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2901 E Broad St
Richmond, VA, 23223
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THE MG BLOG: Now & Ink

What's the life of a Modern Gentleman all about? Find out here, as Jason Tesauro and his collaborators share their latest discoveries and epiphanies.

 

The Best Thing We Ate at Charleston Wine + Food

Kristel Poole

Whew! What a whirlwind trip! 

Jason and I returned from Charleston Wine + Food Festival late last night still dreaming of one incredible dish from the night before. We arrived at Cooper River Brewing Company for "Fowl Mouth," an upbeat event featuring all things winged-fowl, and checked in at our table with Virginia Wine Board and Barboursville Vineyards, clinking glasses with friends Rachel from Boxwood Winery and Pat from Early Mountain Vineyards. Dozens of tables were set up across the parking lot, and the tempting smell of barbecue smoke began to fill the air as acclaimed chefs began cooking their quail, duck, pheasant and turkey.

We walked from table to table, meeting chefs and discussing everything from bourbon to Virginia wine to Lambstock. We were being fed well and treated with the warm hospitality for which Charleston is known. We tasted pheasant boudin, bacon-wrapped quail, pickled chicken hearts, cold-pressed turkey, pistachio with foie gras, and barbecued duck with Vietnamese noodles, but one dish in particular stole the show, and now, we can't stop talking about it.

I picked up my plate featuring fried Manchester Farms quail tossed in Tennessee-style hot sauce over crusty Carolina gold rice sourdough with housemade buttermilk ranch and fermented green tomato, a play off the classic Tennessee hot chicken, and bit right in. My eyes widened, and as I looked up, I could see the excitement flicker in Jason's eyes, too. This was amazing; the flavors were perfectly balanced. The quail was juicy, the skin crispy, and the sauce fiery. The heat was offset by soft bread, creamy ranch, and tangy pickles. I gushed, "Jason, this is the best thing I've eaten all week." He agreed.

"It's from a catering company," he said.

"Stop," I replied. I couldn't believe it.

There's something especially inviting about a chef who displays absolute humility as you shower him with heartfelt praise of his work, and Executive Chef Todd Mazurek of Salthouse Catering is no exception. Chef Todd received his culinary degree from Johnson & Wales University and has worked in some of Charleston's best restaurants, so he knows flavor and technique like the back of his tong-wielding hand. Obviously passionate about his craft, we look forward to seeing him again soon – especially if he's cooking! 

Chef, if you want to come to Richmond and make us hot quail, we've got a bottle of Octagon with your name on it.

– Kristel Poole

Sail Across the Sun: a Costa Maya Cruise with Train

Kristel Poole

Screenshot courtesy of sailacrossthesun.com

Screenshot courtesy of sailacrossthesun.com

Hi, everyone. Kristel here, checking in while Jason is playing captain's bar master somewhere between Tampa and Costa Maya. Wait, what? That's right, Jason and his entire family are on the Sail Across the Sun cruise with famous musical act Train.

Screenshot courtesy of sailacrossthesun.com

Screenshot courtesy of sailacrossthesun.com

What's he doing exactly? Well, because of Jason's extensive beverage experience and a little mix of being in the right place at the right time, he was asked to lead mixology classes on Train's 4th Annual Sail Across the Sun cruise. The cruise features other recording artists such as Matt Nathanson, Natasha Bedingfield, Pat McGee and Arrested Development, plus tattoo artist-to-the-stars Craig Beasley, wine expert James Foster of Save Me (San Francisco), and of course, our very own Jason Tesauro.

Screenshot courtesy of sailacrossthesun.com Photo by Kristel Poole

Screenshot courtesy of sailacrossthesun.com
Photo by Kristel Poole

Screenshot courtesy of sailacrossthesun.com

Screenshot courtesy of sailacrossthesun.com

I know he'll have lots of stories and photos to share when they return, but it may take a bit to get them to you because Jason is hopping off the plane and running (quite literally, I'm sure) to the podium to host The 6th Annual Elbys Awards. If you see him there, be sure to compliment his fresh tan!

Photo courtesy of sailacrossthesun.com

Photo courtesy of sailacrossthesun.com

The Elbys are Here Again

jason tesauro

The Richmond region's annual dining awards are back for the sixth year this Sunday, February 19th, with returning hosts Jason Tesauro of Modern Gentleman and Stephanie Breijo of Richmond Magazine. The duo is known for over-the-top costuming and Tesauro's opening welcome that is closer to a sermon than a speech.

Listen to last year's Elbys intro, titled "For the 5th Annual Elbys, a reading from the Howl-y Scripture."

Read the transcript from last year's Elbys intro here.

Audio and imagery from the 6th annual Elbys coming soon.

Jay Paul, Richmond Magazine

Jay Paul, Richmond Magazine

SIPs and Spats: a Home-building Update | R•Home Magazine

jason tesauro

Have you been following our home-building process at R•Home Magazine? We first posted about our plans to build a home on our miniature-sized lot back in February and then added an update here in August after breaking ground three months behind schedule. Now, we're actually starting to piece together building materials and interior design selections. The end is in sight, and we can't wait to host you at our housewarming party when it's all finished. 

