Try Out the Various Vittles of Virginia
As we move into November and further into fall, thoughts turn to Thanksgiving and our colonial roots. Settled in 1607, the Colony of Virginia was the first enduring one. A notable thing about Virginia is the Chesapeake Bay and the Chesapeake Bay's oysters which were long the pride of what Native Americans called “Great Shellfish Bay.”
Remember in one of my September blogs when I recommended making She-Crab soup? James Michener details Oyster Stew recipes—He-Stew and She-Stew in Chesapeake, one of his great, historical novels. In it he writes, “It was the traditional dish served throughout the Chesapeake: eight oysters per person boiled ever so slightly in their own liquor, then in milk and thickened with flour, flavored with a bit of celery, salt and pepper. It was a great opening course, but somewhat feeble for a working man.”
My blog had the details, but James’, not so much. Good thing James Beard makes it simple for our girlfriend-gatherings on a cold, November day.
Ingredients for 6 | Multiply by degree of hunger, divide by number of girlfriends!
- 1 1/2 pint fresh oysters packed in their juice
- 5 tablespoons butter
- 1 cup whole milk
- 2 cups whipping cream
- salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- fresh parsley; chopped
Drain juice from oysters into a small bowl. Set aside.
Heat milk, cream, and oyster liquor to the boiling point in a pan.
Add oysters and bring again to the boiling point.
Season to taste with salt, pepper, and cayenne.
Ladle into bowls.
Sprinkle with chopped parsley.
Serve with mini saltines or oyster crackers.
Let’s eat...and drink!
Let’s not forget beverage refreshments! Pair your oystey-r stew with this delight: Mellow in Monticello. Inspired by gentleman farmer Thomas Jefferson (native to Virginia and the principal author of the Declaration of Independence), this velvety-but-maddeningly-opaque drink has an undercurrent of bite—much like Jefferson himself.
Mellow in Monticello
Ingredients for 2 | Multiply by degree of thirst, divide by number of girlfriends!
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 1-inch knob of ginger, peeled and thinly sliced into rounds
For the cocktail
- 1/4 cup botanical gin
- 1/4 cup wheat beer
- 2 tablespoons Crème de violette
- 3/4 fluid ounce ginger syrup
- 1 egg white
- Angostura bitters
First, make the ginger syrup.
In a small saucepan, bring the sugar and water to a simmer, stirring occasionally until the sugar dissolves.
Add the ginger, remove from the heat, and cover the saucepan.
Let the syrup steep for 30 minutes, then strain into a heatproof container like a Mason jar.
Cool to room temperature before using in cocktails. Extra syrup can be refrigerated up to 1 month.
Next, mix the cocktail
Pour the gin, beer, Crème de violette, ginger syrup, and egg white into the base of a Boston shaker.
Seal and shake vigorously for 45 seconds to 1 minute.
Unseal the shaker and add a handful of ice cubes.
Reseal and shake for 30-45 seconds more.
Strain through a Hawthorne strainer into two architecturally appropriate coupes or other cocktail glasses.
Shake a few drops of Angostura bitters onto each cocktail, serve, and enjoy.
For those nights when you and your girlfriends want to explore the town, I recommend visiting either of these fabulous restaurants.
- Bill’s Prime Steak and Seafood, Chincoteague, VA | You have to try this cozy restaurant on the small island. Their extensive menu includes the freshest local seafood and hand cut steaks as well as delicious pasta dishes, all accompanied by their international wine list, beer, and cocktails. Alert: Be sure to save room for their legendary desserts.
- Carmelo’s Old Town Manassas, Virginia | Established in 1987, this restaurant is family owned and operated by a Portuguese immigrant, Alice Pires. Carmello’s earned the Award of Excellence by Wine Spectator magazine for 10 consecutive years, and has been voted Best Fine Dining restaurant by Prince William today since 2013.