Wednesday, October 16, 2013

October is Breast Cancer Month

All Natural Peanut Butter
October is Breast Cancer Month so eat Virginia Peanuts and natural Peanut Butter made from Virginia Peanuts! A new study in the journal Breast Cancer Research and Treatment showed that young girls who consumed a serving of peanut butter or peanuts at least twice a week, reduced their risk of benign breast disease (BBD) in young adulthood by up to 39%. This gives parents even more of a reason to pack a peanut butter sandwich with their kid's lunch. The article explains that, "Vegetable fat consumed by pre-adolescent girls and vegetable protein consumed by adolescents may be protective, while peanut butter, high in both protein and fat, consumed at any age may be associated with lower risk for BBD." Peanuts contain more protein than any other nut and peanut butter contains about 8g of protein per serving. In addition, peanut butter contains healthy oils and many nutrients such as phytosterols that have been shown to reduce the risk of major diseases including cancer. Previous research has shown that benign breast disease (BBD) in young women is associated with increased risk of breast cancer and other adult diseases. At younger ages, vegetable fat intake from peanut butter and peanuts twice a week, had a 44% decrease in risk for BBD. And in older ages, it was the vegetable protein intake from peanut butter and peanuts that was associated with decreased risk. In addition, these results were stronger with girls who had a family history of breast cancer.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Two Virginia Apple Butter Festivals

Skyland! A snitter's paradise! On Saturday, September 21, there will be held the 14th Annual Apple Butter Celebration at Skyland Resort from 11:00 AM - 5:00 PM. The Apple Butter Celebration is a one-day festival at Shenandoah National Park and it is one of the biggest ones held at the park's Skyland Resort. Freshly made apple butter, apple crafts, apple food …. apples are just everywhere! Celebrate the apple harvest as the staff sets up the copper kettles and stokes up the fire for a day of apple boiling. Apple varietals such as Jonagold, Red Delicious, and Rambo are boiled in kettles to make the festival's apple butter.

By now you’re wondering what it means to "snit". Snitting a peeled apple consists of quartering it, scooping out the core and seeds, then halving the quarters and putting them into a bucket. It takes nine bushels of apples to yield 32 gallons of apple butter from just one kettle. Event organizers plan to make six kettles of apple butter in all. Experts say no two kettles taste the same, as the mix of apples and spices is a little different in each one.

Watch the process, give the kettle a stir and try a delicious sample. Then take home some fresh-from-the-kettle jars of apple butter. There will also be live entertainment featuring the Hi-Horse Cloggers and Narrow Path Blue Grass Band, face painting, pony rides and crafts for the kids and wine tasting for the adults. Local crafters will be on site with their handmade items. Delicious foods featured are Apple Smoked BBQ, Grilled Chicken with an Apple Salsa, Granny Apple Cole Slaw, Apple Cobbler plus hot and cold Apple Cider.

For three weekends in October, Graves Mountain Lodge will be hosting its 44th Apple Harvest Festival. Enjoy fun-filled days complete with Graves famous food, live Bluegrass Music & Cloggers, Arts & Crafts, Hay Maze & Hay Mountain, Hayrides, Horseback Rides, Pick your own Apples and tour the family's working educational farm, visit the animals and more. Experience farm days of yesteryear, watch kettles of apple butter cook over an open fire. Date(s)/Time: Saturday, October 05, 2013 - Sunday, October 06, 2013 (10:00 AM-4:30 PM) Saturday, October 12, 2013 - Sunday, October 13, 2013 (10:00 AM-4:30 PM) Saturday, October 19, 2013 - Sunday, October 20, 2013 (10:00 AM-4:30 PM)

If you can’t make it to one of these great festivals, you can still get some perfectly spiced and incredibly smooth Graves Mountain Apple Butter from us!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The History of Cake

In honor of Rowena Fullinwider, known as Norfolk's "Cake Lady" long before she decided to go into business, let's talk about the history of cake.

The history of cake dates back to ancient times. The first cakes were very different from what we eat today. They were more bread-like and sweetened with honey. Nuts and dried fruits were often added. According to the food historians, the precursors of modern cakes (round ones with icing) were first baked in Europe sometime in the mid-17th century. This is due primarily to advances in technology (more reliable ovens, manufacture/availability of food molds) and ingredient availability (refined sugar). At that time cake hoops--round molds for shaping cakes that were placed on flat baking trays--were popular. They could be made of metal, wood or paper. Some were adjustable. Cake pans were sometimes used. The first icings were usually a boiled composition of the finest available sugar, egg whites and sometimes flavorings. This icing was poured on the cake. The cake was then returned to the oven for a while. When removed the icing cooled quickly to form a hard, glossy [ice-like] covering. Many cakes made at this time still contained dried fruits (raisins, currants, citrons). It was not until the middle of the 19th century that cake as we know it today (made with extra refined white flour and baking powder instead of yeast) arrived on the scene. Butter-cream frostings (using butter, cream, powdered sugar and flavorings) began replacing traditional boiled icings in the first few decades of the 20th century.

