Belle Isle Moonshine

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Richmond

Behind the Bar: Aaron James / Burger Bach Short Pump

Conversation, Cocktails, Richmond, Behind the BarBrandon Day

If you've ever been through Carytown, Short Pump, Midlothian, Durham, and most recently Charlottesville, you have probably heard folks gushing over the brilliant burgers and booze coming out of New Zealand-inspired gastropub, Burger Bach. The creation of acclaimed restaurateur Michael Ripp, Burger Bach takes the “gastronomical” part of gastropub seriously, focusing on quality food and drinks through better ingredients and preparation. 

We stopped in to see Aaron James, Assistant Manager at Burger Bach's Short Pump location, to hear more about himself and what makes Burger Bach the insanely successful and beloved restaurant it is today.

Tell us about yourself…

I'm the Assistant Manager of Burger Bach in Short Pump, and I first started bartending about a year and half ago after serving for a while. I took on managing the bar at the beginning of this year. After starting as a server, I knew I wanted to expand my knowledge a bit and test myself with something that intimidated me. I felt that bartending was the natural next step and wanted to push myself further. Not to mention that being behind the bar is flat out a fun job, and the tips don’t hurt either.

I am originally from California but have been in Richmond for over 10 years now and Richmond is definitely home. I have worked in the hospitality industry for a long time, spending most of my adult life as an event DJ working weddings and proms, etc. I also helped my family run a successful wedding venue here in Richmond. I have interned in different kitchens to learn more about food. I’ve always had a love and appreciation for food and a good drink, which is what drove me to enter into the restaurant industry.

What do you do when you’re not bartending?

I spend a good deal of time cooking at home with my girlfriend and spending most of our money on our favorite food around town. If possible I try to spend a lot of time outside, jogging with my dogs, rock hopping at Belle Isle, or hiking out towards Charlottesville and visiting breweries on the way back. I have been attending a lot more concerts lately as many of my favorite bands from high school are doing reunion tours now. Pure nostalgia!

What’s something people would be surprised to know about you?

I’m Mexican. It’s always really funny when I tell people because they never believe me and just see a white guy standing in front of them. Never becoming fluent in Spanish probably hurts my case.

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What’s your favorite thing to drink? Favorite classic cocktail? Favorite thing to drink when no one’s looking?

A proper Old Fashioned will always be my go-to, but if there is gin involved, I will probably be drinking that as well. When no one is looking I would say any Mexican beer or a mojito.

Tell us about your bar… 

Burger Bach is a New Zealand-inspired gastropub. Everything starts with our hand-made burgers, which we grind in-house and are made from premium New Zealand beef and lamb. We serve Southern Hemisphere wines, craft beer, and over the last year or so have gradually improved our cocktail program. It’s a very casual restaurant because we always want our guests to feel like they are on vacation.

What’s the neighborhood like?

Short Pump gets a bad rap for being nothing but retail, but our neighborhood, West Broad Village, changes that by supporting Richmond-based restaurants like Burger Bach. There are apartments above the shops and town homes surrounding the center of the neighborhood. This makes it easy for the locals to walk over and become our regulars.

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What makes your bar unique?

Definitely the simplicity of our menu; we do a few things and we do them really well. A good example is our liquor selection. We have just one of each spirit to build our cocktail menu from and this creates an interesting side of creativity when we are coming up with new drinks.

What’s your favorite part about working there?

My favorite part is the people. Everyone treats each other like family and genuinely cares about the person working next to them.

What’s a good night look like for you? What are people ordering?

I always enjoy seeing a variety of things hitting the table. I try to start guests with seafood and wine, then move on to burgers and finish with a cocktail.

What’s your favorite menu item / cocktail pairing?

Our spicy shrimp is a house favorite and I think some good cocktail pairings are our West End Wizard or The Belle Dove. They both are citrus-forward and work well with the smoky chilies in the dish.

Can you share a Belle Isle creation with us? What inspired it?

My cocktail is called The Belle Dove. I wanted to pull from the flavors of a Paloma and keep to a somewhat margarita build. The Ruby Red Grapefruit moonshine allowed me to get that grapefruit flavor while keeping it boozy and refreshing. To round it out there is a touch of smoke from some Mezcal.

