Monday, December 19, 2016

Edible Pine Cones?

We dare you to make this.

Posted By on Mon, Dec 19, 2016 at 8:00 AM

The “Cheese Cones” resurfaced recently while I sifted through a trove of my grandmother’s and great-grandmother’s recipes.

It’s become a happenstance holiday tradition that I come across the yellowing card while searching for my great-grandmother’s gingerbread recipe, which is written in French, merci.

I’m always intrigued that the “Cheese Cones” card has evidence of actual use.

Someone made this? A relative?

It’s not the cheddar-mayo-sherry mix that vexes me the most. It’s not the Hellmann’s mayo. (I’m a Duke’s girl on the rare occasions I use mayo).

Nope. The most troubling part is imagining the mess that the pinecones must become after party guests take the first few nibbles. Plus, I’m pretty sure that the ones from the backyard might be tastier.

But I’m not going to try them. No way.

Go ahead. You make “Cheese Cones.” I dare you!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Cat Cafes Coming to Virginia

Could Richmond be next?

Posted By on Thu, Dec 15, 2016 at 12:01 PM

Freeda Steele has her mind set on having a new kind of business next year, even if she has to claw her way through a hairball of a permitting process.

This is a tail of how an everyday cat lover decided she wanted to open Hampton Roads’ first cat cafe.

Before Steele had reached the age of 40, she discovered she had breast cancer. At the same time, she and her husband were separating. Though not one to dwell on hardships, Steele says that tough time gave her clarity on the life she wanted after – one with a legacy and no regrets.

“I don’t want to be on my deathbed, thinking ‘Why didn’t I do that?’ ” she said.

What is a cat cafe? It’s not a cafe you bring your cat to. It’s not a cafe that serves cat. It’s a business that provides the company of cats and coffee - and sometimes room for laptops. Wi-fi usually accompanies the whiskers.

Warning: The following story is littered with cat puns.

The concept of the cat cafe seems to have started in Taiwan and gained popularity in Japan. The trend has worked its way to the Western hemisphere, with locations in San Diego, New York, L.A. and Washington. There’s no definitive source for cat cafes in the United States, but most estimates put the clowder between 20 and 25, all pouncing on the market within the past three years.

Some people find relaxation in petting or playing with cats. Some have landlords restricting them from having their own at home. The cafes become an urban refuge for both the animals and those craving their affection.

“Anyone who’s an animal lover, they’re like, ‘Yeah, I get it.’ It’s like a Starbucks,” Steele said, “with cats.”

Steele has had her eye on a location in downtown Norfolk. The property is in the city’s Vibrant Spaces, an incentive program intended to draw businesses to Granby Street by offsetting startup costs and providing discounted rent to new businesses.

But before the city will consider offering her a lease, Norfolk must first be willing to change the zoning code for a category of business that, as of meow, doesn’t exist.

Steele has submitted a request to include “kennels” in the downtown district of Freemason and part of Granby. Muddy Paws, a pet store with grooming services, operates in the same area but provides boarding at its other site near Lamberts Point.

City planner Susan Pollock Hart said a cat cafe, though unique, would fit within Norfolk’s kennel definition. The Planning Commission will have the opportunity to discuss the proposed zoning change at a meeting Jan. 26. City Council would have the final say over the decision.

Even if the council approves it, that measure would only scratch the surface. Steele would then submit her business proposal for a special public review. And if she wanted to move into a Vibrant Spaces storefront, the council would vote on the lease.

This first step “isn’t really about her,” Pollock Hart said. “This is: 'Do we want to allow a kennel in the D-3 district?' ”

Steele, now 45 and cancer-free, has always had a cat or two. During her childhood in California, her family never bought one from a store – the furry companions just sort of showed up.

That’s how Frankie the mutt-cat entered Steele’s life about four years ago. One day the feline crawled out of a storm drain in Steele’s Chesapeake neighborhood. Now Frankie lives the good life, occasionally catnapping in mini hammocks attached by suction cup to the windows.

“They just love you," Steele said. "I can’t imagine not having one.”

With Steele in good health and having some savings, she took the leap this fall to purr-sue her dream business. That involved quitting her job, administrative work for a general contractor, and registering her company, Catnip LLC, with the state.

