Date: September 17th, 2014
Something hit me the other day as I was talking to a couple guests at lunch. They were telling me how they just love how we all seem to just be so happy. What resonated with me was a word that I’ve heard over and over in that same context. “Seem” As I listened to Devyn (who was sitting next to me and also engaged in this conversation) explain, with her beaming smile and infectious laugh, how it’s really true that we’re all happy folks, I started to think about why is it that the guests regularly mention to me that they are pleasantly surprised at how happy we all “seem” to be.
Part of it is the people we hire at the ranch. As Devyn was explaining, there are “Vista Verde people” and there are people who aren’t. Nothing wrong with those folks, but we do tend to select a person who has a zest for life, a love of taking care of others, and a true investment in the human experience. Oh, and they are typically pretty adventurous, educated, and interesting too. So, take that, and then you add in…..
Nature and Endorphins. Today I had an hour free at the end of the day before I had to pick up my kids. I had a choice. I could definitely have done a bit more work. I could have gone all super-momish and finished up laundry, prepped dinner, etc… I could have written this blog, as it was on my mile long to-do list for the day. Like most of us, the list is never-ending. Instead, I decided that I would be a fool if I didn’t take that 59.9 minutes and head into the woods. I hopped on my trusty mountain bike (the horse wasn’t available at the moment) and took off on a trail. About 30 minutes into the ride I had that moment. Euphoria hit in. The happy juice. Fresh air, dirt, trees, leaves, sunshine, and a fair amount of sweat…..all of it came together and my soul was soaring. Getting out in nature and sweating a bit makes us happy. And, at the ranch, we get a lot of opportunities to do just that.
The internet stinks. So, let’s be frank. The internet access 25 miles outside of a small, rural Colorado town isn’t exactly lightening fast. But, you know what? Besides the frustrations that we all face (ok, even cowboys need to send emails and might even prefer to pay their bills online), disconnecting from the world a bit seems to change people. We look around more. We talk to each other more. We go for moonlight hikes instead of streaming Netflix (now, having said that, Nathan is the biggest Netflix, the old fashion kind where you mail it in…, junkies out there). But, I believe that stepping away from all that does make people a bit happier, once they accept it and embrace it. (PR disclaimer….guests can still access emails for those who need to work on vacation, and we are constantly exploring ways to increase the bandwidth as we do recognize that to function as a business we do need better access.)
What we do is fun. In any business, and any time you are dealing with people, there are stresses. But, what is so great about this business is that we get to see people when they are at their best. We get you at your happiest times, and we get to play with you, share experiences with you, and become friends with you. Sure, we throw our heart and souls into serving our guests, and that can exhaust even the chippiest Devyn out there. But, what we get to do each day is fun.
So, don’t be fooled. We can all get tired, we can all get stressed, we can all get grumpy. Because, it’s just normal life for us with family issues, health issues, and an imperfect world. Even through those down days, there is an inner happiness, a contentment, and a joy that oozes through. But, just know that if you come here as a guest, I can assure you that it’s not an act. It’s happiness. Drink some of the Koolaid (aka Rocky Mountain spring water), and you might feel it too!
Date: September 15th, 2014
10 Amazing Ranch Vacations in the US
Ranch vacations offer couples and families a unique way to relax in a natural setting while enjoy an array of new activities. Whether you are looking for a week-long dude ranch vacation, complete with horseback riding and fly fishing, or a quiet stay at a country lodge surrounded by wilderness, here are some of the top choices in the United States. Read more…..
Date: September 11th, 2014
FALL TOURISM RISING: FEWER CROWDS, NICE WEATHER
Date: September 10th, 2014
Vista Verde is often seen as being a “resort” as many folks can’t wrap their head around the fact that a guest ranch, or dude ranch, can be something more than what they saw in City Slickers. So, when people see us as a luxury property, they change guest ranch to resort. Now, there is nothing wrong with being considered a resort. But, there is something about a ranch that is different. For example…..
We make our guests work:
During one of our formal dinners this week, Larry donned his white shirt and jeans, just to look like the servers. Mid-service, Bubba got Larry a bolo tie and an apron, and brought him into the kitchen to help the servers for a few minutes. And, in the process, gave the chefs a mild panic attack. That’s a ranch for you.
