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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!

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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!

 

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.

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.

I might be the only non-homeless woman in the United States who walks into an Ann Taylor Loft dressing room with a couple pairs of pants and a shirt to try on with a 1/3 of a pound of sliced chorizo in my bag. It was Zoe’s chorizo from Formaggio and it was what I like to think of as an essential styling tool.

Thank goodness the bag is pretty cool–from the Poe Museum in Richmond–a gift from my friend and biz partner, Susan. It gets the people talking in the big cities. I find it lends me (truly I don’t own it) an air of sophistication  even when all else points to a scruffy bag lady. But when one adds the flat-packed chorizo wrapped in plastic and paper, well, heads turn. Or at least well-tuned noses do.

Poe Poe Poe...

Poe Poe Poe…

Even though I’d just walked 2 miles to get that chorizo–ostensibly for my husband–I’d forgotten about it until I lay the bag down in the dressing room. Trying on clothes with what got me there–eating too much to fit into my clothes– (the hot fudge sundae wouldn’t have travelled as well) seemed fitting. Or perhaps, given the state of my clothing, ill-fitting.  I suppose I should have taken the flat-packed chorizo wrapped in plastic and paper and added it to my waistline while I was trying on the pants to make things more accurate. A new, wholly unappealing form of pork belly. The clothes may make the man, but they make the woman insane.

I wish I had something valuable to say. Instead I will have to settle for noting how odd it is that cleaning up one’s house, I mean really going into the bowels of drawers and files and cabinets, brings out the worst in me and more $2 bills than I’d ever expected.  You’d think TJ would get more respect, but nickels and $2 bills aren’t really impressing me. Sure you wrote the Declaration of Independence and the Statute for Religious Freedom and founded the University of Virginia, etc., etc., but what have you done for me lately? $6 bucks? I can find $43 in loose change without even trying.

Can't explain it.

Can’t explain it.

He wears it well!

David Rohrer of WPA Bakery wears it well!

Julia Child didn’t become a famous cook until her 50’s. I didn’t become a t-shirt mogul until 51. There must be a book and movie and television show there somewhere. In all of the writing I’ve done, who knew that 3 words: Capital of the Confectionery, would make my day–or at least our latest Real Richmond Food Tours t-shirt. I’ve seen one disparaging remark on Twitter–from someone who mistakenly thinks the phrase is showing pride in the other phrase most associated with Richmond that makes my skin crawl every time I read a lazy travel writer’s take on our fair city. Poking fun at all of that is my favorite part of all this–not to mention showcasing (on the back) some of our favorite bakeries and sweet spots that we stop by or utilize on our tours.

We eat it up!

We eat it up!

Besides online, the shirts are available at shops and bakeries around Richmond, including Fountain Bookstore, Quirk Gallery, Pearl’s Cupcake Shoppe, Shyndigz, World of Mirth, Very Richmond and the gift shop at the Richmond Convention Center on 3rd St. Wear it with the proper amount of pride in pie and cupcakes and in Richmond for being worthy of attention for a baker’s dozen of 21st century reasons.

RealRichmond Tweets!

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