Richmond’s Thirst-Quenching Experiences

For those of you that follow my blog, you’ll likely remember a post from last December entitled, ‘Virginia is for {cocktail} lovers’. It served as a recap of three craft cocktail bars in Richmond that stole my heart – Heritage, Saison, and The Roosevelt. Three different neighborhoods, three different bar styles, yet similar overarching philosophies – deliver delicious cocktails and a great atmosphere so your guests return … in droves.  Click here to revisit that original post.

Well, six months later (and armed with a ton more information about the city and its neighborhoods) I ventured back to RVA to check out a new set of local hot spots.

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Looking for a laid-back, hidden gem to audition for your standing weekend brunch? The Black Sheep is located at the corner of W. Marshall and Goshen in the historic Carver district.  The culinary style is a cross between Southern and Cajun – so, as you can imagine their food is packed with richness and flavor. However, there’s also a hint of something really grown-up and sophisticated incorporated into many of their dishes – I call them stealth delighters. Lamb, trout, duck…not proteins you’d expect to encounter during your typical brunch outing — but these small nuances reinvent breakfast dishes quite easily.

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What we ordered…Green Eggs & Lamb (baked frittata with pesto, spinach, potato, green onions & derby sage cheddar; topped with grilled lamb & pork sausage; garnished with sauce verte; and, served with a toasted baguette), South Anna Scramble (toast points topped with three eggs scrambled with smoked trout, mushroom, roasted tomato & bacon; topped with a horseradish & chive hollandaise), Smashbrowns, Yellow Cheese Grits, and Orange Juice.

What we love…the South Anna Scramble is to die for. The flavors, textures, and even just the concept of the dish itself are superb.

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If you’re looking to support an organic and healthy way of life (all while supporting local businesses), Urban Farmhouse Market & Café should absolutely be on your list of places to visit.New to the block of E. Marshall and N. 33rd in the up-and-coming neighborhood of Church Hill, you can get coffee from Williamsburg Coffee & Tea; gluten-free breads from AnnaB’s; organic and biodynamic wines; and, all types of local soaps, honeys, nuts, chutneys, etc. It is an absolute oasis as the closest Whole Foods in located 20 minutes away in Short Pump.

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blue-bee-cidery

In search of something new and different to try? If so, be sure to visit Virginia’s first and only urban cidery? Yep, I said it…cidery! Liquor is produced at a distillery, beer is made at a brewery, wine is crafted at a winery, and cider is born at a cidery. So, I’m happy to introduce you to Blue Bee Cider. Named after one of Virginia’s native bees, the blue orchard bee; these hard workers are solitary and wild, emerging early in the cool spring just in time to pollinate apple blossoms. And, if you haven’t guessed by now…cider is a class of alcoholic beverage.

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Located in the heart of Old Manchester just south of Downtown and the James River – that is where Blue Bee calls home. With a small on-site orchard (and relationships with a few other apple growers), they have everything they need to whip up some amazing apple cider. Blue Bee offers four semi-sparkling ciders: Charred Ordinary (a dry, old-fashioned cider that pairs well with salty hams and other traditional Virginia fare), Aragon 1904 (which includes a few modern apples to create a lighter, more fruit forward off-dry cider), Hopsap Shandy (a hop-infused cider), and Mill Race Bramble (infused with raspberries and blackberries). Tastings are $3 per person and tours are free.

Most interesting thing … Blue Bee uses a bag-in-the-box fermentation method (quite literally) in lieu of the typical stainless steel tanks.

What we love: Aragon 1904 which is super refreshing and light – perfect for a hot summer day. We even bought a half-bottle to bring home.

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Let’s suffice it to say that the culinary scene in RVA is growing by leaps and bounds on a daily basis. And, new restaurants are opening not just in the city but in the Near West End as well. If you find yourself craving some Latin fare, stop by Estilo in the Village Shopping Center at the intersection of Three Chopt and Patterson. Yes, it’s located in a strip mall but trust me…you will be blown away by these eats. Estilo is Spanish for ‘style’ and the focus is on foods inspired by Central and South America, with an emphasis on Peru, Brazil, Argentina, Costa Rica, the Caribbean, and Mexico.

What we ordered … Chipotle Guacamole (adobo chipotles, avocado, tomato, onion, jalapeño, queso fresco, chicharrons and chips), Yucca Fries (hand cut yucca root, Caribbean jerk dust, aji amarillo aioli), Chifrijo (crispy roasted pork, gallo pinto, lizano sauce, avocado, cilantro), Lomo Saltado (yucca fries, poached egg, Chinese-style stir fried vegetables, marinated tri-tip beef, scallion, sesame), Caña Morada (Flor de Cana Rum, chicha morada, lime, ginger beer), and Hemingway Agricole (Rhum Agricole, Luxardo Maraschino, grapefruit, lime).

What we love … It’s a tie between the Chifrijo and Lomo Saltado. Both were so good we’d drive the 100 miles to eat both dishes again.

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Now for an oldie but goodie. Before heading back to DC, we made it a point to stop by Heritage (located in the Fan) – one of the very best cocktail bars in RVA hands-down. Mattias was at the bar and crafted two unbelievable cocktails for us.

First up was the Carbonated Negroni. While it was still a few days before the official launch of Negroni Week 2014, it only seemed right that we give it a try. Gin, Campari, Sweet Vermouth – all the traditional ingredients were there – but it was the care, time, and attention given in the stirring, carbonation, ice, etc., that made this Negroni over the top.


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Now for one that will likely end up on my ‘best drinks of the summer’ list; the Sunspear Swizzle is a combination of Del Maguey Mezcal, mango, lemon, and habanero. It is not only a stunning cocktail; it delicately combines three of my favorite things – the smokiness of mezcal, the heat of habanero, and the acid of lemon. Simply put, it was art in a glass.

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If you’re headed to RVA, I’d definitely encourage you to show some love to these fine establishments. They truly embody the progress and culinary explosion that Richmond has experienced over the past few years. If there are other local favorites you’d like to recommend, I’d love to hear about them so comment away! Cheers!

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