Nappy Cat has earned a following from guests around the globe. CC is here right now, with her stash of Fancy Feast, and Nappy is purr-fectly happy. Then, add to that Diane comes in and gives Nappy Cat a haircut in order to get rid of the….nappies. Next week, Nappy Cat will go back to helping us with mice control. That’s a ranch for you.
The traffic around here stinks:
It seems to be that the cows know to block the road just when it’s time to drive up to one of the many hiking trail heads. It doesn’t matter which trail head we choose, they seem to know where we’re going to be headed and settle down right in the middle of the road. Having said that, when we go out on horseback to round them up, they suddenly disappear. That’s a ranch for you.
The band is inclusive:
Go to a resort and sit down at the bar after dinner to listen to the band, and you’ll probably enjoy a nice evening of music. At Vista Verde, if you have musical talent, you very well may find yourself being the entertainment. Several times this summer, the Friday night music has included guest performers. Sometimes they are even better than the band, but don’t tell the guys.
Those are just a few anecdotal examples of things that happen here at Vista Verde that make us all laugh and say, “Only at a ranch.” For guests who have been here before, please share any of your own stories in the comments!
Date: September 5th, 2014
Rediscover romance: 5 Autumn Escapes
Janene Mascarella, NowU
IF YOU feel like you and your partner are two ships passing in the night, fall is a fabulous time to plan a romantic getaway and reconnect. It’s known as the shoulder season, and that means more chances for glorious weather, fewer crowds and, very often, lower rates.
From early morning sunrises to evening strolls under the stars, here are five spectacular destinations where you can fall in love all over again:
Date: August 26th, 2014
A couple weeks ago, the VVR kids got crafty and creative when they decided to raise some money for animals in need. As they went through yard after yard of friendship threads (if you’re a parent of school-age children, I suspect you are finding remnants of friendship thread all over your house these days as well), they came up with a plan. The girls developed their product, did a market analysis, studied their demographic, compared their pricing strategy with the competition, and agreed upon their marketing plan. Then they put it all into action.
The target audience? Unsuspecting parents and staff at the barn dance.
The product? Colorful friendship bracelets handcrafted in the kids hut.
The pricing plan? Donations only. That opens the door for a higher price point for those who don’t want to be called “cheap”.
The competition? Just Ben calling square dance moves. Not too hard to compete with, for sure.
The revenue goal? As much as possible.
So, how did they do? Well, let’s just say these ladies have a future in business and philanthropy. They made a really nice card, bundled up the $75 they raised, and sent it off to the ASPCA. They recognized that not all horses have the luxe life of a Vista Verde horse, and wanted to do something good for horses who don’t spend most of their days in knee deep green pastures.
Way to go girls!
Date: August 25th, 2014
By Land or By Sea – Destination I Do Magazine
By Carolyn Steere
One may not think “dude ranch” and “romance” belong in the same sentence, but Vista Verde Ranch near Steamboat Springs, Colorado will make you think twice. Nestled in a valley bordering the Continental Divide, this unique property combines luxury, pristine beauty, extraordinary cuisine and a stress-less agenda of unique, year-round activities.
Read the full article by picking up the latest issue of Destination I Do.
Date: August 18th, 2014
There is a great amount of pleasure taken in watching our guests have epic adventures on their vacations here at Vista Verde. I love hearing the stories, seeing the photos, and watching their faces light up as they recall their amazing experiences. But, it doesn’t stop with the guests. Hearing about the epic adventures our staff have is also just as much of a treat. Most of them come to work at a dude ranch because they love people, the outdoors, and want to experience Colorado. So, it makes sense that on their days off, they go off and try new things, explore the state, and see new places. Some end up making this home, and this just becomes their lifestyle. Some are just here for a few months, so are getting out as much as possible before heading back home to school or another job.
Sit back, and enjoy a little armchair adventure through the eyes of some fabulous dude ranch staff members.
Last weekend JT, Goldie and I summited Flat Top mountain right in VVR’s own backyard along the continental divide. It was a 17 mile round trip hike completed in one day.
We climbed over 4,000 feet in elevation, talk about a workout! The wild flowers are gorgeous up there right now.
This weekend we are backpacking into the Flat Top Wilderness in the White National Forest with Isaac and Zach.
