Friday, August 1, 2014
Chef Bryan Voltaggio is serious about making your entire family happy.
Suddenly, Richmond is looking very attractive to celebrity chefs. And why wouldn’t it? With its dynamic dining scene, collegial professional atmosphere and a population always hungry for — well, always hungry and ready to go out. Restaurateur Hilda Staples liked what she saw so much, she’s not only bringing D.C.’s Graffiato here with partners Bryan Voltaggio, Mike Isabella and Travis Croxton, she and Voltaggio (James Beard-award finalist, and Top Chef and Top Chef Masters finalist) are opening an outpost of their Frederick, Maryland, restaurant, Family Meal, in The Shops at Willow Lawn in early 2015. (Another Family Meal location in Ashburn will open in late winter of this year.)

Rumors of Voltaggio coming to town have been circulating since Isabella announced his decision to open a branch of his enormously successful restaurant on Broad Street in the old Popkin Tavern space (The opening is slated for Aug. 5). Staples' husband, Jonathan, is a Richmond native, and she says, "Jonathan has been pushing Richmond for about a year and half now. We started talking about it, but couldn't find the right location."

Staples didn't think that Broad Street, where the new Graffiato will be located, was the right fit for a family-style restaurant, nor was East Grace Street, where Croxton's Rappahannock is located. When approached by Federal Realty, the folks developing the newly redesigned Willow Lawn, Staples and Voltaggio felt that they'd finally found the right spot. "We needed a central location, lots of parking and easy access [for families bringing children]. Willow Lawn is a good fit for us. ... We're super excited."

Voltggio says, when talking about the impetus for the original Family Meal in Frederick, "This kind of restaurant was important to me as a chef, and now as a father — I have three small children. I also love classic American comfort food." He felt that there was a real need for the type of restaurant all members of the family could enjoy. "It's something people are looking for. You see chains going into the suburbs and strip malls, and I felt there was need or opportunity for a chef-driven concept, alongside with those chains."

Family Meal, given the name, may not be quite what you expect. It has a roster of comfort food, but things like the Voltaggio-inflected duck-fat-fried French fries, salads with charred Little Gem lettuce and halibut with rhubarb lobster sauce are mixed in with fried chicken, shrimp and grits, and the house-cured pastrami sandwich.

"The menu will change with the seasons and location," says Voltaggio, "but the most popular, key items will remain."

Fearful that your family may not be sophisticated enough? Voltaggio knows those fears and has got you covered. Family Meal also has an under-$10 kids menu with kid-standards like spaghetti and meatballs, grilled cheeses and burgers. Breakfast is served all day and throughout dinner service. Let me repeat that: Hotcakes, breakfast burritos and eggs any style are always available. In addition, the restaurant is open seven days a week.

So listen up, for those of you craving lobster risotto, you can now take your kids AND that annoyingly picky brother-in-law who eats like a 3-year-old out for a meal when he visits, and everyone will be happy.

Last year's Chef's in the Garden event at Clifton Inn
Dutch & Co.’s Caleb Shriver spent his wedding night there. And last year, Heritage’s Joe Sparatta, Pasture and Comfort’s Jason Alley and then-Secco chef Tim Bereika went there to cook.

The relentlessly charming Clifton Inn, outside of Charlottesville, has hosted a series of dinners called “Chefs in the Garden” for the last two years. Chef Tucker Yoder has lots of friends in Richmond, and he invited The Roosevelt’s Lee Gregory and Shriver and Phil Perrow of Dutch & Co. to create food to match the dinner’s lovely setting. “I’ve know Lee for a couple of years. I took my family to The Roosevelt and we ate the entire menu,” says Yoder. “And on the way back from the beach [another time], I stopped in Dutch & Co. At one point Phil came out and said, ‘You’re the only one here, right? You aren’t passing plates to someone outside?’ … I just wanted to try everything!”

Clifton Inn's Tucker Yoder
“Each of us will take a different course,” says Perrow. He’s particularly excited about creating labneh — it’s a pressed yogurt that he’s making it with a combo of sheep and goat’s milk. It has a fresh chèvre texture and will complement the fish course — fennel-baked grouper in an herb broth. The milk comes from Twenty Paces, which operates out of Belair Farm, and Perrow and Shriver plan to use their ricotta for a cheese course as well. “It’s three young guys … they’re pretty new; they’ve kind of been doing the cheese thing and used to work at Caramont [Farm]. …They’re great guys doing it right.”

So, if sitting at long tables under twinkly strings of lights on the lawn of the Clifton Inn strikes you as something you might like to do to take advantage of this odd but amazing July weather, hop to it. The dinner starts with cocktails at 6 p.m. tomorrow night (July 29). Tickets are $88 per person and  $150 per person with wine pairings. Call (434) 971-1800 for more information.
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I have no weather report for you, dearest diners, because I just don’t know what’s going to happen anymore. Go ask Andrew Friedan — he won Most Overzealous Meteorologist in our Best & Worst survey. That man knows his Rex Block and northern ridging. And tonight, on WRIC Ch. 8, at 8 p.m., you can hear all about our other winners on 8 News Presents: Best of Richmond, hosted by Juan Conde.

