Hi bento pals! Sunday here was quite chilly--we awoke to a dusting of snow and decided it would be a good day for a drive for a cozy, warming meal in an interesting place. Our destination: Warrenton, a cute town about one hour west of us in the direction of the Shenandoah Mountains.
The main attraction: Smokie Joe's Cafe, a restaurant we'd read rave reviews of. We were not disappointed! A high point of the visit was enjoying a relaxed conversation with proprietor Joe Carter, touching on food, travel, history and the importance following one's creative vision--in the kitchen and in life.
Mr. Carter is retired from a career in research and development and now pursues his lifelong passion for cooking full time. Growing up on a farm in Warrenton where everything was cooked with loving care, Joe learned the classics of southern home cooking and now enjoys sharing his own interpretation of dishes including barbecue, fried fish, hush puppies and a menu of other favorites.
Careful spicing and seasoning, never using shortcuts and a light hand with salt is his culinary philosophy. It shined through in the wonderful dishes we enjoyed, including hands down the best hushpuppies we've ever had (perfectly crisp, ethereally light, with a slight sweetness and pure corn flavor) and excellent, deeply flavored ribs.
Joe explained that every aspect of the food and its presentation is subject to the same creative rigour he brought to his former career--down to inventing a special serving container for the hush puppies and the sweet butter they arrive with!
He makes everything from scratch and all food is cooked to order, including singularly good homemade sausage with sage. It had a lingering, subtle delectableness...a true
"Slow Food" regional specialty:
Celery leaves is one of the seasoning secrets of the excellent coleslaw, perfectly crisp and refreshing:
Jamison's combination platter (his photo of it, below) featured amazing ribs and fried chicken. Difficult to describe the lip-smacking mellow sweet savor of the ribs, but the house made BBQ sauce (we brought bottles of it home) offered some hints: its special blend includes white vinegar, hickory smoked habanero peppers, mustard, molasses, curry, honey and garlic. Quite delicious!
my pulled pork sandwich:
We left with very full bellies and a deeper understanding of the complexities of a town where black and white history is inseparably intertwined in ways both bitter and sweet. Looking forward to visiting again to try the homemade biscuits and sausage gravy and continue the conversation with our new friend!
The building where Smokie Joe's is located has always been African-American owned, and hosts an active Mason's Lodge meeting of long standing:
We visited on a Sunday and found many shops lining Warrenton's quaint Old Town to be closed--great excuse to return on an upcoming Saturday! Here's one place whose window captured my interest:
Happily, just outside of the historic part of town Fox Antiques was open, offering an eclectic selection of interesting housewares from bygone decades.
Some fun items I spied: a kawaii apron...
spring fresh embroidered linens
vintage spice containers
and a pretty casserole in vibrant colors
Today's bento contains edible souvenirs of our visit, most especially one of the magic hushpuppies:
A crisp piece of fried chicken, baby lettuce greens, sweet corn, yummy coleslaw from Smokie Joe's, a golden tomato, blackberries, preserved peach and a mini vanilla cupcake also for lunch.
Have a great week and let's keep the bento4japan spirit going!
(my auction items can be seen here)