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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Winning Wine

Muse Vineyards was the big winner at the 2015 Virginia Governor’s Cup Wine Competition.

Posted By on Wed, Feb 25, 2015 at 10:47 AM

night36_va_wine_expo.jpg

Last night was a more boisterous night at the 2015 Virginia Governor’s Cup Wine Competition at the John Marshall than previous years, perhaps because instead of cutting off the wine once the speeches started, winemakers were allowed to continue to pour for grateful attendees.

This may have been inspired by the pivotal moment of Gov. Terry MacAuliffe’s speech when he exhorted Virginians to consume more wine in order to catch up with Texas, which at the moment is producing more liters of wine than the Commonwealth. If we all drink more, he seemed to be saying, our wineries will fill the marketplace’s need.

Gov. MacAuliffe might want to make that speech in D.C., which according to Business Insider, consumes the most wine per capita than anywhere else in the U.S. D.C. residents drink, on average, 34 bottles per year. In contrast, wine drinkers in our state demurely sip about 14 bottles per person each year.

The winner of the night was little known Shenandoah winery Muse Vineyards, which won for its 2009 Clio, a big, fat Bourdeaux-inspired blend. It retails around $65.

The wine comes from the vineyard’s first vintage. Owner, winemaker and lawyer Robert Muse began Muse Vineyards in 2009, and with a little help that year from Matthieu Finot of King Family Vineyards, blended Clio from Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot grapes, a classic Virginia Meritage blend.

A quick call to a few Richmond wine shops found that the winning wine isn’t readily available, although, if you can stand the delayed gratification, it can be purchased online from Muse and shipped straight to your house.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Single-Minded Focus

The old Phil's Continental Lounge will transform into Jack Brown's Beer & Burger Joint in March.

Posted By on Fri, Feb 20, 2015 at 2:04 PM

It just might be possible that you don’t have enough beer or burgers in your life. Not to worry, Richmond is about to get even more of both. The sixth location of Harrisonburg’s Jack Brown’s Beer & Burger Joint will open in March in the old Phil’s Continental Lounge space.

“The location is perfect for Jack Brown’s — it’s very homey,” says bar supervisor and manager Cori Atkinson. “It’s bigger than the other locations, but will still have the old wood and rafters and the funky decorations including the disco ball. All in good taste, of course.”

The Grove Avenue Jack Brown’s will mirror the other five with a tight menu of Waygu burgers, french fries and fried Oreos. Eight beers will be on tap, with a focus on local beer. In fact, beer is the only focus for Jack Brown’s beverage program — you won’t find wine or liquor on the menu. “We’re not a sports bar,” Atkinson says.

Brent Hill, general manager, is impressed by how welcoming the beer community has been. “We know the story behind the beer and are committed,” he says. “You do one thing, you do it right, you do it well.”

Heating Up

Hot Sauce at Heritage

Posted By on Fri, Feb 20, 2015 at 10:35 AM

Joe Sparatta obviously doesn’t have enough to do. The chef and co-owner of both Heritage and Southbound has a fully loaded E-ZPass, and when he’s not crossing bridges to get to one or the other of his restaurant kitchens, he’s thinking about products he can whip up and sell to diners.

The first to see the inside of a bottle is a tangy, brilliantly red-orange hot sauce called Texas Mike’s. Heritage sous chef Mike Hill is its namesake and the man who spearheaded the project. He also vaguely — very vaguely — resembles the cowboy on the label.

“Mike has no affiliation to Texas,” Sparatta says. “He’s from Harrisonburg, Virginia.”

Why, then, name the product Texas Mike’s? “It was a last-minute thought at a brunch,” Hill says.

The vinegary sauce is reminiscent of Texas Pete hot sauce — a product that also has nothing to do with Texas. Texas Pete originated in North Carolina and is still made there.

Sparatta wanted something spicy and he wanted something to put on tables at brunch, but it had to have a different flavor profile. “No knock to Sriracha, I’m just really sick of seeing it everywhere,” he says. “I love Sriracha — we all love it — but it’s nice to have something we’re producing.”

The Fresno and cayenne chili peppers used in the sauce are grown by Victory Farms. Hill takes those and pulverizes them in a food processor with sea salt and white vinegar. That goes into the refrigerator to sit until the flavors meld.

