Feeling the Local Vibe in Petersburg


If I told you that patronizing a local café in Old Towne Petersburg could be the key to transforming your life and health, would you believe me?  Well, it just happens to be true.  Tucked away on Market Street in Old Towne Petersburg, you will find Local Vibe Café.  It’s my favorite place for lunch.  Having adopted a predominantly plant-based diet myself since being diagnosed with breast cancer, it can be challenging to find places that offer a variety of options.  Local Vibe provides countless delicious options for vegans, vegetarians and carnivores alike.



Owner Donnie Cornwell adopted a healthier lifestyle initially as a joke while working at Capital One.  He wanted to see for himself what it was like to eat a vegan diet, having always poked fun at the lifestyle but never thinking for a second that he’d love it!  He was amazed to discover that he was quickly dropping pounds (ultimately 65 lbs to be exact!) and that suddenly his coworkers wanted to know what he was eating and asked for recipes.  He started with a vegetable stir fry and was surprised at how it filled him up.  After a couple of weeks he went raw vegan for 6 months.  His energy levels soared.   He never imagined that he would be an inspiration to others.  Fast forward to today and he’s now made a business out of inspiring others to adopt a healthier lifestyle and that has left him feeling “humbled”.

Donnie’s transformation:


When he got laid off from Capital One in January of 2016, Donnie had to come up with a plan B for his career.  One day soon after, his mother told him about a building that she was going to see, with the idea of possibly starting a business.  So, he accompanied her there and met Linda Pittman who, along with husband Dale, was looking for a project in Petersburg.  Ultimately friendship, a love of good food, and a mutual desire to contribute to the development of Old Towne led to an extensive and wonderful renovation of a small building on Market Street that now houses this nutritional powerhouse.  The story is all too familiar to me, as 18 years ago, a local couple also made it possible for us to renovate our buildings on Cockade Alley and open The Brickhouse Run.  In both cases, a wonderful marriage of resources, vision and passion that can make such a difference in a city such as Petersburg.  Along the way, Donnie also got to do a Shark Tank-like pitch at Community Business Launch which earned him a 3rd place prize of $8,000 in start-up capital!

Another amazing transformation:



When I asked Donnie why he wanted to open Local Vibe and his vision for it, he explained that he wanted to do something for Petersburg that was small scale but with a big city concept.  He wanted to serve healthy food in an area where meat-centric menus typically reign.  However, he wanted it to be more mainstream, not “out there” and therefore accessible to all.  So, for starters, they do serve chicken, shrimp and cheese whereas in a larger city, this might have been at very least a vegetarian if not vegan concept.  But, there are literally hundreds of combinations to enjoy whether you eat meat or not.  Many items on the menu were created through trial and error.  The two most popular dishes are the Cilantro Madness bowl and the Local Fave wrap.  There are about a dozen set bowls and wraps to choose from if you are overwhelmed at the idea of creating your own.  My favorite thing to do is to create my own bowl with BBQ Tofu.  I’ll start with a salad base, then add Vibe Rice (brown rice mixed with their divine cilantro dressing), then add a mix of colorful vegetables and chickpeas with dried cranberries and almonds.  What’s not to love?  It’s beautiful, delicious and SO good for you.  I can genuinely vouch for how this way of eating helps you as my total cholesterol lowered 63 points and my blood pressure normalized after adopting this lifestyle without any additional medications.  I was shocked.  As a society so many of our ills could be cured by eating more vegetables and fruits. It’s that simple.




I was really impressed to learn that the ONLY canned item in the kitchen here, are the chickpeas.  Why?  Because the liquid can be used as an egg substitute called “aquafaba”.  Combined with powdered sugar, it makes the meringue topping for the delicious chocolate sweet potato pies.  All desserts here are vegan (and lovingly made by Donnie’s Mom, Melody) including the oatmeal raisin cookies that call my name every time at checkout.  They make their own vegetable stock here too, which is used to cook the beans, rice and quinoa.  They take great pride in even checking the macronutrients in their Feel Better chicken and rice soup.  This is a place that cares about us!


So not only is the food delicious and good for you, it is also extremely healthy for our local economy….a win-win situation!  Your bowl of food is often mostly sourced from farms and suppliers within a 40 mile radius.  These include Two Veterans, Virginia Vegetable Company, Lil Sprouts, Schofield Farms, Mareks Produce and Old Dominion Farms.  Donnie even cited the Food Lion in Ettrick who purchase their red leaf lettuce from a grower in Mechanicsville.

