Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Short Order

Dixie Donuts Incoming

Posted By on Tue, Apr 24, 2012 at 4:00 AM

Chef J Frank waits for the other half of the Dixie Donuts sign, the round part, to arrive in Carytown. The business opens May 1 and will add Korean double-fried chicken to the menu next. - SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist
  • Chef J Frank waits for the other half of the Dixie Donuts sign, the round part, to arrive in Carytown. The business opens May 1 and will add Korean double-fried chicken to the menu next.

Not one to rush in without a lot of research, chef J Frank replayed a video about the Belshaw Donut Robot a dozen times before committing to it. The mechanics, the simple food theater and a chance to be creative but controlled in the kitchen all appealed to him. Frank's partner, Betsy Thomas, had a viable property in the short-lived Café Ole Carytown, which sat empty for months while several prominent local chefs tried to lure the lease away.

Thomas showed Frank a New York Times piece on Federal Donuts in Philadelphia, he says, "and I went, 'That's it,' By the next week we were on the road." He says Federal was very welcoming, and he's been writing ideas ever since — "I've got eight pages of possibilities so far."

Dixie Donuts, their about-to-open, carryout business, will sell cake doughnuts, Korean double-fried chicken and Belgian frites with flavored mayonnaise. Chickens will sell in halves and wholes, some glazed with barbecue sauce, chipotle or ginger honey, others with buttermilk ranch and spices in the Dixie style. Everything will be cooked to order, Frank says, and when items sell out, that's it.

The team took out a six-burner stove to make room for three fryers and the $8,000 doughnut robot. Next they're cutting a hole in the wall so customers can watch the doughnut-frying action. Antique bakery cabinets and some cosmetic changes will "pretty up the place and put some life in it," Frank says. More life comes from dulce de leche, caramelized peanut, smoked cinnamon sugar and toasted coconut — "flavors that aren't too cutesy" for the doughnuts. Coffee will be simply regular and decaf, and seating limited to a couple of chairs.

The big doughnut sign went up last week, just hitting the city's limit of 5 feet across. Frank hopes that eventually officials will let him trade for something larger. Look for an opening in the next month or so, marked by a "hot" neon sign in the window at 2901 W. Cary St.

It's Richmond Restaurant Week: New participants bring the number of restaurants to 38, making this one of the biggest deals in local food-biz history, benefitting Feedmore. See richmondrestaurantweek.com for details and links to some of the city's best dining places, all working for food relief for the community's hungriest. Props to Acacia's Aline Reitzer for leading the charge twice a year since the fundraiser's inception, and for responding to demand for a larger pool of players. Runs through April 29.

Going soft: Offers are coming to the table for Stronghill Dining Co., the Scott's Addition restaurant with a distinctive handcrafted aesthetic, which closed last week. Owner Jessica Simmons says she's meeting with a number of chefs interested in renting or buying the building at 1200 N. Boulevard. She'll concentrate on her nine tattoo shops and has hired some of Stronghill's staff for those businesses. Chef Campbell Tucker moved over to Bistro 27 in March to work with chef Carlos Silva and bartender Bobby Kruger.

Back in business: Parkside Café at 3514 Forest Hill Ave. has reopened after a chef and menu change, and is now serving Tuesday through Sunday. 864-8888.

Now tweating: You can follow me on Twitter @eatrva.com.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Richmond Lures TV Chef

Food Network contestant plans restaurant on Main Street.

Posted By on Fri, Apr 20, 2012 at 4:00 AM

Malcolm Mitchell is opening a new restaurant on Main Street, Charleston by Chef Malcolm. - ASH DANIEL
  • Ash Daniel
  • Malcolm Mitchell is opening a new restaurant on Main Street, Charleston by Chef Malcolm.

Here’s a new local reason to watch the eighth season of the television series “Food Network Star,” which premieres May 13. One of the contestants, chef Malcolm Mitchell, is opening a restaurant in Richmond called Charleston by Chef Malcolm.

Mitchell’s a 41-year old former Navy man and culinary graduate who’s built a name cooking for NBA stars, celebrities and politicos in Washington, D.C. He competes with 15 chefs in a new format of the show that enlists Bobby Flay, Giada De Laurentiis and Alton Brown as mentors working with teams. The series, which has completed taping, ends with an “unprecedented” live audience online vote July 22.

