Monday, September 29, 2014

Fried Goodness

The newest offerings at the State Fair of Virginia bend the gastronomic limits of the universe.

Posted By on Mon, Sep 29, 2014 at 4:00 AM

Amid the sea of funnel cakes, deep-fried candy bars and corn dogs at the State Fair of Virginia, a vendor out of Florida has assembled a list of new offerings that makes deep-fried butter sound passé.

With its menu, advertised on giant banners above the tent-based operation, D&J Concessions makes clear that it intends to win the annual battle of one-upmanship that dominates the fair food scene. And, for the most part, it does.

D&J's best new offering by far is the deep-fried ham biscuit ($4). It takes Pillsbury-style, tubed biscuit dough, wraps it around a piece of smoked ham and throws it in the deep fryer -- no batter necessary. The result is crispy, doughy and yes, very greasy. The simplicity (only two ingredients) makes it almost like eating real food.

Then there's the Twinx: a Twinkie that's been stuffed with a Twix bar, and then is wrapped in bacon before being batter-dipped and deep-fried ($7). The finished product is dusted with powdered sugar and drizzled with chocolate syrup. It's a monstrosity, but surprisingly good. The bacon adds a salty, meaty chew that manages to complement the Twinkie. But the whole thing could do without the Twix, which has a crunchy cookie center that only gets in the way of the confection's pleasant, spongy texture.

Food innovation has its limits, and the sloppy Joe served on a Krispy Kreme doughnut crosses all of them ($7). The presentation is nice: The doughnut's glaze glistens after a short ride on a flattop grill and a sprinkle of cheese adds color. Otherwise it's just as gross as it sounds. Canned sauce does nothing to complement the pastry's sweetness. The meat topping is too heavy for the makeshift bun, instantly turning it into a weird, soggy mess.

This might not surprise anyone, but I left Meadow Event Park with serious heartburn. So if you go to sample the culinary offerings, bring plenty of your favorite antacid to ensure a pleasant ride back to Richmond. D&J is located on the festival loop across from the BMX stunt show. The fair runs through Oct. 5. statefairva.org .

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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Sausage King

Virginia's Olli Salumeria gets national press.

Posted By on Wed, Sep 24, 2014 at 4:00 AM

Here's a sneak peak of an article about Olli Salumeria, an artisan salami producer located in Mechanicsville, that I wrote for the Washington Post — it will publish tomorrow in the food section.

[In] 2011 … [Olivierio "Olli"] Colmignoli was one of just five people working in a quiet 700-square-foot space in Mechanicsville, Va. Today, the company employs 40 people in a building more than double that size, and Olli sausages can be found all over the country, including in Whole Foods Markets, Wegmans, Kroger and Costco. The growth of the company, begun only four years ago, is remarkable. Even though they wanted the company to grow, Colmignoli and then-partner Charles "Chip" Vosmik never expected that their product — artisan sausages at a fairly high price (around $9 each) — would go from something you might pick up in a small wine shop to pair with an intriguing asiago to something you can throw in your cart with a giant jug of olive oil at Costco.

If you'd like to read the full article, follow this link.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Short Order

RVA Food News: Cider Week Event, Relay Foods Expansion + More

Posted By on Tue, Sep 23, 2014 at 1:00 AM

At the Top of the Hill

As part of Virginia Cider Week, coming up Nov. 14-23, former Richmonder Tracey Love, along with Enrichmond, will bring Charlottesville's farm-to-table event, Hill and Holler, to Libby Hill Park.

"This will be our third annual Cider Week event," says Love, a former Style contributor who worked at Six Burner, "and I wanted a change of scenery and to introduce some of the Charlottesville area [cider] producers to the Richmond market."

The event, called Hard Pressed, will showcase dishes from Metzger Bar & Butchery's Brittany Anderson, Lee Gregory of the Roosevelt, Heritage's Joe Sparatta, Phil Perrow and Caleb Shriver of Dutch & Co., and Comfort's Travis Milton. Albemarle Ciderworks, Blue Bee Cidery, Foggy Ridge Cider and Potter's Craft Cider, among others, will provide cider pairings.

Hill and Holler will be held Nov. 16 from 3-6 p.m. Tickets are $65, with proceeds benefiting the Richmond Community Gardens. Information can be found at hillandholler.org.

Big expansion: Relay Foods is expanding — and Gov. Terry MacAuliffe got pretty excited about it. He, along with Mayor Dwight Jones, announced that 75 new jobs will be created while the online grocery company enlarges its Scott's Addition fulfillment facility. Relay Foods will receive a $50,000 grant from Governor's Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Fund, which will be matched by the city. Relay received a previous $50,000 grant in June to expand its facility and offices in Charlottesville.

