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Friday, July 31, 2015

Google Nights

When you should — and shouldn't — visit your favorite restaurant.

Posted By on Fri, Jul 31, 2015 at 3:32 PM

Google wants to help you plan your visits to local restaurants so you don't have to wait around forever for a table.

From now on, when you google a restaurant’s name and click “more about,” you’ll see a graph that represents customer traffic by day and hour. You can find this feature only on your smartphone, however — although I could have sworn I was able to access it from my web browser yesterday.

How does it work? Vox Media website the Verge says: “The feature is built with the same anonymized Android location data Google uses to estimate how heavy traffic is on a given road — and like the traffic data, it's just an estimate. The system can't tell how many people are in line at a given store, just how many are in the store's walls at a given time.”

OK. I think.

I decided to take a look at what this information might tell Richmond diners about their favorite restaurants — although my sampling is random, highly idiosyncratic and is in no way comprehensive.

I discovered that not all restaurants are represented yet — there’s no customer traffic information for Curry Craft, the Magpie, Metzger Bar & Butchery, Mosaic Restaurant, Pomegranate and Southbound.

A few obvious things stuck out — Fridays and Saturdays are jam-packed. Dinnertime — usually around 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. — is not the time to go anywhere, according to Google.

And if you want to go to Peter Chang Café, Mekong or Croaker’s Spot on a Saturday night, you might as well forget about it. In fact, Peter Chang’s place is always busy, lunch or dinner. If you plan to go to the Daily Kitchen & Bar, L’Opossum, Pasture or Rappahannock, you better have a reservation, otherwise you’ll wait around until the end of time itself.

Two restaurants flip the Friday/Saturday paradigm: Both Edo’s Squid and Short Pump’s Tazza Kitchen are slightly easier to get into on Saturday nights, while their Fridays are crazy.

Oddly, most restaurants in Richmond are crowded on Wednesdays, especially Stratford Hills Shopping Center’s Galley, but Thursdays slow down a little at most places. Monday is the best night to go anywhere, as expected, and Tuesdays aren’t bad either.

The very best place to go for an impromptu dinner out? Perly’s Restaurant & Delicatessen is packed for lunch — except Tuesdays for some unknown reason — but the nights there are all yours.

Thank you, Google. You confirmed everything I thought I knew, and at the same time, told me a secret I don’t mind sharing with everybody.

(But seriously, Richmond. Wednesday nights? What’s the deal with that?)

Brew View

The Valentine knows Richmond's brewing history — and wants you to know about it too.

Posted By on Fri, Jul 31, 2015 at 12:19 PM

Richmond and beer have been BFFs for a long time. Just ask author Lee Graves. He wrote a whole book about it, which RVA Growler excerpted a few months ago.

If you’d like a more hands-on approach to learning about the city’s brewing business this weekend, the Valentine is planning a bus tour Saturday, Aug. 1, from 1-4 p.m.

You can check out the old Yuengling beer caves at Rocketts Landing, local breweries — including a behind-the-scenes tour of Hardywood Park Craft Brewery — and Midlothian's Huguenot Hops' farm to see what makes that IPA you love so distinctive.

Tickets are $25 per person and $20 for Valentine members, and reservations are required. Call 649-0711 ext. 301.

This tour is presented as part of the Valentine's Richmond History Tours, a series of walking and bus tours of Richmond neighborhoods, waterways, parks, retail districts, historic sites and battlefields, and the program includes the ever popular History Hounds tours which welcome dogs. But not on the bus. Walking tours only. But I bet you knew that already.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Feast at the Festival

This year's Folk Feast offers a formidable line-up of local chefs.

Posted By on Thu, Jul 30, 2015 at 2:31 PM

The Richmond Folk Festival just released its list of chefs for the always sold-out Folk Feast that precedes the weekend-long event. It’s both an impressive and comprehensive list. Favorite chefs and a few new faces are represented. Check out the line-up below:

  • Carena Ives of Carena’s Jamaican Grille and Jamaica House
  • Jason Alley of Comfort and Pasture
  • Elizabet Bandazian of Coriander
  • Michelle Williams of the Daily and the Hard Shell
  • Paige Healy and Gregorio Spinzo of Dinner in the Field and The Boathouse
  • Jason Lucy of Lucy’s Restaurant
  • Velma Johnson of Mama J’s
  • Brittany Anderson of Metzger Bar & Butchery
  • DeAndre Wilson of Rappahannock
  • Lee Gregory of the Roosevelt and Southbound
  • Adam Hall of Saison
  • Will Richardson of Shoryuken Ramen
  • Craig Perkins of Southbound
  • Toast and Hutch Bar & Eatery's chef
  • David Rohrer of WPA Bakery
  • The Folk Feast will be held on Oct. 6 from 6-8:30 p.m. under a big tent planted at Upper Tredegar. Tickets are $100 each, but a limited number can be purchased at an early-bird rate of $75.

    The ticket price includes complimentary parking for the entire festival weekend and a pin that will alert the bucket brigade that you’re exempt from donation pleas. However, that’s not going to stop you from donating to what’s become Richmond’s most popular and inclusive festival, will it?

    Bottomless Cup

    Whisk starts a Kickstarter campaign.

    Posted By on Thu, Jul 30, 2015 at 8:30 AM

    Richmond’s soon-to-be newest bakery, Whisk, is running full-speed ahead with renovations in the old Globehopper space at 2100 E. Main St. To help the process move along even more speedily, owner Morgan Botwinick started a Kickstarter campaign.

    “Our menu will boast more than 20 different types of croissants, both sweet and savory, that will rotate throughout the year, plus muffins, cookies, tarts and more,” says the French Culinary Institute (now International Culinary Center) graduate on the project's page. She needs a double stack gas convection oven to make all that happen, so she’s turned to the fundraising site for help.

    Rewards for contributing to the project range from logo magnets at the $15 level all the way to a catered breakfast or brunch for 16 people.

    “One of the rewards I'm most excited about is for our backers who pledge $300,” Botwinick said in an email. “In exchange, they will receive a limited edition Whisk travel mug that earns them free refills anytime they need a jolt of caffeine for an entire year.”

    Limitless coffee? Never look back after you follow this link to make it happen.

    Wednesday, July 29, 2015

    New Beginnings

    The Estilo space is under renovation.

    Posted By on Wed, Jul 29, 2015 at 2:38 PM

    Toast and Hutch Bar & Eatery owners and Shoryuken Ramen co-owners Jessica and Josh Bufford never sleep. They have a new baby at home and also are busy planning their next venture in the old Estilo space at the Village Shopping Center.

    While renovating, they’re also focusing on devising a menu that they’re passionate about.

    “It’s the way I grew up eating when I visited my mom’s [family’s] farm — it’s the old tradition of meat and three,” Josh Bufford says. By three, he means three vegetable sides, and it used to be a common Sunday afternoon dinner throughout the South.

    “The food will be at a lower price point [than Estilo] and the place will be family- and very kid-friendly,” he says. Although Buffords aren’t watching the calendar closely, the plan is to open some time in September.

    Tuesday, July 28, 2015

    Weekly Food Notes

    Main Street Coffee now fills the space left by Sugar Shack downtown. … Plus, Bella’s Restaurant closes, Hardywood expands and more.

    Posted By on Tue, Jul 28, 2015 at 1:09 PM

    Caffeine Collaboration

    Coffee is the lifeblood of downtown. The month-old Main Street Coffee, now filling the space left by Sugar Shack when it closed in January at 1110 E. Main St., is based on a different concept than the usual Starbucks model.

    "It's kind of like a co-op," owner Jeni Wenrich says. Two other businesses have joined her in the venture — Pink Belle Cakehouse and Espresso-A-Go-Go. "I told them, 'You don't have to pay anything, but I need an hour of your labor, and I will help you promote your business, while you help me promote mine.'"

    Originally, she was helping her Sugar Shack friends find a tenant to sublet the space. Her husband asked her: "Why do you keep looking for other people? Why don't you just do it yourself?"
    Wenrich had owned another coffee shop, Ty & Co. Espresso Restaurant, which opened in Powhatan County in 2006. "I learned a lot from that first venture," she says. But operating a business in the city of Richmond is new.

    Fortunately, she knows a lot about coffee — but comes at it from a different angle. She works for Advanced Coffee Tech Service, a company that sells and services coffee equipment. Espresso machines, grinders, regular coffee makers — she understands the infrastructure that keeps her shop running better than most new owners.

