Tuesday, December 1, 2015

UPDATE: Strawberry Thai is Closing

Jo Best hints at problems with her business partner.

Posted By on Tue, Dec 1, 2015 at 4:00 AM

UPDATE: Strawberry Thai owner Jo Best announced via Facebook that the restaurant and takeout spot at 407 Strawberry St. will close immediately. The post reads in full:

"Dear Customers, we are terribly sorrowful to inform you Strawberry Thai will be closed until further notice. The partner we were working with decided to take all of our money and go to Egypt. Jojo and her crew are looking for other locations and options. We loved cooking for you!"

06-12-2015: It’s been a particularly tough year for Jo Best. As co-owner of the Viceroy, she had to make, along with her partners, the tough choice to close it. She’s in the midst of a divorce and had to find a new place to live for her and her 8-year-old son. And then — worst of all — her father died.

Then an opportunity came along to open a restaurant in the old Strawberry Street Vineyard spot at 407 Strawberry St.

“My friends told me, ‘This is what you do,’” she says. “This opportunity isn’t going to come around again.”

She decided rather than build a full-blown restaurant, she’d do something smaller — a takeout and delivery place with grab-and-go market items available too. The plan is to open in mid-July.

The focus will be on Asian food — not fusion, but dishes from Thailand, Japan, China and India. You’ll be able to pick up three different kinds of kimchi — all nonseafood based. Most kimchi has anchovy paste, dried shrimp or other kinds of seafood in it.

Plus, there will be a little corner of Italian pasta and sauces provided by Bombolini Pasta. “We’re working with them to create ramen noodles for us,” she says. In the shop, however, she’ll make her own rice noodles and all of the tamari-based sauces. “I want everything fresh,” Best says. “I work with a lot of vegetables, herbs, aromatics. … There will be a lot of vegetable options most Asian places don’t have.

She’s even planning a sweet and sour dipping sauce made with strawberries and a chicken dish with a spicy strawberry and tamari glaze to reflect the location on Strawberry Street.

When I walked in to talk to her, the shop still was clearly under construction, but just a couple of hurdles stand in her way: The fire suppression and hood system haven’t arrived yet and the gas — capped off by a previous owner — needs the city’s help to get it up and running.

Best is working on a mural of a Thai water goddess on the right wall of the shop. The colors are striking and vivid — and the painting is enormous. “This is a dark time in my life, but I didn’t want any of that to be reflected in the space,” she says. “I wanted light, lively, colorful, happiness.”

Best admits she’s not an artist and has never done a mural. “I certainly bit off more than I can chew.”

But she’s not the type of person to avoid challenges — personal or professional. “Every day that I come to work on [the mural], I’m proud of myself and it’s really helped me with the grieving process,” she says. “It feels good — this is real and it’s happening.”

Correction: Originally this story didn't include the address on Strawberry St. It has been added.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Weekly Food Notes

Shockoe Whiskey and Wine, food event trio + more.

Posted By on Tue, Jun 30, 2015 at 1:56 PM

Burger boss: Just in time for Burger Week, Carytown Burgers & Fries opened in Short Pump at 200 Towne Center West Blvd. last week. This will be its third location.

Latin fusion: The unlikely — but intriguing — marriage of Venezuelan and Italian cuisine debuted last week when Kanoa Latin Cuisine opened its doors at 417 W. Grace St. Owner Yofre Blanco’s first restaurant, Mechanicville’s Sapori Italian and Latin Cuisine, closed in December.

Opening soon: Shockoe Whiskey and Wine leased the old Julep’s New Southern Cuisine space at the corner of East Franklin and North 18th streets, as reported by Richmond BizSense. Owners Tamica Epps, Shawn Minter, Jessica Proffitt and Christopher Randolph plan to offer things such as lamb chops, crab cakes and steaks. A July opening is planned. … Philip Denny, formerly of Aziza’s on Main and McCormack’s Big Whisky Grill, among other spots, plans to open his own restaurant, Castanea, on East Main Street, later this month.

Star bar: Shockoe Bottom’s C’est Le Vin made a splash last week when Wine Enthusiast named it one of the top 20 wine bars in the country.

Things to Do

Start the holiday early — and take a step into the flip side of hipsterdom at Pasture’s second annual frozen drink and yacht rock night Friday, July 3. Servers will dress the part and you can expect frozen daiquiris, strawberry Riesling frozen drinks and, obviously, Jell-O shooters.

