I've written about the Hampton Roads food zine Southern Grit when the first issue was about to be released early last year. I highlighted Chris Fellini whom I've known from the Norfolk scene. When I talked to him about the birth of Southern Grit he said it would never have happened if it weren't for Joshua Fitzwater, known as "Fitz." Since then I've talked to Fitz myself and seen him work the magazine out in the wild. He's passionate about the publication and is pretty much running the whole operation: managing contributors, photography, writing, advertising, etc...
When I first chatted with him it was about Slice & Torte (check them out, seriously) and how much he needed people to know about the great things happening over there. He is passionate about those things he cares about and he's willing to tell anyone who will lend him a little bit of their time. One of the ways he wants to spread the word about what he thinks is the "thing" in the Hampton Roads area is through Southern Grit.
Southern Grit's mission is to talk about the area's food scene without the rose colored glasses on. From the few issues I've read some of the articles were written with the gloves off. One of their more infamous articles was "cease and disist" on the use of Edison bulbs in restaurants that hit a nerve. I'll be honest and say I didn't know it was satire at first but the writer (Chris Fellini) later came out and claimed it to be so. This is an example of how the publication is putting its finger on the pulse of Hampton Roads food culture. Another stir-up concerns the LeGrand Burger, claimed to be one of the best in Norfolk (I think it is, I don't care if it looks like a Big Mac) - Southern Grit is hitting it from all angles, the likes, dislikes, even the weight of the burger patties (makes me think of Grandpa Fred from Sixteen Candles telling Long Duck Dong "you don't spell it son, you eat it!).
I sent him some questions, similar to what I did with Fellini last year, to let people get to know him a little better. if you're already familiar with Fitz you'll know he loves Nouvelle, if you read below you'll understand why. Another thing about him is that he runs 757E Zine, a local culture rag. Running magazines has him looking at numbers, readership sweet spots and how his work compares to material with a larger circulation - Veer, Whurk, etc...
Please read on and look out for the new issue of Southern Grit that hits the presses this Friday. You'll find it on the street February 1, 2016!
All images courtesy of Fitz and Southern Grit.
GC: What is your experience in the restaurant industry? Why write a magazine about it?
JF: Recently I did a stint as Nouvelle’s dish bitch and then ended up working front of the house as a waiter and a really, really bad bartender for a bit. The idea to launch Southern Grit materialized from the food section of 757E Magazine (which later became Fuss Magazine). 757E’s food section set me down a path of getting to know chefs.
As a person who identifies as an artist, I started to really see some of the better chefs in Hampton Roads as artists in their own right, so I really wanted to make a food magazine. At the time however - guessing about a year ago now - I was worried about doing most of the writing for Southern Grit as I did for 757E. Chris Fellini had just written an article for 757E that I felt stood above the rest and so I approached him about starting a food magazine. He threw the name Pantry and Southern Grit at me. I lobbied hard for Southern Grit and we went with that.
GC: Your experience in the industry and recent life events seem to be key in your decision to start Southern Grit, what else influenced you?
JF: My background as a photographer (I took classes under Stephen M. Katz and Sam Hughes) plays a large roll. I initially went to college and ended up getting my first associate degree in Applied Arts - Studio Arts. I was in love with drawing and painting at the time. However, while pursing that, I had to take a photography class as an elective. Sam Hughes taught the class and while at the time he was probably the best wedding photographer in Hampton Roads he had a history with journalism photography. First under his creative influence, and then after taking a really pivotal photojournalism class under Stephen Katz (in my opinion the best photographer to work at the Virginia Pilot), I wound up getting involved in the student paper.
In under a year, I worked my way up to editor-in-chief and produced three editions of the student paper - until we got shut down for an article I co-wrote involving student funds. Looking back, this may have been the beginning of striving to be honest about what I write and shoot rather than being popular.
GC: What will Southern Grit try to provide to readers?
JF: An honest conversation about food and food related issues. Before Fellini and I launched Southern Grit, we had a huge conversation about writing honestly and not pandering. We didn’t want to be Veer or Wurk or Culture Snack. There simply is just too much of this, "Everything is great” mentality in those print publications.
I mean op-ed wise, Tom Robotham puts out some good work in Veer but by in large in all three of those publications when you read them it’s going to be a love fest from front to back. Don’t get me wrong though; there are tons of things in Hampton Roads to love. I was raised here. This is my home. Shit, earlier this year I turned down two design job offers out of state (plus some financial peace of mind) because this is where I want to live.
The problem is that when you scream from the rafters about how awesome something is just because it’s new, or because that particular restaurant, business, etc… is taking out an ad in your publication, you take away from those chefs or restaurants that are truly killing it.
GC: How far out of the area are you hoping the magazine will reach?
JF: We will endeavor to reach out of the area and more into the greater south as we grow. I eventually want to see Southern Grit be a retail magazine not a free one. That’s one of the reasons I decided not to go with newsprint, but rather a magazine quality glossy paper.
