Tuesday, March 12, 2019

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.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Top Chefs

Five Richmond names appear on this year's list of James Beard semifinalists.

Posted on Wed, Feb 27, 2019 at 3:20 PM

It’s awards season, and appropriately enough, nominations for the Oscars of the culinary world were released today. Unsurprisingly, several familiar names are on the list.

This year’s list of Restaurant and Chef Award semifinalists released by the prestigious New York-based James Beard Foundation includes five Richmond-area names. For the second year in a row, An Bui of Mekong and the Answer Brewpub is named in the Outstanding Wine, Spirits or Beer Producer category. Sibling duo Evrim and Evin Dogu, owners of Sub Rosa Bakery, also received their second nomination for Outstanding Baker.

New to the list this year are Mama J’s and Sandeep “Sunny” Baweja, in the Outstanding Service and Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic categories, respectively.

Other Virginia nods include Ian Redshaw of Lampo Neapolitan Pizzeria in Charlottesville as Rising Star Chef of the Year and Peking Gourmet Inn in Falls Church for Outstanding Service and Rutger de Vink of RdV Vineyards in Delaplane for Outstanding Wine, Spirits or Beer Producer.

Monday, February 25, 2019

The Scott’s Addition beer scene soon will include Crozet-based brewery Starr Hill

Posted By on Mon, Feb 25, 2019 at 3:11 PM

The checklist for your weekend afternoon brewery tour will soon get a little longer. Starr Hill Brewery, which started as a Charlottesville music hall in 1999 and has evolved into the largest craft beer-maker in Virginia, recently announced its plans to open a Richmond location in Scott's Addition this summer. Known for its flagship brews like the Northern Lights pale ale and seasonal offerings like the Snow Blind doppelbock lager, Starr Hill distributes all over the state and has a second brewery and taproom in Roanoke.

According to general manager Allie Hochman, the company's brewers, under the guidance of brew master Robbie O'Cain, will all work at the Starr Hill Beer Hall and Rooftop on a rotating basis. The brewery will have both classics and Richmond-specific beers on tap, including experimentations like oak-fermented beers and wild ales.

"We're really excited to use this space to stretch our legs a little bit in brewing," Hochman says. "We're going to be primarily just focusing on brewing beer, because that's what we do best."

There won't be a restaurant on-site, she says, but guests can expect to see food trucks on the premises. The brewery will share a building with Tazza Kitchen and Hochman says some sort of collaboration with the restaurant could be on the horizon. In homage to its origins as a music venue, the space will also include a small stage to showcase local musicians. Sports will play on the televisions and a projector, interactive activities like lawn games will be available and events will include things like beer dinners in collaboration with local restaurants, educational sessions with brewers and rooftop yoga sessions.

"We're really focusing on customer experience," Hochman says. "I think a lot of people think they know us because we've been around for 20 years this year, but I think we've got a few things up our sleeves."

Construction on the Starr Hill Beer Hall and Rooftop has begun, and it's expected to open late this summer.

Starr Hill Beer Hall and Rooftop
3406 W. Leigh St.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Eat About Town

Some upcoming food-and-drink events you don’t want to miss.

Posted By on Tue, Feb 19, 2019 at 1:00 AM

Mark your calendars, folks. Your favorite chefs, and maybe some you've never heard of, are pulling out all the stops over these next few weeks. There's something for everyone, so be sure to buy your tickets and make reservations before it's too late.

Guest Cooking Series Featuring Mike Ledesma

In collaboration with Mise En Place Cooking School, Mike Ledesma of Perch will teach you how to make one of his signature recipes on Thursday, Feb. 28. The event also will include appetizers, wine and a chat with Ledesma about Richmond's food scene.

Tickets cost $50 per person and available at misenplacerva.com/classes.

