Fall in Richmond is full of festivals and feasts. Here’s a fun thing to do: try saying this in your best Tommy Lee Jones voice: Fall Line Fest; Happy Camper Fest; Beast Feast; Folk Feast; Fire, Flour, and Fork; Octoberfest; Oystoberfest; Hogtober; Rocktober; Spocktober;1 2nd Street Festival; Armenian Food Festival; Richmond Folk Festival; Pumpkin Festival.
It’s easy to get overbooked, picking pumpkins and drinking craft beer and slurping oysters all the time, but the Richmond Folk Festival is a top priority. It’s a family-friendly, single-people-friendly, rain-or-shine happy time that, as if by some miracle, is free to attend. But it turns out it’s not a miracle; it’s actually countless hours of hard work and fundraising that make this 10-year-old festival possible.
According to Venture Richmond’s Stephen Lecky, “Without a fundraiser like the Folk Feast, our amazing sponsors, or the donations to our bucket brigade, the Richmond Folk Festival could not be a free event.”
This year, Venture Richmond and partners will kick off the festival with Folk Feast, a benefit dinner supporting the festival and featuring some of Richmond’s best-loved chefs, for the second year. The event, which takes place at Historic Tredegar, draws on the success of the previous year and features even more chef talent. Folk Feast co-founder Thomas Arrington explains, “Last year was an important experience. Aside from the improvements to the flow of the night and logistics leading up to Folk Feast, we learned that Richmond was ready to embrace this event.”
Experiences on the road at food festivals inspired Arrington to pitch the idea to Venture Richmond last year: “Richmond was ready for a celebration of its local dining scene, as the Folk Festival was ready to begin a new chapter. I approached Venture Richmond with an idea,” says Arrington. “The idea was hatched after a few road trips with some chef buddies to the Food and Wine festivals in Charleston and Atlanta.” Those chefs wanted to have a similar experience closer to home, and Venture Richmond was looking for a fundraising concept that would keep the Richmond Folk Fest free. “Ideas merged and a pitch was made, and, with a leap of faith, Folk Feast was born.”
The event, which sold out this year in six weeks, gives guests an opportunity to interact with each chef in a dine-around style dinner. “Folk Feast is an event that grants access and opens communication between chefs and guests. It is an opportunity to interact with some of the busiest chefs in Richmond in a low key casual atmosphere,” says Arrington. The casual tone of the event is another aspect that makes it so appealing. “Keeping this event relatively easy and comfortable for the chefs and restaurants is crucial. The better the infrastructure and staff that supports the event, the smoother the event.”
The chefs this year include the original nine chefs from last year’s feast, plus chefs from Metzger Bar & Butchery, Lemaire, Belmont Butchery, Adam Hall, Carena’s Jamaican Grill, Estillo, and Pasture. The menu offers all the flavors of fall with house-made sausages, apples, squash, pumpkins, yams, and hams aplenty. Dishes such as Julep’s venison tartare, The Magpie’s crispy beef tongue, and Rogue Gentlemen’s ‘goatchetta,’ a goat porchetta made in collaboration with Belmont Butchery, diners can expect to try at least a few dishes for the first time.
Comfort chef Travis Milton will prepare rye buttermilk pies with hickory syrup and warm pickled Albemarle peaches for the feast. For Milton, Folk Feast is a way to support something that connects directly to his culture: “In past years they’ve been big promoters of a lot of Bluegrass and Folk artists from my home in Southwestern VA and throughout Appalachia.” For him, Folk Feast connects the dots between music, culture, food, and community: “I do a lot of work, not only to preserve the foodways of Appalachia but [also] the traditions and artistry of the region. I’m very happy that I can be a small part in supporting these artists by participating in Folk Feast!”
Chef/owner of Carena’s Jamaican Grille, Carena Ives will be participating for the first time this year, offering her coconut curry butternut squash soup with crispy Virginia ham AND jerk prime rib over sweet yams. To Ives, Folk Festival is all about inclusion: “[The] Folk Festival provides the Richmond community the opportunity to celebrate diversity and embrace cultural differences through cuisine, art, music, dance, and history,” she says. “I witnessed this same generosity 20 years ago when I opened my first restaurant. This makes the Folk Festival one of our favorite events to support.”
And what would a feast be without booze? Less enjoyable! Wild Wolf Brewing Company will return for the second year with their Folktoberfest beer, available exclusively at Richmond Folk Festival events; and Tap26 will provide wine on-tap, which includes a Foot Stompin’ Festival White and Red.
Casey Cramer, Wild Wolf Brewing Company’s Marketing and Events Coordinator, describes Folktoberfest: “It is modeled in the traditional, German ‘Oktoberfest’ style. It is a medium-malty beer with a light crispness that compliments the fall season very well.” Wild Wolf has put an American Twist on the traditional German festival beer, adding American-grown Columbus hops, “Just enough to give it a crisp, pleasantly hopped finish.”
The Foot Stompin’ Festival wines are new to the festival this year, as Tap26 owner Jon Lintvet explains, “This is a first for the Richmond Folk Festival, and it builds on the success of Folktoberfest Beer.”
Tap26’s Tonie Stevens describes Foot Stompin’ Red, a Cabernet blend, as “full of bright red fruits and sweet notes of cherry and strawberry.” While the white, a French Colombard, is a light, refreshing white wine with bright apple notes, lemon, and a touch of floral spice.”
Providing a wine option with a reduced environmental impact was important for Venture Richmond, and Tap26 was the clear option. “I love the fact Venture Richmond is committed to providing all of us with such a broad selection of delicious wines in such an environmentally responsible and guest friendly format.” says Lintvet. “In addition to the Footstompin’ Festival red and white, local selections from Blenheim Vineyards, Blue Bee Cider and Democracy Vineyards, will be on tap. Wines from Piccola Cellars in Washington state and Bolle Felici Prosecco from Veneto Italy will also be available.”
“October in Virginia is a perfect time of year for outdoor events. Come as you are–this very casual. Bring a sweater,” says Arrington. His hope is that guests will make the most of the event, personalizing it as they see fit: “This is not your typical tented food event. We encourage guests to make the event their own, choose their own path, create their own multi-course meal, and try things outside of their comfort zone.”
- Yes, I made this one up, but I promise if someone makes this event happen, I will come to it. ↩
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