One SIP at a Time, R•Home Magazine
by Jason Tesauro, October 25, 2016

Have you driven by yet?  There be concrete on that thar Church Hill! The backhoe scooped out its first bucketful of backyard in July, a solid three months later than the most conservative estimate of when we’d actually break ground. But, who cares? It’s happening. With the foundation finally laid, our walls and structure promise to fly quickly up. Word on the street is that we’ll be under roof in under a month. Here’s why.

“SIPs are the best method to insulate your home,” says our builder Cory Fitchett, construction manager at Old Dominion Innovations, Inc.  “Every joint is caulked and sealed, there are no air leaks and there’s foam insulation throughout the whole house.”

“It costs a tiny bit more,” says Fitchett of the construction method, “but it pays for itself within two to three years.” Overall, you’re looking at a 5- to 10-percent increase up front, “but,” he says, “you’ll save on your heating and cooling costs for decades.”

Meanwhile, with a battalion of hard hats and steel boots working the outside, we’re turning our attention to the inside and all of the sundry design decisions from flooring to ceiling fans. Also on the to-do list: a matter of neighborhood politics that feels like a splinter in the footings. And it’s getting infected. The problem is an easement. There are two definitions for the word, and, in my case at least, “easement” is turning out to be a contronym, meaning a word with contradictory or opposite definitions (like how transparent means “invisible,” or “obvious”). Definition No. 1: A right to cross or otherwise use someone else’s land for a specified purpose; No. 2: The state or feeling of comfort or peace. Let’s just say there’s no easement with my easement — yet — and leave it at that.

Read more from this article here...

 

The Why of Design, R•Home Magazine
by Jason Tesauro, January 16, 2017

We’re back.  Did you miss us? Despite all of my cries about permits, escalating costs and bureaucratic backlogs, the reason you haven’t heard from us in a hundred days isn’t clerical, logistical or economic. It’s personal. During this age of national fractionalism, progressives on the coasts are striving to understand their conservative neighbors in the Midwest. For us, this took an über-local slant as we struggled to build empathy with neighbors due west of our property line. In July, cement-mixer trucks started pouring the foundation. However, akin to WWI’s Hundred Days Offensive when Allies on the Western Front finally broke through, compelling an armistice with Germany, it cost three months of time and resources to squabble over the delicacies of deeds and easements. In the end, we hashed out a temporary Alley Treaty that allowed the heavy machinery to start rolling.

Framing, at long last, began in mid-October. Thanks to the efficient simplicity of our SIPs panels, we went from foundation to framed in nine days. The interior framing and finishing continues, but the entire shell of the house, including the roof, is now in place. I’ve already cracked my first beer on the third floor, and many a friend has clambered up ladders to take in our sensational view. Because that’s where it all began.

Given the 22-foot-wide lot and 3 feet of required setback from neighbors, the rectangle of our home could be a maximum of 16 feet wide. Losing the basement square footage meant that we had to go up and back. Since our block is filled with two-story facades, though, we had to jigger the plans to blend in along the street while still accommodating seven humans. CAR only allowed us 35 feet above grade, so our architects drew up something less skyscraper and more Powhatan longhouse.

The solution? A tale of two houses. First, we raised the front third of our structure and designed high ceilings on the first and second floors (10 and 11 feet, respectively). Thus, from the inside, the front layout steps down, giving us room for three slightly shorter stories in the rest of the house. A cross-section view shows an ingenious plan that squeezed an extra 543 square feet from the loft level to give us 2,900 square feet of living area.

A cross-section of the house shows how the Tesauros squeezed three floors into their narrow lot to maximize living space.

A cross-section of the house shows how the Tesauros squeezed three floors into their narrow lot to maximize living space.

So, you make choices and sacrifices. Yes, we lost a basement, but we gained a double-sided gas fireplace to separate the dining and sitting rooms and keep us toasty. We chose fewer windows than some, yet we splurged on larger sizes, more glass walls and quality doors. We also gave up a front porch — because CAR’s mandated covered porch would’ve rendered our front rooms too dark. In the end, it’s not our dream house, it’s our reality house. And that’s right where we choose to be.

Read more from this article here...

 

Highlights From the Food World’s Most Game-Changing Festival | The New York Times

jason tesauro

Rasmus Malmstrøm. The entrance to the fifth edition of Denmark’s MAD Symposium, which took place Aug. 28-29 in Copenhagen.

Rasmus Malmstrøm. The entrance to the fifth edition of Denmark’s MAD Symposium, which took place Aug. 28-29 in Copenhagen.

SEPTEMBER 12, 2016 | By JASON TESAURO

At the fifth MAD Symposium — Denmark’s annual culinary twist on the Butterfly Effect, where small acts lead to large outcomes — a young cook from India, Ashwami Manjrekar, landed a gig with Rosio Sanchez, the Mexican-American chef from Chicago who opened a now-famous taqueria in Torvehallerne. That two women from disparate cultures on opposite sides of the earth found common ground over tacos under a circus tent is just one example of how MAD Symposium is arguably the most impactful food movement around.

Founded by Noma restaurant’s chef/owner/visionary, René Redzepi, MAD (the Danish word for “food”) is a not-for-profit organization that aims to spread ideas, forge new relationships, discuss injustices and update – in real time – the global playbook for an ethical, sustainable food culture. This year, organizers pared the guest list from 1,500 applicants to a vital 350 catalysts from 43 countries who promised to engage, collaborate, expostulate, break bread — and break barriers.

