Friday, March 29, 2019

Bon Appétit

RVA Hospitality joins the growing team of chefs behind the French food festival.

Posted By on Fri, Mar 29, 2019 at 2:57 PM

For the 11th year running, local chefs will donate their time and skills to the French Food Festival, a two-day event benefiting the Catholic charity Little Sisters of the Poor. The idea originated when the French nuns running the nonprofit nursing home asked why Richmond was home to so many food festivals but none featuring cuisine from France. Beloved local chef Paul Elbling had recently retired from La Petite France, and he’s been involved every year since the first.

Little Sisters of the Poor spokesperson Corinne Waldrop says the festival has grown consistently, and this year six chefs representing local restaurant group RVA Hospitality are on board to prepare dishes.

Other participants in this year’s lineup include Perch owner and chef Mike Ledesma, Michael McClure formerly of Lulu’s, William Erlenbach of Stratford University’s Glen Allen campus and, of course, Elbling.

“It’s important to note, all these chefs donate their time. We purchase the food, ingredients and supplies,” Waldrop says. “They do this for free, they don’t take home any money. We’re really grateful for them.”

The festivities kick off at 4 p.m. on Friday, April 26 at the Little Sisters of the Poor St. Joseph’s Home in Henrico. Entrance is free, with a suggested $2 donation at the gate, and it’s pay-as-you-go for the food and drinks.

Elbling will serve four classic French dishes: a crusty salmon filet with spinach and lobster sauce; beef burgundy with noodles and veggies; creamed scallops, shrimp and crab in a French pastry crust; and puff pastry with veal, chicken and mushroom. Other dishes will include a fried shrimp po’ boy, Cajun style gumbo, ratatouille, duck confit with grits, braised short ribs and crab cakes, plus breads, croissants, pomme frites, sweet and savory crepes, chocolate mousse, assorted cookies and cream puffs. Ledesma and Benjamin Jackson of Little Saint plan to experiment with French-Asian fusion, serving up a fried chicken banh mi and a vegan version, respectively. French wine will be available for $5 per cup or $20 per bottle, along with wine slushies, sodas and water.

And while it’s all about the food, there will also be live entertainment, Parisian marketplace featuring clothing, jewelry and home goods, and a children’s area on Saturday.

RVA French Food Festival

Friday, April 26 4-8 p.m.

Saturday, April 27 11 a.m.-4 p.m.

1503 Michaels Rd



Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Blanchard’s Will Soon Open Two Coffee Shops in Richmond

Posted By on Tue, Mar 12, 2019 at 1:09 PM

For more than a decade, devoted coffee drinkers have been begging the team at Blanchard’s Coffee Roasting Co. to open a cafe. That time has finally come.

Well, almost. The local roastery, which has been roasting sustainably-sourced specialty coffee since 2005, announced its plans to open not one but two coffeehouses in Richmond this summer and next spring.

“We get tons of interest from people who can’t make it to the roast lab during work hours,” says Stephen Robertson, director of sales and marketing. “We want to make a space for people who are expecting more of a coffee shop experience.”

The first location, in a historic building on the 3100 block of West Broad Street, is slated to make its debut in June or July of this year. In the spring of 2020, the second shop will open near the intersection of Forest Hill Avenue and Westover Hills Boulevard, in the same development as the Veil Brewing Co.’s small-batch brewery and tasting room.

Beloved blends like the Handshake and Dark as Dark will be available at the coffee shops, of course, and Robertson says the menu will also provide opportunities to branch out a little with more single-origin coffees. A piece of equipment by Marco Beverage Systems Ltd., which Robertson describes as a “somewhat automated pour-over system,” will allow the shops to offer more by-the-cup variety.

“We’ll have a lot more selections, and we can serve based on the market price. So if people want to get adventurous and try something a little different, they can try it by the cup,” Robertson says. “It also reduces waste and keeps everything consistent.”

The team drew inspiration from Longoven for the decor, and Robertson describes it as “really warm but also minimalist.” They’re working with local design group Fultz and Singh Architects to design both spaces, which will feature clean lines, soft white tones, natural light and “nothing that doesn’t need to be there.”

