Tag Archives: Richmond

It’s the Little Things About Richmond Dining

2012-04-22_14-38-10_784

Richmond has a lot to offer people who are into food. If you were to ask a few of your RVA foodie friends, “what are your top must-do things in the Richmond dining scene?” or “what Richmond restaurants and dishes would you recommend to visitors?” you would probably get a variety of answers. We are fortunate to have so many great options in our little city. However, the same few things would jump out as repeat popular suggestions. Every city has its claims to fame, its signature dishes, its local haunts, and its “I’m kind of a big deal” restaurants.

For every popular signature dining experience in Richmond, there are dozens of overlooked gems all around us. When I think, and I mean really think hard, about my favorite things about Richmond dining, I come up with some really quirky little things. I guess I am aware of all the meals and restaurants here that would impress a visitor, and I have recommended them several times, but as a local Richmonder, those aren’t the experiences that make me love my city’s food scene. I like the signature stops along your typical Richmond foodie tour that elicit “ooh”s and “ahh”s, but I am absolutely enamored with the funny little things that keep me coming back for more.

For me, it’s the little things that count. The things that may go unnoticed, but that after several visits to a place, you come to expect, and maybe even look forward to. These are the things that I usually keep to myself, thinking that outsiders just wouldn’t understand. And maybe they wouldn’t, because there is nothing grand about them. But they are the little things about Richmond restaurants that make me smile, and although these are tiny aspects of the dining experience, I would be devastated if they ever went away.

This list is far from comprehensive, and it’s written in no particular order. I’m sure that just as soon as I hit “Publish,” I will think of ten more. It’s difficult to stop myself, but if I didn’t, this post would never be completed. Because I am sure that I’ve left some out, I would love to hear your favorite little things about Richmond or your own city’s dining scene in the comments! So without further ado, these are a few of my favorite things. . .

  • The way the butter that accompanies the bread at Can Can Brasserie is filled to the brim of each butter container, then scraped flat across the top to form a perfectly flat buttery surface
  • The salty, briny capers in the vegetarian paella at Kuba Kuba
  • The lovely ladies room at Urban Farmhouse Market and Cafe. No really, I have often thought that I would live in that bathroom if I could. TMI?
  • The seasonal vegetable plate at Parkside Cafe, featuring local vegetables bought across the street at the farmers’ market and cooked to perfection within hours of purchase
  • The mismatched salt and pepper shakers at the Black Sheep; each table has a different set and each set is quite interesting
  • The graham cracker center of a Key Lime popsicle and the vanilla wafer center of a Banana Pudd’n popsicle from King of Pops.
  • The slate cheese platters at Secco, with the name of each cheese written in chalk right below it
  • The combination of creative sauces drizzled on every taco served by the Boka Truck
  • The black and white films silently projected on the wall at Stella’s
  • The pickle of the day at Citizen, which is often unusual, sometimes hard to identify, and always delicious
  • The delicate and precise latte art at Lamplighter Roasting Company, which always reminds me of the very first time I was ever served a latte with fern-shaped foam (magical!)
  • The crispy crunch and the melt-in-your-mouth center of each bite of tandoori cauliflower at Balliceaux
  • The booth screens on the high backed booths at Ipanema Cafe, which always make me feel like I should confess my sins to fellow diners (which could also be blamed on the happy hour wine deal)

What are your favorite “little things” about your local dining scene?

Spiced Red Lentil Chickpea Cakes

2013-04-21_19-14-14_601

I have tasted a whole (helluva) lot of beers lately. I think I tried ten different spring seasonal beers over the last two weeks before settling on the one I would use for my pairing for the spring vegetarian beer dinner. Last week I hosted a fundraising event for Team in Training at Legend Brewing Co. in Richmond, and as the sun set, I stayed warm with a bourbon barrel brown ale. Then of course we had the beer dinner last weekend, featuring six different beers paired with six vegetarian dishes (more on that later). And then there were the extra side beers sampled before, during and after the dinner: New Belgium Dig pale ale, Legend Maibock, and Kyle’s homebrewed chile chocolate milk stout from last year.

