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.

 

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.