The Piedmont Virginian's Blog

Serving and Celebrating America's Historic Heart

Author: PamKamphuis (page 2 of 8)

November: Butternut Squash Season!

Butternet_soup web

Butternut Squash
Spiced Soup

Butternut Squash, Apple, and Onion Gillette with Stilton Cheese

Butternut Squash,
Apple, and Onion
Gillette with Stilton Cheese

I just had a phone call from someone who had lost her copy of a recipe from a past issue of the Piedmont Virginian. I was able to find it (after happily going through back issues and finding many old treasures), and the recipes looked so good I decided to reshare them with everyone. What better than butternut squash in November? Perfect!

Click here for the whole article, including our longtime food writer Brian Lichorowic’s recipes and his humorous, admittedly embellished, interpretation of the not-very-exciting historic value of the butternut squash.

Recipes include:

Spiced Butternut Squash Soup

Butternut, Apple, Sage and Cranberry Bake

Butternut Squash, Apple, and Onion Gillette with Stilton Cheese

Throw-back Thursday…History and a bit of the paranormal for Halloween!

These Walls Do Talk

The aptly named Graffiti House attracts Civil War and other history buffs as well as paranormal-believing “ghost hunters.”

Article by Richard Deardoff
Photos by Jan Kamphuis

“The Dancing Lady” During the five month winter encampment following the Gettysburg campaign, families of officers were allowed to come to camp.  Here a female visitor carefully picks her way through the mud between the Graffiti House and the railroad tracks

“The Dancing Lady”

A few miles south of the Rappahannock River in Culpeper County lays one of the nation’s historical treasures – the Graffiti House on the Brandy Station Battlefield. Built in 1858 as an adjunct to the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, it served both sides during the Civil War. For the Confederates it was a field hospital, while the Federals used it as a divisional headquarters for the five months they wintered over in 1863-1864.

It was because of this utilitarian value that the small frame house escaped the destruction visited upon many other buildings as soldiers from both sides searched for material to use in constructing shelters, or simply for firewood.

IMG_6713 blog

The Graffiti House
before & after

Nearby Fleetwood Hill may be the most fought over piece of real estate in American warfare: opposing armies either sought to defend or gain this valuable high ground for use as an artillery platform. After each clash of arms, the wounded and prisoners would be brought to this house either for medical help or to be transported to distant hospitals or POW camps.

During the five month winter encampment following the Gettysburg campaign, families of officers were allowed to come to camp.  In the above drawing “Dancing Lady,” a female visitor carefully picks her way through the mud between the Graffiti House and the railroad tracks

IMG_6706 blog

Period photograph
of Michael Bowman

In addition to its historical value, the building has also proved to be of interest to a variety of paranormal groups, who have described it as one of the most active sites for research in the area. These investigators have spent numerous nights at the house tracing spirits and tape recording conversations from beyond. A DVD of their experiences is available for viewing at the Graffiti House. At left is the “Ghost Room,” where most of the paranormal activity has been detected.

Michael Bowman was a confederate private who was paid $11 a month. He spent $2 to have his picture taken. His portrait (pictured) – and perhaps his presence – remains in the Graffiti House.

Click here to read the full story

Visit the Graffiti House website and don’t miss their Holiday Open House on Sat. Dec. 12.

About the author: Richard Deardoff is a docent at the Graffiti House and has served on the Board of Directors for the Brandy Station Foundation, has been named Teacher of the Year for Fauquier County Public Schools twice, and is a former Civil War Trust Teacher of the Year.  He and his wife, Suzanne, live in Culpeper County; he is currently teaching at Kettle Run High school.


The Future of “The Mosby House”

By Pam Kamphuis

11708061_10156157735630571_6849913992726847441_oI attended a meeting last Saturday morning at the Warren Green Hotel which was designed to gather the public’s ideas and opinions as to the future of the Mosby House, currently owned by the Town of Warrenton. The meeting was chaired by the President of the Fauquier Historical Society, Yak Lubowsky, and was attended by about 40 or so people.

The historic home, called Brentmoor, is also affectionately known as the Mosby House around Warrenton due to its having belonged to the legendary Colonel John S. Mosby for a few years following the Civil War. It has been restored, which is excellent. It has been open to the public on a sporadic basis over the last few years, but clearly is not being used to its full potential and appreciated as it should. For instance, the Warrenton-Fauquier Heritage Day celebration, which was later that day, was held on the grounds of Brentmoor, yet the historic home was not open for tours as it had been in past years.

I think most people who attended the meeting favored keeping it as a museum, but according to Joe Dempsey from the Board of Directors of the Mosby Heritage Area Association, which owns two historic home properties in Loudoun county, it is very difficult to make a museum-home financially viable. A hybrid approach, where part of the building would be used for something else, such as office space, would have the best chance of success.

Some suggestions that were floated included:

Use for events, weddings, fundraisers, etc.

Making it available for community-meetings, art displays, etc.

Keeping it as a museum, perhaps an expansion of the Old Jail Museum

Turning it into a restaurant or coffee house

Using it for town/county purposes, most likely offices

Renting out part as commercial office space.

