for a large. And when I say large, I mean it’s the biggest dang loaf you’ve ever seen in real life.

One Saturday per month, Seth gets to flex his culinary muscles in pop-up dinners with wine pairings. After learning to cook in his mom’s kitchen, Seth worked as a sous chef and head chef  in high-end restaurants in Boston for 14 years. Michelle’s passions lie in the intersection of centuries-old food traditions of cultures around the world and today’s need for sustainability achieved with local and seasonal ingredients and organic growing methods. Together they conjure dishes that are delicious, creative, and responsible. Indeed, their menu items boast simple yet integrated flavors not found at your usual sandwich shop.

burgIMG_2699burgIMG_2616In case you’re wondering about the name, the Gray Jay is a mascot of sorts. While reading about this little bird, I came across words like friendly and loyal, clever and playful, tough. An apt mascot for Seth, Michelle, and Soula, who embody all these traits and work them into everything they make. Trust me: you’ll go in for a sandwich and come out with something spectacular.

Gray Jay Provisions is located at 1311 South High Street in Harrisonburg, and they’re open Monday – Friday, 11am – 7pm. Follow them on social media for menu updates and be sure to join their mailing list so you’ll be informed about events like their pop-up dinners!

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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 walk of art: cupid crawl 2018.

burgIMG_1733Valentine’s Day sometimes gets a bad rap. Hailed as a “Hallmark holiday” by cynics around the globe, some people refuse to acknowledge it. School children far and wide begrudgingly drop cheap perforated cardstock Disney-sponsored sentiments into the hands of classmates they hardly know. Or like, for that matter. And for many, the day only serves as a reminder of failed romances. <sigh> I hear you. But six years ago, Valentine’s Day took on a new dimension for Brandy and me. It was the day we started this blog, and since then our focus has been to show all of you how smitten we are with our community and everyone in it. Once we started actively looking for things we loved about our town, we saw them everywhere.

Spend even a short while strolling through Harrisonburg and you’ll see countless manifestations of lasting love. The communion of souls that takes place Saturday morning at the Farmers’ Market under the roof of the Turner Pavilion. Sandwich boards lined up along the sidewalks welcoming residents in for some rest and comfort. Welcome Your Neighbor signs proudly displayed in storefront windows. Vibrant murals painted on faded structures to remind them they’re still loved. In Harrisonburg, it’s like every day is Valentine’s Day.

We were thrilled, therefore, that we got to spend this Valentine’s Day celebrating Harrisonburg’s art scene by attending the Cupid Crawl. Hosted by the Arts Council of the Valley and led by local superwoman Laura Thompson, the Cupid Crawl is a delightful stroll to five downtown locations for art, artist talks, and refreshments.

burgIMG_1837.jpgThe Crawl began at the Smith House, home of the Arts Council of the Valley and its two galleries. Executive Director Jenny Burden welcomed guests and spoke about the Advancing the Arts Grants available to organizations, art educators, and artists working in the visual, performing, and literary arts. These grants help expand the arts in our community, to the tune of $350,000 over the last ten years. As guests mingled and nibbled on appetizers, the Harrisonburg Harmonizers treated us to some old fashioned crooning about lasting love, their voices filling the 150-year-old Smith House, a building  loved so much it was moved to its current location on the back of a truck! Before long, it was time to hear from the evening’s featured artists, Frank and Janet Marshman, whose amazing art collection adorned every wall in the place. Having started their collection in 1972, the exhibit showcased 45 years of art representing 21 artists including Paul Strand, Imogene Cunningham, Olivia Parker, Emmet Gowin, Michael A Smith, Sally Mann, and others. Sally Mann, a Lexington, Virginia, native, has an upcoming show in DC of about 100 prints.

burgIMG_1777burgIMG_1784burgIMG_1786burgIMG_1780Frank, who owned the Untitled Gallery of Fine Photographs in the late 70s, talked about his lasting love of print photography and its place in the modern era of digital everything. I loved hearing the Marshmans explain that most of this artwork has been stored in boxes for years; they lovingly dusted off the old prints, had them framed at the Frame Factory, and now here they were, refreshed and alive, hanging on the walls of a restored building. Frank and Janet have spent their lives loving art. As Frank said that evening, “If you don’t support the arts, nobody will.” And just like that, Laura was getting our attention and instructing us to move along to the next location: the Wilson Gallery at Kline May.

burgIMG_1804Appetizers and drinks from Beyond Restaurant Pho and Sushi greeted us, flanked by striking drawings, ceramics, and sculptures by three artists. Despite loving it here in the Shenandoah Valley, Danielle Heckman, an artist from Pennsylvania, still yearns for home. Her artwork represents homesickness and the act of relocating, depicted by what she calls “the containers of moving,” such as the sack of embroidered letters. Somehow the idea of embroidering letters makes the letters more permanent, preserved for ages, objects of lasting love.

burgIMG_1815burgIMG_1829burgIMG_1845burgIMG_1813Mallory Burrell’s “The Migration Series” includes seven drawings depicting animals on a migration caused by habitat destruction: a fox carrying squirrels and butterflies; a bunny whose ears are covered by his passengers — flowers, caterpillars, crickets; a kaleidoscope of butterflies carefully transporting a honeycomb to its new home; everyone doing what they can out of a lasting love for the planet. Shouldn’t we all.

burgIMG_1824burgIMG_1821burgIMG_1820Our third stop, Shenandoah Joe, provided a pick-me-up of coffee and cookies from Bittersweet Bakery and featured artist Natasha D’Souza. Natasha spent a period of time in Bethlehem and the Jordan Valley documenting the Israeli occupation of Palestinian Territory and various human rights violations on the West Bank. She was trained to do this — to use her camera to hold people accountable, to make them “play fair” in war. Her exhibit, “Candid Lessons in Conflict,” depicts elements of an occupation spanning 50 years and includes themes of existence and coexistence, access to worship, demolition and violence, education and children’s rights, and resilience.

burgIMG_1870burgIMG_1862burgIMG_1883burgIMG_1880Heading back out into the night, we hung a right at the corner and walked a couple blocks to Hess Financial. This charming historic building showcased the bright, colorful works of Pam Tittle and Janet Lee Wright in their joint exhibition called “Sweet Stories.” Pam’s works of watercolor, pen & ink, and acrylic are teeming with life. Critters of all assortments plus bread and coffee, pastries and dessert — symbols of life and a life well lived! I couldn’t help but notice how her works hanging on the wall interacted with the delicious pastries and treats from Heritage Bakery and Cafe on the table. Pam and her husband moved here from Maryland in 2010, and that’s when her work as an artist really began. She had her first solo show that year at Clementine, and now she organizes group shows in Harrisonburg regularly. Even more exciting, last year she illustrated a book called Jeremy and the Light (available on Amazon)! All in just eight years! It just goes to show what can grow in a fertile community.