So what does one drink here?  Local, of course!  The bottled beer comes from Petersburg’s own Trapezium, Beale’s of Bedford and Blue Mountain from up near Charlottesville.  And then there’s my personal favorite, Red Mushroom Kombucha out of Norfolk.  If you haven’t tried Kombucha, it’s a delicious fermented low calorie drink with probiotics.  A great alternative to alcohol (try the Buch’arita!) and certainly better than sodas. Talking of which, in keeping with remaining accessible, Donnie does offer bottled sodas such as Coke.  However, they are kept intentionally on the bottom shelf while healthier alternatives, including filtered water, secure the prime eye-level spots in the refrigerator.


Despite 80 to 90 hour workweeks, Donnie tells me he truly loves getting to know the people who frequent his place and being his own boss.  He enjoys building relationships and has loved the fact that many customers are changing their lifestyles since coming to eat here.  He’s working on adapting menu items for Diabetics, a children’s menu and selling his housemade salad dressings.  He now offers catering and even has a more long term goal of franchising.

As a Petersburg resident, former restauranteur, and (now mostly health) foodie, I am very grateful and take my hat off to the Pittman’s and Donnie Cornwell’s partnership to bring us not only another wonderful renovation, but also seriously good food.  The restaurant industry is tough; trust me, I know.  When you eat locally at a place like this you help realize a dream for the owner who is not only providing a service, but also providing jobs for locals, supporting other local businesses, adding to the tax base and making us healthier all at the same time.  What’s not to love about that?  Try it, your tastebuds and your body will thank you!


Hours: Monday – Saturday 11:00am until 8:00pm for eat-in and take-out.  414 Market St, Petersburg, VA 23803  (804) 324-4562   www.localvibecafe.com

Please note:  I was not compensated in any way for this piece.  I just happen to love my adopted City of Petersburg and my fellow citizens who work hard to make it an even greater place to live!  I also love to write about and photograph my travels and most especially, about food.  

2017: My Top Ten Food Experiences


I woke up on New Year’s Day 2017 in New York City.  My first meal of the year was Steak Frites at Le District by the waterfront in Lower Manhattan.  Little did I know that 2017 was going to take me to some places I had never been and encounters that I could never have imagined.   And I’m not talking about traveling.  I decided to review my year of food by picking 10 experiences/themes, in random order:

ONE:  @frommyporchtoperu

I embraced Instagram this year and have loved it.  Yes, I’m that obnoxious person that posts food photos.  I love it!  It’s fun and I have drawn endless inspiration from other foodies along the way.  After my Breast Cancer diagnosis this summer, one of the first things I thought about was: what could I take control of during treatment and in the future?  One evening, whilst grasping for inspiration, I found it on Netflix in the form of the documentary Forks Over Knives.  I was sold.  It all made so much sense.  Control what you put in your mouth and you can tackle what ails you.  It became my mission alongside the necessary medical treatments.  I found it fascinating to change the whole concept of what food meant to me.  Me….a vegan??!!!  Good grief.  A few months later, I can report that I’ve had lapses but ultimately it’s a lifestyle that works for me, in my unique way.  I kind of see a “Pesce-vegan” thing working.  I just can’t give up oysters.  They are just such a huge pleasure in life, right?  And lobster, crab, shrimp, mussels……. I used Instagram as a method of expressing my creativity, but also my accountability.  So for all of you who encouraged and acknowleged that, I thank you.  It meant an awful lot




Breast Cancer aside, 2017 also brought some romance into my life.  While it didn’t stay the course, I’ll be forever thankful that this lovely man came into my world.   We had been dating just four months when I received my diagnosis.  When I called to tell Andy the news, I told him that I absolutely didn’t expect him to stick around because it was too much to ask.  He was horrified and showed up at my appointment with the Surgeon the next day.  Yes, he is that kind of guy.  He breathed life into me while it momentarily felt like I was losing it.  We ate in lovely places, had some fabulous experiences and I think I can speak for us both when I say we learned a lot from each other.  The way to this girl’s heart is to make dinner reservations and that he did many times!  He even tolerated me taking pictures of our food.  There are many to choose from but I think my two favorites were these two.  The first was dinner at The Boathouse in Rockett’s Landing where we had a table on the deck overlooking the river.  We ate our oysters, the AMAZING Burratta Salad and perfectly Seared Scallops while watching a huge storm roll in.


The second restaurant was Dutch & Co, which I already dedicated a whole blog piece to, but it bears repeating.  Beautiful, innovative food in a great space.