The Belle Dove

Ingredients:

  • 1 oz. Belle Isle Ruby Red Grapefruit Moonshine
  • ½ oz. Del Maguey Vida Mezcal
  • ½ oz. Cointreau
  • 1 oz. Fresh Lime Juice
  • ½ oz. Agave

Preparation:
Shake all ingredients lightly with ice, pour into a rocks glass and garnish with an expressed grapefruit peel.

Recipe by Aaron James of Burger Bach Short Pump

Photos by Joey Wharton

Belle Isle Explore: Daniel Torraca / Studio Two Three

Conversation, Richmond, Belle Isle Explore SeriesBICS Admin1 Comment

In a new collaborative series, Belle Isle Craft Spirits is teaming up with local artists, designers, and creators to delve into the true meaning of "The Spirit of Exploration", an idea and energy that we hold near and dear to our hearts.

We had the good fortune of partnering first with Daniel Torraca of Studio Two Three, a Richmond-based illustrator and designer whose work ranges across a spectrum as harlequin and vibrant as his illustrations themselves. Belle Isle Explore brought Daniel the prompt of "The Spirit of Exploration", and he turned it into a small batch of locally screenprinted shirts, featuring his own fantastic design.

We went into the studio to talk to Daniel about his inspiration and see first-hand the process behind producing and screenprinting his design. You can grab a limited edition shirt featuring Daniel's design on our store here.

How did you become interested in art?

I’ve always drawn and been interested in art but it really wasn’t until I realized I needed to go to school for something I wouldn’t hate in 10 years that I decided on a career in the arts. I figured the most consistent thing that I had enjoyed for the longest was a safe bet to put my future on. Also, there’s a lot of things I don’t understand and art has become the best way I can figure them out.

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What inspires you?

I’m most inspired by subcultures and sects of society. I’m very inspired in both my work and life by cult films, obscure Onion articles, and punk music.

Tell us about your process.

I usually work from word lists, to thumbnails, to pencil drawings, and then to inking with a brush and inkwell. Beyond that, I sometimes scan my work into Photoshop and add in textures and fabrics to help colorize them and further establish mood.

Tell us about your studio or where you work.

I do a lot of my work at my home studio on a little prop-up drafting table that fits my paper perfectly but when I’m not there I work quite a bit at Studio Two Three in the digital lab or in the washout booth prepping screens.

Who are some of your favorite folks to collaborate with?

I’ve really enjoyed working with Sink/Swim Press (Dialogue Magazine and Little Red Fish), as well as with Studio Two Three and I really enjoy poster work when I can get it.

As far as collaborators and people to work with, I really enjoy working with close friends or artists who have similar themes to me as far as content choices go. I would love to name names but honestly there are too many incredible artists making work right now that I’m worried I’d forget someone!

What does “The Spirit of Exploration” mean to you?

Exploration means childhood to me. It’s one of the best ways that I can think of to describe how a child sees the world. Everything is new and an adventure and that’s how I’d like to be in my creative process and my life: perpetually excited and a little scared.

Tell us about your design.

I interpreted exploration as mystery and intrigue, and that’s where I tried to take the viewer with my design. I wanted more questions than answers, along with excitement and an energy. I was heavily inspired by camp-y ‘90’s movies about adventure. I tried to emulate, essentially, what a 12 year-old boy would think was cool and scary.

If you had to pick someone from your personal life, pop culture, or history to embody “the spirit of exploration”, who would it be and why?

I don’t think I can pick just one person. I think, in my head, it’s an amalgamation of people that create one mega human. That person’s sort of a combination of Mikey (The Goonies), Henry Rollins, Mohammad Ali, Sigourney Weaver (think Alien), and Daenerys Targaryen (Mother of Dragons).

So, yeah, all of those, plus probably 8 or 25 more to make up the “spirit of exploration”. It’s a little frightening to think about.

Where can we see your work?

I’m one of the few Daniel Torraca’s on Instagram, Twitter, and Tumblr, but you can also see my work at danieltorraca.com.

Do you have a favorite drink?

I drink the Champs of Beer: Miller Highlife, but that’s more a budget choice than a preference.

You can purchase your own limited edition shirt below, or on our Belle Isle Craft Spirits store. Again, there's only a small batch of shirts available, so grab yours now before they're gone!

