I write a lot in a little on Twitter for my small biz, Real Richmond Food Tours, and though it makes sense that food comes up often, as it does on part 1 of my Holiday Gift Guide for Richmond, art and nature are other themes that keep showing up. And I keep buying what keeps showing up. Makes sense, since those are some of Richmond’s strengths and what is such a pleasure to tout on our tours and on Twitter. Apologies that photos are few and far between. I’m in an igloo with very little bandwidth, let’s just say. Here’s #1-18 for 2014.

#1 Chocolate Balsamic Vinegar because salads need chocolate, too!

#2 Give the gift of Cider Club  Blue Bee Cider to give them an apple a day all year long!

#3 Membership to  Virginia Museum of Fine Arts with a bauble from the gift shop. They’ll be grateful & artful!

#4 A James River Park System license plate is a gift to our big backyard and your special someone.

#5 No 2 snowflakes are alike and all that– Design your ornament from

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#6 This beautiful serving tray from Nest Home   SORRY, it’s long gone!

#7 Little late! Tix to Sat. Dec. 13th Pizza Tour of Shockoe Bottom w/ etc.   Owe you another. How about Case of the month from J Emerson?!

#8 Holiday Gift Box from packed w/local love, beans & booze+

#9 Signed books from like this sweetie from , Dam Good Sweet

#10 Get your eagle on with Discover the James river tours! Gift certificates available.

#11:The Artists Coloring Book w/ w/ at Atlas Mkt!

#12 (Oy, a duplicate!)  Tomorrow’s Shockoe Bottom Pizza Tour 2 w/   Owe you another–A shrinky dink painting from Orange in Carytown!

#13  Something meaty from and a Meat Juice t from

#14 Virginia Fizz and from make great stocking stuffers!!

#15  Ornaments or decor or gorgeous poinsettias from the Garden Shop

#16 You don’t have to like what you see in the mirror to love these mirrors from Orange!

#17  Forget a day of beauty. People want a day of foodie: gift certs to  @harvestrva

#18 Spice it up their life w/ gift certs to and Sauer’s spices!

So it’s been a while. And the alliteration keeps coming. Even when actual thoughts do not.

But I have been thinking about you, blog, just haven’t had any thoughts that aren’t Fire, Flour & Fork-related, coming up Oct. 30th-Nov. 2nd, so I spared you until now. 

Four years ago my partner in dine, SJW, and I started our Real Richmond Food Tours biz and now we’re putting on a 4-day gathering for the food curious with acclaimed Richmond chefs and purveyors like Dale Reitzer, Lee Gregory, Tanya Cauthen and Travis Milton sharing the stage with lauded chefs and authors from all over the country, such as Sean Brock, Christina Tosi, Dave DeWitt, Ronni LundyAlice Medrich and Jehangir Mehta. And that’s just the icing on the cake. 13 dinners, 7 lunches, including a Sunday one that starts with tours of Monumental Church and its crypt, 1 Festival of the Hungry Ghosts, 1 Tasting Tent, 1 Urban State Fair, 18 book signings and 2 receptions in rarely visited cool spots–C. F. Sauers and Electric Eclectic Appliance Museum.

The crypt at Monumental Church. Tour it during Queen Molly's Monumental Moveable Feast, Sunday, Nov. 2nd.

The crypt at Monumental Church. Tour it during Queen Molly’s Monumental Moveable Feast, Sunday, Nov. 2nd.

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Toasters are tame compared to what appliances are in the bathroom!

I think somehow we are putting on year 3 of this first time event, so my head is spinning. Or maybe it’s just that when David Guas of Bayou Bakery and Travel Channel’s American Grilled looks at me that way, I think I might overdose on sugar and gluten.

He’s cooking with Jason Alley of Pasture and Comfort Saturday, Nov. 1st and sorry, it’s full, but both Jason and David are doing talks during our Culinary Tracks Speaker Series October 31st and Nov. 1st at the Library of Virginia and FFF’s host hotel, Hilton Garden Inn Downtown. David will be demo-ing Not Your Mama’s B & G and signing his cookbook, DamGoodSweet.