For the moment I want to continue to build our social media numbers and expand our print edition both by volume and by spots we distribute to. We very shortly are going to run an online campaign to take steps towards just that. With the growth we already have seen (particularly in regards to our social media numbers plus how fast our print magazines are gone once we put them out), I’m hoping this online campaign will be of interest to restaurants and business owners in Hampton Roads who wish to reach their demographics through an inventive and most importantly, pander free, publication. Our readers, of which I am so very grateful for write us and get what we are about. I think people are tired of reading advertising vehicles disguised as magazines.
In terms of food and art in the region, Hampton Roads is seriously expanding and developing a unique voice. I want Southern Grit to function in those circles. I like that Chefs message us, that industry workers message us. I believe they know we are doing this with passion and not to entice a full page ad.
GC: Are you doing the bulk of the editing and writing for the magazine?
JF: Due to Fellini's desire to Hunter S. Thompson it the fuck out of dodge, then come back, then turn around and set out to leave again, haha, yeah at this point I do.
Having worked at Nouvelle for a stint and mainly in light of getting to know many of the best Norfolk based chefs over the last year, I feel comfortable pulling a lot of the writing weight now. I do want to note, however, that after the first edition when Fellini left the state for a bit, Wade A. Hunter stepped forward and wrote a lot of really solid articles for Southern Grit, as well as aided with concepts and copy editing. I’m glad both of them still contribute articles to Southern Grit and that both of them are my friends. They both are really talented writers.
Also worth mentioning are the numerous other contributors that produced articles that break up the homogeneity. Honestly, the only thing I mind about writing so much of the content is that I can’t focus on that alone. In light of having to design, photograph, and now illustrate so much of the publication, I find myself spread thin sometimes. I’m not always the best multitasker either.
GC: How has the reception been when looking for supporters and advertisers?
JF: Selling advertising space sucks for someone who isn’t about sales. It takes a certain mindset and I am an artist, not a salesman. I am very grateful that O’Connor Brewing Co. and Streats both did a three-issue deal. We have also found support from other local businesses. Right now we are looking for an ad rep – so hit me up young and hungry sales person!
I seriously hope that in the future that this part of the business doesn’t rest with me. I’m hoping this new online campaign will be successful and take some of the worry out of it for me. In college I learned a lot of what I use for Southern Grit - how to paint with oils, sculpt, draw, use watercolors, shoot photos manually, write - but I’ll say that business, instead of philosophy, might have been a smarter minor!
In terms of support in a non-monetary way, it has been overwhelming. I’m very appreciative of the press you have given us, plus the press Joe Fitz at the Dominion Collective gave us. As well as all the advice and time Dave Hausman at Handsome Biscuit/ Toast/ Field Guide, Charles Burnell at Work Release, Jamie Sums at 80/20, and Jesse Scaccia at Alt Daily have all given to me. Rina Estero at Nouvelle Restaurant also took a real interest in Southern Grit and was very helpful in facilitating some of the recent social media growth. And again, it goes without saying that our readers seriously rule! It’s been awesome having people come up to me and talk about articles my contributors and I spent hours on end creating.
GC: Will Southern Grit primarily cover food and restaurants?
JF: I think concerning the broader Virginia reach, Whurk employs a younger perspective, one that Veer is sadly lacking. This makes Whurk a tad more relevant to what is truly current and interesting to readers. However, Veer will most likely continue dominate as a free, broad culture review publication. Politically Veer does outshine other free publications available in Hampton Roads and despite many of us around here seeing the dinosaur mentality it often exudes, it's not going anywhere. For me, personally, I've enjoyed delving deeper into documenting and writing about the chefs and restaurants that are creating so much talk and energy around food in the area. I’m going to focus on thoroughly exploring that subject instead of throwing my resources at several different creative fields in Hampton Rooads. In terms of serious eaters in this area as well, I think it's becoming obvious that people are expecting more in terms of a meal out considering how diners are growingly engaged in the food they choose and support with their dollars. I hope that ultimately how deep Southern Grit gets into issues surrounding food, plus the quality of the visual along with the honest, straight-forward way the contributors and I write about the subject will continue to grow the brand that Southern Grit is developing into.
GC: Do you have a target audience?
JF: Charles Burnell told me once always answer that question with “Millennials” hahaha. I do think we have a younger readership like Wurk, but we’re more focused on our end. I think in terms of target audience, more than anything we are (I know some including myself feel this phrase is played out but) we are a foodies’ publication.
For example, we are about to talk candidly in a four-page article about the Legrand Burger, which is both loved and hated by many folks in the business. Danielle Jones of the food media blog Slice and Torte told me, "The LeGrand Burger is an enhancement of everything you want from a classic burger." On the other hand, Sous Chef Jon Scheidt of Nouvelle Restaurant refuses to even call it a burger, stating, "It's JUST a patty melt", whereas Chris Conway of Nomarama Burger Club is quick to tell anyone that will listen, "This, [the LeGrand Burger] is the best burger in the area and I say this with complete confidence”. However, Fellini at the mag most infamously said of the LeGrand Burger that "It's just a glorified Big Mac”. So we are in the process of sculpting an article that goes into the history of the burger as the public knows it asking a question: is LeGrand’s burger true-to-form to a classic burger? Hell, we even weigh the patties of the damn thing and compare its weight to the Big Mac to delve into how similar it may or may not truly be. By and large, even the best of publications like, say, Distinction, which retails for 10 bills is (in this case has), just basically wrote a good but standard bio/breakdown of Steve Marsh and his restaurant. We are always trying to go about things from unique angles. I think this edition the great burger debate piece with LeGrand and a very interesting challenge piece we did with Saint Germain’s Chef Dave Hledik kind of shows why we stand out when it comes to writing about food locally.