Robertson says they’re still finalizing the food, but you can expect a simple menu with things like locally-made pastries and prepared items from Stella’s. A handful of beer and wines may also be available.

“Everything’s going to be super simple, and a lot of it will be featuring local partnerships,” says Robertson.

In the meantime, the roastery will continue to operate as usual, with products available online and at the Westwood Avenue lab and public cuppings (like a wine tasting, but for coffee) every Friday at 10:30 a.m.

Plant-based Mind Your Belly Deli in Short Pump provides a range of vegan options

Posted By on Tue, Mar 12, 2019 at 1:00 AM

During a Starbucks pit stop on a family road trip, Halini Brune asked her husband to bring her anything vegan. Some kind of dairy-free coffee beverage and whatever plant-based snack item he could find would be fine.

"He came back with a cup of coffee with almond milk and a bag of potato chips," Brune says.

The lack of healthy, vegan options at ubiquitous chains was so disappointing that she decided to take matters into her own hands. A native of Brazil who moved to the U.S. with her husband about four and a half years ago, Brune has never been a fan of meat. As a child she fought back when her mom put beef or chicken on her plate, and she says she's just never liked the taste, the texture or the fact that it comes from an animal. Because meats are so prevalent in Brazilian cooking she learned how to eat it, but it never felt right to her.

Around the time she moved to the States, Brune drastically reduced meat from her diet, and eventually transitioned to entirely vegan. She loves experimenting with recipes at home and cooking plant-based meals for herself and her family, but finding options outside of the house was consistently challenging. Equal parts frustrated and inspired by the lackluster bag of chips, Brune began to conceptualize a store of her own.

"I came up with this idea, instead of cooking just for myself, I might be able to cook for other people," she says. "I could offer things that places are not offering right now."

Introducing Mind Your Belly Deli, an entirely plant-based bakery and deli at 201 Towne Center West Blvd. in Short Pump. The doors opened Jan. 30, and six weeks in, Brune says she's constantly experimenting with new ideas and recipes. Some items, she says, are already staples, like the Brazilian cheese rolls, featuring yucca flour, which is naturally gluten-free, and nondairy parmesan cheese. The jackfruit Philly cheesesteak with mushrooms, onions and the creamy, cashew-based cheese made by local startup UnMoo, became an instant hit, she says, along with the air-fried yucca fries, served with Sriracha vegan mayo.

On the sweet side, Brune says the corn pudding with coconut, which she named Kika, already seems to have a loyal following. Several cupcake flavors are always on display, she says, and other baked good include cinnamon rolls, brownies and cheesecake.

While much of the menu is healthy, like the new chickpea-based riff on a classic chicken salad sandwich, Brune notes that a vegan diet is not always inherently healthy.

"Eating vegan can also mean eating a lot of carbs, a lot of sugar, a lot of fat, you know," Brune says. But she goes on to note that items like her cupcakes, which contain a lot of powdered sugar, are healthier than many grocery store alternatives that are full of artificial dyes and preservatives.

Within the next couple of weeks, Brune plans to expand the menu to include weekend brunch, featuring things like tofu scrambles and biscuits. Don't expect to order a mimosa with your Saturday morning meal, though — Brune is resisting any temptation to include alcohol or sodas on her menu. Instead, drink options include coffee and espresso drinks, hot cocoa, infused waters and kombucha.

Brune doesn't consider other local operations, like the food truck Go Go Vegan Go or Sweeter Days Bakery, whose products she now carries her shops, her competitors. Instead she's looking at giants like Starbucks and Panera Bread, keeping a close eye on their prices and doing everything she can to stay in that range.

"However much Panera Bread would charge for a pastry, I don't want to charge much more than that," she says. "I don't want people to not try our food because it's so expensive."

Eventually, Brune would love to franchise her concept.

"That would be my dream come true, having this store everywhere," she says. "I would love to have a vegan bakery everywhere, so people could walk in and not worry, because they know whatever they order is quality and is made out of plants."

Mind Your Belly Deli
201 Towne Center West Blvd. No. 707
Wednesdays - Saturdays 10 a.m. - 7 p.m.
Sundays 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.

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