It’s almost fall!
Not really, but every retailer in the country is gearing up for season. And you know what that means in the food world, right?
Yep, it’s on its way, like the massive herd of wildebeest lumbering en masse across the Serengeti on their annual trek even as you read this. I was sent a few packages of Thomas’ English muffins version, plus a few of their pumpkin spice bagels. Also included were salted caramel bagels and English muffins — another new and limited run you’ll see in stores shortly.
My first reaction upon hearing about them? Blecch. Must pumpkin spice invade everything we eat in the fall? And much as I adore salted caramel, I really couldn’t imagine how it would translate into what’s basically bread.
Do the flavors of the (past two or three) years, I thought, have to spread so widely throughout the food chain? You know pumpkin pie is out there screaming, “Why can’t you just love me for myself? Why, why, WHY?”
But I really should have stopped my musings about the existential nature of dessert, because the reaction from my co-workers was surprising.
Style copy editor G.W. Poindexter, as he was eating half of an untoasted, unadorned salted caramel English muffin, said, “It’s delicious — it tastes like ice cream. Usually I think of an English muffin as a vehicle for orange marmalade and butter. That would be like putting maple syrup on fried chicken.”
“It wasn’t sweet,” editor-in-chief Jason Roop said of the pumpkin spice bagel he tried. “It was not bad. Cinnamon would definitely go well with it. And it definitely smells good.”
Ed Harrington, creative director, was surprised by the subtlety of the pumpkin spice flavor, too. He tried the English muffin version and noticed that the flavoring was concentrated in little nuggets scattered throughout the nooks and crannies. “It’s very mild,” he said. “It’s very pleasant.” And that’s high praise indeed from Harrington.
“Ate part of a bagel and thought it was delicious!!!” senior account executive Toni McCracken wrote in an email. “And I am a bagel expert!” She didn’t specify which bagel and I can’t ask her because she’s on vacation, but I’m guessing it was the pumpkin spice bagel. Those went quickly in the office kitchen — perhaps because they were labeled while the salted caramel variety came in plain plastic bags.
In fact, most of the English muffins and bagels disappeared — disproportionately to our staff size, which leads me to believe some people had more than one. However, an email I sent out asking for reactions went largely unanswered. Interpret that as you will.
In sum, if you think raisins are yesterday’s losers and fall means incessant Proustian moments that render real pumpkin pie superfluous, if the marriage of salt and caramel seems to you to be a genius combination — which it is — that makes everything it touches better, if you’re looking for a breakfast treat that doesn’t actually take you on the wild side but kind of makes you think it might, you may be in luck. Thomas’ limited editions go on sale Sept. 12.
A soda tax is always controversial. I included a link to an article on Vox in my Wednesday newsletter, the Bite. Vox’s title characterized the 1-cent-per-ounce tax that Berkeley, California, levies as tiny -- and so did I. There were objections, so I thought I’d drill down on the numbers.
A reader notes that if you calculate the tax on a 12-pack of 12-ounce Cokes, you’d see an almost 50-percent increase in the cost of those sodas.
Here’s how it works: A 12-pack of Coke at Wal-Mart costs $3.33 -- that’s around 2 cents per ounce. With the soda tax added, the multipack comes to $4.77 total, or about 3 cents an ounce. That seems like a big jump in price -- because it is.
But individual, 12-ounce cans are around $1.19. That’s about 10 cents per ounce. With the tax, it would cost an extra 15 cents per bottle, equaling $1.64. That's only a 10-percent increase, roughly.
To sum it up: An individual can of soda will cost 14 cents an ounce with the tax and $1.64 total, while a multipack of Coke will cost 3 cents an ounce and around 40 cents a can. (I rounded up the numbers.)
Obviously, buying in bulk is the better deal, whether or not there’s a soda tax.