FOUR:  Eating and sipping on my Porch

Despite being pretty gregarious and loving to entertain, I treasure my alone time on my porch.  During warmer months, I’ll sit there with a cup of tea in the morning and often I’ll come home for lunch and enjoy some quiet time.  As it’s west-facing, the evening sun hits it, which in the summer makes it brutal but on cooler spring and fall days, it’s perfect.  Below is a picture of a bowl from Local Vibe Cafe, a new favorite of mine that I plan to write about in more detail soon. The food is delicious, healthy and so beautifully colorful.  Eating it in the sunshine on my porch was just a delightful experience.  Also pictured is a glass of bubbly I enjoyed one warm Friday evening, the perfect way to start the weekend.



FIVE: Camden’s

Andy Howell, my longtime friend and catering partner is the owner of Camden’s Dogtown Market, so I feel a little bit like I’m a part of the place.  He has created beautiful food for many years in various different restaurants that he has owned.  I ate here a number of times this year, but one of my favorite dinners was the pre-Valentine’s Wine Tasting.  Another meal that already has a piece on here in its own right.  I had two truly “aha” moments when I drank two wines that I don’t normally care for on their own, but paired with the food, sprung to life for me.  That moment when you get schooled in the most fabulous way….yes!   The first wine was Complicated Chardonnay which he paired with a Crab Quesadilla with Peach Salsa, a glorious marriage of flavors.  The second was Rosa Regale which he paired with a dark chocolate pate, ricotta cheese and a pine nut cookie.  Quite possibly one of the loveliest dessert combinations I’ve ever had.


It was a tough year at Camden’s though, as Alix, the front-of-house manager, tragically passed away.  I spent many an evening at the bar, chatting to her, trading advice and gossip.  She loved fashion, hair, make-up, art, music and relished giving me dating advice over the couple of years that I knew her.  She even persuaded me to dye my hair red.  I like to think I was the older, wiser one dispensing words of advice, having more years behind me, but in retrospect, she was wiser than me in many ways.  She lived for the moment, spoke freely (often punctuated with profanity) and charmed everyone she served.   She made me laugh!  When she was suddenly taken from us, it was so shockingly sad and left such a painfully huge void.  So much so, that Andy stopped serving dinner for a few weeks.  You never know who might have a big impact on you and sometimes we sadly don’t realize it until they are gone.  Alix mattered, she touched many lives and I know I’m certainly the better for having known her.



I have been here many, many, times over the years.  So many great memories.  This time, it was just Polly and I, on a perfect warm Fall day.  Steamers, hardshell pound-and-a-quarter lobsters, a bottle of Chardonnay…..sitting on the dock.  Always my favorite culinary experience.  What a treat.




My birthday fell right in the middle of my radiation treatments, but I celebrated nonetheless with my lovely friends.  I turned 45.  Moving into the latter part of this decade, I know I’ll continue to face more challenges but hope that perhaps they may be a little less dramatic than those I’ve faced in the first half!  Ladies Night at home, then a weekend involving dinner at the The Brickhouse Run then a recovery brunch at Ammo with guava mimosas in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month, was a great way to celebrate!




Radiation was a little more challenging than I thought it would be.  I’m still working on a blog piece about the experience as a whole.  My last treatment fell on Wednesday 1st November, our usual Ladies Night.  I had vowed to drink Veuve Cliquot to celebrate and that I did!  I was surprised with another delicious vegan chocolate cake from Buttermilk Bakery, decorated in the most appropriate way, with one red boob.  We drank plenty of good champagne and it was warm enough to sit on the porch.  Despite being exhausted, sore and so ready for healing, I felt buoyed once again by the love and support of these incredible women.  A night I’ll never forget!




When in the throes of divorce, it’s kind of strange to be involved in working in at least a dozen weddings a year!  But each is always different, lovely and interesting in its own way.  Andy and I catered three this year; a large outdoor wedding at Glenward Gates in Carson on a gorgeous Saturday in May, a lovely intimate small Fall wedding at Folly Castle, and last, but not least, our friends Kate and Mark’s party to celebrate their recent nuptials.  I have known Kate since she was a baby so to be part of this was really special.  No gifts, no formalities, they just wanted friends and family to gather and celebrate with them.  They had a couple of specific requests for food but otherwise left it to Andy and I to come up with a menu.  It’s always fun when you are given creative and artistic license.  It snowed that day but it was cosy, warm and festive inside the house.  Joan and Lawrence have traveled the world so we used a lot of the gorgeous pottery that they have collected.  A joyful occasion that was an honor to be a part of.




