Monday, November 26, 2012

The RFC Blog : Five Years Brings Changes for You and The RFC

The RFC was started with a short "We Love Food" post in January of  2008.  Back then we were a gang of three and totally new to the Richmond local food scene. The Richmond Area Food Systems Council (RAFSC) of which we became members was not yet established. Erin bemoaned the lack of a Richmond Slow Food Chapter . (The nearest Slow Food chapter would be Charlottesville for a couple more years.) Tricycle Gardens was gaining momentum. The Mayors Food Policy Council where Erin would eventually serve was just pie in the sky, and the wonderful William Byrd House Market was the only RVA area farmers market outside of the old 17th st. market.

We felt a bit like pioneers when we launched this blog, and it definitely has taken us into new territory.  Erin wrote for Edible Chesapeake as did Natalie.  In the summer of 2008 we hosted our first RFC event, an outdoor film viewing and tomato tasting that brought out 75 people.  Some wonderful people who we met for the first time that night quickly became our very close friends. We did the RVA mash up, (Please don't look this one up.) and were contacted by countless job seekers, farmers, producers, reporters, and interested readers who wanted to know where they might find that particular ingredient, farming job or help.  We were awed by the response, and took the task of providing information  seriously. 

We all worked outdoors as gardeners and farmers.  None of us had smart phones or day time access to computers.  We would get off work and then get to work.  Natalie's local food writing career took off and the former math major, and organic farm worker  took off for graduate school in creative writing.  Before long Erin and I were doing live (action) T.V. spots for 'Virginia This Morning' on channel six.  I feel I can call it live action when one who has never been on live t.v. before must prepare five recipes and is told to chop apples with a chef's knife while maintaining a quick pace and sensible conversation!

Erin was there to help manage the very first year of the South of the James Market.  The next year she worked with Saint Stephen's Church to create the St. Stephen's Market, and eventually their winter Market.  We attended dinners and lectures. We read dozens of books and cookbooks, taught cooking classes, did demos at markets, worked with the fabulous new Slow Food chapter , cooked food for Tricycle Gardens and  traveled to farms, restaurants, wineries, markets, breweries, kitchens, and gardens to learn all we could about our local food system. 

RFC gals Cat Hulbert, Shannon Smith, and Erin Wright

Year by year we educated ourselves, and hopefully provided some helpful information and needed inspiration to our readers. The last  five years been a time of tremendous growth for small organic farms, sustainable meat producers, food co-ops, on-line local food ordering services, restaurants that serve some degree of  local produce, cideries, breweries, wineries, and yes farmers markets.  Five years ago there was one farmers market in town that spoke to the local/ sustainable food scene.  Today there are fourteen area markets all filled with different vendors, and we have found it more than a little difficult to keep up! The latest addition... The Cary Street Farmer's Market has yet to make it onto to our list of Local Farmer's Markets.

 RFC gals Shannon, Casey Freeman, and Erin get a private tour of Twin Oaks Tofu

The local food/ sustainable food flag has been flown by the likes of Channel 12, and the Richmond Times Dispatch.  Numbers of RVA Food Blogs, and local food blogs have appeared as well.  In the mean time we have added a few wonderfully smart and fantastically interesting writers into the mix and all have found the act of keeping up with the scope of this blog daunting.  My 'day job' as Horticulturist at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden has grown and taken up a good deal more time-, and Erin.... well if you read this blog then you know she's had her hands overflowingly full with the work of starting up her own green grocery with a focus on fresh, local products and produce of course! Visit Little House Green Grocery to learn more.

This post marks our 900th.  It also marks a point in our lives where we have less time and there is so much more wonderful local food news with which to keep up.  I guess we just want to fess up and say we are changing and clearly are no-longer able to maintain a highly current/ update local food and local food events blog.
   We have had so much fun and met so many tremendously fantastic people- and we know we will continue to do so.  We still will be here to post when we can find the time to share what inspires us.  The blog and all of it's 900 post will still be here if you need that perfect roll or cookie recipe from Alma, or idea for a Day Trip. You can still read our most visited post ever...  My Love Affair with October Beans.  We certainly don't feel that there's not more work to do, only we need to figure out the best ways for each of us to get it done.  Here's to new adventures, new friends and our loyal readers.  We love you all even more than we love food-
 Cat, Casey, Erin, Shannon, and Rachel- at our first "photo shoot".

