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

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

HP Science Project: Horseback Butter Churning

Recently I attended Transition Charlottesville‘s butter churning skillshare, where Cheenius and Butter Boy taught me that it is possible to make butter by pouring cream into a jar and shaking it. Magical!

But it gets better! They next said you can put the cream jar into a backpack and take it for a hike and it will slosh itself into butter! I immediately thought of horseback riding as an potential jar agitator, and over the weekend I conducted a little experiment. I am happy to report that it was a delicious success! Read on for the details of my science project (please imagine you are viewing a science fair display board) and to learn how you, too, can churn butter on horseback.


Is it possible to shake a jar of cream into butter during a session of horseback riding?


If I put jars of cream into a pack on my back and ride my horse, then at the end of the session I will have jars of butter.



: supplies

  • Heavy whipping cream
  • Jar
  • Backpack
  • Bowl, spoon, fresh water (not pictured, for rinsing the butter)
  • Bread (vehicle for finished product)
  • Horse
my unwitting accomplice

my unwitting accomplice


1. Let the cream sit on the counter for a couple hours to come to room temperature. Fill the jar(s) about halfway with cream. 

jars of cream

2. Put the jars in a backpack. I used a lumbar pack and started with the jars in the main pocket, moving them later to the water bottle holders to keep them from knocking together.


3. Ride your horse. Do not fall off your horse with jars on your back. Do not freak out your horse with the strange jar noises coming from an unknown (to horse) location.

horseback butter churning!

 4. Halfway through your ride, check the jars. You should see a thick sludge of whipped cream. If you have to remove your pack in the middle of your ride because your horse didn’t appreciate the clatter and threatened to unload you, you may have to do some shaking by hand afterward to reach the solid butter stage.

halfway there, and had to remove pack due to irritated pony

halfway there; had to remove pack due to irritated pony

all the way there, after a bit of hand shaking

all the way there, after a bit of hand shaking

5. Once you have a solid ball of butter sloshing in buttermilk, scoop the butter into a bowl and rinse it a few times, mashing it around to get all the buttermilk out. Buttermilk left in the butter will mold and turn the butter rancid quickly.


6. Eat the butter!




I noticed when we started trotting that the jars were a bit noisy, and my horse was acting up a little. My horse is normally sassy, so it’s hard to say if she was reacting to the scary sounds or just being her usual self, but when we started doing more serious work I decided to take the pack off to avoid upsetting her. After about 20 minutes of bouncy riding, the jar contents were a heavy sludge of whipped cream and a friend (hi Josh!) and I finished shaking the jars by hand after we rode. It took less than 5 minutes of shaking to get to the butter stage. I did not expect the jars to make so much noise in the pack (even when separated) and next time will wrap them in cloth to muffle the sounds to spare my poor, sensitive princess pony.

While horseback butter churning may take longer than shaking a jar by hand, it requires less effort. Next time I will give the cream more time to completely warm to room temperature before beginning, to shorten the time required to reach the butter stage, as warmer molecules move faster than cooler molecules. I could also try adding an agitator like a marble or wine cork to the jar to speed up the process.

The type of riding, and the intensity of your session, will affect the time required to reach the butter stage: mellower types of riding, like Western pleasure, where there’s no posting and gaits are smooth, or trail riding at slow speeds, are less bouncy than typical English hunter/jumper riding; and a casual stroll will agitate the cream less than a vigorous training session.

Time to reach butter stage (in minutes):

time to butter graph

Perceived effort required to reach butter stage, on a scale of zero to ten:

effort required

The effects of smoothness and intensity of the ride (rated on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being most roughest/most intense) on the total time required:

effect of types of riding chart

Level of annoyance felt by horse, as a percentage of maximum possible annoyance:

level of horse's annoyance

(Note: these graphs are not based on real data)


Is it possible to sufficiently shake a jar of cream into butter during a session of horseback riding?

Yes! While my jars didn’t quite reach butter stage before I removed my pack, I am confident that they would have if I had kept the pack on until the end of my riding session, based on the short length of hand-shaking time required to finish the butter.

Additional findings:

  • The reason this works is because heavy cream is an emulsion of fat and water, and the shaking causes the fat molecules to stick to each other, building up clumps of butter. See a better science-y explanation here.
  • Two (half) jars of cream turns into A LOT of butter. Bring more bread next time.
  • People at your barn will think you are strange if you attempt this.