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Friday, January 30, 2015

Pancake Day

Give the gift of pancakes on Valentine's Day and help others at the same time.

Posted By on Fri, Jan 30, 2015 at 11:37 AM

Last year on Valentine’s Day, RVA Coffee Love asked you to buy an extra cup of coffee for someone else when you ordered yours at a local coffee shop. This year, reconfigured as RVA Pancake Love, the same group is asking everyone to come to the Broadberry on Feb. 14, from 9:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m., and eat pancakes instead. It’s to benefit FeedMore and the idea is a lot more interesting than you probably would imagine.

The event organizers asked local artists to cook up the pancakes and throw a little creativity in with the batter. (Check out Hedcakes to get a feel for what they’ll be up to.) Hedcakes’ Steve Hedberg will lead the pack with other artists including Noah Scalin, Ryn Bruce, Doug Orleski -- who draws Style's weekly cartoon RVA Coffee Stain -- Christiana Woodward and more.

And take note — gluten-free pancakes will be available as well.

So, no excuses. It’s an all-you-can-eat event and the profits go entirely to FeedMore. The organizers are encouraging pancake lovers to purchase an extra ticket for someone else when they buy their own. The cost is $15 for adults and for children 12 and under, tickets are $5. For more information, visit rvapancakelove.com.

Correction: Steve Hedberg's name was misspelled when this story originally published.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Brew News

Center of the Universe Brewing Company expands to Tidewater.

Posted By on Thu, Jan 29, 2015 at 11:31 AM

The wild beer ride continues. Carytown’s Garden Grove Brewery will be the 100th brewery in Virginia when it opens, and today, Ashland’s Center of the Universe Brewing Company announced that it’s expanding into Norfolk and Virginia Beach in February.

It’s remarkable growth for a company that was started just over two years ago by an ex-baseball player and former aerospace engineer, Chris and Phil Ray. COTU was the first in the area to can beer instead of bottle it, and if you were looking around the summer of 2013, COTU brews such as Main St. Virginia Ale and Chin Music Amber Lager began discreetly showing up deckside at pools across Richmond.

“When talk of expanding our territories started, we all agreed the Tidewater area was first on our list,” owner Chris Ray said in a press release.

Hoffman Beverage Co., which will distribute the COTU brand, is the Southeastern Virginia equivalent of Brown Distributing and similarly carries an extensive selection of craft beer. Legend Brewing is the only other Richmond-area brand that it offers.

Starting the week of Feb. 23, expect to see events celebrating COTU’s introduction to the area at Virginia Beach’s Whiskey Kitchen, Tubby’s Tavern and Whole Foods, and Norfolk’s Public House.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Doughnut Hole

Sugar Shack Coffee closes on East Main Street.

Posted By on Wed, Jan 28, 2015 at 6:24 PM

In a town gripped with doughnut-mania, it’s always a shock when a doughnut shop actually closes. Today, Sugar Shack announced on its Facebook page that it was closing its East Main Street location. That, coupled with the temporary closing of the Lombardy Street shop for renovations this week, sent a shiver down the collective spine of doughnut addicts everywhere.

At the moment, news comes from a press release sent to the media by owner Ian Kelley. “The heart of Sugar Shack Donuts is the original location on Leigh and Lombardy and the demand remains higher there than the current possibility of supply,” he writes. “With that in mind, we wanted to make sure that we could increase production at Lombardy and stick true with our original vision of creating a community donut and coffee shop.”

As I peer into the depths of a deep-fat fryer hoping more information will be revealed to me, I can say that the Lombardy Street store will reopen this weekend, the Parham Road location is still going strong, the Alexandria shop is open, and plans are moving forward to open three other shops in Fredericksburg, Midlothian and Manchester.

Sugar Shack can’t, won’t, isn’t going away.

CORRECTION: This story originally stated that a Sugar Shack location was about about to open in Arlington. It's open already in Alexandria. We apologize for the error.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Weekly Food Notes

Restaurant Week price bump, local hops + more.

