Ham and Mushroom Mac and Cheese

This is a little off-topic for my Tour Fauquier blog but I mentioned this recipe I had created to friends on Facebook and there were a number of requests for a copy (or an invitation to dinner).  The tools of this blog system provide the easiest way for me to share this with friends.

Mac and Cheese is near the top of the list for American comfort foods, and one of my favorites. I have written many restaurant reviews on TripAdvisor.com and one of the things that will be a disappointment for me is if the mac and cheese is not baked. Mac and Cheese has to be baked in my opinion, and it cannot be properly made with just melted Velveeta-like cheese products.

So this recipe takes some regular spiral-sliced ham from the grocery, adds in some portobello mushrooms, garlic and onions to the elbow mac. I’ve reduced the cheese from my usual five to only three. To try to make it a bit more healthy, I’m using my favorite Smart Balance original spread for sautéing and some olive oil for making a roux (flour thickener).

Today, I baked this in two portions in my tabletop Kalorik Air Fryer oven instead of firing up the range oven. Here’s how it came out of the oven. When I zoom back to show you the oven, the camera angle is all wrong, of course, so please forgive me for that very homemade touch.

Here’s the recipe to download if you’d like it

Also, I had lunch at the Taj Palace Indian Restaurant in Warrenton yesterday and will be posting about that soon.  Great naan!!

You want fries with that?

Simultaneously America’s greatest convenience and greatest embarrassment, fast-food is a part of almost everyone’s life. With about 300,000 operating quick service restaurants in the US, each grossing about a million dollars a year, the small business franchise phenomenon your neighbor owns is as emblematic of Americanism today as is the bald eagle.

Menu, service and facility (including location) are the three pillars of quick service restaurants. All three are huge challenges for a franchisee.  The menu has to at least appear to reflect some awareness of the principles of a healthy diet while still providing food that is super-pleasing and can be prepared in less than two to four minutes. Service expectations of the customer base are extraordinarily demanding, maybe even unrealistic, and certainly not supportive of many aspects of quality food preparation and recipes.

Service expectations of the franchise operators are huge and the franchiser governs the operators using technology that does things like, for example, time how long before someone greets a car in the drive through. Cash fines are incurred for each car that takes too long to order or fails to purchase the amount of food the franchise targets be sold.  “Location, location, location” is still paramount and the cost of snagging the right location is huge. It is a very tough $300 billion business.

As a consumer, I like the drive through fast food concept though I consciously try to manage how often I visit and what I purchase in an effort to eat more healthy. But in today’s lifestyles where everyone over four years old is over-scheduled, the ability to grab something to eat quickly and easily is important.

Without meaning to disparage any individual operation, Warrenton has what I feel is a disappointing drive-through fast food restaurant scene limited to McDonalds, Wendys, Burger King, Taco Bell, Chick-fil-A and Dunkin’ Donuts. Red Hot and Blue has a drive through but they are a completely different restaurant concept and are thus not included in my drive-through focused thoughts here.

The best news of 2018 for the Warrenton drive through scene will be the opening of the new McDonalds being constructed in the previous parking area of what has to be, with its large corner lot, the primo fast food location in town. I blame the horribly inefficient building being replaced for the historic and consistent slowness of the existing McDonalds drive through. If it persists with the new facility then all hell should break loose from the regional franchise rep.

Generally, major renovations of fast food restaurants are only done when the franchisee’s contract is up for renewal.  Part of the conditions of the renewal will be that the franchisee has to construct a facility that meets the current best-design concepts.

McDonalds menu has evolved under the vision of its new executive leadership to innovate all-day breakfast favorites and burger topping choices that invites customer design and solidifies buy-in.  It is working. But much of the menu is still cooked in fat of one form or another and the salads, as with most fast food places, represent some of the highest calorie offerings on the menu. Even with the expanded beverage menu, most drinks are still loaded with sugar or acids that are unnatural to the basic human diet.