Jen Parent, SallyMcEwen and I went on the Devil’s Causeway hike in the Flat Top Wilderness. It was thrilling and terrifying crossing over the causeway which is at it’s narrowest, four feet wide. A picture could never do it justice. One of my favorite things about Vista Verde is the community and doing an incredible hike like this only bonds us even more.
Ashley Boyd (Kid’s Wrangler)
The “Tuesday Crew,” Ashley, Brandi, Emily and Paul, took a road trip earlier in the summer to The Great Sand Dunes National Park. We camped the night before, and then spent all day climbing the dunes and sand surfing down.
More recently the “Tuesday Crew” plus Jake, decided to explore in their own back yard! We completed a 24 mile hike in the Zirkel Wilderness Area which included summiting Lost Ranger and hiking along the Continental Divide. It was amazing to see the incredible beauty that is so close to the ranch!
Date: August 8th, 2014
Maple glazed sticky buns (makes approx. 2 dozen rolls)
Danish dough, one sheet, 17” x 25”
1 pound unsalted butter, whipped
1 Tblsp. Ground cinnamon
8 Tblsp. Granulated sugar
1 cup pecans, chopped
1 cup maple syrup
8 ounces melted butter
- If the dough is frozen, allow it to warm slightly, but not too much, if too soft it will be difficult to roll, if too frozen, it will crack!
- Whip the butter in a mixer with a paddle attachment until very soft and spreadable. Spread the butter evenly over the entire surface of the dough with a spatula.
- Combine the sugar and cinnamon in a bowl and sprinkle over the entire surface of the dough.
- Tightly roll the dough evenly into a log. Wrap the dough first in plastic wrap and then in foil. Refrigerate overnight to set up.
- The next day, combine the pecans, maple and melted butter in a bowl and spread on the bottom of a baking pan, Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F. Remove the rolls from the refrigerator, remove the foil and plastic, and slice into 24 pieces. and arrange in the baking pan.
- Bake the rolls for 12 minutes, rotate the pans and bake another 12 minutes until done. Remove from oven and allow to cool on a rack.
- Turn out onto a platter to serve. Enjoy!
Date: August 8th, 2014
With seat bones sore and bodies worn out, paddle boarding has been a great mid-week option for our guests on a warm summer day. Paddling around a lake, taking in the scenery, and just relaxing with a cool breeze has left folks refreshed and ready to hit the trail the next day! Learn more about summer vacation activities at Vista Verde Ranch.
Date: August 6th, 2014
The kids are back in school after a fun-filled summer of family time. What better way to celebrate – ahem, I mean grieve – than to plan a little weekend getaway with the hubs. Read more about fall vacations for grownups.
Date: July 29th, 2014
Our foals have been growing up so quickly! Here is a quick update to catch you up on who is who among this year’s foals and the personalities they are growing into. All of these foals are by our stallion Gunshy Ganster.
Registered Name: Fully Baretta
Filly or Colt: Filly
Dam (mom): Full Persuaded a.k.a. Rachel
Qualities: Fiesty and Spunky
Registered Name: Calamity Jane
Filly or Colt: Filly
Dam: Mary Jane Reyn a.k.a. M.J.
Qualities: Refined and Loving
Registered Name: Shootin Sage
Filly or Colt: Filly
Dam: Emmie Oaklys a.k.a. Oakley
Qualities: Sweet and Sassy
Registered Name: Gunninfortubbychics
Filly or Colt: Colt
Dam: Reynyday Whoamann a.k.a. Teletubby
Qualities: Calm and Carefree
Date: July 23rd, 2014
7 Awesome All-Inclusive Family Getaways
Please the whole brood with these beautiful, exciting, and luxurious pre-paid vacations.
A trip for the whole family
Date: July 17th, 2014
Going down to the mare barn to visit the mares and foals is always a great time. But this year there has been an extra special source of fun down there. It’s an unlikely friendship between Bandit the cat and the foals. I saw it first this spring, when we had only two foals on the groud, and many more to go. But, as the other foals have arrived and settled into the herd, we’re learning that Bandit is not exclusive in his friendship with the foals. He likes them all!
Now, let me explain, this is not just a cat that likes to sit on the fence near the foals. This cat gets in there and loves on these foals like you can’t imagine! His first pick is a snoozing foal as that makes for the best cuddling. Even better is when he can roll around and get some nuzzles as that gets all those itchy spots on his back.
