favorites #2

This week's entry for my food column, Favorites, is up on RVANews. Check it out!


So I'm doing another thing. Today marks the first entry in a new column of mine over on RVANews. It's called "Favorites" (at least for now), and the premise is simple: one really great photo of a really great dish with a short description of what it is and why it's great.

I get to take the photos, write about them, and eat the food. It's sort of like legitimized food blogging, if you will :-)

This week is about a clever little dish at Heritage, and I already have next week's entry in the works - which is good, since I'll be en route to New Orleans when it goes live!

Also, as a bonus, here's an alternate that I shot on film. Click through to Flickr for details:

  <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/ploafmaster/8252230269/"><img src="https://cdn.uploads.micro.blog/wp-content/149855/2012/12/7b8d0-image-asset.jpeg" alt="" /></a>


Okay, let me try this again.

What you wouldn't know, had I not decided to so blatantly tell you, is that I spent well over an hour crafting some lengthy complaint about my relationship to the term, "foodie". Talking about foodies can be just as tiresome as foodies, and after several hundred words I abandoned the piece, recognizing it for what it was: whining. So here I am on a second try. And all I want to do here is explain my relationship to food. If that makes me a foodie (most of you will say it does), so be it.

I'm only one-fourth Sicilian (my last name is Warshaw, for crying out loud), but I grew up in a house dominated by the Italian influences of my heritage. This is because of the somewhat matriarchal structure of my mom's family. Her mother (100% Sicilian, second generation American) is the first born and continues to have a strong and endearing personality. My mother is also the first born and likewise has a strong and influential personality. My best childhood memories are of family gatherings with my mom's side of the family, centered around food. This side of my family is typically warm and eccentric, and we all love to eat nearly as much as we love hanging out in a huge gathering of each other. Thanksgiving might involve at least a dozen people, and we always had baked ziti or lasagna right next to the turkey.

My mom ended up with 4 boys. She was the only woman in a house full of testosterone while I was growing up, but she managed. Now even growing up in the 80's and 90's, most guys in my generation didn't really learn to cook (frankly, I don't think many folks learn to cook at home anymore regardless of gender, but that's based on my own anecdotal evidence). But with all the good food in my immediate and extended family, my brothers and I were interested. My mom, thank goodness, indulged us.

All of us boys enjoyed watching PBS cooking shows, whether it was The Frugal Gourmet, Yan Can Cook, or anything with Julia Child. Combined with watching our family prepare food, these shows made each of us more eager to learn, so it was only a matter of time before our mom caved in and started teaching and allowing us to cook. Whether it was simply how to make scrambled eggs, or mom's meatball recipe, we took every opportunity afforded us. I can't speak for my brothers on this, but my creative proclivities and methodical mind instilled a desire to prepare ever more complex foods, culminating with a dessert I made for a high school French class: profiteroles. Here I was, a nerdy teenager, making my own pâte à choux from scratch along with a custard filling and chocolate sauce to drizzle on top. I'm not saying it was worthy of anything more than a high school French class, but it wasn't your typical student dish, either.

In college I couldn't afford much beyond dorm room staples, but I had to mess around with even the cheap ramen or frozen pizzas I could obtain. I was always looking for ways to tweak or enhance the flavors (to wildly varying results); anything to make inexpensive and boring food more interesting to eat. When I graduated and started earning a real salary, everything changed. The ability to buy more and better ingredients (and a few helpful tools) meant more experimentation and more complicated dishes. I discovered Alton Brown's glorious Good Eats which crossed my love of food with technique and science, and there was no turning back.

A steady paycheck also means I can actually dine out more often (too often, truth be told). I won't rehash descriptions of all the places I've tried around town over the years, but it's safe to say that I have a preference for restaurants that care about their ingredients, their technique, and their presentation. This covers a wide gamut of eateries from humble pizzerias to fine dining establishments.

So here's the situation for me now...

I do actually care about things like free-range or pastured livestock, organic produce, and truly natural ingredients. These things factor in, to an increasing extent, to what I purchase and where I dine. But I'm not going to turn my nose up at a hamburger made from Wal-mart chuck served to me at a friend's party.

I do get excited by "artisinal" products, be they sausage, cheese, wine, or liquor. But that's only because I love craftsmanship, and I want to pay the craftsmen for their work. That doesn't mean I won't just buy a block of cheddar that says Cabot on the label, or a package of Martin's potato rolls.

I do like dining in restaurants with clever menus, ingredients, and presentations. Good cooks are craftsmen, too, and I similarly want to reward their work. But the food still has to taste good. Just because you used beef marrow doesn't mean it's delicious.

I do like so-called "craft bartending". The right bartender can make your drinking experience as good as the best eating experiences. But I still like my gin and tonic, or my Old Fashioned. All the fancy mixology in the world can't make up for ruining the classics.

I do like writing about food. And I like writing about it on my stupid blog. Since I'm not a professional it's the easiest way for me to share my opinions about restaurants and food products. I have no illusions about having an "audience" or "brand", and you don't have to read my website if you don't want to.

I do like taking photographs of food. And this one is sometimes a sore spot for me. I'm already a serious photography enthusiast - if you go to the landing page of my website, in fact, it's a portfolio of my photography. Most of it isn't food, though photographing food pairs two of my favorite things together, and I've been lucky enough to be paid for some of it. The profusion of Instagram/Twitter/Facebook food shots makes food blogging and photography particularly insufferable, but I won't be that guy letting my dessert melt because I have to take 50 pictures to get it right. I won't be posting garish pics that I took with a smartphone and an LED flash. But because I'm already that guy lugging around a huge DSLR (or sometimes a 6-pound medium format film camera...), I'll totally be guilty of whipping out obnoxious camera gear at the dinner table. Sorry about that.

What I won't do is be that guy who sneers at your restaurant suggestions. I won't interrupt your conversation to correct you on your wine description. I won't be jumping from restaurant to restaurant in search of the next big thing. And I won't stop loving, writing about, photographing, and eating food.

benefit dinner at heritage

My wife Valerie and I were fortunate enough to attend the benefit dinner at Heritage for the Steven Stiller Foundation; this foundation distributes funds to families in need of aid in New York and New Jersey in the wake of Sandy hitting the Tri-state Area. Combine assistance to my region of origin with the best food and drink Richmond has to offer and I'm all too happy to participate. Every reasonable news/food website in town has already mentioned who would be involved, but I'm going to name everybody along with their courses as a reminder. Oh yeah, and be forewarned - this write-up is chock full of obsequious, fan-boyish hyperbole and excitement, not just because I care about the folks and cause involved, but because this is yet another in a line of very special meals I've experienced in the fair River City. Also also, this is a long and detailed summary of the food and drink. If you'd rather TL;DR the whole thing, skip to the gallery of photos at the end.