For this beer dinner, I took a different approach for my pairing, choosing my beer before dreaming up my dish. In the past I have selected the dish first, then I have chosen a beer to match. In the winter, I tried three different versions of my BBQ jackfruit before settling on the winning recipe, then picked a beer pairing at the last minute. This time around, I focused all my taste testing on the beer. Eventually, one favorite emerged: a collaboration beer from Stillwater Artisanal Ales and The Brewer’s Art, a farmhouse ale called Debutante. Both breweries are from my hometown, Baltimore, MD. The talented brewer from Brewer’s Art, Rob Perry, bicycles with my Dad for Team in Training in Baltimore. I have met Rob a few times at the finish line of the Seagull Century, where he always brings a stash of craft beers to share post-race.

2013-04-22_22-52-32_617

Debutante made a lot of sense to me since it is seasonally appropriate, deliciously complex without being overpowering, and it is at least partially conceived by the masterminds at Brewer’s Art, who are big supporters of Team in Training. With my first TNT event just one week away, this was an easy decision. For some reason, the subtle spice and slightly sweet qualities of this saison led me to Indian flavors for my dish. I packed almost as many ingredients into my recipe as I did beers into my refrigerator over the last couple of weeks. My vegetarian chickpea cakes featured red lentils (which my palate and I think are the perfect complement to saison), chickpeas, cauliflower, carrots, cumin, coriander, and cilantro. These were thrown together at the last minute, meaning that I served them to twelve other people in my home, five minutes after the very first time I ever made them. A swig of maibock calmed my nerves as twelve forks cut in to twelve cakes for twelve first bites.

Some people might go for yeast plus yeast on this pairing, but I opted to let the beer be my bun, and I left this chickpea cake naked instead of serving it between bread. Before you accuse me of garbanzo negligence and public chickpea indecency, allow me to explain that I didn’t leave them completely nude. I offered a cucumber mint yogurt sauce for my non-vegan guests. The vegans just had to make do with a large spinach leaf and try not to feel like their tasty cakes were too exposed. I wanted to use arugula (and I think you should too if you try this at home), but none of the farmers at the market that morning had arugula yet, so I went with the spinach instead.

Shall we get to the recipe then?

Spiced Red Lentil Chickpea Cakes

2013-04-21_19-12-35_627

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup red lentils
  • 1 cup cauliflower, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, finely chopped
  • 3 green onions, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 Tablespoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander
  • 2 pinches of ground cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg or 1 flax egg (1 Tbsp ground flax meal + 3 Tbsp water)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Vegetable oil

Preparation:

  1. Add red lentils and cauliflower to a medium sized pot. Cover with 2 inches of water. Heat over high heat, bring to a boil, then reduce to low-medium heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
  2. While cauliflower and lentils are cooking, mash chickpeas with a fork or blend in a food processer. In a large bowl, combine chickpeas with carrots, green onions, garlic, and cilantro.
  3. Preheat broiler.
  4. Drain cauliflower and lentils in a fine mesh strainer. Mash cauliflower into the lentils. When the excess cooking liquid has been removed, add to chickpea mixture. Stir to combine.
  5. To chickpea lentil mixture, add spices, bread crumbs, and egg (or flax egg for vegan version). Add salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Split mixture into six equal portions and form six patties.
  7. Brush a baking sheet with oil. Place red lentil chickpea cakes equal distance apart on baking sheet and brush tops with oil. Cook under broiler for 10 minutes per side.
  8. Serve with optional yogurt sauce: 1/2 cup plain yogurt + 1 tsp lemon juice + 1/4 cup finely chopped cucumber + 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh mint.

Now only one question remains – who’s going to bring the craft beers to the finish line of the Nike Women’s Half Marathon this weekend?

Chatting and Chewing with Local Bloggers

Resampled_2012-07-10_19-04-25_351

So far I have had a great week full of fun and food with some fellow Virginia bloggers. On Tuesday, Brittany of Eating Bird Food and I hopped in the car to go to dinner in Charlottesville. I still kind of can’t believe we went to Charlottesville and back in one evening just for a dinner, but I am so glad that we did. I was a little overdue for a break from work, and our mini road trip helped me shift gears to focus on what really matters: wedding talk, local food, and blogger bonding.

