July 25, 2010
The showdown between Boka Truck and Cafe Gutenberg is here (Monday, July 26th), and Richmond will surely be treated to a lesson in tasty sandwich making. Hopefully, we can relax a little about authenticity and precise definitions after the previous primer post. Of course, the food will be front and center in the banh mi celebration, but the eclectic personalities behind the competition are perhaps even more compelling than anything one could put between two slices of crunchy baguette. In this second and last primer, I want to introduce you to some of the people involved. These tidbits should add to your enjoyment.
Jen’s secret weapon: When thinking about the chefs behind the sandwiches, the image of spunky Jen standing her ground against the invading Boka Truck driving Patrick doesn’t really tell the whole story. You see, Jen’s got a secret weapon. Vegans may beat a path to her door, but meat and potatoes are a high priority at Cafe Gutenberg too. Introducing Garrett Berry, Jen’s partner in every aspect of managing and cooking and life. They met in 2004 while working for the New England Culinary Institute in Vermont, fell in love while playing a shit-talking game of pool, and followed one of their buddies to Richmond in 2005. From 2006 to 2008 they ran Cafe Gutenberg’s kitchen and took it over when the owners decided to sell. These past couple years, they’ve been working steadily to reinvent the restaurant with their dream concept in mind, “to apply the details and standards of classical cuisine to the foods that regular people really want to eat, and to squash the idea that passion and skilled execution should be reserved for expensive ingredients.”
In the Cafe Gutenberg kitchen, Jen says, “we have a good balance where he does a lot of the Low notes- sauerkraut, braises and meats, and I do the High notes, the vegetarian stuff, salads and sauces…. We split up our duties more by components than by dish….The Banh Mi is a good example- I do the Tofu and Pickles, he does the Pork and Chili Sauce.” (more…)
July 21, 2010
Usually, on the Food Network’s Thowdown TV show, Bobby Flay rolls into town in his black SUV to challenge a local favorite cook who’s built a reputation on making their signature dish the old fashioned way. Inevitably, the show concludes with the audience and judges debating whether or not Flay’s version can truly be called XYorZ traditional dish, and then they (usually) decide the Iron Chef’s version is better because it’s got smokey chipotle peppers and avocado crema or some such erogenous additive that pushes everybody’s bacon button. Who wants to reenact that kind of made-for-tv mismatch?
We'll be dining on an homage to this monster.
Although Richmond’s Banh Mi Throwdown at Cafe Gutenberg on Monday does take some of its inspiration from Flay’s TV show, we don’t have the same circumstances in place. (more…)
July 19, 2010
This past weekend was chock full of food stories. So much so, that I couldn’t bring myself to sit down and try to write any one of them. Too much going through my head. Instead of journaling, I’ve made a list – a menu of food stories that represents an inventory of anecdotes I can cook up for you (all true. not “cook up” as in “make up”). If anyone wants to read one of the stories behind the menu item, just say so in a comment, and I’ll do the rest (within 24hrs). Some of the stories are educational, ironic, surprising, or ignorant and self-effacing. Some come with pictures. Others are explanations of Twitter posts. I couldn’t tell you which, if any, are the most blog worthy. That’s why I need you to dictate the priority here.
- Preserving lemons: Ever since Olio turned me on to preserved lemons as a blockbuster secret ingredient, I’ve been wanting to cook with them more often. I rarely see them on shelves, and when I do, I can’t rationalize $7.99 for two lemons swimming in brine. Meanwhile, the web has loads of tutorials on how to make them at home.
Get messy, but don't be sloppy like me.
When our friend Sabrina (@murdochkittster) came over this weekend, the low maintenance recipe seemed like a good activity. (more…)
July 11, 2010
This weekend, we recuperated from a botched date night foray into the world of high dollar dishes. And what better way to reaffirm one’s faith in good food than to have some fun times with short money. I’m not just talking about emphasizing “value” over luxury and extravagance. This weekend gave me a few examples of how I can “value” the rich diversity of my community and environment, rather than paying premium prices for pretentious menu descriptions and rarefied table service.
Mind-boggling choices that make you salivate.
It starts on Saturday at Indian Pastry House. (more…)
July 8, 2010
Earlier today I got asked for a fancy restaurant recommendation. I responded that I’ve got a blind spot for fine dining in my world view. It doesn’t come to mind. I don’t really think of it as an option, and despite a few really impressive hoity toity meals in my past, I don’t really appreciate it enough to warrant the trouble the restaurants go to or the amount of money that I end up paying. That’s a disclaimer. Cuz, what do you think was on our agenda for the evening’s rare date night? Another episode of Jason feeling out of step with the pretentious parade that is the bourgie restaurant experience.
The plan had been to go to Six Burner ever since Karen had the pork belly at Broad Appetit. I tasted it and I agreed with her that Six Burner was robbed of whatever awards were given out (cuz they didn’t offer it as a slider. doh!) Actually, the plan has been to go to Six Burner ever since their chef left and the Foie Gras knuckle tatted Phillip Denny took over. In my view, he had two strikes against him, one for each hand. But, maybe his cooking would win me over (to his fanclub, not to foie gras eating – and please don’t turn my comment section into a battleground over that issue).
As the first Six Burner customers at their 5:30 opening, we’d hoped for happy hour specials. Nope. Those run through Wednesday. There was a prix fixe, but Karen wasn’t taken with the desert options (panna cotta or tapioca – two textures she doesn’t really do). Looking over the entrees, we couldn’t decide. Nothing jumped out at us. We ordered the most exciting thing we saw for an appetizer to bide us some more time: Squash blossom jalapeno poppers for $10. (more…)
July 5, 2010
Filling up on fish tacos. Not pictured: Karen, the photographer and Jonah's son, the judge.
Maybe you’ve heard of Jonah Holland. She’s one of Richmond’s social media mavens, elevating Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden to a national shorty award, community blogging at Near West End News, and running her own PR firm for non-profits. Since meeting and discovering that we grew up blocks away from each other in Fairfax County, Jonah Holland has been trying to get me to join her beloved Granite pool (commission?). When she recently responded to a tweet of mine saying that she’s an an enthusiastic grilled fish-taco maker, we wound up challenging each other to a grill-off at Granite.
Jonah's marinated mahi and purple slaw in a whole wheat tortilla.
Well, maybe it was intended to be more of a friendly show and tell, but all the online trash-talking I did and Jonah’s children relishing their roles as judges certainly added that superfluous element of drama. (more…)