Posted By on Tue, Jan 27, 2015 at 12:07 PM

The Elbys: Ah, the Elbys. It'a a combination of spectacle, costume party and the prom — and still manages to recognize those restaurants and chefs who excelled this past year. Winners on Sunday night included L’Opossum for best new restaurant, Joe Sparatta and Heritage — who took home awards for chef of the year and restaurant of the year — and Metzger’s Brittanny Anderson as rising star. Comfort’s Travis Milton won the innovator award. Acacia Mid-town received both the Richmond stalwart and best wine program awards. Best beer program went to Saison. The Rogue Gentlemen won for best cocktail program. Kirby Baltzegar of Dutch & Co. was named employee of the year and best purveyor went to Autumn Olive Farms. A full recap of the awards night here.

Growing gifts: The price of a prix fixe meal during Richmond Restaurant Week (April 20-26) will go from $25.14 to $29.15. The week started in 2001, and according to Richmond.com, this is the first price increase in eight years. The increase benefits FeedMore, which will receive $4.15 from each meal as opposed to last year’s $2.14.

Local hops: Although Goochland’s Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery grows hops for its own use, there’s been no large-scale hops industry in Virginia. James River Distillery owner Jonathan Staples hopes to change that. Commonwealth gin, made by the distillery in Richmond, is one of the only varieties of gin to include hops as an ingredient. In addition to a 6-acre farm dedicated to the crop, Staples is planning to build a processing plant with help from $80,000 in grants from the Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Fund and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Ashland joy: Jake’s Place Restaurant & Market opened in Ashland last week. Yohman’s Garden owners Wendy and John Yohman renovated an old gas station that was sitting empty at Thompson and Chapman streets and are serving Southern comfort food such as fried green tomatoes, pimento cheese sandwiches, bologna burgers and the intriguing smoked meatloaf. Jake’s Place is open for lunch and dinner. jakesplaceashland.com.

Lunch out: Students at Virginia Commonwealth University and Maggie Walker Governor’s School mourned the loss of Great Wraps near Kroger on Lombardy Street. Never fear, on-the-go cheesy chicken wrap lovers! Four Brothers Bistro & Grill (not to be confused with Five Guys Burger and Fries because there’s one less guy involved) is coming soon to the vacant space. Expect deli fare, including tuna melts, Philly cheese steaks and Reubens.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Disco Dining

Richmond's food and drink scene parties down at the 2015 Elby awards.

Posted By on Mon, Jan 26, 2015 at 1:05 PM

"You know there isn't any alcohol in the bottles," says the culinary student manning the water station at the 2015 Elby awards. The two be-sequined women staring at his straight face couldn't quite figure out the joke. Behind them, in the crammed marble hall of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, alcohol was pouring freely from wine and cocktail stations, and waiters were walking around with trays full of even more drinks. Stashed away from the main action in a tiny corner, water wasn't much in demand.

Ah, the Elbys. It's a combination of spectacle, costume party and the prom — and still manages to recognize those restaurants and chefs who excelled in the past year. Unexpected interjections from the audience during the ceremony and unbridled cheering after each winner is announced are the norm. Everyone knows everyone, and the collegial goodwill flattens egos — at least for a couple of hours.

Themes are squeezed hard at the event, and this year's embraced all things from 1970s-era Studio 54. Master of ceremonies Jason Tesauro danced in a silver suit with a group of scantily clad VCU Gold Rush dancers while a funk-driven live band played onstage. Tesauro, a man who tried to get "stage fright" removed from the dictionary, revealed that he can not only rap, but also summon his inner Barry Manilow and sing 'Copacabana' with full-throated gusto.

The gloves were off when the show began immediately with the best new restaurant category, won handily by L'Opossum. Chef and owner David Shannon seemed slightly overcome but recovered quickly to thank those who contributed to the restaurant's success.

Two of the biggest awards went to Heritage and its co-owner Joe Sparatta. He seemed stunned after Heritage was announced as restaurant of the year, and later, co-owner and brother-in-law Mattias Haglund stood repeating: "I can't believe it. I just can't believe it." Sparatta's win as chef of the year may have contributed to the happy, yet glazed looks on the faces of Heritage's entire staff.