Behind the Bar: Owen Lane & Adam Stull / Vagabond

Richmond, ConversationBICS Admin

Open as of November 2015, Vagabond is the latest Richmond dining spot to showcase the talents of Head Chef Owen Lane, who is also a partner in the venture. We stopped in one afternoon to chat with Owen and Adam Stull, Vagabond’s Beverage Director, to talk about inspiration and post-shift cocktails, as well as get a sneak peek at the Vagabond & Belle Isle Cocktail Dinner coming up on July 26th. (Tickets are still available, by the way.)

Tell us about yourselves...

Owen Lane, Partner and Head Chef: I’ve been cooking for 20 years from Boulder, CO to Richmond and in-between. Inspiration for my cooking comes from all sorts of different things, from something my mother used to make and how I can twist her recipes to a BBQ at someone’s house. Inspiration never comes when you might think - it just happens. It can’t be forced.

Adam Stull, Beverage Director: I have been bartending for about 15 years. I am originally from Philadelphia. I moved to Richmond a little over three years ago. Other than Vagabond, I have worked as part of the opening staff of Postbellum.

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Tell us about Vagabond...

OL: The name says it all! I’ve had to privilege of working with many cuisines, as most chefs do. The Vagabond concept opens the door to explore so many of those cuisines. In the space we have three distinct areas that can provide a different experience each time you visit. These spaces set the stage for our menu. 

AS: I try to write a cocktail menu that is diverse enough to keep up with the wide array of food Owen creates. The huge space and high volume of people we serve has to allow for cocktails that, while still created with care, can be served efficiently.

Are there particular styles of food/cocktail or ingredients that you like working with?

OL: I like to work with lesser-known cuts - offal, game, local produce. It’s fun to have a direct link to the farmers, to take their hard work and prepare it for folks. 

AS: I love to make a weekly trip to Grand Mart and try to find ingredients that others aren't using.

How do you approach a smaller, private event like the Vagabond & Belle Isle Cocktail Dinner?

OL: It gives me the chance to be more refined. I put even more focus from pan to plate. 

AS: There are so many fun things I can do that I wouldn’t dare try during a busy night. At a smaller event it gives me a bit more room to explore techniques that are too time consuming to use in the setting of a high volume dinner service.

How do you put the menu together?

OL: Food often comes first. I use what’s available seasonally through our local farms. I take those ingredients and put them together in a way that complements the whole menu.

AS: I tried to pair off of what I think will go best with his dishes. We sit down and talk it out and make a few tweaks to each other's offerings.

What’s different about pairing food with cocktails, versus wine or beer?
OL: Walking is key. We like to see everyone walk out. But really, we have the control of these flavor profiles and we can pair the cocktail with the food. With wine and beer, we’re pairing the food with what someone outside of our organization has created. 

AS: That’s right - cocktails are more versatile, as I have a bit more control over the contents and I can really create something that pairs perfectly with a dish.

What can you tell us about the Vagabond/Belle Isle event on the 26th?

AS: We are excited to have everyone here. This is something Owen and I have been talking about for a while. I’m so happy we've finally had time to put this together with the great staff at Belle Isle Craft Spirits. Tickets are available here.

What do you like to drink to unwind after a big event? 

OL: It changes with the seasons. Most of the time, something cold. Right now, I wouldn’t turn down a Rosé.

AS: After work I'm pretty traditional. A shot of good whiskey to sip on and a cold beer helps me wind down after a busy night.

Happy Hour With Fern & Roby

Richmond, ConversationBICS Admin

Fern & Roby was founded by Christopher Hildebrand and his wife Sara Moriarty in 2013, serving as a pressure relief valve from the day-to-day operations of their industrial design and manufacturing firm, Tektonics Design Group. As Tektonics grew over the years, Chris's role had begun to move away from his training in fine art and craft and into design, general management, and business development.

By getting back to their roots and building furniture for Fern & Roby, Chris and Sara created an avenue to start implementing their own ideas and reconnect with the pleasure of making something from scratch. The name of the company also reflects a personal narrative, since it’s named after both of Chris's grandmothers. We stopped by Fern & Roby's design shop to see first-hand the process behind creating their brilliant work.

