destination celebration: arts council progressive party 2017.

Copy of burgSMALL_Progressive_brandy_somers10It’s always a good sign when there’s crusted food on my notebook.

When deciding what to wear for the 6th Annual Progressive Party hosted by the Arts Council of the Valley, I made sure I wore something roomy and with pockets. Room for eating everything in sight, and pockets because everyone needs pockets, and they should not be excluded from cocktail attire. 

Upon our arrival at The Columns at Six Penny Farm, Brandy, Austin, and I were greeted on the patio and handed a cocktail, a program of events, and a bid number. The cocktail was just what this warm, humid day required: the “Art Splash,” compliments of The Golden Pony, featured vodka, raspberry liqueur, sour mix and soda, with a cherry on top. Got Strings, a three-piece strings ensemble, played softly under the portico. I took this as a good omen and couldn’t wait to see what the evening would hold. The view from Six Penny Farm of Massanutten, stippled in intermittent sunshine, was a masterpiece of a backdrop for the evening. Occasionally the peak disappeared behind a blur, and we wondered, “Is that rain?” Nope, nope, it’s just haze. “Are those raindrops I just felt on my arm?” Nope, nope, it’s just sweat. Sweat and haze. We’re going with that.

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And before we had to find out if it was indeed rain, we progressed inside the building for the second stop on this Destination Celebration!

The Annual Progressive Party, the Arts Council’s biggest fundraiser of the year, celebrates and supports the success and continued growth of the arts in our community. Proceeds allow  ACV to continue to provide First Friday art exhibits at more than 30 local venues, culturally and artistically important films and performances in the Court Square Theater, and grant money for future art endeavors.

Inside, an impressive variety of beer (thank you, Midtowne Bottle Shop!) and wine (thank you, Brix and Columns Vineyard!) lined the bar while people sipped and mingled. When the doors to the ballroom opened, revealing table after table of freshly prepared, steaming, aromatic food from eight (EIGHT!!) local restaurants, it was like Bob Barker opened the doors to the Showcase Showdown. People clapped, people shrieked (okay, maybe that was me), people gasped and gawked and drooled.

Copy of burgSMALL_Progressive_brandy_somers44Copy of burgSMALL_Progressive_brandy_somers41And then we ate. And ate. We ate all of it. We ate from A Bowl of Good, Black Forest German Restaurant, and Cafe 33. We devoured Joshua Wilton House, Oriental Cafe, and Taj of India. We gorged on Paella Perfecta and we topped it off with Nathy’s Cakes & Fine Pastries. My dress held up just fine, thank you.

While we ate, we were treated to performances by the Harrisonburg Dance Cooperative and JMU’s The Madison Project. Golly, so much talent!

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The third stop of the evening was a live auction of several gorgeous pieces of artwork and three art packages, including a case of wine from Brix and Columns Vineyard, an Art Party for 10 with Laura Thompson at Larkin Arts, and a D.C. Art Excursion! Artists who graciously participated in the auction include Denise Kanter Allen, Jennifer Lockard Connerley, Mia LaBerge, Nadia Louderback, Allison Nickens, Morgan Fink Paixao, John Rose, and Bruce Rosenwasser. Several people went home with a memento from the evening that they’ll enjoy for a lifetime!

Copy of burgSMALL_Progressive_brandy_somers55Copy of burgSMALL_Progressive_brandy_somers46
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Copy of burgSMALL_Progressive_brandy_somers94The last stop on the journey was DANCING! DJ Finks turned it up, everybody got down, and these photos say the rest!


Copy of burgSMALL_Progressive_brandy_somers89Copy of burgSMALL_Progressive_brandy_somers86Copy of burgSMALL_Progressive_brandy_somers84Copy of burgSMALL_Progressive_brandy_somers82Copy of burgSMALL_Progressive_brandy_somers72Copy of burgSMALL_Progressive_brandy_somers66The Arts Council of the Valley would like to thank their Progressive Party sponsors. The list is LONG. Without continued support from caring businesses and individuals,  art tends to disappear from communities. I am so grateful to live in a place where art is alive and well.

Food Sponsors
Louise & Alden Hostetter
Don Albright & Earlynn Miller
Diane & David Ehrenpreis
Patricia Kidd
Laura & Paul Riner
Emily McCarty
Joanne & Alexander Gabbin
Susan & Bill Cale
Union Bank & Trust

Party Sponsors
Kathy Moran Wealth Group
The Community Foundation
Graves • Light Wealth Management Group
E&M Auto Paint and Supply Co.
JMU College of Visual and Performing Arts
Association of Property Management Services, LLC
Blue Ridge Architects
Blue Ridge Bank
Blue Ridge Community College
Brown & Co. Hair Design
Hess Financial
James McHone Jewelry
LD&B Insurance and Financial Services
The Myrias Group
Summit Community Bank
Bia Events & Decorating
The Columns at Six Penny Farm
The Daily News Record
Garrison Press
Joshua Wilton House
Larkin Arts

Event Sponsors
Larry and Kathy Whitten and the Community Foundation
Riner Rentals
Paul Somers and The Golden Pony
Union Bank & Trust
Eugene Stoltzfus Architects

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Copyright © 2012-17 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Words by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

hot ticket: jalapeño southwest grill.

burgIMG_6299There’s a new kid in town, and he’s HOT. And saucy. And bright and vibrant and fun. His name is Jalapeño, and you can find him near the Food Lion on Port Republic Road. Brandy, Ben, my kids, and I all managed to get our schedules aligned one night recently and decided to pay him a quick visit.

