Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Hooray for Indoor Plumbing!

FINALLY! We finally got our plumbing permit and Scott (Traditional Plumbing) and crew are happily drilling holes all over the place. The refrigeration guys are in the basement scratching their heads over how to build a walk-in in a 66" high basement, and the electrician is trying to work around it all. Meanwhile at RCC we are struggling to unload and shelve hundreds of bottles of bubbly in anticipation of NYE. Struggling meaning it's hard not to "remind" ourselves of the variety of Champagne styles out there via constant sampling. Good thing that magnum of Lassaigne Blanc de Blanc doesn't arrive until later...

Monday, December 7, 2009

Secco Winter Menu Trials

Last night we took a break from construction and holiday madness to indulge in some necessary bacchanalia: testing out dishes for Secco's opening (winter) menu. That's as close as I'm going to get to naming a date ;)

Chef Tim blew us away with just a handful of creations. Obviously I'm biased, but there are going to be some very happy foodies in RVA in a few months! Here's a sneak peek at the preliminary round (iPhone take it away!):

Roasted almond & garlic soup with roasted grapes, chanterelles, creme fresh & almond oil.

Amuse of Gravlax with slivered red onion, fresh dill, creme fraiche.

Mackerel escabeche.

Duck terrine with sultanas & pistachios, wrapped in prosciutto di parma, with gala apple compote & toasted baguette.

Squid ink colored cappelletti stuffed with baccala montecato; romesco sauce and crushed toasted hazelnuts.

Fonduta: Comte & Tavoliere with kirschwasser.

Duck confit, sauteed brussels sprouts, battered/fried cippolini, duck gelee with verjus.

Finally: Catalan bread pudding with caramel sauce & fleur de sel. Paired beautifully with Jorge Ordonez Malaga #1. Heart!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Baby Got Back(bar)!

Some beautiful things are taking place next door: Tom, along with his helper Eric, got the back bar installed today! It's an arched soffit with recessed lighting and a big mirror behind it. Plenty of wine-by-the-glass storage and space for delicious draft beer! So exciting. Also new is the final color choice: silvery mauve during the day, shimmery bloody red at night (technically it's RL Metallic Regent Dewdrop Pink). Starting to shape up...Feel free to pop in and peek next time you're in Carytown!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Sheetrockin' Out!

WOW! Secco is really starting to look like a place and not a spreadsheet!

The guys got the whole place rocked in yesterday, and should finish skim-coating the east wall today. That means soon we'll be painting...

In these photos Chef Tim looks on at his new "home" and Tom watches the progress.

The windows are in and the door will be installed soon, more light than I've seen for 11 years in our "cave" at RCC ;)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

In order...

(Used) Hood parts.

Spatial relations.

Sheet rock.

Reality embraced.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

City Girl, Country Girl

Julia with Beatrix

I finally visited Sara while she tended to cheese making and goat herding at Caromont Farm in Esmont, VA. It was a quick jaunt doubling as a cider bootlegging/leaf peeping road trip, but it was great seeing my goat girl in her element. Here are some iPhone shots of the critters. Sara will have real photos to upload soon. Cheers!

Sara with her flock (herd?)


Baby boy goat greeters.

Sparky the Key Eater

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Relentless Thirst Beer Tasting

(RCC Beer Guy David Garrett's notes)

A collection of beers were put together on a roof in downtown Richmond last Saturday. Some of these beers dated back to 1987, some were the most sought after microbrews made. I brought two bottles of British ale that I had had the luck of retrieving from south eastern England. Within moments these humble beers were consumed and for a second the thought of "whats next" crossed my mind. After this point the overwhelming bounty became, well, simply that, overwhelming. There was a true embarrassment of riches. Beautiful beers being pushed aside for even more ridiculous and obscure offerings. There were "Decadence" and "Dark Lord" along with incomprehensibly sour lambics from the '90's. There were high alcohol pilsners, bottled in 750 ml bottles, from the Czech Republic. And there was a bottle of BFM's Abbey de Saint Bon-Chien aged in Bourbon barrels. The crowd of beer enthusiasts casually made their way through all these crazy, mind bending elixirs with the non-challenge of a professional...

Thanks to the host Eric, author of the Relentless Thirst Blog !
Pictured here are (in no particular order, to protect the innocent):
David, RCC
Matt, Wine & Beer Westpark

Ron, B United
Chris, Loveland
Eric, Relentless Thirst
Dan, Left Hand Brewing

Lincoln, Capitol Ale House
Emily, OUAVN

Friday, August 28, 2009


Actual construction is happening!
Thanks to Carol P.W. and her family for hooking us up with fabulous old flooring from their Bon Air home. It'll look great on the back kitchen wall (this project really is locally crowdsourced--if you're interested in being a part of it please let me know). Plus it was nice spending some quality time with her sweet border collies.

