Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Weekly Food Notes: Sizzling North Side, Expanding Choices + More

Posted By on Wed, Apr 26, 2017 at 2:21 PM

It seems as if 2017 is shaping up to be a year of expansion: Mama J.’s Kitchen is planning to take over the building next door at 411 N. First St., reports Richmond BizSense. The longtime Richmond favorite wants to increase capacity for its catering business and will expand the kitchen and move its offices to the new building. mamajskitchen.com.

It’s a family affair for Joe Kiatsuranon — YaYa’s Cookbook, named for his mother and grandmother — will open Thursday, April 27 at 11674 W. Broad St. in Short Pump. The owner of Sabai and My Noodle Bar has created a menu full of Thai food, sushi and craft cocktails.

North Side will see yet another spot open its doors, this time in an old auto repair shop, BizSense says. Sisters Kristin and Kia Player will open Dixie Bell’s at 400 W. Brookland Park Blvd. in the fall.

Sapori Ristorante Italiano has closed in Chester, reports the Times-Dispatch. There’s a For Lease sign in the window, but no other details.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Amazon Prime Now Delivers Beer and Wine

For real.

Posted By on Wed, Apr 19, 2017 at 2:46 PM

Whoa, whoa, whoa here, Amazon. What did you just say? Your Prime Now service is delivering cold beer and wine — chilled wine — to Richmonders right this very minute?

Shut the front door.

But it’s true. Richmond is now a city where you can get a properly chilled bottle of Nobilo Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc for $9.99 delivered free to your door within two hours. The selection, admittedly, isn’t deep — although you can find bottles from a couple of Virginia wineries — but if that dinner party is going well and the wine is running low, a few standards will do the trick.

Like the wine, the craft beer selection isn’t that exciting, and local varieties — other than Stone Brewing, which doesn’t count, and Hardywood Park Craft Brewery, which does — are barely represented. The good news is that you can buy a six-pack of Buskey Cider and try out its new(ish) RVA Cider.

You can also add wine glasses, stoppers or those big aluminum tubs that keep beer cold at parties to the delivery guy’s list. I’m not sure how a Harry Potter Platform 9 3/4 plastic cup fits in with the rest of the choices, but hey, no judgment here. I can drink wine my way and you can drink yours in a wizard cup with a straw.

Just be careful when drunk-clicking for a reasonably priced bottle of sparkling wine. Prime Now also offers Dom Perignon for $176.99. It’s actually a decent price for the champagne, but a little hard on the wallet by 10 p.m. — the cutoff time for delivery.

CORRECTION: This article originally stated that the cut-off time for ordering alcohol was 10 p.m. That is, in fact, the cut-off time for delivery.

Weekly Food Notes: Oysters, Strawberries + More

Posted By on Wed, Apr 19, 2017 at 11:53 AM

Rappahannock will reopen tomorrow, with its staff intact, after clean-up and repair from a fire in March. It’s celebrating with half-off oysters and a $100 gift certificate giveaway on Facebook. And you can also expect to see new things on the menu at Rapp Session next door. facebook.com/rappahannockrva.

Columnist Annie Tobey gives us the lowdown on the state of U.S. beer that she gleaned from her trip to the 2017 Craft Brewers Conference & BrewExpo America in Washington, D.C. The growth of craft beer is slowing as the market gets more crowded and acquisitions aren't happening as often either, she reports.

Luncheonette Northside opened at 10 E. Brookland Park Boulevard, in the old Streetcar Cafe space. You can expect the same menu as its downtown location, plus a few gluten-free and locally sourced options. And be-still-the-neighborhood’s-heart, the restaurant also delivers. theluncheonette.net.

Greek on Cary at 3107 W. Cary St. is doubling up. The longtime Carytown spot is expanding both to the building next door and its menu. The connecting door to the new space will open in May. greekoncaryrva.com.

Spring came early this year and it's already strawberry season. Most of Virginia’s berries come from the southeastern part of the state, and Lorraine Eaton of the Virginian-Pilot knows the best places to go if you’d like to do a little picking.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Richmond Beer Goes to Washington

A report from the Craft Brewers Conference & BrewExpo America held this earlier week.