Once there we were shown to a large booth in their clean and tidy dining room. The textured walls, wooden tables, and simple artwork balanced the festive plates, colorful cocktails, and warmly lit bar. I unpacked “the bag”– a bag of assorted crap and whatnots that we never leave home without. Comic books, sketchbooks, paper, a coffee tin of colored pencils, a deck of cards; and the kids were happy. We ordered the signature Jalapeno Margarita, a Three Brothers Hoptimization, a Corona, and a Devils Backbone Vienna Lager, and the adults were happy. (Yes, that’s four drinks for three people. Brandy and I shared the margarita, thankyouverymuch.)

burgIMG_6243 burgIMG_6252 burgIMG_6274burgIMG_6257The menu has lots of variety, and the portions are generous. It took us forever but we finally ordered Arroz Con Pollo (rice topped with queso dip, chicken strips, grilled onions, mushrooms, four-color peppers with soft corn or flour tortillas); Tacos Al Pastor (corn tortillas with marinated pork and pineapple, pico de gallo and a side of spicy salsa and lime, served with your choice of Amazing Fries, rice and beans, or house salad); and a Steak Quesadilla, served with a side of romaine lettuce, pico de gallo and sour cream, plus  your choice of Amazing Fries, rice and beans, or house salad.

burgIMG_6272 burgIMG_6281We also ordered a “Create Your Own” burrito, which was the size of a small infant. The server actually handed Brandy an order form and she checked off all the fillings and toppings she wanted, from meat or fish or BACON to an assortment of veggies and special toppings like Chipotle Mango Pineapple Salsa. And rounding out our party of five, an order of chicken tenders (good grief. My son can beat every level on Super Mario Bros 2 in 45 minutes and can crack a joke every ten seconds, but he can’t eat a dang taco). To say the least, everything was delicious and gobbled up much too quickly.

burgIMG_6285 burgIMG_6291We were much too full for dessert, but I can’t wait to go back and try the cheesecake taco. While Brandy and I chatted, and Bree put her nose back in whatever 700-page book she was reading, Ben was nice enough to entertain Cal with a game of rock-paper-scissors-bunny-soup-lighter. In case you weren’t sure, bunny beats paper and soup, but not lighter, rock, or scissors.

Jalapeño Southwest Grill is located at 1039 Port Republic Road in Harrisonburg. Hope to see you there soon!
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a hop and a skip: bluestone vineyard.

burgIMG_0501Harrisonburg, we love you soooo much. You know this. But sometimes, Brandy and I need to break free from your limits and find a wide open space. A quieter place with a gentle breeze, a more expansive horizon, maybe some farm animals in the distance. A place of respite and anonymity. A place… where wine grows.

And so on a recent day that was stifling in more ways that just the weather, we hopped in the Brandy-mobile, rolled down the windows, cranked up the Wilco, and drove the whopping five minutes down the street (yes, it’s like five minutes away) to Bluestone Vineyard, our hair blowing wildly out the car windows. Well, her hair. My hair does not react to wind.

When we arrived and approached the bar to start the tasting, the charming bartender noticed Brandy’s camera, which induced an explanation from us, which then incited him to ask the winemaker Lee if he wouldn’t mind showing us around the place. So Lee rustled up his dog Lu and took us on a really cool, informative tour. This lucky guy spends his day with plants, barrels, tanks, and jam bands-via-earbuds.

First we saw the gazillion rows of grapes that lined the hillside. The slope of the hill helps to irrigate the grapes; not only does the water flow down the hill (duh) but the terrain makes the water flow slowly so the plants don’t get washed out or overwatered. Also, the hill protects the grapes from any extremes of weather, and the rocks our Valley is known for help nourish the soil. All the way to the left are the first rows of grapes that were planted in 2008/09 for a 2011ish yield. And of course there are several varieties of grape that result in the fifteen wines Bluestone offers.

burgIMG_0508Lee might be a wine lover and a dog lover, but he’s not a bird lover. Birds apparently love grapes, and they have a keen sense of when they’re ripe. Lee has to make sure each season he beats the birds to the vines. Because as they say, the early bird catches the grape. Lu helps chase away the offending avians, and they have a squawk box to scare them, too. Over the summer this crazy bird kept pooping all over the glass of my French door… I put a rubber snake out there, and the bird never came back. There’s a shortcut to excellence for ya.

burgIMG_0524cInside we got to see the multiple apparatus for processing grapes. The tanks and barrels and squishers (not a technical term) that do the work of a hundred men. There’s a machine for everything. That’s not to say humans don’t still need to oversee the process. While we were in there, for example, Lee’s assistant was topping off dozens of barrels of wine that had evaporated down too far. So many decisions and variable dictate what ultimately ends up in your glass: whether it’s made from white grapes or red, whether it’s aged in steel, or oak, or aged oak, for a couple months, for a couple years. Think of the care it takes to monitor a barrel of wine for two years. Lord, that’s patience. And commitment.

burgIMG_0537burgIMG_0548Now we were more than ready for that tasting. You can choose to taste all the whites OR all the reds for $6, or for $10, you can try them all! And that’s what we did. The whites they offer include a Sauvignon Blanc, Vidal Blanc, Viognier, Steel Chardonnay, oak-barrel Chardonnay, Traminette, Blue Ice (which is made from  frozen Traminette grapes) and the Beau — a sweet golden wine named for the vineyard golden retriever.

burgIMG_0561The reds include a Rosé, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Quartz Hill Red (blends Cabernet Franc, Cab Sauvignon, and Chambourcin), Cadenza (described by our host as the “greatest hits album” of each year), and the best name ever, the Crooked and Weedy — a sweet red named for an old train. Tastings occur inside at the wine bar, but you can purchase a bottle and take time to enjoy the lovely views outside. Their 2014 Concert Series just wrapped up, but they’ve got several more events on the horizon. On October 4th, they’re having their Third Annual Harvest Dinner. You can attend a wine and cheese pairing on October 25/26, and dig through your dress up clothes for their Halloween Costume Party on October 31st.

Bluestone Vineyard is located at 4828 Spring Creek Road in Bridgewater We hope you’ll visit them soon! See you out and about!

burgIMG_0531Copyright © 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.

