Thankful for Richmond’s Renaissance

In the Spirit of Thanksgiving, I suppose it’s time to follow all other blogs, social media posts, and people in general by saying what I’m thankful for.

But since it probably goes without saying that it’s when your coffee has free refills and all of the cute boys in my history class, let’s change things up a bit. What is Richmond, VA, the 804, thankful for?

We’re thankful and excited we were chosen for Stone Brewery’s next home, opening 2016 near Rockett’s Landing. Beating out many other cities up and down the East Coast, Richmond continues to prove herself as a Mecca for foodies.

Speaking of that, let’s talk restaurants. How many times have you praised the Lord that Red Eye was open til 1 or 2 am to warm you up in this chilly fall/winter that’s upon us? Doesn’t a Sugar Shack donut set your day off on the right note?Or that, thanks to the twice-a-year Richmond Restaurant Week, that lets you try out more pricier places like Comfort, The Roosevelt, and Deco for $25.14 for a three course meal? And on the topic of the Roosevelt, Southside is reeling in bliss that we now have Southbound, which officially opened Tuesday. If I had the time and energy, I would also list the 390672038503 other amazing places to go grab a bite to eat. 

To branch off of that, I don’t think there’s anything like Richmond’s coffee addiction. Thank you, Lift, The Lab by Alchemy, Blanchard’s, Capital Coffee, Black Hand, Lamplighter, Crossroads, Taza, and (soon) Perk! for keeping Richmond rolling.

Not just thankful, Richmond is also proud to be the home of University of Richmond, Virginia Union, and Virginia Commonwealth University. Even though it’s kinda unspoken that you pick one school and bleed their colors til death, as a city we’re proud to house them all.

One of Richmond’s crowning jewels is our blossoming art scene, we pride ourselves over this like parents with kids making A’s in first grade. Our premier art museum has exhibited Dale Chiluly and Picasso over the past couple of years, and currently China’s Forbidden City. 1708 Gallery holds in the Inlight Festival every year, a nighttime display of colors for a night in different parts of town. The Street Art Festival made its debut a year ago at the abandoned GRTC bus stop, drawing attention to the growing presence of murals in the city from the Richmond Mural Project. Look for its return next year in Manchester.  First Fridays art walk is the place to be every month, up on Broad Street’s Arts District. And let’s not forget Joe Seipel’s School of the Arts at VCU, the number one public arts university in the country. Richmond truly honors art and artists highly. 

Our local shops and businesses are another thankful feather in this turkey. Where else can you find a Quirk gallery and shop/future Quirk hotel, kitschy World of Mirth toystore, or Chop Suey used bookstore (with a cat?!)? These little shops are what give Richmond its Richmond culture, and not the big box, any-suburban neighborhood Targets. We’re here to support each other and each other’s businesses. 

We’re grateful for the James River and its class IV rapids that make river days hella lot more interesting with your stand-up paddle boards, canoes, and inner tubes.  There’s nooks and crannies to tan and swim in all parts of the River, from Texas Beach to Pony Pasture. With Richmond being named the best river town in the country, I mean we’re just a little proud…. 

And even though, thirty years in the making, we still cannot figure out where to put a baseball diamond, Richmond is trilled and thankful the San Francisco Giants chose to nest their double-A team, the Flying Squirrels on the Boulevard.

I saw an article floating around Facebook the other day about Richmond being one of the most prideful cities, and with all the good and fun stuff we got running around the city, I can totally believe that. Maybe it’s just me, but with all of these awards and notices Richmond has been getting lately, all the hype about our food and river, Richmond’s going through a Renaissance, and we’re in the midst of it. To be around all of this liveliness and growth is exciting, I just want to prance up and down the James eating some tres leches cake from Kuba Kuba and make my own silly RVA video. We might as well be Florence in the 1500’s. We have a Cathedral  and a statue of a naked guy, too. 

(What a time to be alive)

(By the way, I’m starting a petition to get more nationally recognized holidays dedicated to food. Not like National Cake Day, which most people sadly ignore. I’m talking multiple Thanksgivings, where school is closed for a week and people get the day off work-at least one a season. I think I need 100,000 signatures to have Congress officially look at it, so your support is greatly needed!)

Fall Doesn’t Totally Suck

Oh man.

I’m not sure that I’m prepared for this.

Someone get me a therapist.

Fall’s here.

I should’ve seen it coming, pumpkin spice lattes have been advertised for the past two months and Ugg boots are starting to make their presence as all the basics (as in basic white girls) have been coming out of hiding for their favorite season in their yoga pants.

White girls when pumpkin spice lattes are a out again be like

The past Indian summer month of September was a blessing as I was wearing sandals and cut-off shorts to class and making smoothies. But now, I’ve been sporting long pants and cardigans more frequently and soon enough, boot weather will be taking over. Ugh, shutters, boo, hiss.

But as Hannah reminded me, there are some perks to fall. Like the Richmond Folk Festival. I hope you came out again this year to Brown’s Island for the celebration of the decade-old festival. Good food (Even Red Eye was there!!), good music and entertainment (hello who know Balkan jazz was going to be so awesome? And why can’t the Mayans do a sunrise/sunset pole dance every day at Tredegar?) and good vibes and people- and I’m not just saying that because I was there. Did you know the Richmond Folk Festival is bigger than the National Folk Festival (the traveling festival that spends three years in a city, then moves on and leaves behind a festival for the city to cherish?)? With the NFF hitting up Greensboro, North Carolina next year, the motherland- my mother’s land-, I’m shivering in these connections.

Speaking of food, what about the fruit up in Charlottesville? Apple-picking at Carter Mountain, you know? Hannah, Sean and I went and picked more apples than one knows what to do with. Personally, I prefer fall apple recipes than pumpkin spice recipes (other than the pumpkin nutella muffins), and these apple granola bars and apple snicker doodles are perfection, these fried apples are better than Luck’s and take 5 minutes at most, and I’m dying to make these apple pie muffins.  If you’re one of those people who like savory food and things that aren’t dessert, apples and brie are probably one of the best things that will ever hit your burger so you should probably get on that.

And let’s not forget the fall sports to go along with your food. (If you’re expecting football than just skip over this paragraph). Hello, it’s October- Men of October- as in super attractive professional baseball players in the play-offs! I’m off in the corner praying for a Giants and Orioles World Series, and no not because both teams are orange and black. Richmond, much of the Giants spent time at the Diamond playing for the Squirrels, and Baltimore is just a day trip away- there’s minor league and regional loyalty.

Baseball pants and baseball pants and baseball pants

And as all good things come to an end, baseball season will be ending as COLLEGE BASKETBALL IS BEGINNING. YOU DON’T WANNA GO TO WAR WITH THE RAMS. FEAR THE HAVOC. SHAKA SMART. MO ALIE-COX. JORDAN BURGESS. BRIANTE WEBER. ROWDY RAMS. SEE YA IN THE STUDENT SECTION! 

And if sports aren’t your cup of tea, then I hope the Richmond music scene is! Dirty Heads will be playing November 8th at the National. You really shouldn’t be too worried at the new ownership, the people seem cool. Plus, $2 concert at the Canal Club on October 26- Priory with Coby and Kid is Qual. Check “Weekend” out here. Not bad for less than a Subway footlong sandwich, amirite?

We’re back on food, I see. It’s about time I announce on here than November 1st, Southbound will be opening its doors. Why should we be excited about this? 1. Southbound is bringing Richmond’s food renaissance to Bon Air (yay!). 2. Southbound will be run by Lee Gregory of Church Hill’s The Roosevelt (regarded by multiple sources as one of the East Coast’s best restaurants), a James Beard finalist, and Joe Sparatta of Heritage. 3. Following the Bon Air scene, Southbound will be family friendly (as combining cheaper prices with tip top quality food). 4. Holy crap now I’m going to have to decide between Southbound and Manny Mendez of Kuba Kuba’s Galley.

Flipping couch cushions and breaking piggy banks looking for ways to fuel my new restaurant hangout

Another good thing about November is not just birth month, but also arguably one of the best holidays- Thanksgiving. Yeah there’s being thankful and football or something on the tv, and a cute Charlie Brown special, but there’s also history (!) to this holiday, three days off of school and my favorite part: it’s a day dedicated to food. Peanut butter pumpkin balls? Cheesy apples? Home made mashed potatoes, fresh rolls, hot turkey? We celebrate on Wednesday is you want to come join our family for the day and partake in these foods.

Bee tee dubs Kirsten Wiig will totally be there. Just ask my mom. She’s totally like, our seventh cousin, only thrice removed

Also, Urban Farmhouse’s fall menu.

Also, the fact that Urban Farmhouse is opening soon near my college.

Perk, Bon Air’s new coffee shop, can open after December 1st. No yes this is perfect I only have to go through one stop lights to get quality coffee all of my problems will be solved  *plans to spend every free moment there, reading historical fiction and drinking chai and espresso until man of my dreams appears and we run away to open a coffeeshop/bookstore in Church Hill and be like Lee Gregory. We will prance around at the fall festivals, go to concerts and sporting events together, cook and eat like royalty in this Richmond Renaissance. And at the end of the day I’ll have to go apologize to Hannah because fall isn’t that bad, it can actually be pretty nice* 

Emperor and Empress, actually.

Bon Air Pharmacies

My father used to tell me a lot of things when I was a kid- one of them was “I want you to work in a pharmacy”.

I was about twelve or thirteen. My father and I were going to the pool, and on the way there we stopped at the CVS in Bon Air so he could pick up his medicine. I wasn’t exactly happy to do so, just craving Granite sunshine, but he made me go inside with him.

“Gary!” The pharmacist and technicians yelped when they saw us walking over and they ran over to talk to us.

“This is my daughter, Claire. She’s going to Saint Gertrude in a couple of years.” Daddy introduced me as I gave him the evil I’m-not-going-to-Saint-Gertrude eyes.

“Saint Gertrude!” The ladies working there screamed, “I went there! I love that school!” Continue reading

Planet Granite

To some people, their pool is a hole in their backyard.

To some people, their pool is a part of their country club.

But to me, my family, and the rest of the Planet Granite Pool community, the pool is something extraordinary

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My parents have been going to Granite since way before I was born, and with the marathon long waiting list, I thank Jesús Cristo that they did. We’ve made amazing friends and connections at our private little pool, I remember when I was little and I’d wait for each school year to end so I could go back to spending all day at the pool and playing with my summer friends. 

Granite Pool, tucked away off of Forest Hill, has members from Richmond’s artists, musicians, restauranteurs, and other elites, including other hippies and hipsters (with lots of tattoos). What other Richmond pools can brag that their members include(d) Continue reading

RVA Summer

Even though I have  a fall birthday, I’m a summer girl. My favorite shoes are flip flops, I crave those days where it’s so hot outside you’re dripping in sweat, and I love seafood. In fact, all of my favorite childhood memories come from the summer: lazy days at Granite Pool, baseball nights at the Diamond, and helping my daddy grill dinner. As you know, Richmond is always in the midst of something fun and exciting, and summer is no exception. Belle Isle and the Byrd are always great things to do, but sometimes you need a change of scenery. Even though I can’t get you all memberships to Granite or take you out to the ballgame, I can tell you what else is going on during the summer.

Festivals:

  1. Saint Anthony’s Maronite Church Lebanese Food Festival is going on May 16-18. In the third grade, my teacher was performing at the festival and invited all of her students to go. My gastronomic family and I decided to go, and we’ve been loyal ever since. The food there is phenomenal, I’m a fan of the spinach and cheese pies and stuffed squash. And you simply must get the hot zalabia donuts. Trust me, the line is worth it. We normally buy about five of the zalabia packages to hoard at home. While you’re eating, enjoy the Lebanese music, and get in on the dancing! Don’t worry if it rains, that happens a lot during the festival (thanks nature gods!) and parking’s going to be bad but that’s okay because the experience and food makes everything worth it.
  2. After you’re done stuffing your face with two days worth of Lebanese food, check out Vibe Fest at Max’s Positive Vibe Cafe going on Sunday, May 18 2014 from 12-6.
    Positive Vibe Cafe is in Stratford Hills, and is probably the sweetest place in town. Garth Larsen started Positive Vibe ten years ago, training and employing those with disabilities to help get experience. Garth and his son Max, who has MD, can be often found smiling and happy around the cafe-but with a name like Positive Vibe how can you not? As a non-profit, Positive Vibe relies on patrons, volunteers, and its charity benefits including the Coach’s Cook-off between Shaka Smart of VCU and Chris Mooney of UofR, and the Vibe Fest. Come out for great food and music on this pretty Sunday for its tenth year! 
  3. From another part of the Mediterranean comes the Greek Food Festival. At Saints Constantine and Helen Orthodox Church across from Windsors Farms comes four days of baklava, dancing, music and vendors. They even have a drive threw line for those on the run! Greek Food Festival will be Thursday May 28- Monday June 2nd.

    Don’t forget to check out the vendors inside the church!

  4. For all of you with bones of red meat, The Second Annual RVA Bacon Festival will be on Sunday, June 8th. Held at the 17th Street Farmer’s Market from 11am-5pm, there’s all kinds of bacon, from sweet chocolate to savory, bacon ice cream, ribs, etc. t’s like a real life episode of Epic Meal Time. Be prepared for traffic though: Sean and I went last year and could barely walk through the crowd and had to leave after barely an hour. If you love bacon and can stand lines (and Richmond heat), then this is your kinda place. 
  5. The Richmond Vegetarian Festival is going on Saturday, June 21st from 12:00 to 6:00 pm for all you vegetarians and vegetable lovin’ omnivores at the Azalea Gardens at Bryan Park. There will be speakers on veganism, animal treatment, and a Q&A with a dietician. Food will be provided from places like DeLuca Gelato, Ginger Thai, and Grapevine (check out the vendors here!), and of course, being in Richmond, there will be music and your doggies are allowed! 
  6. Carytown Watermelon Festival will be going on the hottest, most humid Sunday during the summer. This year, it will be on August 10, being held from 10 am-6 pm. There are vendors (some of Carytown’s own stores, and some others), over 60 musical acts, summer sales, children’s activities, and a watermelon, or two…or 3,000. Restaurants often serve up watermelon dishes, and Sweet Frog brings out its watermelon yogurt! Carytown runs from Nansemond to Boulevard, only a mile long, so with 115,000 people like in 2013, it might get a tad bit crowded.

Continue reading