Acacia Mid-Town also won two awards: one for Richmond stalwart (best restaurant open five years or more) and another for its wine program. Metzger Bar & Butchery's Brittanny Anderson took home the rising star award, and in a new category, purveyor of the year, Autumn Olive Farms won and also gave a heartfelt shout-out to fellow nominee Manakintowne Growers, which blazed the path for local farmers.

Another new category, the innovator award, went to Comfort's Travis Milton. "I was already crying before I won when I heard all of the nice things Ronni Lundy said about me," he said later, of the quote read in his introduction from one of the founders of the Southern Foodways Alliance.

The best beer program award went to Saison, which brought its entire staff onstage. The Rogue Gentleman took home the best cocktail program award and Kirby Baltzegar of Dutch & Co. was named employee of the year.

While giant wigs bobbed on the dance floor and classic '70s music videos played above on the marble walls of the museum, Culinard and J. Sargeant Reynolds culinary students fed a celebratory crowd that was unfettered for an evening from feeding anyone at all.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Mushroom Magic

Jake Greenbaum and Chris Haynie grow mushrooms in an unlikely urban spot.

Posted By on Fri, Jan 23, 2015 at 1:36 PM

The word farm is relative. Bucolic pastures are great, but you really just need something to grow and a place to grow it.

Urban Choice Mushroom Farm is located deep in Scott's Addition in the corner of a warehouse. Rudy's Exotic Mushrooms takes up the front of the space and there's an artist's studio across the way. My first thought when I walk to the back with co-owner Jake Greenbaum is: "Where exactly are the mushrooms growing? Behind that crate? Or that one?" There's a lot of stuff in this warehouse.

I'm nearly right, but not quite. Greenbaum, a senior at Virginia Commonwealth University, explains that he and business partner, Chris Haynie, start isolated strains of oyster mushrooms in petri dishes at an off-site lab. Haynie grew mushrooms outdoors before Urban Choice's start and Greenbaum cultivated a few at home — but nature is tricky. This method enables them to keep producing the same, strong variety of mushroom again and again.

Then the process gets low-tech. The spores are mixed with wet chopped straw and sawdust, and its mycelium — similar to plant roots — is allowed to grow in long, white tendrils inside plastic bags hung with others in a small, plastic-tented area. When I lift a flap, I'm hit with warm, heavy air that smells like a mix of sweet hay and dirt — in a good way.

When the mycelium runs visibly throughout, these bags are transferred to a walk-in, to more closely control the growing environment. It's there that the mushroom magic happens.

"Oyster mushrooms in general are extremely aggressive in the way that they multiply," Greenbaum says. That's why the two chose to grow this particular variety as their initial crop. "They love straw and [this] method is extremely cheap."

Shelves line the walls and are stacked with bins and bags of mushrooms sprouting white fins through cut-out holes. Greenbaum asks if I want to try my hand at harvesting, and when I tug at an enormous cluster, it's surprisingly tough and hard to pull from the bin. It turns out to weigh three pounds.

Greenbaum and Haynie are providing mushrooms to Heritage, Belmont Food Shop and Chez Foushee, and you'll find them at a stand this winter at the Farmers Market at St. Stephens on Saturdays. Urban Choice produces anywhere from 30 to 60 pounds a week, and they want to get that yield up to 150 pounds. Greenbaum has a few experimental logs of shitake mushrooms growing and plans to add Lion's Mane in the future to diversify their offerings.

"All the different mushrooms have their own personalities," he says. "The shitakes ... are so comical and so magical, and the oysters are more pretty, like ballerinas that spin out of control. Everything just has its own smell, its own feel. It's really interesting."

