Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Rosé Is the New Chardonnay

Find out during Secco Wine Bar's annual rosé wine crawl.

Posted By on Wed, Apr 29, 2015 at 2:32 PM

Although rosé is easy to find and countless articles have been written extolling its virtues, it's still a misunderstood wine. Back in the old days (the '70s and '80s), it was a sweet sipper characterized mostly as a “woman’s wine.” You know, because women like pink, right?

In Europe, there never was that stigma. European women drink rosé, yes, but so do plenty of men. It’s the essence of summer, and it can range from a deep strawberry hue to a pale, almost apricot shade.

“Rosé is usually just the extra-short maceration of red grapes,” Secco Wine Bar’s Julia Battaglini says. Gently pressing immature red grapes is another method. Mixing white grapes with red? Back in 2009, the European Union tried to legalize the practice, but the French were so horrified, that they stopped it in its tracks.

Why were we saddled with such sad pink wine for so many years? “The wines of my youth were skewed sweet out of fear," she says. "Are you afraid? No, you are not. Therefore rosés of the present are mostly dry.”

Battaglini will lead Secco’s 2015 Rosé Rumble, a now five-year-old rosé wine crawl through Carytown, with additional stops in the Museum District, May 14. Attendees will start the crawl at Amuse at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, 200 N. Boulevard, at 5:30 p.m. Afterward, you can hang with your new friends at the Room at Secco and taste more than 14 different 2014 rosés.

“Dress comfortably. Bring cash if you're in a hurry,” Battaglini advises. “Wear comfy shoes. Wear pink! And be cool with chaos.”

You can RSVP by following this link.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Weekly Food Notes

Gator Gourmet. Grandpa Eddie's Crowdfunding + More

Posted By on Tue, Apr 28, 2015 at 1:50 PM

Paying it forward: Ellwood Thompson’s Local Market raised its starting minimum wage to $10.10 on Friday, vowing not to increase prices for customers. In a statement, owner Rick Hood said, “Ellwood’s employees are the heart and soul of this small, local business, and we want to offer them a higher quality of life.”

St. Gertrude Gators: Restaurants including Mellow Mushroom, Pomegranate and Mosaic are among more than 20 restaurants and caterers coming together for St. Gertrude’s fifth annual Gator Gourmet in support of the school on Wednesday, April 29, from 5:30-8 p.m. Taste a little wine or craft beer, too, and vote for the best booth, dish and dessert. Tickets are $25 and available at saintgertrude.org/gatorgourmet.

Simplified aisles: The German-based supermarket chain Aldi introduced its stripped-down approach to groceries when it opened the first of five stores planned for the Richmond area at 1776 N. Parham Road on Thursday. A second store also opened in Colonial Heights and another is scheduled for Hanover County. Although Aldi keeps prices low by focusing only on core grocery items, Richmonders who’ve barely figured out how to load groceries into their cars without Ukrop’s bag boys doing it for them might have a tough time figuring out the 25-cent deposit required for grocery carts, the grocery bags available only for purchase and the lack of credit-card processing. Aldi accepts only cash, debit or EBT cards. aldi.us.

Rebirth: Corey Friedman was forced to close his popular barbecue restaurant in the West End, Grandpa Eddie’s Alabama Ribs & Barbecue, four years ago. (The spot now houses Tarrants West.) But Friedman hasn’t given up on the concept. He started an online fundraising campaign using Go Fund Me to relaunch Grandpa Eddie’s as a food truck. To learn more about Friedman’s plans, visit gofundme.com/qgveqs.

Monday, April 27, 2015

New Neighbor

Stella's Grocery now open on Lafayette Street in Sauer's Gardens.

Posted By on Mon, Apr 27, 2015 at 4:14 PM

It all started with a prep kitchen. Katrina and Johnny Giavos needed a place nearby for Katrina’s mother, Stella Dikos, to make her much beloved dishes for the third incarnation of her wildly popular eponymous restaurant, Stella’s. They also need room to bake — Chelle Bravo, their baker, was making desserts for all of the restaurants the couple own or co-owns, including Stella’s, Kitchen 64 and Perly’s, among others.

The conversation slowly evolved. Johnny wanted to turn part of the space into a spot to buy prepared food. Giavos is already a busy woman — most nights, you’ll find her at Stella’s talking to customers, delivering plates to tables and making sure things are running smoothly. Over the years, she’s been onsite to open nearly a half-dozen restaurants.

“I told Johnny he was crazy if he thought I’d do another thing,” says Katrina Giavos. And she didn’t want to overwhelm her mother.

