I personally didn't see the appeal of an "all you can pick sunflower weekend," but hundreds of other people did, and they came, and they picked. I've never seen a brewery as packed as Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery in Goochland was on Saturday. Many people, myself included — I was a ceremonial judge and had no responsibilities whatsoever since the crowd voted for its favorite — were there for the 2016 Wahoo Cup, but many more people seemed to be there for the chance to pick free sunflowers.
People are strange.
Despite the sunflower fields looking as if they got dusted with a layer of Agent Orange due to the grubby hands of a never-ending procession of sunflower enthusiasts, the land that surrounds Lickinghole Creek's hilltop property — think rolling hills, meadows, green stuff — is pretty breathtaking.
Plus, this summer, due to the overwhelming demand for flowers that last for two days after you pick them, Lickinghole Creek added three huge new fields dedicated solely to sunflowers. And literally thousands of Richmonders made the 45-minute drive because we all know sunflower field pictures clean up on the Gram. I got 31 likes myself.
Oh, and there was beer! Good beer!
The Wahoo Cup is in its second year and judging by the crowd of people drinking in orange shirts this past Saturday, it will remain an awesome and charitable event for the foreseeable future.
“We wanted to capitalize on the craft beer uprising — which hasn't died down, surprisingly — and feature two cities that U.VA. people in Richmond would support,” says University of Virginia Club of Richmond member, attorney and co-organizer of the event, Mathew Taylor.
(Taylor also mentioned that the event, as all great ideas are, was born in a bar over drinks.)
The Wahoo Cup pits four Richmond breweries against four Charlottesville breweries, and Richmond was represented by Strangeways Brewing, the Answer Brewpub, Kindred Spirit Brewing and Lickinghole Creek.
Charlottesville was represented by, Blue Mountain Brewery (technically in Afton, but we’ll let that slide), Champion Brewing Co., South Street Brewery and Three Notch'd Brewing Co.
Tasting cups were available, or — and I wouldn’t recommend it — you could buy eight full beers and go to town. Some people did just that. I only hope they could remember where they put their sunflowers.
In the end, the home farm ended up bringing the Wahoo Cup back to Richmond with a slim majority of the crowd voting for Lickinghole Creek's Carrot Cake Imperial Amber Ale. I had one —and it was excellent — but were the voters were perhaps swayed by the bushel of free sunflowers wilting in their car’s backseat? We can never know that answer for sure.
But it wasn’t all drinking and picking flowers. Lickinghole Creek gave a dollar per beer to the Wahoo Cup’s charity, Children of Fallen Patriots, which provides college scholarships and educational counseling to military children who have lost a parent in the line of duty. It’s a cool charity. The event raised over a thousand dollars.
Lickinghole Creek is a pretty cool place, too. Unfortunately, this appeared on their website the day after the Cup: “Due to an amazing turnout, 99% of the sunflower field has been picked. There may be some sunflowers left, but they are small and spread out over a very large field.”
You people are vultures!
P.S. The heavy U.Va. alumni crowd watched their football team drop another game and fall to a grim 0-3. People didn't seem that upset though, because, you know, sunflowers and beer.
Chef Michael Hall’s long-awaited restaurant, Spoonbread Bistro, will open on Tuesday, Sept. 20, starting at 5 p.m., at 2526 Floyd Ave., the former Jorge’s Cantina space. Lunch will begin on Sept. 25 at 11 a.m., and Sunday brunch will added that weekend.
You’ll find find the menu full of Hall’s signature Southern and French-influenced fare.
Formerly of M Bistro and Wine Bar, Hall became executive chef at the 2300 Club after its closure, but you had to be a member to experience a meal there.
“Customers have come up to me since M closed and told me how much they missed my food and that was the motivation for me to enter into this venture, because I do believe that we offer something special on the Richmond culinary scene,” Hall said in a news release in May announcing the new restaurant.
Hours: Dinner only Sept. 20-24, Tuesday-Thursday, 5 p.m.-10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday open until 11 p.m. Lunch begins the week of Sept. 25, Monday-Saturday from 11 a.m.-2 pm.; Sunday brunch from 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
It’s all about innovation and collaboration, all the time, at Hardywood Park Craft Brewery. But what may have slipped under most craft beer lover’s radar is the fact that Hardywood only has two flagship beers—Singel and Pils.
