The Girl Who Ate Everything

Blogging about food and whatever since 2004.

Virginia, Day 3: Part 2, Polyface Farm and Water Ice


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.

barns n stuff from afar walking TRUCK
The farm

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).

lil' turkeys!  aw.

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.

Hellooo chickens

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.

babies, in there

We moved on to a very large shed. A large shed of...what was that sound? Peeping? PEEP PEEP PEEP PEEP PEEP PEEP.

oh man the chicks, they go 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.

so many...
More of the chicken family.

Next was the Raken, or Rabbit-Chicken house. Because it contained rabbits (in elevated cages) and chickens (running around, doing their business).

Lee the fence.

And turkeys under a portable hoophouse called the ...Gobbledygo. (The website says so! The truth, it speaks!)

fresh apple from the tree

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.

where the pigs run
The pig pen

All seemed quiet as we walked towards the pig pen. But then...

pigs and their piggly tails

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?

hello piggies
More pigs..yes.

Pink pigs!


Brown pigs!

And behold, my favorite part...

piggies: "hey wut's that, it's a chicken!"
Curiouser and curiouser...

When a chicken casually strolled in front of the pigs and the pigs followed its steps along the fence.

sniff the rooster

Sniff sniff.

kissing piggies?

I doubt these pigs were kissing, but I caught them at a good moment.

the cloud looks angry
Angreh clouds

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.

What's being fenced in?

We also got up close to not-so-baby, not-so-adult chickens.

omg cute kitten kitty is friendly
Not livestock.

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

Go inside, my little children

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.

Hommos Bel Snaoubar
Mm, dip-able

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.

Kafta laffa innards
Mm, meaty

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.

Phoenician Tasting
Mm, variety

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.

Basil Caprese Salad
Mm, salady

Lee Anne got the basil caprese salad with grilled chicken.

Mm, dessert

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.

mm, flavors
Water ice, in there

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.

mango and custard, yeaah

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.


Polyface Farm
363 Shuey Rd
Swoope, VA 24479

109 14th St NW
Charlottesville, VA 22903

Rita's Water Ice
1509 University Ave
Charlottesville, VA 22903


Will_Helm / August 18, 2008 2:03 AM

No Rita's in New York? So sad. Hopefully you get some there in the near future. If I remember right, they're originally from not far from my hometown in the N. Philly suburbs and they're EVERYWHERE -- dare I say ubiquitous? -- around Philly and Central and South Jersey. Hopefully they get on the ball and open at least one NY location just so you can get your gelati fix.

lekkercraft / August 18, 2008 10:23 AM

I was just reading this section of the OD on the train this morning - it's really nice to see your photos and to get a visual sense of the farm.

N / August 18, 2008 1:11 PM

There USED to be a Rita's on Hillside Ave. in Queens, but it's now replaced with a Hershey's store. Rita's gave out free samples of everything! They were cool beans.

Danny / August 18, 2008 1:54 PM

Ah... pigs and chicken, living in harmony... in my stomach. mmmmm...

but seriously, that picture of the pigs staring at the chicken is awesome.

cc / August 18, 2008 3:02 PM

Last weekend my love of Rita's finally paid off in a big way...mainly that, after three months of living in the proximity of the chain (the earlier commenter is right...Rita's is quite everywhere in Philly) I had my 'Rita's card'stamped 10 times. The result? My eleventh Rita's product was free! Now, while I often go for a combo of ice, I usually leave out the custard but not this time. Nope. Not at all. Gelati mango and black cherry all the way.

God bless Rita's.

auntjone / August 18, 2008 3:24 PM

I. Love. Chickens. Not just for eating, but for watching. I hope to raise chickens someday when me and the hubs build our house on his family's farm. I want the kind that look like they're wearing bloomers. I will pluck the eggs but I don't know if I could butcher and eat one that I raised. I know, not much of a farm wife, eh?

And I simply MUST find good falafel somewhere near! It is driving me crazy!

Julie / August 19, 2008 3:56 AM

Baby chickens are so cute. And the adolescent chickens are so not that cute.

Too bad you don't have Bahama Bucks out there, either. It's basically Hawaiian ice with ice cream (as an option).

roboppy / August 19, 2008 8:57 AM

Will_Helm: Maybe they don't think they're be profitable in NYC, but I'd so rather have a Rita's than another Pinkberry. Which seem to be EVERYWHERE.

G: Yup, kitties NOT FOR EATING. yet.

lekkercraft: Cool, good timing! I should reread that part of the book.

N: Hershey' store?! That sucks. Who needs another Hershey's store.. :(

Lizz: People like eating em!

Danny: Maybe they were planning their ESCAPE.

cc: I wish I had the chance to go 10 times! Cos..I totally would...

Aunt Jone: I can't imagine doing the butchering either. But think a bout how delicious it would be!...yeah.

Julie: Oh man, I want a Bahama Bucks now! :( The biggest dessert-y chain over here is Dunkin Donuts and Basking Robbins, neither of which I'd want to eat. Wah.

Christina / August 19, 2008 12:40 PM

OH, the cuteness of the kitties! And look at all the baby chickens!

I've never had water ice, but it kind of sounds like sorbet. Ish. Maybe. Right?

Ulla / August 20, 2008 6:16 PM

The photos are amazing! I love the pig pictures especially! Wonderful! I loved Joel in Omnivores Dilemma the farm looks beautiful so many animals! I have been working away on this new grass-fed party and am trying to get people involved. Where you converted to grass-fed? Love the blog post and thanks for sharing. I love to see pictures to along with the book!

vince / August 21, 2008 2:22 AM

RITAS! I live in Maryland and they're everywhere around here too. Man it would be awesome to have livestock like that in my backyard. Actually, all I would need is one pig and one chicken. Although that might possibly last me....3 meals.

roboppy / August 21, 2008 2:41 AM

Christina: Yeah, it's sorbet..ish! But smooshier.

Vanessa: Pig smooching is hard to resist!

Ulla: Ahh I knew you're like the photos. ;) I'm not very familiar with grass fed meat, actually...I mean, eating it. I'm all for feeding animals grass. I'm lookin at the Grass Fed Party page right now.. :)

Vince: HAHA, three meals...I hope those are three big meals. You can get a lotta meat out of a piggy!

Kate / August 22, 2008 12:02 AM

OOOO I love going to the farm! It is soo sad that you didn't bring a cooler to get meat yummyness...oh well...just another excuse to go back! Yay water ice! It looks yummy:)

Maja / August 22, 2008 3:19 PM

OMG I LOVE BAKLAVA! I can eat tons of it, but I've heard about a man who ate so much baklava he died. So I try to be careful :)
Did u like it?

roboppy / August 23, 2008 3:31 PM

Kate: I think I probably enjoyed the water ice more than I would the meat. ;)

Maja: Baklava's awesome! I kind of have to be in the right mood to enjoy it's heavy stuff!

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