I get why people are excited about fair food. Where else can you find the kitchen sink fried and served with powdered sugar? Serious food-interested people eat here. And by serious, I mean, those people who like fun, deep-fried Kool-Aid (ugh) and fun. If you can't beat 'em, here are five ways to join them.
1. Sirloin Tips: Big, chopped pieces of self-marinating sirloin ($5 for the kids' meal) roasted then sautéed in 10-year-old cast iron with butter and "secret seasonings" -- this doesn't sound like fair food. Get involved. Get the mushrooms.
Where: Pickle Barrel Sirloin Tips. Across from the Farm Bureau building.
2. Pumpkin Funnel Cake: Why go basic when you can go pumpkin? Why limit yourself to just to cinnamon when you can have nutmeg as well? A flat, crispy and greasy pumpkin muffin. No really, why?
Where: Wilson Enterprises. By the King BMX stunt show.
3. Hot Fried Frog Legs: That burger patty slapped between two donut halves is so last year, and that pork parfait is uh, parfait-ed pork. So how about some spicy fat frog legs ($5)? Don't worry. They don't taste like chicken.
Where: Porky's. By the Thrill Pit.
4. Fried chicken on a stick: Everything is better on a stick, especially if it's a large piece (dark meat, please) of chicken ($7) soaked in Big Drew's Cajun seasoning, floured and deep-fried. No need for the roll.
Where: Cajun' Cookin'. Outside the Farm Bureau building.
5. Chimney Cakes: A Transylvanian street snack? Yes. Rolled around a wooden spoke and then baked, this pastry ($5) tastes like something your mom would make if she were Romanian, a little tangy and a little sweet. Flavors include chocolate walnut and cinnamon.
Where: Chimney Cakes. Next to the Thrill Pit.
John Van Peppen hopes to start a renewal at the 17th Street Farmers’ Market as he brings an upscale dining presence to a prominent corner in Shockoe Bottom. He’s in the midst of what he hopes is a six-week redo of the former Café Gutenberg at 1700 E. Main St., turning the two-level historic building and former peanut factory into a 135-seat space serving “a contemporary interpretation of Continental cuisine.”
Van Peppen, whose restaurant credits include Fleming’s, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and DeFazio’s, is redecorating the space using furnishings from the recently-closed Copper Grill franchise restaurant at Short Pump. A chef with longtime Richmond roots is about to sign on to prepare Braveheart steaks, fresh seafood and sides such as extra-smoked Gouda mac and cheese. Wines and craft cocktails will be served at a large new bar; outdoor dining and an upstairs private party space are also getting facelifts as construction moves forward on Van Peppen’s tight timeline.
“My vision is to try to grow this farmers’ market,” Van Peppen says, “and to buy ingredients from farmers who in turn will get exposure for their businesses.” To work at Arcadia, whose name is drawn from Roman mythology, the owner says “people have to have the hospitality gene, and be prepared to take care of guests’ every need – because hospitality is the cornerstone of this business.” Michelle Graziano, formerly of Fleming’s, will handle special events. Follow the restaurant’s progress at arcadiarichmond.com
Chef Jimmy Sneed is about to put his next culinary imprint on Richmond, this time taking over the prime Carytown location of the former Double T’s Real Smoked Barbecue at 2907 W. Cary St. The deal closes soon, Sneed says, and he’s finalizing plans for the restaurant’s focus and menu.
Fan District vegetarian cafe Fresca on Addison is now fully in the hands of Jenna Sneed, his daughter, and has a big vegan-foods following. Customers can expect to see meat on the menu at Sneed’s new venture, we’re betting.
Watch Style Weekly for details on the project next week.
Richmond’s Fat Tire beer fans are marking their calendars for Monday, Aug. 22. I emailed three questions to Robb MacDonald, general manager of Specialty Beverage, who responded via Droid while on vacation:
I emailed three questions about the rollout to Robb MacDonald, general manager of Specialty Beverage, who answered from his Droid while on vacation:
1) Fat Tire seems to have rabid fans. When and where will they be able to put their hands on it first?
Fat Tire as well as several other styles of beer from the New Belgium Brewery will be available for purchase in many Richmond area restaurants, bars, bottle shops, supermarkets and convenience stores as of Monday, Aug. 22. … Whole Foods, Total Wine, Ellwood Thompson's, Mekong, Capital Ale House and many others!
2) How does Fat Tire fit into your line of beers? What others are coming to town, and when?
The New Belgium Brewery is the third largest craft brewery in the U.S. Their extensive and unique portfolio of products, led by its flagship Fat Tire Amber Ale, will fit in nicely with Specialty Beverage’s offering of hand crafted local, regional and international offerings. As far as other “coming attractions” with regard to craft beers, we have a few things in the works. Stay tuned!
