Gator's Ghost

Gator’s Ghost

When word comes through that a restaurant in town has changed up their drink menu I make it my business to take a looksee. Yesterday I had the pleasure of trying 3 of the recently debuted cocktails at one of my most favorite places in RVA to enjoy an adult beverage, Lemaire at The Jefferson Hotel. Bar manager Scott Harris welcomed me with a plate of pimento cheese and I wasted no time getting to know the menu.

The new cocktail list features refined classics with an emphasis on exploring flavor. The most notable addition is a “Create Your Own Manhattan” feature where you can spend lots of time (and money if you are inclined) marrying numerous bourbons to vermouth and bitters. And I plan to.

Below are the three drinks I had of the 10 on the new list, 5 served up, 5 over ice.

Gator’s Ghost- Cathead vodka, Cointreau, Aperol, fresh juices, house made ginger beer

Named for the storied Jefferson alligator, it is lively and has a pleasant zing from the ginger beer. Quite delicious and it goes down very easily (blame it on the A-A-A-A-A-Aperol).

Shady Grove- Virginia bourbon, house spiced cider and sorghum.

Citrus cuts the syrupy sweet sorghum and hints of cardamom and anise come through on the cider. An apple pie love letter to Virginia, it is already very popular with guests.

Monument and Boulevardier- Bulleit Rye whiskey, Carpano Antica, Byrrh

This was my favorite of the three as the Boulevardier (which is a Negroni with a Southern identity crisis) is dear to my heart and liver. The addition of the French amaro Byrrh brings some woodsy, bitter-fruit depth. I’d like nominate it to be Richmond’s signature cocktail.

That is where I had to stop but tomorrow is another day and there was a rum Old Fashioned I had my eye on….



I started Food Punk to create a space to celebrate food and music. Where else could I herald the magic of both Ramps and Pusha T? Cooking, like music, is an art. Both can be visceral, sensory experiences that transport, inspire and define us. I’ve often found that those who play with knives are also into ‘deep cuts’ of another nature. It is in this spirit that I bring you this series: HEARD! highlighting the music enthusiasts behind the line, the bar, the pass and the pen.

Jay Pierce is the Executive Chef at Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen in Greensboro and Cary, NC. He is generally known as a smart ass that came in third on Jeopardy. He loves to eat, drink and be merry. He blogs here!

What was the first live music performance you attended?

My mom, dad and little brother all went to see AC/DC on the Who Made Who tour in July 1986 at the New Orleans Lakefront Arena. It was definitely the loudest show that I’ve been to (except for Ministry at Lolapalooza 2, and THAT was outside!) Brian Johnson hitting that bell with a sledgehammer for the encore will stay with me forever.

What was the most recent (show, concert etc.)?
Drive By Truckers at Ziggy’s June 2013 Winston Salem, NC. Great songwriters, they have a great following, and the live show was amazing.

What album/artist changed/defined/etc your life?
I first heard Master of Puppets in May 1986. Metallica came to town opening for Ozzy on the Ultimate Sin tour. My neighbor came back ranting about this awesome band that opened for Ozzy. He let me borrow the tape and I played it nonstop for two days, until he asked for it back. Six months later I bought Reign in Blood for five bucks off of a dude who’s mother was afraid that he was going to be possessed and made him sell the tape.

Also, moving back to New Orleans and hearing Smashing Pumpkins and Nirvana on WTUL and having my mind blown as Gish and Nevermind came out simultaneously. That led to a shift in the music industry, where “alternative” became a currency, eventually imploding (the idea of an alternative subculture and how the internet killed it is delightfully explored in “The Authenticity Hoax,’ by Andrew Potter) One more mind-blowing, life-changing moment was working in a Jamaican restaurant in Eugene, Oregon, listening my way through “the Story of Jamaican Music” box set, and the dishwasher introducing me to the Fela Kuti catalog on Shenachie Records. I felt like such a radical. That music was so refreshing in the late 90’s, when music was severely lacking a message.

