Saturday, November 01, 2014

Scenes from Fire Flour & Fork

Jason Alley, Travis Milton  Sean Brock at the Appalachian Memoir Dinner

Angel biscuits, pimento cheese and Benton ham

Southern Food's spiritual leader Ronni Lundy

Catfish and tomato gravy

Leather Britches

Christina Tosi with her famous crack pie

Farmstead Ferments at the Maker's Tent 

Pickled Silly at the Maker's Tent

Tanya Cauthen of Belmont Butchery tackles a pig

Brandon Fox, Tanya Cauthen, and Karri Peifer with Miss Piggy

Kelly with Blue Bee Cider

Christina Tosi with Momofuku Milk Bar

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The cost of eating local

I think a lot about where I shop, what I buy, and how it impacts my community and the farmers I try to support.  I also think a lot about the finances of it all. Sure, it may seem to cost a little more to buy some items, but I find that I savor them more, and eat less.   Tonight I made dinner for my wife and two kids using primarily items that I purchased locally. And when I added up the costs, I was pleasantly surprised.

Mulefoot hogs

2 pork chops from Lockhart Family Farm  ~ $6.00  ( heritage breed Mulefoot hog)
Green beans from  Amy's Garden   $4.00
Broccoli Raab from Tomten Farm $4.00
Pasta fritatta( used 4 eggs from Pair a Dice Farm and leftover pasta and grated Cheese)   $1.83
Garlic, onion, oil, butter, cheese, seasonings     ~2.00

Total:  ~ $17.83, less than most any meal out or even a simple pizza

That being said, it took some time. Time to shop at the market. Time to snap the beans. Time to cook. Some folks don't have time or desire or know-how to cook at home. Many can't get to a market or a store that sells local produce.

Food access is a complex issue that deserves more resources and understanding. I am proud to be a part of Slow Food RVA and work with other organizations across the community that take these issues seriously.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Food Frenzy

It's been a crazy week, packed with a wealth of food and friends and adventures. Last weekend I had the opportunity to volunteer for the VABF/Ellwood Thompson  Farm Tour. I spent a glorious afternoon at Broadfork Farm, greeting visitors and spending time with Janet Aardema and Dan Gagnon and their lovely children.

I came home with 30 lbs of tomatoes which I processed into a simple sauce to use during the winter months when local tomatoes are impossible to source

I spent the evening visiting Graffiato, one of Richmond's new dining destinations. Opened under the experienced hands of celebrated chef Mike Isabella, in partnership with the trailblazing Zagat- recognized restaurateur Travis Croxton and longtime serial restaurant entrepreneur Hilda Staples, it's Richmond's first celebrity import.

I usually wait a few months to let the dust settle around new restaurants, but with my mother-in-law as a special guest, i made an exception. Our dishes were uniformly well-executed, but there are some timing kinks to work through. None of our orders arrived together and we spent the evening waiting on each other, sharing a series of salads, pizza, and pasta dishes. The smoked burrata salad was lovely, juxtaposing smoky and sweet, crunchy and creamy, citrus and earth.  The wood fired pizzas are very good, with high quality toppings and a crust with a nice chew, but I think Pizza Tonight delivers a better product overall.  The carbonara and hand cut spaghetti were better than average, but the star of the evening was the Sweet Corn Agnolotti, an other worldly combination of fresh summer corn and the earthiness of pine nuts and chanterelles.

The Amish Chicken Thigh uses my favorite part of a chicken and elevates it with a tangy and sweet pepper sauce.

Desserts were passed around the table- salted caramel gelato seems all the rage these days and its pairing with chocolate cake helped salvage the dish. My highlight were the light and airy zeppole and  brought back memories of a street festival in Naples 20 years ago.

I look forward to a return trip to Graffiato in a few months after the initial excitement dies down.

Smoked Burrata Salad

Porky's Revenge, with sausage,pepperoni, and soppressata

Amish Chicken Thigh with spinach and pepperoni sauce

Zeppole with "grape lollipop" jelly

Slow Food RVA was the beneficiary of Ellwood Thompson's last Farm to Table dinner of the season. I was tasked with helping source the meal's protein, and was excited to work with fellow Slow Food board member Josiah Lockhart. Lockhart Family Farm is located north of Richmond in Ladysmith and raise the American Mulefoot Hog,  Cayuga ducks, Silver Laced Wyandotte and Ameraucana hens, and Bourbon Red turkey.  For the Ellwood Thompson dinner, Josiah provided 20 Cayuga ducks, a rare breed that  is listed on the Livestock Conservancy as "threatened" and is a Slow Food USA’s Ark of Taste breed.

