home bass: red wing roots music festival 2014.

redwingrootscrowd1Day Two of the Red Wing Roots Music Festival began with a discussion about the bird and the bees and at what age to let your kids in on the Great Secret. I’ve always believed that if a child is old enough to ask, she’s old enough to know (at least for this topic). When my daughter was seven, she asked WHY there were anatomical differences between boys and girls, and I said, “Because that’s how you tell what they are when they’re born.” Duh. Because, you know, they’re bald and all. She waved her index finger at me and replied, “I KNOW there’s more to it than that.” So I took a deep breath and I told her. I was SO NERVOUS. And when I was all done fumbling and stuttering and sweating over it, she said, “Well, that makes sense. Is that it?”

Then I had to tell her it’s kinda like Santa: other kids might not know yet, so don’t go blabbing and ruin it for them.

This was our conversation over a refreshing beer in the Blue Mountain Brew Garden before we snaked our way through throngs of people crowded in front of the South Stage to see Miss Tess and the Talkbacks. Don’t let the floral dress fool ya – that gal is fierce. They played several heart-pounding, dance-inducing numbers, plus “Hold Back the Tears” by Neil Young. In trying to describe their sound, the words country and funk both come to mind. With a modern-vintage vibe. So it’s like a modern-vintage funktry. Brandy and Ben attempted to dance and I wish I coulda hijacked the camera. Ha. I saw some students from my school, too, and I felt strangely proud to see them in the world outside of class.

redwingrootsmisstess2 redwingrootsmisstess3Over by the Local Roots Stage, kids were enjoying all kinds of art activities hosted by Larkin Arts and Artery. Sweet Denise Allen was facilitating the creation of a large, adorable, collective painting, while kids at the Larkin tent enjoyed bubble wands, coloring pages, puzzles, board games, printmaking, face painting, hair braiding, nail art, and even a scavenger hunt. There was also a Polaroid photo booth and a caricature artist! If you have kids and you’re looking for a kid friendly music festival, put Red Wing on your list.

redwingrootslarkin1redwingrootslarkin2redwingrootslarkin3redwingrootskidsbubbleSarah Jarosz has a haunting sound… perhaps not something you’d expect at a roots music festival filled with banjos and fiddles and ukuleles. She and her band mates – Alex and Nathaniel – toss around five or six instruments among the three of them and create a sound that is both gauzy and downhome, beautiful yet energizing. People like to be amazed at how young she is… and she is young and that’s impressive… but talent like hers doesn’t wait. We should not be surprised her gift showed up early. Just grateful.

redwingrootssarahThe first song she played – “Over the Edge” – I recognized right away because I think I’ve heard it on the radio. She also performed Radiohead’s “The Tourist” (WOW!!), an instrumental number by John Hartford called “Squirrel Hunters,” and one of my long-ago favorites, “The Wind” by Cat Stevens. What versatility!

redwingrootssarah2I need to dedicate at least a paragraph to all the amazing food we ate. There were at least a dozen vendors including Lucas Roasting Company to cool you down, warm you up, or re-energize you; Old Hill Cider; Blue Mountain Brewery; Grilled Cheese Mania; Jon Boyz BBQ Shack; Jack Brown’s; A Bowl of Good; Blue Ridge Pizza Co.; Goatocado; Cristina’s Café; and many others. I had a Carolina BBQ sandwich from Jon Boyz (yum!!) and two (yes, at the same time) Jack Brown’s burgers. At the condiment table I asked, “What’s this?” holding up a squirt bottle of whitish sauce. “That?” replied the girl on duty. “Oh, that’s liquid crack in a bottle. You definitely want that!” And I could eat that Crazy Cuban burrito from Cristina’s every day. Even Kline’s Ice Cream was there. All the comforts of home.

redwingrootsbbqredwingrootsfood3 redwingrootsfood2 redwingrootsfood1redwingrootslucasAfter Sarah, we spent a good deal of time decompressing in the Brew Garden, laughing and sipping and reminiscing. My friends are so dear and I’m so glad we spent this timelessness together. But before long it was time for the Steel Wheels to hit the stage, so we hauled ourselves up and over there.

redwingrootssteelwheels3The band started with a lovely thank-you to the fans for their support of the festival and used the word “home” like fifteen times. They also thanked Wade Lune (of Bella Luna, and formerly of the Mockingbird in Staunton) for his part in their involvement in this whole endeavor. A little later they thanked our humble Jeremiah Jenkins, who oversaw most everything we all enjoyed all weekend. We’ll never take you for granted, Jeremiah. You do so much. And did you know he helped write one of the songs the Steel Wheels performed? Yep. Just add that to the résumé. Among the favorites that evening were “Halfway to Heaven,” dedicated to Lucas Coffee, “Lay Down Lay Low,” and “Promised Land.” I swear, it was like Name That Tune. They’d strum one note and people would start screaming. We know them so well.

redwingrootssteelwheels5 redwingrootssteelwheels8 redwingrootssteelwheels4 redwingrootssteelwheels2 redwingrootssteelwheels1And just like that, it was time to head back to my car (on the first row this time—yow!) and drive back into the lonely reality. My kids would return Sunday and I couldn’t wait to bring them back with me.

redwingrootsfamily1We’ll share the third and final installment of our story really soon. Thanks so much for visiting this week!

Copyright © 2012 – 2014 · 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.

 

 

 

 

all folked up: red wing roots music festival 2014.

redwingrootssignSummer doesn’t technically end until late September, but the spirit of summer seems to dim the second Target publishes its back-to-school circular. At least, for me. Of course, I’m a teacher, so the end of summer vacation means a lot of things: it means way-too-early mornings, way too many meetings, way too many new names to learn. It means full-blown shoes instead of flip flops, dress suits instead of swimsuits, and seventeen-minute lunch breaks. So it’s nice, as hundreds of out-of-state plates flood through our city and parents get their college kids moved back in… as traffic goes from hardly noticeable to downright irksome… as the evenings cool down enough to warrant a sweater, wrinkly from its sojourn in the closet… as these changes do and must occur, it’s nice to remember the timelessness of summer and all we did to achieve that temporal suspension.

redwingrootscheers1As I look back over my summer, here in my kitchen a mere two days before I meet 135 fresh new students, I think most about an event that stopped time in its tracks for three whole days: The Red Wing Roots Music Festival. In just its second year, the festival is a coveted gig for musicians far and wide who celebrate their culture’s musical roots. Essentially, roots music is folk music that has aged. “Folk music” is just music created by a particular group of folks: jazz came from a group of folks, blues came from a group of folks, and today’s music has evolved from those “roots.” Whatever modern music you enjoy now is rooted in very culture-specific traditions. This is why roots music is so appealing: somewhere, at some level, it’s in your blood.

redwingrootsdance1It was like the earth stopped spinning on that little patch of the globe, everyone breathed, everyone ate and drank, everyone sang and danced and filled up on whatever it was they’d been missing: love, friendship, music, sustenance, nature… Time became vertical rather than horizontal; it became deep rather than linear. It was SUCH a relief.

Heading out to Natural Chimneys that Friday evening, I listened to The Swell Season and watched the bars on my cell phone, and my obligations, disappear one by one. I was late getting to the festival – had to get my kids all squared away for the weekend – and I felt a little guilty for missing some performances already, and even though I had to count the rows of cars to be sure I’d be able to find my car again later (it was THOUSANDS of people, people), parking and getting through the main gate was a breeze, thanks to careful planning and a super-helpful staff.

It took a little time before I finally ran into Brandy, but even in a crowd of thousands we always manage to find each other. In the meantime, I ran into a friend there for the weekend with his wife and toddler, brave soul. He told me that HIS friends, on their way to Virginia for the festival, decided, “Screw it! Let’s just buy a pop-up!” and that’s what they did. They just pulled over and BOUGHT A POP-UP. Of course, as my friend explained, they’re DINKs (Double Income No Kids), and so it’s not so far out of the realm of possibility as it is for us SITKs. Soon after that I saw tons of Harrisonburg-ers. Most of my social circle was there, in fact. At first I was a little leery of leaving my belongings in the Blue Mountain brew garden, but then I realized if anyone stole from me, it wouldn’t be long before I caught that person with my pilfered item back home. The odds were that if you stole something, you’d be stealing from someone you knew. I was among friends. No one was stealin’ anything.

redwingrootsbeergarden redwingrootscoconut Brandy appeared out of nowhere and we headed over to see Pokey Lafarge, one of the festival’s favorites last year. He didn’t disappoint. His old-time concoction of saloon ragtime was refreshing and lively, complete with watermelon served directly to the crowd. The man is like a time capsule himself. So much of the past contained in that slender frame… he must be much older than he looks. He sang a song about River City and how to treat a lady, back when people gave a rip about that. Just kidding. Sorta.

redwingrootspokey7 redwingrootspokey8 redwingrootspokey10He also sang an old Hank, Sr. song, “Lovesick Blues,” which blended seamlessly with all his other work. It made me think about what breaking up used to mean… back when saying goodbye meant no contact. You saddled up your horse and rode out of your lover’s life forever. There was no turning around, no flying back the next day, no email or texting or social-media stalking. People probably broke up less back then than they do now because they understood the permanence of it. In a way that makes it easier than it is now.

redwingrootspokey2 redwingrootspokey3 redwingrootspokey4I spent some time during Pokey’s performance to check out some people’s festival gear. I saw lots of really cool, versatile, utilitarian back packs. Some even contained babies, in addition to all the other necessities: bug repellant, sunscreen, water, lip balm, sunglasses, hat… those things plus shoes you don’t really care about… but really very little else. I set my chair and blanket down when I first arrived and didn’t return to it until I left for the night.

