Tag Archives: VA

MY POLYANNA THOUGHTS ON THE ELBYS

The Elbys are Sunday and (what feels like) the whole town (but is most likely a minority of very food focused individuals) has gone GA-GA! The local Twitterverse and RVA social media have been consumed. I am no exception, having spent much time and thought on not only the award categories and the nominees themselves, but many hours on the more exciting aspects of dress! hair! make-up! This year, Richmond’s premiere restaurant industry event somehow feels different. A bit more exciting. More…defining.

Since 2011, but specifically in the last 18 months, our city-town (as I lovingly refer to it) has become very serious about food. Well, maybe not SO serious, but certainly people involved in food in Richmond, whether it be  restauranteurs, chefs and cooks,  coffee roasters, distillers, brewers, farmer’s market vendors, growers, food trucks, even those covering our food scene- all have been stepping up their game.

Sure, there have always been committed culinary folks, pioneers carving the way, whether or not RVA was ready for it. However, there is definitely a new movement afoot, Elbys founder and Richmond Magazine editor Susan Winiecki mentioned it taking shape when I interviewed her last year. Watching our chefs and eating establishments in national magazines on a now semi-regular basis is a sign. The influx of outsiders who wish to open food businesses here,  yet another. The number (hordes?) of  entrepreneurs opening groceries, eateries, bars, hospitality consulting firms, under-ground supper clubs and high-concept ventures-a clear guarantee to where we are headed.

All of this is wonderful news of course! Who doesn’t love a food town?

But with any local awards event, now matter how miniscule or insular, it’s inevitable that people feel slighted, egos grow or are shattered and cynics call phooey on the whole shebang.  Well, I’m writing this to say, we ain’t got time for sour grapes people! We are in this together-the many before us,  the plenty whom are presently busting hump unnoticed and those who are or will soon be leading the way. Richmond deserves the recent attention we’ve received.  We deserve it because we are growing together, pushing each other, and promoting our city as a whole, and not just individually.*

It’s important for the food community get together, to acknowledge, celebrate and inspire each other-awards or not.

I am overjoyed at the opportunity to recognize the efforts of those working toward not just our potential as a food destination, but as a city where visitors and locals alike can eat fantastic meals- from the high minded to the humble and feel welcome at Richmond’s collective table.

*True, there are those just out for themselves, we know who you are.

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A NIGHT OF POWER COUPLES AT HERITAGE

MaximumFlavor

Maximum Flavor is the latest book by husband and wife dynamic duo Aki Kamozawa and H. Alexander Talbot. Together they run the Ideas In Food blog where they blow the minds of novice cook and skilled pro alike by sharing their innovative, experimental,  and technique driven cooking. Last Monday night at a dinner celebrating the book release, Chef Joe Sparatta along with Chef Lee Gregory of The Roosevelt welcomed Alex to Heritage to share some of those recipes with Richmond.

Obviously, having Alex in Richmond was thrilling for the gang at Heritage and for the RVA diners who sold out the event. Aki was unable to be there, busy tending to another event in what I imagine to be a hectic schedule for the pair.
Alex made very clear her importance in their collaborations, “There is no ‘Ideas In Food’ without Aki.”

A human fly on the kitchen wall, I  myself was looking forward to witnessing the complicated choreography  of  a busy kitchen, with not only a special guest and a slew of new dishes, but also a handful of chefs who would normally be in their own restaurants. I was determined to stay out the way and watch the mayhem of a busy kitchen play out.

Servers brought in hand written tickets, ecshewing the  P.O.S. system for the night. Cooks filled clay bowls, beautifully handmade by one of the servers, with pepperoni ramen (wakame noodles, octopus, watermelon radish) and plated succulent lamb shoulder (yellow mustard gnocchi sardi, in a lamb heart ragu). Joe ran expo, constantly checking in with wife and co-owner Emilia, who had the front of house locked down with the help of their expert staff. Emilia’s brother, co-owner and bar manager Mattias, was joined by  T. Leggett (also of The Roosevelt) on bar and featured a special cocktail menu.  Alex delighted diners by running food and explaining dishes. I was struck by all of these pairs from the authors themselves and the chefs who executed the 5 course meal, to the husband and wife restauranteurs and two of  RVA’s favorite bar men.

Chef Sparatta’s M.O. appears to be the more the merrier, always focused on including his fellow chefs and cooks in events and collaborations when he can. The RVA restaurant community is better for it. It was nothing short of joyful to watch this group of  friends, busting hump together, laughing quite a bit and making many happy bellies in the process. Some pics below:

tartare&ramen&PVW

Alex&Joe2

lamb shoulder

Owensmiling

KarenKendraJoe

bestpictureeverRandallwtf

HeritageIdeasDinnerGroup1

FOOD PUNK FIELD TRIP: HILL & HOLLER

Hill&Holler

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.

barn

beforethecrowd

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.