The meal started with a wonderful appetizer from a latecomer to the event, Lee Gregory of The Roosevelt. He prepared a smoked hamachi crudo with puree of red cabbage, pork rind crumbs, radish, salmon roe, and chive. It was a nice, lighter start to the meal at room temperature, and not too rich.

Sidebar. What I find most interesting, in retrospect, is how much of a departure this was from the menu at The Roosevelt. But it exemplified something we're increasingly fortunate to find in Richmond; when you have an excellent and creative chef, the cuisine matters a little less. Truly skilled cooks can make excellent dishes of all types and styles. And whether the courses that followed Gregory's matched their respective chef's typical fare or not, they all possessed those two qualities: excellent and creative. Impressive execution paired with inventive preparations and presentations.

So the meal continued with a course that actually typified the style of its creator - a fresh pasta dish from Secco's Tim Bereika. Spaghetti with a pecorino cream sauce, scallions, black pepper, and crispy speck from Olli Salumeria - this was almost a variation of spaghetti carbonara, but it was better than any carbonara I can remember. Mattias told me at the bar that Tim's dish was a celebration of his Kickstarter success (to which you can and should still contribute!), and it sure tasted celebratory. Valerie and I both picked greedily for every last bit of speck or pasta in the bowl.

Heritage's own Joe Sparatta supplied the next course which included supremely tender and buttery rockfish served over minced Brussels' sprouts and popcorn polenta. As if that wasn't delicious enough, the fish was topped with some salty and crusty goodness and crispy lardo - prepared by Sparatta's hands from a VA Mangalitsa hog.

The final savory course was prepared by The Magpie's Owen Lane, and it was a knock-out. Braised pork cheeks with cinnamon baby carrots, rosemary shortbread, and a "pecan pie" gelee. I'd never have expected rosemary and cinnamon to work so well together, but it's one of the best flavor surprises I've had in ages.

There was dessert to finish, of course, and this came from the hands of Winburn Carmack. She's a Richmond prodigal who has returned to bake bread after working as pastry chef at no less than McCrady's in Charleston. Her dessert was "ants on a log", which included compressed slices of celery, a celery sorbet, peanut dust, peanut butter (or some other form of peanut-like sauce), and a peanut butter pound cake. Not only did it taste intriguing (and better than you'd think as a dessert), but it was simply gorgeous on the plate. I've seen gorgeous dessert presentation at Acacia or Can Can, but not like this. It looked like a course out of Alinea, right here in RVA. No exaggeration.


Remember - Heritage is home to one of Richmond's finest bartenders: Mattias Hägglund. And he teamed up with another one of Richmond's finest bartenders - T. Leggett from The Roosevelt - to create a killer list of drinks especially for this fund raiser event. They each came up with three libations with a collaborative 7th entry, and let me tell you they were all excellent. The "Sandyhook Stormy" was a milder and more nuanced take on the Dark and Stormy. The "Mexican't" made layers of complex magic with both tequila, Campari, and mescal. "The Spaniard" married rye whiskey with Amontillado Sherry for surprisingly delicious results. The "Don Lee Down South" was really special - Cheerwine soda, rum, and somehow the flavor of popcorn on the finish! A delight that's difficult to explain and even harder to understand, but terrific just the same. The "Smoked Up and Fancy Free" tasted like a glass of campfire, balanced by the Luxardo maraschino liqueur, while "The Williamsburg Stunner" was a tasty and rich combination of Jameson's, gin, Ramazzoti, and Cynar. The last drink on the list was called "There's No 'I' in Team" and was served in a glorious antique Tiki (antiki?) cup. It was light and tasty.

Phew, now I can exhale after that breathless love-fest! But only just - because I have to point out something else that really hit me hard about tonight's event. We all know it was a fund raiser. We know that any money after covering costs goes to charity. But each and every course looked and tasted as if these cooks were working in restaurants with their names on the doors. Firing on all cylinders. Many (or all?) of them working on their night off. Everybody involved worked just as hard for charity as they would for their paychecks and, consequently, made one of the most memorable dinners I've eaten, here or anywhere.

Now that I'm done fawning over the RVA food all-stars, how about you check out some pictures of the whole shindig:

fat dragon - first impressions

Fat Dragon is a Chinese-American restaurant that opened up in the old Stronghill Dining Company spot on Boulevard, in Richmond. On the grand, wide spectrum of such eateries, I'd say it's more P.F. Chang's than Peter Chang; that is, the restaurant is a lot more like a Chinese theme restaurant than even a faint attempt at authenticity. That's not automatically bad, but it's not very distinctive, either. And having checked out some of what they have to offer this past Thursday, it's not particularly exciting to eat, either.

A few things first, though: Fat Dragon only just initiated a soft opening period on November 11th, and opened fully to the public on the night I dined. So I give some leeway to any food/service issues for a while. That being said, the service was very good, if a bit too enthusiastic; the excessive references to fuzzy terms like "local" and "organic" reminded me that this restaurant comes from the same folks who created The Blue Goat - where name-checking their suppliers sometimes felt more like marketing rather than recognition.

So on to the dining experience, after that verbose preamble. My initial thought walking in to the place was that it looks pretty cool inside. High, open ceilings, mostly spare decor, plenty of wood paneling in the right places. There are tons of large windows, too, since the building is at the corner of Boulevard and Leigh St. This makes for great views - if there was much to see other than River City Tattoo and Buz & Ned's. The bar area seems to take up nearly half of the dining room between the bar itself and the smaller tables around it. Consequently, there were televisions around the bar tuned to sports - though the side where I ate was more conventional and TV free. I thought I caught a glimpse of a set-apart smaller dining room that's likely intended for private parties.

Fat Dragon's beer list (drafts and otherwise) is pretty nice with plenty of Virginia microbrews on tap alongside many other quality beers. Tons of taps (I forget how many - 24 maybe?) that I'm sure will see some frequent rotation. But I opted for cocktails that evening. These were both pretty good: The Lotus Blossom was made with sake, pear vodka, lychee srup, and muddled lychee fruit in the glass. I think mine was a bit on the strong side, but the flavors worked well together, and actually complimented the dish I ordered (I'll get to the food soon). My second drink, The Candidate, was Makers Mark bourbon, orange and lime juices, and a "brown sugar cube" which I think was just a big ice cube rolled in brown sugar. It was a nice, comfortable drink I may replicate at home. So yeah - this joint might actually be a good place for an adult beverage on the Boulevard if you feel like it's your kind of scene. I don't know if it's mine, but it's close to home and the drinks are reasonably priced for how they taste and what's inside.

