Tuesday, December 17, 2019

To Brie or Not to Brie

Truckle Cheesemongers opens brick and mortar in Scott’s Addition

Posted By on Tue, Dec 17, 2019 at 1:06 PM

In a room adjacent to Blue Bee Cider, with cobbled walls and industrial lights, sits Maggie Bradshaw, a woman who’s tried more than 1,000 cheeses.

She owns a personal cheese fridge at home with a revolving collection of blues, bries and white cheddar — there always has to be white cheddar. It’s the only cheese her son eats.

In her gray Truckle Cheesemongers sweatshirt, Bradshaw leans forward, lowering her voice as two customers with a cheese board and cider pairing come into the seating area.

“I’ve always wanted to open a cheese shop,” she says.

As of late October she has, in a small but manageable space on Summit Avenue. After an experienced run at farmers markets, Bradshaw can now carry soft cheeses, whip up a gourmet grilled cheese and offer charcuterie boards with a prosciutto that melts on your tongue.

Getting a meat slicer was a big step.

“Even just a little bit on a board gives so much,” she says. “Like a chorizo with a manchego just has that classic oomph.”

To break down the name, a truckle is a wheel of cheese that’s taller than it is wide, like a Stilton or big British cheddar cheese. As for cheesemonger, it’s simple: a seller of cheese.

As she mentions the four simple ingredients to the dairy product — milk, cultures, rennet and salt — a particular scene in “She’s the Man,” the modern take on William Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night,” comes to mind. In a truly 2000s cultural moment, Viola Hastings (Amanda Bynes), disguised as Sebastian, teaches Duke Orsino (Channing Tatum) how to talk to girls, saying it can all be jump started with asking if they like cheese.

“OK… do you … like … cheese?” Orsino asks hesitantly.

“Why yes, I do, my favorite’s Gouda!” she responds.

Naturally, I ask if Bradshaw’s seen it.

Her mouth turns up.

“I have to watch this movie,” Bradshaw says before admitting she hasn’t but that it’s now on her list.

Big cheese: Maggie Bradshaw - AMBER PARKER
  • Amber Parker
  • Big cheese: Maggie Bradshaw

For the record, her favorite cheeses change constantly. She’s always been a fan of the blue family, a decision she quickly defends by saying they get a bad reputation. A good blue is not going to be the crumbled kind you find atop a flimsy salad at a chain restaurant, she says. No shade to chains, they know not what they do.

But when talking about the Valdeon, a Spanish blue that’s a creamy cow-goat milk combination, Bradshaw’s eyes widen.

“This is why I want to sample it out because I’m like, ‘I want everybody to eat this cheese,’” Bradshaw says. “There’s also this brie I eat probably two ounces of every single day for the last three weeks … it’s good protein.”

Growing up in small town Kentucky, nice cheeses weren’t an around-the-corner expectation. This changed when Bradshaw studied abroad in Paris, where cheese shops are as common as French baguette sandwiches offered at the boulangerie.

By then, her love cannonballed into something more: working for trade associations, part-time jobs in cheese shops and helping out on farms when nine months pregnant — the usual for a cheese enthusiast.

She works with a distributor outside of Alexandria and a Charlottesville farm that comes to town every week or so to cultivate the flavor profiles she’s after in addition to making her own beer cheese. A good counter should always have staples with varying textures and styles, Bradshaw notes.

Eventually, the dream is to have another location and cater grilled cheeses while keeping it going with an assortment of jams, jellies and olive oil pairings.

The chalkboard writing states its grilled cheese of the day includes Gruyere with a peach preserves jam made on Montana Gold Bread. It’s stationed next to a sample board of Irish brown bread crackers topped with a black currant jelly and Valdeon — Bradshaw’s current favorite blue. Its neighbor? Salami with a cumin and garlic zest.

Behind the counter an employee is organizing the cheese display as the music of the Smiths plays overhead.

When asked what her role at Truckle is, she pauses and “hmm's” briefly.

“You’re a cheesemonger!” Bradshaw says, patting her back and laughing.

“Yeah! I’m a cheesemonger.”

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Starr Hill Beer Hall and Rooftop Opens in Scott's Addition

Posted By on Sun, Dec 15, 2019 at 4:00 AM

The new Starr Hill Beer Hall and Rooftop opened in Scott's Addition at 3406 W. Leigh St. on Saturday.
  • The new Starr Hill Beer Hall and Rooftop opened in Scott's Addition at 3406 W. Leigh St. on Saturday.

The Jamestown settlers did it, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson did it, and Starr Hill has been doing it since 1999. As of today, Starr Hill Brewery is also doing it in, where else? Scott’s Addition.

