14 April, 2021

In the kitchen with Chef Rachel FitzGerald of Magpie Diner

Whichever region you are in, Virginia has an impressive culinary scene, with dozens of notable chefs creating inspired dishes from locally sourced ingredients that bring together the best of the Commonwealth's flavors in unique, delicious ways. To showcase the best food in Virginia, we spoke to a few of these chefs, from the award-winning seasoned professionals to the rising stars who have garnered attention in national and even international publications. Follow our "Inside the Kitchen" series as we take a look at all that Eat.Drink.LOVE has to offer in Virginia!

With its rich soil and lush landscapes, the Shenandoah Valley has always been an agricultural hub, supporting dairy farms, apple orchards and fresh produce centers. This has led the region to draw some excellent farm-to-table restaurants to the food scene, and one of these incredible restaurants is Magpie Diner, a new foodie haven in Harrisonburg, Virginia. This full-service breakfast and lunch spot serves a modern diner-inspired menu, but unlike a real fat scoop restaurant, you won't find burnt coffee or cheap ingredients at Magpie Diner. The restaurant opts for local and fresh instead; the coffee is sourced from Harrisonburg's Chestnut Ridge Coffee Roasters, their breads and pastries are made daily in their in-house bakery, and their menu always takes advantage of the current Virginia seasonal offerings.

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Photo Credit: Amelia Schmid

At the helm of Magpie Diner is Chef Rachel FitzGerald, a self-taught chef who worked in restaurants to pay her way through college and high school. After graduating, she rocked back and forth between teaching and cooking for nearly a decade, working in both industries in the Richmond and Nashville, Tennessee areas. She eventually went to the Shenandoah Valley, where she met the now owner of Magpie Diner, Kirsten Moore. Together, the creativity and inspired culinary practices of these two extraordinary women have combined to bring one of Harrisonburg's favorite local spots to fruition.

Want to know more about Magpie Diner and Chef FitzGerald? Read on to learn about some of her chef secrets, followed by one of Chef FitzGerald's favorite recipes!

Do you have a few go-to producers, farms, or other suppliers where you'd rather get your local ingredients from?

We are big fans of it Baker & # 39; s Pork on the road in Mt. Jackson, Virginia. We use their delicately spicy breakfast sausage to make our sausage gravy along with local milk Mt. Crawford Creamery. It's amazing how just a few high-quality ingredients can create such a unique, yet nostalgic flavor.

What are your favorite Virginia flavors?

Fall is my favorite season, and I think it's mostly because of my precious childhood food memories. Highland County maple syrup. Gingerbread from Colonial Williamsburg. My neighbors annual apple butter feast – cooking cider, apples and cinnamon for hours over a crackling wood fire.

What is your favorite thing to cook for yourself?

Unfortunately, cooking doesn't happen much for myself these days. If so, I'll make pasta. Particularly lazy lemon paste, which takes 10 minutes flat. I drain cooked pasta, make a sauce with the pasta water, lemon zest and juice, ricotta, Parmesan cheese, and red pepper flakes. Toss the noodles back in, add a handful of arugula and drain.

Which Virginia wine, specialty beer, cider or cocktail would you combine with that?

I usually like to drink a glass of dry white wine when I cook at home, but recently I enjoy the hard ciders of our new neighbors, Sage Bird. Love their Hip Hop – dry, crunchy, not overly sweet … perfect for wine or beer people who didn't know they like cider.

What's your favorite vacation spot in Virginia?

I have been spoiled for setting up my home base in the ultimate Virginia vacation destination: the Shenandoah Valley. If I ever have a few days off, I like to go to my old quasi-hometown, Richmond. I've lived in a few big cities that pride themselves on being & # 39; foodie & # 39; destinations, but I think good old Richmond has some of the best food scenes in the country without being overly costly or pretentious. to be.

Chef Recipe Spotlight: Apple Bacon Cheddar Sandwich

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Photo Credit: Amelia Schmid

“We knew we had to find a replacement for our classic BLT as soon as the peak tomato season was over. This sandwich is a surprising bestseller on our lunch menu. The meat and green can be mixed up with whatever you have on hand. What makes the taste of this sandwich unique is the combination of the sour-sweet apples with the spicy taste of the onion-thyme jam. "

Chef FitzGerald

Sandwich Ingredients

2 slices of white bread, milk bread, brioche or challah

3 slices of bacon, cooked


1 Honeycrisp or Fuji apple, thinly sliced

Onion-thyme jam * see recipe

Dijonaise * see recipe

Onion thyme jam ingredients

2 tablespoons of olive oil

12 onions, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon of mustard seeds

1/2 cup of brown sugar

1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons of fresh thyme leaves

Salt and ground black pepper


  1. Add the onions, mustard seeds, brown sugar, vinegar and thyme to a saucepan. Cover and cook over low heat for 15 or 20 minutes.
  2. Remove the top, stir, and partially cover the jar. Cook until the liquid is low and the onions, 60 to 70 minutes. Cook and refrigerate for up to a week.

Ingredients of thighonnaise

1/4 cup of granular Dijon mustard

1/4 cup mayonnaise (preferably Duke & # 39; s)

2 tablespoons of lemon juice


  1. Mix ingredients together and keep in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Sandwich mounting

  1. Toast bread and spread 1 slice with a tablespoon of Dijonaise and the other slice with a tablespoon of onion jam.
  2. Place 3 slices of bacon on the onion jam-ed bread, one slice of Sharp Cheddar and melt under an oven grill.
  3. Stack arugula on the Dijonaise bread and apple slices. Bring the 2 toasts together to complete the sandwich.

Want more incredibly tasty recipes from Virginia's top chefs? Stay tuned for more In the kitchen articles and check out these other articles in the chef series:

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