The food is where I'm kinda down on this place, and that's a lot more important to me (especially if I'm designated driver on a particular evening out). I started my meal with "Chef Zhao’s Bao Du Jour" - little crusty buns (hee hee) baked fresh every day, theoretically changing every day, too. The order came with two of them, served on a wasted Easter basket's load of shredded iceberg lettuce, but they were pretty tasty - filled with some braised pork preparation. The bread itself was just the right amount of sweet, but a bit on the dry side. Not bad, overall, and worth trying different versions. I went for these because they were actually one of the most interesting starters on a menu that otherwise includes safe/boring options. Maybe they're the best of their class (or maybe not), but I'm not really interested in vaguely "Asian" wings, an "Asian" take on fried calamari, and generic Asian Fusion versions of spicy fried shrimp, ribs, and dumplings.

I had a similar problem picking out my main course, but that was exacerbated by higher (for Richmond) prices. Lots of the mains push or exceeded $20. I suspect this is because of the purported quality of the ingredients - which is commendable - but many of these dishes are glorified Chinese-American staples. My choice was the Tangerine Beef. The menu says it's "thinly sliced beef tenderloin wok fried crispy then tossed in a tangerine reduction". It was an enormous pile of food. The beef slices appeared to have been pounded thin before having been bettered and deep-fried. This gave them quite a large surface area, and the default service is chopsticks unless you request Western utensils. I actually like using chopsticks (I even use them for my white rice), but these pieces of beef were too large for single bites and too heavy (and slippery with sauce) to hold in chopsticks for very long. So I compromised, using a knife to cut the meat into pieces I could otherwise grab with the chopsticks.

Eating mechanics aside, the flavor of the dish was okay, if unremarkable. Tenderloin is, uh, tender, but not a particularly flavorful cut of beef. That left all the flavor responsibility up to the batter and the sauce. It's here that I should mention that the batter coating on my beef slices was nothing you could describe as crispy. I'm not sure if they fried them incorrectly, fried them earlier and allowed them to become soft, or tossed them in a gallon of the gloppy, indistinctly sweet/salty/tangy sauce ahead of time. I am sure, however, that the fried batter coating on my beef was mushy. Not in an off-putting way, just not what the menu described. This could be a first week kink - I certainly hope so. But the sauce? Aside from the excessive quantity, this viscous brown glop didn't do much for me. It wasn't disgusting (that's the faintest of praise, I guess), but it had little more going on than the aforementioned basic flavors. The dish as a whole had some mild amount of spice from the dried chilies tossed with the sauce, and there was a circle of twisted orange slices around the bowl in which the food arrived. The portion size may have been intimidating, but the presentation was pleasant enough.

I would never assume the rest of the menu is like a single course after a single visit, but it does look like a mixed bag. They have their version of General Tso's Chicken ("Chef Zhao’s Chicken"), ribs, fried shrimp, and stir fry, among others. The Tea Smoked Duck sounds good, as does the Spicy Tenderloin Hot Pot. I'll see what it's like the next time I'm in there. And there will be a next time, because my wife wants to try it.

Look, I'm not the type of person who likes to just slag restaurants in public. The dining scene is one of my favorite parts of Richmond, VA. But we have so many awesome places that I think it's fair to start developing some higher standards. Fat Dragon is a potentially decent bar that needed a restaurant (silly VA law). And it picked a tired theme restaurant.

thing: made

Today I'm pretty excited. I finally pushed out full, public notice to the Internet about my podcast, The Opposite of Daniel.

There are a number of rough edges to this thing. As of this writing, my cover art still isn't displaying in iTunes (though using the Downcast app on my iPhone I can see it just fine). The audio is uneven and full of plosives and sibilants (I have almost no mic technique). The conversation is sometimes disjointed and meandering. It's a little too long (future episodes should be closer to an hour, I hope). And I left in far more ums and likes than I'm comfortable with.

So why did I make this public today? What was the rush on me editing the audio and telling everybody about it?

Because I'm a lazy and easily-distracted person, that's why. I have so many ideas that, if one of them takes too much time, work, and attention, I can easily get bored and move on to the next idea without ever finishing the first one. I really didn't want that to happen with my first podcast, so I pushed it out the door. Will I get negative feedback as a result? Slow down! It'd be haughty of me to assume more than 5 people will even listen to this thing, let alone give me any form of feedback. But if people do listen and do provide feedback, I'll just use that to make episode 2 better.

If this podcast never has more than a handful of subscribers (or any at all) after a few months, that's fine. I had an idea. I turned that idea into a thing. A thing you can actually find on the Internet and download and listen to. And that's all I needed it to be.


My first piece of freelance writing is up on the Internet!

Turns out it's been up since the 15th, but the Dining section of the Richmond Magazine website still shows the September "5 Favorites" piece in the carousel. BUT, it also seems that my intro was excluded from the digital version (which is odd considering the theoretical lack of space constraints...). So I'm including my original intro below - you'll have to follow the link to read the rest.

I’ve noticed an increase in Richmond’s craft bar tending coincident with our growing beer scene. I see creative originals, but I’m happier tasting old favorites prepared by expert hands. What better drink to test a bartender than one of the most classic cocktails, the Manhattan? My favorite spots stick to the rye, vermouth, and bitters formula, but set themselves apart with the details.


I'm not going to be the 50th person to write something about how Richmond is transforming into an exciting food city. I couldn't hope to articulate that point better than some of the professionals that have done so before me. But I will say that I agree whole-heartedly. Richmond has seen a number of excellent restaurants open up and stick around over the past couple of years, and more are on the way. Valerie and I were fortunate enough to eat our anniversary dinner at the latest: Heritage.

Now we actually attended the soft opening on Friday of last week (9/28/2012), but the passed hors d'œuvre were just a preview of the full dinner menu. Let me tell you, the opening menu is full of promise and dishes that seem just right for autumn (particularly the squash soup, risotto, or half chicken). When we dined on Tuesday for the official opening, we sampled a number of courses across all parts of the menu (and plenty of cocktails, too) and found strong cause to return often in the future. Heritage may have just opened, but they really hit a home run with their food, beverage, and service.