Located at 3406 West Leigh St., the 8,500 square feet Starr Hill Beer Hall and Rooftop is open every day of the week and will serve beer from its new pilot system in addition to classics from the founding Crozet production facility. Their opening blowout, with three bands and two food trucks, was held Saturday, Dec. 14 from noon to 9 p.m.

The interior, with its soaring ceiling and abundant seating, boasts a mid-century modern-styled lounge area, high-top tables, community tables and a colorful mural depicting the James River and the Richmond skyline, executed by Kyle Harrell, the artist known as Humble. The bathrooms are wallpapered with the enlarged art of a previous beer label, minus the wording.

For outdoor lovers, there’s also a patio and a generously-sized rooftop bar with sweeping views of not only Scott’s Addition, but the Diamond and downtown. Permanent heaters have been installed on the rooftop and a drop-down curtain will allow staff to create a comfortable environment for guests no matter the weather. Best of all, 24 rotating taps are available at both bars, downstairs and upstairs.

Starr Hill started out as a Charlottesville music hall in 1999 – owner Coran Capshaw managed and launched the Dave Matthews Band - so you can count on music figuring prominently in Scott’s Addition. A stage is built into the front of the taproom, with plans to feature live music several nights a week from up-and-coming Central Virginia artists. To drive that point home, the wall next to the staircase is lined with eye-catching music show posters by bands such as Phish, Trey Anastasio and Chris Stapleton, all of whom are managed by Capshaw. That focus is in Starr Hill’s DNA.

“Music is integral to our brand,” explains finance manager Josh Cromwell. “It’s the central theme of our taproom experience.”

That taproom features a custom 10-barrel brewing system along with five American white oak foeders –large wooden vats used to age beer – allowing Starr Hill’s brew team to produce wild ales. Tested successfully at the brewery’s Roanoke location, the pilot system will give them increased flexibility to annually brew more than 50 limited release batches of ales, lagers and wild beers such as juicy, hazy IPAs, fruited brett sours, rich stouts, delicate pilsners and lagers. Preparations are currently in process to start brewing in January.


It’s worth noting that Starr Hill is the second-oldest brewery in the commonwealth of Virginia, second only to our own Legend Brewing.

“We wanted to involve the brewing area with the taproom,” says Cromwell of putting the inner workings on display. “We wanted it to be at the forefront to answer customers’ questions and be able to explain what we do.”

A merchandise shop is situated near the bar, offerings guests a chance to take a little Starr Hill home with them in the form of t-shirts, dog collars outfitted with bottle openers, fleece vests, knit hats, brewery glasses, caps and flannel shirts. For a more quaffable souvenir, guests can have growlers and crowlers – 32 oz. cans – filled with their favorite suds. And while food trucks will be on premises regularly, a touch screen is also positioned nearby to allow guests to order food delivered directly to the taproom.

Cromwell, who grew up in Midlothian is beyond thrilled about the company’s newest location, noting with pride, “I’m really happy to be part of bringing Starr Hill beer back to my hometown.”

Starr Hill Beer Hall and Rooftop, 3406 W. Leigh St. Open Mondays 5-9 p.m., Tuesdays and Wednesdays 3-9 p.m., Thursdays and Fridays 3-10 p.m., Saturdays 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. and Sundays noon – 8 p.m.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Dining Out for Thanksgiving

Changed your mind last minute? Here are some options still available.

Posted By on Wed, Nov 27, 2019 at 4:00 AM

I’m someone who 100% would ask her mother the possibility of cooking a turkey in a microwave. She’d most likely convulse and pass out at the thought. I also burn toast so imagine me working a kitchen and having people depend on me for a cranberry pie.

Two words: please no.

Maybe this is you, or maybe you’re dodging the classic Thanksgiving feast. Whatever the reason, here are some local restaurants that are offering Thanksgiving dinner and still have reservations open.

Bar Solita

Times available: 6:15, 6:45, 7:00, 7:15, 7:30

Price: $29.95 per person

What’s on the menu: Turkey, ham, or turkey-ham dinner combo is on the table but the full dinner menu is still an option so uh, I don’t know about you but I’m eyeing those tapas.

Address: 123 W. Broad St.

Phone: 804-308-3605

Bistro 27

Times available: 7:00, 7:15, 7:30, 7:45, 8:00

Price: $48.50 for adults; $24.25 for children 8 and under

What’s on the menu: three-course meal with a buffet selection of different types of salads and a bread station to carb it up. Entrees include prime ribs, bronzed salmon with whiskey roasted tomatoes, roasted turkey breast, beef ravioli, roasted chicken breast or a mysterious vegetarian dish. If you’re a Thanksgiving stuffing and cranberry sauce person, you’re in luck. They’ve got you.