Then the notion of a neighborhood market — with staples for neighbors to pick up instead of having to go all the way to the supermarket — became the next step in the concept’s evolution. Giavos became intrigued by the idea. The old market across the street from Stella’s became available and the notion became a reality. “We went back and forth,” she says, “There were lots of ideas.”

Katrina added another element to the mix: a little coffee bar, dubbed Stella's Cafe, serving coffee, baked goods and other things like Greek yogurt with sour cherries and smoothies. Its Modbar espresso machine — it’s installed under the counter with a tap above — is due to arrive in the next couple of days.

You’ll find Gelati Celesti’s products there, beer, wine and specialty items from Greece, including olives, olive oil, feta, besides items (anything from baby food to milk and eggs) that customers need the most.

Although the prepared food’s expansion will roll out slowly, right now Stella’s dolmades, tzatziki, hummus and few other small items are already available.

"We wanted to get the place open and running," says Johnny. "If we weren't open and were waiting for everything to be in, we'd be waiting forever."

Stella’s Grocery at 1007 Lafayette St. will be open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day. Which begs the question: Where is Giavos finding the time to do all of this?

“When I take time off or go on a nice trip,” she says. “I realize that I like working really hard — it’s more rewarding.”

UPDATED: Kuba Kuba Dos Now Open

Paperwork is a pain.

Posted By on Mon, Apr 27, 2015 at 2:22 PM

UPDATE: Co-owner Manny Mendez says the Henrico health department just left and Kuba Kuba Dos is open for business. "Four parties are in [for lunch]," Mendez says, "and we're ready to go."

And the roller coaster ride has begun.

The new Kuba Kuba Dos, at 403 N. Ridge Road, Manny Mendez, and Johnny Giavos' second location of the popular Fan restaurant, Kuba Kuba, debuted its expanded menu at lunch today. Unfortunately, there was some confusion, as far as the Health Department is concerned, about the restaurant's paperwork. Because it's part of an umbrella corporation, the owners (which also include Hugo Jordan) didn't realize that submitting a name change form was necessary. An agent driving buy noticed that the restaurant was open and ordered it shut down until all the proper paperwork is submitted.

Giavos is confident that Kuba Kuba Dos will be open for business tomorrow, as planned.

Friday, April 24, 2015

More Than Lattes

Lamplighter Roasting Company offers both beans and advice to faraway coffee shops.

Posted By on Fri, Apr 24, 2015 at 2:36 PM

There weren’t a lot of choices for coffee in Huntington, West Virginia, last year. There was a Starbucks, a dairy-free, paleo-diet-focused coffee shop and health-food store, and a diner.

“It wasn’t like there wasn’t a good coffee place,” Lamplighter Roasting Company owner Noelle Archibald says. “There wasn’t a coffee place -- there wasn’t a modern American coffee house at all in that city.” The closest spot was in West Virginia’s state capital, Charleston, an hour away.

Although Lamplighter’s three Richmond shops are the most visible part of its business, it also sells its beans to other coffee houses. Locally, Sub Rosa Bakery and Petersburg’s Demolition Coffee are just two of the places that serve Lamplighter coffee.

But on the wholesale end, it isn’t a matter of shipping off bags of freshly roasted coffee beans and entering the transaction into the accounting ledger. Lamplighter helps train employees to make espresso drinks, offers menu suggestions, advises on equipment and helps with floor plans.

“We’ve always offered barista training and consulting,” Archibald says, “but it’s only been lately that a lot more people have taken advantage of it.”

“We’ve been hitting the road a lot,” she says, “trying to find like-minded people that are trying to do for their city what we’ve wanted to do for ours.” The Huntington spot was a part of that process. In 2014, owner Rita Evans opened a clothing and furniture store, A Southern Company, with a warehouse space attached that she wanted to turn into a coffee shop. She came across Lamplighter on Instagram and got in touch.

Archibald, her husband, Zach, and co-owner Jennifer Rawlings traveled west to meet Evans. “There was this big space, and we were on the floor with chalk and measuring tape,” Archibald says. Once open, the shop, Bittersweet Coffeehouse, took off instantly.

You'll find Lamplighter coffee served at Yellow Dog Bread Company in Raleigh, North Carolina, and nearer to home, the Archibalds and Rawlings are helping Hopewell’s Guncotton Lounge and Art Gallery get their ground-floor coffee shop up and running. They've also consulted on design with Nettie’s Naturally in Jackson Ward, slated to open in late May.

While the coffee scene heats up in Richmond, Archibald says that the competitive nature of the business you see in larger cities isn’t their focus -- or goal.

“That’s not what we’re about -- we’re about sourcing awesome coffee and making relationships with people on both ends [of the business],” Archibald says. “It’s how we want to live our life.”