The news:

An Bui of Mekong has bought Commercial Taphouse in the Fan! I received the text at the same time but Karri Peifer got the man to answer his phone first. Plus, she types really fast. (Richmond.com)

The Richmond Folk Feast is back and it’s bigger, baby. They’ll be 15 chefs and wine on tap from Tap 26. The event will be held on Oct. 7 from 6 to 9 p.m., and tickets are $100. I went last year and can personally attest to the fun that was had. You will love it.

Former R•Home editor Marissa Hermanson publishes her first restaurant review in the Times-Dispatch.

Former Sweet Teas GM Shane Thomas is opening her own restaurant down the street from her former one. (Richmond BizSense)

Proper Pie is closing for the month of August. NOW DON’T PANIC. They did this last year while they were on the cover of the August issue of Richmond magazine. (That’s why I remember.) This is when they vacation, folks, and they will be back. (CHPN)

Peeps, the Captain Buzzy’s story just keeps on giving. (Style Weekly)

Scott Golden won COTU’s homebrew Wort Share Competition. Grab a glass of his beer tomorrow at the brewery — there are limited supplies.

Libbie and Patterson are getting two new places to eat, Lulabelle’s Café and A Peach in a Pear Tree, right next door to each other, and they both have their grandmas to thank. (Richmond BizSense)

Chicken Fiesta is opening just a few doors down from the Richmond magazine’s offices on West Broad Street! (Richmond magazine)

Southern Season is going to be AWESOME. I had to keep myself from swooning when I visited, or applying for a job on the spot, because it’s exactly the kind of place I love and adore. (Style Weekly)

Amour Wine Bistro is celebrating Julia Child’s birthday from August 12 to 17. Get your French classics on and remember, Julia says, if you’re afraid of butter, use cream.

Get some free nachos at Regal Cinemas just by posting a cheesy selfie on Twitter or Instagram — something you probably would be doing anyway, right? The overall winner of this contest gets flown out to Hollywood for the weekend, where, I imagine, all cheesy selfies were originally born. Here’s a video that explains it.

There will be an Electric Football Brunch Buffet at Balliceaux tomorrow from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. It's all-you-can-eat for $10, and Chris Bopst says, 'Electric football enthusiasts [will] engage in heated battles in our back room. There will be free electric football T-shirt giveaways (first come, first served, while supplies last) and drink specials as well."

Just a heads up! COTU is planning its Oktoberfest celebration for September 13, and it will include “Das Bier Run.” Start planning your costumes and training to run a mile without stopping for a beer.

The Dutch & Co. dynamic duo, Phil Perrow and Caleb Shriver, along with The Roosevelt’s Lee Gregory have been invited by Clifton Inn chef Tucker Yoder for Chefs in the Garden on July 29, starting at 6 p.m. Tickets are $88 and $150 with wine pairings, per person.

And speaking of Lee Gregory, he’s headed to New Orleans to represent Virginia in the Great American Seafood Cook-Off.

I went to the Edible Food Fest in Orange last year, and I left loaded down with cider, produce, jam, beans, cheese and tacos. It’s a quick drive and folks who like sweet little towns and lovely little festivals should drive up and see Richmond chef Jason Alley, along with Charlottesville’s Harrison Keevil of Brookville, do a demonstration or two.

In other news:

Frito-Lay gets a little crazy once in a while and is now getting ready to ship cappuccino-flavored POTATO CHIPS to stores. And that isn’t the only wacky flavor either. (L.A. Times)

Most hopeful headline of the week: Eat Pork Three Times a Day to Live Basically Forever (Eater)

For the curious: Here’s a list of Consumer Reports’ 11 worst fast food restaurants. (The Week)

Spray your batter and bake your cake in the microwave. For reals. (Eater)

Jordan Younger, The Blonde Vegan, is giving vegans everywhere a bad name. I haven’t actually heard of this woman, and although I’m not a vegan, I fully support those who are — and yet I still am annoyed that she had a whole self-righteous blog extolling the benefits of her way of life and is now admitting she actually has an eating disorder. Let’s just call this the danger of soapboxes.  (Jezebel)

I suggest swinging by the farmers market tomorrow and picking up some nice, ripe cantaloupes. Then put your children to work making the King of Pops’ Cantaloupe Ginger Ice-Pops — here’s the recipe from our August issue. And let’s all wish Buckehead’s Chop House a happy birthday! It will celebrate its 20th year tomorrow night.

Laissez les bons temps rouler, mes amis!
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For all of you Chicken Fiesta fanatics, you're in luck — Chicken Fiesta is slowly expanding, reaching out to new parts of the city.