Resampled_2012-07-10_18-59-28_677

The Scene:

The venue for the latest Virginia Bloggers event was The Local, a restaurant in the Belmont neighborhood of Charlottesville, VA. I had been here once before to have a drink while waiting for our table at Tavola next door. It looked really cool the first time I visited, so I was happy to see Sarah choose it for our blogger dinner.

The Cast:

The Story:

Gift bags. Drinks. Delicious local food. Laughter. Photos. Raffle. Great conversation with new friends.

Resampled_2012-07-10_19-12-06_460

The quinoa and goat cheese stuffed zucchini was fantastic. Fresh local food and great plating made this meal feel worth the drive.

Resampled_2012-07-10_20-02-14_867

Isabelle thought I brought the goodie bag home for her. She’s not getting a lick of my nutty butter.

Resampled_2012-07-10_22-33-48_171

Every time I try a new flavor of Sarah’s Nutty Butter, I think I have found my new favorite. This oatmeal raisin cookie nutty butter is awesome on overnight oats. Now available for purchase from The Smart Kitchen!

Resampled_2012-07-10_22-34-29_839

Thank you to Feast, The Spice Diva, Great Harvest, Cville Candy Company, and of course Virginia Bloggers (#VAis4Bloggers) and The Local for a wonderful dinner! I seriously think I might have to drive to Charlottesville for dinner more often. Where to dine next?

The second blogger meetup I attended this week was an informal gathering at the VMFA Best Café for happy hour on Friday.

Resampled_2012-07-13_17-40-56_736

The Scene:

I nervously exclaimed on Twitter, “I’m new to drinking in museums!” and now I am really glad I gave it a try. The VMFA Best Café has a half-off wine happy hour which involved a few $12 bottles of wine. The space was light and airy, very modern, with a nice view of the sculpture garden. All of the bright white made me feel a little less like I was in Richmond and a little more like I was at the MoMA. A few of us wandered over to the Richmond Food Truck Court at the Virginia Historical Society for dinner after the wine stopped flowing.

The Cast:

The Story:

Wine bottles. White tables. Pour. Hilarious anecdotes. New friends. Pour. Blog talk. Laughter. Walk. Food trucks. Sweet spicy vegetarian food. Cool grass. Hot pizza. Great music and conversation. Weekend!

Resampled_2012-07-13_20-27-45_998

Liz and I split a pizza from Pizza Tonight, that was served by the guy who routinely takes my order at Café Ole downtown. This guy is like my tasty food fairy godfather. He is everywhere I want to eat. I think his name is Tim. This pizza was perfect.

Resampled_2012-07-13_20-42-05_523

We also split a Dill Presidente sandwich from Rooster Cart.

Resampled_2012-07-13_20-38-08_226

They ran out of avocados and had to substitute watermelon salad. Why isn’t the Presidente made with watermelon salad all the time? Seriously, the sweet, crisp watermelon was amazing with the hot and spicy vegan chorizo. Please run out of avocado again!

Resampled_2012-07-13_20-42-47_260

This was my first time to the food truck court (I know, I know… I don’t know what took me so long). There were so many vegetarian options, I thought I had died of a wine overdose at the VMFA and gone straight to veggie heaven. We spread out on the lawn and listened to live music. It was a very chill vibe and I had a great time.

Resampled_2012-07-13_20-43-18_818

And it’s not over yet! I have another blogger meetup on Saturday afternoon for Can It Forward Day. I’m looking forward to finally trying my hand at canning with Brittany and Liz! It is so great to find people who share my interests in blogging and vegetarian eats. Makes me feel a little better about the obscene amount of time I spend taking and editing pictures of food.

We talked tonight about the best vegetarian restaurants in Richmond. It’s hard to pick just one. Which are your favorites?

Wedding Planning Update – 4 Months to Go!

ri_ img_8434

It has been awhile since I have written about my third job: wedding planning. You may recall the wildly popular Engagement Tofu post, in which I announced my and Kyle’s engagement.

