Friday, February 26, 2016

Real Local RVA Gets Off the Ground

Prominent members of the food community form advocacy group to promote local products.

Posted By on Fri, Feb 26, 2016 at 10:55 AM

Local food producers are getting a boost from a newly formed organization called Real Local RVA — with some heavy hitters involved.

Ellwood Thompson's Local Market's Rick Hood, Richmond Restaurant Group's Michelle Williams, Southbound's Joe Sparatta and Lee Gregory, Good Food’s Grocery's Donnie Cafferty and Libbie Market’s Buster Wright and David Taylor want more people to know about what’s happening in Central Virginia when it comes to food.

It’s not that easy to run a local farm or restaurant, or produce a local product without support and feedback from the wider community.

“Our intent is to bring the local players active in the Capital Region to a collaborative group,” Ellwood Thompson's Hood, who spearheaded the organization, says in an announcement, “so we can help each other solve problems like small food distribution and increasing support of local farms.”

The group’s approach will be three-pronged. It plans networking events to connect start-ups, and wants to create a kind of wholesale consolidation among businesses to reduce the price for customers and increase production for farms. And to help with marketing, Real Local RVA plans outside events and sponsorships.

“Once the website is live [on March 21],” spokesman Colin Beirne says, “we plan to keep an updated calendar of all the locally focused food/drink events.”

“The public is showing a huge demand for local food,” Hood says, “but its providers need a big umbrella brand that can promote and educate its benefits.”

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Football Stars to Wait Tables at Quirk

Former 49er Michael Robinson and a few of his famous friends will pass the plates this spring.

Posted By on Thu, Feb 25, 2016 at 2:21 PM

Football players are often known for their grace and not just for how hard they can hit on the field. Let’s hope Richmond native, former San Francisco 49er and Super Bowl-winner Michael Robinson, along with the Seattle Seahawks’ Richard Sherman and Marshawn Lynch, former running back for the Buffalo Bills and the Seahawks, bring some of that finesse when they tie on aprons at Maple & Pine to kick off Excel to Excellence’s seventh annual youth football camp weekend on May 20.

The Celebrity Waiter Experience, now in its second year, is one way to help bring attention to and help fund the program founded by Robinson. The non-contact football camp for boys and girls will take place at Varina High School the next day.

“In addition to dinner,” a press release from Quirk Hotel says, “attendees will have an opportunity to participate in a pre-event cocktail hour, live auction and post-dinner after-party on Quirk’s brand new rooftop lounge.”

And who can resist watching giant men balancing plates and holding delicate wine glasses in their enormous hands?


Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Metzger's Bar & Butchery and Kuba Kuba Hit the National Press

Out-of-towners can't get enough of Richmond's food.

Posted By on Tue, Feb 23, 2016 at 2:43 PM

Sometimes the whole of Richmond dining scene gets praise, as it did in National Geographic, Bon Appetit, and the Local Palate, to name a few. Other times publications drill down, as Southern Living did when it named L’Opossum one of the best restaurant’s in the South.

Now, in this month’s monstrously large issue of Elle, sandwiched in between ads for Valentino and Luis Vuitton, Metzger Bar & Butchery was named as one of the 15 best female-led restaurants in the country to try, complete with a photo of owner/chef Brittanny Anderson. It’s only the second time the magazine has published a restaurant guide. (The article isn’t online yet.)

“Metzger Bar & Butchery, in Anderson’s hometown of Richmond,” writes Elle's Charlotte Druckman, “has the rare ability to be not only a worthy foodie tourist attraction, but also a gem for locals.”

Hard on the heels of Elle, Food Network’s website has proclaimed Kuba Kuba’s huevos rancheros as the best in the state in its round-up of best breakfasts.

“When chef Manny Mendez was little, his father turned the family living room into a bodega, selling hard-to-find Cuban foods to fellow immigrants in Richmond,” they write. “Mendez followed in his dad's footsteps at Kuba Kuba, selling groceries alongside dishes like his popular huevos rancheros: two eggs over red beans and crusty Cuban bread, topped with cheese, avocado and a lime-garlic sour cream.”

