Williamsburg Farmers Market; a fall walk of the market

IMG_4614Walking along Duke of Gloucester Street and the farmers market on a Saturday morning is something I truly missed when I was working full time.  My schedule shifts included Saturday mornings and I missed most of the spring and all of summer at the market.


Late fall in Virginia means lots of greens and roots to choose from.  Kale, chard, beets and turnips were abundant.


IMG_4623There is also no shortage of humor at the market.  Look closely, it made me chuckle.


IMG_4626So if the knife sharpener made me chuckle, this made me laugh, a lot.  If you need some worm castings for your garden, they’ve got you covered.


IMG_4631When in Virginia, only Virginia Peanuts will do!  They are larger than most and very popular in our house.


IMG_4634The Middle Peninsula of Virginia is part of the Chesapeake Bay area and that means Blue Crabs, freshly caught, steamed and ready to eat.

IMG_4636It wouldn’t be fall without pumpkins and there was no shortage of them that morning.

IMG_4645One of our favorite stops is the mushroom booth.  They sell a nice variety of wild mushrooms.

IMG_4649On this day, they had Hen of the Woods (above), Lion’s Mane, Oysters, and Shiitake.

IMG_4865Did you know the Williamsburg Farmers Market is a producers only market?  Virginia grown and that makes it fresh and local!

IMG_4667These were being sold as pumpkins on branches for use in floral arrangements but the truth is, they are a variety of inedible eggplant.

IMG_4669It’s true, pie fixes everything, try some and see for yourself!


Lovely greens for a lovely day at the market.  Most of the vendors come each week but some come monthly or every other week.  For a complete list of vendors, visit the website.

Leaf Peeping at Waller Mill Park

 Since moving to Williamsburg in September, I have spent a bit of time exploring the trail system around the city.  It has become a way to occupy my time; without a large garden to tend to I have the opportunity to wander trails.  On a recent Sunday, I took my husband out to Waller Mill Park to hike the Lookout Tower Trail.  To learn more about the trail system in the park, the City of Williamsburg has a page on their website that offers a pdf file that I recommend downloading.  It is called Great City Walks and the trails in Waller Mill Park are included.

Waller Mill Park is home to the reservoir system that provides water to the City of Williamsburg and James City County and with that in mind, it is not a free park.  However, the $2 entry fee is well worth the money.  The park has limited hours and it closes by 5pm each day but if you have an hour or two, you can get a lot of exploring in.  For those of you not interested in hiking, you can play disc golf, rent a paddle boat or canoe or bring your own non-gasoline powered boat, fish, picnic or bring the dog to the dog park.  To learn all of the rules and restrictions, visit the homepage for the park.

We arrived at about 2pm and figured we would be finished with the nearly 3 mile hike in about an hour and 15 minutes.  However, there was so much to see on the trail it took us two hours!  The close up photo of the moss and lichen growth on the rock in the photo above is just one example of the distractions we encountered.  To see more of our discoveries, you will have to explore the cellphone photos I posted on my Instagram feed, I did not take photos of every mushroom we found using my camera because we may not have made it out of the park before closing time!

 The views of the foliage were beautiful.  The day was overcast and that was a good thing.  We took our time and just enjoyed the surroundings.  This area is just beginning to put on a display of color, the cold snap we are expecting should change that.

 On this afternoon, there were a few boaters paddling around and hikers with dogs but for the most part, we were on our own.  It was truly a peaceful place to be and I plan to make this a regular destination.

 The boat launch near the parking area had one of the best views of foliage in the park!  It was hard not to pull camera out and I could easily have spent an hour or more on the dock.

 The reflections were every bit as enchanting as the view itself.  To my husbands surprise, and possibly his dismay, I actually laid down on my stomach to take these shots.

 The ripples in the water distorted the reflection and the random leaves floating on the surface of the water caught my attention.

 There was a pair of ducks swimming near by but I never even thought to get them in the photo

The clouds in the sky look even angrier due to the distortion of the reflection.  
Go on out to Waller Mill and hike the trails, you will not regret it.  Keep in mind that this is one of the rootiest trail systems I have been on.  Watch your footing, something tough to do on a leaf covered pathway.  If you have bad knees or ankles, this may not be the place for you since it is guaranteed that you will trip over at least a couple roots along the way.  For those with limited mobility, you may want to stick to the Paved Bike Path, a two mile walkway, look for it on the map.

beer vs. wine; visiting a brewery and a winery in one afternoon

When my daughter came for a visit recently, we decided to taste some of local wares.  Our first stop was at the Williamsburg Winery.  For those of you who are not familiar with wine production, Virginia wines are gaining ground and winning awards.  Hard to believe but it is true, Virginia is the fifth largest grape producer in the nation.  Still don’t believe me, read this article from Forbes magazine about the wine industry in Virginia.

