A Gourmet's Tour 

A look inside the story that hails Richmond as "the next great American food city."

click to enlarge departures.jpg

The Daily Meal editor Colman Andrews likes Richmond, which is readily apparent from the four-page story he wrote for the glossy, high-end leisure magazine Departures (available only to American Express platinum members).

In-between articles such as “Greece: Should I Stay or Should I Go?” (by former New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson) and “How to Do Rome Like a Roman,” you’ll find him singing the city's praises in “Richmond: The Next Great American Food City.”

Richmond's received a lot of attention lately, but Andrews is no drive-by national writer who hits the hot spots and tries to turn out a quickie analysis of the food scene. His daughter attended the University of Richmond, so Andrews has had a front-row seat watching local restaurants evolve and multiply.

He sets the story up this way:

A meaty jumbo crab cake topped with crisp country bacon and sandwiched between two slices of tart fried green tomato; creamy cheddar grits heightened with smoked king portobello mushrooms; homemade cavatelli pasta tossed with fresh fava beans and juicy rabbit confit; moist chocolate-and-peanut-butter doughnuts still warm from the oven. ... These are some of the most mouthwatering dishes I've eaten this year, and I found them all in a city that might not even make most people's top 25 list of best food towns in America: Richmond.

I like his inclusion of Chez Foushee and Amuse:

For some reason Amuse Restaurant upstairs at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts doesn’t get a lot of press. I can’t imagine why.

But the article, which appears in the magazine's 25th anniversary issue, is a comprehensive review that starts with Mamma ’Zu, moves on to Peter Chang China Café, detours to Ellwood Thompson Local Market and Belmont Butchery, and then hits every single restaurant populating Richmond’s “Best of” lists, including notable category-buster Proper Pie Co.

His descriptions are exact, his praise specific and if I had a platinum American Express card burning a hole in my pocket like most Departure readers, I’d probably book a weekend at The Jefferson Hotel immediately upon his recommendation.

Lemaire ends the round-up:

“Virginia is a terrific place for food,” Colman quotes Lemaire executive chef Walter Bundy as saying. “We embrace what’s around us, and we have so much at our fingertips.”

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