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?