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.

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.

comfort station: grilled cheese mania.

cold drinkThe last week or so has presented me with events that fall into the category “It Could Have Been Worse.” First, my cell phone started acting up. Well, wait, FIRST, I thought everyone in my world was ignoring me because I hadn’t gotten any texts or calls all day. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case; it was my lame phone. (I have a three-year-old Samsung slider that AT&T gave me for free when my previous lame phone finally pooped out.) On further investigation, however, it WASN’T my lame phone; it was AT&T’s tower. Aha! So, it could have been worse: I could have had to buy a new phone. Or get new friends.

I have a small TV in my bedroom. I actually watch it more than the big one in the family room because I’m usually in bed before I get a chance to watch any TV at all. A few days ago, the color started wigging out, and now everything I watch is gold and blue. But… the TV’s not dead; it could have been worse.

And the real kicker happened Sunday, when my son was pushing some other kids on a bench-style swing, and he somehow tripped and got tangled up underneath it and gashed his head open. Blood. Lots of blood. I threw my lame phone at some lady who called 911, the ambulance came, and we scooted to the ER. He’s fine. He has staples in his scalp, but he’s fine. It could have been much, much worse. In fact, after I knew Cal was okay, the hospital visit was actually enjoyable. Everything went very quickly, the doctor was excellent, and our nurse was pleasant and funny. She’s worked as an ER nurse at RMH for 37 years. She had to wrap Cal’s head in this big, white, gauzy apparatus, and she told him enthusiastically that he would be King Cal for the day and wear “this cool crown!” And then she laughed and said, “Who am I kidding? You’re gonna look like a Q-tip and there’s nothing I can do about it!” Meanwhile, Michael and the other four kids waited patiently in the lobby and greeted Cal with cheers and hugs and a giant stuffed shark when he emerged through the double doors. Really, it could have been much worse in many ways.

Monday morning I washed the dried blood out of my son’s hair and then met Brandy and her kids for some comfort food. Between my near-disasters and her Art Lotto event quickly approaching and 4287473892 photos to edit, the two of us needed some ding dang comforting!

red food truck with logored food truckWe met at Grilled Cheese Mania and my mouth was watering before I got out of the car. Owned by Kathleen Mania-Casey, the truck has been in operation less than a year and has already been ranked by Tripadvisor the BEST restaurant of 108 in Harrisonburg, and voted Best Food Truck 2013 by Harrisonburg residents. I stared at the menu for quite some time while the girl at the window waited patiently, smiling. Choosing was excruciating, because I wanted them all, but I decided on the Larold. My kids got Classic Johnnys, Brandy got the Mama Mania, and Blake got his with tomato. We also got a couple sides of mac & cheese, and Kathleen was gracious enough to let us sample the chili and the tomato soup. Both are excellent. I especially like the tomato soup. Some say its flavor smacks of pizza, but I think it’s about halfway to salsa.

cheesy sandwich mac n cheese cheesy sandwich overhead view of foodgrilled cheese sandwichKathleen’s niece was visiting and helped her aunt serve our food under the tent where we sat. And we each got a pair of official GCM sunglasses, which the kids happily put on so they could all be fully expressed as the maniacs they are.

woman and niece kids at picnic tableWe gobbled our sandwiches in relative silence. “Simple Comfort Food” is the perfect slogan for Grilled Cheese Mania, because there is something uniquely nostalgic about a grilled cheese sandwich. Every time my mom visits, she wants a grilled cheese sandwich and a bowl of tomato soup. And when I sit down and eat it with her, I’m six years old again, not worrying about cell phones or deadlines or scalp infections. You know that scene in the movie Ratatouille when Anton Ego takes the first bite of Remy’s ratatouille and is instantly transported back to his mother’s kitchen? It’s like that. You simply cannot be UN-comfortable when eating a grilled cheese. And Kathleen’s sandwiches beat the heck out of any grilled cheese I’ve eaten or made. Everything on the menu is made from tried and true family recipes using only the freshest ingredients.

chiliboy eating grilled cheese girl eating grilled cheeseKathleen’s goal is for her customers to be happy. My guess is she means not just happy with their order, happy with their food, but happy altogether. Like a true mom would. When you miss your mom and need a little comfort, know that Grilled Cheese Mania is just down the road. Or, when you just want a really good sandwich.

After a trying week of bizarre events, FINALLY, something couldn’t have been BETTER. Grilled Cheese Mania is located on Rt. 42 south, between the Food Lion shopping center and Tangier Seafood. Go hungry.

women in sunglassesCopyright © 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.