When the library is relocated, moving the Virginia collection there

A resident curatorship program, which, while it may not be appropriate for the Mosby House in this situation, I thought was nevertheless a very interesting idea.

There was significant discussion about utilizing Warrenton’s historic value to increase tourism, and the role that the Mosby House could possibly play in that.

Warrenton’s Mayor was unable to attend, but he had 3 recommendations he sent in ahead for consideration. The first was to make Brentmoor available to the community as a rental space, similar to the John Barton Payne building. The second was to use it for the community in some way. The third was my personal favorite, was to use the Mosby House as the Visitor Center and repurpose the recently built existing Visitor Center, which has a host of problems, principally its lack of visibility from the main street. Brentmoor’s location and size are ideal, and what better than for a historic town to have one of its most beautiful and historic homes be the welcoming gateway and information center?

It should be noted that (in my understanding) the costs of acquiring and renovating the property have essentially been absorbed by the town already, so going forward there are only operating costs to consider, principally utilities. The cost of the future of the property, therefore, is contingent on what it is used for. For instance, if it requires minimal work to install some office space in there, that would obviously be less expensive than installing a commercial kitchen and bringing it up to code to operate as a full-service restaurant. In any event, the building’s lack of restrooms will likely have to be addressed; it was designed with the understanding that the restrooms at the adjacent visitor center could be used for the property.

The goal of the meeting was not to make any decisions, but to gather the public’s feelings and ideas to be presented to the town, who would then make a decision. They will likely also be considering options not necessarily discussed at the meeting, such as selling it outright. The primary goal is to get it off the Town’s books, and to have it managed much better than it has been in the past.


1796573_10202889919310186_4960203201090092007_nPam Kamphuis is a transplant from New England who has come to appreciate and love the Piedmont area of Virginia in the 25 years she’s been living here, largely through working for the Piedmont Virginian. She is the Production Manager and an editor for the magazine. She lives in Warrenton with her husband Jan, daughter Sarah, two dogs and a cat while also keeping an eye on two grown stepsons and a daughter-in-law at the beach in NC.

Chef of Nature Serves Virginia’s Finest

by Meghan Scalea

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photo by Kellis Photography

When executive chef, Scott Myers, took the helm at Vintage Restaurant on the ground floor of the Inn at Willow Grove last summer, he wasted no time diving into the local farming community – and the fields surrounding the Inn – to learn how to source his menu. Having cooked in restaurants in New England and Montana, he’s used to starting over in new communities and treating the land and its local culture like he would a crash course in anthropology.

The restaurant is a fine dining destination for guests of the Inn as well as the community. As menu curator, Myers was challenged to produce options that would appeal to the the local Orange/Culpeper patrons but also be forward enough to attract foodies on weekend getaways from DC and New York.

“You want to be that definition place where you can put out really cool stuff,” Myers says. “You can still keep a really basic dish but use all Virginia ingredients so it’s got its own little thing going on. We did a play on ham and biscuits once, and everything was local, and it was fun.”

restaurantHam and biscuits sounds like a southern recipe, but Myers has learned by observing the local food scene and his guests that the central Virginia palate is not strictly southern. In his opinion, there is a southern country flair, but the food isn’t heavy southern cuisine. He learned this by meeting the local people, going out to restaurants – both good and bad ones. “What is it these people eat?” he asked himself. “What do they like? It’s mainly seeing and learning their culture as best you can. It’s great to immerse yourself in it.”

Myers first immersed himself in the local farm scene through the now defunct Fresh Link, a farm aggregator business that sourced seasonal foods from farmers to chefs across Virginia. When that business closed, he developed direct relationships with those farmers he’d sourced from and started attending any kind of farm expo he could find. He prefers these casual interactions with producers where they can learn from each other.

web chef's tableHe is a man of nature who bow hunts for venison and raises meat birds, guinea hens and hogs for his own use. He is known for taking his staff out on the Inn’s grounds to forage for local watercress, morels, mulberries, raspberries, wild strawberries and greens. And the Inn just put in a kitchen garden with raised beds and fresh herbs that Myers frequently pinches off to add to a dish.

Despite nature’s bounty that seems abundant out the kitchen door step, Myers spends a good deal of his free time picking up food orders from his local suppliers. It’s a task that often cuts into his personal time, but it’s also what he considers one of the best parts of running a locally sourced kitchen. “It’s not even about getting product. It’s about getting to see what [the farmers] are doing and them getting to see what you’re doing, meeting their families, having dinner with them. It’s the best part of it.”

That connection to the local fields is what Myers hopes his guests take away after a dining experience. “The greatest compliment someone could me is probably just that we take the time to go source it and find it, that they can see the difference in it as opposed to commodity stuff.”

He acknowledges that more and more people are interested in knowing where their food comes from and wanting to talk about it. Some of his farmer partners send customers to Vintage to taste their food prepared, and Myers reciprocates by encouraging his guests to go visit the producers, like Moving Meadows Farm where he gets his chicken, turkey and goat.