Making it: Among the robots, woodworking and puppets at the RVA MakerFest this Saturday, you'll find a few folks who also like to make things to eat and drink. Chocolates by Kelly, Hardywood Park Craft Brewery and cake-maker and buttercream artist DeAndrea Williams of Soo Sweet Confections will be on hand to answer questions, do a few demonstrations and pass out a sample or two. The "interactive celebration of creativity and ingenuity" is free, and happens Saturday, Sept. 27, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Science Museum of Virginia. rvamakerfest.com.

Brew move: Midnight Brewery relocated to a new, shiny space and opened its doors on Friday, Sept. 19. It's still in Goochland County (about 100 feet away from its old location), but the larger tasting room has nine taps. And in the back, the brewery has grown from a three-barrel system to a 10-barrel system.

Hello Betty: Betty on Davis opened last Wednesday in the old Avenue 805 space near West Broad Street, with a menu full of things like meatball sandwiches, fried chicken schnitzel, shrimp and grits, and house-made sausage with German potato salad. 805 N. Davis Ave., 358-9093.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Short Order

RVA Food News: Graffiato Preview, Savor, Beat Feast + More

Posted By on Tue, Sep 16, 2014 at 1:00 AM

The Wait Is Over

Graffiato, the much talked-about and long-awaited restaurant from "Top Chef" and "Top Chef Masters" Mike Isabella, finally opened on Wednesday in the old Popkin Tavern. Isabella saved the long, slanting wood floors, but you'll find a sleeker setup. Brushed steel bar stools and chairs, along with industrial lighting echo the mesh divider you see when you first enter the restaurant. Many of the menu items are unique to Richmond: things like crispy artichokes in Prosecco with boquerones (white anchovies), capers and lemon, and roasted bone marrow with bacon, lemon and pistachios sit alongside Washington favorites like Amish chicken thighs in pepperoni sauce and charred octopus. The enormous pizza oven will turn out pies at night, but during the day will be used to roast vegetables for a variety of dishes, including the cauliflower ravioli and eggplant caponata.

BIG Apple: Rappahannock chef Dylan Fultineer made an unprecedented (for a Richmond chef) third appearance at the James Beard House last Wednesday, Sept. 10. for "Virginia Rising Stars." The next day, Saveur magazine had him over to its test kitchen to cook lunch, where he whipped up a batch of lambs and clams, as well as Hanover tomato gazpacho with Virginia blue crab — a dish that he served the night before at the Beard House. "Chefs that are traveling through NYC will often come through and give a little demo or prepare lunch for the editors," says Saveur.com editor Laura Sant. "We all travel a lot, but we can't be everywhere, so it's a nice way for us to learn about what chefs and restaurants are doing in other places."

Smithsonian Demo: KimKim sauce creator Steve Kim will join Mezzanine Restaurant owner and executive chef Todd Johnson at the Smithsonian on Sunday, Sept. 21, from 6:45 to 8:45 p.m. The two will talk about the key ingredients in Korean cuisine and why the food recently become so popular throughout the country (if not in Richmond — yet). A demonstration will follow, with audience members participating. Tickets are $45 for non-members ($35 for members). More information can be found at smithsonianassociates.org.

Chef on the Move: Much has been made about the opening of Perly's Restaurant & Delicatessen, but there hasn't been much attention paid to the fact that chef Todd Richardson has been cooking there since the first day. Richardson, formerly of Verbena, Rocketts Landing and Casa Del Barco, quietly left his last gig at Blue Goat and just as quietly started working at Perly's. "One day, he walked through the door," says Perly's owner Kevin Roberts, "and asked if he could help." The two have been friends since their days together on the line at Kuba Kuba. "He's been more than my right hand," Roberts says. "I couldn't have gotten through the first week — and it was tough anyway — without him."

Magazine Love: Food & Wine magazine nominated Dutch & Co. as one of the People's Best New Bars. The contest is open to the public and will run from Sept. 7 to 30. Apparently, the folks at the magazine really like what Phil Perrow and Caleb Shriver are doing up there in Church Hill; earlier this year, Dutch & Co. was nominated for the People's Best New Chef award.

Savor the Moment: It's been five years and the Savor event that will be held on Saturday, Sept. 20, from 6 to 11 p.m. at the Jefferson still is going strong. This year, the Food Network's "Chopped" judge, cookbook author, restaurant owner and James Beard Award-winning chef Maneet Chauhan will bring glamour and international fusion to plates at the event. Prior to that, attendees can expect a silent and live auction, and a reception featuring offerings from local chefs, along with a few out-of-towners. Tickets are $300 and benefit the Hospital Hospitality House of Richmond, which provides an inexpensive or free place to stay for families of folks who come from outside of Richmond for medical care.

