Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Ready to Fly

Mike Ledesma’s Perch opens this weekend.

Posted By on Wed, Sep 19, 2018 at 12:34 PM

The text messages started going out on Thursday. Mike Ledesma finally was ready to debut Perch with a preview dinner service to a small group of contributors. It takes a village to open a restaurant, and Ledesma invited his villagers to say thanks: The designer, architect, food supplier, audio-visual installer, furniture upholsterer, publicist, photographer, carpenter and others turned out.

Saturday night, about 90 guests filled the dining room, sharing drinks, food and congratulations. Some toted wine, not knowing that Perch had received its ABC license the night before. The light and airy space seats 148, grouped into a handful of dining spaces, or locations to perch.

In the main dining room, Perch has a six-seat counter facing the open kitchen, which diners can pre-book for a Japanese omakase-style customized dinner. The open dining room is flanked on one side by a brick-walled patio with sliding glass doors, and the other by the 15-seat white-topped bar. Out front, an eight-seat sidewalk counter along the wall faces the restaurant. When the front window is open, guests can enjoy sidewalk dining.

A private and soundproofed dining area in the back is wired for audio-visual presentations. It has a view into the kitchen, behind glass panels that can be made transparent or opaque, depending on the party’s preference. The charming, four-table outdoor patio is enclosed by the building’s original brick walls with open windows. Fans are suspended by metal beams across the open ceiling.

The decor is punctuated with clever nods to chef Ledesma’s Hawaiian culinary history, including a large eight-person table designed to look like a vintage surfboard. The teal upholstery and white tile behind the bar create an upscale beachy vibe. A large landscape mural pays homage to the original wallpaper from the well-known previous tenant, Joy Garden. That signature graphic is also on the business cards, menus, and matchboxes.

On Saturday, Ledesma opened the front window and patio doors, sending a refreshing breeze through the restaurant as guests took seats and servers took orders.

General manager and beverage director Kristel Poole helmed the bar, cocktail shakers dancing in both hands. Ledesma’s proud father cruised the dining room and kitchen, panning with his phone camera. Sous chef Marlin Remick kept the wood- and gas-fired oven busy with small flatbreads dotted with goat cheese, caramelized onion, prosciutto, concord grape reduction and arugula.

The menu listed a limited four-course meal, starting with a mixed salad garnished with peeled cherry tomatoes and small chunks of crispy peanut brittle. The pork belly appetizer was a standout for its crispy skin crust, a crunchy counterpoint to the fork-tender meat and zingy pickled red onions.

The vegan cakes with roasted vegetables were clever crabcake lookalikes that fooled both the eye and palate. The hearts of palm flaked like lump crabmeat, with a tang that boosted the vegetable flavors. Served with a sauce of veganaise, capers and aquafaba, it was the highlight of the dinner course.

For dessert, Jess Widener’s ginger ube cheesecake was a showstopper. The cheesecake was tinged lavender from the purple sweet potato, known as ube. Its softness was offset by a crisp ginger and pecan base, infused with maple syrup.

The menu greeted guests with mahalo, a Hawaiian word for gratitude and thanks. Ledesma will extend the mahalo to the rest of Richmond this weekend, when Perch opens to the public Saturday.


2918 W. Broad St.


Thursday, September 13, 2018

An Empire Grows

Gelati Celesti acquires Boyer's Ice Cream and Coffee.

Posted on Thu, Sep 13, 2018 at 5:10 PM

Last week, Gelati Celesti announced its acquisition of Boyer’s Ice Cream and Coffee at 5808 Grove Ave. The family-owned shop has been selling Gelati’s ice cream since its 2008 opening, and will be remodeled and rebranded with the Gelati Celesti name within the next couple months.

In a recent press release, owner Steve Rosser describes the location as an “ideal complement to our other locations across the city.” Boyer’s will operate as usual for the next six to eight weeks.

Gelati Celesti has been churning up some of Richmond’s favorite ice cream in small batches since 1984. Classic flavors include butter pecan, birthday cake and mint chip, and specialties range from Just Ask (peanut butter and Oreo chunks in a white chocolate ice cream) to Blanchard’s Dark as Dark, featuring the local coffee purveyor’s darkest beans.

