Tag Archives: seasonal

Fancy Tomato Sandwiches with Hummus and Goats R Us Greek Chevre Dip

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When tomatoes are good, they are so very good. And when they are out of season, they are so very bad.

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While we have the pleasure of seasonal tomatoes’ company, we should enjoy them every chance we get. However, some people get a little tired of tomatoes this time of year and need to change up their usual tomato sandwich. I suggest they trade up to this “fancy” tomato sandwich instead.

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It’s easy enough to pack for lunch and sophisticated enough to make for dinner. Recently I made these on a Friday night when Kyle and I were headed out to Crossroads in Forest Hill to watch some live music. This sandwich was quick, easy, and very satisfying. It helped to lay a good carb and protein foundation for the libations we were about to consume, without filling us up so much that we couldn’t enjoy a beer (or three).

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This sandwich is a tale of two spreads. In one corner, Greek Chevre Dip from Goats R Us (found at Ellwood Thompson’s Natural Market and the South of the James farmers’ market). In the other corner, homemade black bean hummus.

To make the black bean hummus, simply puree in a food processor: 1 can black beans (rinsed and drained), 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, 1 clove garlic, 1 tablespoon fresh dill, and salt and pepper to taste. Spread the hummus on one slice of bread, and the Greek chevre dip on the other. If you don’t have the Greek chevre dip, substitute any fresh chevre or tzatziki.

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You may see the rest of the ingredients in this sandwich and ask, “Black beans? Really? Why not white beans?” Sure, the flavors might make more sense with Cannelinis or Great Northerns, but the color of this hummus is the reason for black beans. It looks great opposite the white chevre dip, with bright red tomato and dark green spinach sandwiched in between. But really you could use whatever beans you want.

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Stuff the sandwich with fresh sliced tomato and spinach. Add whatever other vegetables you have on hand. Cook each sandwich on a panini press or grill until dark brown grill marks appear and the sandwich is warmed throughout. Serve with a side of fresh veggies.

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SOJ Chef Demo 08.11.12

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This week at the South of the James Farmers’ Market cooking demo, Chef Sam Baker cooked fresh seafood, fruits and vegetables as the morning went from damp and dreary to warm and bright. With grey puddles underfoot, Chef Sam shopped the market and found some cool fish and shrimp as well as some vibrant tomatoes and large mushrooms. He quickly got to work on the tilefish from Barham Seafood.

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The spicy seasoning on the fish helped heat things up as the rain clouds teased us with an off-and-on light drizzle. The Chef explained that tilefish is a rare treat, as he seasoned it with tarragon, cayenne pepper, curry powder and sea salt. As the fish cooked in a pan, Chef Sam cozied up to some mushrooms from Haas Shrooms.

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After sautéing the mushrooms with some red onion, a splash of water and a bit of salt, Chef Sam stuffed them with Goats R Us dill chevre and pan seared tilefish, then topped them with pan roasted tomatoes and a sliver of fresh Asian pear.

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The stuffed mushrooms paired well with the weather, as the market had a certain damp earthiness that morning.

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After the Chef completed a couple of demonstrations, the clouds parted and the sun came out.

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Shoppers with dogs on leashes and children in strollers showed up. Iced coffee sales spiked for the morning. As the market steamed up, Chef Sam decided it was time to put the shrimp on.

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For his next act, Chef Sam made zucchini and yellow squash boats, complete with shrimp “passengers.” He made a barbecue sauce for the shrimp by reducing a pot of tomatoes and peaches with a splash of water to a thick sauce, then adding some Empress Farm habanero blackberry jam. I tasted the sauce and it was out of this world! It had a great balance of sweet and spicy. After bathing in the sauce, the shrimp hopped aboard zucchini and yellow squash boats stuffed with sautéed zucchini and red onions.

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The shrimp were a big hit, and it was cool to see that I wasn’t the only one who thought it was picture worthy!

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For the final demonstration, Chef Sam made a vegetarian pasta dish that was bursting with fruit ingredients. He used Bombolini Pasta’s herb ditalini as a base. Over the pasta, the Chef layered some seared Asian pears with ground black pepper. These were incredible. If I had been left unattended I would have eaten the whole plate before the Chef could assemble the dish. I was so happy that Kyle had picked up a bag of these pears while shopping that morning! I had plans for a pear pizza and watching this come together got me in the right mindset to pull it off.

