We spent Wednesday night at the Charlotte Hotel in Onancock before going to Cape Charles.
First on our list of reasons to come to the Eastern Shore of Virginia is Cool Places to Stay.
The Charlotte Hotel is right in the heart of Onancock, a few blocks from the marina. It's a warm, inviting place and the attached restaurant is popular with locals as well as overnight guests. We did not get to Onancock early enough for dinner at the Charlotte Restaurant, but enjoyed an after dinner Pernot at the bar.
Below are four other reasons to leave the mainland and cross over into the magic that is the eastern shore.
The Resilient Watermen
Ned Harris (above) not only works at Cherrystone Aqua Farms in Cape Charles, but also manages his own oyster beds off the mainland in Virginia Beach. We met with him at Cherrystone and he gave us a tour and explained the science and process behind raising and harvesting oysters.
Now we have a newfound respect for the watermen who bring us these precious treats from the sea. It's incredibly hard work. We are fortunate to have these resilient souls who cherish and protect the ecosystem, working the bays every day.
The Food Innovators
Jason Van Marter established The Local in Cheriton, Virginia a little less than a year ago. He has earned a reputation for creating food unlike any other. Jason sources his food directly from local providers and is part of the movement here on the eastern shore that encourages knowing where your food comes from. He helps his customers get to know the people who grow and harvest the food they eat.
Above is Jason with lamb from Perennial Roots Farm in nearby Accomac. We had lunch at The local. We ordered a salad with heirloom green tomatoes from Perennial Roots Farm, local feta cheese, Everling Farms micro romaine lettuce, and truffle salt. This was the perfect match for a cold beer from Virginia's Hardywood Brewery.
Jon Wehner, pictured above, working at Chatham Farm
Chatham Vineyards is owned and operated by the Wehner family. Jon Wehner is a second-generation wine grower who learned about grape growing from his parents who operated Great Falls Vineyard in Great Falls, Virginia. Jon and his wife Mills work and their three children work together and liv on the historic Chatham Farm which has been a working farm for four centuries.
The Wehners and their team make Rose, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and a bordeaux style vinters blend. They also make an excellent steel fermented Chardonnay. Unable to resist, we bought a few bottles for gifts for our friends. Not having enough time to sample all the wines we promised ourselves to return. Surely, we plan to order some wines upon our return to New York.
Mills Wehner, pictured above, amblestoward the main building at the winery after picking up her children from school. She looks as happy as the place makes you feel. There is a sense of pride and joy here. But don't be fooled into thinking that operating a vineyard is simply a romantic dream. It's difficult, physically taxing work with many time sensitive, crucial details to attend to along the way. One must know exactly when to harvest the grapes, ferment and age them, bottling them, market and ship the final products.
You only have experience a restaurant that is full of locals to tap into the heartbeat and lifeblood of the community. We were lucky enough to go to such a place last night when we met with Hali Plourde-Rogers, Executive Director of the Virginia Eastern Shore Land Trust and Kerry Allison, the spectacular director of Eastern Shore of Virginia Tourism, at Hook-U-Up Gourmet in Cape Charles.
Sometimes even a "green" blogger and environmental writer like myself can get a tad jaded with the "farm to table" movement, a term used often now to describe and market dining options.
But, when we met the Wehners, Ned Harris, and Jason Van Marter, we realized words and phrases describing the green movement, no matter how popular and seemingly over used, are much more than mere hyperbole. One only has to engage a watermen on the dock, tour a winery and see a family making wine, or go to a place like The Local to realize that "farm to table" is a far cry from a marketing concept. It is a way of life where communities are building alliances to create a truly circular economy.
We'll be doing more in depth posts about Ned Harris, The Wehner Family and Jason Van Marter in the future. For now, we are checking out of the beautifully renovated Fig Street Inn in Cape Charles and heading for Virginia Beach.
Copyright 2017 Paul E McGinniss