Working in advertising, the iconic ad campaign surrounding the slogan, “Virginia is for lovers” is no stranger to me. However, after attending the Virginia Craft tasting event, hosted by the Virginia Tourism Corporation in Chelsea Market this past Tuesday, I think they should consider amending the tagline to “Virginia is for food lovers,” as the beautiful showcase of top chefs and food purveyors won over my heart, and my stomach.
First entering the event space Tuesday evening, I was awed by the beautifully curated interior. From the intricate chalkboard mural welcoming guests, to the sketches on the informational takeaways, there was a keen attention to detail present in all aspects of the showcase. Walking deeper, charming wine barrel tables and whimsical twinkle lights lined the corridor, where smiling faces waited eagerly to share their Virginia specialities.
Walking through the sea of freshly shucked mollusks, artisan cheeses, hand-cured meats, and craft spirits, I felt like a kid in a candy shop. With every turn I encountered something new and delicious to sample and learn about.
Among those were the sweet, plump oysters from Pleasure House Oysters of Virginia Beach, VA which were one of my personal favorites of the night. Served on a bed of kale (points for presentation) and with a fresh, mixed-berry mignonette, the delicious mouthfuls began with a punch of salty brine but had a rich, buttery finish with a hint of sweetness from the berries.
Another highlight of the night was the buttermilk biscuits from Foode Restaurant of Fredericksburg, VA. These savory morsels were presented in one glorious biscuit mountain on an oak barrel. Paired with organic beef brisket, cheddar grits, and a kale salsa verde, this made for a meal I could eat again and again.
Winning for innovation, one of the most interesting cocktails of the night was the “faux rickey” from PX of Alexandria, VA. Shaken up by a bartender clad in an apron that looked like jean overalls, the gin-based concoction was topped with a fragrant thai-basil and gin foam that made for a playful first sip — though I had to wipe my nose of the lingering foam.
Besides the rickey, there was also a fair share of wine present at the event. And what would good wine be without cheese? Luckily, Caromont Farm of Esmont, VA was present and serving up raw, artisan cheese that was flavorful and the perfect wine accompaniment. Washed in Virginia hard cider, the cows milk cheese was salty, slightly earthy, and mildly pungent; So good that I had ended up returning again later in the evening for another sample.
All in all, the delectable food and alcohol, combined with the charming souls producing them, swept me off my culinary feet. By the end of the night, having made my way to all of the tables, it was safe to say that I had fallen for Virginia and become a ‘Virginia Lover.’