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In addition to pears, the pasta dish featured sautéed zucchini, fresh tomatoes, and a tomato peach marinara sauce. This fantastic sauce included tomatoes, peaches, red onion and basil. Some of the plates were topped with a dollop of dill chevre to mix in.

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Whether it was stuffing mushrooms, filling zucchini halves, or packing flavor into a sauce, Chef Sam made sure that every dish was full of flavor and fresh produce. I have said it before and I’ll say it again, summer is the best season for packing in a lot of flavor with little effort. I’m looking forward to seeing what Chef Sam creates for the rest of this season, and what he has up his sleeve for the Fall. Come find out for yourself at the South of the James Market, every Saturday, eight to noon.

Thank you to Barham Seafood, Bombolini Pasta, Drumheller Orchard, Empress Farm, Goats R Us, Haas Shrooms, Norma’s Produce, Rocking F Farms, Saunders Brothers Orchard, Victory Farms, Walnut Hill Farm, and all of the other featured market vendors for providing this week’s fresh and tasty ingredients!

Curried Chickpea and Potato Cakes with Peach Salsa

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This recipe was inspired by fresh peaches from the market. I considered calling the dish Chickpeachutney Cakes. So much fun to say. Try it.

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We enjoyed this spicy, hearty, juicy, sweet dinner on a warm summer evening. I think it would taste best when the peaches are perfectly ripe and still warm from the market.

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Peaches are a delicious taste of summer, while warm curry and potato are reminiscent of fall. If you are like me, you are already looking towards the fall and anticipating the familiarity of its warm and spicy flavors on cool, crisp nights. I expect to make this dish over the next two month “tweason” that ties summer to fall. As an added bonus for vegans, there are no eggs in these cakes; this dish is totally vegan!

Curried Chickpea and Potato Cakes with Peach Salsa

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Curried Chickpea and Potato Cakes

Ingredients:

  • 1- 15 oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 3 small potatoes, peeled and diced
  • small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 large carrots, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp curry powder
  • 2 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 Tbsp vegetable oil, divided

Preparation:

  1. Cook the potatoes in a large pot of boiled water until tender. Drain and mash.
  2. While the potatoes are cooking, mash the chickpeas with a fork into a paste.
  3. In a medium pan, heat 1 Tbsp vegetable oil over medium heat. Sauté the onion until fragrant, then add carrots and garlic and sauté until tender.
  4. Add the cumin to the pan with the onions, carrots and garlic. Cook for 1 more minute, then remove from heat.
  5. In a large bowl, mix the potatoes, chickpeas, and onion-carrot mixture with lemon juice, curry powder, cilantro, salt and pepper.
  6. Heat 2 Tbsp vegetable oil over medium-high heat.
  7. Divide chickpea potato mixture into 6 parts and form into patties. Fry in oil, 3-5 minutes on each side. Serve over lettuce or on buns.

Peach Salsa

Ingredients:

  • 2 fresh peaches, peeled and chopped
  • 1 Tbsp chopped sweet onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped cucumber
  • 1 jalapeno, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp finely chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp honey
  • pinch of ground cayenne pepper
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and chill until ready to serve. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Farmers’ Market 8.4.12

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If you haven’t been to the farmers’ market lately, do yourself a favor and go this weekend! It is the absolute best time of year to go. Every table is completely packed with summery goodness. Peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, squash, eggplant, melons, peaches… the list goes on. This is the time of year that we accidentally buy too much produce and scratch our heads over what to do with it all. It is the time of year for canning tomato sauce and freezing berries for later use in winter months. Kyle celebrates by buying a quart of jalapeños right when I start to get low. He brought home an eggplant this week that we ate for three days. Personally I believe this is the real season of excess – the very best kind.

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So many vegetables!

