Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Chef Travis Milton to Open a Restaurant in Bristol

Appalachia's gain is Richmond's loss.

Posted By on Tue, Mar 29, 2016 at 4:52 PM

Chef Travis Milton has been looking for a spot to open the doors his new restaurant, Shovel & Pick, for the last year. It’s been tough going.

“I've been searching high and low for a place that fits what I need here in town and no dice. It's bittersweet,” he says. “[In Bristol, Tennessee,] I get to practice what I preach and do this thing in the way that impacts the community there the most.”

“It's tough not being able to find a place here,” Milton says. “I love Richmond, and I'll be sad to leave it, but I'm very excited about getting to do this back home.”

The Washington Post’s Jane Black confirmed the move in her story that published today, “The Next Big Thing in American Regional Cooking: Humble Appalachia,” an in-depth look at the region, the food and Milton. In the fall, Style featured the chef in a cover story that can be read here.

Air Supply: The Veil Brewing Co. Will Open in April

One of Vermont’s finest is here to craft truly Richmond beers.

Posted By on Tue, Mar 29, 2016 at 1:25 PM

UPDATE: The Veil Brewing Co. will open Saturday, April 16, reports the Times-Dispatch. You can expect food trucks that day and a sampling of the beer varieties that it will offer.

07-28-2015: A specially trained brewer is about to take the phrase “taste of Richmond” to a whole new level at a Scott’s Addition brewery now under construction.

A year ago, at the small, family-run Cantillon Brewery in Anderlecht, Brussels, American brewer Matt Tarpey and fourth-generation brewer Jean-Pierre van Roy were walking around a barrel warehouse discussing spontaneous fermentation.

It’s a challenging process that involves making beer from wild yeast strains floating in the air — and it’s one of Tarpey’s favorite subjects. It also inspired the name of the new Veil Brewing Co. “There’s a protein-based membrane that grows on top of the beer in the barrel called the pellicle,” Tarpey says over coffee at Urban Farmhouse in Scott’s Addition. “Natural wines develop them as well, and Jean has friends in Italy who told him natural winemakers there call pellicles ‘the veil.’”

Fast-forward to 2015, and Tarpey, 30, is head brew master and co-founder of the new operation at the former Unity Baptist Church, on Roseneath Road across from an old Coca-Cola bottling plant. Although the renovation has been held up by asbestos removal, he and co-owners Dustin Durrance and Dave Michelow plan to open in November.

Tarpey says the Veil will have hop-heavy offerings, high gravity — that means high alcohol — varieties, barrel-aged beer, bourbon barrel-aged imperial stouts and kettle sours. The plan is to create a 3,100-square-foot tasting room, he says, and they’ll invite food trucks and encourage takeout. A small section will be offered for private events.

But the buzz in beer circles stems from Tarpey’s impressive pedigree.

The brewer spent the last few years at the legendary Hill Farmstead Brewery in Vermont — named the best brewery in the world two years in a row by RateBeer, the popular beer review and rating site. Tarpey also put in work at Vermont’s Alchemist, the brewery that produces the No. 1-ranked beer in the world, Heady Topper, according to Beer Advocate. And he says he’s one of very few Americans to intern at Belgium’s Cantillon, which opened in 1900.

“He’s brewed at spots that are home to the most sought-after beers in the most sought-after styles in craft beer,” says Jay Bayer, owner and general manager of Saison. “And he’s just a good dude. I’m very excited to see what he and his partners create.”

What Tarpey looks forward to the most is getting to work with spontaneous fermentation again. To that end, an open vat — or koelship — will sit on the roof of the Veil to be fermented by wild yeast strains in the Richmond air. Tarpey will fill French oak wine barrels with the inoculated wort and let the beer age for one to four years. “At year five,” he predicts, “I should have 450 wine barrels full of beer aging in that facility,” off-site near Dabney Road. If that sounds more like winemaking, that’s because it is.

“You can’t drink beer all the time,” he jokes. “I love the uncertainty of it — each barrel can produce a different character. And I love the challenge it creates to produce a product solely based off your palate, blending each barrel.”

Belgian lambic is the most recognized style of spontaneous beer. But you can’t call a beer lambic in the United States because it’s specific to Belgium. Tarpey’s beer “will probably just be called spontaneous,” he says, shooting down a suggestion of “midadlambic.”

Tarpey plans to return to Belgium every other brew season, he says. He has an ongoing relationship with Cantillon’s brewer, van Roy, who gave his blessing for the process to be repeated in Richmond.