While it is no secret that I prefer to sip a glass of wine (or three…) to just about any other alcoholic beverage, I am by no means a connoisseur.  My preferences run to dry whites such as Sauvignon Blanc, Fume Blanc and Pinot Grigio, my only requirement besides dry and white is that it is not Chardonnay.

Even so, I always enjoy a trip to a winery and a chance to see how they produce their wines.  When it includes a chance to taste the wines, even better.  The tour of the Williamsburg Winery will take you about an hour, including the tasting.  While some wineries do this for free, it will cost you $10 to take this tasting tour.  If you ask me, that is a pretty cheap way to sample the wines and see the facility.  Forgive the lousy cellphone photo, it was so dark in the cellar and I was traveling without a tripod.

This is a small winery in comparison to some of the ones I have visited on the west coast.  This room is where they store all of the red wines.  Again, I apologize for that cellphone photo.

Each Barrel is marked with a stamp from the cooper.  Coopers practice the art of making wine barrels, and this cooperage from France.  The other stamped letters and numbers also convey information relevant to the barrel.  While I do not know what the A or the H mean, I do know that the M and T refer to a Medium Toast of the barrel which will impart characteristics to the wine aging in the barrel.  The white, handwritten letters are unique to the winery and I am not sure what they mean but I am guessing that the indicate the type of wine and the year it was produced.

The winery offers different types of tours, we went on a basic tour but they also offer a reserve tour.  The reserve tour includes a tasting in the actual cellar.   We could only admire the setting from behind a gate and I am thinking this looks like a great place to learn about the wines.

In the bottling room, Riesling was being pumped into the bottles.

The storage tanks in the winery, just another interesting part of the winery.  The art of wine making has been around for centuries and while old world techniques are still in use, modern technology has crept in.

Of course, just about everyone goes on a winery tour to taste the wines and I am no exception to that rule!  We tasted eight wines and this was one of the reds, a 2012 Lord Botetourt Red which is a blend of red Bordeaux varietals.

We also had the chance to taste the 2013 Dry Rose(a wine made from estate grown grapes), 2012 James River White Sauvignon Blanc, 2013 Midsummer Night’s White (a wine made from estate grown grapes), 2010 J. Andrewes Merlot, 2012 Hening’s Statute Cabernet Franc, 2012 Virginia Trianon (a Cabernet Franc)  and the Jamestown Cellars Settler’s Spiced Wine which is a spice infused red wine that can be served warm or chilled.

While we enjoyed the winery and the chance to taste the wines, we had a schedule to keep and beer to taste; off we went to the local brewery Alewerks.

Disclaimer; I am not a beer drinker, do not expect a detailed explanation of anything here…We arrived at the brewery which is located in a small business park, not what we expected, at all.  Once again, this was not a free tour, and that is fine, they need to pay for the expense of educating visitors.  We were lucky to have a tour guide that not only knew his ales, but was engaging and entertaining.  For the first time, I actually understand a little about the different types of beers and what makes each one unique.

Our guide, Corbin, was quick to explain something important to us, traditionally, beer is made from 4 ingredients:  water, barley, hops and yeast.  What I also learned was that there are two basic types of beer, lager and ale, and what separates them is the type of yeast used and the temperatures that they are brewed is the biggest difference.  Alewerks only produces ale and that is a cold yeast process.

What makes the many brews different are the ingredients used.  While barley is the traditional grain used to make ale, it is not the only choice.  How the grains are toasted affects flavor and so does the amount of hops in the brew.  The other thing I learned, I do not care for a brew that is heavy in hops.

We tasted 5 different brews which included the Chesapeake Pale Ale, Washington’s Porter, Wheat Ale and Old Stitch-forgive me, I cannot remember the fifth one.  The light ales and the less “hoppy” brews were the ones I preferred.   Believe it or not, I actually like the Porter and probably could drink a glass.

After the tasting, we went to the actual brewery.  It is surprisingly small.  The entire brewery is in one room; the grain storage, brewing and bottling all takes place in the same space.

The bricks look blackened because it is actually soot from the flames that toast the grains.

Even more surprising, there is only one machine to bottle the brew.  This machine has the ability to bottle one case of beer per minute.  The cases are folded and glued by hand too.  Yes folks, this beer is truly hand crafted.

