Eating Like a Local at The Local

Both Adam and I work for small businesses, so we don’t have traditional 401K’s, matching or life insurance programs that larger corporations offer. We know these things are important so we have made a connection with an investment company out of Indianapolis and have started making plans for retirement.

We meet with the investor reps about once every six months in Indianapolis. These meetings are typically over two hours long and full of, what seems like, really big decisions.

By the end, we are both pretty brain fried and really ready for an adult beverage.

After our last meeting in early May we decided to have dinner at The Local Eatery and Pub on the north side in Westfield.

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We first went to The Local a couple months ago with Adam’s sisters and their friends and spouses. I was coming from a catering event so I was running late. That night the rest of the group waited for me to order entrees but did order a few of the many appetizers and drinks.

I was rushed and a bit frazzled as I arrived because I felt bad that everyone was waiting for me, but I was able to see The Local’s laid back, rustic and simple vibe as soon as I got the table.

Beers, sodas, and some cocktails were served in mason jars. And, the cheese board, complete with seasonal fruit, brie, prosciutto and crostini, was served on a large butcher block.

That night, Adam ordered the chicken on a wire, which was free range local chicken with a fried egg. Adam has become a huge fan of any thing topped with a fried egg. We have done them on burgers, salads and I would love to try it on pizza.

I had the pulled turkey sandwich. It was slightly spicy thanks to the chimichurri sauce, but well balanced with melted smoked Gouda cheese.

I loved the feel of the place and we all had a great time.

The fun crew!  And then a silly chick in the bottom corner...

The fun crew! And then a silly chick in the bottom corner…

This most recent visit, when it was just the two of us, I had more time to take it all in.

That is, after I ordered a glass of chardonnay… my mind was still thinking numbers, the dollars we need to save if we were to live until 95 and about what would happen if one of us were to become disabled, handicapped or worse.

… Chardonnay clears those things from the mind and makes it everything better.

I was able to notice and appreciate the large chalkboard displaying the local farms featured on the constantly changing specialties section of the menu.

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I was also able to learn more about the story of The Local. The restaurant opened in 2011 and is located near many of the popular suburbs of Indianapolis like Carmel, Westfield and Noblesville. The Local’s goal is to support and feature local farmers and artisans in order to build a strong local economy. They also love to be a part of the Farm to Table genre because it helps to reduce their environmental footprint.

Their website lists their farm and artisan partnerships and the menu explains their relationships and passion for Farm to Table.

In addition to my wine and Adam’s local Sunking beer, we ordered the baked goat cheese.

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(If you are new here… Hi! Welcome and thanks for reading! And, just so you know, I like cheese… a lot.)

It was great. The cheese was baked with roasted garlic cloves and olive oil and served with toasted bread to put the slightly melty cheese spread on.

Adam ordered the same sandwich. He loves it. It looked great and is always on The Local’s menu. He also loves their homemade buns.

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I ordered the seasonal specialty which was a white fish with beans, oyster mushrooms and a ramps sauce. I was sold on the entrée thanks to the ramps.

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My parents are part of a tiny CSA near their home in Michigan. I say “tiny CSA” because it’s just one farmer, but my mom has always loved natural food and local farmers. It’s only natural that she has developed connections with this grower. At Easter, Adam and I were up at my parent’s home on the coast of the lake and she had received her first CSA from him of the season.

Ramps were in this first CSA. I had never seen or tasted ramps, but they are really interesting.

Ramps are sort of a leek, onion, and garlic combo and can be found in the spring. They are technically a wild onion but they look similar to a green onion and have a garlic odor. In cooking, they are pretty versatile. They can be cooked in any recipe that calls for green onions or leeks. My mom even just tore some up and put it in a spring green salad at Easter.

The dish was wonderful so I asked the waitress where the ramps were from. She didn’t know, but said she would find out. However, the girl didn’t come back to our table with any answers.