As far as the exploding local beer scene goes, Tarpey is impressed by his neighbors Ardent Craft Ales, as well as Triple Crossing Brewery and the Answer Brewpub. His only hope is that more locally owned restaurants open in the hot Scott’s Addition area. That would mean more tap space for his creative endeavors — and he isn’t worried about entering into competitions.

“I’d rather see people enjoying my beer,” he says. “When you stop learning, that’s when you stop having fun. That’s when it stops being interesting.”

New Delivery Service Comes to Richmond

OrderUp can bring Strawberry Street Cafe's crab cakes right to your door.

Posted By on Tue, Mar 29, 2016 at 10:59 AM

Watch out, delivery folks, you’re about to face stiff competition. And it comes from an unlikely source.

Groupon had a rough time in 2015. Its stock price plummeted and falling revenues spurred layoffs throughout the company, nationally and internationally. Fortunately for the online coupon company, this year is going better — Chinese behemoth Alibaba bought a stake in the business, driving up share prices, and Groupon is continuing to expand — into different ventures.

At the end of last summer, Groupon bought Baltimore-based company OrderUp for $69 million, and the online order and delivery service is now available in Richmond.

More than 40 local restaurants are participating. Once you download the OrderUp app, you’ll have a choice, starting today, between food from Coriander, Red Eye Cookie Company, Strawberry Street Cafe and Weezie’s Kitchen, among others, plus chains such as Chipotle, Noodles & Company, Subway and Which Wich, plus a few more. Here’s the complete list.

“Richmond is a city with a thriving restaurant scene, and many of the amazing local eateries on our platform haven’t offered delivery until now,” said Chris Jeffery, chief executive officer and co-founder of OrderUp in a press release.

OrderUp’s delivery areas include downtown and in Jackson Ward, the Fan, the Museum District, Carytown, the near West End and the Willow Lawn area.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Amazon Is Now Selling Ukrop's Homestyle Foods

Rainbow cookies have gone national.

Posted By on Mon, Mar 28, 2016 at 11:03 AM

It’s hard to believe, I know, but occasionally Richmonders are forced to leave their favorite city and move somewhere else.

There are a lot of things that they miss. Sally Bell’s Kitchen’s upside-down cupcakes come to mind, the high-stakes traffic circle around the Lee Monument, the smell of the James River in the summertime. All are hard to replicate elsewhere.

When Ukrop’s closed, lo these seven years ago, there was much gnashing of teeth and metaphorical rending of garments. Nonetheless, the products that made Ukrop’s great remained intact and available. Bobby Ukrop transformed its prepared foods division into a stand-alone company, Ukrop’s Homestyle Foods, and you can still find chicken salad and white house rolls, among other things, available at Martin’s, as well as Kroger, the Fresh Market, B.J.’s Wholesale Club and the Richmond International Airport.

There’s yet another way for a few products to get to your table. And for displaced Richmond natives, this is exciting news.

Amazon now carries a Taste of Richmond combo pack. In it, you’ll find two packages of white house rolls, one round container of rainbow cookies and another of butterstar cookies — those are the ones with the squirt of icing on top — for $19.99. Separately, you can buy a pack of three lemon pound cakes for $15.99.

For locals, there’s an unexpected treat on the Amazon that may get us salivating. For a mere $13.99, retro Ukrop’s Homestyle t-shirts are available while they last: T-shirts, the listing says, “for eating rainbow cookies.”

I just clicked “add to cart.”

Thursday, March 24, 2016

The Virginia Food and Beverage Expo Highlights New Local Products

Drink up, folks.

Posted By on Thu, Mar 24, 2016 at 11:21 AM

I think a name change might be in order. The Virginia Food and Beverage Expo, held on Wednesday, March 23, isn’t the same jam, spice rub and barbecue sauce extravaganza that it’s been in years past — although those products are still very much in evidence.

This year, the stand-out products were beverages. Suddenly, it seemed, there were distillers such as Richmond’s James River Distillery or Loudon County’s Coctoctin Creek handing out samples to startled passersby — a result of a new law passed by the General Assembly making half-ounce sample shots legal — next to the more familiar paper cups of coffee or mini cookies in the adjacent booths.

There were craft sodas, kombucha, tea, and plenty of coffee. Bottles of Bloody Mary mix, it seemed, were on every aisle, fighting for attention.

In fact, the locally made Texas Beach Bloody Mary Mix was named best new beverage. And Midlothian’s Mother Shrub won the best new product overall award. Shrub is an 18th century vinegar-and-fruit concoction that’s the darling of craft cocktail programs these days. It makes a tangy non-alcoholic refresher on its own, too.

No specialty food trade show would be complete without chocolate, and although the pickings were slim — get it together, Virginia — they were exceptional. The best new food award went to Gearharts Fine Chocolates for its Virginia Malt Whiskey Truffles, made in conjunction with Virginia Distillery Co.

