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

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!

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

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

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!

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

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

Second Annual Locavore Dinner

Last year’s Locavore Dinner was such a stellar success that the public demanded a Second Annual Locavore Dinner, which was celebrated at a local lake late in the summer. Again, there was a complicated/clever/rigged scoring system created by Cheenius, and again, Cheenius won. Hmm. Scoring went as follows:

4 pts. if you grew/raised it yourself
3 pts. if it came from within a 50 mile radius of your household
2 pts. if it came from within a 100 mile radius of your household
1 pt. if it came from VA.

Freebies: you don’t have to count herbs, oil, vinegar, salt, or pepper.

Estimate each ingredient’s proportion of the whole and multiply by the point value, so the total for the entire dish is out of a maximum of 4 points.

And show your math.

The rules were promptly amended thusly by the non-Cheenius attendees: if you don’t (want to) show your math, you must submit a haiku.

Cheenius won again this year for Most Local with a potato strata created primarily of ingredients grown in her own garden; the Tiny Twosome won Best Tasting with an amazing biscuit-based peach cobbler; and, in the absence of other voters, I hereby declare myself the winner of the haiku competition with a heartfelt poem that is not fit to print on this site.

Thanks to the Cheeniuses for getting us organized and hosting another successful Locavore Dinner! Let’s do it again next year!

Locavore Dinner in Photos

The gorgeous setting, complete with local flowers from a City Market vendor and beeswax candles made by Cheenius herself:

table by the lake

We enjoyed local beverages from Blue Mountain Brewery, Champion Brewing Company, Bold Rock Hard Cider, Barboursville Vineyards, and Prince Michel Vineyard.

local beverages

Nadia’s bacon-wrapped cheese-stuffed jalapeños were a close second in the Best Tasting category.

bacon-wrapped jalapenos

Mr.Dr. Cheenius made an addictive fruit dip with Caromont Farm goat cheese and honey from the Cheeniuses’ own bees. Apples and peaches came from Carter Mountain Orchard.

goat cheese dip

Mr. HP and I brought local beef purchased from JM Stock Provisions, thinking we weren’t just providing a delicious dish, but also crafting brilliant a strategy: our dish had a single ingredient (plus freebies salt and pepper) sourced from within 50 miles of our home. That’s a solid 3-point entry, with no math required!

local flank steaksslicing the steaks

Can you tell we were a mostly vegetable-based group? The winning potato strata, Ewe-nique‘s egg muffins (with sausage!), Annie’s veggie kebabs, and Melissa’s marinated green bean salad were all delicious.

sausage muffins and veggie kebabsa very local plate

Drumroll… the winning dish, a peach cobbler. It was fantastic.

peach cobbler

peach cobbler

To celebrate local food, you need local spirits. Cheenius, ever resourceful, curious, and talented, shared some homemade mead and blackberry wine with us. They were… not so good. But A for effort, Cheenius!

homemade mead and blackberry wine

Winners chose prizes from a variety of environmentally-themed goodies: magazines, books, the best honey around, and local Gearharts chocolate.

the locavore prizes

And finally, where better to pass around samples of Soylent than at a gathering of folks interested in eating REAL food? Mr.Dr. Cheenius ordered it out of curiosity and mixed up a batch at the end of the evening. It could have been that we were all too full from feasting, but it was fairly unanimous among those who tasted it: Soylent is terrible. I thought it tasted like pancake batter, if the pancakes were made of cardboard.

soylent: not local food

For more of Cheenius’ wacky adventures, see:
Cheenius’ adventures in homemade wine
A visit to Vermont’s Shelburne Farms
Cheenius fights the law: Urban Chicken Keepers vs County Planning Commission
Cheenius in Missoula: The Good Food Store
Cheenius and the Mushrooms, Part I

Cheenius’ adventures in homemade wine

More educational fun from Cheenius! Thanks, Cheenius!

What if you could make your own wine???

Well, Cheenius can’t. Or at least the initial attempt was slightly flawed. But, while it was nothing you’d want to force on anyone, Cheenius’ blackberry wine was actually drinkable, and talk about local! Check it out:

Cheenius had been scoping out a nearby empty lot with lots of brambles for some time. Last July she happily trespassed once the blackberries were ripe, and within an hour had a huge bucketful. These wild berries weren’t the tastiest, but Cheenius figured they had enough sugar to make alcohol and make her trespassing worthwhile.