From August 28-29, attendees were delivered by kanalrundfart (canal boat) to an undeveloped peninsula jutting between the Baltic Sea and Atlantic Ocean, to explore the MAD5 theme of Tomorrow’s Kitchen via two questions: What do we hope our kitchens will be like in the future? And what can we do today to make those dreams a reality? After hot debate, cold beer, laughs, tears and enough Norwegian mackerel to trigger a tent-wide omega-3 brain-boost, one truth emerged: The answer is not in the food, but in the people behind it. Barefoot in rolled-up pants, the DC-based chef/humanitarian José Andrés, one of this year’s keynote speakers, paced over pine straw laid inside the not-for-profit organization’s signature red circus tent — where he delivered a TED Talk–like sermon imploring cooks, restaurateurs, suppliers, food writers and tastemakers to “provide for others what you want for yourself.” Heads nodded and fingers snapped in united affirmation.

With nearly 100 different sessions running throughout the symposium, countless secondary topics – from millennial chefs and microbial terroir to alpha females and food waste – spurred important sidebars. Yet, the two big issues on MAD5’s main stage were unmistakable: the mental and physical health of industry insiders, and the importance of nurturing the food community’s next generation. “If you want to go fast, go alone,” Andrés said. “If you want to go far, go together.”

Continue reading...

Lambstock 2016

jason tesauro

What do you get when you blend a Southern revival and an episode of ‘Top Chef’ with a pinch of summer camp and prison break, all dry rubbed and left to cook on the spit? That would be Lambstock — the leave-no-trace camping trip for the farm-to-table set.
— The New York Times

Four years ago, I found myself knee-deep in the high grass of a sheep pasture within a mutton chop's throw of the Blue Ridge Parkway. After four days of finger-lickin love / lamb / fire / fun / passion / pork / coffee / 'cue / booze / bikes / tunes / tents / chefs / shenanigans, I was transformed. And hooked. 

This year, jonesing for bone marrow, I packed three tents, four children, five bikes and six cases of wine into the Wagon Queen Family Truckster for another adventure at Border Springs Farm's foodist fête, the 7th Annual Lambstock.

I first covered this affair for The New York Times,  but 2016 was pure indulgence in the beauty, fellowship and frenetic deliciousness that happens when chefs, somms, farmers, charmers, brewers, chewers, millers, distillers, growers, showers, foragers, photographers, butchers, cookers, cheesemongers, fishfryers, wineries, cideries, hip hop crooners, banjo tuners, barkeeps, RV peeps and hooligans get off the grid and onto the same frequency of share and share alike.

Shepherd Craig Rogers, known best for sustainably raising healthy, happy, loved and naturally-plumped lamb that ends up on the finest menus in America, is a true gentleman farmer. Each year, he and his team open up the gates to welcome anyone with one foot in the ethical food business and another foot in the business of feeding joy like a baker's starter.

Grounded in passion, craft and integrity that spreads person-to-person, region-by-region, tent-by-tent, invitees are drawn to the promise of personal and professional relationships built around the breaking of bread. Those who've sunk their teeth into Lambstock know that we the alumni are forevermore ambassadors for the soulfulness of food. How we gather and why we gather gives new meaning to word of mouth.

Check out the video above. Besides the soaring Blue Ridge via drone, pay attention to an astonishing time-lapse: 24 hours of Lambstock 2016. Note that the Chef's Pavilion is quiet for but a micro-second, because at Lambstock, someone's always hungry...and someone's always cooking. See you next year.


Lambstock 2016 in GIFs

Butterfly in the Blue Ridge.

The greatest chow line I have ever witnessed.

 

Clambake prepared by Harper's Table and Chef Beauter.

Cantastic Languedoc rosé from Queen of Wines, Durham, NC.

Lamb "frites" – fancy name for fried testicles and offal – in the Cowboy Cauldron.

Chef Vivian Howard of Chef & the Farm in Kinston, NC breaking it down for A Chef's Life.

Creekstone Farms flank steak prepared on the Cowboy Cauldron by  Chef John Fink of The Whole Beast.

Building a Nest for Seven

jason tesauro

We introduced our partnership with R•Home in February and we've started making progress on the home-building process. Through compromise, necessity, and a decent down payment, we've been able to reach the building stage. Here's what we've been up to lately.

Shovel Ready, R•Home Magazine
by Jason Tesauro, March 1, 2016

In the last episode,  you met an intrepid family on the eve of a massive commitment: Build a nest for seven people on a little lot in Church Hill where an expert valet could barely park six food trucks. I might blame the holiday hullabaloo for why we haven’t broken ground yet.

Or, I can tell you the truth(s):

1. We have commitment issues.
2. Construction loans are a pain in the asphalt.
3. An annual super fat trip to Europe sounds damn appealing and way cheaper.

This is why we entrusted Nested to tackle the challenge of our site. Designers Jennifer Radakovic and Laura Pitcher admire the efficient urban dwellings in Asian and European cities. They’ve studied the compact Dutch dwellings of Borneo-Sporenburg, a district in Amsterdam where some row houses are but 9 feet wide. The duo surveyed our 22-foot-wide lot and instead of a problematic site, they saw a puzzle worth solving.

Read more from this article...