Oh, and if you haven’t stopped by for the pumpkin gingersnap yet, ignore any inclination that it’s too early for pumpkin and go get yourself a scoop (or two).

Friday, September 7, 2018

Taste of Time

This weekend marks the Armenian Food Festival’s 60th anniversary.

Posted By on Fri, Sep 7, 2018 at 1:41 PM

It started with a bake sale to raise money for a new church, and has turned into a festival that attracts thousands of people over three days.

This weekend marks the 60th anniversary of the annual Armenian Food Festival, the longest-running event of its kind in Richmond. Held at the St. James Armenian Church at 834 Pepper Ave., the festival has expanded and evolved over the years to include music, entertainment, a gift shop and Armenian wines. The food, however, hasn’t changed much.

“They’re old family recipes that go back years and years,” says 91-year-old John Baronian, who’s been involved since the festival’s inception six decades ago. “One person’s mother may have done it differently from another, so they combined and came up with the recipes we use today.”

Items on the menu include pilaf (which Baronian recommends pairing with lupia, Armenian-style string beans), ground sirloin and lamb burgers, stuffed grape leaves and chicken and pork kebabs. Baronian’s favorite is the lahmajoon, an Armenian meat pie, and fellow organizer Leiza Bouroujian says she loves the boreg, which is phyllo dough stuffed with cheese and spinach. For dessert you’ve got paklava, a sweet layering of philo and walnuts that bears a striking resemblance to the Greek baklava, but with a lighter syrup. Other classic Armenian sweets like sugar cookies, tea cookies and holiday bread are on the menu. And to wash it all down? Beer from Kotayk Brewery and several Armenian wines, including Shushi, a dry pomegranate wine.

“We never stop cooking,” Bouroujian says. “We operate like a restaurant, so the meat, veggies pilaf, it’s all being prepared while you’re walking in.”

Bouroujian says Richmonders “seem to crave” food-centric events like this, and last year’s festival saw record numbers: about 10,000 people over the course of three days.

“We take a lot of pride in it, not only to bring Armenian cuisine but also to expose people to Armenian culture, history and music,” Bouroujian says.

The festival runs 11:30 a.m. - 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and noon - 7 p.m. Sunday.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Mediterranean Makeover

The team behind Tarrant's and Little Saint plan to open Bar Solita in the old Graffiato space.

Posted on Fri, Aug 31, 2018 at 4:00 AM

It’s been a couple months since Graffiato, Mike Isabella’s Richmond restaurant, closed. The group behind Tarrant’s Cafe acquired the keys shortly after, and recently announced that Bar Solita, a Mediterranean-inspired restaurant with an extensive bar, will open in the 123 W. Broad St. space.

“The equipment that was here really speaks to Italian food, obviously with the wood-burning oven,” says RVA Hospitality's Liz Kincaid. “But we just didn’t really want to do Italian right now. Mediterranean speaks to the way food and health are trending these days.”

The menu, which Kincaid says is still in development, will feature dips and other shareables with Spanish, Italian, Greek and Portuguese influences, plus a hefty international wine list and craft cocktails. As for the space, Kincaid says RVA Hospitality is making some “small cosmetic changes,” but nothing major, especially not to the bar.

“That bar was designed by someone who loves cocktails, you can just tell,” she says, noting that the current setup allows for high-volume service.

The group is aiming for an opening of Oct. 1 at the latest.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

By the Pint

This weekend's beer and cider releases.

Posted on Thu, Aug 30, 2018 at 1:34 PM

Nary a weekend goes by without the release of a new beer or cider, and how is a person supposed to keep track of it all? So for those of you who can’t resist a new brew, here’s a rundown of what’s hitting the taps and the shelves over the next few days.

Dark Dessert mint-chocolate stout | Three Notch’d RVA Collab House | Thursday, August 30

Summer is finally coming to an end (though who’d believe it, with these scorching temps), and Three Notch’d is waving it off with a dark, sweet stout brewed with mint leaves, lactose and cacao nibs.

Bergsaft | Steam Bell Beer Works | Friday, August 31

At 4 percent ABV, this Bavarian-style Hefeweizen has a “light biscuity flavor” and notes of banana. It’s available in 16-ounce cans.