Our cab showed up 15 minutes early so we arrived well in advance of our reservation, but that wouldn't have mattered; opening on a Tuesday night meant that the dining room wasn't really full at 6:25 (though it was at about 2/3 capacity by the time we finished up at the bar). We started with a cocktail hour sitting at Mattias' bar and enjoyed what we already knew to be some of the best drinks in town. Mattias Hägglund is one of the owners (along with his sister Emilia Sparatta and her husband Joe - the chef), and we'd experienced his mixology at Comfort and the first spoon. pop-up restaurant. His list of house cocktails for Heritage keeps up the good work with some classic American cocktails and delicious originals. I should also point out that the beer and wine lists look great, too. I may have to make a special return trip just for a pint...

With cocktails in our stomachs we sat down at a table for our dinner and took it in rounds with breaks in between. The menu is split into three sections based on the amount of food - small, medium, and large - and we began with an order of the pork "fries" from the small plates. Made from smoked and shredded pork rolled in potato flour and panko break crumbs, these deep-fried goodies are almost cartoonishly indulgent. But then you dip it in what I can only assume is a house-made barbecue sauce and take a bite, and you just want more. These were a highlight of the meal, even at the opening. We sampled some other dishes from the medium and large plate sections of the menu interspersed with more cocktails. The gnocchi are just right, and they were served with a fascinating onion "butter", apple, bacon, thyme, and parmesan. And the flounder from the large plates has this creative and delicious crust made from brown butter and toasted powdered milk.

Oh yeah - they have dessert, too. "Only three for now" Joe told me, but that's no concern when one of them is the "chocolate cube" with coffee crumble and bourbon dolce de leche. There were actually two cubes on the plate (perfect for sharing, and about 1.5 inches on a side), and the texture was somewhere between ganache and a stiff mousse. Rich, delicous, and the perfect portion size.

I can't finish this little write-up without talking about the space, too. Heritage is in the old Six Burner location, at the corner of Main and Vine, which closed last month before transforming into the current incarnation. It would have been easy to simply change the logo and some table cloths and reopen as is - Six Burner was American fine dining, after all. But in less than a month the new owners transformed the interior into a more open and bright space. New casework, some new paint, and the removal of some of the old seating all help to make the dining room feel a bit more comfortable than its previous incarnation. It wasn't really bad before, but I think the changes are, generally speaking, improvements.

Valerie and I left having enjoyed a terrific meal, and I can't wait to go back. I just might need to get there early so I can get a seat, because I think Heritage is going to be very popular very soon.


I'm doing it. I'm finally starting a freaking podcast of my own.

I've been on Jawgrind for a while now, and I still love that, but I've had an itch to do my own thing, so now I will. I've created a new section for this site that will host information about and the audio for the podcast, so check out The Opposite of Daniel when you get a chance. The first episode is in the planning stages, and I hope to have it recorded and posted within the month.

i am a stereotype

This morning I left my old pre-Craftsmen-era house in a developing city neighborhood wearing a clever graphic t-shirt. I climbed into my VW with quirky personalized license plates and drove to my local, independent coffee shop that roasts their own beans. I drank my cappuccino and San Pellegrino sparkling water while obsessively checking the status on my pre-ordered iPhone, eventually taking a look at some mobile website wireframes for my IT job. Oh yeah, and I totally tweeted a photograph of my beverages. Later I'll stop by a nouveau-Southern restaurant to sip on pre-Prohibition cocktails mixed by a craft bartender before catching up on my DVR'd episode of Louie. I'll watch that sitting on my contemporary sofa while simultaneously surfing the Internet.

wherefore art thou ploafmaster?

Have I REALLY never written about this on my blog? I searched a few versions of my website and couldn’t find a post about the origin of “ploafmaster”. So I’ve adapted the below text from a forum post on RadioParadise.com. Forgive me if you’ve heard this all before.

* * *

I'd really like to say that there's some deep significance to my broadly-used Internet nom de guerre. Sadly, there is no clever explanation. It all really starts with PLOAF, teenagers, and a candy-coated Apple computer...

When I was in high school a computer game developer named Bungie (later purchased by Microsoft, and creator of the Halo franchise) published a game for PC and Mac called "Myth." No, not Myst...thank goodness. Myth was a new type of real-time strategy game with fantastic multiplayer features, and my friends and I would often play on one friend’s father's iMac (the original style) in the office. One useful feature was the ability to establish teams, or "Orders." Our dorky appellation was "Gun Toting Ferrets" with the disturbing/cute banner of a fuzzy animal carrying a Desert Eagle .50 caliber pistol (inane, yes, I know). We encountered another group of competitors who called themselves, "PLOAF." Besides our delight at such a funny name, we were curious about its meaning. So we asked. We sent messages to the group asking about it, but they never replied. We spent several weeks trying to get an answer, but no dice.

Eventually we did the only thing we could as immature, high school males: we adopted the word as our own, and used it for whatever we wanted. Not as a “secret word”, to “get attention”, or as an excuse to use "unnecessary quotation marks”. We decided it would represent any part of speech and any definition - never to be assigned a permanent meaning. I even used PLOAF on the license plates of my 1985 Honda Prelude (rest in peace, li'l brudder) when I was a sophomore at VCU in Richmond.

* * *

So why the "master" suffixed to this strange word? Well the answer is lamer than what I’ve already told you. The rest of my user name comes from a marriage of punk rock and an over-complicated card game I played in college.

In 1987, punk rock band The Descendants released an album titled “All”, which included a comical chanted song called “The All-O-Gistics”. My same Myth-playing friends and I used to crack up listening to this tune in high school. It starts off with these words:
“O worshippers of the Mighty All, I had a dream. The Bassmaster General came to me. We had a little snack at the donut shop.”

Right away you’re connecting the dots. Well a few years into my undergraduate years at VCU, I played a card game called “Mao” (look it up) with several friends who already identified me with the term “ploaf” by way of my license plate (among other things). In our variant of the card game, the “Mao” for the round could make up a few rules. So one of my rules was that players who spoke had to address me as “Ploafmaster General”. It's really that simple. A nonsense portmanteau. Thereafter I adopted “ploafmaster” as a user name as early as 2004, and “Ploafmaster General” as the title of my first serious blog around 2005.