 

Red Tape, Green Light, R•Home Magazine
by Jason Tesauro, May 17, 2016

Building a house is like planning a wedding. Your architect and general contractor are the maid of honor and best man. Subcontractors and interior designers are your bridal party (which means at least one of them will end up being an expensive headache). Yet, before the “I do’s,” there’s a proposal of marriage. Your building permit request is an engagement ring, and the city’s approval is your fiancée’s emphatic “yes.”

But wait a minute, Casanova. If your nueva casa is in one of Richmond’s 16 designated old and historic districts, you’ve got to respect tradition and ask for her papa’s permission. In this town, that means a pilgrimage to the Commission of Architectural Review (CAR) and comprehension of their bible: “Old & Historic Districts of Richmond, Virginia Handbook and Design Review Guidelines.” 

From the outset, we knew that our front facade and roofline would be the big issues since our rear facade is shielded from public view and thus out of the commission’s jurisdiction. With our architects, we put to CAR a design that was like a mullet: All business in the front and a party in the back. But, like the mullet, it failed. CAR sent us back to the drawing board to address issues with the roofline, front porch, basement and windows.

When another CAR meeting came around the following month, we were ready to present a refreshed application. That’s when it got ugly.

After the Commission heard our case, they opened the floor and invited neighbors to chime in with support or gripes. This was an early Festivus, complete with airing of public grievances. "We insist that CAR considers the impact of nonstandard designs and how new construction affects the quality of life,” said one neighbor. “It simply does not fit within the block.” I figured we were sunk. Another homeowner, however, restored my faith with his comments: “The design is very cool and creative and if I could afford it, I would probably want to hire the firm that put it together.”

Then we sat in silence while the commission debated aloud. One nugget nearly brought me to tears: “We as a body continue to see the same cookie-cutter production house time and time again. What I respect about this particular application is that it has made an attempt to break away from that very standardized form. … There have been a lot of attempts made with the design to be a good neighbor … and I applaud the applicant for coming up with an interesting solution to a very difficult lot."

It was a nail-biter, but in the end, the vote came out 5-3: Approved. Red tape, green light.

Read more from this article...

Idle and Green, R•Home Magazine
by Jason Tesauro, August 2, 2016

"Idle Moments"  is a sumptuous jazz album by guitarist Grant Green that’s been in steady rotation on my turntable for 20-plus years. In the recording studio, musicians figured the opening number would run maybe 7 minutes. After Green’s enchanting guitar, Duke Pearson’s deft piano, Joe Henderson’s honeyed sax solo and Bobby Hutcherson’s scorching turn on the vibes during that legendary session, however, the track ran past the 15-minute mark. It took twice as long, but man it was good. Read that sentence again and repeat; it might just become our mantra.

Between the ceaseless rain — Richmond just saw its rainiest May since 1889 — and a paperwork morass surrounding the construction loan, it’s been an idle time on our vacant lot at 3607 E. Broad St. You can’t dig in the mud, so the construction crew’s backhoe has been in sleep mode. Nevertheless, we broke ceremonial ground in advance of the heavy earth-movers that will excavate the footing and foundation upon which our house will sit. By the time they finish, a caravan of flatbed trucks will be on the scene to deliver the structural insulated panels (SIPs) that will form the structure (in lieu of conventional wood framing).

While we’re awaiting that first ton of spilt concrete to give our home its bones, we’ve been poring over the systems and machines that will compose our crib’s guts. We may not live in California where every gallon of water and kilowatt hour are precious, but we still want to be good citizens of RVA and stewards of the earth. That means thinking about efficiency and environmental impact.

Read more from this article...

 

Champagne Charles Heidsieck

jason tesauro

Only the unimaginative can fail to find a reason for drinking champagne.
— Oscar Wilde

Champagne is the most versatile wine in the world.

I've enjoyed it in tuxedos and pyjamas, on planes and in picnics, after dinner and before breakfast. And whether it's the occasion of a yacht christening, tailgating or idle Tuesday, champagne is always welcome.

With over 16,000 growers and 320 champagne houses spanning the French alphabet from A.R. Lenoble to Vranken-Lafitte, where to begin? There's no one right answer, but I can tell you for certain one house not to miss: Champagne Charles Heidsieck.

Precision, pedigree and class.
— Robert Jones, Master Sommelier

To understand what's behind the bottle, it struck me to first look into the bottle – with a serious pro. Over the Fourth of July holiday, Master Sommelier Robert Jones joined me on an unseasonably cool afternoon for a proper porch sippin' session with two wines: Brut Réserve NV and Brut Millésime 2005.

From a house founded in Reims in 1851 and kept in the same family for 125 years, we expected class and tradition. What we discovered, is that 165 years in, Champagne Charles Heidsieck continues to beguile with a rich, full and leesy elegance that hums with the brute force of finesse.


Of all the producers who did business during Prohibition, no one did it better than Jean-Charles Heidsieck, grandson of the famous Champagne Charlie. In 1922...Jean-Charles was sent to North America by his father to ‘find out what was going on.’ What he discovered was that there was a killing to be made. All that was required were guts and imagination.
— Don & Petie Kladstrup, "Champagne: How; the World's Most Glamorous Wine Triumphed Over War and Hard Times."

Pull up a chair (and a glass) and join me for a bubbly conversation
with Master Sommelier Robert Jones.