Tom Brickman, my biz partner/skilled woodworker/restaurant designer/comic relief, busted a serious move all day Friday, literally working into the night. Which reminds me, we should get some lights in there. I helped! Or thought I was helping. Turns out I can't tell the difference between 10'x1"x6" and 10x2"x6" lumber, use two hands to hammer and confuse plum vs. level, so from this point on I'm relegated to fetching beer and iced coffee, fundraising and blogging. There's Tom, shuttin' the "stairhole" and practicing yelling into the kitchen through the pass-through.

So, as of last night, the bathroom and kitchen are framed and we're ready for the electrician and VA Power to come work their finally approved 3-phase power magic.

I'm pleased we'll finally have our panel accessible, rather than in a closet in a locked shop at the back of the building, and have it not running on 40 year old fuses.

Retrofitting is fun!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Fun with Electricity!

Finally, more progress! This wine bar construction thing is starting to resemble the Sagrada Familia in scope and longevity. Here's hoping we open before I turn 40 (just around the corner)! The young electrician's helpers were in yesterday doing all the electrical demo to prepare for our Change of Use permit inspection. Then framing should start in just a few days. It will be nice to see some CON STRUCTion rather than DESTRUCTion for a change...

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Julia Child Week!

Friday, August 14th, 5-7pm: WWJD...What Would Julia Drink? Free Wine Tasting with Julia & Julia!
It's no secret I'm a child of the 70's, born to an Englishwoman of renowned culinary talent in the French tradition (hi, mom!), weaned on PBS and, perhaps unwittingly, ushered early on into the world of cooking from scratch. Everywhere we were stationed my folks grew stuff and mom cooked it. Grades 2-6 in NoVA were spent in a giant garden, which included one million pole bean plants (my brother Dave will corroborate that figure--we had to weed them all); rubber tires filled with rhubarb bunches; and (poison ivy-ensconced) peach, apple and cherry trees augmented by dozens of patches of wild mint and wild asparagus. The basement was full of endless spice racks (at the age of nine I was made to appreciate the aesthetic superiority of white pepper in egg dishes, the striking difference between Spanish and Hungarian paprika); freezers full of pastry shells, half a cow, fruit tartlets, and homemade stocks (chicken, beef and fish); canned EVERYTHING (including mint jelly, peach chutney, and some mysterious tomato concoction); preserved milk in all its forms (evaporated, sweetened-condensed, dried); multiple tubes of escargot shells; and every kind of oil and vinegar imaginable. This was normal. This was a "decent pantry." Mom cooked. A lot.

And while mom cooked, as was the case for so many foodies my age, "The French Chef" &
"Julia Child & Company" reruns provided hours of background entertainment (to this day I recommend Blue Talon in Williamsburg, not just for their excellent food but for the fact that J's old WGBH videos play above the bar--a glass of rose and a slab of country pate make for an excellent road trip reward). Julia Child, however, was more than just an omnipresent warble echoing through our split level ranch, she was practically family. Her books were everywhere. My childhood brain connected her OSS work with my mom's survival of WWII London bombings (I was in my 30's when I discovered J was in fact an American). And I remain convinced to this day that my mother named me after her. So when Kelly at Fountain Bookstore called and asked if I'd be into a "Julie, Julia & Julia" gig celebrating the movie's release and the 40th anniversary of vol 2 of MtAoFC I accepted, mais bien sur.

