follow your hearts: bryan elijah smith and the wild hearts.

Bryan_Elijah_Smith20Earlier this spring, possibly even the first day of spring, Brandy and I busted out of our winter-battered houses, boots, and souls and headed out of town for a day of unbridled adventure. The warm, sunny day actually required sunscreen and we looked forward to a day outside and a night of live music with two of our favorite local musicians. First up was a trip to the Richmond Zoo to try out their Treetop Zoofari which is just a really cheesy name for a ropes course. For a reasonable fee, you guide yourself along 40-ish challenges, sometimes balancing your Jell-o legs across some strung together two-by-fours, sometimes climbing a twenty-foot completely vertical ladder to a two-foot square platform a hundred feet in the air, and sometimes zipping on a line perched just high enough that zoo animals can noisily chase, but not catch, you. There were some white-knuckle moments, yes, but the level of concentration it required made us forget everything for a couple hours. The wind was crisp and bright. Everything felt new. The best part was when we approached the final stop where we’d unhook and remove all our gear, and the employee smiled at us and said, “Oh, are you two enjoying a mother-daughter day?” Perhaps Brandy shot him a warning glance, because he slowly backed up, as if we were bears on his trail, and then disappeared. Back in the car, we applied make-up and changed clothes for phase two: Jack Brown’s over on Grove Avenue! And who did we see there? Ol’ Matt Abraham who used to work at the Harrisonburg location. We sat on the lively patio with other first-of-spring revelers and caught up with our friend Sarah. burgIMG_7325 burgIMG_7330But the icing on our cake that day was a trip to Culpeper to see Bryan Elijah Smith and the Wild Hearts perform. Beers in hand, we made our way to the front row, eager to see both Bryan and his opener, Justin Jones, also of the Burg. Justin performed alone, him and his guitar and his harmonica, but his laughter and his humor and his perfect, pulpy, tender voice filled the stage, disarming and hushing the enamored crowd. burgIMG_7334burgJustin_Jones_IMG_7341 burgJustin_Jones_IMG_7361Not only did I get to see Bryan’s performance that night, but not long thereafter, I had a chance to chat with him. Sitting across from him, I realized I’d only ever seen him holding a guitar, leaning into a microphone. On that day he held a flimsy cup of coffee and rubbed fatigue from his eyes. I reminded myself that this average-sized, soft spoken man in front of me was the same one who blows the roof off every place I see him play, with his loud, five-piece band The Wild Hearts and his giant thunder voice. Bryan_Elijah_Smith30Born and raised in Dayton, Virginia – the land of horse-drawn buggies, farmers’ markets, and redbuds just south of Harrisonburg – Bryan first cut his musical teeth playing guitar at age five, then in the awkward realm of middle school band. The band director, using some kind of one-size-fits-all questionnaire, tried to peg him as a trumpet player, but Bryan insisted on percussion. Later he played guitar in Turner Ashby High School’s Jazz Ensemble. In late high school he took guitar lessons, and even scored a scholarship to Berklee College of Music. When I asked, “And then?” he answered, “And then? And then I just started writing songs.” Bryan_Elijah_Smith14Bryan and current band-mate Jeff Miller (banjo) formed a band called Albuquerque for about three years with Michael Stover (now of Shenandoah Alley). After Albuquerque (circa 2007), Bryan quit performing live for a bit and instead worked on a farm milking cows to save up some cash, then recorded a truckload of music (according to Bryan, about ten albums worth), a fraction of which comprised his first Bryan Elijah Smith solo album Forever On My Mind (2009). He toured Virginia and the southeast coast on his own, promoting the record, and linked up with Staunton-based musician Nathan Moore to tour the northeast. The Wild Hearts formed in 2010, and over the years the band has evolved to include, in addition to Bryan and Jeff, Jay Austin (violin), Justin Shifflett (drums), and Blanks Blankenship (2014). Now more than a decade into his career, Bryan has played all over the U.S. and even toured Australia last year – a long stretch from a cattle farm in Dayton where he owns a production studio, Empty Sound Productions, that allows him to balance his love of writing and performing with his love of recording and producing his music. Describing himself as “obsessed” with learning the methods of his favorite producers and staying abreast of emerging technologies, excitement shone on his face as he talked about his recent analog/digital studio overhaul: “Being able to paint a sonic picture that I see in my mind is worth a million words to me.” Bryan_Elijah_Smith45His most recent release, These American Hearts, involved a year and a half of writing more than 100 songs, followed by a grueling selection process, but resulting in what he calls an honest album. All his music is “honest,” per se, he explained – it’s all “true to the time and head space I was in when I made it,” but with age and experience he’s stopped trying to make songs adhere to a particular label or category and just let the songs be what they are when they “come to me.” Indeed, he’s hard to pin down when you ask him what music he likes to listen to. He’ll list Dylan, Waits, and Springsteen as influences; newer artists, though, like Ryan Adams, Kings of Leon, and War on Drugs are never too far from his stereo. Likewise, his own music is neither country nor rock, neither blues nor bluegrass. He is all those things, authentically, and he believes his most honest record is still out there, in the ether, waiting for the right time to descend. Bryan_Elijah_Smith43Bryan remembers fondly the local basement shows of the early days – the Crayola House, little restaurants and pubs — which gave way to festivals, and theaters, his favorite venue. So when Brandy and I saw him and The Wild Hearts at the State Theatre in Culpeper – a grand old space where their sound had room to stretch and songs could morph into twenty-minute jams – we witnessed the full expression of them as musicians. Fibers hung from Jay Austin’s exhausted bow like long strands of corn silk. The whole place rumbled like a train platform, every seat abandoned after the first song. Bryan_Elijah_StateTheater02 Bryan_Elijah_StateTheater03 Bryan_Elijah_StateTheater07 Bryan_Elijah_StateTheater14Bryan Elijah Smith and the Wild Hearts have a busy summer lined up, with performances all over Virginia, including several area vineyards, Wintergreen Resort, and The Southern in Charlottesville, to name a few, before Red Wing Roots Music Festival, the spectacular creation of Harrisonburg Action Figure Jeremiah Jenkins that brings together upwards of forty bands for three glorious days at Natural Chimneys State Park in Mt. Solon. Bryan Elijah Smith and the Wild Hearts hit the Southern Stage at 2pm on Friday, July 10. Bryan_Elijah_Smith11Copyright © 2012-15 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