Posted By on Fri, Apr 14, 2017 at 4:03 PM

Richmond-area brewery owners and staff worked hard and played hard this week in Washington, D.C., at the 2017 Craft Brewers Conference & BrewExpo America. It offered a blend of networking and learning opportunities, vendor exhibits, and the chance to serve beer to attendees from around the United States. And by extension, that meant there was plenty of beer-drinking.

The conference brought together approximately 13,300 industry professionals and 900 exhibitors. A 15,000-square-foot hospitality suite, dubbed the Virginia Craft Beer Festy, highlighted Virginia’s beer and the state’s craft-beer-business-friendly environment. Gov. Terry McAuliffe spoke at the Virginia’s Finest Reception held in the suite. “Virginia has great craft beer, Virginia has six different kinds of oysters -- and Virginia is for lovers,” he told the Festy crowd. “You do the math.”

At the annual state-of-the-industry address, Brewers Association economist Bart Watson and director Paul Gratza reported that craft beer sales are at an all-time high, but the growth has slowed. After yearly growth of 18 percent from 2013 through 2015, last year saw only a 6-percent increase. At the same time, the market is getting more crowded. More than 5,300 breweries operate nationwide, with more than two breweries opening each day. “[But] there’s still a lot of growth out there,” Gratza said, “and somebody’s going to get that space.”

Further, Watson and Gratza reported that large brewery acquisitions are slowing down. Microbreweries and taprooms are the healthiest segment of the industry, while regional breweries are experiencing challenges because they’re sandwiched between smaller local breweries and big beer companies.

Plus, there’s growing customer uncertainty between beers brewed by independent craft breweries and those brewed by big beer companies. Examples include Devils Backbone and Goose Island, previously independent breweries acquired by Anheuser-Busch InBev in 2016 and 2011, respectively. But some consumers aren’t worried about who owns the beer they prefer.

The pairing of beer with food is finally coming of age, and certain styles increased in popularity last year: IPAs, golden ales, saison and farmhouse ales, as well as other light styles. Richmond beer fans mirror national trends: Craft beer drinkers want local products and new tastes, a feeling of connection to the community and the taproom experience.

Seminars at CBC included such scintillating topics as “Dry Hopping and Its Effects on Beer Bitterness, the IBU Test and Beer Foam” and “A Practical Perspective on Foraged and Agriculturally Based Beers” -- with Lincoln Smith and Danny Fain from Ardent Craft Ales in attendance, so be on the lookout for more unexpected ingredients in Ardent beers.

Strangeways’ Mike Hiller presented at a seminar titled “Starting With Quality: Not Just Another Lab Talk,” and Hardywood Park Craft Brewery’s Becky Morrison presented at “Tasting Room Best Practices.” And Richmond breweries made appearances throughout the event and in Washington bars, both in person and on tap.

Gratza is concerned about whether craft breweries will remain united. “Only together can we preserve the independence of craft brewing,” said keynote speaker Dick Cantwell, co-founder of Elysian Brewing.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Rappahannock to Reopen This Week

Time to fire up the grill.

Posted By on Thu, Apr 13, 2017 at 2:19 PM

Although the fire was limited to the hood over the stove in the kitchen area, the smoke and water damage wasn’t. Rappahannock on East Grace Street closed a month ago to clean up and repair the restaurant’s space. Fortunately, its next-door sibling, Rapp Session, was able to stay open. And Mayor Levar Stoney and the city's director of planning, Mark Olinger, checked in regularly, co-owner Ryan Croxton says.

Now, that’s all in the past, or it’s about to be — Rappahannock will reopen on Thursday, April 20. That day, you can celebrate along with the owners and staff while sliding a few half-price oysters in your mouth.

"The outpouring has been truly touching, and we couldn’t be more grateful,” says Croxton.

Rapp Session’s menu has also received a makeover — or, more properly, an expansion. The closure next door gave the staff time to come up with a few new things: grab-and-go items for breakfast and lunch, including the Crabbie ($4) — baked crab and cheese on an English muffin, extensively tested by the owners, Croxton says — plus a poke bowl ($10), seafood salad ($3.50), and sandwiches ($7-$8).

Open Table is already taking reservations at Rapphannock, and Rapp Session will debut its new offerings the same day that the restaurant reopens next door.

“We’re proud to say,” Croxton says, “[all of our staff] will be back this Thursday, ready to serve.”