* * *

Sadly, I discovered the true origin of "ploaf" a few years ago. Out of sheer curiosity, I ran the occasional search for the word PLOAF on the internet. One year, I actually turned up a result - a web page for the very order of Myth players. To my dismay, the word was indeed a contraction of two really dopey words: Pimento Loafers.

Someday I'll find these guys and give 'em a hard time for such a weak-sauce team name. Meanwhile, I can still be seen driving around Richmond rocking the PLOAF license plates (albeit on a different car).

Meddle with spoons.

Blame it on the Short Pump location. The Far West End of Richmond is hardly known for its exciting food (with at least a few noteable exceptions). Or maybe it's the midsummer timing. Richmond is far quieter when there's a beach to occupy on the edge of our state. Perhaps it's the size of our market. We're a small city that may not have enough adventurous or financially capable diners to support 3 pop-up experiences in 5 months. Whatever the reasons (and mine are purely speculative), Richmond's third pop-up was a bit light on the head count.

Well, Richmond missed out.

"Meddle with spoons." was a collaboration between Secco's Tim Bereika (half of Meddle back in February) and Chef Johnny Maher (recently of spoon 1.0). I was fortunate enough to have attended each of the prior pop-up events here in Richmond, and I enjoyed them both - two very special meals for a city that is still in the process of a slow wake-up to what fine dining can be. I was, naturally, looking forward to a collaboration between these gentlemen.

The major differentiator for this meal was its setup as a pasta-tasting menu; sure, the amuse-bouche, intermezzo, and dessert contained no pasta, but the 4 major dishes each featured a different freshly prepared pasta component. There was cavatelli made with chick peas, fresh spaghetti, and two beautifully-formed filled pastas (one of which was black from squid ink). In every case the pasta was cooked perfectly - tender but with texture, and delicious.

I could say a lot of the same things about Meddle with spoons that I've already said about the first two of Richmond's pop-ups: statements about balance, craft, letting the ingredients speak for themselves. I'll save the details for my take on each course at the end of this post but, at the risk of a little redundancy, I do want to highlight how the flavor spectrum built and shifted over the course of this meal. Not only did Tim and Johnny transition from light and delicate to rich and meaty flavors, but the combination of spices, herbs, and other ingredients created a surprising sense of continuity from one dish to the next. It was like an expertly-assembled playlist for the taste buds. The charred, earthy flavors (and cumin) in the smoked scallop scarpinocc did a great job setting up my palate for the still richer squid ink agnolotti with chorizo inside (and that smoked paprika!). Likewise, the brilliant intermezzo - essentially a panzanella sorbetto - both cut through the richness of its predecessor and woke up the tongue a bit for the peach dessert that followed.

Yes, this was the third pop-up in our small River City since February. But the whole point of a pop-up restaurant is to experience a once-in-a-lifetime menu that showcases the skills of a chef (or chefs, in this case) and the best qualities of the ingredients involved. That being the case, if there's any reason that Meddle with spoons was lightly-attended, I sure hope it's not because Richmond diners are "over" the concept. Traditional full-time restaurants that last beyond 1 or 2 nights are great - even my own preference most of the time. But I'm always game for a chance to see what Richmond's creative and skilled cooks can pull out of their hats when left to their own devices, and I'll be keeping my eye out for news of whatever comes next. I'd love to keep a great thing going.

Okay, the main portion of my write-up is over, but for the completists out there, here's my breakdown of each course. I didn't take any photographs, as with spoon 1.0, because the excellent Kieran Wagner was again on hand to do the work of a professional. I'm looking foward to when his film is processed.

Amuse Bouche: Fluke Crudo with variations of summer squash, vanilla, and Manzanilla sherry

A lovely bite to kick things off. The fluke was delicate, and the squash variations made for a pleasant combination of textures. I tasted the vanilla lightly, and it worked well with the flavor of the sherry.

Course 1: Chickpea Cavatelli with tomato, fresh fenugreek, and ricotta salata

The pasta here was nice and tasty on its own, and the whole dish had a wonderful aroma. The grated ricotta salata provided a light saltiness and the tomatoes were just great - they seem to have been cooked (roasted?) and then charred on the outside, and they tasted sweet. It was a nice lighter course with the first of what would be several expert uses of herbs throughout the meal.

Course 2: Smoked Scallop Scarpinocc with roasted corn, huitlacoche, marjoram, and cumin

Confession: I knew what huitlacoche was before this meal, and while I'd never eaten it, I was bit hesitant. Readers of my blog already know my tragic pickiness (I'm always working on it), but the ingredient is essentailly corn infected by a fungus. It's considered a blight in the USA (called "corn smut" by farmers), but enjoyed in Mexico. It's an inky black color and mushy in texture, so the look of it, had it been on its own, doesn't add to its appeal. But I knew I was in good hands with Tim and Johnny in the kitchen, so I dove in when it hit the table. And you know what? It helped out the dish quite a bit. It added a bit of earthiness to what was a fantastic course. Scarpinocc is a filled pasta, and these were beautiful on the plate. The charred corn was excellent, and there was a pretty (and edible) charred corn silk garnish as well. Smokey, earthy, toasty, and well spiced, this was an enjoyable plate on its own that also led perfectly into the next dish...

Course 3: Squid Ink Agnolotti with chorizo farce, clams, greens, and smoked paprika jus

I could smell this dish before it arrived at the table, and I liked it already. This had to be my favorite full course of the night. Four or five lovely little black pasta purses sat on top of tender greens in a delicious broth. The spice level was just right, and I finished this course licking my lips.

Course 4: Pasta alla "Carbonara" with slow-cooked egg yolk, guanciale, and Pecorino-Romano

The textures in this dish were perfect - simply excellent spaghetti and an egg yolk that was like butter. But this was the lone disappointing course of the night for me, because the flavor just wasn't there for all but the last two bites. This is a surprise, too; guanciale is an Italian style of bacon made from the jowl, and while that particular component left a pleasing saltiness in my mouth afterward, it didn't stand out much throuout the course. Neither did the Pecorino, either - a sharp enough cheese that its absence stood out. I didn't need 10 pieces of bacon and a cup of cheese, but my dish tasted mostly like undressed pasta with some egg yolk. Again - everything in the bowl had fantastic texture. But I couldn't taste much until, for some reason, the last two bites where there seemed to be a little bit of creamy sauce.

