Thursday, December 10, 2009

Tasty Pastry downtown

As I wondered about the origins of the name of Aurora, one of downtown’s best-kept and perhaps strangest culinary secrets, my Russian friends give me a clue. The Aurora was a Russian cruiser ship that played a role in the 1917 October Revolution, a key moment in the Communist revolution. Chef Scott Davison, one of the key players at Richmond’s Aurora, is following in that tradition by bringing pastry to the people.

Read about the diverse array of pastries that one can find at Aurora, take a bite.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

New Mexican in Shockoe Bottom

Aztek Grill has joined the ranks of Mexcian restaurants in Richmond. Their menu is more pan-Latin than most and goes a step beyond most of Richmond's typical fare.

Click here for the whole burrito

Breakfast of Champions ???

My son is in kindergarden at Holton Elementary School in Richmond. It's a great school with a great principal, David Hudson ( who by the way is featured on the cover of North of the James this month.) Raine has asked me to have breakfast at school, which by the way is free to any child who chooses to partake. I finally relented and joined him last week. I have to admit that my expectations were not very high, but i was surprised that the 2 main entrees were pizza and pancake on a stick (with a sausage center its remarkably like a corndog. Cold cereal (of the sugared variety) and bananas rounded out the offerings.

And we wonder why our kids are getting fat, developing diabetes, and are in generally poor health. Where is the oatmeal when we need it?

Collegiate Epicureans

I was invited last week by Pam Anderson, artist extraordinaire and art teacher at Collegiate to speak to their Epicurean Club. A group of about 30 high schoolers at Collegiate meet a few times a month to talk food. They had just been to Edo Squid for a tasty field trip a few days before I visited, and they were a pretty interested bunch. I spoke to them about the job of a food critic, my background, and The Slow Food Movement. It was great to see so much energy in a such a young group.

Padron Peppers- a tasty treat

I was at the South of the James Farmers Market a few weeks ago and was pleasantly surprised to find Padron peppers being sold by the nice folks at
Manakin Specialty Growers. My friend and neighbor Brandon Fox was the first to introduce me to these little treats- perfect for a pre-dinner cocktail hour.

In the frying pan

Ready to eat

The aftermath

Here is some additional history from Wikipedia:

The most famous produce of Padrón are its peppers (Spanish pimientos de Padrón), which are small green peppers from the Capsicum Annuum family. They are served fried with olive oil and coarse salt. Most taste sweet and mild, though some are particularly hot and spicy, which gives its character to the dish and is perfectly captured in the popular "Os pementos de Padrón, uns pican e outros non" (Galician for "Padrón peppers, some are hot and some are not"). The level of heat varies according to the capsaicin of each pepper. Although it's not always the case, the peppers grown towards August/September tend to contain more capsaicin than the ones of June/July.

About 15,000 kg of peppers are grown in Padrón each year (mostly in the valley of the parish of Herbón) between June and September. In 1979 the first Festa do Pemento de Padrón was organized in Herbón, a popular gastronomic event that has been held every year since, the first Sunday in August. The festa takes place in the carballeira of Herbón's Franciscan convent, since it was the Franciscan monks who brought the first pepper seeds from Mexico in the 16th century, which then were adapted to the soil, the Oceanic climate of the Valley and grown with special techniques.

A Dinner to Remember

On one of Richmond’s most dreary and dank evenings last week, a little restaurant on Broad Street became one of the warmest and intimate rooms I have ever experienced. Gary York, proprietor of Enoteca Sogno, presented Giuseppe Vaira and his Piedmonte wines.

Wise beyond his 24 years, Giuseppe told the story of how his father Aldo left the big city of Torino to return to the land of his ancestors near Barolo to start producing wine. And now he is following in the footsteps of his “padre”, newly graduated from university with a degree in winemaking. But he tells us that not everything can be learned in the classroom. Recently his father asked him how the vintification process was going. He reported back that all the levels and temperatures were on track. He went on to ask him, how does it sound? Did you listen to the grapes fermenting? There are not many who still believe in the alchemy of it all, the mix of science and soul.

The first wine we sampled was a Langhe Bianco, a surprising wine for this region. Giuseppe called it Barolo’s wife! It is a Riesling planted on the vineyard of Fossati, located at the borderline of the village of la Morra. Fossati is quite a steep vineyard, and growing the grapes at a higher altitude does a few things- it produces a wine with a wider mid-palate and it utilizes land that would be unsuitable for other grapes because of the cooler temperatures. And it’s unlike most Rieslings you have ever tasted, much drier and cleaner with subtle peach and apricot fruitiness but a long mineral finish. A nice start to the evening.

We were served an appetizer platter with our next wine- a nice selection of Fra Mani salami, a bra duro cheese from Piedmonte- it tasted more like sheep than cow to me; a rapini tart, and an onion sformato- a savory flan.