2011-12-11_16-43-54_973

Since then, we have done a ton of research, made hundreds of decisions, and planned many major aspects of our wedding, which is just four months away! One of the main guiding principles of planning this event has been sustainability. Most people will only plan an event this large and expensive once in their lives. We take the decisions very seriously, and we see our wedding as a huge opportunity to partner with people and organizations that have the same values as we do. We try to support local businesses, promote sustainability, and minimize our impact on the environment in our everyday lives. We are looking forward to maintaining those standards in our wedding, and perhaps teaching our friends and family a thing or two about why we make the choices we do.

Resampled_2012-06-15_14-13-46_657

Before we did anything else, we chose the wedding venue. We picked our place before we even chose the date! Kyle and I knew we wanted to get married outdoors and, with the help of some friends, made a list of pro’s and con’s for both the beach and the mountains. In the end, the Blue Ridge Mountains won, because we love to hike and visit there year-round, the area is home to a lot of agriculture and interesting food, wine and beer, and we knew it would be absolutely beautiful in the Fall. We decided on Afton Mountain Vineyards in Afton VA, which is just a stone’s throw away from where we went on our first hike together. As long as the weather cooperates, we will be getting hitched in front of the view you see pictured above. We are so excited to share this very special place with our friends and families.

2012-03-24_10-00-07_397

One of the most important decisions we have made so far (aside from the one to get married), is what food we will have at the reception. I spent countless hours researching, interviewing caterers, and reviewing proposals. I knew that the food would be very memorable (at least for me), so this is an area that we decided we could splurge on just a little. Kyle and I are vegetarians, but our menu will feature both vegetarian options and options that contain meat that was raised locally and humanely. I don’t want to give away too many secrets, but we are planning a seasonal menu with a strong focus on locally sourced foods. You can expect some global cuisine, including Middle Eastern, Latin and Moroccan flavors. Hopefully this will showcase how creative you can be with locally sourced ingredients. Our outstanding caterer is Beggars Banquet from Orange, VA and we are thrilled to be working with them!

ri_ img_8374

Our photographer is the incredibly talented John Robinson of Robinson Imagery. Kyle and I are falling in love with Robinson Imagery almost as quickly as we fell for each other six years ago (ha!). The photos from our engagement session were gorgeous, and John’s personality makes it easy for us to be ourselves in front of the camera (corny jokes, gap teeth, goofy smiles and all). All of our pictures so far look so authentic, which is exactly what we want. I know that our whole wedding party will be just as comfortable with John, so we are expecting great, natural photos of everyone on the big day. And just in case anyone is shy in front of the cameraman, John is bringing a photo booth set up for guests to take pictures of themselves via a remote-controlled camera with a backdrop and props. I can’t wait to see what silly poses our friends come up with.

2011-05-28_14-58-22_734

Our flowers will be provided and arranged by Sarah Pollard Chiffriller, whom you may know from the Twigs line of local floral arrangements at Ellwood Thompson’s. I found her through Amy’s Organic Garden, which is an organic farm that sells delicious vegetables and gorgeous flower bouquets at our local farmers’ market. We are taking a risk with locally sourced arrangements in mid-late October, but we are committed to sticking to the plan. I am hoping for some bright marigold colors when the wedding date rolls around, but if a hurricane or an early frost wipes everything out early like it did last year, then we’ll just have greenery and herbs in all of our bouquets, bouts and arrangements. We’ll just deal with what we’ve got come this Fall.

Resampled_2012-06-15_14-14-06_646

We have a few other things nailed down that you might be interested to hear about. For colors, we are planning on dark teal with pops of marigold and accents of crisp white and sage green. I think the teal and marigold color scheme will be beautiful with the changing leaves and the blue-gray mountains in the background.

One of my favorite ideas so far is our guest book. We will have an artsy book with a lot of white space in it for guests to choose a page that they like and write a note on. This alternative to the traditional guest book will leave us with a keepsake that will look great on our coffee table for years to come. I could divulge the title of the book we will use, but my lips are sealed. We must maintain a little element of surprise for the guests!

