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Friday, October 19, 2018

Dairy Defector

Local cheesemaker is empowering the vegan movement with UnMoo.

Posted on Fri, Oct 19, 2018 at 12:48 PM

It started with eggnog. Josh Kadrich doesn’t get along with dairy, but he’s a self-described eggnog fiend, so a couple years ago he started making a vegan version using cashew and coconut milk from scratch.

“So I started hustling jars to my friends of this vegan, tequila-sherry eggnog,” he says with a chuckle.

Around that same time, he also started experimenting with making soft cheeses for his dairy-loving partner. A microbiologist working in a lab at the time, he found it to be a relatively simple yet fascinating process, and it occurred to him that he could use the same techniques to make plant-based cheeses.

“Food is about more than the product in front of you. Food is also about the story and the history behind it and the care that goes into it,” Kadrich says. “So for me to actually try to make this cheese became a bit of a mission and a little bit of an obsession.”

The obsession continued and he’s now the founder and sole proprietor of UnMoo, a Richmond-based producer of small-batch cheeses made from plants. He starts with making milk using fair-trade organic cashews and then puts it through a traditional cheesemaking process of culturing, brining and aging.

He’s careful to avoid making direct comparisons between his products and dairy cheeses, though it’s tempting to do so, especially when they look so similar. As creamy and meltable as his cashew-based Notz (which comes in the form of smooth white ball) may be, it’s not mozzarella. Kadrich doesn’t want people to be disappointed when they take a bite expecting mozzarella, and he describes a common Coke-vs.-Pepsi moment that he often encounters when people try his products at the farmers market.

“You go to drink Coke and you get Pepsi and you have a negative reaction, and it’s not because it wasn’t good, it’s because you didn’t get what you expected,” he says. “So in building expectations around a product that people assume is imitation in the first place, I then have to completely redefine those expectations.”

He also makes a sweet, tangy, spreadable raw product called AM that he recommends smearing on a bagel or dolloping on top of Mexican food, and a plant-based butter called Nutter. Kadrich says he doesn’t get to spend as much time experimenting in the kitchen as he’d like, but as the company grows you can expect to see more varieties become available.

There’s a common misconception that something made from plants can’t be cheese, Kadrich says, but he pushes back against those notions.

“It’s a product that underwent a culturing, brining and aging process,” he says. “It’s closer to cheese than the slice of American in the back of your fridge.”

For Kadrich, the business has grown beyond his obsession with creating nut-based cheeses. Now that his products are available in restaurants and markets around town, the feedback he’s getting from customers makes him feel like he’s doing something that matters — something that makes people genuinely grateful.

“I’m impacting people’s lives,” he says, adding that fair-trade sourcing and sustainability are also high on his priority list. “Building out UnMoo is less about making crazy cheese and more about building this lifestyle company that we can all kind of grow together in.”

You can find UnMoo at Idle Hands Bakery and Union Market, plus the South of the James, Birdhouse and Williamsburg farmers markets. And if it’s not on the menu at Pizza and Beer of Richmond by the time of publication, it will be soon, and it'll hit the shelves of Ellwood Thompson's before too long. The list is rapidly growing, so keep an eye on UnMoo’s social media pages.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Christmas in October

Hardywood will soon take orders for the 2018 Gingerbread Stout complete set.

Posted on Thu, Oct 18, 2018 at 2:50 PM

It’s about that time again. For years devotees have come out in droves, lining up at Hardywood Park Craft Brewery and scouring local market shelves for the coveted and limited Gingerbread Stout. “Beer Advocate” magazine gave it a perfect score of 100 after its initial release in 2011. The imperial milk stout comes in at 9.2 percent alcohol, and with its notes of milk chocolate, vanilla, honeycomb, ginger and cinnamon, it tastes like the holidays in a bottle. The brewers at Hardywood have since developed spin-offs, like the Christmas Morning, which adds the flavors of coffee beans from Black Hand Coffee Co. to the stout. Then there’s the Kentucky Christmas Morning, which brings both coffee and bourbon into the mix.

This year the beer is available in 11 varieties, including brandy barrel-aged, rye barrel-aged and port-barrel aged. And you might be able to get your hands on 11 Gingerbread Stouts, plus a limited edition glass, together in a set. Family Tree Beer Club members, who have access to exclusive beers and deals, plus merchandise and pre-release options, get first dibs, and at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 24, however many $175 sets are left will become available to the public.