The next wine was a 2007 Langhe Rosso – a combination of 80% Dolcetto, 15% Barbera, and 5% Fresia, and Nebbiolo.
It’s a great drinking wine- hints of currant, a canopy of flavors, a bit spicy, nice body and smooth finish.

Our next wine was a Dolcetto d’Alba 2007- I learned that the Dolcetto grape is one that can be used as an eating grape and also to make wine- it has a deep purple color with low acidity and lots of tannin. The next wine was also a Dolcetto Coste & Fossati, 2007 –made with a blend of Dolcetto grapes from 2 vineyards- Coste has a SW orientation on a step slope and its afternoon line gives the grape more structure. The Fossati vineyard, with a SE orientation, gets morning light and is more delicate in its body and flavor. Combined together, they are a great pair. It was a nice complement to the Butternut Squash soup with fried sage on top. Earthy and delicious.

The next wine was a 2007 Nebbiolo delle Langhe- Giuseppe spoke of the wine in comparison to the famous Italian actor Marcello Mastroianni- it makes whatever it is served with a “princess.” It certainly was a great pairing with the mushroom risotto, cooked perfectly al dente with just enough cheese to enhance all of the flavors. Giuseppe joked that this was his “college wine” that he kept his roommates happy with throughout the year. It’s a great food wine.

Our final course was a beef shank cooked in Barolo and served with its juices over creamy polenta. The 2003 Barolo was a real treat – even though it was a hot year, the relative lateness of the Nebbiolo harvest gives them the advantage of cooling down. It’s a great wine with food, fruity with surprising level of tannin given the weather.

The final wine of the evening was another surprise, Vajra Kye, made with Fresia grapes, a lesser known Piedmonte grape style, and the name is a play on the Italian Chi e’? what is it ?

Thanks to Gary York for bringing Giuseppe to town and for a great evening.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

March of Dimes Chef Auction

On Sunday night I had the chance to judge the March of Dimes Chef's Auction at the Westin. Along with Tess Bosher, fellow Style Food critic, Ellie Basch, owner of Savor Cafe in Manchester, and Henry Reidy of Strawberry Street Vineyard, we were wrangled by Judge Coordinator Tanya Cauthen of Belmont Butchery. After some deliberation over 8 entries, we scored each submission on Presentation, Taste, and Creativity.

The winning dish, from Chef Michael Hall at the Bull and the Bear Club, was a clever entry. What at first glance looked like baby lambchops were in reality portobella mushrooms wrapped in bacon with chop bones. what I thought were mushrooms were actually chunks of lamb. Polenta was carved to look like bone marrow- and the whole thing was served on a spun candy plate. Beautiful and clever and tasty too.

Second place went to Phil Denny from Six Burner for a Trotter & Foie Gras croquette- ground pigs feet and foie gras bound together in a crispy panko encrusted ball of heaven, accented with a spicy harissa-like sauce.

Photographs by Lorenzo


Charcuterie has its roots in the ancient world as a way to preserve meat before refrigeration. Today we honor this tradition partly as a way to uphold our culinary legacy, but mostly for reasons of taste. Charcuterie in its many forms — prosciutto, bacon, pâté, terrines, confit and sausage, to name a few — is a real treat and increasingly, one that can be found on Richmond menus.

Read more in Style Weekly.

Click Here To Take the Cure

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A recipe and a song

One Ring Zero, whom the Boston Globe describes as having "not only embraced their “lit rock” reputation but seem primed to become the movement’s indisputable kings” has begun asking their favorite chefs for recipes. The recipes are then set to music and sung WORD FOR WORD in a musical style suggested by each chef.

You have to hear it to believe it

Monday, October 26, 2009

A Dinner Donation

St Thomas

My friend Paige and I donated a dinner for the 2nd straight year to the St Thomas’ Auction. Last weekend we made good on our “Local Dinner” for the Gallaghers and their guests. My fall garden has been slow to come in so a trip to the South of the James market was in order to pick up greens and other salad items.

The menu for the evening consisted of:


Greek cured olives
-a local goat cheese wrapped in corn husk and soaked in moonshine,
-a rosemary manchego
-a double cream in the brie family.

Butternut squash finished with a calvados spiked apple confit

Niman Ranch Pork Tenderloin with a Moroccan rub
Rice pilaf with vermicelli, pine nuts and golden raisins


Apple Tart with Brown Butter Ice Cream

( I must say that the brown butter ice cream was a first for me and one of the best things i have ever made- big thanks to Pim !)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

School Lunch

I had lunch with my child Raine's kindergarten class today. At 11:15 am. I usually pack his lunch 4 days a week, and he eats what the cafeteria is serving on the 5th day.

