Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Woodson’s Mill in Virginia keeps tradition alive

May 1, 2013

Diane cycles in the Tye River valley in rural Nelson County

While we were exploring the Brew Ridge Trail south of Charlottesville, Va., for a magazine article, we took a day off to bicycle. Lina created one of her trademark custom loops using Google maps and our collection of trusted DeLorme Atlas & Gazetteers. We did a 42-mile loop around rural Nelson County, and the scenery was just gorgeous. Lina mostly kept us in valleys and along rivers, though we did have a few challenging climbs and some long stretches on dirt roads (surprise!).

Woodson’s Mill in Lowesville, VA

Woodson’s Mill in Lowesville, VA

One of the many delightful sights we happened upon was Woodson’s Mill in Lowesville, a village that used to be an important stop along the Virginia Blue Ridge Railway. The building was so impressive that I stopped to take a look, and of course Lina snapped several photos. The gate was locked, so we didn’t poke around. Later, I was delighted to read on the mill’s website that it has been owned by only a small handful of families since its construction in 1794 and is operational! Read the full history here.

More info from the website: The late J. Gill Brockenbrough Jr. purchased the property in the early 1980s and started a massive restoration effort there. The mill served as the backdrop to son Will Brockenbrough’s childhood and formed his appreciation for history, architecture, and historic preservation. Will and his wife, Sarah, reopened the mill and now run it. How wonderful!

All-natural flours and meals are made at Woodson’s Mill

All-natural flours and meals are made at Woodson’s Mill (photo by Woodson’s Mill, LLC)

They make all-natural flours and meals in small batches, by hand, with stone-ground grains. All the power for grinding comes from the Piney River’s water, which runs the Mill’s overshot wheel and hand-dressed millstones, making the entire process renewable and sustainable.

And now, for the best part: Woodson’s Mill is open May 25 through October 26 on Saturdays from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. If you can’t go then, contact the owners to see if you can make an appointment for a different time. Or, if you can’t make it to the Mill Store, their products are available online and at regional retailers.

What a happy story, and it’s not over yet!


NC food fest recap: all yummy all the time

November 9, 2012

Colleen Minton, belle of the ball

I was treated to some glorious dining and noshing events at TerraVITA in Chapel Hill, NC, last weekend. and now it‘s back to watching the waistline.

I’ve witnessed this fine food and beverage festival, founded and run by the gracious and energetic Colleen Minton, blossom from a decent-sized one-day happening to a three-day Southeastern to-do featuring classes, gatherings, and tastings from more than 45 food and beverage purveyors. I met people from around the Southeast coming to sample dozens of yummies from North Carolina chefs, wine makers and beer brewers. The providers of sustenance have one thing in common (other than offering quality nourishment) — they focus on sustainable products, meaning local farm fare that is grown with minimal chemicals.

Biscuits with pimento cheese and kale pesto

Friday night’s East to West sit-down meal featured three of our state’s top chefs — Vivian Howard of Chef and the Farmer in Kinston, Cassie Parsons of Harvest Moon Grille in Charlotte (and a farmer herself), and Adam Rose of Il Palio in Chapel Hill. Offerings included collard dolmades with pork, confit of carrots and beets, Sunburst Trout fritters, rabbit three ways (ravioli, sausage, and confit), and collard green and country ham creamed Carolina Rice middlins with pickled collard stems and turnip roots. I’m having fantastic food-fueled flashbacks! We sat at long communal tables and ate family style, great for getting to know your neighbors, though I missed the aesthetic of plating dishes.

Tasty morsels from Herons at the Umstead

Saturday’s “Grand Tasting” proved equally compelling, and this time plates abounded, tiny ones and plenty of them with samplings too numerous to mention. Several fell into the meat and biscuit category, my favorites being Weathervane’s butternut squash biscuits with pulled pork, and Chapel Hill Country Club’s sausage biscuit with pimento cheese and collard pesto. Chocolate purveyors were sprinkled throughout, including my two favorite in the state, Escazu from Raleigh and French Broad Chocolates from Asheville. It being early afternoon and with no designated driver, I passed on the alcohol but enjoyed eyeing the microbrews, wines, and the state’s first all-local and organic spirits from Top of the Hill. Next year I’ll have to bring Bob.