Cake is a Viking contribution to the English language. The Oxford English Dictionary traces the English word cake back to the 13th century. It is a derivation of 'kaka', an Old Norse word which means a baked flour confection sweetened with sugar or honey, mixed with eggs and often, but not always, with milk and fat. People have consumed cakes of all kinds throughout history and at all sorts of ceremonial occasions. In today's world, people traditionally serve cakes at holidays, birthdays, weddings, funerals, and baptisms--in short, at all significant times in the cycle of life because they represent our best culinary offering honoring our most loved people. In "olden times" when refined sugar, spices, nuts, and dried fruit were expensive, it was an honor to be honored with cake. Today cake isn't extra expensive and we have many choices (store bought, box mix, scratch, bakery special order) but the message remains constant. Cake says: you're important and we love you.

The tradition of eating cake on ceremonial occasions has its basis in ancient ritual. Cakes, in the ancient world, had ties with the annual cycle, and people used them as offerings to the gods and spirits who exercised their powers at particular times of the year...The Chinese made cakes at harvest time to honor their moon goddess, Heng O. They recognized that the moon played a crucial role in the seasonal cycle, so they made round cakes shaped like the moon to reward the lunar goddess, with an image of the illustrious Heng O stamped on top... "The Russians traditionally pay their respects in spring to a deity named Maslenitsa by making blini, thin pancakes they call sun cakes...The pagan Slavs were not the only people to make round cakes to celebrate the spring sun. The ancient Celts, who celebrated Beltane on the first day of spring, baked and ate Beltane cakes as an important part of their celebration...At the Beltane festival, the ancient Celts also rolled the cakes down a hill to imitate solar movement. Rolling the cakes, they hoped, would ensure the continued motion of the sun. This activity also served as a form of divination: If the cake broke when it reached the bottom of the hill, the Celts believed that whoever rolled it would die within a year's time; but if the cake remained intact, they believed that person would reap a year's good fortune...Agricultural peoples around the globe made offerings of cakes prepared from the grains and fruits that arose from the soil. The types of ingredients used to make these cakes contributed to their symbolism...The cake's size and shape were equally symbolic of its ritual purpose...round cakes symbolized the sun or the moon...All of these cakes had definitive links to the myths the people embraced.

National Cake Day will be celebrated on Nov.26. Be sure to have a slice of cake that day, but you don’t have to wait until then! Check out all our delicious Rowena cakes.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

A Tribute to Rowena Fullinwider

On July 22, 2013 Rowena Fullinwider, founder of Rowena’s Gourmet Foods, passed away. She was a pioneer in the specialty food business, a tireless advocate for local and small businesses, an inspiration for women business owners for 30 years and most importantly, a wonderful and caring person.

We’d like to share with you some highlights from her obituary in the Virginia Pilot Online: In the early 1980s, Rowena began to explore the possibility of starting her own business. Already known for making pound cakes to donate to various charities for their fundraisers - she was encouraged by friends and family to open a business to sell the cakes on a larger scale. In 1983, she opened Rowena's Gourmet Foods in the historic Ghent section of Norfolk. Word spread quickly about her delicious cakes, jams and curds, and soon Rowena's Gourmet Foods was being featured in Southern Living, Gourmet Magazine and Bon Appetit, as well as on the Food Network. In 1987, Rowena's became the first specialty food producer in Virginia to carry the Virginia's Finest® trademark.

When asked in later years about her reasons for starting a business, Rowena said that she wanted to teach her children a few of life's lessons. "I needed my children to know that I not only stood for something, but that I also acted on it," she says. "You have to be a responsible business citizen and a responsible community citizen."

In terms of such responsible citizenship, Rowena made an indelible mark on Norfolk's social and professional landscapes. As well as running her own successful business, she served on several boards (including as president of the local National Association of Women Business Owners in 1996-97). She successfully lobbied Congress to help small businesses 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 and her company were able to win 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.