Honestly you never know what we will say because we are totally being straight up - even if it isn’t in line with popular attitudes around here. When I meet with contributing writers I always try to press them to write true to the experience they had if they are reviewing something. We really do need to get away from this broad pander mentality.
GC: What is Southern Grit?
JF: You know one of the reasons I lobbied for this name was it kind of is an attitude. It’s an attitude/ presence that I see when I watch Steve Marsh, or Dave Hledik, or Nic Hagen cook. It’s a no-nonsense, passionate, do-not-compromise-at-all way of creating for them, I believe. A good example was watching Rina Estero pick out veggies from Brothers farm… pairing them with proteins, and then having that in mind when pushing herself to constantly evolve her menu. I see this kind of from the beginning, hands-in-everything approach when I'm making the mag.
Chris, Wade, and I brainstorm a theme, we then look at what’s going on locally and try to identify what is interesting; what is striving to distinguish itself as inventive in food. Then I go shoot a photo story of a subject related to what we identified to see if we’re on the right path with our thinking. Then I interview the people involved, write it, match typography to the photography, possibly illustrate it, and then finally tweak everything into a final spread. It’s a labor of love - my hands and creative vision are in most all of it. I think this, in some ways, parallels the lives of the best chefs in the area and this is why I have so much respect for what they do. I honestly don’t look at a plate of food the same way anymore. The truly great ones are a form of art to me now.
Tom Kha is something I've been around my whole life - that's not the same thing as saying I've been eating it my whole life mind you. If you keep up with me and have read stuff I've written in the past, I wasn't into Thai food much when I was a kid. I do remember how the house would smell when my mother, who is Thai, was using the mortar and pestle to crush Thai Chilis, garlic, and lemongrass.
Those peppers though...the heat could kill you! Seriously. My mom would grow them by the acre and you better believe she was using them too. My first experience eating her beautiful food made me gun shy for years. Then before you know it, Shelby and I were married and off on our own. Boxes of Potato Au Gratin, cheap cuts and that nice Army E-4 pay had us on a affordable diet for years. I'm not knocking it, seriously. I go to Ollie's and pass the rows of boxed spuds, pasta, and Hamburger Helper and think about the good ole lean years. I wouldn't trade a minute of them.
I was talking about soup right?
Anyway...Tom Kha is good. You'll like it and I'm going to show you how to do it. The photo up top has seafood in it obviously. You can do that if you like, the seafood version of this dish is called Tom Kha Talay. Tom Kha is usually made with chicken though, that version (below) is called Tom Kha Gai.
The recipe I put together isn't so much different than most you'll find out there. It's primary components consist of this: Galangal, Kaffir Lime Leaves, Lemongrass and Coconut Milk.
Galangal has nothing to do with that M.I.A. song, it is a root known as the Thai ginger. You might see it sold in the stores as "Baby Thai Ginger" but please don't confuse it with ginger. Galangal and ginger taste totally different and if you make this soup without galangal it's not really Tom Kha (which translates into "galangal soup" basically.) That being said, you can make it with the ginger we're familiar with if you're in pinch, it just won't taste exactly as it should. It'll be still be good, but different. Galangal can be bought fresh or frozen in your local Asian market. Ask the someone behind the counter to help you out if you're having a hard time finding it.
Let's make some soup! Here's what you need to make Tom Kha at home.
- 1 Can of Coconut Milk
- 1 Lemongrass, large stalk, trimmed
- 2 Thai Chilis
- 1 Tsp Sugar
- 1/4 Yellow Onion, minced
- 1 Package of mushrooms shiitake/oyster preferred, approx 8 oz., chopped
- 2 Tbsp Galangal, slivered
- 1 Lime, large
- 3 Tbsp Fish Sauce
- 3 Cups of Chicken Stock
- Cilantro to Garnish
- Optional: Thai Chili Powder
Before You Start:
- Important! Do not boil the coconut milk. If you boil the coconut milk at a high temperature, it will not remain emulsified and the fat will separate from the liquid. Just like what happens to butter when it is heated at high temperatures.
- You can use chicken or seafood (shrimp, mussels, squid, etc...) with this recipe. Eat what you like!
- Chop up everything you need to put in the soup. I like to cut my galangal up in small, thin slivers. I do this so it can stay in the soup and not be strained out. Most recipes will have you remove or strain the galangal after the first phase of their recipes, I like to keep it in the soup. Getting a little bite of the root, almost crunchy, almost nutty, is great. If you prefer not to have it in, just slice it in larger pieces then strain before you add your chicken or seafood.