The exact service opposite of McDonalds, the drive through at Wendy’s is turbo-charged and at least 90% accurate. They have made drive through work well there for years, often handing me food before I’ve put away my change.  The menu is typical.  While some people say to never eat it, the chili is made from cooked hamburgers that have taken too long to be sold as a sandwich. Honestly, I like it after adding a couple of packets of their chili seasoning to give it a kick. The baked potatoes and french fry

toppings add more variety than other places offer. Frosties provide for an alternative to fried desserts. My unscientific gut feeling is that one can eat more healthily at Wendy’s than McDonalds, if they try.  But their salads are also some of the highest calorie items on the menu. Here is my secret tip: For a $1 donation to St Jude’s hospital at Wendy’s, you can have free very small Frosties the rest of the year.

The Chick-fil-A here must be about ten years old now and it is still packed with its faithfully committed fan base. Honestly, I think their chicken is dry and dreadful, but I am clearly in the minority. The waffle fries are good, but still fried. Unquestionably, the Star of Town Award goes to this drive through for their service levels.  The kids at the window seem like they want to give everyone a hug or deserve a hug themselves. During busy times on the most inclement days, I’ve seen them station two people standing outside in the weather to take and process orders faster than can be done on the intercom.

I don’t know the local franchise family but I eagerly give them special distinction for being supporters of their community. I have seen Chick-fil-A offering free food or specials at more civic occasions in Warrenton than anyone else. While there is a lot I don’t appreciate about Chick-fil-A corporate and the menu offered, you are clearly good neighbors and deserve appreciation from all.  I’m happy that you are apparently finding great success, sometimes causing traffic jams, between BBT and Walgreens. I could not grab a picture of their menu because there was never a break in the drive through line.

tbellTaco Bell finally was able to shed its previously poor location and now has direct access from Broadview Ave. in a late-design building. Their service levels are a little inconsistent, partially because of the all-made-to-order multi-ingredient recipes. But you can easily tell when they are short staffed. The Taco Bell menu frustrates me. Clearly, it proves its worth with nationwide sales success, but this style of food begs for something more than the chain’s one-size-fits-all menu.  Maybe I’m just a believer that Tex-Mex food

Click to view Taco Bell menu

should never be practiced in a fast food franchise. Its a beautiful, flavorful style of food developed from centuries of family innovation and each taco sold (more than a few, I admit, to me) is one bit lost of a beautiful culinary history.

kfcKFC and Long John Seafood share a nearby location. I don’t know the people who own this franchise, nor anything about them, so if they are among the most wonderful people in Fauquier County, please understand this is not personal.  For whatever reason, over almost 20 years of hoping for better from the Warrenton KFC, it never delivers quality food and service on a consistent basis.

KFC changed the spice mix of the original recipe in the past couple of years, I

Click to view KFCs menu

believe, as the product from any location is not what it used to be. The grilled option was to be an exciting healthier alternative years ago but somehow they managed to make it higher calorie than deep fried. Sides are boring and boorish. I confess that while I frequently eat seafood, I don’t eat enough fried seafood to honestly judge if long John’s is prepared well or not.  I only know I have heartburn for a day or two after trying it.

KFC could be great.  But a lot has to change and, for the Warrenton franchise, the change may need to be extensive.

bkingThe Warrenton Burger King also recently did a major renovation and there seems to be a new enthusiasm there.  The building redesign is more efficient and staffing seems to be often taking advantage of things that speed drive through like the new cashier window. Kudos to Burger King for being the only place that offers a true veggie burger! I wish you offered your great hot dogs all year round and pray you never bring

Click to view Burger Kings menu

back those dreadful Cheeto Mac things. But I know you have to do what the franchiser says so I begrudgingly understand.

If you are not aware, the Warrenton Burger King offers one of the best deals in town: $1 for a bag of ice available in the drive through.