I also noticed a resurgence (or maybe it never left?) of hippie clothing. This made me smile. I used to wear that stuff. Does this mean a bona fide resurgence of hippie-ism? I sure hope so, now that our post-Reaganomics, post-Lewinsky planet is a complete mess. My generation – Generation X – is officially old and tired. Come on, new hippies… we need you.
redwingrootsfans

redwingrootsgear1 redwingrootsfans2Next up were The Duhks. I’d never heard them before, and I LOVED THEM. These twelve-year “soulgrass” veterans out of Canada added a modern element to the festival with a blend of gospel, blues, bongos and tattoos. The singer took a break for one number and I actually missed her, but it turned into an all-out jam that got some feet moving and some wild-eyed spirits touching. Darkness fell and they played a few more. Fireflies appeared, decked out for the party in yellow. Little kids easily caught them and set them free. They’re the friendliest of all insects. They move slowly, they don’t seem to mind if you put them in a jar for a few minutes, I’ve never been bitten or stung by one… I’m not sure how that cute rear flasher could intimidate a predator. They must survive on karma. They make other organisms happy, and in return, nothing eats them.

redwingrootsduhks1 redwingrootsduhks3And then, what always happens happened: I lost my friends! And I just had to go with the flow because on this night, nothing really mattered and the whole world was my friend. People were lined up, squished together and screaming long before Trampled By Turtles even started. And when they started, a massive hoard of fans flooded in. I sat on the moist earth and watched their feet hurry by.

redwingrootsduhks2I had decided from the start that I would drive in and out each of the three days. I only live about twenty minutes from Mt. Solon, and my bony frame makes camping uncomfortable. I began to regret that decision while driving out, when my phone lit up like a Christmas tree with all the messages I’d missed.  But tomorrow held the promise of timelessness again.

redwingrootshoopboy redwingrootshoopgirl redwingrootskatieYou can read about Day Two of the Red Wing Roots Music Festival right here in a few days!

Copyright © 2012 – 2014 · 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.

that’ll leave a mark: three notch’d brewing company.

three notchd signThere’s something about sitting at a rough-hewn wooden slab in front of a tray of Three Notch’d beer samples that makes you want to spill your guts. Perhaps it hearkens back to the days of my beer-swilling ancestors in Ireland and Germany, when men would fill their steins to the brim and vent about a crazy day on the battlefield. It’s in my blood. And so after the casual chit chat that marks the beginning of every visit, Brandy and I delved into a deep discussion of religion as a human construct, what it means to believe, the illusion of time, and all sorts of other topics like life on other planets, photon torpedoes, and David Blaine. Our musings were accompanied by the acoustic stylings of Jeff Gorman and decorated by the works of Erin Murray hanging throughout the rustic taproom.

three notchd lounge three notchd musicNamed as a tribute to the historic Three Notch’d Road in Central Virginia, Three Notch’d Brewery offers a simple yet warm and beautiful tasting room with ample room for beer fans. Sometimes one of Harrisonburg’s awesome food trucks will make an appearance and fill everyone’s bellies. And even though they’re new to town, they’ve already shown their support of the arts by sponsoring this year’s Art Lotto!

three notchd bw three notchd collageThe six beers before us carefully paced out our thoughts and sentences. We leisurely made our way through the Hydraulion Irish Red, the No Veto English Brown, the Oats McGoats Oatmeal Stout, The Trader Crystal-Hopped Saison, the Gray Ghost Pale Ale, and my favorite, the 40 Mile IPA. They also have, from time to time, the Bloody Roots Brown Ale, the Citra Wheat Ale, Jack’s Java Stout, the Rauchig Fuchs Smoked (gesundheit!), the Scot Notch’d Scotch Ale, and debuting this week, the Raucous Honey Double IPA! Just imagine all the philosophical conversations you can have with that selection!

three notchd islandthree notchd tapsSomehow our conversation digressed to the documentary Mortified Nation,which I haven’t seen. It’s about adults who share things they wrote as kids… really embarrassing, humiliating things that happened to them and left a mark. It sounds more cringe-worthy than an episode of the BBC’s version of The Office. Eeek. I made a mental note to soon fill my growler with Three Notch’d IPA and white-knuckle my way through that documentary.

three notchd nuts three notchd samplesAnd then we somehow aged about 25 years and started swapping medical stories. I told her about the first time I ever had an eye exam. Prior to the appointment, they told me on the phone that my eyes would be dilated. “Sounds great!” I said.

I had no idea what that meant.

I drove myself there, alone. It had recently snowed, and it was a beautiful, BRIGHT, sunny day. Long story short, I tried wrapping my head in my scarf, ninja-style, so I was peeking through a tiny slit while driving the slippery roads home. But I ended up skidding into the Kroger parking lot and calling my then-husband to come get me. I was convinced my eyes were bleeding. Brandy had a similar story except no one could come get her. She sat in her car for an hour waiting for her eyes to “sober up.”

The music continued and by now we were crying (from laughing) over our twelve empty sample glasses. People were starting to stare and it was getting on time to go. Three Notch’d is located at 241 East Market St and is open Tuesday through Sunday. Visit them now!

three notchd staffCopyright © 2012-14 · 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.

yum sip yum: food bar food.

foodbarfood signThe first thing I asked Amanda when she had a free second: “What’s the story behind the name, Food Bar Food?”

Her answer was simple and clear: she wanted the name of the restaurant to reflect its focus on food and beverages. Nothing more, nothing flashy really… it’s one of those “there’s-food-and-a-bar-and-did-we-mention-the-food?” kinda restaurants. The web site calls their culinary offerings “global comfort food,” which I think is a humble description for truly unique dishes one won’t find anywhere else, at least not in our little sliver of the globe.

foodbarfood bwfoodbarfood barBrandy and I were so excited and honored to be invited to Food Bar Food’s soft opening, and for my very favorite meal: brunch! The brunch menu consists of six “plates,” four “bowls,” four burgers, and a healthy assortment of sides. I don’t thing I’ve ever encountered a menu on which everything – absolutely all the dishes – appealed to me. Usually there are one of two items I wrinkle my nose at, but not this time. I wanted everything, from the Asian spiced fried chicken to the haddock burger with Sriracha mayo.

After deliberation that easily could have stretched us into lunch, I decided on the Pad Thai frittata – a rice noodle egg pancake with shrimp, veggies, peanuts, scallions, and ginger sauce. I noticed a “gf” notation next to the price and dorkily shouted to Brandy, “What’s this mean? Nine dollah, girlfriend?”

“Uh, no. That means it’s gluten free.”

Ah. I’m letting you all know, there are gluten-free options. Woot!

foodbarfood padthaiBrandy ordered the Huevos Rancheros – two eggs with black bean chili, roast poblano chili relish, queso blanco, red chili sauce, and a corn tortilla cheddar quesadilla, all for ten dollah, girlfriend! We each gobbled up half and then traded plates to finish the rest. Both dishes were TO DIE FOR. Amanda wasn’t kidding when she said the food is the focus.

foodbarfood brunchBut wait. I haven’t yet described the BAR part of Food Bar Food. Not only do they have a full bar, with four rotating taps, a dozen bottled and eight canned beers, a wall full of wine, and some enticing specialty cocktails like the Honey Badger and the Hair of the Salty Dog, but they also have an AWESOME Bloody Mary menu. We tried the Rooster (Kimchi spices, Sriracha, ginger, lime, and Thai basil), the Bloody Maria (cholula, jalapeno-infused tequila, chili salt and a pepperoncini), and the Bull, which arrived garnished with a ding-dang pork rind, for heaven’s sake!

foodbarfood bloodymaryWe’re so excited about this new restaurant where our nourishment needs are the number one priority. When you get a minute, check out their dinner menu, too. You’ll see all sorts of unusual combinations created by seasoned chef Jeff Minnich – like sea scallops with avocado mousse, or the braised and crispy duck leg with cranberry balsamic sauce, and somehow the most expensive dish there is just twelve dollah, girlfriend!

Food Bar Food, located at 126 W. Bruce St., is now open Tuesday – Saturday for dinner, and Saturday – Sunday for brunch.

foodbarfood staffCopyright © 2012-14 · 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.

beer witness: rocktown beer and music festival 2014.

Rocktown Beer and Music Festival!
rocktown beer fest tattoo
rocktown beer fest andy rocktown beer fest backpack rocktown beer fest collage rocktown beer fest hoop rocktown beer fest mug rocktown beer fest peak rocktown beer fest rm rocktown beer fest serveCopyright © 2012-14 · 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.

beer hug: rocktown beer and music festival 2014.

rocktown beer fest14rocktown beer fest cheers rocktown beer fest couple2 rocktown beer fest couple3 rocktown beer fest crowd1 rocktown beer fest dance1 rocktown beer fest musicCopyright © 2012-14 · 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.

grin and beer it: rocktown beer and music festival 2014.

rocktown beer fest wooAfter having attended the Rocktown Beer and Music Festival all four years, and having documented it on this site for three of those four, I’ve come to understand that the Beer Fest — now a beloved Harrisonburg tradition — is really just a large family reunion, minus the awkwardness. Beer is the ultimate social lubricant, after all.

You won’t run into eccentric relatives, like your Aunt Norma who always asks, “When are you ever going to have a baby?” Or your great Aunt Phyllis who’s determined to tell you about all twenty-three of her cats. Your teenage niece, who was so cute and fun at the last reunion but is now all brooding and angst-y and Snapchat-y. Or that relative you don’t know at all, who’s parked himself at the chips and dip. And Aunt Norma’s new hubby, who sneaks out to hide in his car until it’s all over.

You won’t run into that relative who constantly brags/complains about his all-important job, or the one who constantly brags/complains about his corns, bunions, sciatica, and that punk who moved in down the street. And the reunion ambles along a path that eventually arrives at the collective question: WHAT IS THIS WORLD COMING TO??

Nope. You won’t find any of that at the Rocktown Beer and Music Festival. But here’s what you will find.

1. Your buddies. You’ll see people you haven’t seen since last year’s Fest, and people you just saw yesterday. I run into my old friend Melissa every single year. I worked with her ages ago at Clayborne’s, and I never, ever see her anywhere… except the Beer Fest.

rocktown beer fest group2. Music. This year, Rocktown Beer and Music Festival welcomed three bands: Harrisonburg favorites The Deadmen out of DC; the mood-elevating Bronze Radio Returnfrom Connecticut; and the versatile jam-band out of Baltimore, the Kelly Bell Band.

rocktown beer fest bronze radio rocktown beer fest deadmenrocktown beer fest dance3. Food. Patrons enjoyed delectables from ClementineJack Brown’s, the Local Chop and Grill House, and Union Station. This is some of the best food in the city, making the Beer Fest way classier than your family reunion at picnic shelter #4, no offense.

