The second iteration of Richmond, Virginia’s culinary darling, Fire, Flour, & Fork brought an array of chefs, mixologists, and those truly enthused by food together for a festive five-day celebration. Those who arrived either on Wednesday or Thursday were able to slowly immerse themselves into a welcoming scene; however, by Friday, as multiple events commenced a frenzied, excitable experience incurred. With the caliber of talent available at our fingertips, it was hard to choose which events to attend; but, our selection may be a point of interest during your travels not only to Richmond but Atlanta; Kansas City, Missouri; and beyond.
1. Edwards Ham tasting
2. Madeira Tasting by Bartholomew Broadbent
For those not familiar with Madeira, it’s OK. Up to Prohibition, Americans were the largest producers of the wine; however, when the government cracked down on booze, the booming industry all but vanished. Not until the 1980’s did America’s interest peak again thanks to Mr. Broadbent’s attentiveness and expertise. Paired with Pasture’s Beth Dixon, the two introduced an inquisitive crowd to the complex, sweet wine along with a dessert of banana pudding by chef Jason Alley. Though served at his other restaurant, Comfort, it is something you must try. Why? Wafer cookies are crumbled at the bottom with a generous mound of fluffy, whipped banana pudding spread over it. Slightly over ripened bananas are sliced to completely cover every inch and then — wait for it — the dessert is brûléed to give a textural component that knocks it out of the park.
3. John Dabney’s Bartender Battle with Guest Judge Tiffanie Barriere
Shannon Hood of Portrait house came out on top.
The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) was a breathtaking backdrop to the hot competition happening at its restaurant Amuse. Three bartenders battled for the cup, dedicated to a great man well recognized for his Richmond-based catering business during the 19th century. He also was African-American, and one of the first to break color barriers between whites and blacks through the power of food. Considered by the Huffington Post as one of the World’s Best Airport Bars, One Flew South’s lead mixologist Tiffanie Barriere along with two others judged locals Adam Stull (Vagabond), Shannon Hood (Portrait House), and Jason Lough (Sabai) who competed for the coveted title. In the end it was Ms. Hood’s combination of cocktails that took home a victory.
4. Beaux Arts Ball
Held in the luxurious Jefferson Hotel, the Beaux Arts Ball appeared on the Richmond party scene in the early 1930s but disappeared until last year’s inaugural event. This year’s theme paid homage to Richmond landmarks with guests attending in outrageous costumes and baring even larger personalities. Raising funds and awareness for Richmond’s Academy of Arts, the night highlighted the talent of many including chef Patrick Ehemann, one of the Jefferson’s own with his beautiful ice sculpture of the hotel. We don’t pick favorites but there were two small plates that warranted our attention. One was from chef Joy Crump of Foode. Her succulent Virginia raised heritage pork placed atop braised, crunchy cabbage was seasonally stellar. Served with an autumnal spiced apple butter and pickled black cherries many went back for seconds. Chef Aaron Cross from Rancho T, combined two regional flavors (Texan and Southern) to create something spectacular. A flaky biscuit topped by a moist piece of smoked brisket had or tongues wagging, but it was the quail egg’s creaminess and slightly, spicy herbaceous cilantro that solidified this dish. Like any true chef, Aaron lightly sprinkled coarse sea salt right before serving so that it dissolved upon hitting your palate.
5. Beer and Cheese Pairing with Master Cicerone Neil Witte
So you know your wine and cheese pairings — but what about with beer? Oh yes, a favorite among American culture, beer has snuck right into the hearts of many in the culinary industry illustrating just how refined brewed yeast has become. Master Cicerone Neil Witte of Boulevard Brewing Co. combined four cheeses including manchego and bleu along with a sour ale as well as blonde ale from the Game of Thrones line of beers. “Winter is coming!” Sorry we couldn’t help it, and although that may be true, Witte’s approachable way to intertwine the two products made everyone feel a bit more comfortable hosting those seasonal parties just around the corner.
We can only imagine what next year will bring and look forward to its third segment in 2016!