burgIMG_1913burgIMG_1915burgIMG_1923burgIMG_1936Art is a relatively new pursuit for Janet Lee Wright, too. This retired librarian started painting at age 60 with no training. Her works on this evening represented the people and animals she loves. Again I was reminded of lasting love: lasting love in the various stages of plants that she paints and in her time-stopping portraits that last a lifetime. Of particular note is a painting of her parents based on a photo she took in 1962 — her parents have been married more than 70 years!

burgIMG_1958burgIMG_1931burgIMG_1962burgIMG_1965burgIMG_1991At our fifth and final stop, Larkin Arts, we were swiftly handed a “Downtown ‘79” — a night cap of bourbon, sours, and Betwixt cider, garnished with an apple peel — to sip while we viewed stunning pieces of art featured in the Regional Juried Show. The 32 pieces in the show were judged on mastery of technique, execution, presentation, and conceptual realization. More than 150 works were submitted for consideration, and it was no easy task for Paul Somers and Valerie Smith to decide which made the cut. While it’s an arduous process, Paul described it as “sacred” and valuable because it requires the deep contemplation and discussion of the merits of each piece. When done properly, the curation results in a situation where “staring at something that’s not moving” turns into something quite moving.

burgIMG_2025In addition to being an art gallery and store, Larkin Arts is home of Meridian Books and Games, run by Morgan and Vince Paixao. Several artist studios fill the spaces in the rear of the shop, and the store hosts countless classes for students of all ages throughout the year. I could’ve stayed at Larkin all night, and that’s no exaggeration: Valerie told us to stay as long as we wanted. And so even though the art tour officially ended, our Valentine’s Day love buzz did not.

burgIMG_2048burgIMG_2027Thanks to Jenny, Cate, Laura, and these awesome businesses for making the Cupid Crawl possible and for continuing to support creative art initiatives. Stay tuned for lots more from our beloved Arts Council!

~ Bittersweet Bakery, The Golden Pony, Heritage Bakery and Cafe, Beyond Restaurant Pho & Sushi, Wilson Downtown Gallery at Kline May Realty, Shenandoah Joe, Hess Financial, and Larkin Arts ~

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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.

coming soon to a belly near you: the best damn sandwich.

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In part, you can thank John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich, for bringing this bread-enclosed delicacy to your life. His gambling addiction necessitated a way for him to eat one-handed so he would not have to pause his game to fool with separate dishes or even silverware. Consequently, some brilliant cook, to appease a hangry Earl, created a solution we call the sandwich. And now, you can thank Logan Strawderman, Lauren Penrod, and Mollie Randa for bringing that creation to your downtown! Lola Mo’s Delicatessen is opening SATURDAY!

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Brandy and I were invited to the private opening/dress rehearsal this past Saturday to get a much-anticipated preview of the space and the menu. Located on Newman Avenue right behind the new Yellow Button, the deli is airy and bright, reminiscent of a generations-old New York deli, what with its shiny subway tile, black and white decor, old fashioned curved display cases, and super-loud cashier yelling your ticket number (that would be Lauren). Upon arrival, I noticed the selection of crackers, pretzels, and assorted snacks and treats lining the shelves to the left. Another set of shelves holds specialty items like maple syrup, honey (lavender, and orange blossom!), pickles, olives, mustard, capers, vinegar, and these cool fruit spreads designed for pairings with cheese. Several shelves of wine reach from floor to ceiling, next to a fridge full of special-occasion sodas, like Boylan’s Ginger Ale and Le Village Sparkling Blood Orange Juice. Boar’s Head meats and cheeses (for sandwiches or bulk purchases) sit neatly in the glass cooler. The deli also features house-made pastrami (with a 7-day brine, people!), smoked tofu, and assorted rubs created by Logan Strawderman. You can get yourself a fantastic sandwich AND get the makings for a rather classy picnic, too!

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When you order, you can choose from several breads like rye, sourdough, white, or wheat. Side dishes include two kinds of potato salad (Texas or NY), coleslaw, red slaw, and Dirty brand chips. We ordered the Rotisserie Chicken Sandwich, the Cool Kids Club, the Smofu smoked tofu sandwich, and the Pam Stoke, a Buffalo chicken sandwich with slices of bleu cheese.

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While waiting for our perfectly crafted sandwiches, we mingled with all the folks who had come out to share in the excitement, including Lauren’s mom, who told me a few things… For example, ahem, when Lauren was a child, she was obsessed with cashiers. Definitely wanted to grow up and do THAT. She also created a detective agency. She demanded that her family members lose something so that she could use her keen problem-solving skills to crack the case. And, she peddled crafts door to door in their neighborhood, little things she had made herself… selling them for less than her mom had spent on the supplies. Thirty years later, Lauren owns Midtowne Market, Midtowne Bottle Shop, and co-owns Lola Mo’s. Go figure. Anyway, it was a joyful day and an even more joyful sandwich experience. The meat was savory, the lettuce fresh, the bread thick and soft with not a trace of sog… it was the best damn sandwich. I’ll admit, my son is not a big sandwich fan. But he ate the whole thing. THE WHOLE THING.

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Did I mention dessert? Co-owner Mollie Randa, a baking PHENOM,  bakes all the scrumptious desserts tempting you from the display case. Pies, scones, cheesecake, tarts, a thing called chocolate salami, and of course, the black & white cookie.

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Now, you still have to wait a few more days. I’m picturing you, skulking around outside the deli, drool bubbling at the corners of your mouths, like a wild pack of generation X’ers camping out for tickets to a Menudo reunion show. Breathe. You will be okay. The doors will open Saturday, and so will your mouth, and so will your world.
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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.

sweet and simple: heritage bakery and cafe.

burgimg_8161You know how in old TV shows like I Love Lucy or The Brady Bunch, one character would visit her friend across the street after the kids left for school, and they’d sit together at the Formica kitchen counter and drink coffee? Maybe the hostess would whip out a coffee cake or some Danish and the two friends would leisurely laugh and chat as they sipped and nibbled, with several hours of sunny, blissful banality before them.

<sigh>
I want that.

