We often talk about how small of a town Richmond is. In 2012 let us recognize how fortunate we are to have such a thriving restaurant community and accessible, knowledgeable chefs and cooking staffs. Not every city can claim such a victory. Here are six ideas for making the most out of dining this year.
1. Pick up a local coffee roaster. With the four-plus we have in Richmond: Notably Blanchard's, Black Hand, Lamplighter and Rostov's — and possibly more to come — there's no real need to go outside of the community to purchase beans.
2. Ditto for a local brewer. Hardywood is the Green Bay Packers of breweries. Its community spirit is contagious. Ardent Craft Ales is the golden retriever. How can you not want to be its friend and drink its stellar beers?
3. Ask about your food. The good restaurants are transparent about where they buy their ingredients and their alcohol. Interested in knowing where your greens come from at Secco? Tim Bereika, the chef, can tell you. He also can tell you why, where to get them or something similar, and offer a couple of ways to prepare them. Lee Gregory at the Roosevelt is happy to converse about his ingredients. Good chance he'll let you peek at his kitchen and introduce you to the people he's been working with for years. Jason Alley, of Pasture and Comfort, will all but write down — he probably would give you a pen — the names of his purveyors and his recipes.
4. Stand by the old standbys. It is easy to get wrapped up in the new restaurants fast populating Richmond. But there are reasons why the old boys are still standing. Zeus Gallery still kills it for brunch. Patina Grill stands out in the West End because it's a standout. Do over Eurasia and Belle Vie and see what new things they've been up to lately.
5. Keep your eye out for the young talent. Collin Wagner has some interesting things on the horizon. Watch what's poppin' at collincooks.blogspot.com. Aaron Hoskins at the Empress is no slouch when it comes to experimentation and trendy. He could be our new gastro guy now that chef Carly Herring has left the restaurant.
6. Read your local food writers. Kendra Bailey Morris churns local daily. She's readily available for questions on how to make the best tater-tot casserole or other Southern staple. Matt Sadler's new Tumblr, (keeping it local even on platform) tells about his travels and how they rate to where he lives. Tim Vidra, unfailingly makes me want to jump through my screen into his food pictorials. He can't get any more local unless he becomes a plant.