In between artisan dog biscuits — it’s definitely now a thing — and numerous tables overflowing with seafood at the show, it was gratifying to see Edwards Virginia Smokehouse passing out samples of sausage. Earlier this year the company was devastated by fire. Fortunately, 14,000 country hams were in cold storage, and Edwards has resumed producing fresh sausage for chefs restaurants. You can also find limited products available in its Williamsburg store. As third generation owner Sam Edwards says, “We might be down, but we’re crawling back.”

Monday, March 21, 2016

All Richmond Area Martin's Stores Up For Sale

If I had a dime for every time Richmond's grocery news surprised me ...

Posted By on Mon, Mar 21, 2016 at 1:54 PM

If the two enormous international grocery companies, Ahold NV and Delhaize Group, can successfully merge, a few things are going to have to go. Too many stores overlap for the Federal Trade Commission to ignore.

Food World, a trade publication, reports that Ahold has put up all area Martin’s for sale, “essentially pulling the plug on the former Ukrop’s stores it acquired in 2010 for $140 million.” Ahold also owns Giant Food, Hannaford and Stop & Shop, a northeastern chain. If the Richmond Martin's stores don't sell, Ahold could close all of them.

Delhaize, which owns Food Lion, will keep its Richmond stores open, although the company is offering other Food Lions for sale in different parts of the country.

The Times-Dispatch, which spoke to Jeffrey W. Metzger, publisher of Food World, posits that possible buyers may be either Kroger or Publix. Publix had announced that it would open a store in the West End in 2018. Buying the Martin’s chain would be a departure from its usual practice of slowly expanding and opening one store at a time.

"This has not been the usual path for Publix, but this is a very unusual opportunity for Publix," the T-D quotes Metzger as saying.

Friday, March 18, 2016

More Room, More Coffee

Blanchard's Coffee Roasting Co. settles into Scott's Addition.

Posted By on Fri, Mar 18, 2016 at 4:36 PM

Blanchard’s Coffee Roasting Co.’s Stephen Robertson is just back from Nicaragua when I visit the company’s new building in Scott’s Addition. He and founder David Blanchard were down there talking to one of the farmers who supplies the roastery with beans — and they wanted to up company’s order.

The 11-year-old coffee business recently moved from Manchester to a much larger space in Scott’s Addition. Two state-of-the-art roasters have been installed and a tasting room spans the front of the building. A new bagging system means that about six bags per minute can be cranked out. Blanchard’s is now producing around 70 cases a day, despite the fact that the new machinery still needs a human being to insert the bags and tie them when they’re filled.

“We were out of physical space,” says Blanchard. “If we stayed, we would have had to add a second shift.” Another concern — if their old roaster broke, the closest place that had the capacity and willingness to help them while it was repaired was in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Blanchard’s, available from North Carolina to Maryland, recently signed a distribution deal with Union Kitchen, based in Washington, that should widen its reach even farther.

About half of its coffee is directly sourced. The most common way to obtain beans in the business is to buy them through a coffee broker, says Robertson, but it’s detrimental to growers. “The farmer gets the least amount of the percentage of money of anybody involved,” he says. “That’s just how it works.”

Instead, Blanchard’s works to find growers and buy their beans based on quality, not market value. For instance, this year, the company will buy all of its Nicaraguan source’s top-grade coffee. “This way, we can make drastic and positive changes in the community,” says Robertson.

Here at home, the new cupping room also functions as a test lab for beans and new equipment. Blanchard can tweak the roast of a particular variety to get the kind of sweetness or fruitiness, for instance, that the coffee can best express. The new roasters can then be programmed to duplicate each batch exactly the same way.

Two or three times a week, the entire staff gathers around a tall metal table in the airy room lined with complicated-looking coffee equipment to slurp and taste, call out adjectives and decide which samples they like prefer. Robertson wants to start holding classes in April. There will be weekly cupping sessions to show off the differences between varieties of beans and monthly classes to teach the layperson how to brew a perfect cup of coffee.

“Since we don’t have a coffee shop, we always have a challenge when putting the coffee out there,” Robertson says. “You’re probably brewing a good cup of coffee at home, but I know my mom is ruining [her coffee].” Robertson laughs. “We need to educate people.”

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

A New Boathouse to Open in Hopewell

The view is going to be spectacular.

Posted By on Wed, Mar 16, 2016 at 11:08 AM

The Boathouse will launch its fourth restaurant where the James and Appomattox rivers meet in what was once the in the old Navigator's Den space. The Hopewell City Council announced last night that it would be part of its $7 million redevelopment of the river. The Boathouse at City Point will be located at 701 W. Randolph Road on the Appomattox Riverwalk between the Hopewell City Marina and the Beacon Theatre.