It was meatloaf today ! In light of all of the news about e-coli problems with ground beef, I have to admit I was a little bit leary. will let you know if I get sick. The meatloaf was served with chopped greens, collard I think, and I confirmed that they were of the canned variety, missing the porky goodness that a ham hock adds. they were okay, but I noticed that none of the kids tasted any- they would be well served to take notice of what the kids eat and don't and plan menus better. I also had a small side salad and some chocolate milk- most of the kids drank either orange or apple juice. Not sure if its a great idea to give them a juice option- it's one of the major contributors to childhood obesity and it's in the healthy category. There were apples and bananas and containers of sugary freestone peaches as well.

I was disappointed that the meals are served on throw-away styrofoam trays with plastic utensils- need to do some digging to understand the economics behind that decision.

Holton has a progressive streak- we have funding to build an outdoor classroom and garden. Hopefully we will see some the Holton harvest infiltrate the cafeteria before too long. And another exciting update is that there is some national movement on improving school lunch quality and nutrition- click here to read about the new legislation, Healthy Food for Healthy Schools Act of 2009

Have your cake and eat it too !


My wife Susannah has been painting for 20 years zou zou's basementand baking cakes for longer than that. These days she has been able to combine her passion for painting and desserts with a series of cake paintings.

Jenny Tremblay of Sweetest Thing Bakery has featured some of Susannah's paintings on her blog.

If you have an occasion that you want to preserve, remember you can have your cake and eat it too!

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Sauce on the Side

One of my food mantras is "keep it simple." And don't mask the true flavors of what you are cooking. Read my take on Michelle William's latest venture, Water Grill in Carytown in this week's edition of Style Weekly.

One of Richmond's nicer patios !

Take a big bite

Monday, October 05, 2009

Conde' Nast turning off the oven at Gourmet Magazine

After nearly 70 years of publication, Conde' Nast is shutting down operations at Gourmet Magazine. It seems a bit shortsighted- home cooking is on the rise and Gourmet is one of the only publications to so perfectly fuse food & travel. I am sad to see the news and wonder what Ruth Reichl's next step will be.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

It's like Etsy for Food

Check out Foodzie, an online marketplace for food from small passionate food producers and growers. It has been descibed by some as ETSY for food- it even has a map function that you can use to check out local producers.

Take a bite !

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Heritage Harvest Festival

What a glorious day for the 3rd annual Heritage Harvest Festival, and a beautiful new location at Montalto, Thomas Jefferson's "high mountain" that looks over Monticello and the University of Virginia and Charlottesville below. A collaboration of The Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, and the PD 10 Master Gardeners, the festival offers a variety of classes and exhibits that support the mission of preserving sustainable gardening practices and heirloom plants.

There were classes and demonstrations all day, such as the sausage-making demo above.

Dozens of varieties of heirloom tomatoes, peppers etc were available for sampling.

Feast, one of my favorite Charlottesville gourmet shops, sponsored a cheese tasting where they paired heritage apple varieties with artisinal cheeses. Had a chance to sample some camembert from Old Chatham Shepherding company in the Hudson River Valley of New York- it's almost as good as the real thing. Susannah and I had visited the dairy years ago. Also had a taste of one of Virginia's better cheeses, the Meadow Creek Dairy's Grayson, from Galax, a raw cow milk cheese from grass fed cows- washed rind creamy goodness.

Tasted some great zucchini bread and squash soup from Local Food Hub and made plans to connect with them about some collaborative Richmond/C-ville events.

And as if my senses hadn't been aroused enough already,it was a great surprise to hear the sweet sound of Devon Sproule's voice wafting through the sun-dappled trees to complete our day.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Food Industry Needs Reform Too

Michael Pollan wrote an inciteful op/ed piece in today's New York Times that makes the important connection of healthcare reform and food industry reform. There's no disputing that our misguided agricultural policies have contributed significantly to our nation's obesity crisis. Pollan postures that if the health insurance industry was forced to apply an equal coverage model, it will behoove them to help reform food policy. Over the course of their lifetime, a diabetic costs an insurance company about $400,000.00. no small change. Pollan goes on to say " No one disputes that the $2.3 trillion we devote to the health care industry is often spent unwisely, but the fact that the United States spends twice as much per person as most European countries on health care can be substantially explained, as a study released last month says, by our being fatter. Even the most efficient health care system that the administration could hope to devise would still confront a rising tide of chronic disease linked to diet."

For the skinny, click here

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Heritage Harvest Festival This Saturday at Monticello

About the Festival

Organized by Monticello and the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, the Heritage Harvest Festival at Monticello is an annual celebration of local food, heirloom plants, and sustainable gardening. Thomas Jefferson championed vegetable cuisine, plant experimentation, and the value of sustainable agriculture and the Heritage Harvest Festival at Monticello continues that legacy.

The 2009 festival will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept.12 on Montalto, Thomas Jefferson’s “high mountain,” overlooking his historic home and gardens, the city of Charlottesville, and the surrounding Virginia Piedmont.

There will be fruit and vegetable tastings, chefs demonstrations, informative workshops, talks, children’s activities, and much more – all to promote regional food, organic gardening, and the preservation of traditional agriculture. Local vendors will offer meals and snacks, as well as seeds, plants, garden supplies, etc.