“We wanted to start with styles that were complementary to what was out there,” says co-founder Patrick Murtaugh. “We thought there was kind of a void in domestically brewed ales.” That led to the birth of Singel. “Our second flagship beer was the Pils. … Again, we felt there was a lack of a really good German-style pilsner in the market.”
The anxiously awaited Gingerbread Stout, the Virginia Blackberry summertime release and various bourbon-barrel steeped brews come and go — and some are never seen again. A keg is tapped and a new variety takes its place.
What’s been missing in the line-up? It’s something so obvious, I never even noticed — Hardywood doesn't sell a straight-up India pale ale all year-round as it does with its Singel and Pils.
“[In the beginning] we were constantly running into restaurants that were getting into craft beer, but felt inundated with pale ales and IPAs,” Murtaugh says. “It was getting harder and harder for a new brewery to sell another IPA."
But Hardywood as a company is evolving and next week, on Saturday, Sept. 24, it will release its first IPA, dubbed VIPA — and I truly hope that people will ask for it by using the name as a word, “vipah,” instead of saying the acronym. It almost sounds like “viper.” And although pronouncing it “vippah” — with a short “a” — is far less cool-sounding, I’m not completely opposed to that either. Let’s make this happen, shall we?
VIPA is a big, tropical IPA, Murtaugh says, with 5 percent Virginia hops and 10 percent Virginia malted barley. The hops industry is in its infancy in Virginia, and malted barley simply didn’t exist locally until recently. Hardywood hopes to up the percentages in the future, but 5 and 10 percent are sustainable, realistic numbers right now.
And given the ongoing hops shortage, this nascent Virginia industry needs every bit of support it can find. It's more than a brewery adding a new beer to its line-up — it's making a flagship variety that uses local ingredients in a beer that will be sold everywhere, not just a seasonally or in small, single-run batches.
You’ll first be able to buy the new IPA in variety packs and at the brewery’s tap room, but soon it will available in six-packs.
And as for the release, beer writer Josh Bernstein, author of “Complete IPA: The Guide to Your Favorite Craft Beer,” will be on hand to sign books and offer his experienced opinion about Hardywood’s newest brew.
CLARIFICATION: This article was updated to more clearly explain that VIPA is the first IPA Hardywood has released that will join its flagship beers that are always available as opposed to special or seasonal releases.
Center of the Universe Brewing Co. is opening the Origin Beer Lab in downtown Ashland. It will be a taproom and place for COTU to experiment and produce smaller runs of new varieties of beer. cotubrewing.com
Charlottesville's Three Notch'd Brewing Co. plans to open its RVA Collab House at 2930 W. Broad St. on Oct.1. threenb.com
Soon you’ll be able to sample Mexican fare at the old La Grotta Ristorante space, reports Richmond BizSense. Mijas, a white-tablecloth Mexican restaurant, will open Oct. 15 at 1218 E. Cary St. La Grotta is now located in the Miller & Rhoads building at 529 E. Broad St.
The old Village Café building at the corner of West Grace and Harrison streets is up for sale. I’ve got a few memories that I share about my time there waiting tables.
Short Pump's Thai Top Two is closed after just a few months of its opening, Richmond BizSense reports. The restaurant is changing owners, but its VCU location won't be affected.
Apples, apples, apples. According to the Virginia Department of Agriculture, the commonwealth will have a great crop this year despite this spring’s bad weather. vdacs.virginia.gov.
I spent seven years waiting tables at the Village Cafe — through undergraduate and graduate school back in the late 1980s and early ‘90s. I spent all but the last year at the “old” Village across the street from where it’s located now.
I remember kicking out bikers — mostly members of the Pagan gang — other gangs and extremely drunk Virginia Commonwealth students on my nightly shifts. I saw a booth ripped from the wall and a gun left behind that the owner came back to reclaim later. The ABC Board came in regularly, once with their own guns drawn despite the fact that it was a pretty quiet night. My favorite customers were the strippers from the Lee Art Theatre — they tipped extravagantly.
But it wasn’t really a rough joint despite these stories. They’re the ones that stand out. It was also full of artists, musicians, professors and others looking for a bottomless cup of coffee and cheap pitchers at happy hour. Author Tom Robbins was a regular in the late '50s and '60s.
I also made a few of my best friends there — and, more important, probably — it’s where my parents met back when Stella Dikos and her husband, Stavros, owned the business.
