Amherst/Nelson County, VA Report
First, thanks to all of the posters who made such wonderful suggestions for me. I was able to only try one recommended place, Thai Siam, due to family constraints etc., but what a wonderful suggestion it was. But I'll report chronologically.
On Thursday night, my mother and I decided on Travelers in Amherst, after having done a drive-by of the The Briar Patch, which also looked nice. We were hungry but didn't feel like a complicated meal, so we both had the hamburger, my mother's with coleslaw, mine with onion rings. My mother likes her hamburger well done, and it was, my medium rare one was a little more done than that, but still good. Nice bun. I really liked the onion rings - there was something in the batter than we couldn't quite figure out - I almost suspect whole wheat flour, though that seems an odd thing to use for the batter. I also had a side order of the Caesar salad, which was actually huge - passable, though I'm pretty sure it was bottled sauce etc. I had two nice glasses of a Pinot Noir - on the warm side, but I'm not too picky!
Friday morning we were set to meet at the Elston Inn's free breakfast - my father and stepmother had had their cold cereal and yogurt when we met up with them, but since my brother and I had a yen for a warm breakfast, we went to What A Blessing, where I've had lunch before. I had a fabulous and huge breakfast - scrambled eggs, bacon, whole wheat toast, spicy fried potatoes, and some really wonderful stewed apples. And, of course, a glazed donut on the plate as well (I gave it to my stepmother). I probably ate about 1/3 of everything, there was so much on the plate. Now, I did order fried eggs and sausage, not scrambled eggs and bacon, but, well, I didn't worry too much about that - the scrambled eggs were tender, not overdone, but not gooey (which I don't like). Coffee was fine, though I noted half way through the meal that they have an espresso machine, which I wished I'd seen earlier. The chess pie in the pastry case looked wonderful.
The highlight of the weekend was lunch at Thai Siam. Now, I'd told my mother about this place on the drive up from Raleigh, but she's getting a little hard of hearing. So when we were trying to figure out Thursday dinner, she kept asking about "the Pie Place". I asked my BIL about where it was, he had no idea what we were talking about, I finally asked my mother where she'd heard of it, and she told me I'd told her about it. Only then did I realize that "the Pie Place" equalled "the Thai place". We'd had a busy morning working on preparing the Ruritan Hall for my sister's party the next night, and so this lunch was a welcome break. As we drove from Clifford to Colleen, I was finding it hard to imagine where this Thai place might be, but thanks to my brother's GPS, we found it. Despite the "take out" sign outside there is a table (or two) inside. My mother insisted on chatting in Thai with the owners (we lived in Bangkok years ago) until my brother insisted on ordering first, chatting after! We ordered:
Chicken Satay - v. good, great peanut sauce and cucumber/onion salad. We wanted the pork one, but were told that the locals didn't "go for the pork" - which struck me as odd given my understanding about Virginia ham etc.
Spring Rolls - these were the fried ones - the owner insisted that the fresh ones were better, but then offered to provide us with two of each - these had pork inside and were perfectly fried.
Fresh Spring Rolls - vegetarian, v. clean flavors, nice dipping sauce.
Pork Larb - slightly spicy, well prepared
Duck Curry (special) - I ordered it very spicy, and the owner was so happy! Excellent dish. It did have, I realized, pieces of duck skin in it that I found less than appealing, but I just skipped those after the first bite.
Shrimp Fried Rice - my mother's choice, after having seen that they cook it over an open flame - reminded us both of the wonderful Thai fried rice in Bangkok, had a great smokey flavor, and tomatoes, which I love in this dish.
Sesame Chicken with Jasmine Rice - my brother's choice - I think this is really a Chinese dish of sorts, but nicely fried, light batter.
Needless to say, we had a lot left over, but I wanted to try a variety of things. I really envy people in the area having this place - aside from a Thai restaurant in Queens (Sri), this is the best Thai I've had in the States. The kitchen is open, at the back, there's a little lounge area with a Thai day bed etc, and a TV, coolers with ingredients scattered about, several Buddhas and offering tables. Really, a wonderful surprise and treat for us all.
OK - last meal - brunch at Travelers on Sunday. They have a sort of eclectic brunch menu, but were very kind in accomodating various orders for scrambled eggs and bacon (no bacon on the menu), my mother said her omelet was perfect, my eggs benedict were nicely done, with potatoes on the side (though the sprinkled parmesan was a bit odd on top). (Oh - before this, I had coffee with my father and stepmother at Le Bistro on the Sweet Briar campus - my stepmother had had the French Toast when I arrived, and she liked it, but none of the options looked particularly appealing to me.) After brunch, I stopped at the Food Lion to pick up 10 lbs of White Lily Flour that was still made in Knoxville, since I'd read the NYT article about the change, and this thread - http://www.chowhound.com/topics/530286 - I've never made a biscuit in my life, but will try tomorrow. Entertaining discussions with the TSA about the powder substance at the Raleigh airport!
Thanks again - really appreciate the tips, and look forward to trying the Silver Pig next time.
I'm glad you enjoyed Thai Siam. My mom lives in Brookneal, just under an hour south of there, and always stops there when she's on her way to Charlottesville or anywhere in that area. I've never been into the place, but mom's gotten take out from there when I come home to visit her. Truly an unexpected gem in that area!
I forgot to mention that apparently there is wonderful corn meal to be had from the mill in Amherst - unfortunately, I heard about it on Sunday and they were closed. I think the place is called the Amherst Milling Company.
Very interesting.. I was about to ask the BB about the Thai Siam and found your post. We have property in Pittsville Co. (farther south) and frequently drive from MD down US 29. I never knew anyone had ever heard of Coleen! Its not even a wide place in the road.
My wife's familys' two homesteads are a few miles away and we visit the two old family cemetaries occasionally on our trips south. We have passed by the Thai Siam many times and wondered about it, but always we are passing by at the wrong time of day. Thanks for your reccomendation, we are longtime Thai food nuts and will make our schedule fit on our next trip.
We have frequented the Briar Patch in Amherst many times (going back well before the fire.) and it is our lunch stop of choice. No pretenses, just good food. After the rebuilding it has shed some of its traditional Va country family atmsopshere and become a bit more "hip" and fun.. The new bar area is friendly and comfortable -- kinda like an Applebee's with some Va country flavor and friendlyness. Try it next time.
Silver Pig is also one of the top BBQ restaurants in the area. And note that most of the BBQ joints in Va are mediocre at best. I have not tried the Blue Ridge Pig in Nellysford yet for the same reasons we have missed Thai Siam. If any 'hounds out there have some insight we would like to know.
I will also take your suggestion to look for Amherst Milling. We have been making the trip over the Blue Ridge to Wade's Mill in Rockingham Co. That will save us an hour or two on our journeys.