Still thinking of the Porter, and thinking that maybe I need to go back and take this tour again.  Join me and help support the local producers of Williamsburg.

Early Fall at the Williamsburg Farmers Market

Visiting the Williamsburg Farmers Market has become a favorite thing of mine.  Every Saturday morning I head to the Historic District to walk the market held in Merchants Square and it is such a beautiful setting.  It truly feels like a community event, almost like a neighborhood block party held in the middle of the colonial village.  The farmers and producers selling at the market each week are usually the same but sometimes, they skip a week so be sure to check the website as it is updated weekly.

There is nothing worse than going to a market and discovering that the venders are simply reselling produce they bought.  This market is a producers only market and all venders are subject to management approval before they can sell at the market.  Honestly, this is the perfect way to know your food.  Want to know about the vegetables or seafood, ask the person selling it; they work for the farm and can tell you just about anything you might need to know.

Fresh beans waiting to be shelled
 Beautiful eggplants

 It wouldn’t be fall without hard squash; Cushaw and Blue Hubbards as well as Butternut and Acorn.

 Not only do you get the vegetables freshly picked, you get the name of the variety.

 Amazing sheep milk cheeses from Everona Dairy.

The folks at Bacon’s Castle Supply love to talk about their peanut farm.  We asked about the bouquet hanging and got a lesson on how the plants produce peanuts.

 And of course, heirloom pumpkins
 Peppers love the hot, dry weather of late summer and early fall and are plentiful at the market.
 Sweet potatoes are a fall favorite too

 Being so close to the Chesapeake Bay means oysters are plentiful too and these are Crassostrea virginica the native species.  King Corrotoman Oysters brings them in fresh but be sure to check the schedule, they do not come every week.

 Everywhere you go, signs of fall.  Love the use of persimmons in this bouquet.

 Radishes are a quick crop to produce and it is easy to see why farmers would offer them for sale; they are so colorful.  Did you know that radishes are just as good roasted as they are raw and the greens are pretty tasty when cooked too!  Click here for my recipe for roasted radishes and wilted greens.

Mountains of Tuscan kale just waiting to be sauteed or added to salads and it has me dreaming about my new garden next spring…

This post is participating in the Virginia Bloggers Friday Favorites linkup.  Be sure to check out the links posted by other members and visitors to the website.

wandering the streets: an early morning walk in colonial williamsburg

after two days of rain that were mostly spent in a car driving from house to house on our search for a place to live, i walked to colonial williamsburg.  since darry had to work, i rode in with him and left the car in the lot at william and mary and walked the mile between the university and the historic village.

it was early by most standards, barely 7am, but not early to me since i am generally at work before 4am each day.  although this was rush hour, there were hardly any cars around-something i am sure will change once classes start again next week.  as i walked along the sidewalk that parallels the university grounds, i noticed the moss and lichen covering the brick walls that border the property.  while i do not know how long the brick walls have stood along the walkway, it was obvious that they have been here quite some time.

as a gardener with a preference for shade plants, moss is something i try to encourage in my own garden.  there are methods of introducing it that call for blending moss with buttermilk and painting it where you would like it to grow but there is something magical about letting nature take the lead.

the different colors and textures blend together beautifully.

to really appreciate the beauty, one must get close up.  moss are unique plants that do not produce flowers or seeds but instead reproduce through spores.  those little brown pods are actually spore capsules getting ready to burst.

lichen on the other hand is not really a plant but a symbiotic partnership formed by fungus and an algae or bacteria.

very few places were open so early so i headed over to the local coffee house for breakfast.  it was truly peaceful out here as there were still so few people out and about.

my goal was to photograph as much as i could before the tourists descended and made a clean shot impossible.  this is the walkway into the village from merchants square.

knowing that this is a major tourist attraction, it was a surprise to learn that many of the houses are privately owned and that the owners live in them.  it is also legal to drive on the roads but not during the day when the roads are full of tourists.  another surprise was the number of runners i encountered and not just single runners but entire packs of them.  on several occasions i was passed by a group of 5 to 6 running together.

but even with the runners, walkers and occasional car, it was still quite possible to get the shot and simply enjoy the morning.

every detail in the village must look as though it has endured the centuries.  wooden gates and the locks that fasten them as well.

this little guy let me get just close enough before he dropped his breakfast and ran

the brick walkways were slightly slick with the morning dew and the cracks were filled with moss.