4. And finally, duh, the beer. More than thirty breweries to sample, including seven from Virginia: Blue Mountain BreweryBold Rock CiderChampion BrewingDevil’s Backbone Brewing Co.St. George Brewing Co., Three Notch’d Brewing Co. (who just opened at tap room here in Harrisonburg, in the Urban Exchange building!!), and our hometown heroesThree Brothers Brewing Co. I’ve been thinking about those small mugs the Beer Fest gives to its guests, and I’m just gonna put this suggestion out there for what it’s worth. Some people like a wide variety of beer and like having ten 4-oz samples. However, I’m an IPA fan, and I would appreciate being able to get an 8-oz mug filled five times, since I know I’m sticking to IPA. Maybe in the future, we can select our preferred mug size when we order tickets?

rocktown beer fest  couple1 rocktown beer fest couple2 rocktown beer fest couples rocktown beer fest crowd collage5. The staff. You get friends, music, food, beer, and people who will help you. The Beer Fest’s more than 150 volunteers keep the lines moving, the music playing, and the place clean and safe.

rocktown beer fest staff 1 rocktown beer fest staff2And now here is something exciting: Rocktown Beer and Music Festival Fall Edition!! Yep! September 20, 2014, come on down to the Turner Pavilion for another festival. So far they’ve lined up thirty breweries; the band lineup will be announced by June 1st, and tickets go on sale July 1st. And hey, maybe Harrisonburg’s newest brewery, Pale Fire Brewing, will ready by then! If you ask me, I think it would be wise to just go ahead and have your family reunion here. Everyone will get along much better, trust me.

rocktown beer fest crowd collage2 rocktown beer fest loungerocktown beer fest hugCopyright © 2012-14 · 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.

home is where the art is: arts council progressive party, 2014.

progressive party signHarrisonburg, you know how to throw a good shin-dig. I’ve been to some that were all pulled pork and PBR. Some that were wine and cheese and silent films. Some that were champagne and eggs benedict. Some that were margaritas and enchiladas. Some that were craft beer and local food. I even hosted one that was sushi lessons and gourmet cake. But this one was something brand new.

I went to my first-ever Progressive Party with Brandy and I LOVE the concept. A progressive party is one in which guests move from one home to another to enjoy a multi-course meal. Cocktails and appetizers at one location, dinner at the next, coffee and dessert at yet another, and so on. Until a couple weeks ago, my only experience with such a thing has been at my own house. I sorta have my own version of the progressive party… snacks for the kids on the coffee table, then dinner at the kitchen table, followed by maybe a popsicle or ice cream sandwich on the porch. And cocktails for me throughout. Okay, so maybe that’s not really a “party,” but there usually is a fair amount of laughing, dancing, and spilling. And yes, I have been known to make a meal out of cheese, crackers, and rolled up salami held together with those little festive toothpicks.

Anyway, Brandy and I were lucky enough to be invited to the Arts Council’s Fourth Annual Progressive Party. Because our lives are a sitcom, the evening started out strangely. First, the people we’d invited as our “dates” for the evening both succumbed to last-minute illness. Thankfully, Brandy’s sister Brook was available, and that woman went from sweat pants to cocktail dress and drove thirty miles in like 43 minutes. Then, we weren’t sure where exactly we were going, so there’s that. That, and trying to explain the location to Brook. Once there, Brandy managed to get her purse caught in the lace of her dress and then pointed out the three holes in her pantyhose. Meanwhile, I regretted choosing to wear my “superbra” because I couldn’t stop tugging at that thing.

Now, it’s hard for a herd of 260 partiers to eat dinner at one person’s house, so this Progressive Party deviated from the norm a bit. All the guests assembled for happy hour at the home of Chuck and Geri Barker (co-hosted by Keri and Joel Davis). Their spacious home, patio, and garden perfectly accommodated all of us, and we enjoyed a lovely selection of beer, wine, and hors d’oeuvres. We saw lots of friends there, like Mike and Suzi, and Lindsay and Don, and Rachel and Andrew. I complimented Patrice on her dress, and then I learned that apparently, you can RENT clothes. I mean, clothes that are not a tuxedo. You can rent a dress for an evening. And by “rent,” I don’t mean buy it, wear it, spray it with Febreze and return it for a refund the next day. I mean, you can RENT a dress. Perhaps the inventor of rent-a-dress and the inventor of the progressive party are one and the same.

progressive party lawn progressive party patio progressive party patio2At about six o’clock, we were instructed to move to our dinner location. All 260 guests were divided among roughly twenty host homes for a home-cooked meal. Brandy, Brook, and I were assigned to Meg and Bill Wightman’s. In a typical progressive party, Meg and Bill would just serve us the next course, like salad, and then we’d go to another home. But because of the crazy number of people involved in this thing, we stayed put at the Wightman’s for SIX more courses, to be deliciously outlined in the photos that follow. Prepare to drool.

While we waited for everyone in our group to arrive, we looked around their adorable home. The kitchen is gorgeous, and that coupled with Meg and Bill’s unbelievable calmness assured me we were in for a good meal. We admired precious art work by their kids, Alice and Liam, like the butter dish Alice made at You Made It. And we saw Bill’s collection of defaced dollar bills. He would buy defaced bills from the bank, rescuing them from certain shredding.

progressive party butter dish progressive party dollarsprogressive party dinner tableEveryone arrived, and to our delight, we were joined by Chuck and Geri Barker (from whose house we’d just come) and Lindsay and Don Denny. So our group consisted of Meg, Bill, Lindsay, Don, Chuck, Geri, Brook, Brandy, and me. Then the food started. First, this martini glass filled with pink snapper and mango salsa plus jalapeno — yow! Man, that was delish. They get their fish from Pickford’s Fresh Seafood — it’s overnight-ed from Hawaii!! And wine from Vintage Wines — both stores are across from Costco. Oh, and Vintage Wines has tastings on Fridays and Saturdays.

progressive party mangoNext up was spaghetti with Pecorino cheese and pork and some other things I missed because I was eating noisily. Then a salad of baby greens, homemade Hawaiian bread croutons, and goat cheese.

progressive party pastaBetween courses, we chatted about family and friends, about death and legacy (Geri’s mom had recently passed), about kids, and about nearly dying from canoe-related mishaps, which nearly everyone at the table had experienced.

progressive party gals progressive party guestsThen came THE MEAT. Omgahd, the meat. Lordy. Bill grilled these lamb chops and served them over this butternut squash, red lentil, and coconut puree, and I think there was spinach and garlic in there somewhere, and heavens-to-Betsy, it was SO SCRUMPTIOUS. And the little flatbreads with coriander chutney — Lord.

progressive party lambAfter that Meg asked, “Is anyone else hot, or is it just my stage in life?” Or maybe it’s that she’d been running in and out of the kitchen all night. At any rate, the next course cooled us off: a grapefruit champagne sorbet. And finally, dessert. A blueberry-white chocolate bread pudding with amaretto sauce. You wouldn’t believe the reaction. Everyone just wanted to move in. We all fell in love with the Wightman’s at the first bite.

progressive party bread puddingLamentably, the meal ended, even though I was stuffed to the gills and couldn’t possibly have eaten more. Except maybe one more lamb chop. Or five. At any rate, the final “course” of the progressive party was a performance by Blue Label at Court Square Theater. They played songs by artists from Elvis to Stevie Wonder to Lady Gaga. We heard “Happy” and “Footloose” and “PYT.” And people were dancing like CRAZY. I was seriously trying not to scald someone with my coffee as I wiggled my way down the aisle. And once I felt I had safely digested most of that delicious meal, Brandy, Brook and I cut a rug, too! In another part of town, in fact just a few yards away, MACRoCk was raging… but I’m pretty sure we had just as much fun.

progressive party concert1 progressive party concert2If you ever get a chance to attend the Arts Council Progressive Party, you won’t regret it. Not only will you be treated to an exquisite meal, but you’ll have warm conversations with friends old and new, you’ll get to dress up (even if you have to rent it, girl), you’ll get to hear some music and dance your feet off, and most importantly, you’ll be helping the Arts Council continue to provide Harrisonburg with meaningful art experiences. Hope to see you next time!

Copyright © 2012-14 · 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.

catching fire: bella luna.

Bella Luna sign2I’m just gonna cut to the chase. Harrisonburg has needed a wood-fired pizza place FOREVER. And we finally have one!! And it’s AWESOME. And beautiful, as you can see from Brandy’s photos here.

Brandy and I had a lovely day with the kids recently. We planned to meet at Bella Luna for lunch. Of course, when we got there, we discovered that Shabby Love, a new store with all kinds of cool vintage items located next to Bella Luna, is also now open! We went in there first and pretty much drooled over every single item in that place. So you can expect to see some gorgeous photos of that place soon, too.

If you haven’t been in Bella Luna yet, let me set the scene for you. It’s located on West Water Street just down from Beyond and Cuban Burger. They’ve done a superb job of renovating that building: a bright atrium behind majestic wooden doors greets hungry patrons; beautiful exposed brick preserves the building’s history; tall windows let in exorbitant natural light; a warm, welcoming bar lines one side of the restaurant; wooden columns and rafters explain why they won a well-deserved Design Excellence Award; and the kitchen, including the shiny, modern wood-fire oven, is open and visible from the dining area. It’s pretty fancy, in an unassuming way, for a pizza joint. But the menu has something for everyone, no matter how sophisticated their taste.

Bella Luna barBella Luna wood-fired ovenbwI can’t say enough about how happy and positive and accommodating the staff is. There’s not a bad seat in the place, but for the purpose of photography, we asked to be moved to a seat near the window with brighter light. The hostess didn’t even flinch and just moved us over. Once settled in our seats, our waitress came right over. Of course, before she could get two words out, Cal challenged her to a staring contest, and because she was the nicest server I think I’ve ever had, she happily obliged. She also lost the contest, but she didn’t hold it against him. In fact, a bit later, she was kind enough to take Bree and Cal over to the pizza oven for a tour. They loved that.

Bella Luna awesome serverbwWe stuck to pizza, beer, and an appetizer. Our appetizer was this lovely deviled egg dish with fresh, local greens and prosciutto ham and some kind of yummy dressing. When the server brought over the pepper mill, Cal asked, “Is that a chess piece?”

Bree and Cal split a cheese pizza, and Brandy and I devoured a more meaty variety, every single bite, plus finger licking. Bree quickly exclaimed that it was the best pizza she’d ever had, adding that she loved the lightly charred edges (she’s not usually a fan of charred food at my house) and that “we are definitely coming back here.” Cal didn’t say much. He just stuffed it in.