Alewife-Longoven Collaboration Dinner

Did you miss the Jan. 28 event at Alewife when chef Lee Gregory welcomed the Longoven team into his kitchen for a collaboration dinner? Good news: You've got another opportunity, just the other way around this time. On Sunday, Feb. 24, Alewife staff will join Patrick Phelan, Megan Fitzroy Phelan and Andrew Manning on their turf to create another multicourse meal for $75 per person with an optional wine pairing for $35.
Call Longoven at 308-3497 or visit longovenrva.com to make reservations.

Virginia Wine Expo

Tickets still are available for the annual Virginia Wine Expo, Feb. 26-March 3. The six-day affair showcasing all things delicious in the Commonwealth is composed of ticketed events like Nightbeat on Saturday, March 2, with gourmet late-night hors d'oeuvres and snacks, plus wine, port, cider and whiskey at the Old City Bar. On Friday, March 1, sample some of Virginia's best barbecue (there will be plenty of meat and seafood but it'll also be vegetarian-friendly) paired with regional beer, wine and whiskey.

The grand poohbah of the Wine Expo is the Walk-Around Grand Tasting on March 2 and 3, featuring a little bit of everything from Virginia, plus wines from places like Southern California and Chile. Tickets cost from $55 to $765.

Black Restaurant Experience

During the first week of March, the Black Restaurant Experience is an eight-day event highlighting minority-owned food-and-drink businesses in the Richmond area.

Kicking off the festivities is Mobile Soul Sunday on March 3, featuring more than a dozen food trucks, music and a kids' zone between 11th and 14th streets. Featured restaurants, catering companies and food trucks include Vagabond, Send a Chef, Minibar RVA, Mama J's, Boogaloos Bar and Grill, Brewer's Cafe, Soul Taco, Inner City Blues, Spoonbread Bistro, Sugar's Crab Shack and Urban Hang Suite.

The culminating event on Sunday, March 10, is Stick a Fork in It, a celebration including cooking demonstrations, tasting contests, paint-and-sip and small plates at $3-5 each. Held at the Arthur Ashe Center, it starts at noon.

The Black Restaurant Experience has named the Mary G. Brown Transition Center, a re-entry organization that provides services to people with felony convictions, as this year's beneficiary.

Tarrant's West Speakeasy

Sshhhh ... it's a secret. On Friday, March 15, show up at Tarrant's West, the one in Henrico, in your best flapper outfit and be prepared to party like it's 1929. Entertainment will include live music, and a $30 ticket gets you a drink ticket and hors d'oeuvres. Respond to brittany@tarrantswestrva.com.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Bagels 'n' Beer

Nate's Bagels will soon serve up a collaboration with the Veil.

Posted By on Wed, Feb 13, 2019 at 9:19 PM

Last week, a photo of a keg from the Veil Brewing Co. appeared on Nate's Bagels' Instagram account.

"Posted without comment," reads the caption, with a "sshh" emoji.

This week, in a move that’s so Richmond it almost hurts, Nate’s Bagels announced that it will soon serve a seasonal bagel in collaboration with the Veil. That’s right, folks — Nate’s is making a beer bagel.

According to a press release, the Veil Stout Bagel incorporates the brewery’s vanilla cocoa nib hornswoggler, a chocolate milk stout with Tahitian vanilla and Videri chocolate cocoa nibs. For the next month, the bagels will be available every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Grab one as-is for $3, or have it sliced and add an Oreo chocolate stout cream cheese for $4. Supplies are limited to two per customer in the shop, or you can pre-order up to 12 at a time with at least 48 hours’ notice.

It’s a poetic full circle, the team at Nate’s dragging kegs from the Veil into its kitchen for a special project — when the bagel shop was still a pop-up back in 2017, the Veil invited owner Nate Mathews to set up a tent at its Sunday farmers market.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Back to Nature

Using locally-foraged yeast, Tabol Brewing brings fresh, funky flavors to the beer scene.

