March in the Shenandoah Valley is sometimes a tease, as variable temperatures might bring drifts of spring blossoms or snowflakes in the same week. Snowdrops were blooming right on schedule in early February at the Edith J. Carrier Arboretum, and a few daffodils appeared soon afterwards, so it’s safe to say you’ll find new things cropping up in nature or in the unique cultural scene of the Friendly City this time of year, especially if you are looking to tempt jaded winter taste buds with new flavors.
Known as the “bread basket of the Confederacy” because of its bountiful farmland, Valley cooks have been doing farm-to-table cooking long before it became a modern culinary trend. The annual Harrisonburg Restaurant Week, celebrated this year from March 5-11, brings history up-to-date with an exciting menu of delicious events for locals and visitors alike. Virginia’s state travel blog lists Harrisonburg as one of fifteen noteworthy “Foodie Towns to Try,” and you’ll have no trouble finding something to please your palate as you tour Virginia’s first designated culinary district, featuring restaurants and area wineries praised in Travel + Leisure, USA Today, Virginia Living, Southern Living, and Wine Enthusiast. During this special week, the ‘Burg’s forty+ unique restaurants, as well as area breweries, collaborate to showcase inspired new menus, culinary workshops, and chef demos. Check out the full calendar of when, where, and who’s cooking with whom on the Harrisonburg Restaurant Week page. While tickets are not required for most events, check with specific restaurants for reservations.
You will need a ticket, however, to watch the battle of the chefs at Bluestone Vineyard in nearby Bridgewater, on March 24, from 6 to 10 pm, when seven local chefs will contend for the first-ever title of Harrisonburg’s Top Chef. Ticket price includes tasting at the chef stations and two glasses of Bluestone’s award-winning wine; Ben Kunkle, originally from the Valley, will provide live music. This charity fundraiser benefits Blue Ridge CASA for Children, a non-profit which trains volunteers to advocate for neglected or abused children.
And remember that Harrisonburg is a unique culinary destination any day of the year; adding to the fine American and Southern cuisine one would expect from its location, are the many cooks who have come to the area from around the world; the result is a culinary celebration of the multi-cultural diversity that makes Harrisonburg such a singular place. Hungry for Pho, perhaps? Try Vietopia, a Vietnamese restaurant which is garnering stellar reviews. In this friendly city, you can go on a tasty treasure hunt to track down authentic dishes from Ireland, Germany, Mexico, Indonesia, India, Cuba, Korea and many more countries from around the world.
It really does taste better in the ‘Burg!
Written by Guest Blogger, Carol Mishler. Carol is a Travel Specialist for Harrisonburg Tourism.