I love a good tease. Often times, a tease is just a tease. In this case, it’s a bit more. In addition to the tease, we have three reports from some of our loveliest Taste Budz.
KEEP ON TRUCKIN’: I have been sitting on something that I wasn’t supposed to know. But in view of the recent announcement from Ukrop’s Homestyle Foods that they’re introducing their very own food truck, I’m just going to come right out and say what I have heard from a pretty reliable – although anonymous – source. First, the facts: Ukrop’s does have their own food truck, which was at the Ukrop’s 10K Presented by Kroger earlier this month. In upcoming weeks, you can enjoy some of their popular products, including White House Roll sliders and Rainbow Cookies, at the May 3rd Friday Cheers on Brown’s Island (6-8 p.m.) and the June 1st Kickers game at City Field (5:30-8:30 p.m.).
But here’s the rumor: I’m told that the powers that be at Ukrop’s have been looking for a site for their very own restaurant. Is it true? I’m not saying it is. I’m just saying that I have been hearing that rumor for months and the food truck makes me just a little more of a believer that this could be a possibility. But remember, you did NOT hear this from me.
Now, I’m going to turn this over to our trio of lovely Taste Budz. We’ll start with our very own Senior Writer (or is that Señora Writer), Kari Smith, who shares some thoughts on one of her long-time favorite dining spots in the West End.
THIS PLACE IS ON FIRE: The three-alarm fire of 2011 did nothing to hinder the success of Zorba’s Greek Restaurant (9068 W. Broad Street, Henrico). In fact, the devastation only lit a flame under them to build on their reputation as the well-known, highly patronized Greek and Italian Restaurant it has been since opening in 1990. Besides the year – almost to the day – of being out of business for repairs caused by the fire, Zorba’s has remained one of my favorite lunch and dinner spots for decades! The changes to the décor and kitchen layout after the fire elevated my take from “just great food” to a sophisticated, classy night-out destination. Their tiropita (layers of flake phyllo filled with feta cheese) is a perfect start to any meal, and my favorite for lunch is the Baby Greek salad with grilled chicken.
It’s a perfectly sized portion with imported Greek feta, tomatoes, cucumbers, pepperoncini, olives, their homemade Greek vinaigrette dressing – and if you’d like, (and I do!) even anchovies! Beware: those never-ending hot yeast rolls that come out first are delicious, (insiders tip: ask for olive oil and parmesan for dipping) but if you eat more than one, you’ll be likely taking home leftovers! Which, I suppose, isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Next we move on to Donna Stewart. Donna, who heads up River City Magazine’s sales team, is now officially a Taste Bud:
MY CUP OF TEA: A friend recently introduced me to the world of tea by way of a charming little place called Tea with Kip. Nestled south of the river in an unassuming strip mall at 10169 Hull Street, you are immediately enveloped in shabby chic charm as you enter the tea room. Kip Barefoot, our most gracious hostess and proprietor, greets everyone with a cheery Southern accent. Everyone who enters becomes “Sweetie”, which ironically personifies her own sweet disposition. With monthly themed menus including scones, salads and tasty finger foods, even the most finicky eater is sure to find something that will please. With caring attention to detail, Kip and her helpful assistant float from table to table making sure that no one’s tea cup ever empties.
On my most recent visit (yes, I loved it so much that I went back for seconds), local poet and author Maria Tucciarone was on hand to entertain us with sonnets from her books In Shakespeare’s Shadow and Broken Birds – a wonderful touch to an already lovely afternoon. If you have not had the pleasure of visiting Tea with Kip, please make a reservation so that you can experience not only the wonderful luncheon, but also the down-home Southern hospitality of Kip herself. It’s a true treat for the senses.
Finally, it’s nice to welcome back a Bud from the past, Meredith Riley. Meredith has written for us in the past, and we’re hoping she’ll be back on a more regular basis. But she’s such a talented writer and knows (and loves) the Richmond food scene, that she’s always welcome.
ADORABLE ADARRA: Sometimes you meet a new friend and it feels like you’ve known them forever. Conversation flows; smiles and laughter expel effortlessly. I got the same feeling the first time I ate at Adarra (618 N. 1st St.). It was like I had known her forever. There is an overwhelming sense of comfort from the dynamic dishes that introduce new flavors and dance on your palate, but somehow still taste like home.