and if you stopped for a moment to take a peek at what lies on the other side of the fence, this would be the view.  even though it seemed neglected or perhaps just lacking plants, it still made for a beautiful view.  my gardener’s view had visions of hostas, ferns, hellebores and other deep-shade loving plants filling the beds and with my imagination, i could see azaleas, rhododendrons and hydrangeas dotted throughout the area to create colorful focal points.  even so, there was beauty in just the patterns formed by the beds and the bricks and the moss that was filling in the spaces.

as i wandered from place to place, i encountered another walkway leading to yet another secret garden.  this wooden staircase climbed a hillside up to a brick walkway between houses.  the bright red door caught my attention and i headed towards it.

and right into a garden in the process of renovation.  my thoughts continually ran back to this; how did the colonists have time for so many gardens?  obviously, these homes were not inhabited by working class folks; they had servants, maybe even slaves which would explain how they had the time to maintain so many beautiful gardens along with all the other daily chores completed without the many modern conveniences we are accustomed to.  it also crossed my mind that a tourist attraction must be just that-attractive.  who would go visit it if it showed the signs of real life and what it was like back then before things such as indoor plumbing and sewer systems…

regardless of what it must have been like then, it was a beautiful way to spend a morning and i look forward to going back and visiting again and again as the seasons change.

churches were central parts of colonial communities.  the bruton parish church building which dates back to 1715 was no exception; it was attended by george washington, thomas jefferson and patrick henry to name just a few.  to walk the grounds which really are little more than a cemetery, is also a sobering experience.  modern medicine has made childbirth safe for women and the likelihood that a child will grow to adulthood is something we take for granted.

the inscription of this tomb reminded me how lucky we are to be living in this day and age.   young mathew whaley only lived to be 9 years old and he “lyes interred here within this tomb upon his father”

and yes, i am one of those people that like to wander cemeteries looking at the names and dates as well as the stones themselves.  this tomb grabbed my attention with a skull and crossbones on one side

and an angel on the other.  unfortunately, time has take its toll and the inscription across the top of the tomb was not legible and so i have no clue who was interred within or why they might have such an interesting tomb.

and as is customary, a lock on the churchyard gate, but i do wonder if that would have been the case back then.  there was a time when churches doors were always open for anyone seeking refuge.  honestly, i just like the hardware on the gate, the idea that someone hammered hot iron to form them makes them worth a look and a photo.

and just as my morning began, so it ended.  as the sun came up and the heat and humidity rose, i walked out of the village on the same sidewalk that i arrived on.  too hot and too bright for photos, i went to see the indoor sights of the local art museums, the dewitt wallace decorative arts museum and the abby aldrich rockefeller folk art museum, both which are entered through the old public hospital.  don’t let the name fool you, it was not a typical hospital but one where they housed the insane and treated them in the hopes of “restoring them to their lost reason…”

the dog street pub; dinner in colonial williamsburg

a saturday in the summer is the best day to visit colonial williamsburg.  yes, there are a lot of people-it is tourist season, but there is also a lot more to see.  the historical village is alive with people in period costume and they are busily re-enacting everyday life as the colonists experienced it.  they are also friendly and will patiently listen to you and answer every question you have for them.  just be prepared for canons to go off-they can scare the crap out of you if you are not watching the performance and are just strolling the nearby gardens…

after a busy day of driving in endless loops looking for a place to live, we wandered back to colonial williamsburg to see the village.  something to keep in mind, you can enter the village freely and wander the streets without buying a ticket.  many of the gardens and exhibits allow you to enter for free as well but to see and experience the entire village, you will need to buy a ticket since many areas require it for entrance.  we had only an hour or so to walk the village and decided to wait to buy tickets on a day that we could truly stay and experience it all.

after spending much of our time just wandering gardens, we ventured back to merchant square and into the dog street pub for what we thought would be a drink in the bar and a chance to cool off and get out of the hot sun. we sat at the bar sipping drinks; a glass of pinot grigio for me and a glass of the founders pale ale nitro for darry.  since we were a bit tired from all of the time spent driving, a little overheated from the hot summer sun and apparently hungry, darry decided to order something to snack on.  we started out with house made hummus.  the lovely presentation of a glass jar and freshly baked croutons was almost too pretty to dig into.  the light, creamy hummus was made with just the right amount of garlic and lemon and was just what we needed to accompany our drinks.

of course, one thing led to another and we stayed for dinner-but don’t worry, we went home at a respectable hour and there was no walk of shame…darry has a thing for burgers and the dog street pub did not disappoint him.  the feta and onion stuffed lamb burger was devoured quickly and every burger he has eaten since (he does love burgers) has been compared to it-none have come close.