Address: 27 West Broad St.

Phone: 804-780-0086

Bookbinder’s Seafood and Steakhouse

Times available: 5:45, 6:00

Price: Three-course meal for $70 per adult; $17 for children 12 and under

What’s on the menu: First course options include a Tobacco Row salad, roasted butternut squash soup or she crab soup. Second course options include pan-seared Chesapeake rockfish drizzled with a horseradish creme fraiche, the classic turkey dinner, filet mignon with a crispy puff pastry or pan-seared salmon served with green bean casserole and family-style mashed potatoes Dessert options are blackout chocolate layer pudding cake, key lime pie with oreo cookie crust or NY-style cheesecake.

Address: 2306 E Cary St Richmond, Virginia, 23223

Phone: 804-643-6900

Camden’s Dogtown Market

Times available: 11 a.m.

Price: $25

What’s on the menu: One of the few places that offers a seitan roast for your vegetarian or vegan pleasure. There’s also a roasted turkey with sage and thyme and sides that make me wish I could have a giant bathtub of it at all times. Yes, I’m talking about their sweet potato, pineapple, orange and apple casserole.

Address: 201 W 7th St

Phone: 804-745-6488

Max’s on Broad

Times available: for a party of 2, 12:30 to 8:30 is wide open;

Price: $29.95 per person

What’s on the menu: Since it’s another restaurant that’s part of RVA Hospitality group, the Thanksgiving menu will be the same as Tarrant’s and Bar Solita. Expect the “fixins.” The dinner menu is still fair game, which means their seared scallops and yellowfin tuna seared medium rare may be calling my name.

Address: 305 Brook Rd.

Phone: 804-225-0400

Nick’s Roman Terrace

Times available: 11 a.m.- 7 p.m.

Price: $28 per person for a prix-fixe menu

What’s on the menu: Nick’s famous rolls and a turkey, ham, dressing, potatoes, cranberry sauce and gravy dinner.

Address: 8051 W Broad St.

Phone: 804-270-2988

Patrick Henry Pub & Grille

Times available: noon, 2 p.m., 4 p.m., 6 p.m.

Price: $32 per adult, $16 for children 12 and under; walk-ins are $40 per adult, $20 for children

What’s on the menu: Oh, baby. We’re talking mac n’cheese, we’re talking deep-fried turkey and prime rib and we’re talking green bean casserole. Everything is buffet style so stuff your face with every pie they have available. Spoiler alert, it’s cranberry, apple and pumpkin.

Address: 2300 E Broad St.

Phone: 804-644-4242

Sam Miller’s

Times available: 11 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Price: $49 per person

What’s on the menu: Appetizers include a grilled scallop crostini topped with a bacon cranberry jam, crab soup, pumpkin and acorn squash soup or roasted carrot and asparagus salad topped with toasted pecan vinaigrette. For the entree, you have the option of a turkey dinner, lump crab cake, a mustard glazed salmon or a brown-butter-basted filet mignon. The third and final course, options include pumpkin pie, pome-berry cheesecake or white chocolate cranberry bread pudding.

Address: 1210 East Cary St.

Phone: 804-644-5465

Tarrant’s West

Times available: 8:15, 8:30 p.m.

Price: $29.95 per adult; $15.95 for children 10 and under

What’s on the menu: Full dinner menu is fair game but traditional turkey, ham or turkey-ham dinner is available

Address: 11129 Three Chopt Rd

Phone: 804-205-9009

The Tobacco Company

Times available: 5 p.m. for a party of 6

Price: For a little Thanksgiving dinner, it’s $30 for adults and $16 for children

What’s on the menu: Full dinner menu is fair game but this one includes roasted turkey breast with applewood smoked ham, a pecan sweet potato casserole and southern cornbread stuffing.

Address: 1201 East Cary St.

Phone: 804-782-9555

Trevi’s Grill

Times available: 11:00 - 3:00 p.m. with seating available every half hour

Price: $42 per adult, $20 for children 6-12

What’s on the menu: Trevi’s has a twist: it’s a Thanksgiving brunch from 11a.m. to 3p.m that includes mimosas and complimentary parking. There’s multiple stations, such as breakfast that includes bananas foster french toast and southern spiced breakfast potatoes, seafood, meats and cheese, salads, soups that include a butternut squash bisque, entrees such as southern blackened salmon or vegan quinoa and desserts. We’re talking spiced cranberry oatmeal cream pies, apple cobbler and liquid nitrogen spun ice cream.

Address: 100 S 12th St.