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Weekly Food Notes

Kuba Kuba owner's Cuban memories, new cider options + more

Posted By on Tue, Jan 20, 2015 at 3:30 PM

When a 6-year-old Manny Mendez first walked into the grocery store on Broad Street where Lowe’s Home Improvement is now located, he was dumbfounded. He’d never seen row upon row of shelves stocked with food before. It was 1968, and he and his family had just arrived in the United States from Cuba.

“There, you wait all day in line with your grandfather and when you get up front, you get your 2 pounds of rice, four kinds of beans and your gallon of milk,” says Mendez, who now owns Kuba Kuba. “[It] was a lot different here.”

Things are changing in Cuba. Last week the government released 53 prisoners as part of the deal it made with President Barack Obama in exchange for lifting the 54-year-old American trade embargo against the country.

The Mendez family’s opinion about the normalization of diplomatic relations is divided along generational lines.

“I do not get angry with my mom [when she says], ‘Nuke them! Let God sort it out,’” Mendez says.

His mother, Judith, spent 13 months in a Cuban prison, sentenced to hard labor, because the government suspected that she was an American spy. Why? She worked for AT&T. “We call my mom a freedom fighter,” Mendez says. “I don’t have those same bitter feelings.”

In Cuba, his parents kept politics away from their children and Mendez would only hear how wonderful Fidel Castro was. Once they arrived in Richmond, things turned upside-down. “All of a sudden Fidel was evil,” he says. “There was a little bit of confusion for me.”

In the 1960s, the Red Cross negotiated a deal to fly Cubans out of the country, called freedom flights. The Mendez family, visas in hand, planned to go to Spain, but the only flights available that day were to the United States.

“In a way, we got lucky,” Mendez says. “It saved us the airfare later from Spain to the U.S.”

Mendez’s grandmother took advantage of the overabundance of American food. She did all the cooking for the family — with Mendez’s uncle, aunt and cousins living on the same block. The cooking started just after breakfast, he recalls.

“Sometimes [the kids] fell for the advertising and got Cheerios and Frosted Flakes,” he says. “We always came back to Cuban food though.”

His grandmother’s pressure cooker was going all day, filled with garlic, beans and ham hocks. She cooked cassava root, made watermelon popsicles and roasted pork. On Cutshaw Avenue, where the family lived, the smell of her cooking was a brand-new experience for her American neighbors.

“I don’t think they’d smelled a lot of garlic before,” he says. You can see his grandmother’s recipes all over the menu at Kuba Kuba.

When he looks back on his childhood before and after his parents left Cuba, Mendez doesn’t see a lot of difference in the way he felt in one place or another. “Too me, life was always wonderful,” he says. “I never knew that there were any problems.”

Happy days: Buddy’s opened in its new location Thursday, Jan. 15. The space brought all of its knickknacks and artwork along with it, including the stuffed buffalo head. The space is lighter, sleeker and has a lot more room for rejoicing than the old one. Chef Carly Herring’s menu includes new things — pterodactyl wings (barbecue or buffalo), chili cheese tots and grilled meatloaf — plus plenty of old favorites.

Sexy nights: When you think about it, pairing food, wine and lingerie seems like a natural fit. In fact, you may already have tried it — but perhaps not during a night out. Carytown’s Amour Wine Bistro will throw a pre-Valentine’s Day event Jan. 25 at 6 p.m., serving a three-course dinner paired with wine, while diners enjoy a fashion show from nearby lingerie store Fiamour. Tickets are $29. amourwinebistro.com.

Apple a day: Courthouse Creek Cidery, which will be near Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery in Goochland, will start production in the fall, Richmond BizSense reports. The cidery is still in the planning stage, and owners Eric and Liza Cioffi say they’ll use apples from other Virginia orchards until they get their own trees going. The Cioffis aim to plant 30 different kinds of American, English and French apple trees, along with a few pear trees.

Staying for dinner: Saucy’s Walk-Up in Petersburg opened a dinner spot right behind its stand, Saucy’s Sit-Down, at 257 E. Bank St. on Jan. 10. Expect lots of stainless steel, six beers on tap and the same well-loved menu from 5-10 p.m., Mondays-Saturdays.

