Savoring Virginia's Blue Ridge Parkway
Roanoke for FlavorFor great flavors with enormous variety, check out Roanoke's lush and lovely places.
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Built in 1882 and re-designed in 1940, the classy 330-room Hotel Roanoke is considered one of the city’s oldest buildings and country’s renowned heritage hotels. Great food and hospitality have always been hotel hallmarks. Thick, salty and savory peanut soup served with spoonbread is a signature offering inside the elegant Regency Room. The hotel also makes more than 25,000 chocolate chip cookies each week and uses many farm-to-table ingredients.
Also in the downtown area the legendary Billy’s restaurant opened during 1912. Today, the menu includes such delectable dishes as shrimp and grits studded with country ham, brilliant red cherry tomatoes and locally milled grits; or lamb lollipops with fig reduction. Many ingredients come from City Market vendors across the street. A beautiful courtyard and multiple rooms characterize this enormously popular eatery.
The Roanoker Restaurant has been a favorite for more than 40 years, and it has became renowned for fluffy, light biscuits – noted in the Off the Beaten Path book and on the Today Show. In fact, each Christmas Eve, the restaurant typically handcrafts 3,000 biscuits by close, at 2 p.m. Local flour and produce, and country ham from North Carolina, infuse dishes with fresh flavors as often as possible. Large breakfast crowds also enjoy apple crepes and wafer-thin omelets.
Many museum cafes have become terrific culinary destinations and Norah’s Cafe by Blue Ridge Catering, at Taubman Museum of Art, is no exception. Chef Mark Baldwin’s menu features contemporary Southern cuisine with a taste of the globe, such as basil peach lemonade, rich and creamy macaroni and cheese or roasted Brussels sprouts. Enormous windows infuse the dining room with natural light while servers are warm and welcoming.
Elsewhere Along the Parkway: Eat Daleville, Fincastle and TroutvilleIn Daleville, with its retail market inside a rustic wood building, Ikenberry Orchards is a fifth-generation family owned orchard and greenhouse. Beginning with apples and peaches the orchard has grown to include 100-acres. The family also pumpkins and flowers and their apple cider is made locally too. They also added an immediately popular bakery, in spring 2014. Local schoolchildren sometimes visit a 200-300-year-old cabin on the property, where a woman dressed in period clothing talks about historic culture.
In Fincastle, the Heritage Family Market offers fresh meats -- some without nitrates and nitrites – and a wide variety of cheeses. Gluten-free items fill an entire half-aisle and there’s an enormous array of pre-packaged bulk items. The store sells local food items as well as ‘old-fashioned’ birch beer, sarsaparilla, red cream soda and Fanta. Freshly chopped coleslaw and scrapple are other popular items.
Not to be outdone, Troutville offers samples of Virginia’s exploding craft brewing trend at Flying Mouse Brewery. Opened in September 2014, the brewery produces flagship and seasonal beers and tests other brews in small batches. With its playful logo and cavernous building – a pre-cast concrete plant for 30 years – Flying Mouse began as a hobby and lets customers help determine the portfolio. #3 is a light beer favored by Bud/Miller Light drinkers. Number 4 is billed as an IPA ‘for non-IPA drinkers,’ #5 is a tasty pale ale, and #8 is a porter that delivers smooth quality with chocolate overtones.
Head South to FloydThe town of Floyd offers the Chateau Morrisette with stunning mountaintop views and one of the country’s largest reclaimed wood buildings, amid a 32-acre vineyard. More than 40,000 visitors enjoy wine tastings and tours here annually, including Elite Wine Tastings with cheeses, chocolates and barrel tastings. Gourmet lunches are also available in the high-ceilinged restaurant. Composted grape skins even nourish the massive onsite vegetable and herb garden.
Whether you prefer classic Southern fare, inventive contemporary cuisine, premium wine and beer or quality food shopping, there’s a lot to like about Virginia’s Blue Ridge Parkway region.
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Lisa Waterman Gray is a freelance writer and photographer from the Kansas City area who has ballooned over the Rio Grande, savored Quebec's finest restaurants and profiled charismatic celebrities. She has crafted thousands of stories for national, regional, and local print and online publications and loves to write about her travel and food adventures. Lisa also writes human interest, health and business stories. In addition, she is a copywriter, ghost writer, editor and recipe developer. Contact her at LisaWatermanGray.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Unless otherwise indicated, all photos by Lisa Waterman Gray.