While eating fresh fish from the Rappahannock River and drinking locally made wines, friends and families ‘relished’ a good time at the benefit dinner held Sunday by the Friends of the Rappahannock.
On March 10, Relish, a relatively new restaurant in Tappahannock owned by Warsaw’s former town councilwoman Carol Mead Smith, hosted “From the Rappahannock, For the Rappahannock” to fund the Friends’ goal in preserving the Rappahannock River as a clean food source for local communities.
Friends’ Executive Director John Tippett said the seafood benefit focused on “enjoying the bounty of the river and using that to help protect it.”
The proceeds from the dinner will help local programs that support the Rappahannock River, including the restoration of shorelines and oyster fisheries.
Outreach Coordinator Marti Osteyee-Hoffman called the benefit an “organic” means of celebrating the river and stressing why it matters to the community.
“If you enjoyed the rockfish and the oysters and the crabs, you’re not going to get those things anymore if the river is being polluted,” she added.
Volunteer Coordinator Lowery Pemberton said the event also helped the Friends inform the public about their conservation efforts, including “Save the Crabs,” in which the Friends have worked with local farmers to reduce the amount of fertilizers they use in order to cut down on dangerous runoff into the water.
“I think a lot of people say ‘I like a crab cake’ or ‘I love rockfish dinner,’” said Pemberton. “But people don’t necessarily understand the work that goes into saving that population so they can have that [seafood] again, or…getting it out of the river and onto the plate.”
In order to help people understand these efforts, River Steward Richard Moncure said he would “let the food speak for itself.”
The dinner and river were connected through its presentation of Rappahannock oysters and rockfish prepared in homemade cheesy garlic grits and bacon jam.
The Friends sold 40 tickets with many of the diners praising the local dishes.
Stan Terhune called the four-course meal “delicious” and said the event was important to the general public living on the river.
“I’ve watched the decline of seafood coming out of the river, and now I think I’m watching it improve,” said Terhune, adding that groups like the Friends are what communities need to continue making improvements.
“The groups have made a huge difference…in the way I think,” said Terhune, who credited the Friends with exposing him to the danger that fertilizer sprays pose to the river.
Josh Mattera, Manager of the Virginia Paving Company and a resident of Mineral, said the seafood was “very fresh” and was intrigued by the bacon jam used on the main dish.
“I wouldn’t normally have thought about that,” he said.
Charles Chittun, who was sitting with Mattera, said that an establishment like Relish was instrumental to Tappahannock’s growth.
“The restaurant makes the area more attractive to people from the Northern Virginia and Maryland area,” Chittun added.
Lancaster County resident Brian Dillistin said the food was “cooked to perfection” and called the event “a win-win for everybody.”
“It’s all about the Rappahannock,” Dillistin added. “It was a great event…I can’t say enough about how well the evening went.”
Cupper Dickinson said that Smith did a beautiful job of pulling together local seafood for the public to enjoy.
Smith thanked the public for coming out to Relish for the event while emphasizing that the Rappahannock was a “passion of mine” as she had grown up on the river.
“I thought we had to cleanest tributary until Lowery told me otherwise,” Smith said, with the knowledge fueling her motivation to help the Friends’ efforts through serving the dinner.
“I hope the Friends made a lot of money and that everybody went away learning something that [affects] us all,” she said.
For information about the Friends of the Rappahannock and their programs, visit
http://www.riverfriends.org/ or call 804-443-3448.