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Weekly Food Notes: Fighting Fish, Nitrogen Blasting + More

Posted By on Wed, Apr 12, 2017 at 11:00 AM

Freshii has fast-casually set up shop in Willow Lawn. You’ll find good-for-you dishes in the form of salads, wraps and burritos -- although do you really know the difference between a wrap and a burrito? I’d go for a smoothie instead to avoid existential angst. freshii.com.

A few nuggets from Richmond BizSense: Sabai co-owner Brandon Pearson is also a skilled ironworker and makes some pretty fine furniture, too. He’s throwing all these things together with a food truck called Aloi that he plans to park behind his new Scott’s Addition furniture shop at 3103 W. Leigh St. … Karen Verdisco began serving burgers and craft beer at Brew American Gastropub on South Side back in 2013, and at the beginning of this year, opened Pie Hole Pizza in Ashland. Now, she’s readying a second location of the pizza place in Midlothian. A summer opening is planned. pieholepizzarva.com. … JKogi co-owner Jay Ko is opening a sushi place, Fighting Fish, in the spot formerly known as the Cultured Swine at 317 N. Second St. in Jackson Ward. Search Facebook for Fighting Fish.

If you haven’t seen ice cream made in less than 30 seconds with liquid nitrogen, then you haven’t lived. Richmond magazine tells us that Sweet Turtle -- seriously, have they heard that this is the home of Sweet Frog Premium Frozen Yogurt? -- is rolling out some super cool milkshakes, ice cream and something it calls Dragon’s Breath -- nitrogen-infused breakfast cereal. sweet-turtle.com.

It’s springtime and that means the first Richmond Restaurant Week of the year to benefit FeedMore is ready to roll out on April 24 through April 30. Participating restaurants include Amour Wine Bistro, Lehja and Saison. You can find the full details at richmondrestaurantweek.com.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Weekly Food Notes: Beer, Barbecue + More

Posted By on Wed, Apr 5, 2017 at 1:34 PM

The loss of a bakery is a blow to its neighbors — that’s how folks felt when Lucille’s Bakery closed at 719 N. Meadow St. Fortunately, Red Cap Patisserie had taken over the space and from Wednesday to Saturday offers co-owner Martine Wladar’s take on French and European pastry. redcaprva.com.

Jackson’s Beer Garden & Smokehouse is open in the old Croaker’s Spot at 538 N. Second St. in Jackson Ward. Owner Cynthia Matthews expanded the space and as the name indicates, you’ll find a menu full of ribs, barbecue, smoked chicken and even smoked salmon. jacksonsbeergardenandsmokehouse.com.

Richmond-based Red Eye Cookie Co. has gone to court with Insomnia Cookies. Insomnia says the Red Eye’s logo is too similiar to its own, reports Richmond BizSense. Insomnia Cookies has more than 100 stores, including ones in Richmond and Charlottesville. It was Red Eye’s plans to open a second location in Charlottesville that prompted the lawsuit. redeyecookie.com and insomniacookies.com.

And there never can be too many breweries, am I right? BizSense reports that Fine Creek Brewing Co. and its three-barrel system and tasting room will open this spring in Powhatan next to the Mill at Fine Creek. finecreekbrewing.com.

Happenings:

On Saturday, April 8th, Buskey Cider will release its Strawberry Rhubarb cider. Three dollars of each pint will be donated to Courthouse Creek Cider's owners, Eric and Eliza Cioffi, who suffered a devastating fire. On the same day, Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery is accepting donations and will donate part of the proceeds from its release of its Supreme Leader Spiced Imperial Stout and Great Commander Imperial Stout. buskeycider.com and lickingholecreek.com.

Ardent Craft Ales brings back Swine & Brine for the third time on Saturday, April 8. It’s a day of pork, oysters and beer, with selections from a bunch of vendors, including Sabai, Saison, Rappahannock Oyster Co., and a guest appearance by Blue Bee Cider. Tickets cost $6 and will buy you either a dish or a beverage. ardentcraftales.com.

The dog-friendly Bow Wow Luau to benefit Richmond Animal Care and Control at Strangeways Brewing will work its way into your heart from 10:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. on Sunday, April 9. strangewaysbrewing.com.

And finally, you don’t want to waste any more time — Henrico Restaurant Week ends Sunday, April 9. henricorestaurantweek.com.

Community Support for Courthouse Creek Cider after a Major Fire

Three benefits will be held this weekend for Eric and Liza Cioffi.

