Spotlight on Virginia Products
Keeping things local is the name of the game when looking for fun new companies, new products, foods, beverages, and ideas. Everyone wants to help their neighbor by supporting them when they start a new business with a product or service that you enjoy. Also, the quality aspect is always there because no business owner wants to disappoint anyone, especially when that customer may live right around the corner! I had a chance to view, sample, and experience some new and established Virginia companies at the Virginia Food and Beverage Expo held at the Richmond Convention Center this past week. This grand event was hosted by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) and had over 165 participants. THERE were many established companies with names I recognized but also many new companies and products who added their own twists to previous ideas. VDACS showcased much of Virginia’s “Best of the Best” with products that included Virginia craft beverages, mixers, wine, coffee, tea, artesian water, beverages, meats, cheeses, soups, seafood, peanuts, pasta, breads, baked goods, sauces, chocolates, condiments, dressings, and much more!
As I went around the room, I had the chance to meet some wonderful people who told me all about their products and the time and effort they spent developing their product. I experienced some amazing foods, drinks, bakery items, and the list is just too long to disclose here. I wish I could have met all the business owners and sampled their products but that was an impossible mission for the five hours I was there. But here is a snapshot of about 25 businesses and products I did have a chance to try and was impressed with what they had to say, sample, and the quality of their products:
Meat and Seafood
Congressional Seafood Company – Congressional Seafood supplies Virginia and our area chefs, restaurants, and high-end retailers with the freshest seafood on the East Coast. They provide our indulgent Rappahannock Oysters to all the restaurants and gourmet stores which are already favorites on your list.
Buffalo Creek Beef – Fresh and flavorful beef from the Potter Family Farm has been going on for seven generations. The Potter Family are passionate about their beef and all the products that are farmed from their land. You can find their beef and other delectable items at the Cattlemen’s Market in Lexington, Virginia.
Edwards Virginia Smokehouse – What began as a small business selling ham sandwiches on the Jamestown-Scotland Ferry, the Edwards built their first smokehouse in Surry, Virginia and are still going strong four generations later! Tasty, high quality ham and pork products is the Edwards signature and they feel you will find their products at or near perfection.
Gaskins Five Star BBQ Sauce – Also under the name Just Grilling LLC, Eddie has taken his years of grilling experience with his father and made some of the best tasting BBQ sauces in the land! Flavors and heat levels are Sweet, Mild, Hot, and SHAZAM! Yes, Shazam is the hottest and I can handle a little heat but was able to tame this Shazam on my palate and get the nice flavors. Eddie had good friend Rob there to help and they were fun, great guys with some wonderful sauces! I would highly recommend the Gaskins Five Star sauces and if you don’t see them at your local store, request them from your store manager. It is worth it!
Bone Doctors Barbeque Sauce – Dr David and Dr Bruce are really Orthopaedic surgeons who love to grill and cook with great BBQ sauces! If they have a “bone” to pick with you, it is always a good thing if you are using one of their sauces along with it. Very fun and creative labels on the bottles. Many sauce flavors and heat levels but the Isaac’s Apple BBQ Sauce was my favorite. Give their sauces a try, doctors orders!
Reservoir Distillery – Award winning, flavorful whiskies is what this distillery is known for. Owned and created by Jay Carpenter and David Cuttino, Reservoir concentrates on 3 main whiskies and a specialty whisky or two to keep the quality high. Located in Richmond, check out Reservoirs tasting room to sample their Bourbon, Rye, and Wheat Whiskies.
Catoctin Creek Distilling Company – Located in Purcellville, Virginia, Catoctin Creek is a distillery that produces many types of alcoholic beverages like rye, gin, brandy, and more! I had a chance to sample a few sips and the rye was my favorite! Check out Catoctin Creeks tasting room for a tour and a flight.
Starr Hill Brewery – A very well known name in Virginia because of their great line of beer, excellent seasonal brews, and fun staff! I sampled the Front Row Golden Ale and Looking Glass IPA and both were very good. More reasons to get back to the tasting room and do a flight. The city of Crozet is so centralized, no one has an excuse not to go for some great beer!
