Crispy fried chicken on top of a hot Belgian waffle slathered with thick strawberry butter and spicy maple syrup may be the stuff of weekend brunch dreams, but this time next week, it’s what for dinner.
A Taste of Richmond, the signature food event of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, is back at the Omni Richmond Hotel from 6 to 9 p.m. April 18. Unlimited samples from more than 20 of the area’s restaurants and food purveyors — plus a premium selection of beer and wine — are yours for the taking with a ticket and an appetite.
The diverse lineup runs the gamut from Metro Diner, Nightingale Ice Cream Sandwiches, Texas de Brazil, and Padow’s Hams & Deli to Mezeh Mediterranean Grill, River City Chocolate, Mama J’s and a whole lot more.
Find your happy place in a slice of New York-style cheesecake with macerated strawberries from River City Chocolate or in freshly made biscuits and doughnuts from Rise. Feast on the Omni’s pickled shrimp stuffed with house-made pimento cheese, Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurants’ Asian tuna sashimi, or pepper-crusted rib-eyes with beer-cheese sauce from Capital Ale House.
If you’re digging the brunch vibes from those chicken and waffles from Metro Diner, check out Apple Spice Junction’s cinnamon toast strata with vanilla bean rum sauce and then further tickle your sweet tooth with chocolate chunk, chocolate praline pecan or Key lime coconut cookies from Kartez Cookies LLC.
Might as well learn something as you eat, right? The night features four local chefs giving cooking demonstrations: Sara Ayyash, pastry chef at The Jefferson Hotel; James Porter, Executive Chef at the Omni Richmond Hotel; Brian Mullins, resident chef of Aprons Cooking School in the Publix store at Nuckols Place in western Henrico County; and Sandeep “Sunny” Baweja, chef and owner of Lehja.
By phone last week, Baweja said he was still formulating his menu for A Taste of Richmond demonstrations, but he was certain of one thing: It would involve chaat. Both a slang term used to describe something delicious as well as the word for the beloved street food nibbles sold all over India, chaat can be savory and sweet and everything in between. Each chef and cook puts his or her own spin on chaat, as he’s likely to do.
“Indian food is so close to my heart,” he said, “and I love street food. ... But I do my own twist.” Anytime he cooks for special events, he checks on the food trends in his native country for inspiration. For A Taste of Richmond, Baweja was pondering flavors such as roasted corn, avocado and mango chaat, though don’t be surprised if he offers something completely different — the challenge of creating something new and fresh is what drives him, he said. It’s why he changes the chaat offerings in his restaurant throughout the day.
“Chaat should be amazing,” he said, adding that he often plays around with flavor profiles until he gets to the moment “when you have the bite in your mouth” and realize that “you could eat this 10 more times.”
Then and only then, Baweja said, “it goes on the menu.”