Monday, September 24, 2007

A wonderful start...Fall Camping: Day 1

After the planning and packing, and loading the car in a hot and hazy mist on Thursday night, and finishing up on Friday morning, we were (miraculously) able to get in the car early and hit the road for the mountains. It was humid and hot when we left and I was really looking forward to some crisp fall weather as we headed up to Crabtree Falls. The girls were set in the back seat (Bridget sleeping after working late the night before, and Molly watching Cars on her portable dvd player), and I was reading The Kite Runner (having unencumbered time to read for pleasure is one of the best things about getting away!). Our plan was to travel to Crozet, Virginia to visit Fabulous Foods Marketplace, and to have lunch at the famous Crozet Pizza, then head up the mountain and set up camp for the weekend. The weather was great and traffic (for once in Virginia) was minimal, and we made great time. Our first stop was pulling into the little town of Crozet. Let me explain that if you look up Crozet, you can see from the Crozet Gazette, a town that looks like something out of another era. Crozet got its first fast food restaurant when a Subway moved in in the late 1990's and with stories in the Gazette about Crozet population reaching 24,000, and a picture of Crozet's first paper boy, you can see why its charm is attracting new people to the area in droves. Crozet's most recent claim to fame is that it was where the Steve Carrell movie Evan Almighty was filmed, complete with an ark and exotic animals.

Fabulous Foods Marketplace is an unassuming edifice from the outside, but inside was a wealth of herbs, botanicals, natural foods, and local produce, and other perishables. We walked through aisles of homeopathic remedies, organic and whole grain foods, an bulk foods. I am attracted immediately to the cheese in any market, and here we made our two purchases - a cheddar cheese ball made locally in Waynesboro, and a pound of Mennonite butter. FabFoods also carries Polyface meats raised organically on the Salatin's family farm in the Shenandoah Valley. The staff was very friendly and helpful, it was like going to an old corner grocery, only better! After browsing and buying everyone was excited to head to Crozet Pizza, but when we got there we found they were not open for lunch! Not wanting to head for one of two fast food restaurants in Crozet (Subway and Dairy Queen), we headed back toward FabFoods, where we had seen an appealing Mexican-looking cafe across the street and we decided to give it a try. La Cocino del Sol is a family restaurant owned and operated by Myrna Montiel, the sister of acclaimed Boar's Head Inn chef Alex Montiel. Since the day was warm we passed up the opportunity to eat in one of the two outdoor cafe areas and took a spacious (even for my 6'5" husband) booth. The menu was very appealing as was the decor, which I would describe as modern upscale Mexican, very charming, warm but sophisticated. We were on the early end of lunch so we enjoyed very attentive service. The lunch menu offered a number of options, and after some waffling (especially Molly!) Bridget settled on Chicken tortilla soup and a Mexican burger with cheese and guacamole, Molly ordered Oaxacan cheese sticks and a cheese quesadilla, Gavin had a Mexican steak sandwich and I had a vegetarian patty sandwich. The tortilla soup came first and we all took a taste- it was delicious and at least 2 others at our table wished they had ordered that. The sandwiches all came on a delicious roll that was hearty without being overpowering and burying the sandwich fillings. My veggie burger was uncharacteristically good, made so mainly by the toppings and bread (the veggie patty was good, but commercial). My husband's sandwich was good and hearty with meat that appeared to have been blackened or grilled and sliced rather than braised. All the sandwiches were served with fries. We had a leisurely and delicious meal in nice surroundings and we were fortified for the trek to our campsite... but not before we agreed that we would try Cocina del Sol again.

After we set up camp, hung the hammock and had gotten a fire going, we pulled out the cheese ball we purchased at FabFoods. Made in Waynesboro by Linda Weaver for her company called Simply Cheddar, the cheese ball looked like something you would make yourself, not in a perfect factory-pressed ball, but a squat, nut covered orb. You could tell this was going to be extraordinary when you cut into it and could see distinct shreds of cheddar cheeses and bits of onion inside. Linda Weaver prides herself on using no processed or cream cheese and when you bite into her cheese ball you can see she has a lot to be proud of. The flavor was incredible, highlighting superior ingredients and care in its production, presentation and packaging that could only be done by someone who loves what they are doing and are committed to doing it better than anyone else. My regret of the day? That we didn't buy two or three. Lucky for us (and for you) you can order Linda's cheese balls online.

At the end of the day, we sat by the fire until our eyes grew heavy, and went to bed serenaded by the sound of crickets, and the gentle melody of the Tye River. Take it from me... it's better than Lunesta!


C'tina said...

I'm looking forward to returning to Crabtree Falls...this year we are driving further Bluestone W VA, to meet up with my sister in law who is driving from Indiana. Thank you for posting the info for Crozet. I've bookmarked it to plan our next trip to CTF.

s'kat said...

Wow, you truly picked a nice time to go up and camp! I'm now imagining falling asleep next to trickling water beneath sparkly stars....

The last time I was in Crozet, Dave & I had lunch at the Cocina, and loved it. Why can't we have Hispanic food like that here in Newport News?!?!

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Deborah Dowd said...

C'tina- Let me know when you are heading that way, maybe we could do a bloggers camping trip- it would be fun!

Shelley-Wasn't that a really charming place? And I loved that it wasn't sterotypical!

Jeena- Thanks for stopping by, and I will be sure to check you(your blog, of course!) out