Honey Grail Boudica’s Uprising Sparkling Mead – I do love mead and this one was one of the best tasting I have ever had! Citrus and honey flavors but not too sweet. Maybe the sparkling style adds a bit of dryness to the flavor. This is a new product from Global Wine Distributors in Virginia so request it at whatever store you buy beer, wine, and mead. It is fantastic!
Peanuts and Snacks
Belmont Peanuts – What is a Virginia food show without Virginia peanuts? Belmont had an excellent flavor variety of peanuts from Sea Salt to Hickory Smoked to Chocolate Covered and more! I was very impressed with the fresh flavors of the peanuts and the great variety. Located in Capron, Virginia, Belmont has some bold and delicious peanuts that are worth checking into.
Carriage House Products, Inc. – This Virginia business started small in 1996 in Farmville with some wonderful cheese straws and cookies. But as the business grew, they relocated to Richmond and still make some of the best cheese straws around! Different flavors like Smoked Gouda Cheese Straws and Bacon Cheese Straws, how can you resist?!
Mom’s Spicy Pretzels – If mom knew her sons had stolen her spicy pretzel recipe, I am sure they would be grounded for a year! It seems that mom has forgiven the boys recently and the pretzel business was started in 2015. Baked pretzels with many different flavors, spices, and heat levels, you are sure to find a pretzel addiction here in Virginia! Very good products and something fun for your next friend or family get together!
Simply Cheddar – Linda Weaver decided to leave her high school teaching position when she realized she had tweaked the right recipe for these amazing tasting cheese balls! I, myself, have been buying her product religiously over the past 2 years and see the Simply Cheddar Cheese Balls in just about every winery I visit. They are always fresh, flavorful, and go perfect with any wine or appetizer before a meal.
Firehook Mediterranean Crackers – Crackers can be Ho-Hum but not with these Firehook Crackers! Many varieties and flavors of crackers that put your taste buds in flavor Heaven! Rosemary, Spicy Sesame, Sweet Potato, and Cinnamon are just a few of the flavors offered here at Firehook. They are crisp and fresh and I love the see through packaging so you know what you are buying at the store. Can’t find them at your local store? Check out Amazon.com and search for Firehook Crackers. Voila!
The Crispery Crispycakes – These are the rice crispy treats that your mother wished she knew about! Owner Judy Soldinger creates the most amazing rice crispy cakes in a slew of irresistable sweet flavors. Chocolate dipped, chocolate chip, pretzel surprise, chocolate mint, and many other creative flavors! Out of Portsmouth, Virginia, make sure you give them a try!
7 Muffins a Day – I asked the owner Jeanna Chavez how her business got its name? Her response was that was how many muffins she would need to sell each day to stay in business. Her products were so good, I may be able to keep her in business myself! Gluten free and non-dairy baked products that taste wonderful and natural. Jeanna does many farmers markets in the spring and summer so keep an eye out for her and you will find a new addiction like I did when you sample her bakery items!
Tea, Coffee, and Non-alcoholic Beverages
True Honey Tea – Ten different tea flavors and all made with real honey got me to stop and try a few sips at the event. The Peppermint Honey Tea was fantastic and just enough peppermint and honey to make it flavorful and sweet but not overwhelm the tea. A very nice balance. This tea comes in a K-cup or tea bag, whichever you prefer. Chris Savage is the owner and CEO and mentions that you can buy from his website or on Amazon. It is a Must Try!
The Coffee Bar – So Many Blends, So Little Time – Owner Veronica Davis was brought up on coffee by her grandparents and family and now is a coffee fanatic! Over 150 coffee flavors, blends, and many from different regions of the world. I am a coffee snob myself and was impressed with all the flavors I was able to sample. Her coffees come in K-cups, drip ground, bulk, regular, and decaf. Veronica also has many desserts listed online so you won’t go hungry while sipping her best java’s!