Moving into the renovated former location of Taco Bell, Dunkin’ Donuts offers a drive through that features their famous coffee as well as barista specialties and some fast food choices. The coffee is typically great … it is a ddnationwide formula for success. While I’ve only tried a few items, the food appears to be mostly frozen items that are heated somehow and don’t seem personalized, customized and really made for me. So far I’ve not been impressed.  For example, the other day McDonald’s was busy at breakfast and I like their steak and egg bagel breakfast choice.  Dunkin’ was not busy at all and they offered their own version. It was pretty bad, honestly. The meat had a strange texture that made the decent flavor suspect. The egg seemed like it was thawed and heated instead of cooked fresh, but I’m not sure.  And that’s the point… there was nothing about this sandwich from Dunkin’ Donuts I could be sure about. Unfortunately for them, they face their poor location challenge as well as getting the food menu right. The coffee is good though and worthy of a visit.

What drive-throughs do we not have in Warrenton? Arbies, Popeyes, Sonic, Freddies, Captain Ds, and Panda Express to name a few. Not all are available as a franchise, and many franchises are not designed for drive through.  But, if you’ve considered opening and owning a franchise quick service restaurant in Warrenton, here are some franchise opportunities to consider.

I am convinced that drive-through, healthy, quality drive-through food is possible. It may not be as inexpensive as that which can be quickly deep fat fried, but I believe there is a market.  Salads, subs and hot entrees should not be impossible. Years ago I designed a concept for just such a place, down to the menu, but have never been able to try it.  Maybe someone will because while we all appreciate the quick service restaurants and the families that own them here, Warrenton needs more choices.  New choices will not necessarily draw french fry lovers from the deep fryers, but hopefully offer a new world of fresh, millennial-friendly casual dining.

Can I have carrot and celery sticks with that, please?


Gentle Harvest Marketplace

After a splendid picnic wine lunch at Barrel Oaks Winery yesterday, we stopped by ghdecor.jpgGentle Harvest in Marshall, Virginia.  Gentle Harvest, as the name implies is an ecologically sensitive marketplace and cafe.

As a specialty shop, Gentle Harvest has a wide range of products which provide a wide range of choices for almost any culinary interest.  Their butcher shop was impressive with beef that appeared to be nicely aged and expertly carved into various cuts, including an impressive tomahawk steak. Each meat item identified the nearby farm from which it was sourced. While I didn’t engage the gentleman attending the counter about the topic, I feel sure he would know all the fine details of the farm life, if not even the pedigree, of the source stock. Their display inspired confidence in the product quality.

In addition to fresh meats, there are artisan baked products ready to take home and enjoy along with a selection of cakes, pies and cupcakes that were nice, but a little tired late on a Sunday evening. I would wager a visit earlier on a weekday would present much more enticing sweets, but this was one part of the shop that could have used some tightening up.

The building it occupies used to be a bank and they have cleverly used the old bank vault as their “wine vault”. The wine selection appears to be focused on mid range popular labels.  winevaultNothing jumped out at me as particularly unique or special but that’s not a negative point.  They are stocking bottles that people want to buy which means their stock will stay fresh and customers will be happy.

Gentle Harvest occupies two buildings which have been connected and the bulk of the floor space in the original bank building provides typical market shelves featuring organic style and certified products.

Shopping organic is a dilemma for many people.  It is more expensive because, typically, the yield of product from the production effort is less than what non-organic production delivers. In return for that added cost, the consumer enjoys products that inspire more confidence that what one is consuming contains, or was fed, only those things that would be found in the naturally occurring habitat of the original plant or animal.

Raising organic is hard work. From the days when the Native Americans taught the settler-farmers to bury fish among their rows of corn to increase the crop success to the work of Friar Mendel who finally explained the basics of inheritance, genetic ghproducemanipulation of plants and animals has been one of man’s most influential efforts to increase agriculture yields. This doesn’t mean a product is not organic or natural. We only enjoy watermelons today because of centuries of North Americans who cross-pollinated the early melon until it produces the product sold in stores today.

