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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Will Tonight Be The Night for GWARbar?

Posted By on Wed, Dec 31, 2014 at 3:31 PM

UPDATE: Yes. GWARbar opens tonight at 7:30 p.m. And all the humans and aliens will celebrate the New Year, together, at last. 217 W. Clay St.

Co-owner Travis Croxton wasn't sure whether the ABC license for GWARbar would come through in time for the planned New Year's Eve opening. With a bacon-scented kitchen full of food and howling-head light fixtures installed, the place was ready to open its doors.

"The ABC [told me] no for today." Croxton says, "and that they are closed on Friday." He was able to get the license pushed through just in the nick of time, and the blood-streaked floors of GWAR's latest project were ready for the mighty flood of engineer boots soon to come at 7:30 p.m.

Correction: This post was originally written before GWARbar's ABC license arrived -- and things were looking dicey. It's been updated to reflect the happy arrival of the license late that afternoon.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Weekly Food Notes

Perly's New Market, Insomnia Cookies + More

Posted By on Tue, Dec 23, 2014 at 11:51 AM

Grace Street shopping: Perly’s Restaurant and Delicatessen owners plan to open a market next door to the restaurant next year, as first reported by Richmond.com. The as-yet-unnamed market on East Grace Street will offer grocery staples, beer and wine, as well as specialty items and prepared food from Perly’s.

Doughnut frenzy: The long-awaited Richmond outpost of Duck Donuts opened in the Shops at Willow Lawn last week. The cake-style doughnuts by the North Carolina-based company are favorites of Outer Banks visitors, and the shop’s arrival turns the heat up on the already hot local market for doughnuts.

Hog heaven: The Cultured Swine food truck will debut as a restaurant in January on Second Street. Chef and co-owner Corey Johnson is looking to street food from around the world for inspiration — think banh mi — in addition to what the truck currently serves, such as Korean bulgogi tacos or tamales stuffed with pulled pork and potatoes.

CLOSING: Franklin Street’s Dash Kitchen & Carry closed its doors last week.

Sweet stuff: As first reported by Richmond BizSense, Insomnia Cookies plans to open for business in Richmond next month. This is the granddaddy of all cookie-delivery companies, founded in 2003, with locations from the East Coast to the Midwest. Campus Cookies and the original local favorite, Red Eye Cookies, are about to come up against cheaper cookie prices and stiff competition for the late-night, Virginia Commonwealth University crowd.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Turkey Talk

What's the difference between a heritage breed turkey and a conventional bird, besides the price?

Posted on Thu, Dec 18, 2014 at 4:06 PM

You know that person. They're making a big deal out of serving a heritage turkey for Christmas dinner, and you have no idea what they're talking about. I mean, you're not completely ignorant -- you know it's a kind of special turkey grown by farmers who care about those special things. Right? And you suspect your friend might just be showing off because that turkey also sounds like it's probably expensive.

I talked to Belmont Butchery's Tanya Cauthen to find out what makes these birds so desirable.

"The simple thing is flavor," she says. "With a conventional bird, the meat itself is insipid -- the flavor has been bred out of it -- and it's been pumped full of water and flavor enhancers."

Heritage breeds are older varieties of turkeys with great names -- Midget White, Bourbon Red or Narragansett, for instance -- that have been ignored by the industrial poultry industry because they don't grow fast enough to turn a profit. Almost all conventional turkeys these days are Broad Breasted Whites. They can grow from an egg to saleable size in about three months. A heritage breed, in contrast, takes five to six months to get up to size.

Cauthen cautions against fixating only on heritage breeds. The most important thing, she says, is the way the bird is raised. "You want a turkey that was reared outside, on grass, with access to bugs and worms." A turkey raised indoors on generic turkey feed isn't going to develop the depth of flavor that a pastured bird has.

But price is still a consideration. A locally raised heritage breed can run you up to $7 per pound at Belmont Butchery. At Ellwood Thompson's Local Market, you'll find humanely raised turkeys from Pennsylvania's Koch's Turkeys at $2.99 per pound. And a Butterball? They're available for the low, low price of $1.59 per pound at Kroger.

Part of the price differential comes from the way the birds are produced. A farmer raising turkeys the traditional way in a pasture on a small farm is producing far fewer turkeys than a big, industrial farm. Volume isn't working in his favor.

But once the sticker shock wears off, you can't dismiss the way a pastured bird tastes.

"You taste it and go, 'Oh! This is what a turkey is supposed to taste like,'" says Cauthen. "It has a much bigger flavor."