Do you have a musical equivalent to a guilty pleasure?
Jesus Christ Superstar with vocals by Ian Gillian of Deep Purple. I grew up listening to the original cast recording on vinyl, and I could never get into to the movie, because there was a different Jesus. A buddy of mine listens to it every Easter. Every time I listen to SoundGarden, I feel like this album made a big impression on Chris Cornell too.

What album is your go to for when you wanna smash stuff and life is sticking it to you?
My car CD player has Black Sabbath Vol.4 stuck in it right now, but the most cathartic music to blare out of your car speakers would be Slayer -Decade of Aggression or Suicidal Tendencies first album or Stormtroopers of Death or Straight Outta Compton

What album is your go to for fist-pumping-this-is-the-best-ever-happiness times?
Check Your Head or Paul ‘s Boutique, ACDC –’74 Jailbreak, Butthole Surfers – Independent Worm Saloon

What is on your turntable at home right now?
Mickey Newberry -Frisco Mabel Joy, but I need a new belt, so I haven’t heard it for a while. Drive-By Truckers -The Dirty South, as I’m writing this.

Is there anything about your love of music that you’d like to add?
There is a soundtrack to my life. songs are always playing in my head. Chefs, like musicians, are performers whose true art is consumed live, when transcribed in a cookbook, or captured in a recording, the art loses a dimension, a vitality and is more difficult to understand, than a full body experience.

When or how you listen to music?
Driving, on my phone, or on my home stereo w/ big speakers like an old guy.

Favorite genres?
Rock, late-eighties rap,

Desert island albums or songs?
Siamese Dream -Smashing Pumpkins
Small Change – Tom Waits
Rage Against The Machine
Murder The Mountains Red Fang
Age of Winters – The Sword
Black Sabbath Vol 4
Amerikkka’s Most Wanted -Ice Cube
The Bends – Radiohead
Disintegration -The Cure
Funkify Your Life -The Meters
Original Gangster – Ice T
World Wide Live -The Scorpions
Live After Death -Iron Maiden
Mellow Gold -Beck

What do you play in the kitchen?

It’s all in my head


Junior Brown at the 2009 BigAppleBBQ Block party

Junior Brown at the 2009 BigAppleBBQ Block party

I know what you are thinking.. “What in the heck does Junior Brown have to do with cobbler?” Well, nothing I could likely prove in court BUT the other night there was lots of talk of pies, grunts, cobblers, sonkers, and who all knows what else. So I decided to make a blueberry cobbler and I like to cook to music.. I threw on some Junior Brown.
Fact is, that gooey, delicious fruit confection pairs well with the sweet sweetness that is Mr. Brown on his guit steel.

Before I go any further, I need to ask-Have you ever had your face melted, like so much sweet cream butter, by the awesome power of rock n’ roll?

I have.
It was 1997 and I was at the now long shuttered rock club in NYC, Tramps. I’d never seen anything like him. Still haven’t. Seeing Junior Brown live is a truly original musical experience. He sounds a bit like James Earl Jones in the bottom of a well. His songs are humorous and engaging yet it is difficult to categorize him. He just is. But his chops….well, why not take a peek:


Junior Brown brings it like nothin’ you have ever seen or heard. He is based in classic country but he often works blues, surf, honky tonk and straight up rock and roll riffs into his playing. The man created his own damn instrument! He loved the twang of the steel guitar and the shred of a standard guitar and was unwilling to choose just one. So he had one custom made and he plays it like a demon.
That is some renegade style right there. I remember the GAP ran a series of hip ads in the late 90s. One featured Junior and his wife Tanya. Tanya Rae Brown plays rhythm in his band and she is no slouch, she also sings.

If you’d like to acquaint yourself with the human barnburner that is Mr. Junior Brown, may I suggest this link.