Phone: 804-344-7000

Honorable mentions:

Not a Thanksgiving dinner but Island Shrimp Co. and Casa Del Barco are offering a Friendsgiving happy hour that goes from 3 p.m. until 10 p.m. Just in case you’re thinking of getting boozy in public.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Sampling Gwar’s Vegan Wings

Posted By on Mon, Nov 11, 2019 at 2:42 PM

In an attempt to be an equal opportunity lover of wings, I ventured into the depths of Chef Balsac’s creative juices for the vegan wings at Gwar Bar.

Recently named one of the top Pabst Blue Ribbon sellers in the country, coming in hot at No. 64, Gwar Bar’s brick exterior in Jackson Ward is unassuming, delicate even, when coming in from the right-hand side on West Clay Street. But if you find yourself the street over, a demonic fake baby with questionable genetics greets every customer alongside other horror masks and heads. 

Once inside, the heavy metal grunge atmosphere, inspired by the Richmond band, consists of body parts hanging overhead — a leg here, a boob there — “Seinfeld” playing in a corner and blood-splattered tabletops covered with old Gwar concert tickets. If executioner chic could be a vibe, Gwar Bar is the embodiment of the character hired to kill Buckbeak the Hippogriff in “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.”

If not for the wings, the build-your-own mac n’ cheese with a Vegan Wopper scum dog would be calling my name. But alas, there’s business to attend to. Here’s a rundown of Gwar Bar’s offerings of seitan “wings,” beer-battered cauliflower and fried artichoke nuggets soaked in vegan Buffalo sauce.

For the seitan wings, it depends on if you’re a boneless-over-bone wing enthusiast and how far gone you are from the meat spectrum. If you like the juicy, crunchy bite of a boneless wing at Buffalo Wild Wings on Thursday nights, this is not for you. If you’re a texture person, the seitan won’t satisfy a wing craving. I was hoping for the sauteed type of seitan that parallels a barbecue rib’s grittiness. Instead, it’s on the mushier, mashed-potato-like side.

The artichoke alternative provides a sweetness to the wings, and for those fans of the roasted artichoke taste, perhaps you won’t mind that juiciness overpowering the Buffalo sauce. But for me, the sauce should linger long enough to make you sweat a little. I found myself dunking copious amounts of it onto a singular nugget — which is arguably the size of my fist — to no avail. The vegan Buffalo sauce is watery, and while seeing it slide off the side of the wing is satisfactory, the flavor isn’t.

Now the cauliflower option? It elicited a swift three-second closing of my eyes to take it all in. This is it. It’s tender and crisp, with the Buffalo coating so smooth, thick and substantial that it deserves a place in my closet for the upcoming winter. I can only imagine what it’d be like with the in-house barbecue sauce.

So when I die, bury me in Gwar Bar’s cauliflower wings.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Pop-top Spirits

A taste test of Belle Isle Moonshine’s newly released canned cocktails.

Posted By on Wed, Oct 30, 2019 at 10:37 AM

When someone asks you to rank Belle Isle Moonshine’s newly released canned cocktails, there’s only one appropriate response: Sign me up.

Something about drinking a canned cocktail over its more commonly known name of spiked seltzer makes me feel like a pioneer surpassing the era of White Claws and Trulys.

At least, as much as a person who has no expertise in the science behind these seltzers and just wants to feel buzzed and refreshed could be a pioneer in anything.

The canned cocktail endeavor from Belle Isle Moonshine, the Manchester-based distillery known for its handcrafted spirits, came at the right time. This was the summer of spiked seltzer memes, people captioning photos with “ain’t no laws when you’re drinking claws” and various police departments tweeting that the statement would not hold up in court.

And let’s not forget the nationwide White Claw shortage that took social media by storm in early September or the released line of Natural Light hard seltzers. It makes sense why there’s such a craze: It’s gluten-free, affordable and a lower-calorie alternative to beer.

Checking off these boxes along with it being local and marketed as “premium, ready-to-drink” gives Belle Isle Moonshine an oomph factor along with its use of all-natural juices and organic alcohol.

Taste put aside, the slim, easy-to-hold pop-top cans are stunningly beautiful. The semi-matte finish and sleek neutral colors complement each other well, so much so that whoever’s behind the detailed design deserves a raise. I’d purchase a four-pack just to have the cans as an accessory to my outfit.

But I digress. Here’s the ranking of canned cocktails from my least favorite to the one I’d swipe my credit card for any day of the week.

3. Shine & Soda

Out of the three canned cocktails introduced Oct. 1, Shine & Soda is the lowest calorie option, with zero carbs, zero sugars and 90 calories per can. I wanted to like it, I really did. Its tag line on the website is all about replacing “your vodka soda with something better” and I’m always looking to one-up my go-to basic order at the bar.