There are those that believe that organic products taste better. I can’t honestly say that I’ve seen that proven.  I can attest that a fresh product, recently removed from the habitat in which it grew into a food product, makes a huge difference. If one finds the intersection of food products thriving in their native habitat with a short route from the point of harvest to your dinner table, they will have found delicious food that is likely to be rich in its individual nutrients.

That’s a challenge for a store like Gentle Harvest. We who shop want to see a wide range of fresh produce, for example, all year around. You can’t have that if your personal rule says that the route from farm to table has to be short. The longer the path the food ghwindowboxfollows to get to your table, the earlier, more immature and less ready-to-eat it has to be harvested.  Someone (you) has to pay for the truck, highway and gasoline or jet fuel that delivered your fresh tomatoes in January from California, Florida or Israel. Keep that in mind when shopping in any organic marketplace. Bask in the knowledge that your sacrifice of fresh tomatoes in winter means that your life is more like the farm life you idealize and admire.

Carry Out and Cafe

About one quarter of the shop is dedicated to a cafe with a menu offering a wide range of ghmenusandwiches, wraps, salads, burgers (including vegan), salads, rotisserie chicken, baked potatoes and bone broth soups.  As mentioned earlier, my visit was at a time when the cafe was winding down for the weekend so I did not get to see any of their actual products. But, the menu is attractive, rich with choices, and surprisingly reasonably priced.

I also found their cooler offering pre-assembled meals for two interesting. Each bag contains the meat, vegetables and recipes for a dinner for two. The recipes seem easy to follow: mainly just instructions to mix and cook the pan-ready ingredients. The choices include the premium meats they offer at the butcher counter and presumably the same veggies and fruits displayed in their produce. Unfortunately the ready to grab-and-go bags were not priced but I love the concept of making a quick stop there to grab an easy to-be-home-cooked dinner for two in the evening, happily avoiding the curse of fast food.


I plan to return soon when it is a better time to try the cafe and to shop for some of those amazing tomahawk steaks to take home to grill. I would also love to try their vegan burgers along with a tasty bone broth and baked potato topped with fresh chives and local organic artisan cheese.  I plan to browse the wine vault more carefully, hoping to discover a surprise. And I’d like to take home a box of the organic King Arthur Popover mix to bake with a nice roast or perhaps those tomahawk steaks.

I asked a young, twenty-something, guy who was shopping in the produce section why he chooses to shop in a place like Gentle Harvest. He said he was a major in environmental sciences so part of his motivation is philosophical.  But his family lives near Marshall and he lives closer to the beltway.  His closest choice for shopping at home is Walmart, so he makes a point to stop at Gentle Harvest when returning from visiting family and friends so that he can enjoy food that inspires more confidence.

Makes sense to me.

Gentle Harvest is located at 8372 W. Main St (Rt 55) at the corner of Frost St., about 5 minutes from I66.  Open 8AM to 9PM seven days a week.

A Dog’s Life

Fauquier quality of life is good. There are family activities, things for children and youth to do, peace, quiet and solitude for those who desire it. Horses may be the lifestyle winners here but on November 18, 2017, things began looking up for dogs.

The opening of the Warrenton Dog Park at the end of South Fifth Street was the result of many long months of locating funding, design and planning resulting in the construction of a wonderful almost-half-acre fenced dog park.  After the imposition a leash law with a hefty penalty, dogs once again have a place to run free, this time without being at risk of traffic or complaints by neighbors.  It is a very good thing, indeed.

The park has ample parking right by the Warrenton Greenway, a fresh water fountain for multiple species of beings (that includes you, humans), benches for relaxing while watching your dog run and play and multiple waste stations so dog owners can do their duty after their pet does his thing.