Dining guide points the way in North Carolina

September 17, 2012

My pal and busy “Durham Foodie” blogger Johanna Kramer just birthed her first book, and it’s a great one for food-minded locals and visitors to the  Triangle region of North Carolina. (And, really, who isn’t food minded?)

Food Lovers’ Guide to Raleigh, Durham & Chapel Hill: The Best Restaurants, Markets & Local Culinary Offerings” (Globe Pequot Press, $14.95) is chock full of information on restaurants, markets, culinary events, cooking classes, wine and beer spots and more.  You’ll find the books at the usual places, in stores and online.

Johanna Kramer signs her new book at the launch party in Durham, NC

Skimming through the 254 pages of listings, I’m transported to some of my favorite spots (Pie Pushers food truck, Guglhupf bakery and restaurant, especially the outdoor patio) and reminded of all the places I still need to visit (I’m too embarrassed to confess which ones I’ve yet to check out). Even Johanna’s book launch party on Sunday introduced me to a new spot — G2B Gastro Pub, a sleek but friendly bar/restaurant tucked away in the back of a small office complex in Durham.

In the back of the book you’ll find 18 recipes to whet your appetite, including Macaroni au Gratin from chef Ashley Christensen of Poole’s Downtown Diner in Raleigh; Market’s Ketchup, by Chad McIntyre of Market, also in Raleigh; and Raw Vegan “Pad Thai” from Triangle Raw Foods.

As I told Johanna, I’m even impressed by the index and appendices, making it easy to find what you’re looking for.  So come for a visit and see for yourself!

North Carolina food and wine fest keeps growing

August 15, 2012

Wow, in only its third year, TerraVITA has become a leading Southern food and wine event, with a focus on farm-sourcing, artisanal producers. This year’s event has expanded over several days, with activities running Nov. 1 to Nov. 3 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  Sounds like a great weekend getaway to me!

Much of the credit goes to founder and organizer Colleen Minton. I’ve seen a lot of “food festivals” come and go, but this one keeps getting bigger and better. And … Colleen gives back, as well. TerraVITA has donated more than $10,000 to local nonprofits over the past two years, and this year is adding a fund-raiser for the Carrboro Farmers’ Market. The market, just over the Chapel Hill border, should also be on your list of must-sees!

Below are some details on this year’s celebration, and tickets are on sale NOW! Ordering info. is here.

Jay Pierce of restaurant Lucky 32 at the TerraVITA event in 2010

WHAT: TerraVITA is a 3-day festival featuring the best in sustainable food and beverage in the South and celebrating chefs, farmers, and artisan beverage producers who offer the necessary foundation to create a sustainable network. The event features educational workshops and demonstrations, guest speakers, as well as food and beverage tastings and meals. The festival will begin with the Harvest Potluck Fundraiser for the Carrboro Farmers’ Market and end with the pinnacle event, the Grand Tasting on The Green.

FEATURING: More than two dozen chefs and artisan food producers from across the state of North Carolina participating in tastings, demos, dinners and workshops for the general public. Also, artisan wine producers, micro brewers, coffee roasters and boutique distillers will participate in workshops and over more than 100 tastings.


★ Harvest Potluck Fundraiser: Thursday, Nov. 1,  from 7 to 9:30 p.m. at Carrboro Farmers’ Market

★ The Sustainable Classroom (Speakers, Workshops & Demonstrations): Friday, Nov. 2 from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at multiple locations in Chapel Hill (hotel shuttles provided)

★ The Carolina Table: East Meets West (Dinner): Friday, Nov. 2 from 7 to 10 p.m. (Location TBD)

★ The Grand Tasting on The Green: Saturday, Nov. 3, from 1 to 4:30 p.m. on The Green at Southern Village in Chapel Hill

They say chili, I say chile (I swear!)

November 15, 2011

Green chile peppers roasting

Update: So apparently there’s a big debate about this east vs. west and the Associated Press stylebook says “chili.” But food publications use chile and so does anyone west of Missouri. So I guess we’re both right. But since I’m writing about New Mexico, I’m writing chile!