This is not exactly something better.

It’s difficult to get past the smell that’s reminiscent of a hospital bed. It overwhelmed the experience so much that I started craving jello and a breakfast tray to eat it on. It doesn’t provide the burn of malt liquor, but it also doesn’t give much else.

I’d opt for this one if my tongue is already numb and I’m wanting to let the buzz linger. If just hanging out, I’d find it difficult to finish an entire can — unless I chased the Shine & Soda with the Blood Orange. That was an experimental decision that had me audibly saying “ahh.”

For those who lean more toward a muted vodka taste without the citrus of the lime, it’d be a flawless alternative to a mixed drink. Or if you’re a fan of White Claw’s pure seltzer.

2. Blood Orange & Soda

Upon pressing my nose to the aluminum pop-top, I’m immediately obsessed with the smell of fresh oranges.

The actual drinking experience though? Not particularly enjoyable. At least, not upon the initial sip. I was expecting the tart sweetness I associate with a blood orange, but instead was reminded of the bitterness of lemons left in fruit-infused water for too long. It’s bold for sure, with an aftertaste that lingers, but after leisurely drinking it, I’d recommend it more for anyone who craves a slight bitterness in a cocktail.

In theory, I love the blood-orange-and-soda combo. Bring on the antioxidants and vitamin C! But sadly for me, it tasted like the beginning of a hangover.

You win some, you lose most.

1. Ruby Red & Soda

Oh yes. If the Belle Isle Ruby Red Grapefruit that’s infused into this cocktail wasn’t already award-winning, I’d start a riot. It’s effortlessly mixed with soda, providing an all-encompassing sensory experience that sends me back to summer night heart-to-heart conversations on a riverside dock.

It’s everything I want in a canned cocktail. I love it so much that I’d shotgun it, completely unprompted, at a pregame and ignore the bubbly fizz scraping my throat. It’s easily the sweeter of the three, and at times provides a taste similar to Sprite with its hint of lime.

My only qualm would be that it does feel more like a flavored soda than a cocktail, and as a result, my heart was racing in the same way it would if I was iced with a Smirnoff Ice.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t say these introductory canned cocktails give White Claws and Trulys a little competition. Not everyone likes every flavor — I’m looking at you, Bon & Viv’s cranberry spiked seltzer. So with a rumored launch of new flavors, particularly the honey habanero, I’ll be the first one in line seeing how Belle Isle Moonshine continues to change the seltzer game, one recyclable can at a time.

For information on where to find a Belle Isle Moonshine canned cocktail near you, visit belleislecraftspirits.com.

Friday, October 25, 2019

PREVIEW: C’est le Vin's 10th Anniversary Celebration

Posted By on Fri, Oct 25, 2019 at 4:00 AM

Making it to ten years in the restaurant business is tough. According to a study conducted by Cornell University, 30% of restaurants fail or change ownership in the first year. And, yikes, that number jumps to 60% by year three.

So it’s hard not to be impressed by a Richmond restaurant that not only makes it to the decade mark, but does so with a year and a half of construction at their front door.

When C’est le Vin opened in 2009, Richmond was a very different restaurant town, one that wasn’t used to the regular attention of the national press. C’est le Vin felt like a secret treasure in Shockoe Bottom, a place offering a unique selection of art, wine, terrific food and price points that didn’t limit it to special occasions.

Ethiopian-born owner Genet Semere originally moved to Richmond in 1976, doing real estate and tax work. She returned to Ethiopia in 1993 where she opened several restaurants and clubs before moving back to Richmond – doesn’t everybody? – in 2002.

When she first saw the building on 17th Street, it was sad looking and boarded up, but it intrigued her. When it remained shuttered for the next four years, she took it as a sign. “Maybe it was waiting for me,” she concluded and finally called the owner.

She began renting it in 2008 and by 2009, set out to create a wine bar in a city that didn’t know from wine bars.

“I wanted to create a European-style wine bar, a place where people could come relax, get treated well and enjoy wine and tapas,” Semere says. “We were Richmond’s first wine bar and then in 2010 came Secco.”

By 2015, Wine Enthusiast included C’est le Vin its top 20 wine bars in America, noting that it featured “live ¬music, more than 200 bottles and a solid array of by-the-glass selections, with special attention paid to Virginia wines.”

The restaurant holds free wine tastings Wednesday through Saturday evenings from 5 – 7 p.m. and once a month, they bring in wine vendors for a bigger tasting of a dozen or so wines. The point is to educate people so that they learn what they like and perhaps expand their palates.