Maple-spiced cider | Buskey Cider | Friday, August 31

Available in cans and on tap in the tasting room, this cider was made with maple wood spirals, vanilla beans, cinnamon and maple syrup.

All the King’s Horses IPA | Castleburg Brewery and Taproom | Friday, August 31

There’s no wrong time of year for an IPA, and Castleburg has a new one on tap. Described as citrusy with tropical fruit and melon flavor, it’s hopped with two different hops and comes in at 6.3 percent ABV.

River City Tap Water | Canon and Draw Brewing Company | Friday, August 31

Just in time for Labor Day, the classic American lager at Canon and Draw will be available in 16-ounce cans on Friday. It’s a crisp, easy drinkin’ beer brewed with Citra dry hops.

Farmhouse Pumpkin | Hardywood Park Craft Brewery | Saturday, September 1

It’s never too early for pumpkin, and Hardywood is one of the first to release a fall-inspired beer this year. Brewed with Virginia sugar pumpkins, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, allspice and ginger, this Belgian farmhouse-style ale is all things fall in a pint class.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Shuffle on Over

Tang and Biscuit is open for business in Scott's Addition.

Posted By on Wed, Aug 29, 2018 at 3:16 PM

Remember a few months ago when we told you about Tang and Biscuit, the shuffleboard venue coming to Scott’s Addition? Doors officially opened last Sunday, and now that they've worked out some of the first-week kinks, they're holding a grand opening party this Saturday.

At 3406 W. Moore St., the 18,000-square-foot space features 10 regulation shuffleboard courts and a 50-foot bar. Corn hole, pingpong, giant Jenga and board games are also available, so there’s truly something for everybody.

As for what to nosh on between turns at the court, the beer menu lists domestic staples like Pabst Blue Ribbon and Corona, plus local favorites like Vasen Brewing on draft. True to the name, the cocktail list includes a Tangtini, featuring the classic orange powdered drink Tang, citrus vodka, fresh orange juice and Cointreau. To eat you’ve got biscuits (naturally) with sandwich fillings like pulled pork and coleslaw, chicken, bacon and ranch, and shredded beef with Chees Whiz. Loaded tater tots are also available, with four topping options — think nachos, poutine, barbecue and baked potato.

Hours are Mondays through Thursdays 4 p.m. to 11 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays 11 a.m. to midnight and Sunday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Hello, Fall?

Starbucks releases its pumpkin spice latte on Tuesday.

Posted on Mon, Aug 27, 2018 at 4:08 PM

The first day of fall is technically Saturday, Sept. 22. But we all know that the onslaught of fall-inspired paraphernalia starts showing up long before the leaves actually begin to turn (I’m looking at you, pumpkin display at Kroger), and Starbucks never fails to be one of the first to declare summer over.

This year, the coffee chain’s pumpkin spice latte — ever heard of it? — will hit cafes on Tuesday, Aug. 28. The sweet, espresso-based beverage featuring “notes of pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg and clove” has become available earlier and earlier each year; the release date in 2015 was Sept. 8, and it has crept up with each successive year.

A tall pumpkin spice latte with whole milk and whipped cream comes in at 330 calories and 75 milligrams of caffeine. Pro tip: If you want it to taste like an actual latte instead of a milkshake with someone whispering “coffee” in your ear, try it with just one pump of the syrup. It’s also pretty delicious served cold, if you can get past the cognitive dissonance of slurping down a pumpkin-flavored beverage when it’s 90 degrees outside.

Friday, August 24, 2018

High on Hops

Strangeways Brewing will release a CBD-infused beer this weekend.

Posted on Fri, Aug 24, 2018 at 2:58 PM

OK, so it won’t actually get you high, but a new beer released by Strangeways Brewing this weekend does contain cannabidiol, called CBD, oil, a nonintoxicating marijuana extract. On Friday, Aug 25, the C.H.U.D CBD imperial red ale, featuring six types of hops, will be available at Strangeways. It’s a small-batch beer only available on draft, so be sure to try it before it goes up in smoke.

For your four-legged friends, Happy Hempies hemp-infused treats from pet supply company Best Bully Sticks will also be available this Saturday. And if all this starts to give you the munchies, Goatocado will be on site.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Pitching the Plastic

All Richmond-area Kroger stores will phase out single-use bags by 2025.