Now while we’re talking about coffee tables, let me tell you about our favors. We are sending guests home with a custom blended and locally roasted coffee from Blanchard’s Coffee, which is located just a few miles from our house. If you know me and Kyle at all, you know we are coffee fanatics. We even met while working in the same coffee shop. So how cool is that?

Resampled_2012-06-15_13-55-36_141

There are still a lot of things that need to be worked out, but I think that our plans so far are pretty stellar. Maybe you readers could help us out with some suggestions.

We are thinking of doing an iPod playlist for our reception in lieu of hiring a DJ or band. However we would like to have live music for our cocktail hour. We have talked to a few jazz and samba bands and we are still trying to make a decision. Send me an email if you know of any budget-friendly bands that are local to the Charlottesville area that would be good for an hour-long cocktail reception.

The wedding cake is still a big question mark (I know, I know, we are late on this). We aren’t really cake people so we had considered doing pies instead. However if we found a good local baker that uses local, all-natural ingredients and has interesting flavor combinations, we could be persuaded to go the cake route. Does anyone know of a great cake shop in Afton, Waynesboro, Staunton or Charlottesville? Even Orange would work.

We are just about decided on our honeymoon and we are leaning towards Colorado. Has anyone been in October? I have done a ton of research but I would be interested in hearing from anyone who has recommendations for Denver, Breckenridge and Boulder. We are looking forward to mountain views, hiking, hot springs, and craft beer tasting.

I will leave you with just one more photo of the beautiful Afton Mountain Vineyards, because I can’t resist.

Resampled_2012-06-15_13-55-14_232

A Few of My (New) Favorite Things

First things first, I have to give a shout out to John Robinson of Robinson Imagery, who posted a preview of our engagement photos today. Kyle and I had a blast during our engagement session this weekend, and we can’t wait to see the rest of the photos soon. Thanks John!

**************************************************

I treated myself to a little spring break last week and I had ten consecutive days off work. Please don’t tell my boss; the time off was legit, but I don’t think anyone had really counted it up yet. Ten days is a lot of time, so I avoided announcing the total, in an effort to keep from shocking him and thereby causing him to change his mind. Perhaps even more shocking is that until day one of vacation, I didn’t have many plans for my time off. For the first time ever, Kyle and I both took off work and did not plan a trip. We just kind of winged it. . . and it was fantastic! A ten-day long staycation allows for a great deal of thoughtful reflection and self-discovery. Also, it provides you the opportunity to do some exploring close to home and to try out things you never had before.

New favorite thing: yoga on mountaintops.

I thought it would be fun to share a few of the highlights, so that you locals may discover some new activities and places to visit in central Virginia. If you’re not local to central Virginia, either bookmark these for your next visit or use them as inspiration to find similar things near your own “close to home.”

The Monument Avenue 10K

You would have to be a real Eeyore to not feel encouraged during this race. I really don’t like running, but I loved doing this 10K. I walked most of the way, as planned, but even as a walker you feel like a rock star. There were so many clever signs like the one above, and tons of people cheering you on from the Monument Avenue median and sidewalks. The excitement and energy was inescapable the whole way. This race really was a party, and I am so glad I did it for the first time ever this year.

Patios South of the River

I have been to Legend’s deck before, but as a new resident of the Forest Hill area, I have developed a new appreciation for the space. In the Fan and Museum District, every other restaurant has outdoor seating, and nearly every residence has a porch or balcony. This is not the case south of the James. Legend Brewing Company is my new top choice for patio drinking and dining, for their delicious locally brewed beer and for their fantastic view of the downtown Richmond skyline. Also, this is a great spot for a little carbohydrate replenishment after the Monument Avenue 10K.

Crossroads Forest Hill is also a great happy hour spot with outdoor seating and live music on the weekends. Their beer list is so good that I often think I’m dreaming when I read over it. They have a consistently excellent selection of beers there. They also serve wine and small plates during their happy hour from 4:00 to 7:00 PM.

Flight Night at Secco Wine Bar

Right now you may be thinking this post is getting a little alcohol-heavy. And you would be right. It was vacation! I’m no saint! However I promise we will get to less alcohol-centric activities soon.