Our friends Alain and Aimee have, without a doubt, the coolest abode in Petersburg. Alain built a pizza oven this year and on a unusually warm evening a couple of weeks ago, they invited us over for pizza.  Just being in their house is an adventure but they are truly dear friends.  My cousin Georgia, Geoff and Jake had arrived for Christmas and so we all walked over there and were in for a treat..  I think what made this experience particularly memorable was the interaction with the youngest members of our party.  Jake at age 8 just loved the pizza making process, as did Rory and Ben.  But it was our conversations whilst eating it that really made an impression.  The emerging of powerful personalities with opinions and plenty to contribute.  I loved that Jake kept whispering to me, asking when and if the subject had changed.  He desperately wanted to keep up.  A delicious evening.




Having family join us from England for Christmas was the best gift ever.  My mother would tell you that Geoff taking over the cooking was the icing on the cake.  He produced a gorgeous dinner of Rib Roast, Yorkshire Pudding, Leeks in Bechemel Sauce, Brussels Sprouts, Carrots and Peas.  Finished off with Traditional Christmas pudding, of course!  There’s nothing like family and to have them here with us, especially after a tough year, made it joyful indeed.  The addition of dear friends, plenty of wine, Christmas Crackers and Charades by the fire completed our festivities.  I felt the most at peace this Christmas than I have in years.



It was a huge year!  But once again, I’m reminded of the pleasure of sitting around a table with great company eating fabulous food.  I’m grateful for the many wonderful experiences I had doing just that in 2017, with the host of phenomenal people I am surrounded by.  Here’s to a great 2018, cheers!


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.

Laissez les bons temps rouler…



It’s time to distract ourselves with food and good times again!  Within days of attending the lovely Bucket Trade Wine Dinner, I gathered with some of my ladies night crew to indulge in a major way at DJ’s Rajun Cajun’s second Wine Dinner in their Garden District banquet room.  A Cajun-style restaurant…New Orleans…naturally makes you think of Mardi Gras, right?  Fat Tuesday is all about over indulgence and so it would have been fitting if this had been held on that day, because wow, did we ever indulge.

My friend and fellow Peru adventurer, DJ,  opened up his much anticipated new restaurant, DJ’s Rajun Cajun last year.  Another great addition to Old Towne.  It has a fabulous patio which is a perfect spot in warmer weather to enjoy a Hurricane cocktail or two.  For this dinner, however, we assembled in the lovely Garden District Banquet room, painted a rich and vibrant teal green and decorated with opulent gilded decorative pieces.  The tables were decorated beautifully which made for grand welcome to what was to be a crazy over the top culinary journey!


Tonight was all about bubbles and while waiting for all the guests to assemble, we were poured a glass of Chloe Prosecco, a lovely start.  We perused the menu for the evening and immediately assumed that the list was all about our choices.  We were soon informed that, no, we were to have it all!   And yes, we did.  A veritable feast washed down with 5 different sparklers….

First course:  a Smoked Tomato Bisque along with a Winter Salad composed of field greens tossed in a honey walnut vinaigrette and topped with baked pears and a goat cheese crisp paired with Opera Prima, Brut from Spain. A delicious and most generous start!


Second course:  We crossed over the Atlantic back to the States to sip on a delicious glass of Mumm Napa, Brut Prestige from California to accompany another generous course of not only Pork Belly Bruschetta but also Deviled Duck Eggs!  The bruschetta included a classic base of a baguette crouton then a layer of mascarpone followed by bourbon apples, caramelized onions and smoked Pork belly.  Decadent indeed!!  And we were only halfway through….


And then came the main course….an extravaganza!  When was the last time you had quail, lamb chops, bouillabaisse, grilled polenta and roasted root veggies on the same plate?   Well, the decadence continued…  Not only did we enjoy a Fried Half Quail with Cranberry Dijon, but also Frenched Lamb Chops with a Jalapeño Mint Pepper Jelly AND a Bouillabaise with Shrimp, Mussels and Crawfish.  But wait….it was paired with the real deal, a glass of Taittinger Champagne Cuvée Prestige Blanc.  Worth the price of admission alone.


