Third Annual Locavore Dinner

locavore dinner setting

On a lovely late summer Sunday, Cheenius and Mr.Dr. Cheenius graciously hosted a group of enthusiastic locavores for the third annual Locavore Dinner. The first two dinners (recapped here and here) were incredible successes with our small group of ethical-foodie friends and we eagerly anticipated a third dinner. We were not disappointed!

locavore dinner scoring

The Locavore Dinner is not just a potluck; it’s a competition. Dishes were scored for localness again this year, but the math was simplified, due to Cheenius and her garden always winning the most-local awards:

  • 1 point if an ingredient came from within 100 miles
  • 2 points if an ingredient came from within 50 miles
  • 3 points if an ingredient came from Charlottesville/Albemarle County

In addition to Most Local, two Best Tasting awards were also up for grabs.

As in years past, entries were mostly veggie-based, with the notable exception of Mr. HP’s sausage, which we thought was a shoo-in for Most Local (gaming the system again–see our entry from last year)… until we saw that the point system would not grant full credit to an item from just over the Albemarle County line in Nelson.

locavore dinner appetizers

For appetizers, we enjoyed Annie’s bruschetta (made from local tomatoes purchased at Integral Yoga), truffled goat cheese from Caromont Farm, homemade homegrown tomato jam that I received as an instructor gift when I gave an entomophagy presentation to a local environmental group, deviled eggs from Cheenius’ own chickens, and bread purchased from the Charlottesville City Market and MarieBette Bakery.

locavore dinner dishes

The main event featured Mr. HP’s sausage from Rock Barn; roasted potatoes with rosemary, both from Cheenius’ garden; and Roger’s sweet carrot and apple dish, with carrots and apples from Charlottesville City Market.

Dessert was Melissa’s delicious crumble starring Saunders Brothers peaches, which I voted for as Best Tasting; she was edged out by Mr. HP, who voted for himself four times to secure the victory. My tomato jam with MarieBette bread was the controversial winner of Most Local. Yay math! Prizes included a jar of honey from Cheenius’ bees, a felted wool pouch from a City Market artisan, and a special t-shirt from Cheenius’ childhood with a theme quite unrelated to this event.

locavore dinner japanese soda

No award was given for least local, but Jay would have won easily with his contribution of Japanese octopus-flavored soda. It was surprisingly inoffensive.

As we ate and caroused, we sipped local beer, wine, and cider. The Charlottesville area has no shortage of local alcohol. See: Brew Ridge Trail, Monticello Wine Trail, and the Virginia Cider and Apple Trail. We also have a few distilleries, none of which I have visited yet, but as I take my job of reporting on local culinary happenings very seriously, I will have to check them out soon.

The Locavore Dinner just gets better and better, thanks to the Cheeniuses’ generosity and gorgeous venue, and the participants’ creativity and conviviality. Can’t wait for Year Four!

locavore dinner setting

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Driving really far for local food (and beer)

arches national parkHello, Haute Pasture, I’ve missed you! The HP family recently returned from a multi-month road trip, seeking to experience as much local food and drink (and scenery and hiking and culture) as we could. We drove about 7,500 miles over 99 days, stayed at 42 campsites across 17 states, and enjoyed some fantastic local food and beer (we visited 78 breweries along the way). I had big plans of writing up descriptions of our favorite local discoveries as we went, but real life (as real as day after day spent hiking countryside and exploring towns can be) got in the way and I only got a few posts up from the road. Rather than writing individual posts for the remaining highlights, I’ll give an overview here, in the hopes of a quicker return to focusing on Central Virginia’s local food and drink scene.