Keswick Vineyards Wins the 2016 Governor's Cup

Virginia wines were celebrated at a gala at Hotel John Marshall.

Posted By on Tue, Feb 23, 2016 at 11:07 AM

It’s the second time Keswick Vineyards has won the Governor’s cup. The winery picked up its first cup in 2009, and last night, Feb. 22, at Hotel John Marshall, Keswick won for its 2014 Cabernet Franc Estate Reserve. The tasting notes describe the wine as “light and graceful, but also powerful — dense with black pepper and exotic spices that turn into darker fruits as the wine is aerated.”

“With clean ripe fruit harvested,” said Keswick winemaker Stephen Barnard in a press release from Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s office, “our intention was to stand back and let the soul of the vineyard shine through in the wine.”

Michigan native Al Schornberg, owner of Keswick Vineyards said, “It has always been my dream to make a great red wine from the soils of Virginia.”

Keswick’s 2014 Cabernet Franc Estate Reserve is available online or in the vineyard’s tasting room near Charlottesville at 1575 Keswick Winery Drive.

McAuliffe also recognized the following wines, which will be included in the 2016 Governor’s Cup Case:

Barboursville Vineyards, 2014 Vermentino

Bluestone Vineyards, 2014 Chardonnay

Cardinal Point Winery, 2014 Clay Hill Cabernet Franc

Fabbioli Cellars, 2012 Cabernet Franc

Glen Manor Vineyards, 2013 Hodder Hill (red blend)

Granite Heights Winery, 2010 Evening Serenade (red blend)

Horton Vineyards, 2014 Petit Manseng

Keswick Vineyards, 2014 Cabernet Franc Estate Reserve

Michael Shaps, 2014 Petit Manseng

Naked Mountain Winery, 2012 Petit Verdot

North Gate Vineyard, 2013 Meritage

Stone Tower Winery, 2013 Hogback Mountain (red blend)

Monday, February 22, 2016

Vagabond's Owen Lane Wins Chef of the Year at the 2016 Elby Awards

And the rest of the winners are ...

Posted By on Mon, Feb 22, 2016 at 11:54 AM

Although VCU’s Gold Rush dance team wasn’t in attendance, the 2016 Elby awards, held by Richmond magazine, rocked the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in a sea of white. Although there were grumbles about the all-white dress code à la Sean "Diddy” Combs, the event has morphed into a kind of costume party with tennis players, astronauts, mummies and the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man in attendance — all inventive work-arounds to the task of finding white in February.

The ceremony began with a stirring rap by be-winged host Jason Tesauro that looked back at the previous year’s dining scene. In between awards, RVA Tonight’s Beau Cribbs, a Style Top 40 under 40 winner last year, emceed a version of Family Feud, pitting three terrified Richmond food editors — Karri Peifer of the Times-Dispatch, RVA News’ Stephanie Ganz and me — against Pasture and Comfort’s Michele Jones, Tuffy Stone of Q Barbeque, Rancho T and A Sharper Palate and Eat Restaurant Partners’ Chris Tsui. The industry folks trounced the food media.

Wine poured freely in the museum’s atrium afterwards, as did Reservoir bourbon, and as in years past, Culinard and J. Seargent Reynold’s Culinary Arts Program students provided the food, along with endless raw oysters from Rappahannock Oyster Co. After the festivities, attendees decamped to Vagabond, the officially designated after-after party.

Below you’ll find a list of the winners who took home this year’s lovely trophies made from luminous ostrich eggs from Lutz Farms etched by Big Secret.

Chef of the Year: Owen Lane, of Vagabond

Restaurant of the Year: Dutch & Co.

Lifetime Achievement Award: Jason Alley of Comfort and Pasture

Best New Restaurant: Southbound

Server of the Year: Michael Verner of Heritage

Purveyor of the Year: Manakintowne Specialty Growers

Baker or Pastry Chef of the Year: Evrim Dogu of Sub Rosa Bakery

Rising Culinary Star: Will Longoria of the Rogue Gentlemen

Cocktail Program: Saison

Beer Program: Saison

Wine Program: Barrel Thief Wine Shop and Cafe

Grab and Go: The Dog and Pig Show

Culinary Students of the Year: Katy Anna Harris, Culinard; Nick Shipman, J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

L'Opossum's David Shannon Named as Semifinalist in the James Beard Awards

He's in the running for best chef Mid-Atlantic.