It will be an enormous space — 6,000 square feet — seating 132 people inside and 64 on the patio overlooking the river. Owner Kevin Healy plans to hire approximately 75 people to run the restaurant.

“It’s a million-dollar view,” Healy said in a news release. “We’re excited to join this thriving entertainment district, and it’s all centered around a beautiful riverfront.”

The new restaurant is slated to open at the end of the summer.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

5 Things You Should Know About Peter Chang

The acclaimed chef is a finalist for the James Beard Foundation's Best Chef Mid-Atlantic award.

Posted By on Tue, Mar 15, 2016 at 5:14 PM

Who is Peter Chang?

Peter Chang is a Chinese chef who was discovered cooking at a suburban strip mall in Northern Virginia by Washingtonian critic Todd Kliman, then writing for Washington City Paper. He wrote rapturous reviews of Chang’s restaurants and a compelling essay about the chef for the Oxford American in 2010. (An article that is, sadly, no longer online.) Kliman equated the discovery of Chang akin to stumbling across the food critic's holy grail — a brilliant chef working unnoticed in a nondescript, hole-in-the-wall joint turning out mind-blowing dishes night after night. New Yorker writer Calvin Trillin brought the story to an even wider audience the following month that year.

Why all the fuss?

After Kliman and Internet discussion boards discovered him, Chang disappeared. He moved from restaurant to restaurant in Northern Virginia, then to Atlanta, Knoxville, Tennessee, and Charlottesville before settling in Richmond. Fans obsessively tracked sitings and chased him from place to place. Theories abound about why Chang moved so frequently, but in 2012, when I interviewed him, it was clear that he and his family were here to stay. Along with partner Gen Lee, Chang’s roster of restaurants has expanded from Richmond and Charlottesville to Fredericksburg, Arlington, Williamsburg, Virginia Beach and Rockville, Maryland. He plans to open a second location in the city in the spring on West Broad Street near Scott’s Addition.

Where did he come from?

Chang was born in the Chinese province of Hubei, and was an award-winning chef there. He came to this country as chef for the Chinese Embassy. In 2005, he began cooking at China Star in Arlington. Chang’s framed awards on the walls of China Star alerted Kliman to the fact that there was someone unexpected behind the stove.

What’s so special about his food?

Although Chang works within the Sichuan tradition of Chinese cooking, he isn’t constrained to traditional dishes. He’s a spectacularly creative chef who makes food that’s all his own. Although you’ll find Chinese-American standards on the menus of his restaurants, those dishes are there mostly to please folks who may not be ready for the fiery burn that characterizes Sichuan cuisine.

Why is his food so freakin’ spicy?

Chang uses a combination of peppers to get the heat going in his food. Most important is the Sichuan peppercorn. It has paradoxical qualities: The spice burns and at the same time numbs the lips, leaving the diner with a tingly feeling — scientists call it paresthesia — that you don’t quite get from anything else. Chang combines Sichuan peppercorns with jalapeños, other chili peppers and oil in big tubs each week to create ma la — the sauce that makes Sichuan food so memorable.

Monday, March 14, 2016

The Fresh Market Sells — But Not to Kroger

The company that owns Hostess Brands is the unexpected buyer.

Posted By on Mon, Mar 14, 2016 at 11:21 AM

As grocery-obsessed Richmonders contemplate what would happen if Kroger bought the Fresh Market, given the local stores' proximity to each other, that prospect has been permanently shelved.

Instead of accepting the grocery giant’s offer — if indeed, one was even proffered — the Fresh Market decided to go with investment firm Apollo Global Management, in a $1.36 billion deal announced today.

Apollo also owns Sprouts Farmers Market, a similar grocery chain that operates mostly in the Southwest, plus Hostess Brands and General Nutrition Centers (GNC), among other investments.

“We are delighted about this transaction with the Fresh Market, which was one of the early pioneers in small-box grocery, offering unique, delicious and healthy food with a keen focus on perishables,” said Andrew S. Jhawar, senior partner and head of the Retail and Consumer Group at Apollo in a news release.

What does this mean for grocery stores in the Richmond area? Instead of consolidation and all of its interesting implications, the highly charged, cutthroat market will keep booming along. We still have the disruption of Wegmans to look forward to this year, and a second, downtown location of Whole Foods in 2017, plus the entry of Publix in 2018.

The fun isn’t going to stop, it seems, any time soon.

CORRECTION: This article originally stated that the sale would be a $1.36 million deal instead of a $1.36 billion deal.
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