breaking it in

by Bella Rum

IMG_5883We decided to take a drive yesterday, but couldn’t decide where to go. We finally decided on Appomattox. Don’t ask why. I guess because it was just under two hours away. Appomattox is a tiny village in central Virginia. It’s claim to fame is that the Confederate army under Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant’s Union forces there. I had to laugh when, as we entered the town, a sign proclaimed, “Where our country reunited.” I wonder which spinmeister optimist came up with that one.

It was a beautiful drive. The further west we drove, the more snow remained on the ground from our last snow. It was a cool day but sunny and filled with blue skies. IMG_5881

I’ve learned that when I go to a small town, checking the internet for restaurant reviews before I leave the house is a good idea. I think the food can make or break a day trip. That’s just me. It didn’t take more than a minute to realize there’s a dearth of restaurants in Appomattox, even with places like McDonalds, Pizza Hut, Subway and Windy’s there were few options. When we do a day trip, I enjoy eating in a local establishment.

Sometimes I feel like if we don’t support them the whole universe will be paved with malls and national chains and big box stores. I hated when The Gap and Banana Republic moved into Annapolis. The landlords raised the rent so high that locals who had been doing business there for decades could no longer hold on.

IMG_5868So I found this little place called Baine’s Books & Coffee. Interesting name, right? The reviews were pretty good and the food was simple: quiche, panini sandwiches, cold salads, etc. I ordered the squash and tomato quiche, and H got the mozzarella/tomato/basil panini on homemade ciabatta bread. We both got the cheesecake for dessert.

This place was not fancy. It was in an old building that didn’t try to be anything else. There were rows of old, freestanding bookshelves and a nook with a bass fiddle leaning against an old chair.IMG_5863

The bathroom (Probably the bathroom that was eventually added at some point. I doubt it was original to the building.) could be found just after the children’s section. It was small but it had great selections for kids.IMG_5862

It took a while for the chef/server/fellow to bring us our food, and when he did, the presentation was about as simple as it gets. He was not smiley or chatty. In fact I don’t believe he ever spoke except when we gave him our orders. We were not locals.

My quiche was on a small, blue plate, just big enough to hold the slice, nothing more, and he gave me a fork. There was no pickle, salad, garnish… nothing – just quiche on a cup-sized saucer/plate. That was it, not even a napkin. H went to the counter and grabbed a couple. H got more of the same treatment when his sandwich eventually got to the table. Then we started to eat. Omigod. It was delicious. The texture, the taste… it was perfection. Everything was homemade, nothing out of a freezer. Who could have guessed, but I finally understood the reviews online, and I realized this place was not about bright and shiny or excess. It was about taste, quality and being selective.

IMG_5864It really wasn’t so much a restaurant as it was a coffee/used and new book/music store, and if that wasn’t enough, it served as a gathering place for folks. We just happened to arrive as some of the locals were arriving for their bridge game. It was their weekly ritual; they gathered for cards and coffee and maybe a scone or two every week. There were men and women, and they were all about our age. I’m not sure if any of them were married to each other, but it appeared they had known each other for many years.

It wasn’t hard to tell who ran the show. She wore a gold jacket, which was appropriate for a queen bee. She was busy saving the tables she preferred. As members of their group arrived, she asked each one if he or she would be attending the following week. The dynamics of the group emerged as we ate our lunch, the pecking order reveling itself. It was built-in entertainment.

So, we eventually finished up our cheesecake. It had a beautiful glaze with a design on top. Such good food found in a coffee shop/book store. Never judge a book… After we ate, I explored the shelves of books, both used and new. What a neat place.

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Then we did a turn around the town and drove home. It was too cold to do any serious touring, but this trip was really about breaking in the car.

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