Posted By on Fri, Feb 8, 2019 at 5:24 PM

North Side claims its first craft brewery with the opening of Tabol Brewing Co. The city’s newest beer-maker might sound more like an Ikea furniture model, but it is far wilder and funkier than the orderly modern lines of contraptions from the Swedish retail giant. And no Allen wrenches are required to enjoy the saisons and wild ales on offer.

The brewery’s name is an intentional misspelling of the Esperanto word for table. There’s a long story and short story with a side commentary about how just about everything in English is trademarked these days.

Richmond wants for no brewery, but Tabol’s entry into a town nearly flooded with craft beer manages to offer something rare and refreshing. They are singularly focused on fermenting wild ales and saisons, whether from lab-cultured yeasts or with cultures collected from back alleyway mulberry trees. Nic Caudle and Travis Dise, the co-founders, say this style of brewing is the most fun and least predictable. They also age everything in wood.

“It’s our favorite style of beer,” says co-founder Travis Dise. “I call it Old-World style beer. Everything’s brewed in wood barrels, and we forage for wild yeast. A lot of breweries play with this stuff on the side, but for us, it’s the main focus.”

Beer lovers should easily find something to wet their whistle, whether a fruitier, tangy brew or a more spicy, floral saison. All of Tabol’s opening brews fall in the 4 to 6 percent alcohol range.

The opening taps include a balanced mix of both sour and earthy beer. If you’re not into the funkier brews, you may want to try Please Advise (6 percent alcohol), a dark ale with a clean, smooth blend of two barrels using different yeast cultures. The Sezono (6 percent alcohol) is crisp and clean and delivers subtle aromatic notes of pepper and meadow.

For the more adventurous imbibers, try the Jiinks, (4.3 percent alcohol), a tart ale made with Tabol’s house wild yeast. It was naturally conditioned in a wine barrel and has a smooth, fascinating taste that for a second makes the beer taste like a distant cousin of wine.

The Stock Blend is also a great example of how this brewery is experimenting with blends to great effect. This inaugural stock blend is on the tart side, but keep your eye on what it serves next and always ask your friendly bartender for the latest tasting notes.

Lovers of the outdoor spaces, take note of the substantial deck. It will be perfect in Richmond’s warmer weather, which nowadays usually comes right after the single-digit lows. The deck area is dog-friendly, and at least one good pup was spotted opening weekend, soaking in the sun and the admiration of day drinkers on an unseasonably warm February day.

Tabol Brewing 704 Dawn St. 303-5528 Thursdays - Fridays 4 - 9 p.m. Saturdays Noon - 9 p.m. Sundays Noon - 6 p.m. tabolbrewing.com

Monday, February 4, 2019

Dinner on the Go

The Big Kitchen brings fresh, ready-to-eat meals to Scott’s Addition.

Posted By on Mon, Feb 4, 2019 at 2:53 PM

Weeknight dinners just got a lot easier. For the days you just don't have it in you to cook but you're not feeling takeout, the Big Kitchen offers something in between.

Owned by the team behind Tazza Kitchen, this new concept is all about convenient food that requires minimal preparation. The process is simple: Visit the Big Kitchen website, order from an extensive menu of entrees, sides, salads, soups, pizzas and party platters, set your pick-up time and retrieve your food accordingly. There's even a drive-thru option, and delivery will be available soon.

"We were really intrigued by this idea of prepared meals," says co-owner Susan Davenport. "We all like to cook but we just don't have the same time during the week. We wanted to focus on meals that were really good recipes, made from scratch with good ingredients, and this idea of things that translated really well to transporting home."

Some of the best restaurant meals out there simply don't travel well, and no matter how appealing it is when it's piping hot, it could be a textureless mess by the time it makes it to your dining room table. The chefs at the Big Kitchen make everything fresh daily, and it all hangs out in the fridge or freezer until pickup. Some items, like the wood-fired pizzas or dishes with shrimp, are only partially cooked ahead of time so that the extra minutes in the home oven don't send them into overdone territory. Other things like the meatballs (yes, the same ones served at Tazza), red skin mashed potatoes, soups and barbecue are fully cooked and able to be reheated. Everything comes in oven- and microwave-safe compostable containers with heating instructions attached.