And, that’s my only minor complaint about this very unique and influential restaurant. They list which farms they partner with, but don’t say what is local and what comes from one particular farm or another. If it was my place, I would make sure the staff was prepared for questions and knew about the food they were serving. Or, at least had points of reference in the back of the house if a question was asked so they could easily find the answer.

But, everything else was excellent on both our visits. The staff was friendly and accommodating. The atmosphere is a perfect combination of rustic and approachable for the everyday. The food was great.

The Local is a great place in Indy that is making a great effort to support the community and local farmers. I am proud and eager to support a restaurant that makes this kind of effort.

Be sure to do the same if you are in the area!

The Local Eatery and Pub
14655 N. Gray Road
Westfield, IN 46062

http://localeateryandpub.com/

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Spring Has Sprung.

Well okay, not in Indiana.

There were snow flurries today.

But, we spent the weekend in Atlanta celebrating a good friend and sorority sister’s wedding.

And, in Atlanta spring had arrived.

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It was gorgeous day for a wedding. Saturday was sunny and temperatures were in the seventies. Trees had come in bloom and the wedding was held at Atlanta’s Botanical Gardens where large tulips made the perfect background for the outdoor ceremony.

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Like any wedding, I really look forward to spending time with my college friends who are now located in new homes across the nation. This weekend was a lot of fun because we had so much time to spend together and were able to really catch up.

Everyone got in on Friday and Ashley, whose boyfriend is currently assigned to a project in Atlanta, lined up a dinner at Einstein. Einstein was located right in the heart of Midtown in an area that is similar to Chicago’s Boystown.

Einstein is a restaurant and bar that has a great menu. They have a good amount of small plates and a few entrees, many sandwiches, and amazing selection of sides. They also have received plenty of accolades about their brunch.

With so many great choices, I struggled deciding on something for dinner. I ended up making a meal out of the Crab and Shrimp Cake small plate that sat on a bed of edamame succotash and sides of beets and fried green tomatoes.

Fried green tomatoes are a huge staple in the south and we actually saw them at every meal we ate this weekend in Atlanta… even at the wedding!

Out at an Irish pub after dinner!

Out at an Irish pub after dinner!

The next morning I made brunch reservations at South City Kitchen. Based on some research I had done before the weekend, South City Kitchen sources meat and produce from local growers and bread from a local bakery. It also happened to be right around the corner from our hotel.

South City Kitchen is a bright and cheery restaurant in the Midtown area. There was a patio in the front of the restaurant just off the street and seating inside on both the first and second floors. The waiter led our group upstairs where we were seated at a large table.

We ordered cocktails, because…

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I had a Bellini and Adam had a bloody Mary.

Corn bread and biscuits with apple butter were brought to the table. The corn bread was great and got me inspired to make my own with all the corn in the freezer. Stay tuned for that one…!

Yummy, mini corn bread muffins.

Yummy, mini corn bread muffins.

The South City Kitchen’s menu was a good balance of brunch and lunch options. There were salads and sandwiches, and then your typical brunch fair like eggs and pancakes.

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Adam had been excited all morning to try chicken and waffles. He had never had it, but as an avid Diners, Drive In’s and Dives viewer he had to see what it was all about.

When it arrived his excitement was at an all time high. He even took a picture of it and texted it to a couple friends.

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He dug into the fluffy waffle and decided it was well worth all the excitement.

“It’s like sex in my mouth,” he exclaimed between bites.

“God, your classy,” I replied as I reached over to get a bite.

I am a big fan of a sweet and salty combo. I mix in M&M’s with popcorn. Chocolate chips with nuts. And, Chicken and Waffles is basically the epitome of sweet and salty combinations.

There’s the juicy, salty fried chicken and then the sweet maple syrup and soft waffle. It was good.

I had barbecue pulled pork egg Benedict with pork and coleslaw with, in true southern fashion, grits on the side. The eggs were perfectly poached and the sweet barbecue worked so well with this brunch classic.

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Other entrees that graced our table were the smoke roasted beef eggs Benedict, a BLT with fried green tomatoes as the “T,” salmon, chicken livers and two more plates of chicken and waffles.