Monday, November 12, 2012

Shalom Farms Third Annual Fall Farm Dinner

An invitation from our friends at Shalom Farms:

For the 3rd year in a row Todd Johnson of Mezzanine will be preparing a 4 course meal sourced from the finest local ingredients to support the work of Shalom Farms. Join us on Monday, November 19th, at Mezzanine (3433 W. Cary St.  ) to celebrate the fall harvest, reflect on what we have achieved in 2012, and look to the work ahead in 2013. Chef Johnson will be creating hors d'oeuvres and a four course prix fixe meal highlighting this season's harvest at Shalom Farms, Origins Farm (formerly Victory Farms), Manakintowne Specialty Growers and Tuckahoe Lamb and Cattle Co. among others. Tickets are $55, $45 of which is tax deductible. The price includes tax, gratuity and non-alcoholic beverages. Cash bar and vegetarian options available. All proceeds benefit Shalom Farms, an initiative of United Methodist Urban Ministries of Richmond. Tickets available at or by  calling 804.592.6151.

About Shalom Farms and United Methodist Urban Ministries of Richmond: Begun by UMUMR in the fall of 2008, Shalom Farms is a nonprofit community farm project with the overarching goal of increasing food security in the Richmond region, particularly in low-income urban neighborhoods. A collaboration with many diverse and expert partners, the project is attaining its goal by: 1) providing fresh and healthy produce to underserved communities; 2) providing educational training to children and adults on growing food, nutrition, and food-based entrepreneurship; and 3) linking community groups to a wide range of food security resources and partners. In 2012 more the 3,000 children and families will help grow 45k lbs of organic produce for Richmond's most vulnerable populations while learning about sustainable agriculture, nutrition, and food justice. More info at

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Tricycle Garden's 4th annual Harvest Celebration and Golden Trowel Award

It is that time again!

Join the fine folks at Tricycle Gardens for their 4th Annual Harvest Celebration and Golden Trowel Awards

November 9, 2012 
6:00 - 10:00 pm
Tickets are $50.00 and are available at
Main Street Station
1500 East Main Street, Richmond, VA

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Foode in Fredricksburg!

Foode (pronounced Foodie) is an amazingly good new spot in Fredricksburg, Va.  Okay, so it's not so new, but fairly new.. and it's only been within the last month or so that they were able to add the outdoor seating (nearly doubling their tables) that makes this a really fun dining experience beyond the food.
The Pin n' Fig - one of my friend Jody's favorites at Foode

This past Tuesday I took a day trip to Fredericksburg with some friends/ volunteers that help me out at the garden.  Our day trip started out with a tour of Belmont ( Gari Melchers home and studio) and its gardens since one of my volunteers moonlights as a volunteer for Belmont.  The art work is worth the visit in itself, the grounds and home were lovely and I felt like I made a new friend with the head gardener there.  
Tour done, and we were famished (or so it felt) so we headed straight to Historic Downtown Fredericksburg for lunch.  
Once heavy on tourist type fair this area is gaining some great food spots.   Our original intention was to check out The Gazebo at Fredericksburg .. a sort of "pop up" restaurant ... only it's not the location that changes but whether they will actually be there or not. In our case it said it was... but it was not.  You can check out their facebook page for times.   Our host- a Fredericksburgian-.assured us that if the Gazebo was not open she had a fantastic place to eat that we would love.  She was right.

 Linda went with the Black Bean Burger- house made.. it was delicious, as is the potato salad. I have had so many poor potato salads of late I don't order it anymore.  This was delicious.  Also.. a nod to the presentation here. 