But first, allow me to introduce you to Flight Night at Secco Wine Bar. Every Monday, Secco features 3-glass flights of wine. I checked it out last week with some of the VAis4Bloggers crew. For $10 you could order Dealer’s Choice, which was a mixed bag of 3 random wines. For $11 you could get the Flight of the Week, which was Spanish Reds last week. That’s what I ordered and I was not disappointed. For $12 you could choose your own 3 wines off their extensive menu. They were pretty good sized pours and I had a great variety of wines to try. It was a wonderful way to start the week. Check it out!

Homemade Non-Dairy Milks at Para Coffee

After all that booze, shall we get a tad more wholesome? Nah, that’s impossible when you’re talking about nut milks. I had to title this section Non-Dairy Milks because Kyle chuckles every time I say “homemade nut milk.” But that’s what it is! Para Coffee in Charlottesville has started making their own nut milks from almonds, walnuts, pecans and pistachios, and they offer these non-dairy options in their lattes and other milk-based espresso drinks. I stopped in last week and had an iced pistachio milk latte and it was a real treat. I don’t even want to see the nutritional information, so please don’t tell me how much fat is in a cup of pistachio milk. I’m not interested. That said, I personally would not have one of these nut milk lattes every day, however this is something I will try again soon. It’s so different, you have to try it at least once.

Spice Diva

I have wanted to visit Spice Diva in Charlottesville for awhile and I finally got the opportunity last week. All the spices smell so good and they offer a wide variety of things that I hadn’t seen elsewhere. The blends are really unique too. I picked up an African style curry powder, applewood smoked sea salt, and a spice rub meant for meat that I want to try out in some vegetarian dishes soon. The owner couldn’t be more friendly, and I am excited to test out the exotic spices I picked up on my first trip there.

Hiking in Nelson County, VA

I already knew I loved hiking in this area, but recently I have found several more hikes that I want to try out. We have done Humpback Rocks (a few times), Crabtree Falls, and Spy Rock (as of last week). Next I want to do Cole Mountain and Mount Pleasant. I am addicted to the gorgeous mountain views that are your reward for making it to the top. What other hikes should I put on my list?

 

I have held back a few more food adventures and day trip activities that I plan to share in a separate post. My ten days off work were so packed with fun discoveries that it feels like my break was even longer than it was. We considered so many different vacation destinations before settling on staying close to home. I can’t believe I would have missed out on all the things our area has to offer, while in search of greener pastures, a plane or train ticket away from here.

Have you taken time lately to explore your own backyard?

Roughing It

Hi there, friends. I know I have been missing lately, but I promise I have a good reason.

and it's not just because i've been drinking wine. . . although that is one possible explanation.

Once upon a time, I had a housewarming party. And at that same time, my furnace stopped working. So you see, it’s really very simple. . .

1. Housewarming party prep = lots of cleaning, lots of decorating, lots of late-night takeout and very little cooking

2. Broken furnace = no heat, no hot water, no way to wash dishes, lots of late-night takeout and very little cooking

3. No cooking = no creativity = no posts

I really struggled there for awhile to come up with creative and healthy dishes that required one pot or less. I didn’t want the dirty dishes to pile up, so I limited my cooking. We waited patiently for five days for the parts to come in to repair our furnace. One particularly cold day, we got our first real snow of winter here in Richmond.

And we had no heat! The thermostat inside my home read 47 degrees F when I woke up the next morning. I spent the morning bundled up in three hoodies, then went to a friend’s house to shower, and then I decided to get cooking.

I had to use the heat from the oven and stove to heat up the house, so I baked a lot of cookies and made some slow-cooked soups on the stove top. I could not properly clean the dishes until the hot water was back on a few days later, but this soup was worth dirtying a pot and ladle.

I will post the recipe later this week – I know this one’s a keeper.

Here are some other ideas I had for one-pot wonders while we were “roughing it” inside our own home.

Now that we are finally getting back into the swing of things, I promise I will catch you up on my kitchen adventures soon, with a recipe for Caldo Verde by the end of the week. In the meantime, I would love to hear your suggestions for one-pot meals and hearty soups while there is still a little chill in the air!