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After brunch the boys headed to a bar to catch up on March Madness and some craft beers. My friends, Kelsey and Katie, joined me for the walk to Piedmont Park. Piedmont Park is a park in Midtown, but what we didn’t realize just how huge this park is.

Girls at the park.  Loved the views of the city!

Girls at the park. Loved the views of the city!

It’s massive and, on the nice Saturday afternoon, it was booming with life. We saw soccer games, baseball games, kickball games, runners, bikers, boot camp classes, families picnicking, and lots and lots of puppies!

At the edge of the park, there was a large farmers market that was just winding down for the day. Many of the vendors were selling early spring produce such lettuce, kale and green onions. We weren’t really looking to buy anything because we had long drives back to our homes.

Although, if we had seen asparagus I would have found a way to make that work.

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As we were approaching the end of the vendor tents, a table of pretty glass bottles caught my eye. The sign said it was a USDA organic ginger farm named Verdant Kitchen. The couple that ran the table offered us a sample of their ginger syrup.

It was zingy, sweet and interesting!

I looked down at the other items on the table, as the woman told us about all the different things you could make with the syrup, ranging from desserts to cocktails. You could even make your own ginger ale. In addition to the syrup, they also were selling ground ginger, dehydrated ginger and chocolate covered ginger candies.

She went on and told us that their farm is located in Savannah. This got me wondering, “Where is ginger typically grown?”

I like ginger and love to use it in Asian inspired meals, like stir-fry. I had even considered it when trying to come up with the name of this blog because my first name is Virginia. Something like, “Ginger’s Roots.” It didn’t paint the whole picture though.

Despite a bit of a crush on ginger, we had never even thought of growing it in our own garden.

So, I asked.

The man asked if I wanted to know where ginger is grown domestically or internationally.

Unsure of what I was even looking for, I just said domestically. He said normally it’s in Hawaii and a little bit in California and that it was pretty unique to be grown in America, let alone Georgia.

Thanks to Google, I learned that it typically comes from India, Africa, or the Caribbean. (And, that it needs a pretty warm climate to survive. So, ginger won’t be gracing our garden anytime soon…)

I thought this was very interesting. I had never thought about where ginger grows or even how it is grown.

And, thanks to the woman who was still sharing recipes that you could create with the ginger syrup, Katie and I each bought a bottle.

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She said that we could find all the recipes on their website.

I asked the man what his favorite ginger syrup recipe is. He kind of laughed, saying that he enjoys them all. But, he really just likes it over vanilla ice cream and that it is also great in rum.

Something that I will have to try soon!

But, not tonight.

It’s a whopping 18 degrees tonight, making ice cream very unappealing. And, after all the fun at the wedding, it’s time for a little detox.

Sorority girls with the B&G!

Sorority girls with the B&G!

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Mile High Eats and “Experiences”

It’s been a bit of a crazy week in North Central Indiana. The National Weather Service confirmed that EF-2 tornadoes came through our county last Sunday, one less than two miles away from our home. Here was the cover of our city’s paper on Monday morning.

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I tried to buy a copy but they were sold out across town by the afternoon.

All week long we have heard stories of damage. Driving through town I have seen damage that I really had only seen in photos or on the news.

Fortunately, patio furniture strewn across the lawn was all the “damage” to our home and property.

We also heard stories of where people were during the storm.

Fortunately, we were not in town. (This is major good fortune for my sanity… I would have been freaked out.)

We had just arrived back to Indy from a long weekend in Denver when we heard on the radio that a tornado was on the ground and headed to our little town.

The trip was a bit of a celebration for the end of harvest for Adam, my new job (started this past Monday!), and just for fun!

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We chose Denver because it always seems like the spring board to the next place, be it the mountains, California, where ever. We had never really been to the city, so we decided to take a little time to enjoy it.

With nothing on the agenda to do but to be together and relax, we had a great time. In fact, my dear darling “country boy” said that he could live in the city of Denver multiple times throughout the long weekend.