Believe it or not, the foals love him! They follow him around, nuzzle him, snuggle with him and even sometimes nibble on him. They do draw the line when he starts to knead with his claws too much. Who wouldn’t?
Enjoy these amazing photos, most of them captured by staff member Suzanna Bloom. Even better, come join us for a ranch vacation and you can join the foal clinic and see Bandit in action!
Date: July 16th, 2014
Back at the Ranch by Dan Armitage
Date: July 8th, 2014
Vista Verde Trout Fishing
By Bill Vanderford
Skip to page 18 to read the article.
Date: July 8th, 2014
If you’ve been following the ranch on our various social media outlets, you’ve already met Cori Webb via her photography. I figured it was time to officially introduce her so people could know the person behind the lens.
Cori is originally from Indiana, and attended Indiana University to study elementary education before making Vista Verde her home. She is in her 5th season working at the ranch and has a wide variety of experience from working as a kid supervisor, housekeeper, teen wrangler, and my favorite spot for her in the front office (Cori would disagree as she prefers to be outside, but we’d have her back any day!).
So, how does Cori end up with all these phenomenal photos? She isn’t a trained photographer, but has always been drawn to the camera and capturing moments around her. Cori’s interest was piqued after a photography class in high school, and she has been shooting ever since. Being at the ranch, she mostly takes photos of the natural world, but she would really like to spend some more time taking photos of people going forward. She loves children, so maybe there’s a future in family photo shoots? Possibly as a side gig as her main focus is elementary education.
As with any great VVR staff who settles at the ranch for a while, and much to our chagrin, Cori’s time is coming to move on in life. After this summer she will be heading down the mountain and giving city life a try in Denver. She’s hoping to find a teaching job there so she can start applying her talents with children in the classroom.
When asked what she would miss most about the ranch, Cori answers, “”There are so many incredible aspects to the ranch, but the community is definitely what I’m going to miss the most. This place has become home over the last few years.“
It’s been a gift for us to have Cori as part of the family all these years. On top of her great contributions to the guest experience, and our staff community, we’ve been able to share the beauty of the ranch with so many people through her photos. We hope you enjoy her photos throughout this summer!
Date: July 8th, 2014
Western Horsemanship and Riding Clinics
Looking to expand your western riding skills and natural horsemanship knowledge? Here’s a look at three educational opportunities for riders who want to try something new and improve their riding.
by Jocelyn Pierce
Riders of all levels can benefit from additional training and instruction to improve riding technique. Whether you’re a developed western rider determined to hone in on specialized skills, an English rider wanting to try to a new discipline, or a beginner, there are countless educational programs available. We look at Vista Verde Guest Ranch, The Home Ranch, and Horse Show by Appointment–all fun, comprehensive, and quality programs suitable for any rider.
Vista Verde Guest Ranch
Vista Verde Ranch Guest Ranch offers clinics and horseback riding daily and also hosts an annual Horsemanship Retreat. Located in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, Vista Verde’s riding program is a well-rounded educational experience that will leave guests with expanded horsemanship knowledge. Read more….
Date: July 4th, 2014
Ingredients (cake batter):
1 ½ cups cornmeal
3 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 pound butter, soft
3 cups granulated sugar
8 eggs, room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 ½ cups sour cream
Procedure (cake batter):
1. Mix together the dry ingredients and set aside.
2. In the Hobart mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth.
3. Add eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition.
4. Add the vanilla and sour cream and combine until smooth.
5. Add the dry ingredients and combine until incorporated. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
4 ounces butter, divided
1 cup brown sugar, divided
6 cups fresh blueberries, divided
1. Melt half the butter in each of the cast iron pans, add the brown sugar and cook until it bubbles together.
2. Divide the blueberries into each pan and remove from the stove. Top with half of the cornmeal batter and place on a sheet pan and then in the preheated oven for 45-50 minutes.
3. Allow to cool slightly for about 15 minutes, run a knife around the outer edge and invert the cake onto a cutting board for slicing. Top with vanilla whipped cream.
Date: July 2nd, 2014
Five weeks into our summer season we are loving the sunny days, the green mountains, the wildflowers and the many adventures on the trail. But, as we look forward and prepare for what’s to come, our thoughts are also turning to the fall, and even the winter.