bite me… please: rocktown bites.

burgIMG_2897You know, I feel I know my city pretty well. I’ve been to lots and lots of local restaurants and businesses, many of which you’ve read about right here. But recently Brandy and I did something we hadn’t done before: we went on a culinary tour of our city. Hosted by Regina Hissong, Rocktown Bites conducts twice monthly walking tours to seven (!) local restaurants, shops, and businesses where you get to sample their best food and drink offerings, plus learn a LOT about those establishments and the history of the buildings they’re in. Back in January of this year, Harrisonburg became the FIRST city in Virginia to be designated a Downtown Culinary District! Rocktown Bites will show you exactly why.

We met at the Hardesty Higgins House, all twelve of us — Lindsey, Brandy, Blake, Ella, Ben, Heidi, Aiden, Cal, Bree, Denise, Sean, and me — plus our happy host, Regina. The kids enjoyed the gift shop and the 1862 model of Harrisonburg with all those teeny tiny animals. Once all assembled, we ventured out into the sunshine, a traffic-stopping pedestrian food procession.

burgIMG_2835Our first stop was the newly opened Midtowne Bottle Shop. Owner Lauren Penrod greeted us and quenched our thirst with two Brew Ridge Trail Collaborations — Moon (an India Pale Lager)  and her sister beer, Earth (a double IPA). The kiddos indulged in Flathead Lake Gourmet Soda in black raspberry and strawberry orange. I was kinda excited that Cal, my little soda virgin, had his first soda in my favorite new store. I see a tradition forming.