There’s a one-per-person limit, and pickup begins Friday, Dec. 14.

Snag yours here.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Grocery Gains

Stella’s Grocery will soon open its third location.

Posted By on Tue, Oct 16, 2018 at 1:00 AM

Stella's Grocery purveyors Katrina and Johnny Giavos will open yet another location downtown later this month. Kohlman's Market, already owned and operated by the dining power couple, will undergo a quick re-brand over the next couple weeks to look more like its sister locations. The colorful art deco storefront at 109 E. Grace St., next door to another Giavos-owned location, Perly's, will morph from the current mod pharmacy feel to a cozier grocery store. The second location opened in April in — where else? — Scott's Addition, revealing how much demand there really is for the Dean and Deluca-type spot with a rustic Greek flair.

In addition to a full coffee bar and various oversized baked goods, the new Stella's will carry the same standout dishes near West End neighbors have come to rely on in the event of an empty fridge. Count on your favorites in the case, which may include its famous moussaka, giant Greek salads with slabs of feta, that spinach parmesan orzo with lamb meatballs in marinara (this dish is what dreams are made of), and our current favorite: the pumpkin cream sauce pappardelle topped with pancetta and sage. The lemon chicken soup that's basically Stella's answer to a sick day. The hummus that is better than everyone else's hummus. The list goes on, but they all have the same magic touch: fresh ingredients and tons of flavor. Nothing needs to be seasoned. Every serving is generous.

Don't want to go out? That's OK, especially since the restaurant remains one of the hardest reservations to get in Richmond (seriously — check OpenTable three weeks from now). Instead, enjoy Stella's entrees at home. Most dishes at Stella's Grocery are packaged for dinner portions and lend themselves well to an upscale date night in. Desserts like the tres leches cake and Snickers cake sweeten the deal.

Stop on the way home from work. And if you don't know what to try first, start with the hummus.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Garden Party

The 10th annual Golden Trowel awards recognize excellence in food accessibility.

Posted By on Mon, Oct 15, 2018 at 4:04 PM

Local chefs doing their thing, craft beer flowing, live music, all in an urban garden for a charitable cause. It doesn't get much more Richmond than that.

On Friday, Oct. 26, Tricycle Gardens will hold its 10th annual Harvest Celebration at its urban farm in Manchester. It's a night of all things local and community-oriented, and the event's crown jewel is the presentation of the Golden Trowel awards (yes, the trophies are exactly how you picture them), which recognizes people and organizations for their dedication to FOOD: Focus on community needs, Outreach and education, Opportunities for healthy food access, and Design of beautiful spaces. Recent winners include Allen Pearcie, the creator of a church's community garden, "Living in a Food Desert" filmmaker Jesse Vaughn, and former first lady Dorothy McAuliffe for "eliminating childhood hunger and improving access to Virginia's agricultural products."

"We really look for people who are doing something different, helping to combat all the food insecurities around Richmond," says the charity's Sarah Pentecost. "Someone who's really given back to the community in terms of food."

Tickets for the event cost $100 per person, and the proceeds go straight to Tricycle Gardens' mission of growing "healthy future through urban agriculture." A ticket covers an all-you-can-eat buffet, with stations hosted by chefs like Patrick Willis of Lemaire, David Crabtree Logan of the Broken Tulip and Megan Phelan of Longoven. Coffee from Blanchard's and booze from Belle Isle Moonshine and Stone Brewing Co. will also be on hand.

"We like to buy something from Tricycle each week and be able to tell our diners when they are eating vegetables grown just 3 miles away and picked that morning," says Logan, who's participating with his wife and business partner Sariann Lehrer. "If it opens some people's mind to eating more vegetables and supporting local agriculture, that would be a benefit."

Tickets are available here.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Wood-Fired

Bar Solita, by Tarrant’s restaurant group, opens this Friday.

Posted By on Thu, Oct 4, 2018 at 5:12 PM

When the team at RVA Hospitality signed a lease on the old Graffiato space, they knew they wanted to utilize that wood-fired oven. A few short months later, they’re ready to introduce Bar Solita, a Mediterranean restaurant and bar with Spanish, Italian, Greek and Portuguese influences.

