Food News: Chang, change, and a chilled dessert

Plus a whole lot of other stuff that don’t start with “ch-“.

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LESSONS FROM PETER CHANG

Roben Farzad’s NPR One show Full Disclosure hosted a unique dining experience/interview at the Hippodrome this past Sunday. While guests enjoyed four gut-stuffing courses of Peter Chang’s finest dishes, prepared by the chef, his wife, and one assistant; Farzad and Style Weekly’s Brandon Fox interviewed the international chef of mystery with the assistance of translator Sharon Meng. Here are three lessons I learned from Peter Chang:

  1. “Insist on having your own flavor.” Chang says one element that has been essential to his success is creating dishes that are completely unique, combining unexpected elements and constantly surprising his diners. That means you won’t always find the same dishes on his menus. Chang’s food is an evolving medium, one that changes and matures as the chef does.
  2. Give the people what they want. Chang is about to open his tenth restaurant, and as the chef-restaurateur announces plans for new concepts, he isn’t content to reproduce what he’s done before. In his new Short Pump location, The Noodle and Dumplings by Peter Chang, he’ll focus on two of the things he makes best. And at Peter Chang in the Hofheimer Building, due to open any minute now, he’ll pair small plates with wine, beer, and cocktails–a concept based on Chang’s observation that his diners are keenly interested in a complete dining experience with a thoughtful beverage program.
  3. Act swiftly and sincerely. When asked about his recent public relations fiasco in Arlington, the chef said that he made the difficult choice to fire the staff involved, including his own daughter, because it was the right thing to do. Family or not, bad service won’t be tolerated on his watch.

RANCHO CHANGE-O

Taking the reigns from previous Executive Chef Aaron Cross last week, Danielle Goodreau (formerly of Alembic in San Francisco and Marcus Samuelson’s C-House in Chicago) introduced a decidedly different kind of menu from the Latin-inspired tacos and tamales that made Rancho T one of Richmond’s most critically-beloved spots of 2015. Peep the new menu in its entirety, and re-align your tastebuds accordingly.

(If you’re hungry for the culinary stylings of Aaron Cross, wait a few weeks, and then look for the chef to reunite with his former boss, Walter Bundy at Shagbark.)

rancho t menu

PICK UP YOUR STICKS

If there’s a ramen-bowl-sized hole in your heart after the recent closing of Shoryuken, turn your gaze eastward to the soon-to-open Tenka Ramen at 110 N. Fifth St. Richmond Magazine has slurp-by-slurp details on Tenka and owner Yutaka “Ted” Nogami’s plans for it–Plans like having small cans of sake, making tokatsu broth from scratch, and creating a casual hang-out vibe!

KNOW YOUR ROOTS

Being a small-scale produce or livestock farmer is a bit of an uphill battle, especially if you weren’t fortunate enough to inherit a bunch of super-fertile land; but the people who do it do so because it’s important, rewarding work that’s, in many ways, essential to our survival. But that doesn’t help the fact that the margins are small and the work is endless, leaving little time to distribute, let alone market those crops.

The folks behind Seasonal Roots, formerly the Farm Table, tell Style Weekly that helping the farmer do what he or she does best is what motivates them. They distribute food from about 40 to 50 producers to households from Northern Virginia to Hampton Roads, and soon, Charlottesville.

And if the plight of the modern farmer (or the modern diner, for that matter) is something that interests you, check out Richmond Magazine’s interview with Joel Salatin, the outspoken author-farmer and eventually, restaurateur.

And for a writer-turned-farmer’s take on these very issues, grab a ticket to the Chrysalis Institute’s Spring Keynote with The Dirty Life author Kristen Kimball this Friday at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, and then have coffee with Kimball on Saturday at Ellwood’s.

A GROCERY OASIS (GROASIS???)

Former Martin’s Grocery Regional VP Jim Scanlon has been planning to open a full-service, low-cost grocery store in the East End of Richmond (one of Richmond’s food deserts) for some time now, and finally, the plan is coming to fruition.

Mayor Dwight C. Jones, 7th District Councilwoman Cynthia I. Newbille, and Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority President and CEO T.K. Somanath announced in a press release this week that two blocks at Nine Mile Road, N. 24th, and N. 25th Streets will be the site of Jim’s Local Market. The announcement is on the heels of the opening of a Newport News location of Jim’s Local Market just last week.

FROM ELSEWHERE

Apparently, there’s a science to picky eating. And all this time, I thought it was just privilege!

We now have the power to make our own gummy bears. In fact, we’ve had it all along.

SIP: WHISKY DRINKS

Saturday is World Whisky Day and the celebration is at Virginia Distillery, complete with food trucks, cocktails, and a chocolate and whisky tasting.

BITE: CASTANEA’S GELATO

I’m circling around a new obsession: Castanea‘s gelato. I think about it often, too often. I want some right now, no matter when you happen to be reading this. It’s seriously excellent gelato, with the perfect creaminess. Last week’s flavors included chai tea, key lime pie, horchata, and chestnut. My personal favorite is the hazelnut, but I’m also partial to the pistachio and coffee and, oh who am I kidding, ALL OF THE FLAVORS. (Bonus tip: Castanea’s hidden patio is now open and available for your al-fresco-paella-consuming needs; plus, there’s almost always live music on it, weather permitting.)

GRAM: @SOFTSHELLCRABSRVA

Soft Shells with Spring Vegetables @dutchandcompany

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Stephanie Ganz

Stephanie Ganz thought there would be pizza.

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