Friday, May 18, 2012

Out for a Ride: Monacan Park, Woodruff’s Café & Pie Shop, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and Shenandoah National Park

Sometimes you just have to get out of the house.  That’s what I did with my family last Saturday.  It was a gorgeous day so we grabbed our cameras and went for a ride.  We aimed at heading to Shenandoah National Park but weren’t tied to any particular schedule since it was 3 pm by the time we got going.  Here’s what we did and saw along the way. 



We headed north out of Lynchburg, VA on Route 29, drove through Madison Heights, and turned left on 130.  Along 130 in Elon you will find signs pointing you left toward Monacan Park.  The park, located in Amherst County, is named after the Indian tribe that once roamed the area.  It is set along the banks of the James River in a beautiful and peaceful setting.  There is a boat ramp, picnic pavilion, play area for kids, restrooms, and plenty of places to park a chair by the river and do some fishing.  We saw lots of fish activity on the surface of the water and heard a splash from a particularly large one.  Sadly the people I spoke with said nothing was biting that day. 

 
After leaving Monacan Park, we headed West on 130 and made a quick stop at Woodruff’s Café and Pie Shop (3297 Elon Rd., Monroe, VA).  The shop is located in a store from days gone by and is run by Angela Scott who offers a lunch menu of sandwiches, hamburgers, hot dogs, salads, and devilled eggs.  The real draws though are her delicious pies and turnovers.  Particular favorites for our family are the sweet potato turnovers, the coconut cream pie, and the buttermilk pie!





Pie in hand we continued West on 130 and took a right onto the Blue Ridge Parkway.  The parkway is 469 miles of roadway connecting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina to the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia.  There are plenty of scenic overlooks, places to picnic or camp,  hiking trails, and more.  Along the way, we made many stops for photo ops, the restroom, and to eat our pie.







(Okay, I admit I was a little too fascinated with the patterns and texture made by the growth on these trees!)












After many stops, we finally reached the entrance to Shenandoah National Park at Rockfish Gap near Waynesboro a little after 7 pm.  We drove into the park a ways and took just a few pictures before we realized it was getting late and we were all hungry.  So after a quick meal in Waynesboro, we headed home, tired, but pleased with the day! 




Saturday, May 12, 2012

Seaman's Orchard: Strawberry Fields Forever

Spring is here and it’s time to pick strawberries.  But where are you going to go in Central Virginia to do that?  There are numerous places but I’ve found one that I really like in Nelson County, Virginia.  It is Seaman’s Orchard. 

Seaman’s Orchard has been family run for over 73 years.  In addition to strawberries, they also grow pumpkins, apples, cherries, and next year will also have blueberries.  You can pick your own strawberries or call ahead and they will have some picked for you.  The farm is located between Amherst and Lovingston and the drive there is lovely. 

View on the way to the orchard!
You can check out their website at www.seamansorchard.com for more information on what is in and when.  Next month, it should be cherries!  So, take a trip over to the orchard and tell them Cindy at explorevirginia.blogspot.com sent you!

P.S. Check out my post ("Strawberry Dreams for the Budget Conscious") on my other blog at www.southernfriedandtiedup.blogspot.com for ideas on what to do with all of those beautiful strawberries!


Friday, May 11, 2012

What, no posts?

Hello, friends!  I know it’s been a while.  No, I didn’t fall off the proverbial map but maybe, the proverbial horse.  You see, I just experienced what we all experience every now and then…a too busy life with too many things to juggle.  For more on this, please check out my blog at www.southernfriedandtiedup.blogspot.com .  However, please know that this blog (www.explorevirginia.blogspot.com) is back open for business and a post regarding a great new fried chicken joint will follow soon!! -- Cindy at explorevirginia.blogspot.com


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Chincoteague & Assateague: Where the Ponies Run Free

It’s mid-January and we’re all getting a little tired of contending with cold, blustery weather.  Dreams of summer vacation dance in our heads and we all wonder, where will I go this year?  Well, look no further than Chincoteague and Assateague! 

Chincoteague and Assateague are islands off the coast of Virginia, or more specifically, the Eastern Shore.  The Eastern Shore is a peninsula that dips down from Maryland and is part of the state of Virginia.  Along the upper eastern side of the peninsula, you will find Chincoteague and the beginnings of Assateague.  I say the beginnings because Assateague actually extends into Maryland and covers 48,000 acres with 37 miles of pristine beach.  On the Virginia side of Assateague you will find the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. 