Not only does Midtowne Bottle Shop offer lots of bottles, but they also have eight taps. You can bring your growler or purchase one of theirs (1-pint, 2-pint, or standard size) for frequent fill ups with no trash. Regina’s husband has a growler holder on his BIKE. WHAT AN IDEA. Despite seeing him often, Lauren didn’t realize this… but she did say she notices he’s sweaty when he comes into the shop.

burgIMG_2855 burgIMG_2857 burgIMG_2852 burgIMG_2843Our next stop was just across the street and the site of the first ever Rocktown Bites love connection. Cuban Burger. Owner Steve Pizarro met his lovely lady when SHE was on a Rocktown Bites tour, and now a year later, they’re proud parents of cutie-pie Charles Harrison! At Cuban Burger we nibbled on… well, the Cuban Burger, and garlicky cuban toast with black bean dip, and we enjoyed Jupiña pineapple soda and a classic daiquiri.

burgIMG_2876 burgIMG_2871On to Clementine we went. If this stop is on your tour, come hungry. I was surprised (pleasantly, of course) at how many “samples” we got to try. First they served us homemade lemonade, which was a real treat for all of us on this warm, sunny day. They estimate that they squeeze 750 lemons per week to make their citrusy concoction, which also contains limes, sugar, water, and mint. Then we “sampled” some food… but really, it was a whole plate of food, including seared scallops with a saffron risotto and spinach pesto, served with roma tomatoes and A.M. Fog mushrooms in a balsamic drizzle. Drooling occurred. Also, I forget what we were talking about, but Denise was trying like the dickens to say “Snap, crackle, and pop,” and she kept stumbling over the words and burst forth with a “Crap Snackle!” which has become my new profanity replacement.

Next we meandered over to Jack Brown’s. We got to eat their AMAZING Wagyu beef cheeseburgers with their addictive special sauce, plus Sticky Nugs from Billy Jack’s, and we got to sample the Apocalypse Ale. We sat sorta near the back… usually when I’m in there I’m at the bar, at basically the first seat I can get my honey on.. but back there, near the back… is DONKEY KONG. As soon as I heard the sounds coming from the machine, my head turned as if in slow motion… I dropped everything I was eating and drinking and shoved the children outta the way: “Watch the master…!” And I saw something else I didn’t know about, too: Jack’s Hideaway.

burgIMG_2915cRemember the scene in Goodfellas, near the end, when DeNiro’s character tells Lorraine Bracco’s character to “go down there,” down the sidewalk to some door where there are some dresses she could have? And Deniro’s standing back there gesturing and looking around, and she’s looking around, and you get this bad feeling… and she does, too…? Well, I had a flash — just a flash! — of that when we were walking to the door of Jack’s Hideaway. It’s around the corner from Jack Brown’s, on Water Street, and it’s down the sidewalk, and it’s just this nondescript door you knock on. But no malevolent force will greet you, you won’t get “whacked” or anything; instead you’ll be escorted into a really, really cool space. It’s where Aaron and Patrice lived when they first opened Jack Brown’s. It’s another bar, quite lounge and swanky, with a lovely view of the street below, a bar, a menu, a second room, and restrooms. It’s open Thursday through Sunday, and I could see spending a lot of time in that secret little place. But the capacity is only a couple dozen, so it’s possible you’ll be turned away if it’s a busy night. Still, put on some fancy duds and knock on that door. It’s truly special, a Harrisonburg treasure.

burgIMG_2924There was more to see, and so we hit the pavement once again. Our pace, and especially the kids’, increased as we got closer to our next destination: Kline’s Dairy Bar. Yesssssss! Did you know they’ve been in business 71 years?? Regina told us that. Mr. Kline would hand frozen custard out the window of his home. The business is no longer owned by the Kline family, but the yumminess continues, as well as the tradition of passing frozen custard through a tiny window. On this day they had one of my favorites — Raspberry — plus the usual chocolate and vanilla.