Intermezzo: Panzanella

Panzanella is traditional Italian salad made as a use for stale bread. Most folks know the contemporary version that's a bread and tomato salad with some olive oil, and perhaps a few other ingredients. What arrived at the table was a different animal all together - a quenelle of what seemed to be a tomato sorbetto in a small pool of olive/herb oil (I think?) with crispy bread crumbs. Taking the entire bite at once was magical - bright, salty, acidic, with a little crunch at the end from the bread. This little bite very nearly stole the show for me. It was a fantastic example of elevating such a simple poor man's food to a beautifully-presented and inventive spot of food between dinner and dessert.

Course 5: Textures of Summer Peach with bay lauel gelato, aroma of burnt cinnamon, kaffir lime and crème fraîche cake, and vin santo croquant

Oh my, what a finish. Slices of fresh peach, cooked peach, dense and lightly sweet cake, AMAZING gelato, and crisp candy (the croquant). The only trouble here was the "aroma of burnt cinnamon" because, you see, the diners behind my booth had just received their agnolotti. So I could only smell the cinnamon holding the plate up to my face - otherwise all I could smell was the smoked paprika and chorizo from the other table. Other than that, this dessert was outstanding - tasty, beautiful to look at, and a fun assortment of textures. And how can you go wrong with a dessert that contains fruit, cake, ice cream, AND candy? Summer indeed.

rock well

The People's Blues of Richmond perform at the Brewdependence Day event at Hardywood Park Brewery.

follow the liter

follow the liter

site refresh

Here I go again changing things up on my website. This time, however, I'm REALLY happy with it. It's not perfect, but through the glorious special sauce that is Squarespace 6, I have a unified website that lands on my photography portfolio but still includes my blog. Customizing the styles was fairily easy, and adding the pictures to the portfolio couldn't have been easier. Everything looks fairly good on a smartphone, too.

So there you go. A site design that may finally have some longevity.

the best camera (or, working for it)

The best camera is the one you have with you.

I don't know who said that first - searching for a proper source is tough because it's been appropriated by countless blogs, photographers, and even electronics manufacturers. But I think we all get the point - photography is about the photograph, not the gear. Pining for the next great piece of equipment is fruitless and wastes the energy you could be putting into the the next great piece of imagery.

There's another, oft-stated meaning behind this post's leading aphorism: regardless of how many and what sort of cameras you own, the best isn't always measured absolutely by lens quality or megapixels or film/sensor format. You take the picture in front of you with the camera on your person and be grateful for having seen it at all. I'd combine these two meanings and say that if you want to take pictures you need simply have some form of camera - pinhole, digital point-and-shoot, or medium format - and have it with you as often as possible.

That's all fine and dandy. I do happen to have a lot of cameras. Most of them were given to me, and some I've purchased. I only use a handful of them these days, but my clear favorite is a bulky and heavy Mamiya medium format camera. This thing weighs around 6 pounds with lens and metered prism attached, and I only get 10 shots per roll of 120-format film. I have two interchangeable backs, but this still makes for frequent film changing and a lot of weight to carry over my shoulder when in use. Now it's easy for me to consider the capabilities of this camera and judge it my best camera. But due to its bulk I don't often take it with me unless I have plans to use it. I was willing to lug it around Ireland because I intended to use it for vacation photos, for example.

I don't just throw this beast in the car with me, however, when I head to the coffee shop. And I don't take it with me to the office. And I don't take it with me on any casual outings. Why? Because it's cumbersome and inconvenient. And I sweat too easily as it is without carrying this thing everywhere.

But I think this needs to change because my real problem ends up being that I don't take any other camera with me since the Mamiya is the one I really want to use. So this morning, for the millionth time, I saw a glorious photo opportunity...


...only I missed it because I didn't have a camera with me at all. A combination of my laziness and stubbornness left me undone. If I'd taken any of my cameras with me I could have made the photograph I saw in my head. But I really saw that photograph in a 6x7 landscape format with all the detail of medium format film.

So here's the thing: I already know that I love photography - taking pictures, processing them, sharing them with people. I'm faced with some choices, though: either get over my desire to use the Mamiya over my other cameras, or get over my feelings of inconvenience toward hauling around a huge camera. And the more I think about it, I'm pretty sure I'm going to choose the latter. It doesn't mean I'll never shoot 35mm again, but if I can make this work, I'll probably shoot it less than I already do (for now).

Because isn't it worth my sweat and tiredness to get the images I'm after? Isn't it worth the inconvenience of dealing with short rolls of film? Isn't it worth the more-often-than-not possibility that I'll carry around a heavy bag full of gear and come home without having opened it? I'm not suggesting that everybody needs to use their bulkiest kit when they're out and about. I'm just saying that, for me, I'm trying to get past my excuses for not taking the pictures I want to take. I'm not a working photographer, but that doesn't mean I can't work for my photographs.

EDIT: For those asking, "What about your phone's camera?" I'll say this - about a year ago I accidentally dropped my un-cased iPhone 4 on to asphalt. I was lucky that the phone didn't shatter, but the camera lens was scratched beyond use, unfortunately. So yeah, I do always have THAT camera, but unless I want all my shots to look like I smeared Vaseline on the lens (I don't), the phone stays in my pocket.


Stand by for stream of consciousness (This is not trying to be anything, least of all poetry):

More time. More free time. More time to take pictures.

More time to write. Poorly.

More time to learn web design, graphic design, type design.

More time to pick up new hobbies. To return to old hobbies.

More time to cook. To eat. To see friends. To read. To romance my wife.

More time to see my family. More time to mourn my family.

More time to struggle with my faith. To resent it. To re-embrace it.

More time to go to the gym. To clean the house. To fix the house.

More time to waste.

Oh, hi! It's been a while.

spoon. 1.0

What the hell.

It's over a week after the first spoon. (yes, the name is "spoon." just like that) pop-up dining event, but I still want to write about my impression of the whole thing. It's the second such event in Richmond (the first having been the extraordinary Meddle from Secco's Tim Bereika), and I think it continues an exciting direction for the leading edge of Richmond's dining scene.

spoon. is the brainchild of Richmond cooking prodigal John Maher, in which he brings his brand of artful and thoughtful cooking to the River City. This inaugural event was hosted in the hip-casual space of Pasture and also had an optional cocktail pairing available for each course from Comfort's bar-tending wizard, Mattias Hagglund. I paid for that pairing and got more than my money's worth, let me tell ya.

