Good Eats: This article was featured in RVAMag #29: Summer 2017. You can read all of issue #29 here or pick it up at local shops around RVA right now.
A Taste Of The Alps
The culinary creative minds behind Metzger Bar and Butchery in Church Hill have been toiling away on their latest project, and this time, Richmonders will get a little taste of what the Alpine region has to offer.
Chef Brittanny Anderson, Pastry Chef Olivia Wilson, Brad Hemp, Nathan Conway, and James Kohler will open Brenner Pass in Scott’s Addition, a restaurant with a focus on the cuisine of Switzerland, France, and Italy.
“There’s fondue from Switzerland, a really traditional vibe from the Piedmont of Italy and [the] Chamonix and Haute-Savoie region of France,” said Anderson. “And then we’re taking all those traditional things and updating them with a modern vibe and making them a little more of what the modern diner is looking for.”
Anderson, Hemp and Conway opened Metzger in 2014, which has since carved out its own niche in Richmond’s foodie town with its rustic, seasonal menu of German-inspired fare, wine and cocktails. But the crew didn’t want to stop there, so last year they took a trip to Europe in search of their next inspiration.
“For me… I cooked a lot with Italian chefs and was really looking for an outlet, and a place to explore that cuisine a little bit more so I went to the Alps last year and it was such a beautiful region and great culture,” Anderson said. “The food is really different and fun and I think a lot of people aren’t used to or don’t know much about it so we were excited to bring that to Richmond.”
The restaurant’s namesake is after the well-known mountain pass, which goes through the Alps forming the border between Italy and Austria. Brenner Pass will open for dinner five nights a week, serving up many large, family-style dishes for sharing such as fondue as well as seafood dishes like Arctic char and trout, a veal chop and a whole rabbit dish smothered in a red wine and chocolate sauce. Entrees will come in around the mid-$20s with a large portion of the menu dedicated to snack options all under $10.
Anderson will be at the helm as chef, Wilson will head up the pastry program at Brenner Pass, Conway will oversee the wine program, and James Kohler, formerly of Saison, will oversee the bar program.
The restaurant and bar, which is located at 3200 Rockbridge St. in Scott’s Addition, has been under construction for over a year and is slated to open in June. The Metzger owners also plan to open a bakery and coffee shop in the space of their restaurant next door called Chairlift, slated to open shortly after Brenner Pass.
*Editor update: Brenner Pass opened June 22 and Chairlift opened at the end of August.
Longtime Restaurateur Brings A Little “Grace” To Church Hill
Veteran restaurateur Jessica Wilson plans to open Grace, a seasonal, sustainable farmhouse restaurant on Chimborazo in the fall.
Wilson, who currently lives in New York, plans to have a focus on fresh, local produce using a neighboring garden and sourcing from local farms.
“It’s something I wanted almost my entire life,” Wilson said of the venture. “I have old blueprints from when I was younger of putting a restaurant together.”
A dishwasher at 14, Wilson has been in the industry for 25 years living and working in New York City for the last 10 years. She’s opened five restaurants for people in the city and worked in well-known NY eateries such as Prune, Goat Town and most recently Deer Bushwick before leaving last year to pursue her dream.
“That was the first year I didn’t have a full-time job for someone else,” she said.
Wilson checked out spots in Brooklyn and Charleston before deciding to visit Richmond in January. “I had a friend down here and I just started falling in love with Richmond,” she said.
She started looking at locations and stumbled across a property on Chimborazo Boulevard on a local food blog. “I looked it up and got butterflies, I was like, ‘that’s my place, that’s my restaurant,” Wilson said.
The space was originally a confectionery shop opened by Hiram H. Herbert in the early 1900s and eventually became a grocery store. Wilson will close on the property at the beginning of June and start renovations in the summer. She also plans to live in the space upstairs.
Grace will be a 4,700-square foot restaurant and market with a 40-seat patio and a garden next door to support the restaurant. “There’s nothing really there and I think providing that morning market would be really good for produce,” she said.
The restaurant will focus on old farmhouse techniques such as curing, preserving and pickling according to Wilson, and have a wine cellar. “We’ll do a really good bar program from vegetable based juices for the mixtures, fermentations of different tonics and thinks like that,” she said. “I’m going to do as much in-house as we can.”
In addition to a market and garden, Wilson hopes to offer programs for kids, such as cooking and educational classes once she opens. “I want it to be a place where I can give us as much back to the community, but also be a really good place to eat. Every day of the week,” she said.
Until Grace gets up and running sometime in the fall, eager patrons can get a taste of what Wilson will bring to the table with her east coast pop up dinner series, Gather for Grace, which will launch in June.