Bella Luna deviled eggBella Luna pizza1 Bella Luna pizza3We were so comfortable in there I feel like we’d hardly waited at all before the food arrived. But we ate leisurely, knowing we didn’t have to be anywhere else immediately and enjoying the time to sit, sip, chat, and get nourished. I mention this because if you happen to work downtown, you should know that it’s entirely feasible to get a meal during your lunch break. If you’re not pressed for time, it’s a lovely environment in which to take your time, enjoy a bottle of wine, and relax.

I’ll just let the photos tell the rest of the story. You should, right now, look at your calendar and plan a trip to Bella Luna. We’ve waited this long for wood-fired pizza; to wait any longer would just be ridiculous. See you out and about!

Bella Luna bread Bella Luna bright light Bella Luna dinersBella Luna pizza 2 Bella Luna happy kids Bella Luna outsideCopyright © 2012-14 · 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.

harrisonbrains: team trivia at clementine cafe.

clementine team trivia sheetDidn’t I recently read an article stating that Harrisonburg is one of the smartest cities? It’s no shocker, really, what with two universities and a college right here in town, lots of high-tech jobs, and two highly esteemed school divisions. But I didn’t really give it much thought until Brandy, Ben, Michael, and I attended Team Trivia Night at Clementine for the first time last Tuesday.

Man, Harrisonburg! You’re a bunch of smartypants! And we…. were not.

I learned A LOT that night, including
1. Pretty much everything, and
2. Irony is overrated.

See, we hadn’t done this before. We were Team Trivia virgins. Green. Wet behind the ears. Fresh meat. Thankfully, one of the hosts came over and explained the deal. Here’s the lowdown in case you haven’t tried it yet. You get an answer sheet arranged in quadrants, one for each of four rounds. Each round has four questions. The questions are read aloud in a cluster. Then you and your team (of six or fewer hopefully intelligent people) discuss the questions and (of course) try to come up with the answers. When you fill in your answers on the sheet, you can rank them so that the answer you feel most confident about will get you the most points. You cannot use your phone or similar device. (And believe me, the teacher in me was WATCHING! And I didn’t see anyone cheat.) Then you have a couple minutes to run your answer sheet to the stage so the hosts can grade it and tally the points. They bring the sheet back and it’s on to the next round. Okay.

clementine team trivia hostsWell, someone in our group wrote the word “WINNER” at the top of our page prematurely. We THOUGHT maybe that would influence the judges, or at least please the Trivia Gods, or send some karma our way. Unfortunately, that word ended up being our team name.  Yes, WINNER was the name of our team. So… round after round, we continued to hear, “In last place — WINNER…” All night. All four rounds. Through to the end.

There’s something to be said for consistency, I guess. But irony? I hate you now.

Sorry if that was a massive spoiler — you know, finding out that we didn’t win. I’m sure you’re as surprised as we were. The actual WINNERs got every single question right, so they racked up the whole 72 available points (and someone should check my math on that because I learned that night that I AM A DINGBAT) plus whatever amount they wagered in the bonus round at the end.

I can’t wait to tell you about the types of questions, but first, I should mention that the place was pretty full! I was pleasantly surprised to see so many folks out on a Tuesday night for a brainy endeavor. And it was fun! People were friendly and funny and personable and relaxed. Really, don’t be intimidated by it. We got SMOKED by every team in the room, and we still left happy and laughing. And other than ours, the team names were pretty clever. Like Quiz in My Pants, Michelle Obama’s Favorite Vegetable Barackoli, Males of Seduction, Snails of Destruction, and SEVERAL that are a little too racy for this blog, designed to make the hosts say something embarrassing when they had to announce the standings.

clementine team trivia players1 clementine team trivia artRound One began. The first question was about Hosni Mubarak and what country he presided over. We said Israel <cringe>. Question 2: what was the name of the girl with “hotty body” in the Outkast song “Roses?” Someone in our group announced proudly, “I know who sings that song!” Sigh. The answer: Caroline. We actually knew the answer to the third question, which was “Care Bears.” The last question dealt with “the increase in quaalude sales due to what movie?” We said The Hangover. Another group said Frozen, lol! The answer: The Wolf of Wall Street. Dang it! Okay, so we got one right. We vowed to do better as a team. While we were waiting for the results, someone in our group said, “The suspension is killing me!” !!!  Someone kicked me under the table and then said, “Sorry for playing leggings with you.” Geez! Did we even stand a chance?

Round Two. I’m pretty sure we got the first question right: who was born first, Monet or Van Gogh? Monet, by 13-ish years. But then, what are the three colors on the Venezuelan flag? (yellow, blue, and red) A question about a 2002 Musical that won an Oscar. It was Chicago.  We said Moulin Rouge. And the fourth question involved the periodic table. Just forget it.

After Round Two, there’s a Halftime Round. Not for points, but for a round of shots for your team. You’d think that would make us muster all the intellect we had. Nope. Still missed it.

Round Three. We got ’em ALLLLL wrong. We said Tchaikovsky, it was Mozart. We said Santa Barbara, it was Newport Beach. We said the FCC, it was NASA. And we couldn’t even come up with a Swiss watchmaker. It was Omega.

No. Mozart.

No. Mozart.

When we reached Round Four, we were all a bit sheepish. Our egos were stinging. We called our cocktail waitress over. She was very helpful.

clementine team trivia three brosOkay, so see how many of these you know (i’ll hide the answers at the bottom):
1. Which Virginia college’s athletic teams are known as the Fighting Squirrels?
2. What do the letters in the acronym SWAT stand for?
3. In which city did George Washington deliver the first State of the Union address?
4. Which Jimmy John’s sandwich (by name or number) has the fewest calories? (or maybe it was fat content, I can’t remember…)
And then the final round, in which you can wager up to half of the points you’d earned so far: What did the state of New York require all cars to have, starting in 1901?

Now for this one we had a discussion. Windshield wipers? A rear-view mirror? Someone suggested headlights, because “there’s only two times you’d be driving around — day and night.” God help us. Someone else said “wheels.” What — so we don’t have to drive around on our feet like Fred Flintstone anymore? Lord. Anyway, I think we might have landed on “horn.” I don’t really remember, and our wager amount was a decimal anyway.

no peeking!

no peeking!

So, we totally failed. But it was soooo much fun! We have vowed to each other to go back and try again, all for one and one for all! And before we do, I’m going to load up on salmon and almonds and B12 three times a day for like a month. Then I’ll drive my giant head down to Clementine and mop the floor with all you brainiacs!

You can play, too! Tuesdays at 9pm sharp at Clementine, with overflow seating downstairs in Ruby’s Lounge. See you out and about!

clementine team trivia barAnswers: Mary Baldwin, Special Weapons and Tactics, New York City, the #4, and license plates.

Copyright © 2012-14 · 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.

happy blogiversary, with love: little grill collective.

little grill menusIn case you didn’t know, today isn’t just Valentine’s Day. It’s ilovemyburg.com’s 2nd anniversary! Yep — Brandy and I launched the site exactly two years ago, on a date we felt appropriately expressed our feelings for the Burg. Of course, we all love this city all the time, not just on one day of the year, but it sure is fun to celebrate milestones. In our second year, we published 156 posts, each one a testament to Harrisonburg’s awesomeness. Our readership exploded. Most importantly, our friendship grew in ways that make me ever grateful for my life, my home, Brandy, and the countless loved ones who shared in our experiences… including you. You, who keeps coming back here to read about our shenanigans. We love you!

So a celebration was in order. Brandy lovingly put together an album of our favorite moments from 2013, and we decided to go on a double date at one of Harrisonburg’s oldest and dearest loves, the Little Grill Collective. That place has been a part of my life since I moved here when I was just twenty-one. Brandy and Ben have memories of the Grill that reach way farther back than that. And Michael and I had our first date there. Needless to say, it’s pretty special.

Although it was only Tuesday, we’d all had the sort of week that makes you want to poke yourself in the eye. Thankfully, we were in a place that hugs you as soon as you walk in. Even more thankfully, I was about to smother my problems with all-you-can-eat tacos. Mexi Nite fixes everything!

little grill table foodIf you haven’t been to Mexi Nite (and it kinda scares me if you haven’t), you’re served a lovely plate containing (and these are my terms, so pardon me) two tacos, a potato roll up, a delicious delicacy I like to call “the floppy,” beans, and rice. And when you finish, they bring you MORE! And MORE again! And because the Grill is always conscious about waste, you can order your plate without certain items if you don’t think you’ll be able to eat it all. So I got my plate with no rice. Michael got his with no tomatoes but added a bit of chicken. Brandy added some guac, and Ben ordered his straight up. We also ordered a bucket of Negro Modelo. Yes, a bucket. There was so much love at that table I thought I would pop.

little grill beer bucketThe boys were a bit chatty, so chatty that Brandy and I silently plowed through plate number one and ordered a second lickety split. We were a little more leisurely with our second helping and managed to have a conversation. It had been a couple months since I was in there, and they’ve made some upgrades! First, their gorgeous new tables, made by  Aaron Harper Johnston and Kurt Rosenberger. Also, there’s a staircase near the restroom. I think it goes up to their sound booth, or maybe to a secret fort. They revamped their cash register area (did I see a COMPUTER?) and now bring your tab to your table for you. Fancy! The bathroom’s been painted, and instead of the scrawled graffiti, it’s all been framed and organized.

little grill registerOf course, some of the things we love haven’t changed. Like the Dylan painting. The giant bulletin board of announcements and happenings around town. The Go Ask Alyce (I love that lemon tahini!). BRUNCH. Trivia cards. Yoda. Jesus. Metal lunch boxes full of notes and photos. Beer buckets. And that cute little window into the kitchen.

little grill dylanlittle grill little window2All of it caused us to think about the past and the present. What’s the same and what has changed. All the beautiful things still to come. Then we looked at the time and had to scoot: Team Trivia was starting at Clementine in like fifteen minutes (that post will be up next week!). If you’re still looking for something to do tonight for Valentine’s Day, you can head on down to the Grill and see The Leeroys perform at 8pm! It’s also Down Home Night, so get there a bit early for some good old-fashioned southern home cookin’!

Happy Valentine’s Day, Harrisonburg. YOU ARE LOVED.

little grill sign1Copyright © 2012-14 · 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.

a wine-wine situation: rocktown wine and dine festival 2013. yow!

rocktown wine and dine crowdHarrisonburg’s getting pretty good at this festival thing. Between film festivals, music festivals, beer festivals, various heritage and diversity festivals, and wine festivals, you can be festive every month of the year in this town. I LOVE IT. The key to any great festival is inclusivity. Variety. Public interaction. The spirit of welcome. Makes sense that you’d find such qualities in full force on a Saturday afternoon in Harrisonburg.