Mitchell’s restaurant in Richmond is likely to be located at 2300 E. Main St., in a former hair salon near Sette, and “we’re very close to inking,” he says of the deal. The chef considers the area’s operating costs and food scene a good fit for what he calls “geechee” cuisine that is Caribbean and Charleston-influenced “with urban touches and a few surprises.” Progress reports are posted at mmitchellthechef.com.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Short Order

John Maher's Serious Eats

Posted By on Tue, Apr 10, 2012 at 4:00 AM

At the restaurant incubator Kitchen Thyme on West Broad Street, chef John Maher is refining plans for his first pop-up restaurant, Spoon, coming downtown in May. - SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist
  • At the restaurant incubator Kitchen Thyme on West Broad Street, chef John Maher is refining plans for his first pop-up restaurant, Spoon, coming downtown in May.

Of all the Richmond chefs who get excited about food, one of the most obsessed is John Maher (pronounced May-er), who turns 30 next week and unveils his pop-up restaurant Spoon in May. "I'm extremely excited about this town right now," he says. "I think it's really on the verge of greatness as a food town — the right people, the right mindset."

Maher, who was born in Powhatan, left the area for culinary school at Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island, which connected him to a stint at the French Laundry, Thomas Keller's game-changing California bastion of seasonal cuisine.

It was a colleague there, chef Ryan Fancher, who helped Maher move ahead at other California restaurants. Fancher "taught me an incredible amount," Maher says. "I like who he is and his style." Returning home, Maher says, "If you taste my food, you can understand my past." He'll show his emphasis on technique and classic flavors with a five-course dinner at the temporary restaurant Spoon on May 20 from 6-11 p.m., set up downtown at Pasture.

Maher realized quickly that his plans for an $80 tariff, plus beverages, tax and tip, might be off-putting for an untried young chef. So tickets are now $70. Cocktails by Mattias Hagglund of Comfort and wines are additional. "I want to show what I can do," Maher says of this first in a series of trials that could lead to his own restaurant. "As events go by I'll get a little more avant-garde with color and textures and plating — to show what food is and what food can be." For information see spoonrva.com.\


What you'll be drinking: In one of the best-attended beer tastings in recent memory, the folks at Brown Distributing showed that smaller, local brews are gaining big momentum. Industry buyers came April 2 to taste dozens of beverages, ranging from hard ciders to ales, including new-to-the-scene Midnight Brewing of Goochland. Its Rockville Red and New Beginning are small-batch, unfiltered products from owner Trae Cairns. Nine more Virginia brewers are about to debut products, and another 28 are on the Brown list and available in stores and bars. The company's Taste the Local promotion is taking off as beer buyers recognize customer interest and the economic benefits and bragging rights that follow.

Dinner at the Inn: Chef Travis Brust presents a 75th-anniversary gala dinner at the Williamsburg Inn on April 14, including a champagne reception and a menu of guest favorites through the years. The event showcases the inn's history — it was built by John D. Rockefeller Jr. in 1937 and has served as host to royalty, celebrities and heads of state ever since. Tickets are $75 and paired wines are priced separately. The reception is at 6 p.m. and dinner is served in the Regency Room at 7:15. For reservations call 757-229-2141.


Don't Look Back: New spot for Mexican in Carytown with Nate Gutierrez making tacos and other favorites. Enclosed back patio, bar, open daily 11 a.m. until 2 a.m. daily. 2929 W. Cary St. 353-8226. Dontlookbackrva.com.

Tio Pablo: Tamales, tacos and tequila in small, mural-covered spot from owner of Millie's and LuLu's. Lunch, dinner and bar. 1703 E. Franklin St. 643-4828.

2113: Colorful new lounge for weekday lunch, dinner, bar and nightlife Monday-Saturday; seafood, snacks, salads, entrees, cocktails. 2113 E. Main St. 343-2113. 2113main.com.

Mint New Casual Cuisine: Southern-inflected seasonal fare, sandwiches and salads, peanut soup, fried chicken and waffles, chops, steaks, fish, pasta, sweets. Lunch weekdays, brunch weekends, dinner and bar nightly. 2501 W. Main St. 359-9690. Mintrichmond.com.

Hawk's BBQ: Bologna burgers, fried lake trout, burgers and fish sandwiches, desserts for take-out. Lunch and dinner Monday-Saturday. 10449 Midlothian Turnpike. 330-2966.

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