Bless Your Spoon — Gettin’ Colonial at a vintage tavern

Published 2:00 pm Thursday, November 9, 2023

By Stephanie Williams Dean

Hourazz! Hourazz!

That’s me reliving a few 18th-century moments while making toasts of vintage libations from a tavern bar — in historic punch bowl style!

Be still my heart. I’ve never experienced such fun or consumed a better meal than that at the Kings Arms Tavern in Williamsburg, a stop on a recent trip to the Colonial cities that included Jamestown and Yorktown.

I was delighted to see a punch bowl listed on the evening bill of fare as I’ve long anticipated a comeback of this charming practice. Along with the old-fashioned way of ladling drinks from a bowl, I was served up a big cupful of boozy punch and an earful of political history. The fortified peach brandy punch, made with orange juice, ginger ale, peach brandy and peach nectar, was served at our table from small, personal punch bowls made for 2-4 people.

Lending to the tavern’s air of Colonial elegance were menu items inspired by vintage recipes of the time period with adaptions made to suit today’s tastes. During the Revolution, the tavern was known as “Mrs. Vobes” and stood as a local gathering spot where business and politics were debated. With a menu that served “victuals” pleasing to the palate, Mrs. Vobes’ tavern was reputed to be “where all the best people resorted.” From the vintage fashions worn by servers to the dining table’s pewter candlesticks, everything was true to the period.

Dinner began with a first course of Peanut Soupe. Seeing how Virginia is known as the “peanut” state, restaurants have gotten creative incorporating the small nut in many of their dishes. All entrees were preceded with another old-fashioned throwback — the beloved relish tray full of Virginia ham pate, corn relish and whipped butter to enjoy with freshly baked Sally Lunn bread.

Other dining takeaways were to be had.

Don’t miss the inquisitive but well-trained, house cat and mascot named Wilson at the Old Chicahominy House and gift shop. The atmosphere’s straight-up Colonial and the food is delicious. Offerings are hot biscuits filled with Virginia country ham and Brunswick stew while sweet tea served from trays is the choice beverage. For dessert, I recommend the Apple Crumb Pie — all the yummy homemade pies are prepared by Tiffany who works there. The place is charming.

The 87-mile-long Chickahominy River is located in eastern central Virginia. The river’s named after the Chickahominy Tribe, a Native American tribe that was already settled along the river when the English colonists arrived in 1607. The name translates to “coarse-ground corn people.” The tribe’s language contributed the word “hominy” to the English language — a throwback side dish my Mama once served us for a weeknight supper.

Other notables on my foodie favorite list would be prime rib at the Williamsburg Inn’s Sunday brunch and a slice of rum cream pie for dessert. The breakfast pancakes at Tipsy Bean were to die for. Chris’ Cookies is worth a stop when you’re ready to splurge on an ice cream ala mode cookie kind of dessert.

Tavern’s Fruit Punch Bowl

• ½ cup light brown sugar

• 2 cups water

• 5 regular juiced lemons, plus rinds

• 1 cup pineapple juice

• ½ fifth dark rum

• ¼ fifth cognac

• 2-3 Tbsp. peach brandy

In a pot, combine sugar and water and boil 5 minutes. Juice the lemons and pour juice into hot syrup. Add the lemon rinds. Cool the syrup and refrigerate overnight. Before serving, remove the lemon rinds. Add pineapple juice, dark rum, cognac and peach brandy. Pack a punch bowl with crushed ice. Pour the punch over the ice and serve.

Tavern Specialty Cream Peanut Soupe

• 1 chopped medium onion

• 2 chopped ribs of celery

• ¼ cup of melted, salted butter

• 3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

• 2 quarts chicken stock/broth

• 2 cups smooth peanut butter

• 1 ¾ cups light cream

• Chopped peanuts

In a saucepan, sauté onion and celery in butter just until soft. Stir in flour until blended. Add chicken stock while constantly stirring and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and puree in a processor until smooth. Add peanut butter and cream while stirring to blend. Return to soup pot until heated through. Serve garnished with chopped peanuts. Good warm or cold.

Virginia Ham Paté

• 1 pound finely ground Virginia ham

• ¼ cup French-style, Dijon mustard

• ½ cup premium mayonnaise

In a bowl, combine the finely ground ham, Dijon mustard and mayonnaise. Mix thoroughly. Spread on warm Sally Lunn bread, hot biscuits or bread slices.

Tavern’s Corn Relish

• 2 cups whole kernel corn

• ½ cup pickle relish

• ¼ cup red pepper relish

• Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Drain all ingredients well. In a bowl, combine corn, pickle and red pepper relishes, and salt and pepper. Mix well. Chill for several hours before serving.

Filet of Beef

• 1 whole filet of beef

• 1 each, thinly sliced onion, lemon

• 2 thinly sliced carrots

• 3 chopped parsley sprigs

• 1 tsp. fresh chopped thyme

• 1 bay leaf

• Freshly ground black pepper

• ½ cup olive oil

• Bacon slices

• ½ cup red wine

• watercress

Remove any excess fat/tissue from beef. Tie every 2-inches. In a bowl, combine thinly sliced lemon, onion, carrots, parsley, thyme, bay leaf, pepper, and olive oil. Marinate beef in marinade for 3-4 hours while turning every hour and allowing meat to come to room temperature. When ready to cook, remove beef and lay several bacon slices over the top. Place meat on a broiler rack in middle of oven. Bake in a preheated 500-degree oven, but reduce heat to 350-degrees when it goes into the oven. Roast for 35 minutes. Remove from oven and remove meat from pan. Place on platter, cover in foil, and keep warm until serving. Deglaze pan with the red wine. When ready to serve, slice meat into 1-inch slices and spoon the liquid over the slices. Garnish with watercress.