Instead, my mornings start with the God-awful honk of my alarm clock, my hips and feet cracking as I rise from bed and stumble around in the dark, followed by a good eye rub and some Visine in front of the bathroom mirror. Next I wrench my beautiful children, dreaming of lollipops and unicorns, from their warm nests to start a new day of rushing around, yelling at my son about why he hasn’t put on pants yet and insisting to my daughter that her hair looks FINE. No one offers me Danish, and I usually don’t get a sip of coffee until I’m in the car.

But there was a morning recently where I got to visit a dear lady’s kitchen and sit with a sweet friend and languidly sip and nibble, and I felt for a moment like Betty Draper. It was freaking GRAND.

Heritage Bakery and Cafe, opened two years ago by Isabelle Treciak and her mom, sits on the first floor of the Hardesty Higgins House in downtown Harrisonburg, and the nostalgia in there is overpowered only by the smell of freshly brewed Lucas Coffee and all the goodies she’s baking that day. She admits that the pastries offered each day are dependent on her mood, but based on the selection we saw, I think it’s safe to say that Isabelle is generally happy and optimistic.

burgimg_8226burgimg_8167In her polished glass case that day was chocolate chip shortbread, hummingbird bread (banana, pineapple, and coconut), lemon ginger scones, King Kong cookies, chocolate walnut chubbies, and peanut butter chocolate sandies. She always has gluten-free options available, plus a wide selection of tea, juices, and soda, in case coffee’s not your thing. Brandy, Blake, Ella, and I ordered sticky buns, raspberry coconut bread, spinach quiche, and a spinach, egg, and Havarti cheese croissant, which we salivated over — patiently, for time was on our side that morning — until Brandy was done photographing it.

burgimg_8204burgimg_8195burgimg_8208burgimg_8200The snow lining the windows of the old building somehow made the sticky buns a little sweeter, the spinach quiche a little more decadent. Maybe because we were subconsciously dreaming of simpler times, we started talking about minimalism. A discussion of the book Everything That Remains and its documentary counterpart Minimalism (available on Netflix) led to a rant about fossil fuels and how America can’t seem to give up those extravagant habits for cleaner, more sustainable, simpler options. And this led to a slightly depressing chat about how we really could simplify our lives… find more time for rest and nature and family and love… spend less time working and running ourselves ragged.

burgimg_8169As if you need more reason to go in there, much awaits you at the Hardesty Higgins House (which my kids have called the “Higgy House” ever since they were tiny and couldn’t say it correctly). You can find hundreds of maps, brochures, and publications about the goings-on in the Shenandoah Valley, from Civil War museums and re-enactments, to the Artisan Trail, the Shenandoah Beerwerks Trail (yes, please), and the Shenandoah Spirits Trail. You can watch a video about the Civil War in the Shenandoah Valley and learn about various battles, battlefields, and monuments. The Rocktown Gift Shoppe offers lots of Virginia-made products like candy, food, soy candles and handmade soaps, beautiful items from Blue Ridge Pottery, assorted Valley-related apparel, and those little hiking guides Brandy swears by.

And of course, the Valley Turnpike Museum has that adorable scale model display of Harrisonburg way back in the day, before internet scams, before cars and their noxious fumes, before cell phones, before even deadlines and exorbitant debt and bad credit ratings and Wall Street screw jobs. Right now, those simpler days feel like ancient relics enshrined in a tomb… days we’ll never return to.

But for now, you can visit Isabelle and enjoy the simple pleasure of a cup of coffee and a homemade pastry served on a pretty plate. Find simplicity where you can.

burgimg_8175Heritage Bakery and Cafe is open Monday – Saturday, 8:30 – 5pm, with a monthly Sunday afternoon tea.

See you out and about!

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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.

it’s little wonder: boboko indonesian cafe.

burgimg_7028You might not even know it’s there if not for the glorious smells emanating from it. Or the zillions of people who will recommend you go there. This article is one such recommendation. GO THERE.

I’m referring to one of Harrisonburg’s newest eateries — BoBoKo Indonesian Cafe. This tiny, 20-person capacity restaurant sits right up the ramp from Pure Eats in the Ice House Building. But don’t let the size fool you: this place comes with a grand reputation.

For starters, BoBoKo’s Chef Ridwan opened the restaurant after winning the What’s Cooking Concept Plan Competition through the Shenandoah Valley Small Business Development Center. Born and raised in Indonesia, Ridwan has been cooking since childhood. And he insists on using Shenandoah Valley Organic Chicken, fresh veggies and herbs from the Harrisonburg Famers’ Market, and local no-spray produce from Wayside Produce. Experience + talent + passion for the local community and environment = a recipe for success!

The place, though small, is warm and comfortable. Wicker chairs, wooden tables, Indonesian art, and classical music create the feeling of an intimate dinner party.

burgimg_7031 burgimg_7035Okay, on to the foooooooood.

The four of us ordered a nice variety. We started with green pomegranate tea (they also have black and jasmine) and two appetizers: the Tempeh Teriyaki Summer Rolls and the Spring Rolls Fusion, which contain spinach, goat cheese, apples, and golden raisins! Next was a tummy-warming Roasted Tomato and Butternut Squash Curry soup.

burgimg_7045 burgimg_7046 burgimg_7057For dinner we enjoyed the Chicken Rendang (slow-cooked chicken), which was slightly sweet because of the coconut milk, served with steamed rice, mixed vegetables, and Indonesian crackers. On the tangy side, we loved the Indonesian “Street Food” Chicken fried rice (nasi goreng ayam), topped with fried egg and served with chicken satay, Javanese pickled cucumber, and carrot/acar timun and Indonesian crackers. The Beef Rendang sandwich is melt-in-your-mouth good and comes with a salad or soup.

burgimg_7064 burgimg_7070 burgimg_7076 burgimg_7079For dessert, we tried the Banana-Nutella Spring Roll (OMG) and the Mango Ginger Nutella Spring Roll (get outta here!). BoBoKo also offers French Macarons because of Chef Ridwan’s passion for the French delicacy he developed while in Paris.

burgimg_7083 burgimg_7086Now, don’t let the limited space keep you from going. If BoBoKo happens to be full when you arrive, you can get your order to go and take it to one of Harrisonburg’s FOUR breweries! I can see this becoming part of my routine soon. That street chicken — DANG.

burgimg_7080Open every day except Tuesday, Boboko Indonesian Cafe is located at 217 S Liberty Street in Harrisonburg and can be reached at (540) 434-3542. See you out and about!

Copyright © 2012-16 · 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.

high score: ruby’s arcade.

burgIMG_1285The bar has been raised.