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Barbecue's Siren Song

Carey Friedman wants to bring back Grandpa Eddie's Alabama Ribs & BBQ.

Posted By on Thu, Apr 23, 2015 at 1:40 PM

It’s hard to forget about barbecue. Grandpa Eddie’s Alabama Ribs & BBQ started out in 2005 as a little joint on Route 250 in Goochland County, then moved closer to town into a bigger space. And then it closed. This year would be its 10th anniversary.

“We were on track to do a million dollars in sales that year,” owner and former lawyer Carey Friedman says. That was back in 2011, and after a dispute with his landlord shut the restaurant’s doors, Friedman went on to take jobs in corporate restaurants in the West End -- he declines to mention which ones.

But the yearning to make barbecue never went away. Friedman's children grew up in the restaurant, he says -- it was the family’s living room. “[Barbecue] is what we do and who we are.”

Recently, Friedman took a drastic step. He quit his job and started a Go Fund Me campaign to get Grandpa Eddie’s back up and running -- this time as a food truck. “It’s a real way to test the need for us in the marketplace,” Friedman says. For the last four years, he says, former customers have come up to him while he was working in other restaurants to ask when Grandpa Eddie’s would reopen.

Friedman thinks a food truck is the best way to get back in the game. “We can go to where the people are, be more agile. And it’s more fun.”

Now he’s looking at trucks and trying to figure out how to sell his memorable peanut butter pie the most efficient way.

“The goal is to get out there as soon as we can,” Friedman says. “It’s been a long time.”

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

UPDATED: Focus on the Food

Balliceaux plans to close for renovations and reopen with a new menu.

Posted By on Wed, Apr 22, 2015 at 6:37 PM

Balliceaux plans to temporarily close its doors for the summer June 7 and do some much-needed renovating. Owner Steve Gratz wants to do a little reupholstering, put in a bigger and better PA system and, most important, plans to rethink Balliceaux’s menu.

It’s been six years since the restaurant first opened, and not only has the seating taken a beating, but the bathrooms have suffered from vandalism as well.

“We need to be looking at the next five years,” says Gratz, “and how we can accomplish what we want to do and still keep things fresh.”

Since chef Russell Cook’s departure a few years ago, food hasn’t been Gratz’s main focus — he’s concentrated instead on live music. That’s going to change at the end of the summer. Although a strong roster of bands will remain, the evening scene will get jumpstarted a little earlier with Cambodian- and Vietnamese-inflected dishes.

“We felt like we could make some really aggressive changes,” he says. A trip to Cambodia and visits to Indochine restaurants in Brooklyn and Austin inspired the new stronger flavor profile he wants to see reflected in the menu. The back room will offer a traditional French menu for private events.

“We’ve had a really difficult time, I think, with the size of the kitchen,” says Gratz, “and getting the food out to the tables in a reasonable amount of time.” Inspired by Charlottesville’s Mas and its lightening quick service, Gratz wants to reconfigure things so that small plates can go straight to diners hot off the stove, as soon as they’re ready.

The renovation time scheduled may seem lengthy, but Gratz wants to breakdown the entire restaurant and put it back together. “I’ve done this type of work before and it always takes twice as long you think it’s going to take,” he says, so he’s adding the extra time in advance. And summer is usually the slowest time for Balliceaux. “It’s not as if we’ll be losing money by being closed,” he says. Most important, Gratz doesn’t want to be rushed while formulating the new menu.

Both music manager and Style calendar editor Chris Bopst, and bar manger Sean Rapoza, along with most of the staff, will return when the restaurant reopens on Sept. 1.

“You’re not going to walk in and say, ‘Where did Balliceaux go?’” says Gratz. “We want to reopen looking fresh, like we did six years ago.”

CORRECTION: This story originally spelled Steve Gratz's last name. We regret the error.

Pay It Forward

Ellwood Thompson's Local Market raises its minimum wage to $10.10.

Posted By on Wed, Apr 22, 2015 at 2:45 PM

Congress still might be debating about raising the minimum wage, but Ellwood Thompson’s Local Market isn’t waiting around for the politicians to decide. The natural foods grocery store in Carytown announced today that it would increase its starting minimum wage by $1.10 to $10.10, as of Friday, April 24.

The store also reassured customers that product prices wouldn’t go up to pay for the increase.

Ninety percent of Ellwood Thompson’s employees work full-time, with benefits, and this change will increase minimum-wage pay by $2.85 per hour over the minimum national rate.

In a statement, owner Rick Hood said, “Ellwood’s employees are the heart and soul of this small, local business and we want to offer them a higher quality of life.”