ARGH!!!!!!!!! So I wrote this story for the Boston Globe about New Mexico chiles. Green or red? Yep, that’s the Official State Question. And I even pointed out how New Mexico barely recognizes the concept of East Coast “chili” stew. And I talked about the differences between chili and chile. The  peppers are chiles. The dishes they make are chile dishes. The class I took at the Santa Fe School of Cooking was about chiles. The photos in the paper are of chiles. Unfortunately, from what I can tell, and I couldn’t even see the whole story because of the paywall, the story has “chili” every place it should be “chile.” The text is wrong. The headline is wrong. The captions are wrong. First, I let the copy desk know, and they informed the online folks. Then I RAN to my computer to make sure I’d used the correct spelling in text and captions in the version I sent in. I had.  From what I can tell, it’s all been fixed online, but the printed version is out. And it’s wrong. And, wow, do I feel like an igit.

Am I mad at the Globe? Well, no. I used to work on that copy desk. I know how difficult — and thankless, too — the work can be.  And mistakes happen. And, guess what? An editor called me last night with a question on that story. I’d made a bonehead mistake, and she saved me from myself. So, no, I’m not mad. But I’m sure not happy! This is a pretty bad mistake, but the good thing is that it didn’t hurt anyone or damage their reputation. Well, other than the Globe’s and mine, but that’s the newspaper biz.

Onward and upward. I’m going to go chili, er chile, I mean, CHILL OUT!

Starry, starry nights amid Indian culture in NM

November 1, 2011

Chaco Culture National Historical Park is in a remote region of New Mexico

We’ve been home from our eight days in northern New Mexico for a month now and I have two strongly lingering images – our meals and our night of camping at Chaco Culture National Historical Park.

I’ve already written my piece on chile peppers, with a recipe, for the Boston Globe food section (to be published soonish), but could not sell anyone on the idea of a story on Chaco. Which is crazy! But it was just as well because that meant I could enjoy myself instead of run around interviewing people and taking notes about everything I saw.

Instead, I inhaled it all in slowly – the history, the breathtaking terrain,  the up-close petroglyphs, the unbelievably intact Indian ruins and, oooohhhhh, those dark star-saturated skies.

See the blue dot straight ahead, near the canyon wall? That's where we camped!

Thanks to Southwest Airlines’  humane luggage policy, we each got two bags for free, so used our extras to stash camping gear for our one night at the park, at Lina’s urging. (Thank you, my ever-adventurous mate!)

We loved almost every minute of our 20-hour blitz. We arrived midafternoon, enjoying the minor thrill of the eight-mile-long dirt road that leads to the park. (Take the north entrance if you don’t want to get stuck.) First we picked out at campsite in the tent-only area, amid boulders and backing up against a cliff. Heaven!!

Pueblo Bonito is famous for many things, including its intact walls and doorways

Next we high-tailed it to 2 p.m. tour of Pueblo Bonito, a Native American “great house” that was lived in from the mid 800s to the 1200s. It once towered four stories high, with more than 500 rooms and 40 kivas and is one of the most excavated and studied sites in North America, as well as one of the most intact. Although our guide went way over the scheduled time, he was fantastic and brought the history alive, and the archeology history was as interesting as the Indian history.

We toured a few other sites and then reached the petroglyphs just as the late afternoon sun was spotlighting them. They were the most intact and closest I’ve ever seen!

Up close and personal with petroglyphs

We had just a little time to set up camp and share a beer before we zipped over to the visitor’s center for what we thought would be the dark-sky talk and a chance to look through the telescopes. Chaco is the only national park with its own observatory. Well damned if the astronomers weren’t at a conference – um, thanks for letting us know? A ranger gave an interesting presentation on the Civilian Conservation Corps’ involvement in the park in the 1930s and ‘40s, but we were feeling very pouty and whiny about the whole star thing. Until….

We returned to the campsite around 8 p.m. and the sky seemed to go from dusk to black within minutes. I looked up and – WAM, BAM, LOOK AT THOSE STARS, MA’M! I told Lina, who needs astronomers? Of course I would have liked a walk-through of the skies, but wowie, zowie, they were amazing — Milky Way, of course, and shooting stars and dancing constellations. We each laid down on a bench of the picnic table, wrapped up in our blankets, and watched in awe.

Lina's "just one more," Kin Klatso great house

That night we heard the eeriest sound. The only reason I knew it was coyotes is because a ranger had warned me. Wow.

After visiting a few more ruins in the morning (“Just one more” is Lina’s motto in life), we were back on the long dirt road, headed back to the big city.