An Old-Timey Seed Swap – where seed savers can share their knowledge, enthusiasm and seeds – will begin at 8 a.m.

Parking is $5 per car; carpooling is encouraged.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Verde is not so green

I was disappointed by the efforts of the new bistro Verde in the west end. Mediocre food with even worse presentation. I hate eating out of plastic, and that's really the only option that they give you.

Read all about it in this week's Style Weekly

Friday, August 21, 2009

Food and wine as collateral for bank loans

After reading the story on Boing Boing I began to contemplate what I could borrow against my fig jam, or okra pickles. Or even better, a jar of my great aunt's bread & butter pickles that I have been saving for just the proper occasion.

(Posted by David Pescovitz)

Italian banks may soon accept high-end prosciutto and wine as collateral for loans. The Italian agriculture minister is into the idea. Apparently, it's not as far-fetched as it sounds.

From The Guardian: The Italian bank Credito Emiliano has long stored hundreds of thousands of parmesan wheels, worth about 300 (euros) each, in warehouses as collateral while they age. Since the bank can sell the cheese if creditors default, it can afford to offer low interest rates to an industry which is suffering from recession and supermarket discounting. Legs of cured ham, or prosciutto crudo, weighing about 10kg, can sell for hundreds of euros after months of curing in controlled conditions, while bottles of Brunello di Montalcino are regularly snapped up for the same amount. "We may start off with accepting wine as collateral, but I would prefer the Italian banking association to launch an industry-wide scheme which involves a range of products," said Zonin. "This will help producers in times of crisis as well as when the economy picks up."
Click here to read The Gurdian article

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Cupcakes do make you smarter

Courtesy of Vanessa Ruiz's blog,Street Anatomy , and Boing Boing for leading me there...

If cupcakes are your thing, check out some great paintings at zou zou's basement.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Bitten by Bollywood

Read my latest article on Richmond's Little India in the west end. Old Parham Road boasts a slew of Indian shops- a market, Laxmi Palace that stocks most of the provisions you need to whip up a curry or daal, a movie rental shop to find Bollywood's latest, a small kebab restaurant, and Indian Pastry House, a strange Indo- French fusion. While the whole block begs for ambience, there are some tasty treats that await you. As a few of my Indian friends have pointed out, it's no Bombay, hell, its not even DC or NY or London standards, but it's a heck of a lot closer for some take-out, and a birthday cake while you're at it.

Click here for the full story

This entire post is Courtesy of Obama Foodorama

Lee S. Dean, food editor at the Star Tribune in Minneapolis, has created a series of nutrition awareness posters to help teach middle school and high school students about healthy eating. She sent in the most obviously relevant one to Ob Fo (wink wink), but her excellent poster series of historical figures made of good foods also features Abe Lincoln, George Washington, and Albert Einstein, among others, with the message that eating healthy is eating smart.

Ob Fo wondered if a poster featuring First Lady Michelle Obama might be in the works, given Mrs. Obama's food agenda? Ms. Dean said she's considering it, and she thinks the Obama food agenda is "definitely going in the right direction," and that the First Family is serving as good role models for eating right. In the pantheon of Obama food art, Mrs. Obama is far less represented than the President, which is interesting...but it's still early in the scheme of things, riiight?

In Ms. Dean's Obama poster, the jacket is made from collards, pear and turnip; skin and hair from black and mahogany rice, cracked wheat, flax seed, millet and wheat berries; facial features from cashews, garlic, jalapeno, olives, oyster mushrooms, peppercorns, pickles, raisins, red onion, tapioca.

Thanks, Ms. Dean!

*Visit Lee Dean's website here for more poster info, and check out her cookbook, Come One, Come All-Easy Entertaining with Seasonal Menus.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Green Tonic Redux

Take me to the river and drop me in the water
Dip me in the river, drop me in the water
Washing me down, washing me down.

~D Byrne/ A Green

A group of disciples were treated to a baptism of sorts, a ritual washing and cleansing in green, for a few days this week at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens. Over 100 participants, from the region and beyond were privy to hearing impassioned national speakers talk about some of the most interesting trends in Greening Cities, Biophilia, Food Apartheid, and more.

Rachel Flynn, Richmond’s Director of Community Development, kicked off the proceedings with a heartfelt talk about “Urban Greening, Economic Vitality, and Environmental Sustainability.” She referred to the city’s Master Plan process and the hopes to focus more attention on green spaces, pedestrian needs and public transportation. She also reaffirmed a city commitment to making the James River as our Central Park

A bus tour gave visitors an interesting view of the city as we meandered down Boulevard and then through Carver and Jackson Ward on our way to Church Hill. Our first stop was Libby Hill Park, at the site where William Byrd was struck by the similarity of the view to that of Richmond upon Thames, a village outside of London and thus dubbed us Richmond.

A visit to Tricycle Gardens was eye-opening as Lisa Taranto explained the history of the community garden project that she started as well as plans for other similar initiatives around town.

Finally, we stopped at the new green headquarters of the Virginia Association of Counties and got an insiders peek at the LEED process as well as the rooftop garden.

After a lovely dinner of locally sourced salads and berry trifle, we had the pleasure of hearing from Tim Beatley, Professor of Sustainable Communities at the University of Virginia’s School of Architecture. The word of the evening was Biophilia, - “the innately emotional affiliation of human beings with other living organisms.” In a nutshell- it’s essential for our wellbeing to connect with nature. He shared a variety of examples of strategically planned communities where nature is integrated in interesting and fulfilling ways.

Wednesday’s highlights included Leni Sorensen’s historical overview of agriculture in central Virginia with a particularly interesting account from an 1805 slave garden journal from Monticello that detailed the produce sold to the plantation. I also learned that corn pone is a kissing cousin of our beloved spoon bread. La Donna Redmond gave a very personal glimpse into the world of food allergies and issues of access and nutrition in the Chicago Public School System. Her personal journey has been a launch pad for creating innovative farm to table programs in Chicago and for examining issues around “Food Apartheid.” that impact certain marginalized groups of our society who cannot access healthy food for one reason or another.

Drew Becher, the Executive Director of New York Restoration Project hilariously recounted his journeys with Bette Midler as they restored many of New York’s old parks and implemented an impressive Million Trees NYC campaign. “ By planting one million trees, New York City can increase its urban forest—our most valuable environmental asset made up of street trees, park trees, and trees on public, private and commercial land—by an astounding 20%, while achieving the many quality-of-life benefits that come with planting trees.”

Afternoon break-out sessions focused on issues like Food Security and initiatives to green our community. My head was spinning from so many great ideas from the previous talks that I felt a bit overwhelmed.

Kudos to Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens for bringing together so many talented folks from around the country who were able to tell their compelling stories and inspire me and my fellow attendees to stay focused on the work at hand in Richmond to create a community of green.

Green Tonic was a refreshing drink.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Saveur 100 Wants Your Opinion

Calling all food lovers: We’d like to share your favorite ingredients, recipes, wines, spirits, restaurants, markets, chefs, cookbooks, cooking tips, kitchenware, and more, in the pages of SAVEUR magazine. All the items for next year’s SAVEUR 100, our annual tribute to a hundred great things from the world of food, will come from you, our readers. After all, you’re some of the most passionate and knowledgeable food lovers we know.

Saveur 100 Voting

Monday, July 20, 2009

Summer Loving # 3= Blueberry Cobbler

A few weeks ago i went blueberry picking with my 3 1/2 year old- $ 1.00 a pint to pick your own. We didn't have a bountiful harvest, but enough to mae a few batches of cobbler. I found a recipe on Epicurious for Bill's Blueberry Cobbler (Gourmet, August 1998)that is one of the easiest and best recipes I have tried. I added a twist of my own to spectacular results:


3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter (I USED SALTED AND LOVED THE ZING IT ADDED TO THE CAKE)
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup milk
2 cups blueberries (about 11 ounces)

I ALSO ADDED a T of lemon zest and a squeeze of lemon juice

Preheat oven to 375°F.

In an 8-inch square or other 2-quart baking dish melt butter. Into a bowl sift together flour, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg and stir in sugar until combined well. Add milk and whisk batter until it is just combined. Pour batter into melted butter; do not stir. Pour berries into center of batter; do not stir. Bake cobbler in middle of oven 40 minutes, or until cake portion is golden and berries exude juices.

Summer Loving # 2= Cucumber Gazpacho

This soup, is kind of like a white gazpacho, without the tomatoes, and the ingredients can be mixed a bit with good results. It's a very refreshing soup- a great starter on a warm evening.

Cucumbers, peeled and seeded
Buttermilk ( A combo of chicken broth and sour cream works too)
Hot pepper (can be any number of varieties) to taste- I recommend starting on the not as hot side - its harder to turn the heat down
green onion or a sweet onion like vidalia
crushed garlic
salt & pepper to taste

Mix all the above ingredients in a food processor and play with proportions of liquid to solid depending on your consistency preference.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Summer Loving # 1 = Pesto Genovese

The arugula and lettuce is on holiday until fall and the summer garden is in full swing. Cucumbers and squash are abundant, and tomatoes are ripening on the vine. During the past few weeks I have pulled out some of my favorite summer dishes which I will attempt to translate into recipes below:

Pesto Genovese

Originating in the port town of Genoa in the Liguria region of Northwest Italy, Pesto’s name comes from the Latin word pestare, to pound or crush, and literally refers to the original process of pounding the garlic and herbs in a mortar and pestle( hmmm, see a similar root there). Thank god for the Cuisinart, which makes whipping up a batch of pesto a snap.


