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Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Meals Tax Proposal, Little Nickel Opening and More

Posted By on Tue, Jan 30, 2018 at 1:00 AM

Take a Hike

Last week, Mayor Lavar Stoney announced a proposal to raise the city's meals tax from 6 percent to 7.5 percent. Restaurant owners were surprised and displeased.  

"I obviously can't speak for every single restaurant owner in the city," says Rueger Restaurant Group's director of operations, Frank Brunetto. "But I have not met one person that is for it. Everyone I've talked to has been against it."

The current meals tax — which was raised to 6 percent in 2003 to pay for CenterStage—combined with the state and city's 5.3 percent sales tax means restaurant diners pay a taxes of 11.3 percent. The tax increase would bring that rate to 12.8 percent. According to the news release, the tax would generate more than $9 million in additional revenue, which Stoney says would be used to fund Richmond Public School facilities.

So what does this mean for you? Right now, a $30 dinner out costs you $33.39. With the new tax rate, you'll have to fork over $33.84.

Have Some Cents

It released the menu last week, and the team at Little Nickel has finally opened the doors. It's difficult to nail down a precise theme that encompasses the selection (Chinese-meets-Mediterranean-meets-Tiki-bar?), but here's a smattering of what it's serving up: Filipino-style egg rolls, octopus tostada, cheddar-apple griddle cake, lamb cheese steak, Hawaiian pork bowl and cauliflower la plancha. For now the 4702 Forest Hill Ave. spot is only open for lunch, Mondays-Fridays, but dinner service begins Friday, Feb. 9.

Burgers, Fries and Shake-ups

The original Carytown Burgers & Fries has been told its lease will end June 30, after which the Richmond Shopping Center owners will redevelop the property. Last week, a petition went up at change.org, asking for signatures in support of saving the nearly 20-year-old restaurant.

"We cannot allow multimillion dollar national corporations to push out beloved, homegrown RVA businesses like ours," says the petition. "This goes against the very core of what makes Carytown so unique and eclectic."

As of Monday morning, the petition had more than 10,000 signatures.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

The Jasper debuts in Carytown with soft opening

Posted By on Sat, Jan 27, 2018 at 4:00 PM

The freshly remodeled space is buzzing with equal parts elation and anticipation.

At the helm are some of the city’s most familiar bartenders: former Heritage owner Mattias Hägglund, Thomas “T” Leggett formerly of the Roosevelt, and Kevin Liu, who owns the Tin Pan and Carytown Cupcakes. Also running around are bar manager Brandon Peck, who also worked at the Roosevelt, and food and wine director Jeremy Wilson, who joined the team after stints at Heritage and NASA. The guys are quick but meticulous with cocktail shakers as fellow restaurateurs and industry folk mingle and congratulate them over craft beverages.

Welcome to the Jasper, Carytown's newest cocktail bar and restaurant, which officially opens to the public on Tuesday, Jan. 30.

Those in the know have been waiting for these doors to open for months -- with good reason. These veteran bar guys announced plans to open the Jasper last fall and have since created an extensive drink list served up in a speakeasy-style atmosphere with black-and-white tiles and a jaunty, 1920s-esque logo. Every detail has been thought out, down to the stand-up comedy playing over speakers in the non-gendered restrooms.

“Our goal is to be the best iteration of a neighborhood bar that can also do great cocktails,” explains Hägglund. “We want it to have a nice comfy atmosphere, with a little bit of a party atmosphere. Just a nice place that people are comfortable in.”

Front and center on the menu are 10 house cocktails, with each drink and description accompanied by a small icon displaying what it will look like. Several of the house cocktails feature tropical ingredients with surprising accompaniments, like the Blind Tiger (Jägermeister, banana, lime, grapefruit, bitters) and the Expat Willy (Scotch, orgeat, coconut, Jerry Thomas bitters, absinthe). Classics such as the Mexican Firing Squad (Blanco tequila, grenadine, lime, bitters) and the Hailstorm Julep (Laird’s apple brandy, Smith & Cross rum, port, mint) are also available.

Don’t be afraid to order off the menu. Creativity and ingenuity go a long way in the food and drink scene, but so does the ability to craft a perfectly balanced Old Fashioned (not on the menu) - and theirs is delicious.

“The menu is currently composed of what we know we like and think are successful,” says Hägglund, adding that experimentation was fairly limited due to the time it takes to acquire a liquor license. “Now that we have everything, as the menu kind of needs to grow and expand or rotate, we’ll have a little more freedom to do that and have some seasonality.”

