Roanoke is a small city of 100,000 people in south-west Virginia, in the middle of the Roanoke Valley between Maryland and Tennessee and surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains and Allegheny Mountains. Hikers and scenic buffs know Roanoke as a pitstop along both the Appalachian Trail and the Blue Ridge Parkway. It is famous for it's big illumuninated star on Mill Mountain (Star City!) and is home to the Texas Tavern (serving chile, cheesy westerns and hotdogs since 1930). The larger Roanoke Metropolitan Statistical Area has a population of close to 300,000 and includes Roanoke and Salem (remember the rodeo scene from the Borat movie?), Botetourt County, Craig County, Roanoke County and Franklin County (the moonshine capital of the US). Are you starting to get the picture?
One of my favourite places in Roanoke County is The Homeplace in Catawba, VA. Set in rural farmland, the homestead is packed every night with hungry hikers (from the nearby Appalachian Trail) and folk from Roanoke who have driven 20 minutes out of town for good southern cooking. The menu is set - country ham (or barbeque pulled pork on Thursdays), fried chicken or roast beef and sides (green beans, mashed potatoes, coleslaw, pinto beans, buttermilk biscuits, gravy, spiced apple) and fruit cobbler for dessert. Make sure you have the iced tea to go with it, and if you want more, you just ask for it - this is family style.
Mabry Mill and some of the old rural Appalachian ways of life.
Deb's Frozen Lemonade, and daily post-dinner strolls in the balmy evenings. That was until our last night when a huge dorecho storm came through and we lost power. Luckily the airport was open the next morning, but not so lucky for 20,000 Roanoke residents who were without power for six days! See you next time, Roanoke.
Images: Steph Bond-Hutkin | Bondville