So what can I say about the food (and the drink)? Well I'll keep it simple: Maher's dishes show evidence of somebody who loves food; loves to cook, loves to eat, loves the ingredients that comprise each course. Nearly every bite in this dinner had the kind of balance I like so much, with each ingredient providing vibrant expressions of their own flavors in addition to careful combinations from dish to dish. And the cocktail pairings! Rarely have I had beverages so well-suited to the food with which they were served. Hagglund's drinks were exceptionally creative while also purposeful and complementary. Even my least favorite drinks at least matched well with the intended course. By the end of the meal I found both my stomach and curiosity sated, and I'm eager for the next incarnation of Maher's cuisine (which, I should point out, looks to be a collaboration with Bereika for "Meddle with Spoons" - heh - which may be more awesome than my palate can handle).

I've heard a lot in the past year or so about Richmond being "late to the party" for a number of things - particularly in our culinary scene. Whether it's food truck courts, fancy donuts, and of course, pop-up restaurants. Sure. Whatever. That kind of commentary misses the point though; it's the quality of the product that matters. And where quality is concerned, Richmond's pop-up restaurants are 2-for-2 so far.

SO, in case you're still interested in some more detail, here's an expanded version of my notes from the evening.

Course 1: English pea soup with preserved lemon, charred onion, and mint

I thought this was a delicious pea soup, but I have to be honest - I didn't really pick up on the additional flavors that much. This was the only course where I thought there was a significant flaw, but only in that the additional components didn't really express themselves. But it's hard to complain about a delicious pea soup.

Cocktail 1: Ron Zacapa rum, mint, lime, sparkling wine

Tasty, refreshing, matched well with the soup - not much more to add than that.

Course 2: Asparagus variations with salt cured egg yolk and prosciutto

It looked, basically, like an asparagus salad arranged beautifully (and linearly) on a black-laquered, routed-out plank. I've never eaten asparagus cooked so perfectly as the tender sections of the plant in this dish. There was a variety of textures and flavors moving from one end of the plate to the other.

Cocktail 2: Allagash White, honey, lemon, Fernet Branca

My absolute highlight of the evening, beverage-wise. I've never tasted or smelled anything like this, and there was crispy prosciutto on the rim (and a little in the glass) that lent some complexity to the whole thing. This is a definitive beer cocktail in my mind, and I only wish I could get the recipe so I could make it myself at home. I'd drink it on its own almost any day of the week. Needless to say, it was an outstanding companion to the asparagus.

Course 3: Atlantic mackerel with fiddleheads, greens, and sea beans

What an incredible piece of fish. There was some little mushrooms as well (I can't identify mushrooms to save my life), and they were a tasty surprise. And fiddleheads - oh my, quickly becoming one of my favorite green things to eat. This was my favorite dish of the night for its use of ingredients and pure deliciousness.

Cocktail 3: Lunazul Blanco tequila, ginger, beet, citrus, and Ringer Farms egg white

I liked this one - it was sweet but not too much, and the faint funky aroma that I get from most tequila worked well, too, balanced by the ginger and citrus. Because of the beet and egg white, the whole thing came out looking like grape soda in a champagne flute, which made me chuckle.

Course 4: Marrow-basted beef calotte with smoked potato mousse, pickled ramp, and bordelaise vinaigrette

Translation: "calotte" is the cap end of - I THINK - the ribeye. And "smoked potato mousse" is certainly a finer way of saying mashed potatoes. Maybe the preparation is more like a mousse than the more vulgar mashing, but texturally they were indistinguishable from mashed potatoes to my admittedly crude senses. Regardless, they were absolutely delicious. The beef was wonderful, tender, and juicy, and taking a bite of everything together was a joy.

Cocktail 4: Broadbent 5-Year Madeira, savory rum, bread & butter pickle, and Ringer Farms egg yolk

Not gonna lie - this was the most challenging cocktail for me. Most folks who've shared a table with me know of my pathological hatred of pickles, so seeing pickle in the bill of materials had me worried from the start. But I pressed on, determined to at least try it and see how it worked with its paired course. And you know what? It was clever, well-executed, and matched the dish just fine. The savory rum was made so by the addition of duck fat, and the pickle component didn't assert itself too much. It was a balanced drink that served its purpose, but when I got to the end the excess pickle did make me gag a bit. I chalk that up to my own tastes, however. Your mileage (should you ever come across such a drink) may vary.

Course 5: White chocolate and cream cheese cremieux with red velvet cake, huckleberry sherbet, and yogurt sponge cake

Such an excellent finish to dinner, and almost my favorite course. I liked the inventive red velvet "paper" along with the crumbled bits of cake, and the cremieux itself was a delight. And I just loved the huckleberry sherbet.

Cocktail 5: Russian Standard Vodka, huckleberry, Gallano, citrus, "heat", and sparkling wine

I thought this was an interesting cocktail, but it didn't have a lot of flavor going on - maybe it just couldn't stand up to the richness of the cremieux? I'm not sure. And the spiciness that made for the "heat", while clever, didn't seem to add much to the dessert for me. While it wasn't a bad cocktail, it was last on my list for the evening. But it didn't, at least, detract from the wonderful dessert for which it was made.

burger bach

Do you want one of the tastiest burgers in Richmond? Do you want it to have great texture, perfect and crispy browning, and still remain pink and juicy in the middle? Pony up $10 and you'll get a bacon cheeseburger that's sublimely delicious. At least that's what I felt sinking my teeth into a near-perfect patty at Burger Bach (pronounced "batch", not like the composer) tonight. I don't know how consistent they'll be over time and under pressure, but what I tasted tonight might help bring on the pressure that comes from hungry crowds.

Ten bucks isn't cheap for a burger. Full stop. Not when we've grown up on cheap fast food and frozen patties in the grocery store. But there are distinguishing factors about these burgers that, to my mind, justify their seemingly-lofty prices. Right up front is the meat; whether it's lamb, beef, or chicken, they get their meat from New Zealand and claim it all to be naturally, humanely-raised, pastured as they ought to be (their fish is all supposed to be wild, non-farmed fish, too). I asked if they grind their own meat, and sure enough they do. Besides that making me willing to get a burger thats pink in the middle, I think it did a lot for the texture.

My burger was cooked just right, too. The patty was just the right thickness so that you could get the exterior brown and crispy all over (not charred) but the interior was lightly pink. Melted on top was some really good organic cheddar and some tasty bacon. The rolls, which Valerie and I both thought to be quite good, come from across the parking lot at Ellwood Thompson's, it turns out. I don't know whether or not they salted or otherwise seasoned the meat in the burger, but between the texture, cooking, toppings, and bun, it was easily one of the best I've eaten in years. I haven't had a burger this good since eating at The Shake Shack in Madison Square Park.