The end of August brings the start of our adult-only weeks. It’s such a fun time! Four of those weeks are cattle round-up weeks, as we bring in the cows from the forest before the weather turns. Then, in October we move into the option of shorter stays. Guests can either join us for our Sunday-Sunday stays, or come for a little shorter version of the dude ranch week with a Sunday-Thursday or Thursday-Sunday option. This is a great time to enjoy the seasonal transition as the valley prepares for the coming winter.
October is also a great time for business retreats. If you’ve ever thought of planning a retreat at a ranch, this is a great time to take advantage of our lower fall rates and bring your group together at Vista Verde.
Although much of the fall is full at this point, there is still space during the first few weeks in October. Come out and join us for a little fall fun in the Rocky Mountains!
Date: June 23rd, 2014
American’s Most Family Friendly Resorts- Foxnews.com, June 23, 2014
Planning a getaway that the whole family will love?
Young kids want to play, teens want to hang, and parents probably just want to relax. But these top U.S. destinations have something for everyone. From awesome pool to unique activities, kids and adults can keep busy on their own- and once in a while come together as a family. Read on….
Date: June 20th, 2014
The other evening, I got to enjoy a wonderful dinner with some of our guests. The evening was a stitch with the guests firing questions at me, left and right. They told me at the end that I passed my annual job review, and I could come back to work the next day. Phew.
But, during the conversation, one question stood out to me (ok, besides the “brilliant” marketing ideas we were passing around such as adding cow tipping, among other things). The question was, “What would it look like for me to come here with my family during the winter?” The point of the question was that guest said when he found our website, he saw that we offer winter stays as well. But, although he could imagine the summer vacation concept he couldn’t really wrap his head around what a winter vacation at Vista Verde would be like for his family. So, I began to paint the picture. Here’s how it went.
Winter vacations at Vista Verde are magical. That’s the best word I can use to describe them. The snow is piled up as high as the fences, which muffles all the noise and looks like a sea of marshmallows. When it’s a snowy day, flakes fall gently out of the sky- sometimes huge fluffy flakes, sometimes small tiny specks. On the bluebird sky days, the snow sparkles like a field of diamonds and the sun warms us all as we play outside.
For the romantics, a winter vacation at Vista Verde is like none other. Ok, no itsy bitsy string bikinis here. But, imagine a cozy cabin with a fire roaring inside. The hot tub bubbles on the deck, waiting for you to come out and sit under the stars. No TV, no phone, no distractions from the one you love. Reading by the fire, chatting in the hot tub….it’s up to you.
For families, I firmly believe there is no better place to introduce kids to snow. Unlike the big ski resorts, there are no lines here. No crowds. No hassle of renting gear, figuring out ski schools, finding your kids, hauling your wet and tired kid all the way across a mountain to get back to your condo, dealing with the neighbors who are staying up all night partying. Out here it’s quiet, quaint and comfortable. Kids can experience all sorts of different snow based activities. If they get cold, it’s just a hop over to the cabin to change clothes and warm up. Someone is always looking out for them with our small community atmosphere. It’s easy, safe and fun. And every kid needs to experience the joy of snow at least once while they are still young enough to want to make snow angels.
What do you do? Are there enough activities? Well, give back country skiing a try, or take a skate ski lesson. If that seems like too much technique (it’s not, we promise even a total novice can do it) then let our guides take you out on a back country snowshoe. Ride a horse in the snow. Take a horsemanship clinic in the heated indoor arena. Go for a sleigh ride. We have the one horse open sleigh….it doesn’t get any more classic than that. Help us feed our herd of horses the old fashioned way on the big sleigh pulled by the draft horse team. Step inside for a wine tasting or a cooking class. Stretch out with some yoga. Learn the finer points of using your camera in our photography workshop. Tube! We’ll pull you up the hill with snowmobiles and then you can fly back down on a big, cushy snow tube. If that’s not enough, head into Steamboat for dogsledding or snow mobiling, or even downhill skiing. Trust us, there is plenty to do in between those amazing meals.
If you’ve ever wanted to experience a classic winter resort, it’s time to try Vista Verde Ranch in the winter! As much as I’m loving the summer season right now, thinking about winter gets me excited to bundle up and go out to play in the snow. Soon enough we’ll be enjoying the winter wonderland again.
