Richmond and singer Rick Astley have one thing in common.
Who is Rick Astley, you say? In 2007, the singer burst out of 80’s one-hit-wonder obscurity when his music video, shot at the tender age of 21 in 1987, became an internet meme that you can still see pop up every once in a while. His signature dance move and red-haired pompadour ignited the imagination of a new generation.
The meme even spawned a verb -- rickrolling. People all over the internet planted fake links that took users to Astley’s “Never Gonna to Give You Up” video on YouTube. It now has nearly 275 million views. To be rickrolled was more annoying than hilarious for anyone who grew up in the 1980s, but the younger generation — i.e., my daughters — thought it was hilarious. Every single time.
Astley has been touring ever since and released an album, “50,” last year. He’ll be in Richmond at the National performing on Feb. 12. If you’re a fan, I’d jump on the tickets now — the show at the 9:30 Club happening a couple of days later is already sold out.
How does beer fit into all of this?
Astley, it seems, loves craft beer as much as Richmonders do. The singer and Danish beer maker Mikkeller Brewery are teaming up to produce “a fruity pilsner lager,” according to a profile in the Daily Mail Weekend. He hasn't decided on a name yet, but Astley says, “Mikeller beer is quite experimental and they’ve been sending me various bottles to sample.”
This news engenders another question, one posed by Style web manager Colby Rogers: Is it really just a coincidence that the beer-loving Rick Astley is coming to Richmond, a town overrun by breweries, to perform?
Last summer, Relay Foods announced that it was merging with a similar company based in Colorado, Door to Door Organics, that operates in 80 cities in 15 states. The two companies should bring in around $50 million annually, the Denver Post reports. And with the merger, “the combined company also announced that it landed $10 million in equity financing provided by the Arlon Group and Relay stockholders.”
This week brought news that the new venture would operate under Door to Door Organics’ name. And now, Richmond BizSense reports that Relay’s warehouses in Richmond and Charlottesville will close, costing “an unspecified number [of jobs] in Richmond and 48 in Charlottesville.” Door to Door says there are 25 people in Virginia who work for the company.
Relay Foods, based out of Charlottesville, began its online grocery business in Richmond in 2010, with the city and state kicking in $100,000 in grants to open its Scott’s Addition warehouse in 2014.
Why the merger? Well, Door to Door Organics offers doorstep delivery service — $5 for orders under $75 and free for orders over that threshold — while Relay Foods’ model was to provide strategic pickup spots around the city. This capability and the combined companies’ new size give it a better chance fending off mega threat Amazon when it decides to go all-in with its grocery business.
As of publication, Door to Door’s website says it isn’t offering service in Richmond, although you can still order from Relay through Jan. 15. On Jan. 16, service in the area will begin under the new name at doortodoororganics.com.
Toss the drudgery of weight loss, thrift and cleaned-out attics.
Instead, make kitchen resolutions that are way more fun and flavorful, too. Here are 10 of mine — some old, some new, all well worth the effort.
1. Stretch once a week. I know from phone calls and conversations that there are legions of borderline cookbook hoarders out there. I’m guilty, too. So challenge yourself to make a recipe from one neglected cookbook each week, or each month, if that suits you better. I followed a friend’s example last year and discovered the pleasures of oxtail stew, shrimp bisque made with saved shells, preserved lemons and the French 75 cocktail.
2. Pretend you’re famous. Years ago, I investigated the validity of prep times in recipes. The conclusion: They’re grossly inaccurate. That is, unless you prepare the recipes the way they’re intended. When I interviewed glossy magazine food editors and cookbook authors, they all said the same thing — the times are based on having ingredients at the ready, like TV chefs do. That may sound tedious, but give it a try. It’s a lovely and less stressful way to cook.
3. Never skip a weigh in. Fill a measuring cup with flour, and you’ll have 8 ounces by volume. But turn it onto a scale, and you might have 3.5 ounces, 4.2 ounces or 5.5 ounces of flour — or more or less, depending on whether it’s been sifted or fluffed or packed into the cup.