Now the old Village building, owned by a cousin in Charlie Diradour’s family, is for sale. The owner, who lived above the restaurant, recently passed away. Diradour, of Lions Paw Development, writes on Facebook: “Why didn't she lease the property after the Village moved? I have no idea. My mother would sit on the phone with her for hours trying to explain to her how it would benefit her, but she had fears. They were her fears.”
As a Village veteran, I’m ecstatic. Although the business moved across the street and the old booths and fixtures moved with it, the black-and-white floor and soaring ceilings in the original spot held its soul. I can’t wait to see what moves in next. The new owners need to remember, though, that a lot of ghosts will be waiting, too, arms crossed and ready to protest if it doesn’t live up to their expectations.
Food events are still merrily going around despite the end of summer, but oftentimes, it’s hard to find space in the food section to get them all in. To remedy that, I’ve compiled a short list of a few you might want to check out.
The annual Armenian Food Festival at the St. James Armenian Church at 834 Pepper Ave. arrives on Friday, Sept. 16 at 11:30 a.m. and lasts through Sunday, Sept. 18. You can fill up on spinach boreg (spinach pie), lahmajoon (meat pie) and a couple of khourabia (sugar cookie) with a glass of pomegranate wine while enjoying traditional music and dancing. armenianfoodfestival.com.
St. Benedict Catholic Church takes over the block in the Museum District for its Oktoberfest celebration on Friday, Sept. 16-Sunday, Sept. 18. All manner of wurst will be available, along with schnitzel and desserts including apple strudel. There’ll be a stein-holding competition, live music, dancing and a Christkindlmarkt. Of course, with beer as its focus, you’ll find just about every local brewery represented with their versions of pilsners, lagers and special Oktoberfest releases, as well as Hardywood Park Craft Brewery's Benny and the Fest, brewed specially for the festival. stbenedictoktoberfest.com.
The second Wahoo Cup Craft Brewers Invitational takes place this year on Saturday, Sept. 17 from noon-6 p.m. at Lickinghole Craft Brewery. Breweries from Charlottesville and Richmond will go up against each other to see who will reign supreme and take home the coveted cup. There will be plenty of food, beer and live music, and a portion of sales at the event will go to Children of Fallen Patriots, a national charity providing scholarships to the families of soldiers killed in duty. And Style’s very own Jack Lauterback will be there to sign autographs and tell you about the event next week. wahoocup.com.
You should call your mother right away and make plans to attend Supper with Mom on Sunday, Sept. 18, from 5:30-9 p.m. at the Omni Hotel Downtown Richmond. Chefs from East Coast Provisions, the Daily, the Betty on Davis, Stroops Heroic Dogs, Ciao Capri, Kabana Rooftop and Will Richardson, formerly of Shoryuken Ramen, will concoct dishes inspired by the food they grew up with. You can expect things such as corn kimchi fried rice with soy-marinated egg and Edward’s country ham, and Birdie’s and Bowties — black pepper pimento mac ‘n’ cheese — along with a Mother Shrub champagne cocktail and a full bar. Tickets are $150 and proceeds go to support of the March of Dimes. marchofdimes.org/virginia.
And it doesn’t end with the weekend. On Tuesday, September 20, at 6:30 p.m., Camden’s Dogtown Market in Manchester is throwing a four-course wine dinner featuring wines by Elizabeth Chambers, of McMinnville, Oregon. Chef Andy Howell says her winery was one of the most memorable stops on his trip last summer to Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Howell plans to serve grilled asparagus wrapped in house-made ham with local greens and goat cheese crème frâiche and pan-roasted Pacific salmon over beet carpaccio with poached black mission figs, among other dishes.The dinner costs $60, not including tax and tip, and you can RSVP to email@example.com. cdmrva.com.
The same night, September 20, Max’s on Broad will also host wine importer extraordinaire Bartholomew Broadbent — the man who brought Richmond the perfect summer drink, rosé vinho verde — starting at 6 p.m. The five-course paired dinner will include scallops with sun-dried tomato orzo and brown-butter beurre blanc and pan-seared duck breast with tricolor couscous and green beans with a citrus gastrique. Tickets are $60, not including tax and tip. maxsonbroad.com.
It’s been a year of expansion and Center of the Universe Brewing Co. in Ashland is the latest to announce bigger plans. The brewery quietly started work on a second production facility at 106 S. Railroad Ave., the former Chiffarobe Fine Antiques and Gifts, at the end of the summer.
