Friday, September 29, 2017

The Butterbean Market & Cafe is Coming to Hull Street.

It's time to revitalize Manchester's forgotten business corridor.

Posted By on Fri, Sep 29, 2017 at 2:37 PM

It’s time to feed the masses in Manchester. The neighborhood is teeming with hundreds of new apartments and condos, but there’s hardly anywhere to eat and there’s nowhere to shop for groceries unless you start up the car and drive 10 to 15 minutes.

Michael and Laura Hild want to change that. Not with a grocery store, not with a full-service restaurant, but with a spot that’s a smaller first step: The Butterbean Market & Cafe at 1204 Hull St. will open at the beginning of next year.

The Hilds’ name may be familiar to you — the two started Anderson’s Neck Oysters in 2010. Now, however, “we have a whole stable of ideas,” Michael Hild says, and they’ve formed Church Hill Ventures to execute them. The couple's first projects are planned for Manchester along Hull Street.

“We’re not developers — at all,” he says, “but we saw the cool bones of the [Hull Street] business corridor — and we saw an area that’s really just a sea of apartments centered in the industrial [section] with just a couple of cool places to eat.”

They first asked themselves what the neighborhood needed, he says. They then considered the most logical way to start. A market and cafe seemed like it would both fill a need, while also being “a less risky option than a destination dining concept.”

The building once housed Urban Beat Entertainment, run by Alexander Randolph, aka Mr. Wiggles, aka Dickie Diamond, aka August Moon. He was an R&B singer, music producer and still is a political activist. And his music lives on — hip-hop artists often sample the work of the artist known for inventing the “fatback style,” the backbone of much soul and funk.

The couple brought Dan Scherotter, former owner of San Franciso’s Palio d’Asti, on as culinary director. He’ll help with the Butterbean and later projects that Hild isn’t ready to talk about yet. “He’s got more experience in his little finger than I do in my whole body,” says Hild.

The cafe will offer coffee, sandwiches, salads and to-go items á la Church Hill's Union Market, and although the market won’t be full-blown “by any stretch of the imagination,” he says, it’ll stock fresh produce and other necessities. The idea is to provide healthy food so that the Butter Bean's neighbors don’t have to jump in a car to go get them.

“We’ll judge ourselves at the end of the day whether this whole thing is successful not by whether our businesses are successful, but whether people want to move into the corridor because it just makes sense,” Hild says. “We hope we can build the foundation and others will come.”

Correction: Dan Scherotter's last name was misspelled when this story originally published.

Here's How Weezie’s Kitchen Is Stepping Up Its Game

Posted By on Fri, Sep 29, 2017 at 12:18 PM

Carytown's Weezie’s Kitchen is improving its game. Owner Todd Gelsomino has brought in key players to elevate service, the cocktail program and the food. Bar manager Vanna Hem has been mastering cocktails for 13 years at top Richmond bars, including Vagabond, Postbellum and Can Can. The new chef, Brian Brown, also worked in the kitchen at Can Can.

Both the new cocktail and food menues will change with the seasons and draft beer includes local rotating brews.

I experienced these improvements at a Hardywood Park beer dinner on Sept. 25, which paired four creative courses with limited-release Hardywood beers. Hem and Brown had visited the brewery to sample and choose the beers for the dinner, and Brown created dishes tailored to them.

We began the dinner with oysters on the half shell. The fresh mignonette and the salty seafood played well with the introductory beer, the slightly sweet and tart Pineapple Mango Berliner Weiss.

The next course, a salad of kale and lentils, lightly grilled tuna, cantaloupe gazpacho and shaved pecorino, presented a clever mix of bright and earthy flavors. The salad was paired with a French farmhouse saison, a small-batch ale brewed on Hardywood’s Charlottesville pilot system. The spicy notes from the saison yeast — as with most farmhouse-style beers — paired wonderfully with the earthy flavors from the salad.

The main course featured quail in the style of chicken and waffles. The chicken-fried quail perched atop a Belgian sweet corn waffle with drizzles of sweet huckleberry syrup. Hardywood presented its 2016 rye whiskey barrel-aged farmhouse pumpkin, a rich amalgam of fall flavor touched with spicy rye whiskey.

Arguably, the dessert best demonstrated chef’s creativity. Savory predominated in the surprising and delightful foie gras Melba: A slice of foie gras rested on balsamic custard and brûléed peaches and was topped with rich, slightly sweet raspberry sauce and arugula. The beer pairing — Cuvée Gold Belgian Pale Ale — complemented the dessert with an equal intensity and appropriate dryness.

I also sampled the new cocktail menu, via a full-flavored fall concoction that blended dark rum and apple — a marriage that worked surprisingly well.

Besides a creative mix of flavors, Hem’s cocktail list includes plenty of infusions and other ingredients not in a home bartender’s arsenal. The Tokyo Drift, for example, is made with duck-fat-washed Woodford Reserve rye and red wine and plum reduction with mole bitters, lemon and star anise.

As Hem explained to me, Weezie’s is a Carytown institution, serving Richmonders for more than 10 years. The goal now is not just to make Weezie’s better than ever but also to “make Carytown great again.”

Based on my experience, I have great expectations.

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