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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Short Order

Wine Summit Secrets, Poe Museum Shindig + More

Posted By on Tue, Oct 28, 2014 at 1:00 AM

Raise a Glass

It's daunting to see eight glasses of wine sitting in front of you at 9:30 a.m. That's how the Virginia Wine Summit began at the Jefferson on Tuesday, Oct. 21.

While Virginia wine takes a few big steps onto the international wine stage — it's been climbing the stairs for a while — the blind tasting was a test to see if the audience, made up of Virginia winemakers, distributors, restaurant owners and sommeliers, could pick out the four Virginia Bordeaux-style blends from others across the country and around the world.

It wasn't easy. Virginia wine proved to have a place at the table with the best. How, then, to decide? When the subject of Virginia wine comes up, I've heard wine drinkers and even restaurant owners ask, "Is there any?" The summit's keynote speaker, Food & Wine's executive wine editor, Ray Isle, emphatically says yes.

Defining the characteristics of Virginia wine became the thread running througout all of the panels that day. "We're becoming a wine-producing country," Isle says. "We're starting to recognize that wine is something that comes from a specific place."

One panel called Dark Horses began as a discussion of the more obscure varietals such as Petit Manseng and Tannat, grown by Virginia vitners. But it gradually became a debate about whether winemakers should stick with two or three grapes that do well in the state's climate, marketing those aggressively, or continue the extensive experimentation that's characterized the last 20 to 30 years.

"In Virginia, you've got so many different issues," panelist and wine writer Linda Murphy says. "You've got weather, you've got emergencies, you've got discoveries all the time. You cannot grow too many varieties here."

The Washington Post's wine columnist, Dave McIntyre, agreed with her: "I think experimentation is what makes Virginia wines so exciting now."

During the afternoon panel, It's All Relative, the price of a bottle of wine versus its quality quickly became a discussion of the personal value of a particular wine to the purchaser. During this blind tasting, Virginia wines ranged from around $25 (Veritas Viognier) to $65 (the Williamsburg Winery's Governor's Cup winner, Adagio 2010). One complaint about Virginia wine is that it's too expensive. But the vineyards in Virginia are small, and it's difficult for winemakers to produce the volume of wine to match the prices of California's Mondavi or Gallo.

Instead, the value of the wine becomes less tangible. "Wine is a cultural product," says panelist John T. Edge, head of the Southern Foodways Alliance. "Wine is a product of people and place, the same way literature is an expression of people and place." It becomes the story of how and where it was made as well of where and who you were with when you first drank a glass, panelists agreed.

The summit ended in the rotunda of the Jefferson with sparkling wine and an appearance by Sen. Mark Warner, who arrived unexpectedly, posing for pictures, and then disappearing just as quickly as he came in. It was a long day — a marathon even — sipping fine wine and nibbling on paired delicacies. Virginia wine has arrived, attendees agreed, as they made plans to meet again the following year. Clearly, it's every Virginian's duty to buy and drink them often.

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Brain food: Camden's Dogtown Market celebrates the season with a special three-course wine dinner Oct. 31 at 5 p.m. called the Morgues Floor. It includes such dishes as stewed eye (a poached scallop float), entrails (squid ink pasta) and brains (warm, pickled cauliflower with a beet vinaigrette). Tickets are $35 excluding wine or $50 including wine. cdmrva.com.

Horror show: After a costume contest and showing of the film "Tales of Terror" the night before, the Poe Museum will play host to Veronica Price, daughter of the legendary horror actor Vincent Price, to launch the new Vincent Price Signature Collection wines. They'll be paired with selections from Price's 1965 cookbook, "A Treasury of Great Recipes," prepared by chef Ken Wall of the Dining Room at the Berkeley Hotel along with desserts by pastry chef Cornelia Moriconi of Can Can Brasserie. The event is Saturday, Nov. 1, at 6 p.m. Tickets are $50, and Veronica Price also will sign copies of her book, "Vincent Price: A Daughter's Biography." poemuseum.org.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Short Order

Rappahannock in Esquire, New Chicken Fiesta + More

Posted By on Tue, Oct 21, 2014 at 1:00 AM

Rappahannock Rules

When new Esquire restaurant editor Josh Ozersky was in Richmond this spring for the Mid-Atlantic Food Writers Symposium, he must have been impressed. Last week, East Grace Street's Rappahannock was named one of the magazine's best new restaurants of 2014. Esquire also named Virginia as region of the year and gave Richmond's Sub Rosa Bakery a shout-out.