This prestigious grande marque house is justly famed on both sides of the Atlantic for its rich, hedonistic, full-flavored champagnes that make excellent partners to fine cuisine.
— Michael Edwards, "The Champagne Companion."

From "The World Atlas of Wine 7th Edition," by Hugh Johnson & Jancis Robinson.

GRAPETIONARY: Varietal Wines A-Z

jason tesauro

T is for Tibouren. Clos Cibonne Cuvée Tradition Rosé 2014, Provence, France

T is for Tibouren. Clos Cibonne Cuvée Tradition Rosé 2014, Provence, France

GRAPETIONARY: Agiorgitiko to Zweigelt

Remember "Julie & Julia” – that book and movie whereby a food writer attempts to cook every recipe in Julia Child’s book? I’m attempting the wine version (sort of). Based on Master of Wine Jancis Robinson’s tome, "Wine Grapes: A Complete Guide to 1,368 Vine Varieties, Including Their Origins and Flavours,” I’ve put together a tasting event: GRAPETIONARY A-Z: Agiorgitiko to Zweigelt – 26 varietal wines representing each letter of the alphabet. 

Debuting Friday, June 2 at the 6th annual Atlanta Food & Wine Festival, I’m leading a masterclass in the AFWF's "Vineyard in the City,” the first pop-up vineyard in the US. I’ve assembled 260 bottles (26 wines from 13 countries), a panel of 4 somms and a sold-out crowd of 100. We’ll run through grapes A-H, transition to a seated lunch prepared by Chefs Scott Crawford, Rob McDaniel, Annie Petry, Vishwesh Bhatt and Lisa White as we discuss grapes I-V, and then we'll finish with W-Z. Registrants are over the moon…and my somm friends think this is somewhere between brilliant and crazy. It’s definitely historic.

Have a peek below at the 26 grapes I've gathered from around the globe. Meanwhile, joining me on the panel...
       Bartholomew Broadbent, Broadbent Selections, Inc.
       Scott Crawford, Master Sommelier
       Julie Dalton, CWE
 

Looking at the list of wines Jason has assembled, I’m hugely impressed by the breadth of the selection. 
 – Jancis Robinson, MW
 

The field is set and tickets are sold out, but follow along via Twitter and Instagram as we uncork these gems from A-Z.
      @themodergent
       #KnowTheSouth
       #AFWF

More from Jancis:

First of all I’d like to thank Jason Tesauro very much indeed for the amazing amount of work he has put in to organising this very special event. I am thrilled that so many people around the world share the enthusiasm of me and my co-authors Julia Harding MW and Dr José Vouillamoz for the wonderfully inspiring range of grape varieties available to winemakers and wine lovers.

WINE GRAPES: A Complete Guide to 1,368 Vine Varities, Including their Orgins and Flavours

WINE GRAPES: A Complete Guide to 1,368 Vine Varities, Including their Orgins and Flavours

There was a time, in the mid 1990s, when I feared that most of the world’s vineyards would be planted over to just a handful of international varieties. But now, I’m delighted to say, the pendulum has swung very firmly in the other direction. From Chile to Australia via all corners of Europe, curious growers and vintners are hard at work discovering and experimenting with local and historic varieties. In fact, so much work is going on  - especially in Spain and Italy - that I suspect that a second edition of Wine Grapes might well be profiling not 1,368 varieties but approaching 1,500.

Looking at the list of wines Jason has assembled, I’m hugely impressed by the breadth of the selection. Writing from Europe, I can report that Vermentino has already become a hugely popular varietal wine(!) here. Petit Manseng from Basque country was one of the first less-common white wine grapes to make an impression on me for its individuality, tanginess and ageworthiness. I was delighted to see it enthusiastically adopted in Virginia, and I see by examining our 130,000 tasting notes on JancisRobinson.com that it can now be found in Australia, Bordeaux, China, Languedoc, New Zealand, Portugal, Uruguay and an array of American states including here in Georgia.

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Small Lot, Big Life | R•Home Magazine

jason tesauro

Blueprint for Living

Rather than settle or move to the suburbs, a family of seven decides to build their dream house on an unconventional lot.

by Jason Tesauro | February 16, 2016

Amy and Jason Tesauro visit their Church Hill lot with their five children.

Jay Paul, Richmond Magazine

“Go to the end of East Broad Street and we’re the house on your right.” That’s how my wife Amy and I give directions to our place. At least that’s the plan once we have an actual house. Right now, all you’ll find is our slim spit of land squeezed between two dwellings where Broad Street dead-ends just past 36th Street and Chimborazo Park.

In early 2013, we moved into a rental down the street from Libby Hill Park with the intention of buying. By November 2014, we still hadn’t found the right house in Church Hill. We’d nearly settled on something up 27th Street, but we couldn’t reconcile the equation: real estate for seven humans either fit our budget or our style, but not both. Determined to forsake the suburban compromise, Amy ran some numbers and a new idea emerged: “Instead of buying something that half-way works,” she said, “why not spend a little more to build exactly what we want?” It meant tightening the belt for a spell, but it also meant designing from scratch a custom home for us and our five children without sacrificing aesthetics or our street cred. But good luck finding land in Richmond’s hottest neighborhood.