Strangeways Brewing is turning two, and will celebrate all weekend July 9-12. You can check out the Richmond premier of “Blood, Sweat & Beers,” a documentary about craft beer, plus burlesque, ZZQ Texas Craft Barbecue, music performances and the release of Wake Me Up Before You Gos. Plan accordingly and check details at strangewaysbrewing.com.

Heritage is holding a five-course foraging dinner Monday, July 13, to benefit the Lustgarten Foundation, a nonprofit that focuses on curing pancreatic cancer. It also will celebrate foraging expert Chris Bennett and his new book, “Southeast Foraging: 120 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Angelica to Wild Plums.” The chef community will turn out in force, with Brittanny Anderson of Metzger Bar & Butchery, Randall Doetzer, Lee Gregory of the Roosevelt and Southbound, the Magpie’s Owen Lane, Bryan McClure, and Heritage and Southbound’s Joe Sparatta all participating. Local foraging experts Nancy Baker and Steve Haas will be on hand to talk share their knowledge as well. Tickets are $75. Call 353-4060 for details.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

A New Bakery for Jackson Ward

Nettie's Naturally Bakery & Cafe will open next month.

Posted By on Thu, Jun 25, 2015 at 11:15 AM

We’ve been waiting impatiently for Nettie’s Naturally Bakery and Café to open in Jackson Ward and owner Lynette Potgieter is planning to do just that next month. Potgieter began baking organic, gluten-free — and most importantly — low-glycemic goods about two years ago and sells them in places like the Daily Kitchen & Bar, Shield’s Market, Ellwood Thompson’s Local Market and Whole Foods.

A bakery and café is a logical extension of her wholesale bakery business,Nettie’s Naturally. Health is Potgieter’s primary focus. Diabetes runs in her family, and she wanted to offer bakery items made with coconut-based sugar, an ingredient that doesn’t spike blood sugar the way that other sweeteners do. Using other organically produced ingredients and keeping the recipes gluten-free also made sense.

Check back next week: We’ll sit down with Potgieter and talk more in depth about the things she makes and plans for her café, plus a photo preview of the space.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Bacon and/or Chocolate

Does it have to be a choice?

Posted By on Mon, Jun 22, 2015 at 2:44 PM

It’s too hot to think about anything, but still I keep thinking about bacon. And chocolate. Although it feels like forever since the Richmond Bacon Festival at the 17th Street Farmers’ Market, I’m haunted by the thought of chocolate-bacon ice cream — still.

I’m also haunted by an observation my friend John Goodpasture made: There’s nothing we like to eat that doesn’t go with bacon or chocolate. Some things can handle both — the aforementioned ice cream, for instance, and the famous Mo’s Dark and Milk Chocolate Bacon Bars created — in a moment of stunning genius — by Vosges Haut Chocolat. I didn’t think it was possible to improve upon the concept until I saw the new Mo's Cinnamon Sugar Bacon Bar. Let’s all see how long we can resist running to For the Love of Chocolate to buy one. (Exactly until the end of work.)

But think a little harder about either/or. Think of an ingredient — say, okra. Obviously, bacon would improve a lot of people’s least favorite vegetable. What about bread? Bacon and/or chocolate. (Trust me, it’s an amazing combo grilled.) How about popcorn? The answer is also both.

Obviously savory + savory or sweet + sweet is a safe bet. Potatoes and bacon. Chocolate and caramel. The list is endless.

But let’s go a little further afield. What would you say if I suggested blueberries? You probably think I’m going to say chocolate (and it works), but blueberries can also mix it up with bacon. So can blood oranges — and it’s touted as a hangover cure.

Bacon seems like an obvious companion to steak, but Paula Deen throws a little cocoa powder on hers. (What else would you expect of a woman selling chocolate-covered butter sticks?). I was appalled by chocolate salsa, but unsweetened chocolate is an important ingredient in Mexican mole sauce, and I’d lick the plate clean after eating chicken in mole sauce if it wouldn’t embarrass my family.

I haven’t been able to come up with a single thing that can’t go with one or the other and sometimes both. Let me know if you can stump me in the comments section. I’ve spent way too much time thinking about it.

