Tuesday, July 22, 2014
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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The National Beer Expo is going strong, and last night I stopped by CRAFT, a beer and food pairing event at the Virginia War Memorial that was sponsored by Richmond magazine. The Savory Grain, Brookville Restaurant, DeFazio’s Catering and Patina each served up several small plates with two beers for sampling, and I snacked my way around.

One of my favorite combinations of the night was DeFazio’s scotch egg (a hard-boiled egg wrapped in sausage, rolled in panko and roasted, topped with hot sauce) alongside The Bruery’s Tart of Darkness. The egg was a savory, spicy and satisfying blend of textures, and the tart but not-too-sour flavors of the beer complemented it and cut through the heat.

I also fell in love with Patina’s beer-braised kalbi (Korean barbecued) short ribs paired with Legend Crim Dubbel. The Legend Belgian-style dubbel was sweet without being overpowering, and the finish made me think of Christmas just a little. It was a lovely way to wash down the charry flavors of the meat.

Also quite interesting was The Savory Grain’s shaved beef skewer topped with a globe grape and blue cheese alongside Wild Wolf Area 151 Belgian-style ale brewed with blackberries. The sweet and tangy flavors played well together here. I also would like to request that the restaurant start selling the salted caramel popcorn and peanut clusters that they handed out packaged to go.

The most unexpected, successful pairing of the evening was Brookville Restaurant’s bacon chocolate-chip cookie paired with Factory Girl Session IPA. I would never have expected a hoppy beer to successfully cut through chocolate and bacon flavors, but it worked.

If all this beer talk has left you thirsty, don’t fret. There are plenty more events to attend this weekend, especially the walk-around grand tasting on Saturday. Check out the full lineup and pick up a ticket.  

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The Viceroy is closing tonight. But wait! That's a misleading statement — it will reopen on July 28 with a brand new menu.

"I want to get back to something with a more casual vibe," says owner Sean McClain. "Something that's more like the way we originally conceived the place." Gone will be complicated dishes and instead you'll find Asian-influenced fare from India, Thailand, Korea and China, plus American standards.

“The name ‘Viceroy’ came from the British title — when they took over another country, they appointed a viceroy to run it," McClain says. "We wanted to do a lot of different kinds of food, inspired by that."

Virginia Beach's Rich Chinook will head up the kitchen, which will be retooled during the week the restaurant is closed. Prices will range from $7 to $14, and McClain promises a strong happy hour, plus late night bar hours. "We want it to be more approachable, more of a neighborhood place to hang out.” 

And what about chef Ryan Baldwin, whose cooking earned praise from our reviewer back in January, not to mention a spot for Viceroy in our "Best New Restaurants" feature? Stay tuned.

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Tim Laxton and his favorite childhood book
Lakeside now boasts a new down-home cooking stop: Early Bird Biscuit Co. & Bakery. The thick biscuit-y air hovering over the counter inside is proof of the non-stop baking that owner, Tim Laxton, fills his days with.

After opening quietly this past Friday morning, Early Bird Biscuit has already started racking up the sales.

“There’s a learning curve here. I didn’t do a grand opening because this is my first take at something in this sort of business,” Laxton explained. “I closed yesterday to do some cooking, and I’m already wiped out of my pastries this morning.”

Early Bird not only serves up Laxton’s family biscuits, but also offers homemade gravy and jams, as well as pastries, cobblers, cakes, and pies. “I’m trying to use local things where I can — whatever I can find in season at the market, whatever’s fresh, whatever people want. If people tell me they want something, I’ll try to make it. If its tastes good to me I’ll make it.”

The varieties of biscuits on the menu will change daily. This past weekend, he had flaky buttermilk and bacon cheddar chipotle biscuits for the taking. His next flavor endeavor is a biscuit called Raisin in the Sun — filled with raisins, pecans and cinnamon.

Laxton is a one-man machine; since March, he has been working to fix up the shop for opening, and he does all of the cooking and baking as well.

“I did everything myself; I just put on the last bits of paint,” he says. “Last week I was out sitting on a cinderblock painting the ‘Come On In’ sign on the wall. It’s been fun.”

The business has been a chance for Laxton to combine his skills and passion to create something new. He was a fine art major. That helped him a lot when fixing up the shop.  And he loves to cook, which is now all he does. “I absolutely love it,” says Laxton. “I feel that this was what I was meant to do.”

The idea for Early Bird Biscuits came during a mid-sleep revelation. It inspired Laxton to make a huge change in his life, from owning a pool and spa repair business to owbing this hole-in-the-wall biscuit shop, named after his favorite childhood book, Richard Scarry’s The Early Bird.