Then came the sledgehammer. The city closed the 17th Street Farmers’ Market in July 2017, assuring nearby tenants it would only be closed for six months. Because C’est le Vin fronts 17th Street, it was like a death sentence. But Semere hung in there despite the rubble, by limiting her hours to poetry Thursdays and wine-down Fridays and counting the days to completion.

“That made us have to start all over again,” she recalls. “Our regular customers are finally starting to come back.”

Everyone from regulars to first-timers are invited to C’est le Vin’s tenth anniversary party this Saturday from 4-8 p.m. The celebration takes place outside at the farmers’ market and will feature live entertainment and the opportunity to sample sixteen wines from Italy, Spain, Germany, Chile, Argentina and Virginia. There’s no cover charge for the party, but the wine tasting is $20, with tickets available on site.

After a decade in business, Semere has some strong opinions about what Richmond restaurant owners need, among them more support from the ABC.

“They’re always saying no to doing something, being negative all the time,” she insists. “I wish Richmond could be like New York or D.C. and be open for business. We want to do good things, but they’re always no-ing us. Let Richmond grow.”

C’est le Vin 10th Anniversary Celebration, Saturday, Oct. 26 4-8 p.m., 15 N. 17th St., cestlevinrva.com

Monday, October 21, 2019

Next Moves

Nonprofit expands internship to include bakery that employs young adults with disabilities.

Posted By on Mon, Oct 21, 2019 at 2:43 PM

Steps away from United Methodist Church’s “DIFFERENCES MAKE THE WORLD BEATUIFUL” sign, Elizabeth Redford sips intermittently on her Blue Ridge Kombucha. Her eyes crinkle before waving toward a James Madison University flag hanging above the residence next door. 

“This is going to be the house!” she says of the space in Westover Hills.

Opening in fall 2020, Tablespoons Bakery will train and employ young adults with disabilities through the Next Move Program, an education-focused nonprofit — of which Redford is executive director — that creates internships for individuals with disabilities. Interns would come in as part of their school day and focus on skills like basic recipes, health and nutrition, measurements, and kitchen safety.

With a curriculum that’s gotten approval from Virginia’s Department of Education, the program also includes workplace development, corporate values and financial literacy. The hope is to ultimately employ interns or make referrals out to other restaurants for opportunities.

In Virginia, there’s a 70% unemployment rate for people with disabilities. Redford attributes this to how graduating with modified high school diplomas can in many cases make them ineligible to go on to two-year or four-year colleges. 

“It’s not just having a place to go every day nine-to-five,” Redford says. “There’s a huge sense of empowerment. … It gives them a sense of security for their future.”

Prior to having this space, students sold baked goods at the South of the James Farmers Market, where they’d sell out their oatmeal cream pies and unicorn cookies each week. To keep up with demand, they had to scale back appearances to once a month, but the relationships between the students and customers remain intact.

Elizabeth Redford
  • Elizabeth Redford

“They get especially excited when they connect with the customer and they see that customers enjoy their oatmeal cream pie,” she says, “It makes our students so proud because they’re part of every aspect of this.”

The interns do the inventory, packaging, baking and even help with social media posts. When thinking of the impact the program had on individuals, Redford frequently thinks back to stories like Cheyenne’s.

When she joined Tablespoons in 2017, Cheyenne couldn’t consistently identify coins and bills. But after regular practice at the farmers market, counting out change and doing it onsite at a catering job, she did it. 

She’s now the top cashier. 

Looking forward, Redford is excited to transform the former house and potentially repurpose old church pews for seating. But she says nothing was better than to hear the students feel proud to have a space that’s theirs to learn, work and celebrate their friends.

“We got to tell our students that we thought we had a space here at the church and the amount of happy tears and cheering and high-fives and hugs,” Redford says. “One student literally shouted ‘We have a space now! We have a space now!’”

The next fundraising event will be a celebrity bake-off Oct. 27 from 1-4 p.m. at Westover Hills United Methodist Church. Tickets can be purchased at thegreatrvabakeoff.eventbrite.com.

Friday, October 18, 2019

The Roosevelt To Help Ocracoke Victims

Eat there this weekend and a percentage of proceeds will go to relief efforts.

Posted By on Fri, Oct 18, 2019 at 12:42 PM

Sometimes, drinking is part of the solution. The Federal Emergency Management Agency may have denied Ocracoke disaster victims assistance, but Richmonders can help.