What do you do and why?

Fern & Roby designs and builds things as tools for living. Audio components, tables, desks, small wares. They all have a place in our lives. 

We currently have a cast iron turntable, an amp, and two speaker designs. These have been developed over the course of the past three years. We’re also in the middle of producing three new audio components—a second and slimmer turntable design, a phono preamp, and dipole subwoofers. We work with sustainably-sourced material as much as possible. Our wood is salvaged, and our cast metal table bases and audio pieces have a very high recycled content, which is important to us.

All of our work is produced with the conviction that products shouldn’t be throw-away items.  I think daily life is enhanced by the inclusion of heirloom quality objects that enhance your experience. Mostly we are just people who get excited about ideas and have fun pursuing the creation of the final product. The best thing besides enjoying that process and our own final products is seeing someone else get the same pleasure from our work. Each table, whether it’s an 18 foot-long conference table with hollow cast bronze bases that allow for integrated IT or a domestic-scaled coffee table, can be a work surface or a place to commune, socialize and eat food with friends.

Tell us about your work.

Our pieces are both traditional and modern, with intersections of raw and refined materials. Materials are the foundational part of our process in design. The Beam Speakers are a great example—they’re a real departure from the slick plastic aesthetic seen in the audio market—the rusticity of the material is distinctly modern. We would never use a veneer to suggest another material than that used. Likewise with the cast iron turntable—it has a simplicity of form and an authenticity that people really respond to.

Revealing the origin of material and narrative of the process is central to our life and our pieces. Wood and cast metal—these materials naturally have flaws and imperfections. They are the result of processes that leave traces behind. We like to leave them exposed, as in the Beam speakers. The pine beams that were reclaimed have holes where there were once nails, and cracks where the wood has settled and split. Those aren’t things to hide, they are telltales of the material’s origin. 

Tell us about your space.

Fern & Roby operates from within the Tektonics space - our 20,000 square foot shop houses our design studio, metal fabrication shop, CNC machine shop and woodworking shop. Sara and I bought the building 4 years ago when Tektonics was nearing the end of its lease in its old building on Stockton, and we knew we wanted to stay in Manchester.

We’re over next to the Williams Bridge Building, in an industrial pocket just south of Maury Street. The building was built in 1930s by the Army Corps of Engineers and has 8000 square feet of skylights—not a lot of shops have natural light at such a scale, and I think it impacts the general mood in a positive way. We love the history of the building and the classic wood trusses throughout the space. The openness of the facility means that people continually interact with one another on projects, and move easily between design and fabrication.

Our studio overall is all about the intersection of traditional tradecraft with advanced manufacturing and design--you would be as likely to see blacksmithing or sculpting happening as CNC machining of parts for our own products or for our clients.  We make the Fern & Roby jigger and salt well on our CNC equipment from solid stainless steel bar stock, and it’s laser-engraved in-house. Someone could be welding something or sanding a table just a few feet away. Process and materials are what inspire our work and we learn something every day that informs our design. We’ve also been able to host events in the space, something our former space didn’t allow for. When you open up those bay doors and the train rolls by just feet from the shop, it’s amazing. 

If your company was a cocktail, what would its ingredients be?

Hmm. Our business and our ethos is uniquely collaborative at a large scale, meshing the interaction between other design firms, manufacturers, contractors, and our clientele. So we like to think of ourselves as a full bar, not a single cocktail. No matter what we are mixing up, we are always a layered and complex blend. And we always stock Maker’s Mark.   

What does your company do “off the clock?”

In terms of unwinding, we’re lucky to live in a state with great parks. Virginia has an amazing variety of things to do outdoors, so my weekends are usually spent with my wife, cycling or kayaking within a day’s drive of Richmond. In terms of shop life - we’re driven by process here, so we constantly challenge ourselves when we are exposed to new equipment, new materials, and new processes. Our staff is pretty diverse in what they bring to the table: our senior designer went to Virginia Tech for industrial design, but our shop manager has an MFA in painting. Our team also includes a former chef, a VCU sculpture grad, a professional cake maker/artist, a skilled motorcycle mechanic, and an art historian.