Sparatta wants to team up with Victory farms to create even more products. He’s thinking of tomato sauce, pickles and whatever else he and Victory Farms co-owner Charlie Collins can dream up. The farm’s extra produce usually goes straight to compost. Canning parts of overly abundant crops would reduce waste.

“It ebbs and flows — there are times when we have excessive amounts of products,” says Gina Collins, Charlie’s wife and co-owner of Victory Farms. “Peppers do really well here and when you get them, you get a lot of them. Customers don’t necessarily want 50 pounds.”

Eventually Sparatta wants to sell onion jam and tomato jam — condiments he already makes to use in dishes on Heritage’s menu.

“Joe is one of those kinds of chefs who really thinks about these kinds of things,” Collins says, “and thinks about unique ways of using our products.”

There a lot more hurdles to jump before Texas Mike’s Hot Sauce is available for retail sale, but until then you can buy a bottle for $8 at Heritage.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Noodles Galore

Spiral Noodle is slated for opening this spring in the old Yapple spot.

Posted By on Thu, Feb 19, 2015 at 8:41 AM

The Carytown battle of the frozen yogurt was decided when Yapple Frozen Yogurt shut its doors. The location will soon house Spiral Noodle, an Asian fusion noodle bar.

Owner Jenny Lin will create the menu. “One of her uncles is a top chef in Hong Kong,” says husband Hon Lin. “She wanted to bring a similar experience here.”

Each noodle bowl will be customized. Diners will choose rice or noodles, the variety of broth, meat and vegetables. “The broth that [Lin will make] is a special, unique recipe, learned from her uncle,” he says.

“We’re changing the interior of Yapple a lot,” says front-of-the-house manager Nelson Benavides. “It didn’t have much in terms of seating or a kitchen.”

Lin is hoping for a late March to early April opening.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Outstanding Chefs Recognized

Three Richmond chefs were nominated for the 2015 James Beard Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic award

Posted By on Wed, Feb 18, 2015 at 12:49 PM

Three Richmond chefs were named semi-finalists for the James Beard Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic award today: Peter Chang of Peter Chang China Café, Lee Gregory of the Roosevelt and Southbound, and Acacia Mid-town’s Dale Reitzer.

This makes the fourth nomination for Reitzer, the third for Gregory, and it's Chang's first nomination, although he's been invited cook at the James Beard House in New York twice. It's pretty exciting stuff for the local dining scene. This makes 2015 the first year that three chefs from the Richmond area have all been nominated at the same time.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Ghost Shadows

The restaurant that almost was.

Posted By on Tue, Feb 17, 2015 at 11:45 AM

The former Belvidere at Broad space is up for sale — again. - BRANDON FOX
  • Brandon Fox
  • The former Belvidere at Broad space is up for sale — again.

Rumors flew. Restaurateur Travis Croxton, owner of Rappahnnock River Oyster Co. and Rappahannock (and a whole bunch of other places out of town) filed an ABC application under the name Ghost Shadows for the former Belvidere at Broad property at 506 W. Broad St. last summer.

People wondered what that was all about. What kind of place would it be? The only clue came from building owner Jonathan Staples, who’s also the owner of James River Distillery, owner of the GwarBar building, and is the husband of another powerful restaurateur, Hilda Staples, Mike Isabella’s partner in Graffiato and Bryan Voltaggio’s partner in Willow Lawn’s upcoming Family Meal, among other ventures.

After some research, Staples says he discovered that the building on Broad once housed the Richmond chapter of the On Leong Chinese Merchants Association. After a little more reading, he ran across information about Ghost Shadows, the Chinese-American street gang that ran New York’s Chinatown in the 1990s. He had his name.

Did this mean Staples and Croxton were looking to open a Chinese restaurant there? And given Hilda Staples and Croxton’s high-voltage connections in the dining world, were they wrangling another famous, out-of-town chef to come to Richmond?

Staples managed to get the city to allow him to expand to the building next door, permit outside dining and possibly, just possibly, officials hinted that the city might be willing to move the bus stop that sits directly in front of the restaurant.

The famous chef slated to helm the restaurant? Erik Bruner-Yang of Toki Underground (and once upon a time, of Richmond’s Sticky Rice).

But things change.

While Ghost Shadows remained in limbo over the last six months, Staples and Bruner-Yang were working on another project. They planned to open a café, along with the restaurant and market, called Maketto on H Street in D.C. There’s only one problem with that venture: It’s about 15 months behind schedule.