Rappahannock and chef Dylan Fultineer join such winners as Del Campo in Washington, Chicago's Alinea, and, this year, Sean Brock's Husk in Charleston, S.C. (See our interview with the former Lemaire sous chef on page 76). "It's a huge honor," Fultineer says. "It's a lineup of some of the best chefs in the country, and it's mind-blowing to be put into that company." He was also one of four chefs out of the 12 chefs to be asked to cook for the gala.

Ozersky writes: "Chef Dylan Fultineer has three things at his disposal that all chefs long for: amazing seafood, a big space, and an audience ready to be wowed. And wowed they are, or at least they should be."

Cousins Ryan and Travis Croxton, owners of Rappahannock Oyster Co., opened the restaurant in 2012. They met Fultineer while he was at Chicago's Blackbird and were able to lure him away from a West Coast stint at the Hungry Cat. Fultineer assembled a network of local purveyors when he arrived, and dishes range from a rockfish and oyster bourride to the fall menu's wood-grilled rainbow trout with shell beans, red kuri squash, guanciale and pickled red onions.

"We're really honored of course, but also so thankful for Josh to recognize Dylan's ability and prowess in the kitchen," co-owner Travis Croxton says. "We've got some incredibly talented chefs in this city, but we're not quite sure many folks realize what a coup it was to bring Dylan, with his pedigree, into Richmond, and we're hoping that this award helps us shine that light a little brighter."

Perhaps it's time for Richmonders to order more than oysters and Prosecco?

New love: Chicken Fiesta opened on Broad Street in the old Cameron's Seafood Market space, across from the Department of Motor Vehicles, and there was much rejoicing. Its Peruvian rotisserie chicken and Tex-Mex sides have been a cult favorite since the restaurant opened its first location in Midlothian in 2006, and devotees have only multiplied since another opened in the West End. Will the Fan and environs as easily succumb to its charms? chickenfiesta.com.

Twenty-five and counting: The venerable Chez Foushee celebrates its 25th anniversary with $25 two-course lunch and dinner specials. Feast on things like chargrilled sirloin with beef cheek demi glace or trout almondine over smoked mushroom and white bean ragout, through Oct. 31. chezfoushee.com.

Last call: The Viceroy closed its doors Friday, Oct. 10. "We gave it a good run," co-owner David Bender says. A deal is in the works for another restaurant in the space.

Pumpkin madness: Now that all the dust and ruffled feathers have settled (hopefully), we can enjoy the Scott's Addition Pumpkin Festival with a clear conscience, perhaps with a cup of craft beer in one hand and a pumpkin funnel cake from Buz and Ned's Real Barbecue in the other. Festivities on the Boulevard are Oct. 25, from noon-5 p.m. For more details see page 65. scottsadditionpumpkinfestival.com.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Short Order

RVA Food News: Soup Nazi visit, fall events roundup + more.

Posted By on Tue, Oct 14, 2014 at 1:00 AM

Farewell Phil’s

Poof! Phil’s Continental Lounge was open Monday, Oct. 8. But by the next day, if you looked in the window, you’d see a bar full of condiments and not much else.

In 2011, the restaurant was forced to move one block west to 5810 Grove Ave., when the landlord declined to renew the lease. The Continental now occupies that space, next to the Westhampton Theater.

Owners Kyle Measell and Katy Wilson-Measell sent out an announcement later in the week that they decided to retire. The business was for sale as of this spring for $150,000.

A West End institution and loved by regulars for its casual atmosphere, bar food, beer and cocktails — much has been said about the vodka limeades — Phil’s had been open since 1939.