Date: June 10th, 2014
There’s a little game we play with the kids who come to Vista Verde Ranch. It involves a moose name Willie and some bedtime snacks. You see, each evening the housekeeping fairies visit the cabins and leave a little something for mom and dad, along with a snack for the kids. The snack is guarded by Willie the Moose. However, most nights Willie gets a little sneaky and hides with the snack. All good and fun, right?
Well, not always. Yesterday, housekeeping fairy Emily was stumped when she came by to clean up one of the cabins in the morning. She couldn’t find Willie. He was missing. If you’ve been following us for a while, you may be aware of the Willie the Moose book, and may even have your own copy. If you’ve read the book, you know that Willie is a funny critter so maybe it’s not a surprise that he went hiding. (If you don’t have the book, pardon the shameless plug but you can buy one now!)
If you know housekeeping fairy Emily, you may also know that she is a wee bit vertically challenged, so it’s no surprise that it took her a while to find Willie. As you can see, he went for a bit of a climb overnight. But, fear not, he has been rescued and returned to his happy place in the cabin. However, let us just say it now to Jack and Austin. Game on. Good luck finding your snack tonight!
Date: June 3rd, 2014
By John, with some input from Steph, and excerpts from product sites
The other day, Chef John showed up in my office beaming with excitement to share a slice of “ham”. I put that in quotes, because that’s what I thought it was. After a 5 minute enthusiastic explanation, I realized this isn’t just “ham”. So, I asked John to give me a little more info on some of the other things like “ham” that he’s excited about in the kitchen for this summer. As you can see, Chef John does not lack enthusiasm for amazing culinary products (catch him talking fishing and you’ll find this extends to his life as an angler). Here’s what he has to say about where he and Chef Cholly are taking things this summer:
This season, instead of looking for inspiration from across the world, we decided to look right in our backyard to see what small and specialty producers are doing close to home. The cooking techniques and products that we are using are specific to regions of the states that are known for their unique contributions to the culinary world. Also we are featuring local, organic and heirloom varieties whenever possible, this includes meats and dairy with no antibiotics or growth hormones. Here is some info on a few of the products we’re excited to be serving our guests at Vista Verde:
Edward’s family hams in Virginia
Developed as an All-American alternative to Europe’s dry-cured hams, Edwards Surryano Ham is crafted from rare heritage breed hogs. The purebred Berkshires are pasture-raised to create perfectly marbled meat. Hand-cured, hickory-smoked and aged, the unforgettable rich flavor matches and surpasses anything from across the pond.
Hams from S. Wallace Edwards & Sons in Surry, Virginia, are prepared in the true Virginia Tradition.
Long before the first settlers arrived at Jamestown in 1607, the Native Americans had been curing venison and fish, plentiful in forest and rivers.
The taste of the salt-cured and smoked meat was different from the sun-dried method the settlers knew in their native England.
The settlers soon brought hogs which were left to forage New World vegetation including nuts and acorns. By 1608, the colonists were keeping their hogs on an island five miles below the Jamestown settlement. The island soon became known as Hog Island, as it is today over three centuries later. In 1652, Surry County was formed encompassing Hog Island and much other land across the James River from Jamestown.
These early colonists soon developed a process of smoking pork over hickory and oak fires, after rubbing it with salt obtained from evaporating seawater, then allowing the meat to stand for a period of time. The salt preserved the meat, the smoking and aging enhanced the flavor.
When other crops failed or tobacco prices fell, there were always hams to trade; thus, Virginia hams were exported to England from Surry.
For generations, ham curing has been a seasonal event for Virginia farmers. Hogs were killed in the winter and their meat packed in salt while the weather was cool enough to keep it from spoiling. The meat then was rinsed and hung to dry and smoke during the remaining cool months. With luck, it would endure the high temperatures of summer age.
In 1926, S. Wallace Edwards, the young captain of the Jamestown-Surry ferry began selling ham sandwiches to his passengers. The ham had been cured by him as on the family farm according to those time tested methods.
Soon demand became great enough that S. Wallace Edwards began curing hams on a full time basis, distributing them to country stores and fine hotels, and shipping them throughout the country and overseas.
S. Wallace Edwards & Sons remains a family operation in Surry County not far from Jamestown where Native Americans taught the settlers to cure meat. Today’s facilities simulate the seasons without sacrificing the care and attention that result in that unique flavor of Virginia hams.
In the time-honored style of the Native Americans, settlers and farmers before them, S. Wallace Edwards & Sons processes each ham by hand as it goes through the stages of curing.