This week’s haul:

  • Rainbow chard
  • Zucchini
  • Yellow squash
  • Poblano peppers
  • Sweet peppers (not pictured)
  • Eggplant
  • Jalapeños
  • Okra
  • Tomatoes
  • And from my friend Melissa, 5 gorgeous peaches (not pictured)

This weekend at the farmers’ market may be steamy, sticky and crowded. It may require you to roll out of bed a little early. But it will absolutely be worth it.

SOJ Chef Demo 07.21.12

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This Saturday at the South of the James market, little pops of flavor and color were everywhere.

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Chef Sam Baker used the bountiful produce at the market this week to create small bites of local flavor, including some familiar combinations as well as some fresh ideas.

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The Chef started out with a creative sauce to get people thinking about how to combine the flavors of the season into a cohesive dish. The sweetness of the simmering peach and sweet pepper reduction drew a small crowd early on.

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This sauce is made with fresh diced Drumheller’s Orchard peaches, sweet peppers, red wine vinegar and raw honey from Alfredo’s Beehive. The peach and sweet pepper reduction was served over herb seared tuna from Barham Seafood and a slice of Norma’s yellow watermelon with lemon basil.

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Pan seared zephyr squash provided a vegetable accompaniment that felt grilled, but without the hassle.

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Present at all of the market stalls this week were tomatoes, in every size, shape and color. These tomatoes from the Village Garden are called banana legs tomatoes.

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There were so many different varieties of tomatoes at the market that I decided to make them the Veg of the Week. I was excited to share some facts about tomatoes, and absolutely thrilled to use tomato-shaped bullet points on my white board. Sometimes, it’s the little things.

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After a brief downpour around 10:00, we started up the small plates again with a melon caprese salad. Pictured here is a summery dish of sliced tomatoes, sliced seasonal melon, and Goats R Us pineapple walnut chevre, topped with fresh lemon basil and the peach sweet pepper reduction.

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Tomatoes were certainly abundant, but the Drumheller’s Orchard white and yellow peaches were the true stars of the show this week.  In addition to the fresh sweet and tart peaches, the catches of the day from Barham Seafood were prominent. It was very cool to see their soft-shell crabs change color in the pan.

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Soft-shell crabs are loved by many, but I’m not personally sold on them. Which is fine since I do not eat seafood anyway. But I can appreciate a nice plating, and the next dish offered a visually intriguing small plate. I could tell from the looks on market goers’ faces when they tasted this one that it was a hit.

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Chef Sam served the soft-shell crab, seasoned with cumin and black pepper, over a sliced heirloom tomato, and topped with a slice of pan seared peach, a dollop of pineapple walnut chevre, and some Empress Farm FROG jam. In case you didn’t know, FROG jam contains Fig, Raspberry, Orange and Ginger.

While it rained on and off for the whole market this past weekend, several shoppers stopped by the Chef Demo Tent for free samples and cooking tips. Like the scattered thunderstorms we had that day, the small plates featured in this week’s demo were seasonal, interesting, and sometimes completely unpredictable.

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Thank you to Amy’s Garden, Barham Seafood, Cabbage Hill Farm, Drumheller’s Orchard, Empress Farm, Goats R Us, Norma’s Produce, Victory Farms, Village Garden, Walnut Hill Farm Produce, and all of the other featured market vendors for producing this week’s fresh and tasty ingredients.

SOJ Chef Demo 06.23.12

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This week the South of the James market saw the beginning of another seasonal change. We are just starting to see more of the vegetables that most people associate with summer. On the farmers’ tables this week, I saw the first piles of corn, a greater variety of peppers, and some green tomatoes with a few red ones mixed in. I feel that we are about to turn a corner, and around that corner is an abundance of tomatoes, eggplant, corn, and zucchini.

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However, the weekly cooking demo is all about appreciating what we have now, rather than what we have to look forward to in the future. What can we do this week with the produce we have now? How do we resist the temptation to pick up next month’s Virginia produce a few weeks early – produce that was grown by a farmer located 3,000 miles away, and shipped to our neighborhood grocery store?

We learn to love green tomatoes, crisp cucumbers and fresh herbs. That’s what we do.

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Inspired by the season, Chef Sam “Rude Boy” Baker created a green tomato salad made with gorgeous green tomatoes from Norma’s Produce, cucumber, purple carrots, lemon basil, garlic, herbs de Provence, sea salt and black pepper, and dressed with apple cider vinegar. These ingredients are delicious and easy to love.

