Thursday, April 24, 2014
Look out summer of 2014, a new tiki bar is about to open up — with pool access. Nacho Mama’s owner Raul Cantu is finishing work on the new bar that will be located directly behind the Boulevard location of Nacho Mama's at the Clarion Hotel.

“Richmond is crazy for patios and this will be very sexy, very fun,” says Cantu. “We’ll be hosting pool parties every Sunday from 1 to 6 [p.m.] for $15 — with barbecue, hamburgers, sandwiches, salads. You’ll get a pass [for the pool] right near the tikki bar.”

“This is something I’ve thought about and wanted to do for a long time,” he says, “but I was limited with the space at the Carytown location. I wanted to do something different — and now I can.”

The grass-covered hut is in, as is the bamboo, and Cantu is pushing for a Cinquo de Mayo opening.
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Photo Fred Turko

I've been thinking about the handful of fruits and vegetables that we use in cooking but would never pop into our mouths, fresh. I mean to say, foods that require a significant transformation for them to be edible, like olives, rhubarb and cranberries. Olives have to be fermented or cured, rhubarb has toxic leaves and is almost always macerated, and then baked. And cranberries — have you ever tried to just eat a cranberry? Not pleasant. And acorns. It has never even occurred to me to eat an acorn. Yet, it is a nut. Squirrels eat acorns. And throughout history acorns have been ground up to make grain flours and even used as a coffee substitute for soldiers in both the Civil War and World War II.

It fascinates me to no end to think of the trajectory of how we, the people, figured out how to make these things (and all things) edible. “Well, Hyram there died when he ate that acorn. So let's try and soak it in another poisonous substance, LYE, and give it another go. Yes? Rodney's okay? All right, good to hear, because this would make a lovely flour with which to create a noodle.”

Rhubarb. It comes into season in the spring, and everyone gets all aflutter about it. I'd say about ninety percent of the time you'll find rhubarb paired with strawberries and baked into a pie or a crumble. It's bright, tart and guaranteed to make you pucker up.

I have always really loved coffee cakes and pound cakes. They’re less cake-like and more akin to very sweet breads. Interestingly, both are also Southern. To this day, I would eat the Tasty Cake version of a coffee cake or the Sarah Lee version of a pound cake in a hot minute. The most beguiling part of coffee cake is the crumb topping. Those brown, sugary, buttery grape-sized chunks on top of the cake that are toothachingly, cloyingly sweet — that almost requires a swallow of coffee to allay the sweetness – that's my jam.

And what better element to cut that sweetness than the tartness of rhubarb? In this recipe, the rhubarb, which had been macerated prior to baking, is mellow and gently sweet, but maintains its pert zing, adding an ideal offset to the sugar-bomb, crumb-y coffee cake. Well, that and a cup of hot coffee.

Photo Fred Turko

Rhubarb Crumb Coffee Cake

Serves 8

For the rhubarb filling:

1/2 pound of rhubarb, trimmed
1/4 cup of sugar
2 teaspoons of cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon of fresh, grated ginger

For the crumbs:

1/3 cup of dark brown sugar
1/3 cup of sugar
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of fresh, grated ginger
1/8 teaspoon of salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) of butter, melted
1 3/4 cups of all-purpose flour

For the cake:

1/3 cup of plain Greek yogurt
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
1 cup of all-purpose flour
1/2 cup of sugar
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
1/4 teaspoon of salt
6 tablespoons of softened butter, cut into 8 pieces.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease an 8-inch baking pan. For the filling, slice the rhubarb 1/2 inch thick and toss with the sugar, cornstarch and ginger. Set aside.

To make the crumbs, whisk the sugars, spices and salt into melted butter in a large bowl until smooth. Then, add the flour with a spatula or wooden spoon, stirring. It will look and feel like solid dough. Leave it pressed together in the bottom of the bowl and set aside.

To prepare the cake, stir together the yogurt, egg, egg yolk and vanilla in a small bowl. Using a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, mix together the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add the butter and a spoonful of sour cream mixture and mix on medium speed until the flour is moistened. Increase the speed and beat for 30 seconds. Add the remaining sour cream mixture in two batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula. Scoop out about 1/2 cup of batter and set aside.

Scrape the remaining batter into prepared pan. Spoon the rhubarb over the batter. Dollop the remaining batter over the rhubarb; it does not have to be even.

Using your fingers, break the topping mixture into big crumbs, about 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch. They don’t have to be uniform, but make sure most are around that size. Sprinkle them over cake. Bake the cake until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean (it may still be moist from rhubarb), 45 to 55 minutes. Cool completely before serving.
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News we’ve only dreamed of, news that seems too good to be true — Wegmans announced this morning that they would open two stores in the Richmond area, one in Midlothian and one in Short Pump. When asked (unofficially, by me) which store was on their shortlist to replace Ukrop's when the longtime grocery chain announced that it was entertaining offers for the company in 2009, Richmonders usually said Wegmans was their first choice.

