It's the beginning of the entertaining season: outdoor dining, picnics, weddings and graduations. Luckily for Richmonders, two new markets have prepared foods, gourmet items and catering services that let you leave your kitchen and enjoy the festivities.
Olio is an incarnation of the former European Market on Main Street in the Fan. Owner, Jason Savedoff, formerly a silent partner, has left investment banking to become sole proprietor and hands-on manager of this venture, bringing a burst of energy to the operation.
In addition to a wide range of European meats and cheeses, pA›tAcs and olives, pasta and crackers, Olio offers a good selection of artisanal olive oils and vinegars. A seasonal menu for eat in or take-away includes more than 20 sandwiches, 10 salads and six types of pizza as well as a range of entrees and sides.
On my first visit I sit in the dining area, enjoying a Paulaner beer while my order is prepped. The margherita pizza ($9.95) is perfect in its simplicity: thin crust, lightly dressed with a homemade sauce and topped with garlic-roasted tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and basil. The poulet rouge ($13.95) is another exercise in simplicity with a free-range local hen roasted to order in high heat, topped with herbs. Of the sandwiches, I find a winner with local pork roasted in-house and served on a crusty baguette with a slather of garlic aioli and aged cheddar.
On a subsequent visit the prosciutto sandwich ($8.95), served with fresh mozzarella and roasted red pepper, is equally satisfying. Side salads shine as well. An Asian version of succotash substitutes chickpeas for the traditional lima beans, and combines corn, onions and green beans with sesame vinaigrette. Israeli couscous is paired with an interesting combination of yellow peppers, basil and cranberries.
Prepared foods at Spoonfed are uniformly tasty, giving new range to the take-out options tempting Richmond.Head west three miles to find one of Richmond's newer take-out spots, Spoonfed, occupying the former Stonewall Market space. It's the retail arm for Silver Spoon Enterprises, a 15-year-old catering company. It seems fitting that giant silver spoons frame the door in one of Richmond's more tony neighborhoods. The shelves and cases contain goodies well suited for a West End garden party: ham biscuits, chicken salad, deviled eggs and a variety of canapAcs, along with private-label jams, salsas and pasta.
Illy coffee and pastries welcome the morning crowd and a small sandwich menu sates lunchtime visitors. A few tables in front of the shop offer al fresco dining. I head straight to the case at the back of the shop that contains daily specials suitable for dinner. After bargaining with another customer for the last few filets of chicken piccata, I get other suggestions from several regulars. I choose small portions of a variety of dishes and am not disappointed by a single thing. Spoonfed's menu leans toward traditional cuisine, and the execution is impeccable.
At first I'm a bit put off by the lack of pricing on the entrees. Is it one of those places where if I have to ask the price I probably can't afford it? I dive in and carefully watch the scale as the prices flash up. Spinach and cheese ravioli ($7.50 per pound) is studded with herbs and red pepper with a hint of sage. Shrimp ($12 a pound) and cheesy grits ($8 per pound) retain their integrity surprisingly well when reheated, as does the slightly sweet meatloaf ($9 a pound) with rich gravy. Chicken piccata ($11.50 per pound) is perfectly cooked and fragrant with lemon and capers; twice-baked potatoes ($3.75 each) are creamy and elemental. Grilled filet mignon comes with a bit of a sticker shock at $30 per pound, but clearly Spoonfed is sourcing quality products and my $9 steak is worth every penny.
Three miles in Richmond can be worlds apart, but Olio and Spoonfed are more similar than different. They both serve simple food and do it very well. When the call of the hammock is louder than the one from the kitchen, these are two places to find a classically tasty dinner. S
2001 1/2 W. Main St.
Monday- Saturday 11 a.m. - 9 p.m.
4917 Grove Ave.
644-3339, press 1
Monday-Friday 7 a.m. - 7 p.m.
Saturday 9 a.m. - 6 p.m.
Sunday 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.