Now that I have your attention, it’s time to admit that I really haven’t been hobnobbing with ill-tempered women, although if you’ll stick with me, you’ll see there is a degree of truth in here. You also just might discover some new dining and drinking destinations.
HOBNOBBING ON HERMITAGE: I’ve been meaning to check out the HOBNOB Restaurant at 6010 Hermitage Road in the site of the old Hermitage Grill. I’ve been hearing lots of good things. But, alas, I still haven’t been. However, my wife, who is a Taste Bud in her own right, had dinner with friends there last night and she couldn’t stop raving about it (or rubbing it in, I”m not sure which). She tells me that everything she tried was a delight. That included the spring rolls, the fried oysters and the smoked prime rib. She and her dining companions were sampling from each others’ plates.
I understand that HOBNOB will be introducing their new spring menu on the 31st at their Sunday brunch. But, just in case any of my wife’s favorites are missing from the new menu, I think I’m going to have to check the place out prior to the end of the month. Just a word of caution if you decide to head over that way. Don’t let the Hermitage Road address fool you. The HOBNOB may not be on the section of Hermitage Road that you’re familiar with. Hermitage is one of the weirdest roads in Richmond. It starts one place and moves to another place and then twists and turns to another place. So unless you know exactly where it is, you better GPS it. For instance, my next stop is right off Hermitage Road, too, but it’s not a direct shot from point A to point B.
A REALLY BIG SHREW: I was over at Virago Spirits this week. They’re located right off Hermitage Road at 1727 Rhoadmiller St. But this is the part of Hermitage Road that runs behind the Diamond. If you’re heading to Virago, turn west at the SPCA. Enough about directions. Let me tell you the latest from Virago. When I stopped in on Thursday afternoon, Brad Haneberg and his wife Vicki, who operate the local distillery along with Brad’s two brothers Barton and Barry, had just arrived back in town from Denver, where they attended the 2019 Craft Spirits Conference and Expo.
Virago Spirits really did itself proud at the 2019 Judging of Craft Spirits by the American Distilling Institute (ADI). In a blind tasting, 53 judges evaluated more than 850 artisan spirits from around the world and awarded Virago Spirits with Double Gold, Gold, Best of Class and Best of Category awards. Fewer than 2% of submissions received a Double Gold Medal, and approximately 8% of submissions received a Gold Medal. Fourteen spirits received Best of Class designation.
Vicki tells me that the distillery is putting the finishing touches on a couple of small-batch liqueurs, which should be debuting this summer. Brad then offered me the chance to sample both the coffee and the banana liqueurs. I have to tell you, these were both exceptional. The coffee was excellent, but the banana blew me away. I’m not especially fond of banana-flavored foods or drinks. In fact, the only time I like the banana flavor is when it’s in the banana. But this liqueur was like drinking a boozy banana. It’s 80-proof, Brad tells me, with no sugar added. It is truly amazing. It should be available in the tasting room only come July. You really have to try both of these new products as soon as they’re available.
Oh yeah, I almost forgot to tell you about the ill-tempered woman. That’s certainly not Vicki. She is one of the most pleasant people you’d care to meet. But the word “Virago” means bad-tempered woman or shrew. I asked Vicki about the name and she explained that when you drill down to a deeper definition, Virago conveys the idea of a strong, courageous woman. I imagine there’s more to the story, but about the time she was explaining it, Brad started pouring the liqueurs. I got a little distracted. I guess I’ll have to go back and hear the rest. Or you could just ask them, yourself, the next time you’re over that way.
LUNCH WITH THE FOX: I stopped in at Layne’s Country Store and Amish Kettle up in Ashland this week (11670 Lakeridge Pkwy.). This is a really cool, little with a variety of jams, jellies, Virginia wines, chocolates and so much more. They also have a wonderful deli offering fresh sandwich meats, hoop cheese and freshly prepared salads.
Obviously, you can buy the products to take home and enjoy, but did you know that you can enjoy a fantastic lunch with unique specials every day of the week, including “Hot Dog It’s Friday.” On Fridays, you get two hot dogs and a side for just $5.99. Michelle Layne, who runs the store with husband Mike, says they prepare a wide variety of sandwiches for lunch such as the Cuban, which features off-the-bone ham, smoked pork loin and bacon with dill pickles, mayo and peach butter.
Or if you’re a big fan of country ham, as am I, try the Country Hammich. It’s loaded with red-eye country ham, hoop cheese, lettuce, tomato, sweet pickles and mayo. Other sandwiches include The Hot Italian, the Reuben and Holy Bologna. You can order the sandwiches to go, or takethem in the Layne’s adjacent Sleepy Fox Distillery, whwre you can also sample some of their moonshine and other distilled products. It makes for a very creative combination.
Well, I’m off to discover new places to dine and, perhaps, to take in a sip or two. If you have any great dining discoveries of your own, tell me about it. Email us at Tastebudz@RiverCityMag.com