After leaving the Louisa County Agricultural Fair, Tristan, Lihan, Lee Anne and I drove to Swoope to visit Polyface Farm. Ever since Tristan and I read Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma we've talked about visiting the farm, which is the subject of about 50% of the book. Once upon a time we would've also wanted to bring back some of the farm's grass-fed meat (the farm only raises livestock...and grass), but Tristan's interest in eating naturally raised meat gradually waned the longer he followed a vegan diet (well, more like vegetarian for this trip, but don't hold that against him) until he didn't want meat at all. Which is completely fine. And we forgot to bring a cooler.
The farm was nearly empty when we visited, around 4 p.m. on a Saturday afternoon. As we appeared to be the only visitors, there was little standing between us and the adorable animals, aside from a handful of employees. And the fences (although we did step over one at one point).
First up: turkeys! I had no idea that they're rather cute when they're young, although most animals are. They had a large space to run around, but mostly huddled under the shade of the...thing on wheels. It probably has a more official name that I'm unaware of.
And there were chickens (pastured broilers). Lots of em. They were housed in low movable pens—you could see the square patches of grass they had pecked through.
We moved on to a very large shed. A large shed of...what was that sound? Peeping? PEEP PEEP PEEP PEEP PEEP PEEP.
Oh my god, baby chickens. Baby chickens everywhere.
So fluffy! So soft! So fragile! So little. So full of potential to feed us. Damn, why are babies so cute? TO MAKE ME FEEL GUILTY ABOUT EATING THEM.
Next was the Raken, or Rabbit-Chicken house. Because it contained rabbits (in elevated cages) and chickens (running around, doing their business).
And turkeys under a portable hoophouse called the ...Gobbledygo. (The website says so! The truth, it speaks!)
We took a brief apple break by picking a few apples from random apple tree near the Raken. Two apples from the same tree tasted different, one much more tart than the other.
All seemed quiet as we walked towards the pig pen. But then...
They bolted! Towards us! Away from us! Stampeding pigs galore! They ran around while curling and uncurling their little tails. Oh little piggies, why must you be so cute and delicious at the same time?
And behold, my favorite part...
When a chicken casually strolled in front of the pigs and the pigs followed its steps along the fence.
I doubt these pigs were kissing, but I caught them at a good moment.
We wandered up a hill and (carefully) stepped over an electric fence to this open pasture full of high, skin-poking grasses that were quite uncomfortable to walk around in my sandals. But we got an awesome view of the hills and angry clouds.
We also got up close to not-so-baby, not-so-adult chickens.
If you visit the farm, don't miss the orange tabby cats. Both the kitten and its mom (at least, we assumed she was the mom) followed us around the farm and let us shower them with physical affection. I also showered them with excessive squeals of, "AWWW, AWWW SO CUTE!, especially when the kitten left a paw print on my shirt! (If that page doesn't work, click here. If that doesn't work, I can't help ya.) It doesn't get much cuter than that.
A sandwich thing and water ice
We met up with Ryan, Dan, and Katie in Charlottesville to eat at Basil, one of Tristan's favorite restaurants that specializes in Mediterranean food.
I started with hommos bel snaoubar, hummus topped with toasted pine nuts. Nothing revelatory, but of course it's tasty—it's hummus. It's smooth, creamy, mashed chickpea goodness.
For my entrée I tried the kafta laffa, ground beef mixed with onions, parsley, and spices that I couldn't identify stuffed in Lebanese pita bread with hummus, Romaine lettuce, tomatoes, and onions. The beef was a little dry for my taste—which could have been remedied by hummus in every bite, but the hummus wasn't equally distributed throughout the pita, and probably wasn't meant to be—but I did love the fries.
Tristan ordered his favorite dish, the Phoenician Tasting, a sampling of hummus, baba ghanouj, tabbouleh, Turkish cigars (stuffed grape leaves), fatayer (a spinach pie, methinks), falafel, and tsatziki sauce.
Lee Anne got the basil caprese salad with grilled chicken.
We ended with flaky, syrup-soaked nubbins of baklava. Yes, I love the word "nubbins" and I shall abuse it.
As we stood on the sidewalk of University Avenue, me feeling extremely full and not at all like putting more food in my stomach, Dan started talking to me about the deliciousness of water ice, thereby erasing all feelings of fullness and instilling a new desire...the desire to top off my belly with water ice. In order to fulfill my destiny, we hobbled up to Rita's Water Ice. Notice that the sign says "Ice - Custard - Happiness." Sounds kind of silly? I thought so. But then it came true.
But first, what is water ice? Wikipedia says it's "similar to a sno-cone except smoother. While a sno-cone is shaved ice with flavored syrup poured on top, Rita's Water Ice is produced in a machine that combines water, fruits and flavors and then freezes the mixture within the machine." It's basically Italian ice, but better because we got it with custard.
Lee Anne and I shared a regular cup (which is about the right size for two people) of what they called gelati, or vanilla custard layered with mango Italian ice. While I enjoyed the smooth mango ice, it was the custard that kept me digging into the cup until I reached the edge of a sleepy food coma. I foolishly expected "generic custard flavor," that is, something creamy and cold, but lacking depth. This custard, however, was thick, stomach-bludgeoning stuff with the distinct flavor of...cream. Like sweet, heavy cream, but in a semi-solid, spoonable form. While such a substance could be too intense on its own, the water ice balanced it out (and vice versa), resulting in something that wasn't too heavy or light. (I also employ the marriage of "dairy and non-dairy" when ordering gelato, my favorite combination being pistachio gelato and strawberry sorbet.) Too bad there isn't a Rita's in New York City.