But taxing soda isn’t about raising revenue for a locality. It's a strategy to curb sugar intake and obesity. Although it’s a complicated problem, as my reader acknowledges, the Vox article notes that since the tax was implemented in 2015, soda consumption has decreased 21 percent while water consumption has risen 61 percent. Although these are preliminary numbers, the story emphasizes, they’re compelling.
And remember, the loudest protesters of the tax are large soda companies. They may be upset that prices would go up, but if you look at the profits of Coca-Cola, which made $44 billion last year, and Pepsi, which came in at more than $18 billion, the big companies are doing just fine. They’ve also raised prices already by making packaging smaller so that they can charge more for less soda -- this despite soda taxes getting little traction in the United States.
Much of the obesity epidemic is concentrated in a section of the population living below the poverty line. Because most people in this group are stranded in food deserts and must rely on convenience stores, the grab-and-go model of single-bottle purchases is more common. Those who buy in bulk usually have easier access to grocery stores.
I have my own qualms about the “nanny state” that so many descry. But the cost of obesity and the stress it puts on the health care system is troubling.
And remember, we’re talking about soda here, people. Soda -- not milk, eggs or bread, but a heavily marketed product that costs pennies to produce and is full of empty calories. The profit margin is enormous. It seems to me that perhaps those above the poverty line could fork out a little more for a product that no one needs to drink anyway to help curb obesity in the overall population.
It may turn out that in the long run the tax experiment doesn’t work -- but shouldn’t we at least try something?
It was a week of closings: Family Meal, brought to you by Brian Voltaggio of "Top Chef" and "Top Chef Masters," swept into town on a tsunami of press. He’s truly a nice guy, despite this legal dispute, and Voltaggio hired acclaimed Richmond chef Travis Milton when Milton left Comfort. Milton’s off to Southwest Virginia now to open his own restaurant, and the news was announced last week that Richmond’s branch of Family Meal is now closed.
An “Beer is the Answer” Bui of Mekong Restaurant also announced that his venture in the Fan, Commercial Taphouse, would close at the end of the month and reopen later in the fall with a new concept, name and owner. More details to come.
Main Street Coffee at 1110 E. Main St. shut down after just over a year since its opening, reports Richmond BizSense. The spot had previously been filled by Sugar Shack Coffee.
I usually avoid writing about chain restaurants and focus instead on local businesses, but holy cow, this news caught my attention: Ruby Tuesday is closing or has closed 95 locations, Inside Business reports, and eight are in Virginia, including one in Ashland.
In better news: The 2016 Virginia Craft Beer Cup has announced its winners. Final Gravity Brewing Co.placed first in three different categories and the Answer placed first in two. Other first-place finishers included Ardent Craft Ales, Legend Brewing Co., Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery, Strangeways Brewing and Triple Crossing Brewing Co., with Hardywood Park Craft Brewery, Garden Grove Brewing Co. and Steam Bell Beer Works receiving second- or third-place wins.
And speaking of beer, the latest on the scene, Kindred Spirit Brewing Co., opens on Saturday, Aug. 27, at 1 p.m. at 12830 W. Creek Parkway in Goochland Count, with music and food from River City Wood Fired Pizza and Smok-N-Pigz BBQ.
Tickets are now on sale for the whirlwind celebration that is Fire, Flour & Fork. James Beard Award-finalist Ed Lee, owner of 610 Magnolia and author of one of my favorite cookbooks, "Smoke & Pickles," and Vivian Howard, James Beard-award semifinalist, star of the PBS series “A Chef’s Life,” and owner of Kinston, North Carolina’s Chef and the Farmer, as well as the near-impossible to find Boiler Room — where I had excellent oysters last week and my daughters bought borderline salacious T-shirts — are just a couple of the folks you can meet at the event.
In addition, Questlove (yes, that Questlove) will be at Fire, Flour & Fork to talk about his book "Something to Food About: Exploring Creativity with Innovative Chefs." Tickets to the panel discussion ($60) can be obtained here and to the dinner later ($225), here.