burgIMG_2935 burgIMG_2929 burgIMG_2926 burgIMG_2928I thought for sure the tour had to be over since we’d had dessert… but no! There was more! We stopped in to Friendly City Food Co-op for a tour and samples of delicious peach poundcake made with local peaches. Steve Cook conducted the tour and told us all sorts of interesting info. For example, local products can be found in every department and on every aisle of the store, from Lucas Coffee to Polyface chicken, from maple syrup from Highland County to popcorn from Dayton, from milk from Mt. Crawford to soap from Charlottesville. They now sell beer and wine (no corporate beer!), and they’re planning a big expansion — the meat and produce areas will double in size and the kitchen will serve hot food. It’s a great place to shop, whether you need full-on groceries, or just lunch.

burgIMG_2949 burgIMG_2945And still, there was more. Regina was really wowing us today! Our last stop was Bella Luna, Harrisonburg’s fairly new wood-fired pizzeria. We ate ravioli with pork, peaches, jalapeño, lemon, and arugula (what a combination!) covered in a smoked paprika sauce, and THEN two kinds of pizza cooked in their 900-degree oven in just three minutes. Plus their chocolate torte — flourless and gluten free — with orange whipped cream and chocolate drizzle. Kate, the manager, talked to us at length about each dish and also about their effort to support local agriculture. They actually ask local farmers to produce certain foods. In fact, just that morning she’d bought grapes at the farmer’s market for that evenings specialty cocktail. The kids tried their vanilla cream soda, and the rest of us got to end our tour with Regina’s all-time favorite cocktail — the vanilla old fashioned. She certainly earned it! Lordy. This wasn’t the first time Brandy and I have been “full up to the collarbone,” as she says, but it was one of the best times, for sure.

burgIMG_2965 burgIMG_2961In summary (ha), you’ve got to go on this tour. The next one is October 25 — the Goons, Goblins, and Grub Tour, in honor of Halloween. It starts at 2pm at the Hardesty Higgins House. But, you have to get tickets in advance, so Regina can let the restaurants know how many to expect. To purchase tickets, just go to the web site and click on the Tickets tab at the top. You’d easily spend the cost of the ticket at just one restaurant; the tour is a great way to sample a bunch of different places, learn a lot, and enjoy the company of Regina, my favorite Harrisonburg ambassador! You’ll have a fine time!

See you out and about!

burgIMG_2886Copyright © 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 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.

 

 

 

 

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.

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.

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.

basted, roasted, smoked, and sauced: jacktown’s brew-b-que throwdown.

The day started ominously. It was rainy that July morning and unusually cool. I remember because it was the morning of Art in the Park with Blake Somers and LEGOs. (By the way, he is still collecting LEGO donations, and he won’t stop until he has enough for his sculpture, so now’s as good a time as any to give him some.) And, we all remember Harrisonburg’s last beer fest back in April… who can forget that downpour and the nature-made slip-n-slide? Would Jacktown’s Brew-B-Que Throwdown suffer the same messy fate?

Thankfully, no. At least, by the time we got there it was warm and sunny and all shades of happy. The event took place in the lot next to Jack Brown’s. For a mere $10 admission, you got a beer (provided by Abita) and a plate of food–pork butt, chicken wings, or pulled chicken. If you wanted more, you could purchase more wooden nickels.

Folks were eating and drinking, playing corn hole, hula hooping, and dancing to a reggae band, Inner Visions. I liked them. They were so positive and smiley.

We ran into lots of folks we know, starting with Jake Melvin, who recently returned from Belize and who’s been a nomad of sorts for quite some time. He’s been to forty-nine state, and when we asked which one he’d not visited, he replied, “The one that’s not attached.” To which Brandy and I simultaneously blurted, “Alaska!”

Turns out it was Hawaii. I always forget about that little guy, all tucked away in the middle of the Pacific.

Then this bizarre “Six Degrees of Brandy and Katie” thing occurred, starting with Shannon Dean, whom we work with. Then we saw former BHS students Katrina Hudy and Daniel Mumbauer. You might know Katrina from Wine on Water where she works as a manager. We did a post about them not long ago. Daniel and I commiserated for a bit about always being remembered as the tall one… “You know, she’s that tall girl…” I get that a lot.  Then we ran into Phil Carr, who graduated high school with Brandy. What you might not know is that I was a long-term substitute for Brandy’s twelfth-grade English class. Phil Carr was in that class, too. And when the regular teacher returned from maternity leave, the class presented me with a cake that said, “Get The Hell Out.” It was really touching. And delicious.

there’s sassy Shannon, what with her wedges and her wrist band pushed up! :)

phil and friends.

