Most-Viewed Articles of 2022

Here are the Virginia Living articles readers loved this year: from croissants to costume design and everything in between. 

As always, we have had great fun serving our readers and seeing where their tastes lie—food, homes, Virginia towns, and farming—so it seems. One of the more surprising facts about this Top Ten list is that most of the articles on it are from the last few 2022 issues. One would think that the earlier articles (since they’ve been on the website longer) would have had more time to accumulate views. The internet works in mysterious ways! So thank you for supporting Virginia Living

A Taste of Paris in Charlottesville

By John Haddad (April 2022)

(Photo by Fred+Elliott)

Long before we met in person, I met Rachel De Jong’s lovely sourdough bread at Charlottesville’s Broadcloth restaurant. The loaf left a lasting impression. So when I heard that she was opening her own bakery in town, I had to know more.

A warm and comforting space, Cou Cou Rachou feels like it’s been there forever. Antique display cases showcase traditional French baguettes and boules alongside sweet and savory croissants, quiches, scones, cookies, macaroons, and much more. Even the name is inviting: it’s a mashup of Rachel and the French term for “hello” among friends.

The Shocking Truth About Peanuts

by Don Harrison (August 2022)

Elisha Barnes

(Photo by Kyle LaFerriere)

The world’s oldest peanut looks puny and unassuming as it rests in a display case at the Isle of Wight County Museum in Smithfield. The man who harvested it, Pembroke D. Gwaltney Sr., wrote “1890” on the smoothest side and saved it as a promotional tool for his business, one of Virginia’s earliest peanut processing plants.

Discolored and dried out, this goober ain’t much. But as a symbol of the Commonwealth’s long relationship with one very special legume, this fellow seems absolutely perfect. U.S. peanuts fall into four basic types: Runner, Spanish, Valencia, and Virginia. It’s only fitting that the world’s oldest specimen, as museum curator Rachel Popp confirms, is a Virginia Peanut.

Hooked on Charlottesville

by Larry Bleiberg (October 2022)

(Photo by Jeffrey Gleason)

Like many people, I first got to know Charlottesville as a college student when I’d visit friends at the University of Virginia. A few decades later, I returned. But this time, the visit included the multi-course tasting menu at Red Pump Kitchen—now no longer offered though still open to private events—on the Downtown Mall. And, no shame, I was in bed before midnight.

I’ve grown up and so, it seems, has Charlottesville. Beyond wild college weekends, it offers visitors a choose-your-own-adventure of fine dining—it was just named one of the “next great food cities” in the U.S. by Food & Wine magazine—plus shopping, history, culture, and, yes, perhaps a drink. Like the lead-up to finals week, it’s tempting to cram as much as possible into a visit. But there’s no need to run yourself ragged. Charlottesville is a place to relax and enjoy.

Ruth E. Carter Exhibit

by Konstantin Rega (February 2022)

(Photo by Chia Chong)

Academy Award-winning costume designer Ruth E. Carter has worked on more than 60 films and television projects. Her ensembles can be seen in blockbusters and history-inspired movies like Black Panther, Coming 2 America, Selma, and Do the Right Thing.

Carter says having her exhibit’s premier at Roanoke’s Taubman Museum of Art “has been incredibly heartfelt for me,” because “Virginia is my ancestral home.” There until April 3, “Afrofuturism in Costume Design,” features four decades of Carter’s work, complemented by original comic-book style murals from Atlanta-based artist, Brandon Sadler, whose work can be spotted in Black Panther. The collection is part of Taubman’s ongoing series of design-focused exhibits titled “Fashioning the Future.” [No longer on Exhibition]

A Place Called Guinea

by Vicki L. Friedman (April 2022)

guinea pics 01-28-2022 06

(Photo by Rob Ostermaier)

A yard sign in front of the wooden house behind the white fence on Lillaston Lane summed up Guinea Neck in Gloucester County this way: “There’s no place like this place anywhere near this place so this must be the place.”

This place is where watermen weathered rugged conditions all day every day, fishing the rivers, dredging the oysters, and hauling in crab pots to harvest the seemingly endless bounty of the Chesapeake Bay. Smelling like fish, dismissive of their swollen hands and knuckles, these same men would later gather in a general store—you could find one on almost every corner—and swap stories over whose catch was the biggest.