Weighing equals precision, the hallmark of baking, and there’s not a professional baker worth his or her Hobart mixer who measures dry ingredients in a cup. Weighing ensures the same results every time and even saves money because you’ll generally use less flour.
Switch to weighing all your dry ingredients, and you’ll also save time because you can measure directly in the mixing bowl, eliminating the need for washing measuring cups and spoons. Be sure to buy a scale that has a “tare” function, one that will zero-out the weight of the bowl and other ingredients as you add them.
4. Be kneady. Winter is the best time to bake bread, as Virginia’s humid summers can make it tricky, especially for beginners. Bread is easier to make than you might think, and there’s a Zen to the kneading and shaping. Then there’s the bonus aroma of just-baked bread, and the bread itself. For beginners, I suggest using the basic recipe in "The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day" by Jeff Hertzberg. It’s foolproof.
5. Buy whole spices and then toast or dry-roast them. This was a shazaam! moment for me. For maximum aroma and flavor, place whole spices in a skillet over medium-low heat and shake until the aroma is released. Then grind them by hand or with a spice or coffee grinder. The elevated flavors are astonishing.
6. Go global. It didn’t used to be this way, but these days you can find all the ingredients you’ll need for most any dish in markets small and large. Mexican, Indian, Mediterranean, Colombian, Caribbean, Korean, Japanese, Eastern European — it’s all right here. And public library shelves are stuffed with exotic cookbooks. So go ahead, do a little traveling with your taste buds.
7. Enter the stock market. I never toss beef bones, chicken backs or necks, the tops of celery, shrimp shells, odd pieces of onion and carrot and other vegetables. Instead, I freeze them in big zipper baggies. When the bags are bulging, it’s time to make stock. You can be a precision stock maker and follow one of the zillions of recipes out there, or use cookbook author Michael Ruhlman’s basic ratio of 3 parts water: 2 parts bones. The other stuff should be roughly 20 percent of the water and bones.
Ruhlman explains: “If you have 2 pounds of chicken bones and 3 pounds of water, you’d want to add roughly a pound of onion, carrot and celery.”Feel free to alter the ratios based on what you have at hand. (See resolution No. 8.) And here’s my dirty little kitchen secret: Except for bones, I don’t strain my stock. Instead I use an immersion blender to create a thicker “stock” that gives my admittedly rustic soups a little more body. Consider adding a splash or so of dry vermouth, too.
8. Get loose. Be bold with this one. A good place to start is with the soup you’ll be making with that stock. Does a recipe call for pearled barley, and you only have farro? Use the farro. Alter the ratios if you have a lot of bones. If you want to make mac 'n' cheese, but have corkscrew pasta instead of elbows, use those. Riff with what’s in your spice cabinet and produce drawer. This will make you a better cook.
9. Throw a dinner party. I was so depressed this year when a big-name food savant predicted that the dinner party is dead. Please help me disprove this notion by hosting several dinner parties this year. They don’t need to be fancy. Almost every dinner party I’ve been to in the past 10 years has included time in the kitchen with the cook and a cocktail. What counts most is the gathering of friends.
If the dinner turns into a disaster, adopt my tried-and-true backup plan. Just order pizza. I’ve only had to invoke this once, when I dropped a chair on a fully-set table. The pizza arrived shortly thereafter, and the story lives on.
10. Give the good silver a daily workout. Treat yourself like company every day. I don’t coddle my good silver. We use it every day and it goes right into the dishwasher. Same with the china. Every day is a gift, so treat it like one!
Where is my mind? It’s been far, far away in a distant land. And yet the food and dining scene keeps on spinning, no matter where I might land. Here’s a round-up of the bridge between 2016 and 2017 — otherwise known as this past week.
Olio, the wine/specialty grocer/takeout/eat-in/delivery spot at Meadow and Main streets, changed ownership in 2015. For 2017, owners Matt Fraker and Jason Ferrell decided to spruce up the interior, revamp the menu and give the place a new name — Branch & Vine. “Our loyal customers will absolutely be able to find options that are familiar,” Fraker said in a release. “My goal with the new menu was to simplify and freshen things up.” branchvine.com.