Amy is a Realtor and her company, Linchpin Real Estate Group, specializes in city property, especially Church Hill. Every listing in the 23223 zip code catches her eye. A lot had popped up one morning in November 2014 and by that afternoon, she had made a full-price cash offer.

 “I bought a lot today,” she told me. “It’s 22-feet wide.”

This struck me as absurd. “That’s not a lot,” I said. “That’s a little.” Figure in the required 3-foot setbacks from neighbors on either side, plus the

exterior walls, and you’re down to 15 feet. “It’ll work,” she assured me. “Dutch and Japanese families do it all the time with even less.”

Before Amy called me to report the news, she called Nested, a duo of residential designers in Scott’s Addition, to make sure they could design a cool skinny house. Founded in 2010, Nested (formerly Terre Design Studio) is Laura Pitcher and Jennifer Radakovic. Both under age 36, they are young, hungry and innovative. Amy trusted them with their first in-town home design project because she loved the clean, European lines of their previous work.

But before you ever put shovel to earth in Church Hill’s historic district, you’ve got to stare down the purists, appease the preservationists and earn approval from the persnickety Richmond Commission of Architectural Review (CAR). At best, we’d get a skinny house with views of the river basin. At worst, we’d end up with a $45,000 badminton and bocce court for the children.

Amy has two kids, I have two kids, and we needed some glue, so we had one more together. Isabella, 13, Brooks, 11, and ‘lil Julian, 2, live with us all the time. Sebastion, 12, and Cecilia, 9, are with us half the time. Amy aptly calls our blended lot an “accordion family.” We got them enrolled in the process right away and made sure to connect the dots between how us saying, “no,” to a Peter Chang outing today could mean, “yes,” to a home theater tomorrow.

As the cliché goes, building your own anything takes twice as long and costs twice as much. When we made the offer, we posted on Facebook that a New Year’s Eve party would christen the new digs. I was thinking that meant singing Auld Lang Syne to 2015, though, not 2016.

We were supposed to close on the lot in December, but due to title issues, we closed in February. On the plus side, that extra time doesn’t just build character, it’s refills the till, which is vital, when the budget drags on, too. Our budget was $300,000 for the house we thought we’d need, but it’s going to cost $400,000 for the beautiful house we want.

Thus it begins and you’re invited along. I’ll be documenting the process — the good (green building materials), the bad (nix the basement, it would have cost $85,000) and the ugly (the verbal equivalent of Molotov cocktails from neighborhood opposition) — as we journey from groundbreaking ceremony to housewarming party over the next year.

In the next installment, you’ll meet our quirky clan and our clever builder, Cory Fitchett, construction manager at Old Dominion Innovations Inc. You’ll learn why our home will be made of SIPs (Structural Insulated Panels) instead of 2-by-4s, and you’ll learn what’s essential to us (a big-ass kitchen) and what’s expendable (a Big Ass fan). Most importantly, you’ll learn why small-lot-big-life is our guiding tenet. Whereas some people want a two-car garage and porte-cochère, we want seven passport stamps every two years. And since we’re already sweating over the blueprints for our house, why not line them up with the blueprints for our life while we’re at it.

Follow our progress in R•Home Magazine or online at richmondmagazine.com/home.

 

Watch our segment on WTVR Virginia This Morning "Follow the Tesauro family on the journey to their dream home" - WTVR - 2/3/2016

Watch our segment on WTVR Virginia This Morning
"Follow the Tesauro family on the journey to their dream home" - WTVR - 2/3/2016

Amazing Grace Street

jason tesauro

Channeling my inner Ginsberg and Caesar Flickerman whilst evoking Graham Chapman's suit (circa "Monty Python's The Meaning of Life"), I aimed to open the 5th Annual Elbys – with its heavenly "en Blanc" theme  – by composing a Sunday sermon that reflects how RVA's F&B scene is defining our city. These people move me ... the least I can do is try to move them right back.

Yes, it marinated for a season, but the ink only began to flow last week. And once it came, oh baby, it spilled like holy water. Late or no, I'm still grateful for every visit from the muse. 

And since I believe that objects are imbued with energy: a special shout to artist Michael Birch-Pierce and his students in the VCUarts Department of Fashion for turning a blank-slate white canvas into a glittering power suit. From the second I slipped it on, I felt transformed into a superhero emcee. Kudos as well to Mahri Jones of Parlor Salon, Hunter Rhoades of Richmond Balance and Jaylin Ramer of Space Cowboy Boots for coiffing, sculpting and cobbling me from head to abs to toe. Chefs have their sous ... these are my cats for hair, ass and shoes.

Listen to Jason deliver his sermon...

THE TEXT ...

Amazing Grace Street
    For the 5th Annual Elbys, a reading from the Howl-y Scripture

I saw the best chefs of my generation employed by madness, striving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the double shift at dawn looking for a bahn mi and Twix,

Oh wait. Before the sermon.
Let us pray.

Oh Mighty Spirit of Open Table, 
Blessed Deity behind the misspells, 
puns and malapropisms on blue and green kitchen tape
(I’m looking at you, Duck Conflict and Homey Mustard.)

Dear Higher Power who tempts us to split checks, 
modify the menu or hold tables for incomplete parties. 

Take us to a Heaven of fair Yelp Reviews, 
on-time produce deliveries and semi-sober wine reps. 

