Posts Tagged 'Richmond'

Erin Taylor’s Passion for Fashion

Erin shows three of her mini kitchen dresses, available on Etsy for $40.

Erin shows three of her mini kitchen dresses, available on Etsy for $40.

Erin Taylor is stuck with 75 yards of madras.

“I bought 100 yards of patchwork madras, thinking I was getting a great deal from a factory over in India and then…”

Sitting at a bustling happy hour patio at the new Kona Grill in Short Pump, the waitress asks for Erin’s ID. “Aww…that’s so sweet, she’s carding me!” Erin says. She’s only 25.

With her clothing line, Erin Taylor Designs, and a new home accessories line, Squirrel already under her belt, she is creating a name for herself on the Richmond art scene. And now over wine and sushi, she’s discussing something that’s often on her mind – balancing her passion for fashion with everyday life.

Erin works in an IT office by day, sews by night, and sometimes feels like she’s playing a waiting game for that day she can open her own boutique.

“I feel like I haven’t devoted enough time to it and unless I do take my fashion on full-time soon it will never take off like it should,” she says. “It’s really scary, especially right now. I feel like I’ve been chicken s*** especially when I could have taken it and run before.”

She’s already taken plenty of ideas and ran though – sometimes with a little help of some friends in the Richmond Craft Mafia, a network of over a dozen independent crafters inhibiting talents ranging from illustrating to perfume making.

Erin's bad ass clutch and pony clutch retail on Etsy for $45-$65.  The top clutch is crafted from a reused sofa cushion.

Erin's bad ass clutch and pony clutch retail on Etsy for $45-$65. The top clutch is crafted from a reused sofa cushion.

Last December, Erin and the Mafia converted a vacant downtown space along Broad Street’s First Friday’s Art Walks into the Fawn Shop, a weeklong holiday shopping boutique. With her best friend Ono, Erin pulled together “pins+needles,” a fashion show to showcase local independent designers. The girls are shooting for round two at First Friday this October.

Paris. Milan. Richmond – a fashion city? Erin hopes so.

“Back in the fifties with Miller & Rhoads, and shopping downtown, this used to be the place to come from all over Virginia, you would come to Richmond to shop,” she says. “It would be so cool if we had that again. It’s something to aspire to.”

She is trying to work with her contacts to create a fashion incubator as an idea space for new talent and encourage them to stay local. As far as what Richmond wears – it runs the gamut.

“You’ve got Short Pump dressed in all the name brands, then you’ve got scenesters in Oregon Hill that could care less about who they are wearing. You’ve got Fanites wearing vintage – it’s very eclectic.”

In what’s fondly called the Man Cave, her workshop and apartment shared with her boyfriend and a roommate, sits a modest sewing machine, a dress form, and a varied supply of fabric including that remaining 75 yards of madras.

It was this excess fabric she’s been cutting away from that inspired her to go green. While the decision is good for the environment, it’s economical too. This year, she’s concentrating on a line of recycled fashion.

“I’m taking in old men’s shirts in a color scheme of blues and greens – I’ve been taking them in, so it’s a sexy, oxford look, but fitted to a woman,” she says. “It’s mixing recycled and new. You’re the only one that’s going to have it.”

erintaylor_studioBy keeping a smaller stock of items and focusing on one-of-a-kind pieces, Erin has been able to spend more time building a business plan for what’s next. After her day job, she’ll come home, have a PB&J, and get to work on sketching and finding inspiration. Right now, she has a circus line in the early stages.

“I’ve been inspired by all the old-school posters and merging ballet-burlesque into an actual fashion line, so I’ve collected all the pictures, but I haven’t really sketched them all out.”

Erin pulls out a suitcase and out comes an assortment of her kitchy, retro-chic aprons in mod colors and patterns – olives, pink flamingos, a squirrel, and of course, her infamous madras.

It was high school visits to her grandmother’s house infected Erin with the art bug. There she learned how to crochet. College courses in drawing allowed her to take her ideas to the sketchbook. Once she enrolled in VCU’s Fashion Design program, her fashion took life.

“It really fulfills me. I get to go out and meet people and learn what other people are doing. You get to bounce ideas off of one another and get inspired by each other,” she says. “Like the whole recycling thing. It totally came from a friend so you’re not stuck with 75 extra yards of fabric. I told her, I’m going to start recycling, ‘Is that okay?’ She said, ‘Just don’t do jackets.’”

Get a piece of madras to call your own. Check out Erin Taylor Designs on Facebook and on Etsy.


Bar-B-Cuban at Kuba Kuba


It was only time before Kuba Kuba moved from master of their domain to take down another Richmond empire – barbecue!

I never liked pork until Kuba Kuba.  Pepperoni and bacon are one thing, but simply pork in its other white-meat glory?  No way.  But then, one taste from my friend’s Kuban Roasted Pork and it quickly became one of my favorite meals in Richmond.  It’s tender, it falls apart, and it’s flavorful without any added hoopla.  It’s not the  dried up pork chop or overcooked pork shoulder that grandma used to make.  I mean, can you blame her?  She wanted to make sure the meat was done?  It was done!