 

time flies: red wing roots music festival, 2014.

RedWingKidsDay three brought a new element to the Red Wing Roots Music Festival: my children.

Honestly, I was so excited they’d get to attend that I couldn’t get there fast enough that Sunday. In case you didn’t know, kids get in free at Red Wing, and there’s plenty for them to do. But I really wanted Bree and Cal to hear some music. So many times when bands perform, it’s way past bedtime. Great music shouldn’t be reserved for just the 18 and older crowd. I prefer to start influencing/molding/controlling their music interests EARLY. You’ll never find “Barney’s Greatest Hits” in this mama’s car. EVER.

We parked and started the trek to the Local Roots Stage, where we looked forward to seeing Bourbon Barrel Congress and Bryan Elijah Smith. I worried for a moment that the walk from the car would be a little long for the children… but who am I kidding? They’re young and strong and enthusiastic. Cal found a walking stick and that’s all he needed. Bree was fascinated by the sheer number of people and their cozy campsites. At the gate, one of the volunteers recognized the three of us — she’d seen our faces right here on this web site — and said she feels like she’s watched Bree and Cal grow up and then asked, “Do your kids just never argue?” And I could proudly say, “It’s rare.” Another volunteer suggested I write my cell number on the kids’ wristbands in case they get lost. But… my cell phone was useless out there, so I quickly scrawled “BRING ME TO THE STUMP” and said a quick prayer about the kindness of strangers.

On we went. We were a bit early for Bourbon Barrel Congress, so I showed them where the stump was — our meeting place should we get separated — and we got some Kline’s ice cream and an iced coffee from Lucas Roasting Company.

LucasRoasting JP Harris and the Tough Choices were on the South Stage, with that voice that could melt steel and sounds that could slice through it. I could see Brandy snaking her way closer to the stage, and the kids and I wiggled our way through the sweaty crowd to join her. We caught the last few numbers of JP’s performance, including the very first song he ever wrote, “If There Ain’t No Honky-Tonks in Heaven.” It made me think of Harper Lee and how she won the Pulitzer for her very first book. Why bother writing anything else when you hit a home run the first time at bat? Perhaps in JP’s case, because PEOPLE WANT MORE, for one. That band was awesome. Their new album, Home Is Where the Hurt Is (amen) comes out in a couple weeks, and you can catch them TONIGHT (!!) at Clementine in Harrisonburg. And I will see you there :)

JPHarris5 JPHarris6 JPHarris7Then we moved to the Local Roots Stage for Bourbon Barrel Congress. Thankfully we were able to sit in the shade, but still it was hot enough to shed about eight pounds of fluid while performing. But the heat didn’t slow these guys down; rather, it seemed to ignite their spirit and, likewise, the crowd’s. Soon everyone was clapping and stomping to the bellow of Chris Davis’ upright base, the squeals of Rene’s Devito’s fiddle, and the laughter of John Spangler’s banjo. On and on they barreled indeed, through an impressive eight numbers… lively instrumentals alternated with songs embroidered with Ethan Hawkins’ like-freshly-Windexed-glass voice. Cleeeaaan. Bourbon Barrel Congress will play at Harrisonburg’s Local Chop and Grill House October 17!

BourbonBarrelCongress3 BourbonBarrelCongress2BourbonBarrelCongress4When at last Bryan Elijah Smith and the Wildhearts, accompanied by singer/writer Krista Polvere, climbed up on stage, I felt both happy and sad. For me, this was the finale of the festival. After their performance, the kids and I would have to hit the road. So we savored every last note of their set. Their sound was huge — almost too big for the Local Roots Stage — and it felt like the amps would blow the tent down at times. But the warm sound lassoed us, hugged us all, and like a hypnotist’s spell, compelled us to stay put.

Since that performance I’ve purchased every single album of theirs, and I can’t help hear a bit of Dylan — both Jakob and Bob — in Bryan’s love-worn-leather voice and timeless words, paired with the band’s unique yet diversely broad instrumental style. If you liked what you heard that day, too, you can celebrate the release of their latest album, These American Hearts, at Clementine on September 12th. The show is proudly presented by our local Friendly City Food Co-op, Lucas Roasting Company, WMRA, and Three Brothers Brewing. It’ll be a good ol’ hometown party.

BryanElijahSmith1 BryanElijahSmith3 BryanElijahSmith4 BryanElijahSmith7On the way back to the car, the kids’ broad smiles and cute comments brightened each step.
“I want to see those bands again!”
“I can’t believe how loud that was!”
“When can we go to another festival??” and
“Mom, can I bring this rock home?” No. (Because, we sorta have a lot of rocks already at the house, you see.)
“Okay. See you next year, Rock!”

RedWingrockSee you next year, indeed!

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.

pick me up: red wing roots music festival 2014.

More Day Two photos of the Red Wing Roots Music Festival, 2014

redwingrootsdance5 redwingrootsfans4 redwingrootsjennica redwingrootslarkin4 redwingrootsmisstess redwingrootssarah3 redwingrootssteelwheels6 redwingrootssteelwheels7 redwingrootssteelwheels9 redwingrootssteelwheels10 redwingrootssteelwheels12Copyright © 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.

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.

 

 

 

 

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.

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.

rosé-colored glasses: rocktown wine and dine festival 2013.

rocktown wine and dine aaron rocktown wine and dine bottles rocktown wine and dine chefs rocktown wine and dine corn hole2 rocktown wine and dine crab cakes 1 rocktown wine and dine crab cakes 2 rocktown wine and dine empty plate rocktown wine and dine food demo coll rocktown wine and dine glass 1 rocktown wine and dine porkCopyright © 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.

merci bouquet: rocktown wine and dine festival 2013.

rocktown wine and dine green gals rocktown wine and dine hugs rocktown wine and dine kmmp rocktown wine and dine littlun1 rocktown wine and dine littlun2 rocktown wine and dine say cheese 2 rocktown wine and dine say cheese 4 rocktown wine and dine say cheese 6 rocktown wine and dine say cheese1 rocktown wine and dine sunny crowdCopyright © 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.

