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

Monday, April 14, 2014

What's for Dinner ? It's Pizza Tonight.

There are three main elements to any pizza: dough, toppings and heat. Pizza Tonight nails all three of them.

The dough is magical. The secret is in the flour. The mobile pizzeria uses an Italian, finely milled 00 Caputo flour, and a 24-hour proofing process that allows the dough to rest. It imparts the perfect chew to the crust and makes for dough that’s easy to work with.

Pizza Tonight’s toppings go beyond the traditional options. The RVA Pepperoni includes local Calabrese-style salami from Olli Salumeria; The Fig & Pig trades red sauce for fig preserves and prosciutto topped with Gorgonzola cheese; The Bacon and Spinach is topped with, well, garlicky spinach and smoky bacon. An olive-oil base is the foundation for The Vegan Potato, which is then layered with thin slices of potato and sprinkled with sea salt and rosemary. 

Pizza Tonight tows a one-of-a-kind wood-burning oven to farmers’ markets and events. It cooks pizzas in minutes, transforming the dough into a crispy, crunchy crust, topped with bubbling cheese, meat and veggies to make my favorite pizza in Richmond. I feel lucky to have it in my backyard.
Originally published in the April issue of Richmond Magazine.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Zagat names Rappahannock's Dylan Fultineer as one of the 10 Southern Chefs to watch

Congratulations to Dylan Fultineer for the accolades and for the company he's keeping---- to read the whole article chow down.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Governor's Cup Results

This is late.... not late breaking news.  Meant to post this on Friday but it got stuck in my outbox

From the Virginia Wine Board Marketing Office:  "Governor Terry McAuliffe awarded the 2014 Virginia Wineries Association's (VWA) Governor's Cup to The Williamsburg Winery's 2010 Adagio, a blended red wine.  The Williamsburg Winery's Adagio is a blend of 42% Cabernet Franc, 30% Merlot and 28% Petit Verdot. Aged in French, American and Hungarian Oak, the ratio is 43% new oak, 14% one year old oak; 29% two year old oak; and 14% three year old oak. The winemaker's tasting notes are as follows: The 2010 Adagio is a very bold upfront wine with loads of jammy fruit. The blackberries and blueberry notes are accentuated with some elegant mature darker fruit such as figs, dates and prunes. There is a hint of spice (warm cinnamon) with molasses and soy. The earthy notes come across with a touch of nuttiness. The oak is very integrated into the weight of the wine and the tannins are smooth and graceful. The wine has a wonderful finish that lasts for quite awhile.

 In addition to The Williamsburg Winery's 2010 Adagio, the other 11 wines in the Governor's Cup Case are:
  • Barboursville Vineyard - 2008 Malvaxia Passito
  • Barboursville Vineyard - 2010 Nebbiolo Reserve
  • Barboursville Vineyard - 2010 Octagon
  • Barren Ridge Vineyard - 2009 Meritage
  • Fabbioli Cellars - 2011 Tannat
  • Horton Vineyards - 2010 Tannat
  • King Family Vineyards - 2011 Meritage
  • North Gate Vineyard - 2011 Meritage
  • Rockbridge Vineyard - 2008 Meritage, DeChiel Reserve, unfiltered
  • Sunset Hills Vineyard - 2010 Mosaic
  • Two Twisted Post Winery - 2012 Chardonnay

  • For a complete list of previous Governor's Cup winners and information about the Virginia wine industry, please visit the Virginia Wine Marketing Office

    Pasture and Rappahannock   both hosted post gala parties, complete with paired food and wine stations curated by Jason Alley and Dylan Fultineer, fire breathers, body contortionists, and lots of lovely folks.

    We were also treated to a new jam by Jason Tesauro, rivaling his Elby prose

    The Modern Gent Rap

    Stinson 2012 Chardonnay, paired with  Braised clams, tomato, preserved lemon, house-cured Tasso ham

    Breaux 2012  Marquis de Lafayette, paired with Shredded duck/duck pastrami salad, winter greens, tangerine, tallegio

    Gabriele Rausse 2011 Nebbiolo, paired with House-made sausage balls, pepper jelly

    Potter's Craft Barrel Fermented Cider, paired with Roasted pumpkin rice grits, pecorino, pickled chard stems

    Williamsburg Winery 2010 Adagio, paired with Braised beef shank with red wine jus, shaved collard slaw, and hickory king cornmeal porridge

    Thibaut-Janisson  Blanc de Chardonnay, paired with oysters on the 1/2 shell

    Boxwood 2011 Trellis, paired with fried shad roe

    Blue Bee Mill Race Bramble, paired with a VA cheese platter, pickles, jams, crackers

    Barboursville 2007 Cabernet Franc Reserve, paired with Braised Barboursville goat, smoked faro, chimichurri

    Blenheim 2012 Painted White, paired with Dulce de Leche crepe, VA pink lady apples

    Wednesday, February 19, 2014

    James Beard Foundation names semi-finalists

    It's great to see Lee Gregory from The Roosevelt on the JBF semifinalist list !

    Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic

    Scott Anderson, Elements, Princeton, NJ
    Cathal Armstrong, Restaurant Eve, Alexandria, VA
    Joey Baldino, Zeppoli, Collingswood, NJ
    Pierre Calmels, Bibou, Philadelphia
    Anthony Chittum, Iron Gate, Washington, D.C.
    Joe Cicala, Le Virtù, Philadelphia
    Spike Gjerde, Woodberry Kitchen, Baltimore
    Lee Gregory, The Roosevelt, Richmond, VA
    Haidar Karoum, Proof, Washington, D.C.
    Tarver King, The Restaurant at Patowmack Farm, Lovettsville, VA
    Rich Landau, Vedge, Philadelphia
    Lucas Manteca, The Red Store, Cape May Point, NJ
    Cedric Maupillier, Mintwood Place, Washington, D.C.
    Justin Severino, Cure, Pittsburgh
    Bryan Sikora, La Fia, Wilmington, DE
    Brad Spence, Amis, Philadelphia
    Lee Styer, Fond, Philadelphia
    Vikram Sunderam, Rasika, Washington, D.C.
    Angelo Vangelopoulos, The Ivy Inn Restaurant, Charlottesville, VA
    Cindy Wolf, Charleston, Baltimore

    Tuesday, February 18, 2014

    Richard McCarthy of Slow Food USA on the recently passed Farm Bill

    Well, The Farm Bill Happened

    Feb. 10, 2014
    By Richard McCarthy, Executive Director of Slow Food USA
    After too many years of uncertainty, with a stroke of a pen on Friday, President Barack Obama signaled the USDA can get back to the business of supporting our nation’s farmers and making sure Americans can put food on their tables.
    Farmer with SunThat’s the good news.
    The bad news is that, with the $8.7 billion cut in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, nearly two million Americans will have a tougher time paying for that food. Additionally, when it comes to reforming our seriously flawed industrial food system, it's pretty much business as usual… with a few important exceptions.
    Let us turn our attention to those exceptions, those golden seeds of change.
    It is important to recognize the tireless advocacy of those who pined over this important piece of legislation for a long tumultuous three years. (Had the process dragged on longer, it certainly would have earned the moniker of the Five-Year Farm Bill!)
    Akin to making sausage: It is not a pretty business. Cobbling together bipartisan support yields winners and losers on all sides. While we have not yet “won the war” (replacing an industrial paradigm for one that is good, clean and fair), the many programmatic victories in the new law of the land point to cracks in the conventional wisdom about industrial agriculture.
    Don’t forget, that when the Farm Bill was born, industrial agriculture was the new kid on the block. In 2014, the kid has grown into a bloated and wasteful giant whose luster is fading, even among fervent supporters. After all, if consensus were present, passage would have been far swifter.
    While I could be accused of seeking out silver linings, the passage of several progressive healthy food and sustainable agriculture programs — Organic and Specialty Crop Research, Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program, Community Food Projects, and a new Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive Program, for starters — will strengthen our voices on Capitol Hill.
    The post-mortem on the Farm Bill and its exercise in civic engagement will and should continue. There is so much to learn and still much to do.
    • Consider how the delay placed pressure on fragile coalitions and disadvantaged farmers. Meanwhile, get going. Competitive programs at USDA await applicants.
    • Risk-taking on the margins awaits allies from the center – and dinner tables await invitations to join in shaping plans for the future. Reach out far and wide and to those who are often overlooked and also treasure community, biodiversity, and traditional knowledge.
    Ring the dinner bell; serve up change; balance joy with justice; and store up enough nuts for the next Farm Bill.
    That’s our plan.

    Saturday, January 25, 2014

    Slow Food Stories

    Butter makes everything better, including strategy.  Spending the weekend in the Queen City to meet with fellow Slow Food colleagues in the southern region. Spent a fascinating morning hearing "Ark of Taste" stories from luminary David Shields, acclaimed pommologist Lee Calhoun, and the heir to the famous Bradford Watermelon, Nat Bradford.  Shields spun tales of  benne seeds and the palmetto asparagus, black birch syrup ( who he is working with RVA chef Travis Milton to acquire),and Hayman sweet potatoes.  How can we as an organization empower communities to save heirloom varietals that are disappearing ? Some varietals go away because tastes change, others because of Big Ag.   Heard stories of farmers with 100 varieties of collard greens, and veggies like the "Tanya", the bulb of the elephant ear, and arrowroot, a starchy root that has fallen out of favor.