- Trim the lemongrass taking off any rough or brown bits. It a lot of recipes you would only use the white, fleshy part of the lemongrass. The reason is because it it easier to eat, we're not eating the lemongrass it's being steeped in the broth essentially. I'll admit to finely cutting up some lemon grass and leaving it in the soup when the mood hits me.
- Crush the lemongrass, Kaffir lime leaves, and Thai chilis. Use your pestle, a muddler or back of a heavy spoon to open up them up to release flavor. Remove chili seeds if you don't want it too hot.
- I do not remove all of the aromatics from the stock pot before I add the meat, but I do before I add the coconut milk.
- Chili powder can be added for more flavor, this is optional.
- Add the chicken stock, sugar, onion, Kaffir lime leaves, Thai chilis, lemongrass and galangal to a medium sized stock pot. Bring to a rolling boil for about 10 minutes.
- Add mushrooms, continue to boil for about 8-10 minutes to cook mushrooms.
- At this time if you wish to remove large pieces of aromatics (Kaffir lime leaves, lemon grass, chili, galangal) do so after the mushrooms are done.
- Add your chicken or seafood now, cook for about 10 minutes in the boiling broth. Remove any foam that might float to the top of the broth.
- After the meat is cooked through, pour in the coconut milk, fish sauce and lime juice, lower heat to a light simmer for 10 minutes.
- Serve with cilantro and lime wedges and maybe have a little more fish sauce on hand.
This is pretty easy to make and after a couple of tries it'll be a breeze. We use leftover chicken sometimes, if we do it doesn't need boiling as long. Just lower the heat to a simmer, cook for the same amount of time as you would the raw. Continue to follow the directions.
I am officially on vacation!
I look forward to Christmas time so I can take some time off the regular schedule to so some things I'd like to catch up on. Does that mean it will actually happen? Probably not as much as I like, but at least I should be able to do some of it.
First off, Christmas shopping needs to be knocked out. I think we're just about good, but there is always something that pops up last minute.
Second, I make dinner on Christmas Eve for my side of the family. I am notoriously slow when it comes to prep work. I'd like to get things done on time so we can eat and open presents without it being too late before everyone goes home.
Thrid, Christmas morning! This is usually Shelby, Marleigh, Chayce and myself, but this year we have Chayce's girlfriend with us too. It was nice for them to spend time together, we just had to make sure she was taken care of too - gifts, stocking, accommodations. Everything worked out fine. We go to Nana's house (Shelby's mother) for Christmas dinner later in the afternoon.
Fourth, the Ahearns visit from indiana the day after Christmas, Boxing Day!
The next week is chilling till New Years.
Hope everyone has a great holiday, be safe and have fun!
I've agreed to help out WAVY.com's HR Scene by contributing to the blog. I'll be writing about places to eat and everything related (surprise!)
Here's my first entry on Commune down at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront. Check it out!
We attended the Distinction Bootlegger's Ball this past weekend and had a great time. Shelby and I both dressed up and won the costume contest!
I'll get more photos up later this week but here is how the tintype turned out and you can check out our outfits.
I never ate Brussels sprouts until I started dating Shelby. Her mother would make them when we had dinner at her house and I grew to like them and then love them. They've become a staple in our special dinners. My daughter asked me the other day if I had my recipe available for the Brussels sprouts I make at home and I discovered I didn't. I'm writing it down now.
Note: Don't throw out the bacon grease or clean the skillet you fried it in, you'll need it for this recipe. Get a pot of boiling water ready too, we'll be blanching the Brussels sprouts. We don't want to blanch or leave the sprouts in the pan too long. If they're mushy, they're ruined.
- 1 pot of boiling water
- ice bath for blanched Brussels sprouts
- Saved grease from cooked bacon
- 1 package or approx. or 1 1/2 lbs of Brussels Sprouts (cleaned and trimmed)
- 1/2 lb of Bacon
- 2 tbsp of Bacon Grease
- 3-4 cloves of Garlic, minced
- 1/2 Red Onion, chopped
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- Start a pot of boiling water, enough to handle the Brussels sprouts.
- Fry the bacon. We like ours a little chewy, but cook it your preferred doneness.
- Remove bacon from the pan but leave the bits and pieces.
- Put the Brussels sprouts into the boiling water, blanch for approximately 5 minutes.
- Scoop sprouts out of boiling water and place in ice bath. Take them out when cooled and place in a strainer to dry.
- Once cooled, cut Brussels sprouts in half, lengthwise.
- Heat up skillet to about medium heat.
- Add bacon grease.
- Toss in the garlic and onions, cook for 1 minute.
- Add Brussels sprouts, salt and pepper.
- Cook to desired doneness and browned on the outside.
- Remove from heat, toss in bowl with chopped bacon then serve.
How do you roast a turkey? Easy! Follow the instructions on the bag! Seriously though, it is pretty simple. Here are a few things to consider:
First, you'll have to get a turkey. These days there are so many options - but you have to think ahead. If you're looking for a locally sourced turkey you might be out of luck waiting a few days beforehand. Most places want you to order them so they can make sure they have the stock and can prepare it for you in time. I would definitely check with your local farmers and butchers first before giving up on the Buy Fresh, Buy Local route if you feel like you're late though.