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.

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.

won’t you take me to funkytown? collins center disco gala.

I love playing dress up.

As a kid, I did it a lot. See, my mom has worn the same size clothing for like 60 years, and so when she was 45 and I was 10, she had an impressive wardrobe spanning more than two decades–and two good ones at that… the sixties and seventies. I remember her long dresses and outrageous shoes, and I especially remember putting on every piece of costume jewelry contained in the top drawer of her dresser. Then I’d put Dolly in the stroller and push her around the house–in style.

As luck would have it, I am still the same size as my mom. And as luck would even more have it, she gave me some of those clothes years ago. The rest is gone… to rummage sales, to church clothing drives, and to avaricious neighbors who borrowed and perhaps forgot to return.

While I had my mom’s old 1974 maxi dress with the empire waist, Michael had a hard time scraping together an outfit. Even from his dad’s closet, which surprised me (no offense, Frank). So on Saturday, October 20, we set out on a mission: to find him some funky threads suitable for the Collins Center Disco Gala… which would start in less than four hours.

It didn’t take long. Butterfly collar–check. Garish blazer–check. Pimpish sunglasses–check. Extra-tight pants–check check! And as he put those shiny sunglasses on his face, I could almost hear his pants ripping.

Harrisonburg’s Beyond Restaurant and Lounge was transformed for one evening into Studio 54/The Soul Train when they hosted the 13th Annual Collins Center Disco Gala. People put on their most groovy garments (or some just dressed up and made the rest of us look silly!) for an evening of gettin’ down… but also to raise money for a beloved Harrisonburg organization.

The Collins Center used to be CASA (Citizens Against Sexual Assault). Though they’ve been in operation for more than twenty years, they changed their name in 2007 to honor Shirley Collins, a Harrisonburg resident who died from injuries sustained during a sexual assault back in 1987.

The Collins Center has increased its services and its presence in our community over the years. They provide victims of sexual violence medical, psychological, and legal assistance. They operate several programs dedicated to the prevention of violent crime, and they also help provide mental health services to residents in need. Lastly, their Child Advocacy Center offers treatment to children affected by abuse. The Annual Gala (now in its thirteenth year!) raises money for all these programs and more.

So Brandy donned her funky frock and met us at Beyond at about 6:30 that evening. While the cause is serious in nature, the atmosphere was anything but. Beyond was closed to the public that night but filled with revelers ready to sing and dance and eat in support of the Center. The bar downstairs stayed busy all evening, while servers strolled through with delicious little things on trays. Like chicken curry puffs. And little bitty crab cakes. And cucumbers with stuff.

Upstairs there was more food–a casual buffet of sushi, shrimp, cute little to-go boxes of yummy noodliciousness, and, my favorite–MEATBALLS. And I discovered something new–bacon-wrapped asparagus. Therefore, I learned something new–wrapping foods in bacon is a great way to get your kids to eat them. And, I love anything wrapped in bacon.

As more people arrived, dressed like they just stepped out of an episode of Baretta, Brandy and I started giving them nicknames–like “Sparkly Man,” “Pink and Black Superhero Girl,” and “Denim Leisure Suit Guy.” I wanted to ask him how Tennille was doing. I poke fun, yes, but I haven’t forgotten how I looked that night, trust me.

Upstairs was a silent auction comprised of seriously impressive donations from the event’s seventy-two (!) sponsors. Up for grabs were several paintings, Massanutten lift tickets, a ukelele, two toy baskets, a skateboard and passes to Westover Skate Park, several spa gift certificates, professional photo sessions, cosmetics, and much, much more. Someone had placed the wine baskets, chocolate assortment, and massage gift cards on the same table. I stood there for a little while.

The three of us went in on a $20 raffle ticket for a chance to win a thousand bucks. And there were only a hundred tickets sold, so we had a good chance! We did not win. Eh. Onto the live auction! This part was really exciting. To be honest, I’ve never actually attended an auction before. I’ve seen TV shows like Storage Wars and Auction Hunters, and I can see how easily one can be swept up in the excitement of bidding and beating that other guy over there who keeps trying to outbid me! The items up for bid were worth fighting over. Like the sunflower sculpture by Keith Morris. And the weekend at Snowshoe that fetched $400. Or the four Disney passes that went for $350, a pet portrait session for $275, or Rhoda Miller’s exquisite glass mosaic which brought in $475. People shouted and cheered and held up their numbers… auctioneer Justin Michael would get sooo close to saying “Sold!” and then another hand would go up. It was really quite something to see. Folks went home with some beautiful items and the satisfaction of helping a needed and cherished part of the Burg.

And what else can we say? After that, the music got loud, the dancing got wild, and the pen and camera were put away. Thanks for the memories!

Beyond Restaurant and Lounge is located downtown on Water Street by the garage. The Collins Center is downtown on Main, next to U Made It pottery and Clementine. Should you need them, you can reach them at 540-432-6430.

Copyright © 2012 · 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.

sugar and spice and everything nice: it’s all about you, ladies.

I felt pampered before I even got through the door, and it only got better from there.

The lovely Sherrie Gordon (owner of Shenandoah Concierge), who greeted us at the door, informed us that once inside this year’s second It’s All About You, Ladies! event, we’d be treated to such niceties as a massage, a hair and skin consultation, food, wine, a gift bag, and raffle prizes! I was glad I decided to be stressed out, tangled, blemished, hungry, thirsty, and lucky that day.