Roasted Beet Salad

I ,of course,  went with two plates instead of just one. The roasted beet salad was really interesting and completely delicious with smoked pistachios, arugula micro greens, Rustica lemon cheese, and pickled red onion tossed in a light vinaigrette. Foode's menu changes frequently so this exact beet salad was not to be found on their lunch menu just a week later.  That said, everything we tried was tasty, and I'd like to go back soon just so sample whats new.

Beverages served in canning jars, and signage made from pallets add to the charm.

The chicken salad sandwich included a golden rasion aioli  and was so good I insisted on a to go box for my left overs despite being stuffed to the gills and hours away from refrigeration.  Plus, I knew I would have to carry this box around with me for the rest of the day.  No matter- it was not going to go to waste! We walked the shops along Caroline St. in Old Town Frederiksburg, checking out the wine shop, The Griffin coffee house and book store, a build your own cupcake shop, antique shops, and on and a on..It was totally worth the save-  Just as this little day trip is totally worth the drive. 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Apple time again!

Apples are practically falling off the trees into your bushel at Carter Mountain right now, go get 'em people! (RFC visits here.)

Right now they have Golden Delicious and Jonagolds (my personal favorite) with new varieties coming all the time.

I've been working this week on Apple sauce and Apple butter. (All from this book) And I'm still up to my elbows...

If you need some more delicious inspiration for all that bounty, look here. For now, back to the kitchen!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Gearharts Fine Fine Chocolate- New Treats and Wine Pairing Events

Tim Gearhart, creating the confections
As cool weather settles in folks tend to start craving these delicate chocolate confections all the more, and Gearharts has come up with some nice ways to satisfy that sweet  tooth.  Last week, Shannon and I were lucky enough to be invited to a wine and chocolate pairing at Gearharts Chocolates.  We have loved this local chocolatier for a long time- we've even visited the flagship shop in Charlottesville.  Several local bloggers were invited for the pairing- wines from J. Emerson and chocolate treats were made right in front of us.
Wine pairings courtesy of J. Emerson
We chatted with friends and watched eagerly as figs, candied orange peels and local apples were dipped and spiced and matched expertly with dessert wines.  The reason for this outing was to learn about Gearhart's plans to open their Libbie Ave. shop for private parties to enjoy their own wine and chocolate pairing events.  We couldn't think of a nicer way to spend a bit of a crisp fall evening or a fun addition to holiday celebrations.  Contact their shop for more information.

Candied orange peels with chilies, pine nuts and dark chocolate
Chai spiced pecan
While the importance of maintaining absolute freshness of the handmade chocolate truffles prevents them from being sold outside of their own shop, Gearharts has created a line of products that can be sold elsewhere.  Their chocolate bars, spiced pecans and drinking chocolates are sold in several local groceries.

beautiful bars
Drinking chocolate with chilies and orange
Gearharts is an incredibly special artisan food shop in Richmond.   Their inventive flavors like Michigan cherry, cardamom and earl grey will make you fall in love with chocolate all over again.  Why wait for a holiday?  Show Gearharts and someone special some love today!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Fresh Spring Rolls with Spaghetti Squash ( Late Season Spring Rolls)

Fresh Spring Rolls with Roasted Spaghetti Squash
This past week I came from work one night to find Matt making fresh spring rolls.  By the time I got home he had done everything but wrap each little bundle of veg. up in it's own  wrapper.  A glass of white wine was poured, and a fresh spring roll with homemade dipping sauce was placed in front of me. What a lucky lady I am!
Fresh spring rolls are usually made with chopped cabbage, rice noodles, and perhaps some carrots and shrimp. To be totally honest, if we're eating out I usually find them a bit boring and opt for something fried and crispy. However,  Matt made a fabulous variation of  this classic buy using freshly roasted spaghetti squash in place of the rice thread noodles or "cellophane noodles'.  They were delicious.  The carrots, bok choy, fresh Thai basil, and fresh banana and red pepper all added flavor and a nice crispness to each bite.