Listening to Lyne Doetzer (part owner and front of the house) about the different wines feels like chatting on your front porch with a new neighbor that you realize is going to be your life-long friend. She and her husband, Randy (owner/head chef) both received their Sommelier certification last year and they are happy to discuss the flavor profiles with you in the most down-to-earth way. My mom enjoyed her red, which Lyne described as “sexy”.
Poke your head into the kitchen window and admire Chef and owner Randy Doetzer and his right-hand man Nick Hancock creating masterpieces in the kitchen wafting smells that make you say “whatever they are working on, I’ll have that.” While the menu certainly shows influences from Italy, Spain, Portugal, Oaxaca, Randy says the true inspiration is “just having a desire to eat and drink well.”
The dining room patrons include chefs from other restaurants, bartenders who have served you at several different spots, and that face that you just can’t quite put your finger on but you know that you know. When I eat at Adarra, I feel a mix of what Richmond was and what Richmond is becoming, and all is right with the world.
The three winners for me, which I ordered again the second time I went, were the soft pillows of ricotta-based gnocchi floating in mushrooms, butter and heaven. In second place are the roasted olives. It sounds simple, but I don’t think I’ll ever eat a regular olive again. Imagine French-kissing Ryan Gosling, and then trying to go back to smooching average Joes. They are served smothered in harissa, and roasted with lemon and orange rind, thyme and garlic. Third place is more of a guilty pleasure for me: Iberico Ham. I close my eyes, and I’m back in La Boqueria scarfing down this gift from the gods. Fun tip – when it comes out, grab the fattiest piece before anyone else does and let it melt in your mouth.
Some other dishes I have loved are the skate in smoked butter, (my mother’s favorite) and the stuffed squid with yummy charred edges sitting on a bed of white beans. The roasted squash with crumbled goat cheese sounds simple, but was delicious and would be perfect for a vegetarian eater. Adarra is featuring two larger dishes. The fish stew is right up my alley. It features shrimp, mussels, and a broth that we needed three bowls of bread to sop up, since I refuse to leave a drop. The rabbit is something I would have never ordered, but my mother insisted. It was tender and packed with flavor, and I ended up eating most of it.
I rarely order dessert at restaurants, but since everything was so good, and because I’m pregnant, I thought, “why not?” Both the panna cotta with blood orange and the polenta cake with smoked ice cream were just delightful, and were unlike the sweet clunky deserts ordered at most restaurants – the perfect punctuation to a fabulous meal.
Adarra is a place that Richmond was missing. It is refined yet comforting, and something a simple eater or an adventurous palate can enjoy. The wine list is unique – progressive, with the plethora of natural wines from regions you are not likely to see elsewhere in Richmond. It boasts an utmost sophistication without an ounce of pretension. It just feels like home – if my home were filled with nonstop dishes made to perfection.
A NATIONAL EVENT: Some of the River City Magazine staff enjoyed a fun evening recently in Downtown Richmond at the National (708 E. Broad St.) Nowadays, when you think of the National, you think of big music events, and indeed, the folks at The National are booking in some of the best Indy bands and other popular musicians.
But how would you like to get married in the National? Don’t worry. I’m not proposing, just suggesting that if you’re planning any special event, small or large, you take a look at The National as a perfect venue. The purpose of last night’s gathering was to show off the space. The National is a really cool, stately and historic building. When I was a kid, it was a movie theater. Even before that, it showcased vaudeville shows.
You may be wondering how you could have a sit-down dinner in a theater. Easy. There are no permanent seats on the main level. For concerts, portable seats are used. That means you can do both sit-down and stand-up functions on the floor or even on the stage. There are also smaller rooms for smaller groups. There’s even a rather spooky old room called the nursery. I’m told that back in the days of vaudeville, patrons would bring their kids to the show and a nanny or nurse would watch them in the nursery during the show. The décor is a little – let’s just say different – but it would make a great area for a private function.
At last night’s event, we feasted on foods on such delicacies as delicious chicken from Mamma J’s Kitchen to Taziki’s Mediterranean Cafe’s pita chips and hummus to Mosaic Catering’s assortment of finger foods, including a fantastic smoked gouda pimento cheese spread. Oh yeah, their bourbon bread pudding was “to not diet for.”
While the National has some excellent caterers that they can recommend, you are allowed to provide your own caterer for your function. That’s a real plus for many. For more info, phone Donna Agresto-Seavey at 840-219-8785 or 757-622-9877. Or email Donna at firstname.lastname@example.org.
That’s a wrap for today. Thanks to our talented Taste Budz. If you’d like to share a positive dining experience, drop us a line to email@example.com.