Win tickets to see the smash hit musical Mamma Mia at the Roanoke Civic Center. Two winners will each receive four tickets!
JOEL HAWKSLEY | The Roanoke Times
Executive chef Chris Parkhurst (left) talks with customer Jock Wedlowe at Firefly Fare in Roanoke.
JOEL HAWKSLEY | The Roanoke Times
The veggie gumbo at Firefly Fare is made of organic, non-GMO corn, North Carolina sweet potatoes, and the restaurant's signature wild rice blend. Focaccia from Bread Craft bakery is served on the side.
Thursday, May 2, 2013
With the much-awaited days of spring finally upon us, the Roanoke City Market is bustling with shoppers and sellers eager to provide produce and plants for dinner tables and backyard gardens. On days like these, there’s nothing more fitting than a meal comprising the best our region has to offer, and that’s exactly the type of meal you’ll find at Firefly Fare.
Chef Chris Parkhurst opened Firefly Fare in the Roanoke City Market Building in 2011, welcoming the opportunity to bring his culinary experience and support for the farm-to-table movement together in a historic space.
My first trip to Firefly Fare occurred recently on a particularly warm evening. My dining companion and I were eager to sit outside to enjoy the weather, but a staff person greeted us and said that because she was the only person working, we couldn’t sit outside. Somewhat disappointed, we took a seat by the window, but I enjoyed the decor, with artwork providing some bright pops of color in a fresh and airy space.
The menu at Firefly Fare offers a nice assortment of soups, salads, sandwiches and a few select entrees, with an extended menu on Fridays and Saturdays. Additionally, the restaurant offers a children’s menu, tapas and fresh juices, and has recently had some Sunday brunch options. The menu also features a list of local producers who contribute their products to the restaurant.
I opted for the falafel pita ($8.64) with sweet potato fries, while my date selected a heartier sirloin panini ($10) with a wild rice blend. Beer and wine are available in the dining room, and we were excited to find a good selection of local canned and draft beers to accompany our meal.
The falafel was hot, freshly fried and nestled in warm pita bread, topped with juicy tomato, red onions, cucumbers, baby greens, feta cheese and a drizzle of cucumber-mint sauce. The sweet potato fries were especially good, dredged in a light batter before being fried, making them extra crispy. The sirloin panini was particularly tender — and more rare than one might expect. I stole a bite from my date’s plate and we agreed that while we didn’t mind, others might want it cooked a bit longer. The flat bread was grilled, topped with mozzarella, onions, mushrooms and horseradish sauce. The wild rice was good, however the top layer was decidedly more flavorful than the bottom half.
Our second trip was the weekend of the Blue Ridge Marathon. The seating area was busier this time, and with multiple servers available we were able to sit outside. Our server happily welcomed patrons, answering questions and assisting a couple nearby with seating their small child. Having really enjoyed the bread from the previous visit’s panini, I ordered the BLT panini with quinoa hoppin’ Johnny ($9.09). My date ordered the large classic cobb salad ($9.09) with blue cheese dressing. I also ordered a bottle of Floyd-brewed Buffalo Mountain Kombucha ($4.54), which I’ve been eager to try.
Kombucha is a type of fermented tea, made with organic teas, juices, herbs and flowers, that is supposed to be good for the immune system. There were three flavors on the menu and I tried the hibiscus pomegranate, which was tart but very enjoyable. My dining partner enjoyed sampling mine so much that he ordered a bottle of the elderberry jam flavor, which had a more distinctive ginger taste.
When the food arrived, I was pleased to find that the panini was again grilled until crispy, containing thick cuts of salty bacon, fresh tomatoes, tender greens, and a light spread of Parmesan dressing. The hoppin’ Johnny was also mildly spiced but still flavorful, with black-eyed peas and quinoa instead of rice. The classic cobb contained baby greens, tomatoes and cucumbers, and was topped with sliced chicken, avocado, crumbles of bacon and half a hard-boiled egg. The blue cheese dressing was tangy and made even better by several large blue cheese chunks.
As we were polishing off our meals and agreeing that we needed to learn more about brewing kombucha, I overheard the nearby couple comment to the server that their daughter was normally a picky eater, but was really enjoying her meal. Noticing the couple’s foreign accents, I couldn’t help but think how fitting it was that so many new visitors to our city were able to enjoy quality meals crafted from the food of some of Virginia’s best farmers and entrepreneurs.
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