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Weekly Food Notes

Rancho T Opens, Dinamo Delivers + More

Posted By on Tue, Apr 21, 2015 at 4:32 PM

Openings: Rancho T, the joint project of Tuffy Stone and Ed Vasaio, opened on Morris Street so quietly last week that the best way to discover the news was by walking out of the Morris Street Lamplighter Roasting Co. and noticing that the door was open. … Cask Café owners James Talley and former Commercial Taphouse partner Jim Dickerson have started work and plan to open White Horse Tavern on Semmes Avenue, according to The Richmond Times-Dispatch. The two hope for a July opening. … Julep’s New Southern Cuisine will celebrate its 13th anniversary and move into its new spot at 420 E. Grace St. in the old Shield’s Shoe Building at the end of May.

Door to door: Don’t you want to eat your broccoletti and provolone sausage or a bowl of matzo ball soup on the couch in your pajamas? You’re in luck. Dinamo, another restaurant owned by Vasaio along with partners Mya Anatai and Brad Wein, turned two years old last week and started delivery service with Quickness RVA.

Gallic celebration: The French Food Festival, a longtime Richmond favorite, will take place Saturday, April 27, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 1503 Michaels Road, benefitting the Little Sisters of the Poor. French classics will be served — and this year, chef Sean Murphy will add a Cajun twist with gumbo, and shrimp and grits. Details by calling 288-6245.

New Agenda

First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe and top nutritionist Marion Nestle talk food and hunger.

Posted By on Tue, Apr 21, 2015 at 3:55 PM

First Lady of Virginia Dorothy McAuliffe and Marion Nestle, award-winning author of "Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health," "Safe Food: The Politics of Food Safety" and "What to Eat," among other books, and New York University’s Paulette Goddard professor of nutrition and food studies, agree about a lot of things.

Dr. Nestle was the keynote speaker at this week’s Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth’s Weight of the State conference, and the two women had a chance to sit down to talk about agriculture, food systems, food politics and its effect on children. Here are just a few of the things they discussed.

Style: When I look at your [Dorothy McAuliffe’s] work, I see you’ve really focused on childhood hunger — that’s been a priority for you since you’ve been at the Executive Mansion. And it seems, after reading your [Marion Nestle’s] books … you focus on the politics surrounding obesity. The two seem to be at opposite ends.

Marion Nestle: I do both. I don’t see them as separate, because both are problems of inequity, problems in resources, education — food — and they both result from the same, as I like to put it, dysfunctional food systems. … If everybody had enough money, the problems would be much smaller. But money is unequally distributed, more so now than at any time since the 1920s.

Dorothy McAuliffe: We talk about hunger and obesity in the same breath. When you look at this idea, the theme here today [at the conference] and through my office at Virginia Nutritional Divide … it’s a moving target, in a way, when we’re talking about childhood nutrition, childhood malnutrition, obesity and hunger. To me it’s all part of the same conversation around food access and food distribution.

MN: We have a situation now with the federal government. It’s borderline dysfunctional — if not totally dysfunctional. You can do things at the state and local level that you can’t possibly get done at the federal level while we have a congress devoted to blocking everything. … It gives the states enormous opportunity to try and take care of people and local communities.

With those state opportunities, can you tell me about some of the things you’re working on [in Virginia]?

DM: We have been able to hit the ground running as of last year, and we focused a lot on summer-meal service, building new meal sites for kids across the commonwealth.

We put a big push as well on the Community Eligibility Provision [a USDA program that helps high-need schools feed the entire student body at no cost]. … It’s a really important to increase those participation numbers and also reduce stigma for the kids so that everybody is at the same place at the table in the school cafeteria.

We were just talking to Dr. Nestle about the $8.8 million grant we have from the USDA for a demonstration project here in Virginia [that looks] at schools as food hubs — it’s a important opportunity for year-round feeding for those high-need kids. And those high-need numbers are growing and growing in this country and in Virginia. Fifty-one percent of the kids in our schools are free-and-reduced-lunch kids.

MN: It’s just astonishing.

DM: We had legislative success with the governor’s budget including an alternative breakfast model for those schools willing to try [it]. We can provide a little bit of funding at the state level to increase breakfast participation.

Have the policies of the last 10-15 years or so created this or is this a problem we’ve always had?

MN: We’ve always had it. But when the income gap wasn’t as wide as it is today, the numbers were smaller. The numbers are going up and that’s alarming for a country that has the kind of resources it has to have any kids hungry. It’s just wrong.

DM: To really break the cycle of poverty, we need to make sure our children are educated and they come to school ready and able to learn and take advantage of the investment we’re making in their education — $5.5 billion in the commonwealth of Virginia is invested in education every year.

MN: And it would be nice if it did some good.

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