Grounds1

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.

Oysters

VAlambsausage&PC

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.”

Kyle

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.”

H&Hmenu

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.”

CityShcoolseed

BestofWhat'saroundBeef

“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.

Owen&Tracey

BEER DRINKERS, LAMB RAISERS

Fun times at The Griffon

Fun times at The Griffon


Whooweeee- it sure can get cold on the South Carolina coast, the first week of March!!
However as I experienced, when the going gets tough in Charleston, the tough drink cans of Schlitz in a cozy dive bar. One with hundreds of dollar bills adhered to its walls, failing to buffer all the uproar and laughter within.

Marty and I accompanied a gang (a motley bunch?) of Richmond chefs, cooks and for lack of a more specific term, ‘food people’ down to Charleston, SC this past weekend for a Lambs and Clams after party.
Lambs and Clams, if you have yet to experience, is the wonder trio of Craig Rogers- Shepherd and Travis and Ryan Croxton- Oystermen.

Travis and Ryan Croxton of Rappahannock River Oysters


Travis and Ryan Croxton of Rappahannock River Oysters.

They throw lots of events, or as I see them, somewhat poorly disguised wild and wonderful parties for passionate eaters and do-ers. At this year’s Charleston Wine and Food festival, they again did just that. I’m happy to know them and count Craig Rogers as one of my favorite humans. When the invitation to join in on some festival after party fun presented itself, I wholeheartedly accepted. When I learned he invited a slew of RVA’s own to provide food and drink- I considered hiring chaperones.

Craig is a shepherd of more than just sheep. His flock includes all manner of talented craftspeople, be they butcher, baker, cocktail or music maker. He has a knack at assembling wonderful groups of people to revel in each others company and talents, to spend an evening creating and enjoying. He threw a fabulous party and our group of Richmond chefs made lots of new friends. The folks at The Grocery hosted gracefully and chilly as it was, our merry bellies kept us warm. Here are some pics of the frivolity.

Jason Alley of Comfort & Pasture

Jason Alley of Comfort & Pasture

Owen Lane of The Magpie and Joe Sparatta of Heritage

Owen Lane of The Magpie and Joe Sparatta of Heritage

Randall Doetzer of Julep's and Mint

Randall Doetzer of Julep’s and Mint

T Leggett and Lee Gregory of The Roosevelt

T Leggett and Lee Gregory of The Roosevelt

A bunch of weirdos at Butcher and Bee

A bunch of weirdos at Butcher and Bee

I was unable to get a picture of Craig, he was in high demand by both guests and the lamb pit. This is one of him at last summer’s Big Apple BBQ sporting an apron of his own design and a smile as big as his heart.

Craig in his overall apron

Craig in his overall apron

Thanks to Craig, Travis, Ryan and the Grocery and to all who worked so hard to put on such a great event. Also hearty thanks to all of the RVA chefs, cooks and creators who continue to make our city more unique and delicious everyday.

MERRY FISHMAS AND A JEEPSTER NEW YEAR

Over the New Year in Richmond, we were lucky enough to hang out with our pals Johnny and Tara Skaritza and their cat Jeepster. For dinner we made Rockfish (aka Atlantic striped bass, aka pimpfish!) which is available locally in Virginia.
In fact the well loved RVA Italian restaurants Mamma Zu’s and Edo’s Squid both serve really fantastic Rockfish.
Instead of trying to re create their dish we went with a garlic and citrus treatment. No one in the group had cooked a whole fish before but it was no big!! Especially after the nice fish monger took care of the nasty bits for me.
When I got all squeamish Tara jumped in and took care of business. Jeepster was great at helping to pass the time while our fish cooked and at general anticipation.
We listened to William Onyeabor which is great fish roasting music it turns out!
ROASTED ROCKFISH A LA SKARITZA

one whole (ours was 3.5 lbs)Rockfish
head, guts and scales removed (if you are not keen on doing it yourself, or leave on the head for an authentic presentation)

a whole mess of garlic both sliced thinly and crushed
thinly sliced citrus ( oranges lemons limes)
1/2 cup of olive oil ( add your crushed garlic to this)
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Place your fish on a foil lined cookie sheet splashed with some oil. Rub with salt and pepper. Stuff with thinly sliced garlic and citrus rounds. Cover the fish in remaining rounds. Spoon half of the garlic oil over the fish and put in the oven for 20 minutes. Take out and pour the remaining oil over the fish and return to the oven for another 15 minutes.
Watch the bones on this fish, it has many-but it’s worth it-so delicate and sweet!

We had it with Broccoli Rabe as well as the Hoppin’ John that Tara made which was SOOOOO GOOD and some of Ukrops cornbread which may as well be cake it’s so addictive.
Jeepster even made off with some. Those who still had room in their bellies nibbled on our friend Jada’s butternut Squash cheesecake which can be found here.