Of course, turkeys are pretty big and most of them will be frozen. We usually cook birds over 20 lbs. and turkeys that size could take about 5 days to thaw! Take into account thaw time. Oh! Save the neck and giblets for the stuffing and/or gravy!
Second, if you're going to brine the turkey make sure you have everything you need ahead of time! If you're looking for a good brine recipe, use mine! I've been brining my turkey for a few years now and love how it turns out. There are some out there that think it is totally unnecessary or takes away from the natural flavor of the turkey. You'll have to determine that for yourself and do what you like.
Third, determine the the roasting time for the bird which is dependent on the size of the turkey, whether or not you've brined the bird and if you stuff the cavity. Check out Epicurious' page on roasting times here for some pointers.
Fourth, cook the turkey breast-side down for the first two-third of the way then flip it over to brown the breast. Approximately an hour breast-side up. This will allow the breast to baste in its own juices and you'll have crispy skin all around!
Let's get started!
I always stuff my turkey with dressing, but I do it lightly. The cavity is usually stuffed with aromatics too - citrus and herbs. I also don't tie (truss) the legs together. I know it looks pretty and some people swear by it, but I've found that my turkey roasts fine without it. I want as much of the skin exposed as possible and I believe the turkey will cook more even in those spots not concealed by the trussed legs.
Of course we use the drippings for gravy. I add vegetables, a little white wine, stock and butter to the pan before I place the turkey in it. I also use a rack to keep the turkey from sitting directly in the drippings while it's roasting. After the turkey is done I save the braised vegetables from the roasting pan for the gravy too. There is a good amount of butter in the pan for basting, I love how the butter cooks into the skin. Here's what you need for the pan before you put the turkey in it:
Ingredients (Roasting Pan)
- 4 cloves of Garlic
- 2 medium Carrots
- 2 medium Yellow Onions
- 2 stalks of Celery
- Approx. 6 stalks/sprigs of Parsley
- Approx. 2 sprigs of Thyme
- Approx. 2 sprigs of Rosemary
- 2 large Bay Leaves
- 1/2 stick of Butter
- 1/2 cup Dry White Wine
- 1/2 Poultry Stock
- Optional: 1 Orange and some Parsley for cavity
- Preheat oven.
- Wash turkey (whether it it's straight from it's packaging or from the brine bag) and pat dry and set aside.
- Roughly chop the carrots, onions, celery, garlic and butter and spread them evenly within the roasting pan.
- Toss in your parsley, thyme, rosemary and bay leaves, these will be picked out of the pan after the turkey is finished. Try not to break them up too much at the start. You can add more or less of these herbs according to your preference.
- Pour in the wine and stock then place the rack on top of the vegetables and herbs.
- Salt and pepper the turkey to taste. I like to add a quartered orange and parsley to cavity and before I stuff it - do so now if you like.
Note: If you brined your turkey it will already have absorbed salt from the brining solution. Lightly salt if this is the case.
- Place turkey in middle of the oven so it will evenly cook.
- Feel free to baste the turkey every 40 minutes or so.
- When the turkey is done roasting (165°F internal thickest part of the bird) pull it from the oven and let it rest for 20 minutes before carving.
Coming up next is gravy!
Do not pour out the drippings from the pan or remove the braised vegetables in the pan. These will be used to make a delicious turkey gravy and a lot of it too! No need to list ingredients here because we have everything we need. If you saved giblets for the gravy or stuffing make sure they're available.
Note: In our house, I'll have the neck and giblets simmering on the stove the whole time the turkey is roasting. In the simmering pot I'll add the same mix of vegetables and herbs put in the roasting pan. Brown the giblets and vegetables before you pour in the liquids to simmers. This will make a flavorful broth, reduce it by half. When it's done, strain out the giblets and neck, keep these. Pick the neck for as much meat as you can get. Add this to the gravy later.
This takes anywhere for 15 to 30 minutes to complete. You can speed it up by adding a little bit of flour or a nice, dark roux.
- After the turkey is taken out of the pan, start removing the turkey fat from the drippings. I usually tilt the pan so the grease collects in one spot, making it easier to collect. Skim using whatever technique you like: skimming spoon, baster (with the rubber bulb), or whatever fancy device you get to use once a year. If you don't remove the fat you'll end up with a really greasy plate and miss out the concentrated flavors of the turkey seasoned turkey juices left in the pan.
- After the fat has been removed from the pan, remove the herbs (thyme, rosemary, parsley). You can leave them in but the rosemary might be a little overpowering if someone gets a good chunk of that.
- Transfer all the contents of the roasting pan into a medium sized stockpot. If you made a broth stove top, add that to the stockpot too if you're not freezing it.
- Bring contents to a low boil, about medium.
- Take an immersion blender (one of the handheld wands) and puree the vegetables in the stockpot. This will thicken the gravy and give it a ton of flavor.
- Let gravy sit and roll till it's as thick as you like it. Taste test and add whatever seasoning you like.
We were recently in Richmond visiting with Marleigh. She told us that a guy we met at Rappahannock Restaurant was opening a new restaurant with with some partners serving authentic Thai food.
When we met Jason Lough at Rappahannock last year he told us he was from Virginia Beach, and we actually knew some of the same people. Jason runs the bar at Sabai putting together creative mixed drinks and cocktails. He's also part of the creative force behind what the restaurant is doing. Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to talk to the kitchen because they were packed the night we went.
There was about a 40 minute wait, which wasn't a problem because the drinks at Sabai are soon to become a staple for the bar crawlers in town. Check out some of the drinks we ordered:
I got to sip everyone's drink but we were heading back to Virginia Beach later so I only wanted a taste. The drinks were put together well and the flavors complemented each , giving you that exotic feel and packing a punch. They might look frou-frou but they will lay you out if you're not careful. Once we got our table we had a chance to order. We tried a few appetizers and the four of us ordered different entrees.
We had the Larb Gai and Sai Gok appetizers first. Larb Gai is a basically a meat salad, Gai translates into chicken. The ground chicken is heavily spiced with thinly sliced vegetables. It can get eaten by wrapping or pinching it from the plate with lettuce or endive. The Sai Gok is a variety of sausage made is Thailand and surrounding countries. It's pretty spicy too and we loved it. Dipped in the dipping sauce made up of fish sauce, vinegar and sugar, it was even better.
Our entrees were great. I had the Pad Krapow Sap Kai Dow that is a spicy ground pork and mine came with a fried egg on top with a side of rice. i mixed it all up together and ate that way. I love this stuff. Shelby got the grilled chicken that tasted as good as the way it looked. The Pineapple Fried Rice was served in a the hollowed half of a pineapple was great and Ethan's Pad Thai was pretty good too. I definitely want to make another trip and try some of the other stuff on the menu. I would love a chance to talk to the chef too, he apparently is from Thailand and if trying to bring the Thai street food experience to Richmond. So if you're in Richmond, and looking for good Thai food, you'd do yourself a favor by visiting Sabai.
I like to talk to the people I meet when I'm out and about. One of these people is Joshua Seaburg, who at the time was running the bar at Twist at Town Center Virginia Beach. Josh, I know you're off doing your thing but I wanted to make sure everyone knew what you're about. Here is a little Q&A I had with him earlier this year.
(GC): You said you spent time down in the Caribbean? Where and how you ended up there? What did you do?
I moved to St. Thomas in December of 2012. I have some family down there who own a pretty large fine jewelry store, who I met when I visited on a cruise in August of that year. They invited me to learn the jewelry industry, and at the time I was dissatisfied with what I had going on in my life, and figured it would be a good experience. I ended up bringing my then-girlfriend down shortly after I moved there, and we worked together for my family's business, got engaged in June of 2013 and moved back for her to continue her education, and me to pursue craft bartending in my hometown.
(GC): How many years in the business do you have?
I've been in the restaurant industry since I was 16, tending bar since 21. My first bartending gig was at an Oceanfront tequila bar, where I started to learn about spirits (Tequila, in this case), and really came to understand how much there was to know.
(GC): What do you do? Where you want to go with it?
I am responsible for the spirits and cocktails..., as well as all the design and training that surrounds that. In practical terms, I develop recipes, educate staff and guests on what we have to offer, and train and supervise the bar staff. My goal...is to develop a nationally competitive cocktail program, and bring this area into the sort of craft cocktail renaissance that's been happening worldwide.
(GC): Can you tell me about the Fernet-Branca coin again? That story about the drink and a little bit about your experience in Richmond with it?
Fernet Branca is this really complex, bracing amaro that rose to prominence on the west coast as an insider shot among bar industry folk. It's much more well-known now than it was before, but it retains status as a wildly popular drink with bartenders. They give out very small amounts of these military-inspired challenge coins to deserving Fernet enthusiasts. As far as I know, I'm the only person in the area who has one, although I wouldn't be surprised if some folks in Charlottesville and Richmond had some too, especially John Maher at The Rogue Gentlemen. He was gracious enough to share some of his Fernet Branca from the 1960s the first time my buddy Stephan Stockwell (Chow, Norfolk, VA) and I stopped in right around their opening day. I had been put in touch with John by the east coast director for Fernet's distribution company, because he'd noted both of us for our love for Fernet Branca. John's from California, and definitely has more Fernet street cred than me.
(GC): Is there anything else you want people to know about you and your work.
I guess the main point that I want to embellish is that, just because I and my staff take drinking and cocktails very seriously, we don't expect that from our guests. The word mixologist carries kind of a bad reputation, because it conjures the image of a guy who feels like he's doing you a favor by serving this drink, and what kind of idiot are you if you don't know what Cynar is? I try to be very much the opposite - the first priority is to serve the guest's needs, not my own ego. One of my favorite quotes is from a book called Beta Cocktails: Bars exist to serve customers, not cocktails. I'm big into the idea that everyone who's at my bar has a need, and it's my job as a bartender to meet it. Sometimes that need is just a beer and some hospitality, not a 20-minute diatribe on obscure French Liqueurs.
Grab a copy of the Nov/Dec HR Growler issue o the street now! Find them at your favorite Hampton Roads watering holes and speciality shops!
A little while ago Shelby said we should eat more oatmeal. She's a fan of the steel cut oat variety and will make a batch ahead of time and eat portions over a couple of days. After making some one day she said we should try to make a dinner with it. I said, "Sure."
So we did.
One version of the oatmeal I made was with some sauteed garlic, onion and thyme. I topped it with some green bell pepper, mushrooms, tomatoes and more onion. It's easy, toss it all in a pan. After a couple of minutes scoop in some oatmeal and mix it together.
The finished product can look and include whatever you like. I'm a believer that if you put garlic and onion on something it'll taste good, no matter what it is!
We still had some oatmeal so tried something else. This one included garlic, onions, and mushrooms again but also a dollop of yellow miso. I mixed it all together, topped it off with some more mushrooms chive, and a soft fried egg. This ended up being Shelby's favorite.
The miso was perfect with the slightly sweet steel-cut oats. I've tried a few more recipes too, I think I'll get them written up. I recently made a couple with some shrimp too. Stay tuned!
So much has happened this year and I'm still not caught up! I'm trying though!
Bear with me.
I'm always looking for something new to listen to. In our family we like to share good stuff we find, this week Marleigh asked if I ever heard of Duster. I love post-rock, instrumental music and the song she sent me fits the bill. I only wish it was a longer! Here it is, enjoy.
Stopped by Back Bay Brewing Co. to grab Jasper a pour after the Old Beach Farmers Market. Funny thing is he didn't drink it so I had to. We also met a kid who just turned 21, he was down from Hampden-Sydney College with his buddies. His parents were taking all the boys out on a local brewery tour. I thought that was a pretty nice idea. Oh, also got to chat briefly with Travis about his trip to Canada and California and Josh Malbon dropped in waiting or his order from Gringo's next door.
Living near the Chesapeake Bay allows us to eat some of the best oysters in the world but for a while some of our waterways were in trouble. After years of rehabilitation, oysters are making a comeback due conservation efforts and good stewards like Chris Ludford of Pleasure House Oysters.
Chris comes from a line of local watermen and he grew up harvesting what our waters have to offer. When switching from crabs to oysters years ago he has made it a point to ensure sustainable practices that allow us to enjoy his beautiful Pleasure House Oysters from the Lynnhaven River. He makes sure he takes only what he needs to allow what he harvests to mature and promote population growth in these waters once world renowned for their delicious and bountiful oysters.
Chris is a proponent of educating the public on how oysters live, how they grow and their contribution to our area. The Merroir Terroir oyster dinners Terrapin holds once a month, that's Chris at one above, allows him talk about what is in our waterways and how we all can be conscience of what it is we're pulling from it.
i can think of no better person to be responsible for harvesting oysters from the Lynnhaven than Chris Ludford. His passion to do things the right way, to make sure he leaves no footprints when caring and harvesting from the waters here is obvious when you spend any amount of time with him. He'll take you out on his boat if you want to learn more or see for yourself how he operates.
Help him and his team out to get their lease renewed. Read his personal plea below and write Commissioner John Bull letting him know you support Chris and responsible oyster farming. Share his message too!
Pleasure House Oysters on Instagram:
We love the Lynnhaven River and everything in it and we work hard to make it a better place but it seems that some folks just don't want oyster farming activities in the waters near their homes. We have an oyster lease application that is being protested by residents that are scared, misinformed and in many cases being inflammatory. We have no ill will toward these folks. We need your help letting the State of Va know we are the best candidate for this lease. If you could take the time to write a letter to;
Commissioner John Bull
Va Marine Resources Commission
2600 Washington Ave
Newport News, Va. 23607
Reference Ludford Application 2014317
Please let them know that our operation takes great care in being a good neighbor on the river and that we should be able to continue our work growing oysters and cleaning the river on the lease we have applied for. Now is the time to act if you can please find the time. Letters carry a lot of weight. Thank you!
Green Flash Brewing's annual cancer benefit and awareness event called Treasure Chest is happening this Sunday (11 Oct 2015) in Virginia Beach! Throughout the week, in the Hampton Roads area, Green Flash will be throwing #raiseaglass2015 events to raffle off tickets to this great event and help advertise the cause.
(Check out photos from last year's Treasure Chest - Virginia Beach here.)
Treasure Chest was founded in 2011 by Green Flash Co-Founder and breast cancer survivor Lisa Hinkley. All the Treasure Chest related events raise money to support breast cancer charities. A beer and icon are released with the announcement of the event.
This year's Green Flash Treasure Chest beer is a naturally pink IPA with grapefruit and prickly pear juice and hibiscus flowers. I haven't had it yet, but plan on grabbing one this week! Last year's was great, barrel-aged Belgian style saison with plum. It was fermented in red wine barrels with house Brettanomyces, then conditioned with plums for six months. It was very good!
Hampton Road's 2nd annual Treasure Chest event will be held at the same place it was last year - on the Green Flash Brewing property connected to where the new brewery will open in 2016. Like last year, they have invited other local breweries and shops to participate as a community to throw the big bash.