Hosted by Wine on Water and All Things Virginia (the two shops are adjacent to each other on Water Street, downtown), the event was also sponsored by women-owned or -operated businesses like Merle Norman, Scrumptious Suppers,  A-C Chiropractic, Vivian’s Designer Consignor, You’ve Got It Made, Polished, Inc., The Lady Jane, Miche Bags, Stella & Dot, and Shenandoah Concierge. The event allows local business women to get together about four times a year to mingle, socialize, network, and just keep in touch in general. It’s easy to lose touch with your peers when you’re managing the shop all day, after all. They keep the event intimate by only selling fifty tickets, so that all the women have a chance to talk to each other during the short three hours they’re together.

In we went. At the bar, I picked up a complimentary glass of Cave Ridge Traminette, recommended by Katrina. The next order of business was food. Brandy and I nibbled on Chicken Satay Skewers with Peanut Sauce, olives, cheese, Sundried Tomato Pesto served on cute little toasts, Artichoke and Spinach Dip with chips, and these really yummy Turkey Pinwheels with Avocado and Cranberry Cream Cheese. I think I ate about twelve of those.

And look how cute dessert was!

Swedish Cream with Raspberry Sauce.

I signed up for a massage (there were two massage therapists from Dr. Cason’s office, set up in the front window of All Things Virginia), and while I waited my turn, Brandy and I perused the shop. They have a lot of nice items in there I never would have guessed–like walking sticks and hand made cards, and peanuts and condiments. They also sell Miche bags and local artwork, and they have an in-house framer if you need him. They also sell hand made jewelry, which I browsed for quite some time… and I somehow lost my plate of food, too. But that’s okay because they had more. Anyhow, between the selection at All Things Virginia and the wines at Wine on Water, it’s possible you could do all your Christmas shopping under one roof.

And then my turn came for a massage. My belly was full and the wine was speaking to me and now Betty was tenderizing my stone shoulders.

Stress was pouring out in all directions. It was coming out in laughter that echoed through the place, it was flowing in the wine, it was steaming off the food, it was evaporating through Betty’s hands, it was escaping through tiny refined pores and hair follicles. And when I emerged from the massage (with my “halo face” from having smushed my face into the cushion of the chair), everyone seemed relaxed and content.

And then I got it–this is exactly what ladies need at the end of their hectic weeks. Not a lot, not a two-week vacation in another country (although, that WOULD be nice…), but just a kind word, a soothing touch, some laughter, some time with friends, and don’t forget the wine. So, thanks to the lovely sponsors for making this evening possible, and thanks also to all the guys who stayed home with the kids and heated up frozen corn dogs. Yes, ketchup is a fruit. Oh, come on…. just kidding!

pictured here, the sponsors: Sara Christensen, Sherrie Gordon, Kristen Lucas, Katrina Hudy, Linda Denton, Shelley Boyers, Jennifer Matthai Cottrell, Vivian Myers, and Vicki Ruckman.

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.

free spirits: rocktown wine and dine festival.

It was a weeee bit rainy. A tad splashy. A tish bit damp, if you will. And as my hair erupted into its requisite rainy day Ronald McDonald wig of frizz, Brandy arrived with a floaty strapped to her back pack.

“What’s that for?” I asked.

“Duh, for FLOATING. Because it’s raining. A LOT.” <eye roll>

I guess I’m so accustomed to it raining at ALL our events that I don’t even think to prepare for it. But others did, too. Like these gals:

And this lady… sort of.

Umbrella casualty.

We might have actually needed that floaty. Not that the three of us could ride on it… but Brandy informed Michael and me that there was even a chance of tornadic activity. Good grief, Auntie Em. “Do you get some kind of alert for every weather situation?” I asked her. She answered, “I get that from my Nanny, okay? I used to call her for the weather.” Awwww… Nanny :)

Anyhoo, at three o’clock on the dot, one could hear a chorus of corks popping against the harmonious backdrop of rain and The Woodshedders, this old-time, bluegrass, jazz-country quintet who warmed things up for us quite cozily. The first Rocktown Wine and Dine Festival had commenced! And with neat-o wine sampling glasses in hand, we were off!

A note of clarification before I delve into all the deliciousness of that afternoon. The Wine and Dine Festival was different from the Beer and Music Festival of last April (and coming again April 20, 2013!!) in that the wine vendors served pairings–samples of a particular wine accompanied by a complementary dish. (Local chefs Alex Fitzgerald and Jon Alley created the appetizers and Brock Cappers from Robins Cellars picked perfect wines for each.) It wasn’t like the Beer and Music Festival where you filled up your mug and wandered around for a bit. It was more like an art exhibit, where you move through the gallery, stopping at each piece and eating/drinking the display. So the three of us, along with everyone else, were under the pavilion for quite some time, sampling the goods at all ELEVEN tables.

Also, as you perused the goods, if there were any (and believe me, there were) wines that you wanted to buy, you could go to the Downtown Wine and Gourmet table, place an order, and then pick up your wine the following Saturday at the shop. And Jay and Amanda offered substantial discounts if you ordered one, three, or five mix & match cases. A lot of people in my life are getting wine for Christmas this year.

Okay, Table One: World Premier Wines. Here we sampled the Paul Cluver Close Encounters Riesling from South Africa… and the Paul Cluver Gewurtztraminer paired with a southwestern chicken egg roll. The spicy egg roll with the crisp, apple-y sweet wine was a lovely start to the afternoon. Thumbs up.

Next was the Robert Kacher table, where we tried the Tariquet Classic–dry and fruity from France–paired with a traditional gazpacho. We also tried their Andre Brunel VDP Grenache, which was refreshing and really reasonably priced.

Frontier Wine Imports offered a grilled chorizo (sausage) with their Senda 66 Tempranillo 2008 from Spain–man was that a good combination. I ate a few of those little spicy things. And might I add, it was at this table that WE FOUND PORT. Aaaaggggghhhhhh <drool>. The Feist Madeira Full Rich Port AND the Feist Tawny Port. From PORTugal. Ha. I think I left that table about ten degrees warmer.

