RICHMOND, Va. — It starts in January, if you can believe it. It might seem like there are 11 long months until November, but I know better. Just after the New Year’s buzz fades, it’s time to get down to business– wrangling sponsors, calling chefs, organizing, promising, and emailing — so much emailing — to make sure Fire, Flour & Fork goes off with as few hiccups as possible.
Back in 2014, Susan Winiecki and Maureen Egan of Real Richmond Food Tours started making moves on a plan to create a food-focused event to celebrate the dining, farming, food-slinging community that’s exploding all around us.
I spotted them selling tea towels at a craft fair, and after a cursory explanation of what they had in mind, I was in. Use me, I said! I’ll be your Gal Friday.
We’ve made it through two crazy years of creating and managing an event from the ground up, and we are headed for the third — this one, with more tours, dinners, and parties (and emails) than ever before.
One of the things I hear all the time from my friends and colleagues is that there’s just so much to choose from at Fire, Flour & Fork that it’s impossible to make a perfect plan, to do everything. This is one of those “Let it Go” moments when it’s necessary to think not about what you’re missing, but about what you’re gaining. And what you’re gaining is a ton of food and beverage wisdom from our local experts and their peers from around the country.
So pull out your Dayplanners and follow along as I take you through an insider’s top six picks for how to spend your time during the Fire, Flour & Fork weekend!
CORNUCOPIA (AKA FRIENDSGIVING)
Thursday, November 17 from 6:30 to 9:00
James Marshal Hotel
There’s Thanksgiving, and it’s great. Family, football, and a truckload of food. But then there’s Friendsgiving, where you and your ragtag crew of misfits get to try out those recipes you’ve been bookmarking from Bon Appétit, minus the drama of your Uncle Walter’s politics or the threat of your dear, sweet Grandma overcooking the bird… again.
Fire, Flour & Fork’s Friendsgiving is a veritable cornucopia of chef talent, including Lee Gregory of The Roosevelt and Southbound, Adam Hall of Saison, Megan Phelan of Longoven, Michael Hall of Spoonbread Bistro, Ida MaMusu of Africanne on Main, and more, serving up their takes on Turkey Day. All this plus sips from some of the state’s best breweries, wineries, and distilleries.
You don’t have to cook or clean up, but you will be inspired to create Friendsgiving dishes of your own thanks to the chefs’ live cooking demonstrations throughout the night.
SMOKE ON THE WATER
Friday, November 18 from 4:00 to 7:00
Upper Shirley Vineyards
Carnivores rejoice! If you dream of meat as far as the eye can see and bonfire smoke as far as the nose can smell, this is your place.
Autumn Olive Farm will provide the fodder for this meaty feast, at the hands of Nota Bene’s Randall Doetzer. ZZQ, Phil Bryant of The Local in Miami, Travis Grimes of Husk, Mike Moore of Blind Pig Supper Club, Carena’s Jamaican Grille, Tazza Kitchen, and Carlisle Bannister of Upper Shirley Vineyards will offer variations on open-fire fare.
And for meat-lovers with vegetable-loving friends, there’s a vegetarian ticket option because wine, after all, is vegetarian.
The icing on this meatcake is transportation. If you don’t want to make the beautiful Route 5 drive to Upper Shirley, there’s a shuttle service that will do it for you.
GRAPETIONARY, AROUND THE WORLD IN WINE
Saturday, November 19 from 1:00 to 1:30
Do you love wine? I mean do you really, really love it to the point where you want to run a gauntlet of 26 wines before 2:00 in the afternoon? In that case, there’s no better spirit guides for your quest than Jason Tesauro and his team of sommeliers.
“What began earlier this year as a showcase at the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival has snowballed into a national happening,” Tesauro said. “I created a wine event featuring 26 varietal wines from Abbuoto to Zwiegelt representing each letter of the alphabet. (Yes, even Q & X.)”
Tesauro says guests will have an opportunity to taste wines they’ve likely never tried and may never try again, so this is the place to be for budding and fully-bloomed oenophiles alike.
PIE (POPCORN AND POP) IN THE SKY
Saturday, November 19 from 4:00 to 7:00
City Hall Observation Deck
$40, Kids under 13 free (2 children per 1 adult ticket purchase)
Stare down upon our fair city from the City Hall Observation Deck while enjoying a family-friendly, affordable, fun time. This one’s all about the pie — sweet and savory pies, plus craft sodas and kombuchas, drinking vinegar, and flavored popcorn, enjoyed with the backdrop of a sunset over downtown Richmond.
FOODE chef and Top Chef contestant Joy Crump; James Beard semi-finalist Caitlin Dysart of 2941 Restaurant in Falls Church, VA; and Sara Ayyash of the Jefferson Hotel will be joined by folks from Mother Shrub, Craft Kolache, Gelati Celesti, Rappahannock River Oysters, King of Pops, and Roaring Pines for what just might be the funnest thing to ever happen at City Hall.
EDNA LEWIS SUNDAY DINNER
Sunday, November 20, 2016
In some ways, it’s hard to imagine a time when Southern food, its culture and history and recipes, wasn’t championed the way it is today; but that time really isn’t all that long ago. Only in the past few years have groups like the Southern Foodways Alliance and prominent Southern chefs like Sean Brock and pop-chef phenomenons like Paula Deen made it a thing.
But before it was a thing, it was something real, something that connected and uplifted people in a powerful way. And no one represents that better than Edna Lewis. Her 1976 cookbook, The Taste of Country Cooking, painted a picture of Southern food that reflected the dignity and refinement at the table where others saw only greasy biscuits.
After a lifetime of cooking for her family, her community, the literati of New York, and for herself; Lewis passed away in 2006. This year marks what would have been her 100th birthday, and that, my friends, is a cause for celebration.
Joy Crump of FOODE in Fredericksburg, Duane Nutter formerly of One Flew South in Atlanta, and the chefs from Croaker’s Spot will join forces to cook through some of Lewis’ best recipes, and believe me, there are plenty to choose. Leni Sorensen, a historian who chronicles the lives of African-American cooks will share insights and stories from Lewis’ life throughout the meal.
BREAK IT DOWN PANEL DISCUSSION AND DINNER WITH QUESTLOVE
Sunday, November 20, 2016
3:30 PM – 8:00 PM
$225 for panel and dinner, $60 panel only (book included in both options)
What is it about music and food that creates such a connection? Maybe it’s the sense of expression. Or maybe it’s the countless hours of work that go into something that’s enjoyed over such a brief time.
Drummer for the Roots and Musical Director for The Jimmy Fallon Show, Questlove, knows all about the intersection of music and food. As a prominent musician and author of somethingtofoodabout: exploring creativity with innovative chefs, he lives it every day.
Questlove will be joined by four local music/food figures: Restaurateur and drummer Jason Alley; University of Richmond president, cellist and home cook Dr. Ronald Crutcher; GWAR member and chef Mike Derks; and restaurateur Kendra Feather. Author Todd Kliman will moderate. And you’ll walk home with a copy of Questlove’s book!
The panel discussion will be followed by a seated dinner at VMFA’s Amuse, inspired by Questlove’s book and prepared by chef Greg Haley.
Stephanie’s company, The Apple Cart, works with dozens of food businesses in the Richmond area. Some of them may appear in her articles. To see what businesses Stephanie works with, visit The Apple Cart’s website.
Stephanie’s food columns will appear regularly on WTVR.com.