The burgers come with a fresh-looking side salad, but you can order a side of hand-cut fries. Two people could probably split their small order for $2 that comes with one of their 10 different natural, organic (and in many cases, house-made) dipping sauces. Since they haven't been open for long, they let Valerie pick out several extra sauces for free, and she loved the cilantro and tzatziki sauces.

This is not going to be a regular stop for grabbing a burger. And a better balance of quality, flavor, and price is still best found somewhere like Five Guys (unless somebody can tip me off on a better option - Carytown Burger and Fry doesn't cut it for me anymore). But I haven't yet eaten a tastier burger in Richmond. And you know, maybe burgers shouldn't be cheap. The true cost of a cheaper burger is poor quality and inhumane farming practices. Better that Americans treat a burger as a special treat that we eat infrequently anyway. At any rate, I highly recommend you try a really simple burger to start just so you get the most out of the burger's flavor itself.

And I really do want you to try this place out (unless you don't eat meat - though they make veggie burgers, too). But I have to be honest. I'm a bit conflicted about this place, and it has nothing to do with pricing. It's this whole New Zealand thing. I'm not anti-Kiwi, but I have to say I find it odd that, in this age of increasing momentum in the direction of "local" we have a restaurant sourcing all of its meat from literally halfway around the world. Owner Michael Ripp told Richmond.com that his plans are economically and environmentally close to or better than trucking domestic beef. A big part of me, though, wants to know whether that's compared to commercial American agriculture or the many local and regional producers in the Mid-Atlantic. Are there no comparable Virginia farmers raising good grass-fed beef at prices competitive to flying it in from New Zealand? It's possible I'm being naive; if so, please correct me.

It all just seems so peculiar, though, like the New Zealand thing is mostly marketing (like the tacky neon "Angus" signs in the windows or the t-shirts already available for sale). Delicious beef helped, sure. But that tasty burger I ate tonight was mostly the result of good burger craft, and little to do with New Zealand. But for heaven's sake, get over your sticker shock and go try one of their burgers.


I'm going to split some hairs now. I say that because I'm going to draw distinctions about something that already annoys most people. My pointlessly-bold statement du jour is that there are two kinds of foodies: those who value the presence of something on a menu, and those who value the execution of something on a menu.

A pointlessly-bold statement, no doubt, because to the average American diner, both sub-species of foodie come off as snobbish and annoying where eating is concerned. But we'll set that aside for the purposes of my little post here.

I'm not sure whether its implicit in my wording or in my simply drawing the distinction, but I feel a little bit of discomfort around the first type of foodie, and place myself in the second camp. You can include all the rare, peculiar, or local ingredients on your menu that you can find. That will, admittedly, catch my attention. But when push comes to shove, I actually plan to eat something at a restaurant. So your pastured rare-breed such-and-such had better taste good. Give me instead a fine loaf of bread, expertly smoked pork shoulder, or a perfect "Perfect" Manhattan. You can't get me to shut up about good pizza crust, but I grow cold from a complex dish crafted poorly.

I say all of this to set a baseline for those who don't know me well enough to understand my approach to cooking and dining. I don't mean to denigrate menus with fancier fare - on the contrary, my love of exploration and creativity predisposes me to try restaurants and dining experiences that include peculiar ingredients or preparations. I just happen to enjoy restaurants - clever or otherwise - that get some of the basics right: balance in the meal from start to finish; proper salting; ingredients that work together harmoniously. I believe I experienced an extraordinarily clever menu last night that worked so well because the chefs totally nailed the basics.

Meddle is the long-in-the-works pop-up restaurant from Tim Bereika and Collin Wagner. Tim's been cooking at Secco since its opening in 2010 and Collin has been cooking and working all over the place since leaving his job as Tim's original sous chef. Their kitchen reunion for the purpose of this pop-up was a brilliant one. Together they conceived of and delivered a series of delicious, focused courses that built in richness and complexity of flavor as the meal advanced. Each course, from the amuse-bouche to the dessert, lingered on the palate just long enough to remind you that a) you wanted more, and b) you could never have it again.

The meal started with an amuse-bouche of sea urchin and blood orange-infused tapioca suspended in a cava gelée. Enough for a single spoonful, and served in the emptied test of a sea urchin, itself resting in a miniature cast iron vessel. It was an initially strange bite of food, but it woke up my sense of taste as the flavors mingled, and the tapioca added a pleasant textural element. Ocean flavors continued with the first formal course, and those ocean flavors were oyster all around: poached oysters with oyster leaf, oyster root (salsify), and oyster emulsion. These components made up a cool and light salad with sea beans and seaweed, and left behind a pleasing, faintly salty flavor of the ocean.

Course two was warm and introduced a variety of textures to the meal. It had a playful title, "Chicken or Egg", and it was a playful presentation/construction as well. The dish consisted most prominently of a "nest" made from crispy-fried parsnip shavings, dried mustard greens, and crispy chicken skin. Sitting on top of some granny smith apple sticks was a soft egg with a wonderful custard-like texture, pickled mustard seeds, and a few drops of chicken glacé. This was one of my favorite courses because of the interplay of textures, and I couldn't resist simply stirring up the whole thing into a mash in order to get a bit of everything in each bite.

The next warm course included some of the best goat I've yet eaten: goat sausage, goat tenderloin, carrot, goat curd, juniper berries, some micro greens, baharat spices, and what I think may have been honey? Whatever the case, it was deeply flavorful and savory. A fitting course for the apex of the meal.

And finally, dessert. And this, while reigning in the otherwise-escalating intensity of flavors, still held its own following the goat course. Here was a beet root ice cream (or sorbet?) with malted barley, coffee, dark chocolate, and sorrel. Each little bit of the frozen treat a perfect bite size, like little jewels found beneath the sugar-dusted sorrel leaves, resting in earth. Man, that's some really trite-sounding prose, but I can't dumb it down. It looked superb with flavor to match.

And then? I returned home. I can't go back and experience these dishes again because they were designed to be ephemeral - more so than everything else that we consume already. Here were four (five, counting the amuse-bouche) courses proffered by two chefs Richmond is lucky to have, firing on all cylinders, crafting special items that perhaps would not survive the general public of our local dining scene. But for these two nights of Meddle's existence Tim and Collin, with their collective grasp on the craft of cooking, were free to create food the likes of which I've not seen or tasted in Richmond before.

I sure hope it's not too long before I can taste such food again.

Oh yes, and in case you're interested, here's whate all of the food looks like: