November 6, 2011

Of Biscuits, History, and Gardens

Earlier this fall my husband and I took a weekend road trip to Charlottesville, VA to get out of the city and explore Virginia wine country. I wrote about most of our adventures in my article on The Travel Belles, Sipping Wine and Soaking in Scenery around Charlottesville, Virginia. But, there are two parts of our adventure that I I want to share with you here - my favorite meal in Charlottesville and visiting Monticello. Normally my favorite meals involve cheese, wine, and chocolate, however on this trip my most memorable meal was brunch at the Bluegrass Grill and Bakery.

I read about this cafe on Yelp and immediately wanted to eat there. When we arrived there was already a line of hungry customers waiting to be seated. We put our name on the list and sat down to read the menu and wait our turn. About thirty minutes later we were sitting at a table in the corner of the restaurant placing our order. My husband Jonathan got corned beef hash and something he read about in Yelp reviews called pig candy. I ordered an omelet called Joan Marie’s Special with a biscuit.

Our waiter brought out the pig candy and beverages first. Pig candy appeared to be chewy bacon that was cooked with sugar and spices. (Jonathan said it was quite delicious, albeit a bit rich.) The rest of our food arrived soon. My omelet was filled with herbed cream cheese, Swiss cheese, spinach, and tomatoes and was very tasty. However, the biscuits were the star of the meal. These flaky buttermilk biscuits were made with whole wheat flour and were absolutely wonderful!

After our biscuits we headed left downtown Charlottesville and headed towards historic Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson (a principle author of the Declaration of Independence and the third president of the United States of America). Monticello is perched on the top of a hill. Visitors are required to park by a visitor’s center at the bottom of the hill and then walk or take a shuttle bus to the estate. The walk looked quite nice, however it was raining off and on so we opted for the bus ride.

Soon we were walking through the house learning how Thomas Jefferson and his family lived. Life at Monticello was obviously comfortable for the primary residents - however this was made possible by the labors of slaves. The house was designed by Thomas Jefferson is impressive at first sight and is
surrounded by beautiful gardens and orchards.

Vegetable garden, vineyards, and pavilion at Monticello.
Inside the house the first floor rooms have high ceilings and are elaborately decorated. There are unique conveniences, like a dumbwaiter to bring wine from a cellar below to the dining room. After touring the first floor we went to the level below where there is a wine cellar, a beer cellar, an ice house, the kitchen, and several storage rooms - everything Thomas Jefferson and his family might need to entertain in the house upstairs.

Before we left we spent some time exploring the gardens and area around the house. The gardens at Monticello are amazing. Around the house there are flowers, trees, and ornamental bushes. Further away, down a hill is the vegetable garden - rows and rows of organized beds with different varieties of local vegetables thriving on this idyllic hilltop. Beyond that there are orchards and vineyards before the wild forest takes over. During Mr. Jefferson's time, additional crops produced by his plantation would have covered the countryside that is now dominated by trees.

Having grown up in New England, I find it difficult to fathom a lifestyle that required the labor of slaves to maintain. And the fact that a house - like Monticello - was specifically designed with a place for this work to go on below the main living quarters. This is a part of history that I see, but do not understand.


Kathryn Schipper said...

Love the idea of "pig candy!" Makes perfect sense!

Jessica said...

My husband loved the idea too!