Spending time at a food festival, whether a wine festival tasting dozens of great wines, or sampling every possible way of seasoning and cooking crab at a seafood festival, is just a great way to spend a day. Ruth and I just had one of those days at the Virginia Food & Wine Festival, celebrating local Virginia foods and wines. For the second year in a row, the Virginia Farm Bureau hosted the festival, part of the Save Our Food campaign, at the Meadow Event Park in Doswell, Virginia. For $10 per car load, festival-goers were given access to dozens of free wine tastings, free food samples, and an indoor farmers’ market. Yes, that’s right, as the mercury hit over 100 yet another day here in Virginia, the best part of this festival was that it was held indoors – with air conditioning.
Some standouts from our visit:
- Kroger Grocery was giving out reusable grocery bags, and sure many of us might already have too many, but this one had a “Recyclosaurus”- Emilie was mildly obsessed with this bag. We never said she was normal. They were also giving away free locally grown vegetables, such as tomatoes, crookneck squash, and cucumbers.
- Capsaicin Solutions, a Richmond, VA pepper farm and seasoning producer, had some amazing pre-made pepper powders and seasonings. Patrick deFur’s Maple Ginger Seasoning ($6 a bottle) was a perfect combination of sweet and hot- great on salmon, ribs, shrimp… Ruth bought a bottle and got a recipe to go with it – we’ll be sharing it with you soon.
- There were a lot of the families at the event – and at $10 per car, no matter how many people were in the car, it seems like a great way to spend the day with your kids. There was a kids section, and even a live mother and baby cow, with milking demonstrations.
- The Farm Bureau was also giving away free produce – an ear of corn for each visitor.
- There were about a dozen wineries offering free wine tastings, but getting to the wine involved waiting in more than a few lines, we recommend buying a bottle of wine you really enjoy, asking the tasting staff to pop the cork for you, and enjoying that while you wait in line for other tastings. Two standouts for us:
- The DeVault Family Vineyards, had some great wines, including a Chardonel, made with a hybrid grape, the mating of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc grapes. They were also selling sangria by the glass, including one of the best red sangria’s we’ve had outside of Spain. Emilie bought the Norton dry red wine and got their recipe for sangria before we left. Look for that recipe in the future as well!
- Castle Gruen Vineyards had some of the best Chardonnay we have had in years. Emilie generally shies away from anything labeled chardonnay, especially if they come out of California. That heavy, buttery flavor that is a part of oak-aged chardonnay is too much for her, but this was a dry un-oaked wine. The finish was clean and citrus-y, not like a buttered roll. The winery was also offering tastings of The Queen’s White (2010), a semi-dry Chardonnay that would be excellent with a spicy Thai dish and was Ruth’s favorite.
- Auntie Faye’s Spratt – don’t ask us what exactly it is, we can’t tell you, what we do know is that it was really really good. Ruth and I were incredulous as we we walked up to the booth, the description was vague, and, while the packaging was nice, the contents was a bit suspicious. We are nothing if we aren’t adventurous, though, and gave each version a try, and I am glad we did. It was marketed as a sandwich topping/cracker spread/dressing/condiment and at 15 calories per tablespoon, Emilie might have been able to eat the Zesty or Hot version right out of the jar. The ingredients listed on the jar were simple: cabbage, egg yolk, soybean oil, onion, garlic, pepper, and a few other spices. We are kicking ourselves for not buying some, and would love to try to recreate it, but we might to need to figure out how to buy some – for comparison. The company is small and does not currently have an online presence, but a few Google clicks away, Emilie was able to find out that it is sold at the Cheese Shop in Stuart’s Draft, VA, not yet available anywhere online though.
We had a great time at the event and encourage those in the area to put it on your calendars for next year. A few things to keep in mind:
- This year they offered a half-off discount with a printed flyer, keep an eye out for that next year.
- We recommend getting there early. It opened at noon, and the line was already pretty long to get inside when we got there at 12:20, but it did move quickly.
- Take cash, and plenty of it. While there were a number of sellers taking credit cards, we heard from several of them that the wireless credit card readers’ reception was poor in the building and using credit cards sometimes didn’t work at all.