If you’d like make the easiest fruit cobbler to go with those juicy licks, how about this recipe given to me by the most gifted fruit wrangler, April McGregor who got it from someone else who no doubt got it from another baker…etc..etc…infinity.

1 stick of butter in the baking pan in the oven while it preheats to 350degrees F.
Mix a cup of flour, 2 tsp baking powder, and a cup of sugar.
When the oven is preheated and the butter is melted, add a cup of milk to the flour mix.
Stir well and pour into the hot butter.
Top with 4 cups of fresh fruit and their juices and bake for about an hour.

“There’s nothing like hearing an electric guitar for the first time, played live”-Junior Brown
Damn straight, Junior!!! If Junior Brown is playing in your town, RUN DON’T WALK!!!!!



The forecast had called for rain and the skies looked to be corroborating.
“We moved the tables into the barn in case it does pour, that’s where people will want to be anyway.”
Tracey Love is right.
On this humid early Summer evening, the red barn in the distance beckons guests past the breathtaking and beautifully kept gardens of Belle Haven. Many have already crossed the grounds to check out the barn well before it’s time to sit and eat.



Tracey Love

Tracey Love

Tracey is the gal behind Hill & Holler, a “modern configuration of the farm table.” For the last couple of years, she’s been gathering regional agricultural and culinary professionals together with their community to break bread and raise funds for selected non-profit groups.


Tonight’s event in Scottsville, VA benefits City Schoolyard, a Charlottesville initiative that uses schoolyard gardens to promote experiential learning for elementary school students.
Two of our own Richmond luminaries, Joe Sparatta and Owen Lane are the guest chefs. Their dishes are paired with local wines from King Family Vineyards. We are greeted by the sounds of Carl Anderson and Ellen Picker, two musicians from Charlottesville while hors d’oeuvres of radish with whipped lardo, grilled oysters and lamb summer sausage and pimento cheese are passed.



After attending an Outstanding in the Field dinner Tracey was impressed, and sought to bring a similar event to her community.
The first, a benefit for the UVA Food Collaborative was in October 2011 at Blenheim Vineyards and featured another Richmond chef, Lee Gregory.

“I wanted to introduce dinner guests to the farmers, winemakers, musicians, chefs, and community who help grow, raise, and make everything they are enjoying during their meal while also benefiting the food & agricultural community further by making the event not for profit.”


Hill and Holler is not a one woman show. Tracey explains that she enlists the help of friends to make it all happen.
“I have some core staff that I always like to have on board. I couldn’t do it without a solid team who is game for anything. It’s ALWAYS an adventure but each event gets better as we learn from mistakes and streamline how to do things easier and more efficiently.”


The plentiful meal is a cross section of the region’s bounty, with produce from Appalachia Star farm, Saunders produce and chicken and beef from Ashley farms and Best of What’s Around farm respectively. A standout for me is the incredibly flavorful beef, so moist and tender it reminds me of pulled pork. All of the food is served family style, reinforcing the idea of a community coming together to connect and share.

“The reason we moved to the Charlottesville area is because it is saturated with beautiful land, farms, mountains, a burgeoning wine scene, and good food being grown, raised, and served. I started Hill & Holler because I realized all we needed was to put these pieces together.”

Tracey says the most challenging part of putting on these events is logistics.
“It’s also the part I love about it. I don’t want any two events to be the same and I like thinking creatively and organically about the table design, setting, and all the detail it takes to make the event happen.”

One such pesky challenge reveals itself when a faulty grill attempts to throw a monkey wrench into the works, but Tracey and her staff are one step ahead of it and someone leaves to retrieve another grill on standby. I get the feeling she keeps a plan B handy and maybe even a plan C.

“There are A LOT of moving parts from sourcing the food, wine, chefs, staff, music, decor, site… and then there’s actually getting everything there and setting it all up and breaking it down.”



