Some of the brightest stars in food spoke at Richmond's Fire, Flour & Fork festival over the weekend, dishing on their kitchen secrets, culinary history and kitchen tips and tricks. Many flew or drove from other states, traveling as far as as Northern California to speak and demo at the four-day culinary event. Naturally, we couldn't resist asking these salivatory sorcerers what they love about Virginia food and heritage.
Christina Tosi poses with her famous Crack Pie
Christina Tosi, chef, owner and founder of Momofuku Milk Bar
Richmond magazine: You’re from Virginia.
RM: If you were to make a Milk Bar layer cake based on Virginia, what do you think you’d put in there?
Ooh, that’s a really good question. I feel like it would probably be peanut-based, maybe peanut-and-apple-based. I think it’d probably be a hybrid of our apple pie layer cake, but I’d find a way to include peanuts, either caramelized peanuts or peanut brittle or peanut flour, into it because those are two flavors that remind me of home and remind me of Virginia.
James Beard Award-nominated Justin Carlisle after his Ardent dinner at Fire, Flour & Fork
Justin Carlisle, chef and owner of Ardent
RM: You brought all of your ingredients with you and they’re unique to Milwaukee; when you come to Virginia, are there any that come to mind as favorites here?
Well, it’s not even favorites but learning about it; I sat down with the guys from Pasture and Heritage and Comfort last night and [Fire, Flour & Fork] brought up the other Travis from Husk and I’m learning about the seeds and the different beans and making apple cake. These are things that are not familiar for me, so when there’s the heritage of the crops you have here that we don’t have in the Midwest, and it’s discussing those practices with those guys and learning from them, now I’m swapping seeds with them on corns and squashes and beans and everything that I have on my farm. Now I’m going to send them out here to them and they’re going to grow it, and they’re going to send the seeds from Virginia and we’re going to grow it.
Ronni Lundy pauses between panels at Fire, Flour & Fork
Ronni Lundy, acclaimed food writer and co-founder of Southern Foodways Alliance
RM: When you come to Virginia, when you come to Richmond, are there any places that you visit or any dishes you make sure to eat?
Well of course, Virginia is like Kentucky, my home state: an incredibly diversified state. So it would depend upon what part of Virginia I’d be going to. When I come to the Shenandoah region — which is where I came through coming down to here — depending upon the time of year, I am certain to look for apples, because you all have some of the most extraordinary apples. In fact, that’s across the Blue Ridge, starting in southwestern Virginia and across; really, really extraordinary apples and now there’s starting to be all these great ciders, and I just really embrace that.
In the deep summer, farther to the east and coming down to Richmond, [I buy] tomatoes; you all just have amazing tomatoes. And I haven’t tried this yet but I’m very curious about the [heirloom] corn that’s being grown here … and when you move a little further east, then I’m into oysters. Oh my lord, how fabulous is that!
Those are all things that I work for — that’s certainly not a limit on what there is. Oh, and also peaches in peach season. Virginia peaches don’t get the press that South Carolina and Georgia do, but there are pretty wonderful peaches over here also. My last thing is Route 11 Potato Chips as soon as I get onto Lee Highway; that is the cure for the Lee Highway blues.
Ed. note: Susan Winiecki, associate publisher of Richmond magazine, is a partner of Real Richmond, which organized Fire, Flour & Fork.