Because of the awesome collaboration of our local businesses and organizations like Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance, Bluestone Vineyard, and Downtown Wine and Gourmet, plus a host of local restaurants, and our always-reliable army of cheerful volunteers, citizens of and visitors to our city were able to enjoy a day where people, wines, and foods of all types engaged in merry mingling.

rocktown wine and dine tasting 1If you were there, you know the weather was absolutely perfect. Brandy, Michael, and I arrived promptly at 2:30, moved swiftly through the entrance line, and in a flash, had our stemless glasses in hand. We threw our stuff under the big tree and headed for the Turner Pavilion. There would be time for sitting later!

We headed for the nearest table, which happened to be number 6. There we found Bluestone Vineyard’s 2011 Rose paired with ( I know it sounds strange) Local Chop and Grill‘s Duck Fat Laced Local Watermelon cubes filled with Feta-Olive Mousse. I was a little wary at first… but then I ate like three cubes. Yes, watermelon and feta sounds like some kind of accidental spill, but those people know how to put flavors together! See? Integration. IT WAS DELICIOUS. We were off to a great start.

rocktown wine and dine watermelonWe got excited when we got to table 4 and saw the word “sriracha.” It’s getting to the point where I need it every day. Billy Jack’s offered a house-made crab cake with sriracha mayonnaise, paired with Don Manuel Chardonnay from William Harrison Wines. The fruity tones of the wine with the spicy crab cake were, again, luscious, and I started feeling a bit fancy.

rocktown wine and dine crab cakes 3Table 2 featured two of our favorites: Crosskeys Vineyards and Beyond Restaurant and Lounge. And I’m pretty sure as I approached the table, I let loose with a “Where are the meatballs?!” Cy kindly informed me that they were at the table across the way. “Beyond has two tables? Ohmygolly.” So we gladly ate the Crispy Vegetable Dumplings with house-made garlic and ginger soy sauce, paired with Crosskeys’ super-crisp and summery Joy White.

Next we got to sample my favorite meatballs in the universe, Beyond’s Teriyaki and Pineapple meatballs. The Tinto Negro Mendoza Malbec from Vineyard Brands was a soft, mild wine that didn’t compete with the meatballs, but complemented them. Which was probably wise because those meatballs kick butt. I remember that we lingered at that table for some time… til a plate of cheeseburgers went by.

rocktown wine and dine wontonrocktown wine and dine meatballsAt table 3, burgers sizzled on Jack Brown’s flat top grill while volunteers poured Edgebaston “The Pepper Pot” Red from Southern Starz Wines. Talk about a seamless integration…  succulent beef with spicy, peppery wine… it was warm as an electric Snuggie. I also liked their Nugan Third Generation Shiraz from Australia.

rocktown wine and dine burgersTable 5 should have sported a map of France. Albert Bichot Wines offered the Chateau Boussargues Cotes du Rhone Rouge (“house…sompn sompn sompn sompn… red”), which was tres délicieux, avec Cotes du Rhone Cured Duck Breast, Red Wine Salt, and Poached Local Apple-Fennel-Raisin Preserve from our Local Grill and Chop House. The combination was… how do you say? Sublime. Ah oui!

rocktown wine and dine crackerContinuing with the multi-cultural flair, because Harrisonburg is so good at integration, we left France and tried Union Station‘s Smoked Jamaican Jerk Chicken Breast with Pineapple Salsa, paired with the Cottonwood Creek Organic White from Bronco Wine Co. This wine was like line-dried linen; it was one of my favorites of the day. Clean and fresh and smooth and beachy. They also offered a Truck Red Blend, which of course we had to try.

Union Station also set up shop at table 8, where we tried their Smoked Pulled Pork Sliders and House BBQ Sauce. THOSE were excellent!! And they’re so cute and little, you can eat like six of them so fast there’s no time to feel guilty. We washed those suckers down with what I think wins the award for the most creatively described wine at the festival, the Senda 66 Tempranillo, offered by Frontier Imports. Here’s what the program said: “An exotic wine with aromas of graham cracker, blueberry, violet petal, and pastry. It feels lush, grabby, chewy, and slightly tannic with heavy flavors of clove, black licorice, savory berry, and baked plum.” Okay, they managed to get fruits, herbs, baked goods, flowers, and a touch of candy all in one bottle. I-N-T-E-G-R-A-T-I-O-N!

rocktown wine and dine pork 2The final two tables were hosted by Blue Nile. At table 9, we tried their Whole Lentils, Green Peppers, Chopped Lentils, and Bits of Injera tossed in Vinegar, Olive Oil, and Mustard. This dish had quite a kick, complemented nicely by the fresh, lemony Domaine de Ballade Blanc offered by Bourgeouis Family Wines (love that name!). We finished up with Small Vineyard’s Palama Arcangelo Negroamaro, a spicy Italian wine served with Blue Nile’s Collard Green, Stewed Onions, Garlic, and Ginger. The combination was lovely, and I thought it was cool to drink an Italian wine with my Ethiopian food.

rocktown wine and dine tasting 3Suddenly, it was 5pm, and we were ready to head to the lawn to hear the jazzy musings of the Rick Olivarez Trio, a band out of Charlottesville influenced by eastern European and French musicians, among others. Once out there in the sunshine, we saw more evidence of inclusivity. Chefs Alex and Jon were conducting cooking demonstrations. Their two dishes were Charleston Style Shrimp served on a Pan-Seared Grit Cake with Watercress and a Pomegranate-Thyme BBQ Glaze; and, Grilled Poundcake with Balsamic Marinated Strawberries. Well, I wasn’t going to miss that! Dozens of people stood around watching the demo, asking questions, and then being treated to a generous sampling. AND, Grilled Cheese Mania was there, too, in case you had a serious craving!

rocktown wine and dine musicrocktown wine and dine chef rocktown wine and dine chef 2rocktown wine and dine salad rocktown wine and dine skillet rocktown wine and dine strawberryrocktown wine and dine GCMAnother new thing this year? A beer garden. What?? Yes, a beer garden at the Wine Festival, provided by Specialty Beverage. This was a nice gesture to the companions of wine lovers who wanted to enjoy the festival together. Inclusivity! I love the idea of a beer garden. As if you can plant seeds and little taps will sprout up in your yard. Someone please invent that. So… why not? It was warm, I was thirsty, and there was corn hole. Beer and corn hole go hand in hand. Since we were a party of three, I teamed up with a total stranger to take on Michael and Brandy. And that’s how we spent the rest of our evening: playing corn hole, listening to great music, and making friends with strangers. Just another day in our friendly city.

rocktown wine and dine BEERrocktown wine and dine corn hole1rocktown wine and dine tasting 2 rocktown wine and dine tasting 5Thanks, Burg, for a beautiful day. Thanks to the volunteers, the vendors, the sponsors, and the organizers. You are very much appreciated, and very much a part of what makes our home special. A la vôtre!

rocktown wine and dine goofballsCopyright © 2012-13 · 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.

family guys: three brothers brewing co.

brewery signIt started awkwardly, as it sometimes does. Like the nerds we are, Brandy and I got to Three Brothers Brewing Co. before they opened. In our defense, we’d started back to work that week and were just a wee bit anxious to get in there and finally see Harrisonburg’s new brewery and taproom. Adding to the awkwardness, Brandy’s car door make a strange sound as she opened it, sending the kids into spasms of giggles as the sound reverberated across the parking lot. To make matters MORE awkward, my coffee thermos had leaked all over the passenger seat, and when Brandy decided to get in my car so we could chat while we waited, she sat right in it. And because I always have a large quantity of cardboard in the back of my car (?), I made her a cardboard blotter to sit on. Thank goodness the time to go in came quickly. We were getting less presentable by the minute.

three brothers cardboardWe met Jason behind the bar, one of the three brothers. Adam, Jason, and Tyler own and operate the facility, and Adam’s wife was our bartender. She and Jason graciously served and described several samples to us. I asked about food… and at first I was a little surprised when Jason said they don’t have a food menu. BUT, get this — as a brewery, they operate on “vineyard rules.” Customers can bring in any food they want! You can order food and have it delivered there! You can pack your own picnic! You can come in with a giant tub of cheese puffs if you want! The possibilities are endless. For some reason, this completely blew my mind. It’s a new level of freedom for me. I’m thinking about just rolling a mini-fridge and a hot plate in there and pitching a tent.

three brothers brewing bartender three brothers brewing tapsFurthermore. The place is ridickers beautiful. And huge. You can sit out on the patio at a cute little table, there’s no shortage of stools at the lengthy bar, and they even have a nice, cushy lounge area with leather seating. Decadent. The rich tones of the wooden wall above the bar, the rustic lighting, the aqua sea foam green tiles in what used to be the old Coca Cola plant, the spacious taproom, and the gleaming metal equipment create an elegant blend of vintage and modern, warm and cool.

three brothers brewing vessels three brothers brewing wooden wallhanging light fixtureThey offer 5-sample flights for $8, or you can get a full-size draft, or you can buy a growler and have it filled. They also distribute their beer for purchase at various locations all over town. We sampled several beers, including their Pilsner, the American Amber, the Tri Brathair (this one would be enough for me for dessert), the Hoptimization, and the Admiral (super hoppy and bold). Brandy is partial to the Belgians, so she really liked the Belgian Dubbel and the Belgian Blonde, and my favorites were the Virginia Dark Ale, which has a smooth milky texture, and the Great Outdoors, a pale ale not quite so bitey as an IPA, and it tasted a little buttery to me.

three brothers brewing bottles three brothers brewing flightthree brothers brewing empty flightI have to say, since I’ve lived here, Harrisonburg has had a beer-splosion of sorts. You can find almost any beer you want in this town, whether it’s at a restaurant or a festival, a wine shop or even a convenience store. And now we have this awesome hometown brewery to enjoy. It’s no wonder we’re about to be named Best Beer Town. (Have you voted yet? Good grief, do it!!)

the three brothers1 the three brothers2Hopefully we’ve convinced you to go visit the Three Brothers as soon as you can. Their normal hours are Thursday – Saturday, 4 – 9pm. From time to time they feature live music and stay open a little later. And if you’re not sure where they’re located, it’s easy. They’re at 800 North Main. Just head north like you’re going to the Little Grill, and go a little further, and it’s on the right side of the street. Here’s to good beer!

three brothers brewing cheers bwCopyright © 2012-13 · 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.

gone cuba diving: cuban burger!

restaurant signSomehow this summer I just didn’t get enough “Brandy time.” Maybe we really hadn’t seen each other in a while, or maybe it just felt that way because summer FLEW by, but here we were, the last weekend before returning to work, and we felt compelled to squeeze in a quick dinner before life turned upside down again.

