Franken Stube is wunderbar!

From the age of 3 until I was 8 years old, I lived in Germany due to my father having 3 consecutive postings there with the British Army.  Being so young, I didn’t exactly explore the culinary scene but I do have a few memories of our time there!  When I found out that there was a German restaurant here in Petersburg, and that folks were raving about it, I just had to go and try it myself.  Along with my friends Silvia (who is originally from Germany) and Heather, we headed down there for dinner on a Friday night.  We had made a reservation, which is recommended by the way.

Sometimes a restaurant just surprises you in the most wonderful way.  Franken Stube is housed in a building attached to a Shell gas station just off I-95.  An interesting location to say the least!  When you open the door, you enter into the most delightful, simple café adorned with red and white checked table cloths and curtains, along with German flags and mementos clearly belonging to the owner. There’s even a little market section with a variety of food imported from Germany.


We were warmly greeted by Andrea and shown to our table.  She was busy but fetched us some beer and wine (it’s all German here) while we perused the menu.  So, let me start by saying that this is the kind of place where you feel like you are in someone’s home and, as a guest, you need to treat is as such.  As the restaurant was busy, Andrea was too, so we reassured her that we were perfectly happy to sip on our drinks while she tended to the other guests before taking our orders.  With all the delicious classic dishes to choose from, we needed time to decide anyway!  Silvia opted for a classic Weiner Schnitzel with Potato Salad and Cucumber Salad. I chose the Sauerbraten with Red Cabbage and Spaetzle and Heather went for the Gulasch, served over Spaetzle.  All were delicious!  It really did feel like we were having a lovely home-cooked meal in someone’s house.

When owner Irene Williams can take a break from cooking, she comes out to talk to the customers.  She is delightful, and an inspiration to all. If ever you are wondering about starting over and second chances, she is a shining example showing that anything is possible at any stage in life. A dozen or so years ago, she married Freddie, her second husband, whom she proudly lets you know, is a retired Marine and Vietnam Veteran.  She told us that he wanted to make her dreams come true by helping her open up a restaurant. She is in her sixties. She could be just enjoying retired life with her husband but instead, she is fulfilling her dream and sharing her amazing talents with us all.  I got OUT of the restaurant business at 40! I’m in awe of her!


When we asked her why she wanted to do this and how she got her love of cooking, she explained that growing up she was the oldest girl of 6 children and, with 2 working parents and 3 hungry brothers, she needed to learn how to cook! She has always loved to cook and thought she would like to have a restaurant one day.  She first opened Franken Stube in Emporia and while very popular, she ultimately decided to move it further north towards Petersburg. She still lives in Emporia but says that the 30 minute drive home is her wind-down time. Does she go straight to bed?  No…. she bakes!  Interestingly she told us that her classic Apple Streudel and Black Forest Cake have become very popular with diabetic customers.  As with a lot of European desserts, there is a lot less sugar in them than American style desserts.  Her streudel contains NO sugar – just apples, cinnamon and vanilla.  The only sugar is the confectioner’s sugar sprinkled on top.  The cake contains only about 4 tablespoons of sugar in the ENTIRE cake, with the fruit and the cocoa powder providing the sweetness.  Both were fabulous.

Irene was very pleased to be able to chat away to Silvia in German and they compared stories. Both came here to the States by marrying American soldiers who were serving in Germany.  She was very keen to get Silvia’s opinion about the food and they had a fairly long talk about the schnitzel which Irene explained was thinner than it should typically be, because she was unable to get the right cut from her supplier.  This is a woman who really cares about and loves what she’s doing.  You can just tell that she so enjoys sharing her passion for her native cuisine with her many customers.  We ended up spending 3 hours there chatting and just enjoying the place.  We all got a bit teary eyed hearing her story and after describing her husband Freddie, we asked where he was, and he was immediately brought out to meet us!  What a lovely couple, providing us with a unique dining experience that feels like you are in someone’s home.  But in a gas station just off I-95.  If you haven’t tried it, go experience it for yourself.  I hope you feel the same warmth and welcome and that you love the German homecooked food as much as we did.  Thank you, Irene, for never giving up on your dream.  Wunderbar indeed!




Franken Stube is located at 328 Rives Rd, Petersburg, VA 23805    (804) 805-2482

It is closed on Monday and Tuesday.  Check their Facebook Page for more details.


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.