Does every drop really count in Boone?

August 9, 2011

I sent this to the mayor of Boone, NC, today, a lovely town and home to Appalachian State University.

Dear Ms. Clawson,

This is relatively small potatoes, but as a journalist who writes about travel quite a bit, these things jump out at me. I appreciate the letter I found written by you in the guest book at the Best Western Plus Blue Ridge Plaza  in Boone about Boone’s water conservation efforts, aka the “Every Drop Counts” campaign.

The hotel was wonderful and the staff was great. But I have to say that your letter about water conservation didn’t match the hotel operations. For one, there was NO option/signage in the hotel room about not having sheets and towels laundered. Also, the shower there had to have the most water pressure of any shower I’ve used in years. Let’s just say it was the opposite of low-flow.

Also, I’ll add that at dinner the one night I was there, at Hob Nob Farm Cafe, my partner and I were given two large glasses of ice water without being asked. Not the worst thing in the world, but if water conservation is a goal in Boone, not the best either.

So, I figured you’d appreciate this feedback, which I added to my blog, at I’ll be sure to post your reply there as well, and thanks for all you do in Boone. It’s a GREAT city. I was visiting from Durham to do a book signing for, at the wonderful Watauga County Farmers’ Market, one of the best in the state, in my opinion!


Diane Daniel

Cool stops in Hot Springs and Asheville, NC

July 27, 2011

My Farm Fresh farmers’ market tour is traveling geographically with the harvest, starting in the Coast and Piedmont in the spring, moving to the Triad. Finally I’ve reached the mountains, just in time to cool off from the heat of summer.

Honda gets royal treatment at Biltmore

Here’s the report from recent stops in Hot Springs and Asheville.

My tour started with a book signing outside of the Carriage House gift shop at the Biltmore Estate, where the highlight was taking back roads to enter the estate and parking just behind the “house.” That’s what I call VIP treatment.

Meanwhile, parking at Restaurant Solace at the Haywood Park Hotel in downtown Asheville wasn’t VIP, but the complimentary lunch was, and was so yummy too. Chef owner Bryan Kimmett has really spruced up the place and focuses on local ingredients, to the point that he’s opened a tiny market in the lobby. Great idea! The cafe is upstairs and fancy-schmancy dining is downstairs. Favorite dish? Warm crab and foraged mushrooms cheesecake (kinda like a soft quiche). Delish.

That evening I headed north to Hot Springs, one of the coolest (and tiniest) towns in the state and one of a handful that the Appalachian Trail runs right through. I was invited by the Friends of the Hot Springs Library, a group of fascinating folks, including Dave Penrose and Mary Dixon, who with her husband runs Broadwing Farm Cabins. The gang even treated me to a nice cold tall one after my scintillating presentation.

Asheville City Market woos kids with its DIY bicycle-blended smoothies.

I spent Saturday morning at one of my favorite farmers’ markets, the downtown Asheville City Market, operated by my friends at the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project. Loved the kids’ corner, where volunteers were inviting young visitors to mix smoothies using a bicycle-operated blender. My very favorite baker was there, too, Farm and Sparrow (if only they shipped….), a fantastic bluegrass band was performing near my table, and I chatted with the most interesting folks. Fun morning!

Venezia Dream owner Starr Cash (left) chats with visitors to her alpaca farm.

My last stops were at the Family Farm Tour, another ASAP program, where I hung out one day at Venezia Dream Farm (alpacas!) and the next at Imladris Farm (berries! bunnies!). At Imladris, one of my customers was none other than Mark Rosenstein, former longtime chef at Market Place and the man who brought locally sourced dining to Asheville. Yes, the father of Foodtopia! Thanks, Mark, for all you’ve done and still do. Thanks, too, to your friend who gifted you my book!

Is there ever a slow time at French Broad Chocolate?

A final word on Asheville dining. I didn’t have much time to explore, but I did find nirvana at Table — lima bean soup with fennel and lavender. Seriously, ridiculously amazing. Must return for seconds. I was hoping to have a chocolate nightcap at French Broad Chocolate Lounge, but there was a line out the door at 10 p.m. just as there had been at 8 p.m. Wow. So I had a brew instead, at hot spot Green Man Brewery. They were out of the double IPA (waaaaaah), but the single was sweet.