The park opened after a brief ceremony led by Mayor Powell Duggin, his dog in hand, and was thoroughly enjoyed by about a hundred participants and pets.  TourFauquier.com was on site and is happy to share some of the tails that wagged:

Credit for the music in the video:

Irma Arrives

The outer bands and tropical wind gusts have begun hitting Southern Florida and the Keys, and that is with the eye of Irma still a couple hundred miles away.  This storm is just awesome in it’s size, and awful in it’s power. Reports are readily available in the news and on line and if you are staying in an area designated as an A-level evacuation zone and are not paying attention: You are in serious peril. As was requested in Houston, please write your social security number and name in sharpie on your arm so your body will be easier to identify.

I’m sorry that seems so cold and flippant.  People, including me, make bad choices sometimes.  Riding this storm out is a really bad choice.  Staying at home in that zone means you are trusting your house to endure  hours of 100 mph winds and debris battering it while it possibly sits in as much as 12 feet of water. Once the roof blows off, the walls will fall apart.  Hiding in the bathtub won’t help because it cannot float. Safe shelters are available and you should be at one.

The high pressure system that was holding the storm on it’s path seemed to strengthen late yesterday and has caused the storm to delay it’s turn to the north.  That means the center of Irma will now turn after it passes the Southern tip of Florida and head up the East coast, similar to the path I had predicted (aka: guessed) a week ago.  Unlike my expectations, it will not cross the state around St Pete and head east.  The storm will hit land somewhere between Ft Myers and St Pete and then continue up the coast to the panhandle.  Georgia will take a beating from the rain and by Tuesday it settles and stalls near Nashville.  Rain rain rain.

But, not so much for Fauquier County.  While this track to Nashville is happening, a high pressure cold front is dropping down over us which will actually steer the storm remnants farther west instead of heading up the Ohio valley.  Fauquier will see moderate rain on Monday through Wednesday but by Thursday the 14th we will enjoy the September-like weather and clear skies or only partial clouds.  Apple picking time!

Hurricane Irma Update

There is a lot of serious news coverage on this and I’m pleased they are emphasizing the potential risks of this storm.  Given that, I’ll just cover some quick facts:

  • An eye wall replacement cycle is happening this morning which means the storm has weakened slightly with sustained winds of 155 mph.  That is still like an F2 tornado in wind power, so its still dreadful for anyone in its path.
  • There is some slight indication it may brush closer to Cuba as it approaches Miami.  The mountains in Cuba could weaken it more, however if it tracks 50 miles north then it could also strengthen from favorable conditions.
  • The track continues to take it into Florida somewhere along the southern tip.  It is still too soon to say which side of the state it will lean toward.  Since the state is 160 miles wide and the eye of the storm is 57 miles wide, the worst winds will cover 1/3 of the state wherever it centers, and the entire width of the state will take a brutal wind beating.  The storm field of the system covers 600 miles so it will rain heavily everywhere and initial storm surges will affect both the east and west shorelines.
  • It is likely to be a Cat 4 storm when it hits Florida with winds of 155mph.
  • The Keys and southern Florida will start feeling the storm’s energy Sunday evening and night. That night and Monday morning are going to be unpleasant.  Winds will drop quickly to 105 mph.
  • There is a high pressure system over Colorado and another over the Great Lakes that are forming a low pressure trough that will pull the storm right up through the state of Florida into Georgia and Tennessee. At midnight on Wednesday morning the storm will be near Nashville, TN. and will have deteriorated to 30 mph winds with several inches of rain.
  • The high over the great lakes will move up and allow the remnants of Irma to then flow up the Ohio valley to rain itself out.
  • Fauquier county will experience much less of the effects however we will still receive rain from the storm on Wednesday, maybe starting later on Tuesday evening.  I know this sounds odd, and maybe its only me, but it will even smell like a tropical storm outside that day.  I suspect the rain could linger into Thursday.
  • So far Hurricane Jose is not showing any inclinations toward affecting the mainland US.