Test of time: Poe’s Pub, Helen’s Restaurant and River City Diner turned 20 in 2014, and the Melting Pot is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. Happy birthday!

Lamb of God Gets in on the Act

John Cambell of Lamb of God will take over the late shift at GWARbar tonight.

Posted By on Tue, Jan 20, 2015 at 12:20 PM

It'll be a clash of titans, a conflict in the metal world, a battle of bands without music ... actually, it won't be. Lamb of God's bass player John Campbell and his long, silver locks are scheduled to pick up a shift tonight at GWARbar, according to RVA Magazine. The two bands have a long history.

Lamb of God lead singer Randy Blythe told a story at GWAR frontman Dave Brockie's memorial service last April of a miserable night in the band's early days, playing in front of an almost empty Twisters (now Strange Matter) on West Grace Street. As Blythe was dragging out the band's equipment, he saw Brockie leaning against the bar. "It's a long way to the top if you want to rock 'n' roll," he said to Blythe. And laughed in his loud, booming Brockie laugh.

Still, they became friends despite Brockie's annoying jab. (It wouldn't be the last one.) Blythe and the band admired him and his immense creative energy. Their first big tour was as GWAR's opening act, and since then, Lamb of God has gone on to attain superstardom in the heavy metal world.

So obviously, who else would you expect behind the new bar at GWARbar other than a member of Lamb of God? Everybody needs to pick up a little change now and then, while helping out friends. Campbell will work the 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. shift.

Or perhaps Campbell is taking over the bar for another reason.

"I woke up after a bender at GWAR's HQ and because of my boyish good looks, I was given a choice between being fed to the World Maggot or serving to further GWAR's culinary endeavors," said Campbell in a press release. "Unfortunately, the maggot had indegestion (sic) so I have to work a shift at the GWARbar."

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Buddy's Street Art

The mystery of the iconic bar's giant George Washington head.

Posted By on Thu, Jan 15, 2015 at 2:46 PM

Buddy's Place opens tonight and faithful diners will find a space that's bigger, brighter and cleaner. In other words, an upgrade. The old knickknacks that were collected on its walls traveled along with the restaurant to its new location in the old Viceroy space at 600 N. Sheppard St. "We tried to make it as much like [the old] Buddy's as we could," co-owner Marion Dealto says.

You'll find the restaurant's beloved stuffed buffalo head — a creature with an exceptionally patient look on its face — hanging in the back. You'll also see its large George Washington head painting signed over the years by an eclectic collection of celebrities including NASCAR driver Rusty Wallace, the co-founder of Boston Beer Co. (which makes Sam Adams) Jim Koch, and Grateful Dead founding member Bob Weir.

But where did G.W.'s head come from and who made it? Dealto couldn't recall. "We've had it forever," she says.

Those of you who went to VCU in the 1980s — and/or friends of Gwar — might recall the artist. Jeff "Stretch" Rumaner was a graduate student in the sculpture department back then and briefly (very briefly) made appearances in a few Gwar shows when the band was starting out.

In 1988, an important First Amendment case came before the Supreme Court. Students sued Hazelwood East High School's principal for preventing them from publishing articles about divorce and teen pregnancy in the school paper. Ultimately, the Supreme Court decided that schools have the right to restrict students' free speech when they deem it necessary.

To remind people about the importance of the first amendment, Rumaner stenciled 100 or so wood cutouts with the iconic image of the founding father. Along with three friends, he drove around town, and with a very long ladder, nailed the paintings high up on telephone poles across town. Street art — before there was street art.

"The police tried to arrest us three times," Rumaner says. "Every time, we told them they were part of the 'George Washington parade' and they believed us."

He adds (unnecessarily), "And we were drunk when we put them up."

Later, George Washington University bought four primary-colored versions of the heads at a gallery show in Arlington.

Today, Rumaner owns two restaurants in Kansas City, Missouri, called Grinders, was the star of Animal Planet's "Eating the Enemy" in 2012 and continues his work as a sculptor.

"Some of them are signed with my last name on the back," he says. "They should take a look."