Welcome Richmond.com Readers

If you are visiting from Richmond.com, thanks for stopping by and I hope you have fun looking around! I invite you to read more about vegology by following the link to the About section in the header of this page.

If you are not visiting from Richmond.com and you just came looking for a recipe or funny story in the middle of your work day, why not head on over to Richmond.com to see what all the buzz is about. Vegology is featured today on the Five Questions with a Foodie feature.

Thank you Stephen Robertson and Richmond.com!

Local Favorite: Citizen

It is finally time to reveal one of my favorite lunch spots in Richmond. I have been trying for months to rein in my urge to dine in restaurants every day. Downtown Richmond has so many great options for lunch and I work in a great location that is within walking distance of many of them. However it is healthier for my wallet and my waistline to brown bag it more often than not. While I have been doing better with bringing my lunch to work, I make an almost-weekly exception just for Citizen.

Tucked into a building on 9th Street, Citizen is a gem that I discovered last year through a tip off in a Victory Farms CSA member newsletter during its opening week.

You may never see it there if it weren’t for a black sandwich board on 9th street, adorned with a constantly changing drawing and clever phrase to draw you in. During the height of the Lincoln Fever that was the Richmond filming of Steven Spielberg’s latest movie, the board displayed a familiar character to greet us daily.

Once you get past Lincoln, or a snowman, or a jack-o-lantern, or whoever it is on the specials board today, you get to Lauren and Greg. And they are awesome. Their constant banter and personal service make you feel at home, if your childhood home included an excellent menu executed by a creative and talented chef.

Lauren always greets us by name and no matter how crazy it is in there, she remains calm under pressure. She gracefully handles the incoming calls and line of walk-in customers simultaneously and consistently delivers service with a smile. If you aren’t sure what to order, she is excellent at giving suggestions and answering questions about the menu.

Greg rules the roost and cooks almost all of the sandwiches and sides to order. From what I can tell by watching the completely exposed kitchen, he is insistent on perfect execution of his dishes, yet he breaks his focus on the food just often enough to engage with customers. It must be difficult to cook every order while on display for eight and a half hours each day, but he pulls it off. It appears to me that he has the right balance of discipline and hospitality to make his open kitchen work for him. I have been known to boldly and firmly tell chattering dinner guests to “get out of my kitchen!” while entertaining, so I have a lot of respect for this guy.

So should we talk about the food?

Citizen calls their sandwiches “tortas” and they come out hot and pressed from being grilled on the flat top under an iron. One of the best I have ever had is one with jerk collards, pimento cheese and pickled shallots. My current favorite is the roasted butternut squash, curry cashew butter and celery root horseradish slaw. That is jerk collards on the side in the photo, and I highly recommend them.

The tortas come with a choice of side and there is always something pickled on the plate to finish it off. On this day it was a pickled carrot. So delicious.

Citizen has this new quiche type dish that was called a “savory rice pudding” on the day that we ordered it, but I think they’re calling it a quiche on the menu on their facebook page now. Stuffed with vegetables and cheese and topped with an ancho harissa sauce, this was a tasty dish, whatever it was.

I love that Citizen uses local and seasonal ingredients as much as possible and their constantly evolving menu is really exciting to watch. I have gotten so many ideas for my home cooking from the daring flavor combinations and creative uses of seasonal produce from Citizen’s kitchen. The prices are so fair that I don’t even feel guilty for cheating on my brown bag plan on a regular basis, and I have to hand it to them for making good food accessible and affordable.

I feel lucky to have had them move in near my office last summer, and I am looking forward to what the future holds for Citizen. I hope they are a fixture on 9th street for years to come. If you haven’t had a chance to check them out, make the trip and make sure you turn in at the clever sandwich board. But don’t tell Greg and Lauren that Lauren sent you. . . because that would just be confusing.

Citizen is located at 909 East Main Street and they are open from 7:00 AM to 3:30 PM, Monday through Friday. Check out their extremely informative facebook page here: Citizen RVA.