Irma update

The path in the next 48 hours is pretty certain with it pushing its way up the east cast of Florida. It will remain a major hurricane for three more days which means that Florida will have some very serious wind damage. The storm surge depths (and thus flooding) really depend on how close the eye of the storm comes to the shoreline. Staying off shore, only the second worst part of the circulation hits Florida. But at 160 mph winds with gusts to 190, second worst is bad as hell. This thing is really now sort of like a gargantuan F3 tornado instead of a hurricane. (OK, technically that’s not at all correct but the spin of the winds in this hurricane are comparable to those in an F3 tornado.)

This morning they expect it to come ashore between Savannah Ga and Charleston, SC as a Cat 2 hurricane and quickly drop to be a Cat 1 hurricane, then likely diminish steadily. I suspect we will have it pass over us as a tropical depression next Wednesday afternoon so we will get winds and lots of rain from Early Tuesday well into the weekend.

For my Fauquier neighbors who may have been planning some sort of outdoor fall festival or event between September 11 to 17, your plans should include preparing for rain and winds that are left over from Hurricane Irma.

For my friends in Nags Head, it looks like very good news if this track holds. It won’t be sunny, but if it behaves this way it looks like your new beach may be spared and you’ll just have several inconvenient days.

HOWEVER… that is a week away and the track of this could/will change. If it shifts further out to sea from Florida, its good for Florida and Fauquier County, and bad for Hatteras. Everyone in Florida, Savannah-Charleston and also the outer banks should still be preparing for the chance of a serious hurricane visiting in a week.

I guess the uplifting message in this is that things could be worse even in the face of what may be the worst storm in history in the Atlantic ocean.

Hurricane Irma

I had to take an involuntary break from TourFauquier for a couple of weeks and have missed my readers and the exciting challenge of discovering and writing about the treasures in Fauquier County, Virginia.  I apologize for the delay.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to drive to Sperryville and compile a list of orchards to return for visits and shopping.  I sense home made pies and apple butter in my future!  Fall is a magical time in the Piedmont and I think may be my favorite season of each year.

I’ve been an amateur weather analyst/forecaster working on micro forecasts for Warrenton for over ten years.  With Hurricane Irma now trending toward a run up the East coast, there is a distinct possibility that we may experience  the hurricane in Fauquier County.  Given that, I thought I’d share my facebook post from earlier this morning where I discuss the possibilities for the hurricane:

“Irma update: Can only speak of trends and indications as nothing is certain this far out. Florida is, of course, preparing and has ordered the evacuation of the keys. This storm could be worse than Andrew was 25 years ago… Andrew had no storm surge.

Now the bad news, and please indulge me to be a little technical. Hurricanes move based on the winds in their area, and the direction of the winds is based on bubbles of air pressure. High pressure bubbles push the storm away, low pressure air bubbles suck the storm toward it.

Earlier I had said I could imagine the storm flowing over Key West, then turning north, hitting St Pete going across the state and then up the east coast. This was based on some various bubbles of pressure I was seeing form over Japan and the northern latitudes. Timing, of course, is everything.

So the low pressure I saw forming has somehow accelerated and continues to speed up. This thing is at an altitude of 40,000 ft and can influence the jet streams that flow about 10,000 ft below it. The top levels of the hurricane can get to the 30,000 ft level and I believe the air above the hurricane can actually move it more effectively than lower air currents.

So the possibility (not certain) is developing that the storm makes a quick turn before it crosses under Florida and then heads up the Atlantic coast line. Since the worst storm damage occurs in the north-east quadrant of a storm, and the US coast is actually at an angle of about 45 degrees toward the north east, this could set up for a lot of damage all the way up the coast. Once it gets to Hatteras, which juts out into the ocean, it would hit hard.

From there it could get pushed back inland sending it up through Virginia, PA and New England. Or it could stay along the coast. I don’t see it moving out to sea because there is a large high pressure bubble that’s stuck over Bermuda and stretches all the way to New York. That will keep it flowing toward land.

I don’t believe this will cross the Gulf of Mexico. The most westerly path, I think, could take it into Mobile, AL. It could still do what I first talked about. Total crap shoot right now.