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Weekly Food Notes

Estilo's power coupling, food birthdays + more.

Posted By on Tue, Jan 13, 2015 at 3:00 PM

Some of the dining scene’s secrets are so poorly kept that when the news officially breaks, the size of the eye roll is the most significant aspect of the information. Then there’s news that takes you completely by surprise. Take Estilo, for instance.

The winner of the 2014 Elby for best new restaurant, Estilo, owned by Jessica and Josh Bufford, sits by sister restaurant, Toast, in the West End’s Village Shopping Center. Its menu is a romp through Latin American street food — from Peruvian rotisserie chicken to Mexican chicken tinga.

Missing from the menu is information about the owners’ exceptional ability to play their cards close to their chest.

The news? Owen Lane, Magpie chef and co-owner with his wife, Tiffany Gellner, has become the Buffords’ new partner. Lane is working to rewrite the menu and revamp Estilo’s kitchen. The type of cuisine isn’t going to change, but all of the dishes that the restaurant currently serves will. Estilo will close after dinner this Saturday, Jan. 17, and reopen Jan. 26.

“This is a really competitive business,” Josh Bufford says. “We need to make sure we continue to elevate, to stay relevant and continue to push our boundaries.”

How did this unusual move come about? Lane served an inspiring Latin-American-based menu to celebrate the Magpie’s third anniversary last year — and the Buffords were impressed. “It was exactly what we wanted to be doing [at Estilo],” he says. They’d become good friends with Lane and Gellner through the years.

In November, the Buffords decided to ask the question. “I had kind of a gut feeling at that point that he was going to spring something on me,” Lane says.

It didn’t take long for the restaurant owners to reach an agreement. To succeed in the business, spending the rest of your life behind the line isn’t viable. Lane was moving in that direction already, pulling back a bit from the day-to-day at the Magpie.

The partnership also will extend the Magpie’s reach. As a sister restaurant, there will be opportunities for cross-promotion. And it’ll stretch the creativity of both restaurants’ staff. “It’s a chance for guys just starting out or that have been in the business for four or five years to try new things,” he says.

Diners will see changes to the interior, and as for the menu, Lane is excited about Estilo’s giant rotisserie and can’t wait to get Autumn Olive Farms products into it. “From pig heads to rabbit pozole,” he says, “it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

There’s another reason to partner. The Buffords expect their first child in the summer. And that’s also why they decided to close West Franklin Street’s Dash Kitchen and Carry. “It was part of the bigger plan,” he says. “We needed to pull some talent back from there and focus on bets we believed would be bigger in the new year.” The Buffords also announced on Friday they will open Hutch restaurant in the old Eurasia space.

At Estilo, Lane will spend most of his time at the start getting the revamped restaurant running smoothly, but later, the plan is for him to spend half the week behind the stove there and the other half at the Magpie. He’s confident in his longtime staff at the Magpie. “At some point you have to [realize] they’re perfectly capable of doing things on their own,” he says, laughing.

Tough times: It’s been a rough transition to 2015 for some area restaurants. Virginia Commonwealth University’s location of Big’s BBQ closed, Sweetopia locked its doors, and Haiku, in Shockoe Bottom, is no more. On a brighter note: Buddy’s Place closed in the Fan but will reopen in the Devil’s Triangle on Thursday, Jan. 15.

High mark: Positive Vibe Café will celebrate its 10th anniversary with 850 graduates of its restaurant food service training program for people with disabilities Jan. 17 — and you’re invited. The party starts at 6 p.m., with performances from the Taters, Andy Vaughan and the Driveline, and the Hullabaloos. positiveviberva.com.

Happy birthday to you, too: In the Short Order column published Dec. 31, “Feeding Frenzy,” several anniversaries were overlooked. Rostov’s Coffee and Tea turned 35, Millie’s Diner turned 25 and Buckhead’s Chop House turned 20. I’m sure there are others that fell into an obscure part of my brain during 2014 — please email shortorder@styleweekly.com and let me wish you a happy birthday!

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