Hitting the Moravian Culinary Trail

Over 250 years ago, the Moravians, who are descendants from the modern-day Czech Republic, migrated to America and many ultimately settled in Winston-Salem. They’ve preserved much of their rich culture and are now part of the area’s living (and edible) history. One of the main ways Moravian culture thrives is through culinary tradition, which you can experience by choosing your own flavorful destiny along any one of the area’s virtual culinary trails.

Start, stop, and savor the flavor of Moravian culture

See cookies made by hand in Old Salem on the Moravian Culinary Trail in Winston Salem
Cookie cutting at Old Salem

By “virtual”, we mean that you can choose where you start, stop, and stay along the three Moravian culinary trails, which is a pretty sweet deal (perhaps not as sweet as the Moravian cookies…more on that in a moment) because you get to pick and choose your flavors. Also, it’s a little nostalgic as it reminds us of those “choose your own ending books.”

Consequently, given the Moravian’s rich cultural history in the Old Salem district of Winston-Salem, the virtual tours’ nostalgic quality is rather fitting.

Put on the brakes for Moravian cookies

Enjoy delectable Moravian cookies from Mrs. Hanes in Winston-Salem
Mrs. Hanes cookies

While it might not jive with a typical dining progression, you should stop for dessert (well, we’ll call it a snack) first. It’s a sweet start when you kick off your culinary trail adventure with Moravian cookies.

These paper-thin cookies are a culinary tradition stemming back to 1753 that are as packed with history as they are with flavor. Traditional flavors are of dark molasses, ginger, and aromatic cloves (a moment of silence for such perfection, shall we?).

The oldest cookies and savories in Old Salem are sold at the historic Winkler Bakery in Old Salem located on S. Main St (this charming bakery was constructed in 1800 and the building itself is a must-see). What’s particularly fun about swinging into the centuries-old Winkler Bakery is that you’re immersed in the Moravian cultural history by costumed greeters (who have samples of rosemary bread, Moravian sugar cake, and yes, cookies).

Evva and Travis Hanes produce delectable Moravian cookies and treats at their bakery in Winston-Salem
Evva and Travis Hanes

While there are several gems on the culinary trail, Mrs. Hanes’ Moravian Cookies is a family-owned business that made Oprah’s list of favorite things in 2010 (and we all know if it makes Oprah’s list it’s the gold standard, right?). Cookie flavors at Mrs. Hanes’ include: sugar, lemon, black walnut, chocolate, butterscotch, and traditional Moravian ginger. Mrs. Hanes’ Moravian Cookies are truly a tradition as the owner, Mrs. Evva Hanes, is a seventh generation Moravian cookie maker, or rather, cookie master.

Of course, these aren’t your only options for Moravian cookies on the culinary trial; what’s more, simply nibbling into a Moravian cookie isn’t the only way to have a Moravian cookie. Why not drink your cookie (and eat it too)?

More than cookies

If you’re looking for a way to get more cookies into your life, try picking up a Moravian Ginger Cookie Candle from Twin City Hive. This local coffee shop features locally made, hand-poured Moravian cookie-scented candles which will leave your home smelling like cookies long after you’ve devoured your souvenir bags.  If you need something to wash down said cookies with, sip on Twin City Hive’s Moravian Ginger Cookie Tea.

While we’re on the subject of drinking your cookies … one of the most popular brews at Foothills Brewing is a seasonal treat that’s like a Moravian Cookie. Based off of the popular People’s Porter craft brew, Foothills Brewing blends a little nutmeg, cinnamon, and fresh ginger (the same amount used for Moravian cookies) along with mandarin orange essence for a rich, spicy, citrusy holiday beverage that will warm and delight you through and through. The beer releases just after Thanksgiving and is available not only at the famed brewery but also in a Moravian Holiday Gift Box via Dewey’s Bakery (where Moravian Sugar Cake abounds). The gift box includes: a box of Moravian porter, a box of Moravian cookies, and a Foothills gift glass. Cookies and beer: a match made in Southern (and Moravian) paradise.

Speaking of Dewey’s Bakery …

Moravian cookies and pairings by Salem Baking Company in Winston Salem
Salem Baking Company cookie pairings

Dewey’s is where you actually go and purchase cookies, and you should do just that at one of their two locations (they have pop up shops during the holidays throughout the state, but two locations in Winston-Salem year round). Salem Baking Company is who provides these delicious treats to be sold at Dewey’s (and about 1 million of the total 1.1 million pounds of Moravian cookies produced in Winston-Salem annually … that’s a lot of cookies, y’all).

We love Salem Baking Company, and we especially love their cookie pairing ideas. They provide unique recipes and pairings to bring your cookies to a whole new (and sometimes very modern) level. Take your ginger cookies to a savory place with treats like Sweet Potato Spoon Bread or topped with blue cheese, walnuts, and honey. Or, treat your sweet tooth to a Hazelnut Freezer Pie with Chocolate Moravian Cookie Crust. You’ll also find pairings and recipes featuring the pumpkin spice, Meyer lemon, toasted coconut, sugar, and cranberry orange cookies. Go ahead, try them all. We won’t tell.

Indulge in the savory of Moravian Chicken Pie

Indulge in delicious Moravian chicken pie at Tavern in Winston Salem
Moravian Chicken PIe at The Tavern in Old Salem

While we realize you may have filled up on the sweets and the fuel, we encourage you to hang on to your hats for another important stop along the Moravian Culinary Trail and that is Moravian chicken pie. Not to be confused with chicken potpie (seriously, it’s not chicken potpie), Moravian chicken pie eliminates the veggies and serves them on the side. Instead, what you get is a homey, savory, gravy and herb-laden pie full of juicy, seasoned chicken.

Hutch & Harris is the only stop in the downtown district, but no worries … The Tavern in Old Salem and Cherrie’s Café are ideally located to satisfy your hearty, flavor fetish (that is Moravian Chicken Pie).

Happy (sugary) trails to you

Enjoy delicious Moravian sugar Cake from Winkler Bakery in Winston Salem
Moravian Sugar Cake from Winkler Bakery

As you get ready to end your Moravian Culinary Trail tour, end it the way you started –on a sweet note. Moravian sugar cakes, which are yeasty wonders made with joy and flavored with brown sugar, butter, and cinnamon have such a heartwarming consistency and flavor that you’ll feel like you’re being hugged by generations of baked-goods-loving ancestors.

Many places that serve Moravian cookies also dish up Moravian sugar cakes, (including Winkler Bakery where every sugar cake is baked in the historic dome bake oven and wrapped tight while still warm) so make sure you plan a nosh of cake into your visit be it at the beginning or at the end.  Speaking of the end, keep in mind that everything related to the Moravians from their timeless architecture to their tried and true and ever-lasting recipes is part of a treasured living history.

Chances are, your taste buds are already packing your bags and getting ready to hit the Moravian Culinary Trail. Help them out by checking out VisitWinstonSalem.com/MoravianCulinaryTrail and planning all of your stops (and where you’ll stay) in beautiful Winston-Salem.