Botetourt County offers much for locavores through locally grown and produced foods. Boasting several farmers markets, orchards, vineyards, wine production and farms here that produce meat, vegetables and milk, there is much to be had here in Botetourt! So take the VADACS advice– eat and buy locally produced goods! Enjoy the suggestions.
IT’S FALL – A GREAT TIME TO EAT AND DRINK LOCALLY IN VIRGINIA
Don’t despair, Local Foodies. The bountiful summer season of juicy tomatoes and the sweetest sweet corn may be over, but you can still buy and eat locally in Virginia. The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) encourages every Virginian to look for local products even though the autumnal equinox has passed.
“It’s really very easy in Virginia,” said Matthew J. Lohr, VDACS Commissioner. “According to the USDA, we rank ninth in the nation in the number of winter farmers’ markets. And our mild coastal climate offers fresh seafood of many types at this time of year.”
To prove his point, Lohr offers the following local menus for the fall and holiday season and for Virginia Wine Month in October:
Remember Botetourt County has three wine producers Blue Ridge Vineyard, Fincastle Vineyard and Virginia Mountain Vineyard!
Local meal #1 –a Fall Comfort Meal
· Appetizers. Greet your guests with Virginia peanuts and cheese straws or chips and dips from the Virginia’s Finest line of specialty products. See VirginiasFinest.com for other suggestions.
· Barbecue. Take your pick of pork, chicken or ribs, or throw some sausages or bratwursts on the grill. Glaze them with any number of Virginia’s Finest barbecue sauces from mild to hot, sweet to saucy.
· Cole slaw. You can make your own with southwest Virginia’s famous Virginia cabbage; add fries made from regular or sweet potatoes from the Eastern Shore
· A hearty beverage. Accompany it with a Virginia craft beer, ale or mead and milk or cider for the non-drinkers.
· Dessert. Finish off the meal with an apple pie made with local apples and topped with a slice of Virginia’s Finest cheese.
Local meal #2 – a Seafood Feast
· A Virginia’s Finest soup for starters. Choose from a variety of possibilities, including clam chowder, red crab soup, she crab soup, cream of crab soup, oyster stew and more.
· Seafood/fish course. The choices from Virginia’s waters and aquaculture farms are amazing: fresh farmed clams (pastanecks, littlenecks, middlenecks and topnecks); farmed and wild seaside oysters; soft and hard shell crabs; ocean scallops; live rainbow, brook, golden and brown trout; farm-raised catfish and ready-to-cook crab cakes and crab pie.
· Side dishes. Choose from many local fall vegetables to create memorable dishes such as roasted potatoes with grilled peppers and onions, steamed broccoli, flash fried kale or grilled mushrooms. Add crusty artisan bread with flavored butter and accompany with a white wine from one of Virginia’s 210 wineries. See VirginiaWine.org.
· Dessert. Try a sweet and salty combination to complement the flavors of seafood. Examples include brownies or chocolate cookies sprinkled with sea salt; chocolate cupcakes iced with salted caramel; warm, salted kettle corn; salty, chocolate-covered pretzels, or a decadent, dark chocolate-dipped and salt-dusted crostini. Not surprisingly, Virginia’s Finest offers a wide range of chocolates but also a line of specialty and flavored salts.
Local meal #3 – an Elegant Holiday Banquet
· Starters. A squash/carrot/ginger soup makes a great first course for a holiday meal, or you could add variety with sea scallops on a bed of fried kale.
· Entre. Will you choose the traditional turkey or a prime rib of beef? Perhaps a genuine Virginia ham suits your tastes. Other choices from Virginia include a crown roast of pork, a sea bass wrapped in thin slices of ham or specialty meats such as bison.
· Side dishes. What’s a holiday dinner without dressing? – perhaps sausage stuffing for turkey or apple/walnut for a crown roast. An onion/spice stuffing provides a tangy complement for the ham-wrapped sea bass. Vegetables include the traditional sweet potatoes or a white potato au gratin, cauliflower with broccoli puree, creamed onions with peanuts, fried apples or any of the winter squashes for color and beta-carotene.
· Dessert. Few things beat pumpkin pie for the holidays, although an apple crumble with ice cream is a surefire crowd pleaser. Broiled pears with a brown sugar glaze is a simple but elegant choice.
· Beverages. Hot spiced cider, Virginia wine and sparkling cider are fitting holiday choices. White, red or sparkling, Virginia wines offer a tremendous variety in a price range for all budgets.
Local meal #4 – a Wine Tasting
· Seafood station. Offer freshly shucked local oysters on the half shell with any number of Virginia’s Finest seafood sauces, petite crab cakes with a caper tarragon sauce and broiled scallops on picks with a creamy white wine and butter sauce. Serve white wines such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc or Vidal Blanc.
· Cheese station. Display a cheese board with an array of Virginia cheeses. Complement hard with soft cheese, pungent with bland. Serve with fresh Virginia apples and pears, dried fruit and berries, nuts, crackers and local artisan bread. Serve cheeses with Norton or Petit Verdot.
· Meat station. Curried lamb meatballs served with mint yogurt sauce are easy to eat on toothpicks. Offer grilled beef flank steak with roasted peppers, arugula, spinach and cheese stuffing or thinly sliced Serrano ham or prosciutto on crusty bread with butter. With the lamb, you may consider offering red wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot. For pork, white wine such as Viognier is a nice compliment.
· Small savories. Delight your guests with mushroom ragout on bruschetta with melted cheese, rosemary and chives or Belgian endive spears with smoked trout. Honey Crisp apples taste great with horseradish cream and fresh dill, and asiago polenta cakes with olive tapenade offer a contrast in taste and texture. Also good are stuffed mushrooms or olives and Virginia peanuts. Good wine choices here are Rieslings.
· Small bite dessert station. Sweets – pumpkin praline cheesecake bites or pear/fig strudel bundles with mascarpone – are great contrasted with something salty, such as sea salted almond chocolate bark. Some Virginia’s Finest gourmet, sweet and savory cookies are crafted to pair with wines. Dessert wines from Virginia include Seyval Blanc, sparkling wines, port and meads.
“These are just some suggestions on ways to eat locally this holiday season,” concluded Lohr. “Meeting the $10 a Week Buy Local Challenge is easy at this time of year. As a reminder, if each household in Virginia spent just $10 a week on locally grown agricultural products, consumers would invest an additional $1.65 billion back into the local economy annually. That’s an extra $1.65 added to the $55 billion agriculture already contributes to the state’s economy each year. Now that’s how you celebrate the holidays for a great cause.”
Find all of these Virginia’s Finest products and more at vdacs.virginia.gov/virginiafinest/index.shtml. And check VirginiaGrown.com for places to pick your own apples or pumpkins or find winter farmer’s markets.
-Elaine Lidholm, VDACS