about 2 cups of washed and dried basil
2-3 cloves ofgarlic
Handful of pine nuts ( other nuts work in a pinch)
~1 cup Olive oil
~ 1 cup fresh Parmesan cheese
salt & pepper to taste
freshly ground nutmeg


• Pulse olive oil and garlic in blender
• Add pine nuts and pulse some more
• Slowly add basil leaves and keep pulsing
• Add cheese and seasonings and give it a final whirl

Hint: sometimes if I am making a big batch to freeze, I leave out the cheese and freeze in iec cube trays. When frozen pop them into a Ziploc, and add cheese when you are ready to use.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

GMOs are not the answer - Oppose Casey-Lugar bill

"Changing the focus of US international development policy from direct food aid to agricultural investment in the developing world is a laudable goal. But declarations by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack that biotechnology and GMOs are the answer are misguided and ill-informed. As a recent World Bank/UN report recently concluded, GMOs are unsuited to the developing world. We urge you to oppose Casey-Lugar and any bill that contains earmarks for, investment requirements in or promotion of GMOs abroad."

Click here to sign the petition

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Michael Taylor's Views on Food Safety

La Vida Locavore nicely summarizes the views of the new FDA Food Safety guy, Michael Taylor

He says his vision is "rooted in" a 1998 NAS report "Ensuring Safe Food from Production to Consumption." He calls for:

1. Taking a farm-to-table approach to preventing food safety problems;

2. Using risk analysis to better understand potential hazards, design interventions, and prioritize prevention efforts;

3. Collecting necessary data to support risk analysis, through monitoring of the food supply, foodborne illness surveillance, and food safety research;

4. Harnessing the primary role of food producers, processors, retailers and consumers in preventing food safety problems;

5. Implementing preventive process control, such as HACCP, throughout the food industry;

6. Establishing science-based food safety performance standards;

7. Carrying out a modern inspection program to support the vigorous enforcement of food safety standards;

8. Integrating food safety efforts among federal, state, and local food safety agencies;

9. Allocating government food safety efforts and resources in relation to risk and opportunities to reduce risk; and

10. Observing sound food safety practices at the final preparation and consumption stage through well-informed commercial food handlers and consumers.

And here's the thing... these are all good ideas, IF they are applied properly. IF you identify that major risks in our system are unhealthy conditions in factory farms and fast line speeds in slaughterhouses and eliminate those risks, you will probably make real progress towards a safe food supply. But is Taylor willing to do that? Is anybody in our government? So far, no.

Furthermore, I question the government's ability (or interest in) applying these principles to small, independent producers.

The government tends to craft laws in a way that are most suitable for large corporations, but they apply them to everybody. I'm not saying that small producers cannot cause foodborne illness or that they are inherently safe, but I'm saying that we have a trade-off to consider. We should either regulate the little guys fairly or not regulate them at all (instead of regulating them unfairly, with laws written for big corporations).

For the full report, click here

Monday, July 06, 2009

Feed the City Soul

Plan to attend Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden's Green Tonic symposium on August 4-5 to learn about " Urban Gardening for Health and Wholeness."

It's an event for neighborhood organizers and community leaders, urban planners, architects and designers, public officials, health advocates, local food activists, students, master gardeners, and more.

Of particular interest to foodies may be a workshop on Food Security, Access, Nutrition, and Health.

For more details check out the website and register today

when you just can't eat it

have you ever had a piece of fish that arrived a little late to the table... like a few days ?

a piece of meat that was either still moving or cooked to death ?

a hitchhiker that just doesn't belong.

do you want to know how to handle the situation ?

when to send it back

Friday, July 03, 2009

A Garden with a Mission

Last Saturday I had a chance to visit one of my favorite Richmond spots, the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens. Jonah Holland, the marketing guru for the gardens, took a group of local bloggers on a special tour. In addition to the wonderfully appointed new rose gardens, and the children's area with a great climbable Mulberry tree, the special Butterfly exhibit is worth the trip alone.

One of the garden's secrets is unfolding on a plot behind the conservatory. What looks to be about an acre of land has been cultivated and worked by volunteers in growing a host of vegetables- tomatoes, squash, peppers, eggplants and other goodies. And the best part of the equation is that Richmond's Foodbank stands to benefit with a goal of 10,000 pounds of fresh produce this summer.

Lewis Ginter was one of the city's 20th century visonaries. And the garden does a great job of maintaining his legacy. Plan to attend Green Tonic on August 4-5 to learn about " Urban Gardening for Health and Wholeness." For more details check out the website and take time to smell the flowers

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

A sum of its parts

As we prepare our grills for cook-outs this July 4th weekend, many of us will be grilling burgers of some sort. Today's New York Times offers up a bevy of tips from some of New York's finest chefs. From bun to meat to toppings, a good burger is a sum of its parts.

take a big bite

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Say no to plumping

do you know what's in your chicken? Read the labels, or better yet, buy from one of the local farmers at one of Richmond's markets. In a clever campaign, Foster Farms brings to light the practice of plumping with, you guessed it, talking chickens. Here are a few basics

PLUMPING= The practice of injecting saltwater, chicken stock, seaweed extract or some combination thereof into chicken to increase its weight and price, while simultaneously increasing sodium content by up to 700%.