In terms of community service, Rowena always believed that those who give back to the community will be rewarded abundantly. For many years, she was particularly involved with the Girl Scouts of America, as well as with the charity For Kids, a private agency whose mission is to "Break the cycle of family homelessness". At the same time, she mentored other women business owners, donated considerable time and product to charities.

Rowena recently sold Rowena's to local businessman, John McCormick, who is proud of the legacy she left behind; Rowena’s Kitchen will continue to honor her memory and commitment to outstanding service, gourmet foods and a healthy and vibrant local economy.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Cabin Creek Roasters

Monty Ruckman started roasting his own coffee after swearing never to drink bad coffee again after 21 years of bad U.S. Navy coffee. With increased demand for his coffee and four years of experience Cabin Creek Roasters began business as a small volume, specialty coffee roaster located in the beautiful Shenandoah County. After the coffee is roasted, it is immediately bagged in high-quality re-sealable UV resistant bag with a one way CO2 escape valve. It also protects the coffee from moisture and oxygen and once opened the air can be pressed out through the valve to extend freshness.

Here is what they have to say about Coffee:The taste of coffee (characteristic) can vary greatly, depending on where and under what conditions the beans are grown, as well as the roast profile applied to them. The characteristics of the bean can depend on everything from the type of coffee tree they are grown on, to elevation, or rainfall; how they were picked and prepared, and where and how they were dried. Every single step of coffee cultivation can drastically change the flavor of the bean. The plantation workers, the earth, and even the weather have all contributed to the natural unique taste this bean will carry. By the time the green (raw) beans have reached our Roastmaster, they already carry within them the characteristics to make a unique flavor of coffee.

 Not every coffee is roasted to the same level (style). Our Roastmaster finds the perfect roast style to enhance each coffee we import, so that each has its own taste, and is discernible from our other coffees. Roasting will not only bring forth the natural flavors and oils from within the bean, but it will also add a roasted flavor ranging from an essence of light cinnamon to a bittersweet caramel smoky flavor. It is the job of the Roastmaster to celebrate and honor the beans’ attributes with a perfect roasting recipe and then to recreate that same roast consistently. The roasting process is a lot of what sets good coffee apart from exceptional coffee.

We have chosen Cabin Creek Colombian Supremo coffee for our gift baskets and boxes. It takes the place of First Colony coffee which is no longer roasted in Virginia.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

A Cup of Hot Chocolate, S’good for What Ails Ya, Part 3

Cocoa's perceived medicinal value made chocolate a natural product for apothecary shops. It was considered nourishing for the sick as well as an aid to digestion and was believed to promote longevity, help lung ailments, energize the body, cure hangovers, suppress coughs, and, as mentioned, stimulate the libido. For that reason, the Virginia Almanac of 1770 cautioned women against it, warning “the fair sex to be in a particular manner careful how they meddle with romances, chocolate, novels, and the like,” especially in the spring, as those were all “inflamers” and “very dangerous.”“This was very much ignored. Women were the main consumers of chocolate. It was this sexy reputation that caused chocolate to become associated with love, Valentine’s Day, sinful pleasures, and decadence. Ben Franklin recommended chocolate as a cure for smallpox in Poor Richard’s Almanac of 1761; Doctor Benjamin Rush did the same in his medical texts.

Thomas Jefferson thought chocolate would overtake tea and coffee as the American beverage of choice. In a letter of November 27, 1785, to John Adams he wrote, “The superiority of chocolate, both for health and nourishment, will soon give it the preference over tea and coffee in America which it has in Spain.” In this he was mistaken. Chocolate drinking would soon decline...... in favor of chocolate eating.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Pork Barrel BBQ

Pork Barrel BBQ is a national award winning BBQ sauce and rub company who competes on the professional barbecue circuit and has a restaurant in Alexandria, Virginia. They have won many awards. In November 2010 they received their biggest honor to date by being named one of “The 125 Best Foods for Men” and the Best BBQ Sauce in the Nation by Men’s Health magazine. They were also named one of the Best Barbecue Sauces in the Country by Country Living Magazine in July, 2011! We include Pork Barrel BBQ Sweet BBQ Sauce in many of our Virginia Gift Baskets. Enhance your meat with this delightfully, deliciously bipartisan American favorite for pork, beef, poultry and fish, our Sweet Pork Barrel BBQ Sauce is an exceptional way to give your food tasty, sweet flavor with a perfect smokin' kick! All natural ingredients and contain no preservatives or MSG.  We also offer a combo of two of their award winning sauces, the Original and the Sweet with the BBQ Spice Rub through Smithfield Marketplace.