    What memories do you have of foods that no longer are part of our food culture ?

    Thursday, January 23, 2014

    Why do we fear freedom of choice?

    Brian and Kim Criley atended a  public hearing this week at the Subcommittee for Agriculture of the Virginia House of Delegates.  The movement for food freedom lost a battle yesterday in a classic example of regular people versus lobbyists.   Read their take on the day's events.

    Saturday, January 11, 2014


    Every once in a while a word keeps popping up that strikes my fancy- and today's word is "nixtamalize." 

    After eating at Danny Bowien's  new Mission Cantina on the Lower East Side last month, I was talking to the chefs about some of their processes and they talked about  how they "nixtamalize" their Anson Mills corn in-house to make their tortillas. It got me thinking.  There's a good article in the New York Times  about the importance of corn to the Mexican culture and it speaks a bit to the process. 

    In a nutshell, the word  typically refers to a process for the preparation of corn where the grain is soaked and cooked in a solution ( often limewater) and  then hulled. The corn undergoes a chemical transformation, making it easier to cook with, better tasting, and more nutritious. It amazes me to think that the process was developed over 3000 years ago in a simpler time.  Some things don't change.

    Friday, January 03, 2014

    My Top Tastes of 2013

    Hawksworth, Vancouver

    Hands down, my favorite meal of the year- great fresh fish, interesting combinations with a heavy Asian influence.

    ·       Hamachi sashimi with passion fruit, jalapeno, coconut, lemongrass ice cream, sea asparagus, radish,
    puffed rice and white soy  

      Salmon belly nori with 3 dipping sauces- carrot chili, beet ginger, orange ginger
    Burnt caramel glazed pork belly with green papaya, grapefruit, crispy shallots, and mint.
     KFC  - Korean fried cauliflower with sesame and cilantro

    Ava Genes, Portland

    A boisterous Roman inspired menu using locally sourced ingredients- arancini stuffed with local cheese; melt in your mouth short ribs with apples, horseradish and a hairbender coffee rub from Stumptown. The “Giardini” vegetables were my favorite, including Brussels sprouts with farro, pumpkin seeds, and anchovy.

    Bon Appetit was impressed as well… “i used to judge a chef by the way he or she roasted a chicken. but now that farm-to-table is the standard, it's more about what they can do with a carrot. at the trattoria-inspired ava gene's, the second restaurant from stumptown coffee roasters founder and budding restaurateur duane sorenson, green-thumb cuisine becomes masterful.”

    Babbo, New York

    Batali’s flagship is a solid as ever- hadn’t been in ten year but it surely held up….
    ·         Pig Foot “Milanese” with Rice Beans and Arugula
    ·         Beef Cheek Ravioli with Crushed Squab Liver and Black Truffles

    Mission Cantina, New York
    Danny Bowien, of Mission Chinese fame, recently opened Mission Cantina on the Lower East Side, and delivers an interesting interpretation of Mexican food. With house-made  Oaxacan cheese, and nixtamalized Anson Mills corn for the house tortillas, these guys are serious. Taco fillings the night I dined there included skate wing tempura with cucumber, avocado and cabbage, crispy fried tripe and mussel escabeche,  beef tongue with charred onions, tomato pickles, and peanuts.  Chicken wings are slathered with mole spices, sesame, and chili vinegar, and the oaxacan cheese us served with marinated rapini.

    Local favorites included Heritage, Rappahannock and Merroir, Dutch and Co (whose perfect egg may be my favorite dish of the year), Pasture, Belmont Food Shop,  BlackSheep, and Charlottesville’s Whiskey Jar who hosted a Southern Foodways Alliance dinner last summer that hit every mark.

    Other notable restaurants included:

    Pok Pok, Portland; Proper Pie, Richmond; Secco, Richmond; Pine State Biscuits, Portland; Meat & Bread, Vancouver, Eataly, NY; Joe’s Shanghai, NY; Peter Chang, Richmond; Screendoor, Portland;  Morimoto Sushi, Boca Raton

    Oysters at Rappahannock

    Home of Soup Dumplings

    Morimoto in Boca Raton

    White Gazpacho- my favorite at Broad Appetit

    Magpie's Rhubarb Cake with Chevre ice cream and mint gazpacho

    Whiskey Jar's Moonshine Punch

    Whiskey Jar's Trout and BBQ chicken

    Traditional Arab Meal 

    Pine State Biscuits

    Voodoo Donuts

    Screendoor's Chicken and waffles

    Meat & Bread, Vancouver

    Hawksworth, Salmon Belly

    Hawksworth's Hamachi

    Hawksworth Pork Belly

    Chef Hawksworth

    Heritage's Pork Belly

    Babbo's traditional Alto Adige chestnut dessert

    Mission Cantina

    Tacos at Mission Cantina