anyone that knows me, knows of my love for mussels.  these were simmered in a cider and bacon broth.  i ate each and every one and used all of the bread available to soak up the broth.

i think i will like living so close to the bay and the ocean, especially if it means these will be fresh and readily available.

the pub has quite the selection of beer on tap but none is as unique as the “real ale” which the bartender was kind enough to explain.  the brewing process uses traditional ingredients but also includes a second fermentation process in the container.  the ale is only served from a special tap on the bar and this tap does not use the additional carbon dioxide or pass it over cold plates like beer served from a standard tap.  the result is that the ale is a little less carbonated, a little less cold and it likely will have a trace of sediment from the fermentation process in it.  the real ale available on our visit was a legend brown ale and it had a nice deep amber color and a smooth flavor with absolutely no bitterness- a good thing since i am not a beer drinker (as if that wasn’t obvious already) but if i had to, i could have easily consumed a 10 ounce imperial half pint.

the two beers, side by side, the real ale on the left and the pale ale on the right.  it was an enjoyable way to start the evening, we look forward to being able to do this again especially as the seasons progress.  the chance to see the colonial village during the different seasons is something i am looking forward to.

many thanks to the bartenders on duty during our visit, they gave us great service and answered all of our questions-even those about where they lived; well, we are trying to find a place to live…to see the menu, and the beer list check out the website.

and one more thing, we were not compensated in any way for this, we paid for our drinks and food ourselves!

farmers market foray; colonial williamsburg

this week, i am posting from colonial williamsburg, the area i will be calling home in the very near future.  hard to believe but after a quick 19 years, darry and i have sold the house and are relocating to williamsburg for his new position.  as part of that transition, i went out there this week to begin the search for a place to live.

part of that process included getting to know the area.  sure, i visited colonial williamsburg as a kid but this is the first time i have done so as an adult.  my father will be proud to know that this time, i truly appreciate the historical aspect of the city and i am looking forward to getting to know all i can about this beautiful place.

during the summer, the historical merchants square is home to a weekly farmers market.  each saturday morning, the street is filled with vendor booths stocked with products ranging from flowers, baked goods, chocolates and produce to meats, cheeses and honey.  if you cannot find it here, it just isn’t in season!  be sure to check out the website as it lists the vendors who will be in attendance each week-yes the website is updated weekly, so you can plan your trip in advance if there is a specific item you would like to purchase.  darry and i spent the morning wandering from booth to booth while listening to live music courtesy of a local group of what we assumed were very talented high school students.  the best part about the market, you can purchase wooden nickels, tokens if you will, for $5 each and then spend them all season long at the market-a great idea if you want to stick to a budget or if you happen to pop in at the last minute and are short on cash.  these tokens spend like cash and if your total is less than $5, they will give you change in cash.

having lived in tennessee for a while now, i was a little surprised to see such a small variety of tomatoes.  it seems that the folks in nashville are much more tomato crazy-must be the tomato sandwich that drives it.  only one vendor had cherokee purples-a tomato that darry is completely hooked on, and rightly so!  we settled on a basket of mixed tomatoes to snack on.

i love fresh flowers and was amazed at how many of these bouquets had giant marigolds in them. looks like i will have to plant the monster sized ones in my new garden so that i can put them in bouquets too.  to see them here, look at the blue bucket in the bottom left corner, that was mostly marigolds.

 nothing like fresh berries from the market-just picked and juicy!

apples are coming into season here.  we were going to snap up a few honey crisps but as we approached the booth, they were wiping them off the list because they had already sold out…maybe next time!

 no shortage of freshly picked melons here, love these baskets-they would be great for the garden

this sign made me laugh-embrace new cultures…did someone tell them we are moving here?  trust me, we may be moving a mere 660 miles but it is a whole new world and a completely different place and culture!

did you know that the virginia peninsula which is where williamsburg is located, meets the chesapeake bay making fresh blue crabs and mollusks a truly local product.  the virginia seafood booth in the market sells cooked crabs (without the claws) for a dollar a piece.  while that may seem like a bit of a rip off, the majority of the meat is in the body and as we stood there looking into the cooler, darry’s eyes lit up; he had visions of an inexpensive source for crab shells to make bisque and that totally works for me!

and while i am truly sad to be leaving friends, gardens(as well as gardeners) and fellow food bloggers behind, i am comforted to know that my suspicions are correct:  pie fixes everything!