Don’t get me wrong, we had some great times in the burg this summer. Dinner at the Chop House, canoeing, Valley Fourth, Grilled Cheese Mania, Ten Thousand Villages, the Cupcake Company… but we had some misses, too. I missed Art Lotto (dammit!!) because I was at the beach (yay!!), she had some weddings and little trips out of town, and for a few weeks we just barely saw each other at all. I was soooo excited to finally sit down with her again (and a plate of food) and catch up! And Cuban Burger was calling our names.

Michael and I met Brandy, Ben, Blake and Ella there and they quickly accommodated our party of six. The place looks great. If you haven’t been in yet, they occupy what was Wine on Water (and Cuban Burger operated out of there in the beginning) and the All Things Virginia shop. The bar is located on the Wine on Water half, and the dining room extends into the Virginia shop half. Once we arrived, people filled all the tables and we watched with drooling eyes as plate after plate of sumptuous food passed us. A large mural of Cuba covers one rustic brick wall, and Zac Nafziger’s stained glass glimmers in front of a light fixture. Everything is neat and clean, yet warm.

people sitting at bar server taking orderFirst, we caught up on all the news. This just in: Brandy’s dryer shorted out. “How shocking,” Michael chirped, followed by about eight more electrical puns, like “switch” and “short” and “wired.” Finally he put a “plug” in it. Ha. Thankfully Brandy’s house and clothes are all fine. Then we talked about Art Lotto. I’d gone into the Dodger when I returned from the beach to see the portraits. Amazing. They’re still up, if you haven’t seen them yet, and you can see photos of the event at the Art Lotto site. Talking about all that talent led us to Rachel Herr, who was featured in a recent issue of Edible magazine!! (Go to the link, click on the cover with the multi-colored pepper on it, and you can see the article on page 30.) Yay, Rachel! Brandy and I both noted her ability to just “know” when two (or ten) seemingly opposing ingredients will work together. Rachel’s a MacGyver in the kitchen, plain and simple. And Brandy has a bit of this instinct, too. When baking Ben’s birthday cake recently, she realized she was out of vegetable oil, but what did she have handy? Fresh bacon grease. Worked out fine. Put that in your recipe file, people.

The food arrived and we dove in. Michael and I both ordered the Buenos Dias… a burger containing beef and pork, topped with bacon (!), a fried egg (!!), CHEESE, and little matchstick fries. I pretty much ingested my three-meals-a-day in one sitting. I like efficiency. Thankfully the server cleared our empty plates before we licked them.

server serving food burger with riceBlake got the Original burger, and declared it was “the best burger I’ve ever eaten.” Brandy and Ben shared the El Jefe, a burger topped with assorted meat. Brandy quickly admitted that sharing was a mistake, and one she won’t make again. The food, all of it — the burgers, the rice, the fries, the bacon-garnished grits — was unbelievably delicious. Flavorful, cooked to perfection, succulent, and whatever other synonym you can think of. I remember thinking that if I worked within walking distance of that place, I’d have a real problem on my hands, and I felt grateful yet devastated that I don’t. Still, I find myself thinking of when I can get in there again. Lord, that food was good.

burger with gritsThe server asked if I wanted another Sol. Hmmmm… two souls. Wouldn’t that be convenient. That’s when, on the recommendation of our server, Brandy ordered a Caipirinha. It’s the national cocktail of Brazil, containing sugarcane liquor, sugar, and lime. All he had to do was say “mushed up” and Brandy was sold. It, too, was delicious. They have a full bar and offer lots of specialty drinks, and personally, I was comforted by their ample beer selection. And not that it matters all too much, because I’d probably pay $50 for another Buenos Dias right now, but it’s all very affordable.

drinks on a table bartender with shakerCuban Burger, we are so glad you’re back. We needed you. You can find Cuban Burger on West Water Street (next to Beyond). Go hungry!

street scene restaurantCopyright © 2012-13 · 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.

ding dang delicious: local chop and grill house.

group of people at restaurantYou know that feeling, when you’ve been out in the sun all day — at the pool or at the beach — and you’re a little scummy, a little sticky, your skin’s a little dry and sting-y… and you return home and take a refreshing shower? And then you realize how hungry you are because it was so hot all day you didn’t feel like eating much? And you can’t wait to sit down to a big, yummy meal?

I love that feeling. It’s one of my favorite parts of summer time. It’s akin to anticipation, which is another sensation I love. So a couple weeks ago when Brandy and I went canoeing, knowing that night we’d go out for a birthday dinner at one of our favorite restaurants and eat some delicious food, including a surprise birthday dessert made just for us by Rachel Herr, I found myself in a delirious state of anticipation all day. I’d been looking forward to this day for weeks, and it didn’t disappoint. One of the best days ever. :)

After getting cleaned up, Michael and I met Brandy, Ben, Danielle, and Tammy at the Local Chop and Grill House for our birthday dinner. Our server, Rob, brought out bread with olive oil and truffled popcorn for us to nibble on, then brought a round of beverages.

truffled popcorn waiter in red apronThe first order of business was to talk about our canoeing adventure that day. I didn’t have my notebook with me in the canoe, so I didn’t take any notes. And even though Brandy was the one with the PBR concussion, I couldn’t seem to recall much from just a few hours earlier. So we sorta recreated the day’s events right there at the dinner table.

It took some time for us to order because the menu at the Chop House is excellent. So, so many choices and options to ensure you get just what you’re craving. You choose the cut of meat, you choose the rub, you choose the sauce, you choose two side dishes… it’s a lot to juggle, but you will not be disappointed when your plate arrives. We each ordered something different: salmon, Polyface chicken breast, pork chop, NY strip, Twin Oaks Tofu, and the local chuck burger, and an assortment of side dishes like collard greens, duck fat fries, asparagus, smashed potatoes, broccoli, and mac & cheese.

plate with chicken and mac n cheese plate with pork chop and collard greens plate with tofu and asparagus plate with salmon and asparagusBrandy suggested we play a word game. Someone offers a random word, and everyone tries to tell a story or memory related to that word. Michael piped up with “esophagus.” And I instantly had a story, which is this: George W. Bush and I have something in common. We both nearly choked to death on a pretzel. I don’t know all the details of his story, but I was alone in my dorm room at Clemson, sitting in my papasan chair eating pretzels and drinking a Snapple. A curved portion of a pretzel became lodged in my throat and I found myself legitimately choking. Alone, in my room. It was the middle of the day and hardly anyone was in the dorm at all. First I tried flinging myself on various items in the room, like a self-imposed Heimlich, to try to dislodge the pretzel. That didn’t work. I was panicking and starting to think, “This is it. This is how I die. Choking on a pretzel in my dorm room.” My vision was getting dark on the edges. I decided to just run out of my room until I found someone to help me, and when I did, I was flailing through the hallway so wildly that I DID loosen the pretzel and managed not to die. Shew.

The highlight of my evening was when Brandy asked if I’m the same age as George W. Bush. ???

group at dinner tableBrandy had her own choking story. In elementary school she started choking on a hot dog. Of course she didn’t want to call attention to herself and make a scene, so she just sat there trying to deal with it herself. At some point the teacher noticed her esophageal struggle and hit her, hard, on the back. The hot dog flew out, and Brandy was okay. But the other kids thought the teacher just hauled off and hit her for no reason, so they all started giving her their food to make her feel better. :)

Then we started talking about weird things we say. By that I mean, weird things Brandy says. Like “no dip,” meaning “no duh.” And “I font know,” which is the byproduct of an autocorrect malfunction that stuck. Whenever she would text “I dont know,” her phone would correct “dont” to “font,” so now when she doesn’t know something, she says, “I font know.” Of course, I have a weird word, too. It’s “ghee.” It’s not “gee” — no, it’s pronounced with a hard “g” like in gorilla, and it’s usually preceded by the word “oh.” It’s one of those handy profanity replacement words that keeps you from bursting forth with a “Oh, d*mmit” or “Oh, G*d” or even worse right in the middle of, say, my classroom.

But the best new word of the night belongs to Brandy. It’s “ding dang.” As in, “Man, I left the ding dang flat iron on!” or “I can’t get this ding dang jar open!” or “Mom, where are my ding dang socks??” And since that night, my kids and I can’t stop saying ding dang. And I challenge you to incorporate it into your own vernacular. I guarantee it will bring a volume of joy to your life you’ve not experienced.

two women and birthday cakeAnd that brings me to our ding dang birthday surprise! We knew Rachel Herr, who is the pastry chef at the Chop House (and an artist, mom, and all-around awesome individual), was going to make us a special birthday dessert, but we weren’t expecting a WHOLE DING DANG CAKE! Our server brought out this gorgeous cake — chocolate cake with chocolate cream cheese frosting and chocolate crumbles, and raspberries !! with a cherry brandy sauce. Did I mention the chocolate?

rachel herr birthday cakeAnd we sang the birthday song and blew out the candles, and then the server took the cake away. For a moment I had a feeling similar to the one I had after giving birth, when they whisk the baby away to weigh it and do that APGAR thing, and I might have even said, about the cake, “Where’d they take the baby?” But then they brought it back, served on two specially decorated plates:

birthday cake platesWow. What a treat, and how special we felt! The cake was delicious, the dinner was amazing, the service was excellent, and the whole thing lived up to my weeks-long anticipation. Brandy announced she was “full as a ding dang tick.” Yes, ding dang it, we all were. It was time to go home and take a ding dang nap. Thank you, Chop House, for our birthday party! You were just what we wished for.

blowing out birthday candlesCopyright © 2012-13 · 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.

sun spot: dave’s taverna.

Nothing ushers in summer like drinking a giant beer on the taratsa at Dave’s Taverna. And Dave’s has provided that for us for nearly twenty years. Twenty years! A generation. Another impressive statistic?

sign at top of buildingThree million? That’s more people than the population of Jamaica. Which is another nice place to sit outside and enjoy a meal. And if Harrisonburg’s population hovers around 50,000, then Dave’s has served each and every one of us sixty times over the years. And I, for one, appreciate that hospitality. Greece is also quite hospitable – the number of tourists who visit each year exceeds the number of citizens by a long shot – and it’s one place, during my European hobo travels, I didn’t visit. If I ever get the chance again, I’m going there. For now, I am perfectly content to eat spanakopita at Dave’s, surrounded by people I love.