Yes, David Guas is looking at you, too!

Yes, David Guas is looking at you, too!

Damn. Good. Sweet.

I don’t pretend to be a food writer though I have tweeted more than 12,000 times and most have involved either putting food or my foot in my mouth or putting words together halfway wittily which is different from half-witted. Then there’s my children’s writing that I haven’t done in a while–all those damned tweets and the business of Real Richmond Food Tours has something to do with that. One of two filing cabinets in my desk is jammed with children’s picture book manuscripts and poetry and food comes into play more than I’d realized. I’m a bit of a food poet, so for April here’s a snippet from Want a Cookie?:

I started gnawing zwiebacks/back when these were almost new./Gluey, tasteless sawdust;/what’s the point of teeth?/ Then I spied my mother/with something on her face./A smile, a smudge,/a glimmer, a gulp./Want a cookie.

One bite/one taste/one swallow/one nice big cup of milk,/one lick of my lips/and I knew what to do–/try, taste, chomp!/From a package or a pan/I don’t need to waste a plate;/crumbs in teeth, on shirt, in hair./Where’s my cookie?

And on it goes…. So autobiographical, I know.

Now that I’ve established my gravitas, it makes perfect sense to say that I’m one of the gang of three that’s putting on the Mid-Atlantic Food Writers Symposium in Richmond this June. We’ve assembled a remarkable collection of talented writers, editors, chefs, agents and food stylists that includes Kat Kinsman of Eatocracy, Todd Kliman of The Washingtonian, Lisa Fain of The Homesick Texan, Josh Ozersky of Esquire, Monica Bhide, Matt Gross of Bon Appetit, Ramin Ganeshram, Bonnie Benwick of the Washington Post, Kendra Bailey Morris, John Shields, Denise Vivaldo, Judy Pray of Artisan and Michael Psaltis of CEA. How many James Beard Foundation winners/finalists do you count?

Fresh-picked this June!

Fresh-picked this June!

That’s a line-up that ought to get lips smacking, hearts racing and fingers flying on the keyboards for food bloggers, recipe-collectors, cookbook-lovers and those who dream of cooking up a book or a blog. Hope to see you in Richmond June 20th-22nd!

 

I’m not sure if I will rate more or less of that once this gets posted. In my refrigerator when I first wrote this were way too many house made Sour Watermelon  Gummy Bears. I had very little to do with the making of them and even less to do with the eating of them, but apparently I was the inspiration for them. My husband swore (well after Valentine’s Day had come and gone) that the ingredients for them (including the romantic container of grass-fed gelatin) and the gummy bear mold were purchased as my Valentine’s present. The fact that I eat gummy bears only at miles 16-26 of a marathon run (and I’ve run only one marathon and will likely leave it at that) didn’t come into play in his present planning.

Appetizing

Appetizing

My participation included buying a small watermelon and laughing at his time-consuming preparations. Also tweeting about it. And now this.

Gum yum?

Gum yum?

There’s something wrong about using my baking mold that spells out chocolate for the overflow of this abomination. They actually had very little taste–probably due to the out-of-season tasteless watermelon we employed. Luckily our daughter was in mile 9 of her student teaching marathon so she actually appreciated the gummy delivery and the knowledge that her father is still sweet–in a sour watermelon, grass-fed gelatin sort of way.

One of the perks of having one’s mother move in with one is to have it confirmed–by the movers at least–that though my birth order makes me the third, in fact, I’m #1.

I didn't put it there, but I'm not taking it off either.

I didn’t put it there, but I’m not taking it off either.

Swear on my mother’s storage unit that this is what came out of the well-wrapped box among many boxes that arrived at my house last week. Jean Reasoner Plunket painted this watercolor of most of my siblings over the course of months in 1968. I can still remember coming home from school and sitting in my sister’s room none too happy about having to sit still. How I hated that hairstyle but loved the blue plaid dress that I can easily conjure up beneath that white collar. So now this portrait hangs in my house near the dart board, which seems appropriate. Of course, since I have another sister not pictured here, we hung her much larger portrait nearby as well. She came into the picture a few years after this one was done so her reward was more glory than the rest of us. Funnily enough, the painting of her wound up across from a movie poster of her that already hung downstairs. I will spare her and you that ironic photo gallery.