Many days of cool “hickory” smoked are required to give these hams their rich mahogany color. They are then allowed to hang undisturbed for “aging” until they develop that real Virginia flavor. The very finest hams are selected and hand-rubbed with salt. They remain in the curing room under controlled temperature until the desired amount of salt has been absorbed. Excess salt is removed by washing and the hams are then pepper-coated and ready for hanging in the smokehouse.
Uncooked hams are ready to ship at this point others may go through a cooking process in the ham kitchen. These are submerged in water and slowly simmered until they are fully cooked and ready to be served.
We’re also bringing in heirloom and organic grains and legumes from Anson mills in south Carolina
Anson Mills founder and visionary Glenn Roberts grew up in San Diego, California, the son of a professional singer and photographer, and an erstwhile Southern belle from Edisto, South Carolina who became an accomplished scratch cook and occasional restaurateur. Glenn was a restless, deeply curious boy, who, by all accounts, required steady discipline to stay out of mischief. His mother tried to tame him by putting him to work on weekends as a busboy in her restaurant. His father taught him to fly an Aeronca Champ when he was just eight years old, using pillows to prop him up and two-by-fours wired to the rudder pedals. Both parents required their children to have musical training: Glenn studied French horn throughout his boyhood and adolescence, performing first in the San Diego Youth Symphony, and later occupying fourth chair in the San Diego Symphony. None of this, however, prevented Glenn from pursuing his real passion (and every parent’s nightmare): chemistry experiments. Working with explosive gas for a national science contest, Glenn blew the door off his parents’ garage on one occasion and decimated his mother’s kitchen on another. (The experiments earned him second place in the contest; the damages earned him a whipping.)
At 17, Glenn entered the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on a music and science scholarship and graduated four years later. A conventional life track, however, was too narrow to contain his energies: he joined the Air Force to feed his love of supersonic jets and flying and later sailed around the world on private yachts as a navigator and a mate (becoming, in the process, absorbed by indigenous foods of the tropical environment and the agriculture that accompanied them). He took up riding and dressage. He drove long-haul trucks.
Somewhere along the road of diversionary adventure, Glenn’s overarching interests distilled into the study of architectural history and the history of food. Settling down into a suit and proper shoes, he backed into historic property restoration from the kitchen door, working on space design and adaptive reuse in Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia. His geographic area ultimately narrowed to South Carolina where Glenn took on broader aspects of redesign projects, carrying those through to the hiring of chefs and marketing staff, and to the planning and execution of celebratory dinners at projects’ end. The menus he helped plan were intended to offer period-authentic dishes. But the ingredients didn’t exist: they were extinct. Local growers did not produce them and would not be persuaded to try. In particular, grains of the era like Carolina Gold rice, lynchpin of the Antebellum cuisine of South Carolina, were nearly impossible to source.
Glenn’s career epiphany came on a hot summer afternoon in the kitchen of an historic Charleston property. An elaborate rice dinner was just hours away, and the solitary source on earth for Carolina Gold rice at that time—a grower in Savannah—had delivered his product earlier in the day. When the chef opened the bag to cook the rice, the grains were writhing with weevils. Picking through the rice was laborious and time was of the essence. At 7 o’clock in the evening, Glenn found himself at a prep table with two dishwashers, sweating in his suit and tie, and rousting weevils from Carolina Gold, the dinner swirling by without him. He thought of his mother’s cooking when he was a boy. He looked at the lousy rice. He vowed to put Carolina Gold into serious production so this would never happen again.
For the next several years, between projects, Glenn grew small-plot Carolina Gold in Charleston and worked with a rice geneticist in Texas to reinvigorate the seed, which, through neglect and inactivity, had begun to display characteristics of its sister rice, Carolina White. To support his experiments in Carolina Gold, whose resurrection now represented for Glenn an all-consuming preoccupation (his mother, after all, was Geechee, a person who eats rice every day), he began to research other regional heirloom grains of the era that he could throw into production more quickly.
The research began with corn. In 1995, Glenn explored rural back roads looking for the famous white Carolina mill corn that was revered in Antebellum plantation inventories and recipes for its high mineral and floral characteristics and its creamy mouthfeel. He found this corn in a bootlegger’s field near Dillon, South Carolina in 1997, and planted and harvested his own first crop of 30 acres in 1998. Known as Carolina Gourdseed White, the single-family hand-select dated back to the late 1600s.