And finally, Aldi, the discount grocery chain, reports Supermarket News, is planning to build a regional headquarters and distribution center in Dinwiddie County, at a cost of $57 million. If you'd like to read a little more about the ultra-rich family that owns the company, Bloomberg has the surprising details.
CORRECTION: Kindred Spirit's opening date has been corrected.
In addition, this story has been updated to include information about the appearance of Questlove at Fire, Flour & Fork announced after its publication.
Things are a little bleaker in the local food scene today. The announcement came last night that Ted Santarella, owner of Tarrant’s Café, Tarrant’s West and Max’s on Broad, has passed away from cancer. Santarella opened the original Tarrant’s in 2006 in a former 19th-century drugstore.
His wife, Frances, told Style that Santarella had an infectious personality and a passion for the restaurant industry.
"One of my fondest memories of him was our sailing trip from Deltaville to Annapolis, MD. The water was choppy, the boat leaned quite a bit, and the weather changed dramatically. His ability to navigate through the water with sureness and confidence was how he lived his life," she says. "His passing hasn't sinked in yet, I keep hoping he's going to come home and say 'where's my Franny and Maxy!' I love him so much, I miss him terribly. It makes me sick that he's gone. There's so much we wanted to do together."
“Ted attributed his success in business and life to the relationships he built,” spokeswoman Liz Kincaid wrote in the news release. “The Tarrant’s restaurant group will continue to maintain those relationships. Ted’s wife will be assuming an active role in the restaurants and will continue to commit to Ted’s legacy of hospitality.” All three restaurants will be closed Thursday, Aug. 11, for his memorial service at 4 p.m. at Bliley’s Funeral Home, at 3801 Augusta Ave.
Regards may be sent to Tarrant’s Café, at 1 W. Broad St., Richmond, VA 23220.
Peter Chang has extended his empire once more. His latest restaurant, Noodles and Dumplings by Peter Chang, opens today at 11. As reported in our May 11 cover story about the celebrity chef, Chang eventually would like to open a series of shops that focus on one dish — noodles, dumplings or steamed buns — and perhaps franchise them. This spot, a few doors down from his Short Pump restaurant in the old Bella's Restaurant space, is wholly owned by Chang. You’ll see cooks stretching noodles and crimping dumplings in the bar space and in the back of the restaurant.
In the near future, the chef wants to offer cooking classes to parents and children. He says that much of the younger generation of Chinese immigrants or those born in the United States haven’t learned how to make these traditional dishes at home, and it’s his way to help continue the tradition. And of course, anyone is welcome — who wouldn’t want to learn how to cook from one of the best chefs in the country?
Noodles and Dumplings by Peter Chang
11408 W. Broad St.
Lunch and dinner daily, 11:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m.
An ad for a restaurant sale caught Joel Hagman’s eye a few months ago. It was for a familiar place -- one of his favorite restaurants, Patina Restaurant & Bar.
Hagman was ready to get out of medical sales. His territory spanned 11 states, and the Richmond native and father of two was ready to stay put.
“I love food and I love supporting the local community,” he says, “so for me, this was perfect.” For the last couple of years, Hagman had actively looked for a restaurant to buy. When he found out Patina was for sale, he knew he wanted to keep the place open.
The deal took longer than he thought, but Hagman was able to start Patina’s face-lift and menu overhaul in late July. The plan is to reopen Tuesday, Aug. 9. Sperity Real Estate Ventures represented the seller in the sale of the business. Hagman is leasing the space. He's the third owner in 17 years.
The change will be more of an update. Chef Todd Hicks is staying on and the two are collaborating on a menu that brings prices down from $20 and above to about $15. Hagman is expanding the bar to include six beer taps and a wider selection of cocktails -- while retaining old favorites. The interior will be brightened and wood flooring will replace the carpeting in the dining room.