Local favorites, not local to Virginia

The following food and drink establishments are restaurants, shops, and breweries which we especially enjoyed on our 17-state journey, that grow their own ingredients, source ingredients from local farms listed by name on their menu, or sell products created by local farmers and artisans. The local animal products sold by these businesses are from nearby farms that treat animals humanely, and the environment ethically. (See “Why should I care?” for more on that topic.)

bluff - 6 james ranch food cart durango

In Colorado, we loved
The Farmhouse at Jessup Farm in Fort Collins: Jessup Farm is a cluster of restored farm buildings housing a bakery, coffeeshop, brewery, a few boutiquey non-food businesses, and a quaint and cozy farm-to-table restaurant, The Farmhouse. Food and cocktail ingredients come from the small backyard garden (with a larger plot in the works) and chicken coop, and from nearby farms. Everything we tried was phenomenal.
James Ranch in Durango: This gorgeous family farm welcomes guests to purchase prepared foods, meats, and other farm-made products at a small market, or stroll the grounds admiring the happy animals. I wrote about our stop at the ranch here.
Farm Bistro in Cortez (near Durango): Farm Bistro is both a cafe serving locally-sourced food and a market selling locally-produced meats, honey, prepared foods, and body care items. We ate there a couple times, as detailed here.
Roan Creek Ranch Grocery in Fruita (near Grand Junction): Roan Creek Ranch raises grass-fed cattle and lambs, and pigs with no hormones or antibiotics. The animals have a peaceful, natural life and are humanely slaughtered. The little shop sells the ranch’s meat along with local produce, eggs, honey, cheese, and other handmade goods. Roan Creek Ranch is owned by a veterinarian who purchased the business so that she could feed her children meat she had raised herself, in the ethical way she desired.

hells backbone grill dinner hiking with cricket bars and 59in59

In Utah, we loved
Comb Ridge Bistro in Bluff: What luck to roll into dusty little Bluff and find a bustling bistro featuring local foods and humane meats! Plus, the food is delicious. Read more about our visits here.
Hell’s Backbone Grill in Boulder: This was our favorite local-food find of the trip. In the middle of the incredibly gorgeous Scenic Route 12 in Southern Utah sits this lovely, upscale restaurant featuring produce from the restaurant’s own farm and meats from the same tiny town. We loved dinner so much we went back for breakfast, as I wrote about here.
Moonflower Community Cooperative Natural Foods Store in Moab: I love a co-op grocery store, and this is a nice, big one where we stocked up on a ton of local produce. The highlight for me, though, as an entomophagy enthusiast: Moonflower carries Chapul cricket protein bars! Chapul is based in Salt Lake City, so I figured I’d run into them somewhere in Utah, but Moonflower was the only place I hit the cricket jackpot, and the crickets powered me through some tough hikes. (Exo helped friends and me hike in Texas, too; kooky friends pictured above.)

brewery terra firma lake michigan sleeping bear dunes

In Michigan, we loved
Brewery Terra Firma in Traverse City: Terra Firma grows some of the ingredients for its beers on its own farm, which employs innovative sustainability concepts to reuse and recycle: spent grain is spread on fields to improve soil, waste water irrigates and fertilizes crops, and excess heat from the brewing equipment is harnessed and used to heat the taproom. Bonus points for a dog-friendly patio and a scrumptious basil beer.
Keweenaw Co-op in Hancock: Like I said, I love a good co-op. This one is big, full of local and organic produce, and has a deli where you can pick up a sandwich made with local veggies for a day of exploring the Keweenaw Peninsula. We stayed across the river in Houghton and did a big restocking of our food supplies at the co-op.

diablo burger sedona hiking

In Arizona, we loved
Diablo Burger in Flagstaff: This small chain of burger joints sources all its beef from partner ranches in the Diablo Trust, a collaborative effort to produce grass-fed, humanely-treated cows on farms that protect the watershed and wildlife through land conservation programs and sustainable agriculture. Read about our dinner here.

We were thrilled to discover so much delicious local food and drink along our travel path, sometimes seemingly out in the middle of nowhere. To me, searching out places to try local food is an important part of experiencing an unfamiliar town or region. You may encounter an ingredient you’d never eaten, or an interesting twist on an old favorite. I can’t wait for the next adventure; until then, I’ll happily keep exploring the food of Charlottesville and Central Virginia!

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Comb Ridge Espresso Bistro, Bluff, UT

bluff - 7

Bluff is a tiny, dusty town in far southeastern Utah, surrounded by incredible scenery including Monument Valley, Goosenecks State Park (pictured above), Valley of the Gods, ancient ruins, canyons, the list goes on. The town itself, while a central base for exploring the surrounding area, is nothing to write home about (granted, we were there in April, which is still technically the off-season). Comb Ridge Espresso Bistro on the main drag in “downtown” Bluff was a welcome and delightful surprise, a oasis focused on high quality, local ingredients and wonderful service, in a desert of dining options. We went for wifi, an appetizer, and local beer on our first afternoon in town, and returned a couple nights later for dinner and dessert(s).

Comb Ridge only serves local humanely-raised meat, and sources ingredients locally when possible. It’s a charming, cozy spot serving upscale comfort food in a place where you’d least expect it!

bluff - 6 bluff - 5 goosenecks state park bluff

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James Ranch, Durango CO

james ranch market durango

Last Friday we were driving from Durango to Silverton and Ouray (on an incredibly scenic road–if you are in the area, do it), and just north of Durango we saw a sign for James Ranch Market: Open Saturday. It being mid-April, farmers market-type places are in short supply, so we happily returned the next day to check out the James Ranch offerings. It’s a gorgeous property, with rolling green fields dotted with cows, a mobile chicken coop, picnic tables, and a little burger hut serving their own beef and cheese, in addition to the shop selling the farm’s products. We were disappointed that we’d already had breakfast so didn’t get to try a burger, but we did buy some ground beef, flank steak, and eggs, and strolled the grounds hoping to spot some baby animals.

james ranch food cart durango james ranch durango cheese james ranch durango meat cooler

James Ranch raises beef cows on a 100% grass diet with no chemicals or hormones. The beeves (a new word to me since spending time out West and I love it) spend their entire lives with the family herd in a stress-free atmosphere. The dairy cows and goats also live on grass, or rather leaves, bark, and shrubs for the goats. Pigs are new to the farm, living in herds on pasture, able to root and wallow like pigs do. Chickens are pastured too, happily eating fly larvae from cow pies to keep the fly population in check–and they have a guard donkey to protect them from predators!

james ranch durango picnic area james ranch durango pasturesjames ranch durango pastures james ranch durango

The James family practices sustainable agriculture in preserving soil and water quality, and believes in transparency in farming: they encourage consumers to visit the farm to see where the meat, eggs, and milk come from and how the animals are treated, and if you have questions about the animals or the meat, they are happy to answer them. It’s how a farm should be!

james ranch durango james ranch durango grass fed beef

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The Farm Bistro in Cortez, CO

the farm bistro cortez

It’s always exciting to pull into a tiny town in the middle of nowhere and find a bustling restaurant focused on local and sustainable food and drink sources. We stopped for lunch in Cortez, CO on the way to Durango and chanced upon The Farm Bistro, a charming little equine-themed (decor, not food) restaurant with a small retail area full of local meats, eggs, produce, grains, prepared foods, and body products. We picked up some local pastured eggs, steak, sausage, and a phenomenal (local) honey dill mustard. Lunch was lovely, and a few days later when we spent a couple nights in Cortez, we were happy to return for dinner.

the farm bistro cortez local goodsthe farm bistro cortez

The Farm Bistro sources much of its produce from its own organic farm in the next town, and the owners are dedicated to purchasing as many ingredients as possible from local farmers. The bar serves local beer, wine, and spirits, and the service and food are great!

the farm bistro cortez principlesthe farm bistro cortez local meat

(Note the yak ranch meat in the photo above–how often does an East Coaster see that?) We were in Cortez to visit Mesa Verde National Park to see the large, well-preserved Native American cliff dwelling ruins. The Cortez/Dolores/Mancos area is also home to fantastic hiking and mountain biking. All three towns have breweries too, if you like local beer as much as you like local food!

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Hell’s Backbone Grill, Boulder, Utah

What a surprise to find, in the middle of nothing but glorious hiking, hiking, and more hiking: an upscale farm-to-table restaurant in Boulder, Utah. Hell’s Backbone Grill is committed to sustainability and sources ingredients from their own organic farm a few miles away and from local grass-fed lamb and beef raised in Boulder. We went for dinner and had such a great experience from service to cocktails to food that we made another slightly harrowing trek over the Hogback on Scenic Highway 12 for breakfast. If your travels take you anywhere near Boulder, Utah, you owe yourself a visit to Hell’s Backbone Grill.hells backbone grill menu hells backbone cocktails hells backbone trout pate hells backbone salad hells backbone dessert menuhells backbone grill breakfast

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Sharing the cricket love in Guadalupe Mountains National Park

A few weeks ago we visited Guadalupe Mountains National Park in northwest Texas, just south of Carlsbad Caverns National Park. While there, we went for a spectacular hike with the guys from 59in59. They travel with a truck loaded with quick energy food, but were happy to fuel up for our hike with some cricket power in the form of Exo protein bars from my stash. Reviews were positive!

hiking with cricket bars and 59in59

The 59in59 guys, Darius and Trevor, quit their jobs last June and began a mission to visit 59 National Parks in 59 weeks to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. Learn more about their adventures, and get inspired to get outdoors, on their site,

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Diablo Burger, Flagstaff AZ

HP has been quiet lately because we’ve been on the road, searching the country for the best examples of sustainable meats and animal products! Last week, we had the pleasure of eating dinner at Diablo Burger, in Flagstaff, Arizona.

diablo burger flagstaff

Diablo’s burgers are made from local, grass-fed, pasture-raised, antibiotic- and hormone-free cows from their partner ranches. All the beef they serve comes from the Diablo Trust, a collaborative land management group that focuses on sustainable agriculture, watershed improvements, wildlife protection, land conservation, and education.

Diablo Burger sources as much as they can from “local farmers, ranchers, bakers, cheese-makers, brewers, vintners, and other producers… from within a 250-mile radius.” A Diablo Burger is especially good paired with a local beer!

Diablo Burger also has a location in Tuscon, and is coming soon to Phoenix. Go eat a happy burger if you’re near a Diablo in Arizona!

diablo burger

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A day of local hiking, eating, and drinking in Roanoke, VA

We’re trying to hasten the passing of winter by doing little road trips to explore the local food and beer in some towns near home, including Fredericksburg, VA, and now Roanoke, VA. The Roanoke area is home to several breweries, has a growing local food scene, and with its location in the Blue Ridge Mountains, is close to some fantastic hiking. Here are our picks for hiking, beer, and food in Roanoke.

Hiking near Roanoke

McAfee Knob

The excellent site for Virginia hiking, HikingUpward, shows a few great options for hiking a short drive from Roanoke, but I knew I wanted to do McAfee Knob. The photo op at the top is incredible: a rocky ledge overhanging wide views of the Catawba Valley far below framed by ridge after ridge of blue mountains. The downside of this hike is its popularity: because it’s a killer view so close to Roanoke, it’s very busy. Our solution: hike it on a day that’s so cold, nobody else would want to go. We got up early on a blustery below-zero morning and saw only a few other hardy/crazy groups on the trail. It’s an easy 8-ish mile out-and-back.

mcafee knob

Breweries in and near Roanoke

We loved Soaring Ridge Brewery near downtown Roanoke. The tasting room is in a big warehouse, but the raised bar and cornhole area in the middle makes the space feel less cold and industrial. There was a BBQ food truck outside when we were there and a stage for live music. The garage doors lining the side of the tasting room can open for nice weather (not the case when we were there) and YOU CAN BRING YOUR DOG INSIDE. Oh, and the beer is great. They offer 6 beer flights, and their beers range from a white ale up to a porter; our favorite was a delicious grapefruit IPA.

roanoke - 13 soaring ridge beer list roanoke soaring ridge brewing

The feel at Big Lick Brewery, across from the newspaper building downtown (where you can see the presses running in the window if your timing is right), is dark and cozy, with limited open hours, and now that I’m exploring their website I see that THEY ARE ALSO DOG-FRIENDLY. Get with it, Charlottesville breweries! Anyway, for such a small operation, they have an impressive array of beers. Our only complaint was paying $10 for a teeny tiny crabcake from the food purveyor of the day.

big lick brewing company big lick brewing company big lick beer list

Can you believe it–Parkway Brewing Co also ALLOWS DOGS. The tasting room is big and bright, with a stage for live music, and the best assortment of branded clothing I’ve seen at a brewery. A taco truck was parked outside when we were there. We got flights and were not surprised (since we’d had them before) that our favorites were the Majestic Mullet Krispy Kolsch, Get Bent IPA and Factory Girl Session IPA.

roanoke parkway brewing roanoke parkway brewing roanoke parkway brewing

Local Food in Roanoke

We had lunch at Local Roots farm-to-table restaurant, which I found by googling “roanoke local food.” It’s in Grandin Village, a cool little collection of shops and restaurants that from May to October has a community market featuring local, sustainable food, and live music. The restaurant sources ingredients from neighboring communities along the Blue Ridge; the list of farms they work with is impressive, but unfortunately I didn’t get a picture of it. The staff was enthusiastic and knowledgeable, and we both really enjoyed our dishes.

roanoke local roots restaurant roanoke local roots restaurant

Roanoke Natural Foods Co-op is across the street from Local Roots; there’s also one in downtown Roanoke. Anytime I see a food co-op I have to check it out. (See what I mean?) They sell local, organic, seasonal produce; local dairy items including milk and butter from our favorite Homestead Creamery in Wirtz, VA; pastured beef from Polyface Farms in Swoope, VA, and organic enriched-environment (NOT free range/pasture raised) chicken from Red Wheelbarrow in Harrisonburg, VA; local and regional beer; and all the natural body products, bulk foods, pet foods, etc you’d expect to see at a natural foods store.

roanoke co-op natural foods roanoke co-op produce section roanoke co-op red wheelbarrow roanoke co-op polyface farms meat

We have a couple more breweries on the list to hit for next visit, including Flying Mouse Brewery in Troutville, and Roanoke Railhouse Brewery in downtown Roanoke. What other breweries, local food spots, and hikes near Roanoke should we check out?

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A local running, eating, and drinking afternoon in Fredericksburg, VA

Happy New Year!

Today we spent the afternoon in Fredericksburg, VA, going for a run, stopping at a couple local beer establishments, and walking the dog along the downtown shopping corridor. Many shops were open, and people were out and about enjoying the sunshine, but the restaurant I really wanted to try, Foode, closed at 2, so we didn’t get to try it. Here’s what Foode is all about, from their website:

We have fantastic, organically- grown vegetables from Washington’s Birthplace, heirloom produce from Spotsylvania County, organic beef, free-range chickens, and hormone free eggs from Gladys, VA, along with other great ingredients from across Virginia that we proudly serve every day at our restaurant. We’re happy to report that, on any given day, we source between 85% to 90% of the food we serve at FOODE from the local farms and merchants we are honored to work with.

I hope to try it next time I’m in Fredericksburg! We had a good food afternoon regardless, and got in a little local beer tour. If you have a few hours to kill in Fredericksburg, consider this as a possible itinerary:

  1. Go for a run to work up a calorie deficit. We did a four-mile out-and-back on the Belmont-Ferry Farm Trail just north of downtown. The paved path features a couple decent climbs (we are used to running in Charlottesville, after all), a river view, and a stretch of dirt/crushed gravel surface.
  2. Refuel with lunch and craft beer at Spencer Devon Brewing, just off the main downtown shopping avenue, Caroline St. Both food and beer are made with local and seasonal ingredients. After enjoying our sandwiches, a Pale Ale, and a Pilsner, we got a growler to take home for later. eating local tastes better
  3. Continue the beer tour with a stop at Adventure Brewing. It’s a big, open space with sports on TV and board games along the wall, and when we were there a food truck was parked outside. We had flights of seasonals and standards of the wheat, IPA, and Pale Ale varieties… but I really want to try this one coming out in just a few days! adventure brewing flight

Let us know in the comments if there are special local spots we should hit next time we’re in town!

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