All of us pursue other interests outside the shop, which make the work we do here together even more focused and dynamic. In terms of our community—our local footprint gives us a great deal of pleasure, because it comes from having built successful longstanding relationships. It’s also incredibly important to us that we contribute to our own immediate economy—we like to give our business to the people who give us their business. 

We are strong backers of Manchester, and recently participated in the tree-planting organized by Dogtown Dish and Laura and Michael Hild, who are doing great work to bring attention and energy to the revitalization of the Hull Street corridor. 

What’s on your bar?

Ha! It would be great to have a bar here. But we have some fairly dangerous machinery, so all cocktails are off the clock! 

We provide access to our staff to all of our equipment for their own creative projects, and we also try to make sure we take the time to enjoy the final results of our work as a team. That could mean going out to a dinner with everyone and their significant others, or having a long lunch during the work week as a group, to catch up with one another and just pause and connect. We recently went as a group to take a hardhat tour of the Main Street Station renovation—it was fun and fascinating to see behind-the-scenes of such a massive project, I highly recommend checking it out!

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We know you just got back from Capital Audiofest - how was that experience?

We had a great time! We were able to talk with folks about our process and our materials. We wanted to convey the authenticity of our work — we really, truly make things from raw materials. People were truly captivated by the fact that we made all these things in Richmond, VA. Like, minds were blown.

So many audio products appear as if they emerged fully-formed from a 21st-century automated facility. Our presentation stressed the handcraft and the uniqueness, and the relationships we have here in Richmond that help us deliver such cool stuff. Our staff that joined us were amazing. They have worked their tails off in the lead-up to the show, and they were so proud to talk with people about what they do. This was not a sales demo or that kind of weekend for them — it was showing and telling what it is that makes their work special. So fun!

What are you listening to this week?

This week? Radiohead’s album “Kid A”!

 

Photos by Alexander Kreher

Cha Cha's Bartender's Competition: Meet the Contenders

RichmondBICS Admin1 Comment

Cha Cha's Cantina is gearing up for their 10th Annual Bartender's Competition, which begins next Monday, July 11, 2016. The competition, which will take place in three rounds over the next three weeks, gives Richmond bartenders the opportunity to prove their speed, accuracy, flair, and showmanship and earn the title of Best Richmond Bartender of 2016. We spent the afternoon with contenders Kevin Sheffield and Shelby Strother to hear their thoughts on the competition and what they're hoping to bring to the table.

Tell us about yourself…
Kevin: I started bartending March last year at Society Social Club and Cha Cha’s Cantina. Before that I promoted for both places. In October last year, I started bartending at Lady N’awlins & F.W. Sullivan's in the Fan as well.

Shelby: I started bartending in 2011 up in Fredericksburg, VA.

The competition highlights flair bartending. How did you get into flair bartending? What is your favorite part about it? Favorite trick?
K: I got into flair bartending thanks to my buddy Ariyan Suroosh from Southern Railway Taphouse. My favorite trick is being able to spin a basketball on my finger while pouring.

S: I saw that it was a male-driven market and wanted to add some sass and curves, so one day at my job I started flipping a bottle for fun. I would watch the guys at the bar play around and do tricks, then I would go home and practice them on my own. My favorite part about flair bartending is seeing the crowd get excited and have fun.

What’s your favorite drink? Favorite drink to make? Favorite drink when no one is looking?
K: My favorite drink is a simple Jack and Coke. My favorite drink to make is a Fun Dip. When no one is looking, I like to throw back a crisp Bold Rock cider.

S: I’m in a committed relationship with Rumple Minze right now; however, I do still love my ex-boyfriend Jameson. My favorite drink to make is definitely a Belle Isle Grapefruit Martini. When no one’s looking, I love to drink Capri Suns. You’re never too old!

What do you do when you’re not bartending?
K: Besides bartending I'm a sponsored skateboarder, I play basketball, and try to find the best food places around Richmond.

S: When I’m not bartending, I love to spend time with my friends and my new puppy!

Tell us about the competition…
K: It’ll be three rounds - a speed round, memorization round, and showmanship round.

S: This year, it’s a battle of the sexes, too. It will be a fun, healthy competition that covers all the skills you need for bartending, especially flair.

What are you bringing to the competition?
K: Hype, especially for the showmanship round.