The stores are huge, ranging in size from 120,000 to 140,000 square feet. (The new Kroger Marketplace at Staples Mill measures 123,000 square feet and the largest Martin's is 74,000 square feet.) They boast an enormous range of product (more than 70,000 choices, according to their website) from the usual grocery store items to fresh seafood, local and organic produce and a French patisserie (and that’s in addition to a regular bakery). The prepared food department is equally as extensive and varied.

According Wegmans spokeswoman Jo Natale, “We have been interested in the Richmond market for quite a while. It just took time to find the right site — and we found two.” One store will be located in Stonehenge Village Shopping Center (which is still in the planning stage) on Midlothian Turnpike, and the other is slated for West Broad Marketplace, on West Broad Street. No timeline has been set. Each developer is pursuing the needed approvals from Chesterfield and Henrico counties.

“It’s too early to talk about design,” says Natale. “But you can expect the same size and design as our other Virginia stores.” Local products will be a priority. “We’ll be partnering with regional growers to supply our stores,” she says. “We work extensively with [them] and the product is delivered directly to the stores during the local growing season.”

How will this affect the already competitive grocery market in Richmond? North Carolina-based Southern Season is slated to open in this summer at Libbie Mill. “It’s such an exciting time for the food world in Richmond, with the addition of all these great stores. … We can’t wait to be a part of the growing culinary scene,” says CEO W. Clay Hamner. “We are a great admirer of the Wegmans brand and it will be a great addition to the food scene.”

Those welcoming words might be because Southern Season is going for a different sort of customer. “We are a food and entertaining destination that sells the entire experience through the retail store, restaurant and cooking school,” Hamner says. They aren’t trying to be a one-stop supermarket: “We don’t sell grocery staples and Wegmans, Martin's, Whole Foods and other traditional grocery stores do a good job providing those items.” On its shelves, Southern Season focuses on more unusual, hard-to-find gourmet items for the dedicated food lover.

Kroger declined to comment on the announcement, but with the recent additional of its two larger Marketplace stores to the area, it’s clear the company is trying to stay one step ahead of the game.

And the rumors about a new Whole Foods opening in Richmond that have been swirling around for some time? Will it be on Broad Street? Is it slated for South Side? Is it coming at all? Whole Foods spokeswoman Katie Malloy could neither confirm nor deny the rumors. “We haven’t announced any new stores,” she says. “Typically, Whole Foods announces new stores in the financial calls that come out quarterly. The next one is scheduled for Tuesday, May 6.” And all of Richmond will await the news with bated breath.
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Chef Glenn Pruden, Spiders' coach Chris Mooney and emcee Daphne Maxwell Reed
It was burgers, baby, burgers — put through their paces at Positive Vibe’s Coaches’ Cook-Off at the Science Museum of Virginia last night. VCU men’s basketball coach Shaka Smart and UR’s men’s basketball coach Chris Mooney, aided by Buz Grossberg, of Buz and Ned’s Real Barbecue, and and Glenn Pruden, executive chef at University of Richmond, respectively, sweated it out over hot stoves to see who was the best burger flipper of all. It was lamb vs. duck and the winner, by a narrow margin, was Coach Mooney and his lamb burger topped with fried calamari, which ultimately tipped the scale with its flowers and a lovely cutting-board presentation.

Next up: For the first time in, oh, 20 years or so, I will make a one-time (and one time only) appearance as a waitress for the "Women in Richmond Dining" event at 6:30 p.m. on Monday (April 21) at 525 @ the Berry Burk. It’s a crazy line-up of just about every female chef, baker, mixologist, restaurant owner, manager and food editor/writer in town doing things they’re very, very good at and also things they might not do well at all (me). Come to support the fight against leukemia and lymphoma and to chow down on Teresa Moreira’s pork papusas, Stella Dikos’ smoked feta and leek phyllo with butternut and sage sauce and Velma Johnson’s Southern smothered chicken with gravy, peppers and onions, among lots and lots of other delicious dishes. Tickets can be purchased here.