Ruby’s Arcade, the newest endeavor of local restauranteur Clay Clark, has been open for six weeks or so, so this post might seem a little late arriving. But since its opening, Brandy and I (or just Brandy, or just I) have been in that place like ten times: the Downtown Renaissance Awards ceremony, an evening out with all the kiddos, a happy hour celebration with some teacher friends, friend and family bonding time after our art show, to name a few. She kept taking photos and I kept taking notes and ding dang it, we can’t hold it in any longer.

This place is AWESOME. First, you won’t be surprised to hear the food is excellent. They pride themselves on their fresh meats, never frozen, including their pork, ribs, and brisket smoked DAILY. The fried chicken sandwich and the fried catfish sandwich (I’ve had both) are succulent and delicious, and please do yourself a favor and get the smoked gouda mac ‘n cheese. They’ve got a great selection of burgers, appetizers, and salads, too. But the pizza. Whoa. Wood-fired pizza in their snazzy red wood oven, loaded with noteworthy toppings like pickled peppers, smoked pork, artichokes, and bleu cheese, and names like The Keanu, The Swayze, and The Bern.

burgIMG_1319 burgIMG_1323But that’s not all. They’ve got several excellent draft beers, and YOU CAN GET A PITCHER of any of them. Yep, you heard me right! A pitcher!! I remember twenty years ago, I could get a pitcher of beer at one of our very few local watering holes… but then pitchers went away. It could be, and I’m just speculating, that as the quality of H’burg beer increased, pitchers got pricey, and establishments stopped selling them. Whatever. That’s all water under the bridge now, because the pitcher is back! You can even get a 2-topping pizza and a pitcher of PBR for eighteen bucks!

And that’s still not all. Let’s get to the reason it’s called Ruby’s Arcade. The games! The showpiece of the whole joint is the four-lane duckpin bowling alley. Clay rescued the duckpin bowling apparatus, Chris Howdyshell tinkered and toiled and got it all working again, and now you and up to three of your buddies can share a lane for just $20/hour. Our kids LOVED it. After that you can amble on over to the billiard and pingpong tables. Or play shuffleboard. Or Foosball. Or you can play a board game. Or darts. This list is getting long.

burgIMG_1295 burgIMG_1299 burgIMG_1310 burgIMG_1321The place is huge, so don’t worry about it being too crowded. When you first walk in, there’s a large area with high-top tables and a little lounge area. Continue down a short flight of steps and to the left is the bar and the bowling area. Tables of various sizes (and made of re-purposed wood from antique bowling lanes!), assorted game tables, and upholstered furniture fill the rest of the space, and if you keep walking toward the back, there’s another swanky lounge area back there.

burgIMG_1287 burgIMG_1289burgIMG_1292 burgIMG_1307Decorating the huge space might have seemed daunting at first, but with the help of mural artists like Lynda Bostrom, Derek Niver, Michael Broth, Andre Shank, Trip Madison, and Elliott Downs, those walls weren’t bare for long. It’s worth a trip in there just to see the art work.

burgIMG_1305burgIMG_1290Gourmet food + games for all ages + quality beer (in PITCHERS) + stunning artwork + tons of space + friendly staff = the place to go for any occasion. This is why I said the bar’s been raised. Ruby’s Arcade fills a hole I didn’t realize existed until I got in there to see what it was all about. Now it’s your turn. And to get in there, you enter from the paved area behind Clementine and You Made It!, sort of adjacent to the back of the bike shop/little bridge over Blacks Run. They’re open seven days a week! See you soon!

Copyright © 2012-16 · 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.

beyond imagination: look what they’ve dreamed up now!

burgIMG_9045We’ve covered Beyond Restaurant and Lounge THIRTEEN TIMES on this blog, more (I think) than any other place. But ding dang it, they keep doing new and amazing things that cannot be ignored.

The latest? The rollout of their new Vietnamese menu. Praserth invited us one day to sample and photograph several of the new items. To prepare for the occasion, I skipped breakfast entirely.

Once there, we learned from Praserth that the new menu was designed by their new chef, who moved to the US to be with her daughter in San Diego, but, not liking the climate there, moved here instead. As you’ll soon see, this was a lucky break for the Burg. Then the food began to arrive. Many of the dishes seem to be unified by a few key ingredients: lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, and bean sprouts. The stark beauty of those soft colors on the white plates made me smile.

Here are the new additions! If you’re reading this in public, mind your drooling.

CRISPY PORK & SHRIMP SPRING ROLLS. pork, shrimp, mushrooms, carrots, cabbage.

CRISPY PORK & SHRIMP SPRING ROLLS.
pork, shrimp, mushrooms, carrots, cabbage.

burgIMG_8993

CHAR SIU PORK TENDERLOIN. pork tenderloin with jasmine rice, tomato, cucumber, cilantro

CHAR SIU PORK TENDERLOIN.
pork tenderloin with jasmine rice, tomato, cucumber, cilantro.

MARINATED GRILLED PORK (OR CHICKEN). grilled pork or chicken with carrots, tomato, cucumbers, jasmine rice, and clear sauce.

MARINATED GRILLED PORK (OR CHICKEN).
grilled pork or chicken with carrots, tomato, cucumbers, jasmine rice, and clear sauce.

burgIMG_9013 burgIMG_9004

SOUP BOWLS. Rice noodles and beef, with basil, jalapeños, lime, and bean sprouts served on the side.

SOUP BOWLS.
Rice noodles and beef, with basil, jalapeños, lime, and bean sprouts served on the side.

burgIMG_9023 burgIMG_9017burgIMG_9041

RICE PAPER ROLLS WITH SHRIMP AND PORK. served with peanut sauce.

RICE PAPER ROLLS WITH SHRIMP AND PORK.
served with peanut sauce.

burgIMG_9035burgIMG_9033burgIMG_9054The Vietnamese Menu is available now, so get in there and try it out!

Here are some other posts about Beyond Restaurant and Lounge:
Riven Rock Park
MacRoCK 2013
Wine Festival
Sushi & the City
Brandy’s Birthday

Copyright © 2012-16 · 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.

we new it: ride along.

When I sit down to write my list of New Year’s resolutions, it usually goes like this:

Things I Should Do in the New Year:
1. Exercise more.
2. uuuuuuuuuggggghhh.

Things I Want To Do in the New Year:
1. Read.
2. Learn an instrument.
3. Be more creative.
4. Make my own sushi.
5. Do a better job of keeping in touch with people.