January is a slow month for the restaurant industry after the high-pitched excitement of the holidays, and in the tradition of New Year’s fresh starts, the Hard Shell will be closed for renovations this month. C’est le Vin is also taking advantage of the year’s less hectic period and will be closed until March for renovations. thehardshell.com and cestlevinrva.com.
Cirrus Vodka has joined Reservoir Distillery and James River Distillery with the opening of its own tasting room at 1603 Ownby Lane. You can check it out Thursdays and Fridays from 4-7 p.m., Saturdays from noon-7, and Sundays from noon-5. cirrusvodka.com.
For those of us who look for daily tips on fashion, makeup and trends — think Marie Claire, only a lot more entertaining —Refinery29’s newsletter is a must-read. And to underscore the impeccable taste of the site’s staff, Perly’s Restaurant & Delicatessen made its list of the best brunch spots in Virginia. facebook.com/perlysrichmond.
Richmond magazine has announced the nominees for the 2017 Elbys. The quick take: Heritage, L’Opossum, Metzger Bar & Butchery and the Roosevelt have been nominated for Restaurant of the Year, and Brittanny Anderson of Metzger Bar & Butchery, Shagbark’s Walter Bundy, David Shannon of L’Opossum and Heritage’s Joe Sparatta made the cut for Chef of the Year. The full list can be found at richmondmagazine.com.
Happenings: Max’s Positive Vibe Cafe will celebrate its 12th anniversary Jan. 14 from 6-10:30 p.m. with an all-star musical lineup for VibeFest ’17. positiveviberva.com.
Questlove — yes, that Questlove — will appear at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts on Jan. 15 from 3:30-5:30 p.m. He’ll talk about the creative connection between food and music — also the subject of his new book, “Something to Food About” — with Gwar member and chef Mike Derks, Richmond drummer and restaurateur Jason Alley, University of Richmond president, cellist and home cook Ronald Crutcher, plus singer and songwriter Natalie Prass. Tickets are $30-$60. fireflourandfork.com.
Also on Jan. 16, from 6-10 p.m., Whisk will hold Bubo Pop-Up, a six-course Mediterranean tasting dinner focusing on Virginia ingredients. Tickets are $45. whiskrva.com.
And it’s another all-star lineup — this time of the food and drink variety — for Ardent Craft Ales’ beer dinner to benefit Diversity Richmond on Jan. 16 from 6-8:30 p.m. You can expect five courses and beer pairings from Brittanny Anderson of Metzger Bar & Butchery, Lee Gregory of the Roosevelt and Southbound, Adam Hall of Saison, Lucy’s Restaurant’s Jason Lucy and Joe Sparatta of Heritage and Southbound. Tickets are $75. ardentcraftales.com.CORRECTION: The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts' website was originally listed for the Questlove event. It's actually a rescheduled event for Fire, Flour & Fork.
The Style folks are fond of one restaurant in particular — Plant Zero Cafe. It keeps us caffeinated, it staves off hunger, the staff cheers us on, and best of all, it’s right across the street from our offices.
Now Plant Zero has decided to step it up: Starting Tuesday, Jan. 3 — tonight — it will break away from offering only breakfast and lunch, and launch new dinner hours beginning at 4:30 p.m.
Plant Zero is always packed — so why mess around with an already good thing?
“We’re ready to do it and do something more upscale,” owner Noah Yeager says. He’s been working with Lainie Myers, former sous chef at Graffiato, to develop the menu.
“We wanted to start with a whole new dinner menu,” he says. “But with the holidays and other things, we’re going with a modified version of our lunch menu and four specials.”
Those will include chicken Marbella and crab cakes. Gradually, over time, most of what diners can expect at dinner won’t be found on the menu earlier in the day.
“I’m excited and nervous," Yeager says, “ and well, we’ll see how it goes tonight.”
And that sounds about right for any big change in 2017.