3) How would you describe the taste of Fat Tire?Brewed in the Belgian style, Fat Tire has a beautiful amber color. The perfect balance of malt and hops makes this smooth-drinking beer a flavorful, refreshing and aromatic experience.
In one of the fastest switch-ups in Richmond restaurant history, a new identity, menu and kitchen staff are turning the not quite three-month old White Anchovie into the Iron Fish, at 3061 Lauderdale Drive.
Chef-partner Todd Manley debuts a new menu at the Henrico restaurant tonight, with dishes such as curried blue crab mac and cheese, chicken and dumplings, pan-seared barramundi and other small and entrée-sized plates ranging from $6 – 25. The new restaurant’s motto is “fresh fish and local farms by Pescados” and emphasizes colorful, accessible food that is a response to customer requests, Manley says. “I feel pretty confident” about the retooling, he adds, acknowledging that recent lukewarm reviews of the White Anchovie were a factor, but not the deciding point, in the changes. Chef Matthew Tlusty, a former partner in the venture, is developing another project.
Iron Fish will serve dinner Tuesday through Saturday as it makes the transition from one concept to another.
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Well, just as abruptly as his disappearance from Taste of China in Charlottesville last year, he re-emerges in Charlottesville at Peter Chang's China Grill in the old Wild Greens spot at Barracks Road, opening today and taking reservations only. If the preview I was privy to last night is any indication of the future: Welcome back, Peter.
Starting with Szechuan Bang Bang Shrimp, Hot and Numbing Dry Beef, and Broiled Chicken with a spicy red sauce, a balanced heat was prevalent through the entirety of the meal. Easily explained as Asian beef jerky, the marinated and dried beef flecked with sesame seeds was overtly but somehow pleasantly tough. The shrimp, fried lightly, and the sliced chicken, adroitly prepared, seemed like an afterthought to the dense beef with its in-your-face crunch.
Phyllo flake-like tofu skin (Shanghai tofu skin rolls) wrapped tightly and sliced, was drenched in a cooling sweet red sauce that broke the hot overtone. Fresh and crisp cilantro-laced fish rolls acted as a sneaky palate cleanser followed by a deceptively light (also cilantro-packed) fish and sour cabbage soup, broth-y and translucent. Transitioning into more meal-like dishes at what seemed like breakneck speed, we were brought clean plates and served Chang's rendition of Dan Dan noodles. Expecting spicy yet again, I was mildly taken aback by the vinegary taste and spagetti-like texture.
Next came a dry-fried eggplant and spicy fragrant duck -- easily my two favorite courses of the evening. Dry-frying is uniquely Sichuan. The technique is supremely difficult using medium heat and actually drying out the ingredient before adding spices. The method produces heavenly odors and a product that is devoid of any greasy feel. Eggplant, known to be wealthy in moisture, shines in this preparation. Duck, again notably fatty, gains heartiness prompting the question from a patron at our table to inquire if the meat was in fact, duck.
Another stellar example of Chang's cooking prowess is the Pearl Ball. Picture the child-favorite sweet snowballs, replace the coconut with rice and the marshmallow with a whitefish and shrimp “meringue.” While the description sounds less than appetizing, the finished product virtually melts when eaten, a combination of sweet rice and salty, airy fish. Other samplings included a gorgeously presented whole fish, velvet shrimp and mushrooms and a tender baked lamb chop rounding out the savory portion of our meal.
Dessert consisted of red bean rice balls. Fluffy and so uniformly round it was almost comical, the sweet, barely present red bean paste was enough sugar to pop with the popcorn-like taste of the outer core.
Now, before your excitement grows to epic proportions, it is being said that Chang is only at this restaurant to consult briefly and will be moving on to other things in the near future. So if your goal is to eat cuisine prepared by Chang himself, I might head west with little haste.
A old Chinese saying claims: “China is the place for food, Sichuan is the place for flavor.” With last night in mind, I would be inclined to agree.
Boom Boom opened yesterday and promptly filled with customers thanks to Eftekhari's tweets, Facebook updates and YouTube videos, highlighting what's different about the business. “We want to serve nutritionally dense foods and we want to use social media to do that,” the former corporate professional says. “I think consumers are making decisions more based on ingredients now,” which means he's working with small farmers for goods to make his own ketchup and aioli, and to supply mushrooms, sweet potatoes and cheeses, in addition to the Polyface goods.
Burgers include the Mrs. Boom (Colby, ketchup and pickles for $7.50), the classic, which adds grilled onions and Boom sauce; and meat-free cheese melts for $5 and $6. The business serves Tuesdays through Saturdays from 11 a.m. with more evening hours starting next week.
Read Style for more details about this business, which is designed to grow into a multi-unit concept with sights on VCU and Charlottesville.