One recent, unexpected star menu item is the Virginia tofu, produced by Twin Oaks in Louisa. At the time of this interview, the tofu was marinated in a spicy coconut broth and served with shaved daikon and bean sprouts. “I groove on it a lot. It’s the perfect texture on the grill. I’ll save the scraps while I’m making it and come back to it.”

Featuring a Virginia tofu on the menu is not something diners will find just anywhere and sends a strong message about Myers’ curiosity for local foods and commitment to sourcing locally whenever possible. Cooking with local, seasonal ingredients is the only way for him, and he’s enjoying seeing the central Virginia community starting to prefer it, too.

When asked, he struggles to name his favorite Virginia foods to cook with. Wild edibles are nice in the spring, he says. Tomatoes are great, and the peaches and fruits are fantastic. Corn is great. Lately the cheeses have really been starting to take off. And the hogs – oh man, the hogs, he says as he leans back in his chair and licks his lips. There are too many to pick just one thing.

We can’t help but agree.

“Real Food” is Real Good: locally sourced lunch restaurant in Culpeper

By Meghan Scalea

Producing a weekly lunch menu focused on locally sourced food is a challenging feat, yet it is exactly what Paul and Sarah Diegl, owners of Real Food in Orange, have been committed to doing every Wednesday since 2008. Their journey to simple, seasonal food started, as all good food journeys do, with degrees in philosophy and psychology and a resume of greasy spoons in Charlottesville.

IMG_0757The husband and wife team spent 15 years working in restaurants and inns, teaching themselves about food and restaurant management. When Paul left the Inn at Meander Plantation near Orange to become a personal chef, the couple got their first taste of the community’s appetite for seasonal, locally sourced meals.

“All of a sudden, people were really wanting him to cater their dinner parties,” says Sarah. “He was working out of the back of the Subaru. It was limited the number of people we could serve.

We started looking for a physical location so we could have refrigerators.”

That was seven years ago. Today, Real Food resides in an unassuming, signless building off Old Gordonsville Road that was formerly home to a hamburger stand, another reminder of their humble beginnings “on the line.” The Diegls took over the building intending to use it just for Paul’s catering. Those catering requests that launched his independent cooking career now make up roughly half of Real Food’s business, complemented by a steady flow of weekday lunch customers.

It was Sarah, a native of Orange, who recognized the need for a local lunch place. The only option in town was a little ice cream parlor that made deli sandwiches. When they closed shop for a long holiday weekend and never returned, the Diegls seized the opportunity to support a lunch crowd and show off the best of central Virginia agriculture.

At the time they opened their doors, very few other places were sourcing locally.

“I started to feel like food was becoming this overwhelming number of customizations,” says Sarah. “I said, let’s just do what we do in a really focused way.”

The mission of Real Food has always been to keep it simple, right down to the sparse interior of the restaurant and the minimalistic web site. This way the focus remains on the food.

IMG_1438Each Wednesday, Paul and Sarah stand in front of the lunch counter and contemplate what to do for the next week’s menu. They talk about what their local farms have available based on emails Paul gets from his farmer friends. But email can get trumped by visits from farmers who show up at Real Food’s back door with fresh produce or livestock. Last summer a grower showed up with fresh turmeric and another one with fresh ginger. The Diegls were giddy.

These impromptu visits from farmers help the Diegls stay nimble in their weekly expressions with food. But changing the menu every seven days poses a challenge in their partnerships with many local farmers, admits Sarah.

“We are a tough client for some farmers. Our needs are so different because we only need ingredients for a week at a time. Sometimes we just need a pound of chutney, which isn’t worth bothering with for a large supplier. But then we might need 40 pounds of asparagus for a week of asparagus sandwiches, which is tough for a small farmer.”

But customers love knowing they can try new foods every week. It’s a business model that keeps both the owners and the patrons coming back for more. “People will plan their week with us,” says Sarah. “They say, ‘I’ll have the salad on Monday, then I’ll come back for the sandwich on Wednesday.’”

The Diegls agree that they have built a trust with their regular customers. People who would otherwise be hesitant to try a hard-boiled egg sandwich with olives, for example, will give it a try because they’ve enjoyed other menu items and trust Paul and Sarah to only serve food that tastes great.

IMG_1370Part of the reason it tastes so good is because at least part of each menu item always contains ingredients that are local and in season. Sarah references a hail storm that occurred the night before this interview. “If one of our farmers walked in, I would ask him, ‘how did you fare in the hail storm?’ We hear that the chefs in [Washington] DC don’t understand when their orders are delayed or altered because they aren’t living among their suppliers. It is so helpful to live where our food comes from.”

Sourcing locally can be costly, and Real Food aims to make good food accessible to everyone. Recipes are often tailored to cut ingredients that put them over a certain price point, trading pine nuts for house made focaccia croutons, for example. The Diegls work to protect the integrity of the food while still keeping it budget-friendly for a casual lunch crowd.

Real Food is currently open for lunch only from Monday through Friday, despite popular demand for a Saturday option. The Diegls currently plan to keep Saturdays for catering only, so perhaps a “sick day” is the way to go to get a taste of some real food.

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