Beast Feast: Belmont Butchery's Tanya Cauthen is heading out to the country for the second annual Beast Feast on Sept. 28 from 2 to 5 p.m. VIP ticket holders can beat the lines and get there at 1 p.m. Last year's event was a meat-laden extravaganza at Patrick Henry's house, Scotchtown — if you haven't seen a whole goat slowly roasted on a spit over an open fire while sipping a craft cocktail, you can watch chefs like Julep's Randall Doetzer, Dylan Fultineer of Rappahannock, and the Magpie's Owen and Tiffany Lane, among others, roast at least one, along with pigs, turkeys and chickens. Tickets cost $50 — VIP tickets are $80 — and can be purchased at Belmont Butchery.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Short Order

RVA Food News: Perly's preview, BBQ expansion + More.

Posted By on Tue, Sep 9, 2014 at 1:00 AM

The Wait Is Over

Perly's Restaurant & Delicatessen opened its doors last week, and the customers came flooding in. Owner Kevin Roberts says he's had lines out the door at lunchtime, and business partner and landlord Johnny Giavos has been pitching in on the back end to help smooth the process. The interior got a face-lift that brought in more light, eliminated clutter, and lengthened and streamlined the bar — all without encroaching on the integrity of the old Perly's owned by Gray Wyatt. Inspired by Perly's original 1930s incarnation as a Jewish deli, the place offers latkes, house-made gefilte fish, sailor sandwiches and other Jewish cuisine, with wine, beer and Boylan's sodas on tap. What you won't find is pork — of any kind.

Meals on a deadline: Out-of-town reporters covering the McDonnell fraud and corruption trial may have slouched back to their hotel rooms occasionally, ordering a few sliders from the hotel bar after a grueling day of constant online updates. But mostly they hit the downtown hotspots — Pasture, Comfort and Dutch & Co. (with at least one side trip to Can Can). "Ros Helderman, who broke the original story, also led the [reporters] in food," New York Times journalist Jennifer Steinhauer says of her Washington Post colleague.

More praise: Richmond has been getting national attention again. This time it's Destinations, a glossy leisure magazine available to American Express platinum card members. The Daily Meal and former Saveur founder and editor Colman Andrews wrote a comprehensive and glowing review of the dining scene, declaring Richmond as "the next great American food city." In another magazine accolade, Burger Bach, Carytown Burgers & Fries and Roy's Big Burger all made Garden & Gun's guide to the best burgers in the South.  

Drink and learn: Amuse Restaurant service manager Tony Karabaich will pour curated choices of international wines from 5-8:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 12, for the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts' Second Fridays — part of its Friday Art & Wine series. Along with plenty of vino talk and discounted beverages, attendees can take a guided tour of the museum at either 7 or 7:30 p.m.

Doors closed: Jorge's Cantina at Floyd Avenue and Robinson Street is closed — but only temporarily, the owner says. Slow summer nights in all of co-owner Jake Crocker's restaurants fueled the decision, and once he sees business pick up, Jorge's will open its doors again.

Coming soon: A long-awaited Rocketts Landing restaurant, Mbargo, is aiming to open Sept. 22 with chef Matt Turner at the helm. Turner worked in New York, Washington and Richmond, where he headed up the kitchen at Millie's, as well as recent stints at Camino and Public Fish & Oyster in Charlottesville. Mbargo will also house a small market with wine, local beer, cheese and fresh local produce.

Barbecue Revival

Inner City Blues has been open only since May, but owners Alicia and Lamont Hawkins already are planning their next venture. (A full review of Inner City Blues can be found here.)

When Carolina Bar B Que on Nine Mile Road closed Aug. 2 after 40 years, the Hawkinses heard through friends that the owners wanted Inner City Blues to take over. The couple knew the place well — both went to the nearby Armstrong High School.

The name will stay the same, but an update of the menu is planned. "Inner City Blues already has North Carolina-style barbecue — our barbecue isn't much different from [theirs]," Alicia Hawkins says. "We'll do a lot of the same things [there] that Inner City is already offering."

Although they're shooting for an opening within 30 days, that will depend on the city's inspection process. The project been a roller coaster ride, Hawkins says, but "everything that could have happened or could have deterred us was resolved. … It was God-sent."

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Short Order

Answer Brewpub Preview, September Festival Roundup + More

Posted By on Tue, Sep 2, 2014 at 1:00 AM

Seeking the Answer

One of Richmond's most anticipated openings has finally arrived. The new brew pub from Mekong and Commercial Taphouse owner An Bui, the Answer, opened its doors last Wednesday to give local media a peek at its renovated and clean-lined tap room. The spot on West Broad Street, next to Mekong, is nearly complete, with just a few more tweaks before the public can imbibe upwards of 80 brews on tap.