“Nothing about it is easy, but I’m stubborn and like to work hard and it’s always worth it in the end.
It makes it all worthwhile when I see relationships started between farmers & chefs, or cidermakers & restauranteurs, and friendships started at the table between strangers. When I see that happening, I know it’s working.”

Finally the weather makes good on its threats with a light but steady sprinkle. As the evening comes to a close, groups of full and happy folks begin to cluster to chat and laugh and say their goodbyes. It’s clear that Tracey has again succeeded. It, is indeed working.

Owen Lane & Joe Sparatta

Owen Lane & Joe Sparatta

To find out when the next Hill & Holler event is happening, check their events page.



I started Food Punk to create a space to celebrate food and music. Where else could I herald the magic of both Ramps and Pusha T? Cooking, like music, is an art. Both can be visceral, sensory experiences that transport, inspire and define us. I’ve often found that those who play with knives are also into ‘deep cuts’ of another nature. It is in this spirit that I bring you this series: HEARD! highlighting the music enthusiasts behind the line, the bar, the pass and the pen.


Danny McDermott is bar manager at Acacia
in Richmond, VA. His cocktail shake brings all the boys to the yard.

What was the first live music performance you attended?

The first show I ever went to was at the Drexel Student Union building in Philadelphia with my brother and his friends back in 1997/1998 featuring Ink and Dagger amongst other hardcore bands. I was 16/17 and it was my first experience with moshing and bloody noses…It was the show that started to lead me down the road of punk/straight edge/hardcore with Minor Threat, Earth Crisis, Fugazi, etc.

What was the most recent?

I’m pretty sure it was the New Kids on the Block reunion tour at the Super Dome in New Orleans, where Tami Chynn taught me how to “wind”.

What album/artist changed/defined/etc your life?

There have been multiple and its all space specific.
When I was living in DC and got involved in the anarcho-bike punk scene (anti-corporate globalization protests, black bloc stuff) it was all about political punk and agitprop..i.e. Fugazi, Q and not U, Against Me!, Propaghandi, etc. It was all sweaty punks, track bikes, and politics.. good times.

In New Orleans, it was bounce music that changed everything–especially because I met my boyfriend at a bounce party at St. Roch Tavern. From the Godfather of bounce Dj Jubilee (especially Do You Thang Girl) to Sissy Bounce. You should really check out Gitty Up feat. da Rumpshakers or Big Freedia (have you seen the video for Y’all Get Back Now? well you should!). It was all about rump shakin’, getting down on the floor and being free–something New Orleans does better than any other city.

Do you have a musical equivalent to a guilty pleasure?

Too many, from the boy bands of the 90s to J-Pop (Pizzicato Five, etc.) to crappy pop of today, sometimes–just like shitty TV—you just want to turn off your brain.

What album is your go to for when you wanna smash stuff and life is sticking it to you?

Gotta go back to Against Me! “Baby I’m an Anarchist”

What album is your go to for fist-pumping-this-is-the-best-
ever-happiness times?

Not so much fist-pumping, but The Flaming Lips always reminds me of the good days in NYC riding over the Manhattan Bridge from Bed-Stuy to Lower Manhattan, because It’s Summertime.

What is on your turntable at home right now?

This might be a shameless plug, but really the album on my turntable is my brother’s band Nymph If you like Sun Ra, or Arthur Doyle, or awesome music in general you’ll love them.

I also really like to sing–I don’t do it much anymore, but I’ve been singing for ages, from classical in Carnegie Hall to dressed in raunchy drag singing punk versions of You Are My Sunshine as the lead singer for the Chicken Missiles at the Red Hook Bait and Tackle (the bar where I got started) in Red Hook, Brooklyn.


It’s only Wednesday and this week is looking mighty special so far!

First, a group of fabulous humans have collaborated on a project which explores Southern identity through its foodways. The result of their efforts, A Spoken Dish, debuted this week and the internet is in love. So am I. I’ve watched many of them and am trying hard to resist so I don’t run out and have to stop. The good thing is-looks like they’re working on more!