Some of you may be thinking, wasn’t there a book called Misty of Chincoteague?  And you would be correct.  The book, written by Marguerite Henry, was set on the islands of Chincoteague and Assateague and tells the story of the Beebe family and their efforts to raise a filly born to a wild horse.  And that is what people come for--to see the wild ponies!

Wild ponies have roamed freely on the beaches and in the pine forests and salt marshes of Assateague since the 1600’s and are a major draw to the area even today.  But they are not the only draw as Assateague is also home to Sika Deer, Red Fox, Delmarva Fox Squirrel, Atlantic Bottle Nose Dolphin, Peregrine Falcons, Bald Eagles, Great Horned Owls, and a number of other birds.  It is also a migratory path for some 300 species of birds throughout the year which makes it a hot spot for bird watchers. 

There are beaches to visit during the day along with walking and biking paths around the island and the lighthouse but since Assateague is a part of a national refuge, you cannot stay overnight on the island.  You’ll be able to find accommodations on Chincoteague in the form of motels, bed and breakfasts, and houses for rent.  There are no high rises though as the island has an ordinance limiting the height of buildings.  The town is quaint with lots of restaurants, gift shops and artists galleries.  If you’re interested in being active, you can rent mopeds, bicycles, and even go kayaking on the ocean or bay sides of the island. 

Hopefully the pictures I’ve included from the couple of visits I’ve made to Chincoteague and Assateague will convince you that it is definitely worth the trip!  And don’t forget to tell them Cindy at explorevirginia.blogspot.com sent you!









Friday, December 30, 2011

Montana Plains Bakery: Black Forest Cookies to Die For!

Want a local bakery that uses only the finest ingredients and makes artisan crafted breads and pastries?  Look no further than Montana Plains Bakery found in two convenient family owned and operated locations in Lynchburg, VA. 

It is the type of place that is overwhelming at first.  The choices in loaves of bread, pies, cookies, rolls, brioche, quiche, salads, soups and coffees will leave you wondering what to start with first.  Never fear though because the bakers also take turns serving the customers so they are on hand to answer any questions. 

What have I found of particular interest during my excursions to Montana Plains Bakery?  I love the quiche!  In particular, the breakfast quiche and the  Southwestern quiche (which contains egg, cheese, chicken, onions, green and red peppers, and corn).  I also enjoy the spinach and cheese brioche.  For the brioche and the quiche, ask the staff to heat it for you to make it extra yummy!  Or you can choose a salad with almonds, raspberries, and goat cheese topped with strawberry ranch dressing if you like.   And don’t forget the chocolate cheesecake!
However, saving the best for last, I confess the pièce de resistancé for me is the Black Forest Cookie!  After my first bite I knew I was in love.  Imagine, if you will, a chocolate cookie with chunks of chocolate, walnuts, dried cherries, raisins and cranberries combined into the most deliciously crunchy and chewy cookie and you will begin to understand the reason for my devotion.  But don’t take my word for it.  Stop by Montana Plains Bakery for a Black Forest Cookie and tell them Cindy at explorevirginia.blogspot.com sent you! 
Two locations:  4925 Boonsboro Rd., Lynchburg, VA 24503 and 102 Tradewynd Cir., Lynchburg, VA  24502.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Emerson Creek Pottery Outlet: Great Shopping in the Boondocks

In November, I was perusing the wares for sale at an art/craft festival in Myrtle Beach, SC.  One of the artisans was a potter who was selling, among other things, a small pottery colander meant for rinsing cherry tomatoes, berries, grapes, and the like.  It had a drain to catch the water and could be left on the counter for anyone to eat the freshly cleaned produce.  I thought it was adorable and practical but, being on a budget, I couldn’t bring myself to pay $38.00 for it. 