Plant Zero Cafe
Mondays 8 a.m.–4 p.m.; Tuesdays-Thursdays 8 a.m.–9 p.m.;
Fridays 8 a.m.–10 p.m.; Saturdays 9 a.m.–3 p.m. and 4:30-10 p.m.
3 E. Third St.
The “Cheese Cones” resurfaced recently while I sifted through a trove of my grandmother’s and great-grandmother’s recipes.
It’s become a happenstance holiday tradition that I come across the yellowing card while searching for my great-grandmother’s gingerbread recipe, which is written in French, merci.
I’m always intrigued that the “Cheese Cones” card has evidence of actual use.
Someone made this? A relative?
It’s not the cheddar-mayo-sherry mix that vexes me the most. It’s not the Hellmann’s mayo. (I’m a Duke’s girl on the rare occasions I use mayo).
Nope. The most troubling part is imagining the mess that the pinecones must become after party guests take the first few nibbles. Plus, I’m pretty sure that the ones from the backyard might be tastier.
But I’m not going to try them. No way.
Go ahead. You make “Cheese Cones.” I dare you!
Freeda Steele has her mind set on having a new kind of business next year, even if she has to claw her way through a hairball of a permitting process.
This is a tail of how an everyday cat lover decided she wanted to open Hampton Roads’ first cat cafe.
Before Steele had reached the age of 40, she discovered she had breast cancer. At the same time, she and her husband were separating. Though not one to dwell on hardships, Steele says that tough time gave her clarity on the life she wanted after – one with a legacy and no regrets.
“I don’t want to be on my deathbed, thinking ‘Why didn’t I do that?’ ” she said.
What is a cat cafe? It’s not a cafe you bring your cat to. It’s not a cafe that serves cat. It’s a business that provides the company of cats and coffee - and sometimes room for laptops. Wi-fi usually accompanies the whiskers.
Warning: The following story is littered with cat puns.
The concept of the cat cafe seems to have started in Taiwan and gained popularity in Japan. The trend has worked its way to the Western hemisphere, with locations in San Diego, New York, L.A. and Washington. There’s no definitive source for cat cafes in the United States, but most estimates put the clowder between 20 and 25, all pouncing on the market within the past three years.
Some people find relaxation in petting or playing with cats. Some have landlords restricting them from having their own at home. The cafes become an urban refuge for both the animals and those craving their affection.
“Anyone who’s an animal lover, they’re like, ‘Yeah, I get it.’ It’s like a Starbucks,” Steele said, “with cats.”
Steele has had her eye on a location in downtown Norfolk. The property is in the city’s Vibrant Spaces, an incentive program intended to draw businesses to Granby Street by offsetting startup costs and providing discounted rent to new businesses.
But before the city will consider offering her a lease, Norfolk must first be willing to change the zoning code for a category of business that, as of meow, doesn’t exist.
Steele has submitted a request to include “kennels” in the downtown district of Freemason and part of Granby. Muddy Paws, a pet store with grooming services, operates in the same area but provides boarding at its other site near Lamberts Point.
City planner Susan Pollock Hart said a cat cafe, though unique, would fit within Norfolk’s kennel definition. The Planning Commission will have the opportunity to discuss the proposed zoning change at a meeting Jan. 26. City Council would have the final say over the decision.
Even if the council approves it, that measure would only scratch the surface. Steele would then submit her business proposal for a special public review. And if she wanted to move into a Vibrant Spaces storefront, the council would vote on the lease.
This first step “isn’t really about her,” Pollock Hart said. “This is: 'Do we want to allow a kennel in the D-3 district?' ”
Steele, now 45 and cancer-free, has always had a cat or two. During her childhood in California, her family never bought one from a store – the furry companions just sort of showed up.
That’s how Frankie the mutt-cat entered Steele’s life about four years ago. One day the feline crawled out of a storm drain in Steele’s Chesapeake neighborhood. Now Frankie lives the good life, occasionally catnapping in mini hammocks attached by suction cup to the windows.
“They just love you," Steele said. "I can’t imagine not having one.”