So. In a perfect world, I would pair delicious French wines with dishes prepared from THE book and serve them both to you at a table. But considering the wine bar construction next door is moving at the speed of Richmond, I'll have to use my verbal skills to convey the perfection of her recipes while you sip away. I have selected 4 classic MtAoFC entrees, including my mom's favorite, and using J's wine recommendations, have picked affordable, accessible accompaniments that honor the spirit of our Proto-Foodie. So I raise a glass (of sherry, natch') to Julia Child; to my mom Veronica (aka Nikki); to bookseller extraordinaire Kelly Justice; and to "Julie/Julia Project" author Julie Powell, because following directions is HARD, never mind 524 recipes in 365 days!?! That's a LOT of directions. And a whole lotta of butter. Here's to you, Ladies. Cheers!
Following are four dishes from my sweet new edition of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, volume one, fresh off the shelf from Fountain Bookstore. Kelly will be bringing copies for anyone lacking this must-have reference. (Please forgive the truncated tasting notes. They are what I actually wrote in my tasting book and not Peter's well researched and thoughtful musings you are all used to by now--this missive is never going to get done otherwise.) Enjoy! p. 214 (mom's pick) ~Sole a la Dieppoise (fish filets with mussels & shrimp) ~Mestre Michelot 2006 Bourgogne Blanc Young vine Chardonnay from Mersault vineyards. Good vintage. Seriousness, depth, zip. Verve. Screwcap. Heart. May slightly unclog arteries but will not prevent French hangover. 23 tablespoons of butter...really. p. 249 ~Poulet Poele a l'Estragon (casserole roasted chicken with tarragon) ~Corail 2008 Rose de Provence Classic dry rose from southern France: Grenache/Syrah/Carignan/Cincault/Vermintino. Biodynamic. Winemaker Raymond Villeneuve owns it. Herbal notes make this interesting. ICDtSOoT. Recipe worth the trussing fussiness when tasted. p.275 ~Caneton Roti a l'Alsacienne (roast duck with sausage & apple stuffing) ~Jean Luc Mader 2007 Gewurztraminer Dry but exotic. Textbook lychee-rose-petals-in-your-glass. Great for the money. I want Belmont Butchery fennel sausage with this. Recipe requires more surgery skills, but how better to impress? p. 315 ~Boeuf Bourguignon (needs no translation) ~Les Grimaudes 2005 Costieres de Nimes Rouge Bargain Rhone! Winemaker Emmanuelle Kreydenweiss. Mostly Grenache with Syrah. Biodynamic. A four year old $12 wine that needs decanting. Love it! ...and to wash down all that fantastic animal fat? Julia's tipple of choice: Sherry! Lustau Dry Amontillado "Los Arcos" Woodsy, smokey, raisiny but not heavy. Gonna convert these people into Sherry lovers if it kills me!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Italian Wine Class at VMFA

The Art of Italian Wine
Sat, Aug 8, 2pm, Pauley Center Parlor, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

Peter Neff, wine buyer for River City Cellars, demystifies the wines of Italy through history and a tasting. Tickets (refreshments included): $35 (members, $25) and are available by phone 804.340.1405 or online

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

100 bottles of Rose' on the Wall...

(Julia's notes) Wow. For years we've been preaching "DRINK PINK" and pushing rose for all it's worth. The staff of RCC truly has saigne' running in our veins (har--wine humor). But our dear friend, former RCC staffer and Potomac Selections rep Ryne Hazzard really outdid himself Sunday hosting a ONE HUNDRED ROSES tasting at his secret compound the other side of town. Like an idiot I scheduled myself Sunday so the rest of my staff and every wine shop geek from Charlottesville to Williamsburg had a 4 hour head start by the time I got there. But tasting and spitting (sorry neighbors on the other side of the fence) at lightening speed I caught up in no time. 40 industry people, 12 hours, 100 wines, 3 bottles of mosquito repellent and one kidnapping later, we were very pink indeed. Sara has the best photos, (coming next week), as she and Ryne meticulously cataloged each bottle, which ranged from rare and pricey ($80/bt) Chateau Simone to hilarious (Wild Irish Rose*), famous (Domaine Tempier) to pedestrian (Beringer white zin) with lots of gems from Provence, South Africa, Italy and sunny Spain delighting a tough crowd. Honestly it was such a treat because not once did I hear "what's the price point?" or "who brings this in?" but only "great to see you!" and "oh, oh--you gotta try this!" And did I mention many of us dressed up, in pink of course?!

Of the many highlights of the evening, my two favorites were absconding with the owner of a famous Belgian-beer loving Vietnamese restaurant on Broad Street and bringing him back for the tasting (I think there may have been a rocking chair theft involved but I'm pleading the 5th), and a certain Country Vintner wine rep and former front of house manager at Acacia doing the *most perfect ever* rendition of 'Baby Got Back.' So a shout out to all my hard working, rose loving peers--Belmont Butchery, the Cheese Shop, Enoteca Sogno/Coast, Barrel Thief, Strawberry Street Vineyard, Bello Vino, Mekong, Can Can, Belle Vie, Emerson's, and of course RCC--good times! We love our jobs. And if you love us, help celebrate Independents [sic] Day by supporting your local wine shops and restaurants. Thanks to you we live La Vie En Rose!

*According to Henry Reidy at SSV, Virginia was the 4th largest (by volume) wine producer until Wild Irish Rose moved its production from Petersburg to New York. Now we're 5th. I don't think that's a bad thing ;)