“Farm-to-Table” is a taste-trip back to simpler times, when food was eaten not far from the fields, the hills and streams where it was grown and raised and caught. Where cookie-cutter uniformity of shape and size and color are replaced with variety and richness, individuality of flavor and renewed nutrition, each ingredient picked fresh at its ripest, unique unto itself. Put another way, it is physically impossible to freeze or transport the bursting flavor of a trout caught yesterday and cooked today.
A locally grown Renaissance in West Virginia’s Greenbrier Valley is why this area has become a popular Farm-to-Table travel destination — a setting for a culinary expedition impossible to reproduce through shipping, packaging and storage.
The Livery Tavern
Nancy Stewart, from The Livery Tavern, says the idea was: What would you have here 100 years ago? Oysters from Virginia — fried, baked or raw. Boar sausage, ground on site and served with other local meats aboard their Huntsman Platter. Pork belly with hash. Quail, sweetbreads, homemade cheese. Bone-in ribeye, local trout, or even meatloaf with foie gras.
The community, she says, is educated and artistic, and cares from where their food comes. Locals bring in baskets of beautiful Morel mushrooms. Ramps in season. Fiddlehead ferns.
“Farm-to-Table means richer, real and varied colors,” Nancy says. “You might see a twenty-first century huntsman come in, carrying a basket of leeks to sell.”
At the Livery, amid hand-worked black walnut and local stonework, you’ll enjoy local vegetables or bread, duck eggs when they can get them, locally raised goat or lamb and other treats. Then sit beneath their handmade wine racks and enjoy a goat cheese ice cream you won’t soon forget.
Maybe, in the area to catch a concert at the Greenbrier Valley Theatre, you stop into Stardust, because you’ve read reviews like, “After the first experience we booked and ate there 5 nights in a row,” or, “We chose this restaurant because of the great reviews in Trip Advisor. If anything, it exceeded the ratings.”
Choices include locally raised burgers, Italian ices, fair trade coffees, salads like the popular “Trust Me,” “Not Pasta” (made with fresh zucchini and then topped with marinara and ricotta or Italian sausage). Of course, there are local steaks, grilled chicken, pork shank, and “The Veggie Dream” (basmati, feta, artichokes and tomatoes in a creamy curry sauce).
Smooth Ambler Distillery
Down the road at the Smooth Ambler, it’s “Grain-to-Glass,” since all their corn and wheat come from a local farmer, hand-selected, brought in whole, and ground just before it’s put into the mash tank. After the first run on the still, the leavings, rich in protein, are picked up by another farmer, and used to feed his livestock.
Grain-to-Glass means more control over consistency and quality, as with the botanicals they bring in whole — the juniper, the cardamom, black pepper — then grind fresh.
Visiting their sampling room, you might walk out with a bottle of their Old Stout Bourbon, Smooth Ambler Barrel Aged Gin, or a box of Chocolate Caramel Bourbon Balls, made by West Virginia confectioner Holls Chocolate (with Smooth Ambler spirits).
Or maybe you’ll stop into Stella’s, with comfortable outdoor garden seating when the weather’s favorable, which is more often than not. There, you might try local butternut-squash stuffed ravioli, steamed curry mussels, and a Mexican brownie topped with chili chocolate ganache.
Farm-to-table doesn’t always need to include someone else’s table. It could be your own. Greenbrier County “sows and reaps” a bounty of fresh foods that can be purchased from the local farmers’ markets and several shops in the area. Throughout the growing season, the Alderson Community Market, Greenbrier Valley Farmer’s Market and Lewisburg Farmers’ Market are all vending on Saturday mornings with a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, meats, eggs, baked goods, jams and jellies, plants and fresh flowers. For the afternoon shopper, the Greenbrier Farmers’ Market has additional hours on Wednesday from 3-7pm while the Lewisburg Farmers’ Market extends their season by moving indoors for the winter.
That’s just a sampler of the Farm-to-Table movement happening in the Greenbrier Valley, where the bounty of the rolling hills and winding streams is giving rise to a true “back-in-time” cuisine experience found only here, and nowhere else on Earth.