Welcoming Winter Weekends

My four day weekend is coming to a close, and I am probably as relaxed as I will be this whole month. With the purchase of our new home, a move to a new neighborhood and the Christmas holiday all ahead of me this December, I decided to take some extra time off to get relaxed, focused and ready. Here’s hoping I will make it through December gracefully.

I woke up Friday morning feeling sluggish, but I still laced up my hiking shoes and went out with Kyle for coffee and a leisurely hike around our future neighborhood. There was a little chill in the air but it was perfectly sunny and the scenery was beautiful.

That afternoon, Kyle and I went out for veggie sushi at Sticky Rice. Then I headed out for a haircut and color, and spent a lot of time reading and trying not to fall asleep in the salon. I think I was really wiped out and needed a break!

That evening I just lounged around the apartment and tried to rest. I had felt off all day so I tried to do as little as possible. I woke up Saturday morning feeling refreshed. I bundled up and headed out to the local coffee shop for breakfast sandwiches and coffees. Then Kyle and I walked about a mile to the Richmond Christmas Parade on Broad Street. I knew we would have fun, but I was surprised at how entertaining the parade really was. I always thought this parade was very targeted at families with small children, but we really enjoyed watching the floats, balloons and performers march down Broad Street.

Spotted:

Harlem Globetrotters

No BS Brass Band and the Richmond Flying Squirrels

Some very skilled Hula Hoopers

Storm Troopers

My Alma Mater, VCU

And Rudolph was back this year, with a large Band-Aid after last year’s incident (I highly recommend that you click on the link for the footage).

We walked home after the parade and I prepared for Real Housewives Tea with my two best Richmond girlfriends. Modeled after the RHBH Tea Party, this event featured tiny sandwiches, delicious sweets, and wine. Yes there was tea, but we stayed true to the Housewives episode and made sure that no one drank it, in favor of a little bubbly instead. The only difference was that we left the drama at the door.

We had as much fun as you would expect to have while drinking cava at 3:00 on a Saturday afternoon, donning enormous hats and dripping in (costume) jewels. What’s not to love about that? It was truuuuuly loooooovely to catch up with these ladies and I had a deliiiiiightful time.

I spent Sunday and Monday running errands and making plans in preparation for the remainder of this month. There is still a lot of shopping, planning, baking and packing in store over the next three weeks. But I’m not too worried about it. I’m actually kind of excited, since I’ll be doing it all with my best friend.

Ready, set, go!

Farmers’ Market 11.12.11 and Neighborhood News

On Saturday morning, Kyle and I headed out to the farmers’ market to check out the seasonal produce and take in the beautiful fall colors. We don’t have much time left to enjoy the weekly market that takes place in Forest Hill Park from Spring through Fall. The South of the James Market moves indoors in three weeks.

I was delighted to find these beautiful persimmons from Agriberry.

Here’s this week’s loot:

  • Kale (Victory Farms)
  • Sweet Potatoes (Walnut Hill)
  • Beets (Victory Farms)
  • Arugula (Victory Farms)
  • Jiru Persimmons (Victory Farms)
  • Garden Cress (Walnut Hill)

Kyle and I drive over the same bridge every week to visit the SOJ Market. It has a gorgeous view of the river, and I love taking in the scenery from Byrd Park to Westover Hills all the way to Forest Hill Park. This afternoon we decided to head out on the pedestrian sidewalk on the bridge to snap some sunset photos. Can you believe the sun went down at 5:00 PM tonight? It wasn’t a great sunset, but the company was nice.

We found out some great news this week that will cause me to miss my weekly trips over the Boulevard Bridge.

We are buying our first home and it is located south of the river. The SOJ Market moves out of Forest Hill in three weeks, and we move in in about five. Starting next spring we will be walking a very short distance to the market every week. No more driving over the bridge. No more tripping over each other in our tiny kitchen. No more capping the number of party guests at ten. We couldn’t be happier.

At this time of year, the shorter days, colder nights and falling leaves typically cause us to fixate on endings. But in light of current events in our household, all we can think about is exciting new beginnings!

Have a wonderful week!