Amy Umble writes about family issues and kid-friendly events.
Family Table offers foodie fun for all ages
Parents: What are the most common obstacles keeping you from taking your kids with you to enjoy downtown Fredericksburg’s farmers market, or its independent restaurants?
Not enough room to push a stroller through tight rows of vendors?
Parking hard to find on a Saturday morning?
No kids’ menus at chef-owned restaurants?
Well, you’re about to have the red carpet rolled out for you.
Starting with a kick-off festival on Saturday, Fredericksburg and a long list of food and family-focused partners will put on a restaurant week called The Family Table.
As the name implies, this is all about giving families with kids a chance to sample city restaurants and check out the downtown farmers market in a setting made just for them.
“I think families are increasingly concerned about trying to support local businesses and trying to shop and dine locally,” said Julie Perry, Fredericksburg’s Visitor Center manager, who has helped organize the event. “This is the time to take your kids to try either some of your favorite places or that restaurant that you’ve always wanted to try.”
The restaurant week runs Aug. 6 – 14. More than a dozen city restaurants and other businesses will participate with some kind of special kids’ menu or deal.
The deals vary. Some restaurants will offer special prix fixe menus for kids, some will offer special discounts, and a few will allow kids to pay their age. At many restaurants, the kids’ deals will be available during early-bird dinner hours, to give families their own chance to dine before adult crowds arrive.
At Poppy Hill Tuscan Kitchen, for example, co-owners (and parents) Scott and Ingrid Mahar will serve up two courses for $20 for adults, and allow kids to pay their age for a special that includes the restaurant’s fresh-made pasta and a dessert.
Ingrid Mahar said she understands the anxiety parents might feel when they walk into a restaurant not sure what their kids will eat.
“We don’t have a ‘kids’ menu,’ we just try to make what you think your kid will eat,” Mahar said. “We love our children just like you do, and we want to make sure your kids are happy.”
Other businesses are also getting in on the event. The Kitchen at Whittingham, for example, will offer kids’ cooking classes, and Pots and Pallettes will have mugs and bowls for kids to decorate.
A special paper menu to color will be available at participating restaurants, and some restaurants will pass out recipe cards featuring kid-friendly dishes.
The restaurant week will start off with a family food festival on Saturday, built around an expanded farmers market in Hurkamp Park.
The city will close the block of Prince Edward Street between William and George streets from 8 a.m. to noon for the event.
In addition to the nearly 30 vendors who set up to sell everything from fresh cheese to grass-fed beef to local produce every Saturday morning, a few new vendors will be on-hand.
Market Manager Donna Leahy said she’s been gathering customer feedback on the market all year, and the need for more space to maneuver among the stalls has come up constantly.
This test run at closing Prince Edward Street will give everyone more room, meaning it won’t be as hard to push a stroller through the crowds. Expanded parking options will also be available.
Inside Hurkamp Park, the group working to organize the Cobblestone Children’s Mueum will have a farm-focused, hands-on exhibit for kids to come play with.
Young children will be able to “plant” models of different vegetables in rubberized “mulch” in a farming exhibit.
Nationally renowned food artist James Parker of VeggyArt, who has been featured on Food Network, will be in the park doing fruit and vegetable carving.
Down William Street, in Market Square, another level of food educational activities will be available from noon until 4 p.m.
This historic market location will house presentations on Colonial butter and cheese making, food science experiments and other booths on topics ranging from beekeeping to child nutrition.
“Historically that was our market,” Perry said. “You can still see the hooks on the walls where they hung meats. I just think it’s neat to be there talking about food again.”