Danielle, servin’ it up.

The fourth table was also a favorite in our little group–Small Vineyards served their Palama Negroamaro with these yummy little shredded pork barbeque sliders. Yowee. It was one of those slow-motion moments: We saw the wine. We saw the sliders. We started over there. People would not get out of the way. And when at last we skidded to the table, the sliders were gone! No worries–we just stood there and waited, and soon another batch arrived, all warm and fresh. We also tried their Tre Donne La Perlina Moscato and their Bibbiani Chianti. At this point we were really digging the festival.

The Avery Quinn table had these shrimp things–money bags, spring rolls, and wontons, along with a very nice California chardonnay. That combo was so good I burned my mouth–twice. We liked that table.

Bluestone Vineyard, one of the hosts of the festival, along with Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance and Downtown Wine and Gourmet, presented a reeeeallly good cabernet franc ($25-a-bottle good) and one of the most delicious things I’ve ever eaten in my life: bacon-wrapped sausage bites, rolled in aged chili peppers and sweet brown sugar. I admit that for the rest of the evening, I stalked that table for meat like Hannibal Lecter. I apologize for the creepiness of it. Anyway, Bluestone also debuted their new Moscato at the festival–a sweet, kinda fizzy fruity number. It’s a good thing there were no chairs under the pavilion or we may not have moved for days.

Around this time, the Woodshedders finished up and Chatham County Line took the stage. These guys have been around for thirteen-ish years, from Raleigh, and recently finished up a tour in Europe. Here they were in little old Harrisonburg, providing a warm and lively soundtrack to a now sunny evening.

B&L Brands was a fun table, not only because all their wines were great (and among the three of us, I think we tried them all), but because many of their wines have literary names–like “Foreshadow” and “Bookmark.” The nerd in me appreciates that. They offered Rooiberg Chenin Blanc (South Africa) with assorted cheese.

Vici Wine, our eighth stop, offered several South American wines (Chile and Argentina) including the Oveja Negra Chardonnay/Viognier and the Chilensis Chardonnay, and one from South Africa–the Obwika Moscato–paired with Bananas Foster Bites served with warm caramel sauce. Apparently I wasn’t the only food stalker there because we never did get a bite, and after all that meat I really needed some dessert :) Our friend Seth was working that table:

Cave Ridge and Cross Keys shared a table, which suited us just fine because we love those vineyards. Cave Ridge is the vineyard that runs Wine on Water, which offers tastings daily at its downtown location and houses Cuban Burger; Cross Keys Vineyard is a really great place to visit for a first date or an anniversary or a ladies’ nite out or an after-golf outing. The terrace is beautiful and the view is breathtaking, and if you get a chance to take the tour, you should. We sampled pretty much everything at that table and chatted it up with Katrina and Debbie. The pairing was the Cave Ridge Viognier with assorted fruit, but we also had their Chambourcin and Cabernet Franc. Cross Keys served their Joy White–one of my favorites of all time– and Joy Red, and the luxurious Meritage.

William Harrison Imports had several Argentinian selections and a few from France. And just before my sausage high wore off, they rescued me with a grilled kielbasa with mustard paired with the Don Manuel Malbec, a really hearty, spicy number that was a good end-of-festival selection.

And although we were “stuffed to the collarbone,” we couldn’t say no to the final table of the evening, Castle Rock Winery. Brandy and I sipped on the Mendocino Zinfandel and had gotten really mingle-y, wandering around, chatty and sorta unfocused. But they had a really good appetizer, too–chicken skewers with a tangy molasses barbeque sauce–and after an amount of time I’m just not sure of, Michael emerged from the crowd, marching toward us triumphantly, holding three chicken skewers high over head. We thanked him excitedly and then I, in my haste, stabbed my throat with the skewer.

Time for a break.

Having sampled all the pairings, and feeling quite satisfied, we moseyed to the lawn with our chairs to listen to the band play. We noticed the patch of earth that was torn apart by revelers at the Beer and Music Festival last spring–it was covered with hay to protect the tiny grasslings growing beneath. But it didn’t stay covered long, as an army of small human plows arrived and started making a hay pile. I mean, that’s what you do with hay–you gather it up into a pile. As the kids jumped on the hay pile and shouted and squished their feet in the mucky lawn, one of the band members asked them, “Which one of you is the Lord of the Flies?”

And so we watched the kids. And we listened to Chatham County Line. And Michael decided they needed a sample, too, so he commandeered four glasses and brought them a round. As the singer graciously accepted his wine, he said, “You know, I see a lot of signs that say ‘No bracelet, no wine,’ but… (brandishing his bare wrists)… come get me!” And they played on. Later he said, “Don’t discriminate, my brother. Integrate. That’s why God invented rosé.”

Amen. Let it all mingle–bacon and sausage and shrimp and bananas and cheese and cabernets and merlots and rieslings and zinfandels and mud and skin and hair and clothing and rain. Let it all mingle!

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.

music lessons: chris howdyshell and superfriends and their ground-breaking rock-n-rollishness at clementine cafe.

It was an educational evening, indeed.

Of course, it started stupid enough–the two of us yakking it up at the bar, gossiping and such about things I can’t memorialize on the Interwebs–sorry. I can say that at one point the chatter veered back to our visit to Wine on Water and how we look forward to cooler weather and going back there for some PORT. In fact, Brandy declared, “I want to drink port in a scarf,” and I (here comes a stupid part) imagined her fashioning some kind of fabric drinking vessel. How cultural, I mused, wondering if perhaps in some exotic country, people drink wine this way.

Then I got it.

We were soon rescued from our idiocy. That night Clementine served up something mind expanding for sure, something called Chris Howdyshell and SuperFriends and Their Ground-Breaking Rock-N-Rollishness.