Things I’ll Most Likely Actually Do in the New Year:
1. Netflix.
2. Fish tacos.
3. Funny cat videos on YouTube.

I guess the three lists show a trend… that I don’t like to resolve to do things I’m simply not interested in, and that sometimes I feel I’ve accomplished NOTHING, that I’ve wasted yet another year not doing what I want, doing more working than playing, more frowning than smiling, more scrolling than learning, more spending than saving, blah blah blah. But, when I truly look back over 2015 as a whole, I see it was not a waste at all. Not a minute. Indeed, 2015 was marked by unprecedented newness and adventure, for both Brandy and for me. She and I both traveled to new destinations — she to Alaska and Oregon, and I to several national parks as far west as Yosemite. We also started an awards program called Harrisonburg Action Figures and presented the first one back in September. We were interviewed for a podcast — another totally new experience — by Kai Degner (Hello Harrisonburg), and because of that experience, we offered our first I Love My Burg prize to listeners who shared that podcast– a ride along with us, wherever he or she wanted to go, our treat! We covered the opening of two new breweries and a restaurant (Pale Fire, Wolfe Street, and Jalapeño), we attended Megan Tiller’s first ever pop up show featuring Bradford Lee Folk, and we finally tried some lavender ice cream. I’m teaching a class I’ve never taught in my seventeen years of teaching, and Brandy documented nearly twenty hikes all over Virginia and the US in her Took a Hike, Took a Camera series. Our lives are full of new things, not necessarily previously written down on a list of resolutions, but things that arise organically because we’re friends. So I think my “list” this year will simply be this: Continue doing new stuff.

This post is about a whole night of new things! Our ride along winner, Sharon Skates, wanted to try out Harrisonburg’s newest brewery, Wolfe Street Brewing. The brewery is located on Wolfe Street (duh) between Liberty and 42 and adjoins the Rock’n Wolfe Food Truck Park, which is super handy. The building was, at one time long ago, a chicken slaughterhouse, then a mechanic’s shop, and then it sat empty for a bit before the owner of the property decided to convert it to a brewery. Inside it’s a cozy space. The dropped ceiling directly over the bar holds Wolfe St. growlers re-purposed as lights. A split-level seating area leads to a homey and sizable yard out back. On the left side of the space, nine thousand pounds of malted grain in neatly stacked sacks is all that separates the general public from the brewing area. The entire brewery is cloaked in gorgeous woodwork by Benevolent Design, lending a Scandinavian cabin feel to the whole place.

burgIMG_7098 burgIMG_7105burgIMG_8258 burgIMG_8261We sampled four beers that evening. The Winter Lager is their seasonal brew, and Hop Pocket has a crisp, piney flavor. The Scotch Ale is a full-bodied, smokey beer, and the Nut Quacker is spicy and refreshing.

burgIMG_8264 burgIMG_8281Our next stop was the grand re-opening of The Mark-It in its new location at 125 West Water Street, right in front of the wooden bridge. You might be surprised to know that the business has been around for about 20 years — starting as a little kiosk in the mall, moving to several locations, and finally being operated by its current owners, Susie Diehl and Jeff Guinn. The walls of the store are filled with the work they’ve done over the years, for people and companies ranging from the Super Gr8 Film Festival and Pale Fire Brewing to Uncle Bengine and the Restraining Orders. The store looks great, the location is awesome, and we wish them happiness and prosperity in their new location!

burgIMG_7122 burgIMG_7125 burgIMG_7128 burgIMG_7132 burgIMG_7136 burgIMG_7144 burgIMG_7149Brandy and I had been to Food Bar Food several times, but for Sharon it was a new experience and we were so happy to take her there. Seriously. The food is absolutely exquisite, and the prices are so reasonable. Plus the bloody Mary menu — sheesh! I might have to update my resolutions to include “try every singe item on the Food Bar Food menu.” For now, I ordered the haddock burger with a fried egg on top (omg, I’m drooling as I type that); Sharon got the duck leg, and Brandy got the Thai curry noodles. We talked about all sorts of girly topics that I can’t really share here, but we did discover something we have in common: we’re all old enough to know what a “pager number” is. If you don’t, you could always add “learn about obsolete technology” to your list of resolutions.

burgIMG_7152 burgIMG_7163It’s a new year in our beautiful city and there’s so much to look forward to. This city is FILLED with people who “do new stuff” all the time, and that’s why Harrisonburg is so rich in art and music, gourmet food and top notch beer, unique shops and excellent, efficient service. So, thanks for helping me keep my resolution, Friendly City. I couldn’t do it without you.

If you’re looking for something new to do this year, here are the highlights of our 2015:
Hot Ticket: Jalapeño Southwest Grill
All In: unJURIED Exhibition
Freezer Burn: Pale Fire Brewing
Take Your Pick: Bradford Lee Folk and the Bluegrass Playboys
Follow Your Hearts: Bryan Elijah Smith and the Wild Hearts
Here’s the Deal: Harrisonburg Pokemon League
Tap Dance: Brothers Craft Brewing Music Festival
Grass Roots: Our Community Place Annual Lawn Jam
Cold Off the Press: Old Hill Hard Cider
Field Day: White Oak Lavender Farm
Full Alert: Edible Fest
Be In the Running: VA Momentum
Royal Treatment: 2015 Progressive Party

burgIMG_7166Copyright © 2012-16 · 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.

thank you: eddie bumbaugh.

burgIMG_6608Some debts are simply too large to repay. Sometimes, “thank you” falls impossibly short. Sometimes, a person’s influence, impact, and value are too large to accurately measure.

By now you’ve likely heard the news: our beloved Eddie Bumbaugh, the 12-year Executive Director of the Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance, will retire from the position as 2015 draws to a close. However, and thankfully for all of us, from the sounds of it, he’s not retiring all the way. In hopes of getting all the juicy details, Brandy and I decided to take his wife, Jane, and him out for dinner recently.

Alas, even after a belly full of delicious Food Bar Food dinner and a cocktail, he wouldn’t expound specifically on his next step, stating only that he’ll “remain involved in the Harrisonburg community.” Brandy and I, happy to simply be breathing again, decided to be satisfied with this answer and just enjoy our evening with them.

burgIMG_6595 burgIMG_6598I did come prepared with a few additional questions. When I asked Eddie what he’ll miss the most about HDR, he replied immediately with “the staff.” He delivered several heart-warming compliments about his co-workers (not his underlings or subordinates or minions, but his co-workers) and their commitment and passion and enthusiasm that have made reporting to work each day joyful. He also revealed a real fondness for the excitement of new ideas and the planning of events – indeed, his eyes twinkled a bit when he spoke of these things.