Posted By on Wed, Apr 5, 2017 at 1:17 PM

After a fire burned Eric and Liza Cioffi’s home to the ground on Friday, March 31, the Richmond community rallied to support them, including the local craft beverage community. The family home sits near their family business: Courthouse Creek Cider and its adjoining orchards. 

The cidery has been bottling and selling their product since May 2016, initially at the South of the James Farmers Market at Forest Hill Park, and later in limited distribution. On March 18, 2017, they opened the tasting room.

“Gratitude is an everyday experience — and our cup overflowed with it yesterday as we celebrated the opening of our tasting room,” the Cioffis posted on the Courthouse Creek Cider Facebook page.

Less than two weeks later, on March 31, their home caught fire while they were away, with their pets inside.

“We’re in a rural water supply operation — we don’t have any fire hydrants in close proximity,” a fire official told Richmond’s WTVR-6 after the fire. “Daytime’s always a challenge with staffing. … Those two factors and the amount of fire that we had on arrival of the units, all three of those combined to create the damage.”

The next day, the Cioffis posted about their loss on the Courthouse Creek Cider Facebook page.

The outpouring of support began immediately. The Steward School, where the family’s four children attend fifth through ninth grades, is accepting donations. The Virginia Cider Association is exploring an industry-wide campaign to support their fellow cider makers.

On Saturday, April 8, Buskey Cider in Scott’s Addition is releasing Strawberry-Rhubarb Cider and will donate $3 of each pint to the Cioffi family and accept donations.

Also on April 8, at the release of Supreme Leader Spiced Imperial Stout and Great Commander Imperial Stout, Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery will accept donations and dedicate a percentage of sales. Owner Lisa Brotherton Pumphrey says she’s also trying to obtain a special permit to offer Courthouse Creek cider at Lickinghole Creek.

Strangeways Brewing owner Neil Burton and his wife, Maya Eckstein, are personal friends of the Cioffi family and have been in close contact with them since the fire, helping to provide shelter and assess their needs. Support from Strangeways will focus on the loss of the family pets. 

“A pet’s loss runs deep and is profound,” says Strangeways sales and marketing director Tonie Stevens. “Theirs will be more so because the magnitude of losing all their pets at once. Receiving messages from others really helps in the grieving process and starts the process of mending the heart with thoughts that their pets will not be forgotten.” 

To include customers in the effort, Strangeways’ annual Bow Wow Meow Luau event on Sunday, April 9, will kick off with a pet blessing. Participants at the event can inscribe a message for the family or pets on a stone, which will become part of a memorial installation that will include a headstone. 

Eckstein has also offered to act as a clearinghouse for donations, including monetary contributions or gift cards to stores such as Gap, Dick’s, H&M, TJ Maxx/Marshall’s, Target, Amazon and Barnes & Noble. She can be contacted at mayaeckstein12@gmail.com.

The Courthouse Creek Cider tasting room is scheduled to reopen on April 22. Supporting the business will directly support the family.

“The true story is community and gratitude,” says Eric Cioffi. The family has been overwhelmed with the support that they’ve receive. “It’s been unbelievable. We’re just really grateful. The loss of our pets is the true heartbreaker, but we keep perspective — we could’ve been at home and could be dealing with a whole different level of tragedy” he says. “We can rebuild.”

Jackson’s Beer Garden & Smokehouse is Now Open

Bring on the barbecue.

Posted By on Wed, Apr 5, 2017 at 11:43 AM

Although there were hints last summer that Croaker’s Spot was coming back to its original Jackson Ward location at 119 E. Leigh St., Jackson’s Beer Garden & Smokehouse has taken over the space and is now open. Owner Cynthia Matthews expanded the space, and as the name indicates, the smoker in the back is pumping out a menu full of ribs, barbecue, smoked chicken and even smoked salmon. Check this space soon for details. jacksonsbeergardenandsmokehouse.com.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Girl Scout Cookies — Squared

Chef Tammy Brawley's recipes make them, gasp, even better.

Posted By on Mon, Apr 3, 2017 at 7:00 AM

It’s difficult to imagine, but there is a way to make Girl Scout cookies even more amazing than they already are. Chef Tammy Brawley of the Green Kitchen took some of these hotly anticipated annual treats and transformed them for an area Girl Scout troop’s big bake sale. Ponder these enticing names: Caramel DeLite milkshakes, Thin Mint truffles and Thanks-A-Lot mini chocolate tarts.