The first of the SuperFriends was Ellen Atwood. And even though she’s young–just a junior in high school–I think I will dub her Queen of the SuperFriends. One, it was her first public solo gig, ever. Two, she’s a one-woman show, just her keyboard and her voice. Three, her voice is… angelic. She was goosebumps-on-your-face good. She played and sang “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” “Don’t Let It Break Your Heart” (Coldplay), and one of her originals. And four, she’s just a kid yet. And being a teacher and a general fan of teenagers, I love to see a kid who’s been able to cultivate her passion and talent in spite of all her school responsibilities and pressures and just the agony and emotional clumsiness that pervades adolescence, and still have the guts to share it with a room of (mostly) strangers. Yet there she was, shining in the hot white light. And after three short songs, I was quite moved. So thank you for that, Ellen.

Then the rest of the SuperFriends took the stage. It wasn’t quite the Dish Dogs because Michael Bowman and Lara Mack weren’t there… but it also wasn’t the new band, Dr. How (whom you can see here at Clementine on September 22)–it was… just… the SuperFriends. Namely, Chris Howdyshell, Mike Howdyshell, Ashley Hunter, Josh Vana, Doug Pitts, and Kyle Oehmke once his shift in the kitchen ended and he could join them. Untie the apron, strap on the bass. Chris had on his bedazzled hat and every person in the band wore glasses. Not, like, sunglasses, but actual “I need these to see” glasses. I could make some kind of “gettin’ old” joke, but really it was endearing because we’re all just humans with flaws doing the best we can. As Ram Dass said, “We’re all just walking each other home,” even if we can’t see where the hell we’re going.

They played a couple of old Dish Dog favorites, and things really picked up after “Tom Weights.” It seems like a hundred more people came in during “It’s Not Your Fault.” Drew, Harrisonburg’s resident hugger, danced in front of the stage (we love Drew!); more people joined the dancing during “Bird” and “She’s An Artist” and “The Tuning Song”–ha ha. And Chris took a moment to say he had two things to ask of us:
1) “You’re here.” (check!) and
2) “Don’t be afraid to dance. Ladies and gentlemen, please put your feet on the floor!”

In walked several  young men in suits, to whom he commanded, “Men In Suits–DANCE!” Which they did. Then he came down and danced with Alice, and Ashley came down and danced, and Grayson and Annie danced, and other folks I don’t know… and I remembered a New Year’s Eve Dish Dogs performance… there was this couple dancing. They’d obviously been together a long time. She danced with her eyes closed, and I thought that was the most romantic thing I’d ever seen–how they knew each other so well…

Nothing like that happened at this show, but it sure was fun!!

And educational. Remember when I said that earlier? Because between numbers, Chris would tell us interesting facts and use impressive vocabulary. Like “evolutionarily.” EV-UH-LOO-SHUN-AIR-UH-LEE. Something about woodpeckers and black flies and how, evolutionarily, they strayed from the norm and neither fared well. His lesson: “Do what you always do or you’ll die, at least in woodpecker world.” I also learned that Lance Armstrong ate oatmeal “filled with oxygen.” And most importantly, “Every time you eat bacon, you’re only losing a year of your life you didn’t care about in the first place.” Plus you get to eat bacon.

And he closed with this thought: “I really want a dog, but I don’t want to clean up the poop.” Amen to that.

The evening wound down with a smattering of other songs, including “Whiskey’s More Warm Than A Girl” and one about forgetting things (I don’t remember the title–seriously) during which Josh Vana played slide with a piece of broken glass. You gotta do what you gotta do, MacGyver.

So Dr. How debuts at Clementine on September 22 and will feature at least some of the SuperFriends. And I hope you’ll all attend.
Because you will learn stuff.
And you will dance.

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.

have a nice flight: wine on water.

I love running into former students and finding out what’s happened to them since high school. In many cases, they’ve furthered their education and traveled around and worked here and there and had lots of enlightening experiences… things I can only dream of accomplishing. And I love hearing what they’ve learned along the way. This was a night I learned a lot.

Brandy, Denise, and I met at Wine on Water last Tuesday evening to sample some wine. Our wine host was the lovely Katrina Hudy, who manages the establishment and graduated from BHS years ago. While Wine on Water is owned and operated by the folks at Cave Ridge Vineyard, they serve more than just Cave Ridge wines (something I didn’t know). They also feature wines from Wisteria Vineyards, Shenandoah Vineyards, Cedar Creek Vineyard, Bluestone Vineyard, and Barren Ridge Vineyard. By doing so, Wine on Water can promote the Valley wine industry: it takes time for individuals to visit several vineyards and sample their wines. This way, customers can taste wines from all over the Valley without leaving their bar stools. Katrina does all the work for you: she travels to vineyards hither and yon and chooses what they’ll serve at Wine on Water. Helloooooo, dream job. I also learned from Katrina that Virginia’s hills and valleys create “microclimates” that allow several different varieties of grape to thrive. This variance in grapes yields a broad assortment of wines… versus a place where the landscape is flat and therefore only produces one or two kinds of grapes. See? Another reason I love my Burg and am grateful I live in this area. It’s the little things, you know.

Wine on Water’s beautiful tasting room/bar is adjacent to All Things Virginia and contains Cuban Burger, which serves food Wednesday through Saturday. Wine on Water is open Tuesday through Saturday noon to seven, and they have Happy Hour on Friday and Saturday from five to seven (ooo, the elusive Saturday happy hour!). You can also ask them to host your private event.