Steele could paw-tentially open in another part of the city that already allows kennels, planning officials said, but she feels strongly that the unusual business requires visibility and foot traffic to succeed.

Downtown Norfolk is where it belongs, she said, although she has recently expanded her search to other areas in case her plan doesn’t work out.

Rob Blizard, executive director of Norfolk Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said he hopes the city will be receptive to the idea. The nonprofit would like to partner with Steele. The felines showcased at the future Catnip Cat Cafe would be shelter animals.

With kittens usually adopted first, Blizard said, adult cats are among the hardest to place.

“Sometimes I think it’s a case of bringing the animals to the people,” he said. “I’m all for it, so long as everything’s managed OK.”

Public health regulations would present another ball of yarn. At some other cat cafes, the business owners have built an enclosure to separate food and drink sales from areas where cats roam. Steele, who said she’s had preliminary conversations with health department officials, believes she can design the space to meet requirements.

With just coffee and pre-made snacks on the menu, she doesn’t plan on needing a kitchen for food preparation. She’d also include private spots where the animals could retreat or use the litter boxes. Steele also thinks she’ll manage crowds by asking patrons to sign up for time slots, as other cat cafes have done.

Nyree Wright, a northern Virginia resident who is trying to open Phinicky Pheline Cat Cafe, is searching for a property in Old Town Alexandria and wants to open in the fall. She launched a crowdfunding campaign last year, raising over $7,000.

But one of her biggest challenges has been finding a landlord willing to lease commercial space in which cats would live.

“It’s sort of been a learning year for me,” Wright said. “It’s literally one of the most daunting processes I’ve ever encountered.”

Mary Miller, CEO of Downtown Norfolk Council, said the cat cafe could be a fit for one of the Vibrant Spaces storefronts, but all applications are vetted through a subcommittee. In general, she said, the program seeks unique types of businesses, perhaps new to the city, to liven up the street.

Steele expects some concerns about her plan. But she hopes Norfolk leaders don’t pussyfoot around the issue just because it’s new.

If the fur flies?

“Guess they weren’t hip enough for a cat cafe.”

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Weekly Food Notes: Hot Dogs, Fresh Juice + Billy Fallen is Back

Posted By on Wed, Dec 14, 2016 at 11:48 AM

Triple Crossing Brewing Co. will be off and running at its new Fulton brewpub on Friday, Dec. 16. The biggest and best surprise? Billy Fallen, founder of Billy Bread, will be on the premises making Neapolitan-style pizza adorned with all things SausageCraft. triplecrossingbeer.com.

A takeout spot and juice bar will open in the Museum District, reports the Times-Dispatch. The North End Juice Bar is owned by the same family that operates Incredible Edibles. northendrva.com.

Scott’s Addition, while rich in alcohol, hasn’t had enough spots to eat to soak it all up. Little by little, that’s changing. Food truck the Dog Wagon has opened a walkup spot, the Dog Wagon Carry-out, at 2930-C W. Broad St. Richmond BizSense reports. facebook.com/thedogwagonRVA.

And, the website says, the old Suntrust building at 3022 W. Broad St. will open as Statement Brewing Co. in September.

Happenings: Look, I don’t know as much about music as I should, but Paste magazine calls Adam Schatz “arguably one of the most versatile and exciting musicians in recent years.” He’ll be appearing with his band, Mrs. Adam Schatz, an offshoot of another of his bands, Landlady, at Hardywood Park Craft Brewery on Saturday, Dec. 17, starting at 6 p.m. Expect the usual food trucks and Gingerbread Stout on tap. hardywood.com.

Metzger Bar & Butchery is celebrating friend and staff member Kurt Moon, who was killed in a car crash in last September, with guest Rogue Gentlemen bartender Vinny D’Ambrosio and DJ James Kohler, for You and the 6 on Sunday, Dec. 18 from 5 p.m.-midnight. Fancy but low-alcohol cocktails will be served, and 5 percent of drink sales will be donated to the Blue Sky Fund. metzgerbarandbutchery.com.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Triple Crossing Brewing Co. to Open in Fulton on Friday

The new 30,000-square-foot space is sah-weet.

