To start their 2012 tours, Real Richmond Food Tours and More offered their VCU: Alternative Eats tour to a sold out crowd on a bright, crisp Saturday afternoon January 14th. Maureen and Susan, tour hosts, take ticket holders on a mile and a half walk through Richmond’s culture, architecture, history – and, naturally Richmond’s food scene. The tours feature at least seven different areas of the city, seven totally different tours. But, even the same tour experienced several times provides a very different perspective by stopping in different eateries along the way. Tours are rotated so not all areas are available at the same time.
Today’s tour began at the William Miller House Bed and Breakfast, in the heart of the Fan, just a block from Virginia Commonwealth University’s Monroe Park campus. After a quick briefing about the house, the two guest rooms, and William Miller (the marble carver who built the house in 1869), the group visited the dining room where breakfast is served to guests and the wine room where beverages and hors d’oeuvres are available for guests in the evening as they make their dinner plans. Pat and Mike explained they began renovations in 1996 (still on-going, an old house is never done!) and opened as an urban inn/bed and breakfast in 2000. Then to the inn’s best feature – the Kitchen, where gourmet breakfasts are prepared for guests!
First Mike had prepared creme caramel! He explained that this version was a little sweeter than we serve our breakfast guests but it is an alternative for our fresh fruit course. Other options include a lavender panna cotta, surprise yogurt, fruit crepes or any other seasonal offering to feature Virginia’s bounty as a first course. That’s right – it’s just a first course. After the first course, guests are treated to an entree course served on individual platters. Real Richmond Food Tours is all about tastes, as they visit 5 or 6 stops along the way – so no entree today!
Mike has been perfecting his sous-vide technique for three years now and decided to spend a few minutes introducing the tour to sous-vide process to the tour. Sous vide or cooking under pressure is a method of cooking foods in an airtight plastic bag in a water bath at an accurately determined temperature. The temperature is lower than normally used for cooking, usually around 140 degrees F. The concept is to cook the item evenly, not overcook the outside. The inside then has the same overall “doneness” and the food stays juicier. This method is often used for meats and can be used for vegetables, etc. Eggs come in their own airtight container (their shell) – they don’t need a plastic bag! Mike offered tour-goers the opportunity to taste one of our fresh from the farm eggs prepared soft-boiled in the sous-vide, served on a toast square. He was surprised how adventurous this group was; he had many takers. The sous vide technique was introduced to the US mainly through the efforts of Thomas Keller at the French Laundry in Napa Valley. Here in Richmond, Philip Denny, chef at Six Burner, just a few blocks away and also in the Fan, was the first chef in Richmond approved by the health department to use the technique for guests.
To cleanse the palate, tour ticket holders were offered a Meyer Lemon sorbet, served on a Chinese spoon, and garnished with a mint leaf from the inn garden. Next up, guests were offered pecan squares to go as they hit the streets of the Fan for their next stops.
These tours are so popular that they sell out quickly and you need to plan in advance to purchase your ticket on-line to reserve your spot. It is a wonderful way to experience Richmond up close and personal!