Made in Virginia 2018 Awards: Food Winners

22 quality products created with pride, passion, and a commitment to craftsmanship. 

AR’s Hot Southern Honey

Bourbon Barrel Aged Hot Honey, Richmond

When Ames Russell garnished his fried chicken with honey and hot sauce, his wife suggested he mix the two together in a squeeze bottle to stay neater. Russell experimented with blends, coming up with a punchy but sweet honey that the whole family started drizzling on pizza, tacos, avocado toast, and more. 

In 2015, Russell made a batch to give as Christmas gifts. “In about March, people started calling me asking where they could get more,” Russell says. “That’s when I decided I had to figure this out.” 

The Bourbon Barrel Aged Hot Honey was born when Owen King of Ironclad Distillery in Newport News called Russell out of the blue. “He introduced himself, and I immediately said, ‘Yes, let’s do this!’” Russell says. “He said, ‘You don’t even know why I’m calling!’ I did though.”

The honey mellows for 90 days in Ironclad’s used bourbon barrels. Ironclad then drains the barrels and fills them with whiskey. The distillery will offer a limited release of hot honey bourbon this fall. 

$19.99. HotSouthernHoney.com

Autumn Olive Farms

Heritage Pork, Waynesboro

Clay and Linda Trainum didn’t intend to go into the heritage pork business. It kind of chose them after they moved from North Carolina back to Clay’s family farm in Waynesboro. “We loved pork, but then we found out how industrial pork was raised,” Clay explains. “We decided not to eat it again until we raised our own.”  

Clay chose the Ossabaw, a pig breed of Spanish origin that thrives in harsh conditions. The Trainum farm, overgrown with native shrubs, proved the perfect environment. Today, the Trainums have a detailed breeding program blending the Ossabaw and Berkshire breeds to create the Berkabaw. The resulting pork—deep red, marbled, and full of flavor—is featured on menus at top restaurants in the mid-Atlantic. “The flavor is all about what they are eating from the rich soil here,” Clay says. “Black walnuts, acorns, hickory nuts, wild fruits. The Shenandoah valley is a huge part of the success of that pig.” 

Prices vary. AutumnOliveFarms.com

Birdie’s Pimento Cheese

Smoked Gouda and Roasted Red Pepper Pimento Cheese, South Hill

Growing up in North Carolina, Robin Allen’s family always had store-bought pimento cheese in the refrigerator. But when she moved to South Hill, her local grocery carried a brand she didn’t like. “I’m wildly curious about food,” Allen says. “So I thought, I can make that. How hard can it be?” 

For Allen, not too hard. Once she mastered traditional pimento cheese, she experimented with other flavors and started taking little tubs of pimento cheese to friends as gifts. “When people are sick, or there is a death in the family, or a gathering, you take something,” she says. “I just don’t always have time to cook.” 

Encouraged by her husband to test their local farmers’ market, Allen was bowled over by customer response. Today, Birdie’s has six flavors, including Smoked Gouda and Roasted Red Pepper. It’s chunky and rich, the smoky-sweet flavor spiked by a tiny bit of heat. Finally, a Virginia brand that Allen can embrace. 

$6.95 to $9. BirdiesPC.com

Red Root & Company

Heirloom Garlic Oxymel, Harrisonburg

Should you choose foods that have health benefits, or ones that taste good? “Yes,” says Corey MacDonald, the founder of Red Root & Company. 

“As a certified herbalist, I wanted to combine that knowledge with my love of food,” MacDonald says. “I create products that people can incorporate into their lives using a food-as-medicine approach. It’s food, but it’s food that sustains us in a lot of different ways. And it tastes good.” 

Her Heirloom Garlic Oxymel is a tasty health tonic made from unfiltered cider vinegar, raw honey, lemon, and garlic. Oxymel is an ancient blend of vinegar and honey. “I get a lot of raised eyebrows about the vinegar,” MacDonald says. “But when people try it, they are pleasantly surprised.” Fans sprinkle the tangy-sweet mix on roasted vegetables, braised greens, and salads. It’s even tasty enough to drink straight up, as a daily tonic. 

“It’s an old-world preparation that fits modern needs and palates,” MacDonald says. 

$16 to $20. RedRootCompany.com

Route 11 Potato Chips

Appalachian Salt and Black Pepper Chips, Mount Jackson

The family business detoured Sarah Cohen into potato chips. The Tabard Inn, the oldest continually running hotel in Washington, D.C., started making its own bagged chips, which Cohen’s parents convinced her to take over. “I had no idea what I was doing,” Cohen says. “I was an English major, right out of college. But I had the sense that anything is possible. And I liked the tangibleness of it.” 

After a year in Maryland, Cohen moved the company to Mount Jackson and renamed it Route 11 Potato Chips. Now the company uses about a million pounds of local potatoes annually (even more from outside Virginia), much of them organic.  

The Appalachian Salt and Black Pepper chip has no other flavorings except pepper and J.Q. Dickenson salt, from West Virginia. “A lot of snack companies add MSG and other things, but this salt already has the flavor,” Cohen says. “It comes from an ancient ocean deposit; there’s something primordial about it. It’s Mother Nature’s umami.”

$1.50 for a 2-ounce bag. Rt11.com

Storied Goods

Rose Petal Sugar Cubes, Roanoke

“It feels to me that people are hungry and thirsty for moments of genuine joy,” says Martha Bourlakas. “I want my products to help provide those.”  

It started with a sugar cube, fizzing in her glass of Champagne at a restaurant. Bourlakas wanted something even more festive. She experimented at home and then started giving her rose petal sugar cubes as gifts, to add to Champagne, lemonade, and juices.

When Bourlakas and her husband, an Episcopal bishop, moved to Roanoke, she was inspired to go commercial. Bourlakas rented space in a commercial kitchen to make sugar cubes in volume (she also makes granola) and spread even more joy. “When the rose petals float through Champagne, that’s a lovely moment,” Bourlakas says. “Life is hard and we need those lovely moments, no matter how small.”

$8 per tin. Storied-Goods.com


Meet the other winners of our 2018 Made in Virginia Awards:

Overall

Drink

Home + Style


Click here to meet the 2017 winners.

Click here to meet the 2016 winners.

Click here to meet the 2015 winners.

Click here to meet the 2014 winners.

Click here to meet the 2013 winners.

Click here to meet the 2012 winners.


The Made in Virginia 2018 Awards were selected by the Virginia Living editors and originally appeared in our December 2018 issue.

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