Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Home Plate

Three local chefs show NYC why Richmond should be on its radar.

Posted By on Tue, Nov 12, 2013 at 4:00 AM

He’d barely finished last night’s successful Ideas in Food dinner at Heritage, when chef Joe Sparatta hit the road today with chef Lee Gregory of the Roosevelt for a power gig in New York City. They’re joining Jason Alley, owner of Comfort and Pasture, for a showcase of their food tomorrow evening at Astor Center in lower Manhattan.

The event is a promotion of Richmond Region Tourism, which selected the chefs to represent the city’s food scene. The guest list includes two dozen writers from national publications.

Sparatta is bringing his house-made charcuterie and a popular dessert at his restaurant, a pastry play on bacon and eggs. Gregory will serve a variation on Brunswick stew with duck, foie gras and truffles, and a roasted scallop dish with sweet potato puree. Alley will prepare Carolina gold rice grits with fresh and pickled Virginia mushrooms, house-cured ham, and snacks of pimento cheese, bread and butter pickles and crab-spiced peanuts. Hardywood Park brews are the featured beverage, signaling this city’s surge in craft beer production and consumption.

Invited guests write for influential sites and publications with a national reach, but organizers hesitate to confirm attendees before the event. The prospect of impressing them is nerve-wracking, Sparatta says, but adrenaline remains high after a sell-out plus (110 guests) for his Maximum Flavor five-course dinner Monday night.

At that event, guests dined on beef heart tartare with rice crepes; pepperoni ramen with octopus; grilled lamb shoulder with gnocchi, lamb heart ragu and charred scallions; a Reuben-flavored composition of Brussels sprouts and crisped provolone; and chocolate cake with coconut cream cheese filling and walnut brittle ice cream.

Acclaimed food writer Alex Talbot of Ideas in Food introduced his cookbook, and chefs Owen Lane, Randall Doetzer, Winburn Carmack, Bobo Catoe, Mike Yager, Craig Perkinson and Bill Foster assisted Sparatta and Gregory in the kitchen.

Restaurant industry folks, a large contingent of young professionals and self-described food geeks came out for the $75-plus evening and evaluated each dish with gusto -- another indicator that Richmond’s food renaissance is gaining traction here and beyond.

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