But sorry grandma, at Kuba Kuba, the pork’s not well done.  It’s done right.  And now, they’ve taken those delicious morsels of slowly roasted pork and chalked up their specials board with the “Bar-B-Cuban.”  Their twist, served on Cuban bread, features a guava barbecue sauce and a carrot-ginger coleslaw.   The coleslaw provided a nice crunch and a pleasant after-note complimenting the fruitiness of the zippy sauce that didn’t take away from the flavor of the roasted pork.  Although the sandwich wasn’t drowning in sauce, there was one disappointment in the cardinal sin of soggy bread!

The tostones made that all okay.  Playing second banana to the bodega’s entrees, these salty smashed slices of deep-fried plantains are always worthy of ordering an extra side.

Kuba Kuba knows what they do best.  While nothing compares to the comfortable simplicity that is the Kuban Roasted Pork,  it’s nice to step outside the box every once in a while.


Putting together yard signs, slipping the printed plastic paraphernalia over metal rods, I almost killed Susan. Stacking them against a folding chair, their weight soon collapsed and toppled the devoted volunteer. I held my laughter, offered my apologies, listened as she reprimanded me and told me to lean them against the wall.

Susan retired in December to her home in Hawaii. In January, she was on a plane traveling to the mainland to volunteer for one man with a plan. This woman was so moved by Barack Obama that she left her professional life behind her to spread a message of change across the continental United States.

This woman left her home behind to campaign during the primaries in South Carolina. She used the air miles she had saved up to pay for her flight. She lives in volunteer housing and a friend back home has been paying for her rental car. “He said he couldn’t believe someone was doing this, he said he surely couldn’t,” Susan told me today as I volunteered for the first time at Obama’s VA campaign headquarters on Marshall Street.

Not only have people traveled from all over the country to help out, there were also volunteers from London, but it was Carol, a Richmonder, who shared a similar story. Carol works independently, but has taken a month off from work to focus on the campaign.

It started three years ago when she took her granddaughter to see Obama speak in support of Tim Kaine’s race for governor. “I didn’t know who this senator from Illinois was, but he had a unique name, so we decided to check it out.” She said from then on, she knew there was something special about Barack Obama.

Going into campaign HQ was slightly intimidating. In a makeshift office building, you are welcomed by folding tables, chairs, the ringing of phones, and hand-painted murals and posters wallpapering the room. Organized chaos is in the air – as is excitement and anxiety.  Papers and water bottles, clutter not only tables, but also the floors where volunteers are sorting, making calls, and entering data on their laptops.

I had my first assignment – I was phone banking. A volunteer coordinator handed me a list of names, explained the purpose of the calls, and gave me a sheet to take notes on. We were given names based on the neighborhood we live in.

Today’s mission was to inform people about absentee voting, making sure these folks knew about their polling precinct, and to see if they needed a ride on election day. A lot of messages were left – but I did speak to one woman. Her husband and son are political science majors and she said her family is really electrified about the race.

We talked about many things, but particularly about how I had never seen myself volunteering for a political campaign. This does feel different. There is something special about Barack Obama – he has managed to inspire across social, racial, ethnic, political, and religious boundaries. He speaks to all of America. I’ve caught the Obamarama.

Local Mom Sees Drag Show, Gets Giant Fruit Plate

Each Sunday morning, while the most pious of Richmond folk are in church, a smaller, more boisterous bunch are gathering for a different kind of weekly ritual.

Godfrey’s Drag Brunch has become one of the most diverse social events in town bringing together gays with soccer moms, yuppies, and even those grandmas that wear the big hats. With two sittings a week – one morning and one early afternoon – reservations are a must.

I had the pleasure of taking my dear, sweet (and incredibly supportive, not to mention brave) mother for her first drag experience. The morning brunch had been overbooked so the dining room was packed with the abovementioned melting pot ready to see some ladies of illusion strut their stuff.

Normal brunch fair is available – French toast, eggs, hash browns, a few salads, and also specialty quiche. My slice of the Chesapeake quiche had a buttery crust filled with full chunks of lump crab meat and cheesy goodness. As for Mom’s fruit plate – well, let’s just say the gays know fruit. It towered and would have done Carmen Miranda proud.

Any decent brunch and drag show would not be complete without a good supply of alcohol, so the speedy and efficient wait staff were ready to serve up Bloody Mary’s and mimosas. I had a mimosa, which in the Godfrey’s tradition of strong drinks, was a flute of champagne with a miniscule splash of orange juice. Mom had the decaf coffee.

Food and drink aside, the main course is the show. As a gay man frequenting the bar on occasion, drag has lost much of the glitz and shock value – both of which are the appeal to many of the guests partaking in the day’s brunch.