I was one of the photographers last year (you can see some of my photos in the video linked above) and can tell you it was a great time. Everyone was having fun (some a little more than others, you know who I'm talking) drinking some great beers and eating delicious food. The first time I ever had a sample of Home Republic food was at Treasure Chest 2014. That's saying something because I get out a lot! Another thing is that my wife, Shelby, will be volunteering at the event too. I can't wait to see her in action.
If you want a chance to win tickets, hit up one of the #raiseaglass2015 events in the area leading up the actual Treasure Chest October 11th. I've sorted them out for you below:
- 10/6 - Tubby's Tavern from 5:00-8:00 PM (Virginia Beach)
- 10/7 - DoG Street Pub from 5:00-8:00 PM (Williamsburg)
- 10/8 - The Public House from 5:00-8:00 PM (Norfolk)
- 10/9 - Home Republic from 6:00-9:00 PM (Virginia Beach)
- 10/10 - Lynnhaven Pub from 6:00-10:00 PM (Virginia Beach)
Buy tickets to Treasure Chest on this page.
Photos included were from The Birch's Treasure Chest event last week.
I was on Granby St. yesterday chatting with the owner of Brink Anchor (where Jack Quinn's used to be) and realized I was super hungry. Sometimes I get wrapped up in the idea of what it is I want to do and forget to do things like, say, eat. So I was starving after my visit with Phil and was trying to decide where to eat lunch. It's been a while since I've had a lunch option in Norfolk since I live in Virginia Beach and I'm at my regular job during the day (no, I don't blog for a living.) The decision wasn't hard to reach after remembering a photo I saw online this week. The image depicted a mountain of a sandwich - no more like a volcano with lava of peach chutney tumbling down stacked, curry braised pork. It was called the Shah Raan and I was going to rise to the challenge issued by Field Guide to "conquer" it.
I mentally prepared myself, image Sir Edmund Hillary getting that high knowing he was going to climb Mt. Everest. I was right down the street from this monster, all I had to do was find a parking spot. The Fates were with me because a car pulled out of a spot right in front of Field Guide and I quickly slid in and paid the meter. It was a beautiful day, overcast and cool, I love how it feels when it's like that.
I walked into Field Guide and was greeted by Jeremy behind the counter and saw an acquaintance Chris Revels seated at the bar. He was taking a break from mural painting a few blocks away. Jeremy mentioned it had been a while since I've been there, which is true, but I knew exactly what I wanted. I asked for the "big ass sandwich". He smiled knowingly and shouted to the kitchen, "Big Ass Sandwich!" I waved to Cristina and crew in the back and headed back to say hi.
My sandwich was being made as I stepped into the doorway to the kitchen. I watched from afar, a little giddy with the idea that I was going to eat it. I know it sounds cheesy, but I get excited about eating - especially good food and Field Guide is on point. Always. I chatted a little bit about the Shah Raan and Cristina (Waffletina)told me about some of her other projects she's working on. By the way, if anyone wants to rent a great space next to Toast in Norfolk, get in touch with her. The space could be used for about anything and the rent would be a great deal.
The Shah Raan sandwich was created by one of the line cooks in Field Guide's kitchen. I love the fact that the people in the back have the opportunity to put something together and then have it featured in the shop. David Hausmann, the creative mind behind Field Guide and several other projects in Norfolk, has been spot on when introducing new concepts to the area. Especially those dealing with food, I mean who doesn't like Handsome Biscuit? Back to the sandwich - the Shah Raan is made up of curry braised pork shoulder, sunflower pecan raita, and peach chutney. I'll be honest and say I have no idea what the name means, I think it was just something the guy came up with when they made it. It sounds exotic and the sandwich itself reflects that with Indian-style curry infused in the pork, just enough so you know it's there. The raita is lightly tossed with red cabbage and the peach chutney rounds out everything with a slightly pungent sweetness. What's really neat about this is the flavor profile is usually seen used with chicken or lamb, I think it pairs perfectly with pork though.
Please don't judge me, but I didn't even try to pick up my sandwich. I mentioned that I would probably use a fork and knife and Jeremy laughed and grabbed me my flatware and a bunch of napkins. I was going to need them. They call mustaches "flavor savers" for a reason!
I was working on my sandwich when Dave walked in. The guy is busy and was hitting his spots tying up loose ends. We chatted for a bit about some ideas he had about expansion, new shops and things he'd like to introduce to the area. Exciting stuff. I have to mention that Cristina put together a great dessert for me made with a almond shortbread recipe she loves. The recipe is actually from one of Dave's old restaurants The Boot, I'm sure a lot of you remember that place. 80/20 Burger Bar is in the old location now. The dessert was made with charred peaches, a delicious homemade cream that reminded me of Shelby's Dirty Cake, and a little bit of mint leaf. So good!
I was able to finish my whole sandwich. That thing was huge, so unlike Hillary who did manage to reach the summit of Mt. Everest I made it about halfway. I bowed out gracefully asking for a container to package my unfinished portions so I could share them with Shelby later at home. I was very satisfied with the whole experience and told myself to not wait so long before visiting Field Guide again. Oh, and thanks for the beer Jeremy.
Additionally, here are a few shots of the mural Chris was working on.