“I woke up back in November, sat upright in my bed, and I had this amazing idea to make biscuits,” said Laxton. “My grandmother knew how to make these amazing biscuits, my mom makes them, and I make them — but we’re the only people in the family that make them. It’s not really a secret, it’s just our method.”

In the future, Laxton has big hopes for Early Bird Biscuits. He wants to bring the warm flavor of his grandma Mattie Belle’s biscuits to the public in frozen form.

“This is my pie in the sky. It’s something simple and affordable, it’s something that’s reminiscent of people’s childhoods and it’s just something that people don’t take the time to do anymore,” Laxton explained as he pulled a rack of fresh buttermilk biscuits from the oven. “You might have to wait a little bit to get your biscuits when you come here, but I promise you when you get them they’re going to be amazing.”

Early Bird Biscuit Co. & Bakery is located at 5411 Lakeside Avenue, and is open each day from 7 a.m. to  6 p.m.

It's the beer and food event to end all beer events! Well ... that's a tiny bit hyperbolic, but the CRAFT dinner presented by yours truly, Richmond magazine, is going all out to impress. It will be held tomorrow night from 5:30 to 9 p.m. at the Virginia War Memorial — and is worth going to for its spectacular setting alone. (Couple that with no rain and mild temperatures in the forecast, and what more could you want?) Below you'll find the menu. For more details and to purchase tickets ($60), follow this link. We hope to see you there!

Brookville Restaurant (Charlottesville), Chef Harrison Keevil

New Belgium: Gruit  
... paired with Chilled Gazpacho Shot
 
Green Flash: Hop Odyssey 30th Street Pale
... paired with Melon Salad
 
Parkway: Factory Girl Session IPA
... paired with Mini Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies
 
Sam Adams: Tetravis
... paired with Tomato & Dukes Sammy
 
DeFazio’s Catering, Chef Joe DeFazio

Smartmouth: Rule G IPA
Lonerider: Cowboy in Black
... paired with Arizona Rattlesnake Eggs: jalapeño peppers stuffed with roasted garlic, cream cheese and crispy pancetta (thin Italian bacon) and broiled
 
Victory: Wild Devil IPA
… paired with Mini Rueben: lean corned beef, layered with Russian dressing and sauerkraut, on rye bread
 
Evil Twin: Nomader Weisse
Blue Mountain Barrel House: Local Species
... paired with Pepperoni Rolls: peasant-style sweet dough stuffed with imported pepperonis and banana peppers sprinkled with sea salt and Romano cheese
 
Strangeways: Placebo Pils
Devils Backbone: Tectonic Barley Wine
... paired with Roasted-Pepper Pasta Salad: rigatoni pasta, tossed with roasted red and yellow peppers, bocconcini (small mozzarella bites) and toasted almonds, basil, flat leaf parsley and extra virgin olive oil
 
Blue Mountain Barrel House: Sour Banshee
Terrapin: Hi-5 IPA
... paired with Scottish Egg: hard-boiled egg wrapped in seasoned sausage, rolled in panko bread crumbs and oven roasted. Served with basil aioli or hot sauce
 
Patina Restaurant & Bar, Chef Mike Ladesma
 
Lost Rhino: Wandering Belgian
Boulevard: Saison Brett
... paired with Watermelon Salad with cured salami and feta
 
Three Brothers: Wild Virginia Blend
Legend: Crim Dubbel
... paired with Beer-Braised Kalbi Short Ribs
 
Sierra Nevada: Single Hop Harvest
... paired with Local Berry Trifle
 
Brooklyn: Sorachi Ace
... paired with Smoked Tomato Crab Compote Crostini
 
The Savory Grain: Chef Sean Murphy

Lickinghole Creek: Bourbon Tripel
... paired with Zucchini Beer Bread, with honey butter
 
Highland Brewing: Razor Wit
Wild Wolf: Area 151
... paired with Shaved Beef Skewer, medium rare, with globe grapes and bleu cheese crumbles
 
Maine: Mean Old Tom
Allagash: Golden Brett
... paired with Salted Caramel Popcorn & Peanut Clusters
 
Hardywood: Virginia Blackberry
... paired with Marinated Kale Salad, marinated in a white balsamic berry vinaigrette, infused with Hardywood Virginia Blackberry; with pickled carrots, heirloom tomatoes, goat cheese & toasted almonds
 
Triple Crossing: Falcon Smash IPA
Hardywood: Bohemian Pils
... paired with Dry Rubbed and Grilled Chicken Wings, finished with a signature house BBQ glaze

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