Summer Days in Staunton [WIAW]

by Sarah on August 1, 2012 · 10 comments

Summer days call for road trips.

They can be (somewhat) epic journeys, or they can simply be day (or evening) trips about 40 minutes down the road.Saturday found me, Jessica, and Alex getting ‘out of down,’ and in Staunton, Virginia for a few midday hours of antique and vintage shop perusing, gelato consuming (for them), meandering, self-timer photography attempting (until a kind strange helped us out)…

–and of course we can’t forget– –taking pictures of our food.

Bcecause I know you are all wondering what we could possibly find delicious to eat in such a small own, I present to you, Jenn, and your loyal summer lovin’ (had me a blast) followers, What I Ate in StauntonThe answer to what there is to eat in such a small town for a health-minded vegan (with benefits) food blogger and her tweeting and blogging friends is, well, a heck of a lot.

In fact, having spent many summers nearby at camp and coming to Staunton for days and evenings off, it was actually the very first place I ever saw (or entered) a natural food store.Cranberry’s Grocery & Eatery is a natural food store and cafe that gives off those positive healthy vibes whereupon you walk inside and immediately breathe a sigh of contentment. [OK, maybe that’s just MY reaction to walking into a store with wooden shelves stocked with supplements and bursting-at-the-seams bulk bins. :)]Not only was Cranberry’s my first natural grocery experience, it was also the first place I ever saw the words “gluten-free kitchen and menu,” long before that was de riguer.

Not that I needed to worry about that. I only needed to worry about which tofu salad to get.After much waffling between the Taj Mahal + the Thai–How easy to cross countries on a menu, no?–I split the difference and ordered the Thai, with BOTH of the sauces.

After all, the ingredients were mainly the same, both featuring jasmine rice and the incredibly flavorful and perfectly textured peanut-dusted tofu.And seriously, would you have been able to choose between Spicy Peanut and Sweet Curry Mango sauces? I think not.They were both delicious, and that peanut sauce REALLY had a kick. I actually kind of liked them both mixed together–Did I continuously dip my fork tongs into them and just keep licking? Maybe. (Yes.)

Coming soon to a blog near you: Curried Mango Peanut Sauce!

Capping off what was already a light, refreshing summery lunch was the Celtic Elixir, the ‘signature drink’ from Cranberry’s in-house juice bar. I’m not normally a juice person, but I couldn’t resist the sound of apple + celery + carrot + beet + ginger.*

*I had to remind myself to go slowly, or else I’d feel the (delicious) burn of the fresh ginger post-gulp.So, Staunton certainly has summer lunch under control. But the street is lined with numerous pizza parlors, cafes, upscale restaurants, and roots music lounges that all feature tempting ‘come hither’ menus on their sidewalk facing storefronts.

And although we didn’t stay for debating dinner on Saturday, Alex and I had already had the pleasure of a friend date at The Darjeeling Cafe.I had been intrigued by The Darjeeling Cafe long before I even moved back to Charlottesville, because I had discovered it as an exclusively vegan and vegetarian restaurant. [Where there are friendly owls on the table to greet you.]Although that is no longer the case, the menu is still incredibly vegan and vegetarian dominant, making what is often an easy task for a vegan (with benefits) when dining out very difficult: very rarely are their so many choices that ‘work’ for the plant-based diet.

And how often do you see seitan on the menu in Central Virginia? [I mean, really.]

But before we get ahead of ourselves, Alex had read the online reviews that said ‘do not miss the tea!’ So we each picked a tea from the extensive list of specialty brews which came in mismatched, individual teapots.

I ordered the Harvest Moon tea, a blend of hibiscus, lemon balm, lavender, and passion flower. Better than a glass of wine, I swear.To go along with our tea (although perhaps not an approved sommelier pairing) we ordered the trio of dips: nicely seasoned–and not too oily–hummus; incredibly fresh guacamole;* and salsa with some kick to it.

*They have obviously learned the guaca-quation. 😉Although I definitely tackled the veggies first–as per usual––I was unable to resist the housemade tortilla strips. They were just too good.Luckily I had a partner in crime, and I was able to save room for the main event. Alex ordered the Moroccan Tagine, which was not at all what we expected from the name.

She said it was fresh and summery, but a tagine it was not. We were both expecting something much richer, with more intense Moroccan spices, and perhaps some golden raisins?Because I had a Groupon, I ordered not one, but two entrees, and then tried valiantly not to eat them all.

There was that seitan dish I already mentoned, made much denser and drier than I have ever achieved, but so addictively seasoned I felt almost like I was eating a really great piece of summer sausage. [The wine sauce on top was superb as well.]

And then there were the roasted oyster mushrooms. 

Praise the Lord and pass the soy-based reduction,* that was one blessed bite of nature’s bounty touched by the masterful hands of a well-trained chef.

*We have returned, once again, to the phrase I’ve acquired from someone, some time, that goes “Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition.” Just in case you were wondering.

And to be honest. I really just don’t even know where to go from there.

Except maybe to The Split Banana down the street for some sticky rice or pineapple basil gelato? 

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Laura @ Sprint 2 the Table August 1, 2012 at 12:23 am

when you come see me in ATL I want to take you to this place that makes seitan gyros. so. good.

p.s. #nuttybutter forever!!! my trainer is going to kill me for the amount of cheating i did what that #nuttyfoodporn delivery. 😉

Alex August 1, 2012 at 9:15 am

Two thumbs up for friend dates and weekend getaways and accidental veganism.

Also, LOVE that picture of us.

Calee (@chimes) August 1, 2012 at 10:30 am

The darjeeling café should probably just be called the “darling” café. Sounds fun!

Liz @ IHeartVegetables August 1, 2012 at 11:11 am

I’ve actually been to Staunton!!! My bff (remember Alexa? You met her!) was dating a guy at VMI and we hung out with him in Staunton haha. Gooooood times!

Guess what, I get to see your lovely face on Saturday! YAY!

Katie @ Nutrition in a Peanut Shell August 1, 2012 at 11:47 am

curried mango peanut sauce. WANT.
Seriously you have the most different combinations but they sound absolutely AMAZING

Living, Learning, Eating August 1, 2012 at 11:53 am

The seitan dish looks delicious, I can’t believe they had that!

Chuck August 1, 2012 at 11:54 am

Robin and I get out to Staunton every once in a while – their Farmer’s market is awesome (all have to be LOCAL and they coordinate so their’s not 50 people selling tomatoes).
Another great place to take a road trip is Harrisonburg, their Farmer’s Market is better than cville’s (covered lots of goodies – vegan donuts!) and breakfast at The Little Grill Collective is the best we’ve had outside of DC.

Jessica, the_toned_teach August 1, 2012 at 12:49 pm

WOOHOO! Weekend getaways to one of the cutest cities in Virginia… perhaps even America. Loved every minute of it :)

ps: I am LOVING that thai tea… we need to go back so I can replenish my supply!

Tianna August 1, 2012 at 2:19 pm

OK, seriously, you and I could do some SERIOUS damage at a health foods store. I have a method to my grocery-shopping madness. I have to do a quick run through to see the goods / sample the products (if offered – I am NOT one of those hooligans that eats from the bulk bins … while employees are watching). :) Then I put those scoopers to good use and go to town on the bulk supplies! Love it!

Brittany @ Delights and Delectables August 1, 2012 at 6:30 pm

Okay that food looks amazing! I need to come visit you for some good food!! :) I love health food stores. There is something peaceful about them!

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