And then we saw someone who seemed so familiar… he knew Jeremiah Jenkins, whom we also know… and I threatened to refer to him in this post as Nicodemus Schmidt if he didn’t just tell us his name already. Tim. And then when we told him where we work, it all fell into place. Turns out we work with his dad, Jim Peters. Tim was instantly mortified and begged us not to tell his dad that he’d said a couple bad words. Heh heh. School’s back in in a couple of weeks, my friend! :)

we know your dad!

All this socializing was making me hungry, so we gobbled down some wings with blueberry sauce and pulled chicken with buffalo sauce. YUM. All locally sourced and very fresh. And we listened to the band and chatted, and before long it was all over.

Thank you, Aaron and Jeremiah and the Jacktown staff for an evening of succulent food and mellow music, interesting conversations and weird coincidences. Can’t wait to do that again, so plan something soon, will ya? Before it gets cold.

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

serving up simple: jack brown’s beer and burger joint.

It was an unplanned outing. If fact, we were already “outing” when I had an attack of burger desire so severe that we had to march straight to Jack Brown’s Beer and Burger Joint.

The place is usually pretty busy, partly because it’s small, yes, but also because it’s a great place. So my burgerdesire attack nearly turned into a panic attack when we saw no available seats at the bar or unoccupied tables. Thankfully, a kindhearted fellow named Phil must’ve sensed my desperation and invited us to sit at his table. The Friendly City :)

Jack Brown’s serves hamburgers, cheeseburgers, several specialty burgers (like the Chiflet, the Elvis, and the Greg Brady), fries, and of course, their legendary fried Oreos. Did I say beer? Oh, yes, and beer. The special that day: The Big Jack. I ordered it with a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Brandy had a Paulaner and the Shocker–an innocuous-looking little number with jalapenos on it.

crinkle fries always make me smile and think of my first grade teacher.

The Big Jack has two patties, ample cheese, and lots of sauce. It’s one of those “can’t put it down burgers,” because if you do, you look like a 15-month-old in a high chair trying to pick that messy thing back up.

Here are some things we love about Jack Brown’s:
1. It’s simple. They manage to offer 100+ beers accompanied by a simple menu of burgers. This clearly shows they have their priorities straight. If you want wings, you can walk two doors south to their sister restaurant, Billy Jack’s Wing and Draft Shack.
2. The disco ball that hangs in a space with no room to dance. Unless you dance on the bar. And maybe that’s how all those bras got up there.

3. Expensive wallpaper. Har har.

4. The Utfart sign that hangs near the restroom. And maybe there is an exit back there (“utfart” is Swedish for “exit”), but it makes more sense for it to mean “restroom.” I traveled to Europe a couple of times and I can’t tell you how many times I saw the utfart sign and thought it was a restroom. Silly Americans. I’m 40 and I still giggle at the word “fart.” Geez.

Jack Brown’s with its cozy interior and mellow patio is a good choice for lunch, dinner, or an obscure beer variety. Not to mention their 100-Notch Club and frequent FIELD TRIPS to Virginia breweries. !!! Visit them at 80 South Main Street, Harrisonburg. They’re open 11am to 2am daily.

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

the happiest place on earth no. 21: rocktown beer and music festival.

It was a day of music, singing, and dancing; of froth and foam and cheers-ing; of sideways rain and tropical-storm winds gusting; of sunshine and warmth and rainbows shining; of laughter and smiles and happy loving; of food and friends and mud-stained frolicking… it was, quite simply, a perfect day. The most wonderful day of the year. The day of the Rocktown Beer and Music Festival.

From 2:30 til 9pm on April 21st, throngs of music-loving, beer-craving people of all ages, from tiny tots to retirees, college girls and frat boys to yuppies, hippies, parents, and all the rest, assembled at the Turner Pavilion to sample beer from 30 breweries, hear music from Yarn, the No BS! Brass Band, and The War on Drugs, and nibble freshly prepared dishes from the Joshua Wilton House, Jack Brown’s, Dave’s Taverna, Billy Jack’s, Clementine, and Hank’s Barbeque.