A hefty renovation of the interior gave the restaurant a softer, homier feel with more rounded edges, plus bold details like the mustard yellow banquette and new black and white floor tiles. Co-owner Elizabeth Kincaid says they made an effort to reuse and repurpose as much as possible, like the booths along the right side, which they reupholstered with a turquoise fabric. The two long, 14-top communal tables by the bar didn’t quite fit with the desired vibe, so they sawed each in half and rotated them, filling the space in a way Kincaid says is more functional. Couches and a coffee table create a cozy lounge area to the left of the host stand.

“We just wanted to make it more homey, a little more feminine,” Kincaid says. “Before it was very masculine, very sterile, very industrial and we wanted to create different phases and experiences.”

The management team includes familiar faces — corporate chef Michael McGhee and executive chef Danny Kelly from Tarrant’s Cafe are in the kitchen and Sean Rapoza of Max’s on Broad is on board as sommelier. New to RVA Hospitality and to Richmond is bar manager Parker Girard, who just relocated from D.C. to curate Bar Solita’s cocktail program. Determining which spirits and flavors complement Mediterranean cuisine isn’t entirely intuitive, and Girard jumped at the creative opportunity.

Among the cocktails available is the Tahini Time, a concoction of white rum, honey, lime and salt that’s reminiscent of a classic daiquiri with a small spoonful of savory, toasty house-made tahini shaken right in. Another drink embracing Mediterranean flavors is the Sultan of Shake, a smooth, frothy mix of za’atar-infused gin, aquafaba, lemon and honey. There’s also the Holiday in Catania with vodka, pomegranate liqueur, honey and lemon, pale pink in color and similar to a boozy pink lemonade.

“To them Mediterranean didn’t just mean Greek, really, it meant the whole scope of the Mediterranean,” Girard says. “There are so many flavors down there, I really got super excited about all the flavors I get to play with.”

On the food side, the menu is built around shareable, tapas-style dishes like miniature spicy beef tacos, pork and veal meatballs in tomato sauce with garlic bread, garlic mushrooms in a sherry sauce and house made hummus with wood-fired pita. Personal-sized pizzas with slightly charred, garlicky crust include a classic Margherita and the cod brandade, with marinated tomatoes, a runny egg, parsley, tarragon and chives. Chef McGhee says they’ll make as many things as possible in house, like the feta, mozzarella and smoked almonds.

Entrees will include plates such as half a roasted chicken and a whole fish, prepared with Mediterranean spices and sides, plus housemade pastas. McGhee says the kitchen will source as many local ingredients as possible, like meat and seafood, but the Mediterranean nature means some items simply can’t come from nearby.

The dessert menu includes baklava and scoops from Gelati Celesti, plus galaktoboureko, the classic Greek sweet of semolina custard between layers of philo.

Bar Solita, which will roll out its entire menu gradually, opens to the public at 11 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 5.

Bar Solita

123 W. Broad St.

804-308-3605

Every day 11 a.m. - 10 p.m.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Fall Flavors

Ice cream makers embrace the pumpkin with seasonal menu updates.

Posted By on Fri, Sep 28, 2018 at 4:16 PM

Say what you want about the overabundance of pumpkin flavored stuff showing up in grocery stores — oatmeal, Cheerios, protein powders, Jell-O and applesauce, to name a few. But pumpkin spice ice cream? How can you be mad at that?

Charm School Social Club just launched its fall menu. Ice cream may traditionally be a summer treat (though really is there ever a bad time for ice cream?) but it's embracing the warmer, heavier flavors of the colder months.

There’s pumpkin pie with chunks of house-made graham crackers mixed in, tea time with cake crumbles, orange cardamom featuring pounds of freshly-squeezed and zested citrus, and hazelnut. For the nondairy eaters there’s a coconut-based orange cardamom and cashew-based hazelnut, plus a banana caramel sorbet.

Oh and speaking of ice cream, Nightingale Ice Cream Sandwiches, which has brought us concoctions like earl grey lavender, creamsicle and Key lime pie, just rolled out three new options for the fall: pumpkin spice, salted caramel and mint chocolate chip. These fall flavors are making their way around town and it may be a minute before they show up in a freezer near you, but keep checking back. They’re available all over the area, in markets and grocery stores like Ellwood Thompson’s and Shields Market, plus places like Sugar Shack, Galley Go-To, Latitude Seafood and Vasen Brewing.

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.

Perch

2918 W. Broad St.

perchrva.com

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.

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