Hagman’s main focus is making sure that Patina sticks to its mission of staying local, he says: “If anything, I want to push it as far as I can push it.”
Instead of calling farms, Hagman and Hicks want to visit their local suppliers every Monday while the restaurant is closed. They want to see the produce up close and buy it directly from the people who grow it.
Hagman and Hicks are figuring out which dates throughout the year they want to change the menu to keep it seasonal. Hagman also is working on a new sign and logo for the restaurant to signal its new beginning.
“[We] want to support the local farms, fresh ingredients,” Hagman says, “but what’s most important to me is giving back to the community.” patinarva.com.
In the aftermath of another surprisingly powerful storm, around 70,000 people in the Richmond area were without power this morning. As power is slowing being restored, however, those folks may be wondering whether the food in their refrigerator is still OK to eat.
The most important thing is to resist opening your refrigerator and freezer doors when the power is off. You may want that six-pack, but don't do it. You’ll save a lot more of your food if you keep the doors closed at all times. The magic number to remember is 40 degrees and if food goes over that temperature, it’s beyond redemption.
Here’s a handy guide that breaks down what you should keep and what you should pitch:
Things you should throw away after two hours without power:
Raw, leftover or open cans of cooked meat, poultry, fish, or seafood — or any dish with those things in it, such as tuna salad, broth or gravy. Vegetarians, take note: Soy meat substitutes and tofu should be thrown out, too.
Lunch meat, hot dogs, bacon and sausage. Also dried beef, but I’m not sure how many people have that hanging around.
Pizza with any toppings — which is a bummer.
Canned ham. Enough said.
Soft cheeses such as brie, Monterey Jack, cream cheese. You’ll find a full list here.
Shredded cheese and low-fat cheese.
Dairy products such as milk, cream, sour cream, buttermilk, open evaporated milk, yogurt, eggnog, soy milk, baby formula.
All eggs and egg products.
Custards and puddings, plus quiche.
Discard if above 50 °F for over 8 hrs.:
Fish sauce, oyster sauce.
Open bottles of creamy salad dressing.
Open jars of spaghetti sauce.
Biscuits dough, refrigerator roll and cookie dough — the last one is your own fault for not eating it sooner.
Cooked pasta, rice, potatoes.
Pasta with mayonnaise or a vinaigrette.
Cheesecake. See comments above, re: cookie dough.
Cream pies. Why did you wait so long to hit someone in the face with one anyway? Plus other custard, cheese-filled or chiffon pies.
Bags of pre-cut and/or prewashed greens.
Opened vegetable juice.
Exception: Opened mayonnaise, horseradish and tartar sauce can hang tight for 8 hours while over 50 degrees.
Food you don’t need to throw out:
Hard cheese such as cheddar or parmesan, and processed cheese.
Well-wrapped butter and margarine.
Condiments such as ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, pickles, relishes, hot sauce, oil-and-vinegar-based salad dressings, Worcestershire sauce and steak sauce.
Olives. No word on capers, but use your judgment.
Jams, jellies, preserves and syrups.
Fruit pies. Hurray!
Peanut and other nut butters.
Cooked waffles, pancakes.
Bread and bagels. Obviously. They don’t even need to be in the refrigerator.
Mushrooms and fresh herbs.
Whole raw vegetables and whole fruit.
Lastly, if your freezer is packed, the food will keep for 24 hours and can be refrozen. After that, chuck it. Important caveat: If you notice obvious thawing, throw it out with the other stuff after two hours above 40 degrees.
Caroline Wright always loved baking. The graduate of Ecole de Cuisine La Varenne, veteran of Martha Stewart magazine and author of “Twenty-Dollar, Twenty-Minute Meals” is coming to Richmond on Sunday, July 17, at 2 p.m.
She's headed for Mis En Place to demonstrate how to make two of the cakes in her new book, “Cake Magic! Mix and Match Your Way to 100 Different Combinations.” She’ll then take a walk down the block to Fountain Bookstore to sign a few copies.