You had your hodgepodge of performances including a few up-tempo numbers with cartwheels, leg kicks, and other acrobatics; and of course, your ballads complete with dramatic lip-synching. It’s an eventful feast for the eyes with outfit changes and sparkles galore.

Don’t be fooled thinking the performances are toned down for a more general audience. When one of the queens took off her mink stole to reveal her gigantic implants covered in nothing but rhinestone pasties, my mother’s jaw dropped and summed up the “OMG” reaction of the dining crowd. You just don’t see a drag queen in pasties every day.

It’s not only the drag queens that make the brunch some of the best people watching around. A noteworthy performance was by one of the audience members, a rather crazed middle-aged woman crying during drag queen Tiffany Deveroux’s rendition of Whitney Houston. Rumor at our table was that she was Tiffany’s eccentric (and highly intoxicated) neighbor.

During a phone conversation with Dad later that evening, he said jokingly, “I think you’ve terrified your mother.” Her words were, “It was interesting.” Perhaps if Mom had something a little stronger than coffee, she would have let her hair down a bit more.

She was so impressed with how much one of the drag queens looked like Reba McIntire, she keeps bringing it up, urging me to show pictures to my father. It’s not really his cup of tea.

When you go, don’t expect just a meal and a show, but an experience. The morning extended well after 1 p.m. – rounding out the performances at a solid two hours. Be sure to bring plenty of ones as it is proper etiquette to tip the performers. We got a lot of bang for our buck and there’s plenty of fruit. I’m pretty sure Mom was eating on that fruit plate for a good while.

The Inos and Outos of Tarrant’s Pizza

Tarrantino\'s Quattro Formaggio PizzaTarrant’s, the popular downtown eatery expanded into the former Outre gallery space after being in business for less than a year. The bigger space also brought a new pizza venture, Tarrantinos, featuring gourmet pies and calzones. Surely this is a sign of a booming business, at least one can hope, since they offer an extensive menu, good service, and consistently tasty food. Their cobb salad is one of the best in town. I was curious to try the new pizza upon a reader’s recommendation post-Sette. I’m on a kick lately.

A committee meeting was moved to Tarrant’s at the last minute this evening, so I took this as a sign. I typically don’t indulge in the carb-filled treat very often, so when I do, I want wow. Tarrantino’s was certainly an indulgence. I’d been craving white pizza, so I tried the Quattro Formaggio – a blend of ricotta, asiago, mozzarella, and parmesan. The base layer of ricotta added a nice texture. All of the flavors mixed well, especially with the red pepper flakes and pizza seasoning that are served on the side.

The crust was tasty and soaked up the greasiness of the cheese as expected with a four-cheese pizza. The only setback was the unnecessary drizzling of EVOO on top of a pie already loaded up with fat and oil. The simple sauce underneath was just garlicky enough.

Compared to some of the other menu items, the pizza lacks a little of the Tarrant’s pizazz, but it’s a good pie, and certainly good enough to make it your neighborhood pizza place if you are in the proximity.

Sette’s Pizza Setback

Sette\'s CalamariMaybe it’s my fault for setting the bar high. After visiting Matchbox, a pizza bistro in D.C., I had big expectations for fire-roasted pizza in my hometown. The flames shouldn’t merely bake your pizza, it should mend the flavors together and make them One.

Sette is one street over from Tobacco Row. It’s a cute place with a killer patio. Their menu is a nice mix of salads, sandwiches, and of-course, the fire-roasted pizza which I had heard great things about. We started with a very tasty calamari that was garnished with marinara and an olive tapenade. The calamari wasn’t overly crispy and the shaved parmasan was a nice touch. The flavors went well together.

Sette\'s Little Italy PizzaFor our pizza selection, we went with the Little Italy – a red-sauced pie with chicken, spinach, mozzarella, and goat cheese. It arrived and looked amazing, but simply didn’t deliver. The sauce was not thick and made the crust soggy. The chicken was not freshly grilled and tasted salty like it was scoured on the piefrom a pre-cooked pack. Disappointing.

I guess some things are just left for the big city.

Best Nachos in Town

Speaking of Greek, if you haven’t had the Greek Nachos at Kitchen 64, then you are certainly missing out on one of this city’s culinary masterpieces.

The reviews of the kitchy preppy/hipster/family/anyone-depending-on-when-you-go hotspot have been mixed.

Greek Nachos at Kitchen 64

I’ve personally been satisfied with most of the food I’ve gotten there and the service has been great, but I go for the nachos. The heavenly triangles of corn tortilla are smothered in mozzerella and feta cheese, olives,

lettuce, spicy banana pepper slices, and tomato. The best part is the tzatziki sauce served in addition to salsa that just compliments the salty morsels so darn well.

The nachos are originally a menu item over at sister-restaurant Sidewalk Cafe. I’ve had Sidewalk’s variation a couple of times, but something is just missing in the delivery. Sidewalk’s use of kalamata olives over Kitchen 64’s black olives is alright. The presentation is just prettier at Kitchen 64, but perhaps that’s because Kitchen 64 is just a bit prettier too.

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