S: Sex appeal and red hair.

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Who are some competitors to look out for?
K: There's a lot of great bartenders that are usually in the competition, so I'd look out for everyone!

S: This guy Kevin right here is going to kill it. Everyone better watch out for him!


You can find out more about Cha Cha's 10th Annual Bartending Competition on their event page and enter to compete by emailing chachasrva@yahoo.com or registering before the first round next Monday at 9 p.m.

Photos by Alexander Kreher

Behind the Bar: Phil Boyle / Greenleaf's Pool Room

Richmond, Cocktails, ConversationBICS AdminComment

It’s impossible to pass the corner of East Franklin and 5th and not see the vast expanses of green felt beckoning from inside Greenleaf’s Pool Room. Owner and real life pool shark “Carpet” Jim Gottier has created a space that both harkens back to the golden days of the pool hall while elevating the game to its proper place in the 21st century by incorporating a sophisticated yet accessible lunch and dinner menu with a top-notch craft cocktail program.

On a recent visit to Greenleaf’s we got a chance to chat with Jim who gave us a few much needed tips on our game and talked to us more about the history and culture of the game he’s dedicated his life - and his establishment too. Meanwhile, Phil Boyle, Greenleaf’s Head Bartender, mixed up a few rounds of cocktails inspired by one of the great pool players.

How did you get into bartending?
My first bar gig was at Wonderland(!) in 2005, so just over 11years. I had been working in restaurants and Hotels for about 5 years, when Chad who was a friend and favorite bartender, called up one day asking if I would want to work for him at Wonderland, which had opened in December of the prior year. I jumped at the opportunity because I had always had a great respect for those behind the bar and was lucky to learn from one of Richmond’s greats. 

What’s your favorite thing to drink?
I went through lots of ‘phases’ as a drinker. Dirty Martinis back in the day. I used to be a sucker for a proper Manhattan before dinner. A Hoppy IPA paired with a single malt scotch after work. Just about anything Mattias Haglund put in front of me. Likewise with the amazing bar staff at Saison! Back in the day, Van Gogh double espresso Vodka-that was my guiltiest pleasure. 

These days if I’m sipping on anything at work, it’s usually a Mexican Coke with a jigger of Orgeat added—cuz Restaurant people can’t just drink normal things!

What’s the vibe/atmosphere at your bar?
Greenleaf’s is like many Richmond places in that each night has its own vibe. During the week it’s pretty chill with a lot of neighborhood regulars. Weekends the cool kids come out either pre-gaming it or to shoot some pool after dinner or with a group of friends, so it’s busy, loud and hyper. Lots of turnover between the bar and the pool tables, so we do our best to make an impression and educate everyone on the cocktails as much as possible in a brief amount of time. 

What’s the neighborhood like?
We’re located at the bottom of the Hotel John Marshall-which is now full of Graduate and Medical students as well as young professionals, much like the other converted buildings in the neighborhood. Pasture, Julep’s and Rappahannock are only a few blocks away, as well as stalwarts like Capital Ale House and Penny Lane Pub and some new additions like Belle and James and the Kabana rooftop bar which just opened. It’s quickly becoming a new destination area to have a great meal, drinks and enjoy some activities all within a 5block radius. 

What makes your bar unique?
The slate bar! Our owner(s?) Jim and Andrea put a great deal of thought and design into this space and my favorite is the repatriated slate from old pool tables to a bar top

What’s your favorite part about working there?
Everyone says the people, right? Well, I have to agree, and we have great customers, but will add that the Motley Crue of a staff that we have is what makes my nights enjoyable. We have people from all over the states, with all sorts of backgrounds, From Jim and Andrea on down. When you truly love the people you work with and trust them wholeheartedly, there’s nothing that can happen during the course of a service that you can’t handle.

What’s a good night look like for you? What are people ordering?
Good nights come often. The customers are curious and easily engaged and in the mood for something different. Since the bar crowd is usually one round and done or to a pool table, it’s our job at the bar to make a first great impression for the Pool Room. I’ll make everyone something they want-assuming we have the ingredients-and do my best to put forth our vibe of an Upscale Pool Room. 