Lord of kimchi and tartare, gravlax and foie gras, 
let us pray that Croxton never runs out of oysters
or GMs
or plaid. 

We pray that Brittanny Anderson and Drew Thomasson
mentor a whole new generation in Michelin-star-quality
techniques of brûlée, fricassee and twerking.

Brothers and Sisters, Mamas and Papas, Chefs, Sous, 
Reps, Preps, All Peeps Front and Back of the house, 
Millers, Distillers, Makers, Bakers, Drink Shakers, 
Masters of Muddlers, Proofers of Crullers, 
Raisers of Pork, Pullers of Cork, 
Pushers of Brooms, Growers of Shrooms, 
we come together, an industry in communion. 

And like any kinfolk reunion, there’s always
some gnarly branches on that tree, 
and more than a few juicy fruits. 
And family tensions run hot. 
I don’t expect Jason and Travis
takin selfies on the same spot.

Can I get an RVAmen?

This year was a doozy. Not 100% free from haters, 
no-shows and pre-grated Parmesan with 8% saw dust
We bid godspeed and fare-thee-well to the departed: 
Estilo, Magpie, Mezzanine, Portrait House, Tastebuds, 
Dixie Donuts, Aziza’s, Coppola’s, Nora’s, Beauregard’s,  
Globehopper, Little Venice, Tiki Bob’s. 

Ciao. 

But those were just the lows in a year when the highs
were finger-lickin spicier than a bucket of Lee’s Famous thighs
I spent a day in the life with Dale Reitzer.
I spent a night on the pass with Joe Sparatta and Pete Wells.
I partied with Lee Gregory and Mark Lewis in a hot tub
with a busty bartender who could make even T Leggett’s bar-spoon twirl.
I smuggled wine and weed into Mel Oza’s kitchen
so that he could cook bitchin escargots
to cure the munchies after Fire, Flour & Fork.
I talked mysticism and knishes at Perly’s with David Peterson
while Derek Rowe told us about happy life with kids and no booze.
On a night I thought I’d get silly with Owen Lane, I bonded stilly with Tiffany
Who by the way had one of the funniest Facebook posts ever: 
Skeletor saying “Shutting the fuck up is gluten free. Add that to your diet.”

You don’t always take me seriously, 
but how many of you bought houses from my hot Realtor wife
I tell you this because the overlapping circle in all of this is simple: F&B.

Can I get an RVAmen?

UCI, Travel + Leisure, James Beard, Bo Bech
Daniel Radcliffe, National Geographic, Southern Living
rolled through town and you know what they remember:
    The food.
    This is church.
    And we are the congregation.
    Hand made, sweat toiled
    Hard cidered, soft boiled.

Brothers and sisters, there’s a hymn that comes to mind. 
Amazing Grace … Street
What does a great city look like when it starts to wake up?
When affordable places to start badass enterprises explode in areas that were once sketchier than dollar sushi?
You are powerful beyond the table you set.
You bring attention to our region.
You inspire people to imagine the beauty
of what’s possible beyond this plate.
This year, I want you to imagine worthiness as mantra:
Gratitude
Imagination
Wholesale, city-wide, bite-by-bite change.
Schools, parks, rapid transit, quality of life.

You are lifting Richmond from Capitol of How Bad it Was
to the Rebirthed Capitol of How to Evolve. 
You have stripped down Confederacy to fed 
(with a little racy) in there.

Can I get an RVAmen?

Omnipotent, All-Knowing Ruler of Suds, 
please protect all of the beer in Scott’s Addition
and all of the tasting rooms and cideries, meaderies, 
bakeries, Ginger juiceries, Stella’s groceries
inland fisheries and ukulele and didgeridoo tuneries, 

Holy Divine Maple & Pine Ramen Ruler, 
Heavenly Father and Mamma Zu and the four Saisons
Eternal God Head who taketh away this Jersey boy’s hoagie
but giveth unto him JKOGI, Perly’s pierogi, and our Gentlemen Rogue-y.

In our lifetime, we can only hope to achieve
what those 3 wise men hath conquered – 
Johnny, Jimmy and Jason … and Dale, 
the Four Apostles.

And God is my Dutch & Co-pilot
and while the innocent aim skyward, 
we, my friends, are Southbound
Lo, and when we reach that Rancho T in the road, 
we turn like Vagabonds with Owen’s tongs to darker Pastures
where the L’Opossum-bilities are infinite and on hellfire
in Le Petite Mort au Chocolat en Flambé.

Stroops, there it is.
We are Barrel Thiefs in the night
practicing the dark art of Curry Craft
as we danced with Amour and tasted fruit
from the forbidden Acacia tree, 
Naked as an Onion
with the scent of Autumn Olive and Manakintowne.

Castanea-llelujah!

Lord help us understand
how the hell is it packed at Maggiano's
when we could grab and go
The Dog & Pig
Show
us the way
to your love and suds, 
how can sinning be wrong
when the taps flow like paradise at Mekong

Blasphemy!
Then why did you send King David
to open The Cask for me?

Julia ain’t Biblical
but she’ll cry Lamentations
as Secco makes Exodus from Carytown
to The Fan where glory be
free of demons and shitty chains
as you, the anointed, 
stage pop-ups and make Richmond
the Korean jointed.

