SMITHFIELD, Va., April 13, 2011 — Television personality and chef Paula Deen has increased viewer awareness of Smithfield Country Cured Hams. A tiny Southern river town off the Chespeake Bay, Smithfield is a real place.
The head of their tourism bureau says, “It’s not like Hidden Valley.”
Smithfield and the surrounding Isle of Wight County is a food epicenter for Virginia peanuts and Chesapeake oysters, in addition to their eponymous hams. In fact, to claim the name Smithfield ham, it must be produced in Smithfield, Virginia. It is the law.
Smithfield is near Jamestown, Williamsburg and Yorktown. Historically significant, the region boasts the first English settlements, and involvement in both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars.
The architecture in town ranges from Colonial era to Victorian. Various historic buildings now house charming boutiques. One example is the very Southern ladies’ boutique, Lindsey Jones. Other places to visit include several antique stores and the town’s official ham shop.
During Christmas, one can even purchase hams at the local True Value.
Staying at Smithfield Station opens up a variety of possibilities. Marina boat docks allow visitors to access the town by water, expanding one’s travel and party possibilities.
The town recently unveiled the new Windsor Park. The park, situated on the riverside, has lovely green spaces, bike and forest walking trails, kayak and canoe launch site, places to rest while taking in the scenic Virginia countryside, and of course, the Historic Windsor Castle, from which the park receives its name.
Across from the park, Smithfield Station has water-themed shopping and restaurants that offer local and regional foods including Smithfield ham, Virginia chicken and Chesapeake oysters in both traditional and unique ways.
The adjoining sports bar, IBX, makes Chesapeake oyster shooters.
The Isle of Wight County Museum has an eclectic collection. Check out the world’s oldest peanut, the world’s oldest country ham, Native American artifacts and rural curios.
The Schoolhouse Museum is a well-preserved one-room school that was used to educate Isle of Wight County’s African American children in the 20th century. It houses historically important documents, photos and artifacts.
St. Luke’s Church, the oldest English church in North America, dates from 1632. Many architectural details from the transition period of the early days of the Anglican Church remain. There’s a stained glass memorial to Pocahontas!
Occasionally, the church hosts special concerts and it is a wonderfully authentic place to hear Bach and other, even earlier, Baroque composers.
Starting regularly on Saturday mornings in May, from 9 am - 12 noon, in the center of the historic district, one can get a real feel for the local fare at the outdoor market.
Get there early for the best selection! April 16, 2011 is the date for the annual Easter Market, perfect for last minute gourmet shopping.
If you want to see how country hams have been made for generations and check out a foodie mecca discovered by R.W. Apple of The New York Times, head to Darden’s Country Store outside the city limits. You can also get freshly ground sausage for home and ham biscuits for the car ride.
The Smithfield Inn has hosted food experts with a Southern bent such as Tyler Florence and Paula Deen. They serve elegant meals including Smithfield ham biscuits, savory she-crab soup, and local seafood. The inn recently remodeled and scaled back its former Victorian “frou frou” appearance. Do not miss the luxurious and authentic Sunday New Orleans brunch. The chef also offers authentic tableside Bananas Foster, just like Brennan’s in New Orleans.
A recipe for Banana’s Foster can be found here.
Captain Chuck-A-Muck’s is a Jimmy Buffett-style watermen’s hideaway on the Pagan River. Fishermen and oystermen come to its dock – yes, you can dock right there – to sell their freshly- caught bounty. Don’t let the plastic plates or Mason jars fool you: the secret recipes for everything from wild cocktails to grilled rockfish earned them a place on TV Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives”.
Smithfield Bakery and Beanery on Main Street is a casual little café offering gourmet dinners during weekends. Whether you go for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, you’ll enjoy flair applied to local ingredients.
For a complete list of Spring-Summer events in Smithfield, and there are many, visit the Smithfield Visitors Site.
It takes a Renaissance woman to cover the cool, shocking, tasty, and thought- provoking things in the Baltimore region and beyond. Tamar is a Kentucky Colonel, a beauty pageant winner, and has managed several Southern rock and alt-country bands. She also has a column online, as well as articles of interest to the military. Read more Out and About Baltimore in The Washington Times Communities.
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