So here’s how it works: you can select three wines from their list and get a two-ounce tasting of each, for $7. This is called a “flight,” and it’s only $5 during happy hour. There are other options, too, including buying by the glass, the half-glass, and others. Not all the wines they carry are available every day that they’re open, but the selection is ample and you’re sure to have a different experience each time you visit. The wines that we chose happened to be all Cave Ridge wines. They were the Fandango Port, the Riesling, Sangria, the Chambourcin, and the Viognier. The Riesling was very good–crisp and refreshing, a good hot-weather wine. The Sangria was made from Rambling Rose, so it was not the dark red Sangria I expected. It also contains guava nectar, pineapple, and cinnamon stick. It was MAJOR yummy. Brandy and Denise both also like the Chambourcin, and Brandy also had the Viognier, which–another thing I learned–is the Virginia State Wine. I don’t know the state bird and flower and all that, but now I know the state grape.

don’t leave a drop, denise!

I have to say… although it was a hundred degrees out that day and Port is not your usual “summer wine,” we loved that Fandango Port. We ended up ordering a glass of it after the tasting. My roommate during my freshman year of college, Darlene, kept a bottle of amaretto in our dorm room, and I’ll never forget one night after a couple of swigs, she said, “I have warm ears.” Port is a “warm ears” wine. It reminded me of the time I was backpacking across Europe and got stuck all night in the train station in Basel, Switzerland. Thank heavens for Port that night. And it makes me think of Jack Kerouac (“life must be rich and full of loving—it’s no good otherwise, no good at all, for anyone…”), and it makes me think of Christmas.

As usual, our conversation meandered along several bizarre paths. Katrina mentioned that You Made It! had a craft day at Wine on Water, and I thought to myself, “See? That’s how it should be. The barter system all the way.” We don’t even need money. Then I had a great idea: all of Harrisonburg should live in a giant castle together and just use the barter system for everything. We have plenty of people to provide food and beverages and entertainment and education and health care. Then we started thinking of things we want in our castle. Brandy wants beverage spigots like the ones at Wine on Water. You could get any beverage you want on this biiiig wall of spigots.

And Denise would want some mode of transportation within the castle, like Segways (“with cupholders!”, inserted Brandy) or maybe those motorized grocery store carts so you can carry stuff around. Then there was some confusion about a matador versus a troubadour… but we want both. And instead of a moat filled with deadly alligators and shrieking eels, the castle could be surrounded by one of those lazy river things they have at nice hotels… you know, for the kids. Because no one would ever want to attack Castle Harrisonburg–we’re the Friendly City, for Pete’s sake!

Where were we?

So, back to reality… Wine on Water is hosting a cool event this Thursday, July 19, called “It’s All About You, Ladies!” It’s not exactly a castle, but it is a getaway of sorts. For $12, ladies (only!) can enjoy wine, appetizers, massages, skincare, and makeovers, plus be entered to win prizes, and receive a complimentary gift bag! This event is sponsored by Shenandoah Concierge, All Things Virginia, and Wine on Water, and only 50 tickets will be sold, so get moving!

And if you can’t make that, be sure to stop in on First Friday, August 3, to hear music by the Harmolodics and see art by Chie Tamaki. Cheers!

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.

here’s to the burg no. 4: downtown wine and gourmet

Despite what Jay says, I don’t think I’ve been to a wine tasting at Downtown Wine and Gourmet that wasn’t hoppin’. Brandy and I were hard pressed to get there by 7, when the free tasting technically ends—arriving by a narrow margin of eight minutes—but it looked far from over to us. What Jay meant was that the closing of Callie’s temporarily (and imperceptibly, to me) decreased traffic in the store, but now that the Capital Ale House is open, all’s well. Folks waiting for a table at the Ale House, as well as the general public, can, from 5 – 7pm on Fridays, moisten their palates with a fine sampling of featured wines at the wine shop. People always linger beyond 7, and no one’s gonna yank the glass out of your hand.

Owned by Jay and Amanda Monger, Downtown Wine and Gourmet is located in the Court Square Theatre building. They’re not just a wine shop, despite the cork floors and merlot-colored walls. They also sell cheese and other gourmet foods, coffee, brewing supplies, and a fine, FINE assortment of beer. Mm. Mm. Mm!

So… we tasted: Chateau De Fontenille White Bordeaux—delish. Kanu Chenin Blanc—delish. Vina Borgia Garnacha in a BOX (now we’re talkin’!). And Hendry HRW Zinfindel, which was a bit dry for me… but only because as I’ve aged, I’ve somehow become a thirstier person. Oh yes, and one “contraband” offering. Wait, did I type that or just think it? Woopsie.

Sean was our pourer—very friendly, thorough, and knowledgeable, even about each wine’s aroma… which I admit sorta fell on deaf ears (noses?) because I don’t wanna smell my wine—I wanna DRINK IT.

During our tasting we ran into the always delightful Tony Lopez of the local improv group No Strings Attached. Note to self: do a piece on them. That’s another great thing about the wine tasting: you run into folks you know, and then it’s like you’re at this fabulous cocktail party, minus the little black dress and pantyhose that keep getting twisted. And staticky.

Anyhow, I had to browse the beer while I was there (where you can build your own six-pack, and every time you do, you think, “I have created the best six-pack EVER!” until the next week when you top yourself. It’s quite a boost to the self-esteem.). It’s fun to peruse the beer section because of the labels. I know, I know—never judge a beer by its label, but when it features really great art, it’s pretty much irresistible. One of our faves is Flying Dog, whose labels feature art by Ralph Steadman (friends with George Stranahan and Hunter S. Thompson). See how educational this is? I mean, come on, people.

And that’s when we saw it: BACON AND MAPLE BEER. Breakfast beer! That ranks right up there with the purse closet at Granny Longlegs and Sunday brunch at the Grill. Hmmmm… brunch beer? And by the way, Downtown Wine and Gourmet hosts a free beer tasting every Saturday from 1 – 4pm.

Whether you need beer, wine, gourmet foods, coffee, or even handmade gift baskets, Downtown Wine and Gourmet has it all, and their laid-back, knowledgeable staff is more than happy to help you. Catch you there this Friday… and, why not, Saturday, too. <clink!>