Yesterday, I made the journey from Charlottesville to Jamestown and stepped back 400 years. I was invited by Virginia Tourism to join a group of food and travel-focused writers to visit Jamestown and have dinner at the settlement.
Our tour took us through the living history recreations as well as the gallery exhibits in the Jamestown museum. We started in the Powhatan Village. Their homes, made from reeds, were really cool, and everything was designed as accurately as possible.
An interpreter was making a real soup made from hominy and fish as the Powatans would have 400 years ago in clay pots and piles of very hot coals contained within a circle of rocks. He explained how the soup would have been kept warm and available all day when hunger called.
We traveled to the neighboring English settlement, which was enclosed inside a fort.
We visited this kitchen, which looked a lot more like something you’d find in England, and the interpreters there told us about the meal they likely would have made: pork and apple pie, whole wheat bread, goat milk butter, and very light beer.
Lastly, down by the water, there are ships that you can board and explore.
This sailor told us a bit about the living conditions aboard the long journey from England to America.
Those quarters were quite tight!
Our tour took us back to the main museum where we watched a film that featured the three cultures of the English, Powhatans, and Angolans that were “the first threads of a tapestry we call America”. (So eloquently stated!) The film gave a great overview of the events that unfolded on the land around us, and the museum exhibits went into great depth on all that we know today about the first encounters of the cultures and the settlement at Jamestown.
When our tour concluded, we walked back down to the water to enjoy dinner, drinks, and conversation about #vahistory and #vafood! Virginia is for Food Lovers, after all!
I had a Copper Fox Rye Whiskey Manhattan with smoked brandied cherry ice from the bar — delicious! (The whiskey distillery is in Williamsburg!)
And this buffet by The Blue Talon Bistro of Williamsburg — it was absolutely outstanding!
I have never seen a spread with so many adventurous and creative hors d’oeuvres. I tried oysters, crab cakes, a soft shell crab fried on the spot, pork belly, pimento cheese, smoked trout deviled eggs, and homemade biscuits.
I thought that was dinner until I saw the table at the other end of the pier!
We also listened to live music from the Forest Hill Trio out of Richmond. They were great!!
Have you ever seen a menu printed on the napkin itself? What a cool idea. We had five courses prepared by chefs Joe Sparatta and Lee Gregory of Richmond. They own a handful of restaurants, including Southbound, The Roosevelt, and Heritage. I’d love to try them all in the future!
Each course was also paired with a Virginia drink — from the Crose Rose and Blenheim’s Albarino to a Barbera from Barboursville and a Bordeaux-style blend from RdV Vineyards and finally the Black Lager from Devils Backbone with dessert.
Our first course was asparagus with 3 year Autumn Olive Farms prosciutto, morels, pickled ramps, and slow-cooked egg yolk. The colors in the presentation were so pretty!
Course 2 was Chesapeake sugar toads, which we learned were actually a young blowfish! I am guessing that the name comes from the shape, which did look quite toad-like. The fish tasted a bit like crab to me and was served with “Almondine” green garlic, white anchovy, brown butter, and Easter egg radish. I loved the crunchy bits on top!
Course 3 was a house-made clam shell pasta with Cherrystone clams, chili, ramps and parmesan. I was running out of stomach space at this point, but I really loved the combination of spice and clams!
Fourthly (that’s a word, right?!) we had Autumn Olive Farms pork loin with barbecue cabbage, local grits, pork crackling, red eye gravy, and flowering brassica. The gravy was outstanding and really gave the dish richness. I had the pleasure of sitting across from the owners of Autumn Olive Farms from the Shenandoah Valley, and it was cool to hear more about their pork products and how the terroir of the land imparts so much flavor into the animals who live upon it.
Our final course, which was clearly delivered just after sunset, was a Virginia peanut butter cake drizzled in a bourbon dulce de leche with a chocolate cremeux, creme fraiche, peanut brittle and bourbon barrel salt. I loved everything about this!
A huge round of applause for the chefs! This meal was one of the best I have ever had.
The whole evening was just gorgeous, from the lights above us to the perfect warm weather and the light breeze off the water. It was a dinner I will never forget! We were reminded that many years ago, all of America was Virginia. And that from oysters to the Blue Ridge, Virginia continues to be a state of deliciousness!
This post was sponsored by Virginia Tourism.