National Barbecue Month so now's a good time to tell the story of Pork Barrel BBQ, the story of the American Dream. The journey began in early 2006 during a heated budget debate in the United States Senate. Two fatigued Senate staffers, Brett Thompson and Heath Hall were working late into the evening and discussing the late night food options on Capitol Hill. While dreaming of a tasty barbecue dinner and wishing there was a good barbecue joint in Washington, D.C., Senators were engaged in a debate over the merits of pork barrel spending. Suddenly an idea popped into their heads, an idea that is now a reality – Pork Barrel BBQ.

In June, 2008, after weeks in the test kitchen we convened the first meeting of the Pork Barrel BBQ Kitchen Cabinet and asked our Kitchen Cabinet members to rate six variations of what would become our initial product. After several hours of eating, Cabinet members narrowed down the six variations to their two favorites, liking different flavor elements from each. With the blessing of the Kitchen Cabinet, their first product – Pork Barrel BBQ’s All-American Spice Rub – was finalized and ready to take the barbecue world by storm. In December 2008, after months of working through the world of starting a small business, Pork Barrel BBQ was officially founded. It was their goal to prove that the free market was still the greatest path to success for a small business and that it was still possible to grab a piece of the“American Dream".

 In June, 2009, they formed the Pork Barrel BBQ Competition BBQ team and entered their first contest, the Safeway National Capital Barbecue Battle in Washington, DC. At this contest we unveiled our first BBQ sauce, Pork Barrel BBQ Original BBQ Sauce, in the Nation’s Best BBQ Sauce Contest and took second place.

In July, 2009, began retail production of award winning Pork Barrel BBQ Original BBQ Sauce. In September, 2009 ABC aired their first appearance on Shark Tank which would take Pork Barrel BBQ to a whole new level moving us from a regional to national company almost overnight. On the show we were able to strike a deal with New York real estate mogul Barbara Corcoran, who became the first outside investor in Pork Barrel BBQ. We also made our first appearance on Fox & Friends, getting the chance to smoke a few hundred pounds of meat at the Fox News headquarters in New York City.

In January of 2010 they headed to San Francisco to attend our first Fancy Food Show. At the show we official launched our Pork Barrel BBQ Sweet BBQ Sauce to rave reviews. They also had the opportunity to ring the closing bell at the NASDAQ with the Shark’s from Shark Tank.

In January, 2011 they returned to the Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco in mid-January where we introduced our third BBQ sauce, Pork Barrel BBQ’s Mustard BBQ Sauce.

June of 2011 was a huge month for Pork Barrel BBQ – we went off the beaten path of barbeque products and introduced Que, the world’s first barbeque scented fragrance to rave reviews. Que is “An Intoxicating Bouquet Of Spices, Smoke, Meat And Sweet Summer Sweat.”

Nov. 29, 2011 Pork Barrel BBQ Restaurant opened in Alexandria, Virginia where you can try their national award winning pulled pork, ribs, brisket, chicken and exclusive Pork Barrel BBQ brisket sausage. In the future, they pledge to stay true to their mission – to unite the nation through the great tradition of BBQ, and bring bipartisan flavor to your next meal.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

April 28 is James Monroe's Birthday - 5th President and a Virginian

Monroe was the third of the first five Presidents to die on the Fourth of July; John Adams and Thomas Jefferson had died on that day five years earlier. Thousands of mourners followed his hearse up Broadway in Manhattan to the Gouverneur family vault in Marble Cemetery, while church bells tolled and guns fired at Fort Columbus. Monroe's body was later moved to Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia.

James Monroe was born on April 28, 1758, in Westmoreland County, Virginia. Monroe was the second of five children born to Spence and Elizabeth Jones Monroe, "small" planters who raised tobacco on their 600-acre farm. Initially educated at Parson Campbell's school in Westmoreland, Monroe studied at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, from 1774 until he enlisted in the Third Virginia Regiment in 1776.

James Monroe came to the presidency as one of the most qualified men ever to assume the office. Monroe's fifty years of public service began with his election to the Virginia General Assembly in 1782. Subsequently, Monroe served in the Confederation Congress and in the first United States Senate; was twice Minister to France, once to Britain and to Spain; served four one-year terms as Governor of Virginia; and became President James Madison's Secretary of State and Secretary of War during the War of 1812. Monroe's greatest achievement as a diplomat was the final negotiation of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803.

In 1799, James Monroe and his family moved into their Albemarle "cabin castle," adjacent to Jefferson's Monticello. For twenty-four years the Monroe family's home was the Albemarle County plantation Highland.

In 1799, James Monroe and his family moved into their Albemarle "cabin castle," adjacent to Jefferson's Monticello. For twenty-four years the Monroe family's home was the Albemarle County plantation Highland.

Elected President of the United States in 1816 and in 1820, James Monroe resolved long-standing grievances with the British, acquired Florida from the Spanish in 1819, and proclaimed the Monroe Doctrine in 1823. Somewhat optimistically labeled the "Era of Good Feelings," Monroe's administration was hampered by the economic depression brought on by the Panic of 1819 and by the debates over the Missouri Compromise that same year. Monroe supported the American Colonization Society, which established the nation of Liberia for freed blacks. Its capital was named Monrovia in his honor. Monroe himself was tom between his belief in the "evil of slavery" and his fear of the consequences of immediate abolition.

When his presidency ended on March 4, 1825, James Monroe resided at Monroe Hill, what is now included in the grounds of the University of Virginia. He had operated the family farm from 1788 to 1817, but sold it in the first year of his presidency to the new college. He served on the college's Board of Visitors under Jefferson and under the second rector James Madison, also a former president, almost until his death.

Monroe had racked up many debts during his years of public life. He sold off his Highland Plantation (now called Ashlawn-Highland. It is now owned by his alma mater, the College of William and Mary which has opened it to the public as an historic site.

Today, visitors can tour the fifth president's home, which was recently refurbished based on new research and inventory lists. Original and period French and American furniture, boxwood gardens, and a 535-acre working farm await visitors. Reconstructed using archaeology and a 1908 photograph, the slave quarters stands alongside two original outbuildings. Children especially enjoy the resident cows, sheep, chickens,
and peacocks that complete the working farm atmosphere. Throughout the year there are many special events such as the Virginia Wine Festival, Ash Lawn Opera Festival, Plantation Days, and Christmas festivities.

Monday, April 1, 2013

April 2 is Jefferson's Real Birthday

Thomas Jefferson
Why is the birthday of Thomas Jefferson, who was born  at Shadwell in Albemarle county, Virginia on April 2,  now celebrated on April 13? The letters O.S. appearing after dates on Thomas Jefferson's tombstone stand for "Old Style. The Julian or Old Style calendar was in effect in England and her colonies until 1752, when the Gregorian or New Style calendar was adopted. This added eleven days to the current date to bring the calendar year into step with the astronomical year. Thus, the birthday of Jefferson, who was born on April 2 under the Old Style calendar, is now celebrated on April 13, the New Style date. The Gregorian or New Style calendar is still in use today.

Jefferson died, perhaps appropriately, on the fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. On June 24, 1826, Jefferson's physician was called to his bedside because of an illness, and his condition worsened until he lost consciousness on July 2. From then on, Jefferson slept fitfully, waking only to inquire whether it were yet the Fourth of July. Around noon on the fourth -- the Jubilee of Independence -- Jefferson died in bed at the age of eighty-three. Coincidentally, his friend, colleague, and co-signer of the Declaration of Independence, John Adams, died just hours later that day. Jefferson is buried in the family cemetery at Monticello.

After his death, a family member found a sketch prepared by Jefferson, containing instructions for his tombstone. Jefferson desired that his grave be marked by an obelisk inscribed with the three accomplishments for which he most wished to be remembered, "and not a word more."

It was Jefferson's wish that his tomb stone reflect the things that he had given the people, not the things that the people had given to him. It is for this reason that Thomas Jefferson's epitaph reads:
BORN APRIL 2, 1743 O.S.
DIED JULY 4. 1826

Conspicuously missing is the fact that Jefferson held all of the higher offices of political service, including governor of Virginia, secretary of state, vice president, and, of course, third president of the United States.

Jefferson's legacy can be found all over Virginia.
No other home in the United States more accurately reflects the personality of its owner than Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's architectural masterpiece and beloved mountaintop home. In 1923 the nonprofit Thomas Jefferson Foundation was formed for the purpose of acquiring and preserving Monticello. Since then, the Foundation has owned and operated Monticello with a dual mission of preservation and education. Today, the significance of Monticello is recognized internationally -- it is the only house in America on the World Heritage List, a United Nations compilation of treasures that must be preserved at any cost.

A home and working farm for nearly 300 years, Tuckahoe Plantation is the boyhood home of Thomas Jefferson. Tuckahoe is considered by architectural historians to have one of the most complete eighteenth century plantation layouts in North America. A beautiful example of the early Georgian Period, Tuckahoe still contains the rare outbuildings which were the office and schoolhouse where Thomas Jefferson began his education. Tuckahoe is the only early Randolph home still standing on its original site and contains outstanding interior paneling and embellishments. The rambling gardens of Tuckahoe draw visitors all times of year for their show of bloom from March through October
The original Grounds of the University of Virginia, including the Rotunda and the Lawn, were designed by Jefferson to be what he called an "Academical Village." The Academical Village includes a rectangular, terraced green space known as the Lawn; two parallel rows of buildings, the Pavilions, connected by colonnaded walkways and student rooms; and the Rotunda, which closes off the north end of the Lawn. The Rotunda, a half-scale interpretation of the Pantheon in Rome, is the signature landmark of the University and its Dome Room originally housed the University library. The Pavilions are in the Federal style and no two are alike.

The Capitol was designed by Thomas Jefferson and first occupied in 1788 by Virginia's General Assembly, America's oldest English-speaking legislature. During the Civil War, the Confederate Congress also met here. The east (House) and west (Senate) wings were added between 1904-1906. The Capitol has reopened after a $104.5 million restoration and expansion project. Free one-hour guided tours are offered daily, including some holidays. Visitors also may tour on their own. Impressive interior designs and colors from 1910 have been replicated in the Rotunda, House and Senate chambers.

The Barboursville ruins was preserved as a ruin after its destruction by fire on December 25, 1884. Barboursville was one of the largest and finest residences in the region. The only building in Orange County known to have been designed by Thomas Jefferson, Barboursville was constructed between 1814-1822 for Jefferson's friend James Barbour, who served as governor of Virginia, U.S. senator and secretary of war. A brick Flemish-bond mansion with a hipped roof, Barboursville stood two stories high over an English basement. Today the estate is run as a vineyard.

Natural Bridge, in Rockbridge County, Virginia, is a geological formation in which Cedar Creek, a small tributary of the James River, carved out a gorge in the mountainous limestone terrain, forming a natural arch 215 ft  high with a span of 90 ft. It consists of horizontal limestone strata, and is the remains of the roof of a cave or tunnel through which the creek once flowed. Thomas Jefferson purchased 157 acres of land including the Natural Bridge from King George III of England for 20 shillings in 1774. He called it "the most Sublime of nature's works". Jefferson built a two-room log cabin, with one room reserved for guests, beginning its use as a retreat. While President, in 1802, he surveyed the place with his own hands. Natural Bridge was one of the wonders of the new world that Europeans visited during the 18th and 19th centuries. Natural Bridge has been designated a Virginia Historic Landmark and a National Historic Landmark and today is a major tourist attraction.  

These are just some of Jefferson's legacy and accomplishments that happen to be close to our home in Charlottesville. More than a mere renaissance man, Jefferson may actually have been a new kind of man. He was fluent in five languages and able to read two others. He wrote, over the course of his life, over sixteen thousand letters. He was acquainted with nearly every influential person in America, and a great many in Europe as well. He was a lawyer, agronomist, musician, scientist, philosopher, author, architect, inventor, and statesman. Though he never set foot outside of the American continent before adulthood, he acquired an education that rivaled the finest to be attained in Europe. He was clearly the foremost American son of the Enlightenment.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

James Madison

James Madison
Today, March 16, is James Madison's birthday. It's a good day to take a moment to think about the 4th President, his home at Monteplier and the Museum dedicated to him.

 Just about 30 minutes from Charlottesville, Montpelier is the lifelong home of James Madison, Father of the Constitution, architect of the Bill of Rights, and 4th president of the United States. Nestled in the rolling foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Montpelier is located in the heart of Virginia's wine country on Route 20, four miles south of Orange, Virginia. It was here at Montpelier where James Madison first imagined the Constitution, spending six months in his upstairs library researching governments, organizing his thoughts into what he believed were the ideal principles for a representative democracy. Madison’s ideas would become the “Virginia Plan,” and later the framework for the Constitution.

Now that the home's architectural restoration is complete, visitors can see the progress of rediscovering James and Dolley Madison through the "Presidential Detective Story" with guided house tours, as well as a myriad of special "behind the scenes" experiences. You can also stroll the garden and forest and take in the galleries, hands-on activities, and many other attractions on the estate's 2,650 acres. Montpelier is a National Trust for Historic Preservation site administered by The Montpelier Foundation.

 Not far from Montpelier, the James Madison Museum is located in Orange, Virginia. There are display exhibits that allow the guest to discover the life and works of James Madison, his first cousin Zachary Taylor, and friend James Monroe. They have the original documents of Virginia's ratification of the United States Constitution, Madison's campeachy chair, one of Dolley Madison's large oval mirrors, the lovely carved pipe Zachary Taylor gave his wife, a punch bowl owned by James Monroe featuring hand-painted portraits of his daughters and wife, and numerous other artifacts. There is also a wing with a Model T, a 1733 cube house, numerous farming implements and vehicle and an exhibit for the forgotten African-American heroes of our founding history.

Orange County celebrated the 262nd birthday of the Father of the Constitution on the grounds of his lifelong home today. Admission was free all day. Birthday acknowledgements included a wreath-laying ceremony in the Madison family cemetery by the U.S. Marines by order of President Obama. Re-enactors portraying James and Dolley Madison were present. If you missed it this year, plan ahead for next year.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

A Cup of Hot Chocolate, S’good for What Ails Ya, Part 2

The first Englishmen to encounter chocolate were pirates, or, more politely, privateers, commissioned by the English monarch to prey on Spanish vessels. They didn't know what it was at first. On at least one occasion in the 1500s, English privateers burned a shipload of valuable cacao seeds, having no idea what the ugly little brown things were worth. Chocolate reached England in the middle of the seventeenth century, just as two other exotic beverages—coffee and tea—were making their debut.

It was no coincidence that these beverages were all consumed hot and sweet. “Hot melts sugar,” says Jim Gay. He’s Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Foodways journeyman cook and an authority on the history and manufacture of chocolate. “All these beverages were sweetened with cane sugar. The British didn’t start growing sugar on Barbados until the 1640s. First comes sugar, then comes chocolate and coffee and tea . . . all of them introduced to the British in the late 1640s.”

The first known English recipe for chocolate called for sugar, long red pepper, cloves, aniseed, almonds, nuts, orange flower water, and, of course, cacao. “The hotter it is drunk, the better it is,” said the recipe’s author in 1652. Unaware of the Aztec custom of drinking it cool, the recipe said that “being cold it may doe harm.”

Chocolate was usually sold ground and pressed into cakes wrapped in paper. In England, the cakes were small, two or four ounces, because of the high cost of the product. In America where it was cheaper, the one-pound size was more common. By the start of the eighteenth century, the British were drinking chocolate with water and brandy, with milk, and with port or sherry. All three versions used sugar and spices and were frothed with a chocolate mill.

Once it snatched Jamaica from the Spanish in 1655, England had its own island with flourishing cacao plantations. Chocolate became widely available, although still expensive. Making it more so were the import duties levied on all chocolate brought into England. In the Atlantic colonies, however, the duties were lower, putting the cost of the beverage within reach of more pocketbooks. Perhaps that explains why, at the time of the Revolutionary War, there was one commercial chocolate maker in Britain and nearly seventy in the thirteen colonies.

Some historians think that chocolate drinking spread from England to its North American colonies, but it seems more likely that it came directly in ships that plied the trade routes from the West Indies to the major colonial ports of Boston, Philadelphia, New York, and Newport, Rhode Island. Whatever the route, chocolate arrived in English North America at about the same time it arrived in England. It was available as chocolate nuts, as shells, and in processed “chocolate cakes,” lumps of grated powder and sugar ready to be stirred into boiling water, mixed with whatever ingredients one preferred, and frothed with the little hand mill.Those who bought the cacao seed had to roast and grind the chocolate themselves or, more likely, have their servants or slaves do the tedious job. Those who, like Martha Washington, purchased the cacao shells, steeped them in hot water to make a thin chocolaty drink that was easier on the stomach than oily chocolate.

Friday, February 22, 2013

A Cup of Hot Chocolate, S’good for What Ails Ya, Part 1

Virginia Breakfast Gift Box
Winter Cheer
We are currently selling Steamer Traditional and White Chocolate Hot Cocoa in gift boxes and gift baskets. Steamer Cocoa's award winning recipe is 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 the White Chocolate Flavor comes with a gorgeous picture of ice skaters on a frozen pond. Brings back memories of long ago. The history of hot cocoa is an interesting one as told in an article in the Winter, 2012 edition of a popular history magazine published by The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation called "A Cup of Hot Chocolate, S'Good for What Ails Ya. 

Conquistador Girolamo Benzoni, one of the first to taste the spicy Aztec beverage called cacahuatl, wrote, “It seemed more a drink for pigs than a drink for humanity. I was in this country for more than a year and never wanted to taste it, and whenever I passed a settlement, some Indian would offer me a drink of it and would be amazed when I would not accept, going away laughing. But then, as there was a shortage of wine. . . .” Benzoni, a sojourner in Mexico, was forced to relent. The taste he found “somewhat bitter” and noted “it satisfies and refreshes the body but does not inebriate.”