Now, if you have any spare boxes lying about, you’ll be in business with Brawley’s recipes. (Of course, I’m kidding. You’ll have to go out and buy some because who can keep a box of Girl Scout cookies around for any length of time?)

Caramel DeLite Milkshake

  • 9 Caramel DeLite cookies (also known as Samoas)
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk
  • 1 1/2 cups caramel ice cream (Editor’s note: Häagen-Daz’s dulce de leche ice cream is a favorite.)
  • Chocolate sauce (see recipe below)
  • Toasted coconut
  • Combine cookies and coconut milk in a blender. Whirl the ingredients for about 10 seconds. Add the ice cream and blend until smooth.

    Swirl the chocolate sauce around inside of glass. Add the milkshake from the blender and strew with toasted coconut. Enjoy. Makes one 16-ounce milkshake or two 8-ounce milkshakes.

    Chocolate Sauce

  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 12 ounces chocolate chips
  • Place the cream and chocolate chips in a bowl set over simmering water and stir just until the chocolate is melted. Once cooled, add to a squirt bottle for drizzling.

    Thin Mint Truffles

  • 1/2 sleeve Thin Mints
  • 8 ounces generic chocolate chips (or 4 ounces each of high
  • quality semi-sweet and bittersweet chocolates)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4-1 teaspoon peppermint extract (taste after adding 3/4 of a teaspoon and add the remaining 1/4 teaspoon if desired)
  • Small muffin liners
  • Place the Thin Mints into a food processor and pulse until fine crumbs are created.. Pour them into a small and bowl and set aside.

    Next, place the chocolate in a heat-proof stainless or mixing bowl. Set aside.

    Heat the cream in a small saucepan just until it boils. Remove the pan from heat and allow it to sit for 30 seconds. Then pour the cream through a fine-mesh sieve over the chocolate and stir the mixture until smooth. Add the vanilla and peppermint extracts, and whisk until smooth. Set the mixture aside at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours — or longer — to ensure a firm texture is achieved. It should be firm, yet still pliable enough to roll into truffles.

    Line a sheet tray with parchment paper. Roll 2 teaspoons of the chocolate mixture into a ball and place it on the paper. Be consistent about size — a small portion scoop works best in this situation. Toss each truffle in the bowl of Thin Mint crumbs until they’re well-coated. Place them in small muffin liners and serve at room temperature. Makes 20 (the recipe can be doubled).

    Thanks-A-Lot Mini Chocolate Tarts

  • 1 package Thanks-A-Lot cookies
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 stick butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 9 ounces generic chocolate chips (or 5 ounces of high quality bittersweet and 4 ounces of high quality semisweet chocolates)
  • 1 large egg, plus 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Chocolate whipped cream for garnish (see recipe below)
  • Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

    Place the Thanks-A-Lot cookies into a food processor with the sugar and salt. Pulse until fine crumbs are created. Add the melted butter and process just until well-combined. Using approximately 2 tablespoons, place the crumbs into mini pie pans and press the mixture up the sides. Then use an empty pan to help mold the crumbs into place. Place the tarts onto a small sheet tray and bake for about 12 minutes. Do not let the tarts brown. Remove the tray from oven and increase the temperature to 325 degrees.

    In a medium saucepan, over medium-low heat, stir together the cream and milk. Bring the mixture just to a simmer. You’ll see bubbles forming around the edge. Remove the pan from the heat and add the chocolate, whisking until smooth. Add the vanilla extract and whisk thoroughly.

    In another small bowl, whisk the egg, egg yolk and flour until smooth. Whisk it into the chocolate mixture until it’s completely blended.

    Pour the mixture into the pie pans and slide the tray into oven for 20-25 minutes, until the edges are set. Remove the tarts and allow them to cool. Top with the chocolate whipped cream and grate a chocolate chip over top. (A Microplane grater works best here.)

    Chocolate Whipped Cream

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tablespoon confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chocolate extract (a chocolate liqueur works as well)
  • Place the cream and confectioner’s sugar in a mixing bowl and whip them together until the mixture starts to thicken. Add the chocolate extract or liqueur and continue to whip until medium peaks form. Place the whipped cream into a piping bag for a more elegant look or simply dollop a spoonful on top of each tart.

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