Foster Farms created the “Say No to Plumping™” campaign because we have always been committed to providing value and quality to you and your family. In our 70-year history, we have never injected saltwater into our fresh poultry products labeled “100% Natural.” We believe that when you pay for premium, fresh chicken, that’s exactly what you should get.

Plumped chicken is 85% chicken and 15% saltwater.
A person is likely to spend $1.50 per package on saltwater when buying plumped chicken. The average household could waste more than $150 a year on saltwater.
The USDA estimates that plumping can cost American consumers up to $2 billion per year.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, high-sodium diets often lead to high blood pressure.
High blood pressure is a leading factor in the incidence of heart attacks, strokes, stomach cancer and other serious health conditions.
One serving just – 4 oz – of plumped chicken has more sodium than a large order of french fries.

Plumped-chicken labels will have (in small print) a phrase such as “contains up to 15% saltwater.”
According to the FDA fresh, natural chicken should not have more than 70 mg of sodium per 4 oz serving – the amount of naturally occurring sodium in chickens: Hence, the reason you may see “not a sodium-free food” on a chicken package.
Chicken that has been plumped can contain up to 440 mg of sodium.
Almost all frozen and marinated products have either added salt or saltwater.
Fresh and natural chicken should be just that – fresh and natural. No saltwater needed. Almost all fresh, natural chicken contains up to 4% retained water that is the result of processing, which ensures product safety.

To see the talking chickens, click here !

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

dressing up your vegetables

Cucumbers are in, and look what funny things people are doing with them at the South of the James market. I usually wait until later in the season to start dressing up the veggies I am sick of(think squash).

What veggie games do you play ?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Some Scoop on Pitango Gelato

The next time I'm in Washington DC, I'll be sure to sample some Pitango Gelato, located on P Street, between Dupont and Logan circles. The owner, Noah Dan is a stickler about ingredients, and used organic milk from Pennsylavania and the purest fruits and nuts he can find. Unlike most gelato, there are no stabilizers or other additives. With almost 20 flavors daily, the variety includes "cantaloupe, mojito and local-strawberry sorbets and Sicilian almond, pistachio and crema, a vanilla custard with a touch of lemon."

get the scoop here from the Washington Post.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A TownHouse to eat in.

A few months back, my friend Vaughn mentioned an amazing meal that he had at TownHouse,a restaurant in the small Appalachian town of Chilhowie in Southwest Virginia. I have had the menu sitting on my desk for months, drooling over Confit of Rabbit Leg, served with morel mushrooms, juniper, salsify and an infusion of wood as well as Tea Smoked Loup de Mer, White Asparagus with Pulled Honey and Cold Smoked Chocolate with carrot, indian curry, coriander, coconut, and mint. I did a little research and understood the culinary context better after seeing their experience at Chicago heavyweights Charlie Trotters and Alinea. And today they were recognized by the New York Times. Check out the great article at

All the Food That's Fit to Eat

Friday, June 12, 2009

FDA = sustainability ?

Slate continues the converasation about the effects of the new administration's food policy on corporate giants and smaller organic farmers. What will the shift to a sustainability policy by the FDA mean for the agricultural landscape? Maybe only Mother Nature knows.

sow some seeds

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Going Coastal

Going Coastal

Westhampton snags a seafood standout.
by John G. Haddad

Succulent shrimp and grits and the seared scallop appetizer are helping Coast build a reputation for culinary finesse. Photo by Scott Elmquist

There are few disciples of food and wine in Richmond as fervent as Gary York. He eats, drinks and breathes the epicurean life and isn’t shy talking about it. As a fan of his first restaurant, the Italian wine bar Enoteca Sogno, I’ve been awaiting the opening of his latest venture, Coast, in the Libbie and Grove neighborhood. I was eager to see how his slavish attention to detail would translate to a new style of cuisine. My visit proved worth the wait.

My wife and I visit on a warm weekday evening. The front door is open to the street, inviting us into the softly lighted space. A blue granite bar anchors one side of the room, bright patterns adorn the walls and a large mirror reflects the sidewalk and street traffic, creating the illusion of a larger space. The plain gray exterior seems incongruent with the aesthetics of the neighborhood, but red patio umbrellas indicate newly available outdoor dining, always a draw in Richmond.