Posted on Thu, Aug 23, 2018 at 12:10 PM

As part of its Zero Hunger, Zero Waste commitment, Kroger plans to eliminate single-use plastic bags from its stores by the year 2025.

“It’s a bold move that will better protect our planet for future generations," says Kroger's chairman and chief executive, Rodney McMullen.

According to a news release, estimates suggest that 100 billion single-use plastic bags are thrown away in the U.S. every year, and less than 5 percent of plastic bags are recycled annually. The grocery chain will "work with NGOs and community partners to ensure a responsible transition."

The Zero Hunger, Zero Waste initiative also includes a goal to divert 90 percent of waste from landfills by 2020, and an ongoing effort to send nutritious foods to local food banks and pantries.

Monday, August 20, 2018

It’s all about what’s between the bread during this year’s RVA Sandwich Week

Posted on Mon, Aug 20, 2018 at 2:55 PM

Which 'wich?

We've got lunch all week figured out for you. RVA Sandwich Week kicked off on Monday, Aug. 20. Sixteen restaurants are participating, each offering a specialty sandwich for either $5 or $6 and the chance to win a $100 Visa card.

Download the passport at rvasandwichweek.com to keep track of all the sandwiches you try, and be sure to have your server initial and date the sheet after each one. Available sandwiches include a roasted turkey and brie baguette at Chez Foushee, a tuna melt at Liberty Public House, a 'mater sammich at Union Market and a pressed chipotle steak flatiron at Wood and Iron.

Don't forget to submit your signed and dated passport to events@styleweekly.com or the Style Weekly office at 24 E. Third St. after you visit three or more restaurants.   

Finales in the Fan

In recent weeks, two restaurants within a block of each other in the Fan have announced their imminent closures.

Starlite Dining and Lounge, at 2600 W. Main St., will soon stop serving its pub-style food like cheese fries, wings, burgers and sandwiches. The restaurant, which has been operating since 2002, will hold brunch, lunch and dinner one last time on Saturday, Sept. 1. According to Rueger Restaurant Group operations director Shannon Conway, the space will soon house a concept similar to the restaurant group's popular Scott's Addition restaurants Lunch and Supper.  

"We know a lot of our regulars are sad to say goodbye, but they also know we're coming back with something they'll love from a brand we've worked hard to make very popular in RVA, Lunch and Supper," Conway says by email. " We're really grateful for the way the city has embraced Lunch and Supper, and we're excited to share a new concept that will play off these restaurants."

She doesn't share many more details than that, but does note that the new restaurant will serve as an "ode to one of RVAs favorite meal times!" I see you, Brunch. The goal is for the new concept to be up and running by January.  "We've loved serving Richmond as Starlite, and we can't wait to invite the #RVADine community to our newest addition!" Conway says.

About 400 feet away, Continental Divide is also preparing for Sept. 1 to be its final day. The second iteration of the brick-and-mortar spot in Charlottesville that's been serving tacos and an extensive tequila selection for more than two decades, the restaurant at 2501 W. Main St. never took off the way the original did. A Monday post on Continental Divide's Facebook page reveals that for the remaining weeks, happy hour will be extended to Tuesdays-Sundays, and "a couple more fundraisers and dance parties" will take place before closing day.

The post says the owners intend to search for a new Richmond location, but in the meantime, its truck Divide Ride Tacos will continue to show up around town to sling tacos, nachos and quesadillas.  

Summer Lovin'

For the third year in a row, the Veil Brewing Co. is holding the Forever Summer Fest. Held on Saturday, Aug. 25, the all-day celebration will benefit ChildSavers, a Richmond-based nonprofit committed "to the mental well-being of children and the positive bond between adult and child."

Beer from all over the country will be available by the 3-ounce pour. Breweries represented include Allagash Brewing Co., Hill Farmstead Brewery, Jackie O's Pub and Brewery, Sante Adarius Rustic Ales, the Answer Brewpub and Tired Hands Brewing Co. This year, the focus is on the "wild, funky, sour styles." If you want to brush up on sours before heading to the festival, check out Paul Brockwell's piece from earlier this year at styleweekly.com.

Tickets cost $100 per person, and the festival consist of three, three-hour sessions. Guests get one pour from each brewery and souvenir glassware.  

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