Ricks Roasters Coffee Company – Sean and Keely Ricks have made sure their love of coffee can be shared all around northeastern Virginia so they have many locations to serve their coffee fan club. Wonderful coffees from around the world and flavored as well. They have been roasting coffee for only about 5 years but have a following that knows their stuff.
Studio Brew Brewery – Big-E’Ze Non-Alcoholic Root Beer was the main focus for Studio Brew today at the convention center. This root beer had all the wonderful classic flavors you could want, flavorful and sweet! Next time you are in Bristol, Virginia, check out Studio Brew for their whole line of beers on tap because they are a micro-brewery first. The root beer is for dessert.
Creative Virginia Produce
The Prissy Pickle – Homemade southern pickles with many flavors and heat levels for you to snack on or include in recipes. Grandma’s pickle recipes have been handed down from the early 1900’s and still being used today! Southern Sweet Serrano Pickle was delicious and not hot as you may think. I also sampled a pickle potato salad which was excellent and a nice flavor change up. Fun and feisty pickles from Virginia Beach, Virginia!
Farmstead Ferments – Beautiful Virginia vegetables, sauerkrauts, fruits, juices, and all fermented to be probiotic rich. Flavorful and so great for your health! Many juices can be used for salad dressings, soups, marinades, and wherever your creative mind will take you. Water Kefer Soda is naturally fizzy, refreshing, and a potent probiotic drink. Check out Farmstead Ferments in Scottsville, Virginia where you can shop the whole line of fantastic products!
Breakfast, Jellies, and More
Herbert’s Wine Jelly – Fun and flavorful wine, beer, and cocktail jellies (non-alcoholic) to tempt your taste buds and impress yourself and visiting friends. Flavored peanut butters and spice rubs are also available and are being sold for no profit and to help the Mental Health Awareness charity. Yep, I have many products and flavors I loved here so I may be their new best customer! Try the Blackberry Cabernet Sauvignon Jelly, fantastic! Mexican Fiesta Spice and rub is wonderful addition for your Mexican inspired dishes. And look out, Marshmal-O-My Peanut Butter is going to send you to Flavor Heaven!
Go Oats Oatmeal – We can all relate to being late in the morning and running out the door with no breakfast. This reoccurring scene inspired the Go Oats Oatmeal Bites product of a rolled oatmeal ball with tempting flavors like Blueberry, Maple Brown Sugar, and more. (blueberry has real, fresh blueberries in the center). Just heat them up and run out the door! I loved the flavors and can see myself snacking on them through the day and not just breakfast. Healthy, filling, and now you have your breakfast covered!
Back Creek Farms LLC – Fine quality Virginia maple syrups in a variety of flavors which includes pure maple syrup, chili pepper maple syrup, barrel-aged and infused maple syrups, a wonderful hickory syrup, and more! If you are producing great maple syrups in an area known as Virginia’s Switzerland, you are most likely in the right place with the right business. Family owned and operated, Pat Lowry started making syrups with his grandparents and hasn’t changed much in his production style over the years. You can’t improve on perfection and they have found it!
Virginia Egg Council – Mary Rapoport, the Educational Director for the Virginia Egg Council, was there to remind us of the nutritional value of eggs and how many uses there are for our fantastic Virginia eggs. The Virginia Egg website is full of information and has many egg recipes, egg crafts, contests, and more! Check them out at www.virginiaeggcouncil.org for more information.
It was amazing seeing, tasting, and learning about all these great Virginia products and meeting the owners and people who are passionate about their Virginia businesses here! There were so many vendors and people I could not meet because of time but I hope this little slice of Virginia products will inspire you to buy local and check for these wonderful Virginia products the next time you shop. Or make a day trip that includes 3 or more stops where you can visit some of these Virginia businesses and taste for yourself. All these business owners would be excited to have you there and to learn their story. Obviously, check them out on the internet first and see if they do tours, sample schedule, and hours. Enjoy Virginia products!