Maple Chocolate Bacon Ice Cream

Charred Okra with Bacon Jam

Chocolate Chipotle Popcorn

Blueberry Bacon Breakfast Cake

Blood Orange And Bacon Hangover Salad

Chocolate Flank Steak With Pineapple Salsa

Roasted Poblano Salsa With Dark Chocolate

Braised Chicken with Oaxacan Chocolate Mole Sauce

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Black Sheep Opens a New Patio

Grab a cold one and relax.

Posted By on Thu, Jun 18, 2015 at 1:45 PM

It may be hot, hot, hot, and all you want to do is lie directly under the air conditioning vent, but outside seats can still work after ordering a tall, cool drink or two. It’s all about acclimation -- and waiting until late in the day when the temperature starts to slide back down into more reasonable numbers.

The latest to join the patio game is the Black Sheep at 901 W. Marshall St. The Carver spot is owned by Kevin Roberts, who also co-owns Perly’s Restaurant & Delicatessen, and is known for enormous battleship-named sandwiches that would take a war hero to finish. The restaurant also has hot weather-friendly choices — salads and entrees like shrimp-and-rice or chickpea pancakes.

“It’s a chill spot away from foot and car traffic,” says bartender David Mingee of the new patio. “A little oasis with good food and great deals on beers and mixed drinks.”

Right now, the outdoor section is open from 4-8 p.m., Tuesdays-Thursdays, with Fridays and Saturdays coming in the future.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Estilo Closes

Jessica and Josh Bufford promise something new for the space in the future.

Posted By on Tue, Jun 16, 2015 at 6:44 PM

And the saddest news today is the announcement that the West End’s Estilo closed — for good. The restaurant brought fresh, lively pan-South American food to the local dining scene and was reenergized earlier this year when Magpie owner Owen Lane joined as a new partner with owners Jessica and Josh Bufford. Estilo received glowing reviews and won an Elby award for best new restaurant in 2014.

“We are proud of what we accomplished and so thankful for the patrons who have been adventurous with us as we tried and introduced new dishes and new ingredients to the Richmond area,” said Jessica Bufford in today’s press release.

The Buffords promise a new concept for the space in the future. They’re expecting their first child soon, and on the phone earlier Josh Bufford said, “Once we have the baby settled, there are some other restaurant ideas we have. We’ll keep experimenting.”

The couple also owns Toast, just a few doors down from Estilo, Shoryuken Ramen in the Fan and Hutch Bar & Eatery on Gaskins Road.

“[Estilo] is not our last restaurant,” he said. “You go into it knowing that some things will work and some will not — we’ll always continue to try [new ideas].”

Weekly Food Notes

Dog-loving Pizza, Father's Day Food Ideas + More

Posted By on Tue, Jun 16, 2015 at 3:34 PM

Good eats: Acacia Mid-Town is showing off the summer’s bounty with a vegetarian dinner Wednesday, June 17, at 7 p.m. Expect smoked jackfruit with cavatelli and collard pesto, roasted cauliflower with corn curry and other meatless courses. Tickets are $20. If that one sneaks by you, the following week you can treat yourself to a three-course wine dinner June 24 at 7 p.m. that includes hand-pulled fresh mozzarella with white anchovies and parmesan-crusted soft shell crabs paired with Italian wines from Inama. $36. acaciarestaurant.com.

Dog love: If you grab a slice at Superstars Pizza on Wednesday, June 24, from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., you’ll be helping man’s best friend. Along with Helping Hands Affordable Surgery and Dental Care, Superstars will donate 10 percent of the fundraiser’s proceeds to Bandit’s Adoption and Rescue of K-9s, which rescues dogs from other animal shelters and finds them homes. superstarspizza.com.

What lies ahead: ShoreDog Coffee and Café will open in October in Tuckahoe Shopping Center, according to Richmond BizSense. Lamplighter Roasting Co. will provide the coffee and other offerings will include pastries, salads, panini and ice cream.

Father’s Day

It’s never too early to get a jump on things, and you better get rolling. You can take a class at Southern Season to learn how to fix your dad some of his favorite things at Beer, Bourbon and BBQ on June 16 at 6 p.m. You might even want to ask him if he wants to go too. Tickets are $45. southernseason.com.

Center of the Universe Brewing Co. also thinks your father loves beer and barbecue. Bring him to Hanover County for Dad’s Day Pig Out on June 21, from noon to 6 p.m., to listen to a little live music while whole pigs are roasted over an open fire by Firehouse BBQ. Tickets are $20. cotubrewing.com.