All the vegetables were cut into sticks or thinly sliced longways.  The small squash was cut in half and roasted on a cookie sheet.  After using a fork to pull the roasted squash out into threads Matt seasoned the squash with a little red curry paste, salt, and pepper. The flavor of the roasted squash and red curry is fantastic with the raw freshness of the other ingredients.   Go easy on the red curry paste if your not used to working with this spicy seasoning.  Try adding a tiny amount and tasting as you go . 
One small Spaghetti squash was used, with one large carrot, some bok choy, fresh basil, and red pepper slices.
Packaged spring roll wrappers are made of rice flower, tapioca, and salt. They are brittle and each one must be set in a shallow pan of luke warm water for about two minutes so you can work with them.  Working with the wrappers can take a little practice. (You can find how-to videos on-line.) The package said to soak for 5 minutes, but we found them tender and workable in just two.  Any longer and they tear  too easily.   The sauce is quick. The biggest prep time factor is  the veggies. It took Matt about 30minutes.

Matt's Spring Roll Sauce
Matt usually eyeballs the ingredients and then adjust to taste so this is his best approximation.

In a sauce pan on the stove add...

1/2 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
1 cup sugar
Stir together and bring to a boil.
Turn off immediately and then add..
couple shakes of chili pepper flakes
crushed up peanuts to taste.

Ultimately we ate these tender treats with a Twin Oaks  tofu stir-fry.... . but that's a post for another day- 
The seven  or so large spring rolls this produced was enough for each to have two that night, as well as more the following afternoon and even for lunch two days later. Just store them in the fridge inside a tupperwear container covering the spring rolls with a damp cloth or  paper towel.  The sauce should not be refrigerated, and will last in a sealed container for a couple of days.
 Try your hand at making these spring rolls. It can be fun, like making sushi rolls.  Spaghetti squash is available now at local farmers markets, as are bok choy and basil.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The great Paw Paw hunt

For years, Anne and I have gone looking for Paw Paws with no success.  I think we always started looking too late, but now I will always remember that Labor day weekend is the time to find ripe Paw Paws!

Clyde loves a visit to the water!
Paw Paw trees grow by rivers and are native to Virginia.  They have a tropical tasting, very soft fruit, that seems to have a fleetingly short season.

We didn't see a single paw paw on the walk until we had turned around and started walking back.  Then Anne started to see them everywhere!  We gathered up about 10 fruits in various stages of ripeness. 

We gathered Paw Paws and people!

We even taught a fellow hiker that the fruit was edible, and he wound up being a better paw paw spotter than either one of us.  It is not an easy fruit to see- Paw Paws are green and about the size of your fist. But once you know what you are looking for, it is pretty easy to spot them. 

Anne eating one on the trail!
The fruit is delicious raw.  The flavor is tropical, and pretty complex.  It has a soft texture, which made us wonder about what else we could make with it.  I will not lie, the first thing we thought to try making was a cocktail.  And so, the Captain Paw Paw was born.

Anne and Zak prepare the Paw Paws
First you take the skins and seeds off of the fruit.  This can only be done with your hands.

Then we added a simple syrup infused with star anise, black peppercorns and cardamom pods, then some dark rum, and finished the drink with fresh lime juice.  Delicious- not pretty, (kind of looked like gravy actually, so I didn't take a photo) but super tasty.  Valentines Day has chocolate, Thanksgiving has turkey and now Labor Day has the Paw Paw!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Day Trip for Dairy ( and Wine, and Granola, and...)