The cocktails are the stars of the show, but there’s no shortage of other things to sip on. Six-ounce pours of house red and house white are available for $5 a piece, and the draft list features four beers (three from Virginia) and a dry cider. To pair with the drinks are a few “foodthings” such as the Saigon Sandwich (much like a banh mi, featuring hen liver pate and roast pork with pickled veggies, jalapeños, cilantro and kewpie mayo on a house-made baguette), French onion dip, pretzel bread with nori butter, and a bodega board of house-made Buffalo Creek beef jerky, Deer Creek cheddar, Marcona almonds and mustard.

“It’s all designed to be stuff that goes well with imbibing, executed in a way that is relatively low-maintenance,” says Hägglund. “Still as delicious as we can make it, fast to bring out, and available all night until closing.”

Located at 3113 W. Cary St. (right next to Carytown Cupcakes), the Jasper is open seven nights a week, 5:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

An interview with the owner of Miss Priss Tea. … plus other food and drink news.

Posted By on Tue, Jan 23, 2018 at 1:00 AM

It all started with an obituary — her own. When Patricia Bradby's business school professor instructed her to put pen to paper and write her own death announcement, she found herself visualizing her future in a way she hadn't considered.

"When you're forced to think about the legacy that you're going to leave behind, you start to think about what's important," Bradby says. "When I wrote that obituary, I actually wrote about this company. I said to myself somewhere down the line, even if not right away, I want to start a tea company."

And so began Miss Priss Tea, Bradby's Richmond-based catering service that provides Victorian-style tea parties for private events and pop-ups. Bradby loved playing host to afternoon tea for her friends when she lived in New York, and just a few months after returning to Richmond in November 2015, she held four teas for her first official client, Berkeley Plantation, during Historic Garden Week. Since then, she's served loose-leaf teas, finger sandwiches and scones against a backdrop of lace tablecloths and fresh floral arrangements for bridal showers, birthday parties and corporate events. And now that she's acquired teacups made out of melamine — less likely to break, less likely to give Bradby a heart attack when dropped by little hands — she's also expanded her services to include children's celebrations.

For those who can handle the responsibility of fragile, elegant china — mismatched but coordinated, which Bradby painstakingly and lovingly selects on frequent visits to antique stores — she offers what she hopes will be a new niche for her business: a bridal suite tea service.

"It's that time of day when the bride and bridesmaids are getting ready for the ceremony," she says. "Little bites and relaxing tea in the morning before the important day ahead of you, when you want something quick, nourishing and not messy."
A self-taught baker who started out with boxed cake mixes and sprinkles as a child, Bradby created a menu of classic tea time treats for clients to choose from. She makes little finger sandwiches with fillings such as prosciutto with fig, tomato pesto cream cheese and egg salad with bacon, plus sweets along the lines of chocolate-covered strawberries, lemon cake cookies, coconut macaroons and banana nut muffins. And what's an afternoon or morning tea without scones? Those she bakes in the buttermilk, blueberry, lemonade and cinnamon varieties, each served with clotted cream.  

Of course, the star of the show is the tea. Bradby gets most of it from Discover Teas, a now online-only company that used to have a storefront in Newport News. Her favorite is Miss Priss' Perfect Tea, a caffeinated blend she worked with the owners to create specifically for her business, featuring black tea, vanilla, bergamot, black currant, chamomile and lavender. Her menu includes four other caffeinated teas, two more blacks and two greens, plus five decaffeinated options, such as peppermint and other herbals.

Check out Bradby's upcoming collaborative farm-to-table tea dinner at the Broken Tulip on Sunday, Jan. 28. For $38 you'll get four courses of locally-sourced small bites prepared by chef David Crabtree-Logan, each paired with an American-grown tea. You can find tickets at missprisstea.com.  

Sweet spot

Who says dinner has to come before dessert? At the first ever Four Forks pop-up, the sweets are in the spotlight. Held in the Urban Roost at Lunch and Supper on the evening of Thursday, Jan. 25, the event will begin with heavy hors d'oeuvres and cocktails. Once everyone has a seat (which will be assigned), three desserts, each paired with a beverage, will arrive as separate courses: bourbon creme brulee tart, blood orange and olive oil cake, and dark chocolate sticky toffee pudding. Tickets cost $50 a pop. Keep an eye on Four Forks' Facebook page for upcoming pop-ups and events.  

Farm fresh

After nearly 10 years of providing healthy and sustainable foods to thousands of people in the Richmond area, Shalom Farms is breaking new ground. Literally. The nonprofit recently acquired 5 acres of North Side land belonging to Union Presbyterian Seminary, part of the Westwood site. Shalom Farms relies heavily on volunteers to harvest the fruits and veggies, which are then distributed to people, families and organizations that need it.