    When Wenrich was looking for tenants to fill the space, she'd approached Pink Belle Cake House and Espresso-A-Go-Go. Then when she decided to open Main Street Coffee herself, she asked them to join her. Both owners wanted a downtown presence but weren't ready for their own brick-and-mortar shops.

    Main Street coffee serves pastries and coffee for now. In the future, Wenrich hopes to add salads and sandwiches. But she doesn't want to expand too fast, she says: "I don't want to get crazy because I know, learning from the first [coffee shop], that it's too easy to just add, add, add." mainstreetcoffee.info.

    Opening: District 5, a new brewpub in the Fan, opened on West Main Street in the old Martini Kitchen & Bubble Bar space. district5rva.com

    Expanding: Rappahannock owners Ryan and Travis Croxton are taking over the space next door to the restaurant. They've started construction on a small raw bar and market, Rapp Sessions, that will be connected to its larger sibling through open doorways. … Hardywood Park Craft Brewery announced a $28 million expansion in Goochland County. You'll find an interview with owners Patrick Murtaugh and Eric McKay on Page 14.

    Closed: Short Pump's Bella's Restaurant closed July 5, The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports, with the location in Charlottesville still open for business.

    Outdoor Dining: Lunch/Supper is building a 30-seat patio that should be open in about a week. lunchorsupper.com.

    Praise: Condé Nast Traveler named Richmond as the Southern food destination you need to know about. … ​Hardywood​ Park Craft Brewery, named one of the world's best eco-friendly breweries by Epicure & Culture, was also Thrillist's best craft brewery in Virginia. And the website named both Caliente and Burger Bach as places to find the best burgers in the state. … Pizza Tonight's pig and fig pizza was named one of the best offerings from Virginia by USA Today.

    Happenings: Blue Moon Brewing Co. is about to turn 20 and is celebrating on Friday, July 31, at 6 p.m. at with Howl at the Moon: a Piano Pop-Up Bar at the Locks. There will be an actual blue moon hanging in the sky that night, food by Casa Del Barco, and proceeds will benefit Fetch a Cure. Search Facebook's events. … Antoinette Essa will host the seventh annual Jazz & Food Festival at St. Elizabeth Catholic Church on Saturday, Aug. 1, from noon-7 p.m. steliz3c.com.

    Rollercoasters and Beer

    Kings Dominion gets in on summer's beer and barbecue fun.

    Posted By on Tue, Jul 28, 2015 at 11:50 AM

    Beer news — it just never stops. If you’re looking to throw back the suds along with some barbecue this weekend, Kings Dominion has you covered. This year will mark its first BBQ & Brew Festival. The event spans both this weekend, Aug. 1-2, and the next, Aug. 8-9.

    Nine local breweries will be represented, including Legend Brewing Co., Strangeways Brewing, and from a little farther afield, Bold Rock Cider. Kings Dominion executive chef Paul Maloney is putting his own stamp on the barbecue served, with things such as Tennessee moonshine pulled pork, hickory-smoked spiced chicken, smoked and grilled polish sausage — and more.

    You can expect live music and a few special events too. The USO Military Chef’s BBQ Challenge will be held under the Eiffel Tower on Saturday, Aug. 1 and Sunday, Aug. 2. Local chefs and Dr. BBQ, Ray Lampe, author of seven barbecue cookbooks and a contestant on Food Network’s “Chopped Grillmasters” will judge. And the following weekend, you can watch the ice chips fly during ice-carving demonstrations.

    Single day park admission is $15 off. You can purchase tickets online and they’re valid through Aug. 9. A portion of all ticket sales will be donated to USO-Metro.

    Monday, July 27, 2015

    One-Man Show

    Chef Tim Bereika stars in Kitchen & Craft, a web series that teaches you how to cook.

    Posted By on Mon, Jul 27, 2015 at 2:21 PM

    The Urban Tavern’s Tim Bereika is now appearing on a computer near you. For the past few months, he’s been making how-to-cook videos on YouTube’s Tastemade network in his spare time.

    “Tastemade is a company I pursued,” Bereika says. It’s hard to gain traction among the millions of videos uploaded to the site — a YouTube network bundles thousands of personal channels together and promotes them for a small cut of advertising proceeds.

    “It’s the only way to grow,” he says.

    Bereika’s persistence paid off. The network liked the look of his content and was particularly impressed that he was a chef. Most food content is produced by home cooks, they told him, not professionals. He now has a two-year contract with them.

    A big part of Bereika’s job as head chef is leading, inspiring and teaching young chefs coming up through the ranks, he says. Sharing his ideas with a wider audience and teaching non-professionals how to cook was an alluring new option. “This is a way to be creative in a different direction,” he says.

    You’ll find 14 videos on Bereika’s channel, Kitchen & Craft, and he posts a new one weekly. You can learn how to perfectly poach an egg or whip up dishes that include fried chickpeas with aleppo pepper, rosemary and sea salt — remember those from Bereika’s days at Secco Wine Bar? — olive oil gelato with Maldon sea salt or how to make pasta carbonara without winding up with a bunch of clumpy cooked eggs clinging to the pasta strands.

    Filming, editing, posting — Bereika does it all himself. It was a crash course of sorts in the first few weeks, he says, and you can see the videos getting smoother as time goes on. From the beginning, he’s tried to limit as many variables as possible. Right now, he uses mostly close-up shots of what he’s doing and doesn’t speak directly to the camera — he edits the footage and adds voice-over narration afterward.

    “I have plans to push that forward and expand a little bit more — bring my personality into the videos now as I’m getting more comfortable with the editing process,” he says.

    “I’d post more videos, but work is a priority for me. I still love what I do.”

    To check out Bereika’s videos and subscribe to his channel, visit Kitchen & Craft. You can also find out what he’s up to on Kitchen & Craft’s Facebook page.

    Tuesday, July 21, 2015

    Weekly Food Notes

    Gluten-Free Triple Crossing, Voltaggio Cookboox + More

    Posted By on Tue, Jul 21, 2015 at 5:22 PM

    Freedom: Beer usually is off the table for sufferers of celiac disease and gluten-intolerance and local brewery festivities are not nearly as festive for them. Those days are over. Triple Crossing can soothe your troubled digestive system with its brand-new gluten-free offering, Element 79. triplecrossingbeer.com

    Happenings: Family Meal is celebrating the publication of chef and owner Bryan Voltaggio’s new cookbook, “Home: Recipes to Cook with Family and Friends.” On July 21 and July 22, Voltaggio will share stories and serve a three-course dinner at the Shops at Willow Lawn’s Family Meal from recipes in the book. Tickets are $75 and a signed copy of “Home” will be waiting for you when you arrive. richmond.voltfamilymeal.com … The Underground Kitchen is throwing a farm dinner — location to be announced — on July 25. You can sign up for its mailing list to get an invitation. theundergroundkitchen.org … And don’t miss mega-foodie event, Fire, Flour & Fork, to be held Wednesday, Oct. 28-Sunday, Nov. 1, before tickets sell out. They’re on sale now. fireflourandfork.com

    Open: The Backyard Grill is now serving burgers, grilled chicken and barbecue in the old Bogart’s space at 443 N. Ridge Road. ... Tazza Kitchen’s second Richmond location opened at 1244 Alverser Plaza, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

    Congratulations: For the fifth year in a row, Lehja received Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence — and last week appeared on “Good Food America” to boot. lehja.com

    Monday, July 20, 2015

    Big Beer

    Hardywood Park Craft Brewery will build a $28 million complex in Goochland County.

    Posted By on Mon, Jul 20, 2015 at 3:42 PM

    Hardywood Park Craft Brewery figured out how get beer to the people without making them stop for food on the way to the bar just one year after it started production. That's when the law changed in 2012 to allow breweries to sell full cups instead of handing out tiny free samples.

    Now, with $2 million in state and local incentives, the brewery plans to build a $28 million complex that will include a brewing facility, tap room, amphitheater and beer garden, according to an announcement from the governor. The expansion will create 56 new jobs, and the brewery will increase its use of locally grown products. The new facility also will use renewable energy exclusively. The plan is to open the first phase of the project by 2017.

    Hardywood has no intention of forgetting about its original location on Ownby Lane. “Opening the new facility will enable us to dedicate our 20-barrel brewery in the City of Richmond entirely to creative brewing, experimentation and collaboration,” co-owner Patrick Murtaugh says on the brewery’s website.

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