Forget Virginia Beach: When you ask locals where they spend their summer vacations, the answer is often the same: the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

While everyone has a favorite destination along the barrier islands, none has quite the devoted following of Ocracoke. Most of us wouldn’t recognize it right now, after a historic flood following Hurricane Dorian last month pushed waters from the Pamlico Sound into the village. Reaching as deep as 7 feet, the waters inundated homes and businesses, displacing roughly 400 people — nearly half the island’s population — from their homes. More than 400 homes were damaged or destroyed and estimates for rebuilding start at $26 million.

Sara Teaster worked as a server at the Roosevelt until August, when she got her dream job as a teacher at the 21st Century Learning Center afterschool program in Ocracoke and moved down to become part of the island community. Not long after her arrival, Dorian struck and her job was put on the back burner. But her heart was already committed to Ocracoke and now she’s one of many volunteers helping rebuild the community.

“It’s been an interesting time to be a new resident in a place of such turmoil, but even in the face of devastation, the villagers have been so welcoming and kind in helping me get settled,” she writes. “I’m lucky, my rental house didn’t flood, and my job, although delayed, will still happen. Many people on the island not only lost their homes, but their incomes as well.”

She also let everyone at the Roosevelt know just how bad things were.

“There’s a great need,” she writes. “Volunteer groups from all over have been helping tear out houses and feed people.” While volunteers continue to help island residents with basic daily functions – one group set up mobile showers, another does drop-off laundry services – those of us in Richmond can lend a hand by eating and drinking closer to home.

The Roosevelt’s owners Kendra Feather and Mark Herndon responded by creating Eat for Ocracoke, a fundraiser running through this Sunday, Oct. 20. Sit down to a meal at the Roosevelt and it will donate 15% of the proceeds from food and drink sales to the Outer Banks Disaster Relief Fund. The fund is managed by the Outer Banks Community Foundation and will be used to assist people and families affected by Dorian’s wrath. Every penny donated to the Outer Banks Disaster Relief will be used to help local disaster victims in need.

In the spirit of Outer Banks history, the Roosevelt’s bar manager Cary Carpenter created a drink for the cause and, in a nod to a ship commandeered by the pirate Blackbeard, dubbed it La Concorde. The color of the ocean on a summer afternoon, La Concorde features Plantation 3 Stars rum, Giffard bleu Curaçao, coconut cream, pineapple and lime, bitters, garnished with a skeleton head, a chunk of pineapple and a gummy shark.

As for Teaster, she’s hanging in there. Community members got together shortly after the storm to open a day care center. The school was so badly damaged that children missed a month of school before anyone came up with alternative solutions. She worked with other volunteers and teachers at the center to provide activities for the kids.

“We did some painting projects, making colorful shells and inspirational signs to place around the island to bring a bit of color and joy as people passed by,” she writes. “With the help of National Park Service rangers, we arranged a sea turtle nest excavation and beach cleanup day that was a really great experience.”

For Feather and the Roosevelt crew, being involved in the community has always been important, although the focus is usually East End groups or Church Hill schools.

“But I think seeing Sara persevere and still continue to pursue her mission down there is really heartwarming,” she says. “Most people would have given up, moved on and gone after their Plan B. But she's committed to Ocracoke and because we admire her so much, we’re committed to helping her and them.”

According to Teaster, the destruction is vast and the recovery process will be long.

“The beaches and the remoteness are beautiful beyond words, but it’s the people that I really fell in love with,” she writes, citing their strength and resiliency. “They still have square dances and everyone knows everyone’s name and in the darkest of hours for the community, their spirit has never shown so brightly.”

Already, the Roosevelt is in the beginning stages of organizing another fundraising event to aid the cause. This one will be with Outer Banks Distilling, who itself already has raised over $10,000 for Ocracoke relief. Stay tuned for details.

Eat for Ocracoke is through Oct. 20 at the Roosevelt, 623 N. 25 St.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Don’t Feel the Burn

Sweet Japanese kimchi and lunch at Onigiri in Carytown.

Posted By on Mon, Oct 7, 2019 at 1:43 PM

Horsepen Road has long offered a handful of Vietnamese and Chinese food destinations, but Carytown has an emerging Japanese corner. Onigiri, a small Japanese cafe, opened in July next door to longtime specialty grocery Tokyo Market. Now Japanophiles can get not just grocery staples but also quick lunches.

Wakoko Reno, Onigiri’s owner, started cooking in rural Texas, where she and her husband Walter lived before moving to Richmond four years ago. She used to take her homemade kimchi to gatherings, where her Japanese friends loved the taste of home.

“Kimchi is originally a Korean food, but Japanese kimchi is different,” Reno says. “It’s fresh, not fermented, so it’s not sour. It has a sweeter taste.” Kimchi can encompass many types of vegetables, and Reno offers kimchi cabbage and cucumbers. The vegetables have more pickle flavor than chili, with an earthy, almost smoky, tang.  