Make it raineth upon us
Rudy’s, Tomten, Victory, I say. 
For that is The Answer.

Because chefs may be Gods, but God is not a chef.
Because it he was, the Scripture would read…
And on the Seventh day, 
    he worked another goddamn double.

This may be the only time you go to church this year
because you’re the ones making brunch
for all the asshats who ask for
just yolks in their scramble
or no eggs but hollandaise is ok
and a side of ranch.

It is our nature
our destiny
our Heritage.

Say it with me.

RVAmen!

Yule Just Love a Nogg

jason tesauro

MG's Favorite Eggy Winter Warmer

Yes, 'tis time to pondering that deeper reason(s) for the season, but don't abstain from the occasional indulgence(s). Here's an Egg Nog that's light, fluffy and balanced … not overly thick or cloyingly sweet. Make it a few hours ahead of time and then you can just whip up the egg whites to-order and serve immediately. Yule just love it.

A dark rum like Myers works better than bourbon for my palate.
— Recipe and photo by Master Sommelier Robert Jones who first shared this delicacy.

Pop always kept carton in the fridge after Thanksgiving, and Nana tippled hers with cheap bourbon to chase away the winter blues.  Nowadays, one of the octogenarian members of my croquet club totes courtside a batch of his home brew when the mercury dips into December scarf weather. 

Egg nogg’s history is murky, but colorful.  Since early recipes feature rum, some say egg nog is a shortening of egg and grog.  Others take an entomological approach and see nogg from noggin, a small, carved wooden mug. With no great leap, an egg drink in a noggin becomes egg nogg (with an aesthetically pleasing extra “g”). Anyway you shake it, egg nogg was touted as early as 1607 in Jamestown for its creamy richness and high alcohol—too bad the early Virginians couldn’t apply their verve for boozy sustenance to more practical skills like stopping famine, controlling disease, and repelling Algonquian attacks. Eggs, milk, and spirits were mostly the realm of aristocrats, but settlers in the New World with farms aplenty and cheap Caribbean rum (which replaced wine and ale) turned egg nogg into a drink for everyman, the Budweiser for the churned-butter caste. Back then, cups of nogg were toasted to one another’s good health on Christmas Day. This only-in-wintertime association carries on today, possibly because warmer months before Pasteur and Frigidaire might’ve rendered nogg a deadly, raw egg concoction of nutmeg and salmonella.

Egg nogg won’t be part of the South Beach Diet anytime soon, but those with budding potbellies can cut the calories and cholesterol count by substituting nonfat evaporated milk for the dairy, and using two egg whites in place of each whole egg.  In any case, livea little for the holidays.  Like a kiss under the mistletoe, a hostess’s offer of a ladle of nogg should never be refused, yet step and sip lightly, as namby-pamby nursers with loudyuletide sweaters will find their mugful quickly skinned over like bad instant pudding. Merriest quaffing as you indulge in three classics.  Leave out a ration of nogg for Santa and you’ll surely up your holiday take…even if it risks a reindeer DUI.

THE SCHENLEY
Beat the yolks of a dozen eggs, then add 2 cups of sugar. Add a fifth of your favorite whiskey.  Stir thoroughly as you add a pint of whipped cream and a pint of milk. For a lightened texture, stiffly beat the whites of the eggs and fold into the mixture just before serving. Once in the punch bowl, generously sprinkle freshly grated nutmeg on top and serve in punch cups with a ladle.  Makes 20-25 cups.

THE HERBST
Follow steps above with half the sugar, but employ 1 pint brandy and 1 pint dark rum instead of the whiskey.  Double the dairy and add 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract and ½ teaspoon of salt.

THE DUFFY (for one) 
1 fresh egg ½ tbsp sugar ¼ glass brandy ¼ glass Jamaica rum ½ glass Madiera ½ pint milk Shake with ice and strain into a Collins glass.  Grate nutmeg atop.

NICE TOUCH: turn that leftover nogg into French toast.  Add cinnamon and a beaten egg to the nogg to make a batter for the toast.  This is for covered and refrigerated egg nogg, not the clumpy remnants of half-finished punch cups left festering overnight.

THE JONES (Makes 4 quarts. Perfect for a punch bowl.)
Ingredients
• 12 large egg yolks
• 2 cups granulated sugar
• 2 cups dark rum or bourbon, chilled (we recommend Myers rum or Four Roses whisky)
• 1 quart (4 cups) whole milk
• 1 cup cold heavy cream
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 12 large egg whites, room temperature
• cracked ice
• freshly grated nutmeg

Instructions
• Place the egg yolks in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Beat on medium-high until think and lemon-colored – about 4 minutes.
• Reduce speed to medium-low, slowly add the sugar and bear until mixture is thick and creamy – about 5 minutes.
• Slowly add the booze and beat until incorporated.
• Add milk, cream and vanilla and continue beating until incorporated – about 3 minutes. (Lower speed as necessary to minimize splashing.)
If preparing ahead of time, stop here, cover and refrigerate.
• Place the egg whites in clean, dry bowl with whisk attachment and beat on medium-high until medium-stiff peaks form – about 2 minutes.
• Stir egg whites into egg yolk mixture until they are completely incorporated and the egg nog is pale yellow and frothy.
• To serve, fill cups with cracked ice, ladle the punch over the ice and garnish with pinch of nutmeg.