He counts the Alpine Loop Gran Fondo, a 100+ mile bicycle group ride, race, and festival that runs through and around the Burg, among his favorite Harrisonburg events because it allows him to experience our community through the eyes of people who aren’t from here. The race draws cyclists from all over the United States – many have never seen, Eddie says, “Old Order Mennonites or our beautiful skyline.” He likes the event because he likes to meet new people, and he likes anything that will encourage people to visit the Friendly City. Oh, and he likes to bicycle, too.

From there, most of our dinner conversation centered around travel and nature. You may or may not have known that Eddie is an avid cyclist and runner, a lot of which he does right here in the Shenandoah Valley because of its natural eye candy. He and Jane have hiked a hefty portion of the Appalachian Trail. The four of us had a lot of fun sharing hiking and road trip stories. Jane, too, is quite adventurous.

Jane took a trip to Iceland with a bunch of seventh-graders, prompting Brandy and me to shout things like, “What?!” “Are you crazy??” “Are you OKAY??” at her. They were there about a week, which seemed to me to be a very short amount of time to visit a foreign country, given all the travel time involved. But guess what? It’s only like a five-hour flight! Anyway, what an amazing experience for those youngsters!! Thank goodness for people like Jane! So brave and generous, even though she will tell you it’s not all that hard and anyone can do it. These two seem to be a match made in heaven with their incredible kindness, their willingness to try new and even risky ventures, and their ability to listen and compromise. Even in our relatively short conversation with the couple, Brandy and I could see those traits, shining clear as the candles on the table.

burgIMG_6624So now I’m finally getting to what I’ve wanted to do since I heard the news about Eddie’s impending departure: say Thank You.

Dear Eddie,
Harrisonburg and its citizens will never be able to repay you for the transformation that occurred under your leadership. I remember Harrisonburg twelve years ago, before you took the job. I remember seeing Dokken at a downtown establishment that was trying, really trying, to get on its feet. I remember when the Dodger, Joker’s, and The Little Grill were the only nightlife downtown, and no one walked to those places, at least not leisurely. I remember it felt like a lost cause. Thank you for ignoring all those who told you that the armpit of the city would never be the heart. They told you, “Don’t bother getting involved. We’ve tried it before. It’ll just be a waste of time, a disappointment.” Thank you for being the type of person to take those comments as a challenge. Thank you for also being the kind of person to listen, to contemplate and reflect, to consider the opinions and needs of others, and to bring everyone together with open communication and constructive conversations.

The evidence of your hard work shines for all to see now, twelve years later. Today when I go downtown, the streets are lit up. Delicious aromas waft out of dozens of restaurants. I can hear live music around every corner. There’s a good beer waiting for me about every five steps. And I am perfectly comfortable letting my kids wander around on their own – watching the ducks behind Clementine and SBC, walking to the library for new books, swinging into Bella Gelato for a treat, buying blueberries at the Farmers Market, and finding old Mom reading a book at Pale Fire when they’re all done with their adventure. :) Thank you for making my city safe for my children. If it weren’t, we would have left long ago.

I haven’t even touched upon the many events and activities we all enjoy now. Beer and music festivals, art markets, First Fridays, costume bike parades, Valley Fourth… too many to name. Not to mention the local retail options we now have, so we don’t have to shop at those “big stores.”

I don’t know what’s harder when taking a new job: inheriting a mess that you have to clean up, or inheriting something beautiful that you have to maintain and somehow improve upon. We know your successor cannot replace you, and we would not expect that. I imagine we’ll all expect more good things, because that’s what you’ve shown us. But we do not expect the accomplishment of “more good things” to happen in a vacuum. Those of us who live, work, and enjoy our downtown know that community growth happens through community involvement. We’ll stay involved, we’ll support local businesses, we’ll remember all that you’ve done to get us to this place, and we won’t let you down. We might not be able to pay you back, but we’ll pay it forward. We promise.

Cheers to you! Wishing you and Jane all the best, all the time! And don’t be a stranger.

Love, 
All of Us. The Whole Dang Town. 

burgIMG_6612Copyright © 2012-15 · 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.

art seen: 2015 progressive party.

The rest of the shots from the Arts Council’s 2015 Progressive Party. What fun!!

burgProgressiveWEB02 burgProgressiveWEB05 burgProgressiveWEB08 burgProgressiveWEB12 burgProgressiveWEB14 burgProgressiveWEB21 burgProgressiveWEB26 burgProgressiveWEB27 burgProgressiveWEB32-2 burgProgressiveWEB64 burgProgressiveWEB69 burgProgressiveWEB79Copyright © 2012-15 · 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.

royal treatment: 2015 progressive party.

burgProgressiveWEB01An hour before the event, I finished mowing the lawn for what I PRAY is the last time this year. Twenty miles away, Brandy was likely folding something, or mopping something, or editing something. Yet somehow, without the help of mice, bluebirds, or a magic wand, we managed to slink into our fancy duds, drape our skin in jewels, and apply a fine sheen of lip gloss in anticipation of a fairy tale evening — the Arts Council’s Annual Progressive Party! The purpose of the Progressive Party is simple — to celebrate the arts and raise funds so the Council can continue to provide art opportunities to the Harrisonburg community through Court Square TheaterAdvancing the Arts GrantsFirst Fridays Downtown, Smith House Gallery exhibitions, and community-based collaborations.

This year’s theme (Your Artistic Adventure: the Progressive Party with a Twist) sent guests on a two-destination journey: the dazzling home of Dan Newberry for the event launch party, and then one of seven host homes for more merrymaking.

burgProgressiveWEB31At Dan’s, we all converged to hear the music of Kelly May Brown, meet the evening’s featured artists, enjoy beverages from Pale Fire Brewing and Vintage Wines, and indulge in appetizers provided by A Little Something Special. Of particular note were the jelly “flight” and the butter “flight” — assortments of both spreads to be sampled on bread and crackers. One even tasted like bacon. Who knew this was a thing?

burgProgressiveWEB41 burgProgressiveWEB04 burgProgressiveWEB28burgProgressiveWEB47We Cinderellas were also excited about the raffle drawing for a diamond from James McHone and custom setting from Hugo Kohl. After a lovely cocktail hour on luxurious property, everyone loaded up in their chariots and proceeded to one of the seven host homes, each of which had live music and the work of a featured artist. Brandy and I got the royal treatment when we were permitted to go to TWO homes! We ate like Queens!