When will Brandon Tolbert, the Answer's brewer, start producing his own beer out of the new brewery located on-site? He isn't saying, nor is he disclosing his first Answer-exclusive beer. "A lot of people — a lot of people — are asking me," Tolbert says. "I have some ideas though. I really just want to get to the brewing."

A sampling of menu items on hand included bánh gôi, a type of Vietnamese tamale; steamed bao, buns filled with fish and pork; and crowd pleasing bánh mì sandwiches.

The Answer Brewpub is at 6008 W. Broad St. The grand opening is scheduled for Sept. 2. — Robey Martin

The Chili Anniversary: Carytown institution Thai Diner Too will celebrate its 15th anniversary the week of Sept. 9. Diners will get a free desert with dinner, discounts on pad Thai and 15 percent off their meal on Sept. 9. The restaurant opened Sept. 9, 1999. Co-owner Mam Hongcharti says she traveled to a Buddhist temple in Houston, Texas, to ask for a monk's blessing for the new venture. She was told that the number nine was lucky for her in business, hence the opening date of 9-9-99. 3028 W. Cary St. 353-9514.

Burgeoning Blanchard's: Richmond-based craft coffee roaster Blanchard's java soon will be available in Charlottesville and Northern Virginia through a partnership with three grocery chains. Coffee quaffers looking for a little local love can find Blanchard's roasts on shelves at Martin's, Kroger and Whole Foods Markets throughout Virginia.

Dooley drinking: It isn't difficult to find local craft brew in Richmond these days, and beer lovers will find all the usual suspects in attendance at Maymont's annual Wine and Beer Classic on Sept. 12. So who's going to be there? Fourteen breweries, including Lickinghole Creek, Ardent Craft Ales and Isley Brewing. Some farther-flung Virginia neighbors also will be stopping by, including Lost Rhino Brewing (Ashburn), Smartmouth Brewing Co. (Norfolk) and Wild Wolf Brewing Co. (Nellysford). In addition to unlimited samples of beer, festival-goers can enjoy performances from local roots-rock act Jubeus, a corn hole tournament, and raffles for a home-brewing kit and other prizes. Gates open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $35 — $15 for designated drivers — at maymont.org. 1700 Hampton St., 358-7166.

September Festival Roundup

Fall Line Fest: The biggie on this list. This two-day festival features more than 50 bands at venues across town. Don't miss the buffet-style Fall Line Brunch Fest (page 22) with signature dishes from eight popular Richmond chefs. Sept. 5 and 6. Tickets are $20-$75. falllinefest.com.

The Harvest Wine Festival: Four wineries bring their wares for a one-day event featuring live music, seminars and food vendors. Sept. 6, 11 a.m., James River Cellars Winery. Tickets are $20. jamesrivercellars.com.

The Chesterfield Chamber Craft Beer Festival: More than 20 breweries will be in attendance, local and out-of-state, including Heavy Seas Beer, Sly Fox Beer and Southern Tier Brewing. Sept. 13, noon, Westchester Commons. Tickets are $10-$50. chesterfieldbeerfest.com.

Shockoe-on-the-Half Shell Festival: Oyster dishes from favorite local restaurants. Music from Alison Self and the Regulars, Andy Vaughan and the Driveline. Shell recycling event to benefit the Chesapeake Bay. Sept. 14, noon, 17th Street Farmers' Market. Free.

Tubes and Taps: Attendees can help raise money for the James River Park System by spending a day floating in it. Crossroads Coffee and Ice Cream's second annual benefit includes transportation to and from the River, food, live music and brews on tap from Foothills and New Belgium. Sept. 14, 11:30 a.m., Crossroads Coffee and Ice Cream, Forest Hill. Tickets are $40. crossroadsrva.com.

10th Annual St. Benedict Oktoberfest: One of the largest Oktoberfest events in Virginia, with 50 craft beers and German and Austrian wine and food. Dancing, games, events and a children's area. Sept. 19, 20 and 21. Free. stbenedictoktoberfest.com.

10th Annual Richmond Italian Festival: Returning to the 17th Street Farmers' Market, festival-goers can expect the same Italian food, wine and fun as years past. Children's area and a cultural exhibit featuring photos and artifacts from Richmond's Italian history. Sept. 27 and 28. 11 a.m. Suggested $5 donation. richmonditalianfestival.org.

Belmont Butchery's Beast Feast: Lots and lots of flame-roasted meat — though local produce and booze will be in attendance as well. Sept. 28, 1 p.m., benefitting Patrick Henry's Scotchtown in Beaverdam. Tickets are $80.

A Gourmet's Tour

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

Posted By on Tue, Sep 2, 2014 at 1:00 AM

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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