August 21-22 

The Culinary Weekend

Forget about putting on a bathing suit this weekend. Stay far, far away from the pool. Don't even think about slipping into your short shorts. This weekend is all about eating.

We start our gastronomic journey by fueling up in Shockoe Bottom with a hearty (and gloriously greasy) breakfast at River City Diner (1712 E. Main St.) Creamed chipped beef over toast or a biscuit with home fries is a frequent Saturday morning special, or try the "River City Red Eye" — two eggs any style with a choice of bacon or sausage, home fries or apples, and toast or a biscuit — for $3.75.


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If you can still move when you're finished, walk around the corner to the revamped 17th Street Farmers Market — and don't forget your shopping baskets: We have food to buy for a picnic tomorrow. On Saturdays beginning at 9 a.m., the once-desolate marketplace comes alive with specialty food vendors. Pick up some fresh, locally made chevre from Bent Tree Farm and a crusty baguette to eat it with. If it's the first Saturday of the month, seek out a booth selling exotic emu meat (which does not taste like chicken — more like beef.) You'll also want to pick up a big bunch of fresh basil from the Herb Barn to eat with an organic summer tomato from Jack's Beanstalk.

For lunch, head to the West End to the Mediterranean Bakery (6516 Horsepen Road). This modest family-owned market is a great source for inexpensive gourmet groceries from sunny climes. Their jarred roasted red peppers are half the price they are at the local supermarket, exotic spices are sold cheaply in bulk and the pita bread is always fresh. But the best thing about the Med Bake is its prepared foods — this place puts Ukrop's to shame. Middle Eastern specialties such as mujudara (lentils and rice topped with caramelized onions), falafel, pita pizzas topped with roasted eggplant and peppers and scrumptious little feta and spinach pies all make a wonderful to-go lunch. Don't forget a tub of hummus and a bag of seasoned, toasted pita chips to bring along for tomorrow's picnic — they're positively addictive.

For dinner, let someone else do the work and try Acacia ( 3325 W. Cary St.) where chef Dale Reitzer has just been named one of Food and Wine magazine's top 10 new chefs in the country. This national attention means reservations are a must. The menu changes daily, depending on the freshest produce and fish from local suppliers, so it's difficult to recommend what to order: just hope that Acacia's soft shell crab supplier in Urbanna had a good day.

On Sunday, pack up your picnic supplies (if you didn't eat them already) and head West on I-64 to Barboursville Vineyards. Call (540) 832-3824 for directions. After touring the vineyards and wine cellar and purchasing some wine, settle in with your picnic foods in front of the vineyard's ruins to catch a performance of Shakespeare by the area's Four County Players. "The Merry Wives of Windsor" runs July 30-Aug. 1, Aug. 5-8 and Aug. 12-15. Call (540) 832-5355 for tickets). With your body satiated, now it's time to feed your

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