Wilmington, NC, wakes up to good food

June 26, 2011

The last time I was in Wilmington, dining options were mostly pretty standard fare. What a difference a few years make.

The only restaurant I have from there in my book is Catch, but here are the ones I’d add now for their attention to local sourcing: Deluxe, Circa 1922, Caffe Phoenix, and Crow Hill. There may be others but those are the ones that I’m confident are committed. Feel free to disagree and/or add others.

Diane felt tiny next to chef Keith Rhodes

Friday night we ate at Catch, and I finally got to meet chef Keith Rhodes. Catch has two locations, a tiny one downtown open only for lunch weekdays and a larger, but still fairly small, restaurant in a strip mall six miles away from town. We started with beers – OBX, a Kolsch style ale from Weeping Radish Brewery, and a salad with diced sweet potatoes that were perfectly grilled. For dinner I had tender black grouper with sweet potato mash and succotash (which seems to be all the rage this year). Lina loved her perfectly blackened amberjack, cheese grits and sautéed spinach. We also admired the artwork on the walls, metal fish by Matt Davis.

Diane at Riverfront Farmers` Market

Saturday started with book promotion at the Riverfront Farmers’ Market, which shares best-view title with the Elizabeth City market, as both overlook rivers. There I met Jane Steigerwald with the very impressive local-food program FeastDownEast, aka Southeastern North Carolina Food Systems Program. Projects include farm-to-chef distribution and a farm-fresh restaurant branding program. My next stops were Costco, where, despite the big-box location, I signed 20 books to enthusiastic fans, and then the cute Pomegranate Books, featuring nibbles from farms my book. Yummy!

Liz Biro leads a group of Culinary Adventurers

We dashed back downtown to meet up with Liz Biro for the last 90 minutes of one of her three-hour “Culinary Adventures.” I’ve been on several food tours in several cities, and Liz’s ranks as one of the best. She makes an impressive EIGHT stops, guests are well fed (not always the case on food tours, believe it or not) and Liz knows her stuff. She also does a good job of posing leading questions to owners and chefs. Liz is well known around town for her food stories and reviews in the Wilmington Star-News. Thanks, Liz, for letting us drop in!

Saturday night I was excited to eat at Crow Hill, which I’d heard about from a few sources. It’s near the riverfront, which really heats up on weekends when gaggles of twentysomethings flock there. Crow Hill sports a sophisticated uptown look, but in a warm way, in part thanks to the salvaged river-wood tables and yard-tool-inspired sculptures on the walls. I could have used a lower volume on the dance club music, but maybe that’s my age talking.

Crow Hill is a new arrival on the scene

I didn’t have a full appetite thanks to the food tour, so ordered two appetizers, while Lina had an app and entrée. Our server (Sarah!) was memorable — fun and on the ball and she really knew the menu. Food, too, was amazing. I started with a smoked trout salad topped with a deep friend poached egg. Lina’s fish stew starter was too spicy for me but perfect for her. The outer edges of her lighly smoked pork loin (with creamy grits) were a little dry, she said, but the interior was just right. My “entrée” was heavenly – herb-garlic roasted mushrooms over creamy polenta.

Got to get back to Wilmington soon!

Find dining in Asheville, NC

June 6, 2011

Wrote this little ditty below for a Boston Globe summer-fun roundup that ran last weekend.

Freshly sautéed wild ramps, an Appalachian specialty. Photo by Kevin Gregory.

With farm-to-table dining practically de rigueur, farmers are starting to share the menu with foragers. In what is billed as a ‘‘forest-to-table’’ dinner series, ‘‘No Taste Like Home’’ in Asheville shows guests how to reduce their food miles to the ground under their feet, and a bit beyond. Diners, led by veteran wild crafters, will stalk the Appalachian woods and meadows for such ingredients as sunchokes, chickweed, and even the much-maligned kudzu. After a few hours of hiking and hunting, foragers will retire to the kitchen, where a visiting chef will whip up earthy delights that might include chickweed salad with persimmon vinaigrette, stinging nettle pesto, and morel and ramp ragout.Sounds wild.

Locally harvested bamboo shoots ready for cooking. Photo by Kevin Gregory.

Details: held monthly on a Saturday from 3 to 9 p.m., $125 includes foraging, cooking demo, live music, and five-course dinner with local wine. 828-774-1922,