Nothing makes a Monday better than taking the day off work and heading out for a day trip with friends. We started our road trip in the proper fashion with me locking my keys and every single item of importance in my car. I did this while trying to call Erin to check on her progress and so by accident Erin was left with a rather surprising message involving a good deal of pounding noises and some repeated curses. Leaving behind my car... and my  I.D., wallet, camera, food, water...well you get the idea...we were on our way. Our first stop was Everona Dairy in Rapidan, Virginia.  
From there we stopped for Ice Cream at the Moo Thru in Remington Virginia. Moo Thru is the brain child of a fourth generation Virginia dairy farm family that wanted to find a way to do more than sell their milk in bulk.  A roadside stop off a busy four lane road the Moo Thru has a drive thru window, a walk up window and outdoor tables under a pavilion.  We left Erin here to enjoy a lunch of grilled cheese and Ice cream with the owner while we zipped down the road to theRed Truck Bakery in Old Town Warrenton.
This Red Truck Bakery is a perfect small town meeting place.  The chef's old red pickup sits just outside of the converted gas station.  A bakery counter in the front room leads to a singular communal table surrounded by the floor to ceiling windows of the converted car bay and the noise of the open kitchen. This company has been featured on Road with a score of "Legendary- worth driving  from anyplace."
 I had to try a bottle of their own root beer.  It was delicious, along with a fantastic chicken salad sandwich, some cold curried sweet potato and carrot soup, and a bit of crumb cake. I dined with my friends Montana and Linda and sweet woman from the area who had ecstatic praise for every dessert in the place.  For ten dollars I  bought ( or ah... Linda bought) a bag of their house made granola.  This stuff gets a lot of press and it was good. A bit too sticky sweet for my taste  even with plain yogurt.  I did enjoy it  drenched in whole milk. Don't take my word for it though.  There are obviously a whole slew of devoted Red Truck Granola Fans.
We wound around stumbling onto Hume Vineyards.  The barn they use in their photos sets the right feel.  We pulled up driving past the man in the riding mower cutting down acres of grass only to get to glass front door of a large barn like structure with a sign that told us to go on in, the man mowing the lawn would be with us in a minute.  I turned around to be greeted by a hearty wave and big smile from the owner riding his mower back up the hill to meet us.  Not skipping a beat he was behind the counter and pouring my first taste... the 2011 Seyval Blanc.  I waked out with a bottle of this, and my friend took a bottle of their Viognier.  A rather different approach from a young vineyard.

After checking out some pottery spots we found our much anticipated and last destination... Second Wind Farm in Sperryville.  A fabulous spot owned and operated by a dedicated family who care for animals ranging from lama  to duck. They make some fabulous fermented  foods, and cheese just for themselves, spin wool from their sheep, and basically make a beautiful life out of their piece of the earth.   If you live near the area look into buying a goat share.
After a relaxing visit at Second Wind we ended our day with a giant soft serve ice-cream for dinner... All and all a pretty nice Monday.
Next up... Fredricksburg....

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Ellwood Thompson's own wine and a summer au gratin

Michael Shaps is now making a white and a red wine exclusively for Ellwood Thompson's!  This amazing Charlottesville winemaker consults and makes wine for many area wineries and restaurants including the VMFA, and now our own ET's.  The white is a blend of viognier, petit manseng and chardonnay, and is fruit forward without being sweet.  It is fantastic, and at around $12, I can't wait to try the red blend as well.

Our white wine by Virginia Cellars

It was cooler and rainy this weekend (so lovely), so I was hankering for comfort food. I have a lot of potatoes and squash coming from Dominion Harvest these days, so I thought I'd go for an au gratin.  Basically, I wanted something avec fromage.

Chips!  You can see through them!
I sliced up some potatoes with my handy mandolin. I started getting hungry, so I tossed some of the thin potato slices with oil, salt and pepper put them on a baking sheet and threw them in the oven for about 10 minutes while it was preheating.  Potato chips go well with newfound white wine and cheese sauce that didn't quite make it into the pan, btw.

Oh squash, what do we do with you? 
Summer au gratin

2 medium potatoes, sliced into at most 1/8 inch
1 onion, sliced into thin half rings
3 small summer squash, thinly sliced
salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups cream
1 1/2 cups grated Cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Butter a small casserole dish (mine is about 9x5).
Layer the potatoes into bottom of the prepared dish. Top with the onion slices, and add the squash. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
In a medium-size saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Mix in the flour and salt, and whisk for one minute. Stir in cream. Cook until mixture has thickened (about 2 minutes). Stir in cheese all at once, and continue stirring until melted, about another minute. Pour mixture over squash layer.
Bake 50 minutes in the preheated oven or until golden and bubbling.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Sub Rosa Bread