Over a month later I was thinking that I would still love to have a pottery colander and looked them up online.  I found a huge selection but also for higher than what I wanted to pay.  That’s when I remembered that Emerson Creek Pottery, a pottery in Bedford, VA, has an outlet store.  I had never been to it before but knew someone who had years ago and they spoke highly of it.  So, one day, while riding out in the boondocks, I decided to try to find it. 
NOTE:  For those of you unfamiliar with the expression “the boondocks”, it’s just a good old Southern term for in the boonies, sticks, or out in the country.  In other words, it’s a rural area usually far off from the nearest town, also called, “timbuktu” (not pertaining to the actual place, Timbuktu). 

Well, let me tell you, the outlet is definitely in the boondocks!  In fact, on the first attempt, I didn’t find it before their 4 pm closing so I gave up.  I tried again a few days later with the aid of Map Quest and, after still a few missed turns, I made it.  The outlet is back off a country road in an old farm house originating from the early 1800’s.  Each room is full of pottery in various shapes, sizes and patterns and all at much better than retail prices.  I was able to find the much desired colander ($16.99) and a shortbread pan ($6.99) for me, as well as, a few gifts for friends.  It was worth the effort to find the outlet store, plus I never mind a drive in the country.


The next time you’re in the mood for a drive in the country, check out the Emerson Creek Pottery Outlet Store and tell them Cindy at explorevirginia.blogspot.com sent you!  For those of you who can’t make it to Virginia, you can visit the Emerson Creek Pottery website for purchases, at regular retail prices, at www.emersoncreekpottery.com.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Catalano's: Not Your Average Delicatessen



Truth be told, I don’t normally eat at a lot of delicatessens, not even the chain sub shops.  Subs and sandwiches aren’t normally on the short list of foods that I want to eat.  But my friend, Jessie, knew that I had created this blog and said I must try Catalano’s Delicatessen in downtown Lynchburg since they have the best meatball sub she’s ever had.  She said that not only were the meatballs delicious but the bread was wonderful too.   So, off we went to try it last Wednesday.
My review?  Excellent!  The meatballs and bread were wonderful but the marinara sauce was too.  And that’s saying something because, being from the South, I’m not usually too big on just anybody’s marinara sauce.  I usually find most peoples’ marinara to be too acidic.  I’m used to my Mom putting a little sugar in everything, especially in tomato based sauces, to cut down on the acidity.  However, Catalano’s sauce was perfect! 
What about the prices?  An 8” meatball sub costs $7.95.  It may sound a little high to some but consider that you are getting two inches more than most places that only serve 6” subs.  And the ingredients don’t even begin to compare with some of the chain shops!  Catalano’s Delicatessen uses only quality ingredients, including Boar’s Head meats, and seeks to offer as many local, Virginia made, and organic products as possible. 
  • Bread is made by Carter’s Bread and Albemarle Baking Company in Charlottesville.
  • The coffee is roasted by Trager Brothers in Lovingston.
  • The meat is from Bedford Avenue Meat Shop in Lynchburg.
  • Additionally, Catalano’s carries many Virginia products including Route 11 chips, Blue Crab Bay Co. snacks, Edward’s hams and pork products, Caromont Farm cheeses, and Virginia Artesian bottled water.
The restaurant has a cozy, relaxed atmosphere and a loft for additional seating.  The design is clean and crisp but preserves the integrity of the buildings original appearance.  So, who is behind Catalano’s? 
Catalano’s was established in 2011 by the husband and wife team of Clinton Jones and Marisa Catalano.  Both have spent many years in the food and restaurant industry and bring a wealth of knowledge to their new venture.  Their full and impressive profiles, along with their menu, can be found on Catalano’s website at www.catalanosdelicatessen.com.   In addition to offering great food, Catalano’s offers catering services and hosts special events, like wine tastings and cooking classes. 

Catalano’s is located at 908 Main Street in downtown Lynchburg across from the Galleria and they are open Monday – Friday from 8:30 am – 3 pm and on Saturdays from 9 am – 6 pm.  Stop in for a bite and tell them Cindy at explorevirginia.blogspot.com sent you!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Explore Virginia Through Pictures!

Well, friends, there comes a time in every bloggers' life when other responsibilities supercede the ability to post a new blog. Sadly that time has come for me of late. I will be back to my regularly scheduled posts soon, however, just to keep your appetite whet to explore Virginia while I am on hiatus, I am posting additional pictures that I took at the Virginia Safari Park. These pictures were not included in my original post dated 10/24/11. I hope you enjoy them!

Cindy at explorevirginia.blogspot.com