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Alongside the green tomato salad, Chef Sam served pan seared dry scallops from Barham Seafood. The Chef explained to the audience why dry scallops are worth the extra cash, as he seasoned the scallops with sea salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. He prepared seared eggplant the same way, for the vegetarians in the house. I had never seen eggplant as a vegetarian stand-in for scallops before, but it seemed to work.

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The Veg of the Week was eggplant, a vegetable that started popping up at several farmers’ stalls this week. I think that most people associate eggplant with Eggplant Parmigiana or Ratatouille. The Chef set out to show people that there are plenty of things you can do with eggplant and basil before the tomatoes ripen.

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Eggplant from Norma’s Produce and Amy’s Garden played well with Tuscan kale and lemon basil from Victory Farms in many of the dishes this week.

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For the second round of the demonstration, the Chef did a stir fry two ways: one vegetarian version and one with scallops and fish sauce. He fried some kale chiffonade in a pan with oil and fish sauce and sampled the kale to curious passersby. Most people had not used fish sauce in their homes so Chef Sam answered a lot of questions about this mysterious ingredient.

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The spicy stir fry included purple and white eggplant, white onion, mushrooms, green tomatoes, sweet peppers, Thai chili peppers, Tuscan kale, sorrel and basil. The second version differed from the first by the addition of seared scallops and fish sauce for flavor. The Chef explained that a stir fry can be made with whatever vegetables you have on hand, during any season, and he urged home cooks to get creative in the kitchen with their favorite vegetables.

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Then came the curve ball.

The final dish for the demonstration showed some real creativity, inspired by a shortage of forks at the demo tent following several rounds of samples. When we ran out of forks and were left with only skewers and toothpicks, the Chef had to come up with an interesting way to prepare the remaining pile of produce for his last challenge. I suggested that we sauté the veggies and roll them up in the kale leaves for a vegan and vegetarian finger food. Locally famous for his North Carolina Tamales, which utilize steamed collard greens in place of the traditional corn husk, The Chef agreed to give it a try.

These kale rollups featured eggplant, mushrooms, green tomatoes, lemon basil and Thai chilies, seasoned with rice wine vinegar and sea salt, wrapped in a steamed Tuscan kale leaf and pierced with a toothpick.

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In the ultimate challenge of working with what you have (and not with what you don’t have), he pulled off a healthy and delicious finger food that highlighted the flavors of the season.

Thanks to Amy’s Garden, Barham Seafood, HaaShrooms, Norma’s Produce, Phal Vong, Victory Farms, Village Garden, Walnut Hill Farm Produce and all of the other featured market vendors for producing this week’s fresh and tasty ingredients.

Wedding Planning Update – 4 Months to Go!

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It has been awhile since I have written about my third job: wedding planning. You may recall the wildly popular Engagement Tofu post, in which I announced my and Kyle’s engagement.

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Since then, we have done a ton of research, made hundreds of decisions, and planned many major aspects of our wedding, which is just four months away! One of the main guiding principles of planning this event has been sustainability. Most people will only plan an event this large and expensive once in their lives. We take the decisions very seriously, and we see our wedding as a huge opportunity to partner with people and organizations that have the same values as we do. We try to support local businesses, promote sustainability, and minimize our impact on the environment in our everyday lives. We are looking forward to maintaining those standards in our wedding, and perhaps teaching our friends and family a thing or two about why we make the choices we do.

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Before we did anything else, we chose the wedding venue. We picked our place before we even chose the date! Kyle and I knew we wanted to get married outdoors and, with the help of some friends, made a list of pro’s and con’s for both the beach and the mountains. In the end, the Blue Ridge Mountains won, because we love to hike and visit there year-round, the area is home to a lot of agriculture and interesting food, wine and beer, and we knew it would be absolutely beautiful in the Fall. We decided on Afton Mountain Vineyards in Afton VA, which is just a stone’s throw away from where we went on our first hike together. As long as the weather cooperates, we will be getting hitched in front of the view you see pictured above. We are so excited to share this very special place with our friends and families.