With Steele in good health and having some savings, she took the leap this fall to purr-sue her dream business. That involved quitting her job, administrative work for a general contractor, and registering her company, Catnip LLC, with the state.
Steele could paw-tentially open in another part of the city that already allows kennels, planning officials said, but she feels strongly that the unusual business requires visibility and foot traffic to succeed.
Downtown Norfolk is where it belongs, she said, although she has recently expanded her search to other areas in case her plan doesn’t work out.
Rob Blizard, executive director of Norfolk Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said he hopes the city will be receptive to the idea. The nonprofit would like to partner with Steele. The felines showcased at the future Catnip Cat Cafe would be shelter animals.
With kittens usually adopted first, Blizard said, adult cats are among the hardest to place.
“Sometimes I think it’s a case of bringing the animals to the people,” he said. “I’m all for it, so long as everything’s managed OK.”
Public health regulations would present another ball of yarn. At some other cat cafes, the business owners have built an enclosure to separate food and drink sales from areas where cats roam. Steele, who said she’s had preliminary conversations with health department officials, believes she can design the space to meet requirements.
With just coffee and pre-made snacks on the menu, she doesn’t plan on needing a kitchen for food preparation. She’d also include private spots where the animals could retreat or use the litter boxes. Steele also thinks she’ll manage crowds by asking patrons to sign up for time slots, as other cat cafes have done.
Nyree Wright, a northern Virginia resident who is trying to open Phinicky Pheline Cat Cafe, is searching for a property in Old Town Alexandria and wants to open in the fall. She launched a crowdfunding campaign last year, raising over $7,000.
But one of her biggest challenges has been finding a landlord willing to lease commercial space in which cats would live.
“It’s sort of been a learning year for me,” Wright said. “It’s literally one of the most daunting processes I’ve ever encountered.”
Mary Miller, CEO of Downtown Norfolk Council, said the cat cafe could be a fit for one of the Vibrant Spaces storefronts, but all applications are vetted through a subcommittee. In general, she said, the program seeks unique types of businesses, perhaps new to the city, to liven up the street.
Steele expects some concerns about her plan. But she hopes Norfolk leaders don’t pussyfoot around the issue just because it’s new.
If the fur flies?“Guess they weren’t hip enough for a cat cafe.”
Triple Crossing Brewing Co. will be off and running at its new Fulton brewpub on Friday, Dec. 16. The biggest and best surprise? Billy Fallen, founder of Billy Bread, will be on the premises making Neapolitan-style pizza adorned with all things SausageCraft. triplecrossingbeer.com.
Scott’s Addition, while rich in alcohol, hasn’t had enough spots to eat to soak it all up. Little by little, that’s changing. Food truck the Dog Wagon has opened a walkup spot, the Dog Wagon Carry-out, at 2930-C W. Broad St. Richmond BizSense reports. facebook.com/thedogwagonRVA.
And, the website says, the old Suntrust building at 3022 W. Broad St. will open as Statement Brewing Co. in September.
Happenings: Look, I don’t know as much about music as I should, but Paste magazine calls Adam Schatz “arguably one of the most versatile and exciting musicians in recent years.” He’ll be appearing with his band, Mrs. Adam Schatz, an offshoot of another of his bands, Landlady, at Hardywood Park Craft Brewery on Saturday, Dec. 17, starting at 6 p.m. Expect the usual food trucks and Gingerbread Stout on tap. hardywood.com.
Metzger Bar & Butchery is celebrating friend and staff member Kurt Moon, who was killed in a car crash in last September, with guest Rogue Gentlemen bartender Vinny D’Ambrosio and DJ James Kohler, for You and the 6 on Sunday, Dec. 18 from 5 p.m.-midnight. Fancy but low-alcohol cocktails will be served, and 5 percent of drink sales will be donated to the Blue Sky Fund. metzgerbarandbutchery.com.
Triple Crossing Brewing Co. is opening its new 30,000-square-foot digs in Fulton on Friday.