Reno’s parents ran an izakaya, or pub-style, restaurant outside Tokyo, and Reno worked there while growing up. The kimchi recipe is her grandmother’s. She never saw herself running her own spot, but then her Texas friends offered to pay for her Japanese kimchi, and Reno was off and running.

Onigiri are popular lunch and snack items in Japan, Hawaii and parts of the West Coast. They are made by stuffing balls or triangles of sticky rice with fillings ranging from flaked salmon to barbecue pork to shiitake mushrooms and wrapping them in dried seaweed. Sometimes parents will add little dried-seaweed faces for a child’s cute lunch surprise. Dedicated bento makers will even form elaborate onigiri animal or film character shapes. Tokyo Market sells bento lunch boxes and supplies.

In Richmond, Reno offers her kimchi, onigiri and other prepared lunch foods like seaweed salad or inari, small rice-filled tofu pockets. in a Japanese-themed setting. Reno makes mostly simple triangle onigiri but keep an eye out for the occasional kitty or dog shape, advertised on Onigiri’s Instagram feed.
n additional nods to kawaii (“cute”) culture, Japanese anime films play silently on a wall monitor at Onigiri. Wall shelves feature a collection of small figurines from Japan’s famed Studio Ghibli films including “My Neighbor Totoro” and “Spirited Away.” The cafe’s logo, an anthropomorphized smiling onigiri, was created by the couple’s middle-school-aged daughter.

As for that addictive kimchi – good luck getting grandma’s recipe. Reno says that she will share it with her children one day, but for now, her husband doesn’t even know it.  

2820 W. Cary St.
Tuesdays – Saturdays 11 a.m. - 7 p.m.
Sundays noon – 5 p.m.

Monday, September 30, 2019


River City Market offers affordable, EBT-accepted groceries to Brookland Park.

Posted By on Mon, Sep 30, 2019 at 4:08 PM

When she turns 75, Zatima Brown vows to put her agriculture degree to work. Her eyes crinkle when mentioning the farmland she’s been eyeing in Nelson County and how one day, it’ll be part of what she passes on to her six children.

But for now, the Brooklyn native happily stands at the helm of River City Market, Brookland Park’s newest grocery store that offers natural, Virginia-grown produce.

Even before opening May 11, Brown’s homemade veggie burgers, blackberry jams and herbal supplements — sold under her company True Seeds, LLC — were hits at farmers markets.

Now she’s excited for people to have access to her food more than just one day a week.

When she was raising her kids in Highland Park nearly 15 years ago, the closest grocery store options were a Walmart or a Food Lion, which were always outside of the neighborhood.

“All of us don’t have transportation,” she says. “It takes me two or three minutes to get here but that’s with my car. … Imagine walking from my home to Kroger. Oh, that’s at least an hour walk.”

After downsizing and moving back to the neighborhood, Brown made it a mission to become certified to accept electronic benefit transfer, a card for low-income people to purchase food using the supplemental nutrition assistance program, known as SNAP benefits. She explains that the community is diverse in terms of income, which is why it’s important for her to keep River City Market affordable.

A tour around the few hundred square feet that make up the space gives quick glimpses as to how Brown achieves this: Almost everything is local and targeted to customers.

She’s surveyed the people in the community on what they want to see in the store and her partnership with Shalom Farms allows Brown to stock the produce section with what the neighborhood needs rather than buying in bulk. Currently, it’s stocked with a shipment of kale, carrots and mangoes brought in Tuesday.

When she points to her section of staples consisting of various seasonings, local rice and pancake mixes, she gets excited about how a local resident who makes hot honey suggested putting it on chicken. When mentioning a local producer whose carrot cakes are constantly being sold, she begins laughing.

“Of course everybody loves them!” she says. “This shelf goes consistently.”

Mike Hatcher, the owner of Michaela’s Bakery across the street, comes in for some peaches as Brown mentions the time someone told her to have workers of “lighter complexion” than Brown, her family or other people of color.

When Brown asked her why, the woman said “people like to see [then trailed off].”

“I did take it as somewhat of an insult, but one thing’s for sure,” says Brown, who’s also the student director at Muhammad University of Islam on Main Street and proudly wears a headpiece she calls a half-moon for its shape. “Why wouldn’t I want the public to know it’s me here? Give them the option to spend time with me and see that I’m nobody to be afraid of. Why not?”

River City Market
16 W. Brookland Park Blvd.
Mondays - Fridays 10 a.m. - 7 p.m.
Saturdays 9 a.m. - 7 p.m.
Sundays 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.

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