Fridays and Saturday nights our the big nights here and I’ll probably make 50 Old Fashioneds if I’m working the service side of the bar. Lots of classic cocktails on those nights as well as some of our original creations. I really enjoy the variety of those nights where I can make anything from a Negroni with Cynar to a Fernetaboutit to a House Paloma. 

What’s your favorite menu item / cocktail pairing?
I find myself often recommending our House Made Deviled Eggs paired with a Rye Old Fashioned. It sounds weird, I know, but it’s a fantastic combination!

Can you share a Belle Isle creation with us? What inspired it?
We have a lot of fun at Greenleaf's naming our drinks in tribute to pool's lore. Famous historic players, obscure, all but lost to history hustlers, and (of course) long gone Richmond pool halls all find their way onto our menu. Our Belle Isle cocktail is called the "Jersey Red" after Jack Breit, a legendary pool hustler, big money player, and all around cool guy whom I got to see toward the end of his best years in the early 70's.

The staff had a run a couple months ago on Aperol cocktails, so when we first got wind of the Ruby Red Grapefruit Belle Isle, that was one of the first pairings that popped into my head. It being springtime right now and with the resurgence of interest in those types of refreshing Italian cordial drinks, we decided to play around with a variation on the Intro to Aperol. 

The Jersey Red

Ingredients

  • 1 oz Belle Isle Ruby Red Grapefruit Moonshine
  • 1 oz Aperol
  • ½ oz Fresh Lemon Juice
  • 1 dash Angostura Bitters

Preparation
Build in a cocktail shaker over ice. Shake and strain into a chilled rocks glass, add ice, garnish with a grapefruit twist

Recipe by Phil Boyle of Greenleaf's Pool Room

Photos by Alexander Kreher

Happy Hour With Blanchard’s Coffee Roasting Company

Richmond, ConversationBICS Admin

Blanchard’s Coffee Roasting Co. was founded by David Blanchard in January of 2005. Passionate about great coffee, David saw a need for more of it in Richmond. He started the business by selling his wife’s graduation present - a Toyota 4Runner - to buy a small Ambex coffee roaster and set up in his dad’s garage. His coffee soon got some good press and was picked up by Ukrop's, and the company has been growing ever since. We recently visited Blanchard's ten-person team at the company's Westwood Ave roasting lab where Director of Marketing Stephen Robertson treated us to a tour and some seriously tasty coffee.

What do you do and why?
Blanchard’s is a wholesale craft coffee roaster. We roast thoughtfully sourced coffees from around the world for brewers, retailers, and coffee enthusiasts throughout the U.S. Our goal is to create a vibrant and resilient connection from farm to cup that honors the best qualities of each coffee we roast - and then give each of our customers, from coffee shops to individual brewers, the education and tools they need to brew a great cup of coffee every single time.

Tell us about your space.
We moved into 1903 Westwood Avenue in November of 2015 - our third production space since the company began. For the first time, we were able to plan, design, and build a space that is perfectly suited for our daily production, our client training, and our thriving event schedule.

An open warehouse area houses our two production roasters and sample roaster, as well as our green coffee storage and packaging line. At the head of our production space, we have built a welcoming retail space for walk-in bean customers and visitor welcome. Attached to the open warehouse space is our 1000 sq/ft Training Lab and event space where we have two full coffee shop equipment packages set up in a classroom space to host our existing and potential clients for training, as well as hosting events, both related to coffee and not.

The best part about our space is the abundance of large windows to let in great sunlight and keep the space feeling large and open, even when there are a lot of people inside.
Outside of normal production, we host regular events and guests in our space. Even if only loosely connected to coffee. We strive to create community in everything we do - community that is built on a foundation of good people and good coffee.

If your company was a cocktail, what would the ingredients be?
Tough question. My first inclination would be to say that we are a well aged whiskey, served neat, in a familiar glass and a comfortable chair. We always try to take the pretense out of great coffee. There is a lot of science and artistry in what we do, and we put a lot of passion and experience into roasting the coffee you drink, but most people don’t want to have all that forced down their throat - they just want a great cup of coffee. A warming, soft, smoky whiskey feels to me the way I want people to feel when they open a bag of our coffee.