In her book, Wright offers two baking blends, one traditional and the other gluten-free, plus a series of flavored syrups that can create almost endless varieties of cake. Style has never met a piece of cake that it didn’t like and decided to give her a call to hear how the baking magic happens.
Style: Did you specialize as a pastry chef in culinary school?
Wright: Nope. The training we did was pretty generalized classic French which obviously includes a great love of butter and all things pastry. There was more about pastry in the program than ones here in the States, I’d say.
As an avid baker, was there something in particular that made you fall in love with baking?
It really comes from when I was a kid. In my house, there just wasn’t any junk food. We weren’t allowed to have any unless we made it ourselves. Obviously, that backfired.
How did you come up with the concept for the book? I haven’t really seen a cookbook like it before.
Over the years, through a variety of food editorial jobs, I’d gotten to be friends with lots of professional bakers. One thing I found common among all of them was [the use of] syrup — I felt like that had been largely overlooked in all other home baking books. It’s just another way to deliver flavor and the moist kind of cake everyone is looking for. The cake mix idea isn’t a new one, but it’s exciting when paired with mathematics — you take the different components, mix them and turn them into a bunch of different things. With baking, in general, you take the same five ingredients — flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, baking soda — and it’s all about ratios. A little of this and a little of that and you can get radically different things. [The mix] is a way to get people into baking by taking a friendly approach to making cakes. I feel like people at home get nervous about it.
What’s your favorite cake in the book?
Well, that’s a hard question! Take for instance, my classic birthday cake. It’s obviously my favorite because it’s my birthday cake! I have to say, though, I’m really proud of the gluten-free mix. I worked really hard on it. The Black-Out cake [made with dark chocolate cake, chocolate syrup and bittersweet chocolate frosting] is one I’m really, really proud of. The gluten-free version turns out really well every time.
Were there any disastrous combos that you — obviously — didn’t include in the book? What was the testing process like?
There was a lot of cake-baking. And a lot of making friends giving away cakes. Some of the things I was trying to do in terms of new and different combos didn’t quite translate the way I’d hoped them to. But I started from a place of classic things that worked pretty well. There weren’t really any massive fails. Some of the things you might look at and say: “Hmm. Tea and cake? I don’t know about that.” I can tell you the flavors of the syrups are pretty subtle. The ginger or the red wine syrup — they’re not terribly aggressive flavors, they’re just a nice little background hum.
Wright is posting other recipes on her blog, The Wright Recipes, for non-cake things such as muffins or banana bread that use the "Cake Magic" mix she devised. You can also find her on Twitter as @TheWrightCook and on Instagram as wrightcook.
The madness must stop. But I don’t think it will.
It all started when web editor Colby Rogers drifted behind me on the sidewalk while we were supposed to be walking purposefully together. “Pokemon Go,” I discovered, had infected him on its very first day.
Today, Carytown and RVA Magazine are planning a huge “Pokemon Go” takeover with 12 Pokestops surrounded by lures lasting an hour. “These bad boys increase the frequency that Pokemon show up,” RVA Magazine writes, “so it should give people who have just dabbled in the game a chance to catch up with some of the folks who have doubled down.” It starts at 5 p.m. with happy hour at Carytown restaurants and play begins at 6.
Confused? Here’s a quick primer to get you up to speed.
Are you back? Good. Yesterday evening, I spent a little time going around town and stopping at a variety of restaurants to figure out the game and to see what kinds of creatures and features were around.I discovered that lots and lots of restaurants have Pokestops. By now, maybe all of them do. Everywhere I went — and I mean everywhere — there were usually a couple of cars pulled up out front with drivers intently staring at their phones and at least one or two other people walking slowly on the street doing the same thing. I found stops at Home Team Grill, Baja Bean Co., En Su Boca’s mural and Kitchen 64, among many, many others, plus entire gyms at Kuba Kuba and Lunch/Supper. Scott’s Addition is crawling with opportunities.