It really must be a theme — Strangeways Brewing is holding its second annual Father’s Day Brews and Barbecue on the same day from noon to 8 p.m. Along with live music, the brewery is upping the ante by throwing a few cigars into the mix.

Is your dad more of a seafood guy? He can fill up on raw or fried oysters from Rappahannock Oyster Co. at the annual Father’s Day Keg ‘N’ Oyster Fest at Hardywood Park Craft Brewery, also on June 21 from noon to 6 p.m. hardywood.com.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Nomad No More

Nomad Deli settles on Brookland Park Boulevard.

Posted By on Mon, Jun 15, 2015 at 2:54 PM

Options — it’s a way to bring people back to a neighborhood that’s seen better days. And the commercial corridor of Brookland Park Boulevard on the North Side is beginning to provide a few more choices these days.

Sunday saw a sneak preview of the soon-to-open Streetcar Café. And just over a month ago, Anthony Tucker opened Nomad Deli & Catering Co.

“The idea is to give a truly healthy variety of food to the people over here in Brookland Park,” Tucker says. Although there are other options around for food (including a killer bakery, Michaela’s Quality Bake Shop, where you can find the old Thalhimer’s six-layer cake still being made), Tucker wanted there to be a New York-style deli that also offered fresh salads, soups, pasta dishes and vegetarian options. There wasn’t a place where you could find any of that on the street.

Tucker, a New Jersey native, used to promote events through his company Nomad Entertainment Services. But he was tired of the constant traveling and wanted to open his own place. He immediately saw a gap in what was available in the neighborhood where he landed. Fresh, healthy food was hard to come by.

Bandazian & Holden's executive vice-president and chief financial officer Nathan Hughes brokered the deal and the real estate company manages the property.

In the next two weeks, Tucker is also setting up a farmers' market in the lot next door to the deli. There will be a variety of farmer vendors, and the market will take place every Saturday and Sunday throughout the growing season.

But if you build it, will they come? “The neighborhood has embraced me,” he says. “My business has grown through word of mouth — people come in here, they eat, come back and they tell their friends. … Now I have people that come every day.”

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Making It Here

Local maker Ninja Kombucha is about to go permanently on tap at Triple Crossing Brewing.

Posted By on Thu, Jun 11, 2015 at 1:50 PM

My family calls it my witch’s brew. Sometimes they call it Snape’s cupboard. Since I started making kombucha a couple of years ago, there’s a cabinet in my kitchen that reeks of vinegar. (Well, I’m making vinegar in there, too.) The aroma, combined with murkiness and strange things floating in jars, freaks out my children.

I love it.

A lot of people started off drinking GT’s Synergy kombucha — it was first on the market and it tastes pretty terrible. Homebrewers knew they could do better and fortunately, some of them turned pro.

Ninja Kombucha is the first truly local, Richmond-made kombucha. You may have seen people carrying cups and growlers away from its four-tap stand at either the South of the James Market or the Byrd House Market. Another on-tap brand that appeared in local stores first, Barefoot Bucha, is made in Nelson County, but that’s not quite the same thing. Right now, owner Brett Nobile, along with chief operations ninja Rachel Green, have seven fermenters going full-time, but need more.

“It’s flying out from under our feet,” says Green. “We can’t keep up with how [much] people have been getting excited about it.”

Ninja Kombucha is limited by the size of the fermenters and the time it takes for the process. Green says they first start with sweet tea and add a gelatinous clump of yeast and bacteria — the SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) — to the mix. This starts the fermenting process, which takes a week or more, and then after transferring the plain kombucha to kegs and flavoring it with herbs, fruit and other botanicals, it takes a few more days for a second fermentation to recharge the drink’s effervescence.

The many claims about the kombucha’s health benefits haven’t been proven. However, if you like a non-alcoholic (it clocks in under .05 percent) tart, slightly sweet, gently fizzy drink — and maybe have a thing for vinegar — you’re in luck.

Triple Crossing Brewing co-owner Adam Worcester noticed on a recent trip to North Carolina that every brewery he visited also offered kombucha. That wasn't the case in here Richmond. He decided to do something about that.