Donuts Shackin’ Up In Hanover & Burgers Heading For Chesterfield
Donuts, burgers, and beer. Have any three words ever sounded so magical together?
Richmond’s ever-expanding, ever-delicious doughnut shop Sugar Shack is set to open in Hanover in June on Mechanicsville Turnpike to serve up their famous donuts and coffee.
Sugar Shack opened its first location on North Lombardy in 2013 and has since expanded with locations in Bon Air on Huguenot Road, Parham Road in Henrico, Alexandria, Arlington, Fredericksburg, two in Florida, Stafford and Virginia Beach. Plans for additional shops in Charlottesville and Washington, D.C. are already underway.
And it’s managed to stay fairly under the radar, but the folks behind Sugar Shack, Ian Kelley, James Henderson, Michael Goins, plan to open burger joint Luther Burger. The restaurant, which is slated to open the same month as the Hanover sugar shack, will go inside the Bon Air location and serve locally sourced beef, turkey, and veggie burgers. Buns will be hand-rolled using the same dough used to make the donuts. In addition to burgers, Luther Burger will serve waffle fries and carry a rotating selection of beers and seasonal wines.
Editor’s Update: Sugar Shack Donuts & Coffee in Hanover opened Aug. 12 and Luther Burger has not yet opened.
Sweet Side Of ‘Saur’
Fermenting may not be the current hipster-foodie trend right now like deconstructed coffee, smoothie bowls or drinking vinegars, but the process is only flavorful, but good for your digestion and overall health. Just ask Grant Collier who spends his days running Wild Earth Farms.
Launched in January of 2016, Wild Earth Farms makes and sells raw, naturally-fermented vegetables in Richmond using produce from Virginia farms.
And it’s not plain old canned sauerkraut you get off the shelf at your local grocery store, Collier and his girlfriend Bri McCarthy have come up with some creative recipes such as Garden Spice Kraut (Celery, Garlic, Cumin, and Black Pepper), a Lemon Rosemary Kraut, and “Smokey Sauerruben” (fermented turnips, carrots, and sea salt).
“Everything we do is lacto-fermented,” Collier said. “We partner with these farms and support these local farmers and show people another dimension of healthy food that’s fun, that’s exciting, that really encourages people to cook at home. We’re all so busy, when you have this awesome condiment that’s really good for you in the fridge, you can add it to whatever you’ve been cooking.”
But the two also sell other items such as hot sauce, eggplant spread, chow chow (jalapenos, onions, green tomatoes, and carrots), kimchi, and a Mexi-Cali corn which is made with spicy corn and jalapenos. “It’s a super hit,” said Collier referring to the street corn. “It’s the most healthy, fermented delicious thing for tacos.”
Wild Earth Farm’s two hot sauces are sure to please anyone with a need for heat. The “Green Queen” is a smokey, Salsa Verde sauce boasting flavors of garlic, lemon and brown Sugar with green peppers & tomatoes. “Wild Fire” uses orange habaneros and red sweet peppers for a great flavor and balanced heat. Collier’s passion for sustainable agriculture started back when he was a student at James Madison University. “I was involved with environmental advocacy in college and doing farm internships,” he said.
What cemented Collier and his girlfriend’s interest in sustainability and launching their own venture was in the summer of 2015, when the two quit their jobs after college and went on a bike tour of the country. “We spent six months on bicycles and we visited a lot of farms and volunteered through that WWOOF program,” he said. WWOOF, or World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, links volunteers with organic farmers and growers for hands-on learning experiences in exchange for room and board.
“We learned more about farms and the challenges of farm businesses so that drew some more interest in how we can make farms more profitable and doing something with their produce,” Collier said.
The two started out on a farm in Mechanicsville, but moved their operation to a kitchen off Horsepen Road near The Answer Brewpub last summer. For now, Wild Earth Farms is getting its produce from Tompkin, Dragonfly Farm, Cumberland, Community Food Collaborative, and Frank Community Farm, but Collier hopes to expand beyond that. “We couldn’t do what we do without the farms and local agriculture,” he said.
Their line of fermented products is sold at Good Foods Grocery, the monthly Brunch Market in Scott’s Addition, South of the James Farmer’s Market, and Saint Stephens Episcopal Church. Being a budding business, Collier said the focus now is to expand their line of products and customer base within the next year.
“We’re addicted to coming out with new things, it’s really fun. We get such good responses from customers at markets,” Collier said. “I want to be a Richmond brand; I’m not focused on major distribution I want to get known really well here and develop our partnerships with the farms.”