Belmont Butchery (limited supply and today is the last day for special orders), 15 N. Belmont Ave., 422-8519, belmontbutchery.com

Ellwood Thompson's Local Market, 4 N. Thompson St., 359-7525, ellwoodthompsons.com

Kroger, various locations, kroger.com

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Weekly Food Notes

Fresca, Trapezium Brewery + More

Posted By on Tue, Dec 16, 2014 at 11:46 AM

Not dead: According to co-owner Jimmy Sneed, Fresca is still alive and going strong: “As Mark Twain almost said, the reports of our death have been greatly exaggerated.” Earlier this year the Sneeds announced Fresca was on the market. In fact, co-owner Jenna Sneed and her father are looking for a second location. Hustle on over there to try out their new vegan taco menu with such items as vegan chorizo, curry vegetable and vegan barbecue. frescaonaddison.com.

Brew news: Beer madness continues, with a new project by Michael Blevins and Dave McCormack in Old Towne Petersburg, as reported by Richmond BizSense. They plan to build Trapezium Brewery in a former ice and coal plant on Third Street. Eighteen apartments are planned for the building as well, and the project should be finished by early 2016. … Last week, Ardent Craft Ales, along with the Virginia Historical Society, released Jane’s Percimon Beer, based on a nearly 300-year-old recipe from a cookbook in the society’s collection.

Quaker quake: It was all over social media: Quaker Steak and Lube shut down and left employees in the lurch right before the holidays. General manager Michele Riccio started a campaign to raise money to help tide the staff over until they all can find new jobs. If you’d like to contribute, go to gofundme.com/rva-lube-employees.

Opening and closings: Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurant opened at Short Pump Towne Center. … Tazza Kitchen is opening a location on the South Side, as first reported by Richmond.com. … Mechanicsville’s Sapori Italian and Latin Cuisine closed its doors Sunday. … Patrick Harris, owner of Boka Truck, Boka Kantina and Boka Tako Bar, plans to open a South Side location called Boka Grill and Growlers near Forest Hill Avenue. … The Lair on West Main Street, barely a year old, also closed.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Big Love

The Richmond dining scene continues to make its mark in the national press.

Posted By on Mon, Dec 15, 2014 at 1:37 PM

People in the national food press just can't seem to get enough of Richmond. Saveur.com digital editor Laura Sant, who spent much of her 20s in Richmond, according to the article, shared 10 of her favorite places to eat and drink in the city.

Sant seems to adore most of Ed Vasaio's restaurants, including Mamma 'Zu, Edo's Squid and 8 1/2. (Maybe she doesn't know about Dinamo?) Sub Rosa and Peter Chang China Cafe continue to burnish their status as media darlings, and in a surprise mention (although well worth noticing), Saison's bar program made this national list.

She writes, "Think top-notch Sichuan dishes, Liberian-inspired soul food, and bakeries sourcing heirloom grains and milling their own flours. There’s never been a better time to visit RVA."

To check out all of Sant's picks, follow this link to "The Guide: Where to Eat in Richmond, Virginia."

Friday, December 12, 2014

Hog Heaven

The Cultured Swine food truck will debut as a restaurant in January.

Posted By on Fri, Dec 12, 2014 at 2:34 PM

It's just a baby food truck, really -- the Cultured Swine has only been around since October. Co-owner Corey Johnson cooks out of Michael Ng's commissary at Thai Corner and drives his truck (really, a trailer) to a spot near Tredegar Ironworks.

"I'd gotten the opportunity to see how he operates, and I like it," Ng says. "I thought, 'Let's put him in this retail store that we have.'" Johnson, along with partner and longtime friend Eric Freund, jumped at the chance.

At the beginning of January, Johnson and Freund will start getting the space on Second Street next to Big Herm's Kitchen ready for the brick-and-mortar debut of the Cultured Swine. A late January/early February opening date is planned.

Johnson grew up in the restaurant business. "My father was a fisherman," he says, "and my family had a fish house down in Portsmouth." He came to Richmond to attend to VCU and ended up working in restaurants all over town while he was in school. He found himself on Station 2's food truck and was offered a management position.

"I didn't see me doing burgers," says Johnson. "That's when I left and went to Alamo [BBQ] and really started to focus on the concept of doing barbecue."

He started thinking about his own food truck while he was managing the kitchen there. The culinary focus, the name, even the equipment were the easy parts. "The actual getting-legal aspect of getting a truck is the hardest part." It took him about eight months to get all the paperwork done.

Johnson and Freund will go through another legal process, including obtaining an ABC license, to get their restaurant open. It's a small space -- only eight small tables and seven barstools can fit.

"We'll have the same menu, but expanded, that the truck has now," says Johnson.

He's looking at street food from around the world for inspiration -- think banh mi -- in addition to the things the truck serves currently, like Korean bulgogi or Jamaican-inspired jerk chicken served taco-style, and tamales stuffed with pulled pork and potatoes.

"We're still in the experimentation process," he says.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Kuba Kuba Expands West

A second outpost of the popular Fan restaurant will open in early 2015.