We were so excited when we arrived at our first home, owned by the charming Randy Harman, to see our smiling friend, Praserth Saesow of Beyond Restaurant and Lounge, who had prepared this incredible feast. Floral decorations by Teri Dean of The Wishing Well accentuated the beautiful art work of Wendy Lam. Live music by Moon (based in Staunton) floated toward the vaulted ceilings and filled the space, while conversations flourished.

burgProgressiveParty_IMG_4385 burgProgressiveWEB58burgProgressiveParty_IMG_4371 burgProgressiveWEB62 ProgressiveWEB56-2burgProgressiveWEB57 burgProgressiveWEB63With one eye on the clock, we wolfed down a second plate of Praserth’s food and headed to our next, and final, destination: the home of Rob and Peggy McKearney, where we were completely spoiled with beef and pork tenderloin, salmon, and bacon-wrapped shrimp. At one point, Brandy was double fisting with macaroons. Erin Murray’s vivid and too-real-to-be-real paintings spoke to us all, and Chad Hanger crooned from the living room. I swear, his voice is somehow better every time I hear him. All of it at that house — so rich and alive!

burgProgressiveParty_IMG_4403 burgProgressiveParty_IMG_4423 burgProgressiveWEB68 burgProgressiveWEB73 burgProgressiveWEB74 burgProgressiveWEB82burgProgressiveWEB71Before we knew it, it was time to click our heels and get home before our babysitters turned into pumpkins (there might be a mix-up in there). And so we dashed out into the night, while the music and laughter receded in the rearview mirror.

We can’t say enough how much we enjoyed this enchanted evening. Everyone involved loves and actively supports the arts in our community, demonstrated by their selfless gifts of time, hospitality, talent, and dollars that will allow for continued growth of the Council’s initiatives. After all, beautiful things must be constantly sown and tended. Art, and the proliferation of it, takes diligence and commitment.

Copyright © 2012-15 · 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.

full alert: edible fest.

burgIMG_0507Trying to schedule an outing usually goes like this:

Katie: We need to get out soon.
Brandy: Agreed. How about Tuesday?
Katie: No can do, Bree’s got a meet. What about Wednesday?
Brandy: I’ve got a photo shoot.
Katie: Okay. Friday?
Brandy: Blake’s got a band thing. How about next Monday?
Katie: I have a hair appointment.

Still, as you and the rest of our readers can see, we do manage to get out occasionally. And on a very rare occasion, we are able to attend an all-day event. When that happens, man – do we milk it for everything it’s worth!

So a few weeks ago Brandy, Blake, Ella, and I were fortunate enough to attend the Fourth Annual Edible Fest in Orange, Virginia. Driving from Harrisonburg, careening through Shenandoah National Park, traversing the curves and mountains of Greene County before crossing into Orange County, home of Montpelier and Barboursville and punctuated by corn fields and kudzu dinosaurs, provided ample and much-needed time to talk and catch up with each other, to breathe and simply sit – restricted by the seatbelt from doing anything at all but sitting side by side. There’s something beautifully restful about a drive.

Once there, we parked and took a shuttle just a couple blocks to the site, right on Main Street in downtown Orange. Presented by edible Blue Ridge Magazine, the Orange Downtown Alliance, and the AV Company, the day-long festival includes Chef Demos with food tastings, a huge open-air market, live music, food trucks, beer and wine, DIY seminars, and kids’ activities. The whole time we were there, we kept saying, “Harrisonburg could TOTALLY do this!” and we really hope that happens soooon!

burgIMG_0543burgIMG_0456Here’s how it was set up: On one end were two large tents with a closed-circuit TV, a microphone, and about 100 seats in each. These were for the Chef Demos, and the two tents took turns so that patrons wouldn’t miss half of the demonstrations. Running at staggered times in a third tent were DIY seminars on topics ranging from making Kombucha to cooking with mushrooms to beer brewing. The chefs included Dwayne Edwards from Keswick Hall; Jason Daniels from Vintage Restaurant at The Inn at Willow Grove; Curtis Shaver from Hamiltons’ First and Main; Craig Hartman from The Barbeque Exchange; Ralph Brown from RBC Institute; Tucker Yoder from Eljogaha; Angelo Vangelopoulos from The Ivy Inn Restaurant; Pete Woods from Merrior and Rappahannock Oyster Co.; Ken Notari from Nude Fude; and Martha Stafford from Charlottesville Cooking School. The chefs’ demos lasted from 10:30am until 4:45pm, so if you wanted to, you could just scoot back and forth between those two tents and spend the entire day watching these incredibly talented chefs and sampling TONS of amazing food.

On the other end of the festival site was a covered dining area with plenty of tables and chairs and a bandstand for the three bands who played (Michael Coleman, John Kelly, and Erin Lunsford). Between the two ends (chef tents and dining area) were ZILLIONS of vendors of most anything you can imagine. Plus food trucks (nine of ’em!!) and a beer truck. I can’t remember all the beers offered, but Pale Fire was one of them, and I remained faithful!

burgIMG_0479And so finally getting to the story, here’s what we did:
First we saw Chef Dwayne Edwards and his assistant from Keswick Hall make a succulent watermelon salad with lavender, sea salt, chili flakes, goat cheese, heirloom cherry tomatoes, tangerine oil, oak barrel aged vinegar, fennel pollen, and basil. Mind you, I didn’t know what HALF those things were, at all, but this tattooed chef in his pinstriped apron narrated every step and it was quite educational. I learned a lot – a new way to chop up a watermelon (my way is pretty efficient, too, I must say, but his added a ninja element), a new way to choose a watermelon (I’ve been drumming on it like a bongo all this time, but apparently you should look for bumps on the “ground side” of the watermelon), and a crazy amount of information about all the different kinds of salt, and even the origin of the word “salary,” which appealed to the word-nerd in me.

burgIMG_0316 burgIMG_0328 burgIMG_0344 burgIMG_0354Next in Tent 2, Chef Tucker Yoder and his assistant Angelo were whipping up Sprouted Grain Salad with Seasonal Veggies and Duck Ham from a local farm. All the chefs used locally-sourced ingredients in their dishes, and Chef Yoder makes most all of his sauces and spreads from scratch – a nice nod to sustainability and craftsmanship that’s usually absent in chain restaurants – resulting in fresh and vibrant flavors.