On this day I was on a “bargain high.” Brandy and I had just come from Duo, where I got three items for like $20. To my delight, it happened to be Tuesday, and kids eat free at Dave’s on Tuesday. AND, Dave’s offers BIG beers for just $3ish. It’s like the God of Bargains was smiling down on us from Mt. Olympus.

woman with beersWe ordered food. I got the Steak and Cheese (Dave’s has one of the best I’ve tried), and Ben and Brandy shared the Chicken Souvlaki and a house salad. We ate, drank, and merrily chatted.

steak and cheese with fries chicken souvlaki house saladAt least once a day, Brandy looks at me, points to her hair, and says, “What’s going on here?” She’s convinced that some piece of hair is out of place or sticking out. I usually tell her, “Nothing. Looks fine.” Heh heh.

woman laughingYou know, sometimes, when you eat outside, you experience some challenges. Like wind, for instance. Or… bees. Now, let me say up front that I have a phobia of bees (and even more, moths – those things will just randomly fly right into your face/eye/ear/mouth). I’ve had several bizarre and scarring experiences with bees, like the time I was fishing with my brother and I sat right down on a hornet’s nest. Egads. So when something buzzed by me, I got a little nervous. My son, knowing my fear, said, “Don’t worry, Mom. It’s just a bumblebee. They have no power to hurt. Bumblebees are just big stuffed-animal bugs.”

people laughingTruth. So I relaxed and didn’t see another insect up there at all. But then Cal remembered his own frightening bee incident… when he was two. We were at the Wellness Center for Bree’s soccer game. Cal was sitting in his little chair, and I’d given him half of my egg and cheese bagel. A bee swooped in, landed on the hand that held the bagel, and stung him right on the finger. He promptly dropped the sandwich and howled. He was so mad at himself for dropping his breakfast…

rooftop taratsaOn your visit to Dave’s, you can enjoy dollar pitchers of Natty Light, Virginia Wines, Mediterranean foods like Baklava, a Gyro, or pizza, and American favorites like a good ole burger and chocolate cake, plus a whole lot more. And you can help Dave get to four million served!

restaurant entrance and signDave’s is located downtown, between Shenandoah Bicycle and Oasis Fine Art & Craft, open 11am to 1am, every day.

Copyright © 2012-13 · 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.

here’s to old friends: rocktown beer and music festival 2013.

*beer mug shown is actual size.

*beer mug shown is actual size.

Me and beer, we go way back. Been friends a loooooong time. Waaaay back.

I mean, back to my earliest memory. I was born in a hospital like most people, but Beer… he was born in a field. A field! Which made him a hardy, scrappy little feller. I first met Beer at daycare; he was a hoppy kid, bubbly, you know, cheersful. With always a little streak of rascal. On our first day of kindergarten, Beer fell off the monkey bars. The principal had to drive Beer to the E.R. (he was accident prone; ya can’t spell Beer without e-r.) X-rays revealed a broken arm, and he had to get a cask, which he used to terrorize everyone on the playground.

Yep, we was best buds through all them important milestones. Went through school together… on the weekends me and Beer would sneak outta my parents’ house and brew up all sorts of trouble. I remember learning to drive with him. He bout gave the driving instructor a heart attack; Beer never was the best driver… seemed to get a ticket ever time he got behind the wheel! I remember meeting him at Senior Prom and dancing to our Senior Class Song: “Stout, Stout” by Beers for Fears. Y’all remember that one, dontcha?

Then we graduated high school and went off to college. Beer joined a fraternity (Iota Rho Alpha, or IPA), which I thought was good for him. He was right popular and did pretty well for a while. But then, for some reason, Beer just up and quit. Then, of all thangs, he got drafted! And he went away for a while…

Rocktown Beer fest fearWhen Beer got back, he wasn’t the same. He wasn’t that same light and bubbly kid anymore; he’d gotten hard and dark and bitter. He wouldn’t talk much about it though — kept his feelins’ bottled up. We lost touch after that… but I heard through the grapevine that he joined this gang called the Aleraisers. They rode around all night on their Barley Davidsons and had many a close call with the law. Beer finally left the gang after a particularly bad bar fight one night with Three Brothers. I think that lifestyle scared him a bit, so he tried to settle down with a girl named Ginny. Only, they didn’t mix too well. Even more, he knew somethin’ was wrong when their little black and tan baby came along. I mean, he was a Pilsner. Still, she divorced him anyway cuz he was so hopped up on grass all the time.

I think Beer hit rock bottom when he was arrested for stealing a 40oz at the local 7-Eleven. I saw his mug shot on the news… Beer looked really pale. The last call I got from Beer was not long ago, invitin’ me to some Beer and Music Festival. And so I met him there, and we rekindled our friendship. I hope I never lose him again.

This year’s Rocktown Beer and Music Festival was PERFECT. Getting through the line couldn’t have been easier, the vendors and volunteers couldn’t have been friendlier, and the day couldn’t have been gorgeouser.

Rocktown Beer fest officers Rocktown Beer fest line Rocktown Beer fest vols2Rocktown Beer fest volsOnce Brandy, Michael, and I had our bracelets on and mugs in hand, we plopped our gear down on the grass and high-tailed it into the Turner Pavilion, where 31 breweries awaited our patronage. Soooo many choices, it was hard to know where to start; but with five and a half hours to spend and ten naked notches on our wrists, we felt no pressure at all. Early on we sampled the Parkway Get Bent Mountain IPA,  Left Hand‘s The Stranger, and Public by DC Brau. We also tried the St. George IPA (the volunteer at that station, Sir James, dubbed me a cool person and gave me a bottle opener), Epic‘s Brainless Belgium, Foothills Hoppyum IPA and the Peak Organic Simcoe Spring. Then I sorta lost track, partly because it was hard to hold the beer and take notes, and partly because I spilled salsa on my notebook and can’t make out anything else on this page. But there were some beers with clever names — like Hell or High Watermelon from 21st Amendment, Lagunitas’ Undercover Investigation Shut-Down, Mama’s Little Yella Pils by Oskar Blues, and the Terrapin Wake ‘N’ Bake. And of course Harrisonburg’s own Three Brothers Brewing Co. was there with their Admiral and Elementary Porter, both exceptionally tasty. They seemed to get busier as the festival wore on, and at one point their line got INSANE and after finally getting my sample, I had to carefully navigate through the throngs of people with my teeny beer. I felt like I was carrying a fragile baby bird to safety.

Rocktown Beer fest mug2It wasn’t long before I was HONGRY. What choices! Rick’s Cantina brought Hard Shell Gringo Tacos and steamed pork or veggie tamales. Local Chop and Grill House offered a tender local BBQ pork sandwich. Chanello’s Pizza was also there, because duh — pizza and beer, people. And Jack Brown’s rounded out the menu with Kobe Beef burgers, fries, and those freaking addicting fried Oreos. While in line at the Rick’s tent, I put my beer down… and walked away. When I got back to my seat, I realized my horrifying mistake. I ran back, yelling, “Emergency! I put my beer down!” They smiled and said, “We knew you’d be back,” and handed me my mug. Ahhh, the Friendly City saves the day, again!

Rocktown Beer fest food1 Rocktown Beer fest food2Rocktown Beer fest salsaLet’s not forget the other “half” of the Beer and Music Festival — the music. The Judy Chops were up first, a perfect sunny – day band. And people were dancin’! You can catch the Judy Chops at Harrisonburg’s Fridays On the Square on July 19.

Rocktown Beer fest JCNext up was The Steel Wheels. We simply can’t say enough about this band. They’re great indoors and out, live and on CD, whatever mood you’re in. We’ve seen them lots of times, forged forever memories, and can’t wait to see them again. They’ll be at the Red Wing Roots Music Festival in July.

Rocktown Beer Fest SW Rocktown Beer fest SW2Last up was Love Canon, out of Charlottesville. This band was a great closer for re-energizing the crowd and refreshing some old tunes that everyone could sing along to. And sing we did!

Rocktown Beer fest danceRocktown Beer fest Love CanonThank you, festival organizers, volunteers, supporters, and attendees. You outdid yourselves, for the third time. Now, everyone, please check back with us every day this week for several more eye-candy slideshows. You might see yourself or someone you know! And now that you’re all feeling warm and buzzy, I mean fuzzy, don’t forget to hug your bud!

Rocktown Beer fest high5Rocktown Beer fest BK*these photos ^ by Rachel Herr

Copyright © 2012-13 · 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.

be there and be square: the corner.

the corner sign bwAs I got ready that evening, I wondered if I was dressed too fancy for dinner at The Corner and an opening at Larkin Arts. I texted Brandy, “I’m bling-ier than usual…” And she replied, “Most girls do that when they’re on their way to the corner.” Touché. And so I left my outfit as it was, got the kiddos in the car, and headed downtown.

blingy katieOn the way Bree recited the entire Bowflex Treadclimber commercial. And then one for AARP. And then she said, “Mom, you’re old. Maybe you need life insurance from AARP. It’s just pennies a day.” I made a mental note to chop the power cord to the TV when we got home.

Then another text came through: “At Food Co-op. Locked keys in car.” Oh, dear. And I thought about that time last summer when Brandy locked her keys in her car at Riven Rock Park. No big deal — it was summer and we had no schedule, really. But today we had little time for error… we had to get to The Corner where we were having a quick meeting with Kai, then get to the art opening at Larkin, and get home before the kids started fighting in public. By the way, when I told Bree and Cal that Kai would be joining us, they said, “Kai — the ninja??”