The wine list is diverse, an interesting mix of Californian and European vintages. York had just returned from the Italian wine expo in Verona, Italy, a few weeks earlier, his annual pilgrimage. My wife samples a Liberty School chardonnay, available by the glass or bottle, and is pleased by the oaky buttery flavors. The markup seemed a tad high at $9 a glass for a bottle that retails for around $13. When I couldn’t decide on a red or white, our knowledgeable server suggests a rosé that isn’t yet on the menu. It’s made with sangiovese grapes, and when I inquire about the production, York himself comes to the table to explain in layman’s terms the different methodologies for making a rosé.

As its name suggests, Coast’s menu leans toward seafood, but also includes several land options. We start with a scallop appetizer ($13). Two plump, seared scallops are served on a bed of asparagus purée surrounded by crispy fried shiitake mushrooms. A drizzle of truffle oil finishes the divine combination of flavors and textures.

The mixed field greens are dressed with light citrus vinaigrette ($8). A pistachio-crusted warm goat cheese fritter is the perfectly tangy companion to the slight sweetness of the dressing. My only criticism is that the serrano ham is overly chewy. The heirloom beet salad ($9) combines bright red and yellow chilled beets and oranges over arugula spiked with goat cheese and a sweet orange and beet vinaigrette. The colorful presentation enhances the overall effect.

We opt to stay coastal with our entrée choices: I have skate wing ($21), one of my favorite dishes and rarely seen on a Richmond menu. It’s classically prepared, pan-seared and finished with lemon-caper brown butter, crispy outside with a moist and meaty interior. A side of homemade tagliatelle, finished with butter and fresh thyme, and a serving of caramelized cauliflower with mustard sauce rounds out the plate, simple dishes executed with perfection.

Shrimp and grits are one of my litmus dishes — a benchmark wherever I have the chance. Coast’s rendition ($21) is among the best I’ve had. Perfectly cooked shrimp, tender, coarse-ground grits, roasted tomatoes that deliver pure flavors, and a creamy sherry-roasted garlic finish elevate this Low Country favorite to the realm of haute cuisine. Coast’s lunch menu includes simpler versions of the dinner menu and adds a series of sandwiches including a Kobe beef hamburger and an oyster po’ boy.

Desserts are traditional and seasonal. A strawberry shortcake is moist with just the right buttery density, straddling the worlds of salty and sweet. A vanilla bean crème brûlée channels pure flavors in its creamy interior and has the requisite tap-with-a-spoon crispy top.

Coast feels and acts like a restaurant with experience. Under the watchful eye of a seasoned gourmand, it has a winning, upscale formula that should bring success. The only missing link is waterfront property, but Westhampton is the next best thing. S

5806 Grove Ave.
Lunch: Tuesday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
Dinner: Tuesday-Saturday, 5:30-10 p.m.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Frivolous Food Lawsuits

Frivolous Food Lawsuits, courtesy of's Food & Think

"Crunchberries are not found in nature. Crunchberries aren’t real fruit?!?

A California woman filed a class-action lawsuit against PepsiCo, the corporation that makes the sugary “Cap’n Crunch with Crunchberries” cereal. The front of the box features a perky cartoon sea captain holding out a spoonful of colorful round nuggets that vaguely resemble berries (well, if berries came in colors like teal).

The woman contended that “the colorful Crunchberries, combined with use of the word ‘berry’ in the product name, convey the message that Cap’n Crunch is not all sugar and starch, but contains redeeming fruit…In actuality, the Product contains no berries of any kind…Had she known that the product contained no fruit, she would not have purchased it.”

The judge granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss, citing the precedent of a similar case involving Froot Loops. Seriously.

What’s next, someone discovering the shocking truth about Grape Nuts cereal? Or that there are no real rocks in Cocoa Pebbles?"

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

apocalypse cow

With a thank you to the folks at Tasting Table

"Food Inc., which opens in select cities on June 12, is a documentary that looks inside the American agribusiness machine to show us both the gears that make it move (genetically modified crops, industrial meatpackers, McDonald's) and the destruction it leaves behind (indie farmers, exploited workers and unhealthy consumers)."

click here for a taste

Rye Squared

My son Rye

A Recipe for Rye from today's New York Times

Rye Old-Fashioned
Adapted from Rye, Brooklyn

Time: 5 minutes

1 teaspoon Demerara sugar

2 ounces rye whiskey

1 or 2 dashes Angostura bitters

1 or 2 dashes orange bitters

1 strip lemon peel.

1. Spoon sugar into a shaker and add about a teaspoon of very hot water for a simple syrup. Stir until dissolved, adding a little more water if needed.

2. Add whiskey and bitters, and stir again. Add several ice cubes and stir well to chill. Strain into an old-fashioned glass, add 2 or 3 big ice cubes, twist lemon peel over the top and drop it in.

Yield: 1 drink.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

watching the garden grow

In the beginning- adding some organic matter to the freshly tilled plot !

setting out the rows and experimenting with some landscaping material this year. GO AWAY WEEDS !

Susannah had the great idea to laminate the seed packets to label the rows- notice the old silver fork !

Things are starting to grow- notice the steam as I work the soil on a cool morning.