A Renovated and Reinvented Farmer’s Market


You know what?  Instead of working my way up to this, I’m just going to cut to the chase…. On Friday, I had the best dessert I have ever eaten.  At the newly renovated and opened Farmer’s Market Restaurant and Bar right here in the center of Old Towne.  It was their Creme Caramel.  It was flavored with Asian citrus (I’m not sure what that was but I didn’t care) and honey.  It was served in a jar, that had you actually left any, you would beg for the lid so that you could take it home.  We all gasped at our first taste….”like butter”, “like gold”, “so creamy”….  I would honestly go back any night and sit at the bar to have it again with a drink.  Perfectly balanced between sweet, creamy and downright sensual.


I had lunch here the day that they opened just 3 weeks ago and we all loved every morsel.  We couldn’t decide what to order so we just picked a whole bunch of dishes to share.  It was fabulous and there are pictures to prove it, the food is beautiful.

I returned the next evening with the Ladies Night Crew and again, we loved it.

On Friday night, my mother took the boys and I for dinner along with Kerry and JV as none of the boys had experienced it yet.  It’s very convenient that you can make reservations on Open Table, and we took advantage of that.  It was great watching the boys reaction to seeing the inside of the building for the first time since the renovation.  “Wow” was used a lot. We have watched it lay empty and dormant for years, only briefly coming to life again as a major part of the set of Lincoln, so it is so exciting to see it fully restored and more beautiful than ever.

We were seated upstairs at one of the big tables.  We had the same server as we had on Ladies night and we were genuinely shocked that she remembered our names!  Were we that badly behaved that night?!  “How can I forget a name like Cherry?” Sara asked.  She’s here in the area because her husband is at Fort Lee but she’s originally from Savannah and has the accent to match.  Delightful, accommodating and efficient as well as oozing southern charm, she made sure we had a great experience.

We started with a dozen oysters that included Anderson Necks and Ruby Salts.  Served in delightful two tiered trays, they were a big hit.  For the third time in three visits, we also ordered the mussels with Surry sausage and leeks that were delicious as always.  I’m a little obsessed with mussels.

For dinner?  Braised Beef Rib for Rory, Salmon with Bok Choy for Ben, Curried Carrot Soup for JV with his new braces (he managed some oysters too), Shrimp and Grits for Cherry and Kerry and really lovely Rockfish with white beans and kale for me. All delicious and beautifully presented.  My rockfish was perfectly cooked, delicate, so so fresh and just a delightful dish. Loved it.  We finished with an incredible key lime tart along with the aforementioned Creme Caramel, and the boys all devoured gelato.

As a side note, I think their wine menu is thoughtful and very reasonably priced.  The bar is also gorgeous and I look forward to going for drinks one night.

There has been much chatter about the menu at this new restaurant.  When it was posted on Facebook for the first time, I saw a number of comments like “there’s nothing on this menu that I would eat”, “no steak?”, “people around here won’t pay those prices”….  Everyone has the right to their opinion and to choose where they want to eat, no doubt about that.  But I want to challenge some of this chatter and having renovated and opened my own restaurant here, I feel qualified to do so.  This space really was a farmer’s market back in the day which totally lends itself to being open to the farm-to-table concept.  The food is super fresh and the quality of the ingredients is superior.  Just because the menu selections aren’t instantly recognizable, does not mean that they aren’t amazing.  I like to use the analogy of going to an art museum, it’s often tempting to just retreat to the familiarity and comfort of the Impressionist Gallery but sometimes you have to challenge yourself to look to explore less well known artwork.  You look carefully at the paintings, you read about them,  you seek to understand where the artist is coming from and suddenly your mind is opened. The preparation of food is art.  It’s the same thing.  I personally love to be challenged to pick something on a menu that I wouldn’t ordinarily choose.

It was 20 years ago this month that Steve and I bought the two buildings on Cockade Alley, just steps from the Farmer’s Market.  When we announced that we were going to open a British-style pub, we were met with “why would you want to open a place in Old Towne Petersburg?  No one goes there”.  We were one of four restaurants in Old Towne when we opened in October 2000 and we were two of only a handful of people living above a retail space.  Like any new restaurant, we experienced growing pains in our infancy but eventually we found our rhythm.  I can’t even begin to imagine renovating and running a 200 seat restaurant but I know all too well about finding the careful balance of maintaining your mission while understanding your market.  It can take time for everyone to get on the same page and you have to grow some thick skin!