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One of the most important decisions we have made so far (aside from the one to get married), is what food we will have at the reception. I spent countless hours researching, interviewing caterers, and reviewing proposals. I knew that the food would be very memorable (at least for me), so this is an area that we decided we could splurge on just a little. Kyle and I are vegetarians, but our menu will feature both vegetarian options and options that contain meat that was raised locally and humanely. I don’t want to give away too many secrets, but we are planning a seasonal menu with a strong focus on locally sourced foods. You can expect some global cuisine, including Middle Eastern, Latin and Moroccan flavors. Hopefully this will showcase how creative you can be with locally sourced ingredients. Our outstanding caterer is Beggars Banquet from Orange, VA and we are thrilled to be working with them!

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Our photographer is the incredibly talented John Robinson of Robinson Imagery. Kyle and I are falling in love with Robinson Imagery almost as quickly as we fell for each other six years ago (ha!). The photos from our engagement session were gorgeous, and John’s personality makes it easy for us to be ourselves in front of the camera (corny jokes, gap teeth, goofy smiles and all). All of our pictures so far look so authentic, which is exactly what we want. I know that our whole wedding party will be just as comfortable with John, so we are expecting great, natural photos of everyone on the big day. And just in case anyone is shy in front of the cameraman, John is bringing a photo booth set up for guests to take pictures of themselves via a remote-controlled camera with a backdrop and props. I can’t wait to see what silly poses our friends come up with.

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Our flowers will be provided and arranged by Sarah Pollard Chiffriller, whom you may know from the Twigs line of local floral arrangements at Ellwood Thompson’s. I found her through Amy’s Organic Garden, which is an organic farm that sells delicious vegetables and gorgeous flower bouquets at our local farmers’ market. We are taking a risk with locally sourced arrangements in mid-late October, but we are committed to sticking to the plan. I am hoping for some bright marigold colors when the wedding date rolls around, but if a hurricane or an early frost wipes everything out early like it did last year, then we’ll just have greenery and herbs in all of our bouquets, bouts and arrangements. We’ll just deal with what we’ve got come this Fall.

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We have a few other things nailed down that you might be interested to hear about. For colors, we are planning on dark teal with pops of marigold and accents of crisp white and sage green. I think the teal and marigold color scheme will be beautiful with the changing leaves and the blue-gray mountains in the background.

One of my favorite ideas so far is our guest book. We will have an artsy book with a lot of white space in it for guests to choose a page that they like and write a note on. This alternative to the traditional guest book will leave us with a keepsake that will look great on our coffee table for years to come. I could divulge the title of the book we will use, but my lips are sealed. We must maintain a little element of surprise for the guests!

Now while we’re talking about coffee tables, let me tell you about our favors. We are sending guests home with a custom blended and locally roasted coffee from Blanchard’s Coffee, which is located just a few miles from our house. If you know me and Kyle at all, you know we are coffee fanatics. We even met while working in the same coffee shop. So how cool is that?

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There are still a lot of things that need to be worked out, but I think that our plans so far are pretty stellar. Maybe you readers could help us out with some suggestions.

We are thinking of doing an iPod playlist for our reception in lieu of hiring a DJ or band. However we would like to have live music for our cocktail hour. We have talked to a few jazz and samba bands and we are still trying to make a decision. Send me an email if you know of any budget-friendly bands that are local to the Charlottesville area that would be good for an hour-long cocktail reception.

The wedding cake is still a big question mark (I know, I know, we are late on this). We aren’t really cake people so we had considered doing pies instead. However if we found a good local baker that uses local, all-natural ingredients and has interesting flavor combinations, we could be persuaded to go the cake route. Does anyone know of a great cake shop in Afton, Waynesboro, Staunton or Charlottesville? Even Orange would work.

We are just about decided on our honeymoon and we are leaning towards Colorado. Has anyone been in October? I have done a ton of research but I would be interested in hearing from anyone who has recommendations for Denver, Breckenridge and Boulder. We are looking forward to mountain views, hiking, hot springs, and craft beer tasting.

I will leave you with just one more photo of the beautiful Afton Mountain Vineyards, because I can’t resist.

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