Maketto is still going ahead, despite the delays. And when thinking about the property in Richmond, Staples realized that his chef couldn’t start the Ghost Shadows project any time soon. “You can’t just open Maketto,” says Staples, “and then open something else right away.”

The building, along with one next door, is now up for sale. Nathan Hughes of Bandazian & Hughes is handling the property. Staples says he couldn’t in good conscience allow it to stay empty any longer. Besides the allure of the building's history and architecture, it’s one of the few spots that could have outdoor dining on Broad Street.

“Someone should do something cool there. It doesn’t have to be us.”

Monday, February 16, 2015

GlobeHopper Coffeehouse and Lounge to Close

The Shockoe Bottom favorite will stay open until the end of the month.

Posted By on Mon, Feb 16, 2015 at 2:05 PM

GlobeHopper Coffeehouse and Lounge opened in Shockoe Bottom in 2008, and since that time, provided a spot for nearby Church Hill neighbors to grab a cup of French press coffee or admire the detailed art swirled in the crema of their latte. The coffee shop was also home to live music that could be enjoyed with something a little stronger than a double espresso.

Owners Erin Helland and Jenn Crenshaw, along with general manager Kimmy Certa, made this one of the only female-owned, female-run coffee shops in town. It hasn’t always been easy. Just over a year ago, Erin Hellend told RVA News, “In my fifteen years in the coffee industry, I’ve learned that too often, positions labeled as a ‘craft’ are still perceived as a male pastime, and that includes being a skilled barista.”

GlobeHopper announced on their Facebook page today that they would be closing at the end of the month. (Style had not heard back from the owners at the time of publication.)

“With heavy hearts, we inform you that GlobeHopper's last day will be on Feb 28th, one day after our seventh anniversary. Serving this amazing community has been our sincere pleasure. Over the coming weeks, please bring some smiles to our baristas and share your fond memories of GlobeHopper as you enjoy one more latte with us.”

CORRECTION: This article originally stated that the business' name was GlobeHopper Coffee & Lounge. It is GlobeHopper Coffeehouse & Lounge.

Weekly Food Notes

Virginia wine winners, Belgian beer pairing + more.

Posted By on Mon, Feb 16, 2015 at 1:51 PM

Winning wine: The Virginia Wineries Association has awarded 30 gold medals to wines across the state, including Barboursville’s 2012 Octagon, Fabbioli Cellars’ 2010 Tannat, Ingleside Vineyards’ 2014 Albariño and Virginia Wineworks Raisin d’Etre White. There were 390 entries submitted this year, and out of the 30 awarded gold medals, 12 will be chosen for the Governor’s Cup Case. Those wines and the overall winner of the Virginia Wineries Association’s 2015 Governor’s Cup will be announced Feb. 24 at the John Marshall ballrooms. vawine.org.

And more wine: The Virginia Wine Expo is upon us. From Feb. 17-22, expect a plethora of wine and food events, including the Style Weekly-sponsored Great RVA Brunch Party on Sunday, Feb. 22, starting at 10 a.m. virginiawineexpo.com.

Chef changes: Divine Restaurant in Rivers Bend Shopping Center in Chester has a new chef and menu. Look for a wide variety of cuisines and styles, including Maine scallops on barbecue duck confit and Loch Duart salmon with coconut Thai curry sauce. divine-rb.com.

Openings: The Tin Pan Restaurant and Listening Room opened Saturday, Feb. 14, at Quioccasin Station near Regency Square You can hear live music — folk, Americana, bluegrass, jazz, pop rock — along with your dinner, prepared by chef Brian Nageotte. There are appetizers, sandwiches and entrées including lobster mac ’n’ cheese, chicken pot pie and beef tournade. tinpanrva.com.

Closings: Sad news, first reported by the Times-Dispatch. Richmond’s first Thai restaurant, Beauregard’s Thai Room, which opened in 1994, closed last month. Nonetheless, Thai cuisine fans needn’t worry. Alexandria’s Sang Jun Thai Restaurant took over the space and is now open. Boka Kantina in the West End also closed. sangjunthai.com.