We stayed at a hotel on 16th Street, a major business district downtown that had virtually every major restaurant and store you could think of. We also didn’t rent a car, but it worked out great. Denver has public transportation down. A free bus system runs up and down 16th Street for about two miles making it easy to get to different areas.

We also took the bus from the airport saving us an expensive cab ride. The timing was great and the trip to and from the city wasn’t too long. (We took the AF Bus that had a stop right at the ground transportation area of the airport. Round trip was $20 per person. A cab ride would have been a cool $50 each way.)

Denver gets a bad reputation for having killer winters because we all imagine the snow from the mountains. I was prepared for cold temps, but it turns out we were warm. We walked a lot and did not need a jacket until the evenings. Not bad for November.

Denver is actually similar to a micro climate, protected by the mountains, and boasts over three hundred days of sunshine each year.

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(… this alone is something to make a Midwesterner consider a cross county move. Case and point? Tornadoes in November.)

One big thing I really wanted to do while there was seek out a restaurant or two that is locally sourced. I have done enough research on the Farm to Table movement and knew that Denver was a town that values local growers and has proximity to ranches producing fabulous cuts of traditional and unique meats. Plus, I wanted something to write about…

What I didn’t realize was that nearly any restaurant in the city was onboard with the movement. Granted we weren’t going to big chains and did hop off the beaten path, but each restaurant we visited had a blurb on their menu sharing where they source local produce, eggs, poultry, beef, game, whatever, from.

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Here are a few of our favorite meals from the trip:

We began with lunch at Wynkoop Brewing Company, Denver’s first craft brewery, after checking into our hotel. Craft beers are now pretty much the heart beat of Denver, but in the eighties it all began here.

We started with a flight of the home brews as we couldn’t decide between all the IPA’s, lagers, and ale’s. My favorites were the Rail Yard Ale, one of the brewery’s best sellers and a seasonal peach wheat.

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Starving, as our stomachs were still on east coast time, we also ordered lunch. Adam had the Pork Bahn Mi, an Asian twist pulled pork. I know he choose it because sriracha was listed as a topping. The kid has a hard time saying “no” to anything with sriracha. I had a BLT with thick slices of Denver Bacon, juicy heirloom tomatoes and baby lettuces.

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Before going out west, I asked for some Facebook input on must see restaurants in Denver. The resounding recommendation was for a brunch spot called Snooze.

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Snooze really came into popularity thanks to MTV’s Real World Denver as the cast always ate there. All the recommendations included a warning that anytime of day you show up, there will be a wait.

And there was. A forty minute wait… for brunch… on a Friday morning. I could sense Adam’s patience, or lack there of, so I assured him that everyone said this would happen but it would be worth it.

… A bloody mary also helped my cause.

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The bloodys were made with house made bloody mary mix and different hot pepper infused vodkas. I ordered a gazpacho bloody mary and it was fabulous. Adam had a spicy one, of course.

We were made aware our table was nearly ready via text message and headed into the diner.

I think this is the best idea ever!

I think this is the best idea ever!

Looking around the restaurant I knew we were in for some good food. There were huge pancakes, egg plates and french toast that looked more like dessert. Adam and I both opted for savory options versus the sweets.

Chiciquilles for him.

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Italian style eggs Benedict for me complete with prosciutto, cheesy hollandaise topped with balsamic and peppery arugula.

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Phenomenal.

And totally worth the wait.

Our final night we had reservations at Buckhorn Exchange, per recommendation from my aunt claiming it is “an experience.” She also recommended the Brown Hotel as a great place for a cocktail so we decided to have a drink there before heading to dinner.

The Brown Palace is a one hundred and thirty year old hotel, rich with Denver history as it was one of the first buildings in the city. We took a seat in the lobby as a pianist serenaded the many couples cozied up with martini’s.

After a weekend full of beer, I was ready for a glass of champagne. Adam had a Manhattan.