Butternut Squash Soup with nasturtium and radish oil

 Duck 4 ways: Duck chip, breast, confit leg, and duck and apple demi

Pear Clafoutis

After a weekend at a church retreat at Shrinemont, where we ate the home-cooking of the Moomaw's- meatloaf, fried chicken, yeast rolls, roast beef, mac and cheese, all served family style, I was looking forward to a quiet Sunday night at home. 

On the trip back a friend texted me with the offer of her ticket to  The Underground Kitchen dinner at the Visual Arts Center. We started with a fruit Sak-tail and a wonderful exhibit of Bob Trotman's latest work and proceeded to a beautiful dinner prepared by the talented Osaka team and paired with wine from The Barrel Thief.  It was a night to remember with course after course of innovative sushi dishes, a creative juxtaposition of flavors, textures, and colors. 

 Jalapeño Nikuzume- shrimp, lump crab, garlic, scallion, forbidden black rice
 Ikura ( salmon roe), quail egg
Amaebi(sweet shrimp) with head
Squid habanero tobiko, cucumber
Traditional natto(fermented soybean) crabmeat, shrimp, red pepper, onion, black caviar

 Ankimo (monkfish liver), ponzu, cucumbers

Tuna tiramisu- ladyfingers, mascarpone, big-eye tuna

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Beer is the Answer.

Today is the long awaited opening of An Bui's new venture.  And there is no surprise that beer is at the center of his "The Answer BrewPub."

I had a chance to visit last week and sample some goodies.  In addition to 36 beers on tap, listed on high tech digital screens above the bar ( an interesting counterpart to Mekong's whiteboard technology next door), the Answer will be serving some tasty food, perfect Vietnamese bar food to accompany the beer.

I sampled a Vietnamese Tamale and a Bahn Mi and was pleased with both:

The tamale was a nice riff on the Mexican classic; a banana leaf replaces the corn husk and the traditional masa is bumped for a smooth and creamy rice. Cut open the top and drizzle some spicy sauce into the meat and mushroom stuffing.

The Bahn mi comes in a variety of flavors and is the perfect bar food, with just the right mix of crusty bread, various meats, pickled veggies, and heat. The hangover special comes with the addition of
two fried eggs. Boardwalk style fries with onions and cilantro complete the platter.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Meet my friend, Spigarello

I love greens. kale, chard, escarole,  mustard, turnip, beet, bok choy, mizzuna, raab.  I have a new friend, spigarello, or more formally called Cavolo Broccolo a Getti di Napoli

Broccoli spigarello is an heirloom variety, similar to broccoli raab.  It’s native to the south of Italy, but its seeds are being sown in the US now as well.  It has a flavor profile that is somewhat sweeter and earthier than the more bitter raab or rapini.
I was in Los Angeles last week and chose it on the menu at Superba Snack Bar in Venice Beach. It was sauteed and served in a dashi broth, topped with a poached egg.

I was excited to return to Richmond last week and find spigarello being sold at the South of the James Farmer’s Market by Tomten Farm.  Tomten is a small farm run by Brian Garretson and Autumn Campbell on 18 acres in Prince Edward County, Virginia.

Raw spigarello ready for sautéing

After a few minutes in the cast iron pan with olive oil and garlic

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Fair Wages are just the start

While I have significant issues with our culture of fast food and the health and environmental havoc it has created,  I also support the need for fair wages.  However, that's just the start.  What needs to happen is for fast food to slow down, and begin to serve food that creates health and wealth, not poverty and diabetes.

View image on Twitterw

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Monument City Coffee & Records

The 300 block of Grace Street has a hip new place to check out. Monument City Coffee & Records opened a few weeks ago and couples two of my favorite things, coffee and music.  They are open most days from 8-5 and serve a variety of breakfast things like fresh baked biscuits, bagels, and doughnuts.  Coffee is guaranteed to please through a partnership with Lamplighter Coffee Roasting Company.

Lunch items include their take on the Vietnamese classic bahn mi ( Bomb Mi), as well as other sandwiches, soups and salads. There are plenty of vegetarian and vegan items to choose from as well.

Dining is downstairs and records on the 2nd floor. 
Before you head upstairs to browse , perhaps have  One more cup of coffee.....

Monument City Coffee and Records
306 E. Grace Street