February 20, 2011
This weekend, a few things happened that are worth relating. Yup. This is one of those posts that should be three posts, or four. Whatever. I think each vignette will be worth a read, and I want them off my plate. So please soldier on. Rather than recounting my Friday visit to Nates Taco Truck Stop (finally got to try the huevos racheros – ask for both green & red sauce), I’m going to start with my Saturday trip to Verizon Wireless. Yeah, I finally bought my wife’s birthday iPhone (no thanks AT&T) and decided to go along for the Apple smartphone ride as well.*
From here on out, I won’t be posting blurry Blackberry pictures here. Instead, it’ll blurry iPhone4 pics (until I figure out how to use the camera to its potential). But, why did I get an iPhone, really? I was against my wife getting one. I wanted to stay with Sprint for another 10 years and just switch to Droid phones. But, Karen is a Mac person, so she wouldn’t even consider any other option for her first smartphone. The sales guy actually forecasted for me that the iPhone4 will be “the last great iPhone,” because Apple has admitted they won’t be able to keep up with the innovations coming from their competitors. His honesty triggered my sentimentality (awwww the iPhone swan song), which pushed me over the edge to decide that my wife and I should bond over this new toy, instead of embarking on an endless debate over who’s phone is better. (psst… Droid. We’ll be together after this little 2-year fling.)
Fresca’s Sushi Sandwich
Speaking of my wife, she’s nuts about Fresca’s vegan “sushi sandwich.” Really, Karen just has impeccable taste (husbands, notwithstanding). You’d be silly not to read her blog and follow her on Twitter. She’s twice ordered the freshly baked pita pocket stuffed with thin sliced carrot and cukes, pickled ginger, avocados, and wasabi Veganaise. If that doesn’t sound delicious enough, it comes with soy sauce to dip in. And with that dunk, every element of the sandwich is put on blast with the splash of saltiness hitting your taste buds.
Home version imitating Fresca's perfect pita pocket. Soy sauce jus, not pictured.
Above is our attempt to recreate it. (more…)
February 16, 2011
UPDATE: Just a week after I published this story, the Food Network showed up at Kuba Kuba filming… not the huevos, paella, or cubano sandwich. It seems the focus was the tres leches cake. Ironic.
You just pour the two milk into the cake and spread the third on top.
Have you ever had a piece of tres leches cake? It seems like most people that I talk to in Richmond swear by the version they’ve been served at Kuba Kuba. At the end of a heaping platter of paella and alongside a cortadito of creamy coffee, I’m sure the cake hits the spot. But, by my standards, Kuba Kuba’s cake doesn’t really measure up. In fact, I don’t think I’ve had a less impressive version, and I question whether it’s a couple leches short of a true tres leche. Jasmine (aka @thisisntJasmine) posted this on UrbanSpoon:
BUT the tres leches cake should NOT be called that. in no way does it even resemble what a tres leches cake should taste/feel like. shame on you kuba kuba for lying to your customers! you have everyone in richmond duped, thinking they’ve actually tasted real tres leches cake. NOT ME!
But, I digress. I love Kuba Kuba’s egg dishes, I think about eating there once a week (tho I go about once a year), and this post really isn’t about Kuba Kuba. Nor should any story about tres leches in Richmond should be. (more…)
February 11, 2011
I’m not a bagel connoisseur. A carbohydrate addict is more like it. And I don’t have a New York archetype that I measure all bagels against (kinda like the pizza paradigm tends to play out). Bodo’s in Charlottesville never really won me over (except for their olive spread). So, the topic of Richmond’s bagel options isn’t a lightening rod for me. And yet, there are developments that I’m interested in, those being new storefronts by Jaks Bagels and Cupertino’s. Really, I mostly want to know what you think.
Maybe you have a story like mine. My bagel roots hail from Fairfax County, where my family happily patronized the local Chesapeake Bay Bagel Factory. Those were good bagels, fresh, with an exciting range of flavors. I struggled to understand the egg bagel. Jalapeno cheddar was my jam. We had a bagel slicer, so you know we were hooked (specialized paraphernalia means you’ve got a problem). Eventually Einsteins drove out the local guys, and I pretty much stopped eating bagels.* It wasn’t a teenage political stance, or a conscious effort. I found myself drawn to the very plain looking local chain and repulsed by the over-designed corporate pre-fab strip-mall installations. Why are they called Einsteins? Do their bagels make you smart? Must be why I still don’t get it.
Since moving to Richmond in 1997, bagels never seemed to be on my menu. I never got the chance to visit Bruegers on Harrison. Besides a few grocery store bagels here and there, Richmond has always seemed like a bagel-desert to me. (more…)
February 6, 2011
When I walked into my neighbor’s Superbowl party and saw this two-tone platter of hummus, I lost all interest in the game (okay, I quit watching football many years ago, when the 49ers stopped winning). As usual, with my arrival at any party featuring refreshments, I was food focused, and now I was overflowing with questions. For starters: Who was the artist?!
This hummus ain't hippy dippy, football fans.
The hummus artist was another party guest, Abram Jackson, whom I’d met a few times before (always talking food of course). Jackson did a lot of the cooking at the locally focused Fat Goat on Lakeside (now closed). That won’t be his last cooking gig, mind you. As it stands, Abram Jackson is gearing up to open Selba on Cary Street (in the old Honda House) with the title of Executive Chef. He couldn’t be more excited, and by the looks of that Green Bay Packers hummus platter, the creative juices are already flowing (more on the hummus in a minute).
Despite the persistent recurrence of graffiti tags on its facade, lots of work is happening inside the old motorcycle showroom. Jackson hopes to see Selba open sometime in April. There’s still likely to be a local ingredient focus, but that’s not to say the food will be patterned after The Fat Goat or Sprout, or anywhere else. Although the cuisine will be regionally inspired, “There won’t be anything else like this in Richmond,” says Jackson. That’s a pretty common prediction, but (more…)
February 2, 2011
In December 2009, Laurie and Jamie Lay closed their All Star Market on Lombardy with plans to reinvent the business as a natural foods cafe. After three years of building a base of support for their sandwiches and unique selection of grocery staples, they’d hit a road block. The convenience store space wasn’t zoned for the cafe seating they had in mind, and the sandwich counter and beer taps were straddling the red tape as well.
Michael Moses painting the sign in April 2010
All-Star market was immediately recognizable on Lombardy Street thanks to its red and yellow shooting-star bike rack. But, just as Jamie and Laurie were growing it into an icon of the Fan, they made the tough decision to start anew, to sprout up elsewhere, and grow the kind of business that better reflected their ideals. Three months later, they opened Sprout at 1 N. Morris Street.
The new idea is all food from local farms, an emerging theme in the culinary world, popularized in Richmond by the farm to table themed menus at restaurants like Mezzanine and Lemaire. But, Sprout’s approach is intentionally more grassroots than elite eatery: offering affordable sandwiches and hearty sides, fresh produce for retail, and the eclectic crafts of area artisans.
“We are a small business, directly approaching small local farms and producers exclusively in Virginia,” wrote the couple in an email exchange. “The food we order comes directly from the farm or the farmer’s market with no middle man (unless Mark Lilly with the Farm to Family Veggie Bus brings it in to us), thus exchanging dollars one to one.”
Foreshadowing a Movement
The name ‘Sprout’ already has a positive connotation for many Richmonders. The Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) phenomenon basically became hip after graphic designer, Noah Scalin, started selling Hanover County produce shares in 2001, and when Chris Humes joined up in 2003, spearheading the effort to this day. (more…)