Marigold Blossoms at Keswick Hall

by Stephanie Ganz (December 2021)

(Photo by Sera Petras)

When a world-renowned chef chooses Keswick (population 4,304) for his latest outpost, it’s a coup. But after Keswick Hall’s extravagant renovations, the luxury resort makes a fitting home for Marigold, the newest showstopper in Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s portfolio of 40-some restaurants, scattered across the world in cities like New York, London, and Tokyo.

For Keswick Hall owners, Robert and Molly Hardie, Marigold is their gift to Charlottesville, one that’s equally suited for a casual dinner with friends or a special celebration.

Dairy Farm for the Win

by John William Van de Kamp (August 2022)

In 1942, a Virginia dairy farmer was listening to his short-wave radio when he picked up something entirely unfamiliar: conversations in German. The chatter turned out to be exchanges between German taxi drivers and their dispatchers, more than 6,000 miles away. Excited by what he’d heard, the farmer invited his fellow radio hobbyists to come listen for themselves. “One of them was an officer in the Army Signals Intelligence Corps,” says Jason Hall, now executive director of the Cold War Museum at Vint Hill Farms.

It turned out that the low-power taxi transmissions were coming from Berlin. That these conversations were being heard at Vint Hill Farms, 11 miles northeast of Warrenton, suggested that the property could be a valuable military intelligence asset.

In Praise of Ham Biscuits

by Heather Bien Ganz (June 2022)

(Illustration by James Albon) 

Ham biscuits. Two words that sound straightforward enough to our other 49 states. But in Virginia, where they turn up at weddings and funerals, Christmas parties, and football tailgates, they’re often not a biscuit at all. The variations are handwritten on recipe cards, stained from a lifetime in the kitchen, and passed down through generations.

“Even though we call ours a biscuit, it’s on a roll,” says Dee Dee Darden of Smithfield, a woman after my own heart. Dee Dee married into ham. Her husband’s family has been in the business of smoking them since the 1940s.

Smitten with Smithfield

by Peggy Sijswerda (June 2022)

(Photo by Chris. M .Rogers)

I’m standing in a dark old shed, redolent of smoke. Hanging from the rafters, 20-pound hams are undergoing a magical transformation into cured pork. DeeDee Darden—co-owner of Darden’s Country Store in Smithfield with her husband, Tommy—grabs a long pole and deftly unhooks one before releasing it into a wooden bin, where it lands with a bam! 

There’s pride everywhere I turn in Smithfield—a small town on the banks of the Pagan River near Suffolk. Everyone I meet says they couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. And why would they? This historic city has the perfect Main Street ambience with cute-as-a-button shops, cozy outdoor cafés, arts and culture, nature, and an authentic vibe. Judy Winslow, tourism director, says, “You can’t make this up. We’re exactly what all those town centers are trying to do.”

The Muse & the Mosaic

by Constance Costas (August 2022)

(Photo by Adam Ewing)

At last count, the town of Exmore on the Eastern Shore had 1,348 residents. Among them, 120 spend their days creating exquisite mosaic tile murals for New Ravenna, a company that sprawls through five buildings in Exmore’s sleepy downtown.

These are no ordinary tiny-square mosaics. Look carefully and you’ll see the curves, nuanced colors, and shading you’d find in a painting or a photograph. “We were pioneers,” says Cean Irminger, New Ravenna’s creative director, of the company’s artistic style. “Our processes and our look grew organically.” 

Coveted around the world, New Ravenna’s mosaics are sold by high-end tile dealers like Ann Sacks and Waterworks, and they’re favored by interior designers like Bunny Williams, whose clients can afford to sheathe their walls with sophisticated bespoke tile murals the way the rest of us might hang wallpaper. “Most people expect us to be in New York or L.A. They can’t believe this company is thriving in an old railroad town like Exmore, Virginia,” says Irminger, who grew up in nearby Marionville. She landed this plum hometown job because, as she says, “I’m a doodler.”

June 11, 2022

Star Gazing and Laser Nights

Virginia Living Museum
July 9, 2022

Star Gazing and Laser Nights

Virginia Living Museum
August 13, 2022

Star Gazing and Laser Nights

Virginia Living Museum