Some of Richmond's most trend-conscious restaurateurs sneak up to New York City for a visit in summer when business is slow. And some show up when they've been invited, like Jason Alley of Comfort, who'll be sharing the bill at a James Beard Foundation dinner this month. We have a preview of what he'll encounter in a related story at left; it's an experience that brings significant bragging rights as the chosen chefs keep company with some of the food-world elite.
While we were in New York to cover one of the Beard dinners, we kept the food theme alive by booking a room in the Wellington Hotel on Seventh Avenue near Car-negie Hall, where a Trinidadian showed us some of the rooms and a crowd of German students packed the adjacent coffee shop every morning.
The hotel's location near old tourist-food icons like the Stage Deli and Lindy's gave it that retro whiff, matched by deco murals and the requisite giant crystal chandelier in the lobby. The acclaimed Greek restaurant Molyvos captures a crowd on the first floor every night.
We looked for Virginia wines at the nearby Carnegie Spirits, but the smile of owner Hyoung Sohn said sorry, no. He could offer a $1,100 Lalique decanter filled with Grand Marnier, or spirits from nearly anywhere else.
Instead we sipped six Barboursville wines at the Beard House dinner while we listened to a handsome young foursome discuss their favorite NYC restaurants: Blue Hill, Mas, Blue Ribbon Bakery, Del Posto and Cookshop in Chelsea, where fried hominy is the rage. When in Brooklyn, they like Grimaldi's Pizza, but why go to Brooklyn when the Village is crawling with great food? Others are Buddakhan, Centro and Freemans, a lower East Side hipster joint that's a taxidermy-filled ski lodge in an alley.
As in most cities, people go online for food advice. In New York, www.urban daddy.com and www.dailycandy.com are young professional favorites, or www.eater.com, an in-the-know food blog with all the openings and chatter.
It's almost impossible to catalog trends in a city where everything is available at every hour. But eating fresh, seasonal ingredients gathered close to home is an important food movement in the city, made more urgent by Barbara Kingsolver's latest nonfiction treatise, "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle," a must-read for food lovers whether urban or rural.
Growers' markets can only stand to gain. And for an area like Virginia, where the goods are particularly piquant, food trends are really just back to basics, with the occasional international twist. Chef Alley's comfort foods will be right at home. S