Did we need dessert at this point?  Of course not, but we were on a roll…. Funnily enough I’ve never been a fan of Castello Banfi, Rosa Regale but it was a perfect match with the wild berries that had been soaked in it, atop pound cake with whipped cream.   And in keeping with the theme of indulgence, we enjoyed a second dessert of candied figs with mascarpone cream, toasted pistachios, drizzled with a honey whiskey reduction.  I think at this point we were all eating just fractions of the servings and drifting into a sparkling food coma…there are worse things that can happen to you.


DJ and Lance were in attendance for this grand feast, clearly enjoying it all as much as their guests.  You have to love seeing people live out their dreams and DJ was far braver than I could ever have been by opening a second restaurant in Old Towne, his first being the very popular Wabi Sabi.  It was most fitting when he asked the kitchen crew led by Chef Eric, to come out to much applause from all of us in attendance.  It was quite a feat to prepare such a variety of food in such an opulent way and much appreciated.  Did I mention the whole thing was only 50 bucks a person?!  What a night!

On a personal note, you get to know people really well when traveling together and not only were DJ and Lance two of the easiest and most delightful people to travel with when we were in Peru, but their relationship is truly magical to witness.  This wine dinner was tame compared to their wedding, an over the top fantastic New Orleans style celebration that closed the streets in Old Towne two years ago.  Underlying the extravagance of both these occasions however, are two hearts of gold, living their lives with much generosity, kindness, good humor, really hard work, commitment to their community and of course, to having a whole load of fun.  Let’s raise yet another glass of bubbly to all of that!


Bucket Trade Wine Dinner

When asked by friends if I wanted to join them for a four course wine dinner a week ago on a Saturday night, I didn’t hesitate to accept the invitation.  Firstly, I had been mostly bed ridden for almost the entire week with strep and I was finally feeling human again.  Secondly, it was priced at just $25 and probably the best kept secret in town!

The Bucket Trade is a relatively new and fabulous addition to Old Towne Petersburg.  A great space with an impressive selection of not only beer and wine to buy, but also on self serve taps.  So much fun!  You can try it all out without having to commit to a whole glass or bottle.  Owners James and Aimee Hartle have also partnered with Chef Xavier Meers to produce snacks and regular food tastings including a monthly wine tasting dinner.  There are also regular beer and wine tastings and everyone involved is extremely knowledgeable and friendly.  I love this addition to Old Towne!

We began the dinner with a delicious white, a 2015 Madai Godello from Northwestern Spain, paired with a smoked trout mousse on a crouton.  A delightful pairing!  They stayed with the same wine for the second course which was interesting, and it totally worked.  A salad of endive, apple, walnut and blue cheese paired with it perfectly and was a refreshingly crisp prelude to the main course…


Main course?  A lovely venison stew with mash.  Pure comfort with a slight surprise of using pickled pearl onions, an interesting addition (to me) that worked.  It was paired with a 2012 Quinta de la Rosa, a lovely rich, full, big, bold and velvety red from Portugal.


Dinner was rounded out with a fantastic homemade berry ice-cream with a hardened chocolate glaze accompanied by a subtly sparkling sweet Italian red, a Malvasia du Casorzo Dolce.  A delicious end to a most delightful dinner.



As wine dinners go, this one was really lovely.  Very casual and unpretentious, thoughtful, oh so reasonably priced and quite honestly the perfect portions.  We did not leave unpleasantly stuffed nor did we leave hungry.  A happy medium. As we felt so good and it was only 9pm, Kerry invited us all back to her place.  So we stocked up on libations and headed to her house and carried on with the festivities.  The additional wine required more snacks and happily Bart produced Saucy’s newest addition….fried pork rinds!  Coated with their BBQ rub…..SO good.  Kerry gets the blame for any hangovers.



Snow Day!


There’s little more lovely than waking up to discover that your small part of the world has turned into a winter wonderland.  Especially if it’s a Saturday and there is no obligation to be anywhere.  What can result is a blissfully peaceful day of travel and culinary adventure right in your own back yard.  After indulging in a lovely lie in and a nice cup of tea, the boys and I enjoyed French Toast and Maple Syrup for brunch, made with baguette, our favorite kind…

After texting around the usual suspects, plans were made for sledding at 3 followed by Mulled Wine, Beef in Beer Stew and more wine of various kinds.  As we hadn’t played charades at Christmas, that became part of the agenda too.  Old Towne looked quite lovely all covered in snow and the sledders had a blast while the spectators almost froze to death…

After about half an hour of fun, it was time to go back for some mulled wine by the fire.  So, just in case anyone thinks this blog depicts some sort of perfect life, it really doesn’t…. things really do go wrong quite frequently.  Making mulled wine on this day is my case in point.  Silvia’s mother, who lives in Germany, recently went to her local Christmas market and mailed Silvia some mulled wine spices and dried fruits.  We poured a couple of bottles of red wine in a saucepan to simmer with the mixture and soon the house began to fill with the lovely aroma….