Soup’s on: Actor Larry Thomas has probably heard “No soup for you!” more times than he’d like, but the Soup Nazi of “Seinfeld” has a big heart under that white jacket of his. He’ll be in Richmond on Saturday, Oct. 18, for Max’s Positive Vibe Café’s Souper Bowl I. Ten restaurants, including Stella’s and Mamma ’Zu, will compete for the best-soup prize, with, of course, the Soup Nazi as judge. The Style-sponsored event takes place from 1-5 p.m. in the cafe’s parking lot in the Stratford Hills Shopping Center. Proceeds will benefit Positive Vibe’s training program for people with disabilities. positiveviberva.com.

Fresh off the farm: Manakintowne Growers will hold the Sunday Farm Dinner to benefit the Center for Rural Culture, Oct. 19, from 5-9 p.m. Ingredients will be come from farms in the center-sponsored Local Roots co-op.Chefs showing off their fall-menu skills include Richmond’s Dylan Fultineer of Rappahannock, and Charlottesville chefs Harrison Keevil of Brookville Restaurant and Dean Maupin of C&O Restaurant. centerforruralculture.org.

Helping hams: Buz and Ned’s Real Barbecue throws a benefit, Helping Hams for Charity, from 6-10 each Monday night at both locations. Ten percent of all orders go to different local nonprofits, and owner Buz Grossberg has raised more than $320,000 since he started giving nearly 25 years ago.

Fall Events Update

Start working on your chicken-dance skills: The big 46th annual Richmond Oktoberfest celebration is Friday and Saturday, Oct. 17 and 18, from 5-11 p.m., at Richmond International Raceway. You can raise a stein while celebrating all things German with bratwurst, knockwurst, sauerkraut and plenty of beer. richmondoktoberfestinc.com.

Sometimes you need to step back and take a breath of 19th-century air. It’s fall in Virginia, and, once upon a time, bringing in the harvest was the most important part of the year. You can get a taste of what it was like and help hand press apples for cider at Crump Park and Meadow Farm Museum’s Harvest Festival on Saturday, Oct. 18, from noon-4 p.m. henrico.us/rec/specialevents.

The 17th Street Farmers’ Market will hold its first Kickin’ Chicken Wingfest on Sunday, Oct. 19, from noon-5 p.m. You can expect competitions, beer and myriad wings, plus live music, including the Thomas Jefferson High School Marching Band. enrichmond.org.

Wine, Women and Shoes will benefit Bon Secours Richmond Healthcare Foundation on Sunday, Oct. 19, from 2-5 p.m. Head out to Short Pump’s Hilton Richmond Hotel and Spa to sip a little vino, enjoy a shoe-centric fashion show, plus a little mingling with the Shoe Guys, handsome volunteers who are there to help the cause. winewomenandshoes.com.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Short Order

RVA Food News: Boathouse in Short Pump, Commercial Taphouse Switch + More

Posted By on Tue, Oct 7, 2014 at 1:00 AM

Sailing Westward

It'll be landlocked, but Short Pump deserves its own Boathouse, no matter how far away the nearest lake, river or ocean. Kevin Healy is fully aware of the irony and refers to this incarnation as "dry-docked" at the Short Pump Town Center.

"Because it's not on a body of water," Healy says, "it gives us a little artistic liberty to interpret what that means."

Both the Boathouse at Sunday Park and the Boathouse at Rocketts Landing trade on their spectacular views, so instead of looking outward, Healy is looking elsewhere for design inspiration. "We're going to try to make it beach-cottage-y," he says. "Hopefully we can achieve a really cool inside that's inviting and comfortable."

Healy has spent the last 35 years vacationing in the Hamptons at his in-laws' place and has a clear vision of what he wants. He's working with Walter Parks Architects and contractor Kevin O'Leary to help make that become a reality.

Menus at the other Boathouse locations change seasonally and that will be no different at the new restaurant. But Healy plans to expand raw bar offerings and add sushi. Another difference is that this Boathouse will serve lunch six days a week, as well as dinner and brunch on Sundays.