So, fast forward to 2017 and Old Towne looks very different.  Hundreds of people live down here whether it be in historic homes or converted warehouses.  Despite many challenges in our City as a whole, we have a thriving Old Towne business community including over twenty restaurants and two breweries and I for one wouldn’t live anywhere else in this region.  The significant investment that has been made by Sandy Graham, Tom Wilkerson and Frits Huntjens in the new chapter of this most iconic building, should be applauded and appreciated beyond measure.  Be prepared to have your breath taken away by the renovation, it’s exquisite but that’s no surprise when Sandy Graham is involved.  Look up to the roof and rafters, look at the light fixtures and decorative accents, admire the gorgeous furniture. We are so fortunate to have the opportunity to dine in such an environment.  Frits Huntjens is an award winning chef and his touch is evident in every nuance of this menu and it’s gutsy to challenge us with what feels like a small restaurant menu concept in a big setting. If the menu needs to be expanded or tweaked to accommodate more tastes, I have no doubt it will be, but I like places where the menu is relatively small as it generally means more thought has gone into each dish and it’s easier to maintain quality.  They also need to be given some time to find their rhythm, just like people afforded us 17 years ago.

Each new business that opens up here in Old Towne ultimately enriches our City, elevates it, and we all benefit.  The Farmer’s Market Restaurant is a showpiece for downtown, a huge new gem that joins a rapidly filling treasure chest of jewels in the city that I’m very happy to call home.

Eat, drink, love!


Valentine’s Day can be tough for a lot of people.  For those who have recently experienced great loss, especially.  For those who are single, it can be a time of feeling excluded.  As a restauranteur, it was always a really long, but profitable, day of work. As someone who is now single myself, I see it in such a mixed way.  For starters, I like to think that great relationships don’t need a special day to be reminded to celebrate each other but I am also truly inspired by couples who remain lovingly and steadfastly committed to each other.  Since my separation I have, in many ways, slowly gained a renewed or even totally new love of self and sense of who I am and what I want.  That’s something pretty awesome and powerful to celebrate, I think!

My special dinner this Valentine’s Day?  Tonight, it’s leftovers with my boys, embellished with some chocolate covered strawberries from Buttermilk Bakery and lovely Chardonnay (for me) and chocolate milk (for the boys).  Followed by a new episode of This is Us.  And writing this piece.

This past Sunday?  You would think that I go to wine dinners every week, I really don’t!   However, I’ve had the fortune to attend three in just the past month, lucky me!  Along with four great friends, I headed north to Manchester to Camden’s Dogtown Market for a “Pre V-Day Wine Dinner”.  Or as host/owner Chef Andy Howell likes to call it, “a culinary roll in the hay”.  He loves playing with words as much as food….he partnered with Brandon Hamlet, fine wine specialist for Republic National Distributing Co. to produce a master class of a wine dinner.  Andy did confess however, to using one of his all-time favorite cookbooks “Intercourses” for inspiration and the names of the wines were no coincidence.  Brandon and I have something in common, we both worked for Andy many years ago, Brandon in the kitchen at Avenue 805, and I worked as a server at Portabella here in Petersburg almost 20 years ago!



Keeping it light while we sipped on Schramsburg Vineyards “Mirabelle” Brut, Andy and Brandon thanked us for forgoing the chance to see Rick Astley at The National tonight in order to indulge in their wine dinner.  No complaints from anyone!

To pair with our glass of bubbly:  House Cured and Smoked Salmon and Goat Cheese Croustade.  Perfect start!



Next up on this menu chock full of aphrodisiacs…  Parmesan Oysters, paired with Virginia Dare Winery “Two Arrowheads”.  Sublime.  Oysters were plump, sauce was creamy, coating was crunchy.  Enough said.


The wine for the next course, “Complicated” Chardonnay from Taken Wine Co., is a wine I’ve tried before and struggled to love.  Took a sip before the food arrived and sure enough…same again.  But wait, along came the Crab Quesadilla with Peach Salsa and all of a sudden, I’m all about some complication in my life.  THIS is what a great wine dinner is all about…that moment when you realize what the chef and sommelier want you to know and feel.  Gorgeous.


Being a Brit, I love Roast Lamb and typically cook it with Rosemary and Garlic.  Andy chose to use a Coffee Rub and it worked beautifully especially alongside a lovely Potato and Artichoke Salad.  Served with “Taken” Red Blend, which was FABULOUS, it was the perfect meat course after all the yummy seafood!


How do you finish this?  With my old kinda sorta friend, Banfi “Rosa Regale”, which as I learned at the last wine dinner, must be paired with a dessert less sweet than itself.  In this case it was with housemade Dark Chocolate Pate, Ricotta Cheese and a freshly baked Pine Nut Cookie.  Mind and tastebuds blown, I finally understood this wine.  Rich dark chocolate with slightly sour cheese and a chewy pine nut laden cookie along with the rose petal, raspberry, and strawberry notes of this sparkling red, we were all wowed by the pairing and the quality of each component.  What a conclusion to a phenomenal meal.