The recipe was easy:

  1. Smash up berries
  2. Let them sit
  3. Add water, wine yeast and sugar
  4. After four days, strain with cheesecloth

straining the wine  becoming wine

Six months later you have something that tastes alcoholic, and with a teaspoon more of sugar to your glass, isn’t too much of a chore to drink. Rousing endorsement, for sure.

blackberry wine

OK, maybe you’re thinking this particular experiment wasn’t a success… and yet, Cheenius MADE ALCOHOL from scratch. That’s like playing God, people.

Malaysian satay recipe

My mother-in-law spent two years in Malaysia with the Peace Corps in the 60s. During that time she was exposed to all sorts of wonderful food, and fortunately for our family, she brought many cooking skills and recipes home with her.

One of our favorite dishes she introduced us to is satay: meat marinated, skewered, grilled, and served with a dipping sauce. Preparation is long and involved, so it’s a special occasion dish, best saved for when it can be tackled as a team effort. This past weekend was just such an occasion: the family was all together!

I bought several pounds of steak and chicken breasts from JM Stock, a local, sustainable butcher in Charlottesville, my brother-in-law provided the marinade and sides, and he and Mr. HP supplied the skewering labor and grilling prowess.

Typically we use flank steak for satay, but JM Stock recommended a bavette steak, which I hadn’t heard of before, and it worked perfectly.

bavette steak

The beef and chicken is cut into thin strips and threaded onto skewers, basted with coconut milk, and grilled, then served with a peanut dipping sauce and accoutrements such as rice squares, cucumber salad, and pineapple cubes.

beef and chicken skewers ready for the grill


basting the chicken

cucumber salad and rice squares

beef skewers

SO GOOD. Thanks, family!




  • 3-4 lbs. thinly sliced meats (flank steak, chicken breasts, tofu)
  • skewers
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • Large ziplock bags


  • 2 T curry powder (Malaysian/Indian brown)
  • 1/2 t anise
  • 1/2 t coriander
  • 1/2 t ginger powder
  • 1/2 t cumin
  • 1/2 t turmeric
  • 1/2 t cayenne pepper
  • 3 T lemon juice
  • 1 t salt
  • 1/2 c vegetable oil
  • 1/2 c soy sauce
  • 4-5 large cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 T sugar


  1. Mix marinade ingredients; add to large ziplock bag with sliced meat and marinate for 1 day
  2. Thread marinated meat onto skewers
  3. Grill skewers, brushing them liberally with coconut milk while on the grill



  • 1 c peanuts
  • 1 large onion
  • 4-5 cloves garlic
  • 1 1/2 in piece ginger
  • 4-5 dried red chiles
  • 3 T vegetable oil
  • 2 t coriander
  • 1 t cumin
  • 1 t curry powder
  • 1 can light coconut milk
  • 3 T brown sugar
  • 2 T lemon juice
  • 2 T soy sauce


  1. Puree peanuts and set aside
  2. Puree onion, garlic, ginger, chiles and set aside
  3. Heat oil in saute pan over medium heat. Cook onion mixture until it smells of onions and garlic
  4. Stir in coriander, cumin, curry powder and simmer on low heat for 5 minutes
  5. Stir in coconut milk, peanut puree, brown sugar, lemon juice, soy sauce until combined



  • 1 1/2 c short grain white rice
  • 2 1/2 c water


  1. Boil water
  2. Simmer rice, covered, for 25 minutes
  3. Press cooked rice into a glass dish; refrigerate at least 2 hours
  4. Cut chilled rice into cubes



  • 3 cucumbers
  • 2 shallots
  • 4 T sugar
  • 4 T white wine vinegar


  1. Chop cucumbers and shallots
  2. Mix sugar and vinegar
  3. Marinate vegetables in mixture overnight

skewered meat with peanut sauce, pineapple, and rice

This post got too long so I’ll save the surprise dessert for another day.

Have you ever made satay? Let us know in the comments!