“Yes,” I told them. “He’s a ninja.”

the corner kaiAt the Food Co-op we piled into my tiny car like a clown family and drove to The Corner. Brandy had called someone to come unlock her car, and we figured we probably had time to eat before they arrived at her car and got it unlocked. The hostess showed us to a table upstairs. If you’ve not been in there before, they have a spiral staircase. I’ve always wanted one of those. I kinda like the sensation of being lost as I go up… the serpentine design prevents you from seeing the top step until you’re on it, but I always stare at my feet anyway because I’m so clumsy I’m sure I’ll fall down. Later the kids enjoyed tossing little notes they’d written down the spiral… <sigh>, at least they were nice notes.

the corner stairsUpstairs we sat in a booth, and no sooner had we unloaded all our stuff (notebook, pen, purse, camera, camera bag, crayons, paper, LEGOs, coloring books, lip gloss, Angry Bird hat, etc.) than the locksmith called and Brandy’s car was ready. She decided to run up there (from West Water Street to East Wolfe Street! In the windy cold! In boots!) and retrieve her car. I tried to tell her we could drive over there after dinner, but she insisted it would just take a sec. And out she went.

I ordered an Allegash for her, a 471 IPA for myself, and drinks for the kids. The waitress brought the kids free popcorn (yes, people — they give your children free popcorn from the cute machine downstairs!!) while I perused the menu. And I swear, during the four minutes it took the server to bring our drinks, Brandy ran to her car, settled the transaction, drove back, parked, and was sitting in front of me like she’d never left. That girl can RUN! Maybe SHE’S a ninja. Then she stood up on the booth and starting taking photos. No one ever questions her.

the corner popcorn bwThe Corner has a great menu. Simple, tasty food, but with lots of choices. We ordered a Philly, Mac and Cheese, cheese pizza with applesauce, a Make-Your-Own Nachos, and a Make-Your-Own pizza with chicken, onions, and jalapeños. And when you make your own pizza, you don’t have to order an entire pizza — you can just order one slice. I love that. Because when you order pizza in a group, someone always gets shafted. Not at this restaurant!

the corner basketsThe kids announced that “you guys need your space” and moved to a nearby table. Ha! No argument here! In fact, they read my mind. Personally I think they were concerned that a ninja was on his way.

There’s always some signal that it’s time to go. On this night, Cal and Ella bumped into each other getting more popcorn and spilled it all over the place. But Cal assured me as he shoved handfuls into his mouth, “Don’t worry. I picked it all up and put it back in my basket.” Yep. Time to go.

the corner popcorn 1We made a quick pit stop on the way out.

the corner collageVisit The Corner next time you’re downtown. They are located at the, um, corner of Water Street and Main, across from Oasis Gallery.

Copyright © 2012-13 · 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.

boxcar burgthday: the steel wheels with red molly.

steel wheels red molly 2We knew what to expect from The Steel Wheels when we saw them last month at Clementine: a packed house, invigorating and contagious energy, weighty yet lucid lyrics wrapped in poetic harmonies, unbridled talent, and beatboxing. (wait… ?) But we weren’t so prepared for the opening band — Red Molly.

red molly 2When we got there at 8ish, we found a tiny open space at the bar, right in front of the beer taps, which was both lucky and convenient, since I was still ON FIRE from our dinner at Indian American Cafe. The ladies hit the stage shortly — Abbie, Laurie, and Molly, dressed in frocks and boots and surrounded by assorted stringed instruments like the banjo, Dobro, and guitar.

Red Molly’s first number, “Dear Someone,” silenced the unsettled crowd, their clear, expansive voices ringing like church bells on Christmas Day. They performed a cappella, which speaks to their level of talent. No warm up needed — they were perfect from the first note to the last. I guess making sixteen albums (sixteen!) — some as Red Molly, some as individual artists — makes you great at what you do. They played several songs from their most recent LP Light In the Sky (which they’re promoting right now on their Australian tour. I think it’s crazy that I saw the same band that someone else is seeing right now half a world away — here in Harrisonburg.). “Hold It All” — described as a lullaby — is a lovely number about love’s paradox: “It seems there’s no escape/We are part beauty and part heartbreak/But I want to hold it all.” We have to. Either that, or hold nothing.

red molly 1They followed it with a ditty by Dolly Parton called “Do I Ever Cross Your Mind” that got everyone’s feet tapping again, and by the sixth song, hair stuck to Molly’s sweaty face like cat whiskers. One of their final songs was Robert Johnson’s “Come On In My Kitchen,” appropriately punctuated by the kitchen employee who walked through the crowd for some high-fives. :)

By the time Trent Wagler and The Steel Wheels began, the stage was slick with sweat and tears and hot as asphalt trousers in July. In Arizona. They didn’t care one little speck!

Fun facts about The Steel Wheels:
1. Their new album No More Rain comes out next month!
2. They’re headlining their Red Wing Roots Music Festival at Natural Chimneys in July! (featuring Yarn, Larry Keel, Scott Miller, Justin Jones, the Judy Chops, and more)
3. Trent and Brian started their musical relationship as a duo at Dave’s Taverna.
4. Jay and Eric have known each other since preschool.
5. Some of them bear an eerie resemblance to other people. Like Trent and Will Farrell, for instance. :-)

steel wheels 4They started their set with an expert rendition of Tom Waits’ “Walk Away,” which is just about as ballsy as Red Molly’s opening song. They ripped through several songs from their previous release Lay Down Lay Low, including the title track, which, depending on how you feel at the moment, is about surrender… or defeat. Sometimes you want to “finally fall down” because “it’s quiet there.” Other times you give up just to find some peace, even if it’s alone. And then later in the show, the song with beatboxing. Yes, beatboxing. Called “Spider Wings,” which reminded me a lot (thematically) of Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi.” The line that made my pen meet the paper is “You got too much, you don’t got anything.” I love lyrics that obliterate meaning. Joni does that a lot, too. Ah, futility. How insignificantly full life would be without you.

steel wheels 3 steel wheels 1Although Brandy and I had consumed a heaping helping of bluegrass, for dessert we thoroughly enjoyed a boot-stomping, knee-slapping, yee-hawing finale comprised of both bands and a fat dollop of twang. I think Brandy’s shoes can testify to the fun we had with these two bands and their enthusiastic followers! Looking forward to more boot – shredding shows!

dancing feetCopyright © 2012-13 · 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.

happy burgthday to us! : indian american cafe.

indian american cafe signBirthdays are special. They remind us of a day when something really great entered our lives. Birthdays are different from other holidays because they’re personal. The whole nation isn’t celebrating… just your circle of friends and family… just those who inhabit your world. And so birthdays are for telling our loved ones, “I’m grateful you’re alive. I’m happy you were born. My life would not be the same without you.” And we throw parties with cake and laughter and music and silly activities. Like bobbing for apples. Or pinning a tail on something. Or running with a water balloon between your legs. I love birthday parties!! More than any other holiday.

shanks cupcakeOh, the memories of my childhood birthday parties. The one where the wind ripped the paper tablecloths right off the tables, spilling drinks and cake and all of it… blowing across the yard, my mom frantically chasing cups and napkins. The one, in middle school (people, don’t throw a large party for a tweenager. It’s just a bad idea.), where finally some kid, on a Hawaiian Punch bender, walked right through the sliding screen door and everyone ran for cover while my dad yelled, “That’s it! THAT’S IT!” The one that coincided with father’s day (my fourteenth?) and we had a party on the lake, and I got to drive the pontoon boat (that was my favorite). In fact, June is always a spectacular month–so many birthdays. So many special people to be grateful for, including my daughter, her dad, Brandy, Blake, Rebecca, Kim, Caleb, Sarah… we just celebrate all month.

On this night, we weren’t really celebrating a person’s birthday; we were commemorating the first birthday of ilovemyburg.com. Yep — one year ago, on February 14, 2012, we launched this blog with our first post about Granny Longlegs. But, we were certainly celebrating people. I mean, the blog’s primary purpose is to document Brandy’s and my experiences in the city… so it serves as a permanent scrapbook of sorts that will become more meaningful each passing year. So it was a celebration of our friendship. But it was also, and this blog is, a celebration of all the people who inhabit our little world… all of you who read each week, all the folks we see out and about, everyone. I can say that my love for this city has grown in the last year, probably because of my increased focus on it.

We decided to eat our birthday dinner at Indian American Cafe. Brandy had hoped it would snow because she was envisioning snowy cafe photos, and I, admittedly, had not been in that restaurant in about a decade <cringe>. I used to go all the time! I don’t know why I stopped… but I will not let that place disappear from my life EVER AGAIN. We invited several friends to our birthday party, and we were joined by Danielle, Kai, Sean, and Denise. At first we discussed what to call our birthday — our “burgthday” as the title of this post indicates, or our “blogthday” or “blogirthday,”… but then Kai whipped out “Geblogstag” (German) and its equally impressive variant “Geburgstag” and trumped us all. How can anyone argue with a German guy in an Indian restaurant? I was clearly out of my league, culturally.

Indian american cafe 2 indian american cafe s&dOn to the food. When you order your food, you can choose your level of spiciness, from one-half to four. One-half is mildly spicy but certainly not bland, and four makes your eyes bleed. Just kidding. But really, don’t underestimate the hotness. I don’t remember everyone’s spice level, but I ordered my dish–this yummy steak with rice and spinach dish– at a two. Brandy got the same thing but with chicken and at level three. If memory serves, Kai got a one. Still, he was grunting away eating his meal. I was snorting and sweating my way through my plate, Brandy got splotchy and snotty, and Danielle could flat out see through time. Still, we shoveled it in as some kind of feat of endurance. The food is so good you cannot stop eating it. And they give you A LOT of food. I took half of mine home. And what did I do at two in the morning because my heartburn wouldn’t let me sleep? I ate the rest of it. Yep. You CANNOT stop eating it.

indian american cafe menu indian american cafe food 1Between mouthfuls we watched You Tube videos on Kai’s phone. Yes, we were those people. Kai had not seen the Sweet Brown remix thing, and I’d somehow continued to exist despite having missed several other compelling Internet videos. Egads. And then of course, any time anyone said anything the rest of the night, one of us had to say “Ain’t nobody got time for dat” or “I can’t call it.”

indian american cafe videoIt was getting on time to head to Clementine to see The Steel Wheels (post forthcoming!), so we ended our dinner with a birthday cupcake from Shank’s, compliments of Danielle. We lit the candle and sang the birthday song while Danielle tried to take photos of two really giddy idiots. Someone finally told me I had spinach between my teeth. And when we emerged from the restaurant, much to Brandy’s delight, it was snowing. Unfortunately, it was also dark.

indian american cafe bday 2

photo by Danielle Campbell

Indian American Cafe is located at 91 North Main Street in downtown Harrisonburg, about a block south of the Blue Nile. This will go down as one of my favorite birthdays ever. Thank you to the 60+ local businesses that have tolerated our antics. Can’t wait to see what this year brings!

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