The next 48 hours will tell the story. Regardless, the most important thing now for everyone in any of the potential paths is to do your prep and stay tuned.”

Things to consider in preparation for a hurricane in Fauquier:

  • Refill prescriptions so you have two weeks worth available
  • Fill your vehicles with gas. Consider whether you need to top off your propane tank(s) for cooking and hot water.
  • If you have a generator, power it up to make sure it is ready to go. If it is portable, decide now where to put it so it is accessible, safe from water and in a place where you can safely connect it to your home emergency circuit or devices you need to power. Have stored fuel to keep it running for three days.  Typically, one tank full of fuel lasts about 9 hours.
  • Eat your stored frozen food in advance of the storm in case you have to go without power for several days.  If you have more than you can handle, and also know how to correctly can foods, consider preparing it and canning it now.
  • Have stored food and water to last 4 days.  Food should be that kind which requires minimal preparation, if any, and should be varied and healthy.
  • Toilet paper.
  • If you are on a well, be sure to stockpile water to use for flushing toilets for several days.  You may need about 1.5 gallons for each flush.  If you are in the midst of a power outage, use dishwater for flushing.
  • Make sure you have batteries for light at night, and also a way to charge your cell phone.  This is especially important if you’ve given up a wired telephone or rely on Internet service for telephone use. You need a way to call for help just in case.
  • Pack a bag with a couple days of clothing and toiletries for each person and put this in your car in the event you have to make a quick exit.
  • Contact a friend and pre-arrange for shelter with them just in case.
  • Prepare for your pets.  They will also need food, water, bedding, litter.  If you have large animals, have a plan for all the possibilities you may face.
  • If you have children, plan for games and other activities to keep them engaged and entertained if there are periods without TV, etc.  If they are bored, they will become more of a burden on the parents who already have a lot to deal with. Keeping them entertained may also help the kids cope with the stress of the situation.
  • Look around your house and property and consider the possibility that wind could blow things around causing damage.  Also consider that water could pool or flood and move things that would not handle that well to a higher place.
  • Visit your ATM and withdraw cash to have on hand just in case merchants cannot process credit cards for some reason.
  • Do you know anyone who is elderly or otherwise unable to care for themselves safely in a stressful situation?  If so, please help them with all of the above.

Late Summer Grilling

Today I’m thinking about the extraordinary Filet Mignon raised by Jessiefilet Straight on his Fauquier county Whiffletree Farm and skillfully dry aged by Todd Eisenhauer at Black Bear Mercantile on Culpeper Street in Warrenton. Literally fork-tender and the flavor of gods when seasoned with Zafferones Steak Rub.

Grillers and gentlemen: If you want to be *the best* in your neighborhood you must have products from these Fauquier merchants on your grill!  Trust me…


And, for a great portable grill, perfect for tailgating, or a convenient stovetop smoker that makes smoking your favorite foods incredibly simple, visit my shop at Zafferones. If you live in Warrenton I will deliver your purchase free. Great for Labor Day and Christmas gifts!

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Bluegrass Happened and the Steel Drums Are Coming!

I didn’t make it there myself but others on Facebook have reported that there were about thirty musicians at Eva Walker Park last Sunday for the bluegrass jam!  Above is a clip of a similar jam from last May.  If you enjoy bluegrass music then Eva Walker Park is the place to be on the second Sunday of each warm weather month.

This weekend’s Bluemont Concert finale features one of the most popular performers for the Bluemont Concert Series: Pan Masters Steel OrchestraThe performance opens on the stage in Warrenton this coming Saturday evening at 7:30pm.

Pan Masters has been a Bluemont favorite for decades and has a deep and broad history in celebrating the beautiful music that can be produced on steel drum instruments. I’ve watched many of their videos on YouTube and couldn’t find any where the technical recording was done well, but this sample above, while an older recording, is one of the best available.

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