“So Cherry, where’s your sieve?” we ask when it seemed like it was ready.  “I don’t actually have one” says Cherry.  So we began with a coffee filter in each glass which proved to be a messy disaster and then ended up lining a strainer with coffee filters and pouring it through that into a mixing bowl.  This then required us to put the bowl of wine into the sink and use a ladle to put the wine in glasses.  A LOT of work for 6 glasses of wine that should have yielded at least 8 but it was delicious and a highly entertaining process!  We snacked on cheese with it and slowly began to thaw and relax.  We then had two different types of beef in beer to eat along with mashed potatoes so our evening was pure comfort.

After food, we played charades by the fire.  The 3 boys teamed with Lucas against us “girls”.  A great way to end our snowy day of adventure.


Ladies Night

“You know, it might be good for you to get out for a drink with some of the girls one night” said my dear friend Hope almost 2 years ago, after I was reeling from my separation….she’s one of those beautiful people in life that everyone should be lucky enough to have in their corner.  She was right, and we made it happen.  We sent out some messages, met at Wabi Sabi on a Wednesday night at 6:30 and so began “Ladies Night”.  In 2 years it’s become so so much bigger as the lives of a dozen+ women evolve and we celebrate, sympathize, support and sometimes simply drink too much wine together.

Eventually, during the warmer months, our Wednesday night gatherings moved to my porch and then when it’s too chilly, to my kitchen.  At one point I was worried that it took away from time with my boys but even they know how important it is.  They love having people in our home and I think that can loosely translate as they love seeing their Momma happy.  This past Wednesday was Ladies Night: Christmas Edition.




Ladies night has gone FAR beyond just getting me out of the house.  Shoot…we all have our burdens to bear and triumphs to celebrate!  What has transpired is a beautiful support network of women in all stages of life, in all chapters of their careers and different statuses of relationships.  No one is exempt from challenges in life and our group is no exception.  Everyone gets their moment to be supported and in return to be a support whether it be battling cancer, giving birth to twins, career challenges, promotions, lifestyle changes, trying to make a decision, relationship issues or simply venting about our  general frustrations or celebrating our victories, however small.  Not everyone comes every week, but if they do, they simply know to show up with a dish and a bottle to share.  Great things happen when ladies gather together with food and wine.

As we approach this Holiday Season, we have all the more to be thankful for.  We are not alone or lonely because we have each other.  These women carried me through a crazy time and to be allowed to even attempt to reciprocate is a priceless gift in itself.  Lucky me.  Cheers to this tribe of phenomenal women!


Celebrating Life



You just have to celebrate birthdays.   It seems that the older you get, the less you worry about the age you are turning and the more you are grateful just to have the opportunity to celebrate.  I have phenomenal friends and two of my favorites have birthdays within days of each other.  Last night we celebrated Aimee and Kerry’s combined 100 years of gracing the world with their extraordinary talents and general loveliness.  When asked what they wanted to do, Kerry said “Steak Night would be perfect”.  As well as sharing a wonderful friendship, the three of us, along with many others, share a love of steak.  The big, fat, juicy kind.  Medium Rare.  Served with salad and potatoes.  And great wine.

We initiated the fledgling tradition of Steak Night about 3 months ago.  Everyone provides their own meat, brings a good bottle of red and I make the sides.  I think it started when we talked about having a hankering for steak but lacking the budget to go out for one.  I have a grill on the side porch of my kitchen and last night Bart braved the cold to grill about 15 steaks perfectly.  Seasoned with just garlic powder, sea salt and pepper, they could not have been more delicious.  We served them with Gratin Potatoes and a salad with Field Greens, Pear and Pomegranate with  Honey Balsalmic Vinaigrette.



Dessert was provided by my mother in the form of two cakes:  chocolate with fudge icing filled with freshly whipped cream and raspberries and a lemon cake with cream cheese frosting.  This was no night for calorie counting… I think we are hoping that the salad and red wine may have negated the damage that the steak and potatoes surely did to our arteries.

I love having a house full of people eating, drinking and laughing.  My boys do too.  It breathes so much life into our home and makes it so much richer.  Fun times with great people.  Cheers to dear Kerry and Aimee!