The drink had come to the Aztecs from their predecessors, the Mayas, and had originated with their predecessors, the Olmecs, who had domesticated the cacao tree three thousand years before. Made from the cacao seed, the drink was said to possess mystical properties and was consumed primarily by Aztec rulers and priests during sacred ceremonies.

Making cacahuatl was a tedious affair that involved roasting the cacao seeds—also called nuts or beans—to a precise degree of doneness, removing the shells, grinding them on stone to a paste, mixing that with other dried and ground ingredients like chili pepper, vanilla, flowers, and spices, dissolving the results in water, and pouring it from one vessel to another, back and forth, until it developed a foamy froth. The Aztecs drank it at room temperature.
The conquistadors sweetened New World cacahuatl with another exotic ingredient—Old World sugar—and called it chocolate.

Other Spaniards shared Benzoni’s opinion of the Aztec beverage but grasped its benefits: “He who drinks a cup of this liquid, no matter how far he walks, can go a whole day without eating anything else.” An “anonymous gentleman” in Hernando Cortes’s party proclaimed the nutritious liquid food “the healthiest thing.” The Spanish noted that the beverage stimulated the senses in general and, they believed, one sense in particular—it was widely considered an aphrodisiac. Still, they didn’t like the taste. But, sweetened, they served it hot with breakfast for its energy boost.

Of concern to Catholics was chocolate’s definition. Was it a food or a drink? This had serious religious implications: if it was a food, it could not be consumed on fast days. Theologians and popes debated the question for two hundred years.

Yes, one drank chocolate, but then again, so many foods could be added to it, including bread crumbs, eggs, and milk, that it functioned more like a food than a beverage. And there was no denying that the highly caloric drink alleviated hunger pangs. Complicating matters was its reputation as a sexual stimulant, something that seemed doubly sinful on a holy day. In the end, those who judged it a beverage prevailed. Protestants and Jews did not share the Catholics’ concerns.
The first recorded instance of chocolate in Spain came in 1544 when a gift of cacao seeds was presented to King Philip II. The steady stream of priests, soldiers, and aristocrats back and forth across the Atlantic for the previous five decades makes it likely, however, that it reached Spain earlier than that. The Spanish kept the ingredients to themselves for almost a century.

Initially, all the chocolate was consumed by the Spanish aristocracy, not re-exported, so few people outside Spain and Portugal came into contact with it. As supplies of sugar and cacao increased, chocolate drinking spread gradually throughout the courts of Europe and became the preferred beverage of the rich and royal.

Only the rich and royal could afford it. The drink was time-consuming to make, and its exotic ingredients—cacao, sugar, and spices—had to be imported from faraway continents. All were labor-intensive crops that required large plantations with many slaves. Increased demand spurred the Spanish to spread cultivation of the "chocolate nut tree" throughout their ballooning empire, from the West Indies to the Philippines.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Celebrate National January Food Days With Virginia Food

We want to wish all our customers a Happy 2013! Thanks for a successful holiday season. Thanks for your support of Virginia products! Now back to blogging.

January is National Soup Month
Blue Crab Bay Soup Sampler
We carry seafood soup from Blue Crab Bay and Chincoteague Seafood Company.
Blue Crab Bay has a New England Clam Chowder and Crab Norfolk Chowder with Virginia ham as well as Eastern Shore Chowder, She Crab Soup and a Cream of Crab Soup.
Chincoteague Gourmet Sampler
From Chincoteague Seafood we sell 3 Chowders: New England, Manhattan, Corn Chowder; 4 crab soups: She Crab, Vegetable Red Crab, Cream of Crab, and Crab and Cheddar and 4 bisques: Lobster, Clam, Lobster and Cheddar and Shrimp.  Many have been awarded The American Taste Award of Excellence Certificate.

The Peanut Shop of Williamsburg
Peanut Butter
January 24 National Peanut Butter Day
A favorite for years at The Peanut Shop of Williamsburg, all natural Virginia Peanut Butter has become famous. This peanut butter is just that - peanuts, and maybe a pinch of salt. No added sugars. Available in smooth, salt free smooth, crunchy, or as sampler of all three.

Milk Chocolate Peanut Brittle
Jan. 26 is National Peanut Brittle Day

We carry peanut brittle from The Peanut Shop of Williamsburg, It comes chocolate covered and plain, In tins, assortments, gift baskets, gift tins and gift boxes. There are even new brittle bites.