Rams' coach Shaka Smart and Buz Grossberg of Buz and Ned's Real Barbecue
That brings us to the saddest news of the week: 525 @ the Berry Burk is closing on Saturday. The event Monday will be its last hurrah. (

Former Secco chef Tim Bereika is leaving MOSAIC Catering to head up the kitchen at The Urban Tavern, slated to open in the West End in mid-May. (Richmond magazine)

VCU continues to get more variety: Charlottesville’s Christian’s Pizza is soon going in next door to the Village Café on Harrison Street, and Alchemy Coffee will have a space in The Depot, VCU's School of the Arts' newest building that once was a railway station but is probably remembered by most people as the old Richmond Glass space. (Style Weekly)

Akida and Carytown Sushi owner Kevin Mak has plans to open a new sushi spot where Black Hand Coffee Co. used to be. Will this make the Devil’s Triangle the dining destination that it deserves to be? (

Positive Vibe's Garth Larsen
The state wants the case against the ABC agents who wrongfully arrested a U.Va. student and kept her in jail overnight dismissed. The Richmond Times-Dispatch goes on to say, “The charges against [Elizabeth Daly] were later dropped and her arrest and court records expunged,” but, once again, the paper felt compelled to publish Daly’s tear-stained mug shot. Because, you know, records can be expunged but mug shots are forever. (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

I don’t get how this all worked out, and the story is a tad complicated. Two breweries with similar names to a third were sued over trademark infringement. Richmond-based Strangeways Brewing got to keep its name, but Colorado’s Strange Brewing Co. became Strange Craft Beer Co., when it settled with a home-brewing supply company named Strange Brew. So, the guys who were up against the wall decided to collaborate on a beer of their own — and they have no plans whatsoever to share it with the folks who sued them in the first place. (Richmond BizSense)

Phil’s Continental Lounge is for sale! (

Peter Chang made the New York Times when the iron-stomached Pete Wells decided to eat in three of Chang’s restaurants in 24 hours. (New York Times)

Pasture and Rappahannock were mentioned in Planet Appetite: Food Routes in Virginia, USA on the Huffington Post UK website. (Huffington Post UK)

Chow down at the big ole XL102 Chili Cook-Off at RIR this weekend.

Legend Brewing Co. is celebrating its 20th anniversary this weekend. My, how time flies…

AND Richmond Restaurant Week is almost upon us!

In other news:

There are people who actually think Kale is a good name for a child. (Bon Appetit)

KFC is bringing back the Double Down, and Domino’s Pizza is tripling down by launching a line of pizzas with fried chicken crusts. I know. Go look at the pictures and it’ll make more sense. (USA Today and Eater)

Hipsters, please stop ruining food for us, OK? (Huffington Post)

For your viewing pleasure: Watch this video of a tiny pagoda being chiseled out of an ice cube — for a glass of whiskey. (Food Republic)

Who's the best in the whole dang town? What do you think is the worst? Tell us what you think (don't hold back!) in our Best & Worst Survey (and you might even win a prize). Online surveys must be filled out by 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, May 7.

And although I had a great time last night, I had an even better time realizing this morning that despite the fact that I had large TV cameras thrust in my face WHILE EATING, none of that footage was, apparently, usable. I will be eternally grateful to the kindness of cameramen. Have a lovely weekend, dearest diners, and for the ambitious, here are instructions on how to make your very own Deviled Cadbury Cream Eggs.
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Tim Bereika is leaving MOSAIC Catering to take the reins of The Urban Tavern — which will open in early or mid-May — as executive chef. KOR Food Innovation, a culinary and marketing agency, has been working with owner Garland Taylor to develop the concept, the design and the menu of the new restaurant. Bereika’s last day at MOSAIC is this Saturday, and he’ll hit the ground running. “It’s a big team [to assemble],” he says, “and there will be a couple of weeks of hard work ahead of us before we open the doors. But it’s going to be fun.”

Bereika is adding the finishing touches to a menu that’s mostly formulated at this point. It will be a little different than what the former Secco chef is used to; The Urban Tavern will focus on craft beer, particularly locally-made craft beer and the kind of food that goes with it. Although his training is grounded in Mediterranean cuisine, he says he has other interests. “At Secco, I focused on food with libations, so this is a natural fit,” he says.

One thing he’ll get to do is geek out in a new kitchen that has all the bells and whistles. “There’s cool equipment to play with, like a rotisserie,” says Bereika. “We’ll do chicken and ribs, but it allows me to do things in other ways — I want to put porchetta on the menu [too] or at least have it as a special.”  Given that whole-rotisserie-chickens-served-family-style at restaurants is one of the hottest trends in New York, and porchetta is food for the gods (well, at least the burly, fun-loving, red-wine drinking ones), it sounds like a winning concept.

Fried calamari planned for The Urban Tavern
KOR Innovations has been central to the development of the new gastropub’s focus. They describe it as “folksy speakeasy meets metropolitan bistro.” As for Bereika’s take on the plan, the superlatives keep coming. “Working with a company like this is new to me, but the creativity, the motivation and excitement about what they do is great. It’s nice to work with individuals who are so passionate about food.”

It seemed like a no-brainer to Bereika to join Taylor and KOR in the new venture. “These are exactly the people you want to work with," he says. "Everything, from the food to the branding to the interior design is outstanding. This feels like a great decision."
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