"It's not the lake and it's not the river, for sure," Healy says. "We know we have a lot of customers in that area. If we bring what we do closer — it won't be the same as Sunday Park or Rocketts Landing — but hopefully, it will give them a reason to come out a little more often and enjoy what we do."

Construction will start in mid-November with an opening date planned for mid-April. boathouserva.com.

New brew: Mekong and the Answer Brewpub's An Bui will expand his beer empire to the Fan this week. Commercial Taphouse officially reopens under his ownership Friday, Oct. 10. The menu isn't exactly Vietnamese cuisine — fusion is the word we've been hearing from Bui since he bought the place. On it, you'll see executive chef (and An's niece) Thuy Bui's pot stickers, ramen and bulgogi beef sub with pickled radish and kimchi, which is topped with a fried egg and seaweed, along with other dishes, including a regular ol' burger. Most important, Commercial Taphouse will become the home of 20 taps and an unnumbered amount of bottled beer — and a new outlet for this beer-crazy town's beer fanatics.

Restaurant roundup: A new restaurant called Belle and James is planned on the ground floor of an under-construction Hampton Inn and Homewood Suites on East Main Street. … Lion's Paw developer Charlie Diradour started construction on the Boulevard on what will become a Starbucks (with a drive-through) and beer-and-wine retailer Growlers to Go. … Moo Burgers aims to make affordable burgers that are healthier, using hormone-free, grass-fed beef and will open in the old Nile Ethiopian space. … Around the corner, DiCarlo's Pizza is coming to the former TNT Diner-Myte location on West Broad Street. … And Church Hill's cheese-steak shop, Str8 Out of Philly, has closed its doors.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Make It So

16 (and counting) ways Richmond grocery stores could make our lives easier.

Posted By on Wed, Oct 1, 2014 at 12:09 PM

Earlier this week on Twitter, I posted a series of helpful hints to make grocery stores more user-friendly and logical. Some people felt I was ranting, and as a friend pointed out, the rapid-fire tweets and occasional all-caps may have lead to that characterization. Ahem.

However, I think every point I made was valid. Here you'll find what I hope all RVA grocery stores (and I'm not picking on anyone in particular, I promise) will see as a little gentle, constructive criticism.

1. Why are canned tomatoes often grouped together with jarred tomato sauce and pasta? It's a canned vegetable and belongs with the rest of them.

2. Why isn't feta cheese with the plain old cheddar, swiss or Monterey Jack? Why is it considered so special that you find it next to the brie? It's not that special.

3. Let's end discrimination. Organic food should go on the shelves with its nonorganic counterpart. Stop with the special section.

4. Where is the bread? Why can't I find it? Put the bread aisle near the bakery.

5. What's the difference between tortillas in the refrigerated section and the ones on the shelf?

6. What's the deal with international food? Why can't all that stuff be categorized with the appropriate American version? (For instance, soy sauce belongs with the ketchup — they're both condiments).

7. Let's all agree to just go ahead and put pet food, grilling paraphernalia, light bulbs and office supplies on the same aisle. You never can find charcoal or index cards when you need them. Might as well pick up a box of dog biscuits and a light bulb at the same time.

8. How well do those greeting cards sell? Do you really need a whole aisle of them?

9. Here's what's wrong with the South today: You can no longer buy rhubarb in the frozen food section.

10. Raisins can be very hard to find. Are they a snack food or a baking ingredient? We all need to make a decision and stick to it.

11. Is working behind the deli counter hell on earth? Those folks never seem happy. Please pay them more so that when I ask for thin-cut, mesquite-smoked turkey, they don't sigh heavily and reduce the meat to crumbles.

12. The exception to every rule: Pepperidge Farm Goldfish should be everywhere.

13. Things that are not juice don't belong on the juice shelves.

14. Wine. Stock it in the front. I forget to buy it when it's in the back. This makes me very unhappy.

15. If your store is so large that I lose the will to live when I pick up the butter in the dairy section and remember I forgot to get garlic in the produce section, please provide me with a Segway.

16. Where are the olives?

What do you think grocery stores need to change to make your life easier?

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