We took a leisurely trip down to Lynchburg, VA this weekend, a drive about three and a half hours south to a very different world from the D.C. nexis of Northern Virginia. In this green and slower-paced city at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains we found much of architectural and culinary interest, a lovely change of pace.
Lynchburg was founded by in 1757 by Quaker and tradesman John Lynch; Thomas Jefferson was very fond of the city and built a home nearby called Poplar Forest. Given Jefferson's wish that Virginia would one day become a thriving home of viticulture, it was fitting that our explorations this weekend brought us to the vineyards of the oldest wine producer in the state!
The city's Community Market has been in operation since the 18th century and sells local fruits, vegetables, hams, preserves, and crafts:
Inside the Market we found a great selection of jams, jellies, wood, paper and ceramic handicrafts--I could not resist this wild plum preserve!
Locally made candies in bright colors:
On Main Street, an eclectic variety of garden and farm supplies and yummy cafes:
Aren't these snail and froggie watering cans cute?
Layers of architectural history live side by side in the commercial district, to include this beautiful and elaborate cast-iron facade and various classical details:
We stopped for refreshing iced lattes and an exceptional nutmeg-laced chai at a sprawling, relaxed coffee house/used bookstore called the White Hart
The weather was perfect this weekend--deep and brilliant blue skies, warm and breezy...
Although sadly I was not able to get any good pictures of our meal, dinner at Bull Branch was a sparkly, fun and funky evening in a romantically candlelit room with a creative menu spanning a range of world cuisines. Starting the meal with a savory hummus, crusty fresh baked bread and a very minty mohito was lovely. We really enjoyed the mellowly spiced fish in coconut curry sauce, and a salad of honey-sweet local cantaloupe with arugula and feta was so memorable that I re-visited the salty/sweet/green combination in today's bento!
We stayed at a creatively refurbished former shoe factory where this sprightly terrier greets guests and sometimes makes off with their shoes!
The green view from our room:
Sunday morning, we had a filling southern-style breakfast featuring sweet potato pancakes, corn cakes and local sage-flavored sausage. Given my love of all things sweet potato, I had to try these:
About a half hour outside of town, we found an amazing winery (the oldest in the state): Mountain Cove in Lovingston. Its land was aflutter with butterflies, the winding country road up to the vineyard embroidered with morning glories in purple, fuchsia, and ivory.
The view from the tasting room, where we enjoyed a very informative chat with the owner of Mountain Cove, who gave us a lively overview of the revival of wine making in Virginia from the early 1970's onwards as we sampled a tasty tinto and a delicious crisp apple wine...
Today's bento featured a collection of Virginia summer flavors inspired or sourced from our trip! Perfectly ripe local cantaloupe, a heart-shaped sweet potato pancake sandwich of sage sausage and golden tomato, baby greens with goat cheese and cantaloupe, plus heirloom tomatoes and black figs round out a bento of summer-ripened delights...
Have a great week and happy cooking!