Glenn passed the Gourdseed grits around to chefs in Charleston and Atlanta, and they all went crazy.
The discovery of Carolina Gourdseed White, and of other nearly extinct varieties of Southern mill corn, fueled Glenn’s efforts to preserve nutrition and flavor in heirloom corn. But he knew the corn would have to be milled as carefully as it was grown.
Returning to historic documents, Glenn read about an heirloom that had been bred to blow down in late fall for hand harvest under snow in deep winter. The corn, an 1850 yellow dent of Appalachian provenance called John Haulk, was known to have made the “finest cornbread and mush.” The fact that it was milled under freezing conditions after full field ripening and drying puzzled Glenn until he froze and milled his own Gourdseed White. The flavors of the cold-milled corn were stunning. With this experiment, Glenn “rediscovered” cold milling and, in so doing, found a way to offset the heat damage grains experience between two stones. He also found a perfect place to store his seed corn: in the freezer.
At this point Glenn possessed a fully realized, madly ambitious plan: to make Carolina Gold rice a viable Southern crop, and to grow, harvest, and mill other nearly extinct varieties of heirloom corn and wheat organically. By doing this, Glenn hoped to re-create ingredients of the Antebellum Southern larder, ingredients that had vanished over time. Grits, cornmeal, Carolina Gold rice, graham and biscuit flour—these ingredients, all milled fresh daily for the table, had helped create a celebrated regional cuisine and America’s first cuisine: the Carolina Rice Kitchen.
Never one for half measures, Glenn, in 1998, sold his worldly possessions, tossed his business cards, and began living out of his car. He rented a sprawling metal warehouse behind a car wash in Columbia, South Carolina and bought four native granite stone mills. Anson Mills was born.
By 2000, Glenn had his first real harvest of Carolina Gold rice, as well as 10 varieties of heirloom Southern dent corns. He was milling grits for chefs in Georgia and the Carolinas. Word got around. A handful of ingredient-conscious chefs across the country began to use Anson Mills products and promote them vigorously to their colleagues. The circle widened.
In 2001, sustained by the success of Anson Mills’ early efforts, Glenn was able to take on full production of certified organic Carolina Gold rice and a “Thirteen Colony” wheat called Red May.
In 2004, Glenn found a complementary match for his drive and detail awareness in the diminutive personage of Kay Rentschler, a former chef and then freelance journalist for the New York Times dining section, as well other New York publications. On assignment for the Times to report on Glenn’s grits, Kay asked more questions and pursued the acquisition of information like few others he had known. Her Times article on Anson Mills, “A Grits Revival with the Flavor of the Old South,” brought such attention to the company that Glenn promptly fell in love. He married Kay, but could not keep her in the South. He’s not complaining: you can’t have everything.
Today, in addition to its collection of native heirloom grains, Anson Mills grows Japanese buckwheat, French oats and Mediterranean wheat, and Italian farro. Kay creates period-authentic recipes, catalogues the history and virtues of the ingredients and dishes alike, and is the photographer for ansonmills.com.
Glenn continues to be restless and deeply curious. He works tirelessly to manage his old grains, the land, and their growers, as well as chefs and retail customers. It’s a relentless effort. But only rarely must he wear a suit.
We also have tender bellly bacon and breakfast sausage and other heritage pork products
Entrepreneurial fires burned in both Erik and Shannon, along with a broad set of professional skills and most importantly, a love for good, pure, clean food and making the simple things extraordinary.
Now Erik and Shannon would like to offer a taste of Tender Belly to individuals like you, OUR FELLOW PORK LOVERS. we understand that anything good takes time and commitment. FINE PORK can only make its way to your table after the utmost care and devotion to the well-being of the animal. The animals live a stress-free life with plenty of open space to roam and exercise. This freedom promotes exquisite intramuscular marbling you can’t achieve any other way.
We also understand that the choice of diet influences the taste of what ends up on your plate; that is why they’re fed an all-natural 100% vegetarian diet.
Dedication to all these aspects is why TENDER BELLY PORK PRODUCTS are the finest and most mouthwatering on the market.
Date: June 3rd, 2014
This is a fun story, although let’s be clear that I am not the ranch owner….