Movin' on up

Good news for everyone who just wants to have a seat before digging into a granola-topped acai bowl: Ginger Juice is moving from its takeout-only spot in the Village to a larger storefront in the same shopping center. The menu, featuring cold-pressed juices, made-to-order smoothies, acai bowls and toast, (including the avocado variety, natch), will remain the same. Mark your calendars for the grand opening Tuesday, Feb. 13.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Ribbon-Cutting at Hardywood West Creek

Posted By on Tue, Jan 9, 2018 at 10:37 AM

The expansive new Hardywood West Creek in Goochland is spacious, yet warm and inviting. - ANNIE TOBEY
  • Annie Tobey
  • The expansive new Hardywood West Creek in Goochland is spacious, yet warm and inviting.

My description of Hardywood Park Craft Brewery’s new production facility and tasting room in Goochland County may come across more like a marketing piece than the observations of an outside observer. It’s just that appealing.

I got my chance to see it at the ribbon-cutting ceremony on Jan. 8. From the outside, the expansive building is reminiscent of a barn: cedar siding with splashes of rich, red-barn color. Given beer’s agricultural base and Hardywood’s emphasis on using local ingredients and vendors, the allusion makes sense.

The wide-open interior shows off cedar paneling on the walls and a pine ceiling two tall stories above; iron beams; windows and skylights providing generous natural light; and a mezzanine and second-story bar and tasting area. The 4,000-square-foot taproom offers views of the 55,000-square-foot brewery with a state-of-the-art 60-barrel BrauKon brewing system. It’s all spacious, yet warm and inviting.

Appropriately, the semicircular bar topped with corrugated aluminum calls to mind a grain silo. Tap handles (two dozen at the downstairs bar alone) and tasting room furniture were made from trees felled on the West Creek property.

The décor I’m gushing over easily outshines that of most craft breweries, including Hardywood’s original Ownby Street building. But that’s because most breweries are, of necessity, established in existing buildings created and zoned for industrial use (hence drawing on a rather drab slate to begin with). Not so here. Co-owners Eric McKay and Patrick Murtaugh and their team designed the Goochland facilities from scratch on a 24-acre wooded lot overlooking Tuckahoe Creek.

The Formalities

At the Jan. 8 ceremony, McKay and Murtaugh were joined by outgoing Gov. Terry McAuliffe and outgoing Secretary of Commerce and Trade Todd Haymore - an appropriate swan song, given all of the support the Gov. McAuliffe and Secretary Haymore have provided for Virginia breweries during the craft beer governor’s four years in office.

“We chose Virginia because we love the region,” said Murtaugh at the ribbon-cutting. “We love the energy, the enthusiasm and the appreciation for finely crafted things.” He pointed to the business’s growth over six years, from one employee to more than 60, opening a Charlottesville brewery and tasting room, beginning to export across the pond in 2017, and other accomplishments. “We’ve been at maximum capacity for the past three years and are thrilled to have the opportunity to do what everyone has been asking [head brewer Brian Nelson] to do, which is just turn on the faucet.”

He and McKay cited a generous laundry list of those who have helped contribute to their success, including many local vendors.

McKay noted that they will continue to respect environmental concerns, including their use of 100 percent renewable energy, natural and LED lighting, high-efficiency brewing equipment and a vapor condenser to re-use steam. McKay also announced, “We are pursuing Envision Gold certification.” He assured the audience, “We will be continuing to operate our brewery in Richmond… We’ll be able to repurpose a lot of what we do there to more innovative, interesting, fun beers.”

The Future

Nelson expects to begin brewing by late February. The West Creek brewery will be dedicated to the flagship beers—Singel, Pils and VIPA—plus the Virginia Roots series, brewed with Virginia ingredients.

The tasting room will open to the public in February, beginning with beers from the Richmond production facility. The brewery’s 2,000-square-foot patio overlooking the creek will be especially popular come spring. In the works are a food truck plaza, bocce courts, a natural amphitheater for live performances and a trail system. The large venue will host festivals and indoor and outdoor concerts.

Space is also available for adding brewing equipment once Hardywood again reaches capacity.

The grand opening weekend is scheduled for April 6-8. It is located at 810 Sanctuary Trail Drive (or for GPS users) 200 yards to the West of Virginia Farm Bureau located at 12580 West Creek Parkway, Richmond, Virginia, 23238.

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