Crab Crowned Trout

• 3 Tbsp. melted salted butter

• 12 ounces fresh crab meat

• 4 tsp. all-purpose flour

• Salt and cayenne pepper, to taste

• 1 cup heavy cream

• ¼ cup dry vermouth (optional)

• 5 egg whites

• 4 6-ounce trout filets

• 3 tsp. fresh lemon juice

• Salt and freshly ground black pepper

• capers

In a skillet, melt butter. Sauté crabmeat in vermouth. Add flour, salt and cayenne, to taste. Blend thoroughly while adding cream. Add vermouth, if desired. Set aside. In a mixer bowl, beat egg whites until form stiff peaks and set aside. Broil trout for 3 minutes but don’t cook until done. In a bowl, combine lemon juice with salt and pepper and pour over fish. Cover with the crab mixture. Top with beaten egg whites. Bake in a preheated 500-degree oven for 3-5 minutes. Top with small capers.

Brunswick Stew

• 2 quarts water

• 5-pound cut-up chicken

• 2 quarts chunked tomatoes

• 8 diced Irish potatoes

• 1 quart cooked butter/lima beans

• 1 Tbsp. salt

• ½ cup sugar

• 8 ears corn (off cob)

If you’re fresh out of squirrels, chicken will do! In a pot, combine water, cut-up chicken pieces, chopped tomatoes, diced potatoes, butterbeans, salt and sugar. Slowly cook at a simmer for 1 ½ hours or until chicken falls off the bones. Remove bones and/or skin. Cook until chicken is thoroughly cooked. Use a sharp knife to cut off the corn from the cob and then mash out all of the milk. Add to the stew. Cook on medium for 5-10 minutes or until corn thickens the stew.

Virginia Country Ham

• 9-pound ham with bone

• Water to cover

• ½ cup vinegar

• Brown sugar

• Ground gloves

• ¼ cup strong coffee

In a large pot, soak ham covered in water with the vinegar for 24 hours.  Drain and cover ham with fresh water. Simmer for 3 hours. Cool and trim any excess fat. Score ham and rub all over with brown sugar and ground cloves. Cook in a roaster on a rack uncovered in a preheated 325-degree oven for 30 minutes. Slice very thin for biscuits. If you want to make gravy, pour off all drippings. Then use strong coffee to deglaze the roasting pan.

Melt In Your Mouth Biscuit Mix

• 3 cups self-rising flour

• 1 ½ tsp. baking powder

• 1 tbsp. sugar

• 1 cup Crisco shortening

• Heavy whipping cream

• Melted butter

In a mixing bowl, sift flour, baking powder and sugar. Cut in the shortening with a pastry blender until evenly distributed and resembles coarse crumbs. Store covered in refrigerator. To make 6 biscuits that are 2-inches in diameter, add 1 cup of mix with enough cream to moisten. Knead on a floured surface but don’t overwork it. Pat out the dough to ¼ -inch thick for thin crust biscuits or ½ inch for higher biscuits. Cut into rectangles. Brush tops with melted butter. Bake on a lightly greased baking sheet in a preheated 450-degree oven for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with ham.

Chicka-Hominy Casserole

• 2 cans hominy

• 1 can diced green chiles

• 5 small chopped green onions

• 1 small carton sour cream

• ½ cup grated cheese

In a bowl, add one entire can of hominy with juice. Add another can of drained hominy without liquid. Add chiles, chopped onion and sour cream. Mix well. Top with grated cheese. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 35 minutes.

Miss Mollie’s Apple Crumb Pie

• 1 9-inch pie pastry

• 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

• ½ cup sugar

• 1/8 tsp. salt

• 1 tsp. ground cinnamon

• 5 cups ¼-inch sliced tart apple slices

• 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

• 2 Tbsp. salted butter


• ¼ cup sugar

• ½ cup all-purpose flour

• ¼ cup melted butter

• ¾ cup flaked coconut (optional)

Line a 9-inch pie pan with pastry and allow pastry to extend 1-inch beyond edge. Fold edge back to form a standing rim and flute with fingers. In a bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt and cinnamon. Place a layer of apple slices in the pie shell and sprinkle part of the flour and sugar mixture over apples. Add remaining apples in layers while alternately with crumb mixture and ending with apples. Sprinkle lemon juice over top of pie and dot with butter pieces. Bake in a preheated 425-degree oven for 45 minutes or until apples are tender. In another bowl, combine sugar, flour and melted butter and mix well until of crumb consistency. Add coconut, if desired. Sprinkle coconut crumb mixture over top of baked pie. Return to oven and bake 7 additional minutes or until topping is browned.

Rum Cream Pie

Crumb Crust

• 2 ¼ cups graham cracker crumbs

• ½ cup melted butter

• 2 Tbsp. sugar

• ½ tsp. ground cinnamon


• ½ cup cold water

• 1 envelope unflavored gelatin

• 5 beaten egg yolks

• 1 cup sugar

• 1/3 cup premium dark rum

• 1 ½ cups whipped whipping cream

• Unsweet chocolate shavings

For the crust, in a bowl, combine crushed crumbs with butter, sugar and cinnamon. Press into bottom and sides of a 9-inch pie plate. Chill for 1 hour. For the pie, in a bowl, soften gelatin in cold water. Bring almost to a boil while stirring to dissolve. Remove from heat. In a mixer bowl, beat egg yolks and add sugar. Beat until light. Stir gelatin into egg mixture and allow to cool. Gradually beat in the rum. In another mixer bowl, whip cream until it forms soft peaks and then fold into the gelatin mixture. Cool until mixture begins to set. Evenly spoon mixture into bottom of crust and chill for several hours until firm.