Sometimes you meet someone whose work and sense of purpose is strikingly humbling.  Evrim Dogu has the kind and centered countenance that I have long admired and find inspirational.  But when I visited his bakery the other day, I was truly humbled.  Sub Rosa bread has been around for years, available by subscription, and is soon to be served at its own bakery in Church Hill on the corner of Jefferson and 25th.  The conscious decisions, direction and relationships come together to make Sub Rosa bread extraordinary.
This is Evrim and his oven
So much of Evrim's new bakery itself is crafted, which suits the quality of his bread.  This gorgeous oven is made from bricks which were originally the chimney of his Church Hill building.  The bricks were hand cleaned by Evrim, and the oven was built by a local craftsman.  It is a beauty!
Beautiful Austrian mill
Since the bakery is still under construction, Evrim's mill and mixer are in a side building down the street.  Evrim is experimenting with heirloom wheat grown locally- Turkey Red is in trials at Deer Run Farm in Hanover.  This hand crafted mill can sift it into finely ground flour for bread or semolina for other baked goods.
Instructions for wheat grinding

The mixer
Evrim lives above his shop- a perfect setup considering baker's hours.  He invited us up to taste his bread and some lovely rye shortbread, which are both absolutely incredible.  The bread is complex, with such great texture, and the rye was so nutty, it is no wonder he is so excited about the way the flour trials have come together.  I can't wait until the bakery opens, but in the mean time, I believe that Evrim is still managing a subscription service.
Evrim's kitchen
Check out Sub Rosa's Facebook page for updates on the adventures of opening a food biz in RVA!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Broadfork Farm

I have been traveling quite a bit this summer, trying to meet as many Little House vendors as possible, and also trying to see as much of this beautiful region as possible before I am at the store all day, every day.  I had only heard of Broadfork Farm because of their biodynamic practices, gorgeous produce and tasty bread.  This farm is only in its second year, but boy to they have some fans!
Dan and Janet and their youngest
Dan and Janet moved to Janet's childhood home in Chesterfield county, cleared several acres, and now farm year round.  They even grow salad mixes mid- summer and mid- winter, along with several plantings of heirloom tomatoes, peppers and other tasty veggies.

Their whole front yard is full of flowers for market!
 Their farm is so neat and impressively productive- especially considering that we visited at the end of the hottest July I can remember.  I loved hearing how they incorporate the biodynamic calendar and preparations into their growing practices, making this conscious farm beyond organic.
We ate okra straight off the plant!
Plus, Dan and Janet are super fun, making us wish we could return for one of their pizza parties around their wood fired oven!  These industrious folks are building a second, larger oven because demand for their bread has gotten to be so great.  I cannot wait to try it.
Janet and the Malabar spinach
You can get beautiful produce, flowers and bread from Broadfork Farm at the South of the James and Brandermill markets through October (and hopefully at Little House Green Grocery, whenever it opens!)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Everona Dairy

Last week, Shannon and I traveled to northwestern Virginia for a tour of Everona Dairy.  

Everona is one of the only sheep's milk dairies in VA, and boy, do they make fantastic cheese.  Flavorful and sophisticated but without pretense, their cheese consistently wins awards, yet is not easy to find in RVA.  I, of course, am hoping they'll sell at Little House...
Our tour included a look behind the scenes- this kitty watched over the milking line.

This kitty watched over the new lambs.

Just as an aside, wool makes a fantastic mulch.  Who knew?

The cheese is absolutely incredible.  These are aged cheeses, with characteristics of asiago (Piedmont) or reggiano (Stonyman).  The Marble is so classic, with its vein of blue prompted by a layer of ash pressed into the cheese.
Look at that gorgeous blue!  
You can visit Everona Dairy by setting up an appointment.   Learn what goes into cheese making, straight from the farm!

"We are producing award-winning sheep's milk cheese - aged, washed-rind, and unpasteurized.  As simple as it gets.  It is exciting to introduce people to the complexities of good cheese.  We are trying to "spread the word" bite by bite.  Always looking for ways to improve our products, at Everona we strive to continue the tradition of artisan cheesemaking techniques while keeping up with the growing demand for local, farmstead cheeses."