Let’s not leave out the bread……


So, I kind of feel the need to disclose the fact that Andy and I do work together on some catering.  I love his style and feel for food.  He’s sarcastic, sometimes cranky, witty, very clever and a really great friend.  He’s much more organized than I am.  He’s obviously a brilliant and talented chef.  But I’m more of a people person.  It’s a fun partnership and I’ll NEVER stop enjoying his Wine Dinners.  I also happen to know that he hates having his photo taken……cheers!











Yes, I marched.

I don’t hear from my brother super frequently and I don’t tend to answer calls during This is Us, however, I answered the phone that night.  “I hear you and Mother marched”, he said.  “Yes, we did”, I answered.  “Well, I’m just really interested to know the reasons why, I genuinely want to understand”.  Thank you, Luke.  Really, I mean that.

The reason I started this blog was because I just love to travel and I’m passionate about food.  I was also seeking a creative outlet.  I did not necessarily intend for it to be political.  Two weeks ago, I attended the Women’s March on Washington and couldn’t wait to share the great experience on here, until I read on Facebook about how some people felt about it.  I was stunned.  I have not been able to write about it until today.

On Saturday 21st January, I drove myself and 5 fabulous women to our Nation’s Capital to join thousands of others to march.  I hadn’t originally planned to go but Steve’s cousin, Amy, and her wife MerryBeth asked me a few weeks ago if they could stay with me so that they could attend.  They flew up from Florida for it and were SO excited.  I kind of casually responded that I should probably go too and up until the day, I  regrettably kept that attitude.  However, just like many events and happenings in my life over the last couple of years, it was no accident that I was meant to be there.

What transpired was an awe inspiring day of peaceful solidarity amongst women of all ages and circumstances…along with many men.  Not one single arrest.  Medical emergencies were dealt with by Doctors who were marching also.  Women came in wheelchairs.  They came pushing strollers.  Husbands and boyfriends came in support of the women in their lives.  For about 3 hours, no one could move, so we got to know our neighbors…3 older very well-to-do Jewish ladies; a new mom with her sweet baby, husband and friends; a Floridian woman in a motorized scooter with her grand daughter, and then there was 10 year old Evan who climbed up the tree and led us to believe that the crowds were actually moving… Everyone was so very very polite and respectful.  Paths were magically created for those needing special assistance. Were there some “vulgar” signs and attire?  Yes.  But more so than the source that inspired them?  No.  Actually, most of the signs were amazingly creative and brilliantly clever and I understand why there is talk of gathering many of them in a museum to commemorate the event.

Upon my return home, I was genuinely shocked, and quite frankly hurt, to learn that by attending the march,  I was branded as a number of highly offensive things by some people.  I can assure you that I did NOT go because I’m happy to kill my babies.  But I CAN tell you that it hurt like hell when I miscarried my first pregnancy, but that thankfully I had the fortune to have great health insurance to figure out the problem and this allowed me to subsequently have 2 healthy boys.  I did not litter while at the March.  I was not violent, nor was a single other person there.  I was not in costume, nor did I wear a Pussy Hat but I totally understood why people did.

I’m a single mom of 2 teenage boys.  I’m not raising them totally alone though, they have a great and ever-present Dad.  I am an immigrant and green card holder. I’m also a woman of relative privilege.   Who did I march for?  I marched for my boys and the women in their present and future lives.  I marched for women who have far less than I and those who have endured abuse and violence.  I marched with and for Amy and Merrybeth who, along with so many LGBT people, finally felt safe and free only to suddenly feel afraid again.  I marched for the women and their families fleeing  horrific conditions in other countries.  I marched for better education and access to healthcare.  I marched because it’s so important that we never go back but instead keep moving forward towards equality.

For the women who didn’t understand why we felt the need to march because they feel like they have every opportunity available to them already?  Good for you to have that comfort and security,  but I kind of marched for you too.  Life and circumstances can and do change in an instant.   I believe we also owe it to all those women who, in only the last 100 years, gave and risked their lives for what we have today.  We have the privilege of feeling like we have endless opportunities and rights because they paved the way to allow us that feeling.

It was an amazing day, one that I’ll never forget.  When I discovered that women had marched all over the world and that also I had the support of my friends from around the globe, I felt like a tiny part of something very powerful.  Later, upon my return home, I discovered that my boys had been following the TV coverage all day.

As I usually bring food up at some point in these blog posts…for what it’s worth, I consumed a large tea and a Protein pack from a Starbucks in Fredericksburg and then snacked on nuts, dried apricots and way too many chocolate covered salted caramel pretzels during the March.  We returned home to attend a lovely party at Silvia’s house, she was having a fabulously and typically diverse gathering of friends that included the serving of food representing various countries and a whole bunch of much needed wine.  Perfect.


We gasped when we turned the corner to view the crowds for the first time, realizing that a few more than expected showed up:


Gotta get a selfie…


The vast majority of the following photos were taken by my brilliant friend and fellow marcher, Aimee Joyaux: