Sunday, October 25, 2009

A Visit to the Virginia Diner

This week the Virginia Diner salted, unsalted, chocolate covered an butter toasted Virginia peanuts dressed up in their holiday labels are arriving at The Virginia Marketplace.

You may not realize that the Virginia Diner really is an 80-year old family owned and operated diner and peanut business located in Wakefield, Virginia known for its home style cooking served up with plenty of Southern hospitality. In those days the little diner was a refurbished Sussex, Surry, and Southampton Railroad car. Being in the heart of peanut country, it wasn’t long before they were cooking peanuts and serving them in the Diner as their country version of “after dinner mints.” Today the Virginia Diner has been replicated and the old railroad car has become a legend, but its quaint atmosphere has been faithfully preserved and still reflects throughout the restaurant. Today, people all over the United States buy and enjoy many varieties of Virginia Diner peanuts and many send them to friends, colleagues, and family as appreciated gifts.

Last year I went to the Dismal Swamp canoeing and camping. On the way home I stopped to eat a buffet lunch at the Virginia Diner. They didn’t have their famous Peanut Pie on the buffet but I had to order it anyway. It certainly was delicious! Here’s a link to the Virginia Diner Peanut Pie recipe on our website. Virginia Diner is known to many as “The Peanut Capital of the World TM” and the locals call it “A Legend in a Nutshell TM”.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Hot Cocoa and Gingerbread, a Perfect Pair

When the weather gets cooler and the leaves start to fall it’s time to enjoy a cup of hot cocoa around a fireplace, or even better, around a fire outdoors. I also love to sip hot cocoa after I come in on a cool day. It always tastes especially delicious when the snow is falling.

When I drink my first cup of hot cocoa I think about how it is almost time to make gingerbread cookies to eat and to decorate the Christmas tree. I always get my cocoa and gingerbread cookie mix form The Virginia Marketplace. We sell award winning Steamer Hot Cocoa, an indulgent and rich combination of quality ingredients. The can of Traditional Hot Cocoa comes with an awesome old-fashioned picture of a horse and carriage. The can of White Chocolate Flavor comes with a gorgeous picture of ice skaters on a frozen pond. Woodpecker Farm Gingerbread Cookie mix comes from all natural, old Virginia family recipes. The mix can be used to make ornaments and gingerbread houses as well as cookies.

We sell the Steamer Cocoa Mixes and Gingerbread Cookie Mix by themselves and in gift boxes and gift baskets. I know that you or your gift recipient will enjoy the gingerbread mix and hot cocoa as much as we do. We found some perfect Snowman mugs to pair with our Hot Cocoa mixes, the perfect gift to send to your hot cocoa lover or yourself.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

When I Met Rowena

When I went to the Fancy Food Show in New York I found out about Rowena’s. She makes gourmet cakes, curds, jams, and sauces out of Norfolk, VA. She offered us her signature Carrot Jam. We couldn't help but think how weird and hoped we could swallow it. To our surprise it was unusually satisfying, delicious and addictive. People tend to be skeptical that jam made from a vegetable can be any good, but its cinnamon clove taste wins them over. This jam has been the surprise best-seller at Rowena’s for 25 years. She also had us try some sugar free pound cake but didn’t tell us it was sugar free until afterward. It was so good we never would have known. Rowena’s cakes are not just wonderful to taste; they are shipped in a unique "spotted" shipping box and make welcome gifts for many occasions. The excitement begins the moment the beautifully decorated box arrives. Rowena feels she creates more than cakes; she creates happiness. We’ve been excited to sell Rowena’s gourmet offerings since we met her.

Rowena makes almond, lemon, chocolate, chocolate mint, and cappuccino pound cakes with and without curds. She also makes a Rose Shaped Cake, a Cranberry Torte and a selection of different Baby Bundt Cakes. She makes lemon, raspberry, and key lime curds, Heavenly Curry, Spicy Peanut Sauce and Devilish Mustard Sauce, and Peach Orange Clove Jam, Cranberry Nut Conserve and of course, Carrot Jam. She also creates sugar free almond, lemon and chocolate pound cakes and sugar free lemon and raspberry curds.

Here is some information about Rowena. Three backyard fruit trees and almond pound cake sparked what is today a thriving gourmet food business for Rowena Fullinwider, founder and president of Rowena’s, Inc, in Norfolk, Virginia. Fullinwider often baked for family, friends and church bake sales. People liked what she made and wanted to buy them. A friend offered to carry things in her store. After that, things just started to grow. She started with her almond pound cake, some jams and the lemon curd. As word spread about the “cake lady”, requests for Rowena’s specialty foods exceeded the capabilities of her kitchen. Rowena opened her gourmet manufacturing facility in May of 1983 and in 23 years, her facility has grown to 18 employees, a retail store, staff offices, call center, tearoom, two spacious kitchens and two warehouses. The Almond Pound Cake is to this day her biggest selling item.

Rowena and her company have won numerous awards over the years, including the coveted Blue Chip Enterprise Award in 1994 and the Women Business Advocate Award for Virginia and Lifetime Achievement Award from the Small Business Administration in 2004.

Rowena not only runs her successful business, but she also serves or has served on several boards (including president of the local National Association of Women Business Owners in 1996-97), mentors other women business owners, donates tons of time and product to charities, and gives tours of Rowena's to at-risk children. She lobbied Congress to help small business receive an exemption from the National Labeling and Education Act of 1990, served as chairman of the Governor's Small Business Advisory Board for six years, and was a delegate to the White House Conference on Small Business in 1995, serving as the co-chair for the Regulation and Paperwork Reduction committee.
Rowena’s has been featured in national publications such as Lady’s Home Journal, Gourmet, Bon Appetit, Taste of Home and Southern Living, and has appeared on Food Finds on the Food Network’s Food Finds, QVC, The 700 Club and The Today Show. Rowena’s is the first US small gourmet business to present at the Moscow World Food Fair.