And if you're really in a bind and didn't even have time to submit an order online, there's a limited selection of grab-and-go items available inside. Next to a small cooler of beer, wine and sodas are several shelves packed with containers of pimento cheese, fresh salads, pasta entrees and condiments. Davenport says both the online menu and market selection will rotate pretty regularly, and they're already adding new items after only a couple weeks of operation.

The warehouselike building also includes a test kitchen for the chefs to experiment with new recipes, office spaces and a smokehouse that serves all their restaurants.

The Big Kitchen
1600 Altamont Ave.
Mondays - Saturdays 11:30 a.m. - 7 p.m.
Sundays 11:30 a.m. - 4 p.m.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Ice Cream for Breakfast

This Saturday, Gelati Celesti will open in time for the most important meal of the day.

Posted By on Wed, Jan 30, 2019 at 5:05 PM

Because we live in a truly remarkable time, there’s an entire holiday celebrating dessert as the most important meal of the day. And not just any dessert.

This Saturday, Feb. 2, let's all celebrate Ice Cream for Breakfast Day, a beautifully self-explanatory occasion. Gelati Celesti is acknowledging this most auspicious day by opening its five locations at 9 a.m. And as if the promise of a Gelati cone before lunch isn’t enough, there will also be Blanchard’s coffee, your favorite cereals on hand to go on top of the ice cream, and Sugar Shack doughnuts. Oh, and if you show up in your pajamas, that doughnut is free.

And in related Gelati news, the frozen treats empire recently announced that the beloved Rainbow Cookie ice cream, featuring, yes, those rainbow cookies from Ukrop's, is now permanently available at every location.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Kickin' Chicken

Hot Chick, by Eat Restaurant Partners, makes its debut next week.

Posted By on Tue, Jan 22, 2019 at 1:00 AM

This chicken is no fast food — whether that means it's fit for a president may be up for debate, but we'll certainly take it.

Hot Chick, the newest endeavor from the team behind Wong Gonzalez, Foo Dog, Pizza and Beer of Richmond, and Fat Dragon, is all about the chicken — fried chicken, grilled chicken, Buffalo chicken, chicken tenders, chicken wings and chicken gravy. But front and center is the restaurant's namesake: the Hot Chick, a sandwich inspired by Nashville hot chicken.

Classic Nashville hot chicken is precisely what it sounds like, the bird's got some spice. This particular sandwich features a chicken breast with a spicy dry rub, fried to a golden crisp and topped on a bun with dill pickles and light, fresh ranch slaw.

Hospitality manager Chris Staples says the sandwich is "spicy AF" (that's "spicy as fuck," to be clear) and claims it will soon be known as the best chicken sandwich in town. But if chicken that will send smoke pouring out of your ears doesn't strike your fancy, there's plenty more on the menu, like the Cali Chick sandwich: grilled chicken, Muenster cheese, napa cabbage, tomato, guacamole, bacon and ranch. Starters include fried chicken skins, bacon-fat waffle fries with fried sage and Parmesan, cheddar biscuits, and fried pimento cheese.

For lighter fare you'll find three salads, and sides include potato salad, creamed corn, mashed potatoes and Brussels sprouts. A section of the menu dubbed Creative Comforts includes Buffalo chicken macaroni and cheese, chicken and waffles and Chez Love's Special, affectionately titled after chef Mike Lindsey's nickname: a waffle, four-cheese macaroni and a fried chicken tender dipped in Memphis Sweet Heat, a vinegar-based hot sauce.

Lindsey hails from North Carolina, hence the Southern-focused menu.

"The menu starts in Nashville and finishes in North Carolina," Staples says. "It goes everywhere in between, so it's got a little bit of Texas, Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina. It's all those fried chicken concepts kind of rolled into one."