Having purchased our tickets ahead of time (the event sold out earlier that week), getting into the festival was a snap and much more efficient than last year (not that last year was inefficient… just sayin’). While we were still in line in front of the municipal building, volunteers came along and checked our IDs, took our tickets, and installed our wristbands.

The gates opened and everyone just walked in, easy-peasy. We received our mugs and programs and although we both wanted to make a bee line to the beer vendors, we decide to lug our stuff to the grass and get set up. We knew the weather forecast; at this point it was sunny and gorgeous, and Brandy wanted to take as many photos as she could before the rain came.

The No BS Brass Band was on first, and although I really didn’t know much about them before the festival, I really really liked them. Especially the number that sounded like something the Ladies Man might sing to a lady friend over a glass of courvoisier. I also enjoyed the cover of Led Zeppelin’s “The Ocean.”

Next up was Yarn, and it was during this performance, if I’m not mistaken, that the rains came. People go absolutely crazy for Yarn. The band is so happy and high energy, people just start moving and spinning around, almost like a flash mob. There they all are, innocently milling around, and at the first note by Yarn, everyone’s in front of the stage boogying down.

We watched as clouds ominously advanced. We were armed with extra clothes, a rain jacket, and two umbrellas. Other things to remember to bring or wear to an all-day festival: chapstick. Sunscreen. A hat. Comfy underpants. Eh. Anyway, when the rain started, we decided (I forget why) to stay in our seats on the lawn. Brandy stuffed her camera under her shirt (the lens hung out the bottom and it was kinda funny looking–hee hee!) and we huddled under umbrellas in our seats. Brandy couldn’t resist sneaking the camera out a few times to take some shots of how ridiculous the rain was. I mean, we were drenched. Wringing wet.

I remember screaming. It was somehow raining upwards, under the umbrellas. And then we finally decided to run under the pavilion with the other 2998 people. It was packed. I remember thinking, “Man, the fire marshal would NOT like this.” Except that we were outside. And it was raining.

Snakes of people slithered through the crowd to reach beer vendors for a refill. This is where trust becomes important. In any situation involving crowds and a small space, I usually wonder how long it’ll be before someone goes psycho and causes some kind of ruckus. But here, in our friendly city, nothing like that occurred. Everyone was patient and happy and kind, and polite–lots of “excuse me”s and “sorry!”s and “woopsie”s, and one girl who kept repeating the word “willow” to us. We tried so hard to understand what she meant so we could help her or answer her.

Then, because we were wet, we were cold. Rachel Jenner and Brandy had to help me figure out how to put on a shirt under my wet shirt, and leggings on under my soaked skirt, without completely disrobing in front of everyone. I never would have accomplished it without them. At any rate, the rain stopped, the music continued, the beer flowed, and we were all warm and fuzzy again before too long. And you know? When there’s a mud puddle nearby, everyone becomes the same age: four and a half. Brandy and I did not slide belly down through the mud puddle pool (although we did let our feet get quite squishy), but we loved watching everyone else get down and dirty. We saw children splashing and dancing in the mud; we witnessed the destruction of many gorgeous sundresses worn by young women who lost their footing; we watched a grandma fall allll the way down, onto her back, and still get up and keep dancing with the grandkids! We loved it! Every single moment, every droplet of mud, every smile and person there… we loved it all. Our city.

By now, The War on Drugs had hit the stage. What a treat they were. They were a great pick-me-up for weary revelers, re-energizing the crowd as the sun went down. Honestly, all three bands were fantastic, and the combination of bands couldn’t have been better. Just before sundown–a rainbow. Can I get a “hallelujah”?!

Later as we walked to the Nile to see Cinnamon Band, we talked about the day–the people, the fun, the spirit, and yes–the beer. What did we like best about the Rocktown Beer and Music Festival? Everything. Everything.

Already looking forward to next year! Stay tuned all week for more photos from the Fest!

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