“We’ve been working on the space since February,” co-owner Adam Worcester says, “and we are more than ready to let people in the doors to check it out.”
The light-strung interior was designed with Kathy Corbet, and you’ll find two communal tables spray-painted by local artist Matt Betts, and a mural by Mickael Broth, aka The Nightowl. Small Axe Forge acid-stained the tabletops and Foggy London Towne designed the signs.
Instead of a tasting room, expect a brewpub with -- surprise! -- Pizza from Billy Fallen of Billy Bread fame. Fallen’s pies will be thin-crusted, Neapolitan-style pizza baked, Worcester says, in roughly 90 seconds in a 1,200-degree oven. “These pies are designed and meant to be consumed in one sitting without weighing you down,” he says.
The brewing capacity has almost tripled in size, so you should see Triple Crossing’s beers in more restaurants, and with plans for bimonthly can releases, you’ll see them on store shelves, too. And in case you were worried, the original Triple Crossing tasting room at 113 S. Foushee St. will stay put.
When asked if a second phase is in the works, Worcester says, “Considering that this place almost killed us, we have no plans for future expansion at this time.”
The new 5203 Hatcher St. locations hours will be Tuesdays to Thursdays 4-10 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays noon-10 p.m. and on Sundays from noon-8 p.m.
And if you’re curious about what might be on tap this Friday, here’s what to expect:
Element 79 Golden Ale
Paranoid Aledroid Pale Ale
Season Shift Saison
Falcon Smash IPA
Citra Dry Hopped Falcon Smash IPA
Clever Girl IPA (available for the first time in four-packs of 16-ounce cans)
Double Dry Hopped Clever Girl IPA
Battle Creek DIPA
Bourbon Soaked Udderly Beautiful Milk Stout
The latest restaurant concept from Hamooda Shami is — a little unusual. “I was almost afraid to say it out loud,” he says. “I reached deep into my vault of weird ideas.”
This spring, the owner of New York Deli, Don’t Look Back, Charlottesville’s Yearbook Taco Bar and the now-closed Portrait House plans to open a restaurant called 11 Months in the old Curry Craft space. At the same time, another will open on the Downtown Mall in Charlottesville in the Yearbook spot, pending its closure.
Shami says Yearbook was going gangbusters the first year, but he saw a big drop off the second. He knew he needed to start over and re-brand. That made him think about something that he’d been mulling over for the last eight years or so. What if he opened a place for 11 months, set a countdown clock and then completely started from scratch after it ticked to the end with a new interior, a new menu, a new concept? And then started the clock again?
“In order to get people to come out on a random Wednesday when it’s raining,” Shami says, “it has to be something really compelling.”
Although chef-driven pop-up culture hasn’t hit the Richmond dining scene with the kind of force you see on the West Coast, its diners’ craving for novelty remains unabated nonetheless. Shami likens what he wants to do with 11 Months to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.
I know. Stay with us here.
He explains it like this: Although the museum boasts an outstanding permanent collection, what makes locals line up is its rotating exhibitions. His new restaurant would function similarly. The staff and location would remain the same, and the 11 Months logo would still anchor the restaurant, but the new, temporary concept would also bring in a completely different décor and a new name. And that would then repeat. And repeat.
Shami’s enlisted Campfire & Co. to come up with the branding and design of 11 Months. He plans to go back to them yearly to plan the next versions.
“I’ve used up my interior design ideas,” he says.
The themes at his two restaurant in Richmond and Charlottesville will always be different from each other, although, he says, if he sees customers getting particularly attached to a concept, he’d think about rotating it back in later years.
“You never can tell in this business what’s going to capture people’s imagination,” Shami says.
The spring opening is a different kind of race against the clock. He and his wife are expecting a baby on April 2. “It’s kind of expediting the process,” he says. And right now, he isn’t giving any hints as to what diners might expect when he opens.
He’s ready for the challenge, although he’s well-aware of the risks. “You never really know, and admittedly, this is a crazier kind of thing than your usual hospitality projects,” Shami says. “It’s a coin flip.”