An extensive drink menu features house cocktails, craft beer and wine. A weekday happy hour will offer $4 rail drinks, $6 wines by the glass and $1 off bottles, cans and specialty cocktails. Desserts include banana pudding, a loaded waffle and Nightingale Ice Cream Sandwiches with honey-maple ice cream and waffle chunks. They're not on the menu yet, but Staples says to expect other sweets along the lines of Cheerwine floats.

The name of the restaurant, Staples says, is all in good fun. It's a play on the menu's focal point, and it's also a reference to the alleged history of Nashville hot chicken.

Legend has it that the great-uncle of the original hot chicken restaurant purveyor in Nashville chose to spend a Saturday night with another lady. The next day, to remind him who's in charge, his wife smothered the Sunday chicken with eye-popping chili powder before frying it up. Turns out the punishment was more of a pleasure for him, thus launching a decades-long Southern obsession with the fiery bird.

"So it's the hot chicken, and also an angry woman," Staples says. "There were all these things about the story that we really enjoyed drawing upon."

After a series of trial runs with friends, family and industry folks, Hot Chick opens on Wednesday, Jan. 23.

Hot Chick
7 N. 17th St.
Mondays - Thursdays 11 a.m. - 10 p.m.
Fridays - Saturdays 11 a.m. - 11 p.m.
Sundays 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Brunch at Bar Solita

Chicken and crepes, breakfast chimichangas and mimosa flights are on the new weekend menu.

Posted By on Tue, Jan 15, 2019 at 1:00 AM

Breakfast pizza was already on the regular menu, but a few months after its debut, Bar Solita is leaning into the brunch trend. As of last weekend, the Mediterranean-focused menu now includes an expansive, creative weekend selection dubbed the Flamingo Brunch.

You've got your staples like biscuits and gravy and an eggs platter, of course, but you'll also find twists on classic brunch items. Rather than chicken and waffles, two hefty pieces of crispy breaded chicken come alongside a serving of red velvet crepes, with dollops of whipped cream on the plate. Bar Solita's take on a breakfast burrito is the breakfast chimichanga, a soft tortilla rolled around fluffy scrambled eggs and sausage gravy, deep-fried and smothered in green goddess dressing and fennel pico. Other items include a Mexican chocolate parfait, breakfast empanadas, shrimp and curry polenta, harissa smoked chicken wings and a giant, shareable cinnamon bun.

New chef Lucky Abimbola transferred from Little Saint to Bar Solita about two months ago, just in time to dig into the brunch menu. The chicken and crepes is her favorite.

"Usually when you see chicken on a brunch menu, you think waffles," Abimbola says. "This is just kind of an adult way to eat chicken for breakfast."

On the bar side, why have just one flavor of mimosa when you can have five? Served alongside a pour-yourself bottle of champagne, the mimosa flight features small glasses of sweet, fruity concoctions including strawberry-mint and pineapple-honey, plus the standard orange juice. There's enough of each flavor to mix with the entire bottle of champagne, so you might want to split this with your brunch buddy or spring for an Uber.

If sweet and bubbly isn't your thing, keep an eye out for the bloody mary cart. Pushed around the dining room by a bartender, it features at least three types of vodka, several tomato-based mixes, including locally made Texas Beach bloody mary mix, and add-ins like horseradish, Worcestershire sauce, lemons and olives. No idea what you want? Just order a dealer's choice, and let the roving barkeep know your preferred spice level. There's also a boozy, for-the-table cocktail served in a giant ceramic flamingo, which a diner describes as a "brunch version of a Long Island iced tea."

Brunch is available from 10 a.m. to about 3:30 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.

Bar Solita
123 W. Broad St.
Mondays - Fridays 11 a.m. - 11 p.m.
Saturdays 10 a.m. - 1 a.m.
Sundays 10 a.m. - 11 p.m.

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