Side Dish 

New Trick

Fans of Irvington's famed Trick Dog Café can return to the Northern Neck standout July 11, when entrepreneur Rob McRaney reopens the place and installs a new chef and staff. Kevin LaCivita of Richmond's Pomegranate Euro Bistro is consulting chef and is helping plan the menu. Newly hired is chef Abel Anya Lucca, classically trained in French and Italian cooking, whose recent work in New Orleans was well regarded. Steve Wallace of California will be maitre d'.

"I want to keep its energetic, celebratory atmosphere," McRaney says of the café's vibe, "and to make it a place for a good night out with excellent food." He'll add luncheon hours a few days a week by next year and retain the colorful and quirky decor.

Steak Secrets

Klaus Fritsch knows his way around a grill. As a co-founder of Morton's The Steakhouse, he's parlayed food and beverage experience with Playboy Enterprises into a 70-member chain of upscale steakhouses, including Richmond's in Shockoe Slip.

Now he's revealing grilling secrets and celebrity trivia in a new cookbook, "Morton's Steak Bible." In advance of his book-signing in Richmond July 24, Style caught up with him by phone from Chicago for a few tips:

Style: What's the secret to great steak?

Fritsch: Number one, you buy a great steak. For most consumers, it's not easy to find prime beef, but a great choice steak will do. It should be at least an inch-and-a-half thick. Bring it to room temperature. Grill it on hot heat, only turn it once and definitely don't poke it with a fork — always use a tong.

There are a couple of different ways to figure out when it's done. For the beginner, a thermometer is OK. Or use your hand. For a rare steak, you push your thumb into the middle of the steak and if it feels soft, just feeling for the texture, it's done. For medium, press the middle of your palm, and the center [of the steak] is a little harder, and for medium well, you press your little finger. It works very well. I never cook a well-done steak. You might as well make pot roast.

Which cuts of steak are the best for a home griller?

That's a choice of your taste. I prefer rib-eye; it's a little chewy and a little fattier, but it has great flavor. Filet is our biggest seller. It's a great, easy-to-eat piece of beef.

Gas or charcoal?

Charcoal is great and gives a little extra flavor if you have time. I use gas and don't have to putz around. Most gas grills today are very good, and you can bring them up to 800 degrees, which is great for steaks.

Why give away all of your kitchen secrets?

A lot of people have asked us for recipes. There aren't major secrets in it. We thought, why not? Some of them are simple.

A lot of these recipes are pretty fattening.

You don't eat it every day. I couldn't eat a steak every day. I eat a lot of chicken and fish.

But we'll never sell sushi — it's not our style. We do sell a wonderful tuna tartare. That's the extent that we go.

Fun With Food & Wine

Cooks looking for new flavors might be intrigued by the South African Food Festival at Grayhaven Winery in Gum Spring, a half-hour's drive west of Richmond. The event, July 8-9, features traditional South African comfort dishes such as bobotie, a meatloaf with curry and béchamel sauce. Pantry goods including chutneys, candies and spices will be sold, along with foods à la carte and a range of South African wines. Admission is $10; designated drivers and children older than 10 pay $5. Hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. both days. See www.southafricanfoodfest.com for details. S

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