A new location will open mid-September at 2311 W. Broad St., which formerly housed Cameron’s Seafood. (On the same block as the Richmond magazine offices. Be still our hearts.) “We wanted our new location to be kind of close to downtown,” says Shana Greenbaum, Chicken Fiesta's general manager. “We see potential with VCU, the stadium and having the Fan nearby.”

Chicken Fiesta acquired the building about two months ago, and is working to transform it by September. The first Chicken Fiesta opened in 2006, and the locally family owned restaurant has seen nothing but success since then.

“This is just a new location; it’s still going to have the same service, same menu and same oven,” says Greenbaum. “We don’t want to complicate it.”

Most widely known for their rotisserie chicken and special sauces, Chicken Fiesta also offers a variety of Tex-Mex options such as carne asada and chalupa salad.

According to Greenbaum, the owners have a lot of experience in the food industry. “The owner is very methodical; as soon as a new location opens, he’ll start looking for a new place to expand,” she says. “We’re excited to open this location, and we hope to open more in the future.”
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Wait, how do you function when you don’t have a wet wool blanket draped over your head at all times? I honestly don’t know how to function when I’m not running from one air-conditioned spot to the next. Where did all the humidity go and how can we maximize this crazy weather oasis? You can elbow your way onto a patio somewhere (hello, July issue!) or sit back and read the weekly news.

Tim Bereika, formerly of Mosaic and Secco, guest-starred at the last chef take-over series and it sounded like I really, really missed out. (Richmond magazine)

Early Bird Biscuit Co. opened in Lakeside with, you guessed it, fluffy homemade biscuits and let me tell you, this is a trend I can fully support. Ever since Perly’s closed, you’d be hard-pressed in this town to find biscuits as good as theirs — and in general, despite our ironclad Southern cred, biscuits have fallen by the wayside in recent years, for no good reason. (Richmond magazine)

Portrait House, in collaboration with The Nile, began serving their all-new Ethiopian menu. Please scroll down to the end of the story, where, buried at the end, you’ll also discover that Portrait House owner Hamooda Shami has bought a spot in Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall and plans to open a restaurant similar to (perhaps) Don’t Look Back. (Richmond.com)

Torero Tapas Bar and Grill
is now open in the old Europa space in Shockoe Slip.

The Viceroy closed to retool its menu and will open July 28 with a new chef and a more casual vibe. (Richmond magazine)

I was afraid of this: Selba is for sale. (Richmond.com)

Urban Farmhouse — the name is innocuous, the food is excellent and their march to take over this town is steady and sure-footed. In addition to a location in Scott’s Addition, they also plan to set up shop a few doors down from VCU’s The Depot on West Broad Street. (Richmond BizSense)

Now, this I find very interesting news: Mac McCormack is planning to open McCormack's Big Whisky Grill this fall in the old Texas de Brazil spot at Regency Square mall. That space is ENORMOUS. Remember the guys that would rush up to your table with long — really long and sharp — swords of meat? I mean there were a lot of those people running around without stabbing each other, so there’s some space to fill. I think McCormack is going to have a blast with all that freedom, and I can’t wait to watch him do it. (Richmond.com)

And if you haven’t checked out any of the events at the National Beer Expo this week, you still have all weekend to get your heinie off the couch and do something different for a change.

Or you can check out COTU’s second annual Summer Moon Music Festival on Saturday and Sunday. It celebrates the first moon landing and that’s about the best excuse I’ve heard yet to drink beer, eat a ton of food and listen to live music all day long.

Also, tickets for the culinary and history event Fire, Flour & Fork organized by Real Richmond Food Tours and planned for Oct. 30 to Nov. 2, went on sale Tuesday, with several dinners — including one with chef Sean Brock at Comfort — selling out within hours. (Associate publisher Susan Winiecki is a partner in Real Richmond Food Tours.

A very interesting email went out from Once Upon a Vine South this week. (Richmond.com)

In other news:

Who doesn’t want to know what a McDonald’s fry is made of? (Eatocracy)

Eat a fish head. All the cool kids are. (Food Republic)

C’mon, people, fried-chicken flavored Oreos are not a thing. (Eater)

The story that made me say “duh” this week: Healthy food can improve your mood and crap food makes you feel worse. As researcher David Ludwig put it, "When we feel stressed, we seek foods that are going to comfort us immediately, but often times those foods lead to surges and crashes in hormones and blood sugar that increase our susceptibility to new stresses." I heard this on NPR, people. And I’m sure this study cost lots and lots of money. (NPR)

I’ve sworn off Cheetos now that deadline for the August issue is over, and I’ve finally scrubbed all of the orange stains off my keyboard. So eat something healthy, for once in your life, and wash it down with a Guinness because everyone always says you can live off that dark beer alone. (This guy didn’t think it was a great way to live, however.) And go outside — the weather loves you for once!

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