burgIMG_0368 burgIMG_0372 burgIMG_0379Back in Tent 1, Chef Jason Daniels and his assistant Anthony put together a Pan Roasted Pork Loin (dear gaaaaahhhhd) with Yellow Squash Casserole, Baby Spinach, and Blueberry Salsa. That dish smelled SO good while it was cooking I could barely resist climbing onto the countertop. The casserole included sauteed yellow squash, olive oil, butter, scallions and onion, salt and pepper, sugar, flour, a whole bunch of cheese and heavy cream. While that baked, he made the salsa from red onion, jalapenos, blueberries, garlic, mint and cilantro, and simple syrup – all smushed by hand. The pork sizzled in its skillet in brine. Then it all went together in a happy little cup. Unbelievable.

burgIMG_0397After that demo, we ventured out into vendor-land. So many products. So many samples. So much gooooood. I couldn’t possible list them all, but we saw insect repellant soap by Eastham Farms, Bloody Mary mix (three varieties) by Back Pocket Provisions. Their “Bloody Bangkok” is a throat kicker! Hot Jelly Pot brought 72 flavors of jams and jellies, including their number one seller, Pineapple Pepper. There were Wakefield Peanuts and Hickory (not maple!) Syrups. Mushroom spawn kits. Barefoot Bucha and culinary herbs. Beautiful wooden and ceramic products from Madeira and Lifeware. Tea for all occasions from Fairweather Farm Tea with names like “What the Fxxx Happened,” “Chill the Fxxx Out,” and “Calm the Fxxx Down.” No, I’m not kidding. It was awesome. Coffee, cheese, wine, vinegar, honey, produce, meat, pies, all of it!

burgIMG_0408 burgIMG_0416 burgIMG_0432 burgIMG_0449burgIMG_0462 burgIMG_0467 burgIMG_0468We made it to the end of the marketplace and found the food trucks. We all found something refreshing and reviving and sat down together to enjoy the music. Kids who’d gotten a smoothie from Maui Wowi flashed blue smiles at each other, knowingly, like a secret handshake. Feeling rejuvenated, we decided to try to catch one more chef demo.

This time, it was Chef Craig Hartman from The Barbeque Exchange and his Sweet Corn and Bacon. It was after 2pm. People had been there a while and were relaxed and jovial. You could feel the excitement; the tent seemed hotter. We all clapped when he pulled out the giant slab of bacon; we cheered when he said “butter”! His biggest piece of advice when cooking the meat was to “control the flame” at all times. Don’t let the pan get too hot; don’t lose control of that flame. So it was especially funny when his towel caught fire. And when he handed out the sample of that sweet corn and bacon, it was like Oprah’s Favorite Things: “YOU get bacon! And YOU get bacon! AND YOU GET BACON!” People went crazy! Lots of laughing and clapping and yum-ing – what an awesome day.

burgIMG_0511 burgIMG_0514 burgIMG_0522 burgIMG_0531burgIMG_0538All in all, this was a fantastic festival and something WE KNOW Harrisonburg could pull off. Who’s in?

burgIMG_0493 burgIMG_0494Copyright © 2012-15 · 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.

have a grape summer: valley vineyards.

These days, as the sun sinks below the horizon earlier and earlier, and crisp nights foreshadow the coming of autumn in the Valley, we just want to say thank you to wine for making our summer so sweet, and making the rest of the year palatable, lol. Especially Barren Ridge and CrossKeys Vineyards. Thank you for being so close and accessible.

burgIMG_8122

CrossKeys Vineyard, Cross Keys, Virginia

CrossKeys Vineyard, Cross Keys, Virginia

Thank you for dream-like vistas.
Thank you for fragrant blossoms.

Barren Ridge Vineyard, Fishersville

Barren Ridge Vineyard, Fishersville

Fragrance at Barren Ridge Vineyard, Fishersville

Fragrance at Barren Ridge Vineyard, Fishersville

Thank you, Barren Ridge Vineyard

Thank you, Barren Ridge Vineyard

CrossKeys Vineyard, Cross Keys, Virginia

CrossKeys Vineyard, Cross Keys, Virginia

CrossKeys Vineyard, Cross Keys, Virginia

CrossKeys Vineyard, Cross Keys, Virginia

Thank you for sweaty glasses in shady spots.
Thank you for long walks down neat rows of crooked vines.

Let me top you off, at Barren Ridge Vineyard

Let me top you off, at Barren Ridge Vineyard

Red Barren at Barren Ridge Vineyard

Red Barren at Barren Ridge Vineyard

CrossKeys Vineyard in Cross Keys, Virginia

CrossKeys Vineyard in Cross Keys, Virginia

CrossKeys Vineyard, Cross Keys, Virginia

CrossKeys Vineyard, Cross Keys, Virginia

CrossKeys Vineyard, Cross Keys, Virginia

CrossKeys Vineyard, Cross Keys, Virginia

Thank you for showing us the value of patience… and age.
Thank you for corks that keep secrets protected.
Thank you for laughter-softened memories.
Thank you for the ripening of grapes and friendship.

Victory at CrossKeys

Victory at CrossKeys

what summer looks like at CrossKeys Vineyard

what summer looks like at CrossKeys Vineyard

lush summer.

lush summer.

thank you for this.

thank you for this.

Thank you for not requiring a reservation… or enforcing a dress code.
Thank you for hosting family reunions.
Thank you for teaching us to take time to breathe.

Katie's mom and dad at Barren Ridge Vineyard

Katie’s mom and dad at Barren Ridge Vineyard

Katie's folks, Barren Ridge Vineyard

Katie’s folks, Barren Ridge Vineyard

tasting room at Barren Ridge Vineyard

tasting room at Barren Ridge Vineyard

some folks we met at Barren Ridge Vineyard

some folks we met at Barren Ridge Vineyard

CrossKeys Vineyard, Cross Keys, Virginia

CrossKeys Vineyard, Cross Keys, Virginia

Upcoming Events at Barren Ridge
Firelight Fridays and Sunsets at the Vineyard
September 18
 – Scruffy Murphy
October 16 – Tara Mills
November 20 – Kathy Walton Lafon

Upcoming Events at CrossKeys Vineyards
Finally Friday’s Wine Down 
every Friday
Behind the Scenes Harvest Tour Sept 1 — Oct 15
CrossKeys Stomping Party Sept 11
Vineyard Vines CrossKeys Concert Series Sept 13

Copyright © 2012-15 · 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.

best buds: white oak lavender farm.

More photos of our trip to White Oak Lavender Farm!

burgIMG_9277 burgIMG_9298 burgIMG_9312 burgIMG_9313 burgIMG_9343 burgIMG_9381 burgIMG_9406Copyright © 2012-15 · 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.