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Side Dish



Home off the range: Q Derks moves on

Q Derks hangs up her apron at The Avalon next week, ending an acclaimed run as one of the city's most inventive and imitated chefs. She's stepping away from the restaurant Oct. 26 after 13 years in charge and will focus on becoming a foster parent with her new husband, Robert Waller.

"I'm getting out of the front lines of combat [in restaurant life]," she says, "and I'm really excited about opening our house to children, especially siblings, to keep them together." The couple will soon begin training with United Methodist Family Services to learn parenting skills and to develop a support network for their new roles. It's a safe bet the kids will learn their way around the kitchen and taste-test some of Derks' creations.

Q, whose actual name is Kathleen, will help The Avalon's new chef, Alex Lira, formerly of Europa, make the transition. "I do want to leave The Avalon in good hands," she says, "because you can't leave a place after that many years without being attached to it. I'm stoked for them to have new blood and get new ideas."

Derks' ideas for creative food combinations built her reputation here. She trained at Peter Kump's culinary school in New York and honed her craft at Puzzles, a now-defunct Fan district bistro owned by Chris Liles of The Track.

While the high-energy, nightly subculture of restaurant work held great appeal for years, Derks will satisfy her cooking impulses now by bottling Tuxedo Ketchup (made with balsamic vinegar and sun-dried tomatoes), catering small parties and baking specialty cheesecakes. Customers craving her ginger-pumpkin, raspberry-chocolate swirl, rum raisin or chocolate-peanut-butter cheesecakes can call her to order. 855-7751.

Good tasting cause:Restaurant Week returns

If there's one week to eat every meal in a local restaurant, it's Oct. 23-29, during the fourth annual Restaurant Week to benefit the Central Virginia Food Bank. Nineteen establishments will offer a $20.06 fixed-price menu offering choices for appetizers, entrées and desserts.

Proceeds from each meal will support the food bank's efforts to feed hungry children, elderly and working-poor members of the community. This is a particularly tough time for the food bank, and supplies are low. Last year's restaurant week raised more than $12,000, and this year's is expected to surpass that figure, as interest and awareness have grown.

Support the cause by visiting these establishments (reservations are advised):

Acacia, Amici Ristorante, Bacchus, Cabo's Corner Bistro, Café Lafayette, Old City Bar, Comfort, Grafiti Grille, Hondos at Innsbrook, Jacqueomo's, Julep's, La Grotta, Millie's, Rowland Fine Dining, Sam Miller's, Six Burner, Twenty-seven, TJ's in The Jefferson and Zeus Gallery Café.

Party food: What guests are eating.

Chef Paulo Randazzo cleared out the tables in his chic Sensi restaurant Oct. 8 for a Web site launch party hosted by designer Todd Yoggy. As guests sipped signature martinis and champagne, waiters clad in black TY-logo T-shirts presented appetizers, including artichokes with goat cheese, portobello bruschetta, crab cakes with cornichon aioli, roasted lamb on brioche, smoked salmon gauffrettes and eggplant relish on semolina crostini.

As the sun set, a disco beat pulsed to images of Yoggy's interior designs flashing on screens surrounded by candles and stacked with business cards, but at least some of the guests were equally wowed by mocha profiteroles, chocolate torte and spoonfuls of budino — whipped goat cheese drizzled with raspberry sauce — one of Randazzo's most popular desserts. S

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