Having been an operating system for the benefit of others for many years now,  it took me less time than it takes Siri to botch my latest phone call to need a system reset after watching a preview of Her, the new Joaquin Phoenix/Spike Jonze movie about the former falling in love with his operating system, voiced by Scarlett Johansson.

I am a different version from the SJ edition: Do this. Don’t do that. You need to keep these receipts for tax purposes. You don’t need to keep receipts for your $3.29 purchase at CVS. You do need to keep those receipts for all the things you buy that should be immediately returned. You really need to return those. Yes, you have to go to the post office.

An interesting male fantasy, for sure, where she loves him for exactly who he is and isn’t bothered by his inability to clean the toilet. No matter that some reviews hint at an intellectually interesting film, the preview and the ads are cringe-inducing. Does her overabundance of empathy and understanding make her the embodiment of everything he needs in a woman except the body? Ethereal is interesting and god knows I’m not a fan of the fascination with body parts and adornment and fashion, so living out-of-body has its virtues. But chocolate has no place in a virtual life, so I think I’ll go with my gut and all the other parts. And see the movie with a box of chocolates handy.

Tasteful

Tasteful

I found the fountain of youth last month, but I’m not interested in partaking of it again. It was at a Catholic church here in town during Advent. Almost as soon as I walked in the door with my 81-year-old mother,  I felt transported back to adolescence–all snark and muttering to myself and rolling my eyes and looking around at people wondering how they can put up with this. Feeling young again might have felt liberating if it hadn’t felt so stifling.

The only clue that I wasn’t an adolescent was that I used my time in the pew to do my Kegel exercises. Before things got started, I read a notice about proper behavior in church that an usher had handed out and hoped for some decent Christmas music. Imagine my surprise when the priest began the festivities by saying that one young lady in one of the front two rows who answered his question wins a prize. Don’t remember that from the old days. Don’t remember the question either, but the prize, which he pulled from his robes (memo to priests everywhere: Don’t ever pull anything from your robe!) was a tin of Virginia Peanuts. Of course. Famous church marketing 101. Jack up sales of peanuts by talking about them at the outset of Mass. Crass was more like it.

I appreciated his antics even more (or less) when he began his homily by commenting on the sacredness of what goes on in church, lamenting his parishioners bad behavior and instructing us to read the notice in the pews about the solemnness of church and how we are to conduct ourselves in it. I do not like being told what to do–especially when I’d already done it and didn’t need to do it to know how to behave. The instructions were all about not eating or texting or talking while in church. How handy for him that they hadn’t included playing Jeopardy and hawking peanuts in front of the congregation as what not to do. From all my church-going and Catholic school-going years, I seem to remember something about Jesus throwing the money-changers out of the Temple. On my next visit to church, I think I’ll institute clandestine pew yoga to help me find some peace. Otherwise I might have to stand up and say something. Want to come watch?! I’m guessing I’m the one who’d get thrown out of there.

Damned good list! To continue the consolidation of my Real Richmond Food Tours Twitter Holiday Guide for Richmond ( part 1  )that is only just barely self-serving:

#14  Gift certificates for Discover the James Bald Eagle tours on the James River!

#15  Cards, mugs and kitchen fun w/ a Richmond touch at Rostov’s Coffee & Tear in the Fan.

Poe Poe Poe

Poe Poe Poe

#16: Tix to  Lewis Ginter Gardenfest of Lights + something whimsical from their gift shop.

#17: Case of the month at J. Emerson will make people toast your good health all year long!

#18 Fall Line Farms membership makes buying local pastured meats, eggs+more goodies so easy!

#19: Gift certificates from Flames 231, Bottoms Up and Pizza Tonight +tix to our  Jan. 25th  all pizza tour .

#20: Peanut Butter Pups from Gearharts RVA Made w/ Reginald’s Homemade  PB + a portion helps Veterans. 

#21: Get their butts on bikes at  Boho Cycle Studio    to work off calories of #RVAdine gift certs!