Posted By on Wed, Feb 17, 2016 at 1:25 PM

The announcements are out, and L’Opossum’s David Shannon has been named a semifinalist for the James Beard Foundation restaurant awards best chef Mid-Atlantic. Richmond-native Shannon, a New England Culinary Institute graduate, former sous chef at the Inn at Little Washington and chef and co-owner of the Dogwood Grill, opened L’Opossum in the old Eat by Pescados space in 2014.

For years prior to opening, Shannon collected art, plates, lighting fixtures and 26 miniature replicas of Michelangelo’s David for an interior that we described in 2015 as a collection “of choices a louche Pee Wee Herman might make when he finally grew up.”

His food — he calls it “French soul food” — is no less fanciful, with names that Shannon clearly creates with relish, such as the Hollywood Boneyard, Cap'n Dave's Catch of the Day Adrift or Fabergé egg bèdazzled with caviar. “There's a lot to love about L'Opossom,” says reviewer Rachel Machacek. “It's creative, it's fun, and it's a welcome respite from newer, design-oriented restaurants that often feel too precious.”

Although he wasn't nominated for his restaurant in Short Pump as he was last year, Peter Chang is also a best chef Mid-Atlantic semifinalist for his eponymous restaurant in Arlington. Semifinalists in previous years have also included Acacia Mid-Town’s Dale Reitzer and the Roosevelt’s Lee Gregory.

CORRECTION: This article, when originally published, failed to note that Peter Chang was recognized by the James Beard Awards this year.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Kroger Wants to Buy Fresh Market

The smaller chain looks like a tasty snack to the grocery giant.

Posted By on Fri, Feb 12, 2016 at 2:57 PM

Instead of endlessly expanding, there might be a subtle contraction in Richmond’s grocery market. According to Reuters, Kroger is attempting to acquire Fresh Market. It doesn’t mean that Kroger will actually buy the company whose market shares rose to a total value of $1 billion after the news, or that Fresh Market will sell. The company has “retained investment bank JP Morgan Chase & Co. to assist in a review of strategic options, including the potential sale of the company,” Reuters reports.

Fresh Market and rival Whole Foods are facing increased competition as larger chains expand their organic and “natural” food offerings. Whole Foods plans to spin off a chain of smaller, less expensive stores called 365 to combat its reputation as “Whole Paycheck.” And to attract a younger crowd, 365 stores might even boast in-house tattoo parlors.

Kroger isn’t the only company interested in Fresh Market. Private equity companies are also bidding in the Fresh Market auction.

Still, given the proximity of Carytown’s Fresh Market to Cary Street’s Kroger, and the Parham Road location of Fresh Market back-to-back with Kroger on Eastridge Road, it’s interesting to contemplate how the two would coexist under the umbrella of one larger company.

15 Richmond Beers for Valentine's Day

This year, drink your chocolate with your sweetie.

Posted By on Fri, Feb 12, 2016 at 10:00 AM

Some of us are thinking about Valentine’s Day, mainly (primarily) because of the promise of chocolate.

And I’m thinking about something wrote about last week — beer made with chocolate, or really, beer with chocolate added for a little flavor during the brewing process. The Virginia Tourism Corporation put together a nice list of the varieties available in the state. The list includes beer that contains flavor notes that might be characterized as chocolaty — in other words, beer that doesn’t contain any chocolate at all.

I’m willing to overlook it.

And with that in mind, I’ve zeroed in on the breweries on the list that are local. Here it is, in all its hoppy, chocolaty glory:

Ardent Craft Ales:

  • Dark Rye, an American imperial stout with a dry, chocolaty finish
  • Center of the Universe Brewing Co.:

  • Orange is the New Stout, an imperial chocolate stout with oranges and sea salt
  • Shut Up 2015, a Belgian dark strong with a delicate chocolate finish
  • Hardywood Park Craft Brewery:

  • Raspberry Stout, a chocolate stout brewed with local red raspberries
  • Isley Brewing Co.:

  • The Bribe, an oatmeal porter with notes of coffee and chocolate
  • Choosy Mother, a peanut butter oatmeal porter with hints of chocolate
  • Legend Brewery:

  • Chocolate Porter, a porter with caramel and chocolate malts
  • Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery:

  • Virginia Black Bear, a Russian imperial stout with notes of dark chocolate and coffee
  • Vanilla Virginia Black Bear, a vanilla Russian imperial stout flavored with dark chocolate, coffee and vanilla
  • Chai Tea Virginia Black Bear, a Russian imperial stout with the spiciness of Indian chai tea and dark chocolate flavors
  • Heir Apparent, an imperial stout with caramel and chocolate flavors
  • Midnight Brewery:

  • Not My Job, a southern English brown ale with notes of toffee and chocolate
  • Midnight Granite, a rich oatmeal stout with a subtle roast and smooth chocolate notes
  • Strangeways Brewing:

  • Woodbooger Belgian-Style Brown Ale, a brown ale with hints of chocolate, caramel and fruit
  • Triple Crossing Brewing Co.:

  • Vanilla Night Lands, a spiced imperial stout with vanilla beans and cacao nibs
  • Thursday, February 11, 2016

    Church Hill's Urban Farmhouse Market & Cafe to Close

    You have a week to grab that latte.

    Posted By on Thu, Feb 11, 2016 at 4:00 AM

    Church Hill's Urban Farmhouse Market & Cafe in the Lava Lofts at 310 N. 33rd St. is closing on Feb. 21, reports Church Hill People’s News. It opened in 2014 and was the third location of the local chain.

    The Urban Farmhouse focuses on locally sourced food with an emphasis on healthy options.

    After several years of establishing its flagship spot in Shockoe Slip in 2010, the Urban Farmhouse has aggressively expanded since opening its second location in Midlothian in 2013. The chain recently opened its sixth location in Manchester at 1200 Semmes Ave. in January.

    Wednesday, February 10, 2016

    Another Restaurant for Rappahannock Owners

    This one will open in Charleston.

    Posted By on Wed, Feb 10, 2016 at 6:16 PM

    Rapp Session, Ryan and Travis Croxton’s soon-to-open oyster bar next to Rappahannock on East Grace Street, isn’t even open yet and the cousins have already inked a deal to open another in Charleston, South Carolina, as first reported by Hanna Raskin in the Post and Courier.

    The Rappahannock Oyster Co. owners take oysters down to Charleston, South Carolina every year for the Charleston Wine & Food Festival. In conjunction with Border Springs Farm’s Craig Rogers, their Lambs and Clams after party is one of the most sought-after invitations at the event.

    Ryan and Travis have gotten to know the city well, so when a developer there approached them to put a restaurant in a 135-year-old former cigar factory, they didn’t hesitate to say yes.

    Never mind that they were trying to open Rapp Session next door to their Richmond restaurant, Rappahannock. Both projects went forward.

    “Everything we spent on Rapp Session -- the old brick, the steel, the flooring -- this building already has,” says Travis.

    The two restaurants share similarities, but the Charleston project will be a much larger place. “There will be a market and a big raw bar. It’ll kind of be like the food [at Rappahannock Oyster Bar] at Union Market, but with a big wood-fired grill,” he says.

    Although the Croxtons plan to serve some oysters and clams from Rappahannock River Co., they want to develop relationships with local fishermen, with an eye to bringing South Carolina coastal seafood up to their Virginia restaurants instead of the other way around. There may be another farm in the future for Rappahannock Oyster Co. in South Carolina, too.

    “We don’t want to do the carpetbagger thing,” he says.

    A spring opening for the as-yet-unamed Charleston restaurant is planned. Rapp Session is set to open in Richmond next Wednesday.

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