Posted By on Wed, Dec 10, 2014 at 1:28 PM

West Enders are about to save a few bucks on gas when they get their own, much larger version of Kuba Kuba on Ridge Road. Manny Mendez, Johnny Giavos and long-time Kuba employee Hugo Jordan with assume the lease of the old Graffiti Grille property Jan. 2. Right now, Flinn's Restaurant occupies the space. Owner Tammy Flinn Farley plans to focus on her catering business, Cuisines Catering and the restaurant will close on Dec. 20.

"We'll have all our Kuba staples, except since it has a much bigger kitchen, we'll be able to do things like croquetas and sweet empanadas,instead of just savory ones," says Manny Mendez. "It's going to have a full bar so we'll be serving mojitos and for Saturday and Sunday brunch, we'll serve bloody Marias."

Mendez wants to keep it a family-oriented spot. "There'll be no reservations, just first come, first served."

Inside, according to Mendez, there isn't much work to be done. "We're going to try to Kuba-funk it," he says. "[But] the place is actually beautiful." He's gotten in touch with most of the original team, Rei Alvarez, Ed Trask and Andras Bality, who helped him with the interior when he originally opened the first Kuba Kuba in 1998.

He's looking at a March opening date. Mendez's second child was just born. "This has kind of been an awakening for me," he says, "because I've really had to slow down and pay a little more attention to my family."

Jordan will take over day-to-day operations of the new place, while Mendez and Giavos will stay focused on their original businesses.

"As my uncle says, when a guy is like Hugo, he's not Attila [the Hun], but he's the guy that carries Attila," says Mendez. "And he's been carrying Kuba for a very long time."

"I love the fact that all three of us are immigrants. Johnny's Greek, born in Belgium, Hugo was born in El Salvador and I was born in Cuba," he says. "We came to this country and look, we're part of this little restaurant [group] -- we're all a product of our parents coming here and trying to find a better place for us."

"I think with good luck and a positive attitude, I think this is going to be a great little adventure for us three together."

CORRECTION: This story was updated to reflect that Flinn's owner will focus on Cuisines Catering when the restaurant closes on Dec. 20. It also originally stated that Mendez, Giavos and Jordon bought the Ridge Road building, but that's not the case. They bought Tammy Flinn Farley's business and will take over the lease. We regret the error.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Pasture Chef Shawn Burnette On His Move to Richmond

Posted By on Tue, Dec 9, 2014 at 4:03 PM

The first time Shawn Burnette cooked with Charleston, South Carolina, chef Sean Brock was in the kitchen at Pasture for Off-Broad Appetit. He’d seen Brock on Charlie Rose’s show a week earlier. “I knew of him, but didn’t know anything about him — I sent him an email [asking for a job] that night,” he says. Burnette got that job as soon as he walked through the door of Brock’s flagship restaurant Husk a few days later. “I went home to gather my things to move from New York to Charleston. [Sean called] and said, ‘You’re from Richmond aren’t you? Come cook a dinner with me.’”

Burnette, now Pasture’s newest chef, and his wife, Cindy, met as dance partners in Richmond, and Burnette, like lots of other artists, gravitated to restaurant work.

“I’d go in as a bartender and somehow I’d end up in the kitchen,” Burnette says. “It wasn’t a planned out thing.” The couple settled in New York and were raising six kids when Burnette had the opportunity to become bar manager, which then led to a series of general manager jobs in New York restaurants.

He still wanted to be in the kitchen though. “At this point, my cooking had developed a lot. But I had six kids — you can’t just stop.” His wife, however, was supportive of a career change and told him to go ahead and make the switch. Just do it, she said. “I couldn’t get anyone to hire me as a cook, so I started as a dishwasher.” He went from making six figures to making $15 an hour.

That was in 2008. “I kept interviewing through Craigslist and I got lucky,” he says. He landed a job as a prep cook to chef William Hickox at the now closed Mary Queen of Scots, and Williams took him along as his senior sous chef to Del Posto. He went on to Husk and most recently cooked as sous chef at April Bloomfield’s Breslin Bar & Dining Room in the Ace Hotel.

“I’ve been fortunate to stumble into people that have taken very, very good care of me,” says Burnette, when I suggest that his impressive six-year career trajectory must have a lot of talent fueling it.

When Pasture co-owner Michele Jones asked him if he knew of anyone that might be interested in taking over the kitchen in Richmond, Burnette couldn’t resist. “That kind of exploded in my head,” he says. “It’s a huge opportunity to move forward and do all kinds new stuff.”