Posted By on Tue, Dec 13, 2016 at 5:02 PM

Triple Crossing Brewing Co. is opening its new 30,000-square-foot digs in Fulton on Friday.

“We’ve been working on the space since February,” co-owner Adam Worcester says, “and we are more than ready to let people in the doors to check it out.”

The light-strung interior was designed with Kathy Corbet, and you’ll find two communal tables spray-painted by local artist Matt Betts, and a mural by Mickael Broth, aka The Nightowl. Small Axe Forge acid-stained the tabletops and Foggy London Towne designed the signs. 

Instead of a tasting room, expect a brewpub with -- surprise! -- Pizza from Billy Fallen of Billy Bread fame. Fallen’s pies will be thin-crusted, Neapolitan-style pizza baked, Worcester says, in roughly 90 seconds in a 1,200-degree oven. “These pies are designed and meant to be consumed in one sitting without weighing you down,” he says.

The brewing capacity has almost tripled in size, so you should see Triple Crossing’s beers in more restaurants, and with plans for bimonthly can releases, you’ll see them on store shelves, too. And in case you were worried, the original Triple Crossing tasting room at 113 S. Foushee St. will stay put.

When asked if a second phase is in the works, Worcester says, “Considering that this place almost killed us, we have no plans for future expansion at this time.”

The new 5203 Hatcher St. locations hours will be Tuesdays to Thursdays 4-10 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays noon-10 p.m. and on Sundays from noon-8 p.m.

And if you’re curious about what might be on tap this Friday, here’s what to expect:

Element 79 Golden Ale

Paranoid Aledroid Pale Ale

OTC Pilsner

Season Shift Saison

Falcon Smash IPA

Citra Dry Hopped Falcon Smash IPA

Clever Girl IPA (available for the first time in four-packs of 16-ounce cans)

Double Dry Hopped Clever Girl IPA

Battle Creek DIPA

Bourbon Soaked Udderly Beautiful Milk Stout

Friday, December 9, 2016

New Restaurant to Open in Curry Craft Space

Hamooda Shami is letting his imagination run wild.

Posted By on Fri, Dec 9, 2016 at 2:14 PM

The latest restaurant concept from Hamooda Shami is — a little unusual. “I was almost afraid to say it out loud,” he says. “I reached deep into my vault of weird ideas.”

This spring, the owner of New York Deli, Don’t Look Back, Charlottesville’s Yearbook Taco Bar and the now-closed Portrait House plans to open a restaurant called 11 Months in the old Curry Craft space. At the same time, another will open on the Downtown Mall in Charlottesville in the Yearbook spot, pending its closure.

Shami says Yearbook was going gangbusters the first year, but he saw a big drop off the second. He knew he needed to start over and re-brand. That made him think about something that he’d been mulling over for the last eight years or so. What if he opened a place for 11 months, set a countdown clock and then completely started from scratch after it ticked to the end with a new interior, a new menu, a new concept? And then started the clock again?

“In order to get people to come out on a random Wednesday when it’s raining,” Shami says, “it has to be something really compelling.”

Although chef-driven pop-up culture hasn’t hit the Richmond dining scene with the kind of force you see on the West Coast, its diners’ craving for novelty remains unabated nonetheless. Shami likens what he wants to do with 11 Months to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

I know. Stay with us here.

He explains it like this: Although the museum boasts an outstanding permanent collection, what makes locals line up is its rotating exhibitions. His new restaurant would function similarly. The staff and location would remain the same, and the 11 Months logo would still anchor the restaurant, but the new, temporary concept would also bring in a completely different décor and a new name. And that would then repeat. And repeat.

Shami’s enlisted Campfire & Co. to come up with the branding and design of 11 Months. He plans to go back to them yearly to plan the next versions.

“I’ve used up my interior design ideas,” he says.

The themes at his two restaurant in Richmond and Charlottesville will always be different from each other, although, he says, if he sees customers getting particularly attached to a concept, he’d think about rotating it back in later years.

“You never can tell in this business what’s going to capture people’s imagination,” Shami says.

The spring opening is a different kind of race against the clock. He and his wife are expecting a baby on April 2. “It’s kind of expediting the process,” he says. And right now, he isn’t giving any hints as to what diners might expect when he opens.