In addition, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts has eight Pokestops — plus one, it’s rumored, in its restaurant, Amuse — and a gym outside.
When asked if My Noodle Bar had any “Pokemon Go”-related things going on, co-owner Whitney Kiatsuranon, said, “No. Please. No. The stairs. My God!” Sorry, Whitney, there’s a Pokestop right out in front of your restaurant at the J.E.B. Stuart monument.
“It's been pretty funny,” says Toast, Talley’s Meat & Three and Hutch Bar & Eatery owner Josh Bufford, “We didn't realize it was going to mean anything, but on Saturday we had four families come into Hutch and inquire about WiFi and let their server know that they were checking into the Pokestop, but they reassured their server that they were all having brunch — and they wouldn't sit on the table.”
Grab a cold beer and a hot burger, people. It's going to be a long, sweaty summer outside for trainers.
Here are a few things that are planned in the upcoming days:
Triple Crossing Brewing Co. is holding a Smash Bros. Tournament tonight that will double as a “Pokemon Go” meetup. Plus, their deck mural is a Pokestop.
Sticky Togogo seriously got creative when it devised a series of “Pokemon”-inspired sushi rolls, including the Pikachu ($11), composed of broiled eel, red peppers, tamago, cream cheese and tater tots, rolled in panko flakes and black sesame seeds, and drizzled with eel sauce. And if you take over its gym outside, you’ll get 25 percent off of your order.
Pokemon are supposedly running rampant at Pasture and bar manager Beth Dixon has created a drink in honor of them: the Miltank ($9), composed of bourbon, Pimm’s, raspberry shrub and chamomile bitters.
Perk! Coffee + Lunchbox is planning to set lures and lay out some “Pokemon” incense on Saturday, July 16 at 2 p.m., to entice a few of those rare yellow monsters to show up.
There’s another gym at Center of the Universe Brewing and the folks there are planning a “Pokemon Go” meetup and battle on Wednesday, July 22 at 6 p.m.
On July 30, from noon to 9 p.m., Belly Timber is holding an RVA "Pokemon Go" Bar Crawl with drink specials, Pokedex, maps and a special fanny pack, presumably to stash said map in.
If you know of other “Pokemon”-related events, great restaurants to catch a zubat or anything else hungry trainers need to know, leave a comment below or email me at email@example.com.
Surprise! Publix Super Markets announced in a press release that went out at 9 tonight that it is buying all 10 Martin’s stores that were rumored — never confirmed — to be slated for closure once parent company Ahold merged with Delhaize.
This comes hard on the heels of news earlier today, first reported by Supermarket News, that the merger, valued at $29 billion, was due to be completed at the end of the month upon approval of the Federal Trade Commission.
This means that pesky antitrust issues that had been holding up the deal were resolved — specifically, because the two companies together would create one monolithic grocery company that would include Food Lion, Giant Food, Hannaford (remember that name, folks?), Stop & Shop, as well as the Martin’s chain of stores, at least 80 stores would have to be axed before FTC approval.
It looks like the first 10 dominoes have dropped.
In a news release, Publix chief executive and president Todd Jones says: “Acquiring these 10 locations aligns with Publix’s aggressive growth plan for the commonwealth of Virginia. We are looking forward to providing Virginians with the high-quality service and products our customers have come to expect and have earned us recognition throughout the industry.”
What does this mean for the ever overheated Richmond grocery scene? Publix ventured into the fray when it announced last February that it would build a store on the footprint of what was once going to be a Ukrop’s in Nuckols Place Shopping Center in Glen Allen. The Florida-based chain is employee-owned and known for its great customer service — some Floridian transplants have likened it to Ukrop’s itself.
Now that the company has scooped up 10 stores at once in a single area, it’s thrown the most powerful punch to date in this never-ending grocery store cage match that Richmonders can’t get enough of.