This Saturday, June 13, starting at 7 p.m., Triple Crossing is throwing a party to celebrate permanently putting Ninja Kombucha on tap at the brewery. Karla and the Brotherhood will be there to entertain with a little music, and Green and Nobile are getting two flavors ready to serve consecutively: Grasshopper, a blend of hops, ginger and lemongrass, and Kunoichi, their most popular flavor, which combines peach and mint. You’ll be able to buy it by the glass or growler.

And for you DIY types who might want to try your hand at making your own kombucha, here are step-by-step instructions from Ally Kirkpatrick, the person who taught me how to make it. The only trick is getting your hand on a SCOBY. You can make your own, but I suggest asking around — I bet you have a least one friend with a little witch’s brew in her cupboard that you didn’t know about.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Doughnuts Are Hateful

(Not really.)

Posted By on Fri, Jun 5, 2015 at 12:45 PM

I can barely begin to tell you how frustrating National Doughnut Day is for me as someone who’s gluten-intolerant in this town. Gluten-free doughnut recipes don’t cut it, even though I once, full of optimism, bought a doughnut pan.

Really? I have to make them myself? No.

Doughnut shops have exploded all over Richmond — Country Style Donuts, Dixie Doughnuts, Duck Donuts, Krispie Kreme Donuts, Sugar Shack, the Treat Shop RVA and the one that practically makes me cry, Mrs. Yoder’s — on every dang corner.

What is wrong with you people? Haven’t you heard how bad they are for you? Did you know that a doughnut averages around 300-400 calories? Are you aware that you’d have to run for 40 minutes to burn away those insane 400 calories or walk very, very fast for an hour? I don’t want to do either of those things.

And it's spelled doughnut, not donut. So stop it.

The history of the doughnut is maddeningly complicated. Let’s just say they might have been eaten since prehistoric times. And they were originally called olykoeks, oily cakes in Dutch. All of this is according to Smithsonian.com

Doughnuts proper, the article says, were invented in the 19th century by the mother of New England ship captain in order to utilize some of the things her son was transporting — nutmeg, cinnamon and lemons.

Her son claims he was the one to come up with the most important innovation, however, the hole in the middle of the doughnut.

The Smithsonian writes, “Some cynical doughnut historians maintain that Captain Gregory did it to stint on ingredients, others that he thought the hole might make the whole easier to digest. Still others say that he gave the doughnut its shape when, needing to keep both hands on the wheel in a storm, he skewered one of his mom's doughnuts on a spoke of his ship's wheel.”

The doughnut didn’t become popular, however, until World War I, when volunteers brought them to the front lines in France to cheer up the troops. The story doesn’t mention how said volunteers got to the trenches without getting shot.

The next step in the history of doughnuts, and arguably the most important, came in 1920 when New York baker Adolph Levitt invented a machine to automate the doughnut-making process. Without it, the Sugar Shacks and Dixie Donuts of the world never would have gotten started.

The rest is history — and if you’d like to read the rest of that extremely detailed history, here’s a link to the Smithsonian's informative story.

Back to my personal doughnut history: When my oldest daughter was around 2 years old, we stopped at Krispy Kreme on West Broad Street — the “hot” sign was on — and I bought a half-dozen original glazed. I gave one to my daughter and then (it’s hard to talk about) ate four in a row. I was forced to offer the last one to my daughter as a bribe so that she wouldn’t tell her father. And then deal with the consequences of giving a preschooler an enormous amount of sugar that zoomed through her tiny body like rocket fuel and made her act like a deranged — but adorable — wild animal until bedtime.

When my second daughter was around 10 months old, the three of us went to the grocery store. Her older sister immediately had a meltdown — a serious, fling-your-body-on-the-floor while screaming as loudly as only a 3-year-old can. This made her baby sister cry. And I had to buy groceries. We had no food at home. Not even Goldfish.

Desperation inspired an evil thought that turned into something I never would have even considered the first time around when I was a new mother. I gave my baby (and my three-year-old) a doughnut, just so I could get through the store. And immediately ran into that sanctimonious, judgmental mother at every preschool. Years later, her son, at the age of 10, still hadn’t had a french fry. My baby’s face was covered in sugar. I chatted with the perfect mom, pretending that I couldn’t see the itty-bitty hands speedily shoveling fried dough into what had turned into a gaping maw.

I’m a bad mother. I admit it.

But I love doughnuts and I don’t know how I’m going to make it through this day. I really don’t.

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