This time of year revolves around our favorite thing–food. We spend much of our time cooking, eating, and thinking about cooking and eating. and what is better than comfort food for the holidays? We can always deal with the guilt next year.
We've tapped the minds of some of the Commonwealth’s leading culinary lights for some unique, scrumptious inspiration. Dig in and start cooking.
It just isn’t a proper holiday meal without a baked good (or six) singing to your sweet tooth, right? So we reached out to Richmond-based baker and blogger Arley Arrington of Arley Cakes, who's making exciting strides toward opening her own bakery aimed at empowering women from disenfranchised backgrounds—and delighting eaters of all stripes.
Arrington supplied us with a killer pie recipe featuring mulled red wine, pears, and cranberries. When we inquired about her must-have food for the holidays, she went outside the pastry realm. “Homemade eggnog,” she told us. “I drink that stuff in embarrassingly large quantities. If it was eggnog weather year round, I think 60% of my body would be made of eggnog instead of water. You may think that’s gross, but that’s probably just because you haven’t had homemade eggnog yet.”
Get your hands on some homemade eggnog and thank her later.
With Milton’s in St. Paul, Virginia, opening late this year and two more eateries—Shovel & Pick and Simply Grand—coming to Bristol in 2018, Chef Travis Milton draws upon his rural Virginia roots and the rich heritage of Appalachian and Southern cooking to celebrate the region right on the plate. He’s committed to sourcing from local farmers and other purveyors in order to authentically represent Virginia’s varied foodways, something everyone can appreciate.
Chef Milton shares with us a recipe that reflects his go-to holiday meal: oysters, something not popularly associated with Appalachia but, he points out, “very much a part of the food culture of the mountains.” His recipe for cornbread oyster dressing is full of comfort, including a homemade cornbread recipe using smoky bacon fat.
Milton loves the diversity of Virginia, reflecting on its wide range of local offerings, “We go from oceans on the east, utilizing wonderful crab, outstanding oysters, and super cool things like Sugar Toads and Croaker, and on the other end it's the Appalachian Mountains yielding unique heirloom vegetables and generations old techniques of preservation.” His appreciation shows in the complex dishes he creates, utilizing various local ingredients to give them all an abundance of flavor.
Todd Thrasher wears a whole wardrobe’s worth of hats, from scuba diver to golfer. But it's as a “liquid savant” that he’s blazed a nationally-known name for himself, serving as sommelier and mixologist at Cathal Armstrong's Restaurant Eve as well as Eammon’s A Dublin Chipper, PX, and Society Fair. He curates world-class wine lists and schemes up creative specialty cocktails that draw on unique ingredients and often express distinct stories and themes.
“I strive to do things differently,” he says. “I want our guests to remember what they drank just as much as what they ate—I want them to experience it the way I do.”
So who better than libation legend Todd Thrasher to supply the headlining cocktail for your holiday soiree? Thrasher’s spin on a classic “I am Virginia” Old Fashioned is sure to impress and nod to the nostalgia of Virginia.
Even with all the accolades, Armstrong remains inspired by his Dublin upbringing, and time spent in the kitchen and in the garden with his father, whom he describes as “a natural, a great cook.” Spiced beef is a big Dublin tradition at Christmastime, being served after Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. He brings us this classic recipe of spiced beef sandwiches to bring some Irish flavor to any Christmas Eve soiree.
We hope you can bring these four delectable recipes to life this December, and be on the lookout for more recipes from local chefs using Virginia ingredients in our new recipes section. from all of us at Virginia Foodie, here's wishing all of you a very happy (and hearty) holiday season!
Header Illustration is a collaboration between Miriam Weirich and VA Foodie.