#22: Tickets to Hollywood Costume at VMFA, lunch at Amuse, see one of 60films/60 days + a show The Byrd Here’s the Info

#23 Stuff stockings with Olli Salumeria from EllwoodsBelmontButchery, J Emerson Wine and Little House Green Grocery.

#24 When time is running out, there’s still time to snag a gift certificate to one of our food tours around town!

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I write a lot of  140 character bursts for my small biz, Real Richmond Food Tours, and though it makes sense that food comes up often, as it does on part 1 of my Holiday Gift Guide for Richmond, art and nature are other themes that show up. Makes sense, since those are some of Richmond’s strengths and what is such a pleasure to tout on our tours and on Twitter. Here’s #1-13 for 2013.

#1 Art abides: a membership to Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is one of the best gifts (and best deals) in #RVA.

#2 Gift baskets from Little House Green Grocery full of Hispania Bakery , Blanchard’s Coffee & more treats!

#3: Tix to Virginia Rep’s Fiddler on the Roof! For Hannukah or Christmas +pairs w/ #rvadine meal. (Ok, so it’s late for Hannukah now!)

#4- Fun food-related utensils and books at Quirk Gallery.

#5  Create burger heaven w/ gift certificates to Station 2, Burger Bach & Belmont Butchery. #diditlastyear

#6  Blue Bee Cider will put a shine on somebody’s apple! I’m a fan of Aragon + the Reserve!

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#7 Help Cucina achieve world soup domination by buying Mulligatawny or Chorizo Black Bean soups at St. Stephen’s Farmers’ Market Saturday, 9-12.

#8 From the warmth of your home, get someone James River Park System license plates! Support an #RVA park.

#9: Beard Foundation Dinner tickets  Jan. 18th at Lemaire with chefs Bundy, Reitzer, Gregory, Alley and Sparatta!

#10: Animal masks from Big Secret  atBizarre Market upstairs in Chop Suey Books!

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#11: Bacon Bender– Housemade from Belmont Butchery ties  at Fountain Bookstore, mug from Rostov’s Coffee & Tea.

#12: Pick up some local art and food at Art & Food at Huguenot Springs Sat. 10-4 w/ @Manakintowne 

#13  Something your heart/art desires at Handmade Holiday at Dogtown Dance Saturday, 11-5 + Bainbridge Art Center Sat. & Sun.

It’s the time of year when people focus even more than usual on food. Grocery stores are stocked with holiday must-haves. Time to bake and shop and simmer. Yet the week before Thanksgiving I was stewing over what I was going to drink with a bottle of Mirilax to get me through a follow-up colonoscopy. Timing is everything.  So with the aisles stuffed with  Thanksgiving necessities, I wandered through the store looking at coconut water and naturally sweetened Vitamin Water and Steaz and Metromint. I had water on the brain. I was thinking about quaffing and quenching even though I knew damned well thirst wouldn’t be involved.  I did three preps last year within 6 weeks, courtesy of a malignant polyp that cost me several inches of my colon, so I have plenty of experience with the ups and downs and rebounds of my gastrointestinal tract. Here’s what I wrote in Richmond Magazine earlier this year about that much fun.

To jazz up what doesn’t sit well with my stomach, this time I thought I’d try  to suck down the prep with less sugary flavored waters from Brazil and Indonesia and Thailand. As much as I like to eat, my gut isn’t a fan of drinking a lot of anything. I’m not a coffee drinker, not a beer drinker, not even a soda drinker anymore (though in a bid to make myself happy during the liquid diet portion of the proceedings I did take a few swigs of Dr. Pepper to see if that transported me back to happy land days of yore). I don’t mean to make too much of what’s one day and night of unpleasantness since I was  lucky to have the opportunity, certainly. And given that too many of my friends are facing radiation and/or chemo after breast cancer surgery, what’s a day of intestinal fortitude anyway? I couldn’t help but hum She’s Got the Whole World in her Bowels except that the coconut water never made it much past my esophagus.  And the chocolate mint-flavored water is a mistake as well. But you knew that already.

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