Jamie and Laurie Lay are making a name for themselves, or more specifically, for their local-foods business Sprout, by practicing what some places only claim to practice. “That's all we do, so everything on the menu is Virginia food,” Jamie Lay says. “We really believe in investing in our immediate economy — that's where you see results, by supporting local.”
The Lays make their own ricotta cheese with milk from Homestead Creamery, and seek out purveyors such as Night Sky Farm in Brookneal for feta, Big Spring Mill for cornmeal and flour, Avery's Branch Farms for chicken, Manakintowne Specialty Growers for produce, and other artisan growers and makers in the region. Sprout's menu is a constantly evolving work-in-progress, with recent items such as a chicken, bacon and feta sandwich, sides of marinated cucumbers and tomatoes, and a brunch dish of corn cakes with roasted summer vegetables. The daily menu is posted online and on Sprout's Facebook page.
Their 30-seat cafe is bright with stained glass, artwork (currently paintings by Joshua Driver and Jared Karnes) and a friendly, bohemian ease. Customers can order takeout and shop for local produce and jewelry, crafts, art (including chalk drawings by the owners' daughter), soaps and comic books. Sprout is open 11 a.m.-9 p.m. daily except Monday, with weekend brunch served 11 a.m.-4 p.m. 1 N. Morris St. 592-5771. sproutrva.com.
Quarter-century of corks: A back-lot cookout July 24 marks the silver anniversary of J. Emerson Fine Wines & Cheese at 5716 Grove Ave. Brats, burgers and wine sampling should attract a crowd of regulars at the influential shop, started by Jim Tashjian-Brown in a basement on Bastille Day, 1985, and twice relocated. The business is known for quality vintages, attentive service and weekly tastings, which have raised awareness of wines from Talbott Vineyards in Monterey, Calif., and Spottswoode and Dunn vineyards in Napa Valley, among many others. 285-8011. jemersonfinewine.com.
Cooking local: Matt Bedwell has opened Free Range Personal Chef Service with the mission of serving local foods for in-home dining. The Johnson and Wales culinary grad left the Hard Shell and the Hill CafAc, among other restaurant positions, to cook for private clients, parties and food events. firstname.lastname@example.org.
Long-range menu: Passersby in Carytown can see dramatic progress in the second-floor cafe with balcony coming to 3324 W. Cary St. above Bangles & Beads. Construction is well under way for Xtra's CafAc, where curved walls and ceiling details are part of the Johannas Design Group's architectural plan. Owner Xtra Moore expects to open this fall.