He’s ready for the challenge, although he’s well-aware of the risks. “You never really know, and admittedly, this is a crazier kind of thing than your usual hospitality projects,” Shami says. “It’s a coin flip.”

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Weekly Food Notes: Openings, Closings, Ice Cream + More

Posted By on Wed, Dec 7, 2016 at 2:25 PM

Openings: North Side will soon be home to Demi’s, a Mediterranean grill that will be situated across the street from owners Jimmy and Daniella Tsamouras’ other restaurant, Dot’s Back Inn.

Things are going well for Flyin’ Pig Backyard Grill and Asado’s owners. They plan to open Wood & Iron Gameday in the old Brew Gastropub space at the Shoppes at Bellgrade in Midlothian, Richmond BizSense reports.

Charm School, the much anticipated ice-cream store, is opening this week in the old Quirk Gallery spot. Right now, its hours are limited to Thursdays noon-9 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays noon-11 p.m., and Sundays noon-9 p.m. charmschoolrva.com.

A teeny, tiny brewery will open in Hanover, the Times-Dispatch reports. Intermission Beer Co. will open next to a Goodyear Auto Service Center, near Virginia Center Commons, reports the Times-Dispatch. intermissionbeer.com.

Closings: Then there were four. The Urban Farmhouse Market & Café on the corner of Broad and Gilmer streets by VCU is now closed after a little over a year since opening. Another market and cafe is planned for Linden Row Inn, and it will open in January, the Times-Dispatch reports. theurbanfarmhouse.net.

Congratulations! Open Table named L’Opossum as one of the country’s best 100 restaurants, while Proper Pie is one of America's legendary pie shops, according to USA Today.

Happenings: Perly’s Delicatessen and Restaurant will host the Richmond SPCA’s monthly supper club tonight. Pet-lovers are encouraged to make a reservation and dine, with 15 percent of the proceeds going to the nonprofit. richmondspca.org.

Have a tipple with your favorite Christmas guy at Quirk’s Boozy Santa Brunch on Saturday, Dec. 10, from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Reservations are recommended. quirkhotel.com.

There are a trio of beer/cider events happening this week. For more details, follow this link to the RVA Growler page.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Pappy is Back

Sort of. Virginia ABC is offering a lottery for this elusive bourbon.

Posted By on Fri, Dec 2, 2016 at 2:49 PM

Are you feeling lucky, bourbon fans?

It’s Pappy Van Winkle season in Virginia and the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control is hosting online lotteries for drinkers interested in buying a bottle.

Released state by state in small batches, the elusive aged liquor made by Buffalo Trace Distillery in Kentucky has garnered a passionate following. Now it’s Virginia’s turn.

Virginia ABC, which has no control over how many bottles it gets annually from the distillery, launched its first of three lotteries for Pappy products on Thursday morning at abc.virginia.gov.

Before 4:30 p.m., the lottery had already attracted 9,404 Virginians entering for the chance to buy 96 bottles of $99 Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve 15-year-old bourbon. The lucky few will be notified Dec. 12 if the software program that picks entries at random chose theirs. Winners are chosen at random.

It’s the first time the agency has offered the bottles in a lottery versus sending them to the state’s retail stores.

Two more are scheduled for Dec. 8 and Dec. 15. Virginia ABC will host a lottery for the $69.99 Van Winkle Special Reserve 12-year-old bourbon and the $59.99 Old Rip Van Winkle 10-year-old bourbon, respectively.

The agency’s waiting list for the Pappy Van Winkle 20-year-old bourbon is also dwindling. There are 612 people waiting for up to three bottles each since the list was capped in 2015, and ABC spokeswoman Jennifer Guild said the agency received 402 bottles this year priced at $169.99 each.

“It will still be several years before everyone on the list receives a bottle,” she said.

Looking for Pappy's 23-year-old bourbon? You won't find it in Virginia. The state didn't get any this time.

UPDATE: Over 25,000 entries were received for the lottery, reports the Times-Dispatch. There are 96 bottles and the winners will be announced on Monday, Dec. 12.

Feel like you missed out? You can put your name in the hat on Thursday, Dec. 8, for Pappy Van Winkle’s special reserve 12-year bourbon and again on Thursday, Dec. 15 for its the 10-year-old variety.

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