Happy New Year: Celebrate Chinese and Vietnamese New Year’s with chef Minh Coli on Thursday, Feb. 19, at 6 p.m. You’ll learn how to make Vietnamese fried shrimp and pork rolls and deep fried dumplings stuffed with mung bean paste, among other things, during her class at Southern Season. southernseason.com.

Food and brews: Belgians know beer — they practically invented it. Or at least, Belgian monks have been brewing it since the Middle Ages and that’s a long time. Enjoy a six-course, traditional Belgian dinner paired with six different varieties of Belgian beer for $55 at Brux’l Café on Tuesday, March 3, at 6:30 p.m. bruxlcafe.com.

Piccola New Style Slated to Close

A new venture will open in the summer.

Posted By on Mon, Feb 16, 2015 at 11:15 AM

It was an ambitious plan. Piccola Italy Pizza and Subs’ owner Rick LoPresti decided to reconfigure the space next door connected to his pizza parlor. Out went the manicotti and ziti and in came Eastern European fare like goulash and sarma. Walls were put up between the two spaces and, led by partner Nikola Mladenovic, a separate business began. The sit-down concept became Piccola New Style.

Next to the restaurant, Piccola Crepes and Coffee, in a tiny corridor-like space with a few tables, offered sweet and savory crepes, plus loaded potatoes that were mostly takeout.

Soon, the menu at Piccola New Style was revamped. Pizza, buffalo wings and other college standards like burgers and sandwiches replaced the less familiar items.

But the project never became the success that LoPresti and Mladenovic had hoped. The property at 1102 W. Main St. is now up for lease.

“Since VCU has evolved so much on the Grace Street and Broad Street corridor,” says LoPresti, “and also since the business building has moved down to Belvidere, we lost a lot of the foot traffic.”

And because of the wall that sealed off the two businesses, LoPresti didn’t feel like he could supervise the restaurant next door the way he wanted to, particularly when he started to get some bad feedback from customers.

Right now, Piccola New Style should remain open for about another month. LoPresti is in negotiations with a couple from Annapolis, Maryland who want to bring a juice-bar concept to the space. Renovations are planned to give the spot a different look, including rolling garage doors to make a big, open-air terrace.

Piccola Italy Pizza and Subs is nearly 28 years old and the pizza ovens aren’t going to be turned off anytime soon. LoPresti plans to refocus on the delivery side business.

“I want to dedicate myself to looking after the [Fan] residents and the people in Richmond,” he says. “We aren’t going away.”

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Best Biscuits

Pasture chef Shawn Burnette and his thoughts on biscuits.

Posted By on Wed, Feb 11, 2015 at 10:39 AM

After cooking in attention-grabbing restaurants such as Del Posto, Husk Restaurant and most recently, the Breslin in the Ace Hotel New York, chef Shawn Burnette took over the kitchen at Pasture this fall. The menu there is changing slowly and strategically. “My food does have a fairly distinctive personality,” Burnette says. “That [shows] up best in specials. I’m constantly in R&D mode and unlike many places that use specials to move food — that’s my playground. It’s where I test the waters.

Style Weekly writer Robey Martin sat down with Burnette to talk about one specific item that he makes extremely well and most Southerners feel passionately about — biscuits.

Shawn Burnette: As I began to cook professionally, I would remember my great-grandmother’s food from when I was really little. I wasn't around her much, but she was from the foothills of North Carolina and her cooking took up most of the time I remember in the day. She started a garden with me, and she lived out of her larder. Somehow that got in my head and never left.

Biscuits were one thing I wanted to learn how to make at Husk, and it just grew from that. I came to work three hours early on Sunday when I started so I could learn how we made them at [the restaurant] from this amazing cook that made them for brunch. He had a very specific technique — but no explanation why it was done that way.

In trying to figure out what is happening when you make biscuits, I ended up meeting a lot of home cooks around Charleston. I had a bus driver invite me over for supper, and she showed me how her grandmother cooked. That started me asking everyone that would listen if they would show me their recipes.

I started to understand what is happening in the dough and the processes, and worked out my own method trying to optimize those processes. It’s surprising that I keep fine-tuning it today [and how similiar] it is to the way I first learned — and how much a simple biscuit can change the way I look at all food. Four ingredients, three steps, and it’s still not perfect. I can get better every time I cook them.

Although Burnette didn’t share his secret biscuit recipe and method with Style, here’s a link to a recipe from the legendary queen of Southern cooking and Virginia native, Edna Lewis.

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