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We had a great conversation about friendships and our good fortune with friends as we admired the exquisite architecture.

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As we left, the Brown’s driver insisted he take us to dinner as he was free. We didn’t object to the free ride. On the way he also mentioned that Buckhorn Exchange is “an experience.”

I got a little nervous… What did everyone mean by this?

“It’s just a little guy,” Adam announced as we pulled up to a maybe thirty foot wide building.

The driver agreed but said it was deep and that tables went way back into the restaurant.

This was true. As we followed a waitress back through the narrow restaurant, I began to understand why it was always described as “an experience.”

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It was like going back in time into the wild, wild west. The building was warm, tables had red checked table cloths, old framed black and white photos covered the walls… in addition to hundreds upon hundreds of mounted game heads and furs.

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A little crazy, yes. But, clearly part of “the experience.”

Our menu’s were designed like a newspaper, explaining the history of the restaurant.

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The Buckhorn Exchange opened in the late 1800’s and was a favorite of Teddy Rossevelt. There was even a story about a night in the year 1900 when a masked bad guy held everyone in the restaurant hostage, robbing them of any cash or valuables and injuring barmaids. It really was part of the Wild West!

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Entrees included beef and buffalo, like many other restaurants in Denver, but it also included all sorts of wild game including elk, quail, game hens, lamb and duck.

Adam and I both had the night’s special, buffalo with garlic butter and elk with a spiced cranberry sauce. Our meals were also served with a garden salad and starch. I chose smashed potatoes and Adam had a baked potato, two things we never do at home so it was a big treat.

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The meal was delish, but what was even better was that it was just a piece of a great night that capped off a memorable weekend together.

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Below are links to all the restaurants we tried. Loved everything, but couldn’t write about them all. Check them out on your visit to the Mile High City!

http://www.wynkoop.com/
http://www.lodosbarandgrill.com/ — Located right in the LoDo neighborhood. Great place for a game.
http://www.snoozeeatery.com/
http://www.breckbrew.com/ — Great Buffalo Burgers and Brews by Coors Field.
http://viewhouse.com/ — Awesome patio on top floor with great views of the city. Bottomless mimosas and Bloody Mary’s on Saturdays in addition to a brunch menu.
http://bravapizza.com/ — Similar to a food truck; Mobil stone pizza oven with a two tap kegerator. Great, quick flatbread pizza’s right on a patio on 16th Stree.
http://www.buckhorn.com/

Hotels:

http://www.brownpalace.com/
http://www.sheratondenverdowntown.com/

Transportation:

http://www.rtd-denver.com/

… when we go back I am DYING to try The Kitchen and Squeaky Bean! Have you been there?!

My First Local “Foode” Review

Written June 4, 2013

The first week of June, my work took me to Fredericksburg, Virginia for training.  Like any good foodie, the first thing I do is look up good local restaurants.  (Before hotel and flights, obvi.)  I added “locally sourced” to my searches and quickly came across Foode, right in downtown Fredericksburg.  It has a menu that changes every week with food comes from the Virginia region.  In fact, the website stated that 85-95% of the food served is from local farms or merchants.  The website also had a simple, rustic look that was beautiful.

And, let’s be honest, the name couldn’t be more perfect.  Foode for the foodie?  Sold.

I made plans with a sorority sister who recently moved to Washington, DC and she made the hour long drive south to meet me for dinner with her boyfriend, Mike.  (Thanks, Katie!)

My cab driver had never heard of the restaurant so we slowly crept up the main street in quaint, historic part of town.  We pulled up and the entrance looked like an alley.  Thank goodness, a simple green sign marked the restaurant, or we would have missed it.  Katie and Mike were already there and she texted to tell me she had already gotten a table.

I walked through the threshold to find it was, in fact, an alley.  A really neat alley.  An alley of exposed brick, lined with live edge wooden tables and an open ceiling decorated with colorful, open umbrellas.  I joined Katie and Mike and they told me that there were tables on the inside, but they like this area better.  I didn’t fight it.  The space was so fun and it was a really nice night.