This spectacular series of vignettes got me thinking about my own ties to Southern food. It got me thinking more specifically about where my love of Southern food has taken me.

For instance, as a double Yankee, spending most of my life in NYC and Massachusetts I did not have my first BBQ rib until very recently. My grandmother’s cornbread recipe, is polenta. That is not to say I denounce my New England/NYC heritage, I will wax poetic on some fried clams, and sing about pizza if you’ll let me.

But back in 2007 a little dish I’d never heard of called Pimento Cheese ended up changing my life. It sent me on a path I am still forging, what I imagine could one day become my own Southern identity.

Wild, right? Well, fortunately there is an organization for folks like me.

Who find home to be not the place I came from, but a place I’m still moving towards, a place I am still learning about and figuring out. A place shaping me, but allowing myself and others like me to help continue to shape it, as it constantly evolves.

The Southern Foodways Alliance
hits Richmond this week for its Women, Work and Food Summer symposium. There will be much eating and drinking. There will be celebrating and learning.
There will be truths discussed, some heavy and some light, all lyrical.
There will be connections made and friendships forged.
That to me, is why I am so grateful for my place at their table.

Look, I know this sounds crazy, but that first bite of spicy, mayonnaise laden spread was a catalyst in my search for meaning. It led me not only to the SFA, but to many incredible people, to self discoveries, and thankfully to creative realizations and pursuits which continue to this day.

It helped me to discover how deeply food defines us. How it connects us and how it gives us our sense of place. Even if that place is very unexpected.
It set me on a path toward home. I’ll let you know when I get there.


I started Food Punk to create a space to celebrate food and music. Where else could I herald the magic of both Ramps and Pusha T? Cooking, like music, is an art. Both can be visceral, sensory experiences that transport, inspire and define us. I’ve often found that those who play with knives are also into ‘deep cuts’ of another nature. It is in this spirit that I bring you this series: HEARD! highlighting the music enthusiasts behind the line, the bar, the pass and the pen.


Owen Lane is Chef/owner (with his wife Tiffany) at Magpie in Richmond. He is a master of sausage and you should stop by Magpie first chance you get to sample his work. I’m happy to call him my friend.

What was the first live music performance you attended?

Skid Row opening for Aerosmith in like 89.
(Editor’s note: I too saw this tour!)

What was the most recent?

Alice Cooper and Iron fucking Maiden so awesome! Been wanting to do that since I was ten (thanks Doug!!)

What album/artist changed/defined/etc your life?

I would have to say Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti. The Rover, Ten Years Gone, Sick Again… I mean, come on!

Do you have a musical equivalent to a guilty pleasure?

Guilty pleasure? Easy! Bryan Adams. Summer of 69, Run to You,
Cuts like a Knife and then obviously Cougar-Jack and Diane

What album is your go to for when you wanna smash stuff and life is sticking it to you?

Smashing shit…. This was a tough one. Because I usually try not to smash shit anymore but I would have to say Metallica anything before the Black Album. Preferably Ride the Lightning or Kill em All or Ministry’s Stigmata

What album is your go to for fist-pumping-this-is-the-best-ever-happy times?

Fist pumping good times easy AC/DC Let there be Rock the whole album- can’t go wrong!

What is on your turntable at home right now?

The Sword, Apocryphon and Legendary Shack Shackers

Music is so powerful and moving, you cry in happiness or sob in defeat. Food and music go hand in hand for me. It can change the tempo of my kitchen at the drop of a hat. I would have to say one of my favorite things is a kitchen to myself listening to whatever I am feeling that day and singing as loud as I can. That’s a good day!

Music in the kitchen a must! Nothing better than having a great night, and then a certain song comes on and the kitchen turns into a sing along. Sing alongs in my kitchen- there have been many. Beck’s Debra, Biz Markie’s Just a friend and anything Springsteen or Scott H. Biram to name a few.