Named Origin Beer Lab, it will be a place for COTU to experiment and produce smaller runs of new varieties, including sour beers. Earlier this year, COTU began an expansion of its main production line on Airpark Road to accommodate new distribution into Northern Virginia. The brewery added a rotary canning line — the first in Virginia, its new general manager Sarah Choi says, and remodeled its popular tasting room to ease crowding. In 2015, it added Norfolk and Virginia Beach to its territory.
You might recognize Choi’s name. She helped open and run Shoryuken Ramen with Will Richardson until its much lamented closure. She’ll oversee taproom operation, private events and marketing.
Origin Beer Lab’s 30-barrel monthly specialty runs will only be available at its 50-seat taproom — which will include outdoor seating — in Ashland’s historic downtown, although packaged beer will be available to-go.
“As an Ashland resident, I have been extremely impressed with the Main Street Association’s progress in revamping downtown,” said co-owner Chris Ray in a news release. “My goal is that the residents of Ashland take as much pride in Origin as I do in the town.”
And COTU is keeping it local: Ashland-based Chopper Dawson LLC will complete the construction this fall.
“[The Rays] hope to celebrate COTU’s fourth anniversary with its sister brand in November,” Choi says.
The Cultured Swine is moving from its niche on Second Street in Jackson Ward to the Museum District. The barbecue joint plans to shut down on Sept. 16, but its food cart and catering business will still be going strong.
“We'll be adding a number of new menu items at our new location, from expanding our traditional barbecue options to adding more vegetarian and vegan options,” the company said in a news release.
The Cultured Swine began with a food cart in 2014 and opened next to Big Herm’s Kitchen on Second Street within a few months in a spot once occupied by Nate’s Taco Truck Stop. Co-owner Corey Johnson had managed the kitchen at Alamo BBQ, and began to think about doing his own version.
“The culinary focus, the name, even the equipment were the easy parts. The actual getting-legal aspect of getting a truck is the hardest part,” he said in 2014.
An opening in early 2017 is planned.
North Side finally was finally able to welcome Mi Jalisco Family Mexican Restaurant when it opened its doors at 4019 McArthur Ave. in the old Tastebuds American Bistro space this summer after several months of anticipation.
Once a veritable restaurant desert, North Side now boasts classic diner fare at Dot’s Back Inn, family-friendly and special-diet choices at the Mill on MacArthur, Greek cuisine at Omega Grecian Restaurant, pizza at Zorba’s Express — all on MacArthur Avenue. Around the corner on Bellevue Avenue, you can stop in for burgers and fries at the Northside Grill or go more upscale at Italian restaurant Enoteca Sogno. Choice — we all love plenty of choices, especially when we’re hungry.
But back to MacArthur’s latest: Mi Jalisco offers authentic Mexican dishes that include tacos, chilanquiles, burritos, tamales and other classics. There are four other locations in Amelia, Ashland, Ruther Glen and Urbanna.
Fun fact: Jalisco is a state in Mexico on the Pacific coast. And according to Wikipedia, most of the familiar things that define Mexico, including tequila, Mariachi music, rodeos, the sombrero and, best of all, the Mexican hat dance originated there.
Local food news: Stone Brewing Co. is considering a hotel, in addition to the restaurant already planned.
Zeus Café has been sold and a new, renovated restaurant with a different name and concept will open sometime in the next two months and Goatcado is opening on West Main St. in October, Richmond BizSense reports.
Mayor Dwight C. Jones proposed a $500,000 grant help with the the construction of Jim’s Local Market, a grocery store planned for the underserved East End. Richmond City Council “tentatively” approved it, reports the Times-Dispatch.
Happenings: Oktoberfest is upon us, and Center of the Universe is celebrating Friday, Sept. 9-Sunday, Sept. 11 with liter beer steins and half-liter glass boots, live music, kid-friendly games, face-painting, German-style beer, German food and great big tent. For more details, check out cotubrewing.com.
Sometimes you need to get out of town. This Sunday, Sept. 11, starting at 5 p.m., you can travel up the road to Charlottesville and spend the evening with the Roosevelt and Southbound’s Lee Gregory and Joe Sparatta of Heritage and Southbound at Farm to Feast. It’s actually going to take place a little outside Charlottesville, at Blenheim Vineyards (owned by that guy Dave Matthews), with live music, canapes, cocktails and a family-style meal in a spectacular setting. Tickets are $125 per person and proceeds benefit Local Food Hub and Farm Aid.