I Brake for Appalachian Fare
Regional treats to flavor your summertime journeys
Too often Central Ohioans like me bust through Appalachia as they rush off to the beach, Smoky Mountains, or Major League baseball parks. They check Google Maps for the fastest route and limit passengers to one bathroom break and one drive-thru meal.
This summer, consider adding more flavor to the journey with a pit stop at one of the 283 culinary finds highlighted in the online Bon Appetit Appalachia! map guide of local farms, farmers markets, farm-to-table restaurants, wineries, craft breweries, and other culinary destinations.
“For people who are headed to the beach, you pass right through the heart of Appalachia,” says Paige Alost, executive director, Athens County Convention and Visitors Bureau and Tourism Advisory Council Member of the Appalachian Regional Commission. “So break up the boredom of the road trip and taste some of the region’s best catfish, fried chicken, fresh greens, and finest bakeries in some of the most unexpected places.”
The Appalachian Regional Commission recently launched Bon Appetit Appalachia! to showcase the 13-state region’s most distinctive foods from New York to Alabama.
For Paige’s upcoming trip to visit family in Louisiana, she consulted the Bon Appetit Appalachia! and is making plans to stop at Belle Chevre, an internationally renowned goat cheese creamery that’s inspiring a revitalization of its hometown Elkmont, Alabama. Belle Chevre owner, Tasia Malakasis, even hosts an annual Southern Reinvention artisan festival each October.
To give Central Ohioans a sampling of other flavorful pit stops, we identified a couple of popular travel routes south and compiled our finds from Bon Appetit Appalachia!:
• I-77 (West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina): Stop in Charleston, West Virginia, at Tricky Fish restaurant for smoked pulled pork, fried bologna, and Italian sausage from nearby Sandy Creek Farms. Across the street, Bluegrass Kitchen serves up eclectic comfort food in its beautifully restored 1920s dining room. Further down the highway near Wytheville, Virginia, pick highbush blueberries at Henley Mountain Berry Farm, tour the display gardens at Beagle Ridge Herb Farm, or enjoy a picturesque lunch at Key Ingredients at Fort Chiswell Mansion. To the south in Elkin, North Carolina, load up on fresh produce and wines at Elkin Farmers Market and Elkin Creek, Carolina Heritage and RagApple Lassie vineyards.
• I-75 (Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia): Break the boredom with a stop in Winchester, Kentucky, to sample local cheeses at eight stops along the Beer Cheese Trail. Just north of Cleveland, Tennessee, check out two wineries—Morris Vineyard and Savanah Oaks Winery. Travel farther south to Calhoun, Georgia, and discover not only its outlet mall but two farmers markets. Payne Farms raises a variety of crops from strawberries to pumpkins. Nearby, Carney Farms offers plenty of U-pick and farm stand produce at this five-generation family farm. In the historic town of Dallas, Georgia, there are two local farm stands—the Dallas Farmers Market and the Paulding County Farm Bureau Market.
Ohio food destinations are also featured in Bon Appetit Appalachia!. Within the state’s Appalachia region, Paige says there are several great day trips with culinary twists.
“From Columbus’s central location,” says Paige, “several spokes swing out to Appalachia from the edges of Cincinnati to southeastern Ohio and on to the edges of Cleveland.” Here are three of her recommendations:
• Dover: “School House Winery is one of my favorite wineries,” says Paige. This 127-year-old one-room school house, has been beautifully renovated into a boutique winery serving award-winning wines. Other area Bon Appetit Appalachia! nominees include Bread Head Bakery & Coffee Shop, Tuscarawas Valley Farmers Market, SHY Cellars restaurant, and Westbrook’s Cannery.
• Bainbridge: Just west of Chillicothe, travel Route 50 toward Bainbridge to discover a thriving Amish community including Bainbridge Produce Auction, Yoder Lawn Furniture, Paint Creek Orchard, Upper Crust Bakery, and various produce stands.
• Seaman: “Keim Family Market—this is my regular stop on my way to Cincinnati,” says Paige, who lives in Athens. “I order a ham sandwich on homemade bread with homemade mayonnaise.” She says to plan to spend an hour to explore the market’s bakery, deli, bulk foods, canned goods, and wood shop. As an added bonus, she says there are clean bathrooms and an outdoor play space.
“Wherever you’re going this summer, Google Maps will give you seven different ways, so try the longest route with plenty of backroads to get the full regional experience,” says Paige.
To learn more, visit visitappalachia.com/bonappetitappalachia/.