Colorful umbrella's made for fun, unique décor at Foode in Fredericksburg.

Colorful umbrella’s made for fun, unique décor at Foode in Fredericksburg.

Katie passed me a menu.  It was one page front and back.  The front was all the food options and the back showcased all the beverage choices.  Katie and Mike were already enjoying bottled IPA’s and the waitress was quick to see what I would like to drink.  I was still taking in the atmosphere and greeting Katie and Mike that I didn’t even have a chance to look, so I just asked for a glass of white wine.  She quickly returned with DMZ Chardonnay in a mason jar.  The mason jar matched the one already on the table which held a bouquet of basil, in place of the traditional floral centerpiece.

Cheers!

Cheers!

Making an entrée decision was impossible.  Everything sounded excellent.  I was drawn to shrimp and grits, but it seemed too heavy for the warm evening.  Same with the spring risotto, even though it sounded amazing with spring veggies like peas and asparagus.  Mike decided on the whole free range chicken, while Katie and I both opted for the grass fed beef burger.

Mike went inside to place our order, as food orders were not taken through the waitresses, while Katie and I caught up about her new job and life in the District.

Soon our food arrived.  My towering burger was complete with a zingy, seasoned aioli, pub chips for a crunch and homemade pickles was paired with thick cut fries.  The burgers came to us in small cast iron skillets lined with parchment paper, continuing with the rustic look.  I laughed at the lack of actual vegetable on my “plate.”  Here I was at a local restaurant, that receives products from local growers everyday (in fact, they even thank these local farmers and artisans at the end of their menu) and I wasn’t even eating one green item.  Oops.  Oh, well.  You only live once, right?!

As we ate I looked around the alley at the other full tables.  A couple, with their dog in tow, next to us who was splitting a few delicious looking appetizers, including the warm pimento cheese toast, over a bottle wine from Charlottesville, the home of University of Virginia. (Side note: UVA is my namesake.  My parents met there while in business school.  Not to mention, it was where my grandparents spent many years of their retirement.  So, good old C-Ville has a special place in my heart.)

On the other side of us was a family with young children.  I glanced at the menu and it looked like they had a great kids menu complete with traditional kid favorites like natural grilled cheese or hot dog.  This family was done with dinner and had moved on warm, homemade cookies complete with a tall glass of organic milk.

The inner kid in me thought that sounded like an amazing way to finish off the meal, but before I could make my ten-year-old request, Mike asked if we wanted check out the Capitol Ale House.  He said they are known for having a great selection of beers.  I learned that my dear friend Katie, who I used to go to with all my questions about wine, is now my girl to go to about beer too.  (In my opinion, everyone needs a friend like this.)

There, Mike and Katie helped me pick out a great wheat beer from Virginia as my beer palate has not gone much beyond Blue Moon.  They told me that there are a lot of brewery’s developing in the area and they were having a blast trying all the new and different beers.  Katie even had an app on her phone called “Untapped” to track all the different brews she has tried.

We finished our beers and decided to call it a night, even though it was still a little early.  I had to be ready for meetings beginning at five the next morning and Katie and Mike had an hour drive back to DC.  I headed back to my hotel satisfied, happy to have been able to catch up with a good friend, and with half of my wonderful burger left over to be lunch the following day.

Foode Quick Facts:

1006 C/D Caroline Street

Fredericksburg, VA 22401

foodeonline.com

No need to tip.  The staff asks that you just have a good time.

In addition to dinner, Foode also serves lunch and brunch.  The brunch on Saturday and Sunday sounds amazing.  Lots of free range egg options.  They are closed on Monday’s.

Many of the shops and Civil War tourist destinations in historic Fredericksburg close around five or six on week nights, so plan your visit accordingly.  So, get there early and work up an appetite while you shop.

If you would like to see what local producers Foode has vendor relationships with they are listed on their website.

Enjoy!  This is a great place with an awesome atmosphere and magnificent food.