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This Week: Sneed and his crabs turn up at the Boathouse



In the Tank
It was only a matter of time before chef Jimmy Sneed and his beloved soft-shell crabs would reappear in Richmond. Sneed's been back awhile, consulting on menus and cooking methods with owner Kevin Healy of the Boathouse. Now they've installed the nation's first live crab tanks at both Boathouse locations so that customers can watch the shell-shedding process and swallow their fear of eating velvets. 

These won't be fried or crunchy, or worse, gushing with suspect juices. Sneed, or more specifically Todd Richardson and the cooks at both locations, dusts the crabs in super-fine flour, tosses them into a cast-iron skillet with clarified butter, and half a minute later brushes on lemon butter to serve. Hundreds of crabs that don't make the tank show at Boathouse, but come live from the same Urbanna source, end up as food all the same. Callinectes sapidus, he waxes, “means ‘beautiful swimmers,' one of my top 10 greatest foods in the world.”  The tanks should be producing peelers until October, at which time Sneed hopes to make a reappearing act of his own with another food venture that's starting to gain ground.

Ridge Turnaround
For regulars at Cuisines, a nine-year-old restaurant on West Broad Street, it's moving week. The business closes May 27 and reopens a few miles away as Flinn's but with the same longtime staff and menu.

It takes over the corner spot at 403 N. Ridge Road, where River's Ridge had a short-lived run after a pricey dark-wood interior redesign. Now the etched-glass divider panels are out, and Flinn's owner Tammy Flinn Farley is making the place her own. It's twice the size of her former location, with room to expand catering operations and build clientele.

On the all-homemade menu are fresh-squeezed limeades, $5 burger-and-fries nights on Thursdays, and daily specials for lunch and dinner. The appetizers, sandwiches and salads top out with a New York strip steak, treading familiar Americana turf at moderate prices. Desserts include the top-selling chocolate Acclair cake, delivered with a smile.

“We're friendly,” Farley says of her staff, “and we have servers who've been with us for eight years. Eighty-five percent of our business is regulars who visit us two to three times a week out on Broad Street. Now we've finally found our neighborhood.”  Look for a June 1 opening with weekend brunch and lunch and dinner daily.

Market Mania
Sometimes it's good to be a sellout — at least in the case of vendors at Saturday's South of the James farmers' market. Mark McIntyre of Norwood Cottage Bakery found himself grinning over a table of empty baskets half an hour before the market's noontime close; he moved 400 half-loaves of raisin, jalapeno cheddar and Bellevue baguettes, his third sell-out Saturday in a row.

Cavanna Pasta sold all dozen or so varieties of its fresh pasta. Simply Southern Pies also had an empty table after a marathon 350-pie baking session divided among three Saturday markets. Throughout the tented stalls, vendors ran out of fresh eggs and chicken and prepared foods, surpassing last year's numbers by a fair margin.

Juggler Jonathan Austin and live music added to the people- and dog-watching mix. At the Crossroads Coffee and Ice Cream booth, two-thirds of the Happy Lucky Combo held forth on accordion and drums, drawing music-loving kids and setting a convivial tone. The coffee bus and canopied cafe area made it impossible to resist the cinnamon rolls and cakes of longtime baker Kirsten Perkinson of Kitchen 64. Cielito Lindo, Rowland Fine Dining, Big Daddy's Barbecue and Nate's Taco Truck, among others, held steady with brunch dishes hot off the grill and good-natured lines of folks waiting to try them.

Now that Richmond has 13 local markets, vendors are able to pick and choose where to sell their goods. When they do this well, there's a bonus — no lugging leftover products home. They've already found enthusiastic buyers.

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