Openings and closings: The West End can get ready to go into a doughnut coma: Sugar Shack opened its latest location at Parham and Quioccasin roads. … The Frog remains supreme. Sweet Frog, that is. Froyo competitor Yapple, which opened up two doors down on Cary Street two years ago, is now closed. … Virginia Commonwealth University barbecue lovers can rejoice. Chesterfield’s Flyin’ Pig is opening a new location in the old Empire space, which closed this fall. … Monument Coffee and Records shut its doors Dec. 1. … Coriander, which specializes in Armenian cuisine, opened in the already diverse food scene of Carytown, in the former Mrs. Marshall’s Carytown Café spot. Prior to Coriander, Selosa occupied the space. … Twin Hickory Town Center’s BT’s Deli is closed after seven months, as reported by RVA News. …The newest location of Brew is scheduled to open on Dec. 15 at the Shoppes at Bellgrade. … Tarrant’s West opened on Monday.

Chef show: Vivian Howard of the PBS show, “A Chef’s Life,” will make an appearance and offer a demo at Southern Season on Dec. 11 from 3-6 p.m. southernseason.com.

Halt the holidays: Tired of all the fa-la-la-la-la? Strangeways Brewing will hold Midnight Frights Third Monster Bash on Friday, Dec. 12. Host Armistead Spottswoode will present “The Brain That Wouldn’t Die,” originally released in 1962. In addition, you’ll find food trucks, cake and lots of beer. strangewaysbrewing.com.

Books and beer: Hardywood Park Craft Brewery and Chop Suey books have invited 27 authors to their first annual Books and Beer Holiday Brew-Ho-Ho on Dec. 14 from 3-6 p.m. In addition to trying Hardywood’s famous Gingerbread Stout, you can get a book signed by your favorite author, dance to live music and fill up on food from Goatocado, BoDillaz and Bonbontruck. hardywood.com.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Mushroom Man

Dave Scherr of Dave & Dee's Mushrooms died on Friday.

Posted By on Mon, Dec 8, 2014 at 12:03 PM

David Scherr, 62, of Dave & Dee's Homegrown Mushrooms died unexpectedly on Friday, Dec. 5. Scherr and his wife, Dee, started their mushroom business in 2003. Both Scherrs previously worked for a car dealership. Their farm had a surreal quality when you saw it: Mushrooms grew on the outside of big bags hanging from the ceiling inside of a long Quonset hut on their property in Sedley.

Soon, they were providing three kinds of oyster mushrooms for restaurants all over Richmond and as far east as Virginia Beach — places such as Lemaire, Millie's Dinner, the Roosevelt, the Magpie, Heritage (and more), plus retailers such as Ellwood Thompson Local Market and Whole Foods. No cause of death was available at publication time.

CORRECTION: This story originally stated that the Scherrs spoke at Fire, Flour & Fork at the end of October. Although they were scheduled, they were unable to attend.

Chock Full of Chocolate

A family recipe reaches the masses.

Posted By on Mon, Dec 8, 2014 at 10:56 AM

William Byrd Rawlings made great chocolate sauce. So good, in fact, that his daughter, Ann Colby, wanted only one thing after he died -- the recipe. She'd helped take care of her father while he was sick and her mother wanted to give her something to say thank you.

"I know that sounds silly," says Ann Colby's daughter Scottie Phillips, "but my mom is a good cook, and she noticed that the sauce doesn't separate."

They've been making it for years, giving it away as Christmas gifts to friends and teachers. They received so many thank-you notes raving about their sauce that Colby and her daughters started to think about doing something bigger.

Inspired by the story of another local entrepreneur, Steve Kim, maker of KimKim sauce, the three got in touch with Virginia Beach's Willard Asburn of Ashburn Sauce Co. They struck a deal to start bottling their Willie Byrd Dark Chocolate Sauce. Conveniently, Helen Lohmar, Colby's other daughter, lives in Virginia Beach and could serve as point person on the manufacturing end.

"We've had plenty of stops and starts," Phillips says. There was a mistake on the label, and then they had a hard time finding a top to fit the jars they'd ordered. "I was shocked. I mean, a straight, round jar," she says, "and the tops do not all transfer. It's a whole new language and it's a whole new learning curve."

They also had a problem finding chocolate. The company that they ordered it from informed them on the day that it was supposed to be delivered that it didn't carry that chocolate anymore. "We had to regroup and my mom was distraught."

Colby went to dinner that night with friends, and it turned out that one of them used to work for Performance Food Group. He still had contacts in the food industry and was able to get them in touch with someone who could solve their chocolate problem. "We've had a lot of fantastic, fortuitous luck," Phillips says.

They produced their first run in August 2013, and you can now find Willie Byrd's chocolate sauce in Whole Foods, Fresh Market and Libbie Market. And they've expanded the line to include chocolate peppermint, sea-salt-caramel chocolate and espresso chocolate.

"As my mom says, 'It's a great way to retire,'" Phillips says. "She's having some fun."williebyrdsauce.com.

CORRECTION: This story was originally titled "Chocolate Cravings." We didn't realize that was the name of another local business. We regret the error.

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