Neighbors Like These


The fall season in Warrenton is a busy one. Most return home from a summer away in the mountains, the coast, or the lake where they escaped the unbearable heat and humidity. With most of the tiny population home for the holiday seasons ahead it becomes time to reconnect and celebrate fall’s bounty, cooler temps and our neighbors.



Good friends of ours down the road, Dawn and Glenn, own a successful timber company. In their spare time they also run a successful home garden. I think Glenn would have been a successful farmer too because they produce the most diverse, abundant and flavorful produce out of that garden. They are particularly good at producing the most tender, buttery new potatoes in the most beautiful colors I have ever seen. They also generously share them with me! What better way to use the abundance of potatoes, fresh free range eggs and seasonal herbs of the moment than in a Spanish omelette. Good for breakfast, lunch or dinner.


1lb potatoes sliced

1 large onion finely sliced

3 garlic cloves finely sliced

6-8 eggs beaten

Generous handful of whatever herb you have on hand. Parsley and tarragon are my favorite.

Salt and pepper to taste

Carmelize onions and garlic in a skillet over medium heat. Meanwhile boil potatoes until soft. Drain and add to onion and garlic. Pour eggs over potatoes, sprinkle with herbs and salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat about 10 min to cook the base. Place under broiler to finish the top. Flip omelette out on to a cutting board. Allow to cool and slice into thick wedges. Add your favorite cheese and more herbs to garnish. Is great warm or cold.




I make this as a single serving when I’m craving apple pie but too lazy to go through the acrobatics. Plus, it’s a little less on the carbs and fulfills the craving.

1 apple sliced into 8ths

1 tbsp butter

1 tbsp real maple syrup

1 tsp cinnamon

handful of walnuts crushed

Bake at 375 F until apple get soft and bubbly. A splash of cream or dollop of ice cream are nice accessories too.



Being a small town with only a handful of restaurants it is very likely that you may befriend one of the local chefs and enjoy cooking together on a regular basis. “Make them work off hours!?” you say. No, our chefs are passionate and love flexing their creative muscles in small, badly equipped kitchens- even on their days off.

One lovely fall weekend my friend AJ (who just happens to be one such chef in town) and I decided to put together a small dinner party for a mutual friend, Liz’s, birthday.

The menu:

Mushroom Tartelets

Apple and Beet Tartlets

Potato Leek Soup

White Bean and Arugula Salad

Roasted Red Snapper

Roasted Seasonal Veg

Pumpkin, Butternut Squash & Bourbon Cream Trifles

I do not have the exact recipes since Chef AJ cooks by intuition and creates as he goes along but I have linked to some similar recipes.

We cooked, ate, imbibed and sang along with Liz as she played music into the most magical night.




About a mile from Shady Oaks 1812, down on Fishing Creek is Hamme Mill. The mill has been owned by our neighbor, Cliff, for over 30 years and he has created his own Museum of Natural History and Anthropology within it. It is a sight to behold. One day I will give you a tour when the time is right.  Late last spring Cliff suggested to me in passing that he wanted to cook in our old winter kitchen in the basement. In the fireplace hearth. Old school. As it was done in the 1800s. My head almost exploded at the romanticism of the idea. It hadn’t been cooked in in probably at least 100 years if not longer. But, as the days were getting increasingly warmer and summer approached, we decided it would too uncomfortable to do any cooking, let alone have an outdoor party in the near future.

Skip ahead to early fall. I had raised up a batch of 50 broiler birds for Matt and I to put in the larder. Their harvest date would be in a few weeks and we were enjoying cooler, crisper evenings. This would be the second round of us butchering our own chickens and neighbors were intrigued. Apparently people stopped raising their own chickens for meat around grandma’s generation. And it was always grandma who butchered the birds. I know this because our involvement with raising our own brought about a flood of stories about childhood memories of watching grandma wring the neck of an old hen and then go about making a killer chicken pastry. Every. Single. Story. Always grandma. Always wringing the neck. Always chicken pastry. one hundred times over.

Well I needed some help and it seemed some wanted to learn so naturally I decided to throw a party. Warrentonians love a party, even if it is a “chicken killin” party. Chicken harvest in the morning, feast in the evening. “Cliff, get the old winter kitchen hearth fired up. Here’s your chance.” He called his people, I called mine (which are mostly the same) and Harvest Feast was born. A good old covered dish with everyone bringing their specialty.

Oh, and what did Cliff make in the old hearth?

Chicken pastry of course.