Saturday, January 30, 2010

Frank Bruni 's Born Round

I woke up early today at 5:30 with the snow falling outside. It was quiet, and everyone else in the house was still asleep. I made a strong pot of french roast coffee and settled in to finish Frank Bruni's memoir Born Round.
An accomplished writer who had numerous posts with the New York Times including Metro, DC political, Rome Bureau and most interestingly to me- the food critic. He writes of his childhood raised by Italian mother who show her children love through their stomachs and the wonderful food she prepared. Bruni writes of his life-long struggle with his weight, especially as a political correspondent following Bush 2 on the campaign trail, a journey filled with all you can eat buffets and upwards of 7 meals a day. At first the ongoing chronicle of his waist size fluctuation was a bit tedious but I kept reading to get to the chapter of his life that most interested me - his account of being chosen to be the NYT food critic and a crazy life of aliases, disguises and weight-maintenance strategies. It was worth the wait. or is that weight ?

Friday, January 22, 2010

University of Richmond Cooks Up a Winning Formula

For the past 12 years, the University of Richmond has offered culinary classes through their School for Continuing Studies. UR's Center for Culinary Arts offers a wide range of programs from the comprehensive CAP Certificate, a 42 hour program that includes 4 core courses ranging from Tools of the Trade to Chef's Skills and Bakeshop Basics etc, 4 electives, and a Certified Executive Chef Review. They largely cater to a home-chef audience (about 90% of students) with industry folks making up the rest. Martin Gravely,local chef and food writer, runs the program with the assistance of Pastry Chef Tom Parfitt

Corporations also use the space for team-building events during business hours (one client was interestingly using the cooking theory "mise en place" to help their team understand the importance of being prepared in the office for a major project) and they also run a popular wine & dine program that is more demo than hands-on.
About 2000 people a year come through the center’s programs, with most classes in the evenings between 6-9 pm and some on the weekend.

I had the pleasure of visiting their newish working classroom kitchen off Gayton Road in the west end and saw firsthand their beautiful facility and shared a wonderful meal.

These are the highlights from lunch:

Homemade Panko-crusted Queso Blanco with charred cherry tomatoes, basil chiffonade, and a roasted tomato coulis (They use non-homogenized milk from Homestead Creamery for their cheese)

Seared scallops with beurre blanc and pancetta with a pretty beet garnish

Pepper crusted filet mignon with a Madeira jus, roasted brussel sprouts with a Dijon caraway vinaigrette and roasted shallots topped with a nest of fried potato strings

Lemon Meringue tart with ginger blueberry compote (they talked about this dish as being a great learning tool- allows students to learn several techniques- a sucre crust; tempering- adding eggs to lemon without curdling; meringue .....)

If you are a home chef looking to sharpen some of your kitchen skills, or with an organization looking for a great teambuilding activity, UR’s Center for Culinary Arts is a great option.

For more information visit them online at

Thursday, January 14, 2010

A Missed Opportunity

Amici, one of Richmond's stalwart restaurant traditions, recently underwent a renovation to its space. It's warmer and more roomy, but I think they missed a great opportunity to update their menu as well. While I generally like Amici, their menu seems a bit tired. I understand that they have had 20 years of success with a tried and true product, but still I wanted more. You can read all about it in this week's Style Weekly.

Mangia Mangia

Sunday, January 03, 2010

What DC thinks about Richmond eats

Last week the Washington Post's Tom Sietsema critiqued some of Richmond's finer and well known eateries. It's nice to see Dale get a nice review- he's doing some of the best plates around.

For D.C.'s take on Richmond eats, click here

Saturday, January 02, 2010

A Pig Holiday

Holidays are usually filled with pigging out, and the 2009 Christmas season was no exception. Pig Out took a more literal meaning as we indulged on many pork delicacies. A few days before Christmas, my brother Matt and I spent about 1/2 day in his kitchen making sausage.

We made three varieties:

Sage Breakfast links- a thin all pork sausage seasoned with sage and salt & pepper

Hot Italian Sausage- a fatter link seasoned with fennel, crushed red pepper, and Pernod (a French anise liquor)

Boerwors- a South African style sausage (thanks to some tips from Chris Mattera at Belmont Butchery) that was 1/2 pork and 1/2 venison and seasoned with coriander, nutmeg, and salt.

One of my favorite Christmas traditions is a breakfast of Eggs Benedict- poached free range eggs, Canadian style bacon from Belmont Butchery, and asparagus, all topped with a rich lemony Hollandaise sauce ( as a kid I always thought it was Holiday sauce, because that was the one time of year we ate it.)

We had a few friends over for New Years Day to indulge in some traditional foods that we always eat for good luck or financial success. In addition to black-eyed peas and stewed tomatoes, I cooked a spicy cabbage dish. My favorite tradition dates from my time in Italy, eating cotecchino sausage, with lentils and sage. It's a rich sausage spiced with cinnamon and cloves.