What does your company do “off the clock?”
We all have our own personal vibe outside of work - but we share a lot of loves as well. Music is a big part of our company culture, both on and off the clock. We always end up seeing each other at shows, or sometimes going together. We all appreciate great food, and most of us are animal lovers of some sort. 

As a company, we try to have some good outings as often as possible - whether it is a baseball game, company trip, dinner out - we all share a great deal of respect for each other.

What’s on your bar?
We don’t keep a full bar, but we often have gifted bar components. So right now, we have a few Belle Isle bottles hiding out. We have lots of friends in the beer world - so there is always a case or two of various beer in our cooler, hiding out with kegs of Hair of the Dog Cold Brew. We also have a strong appreciation for cheap American lager - so you’ll rarely find a time when there isn’t a case of Miller Lite or Coors Lite laying around - that really is the perfect end to a long production day around a hot coffee roaster.

I’m pretty sure if we kept a bottle of bourbon around the office, we’d never get anything done.

Photos by Alexander Kreher

Behind the Bar: Kelsey Ibarrientos / Bellytimber

Richmond, Conversation, CocktailsBICS Admin

Since 2010 Bellytimber has held down the corner of Main and Plum serving up brick-oven pizzas, amazing, virtually irresistible wings, and a wide range of other tasty menu items that emphasize local ingredients and big flavors. Famous for its Mug Club and long-running trivia nights, Bellytimber is also a place you can catch a DJ set most Friday and Saturday nights to dance off some of that pizza. And we haven’t even gotten to their regularly rotating roster of craft beers and, under the guidance of Kelsey Ibarrientos and her team, a newly revamped cocktail program. 

How long have you been bartending?
I've been bartending for a little over four years, so I’m still a relative newbie, but you have to learn quickly in this business.

How did you get into it?
I've worked in the hospitality industry since my first job and have also always been into cooking and creating. I started as a barista at a small coffee shop when I was 15, which I absolutely loved. I picked up my first restaurant job at 17 as a hostess, then started serving the second I turned 18.

I worked through college as a server, then bar back, and as soon as I turned 21, I convinced one of my employers to give me a chance behind the bar. It was a really natural progression to bartending from my past experiences.

What’s your favorite classic cocktail?
I’m a sucker for champagne, so French 75s are right up my alley.

What’s your favorite part about working at Bellytimber?
I’ve worked at Bellytimber for a little over 4 years and it’s really become a second home for me. I love the warmth of the decor and love the people here even more. It’s a blessing to be able to walk in and have regulars that are genuinely interested in how you’re doing and a staff that equally cares about each other. It’s approachable and malleable, being both the background for a nice candlelit dinner with family and friends or a fun-fueled night on the town.

What makes the bar unique?
I think Bellytimber is a great big mixing bowl. We serve everyone from families and young professionals to starving artists and college students. 

The building itself has a lot of history, previously being The Border Chophouse and the Texas Wisconsin, so it’s always fun to have guests come in and reminisce about the times they'd spent here.

Cocktail you hope people ask for?
Any of our featured cocktails of the week. We try to do something fun and new each week and for a lot of our clientele, it means stepping out of their comfort zone and trying something new. I like to think that we make the world of craft cocktails extremely approachable for those who have no idea where to start.

Favorite cocktail to sip on when no one is looking?
I love frozen Pina Coladas. Nothing’s better to me than coconut and cream.

Favorite bartender in town?
Marithe Milburn. Not only does she make great drinks, but she’s extremely personable and friendly. I was lucky enough to meet her and she’s been a mentor of sorts for me. Really, though, anyone who can make me laugh and can make an enjoyable cocktail gets an A+ in my book. A smile goes a long way with me.

Favorite menu item and cocktail pairing?
Any of our pizzas or wings with a draft beer. Or our Ahi Cucumber Sandwich with a Moscow Mule. Yum.

Can you share a Belle Isle creation with us? What inspired it?
We’ve had a lot of fun using Belle Isle in our featured cocktails. One of the favorites among them was The Basil on Belle Isle, a light and refreshing drink that reminds me of spring and summer days at the river.

The Basil on Belle Isle

Ingredients

  • 1.5 oz. Belle Isle Ruby Red Grapefruit
  • .25 oz. Simple Syrup
  • 1 oz. Fresh Grapefruit Juice
  • 2 Basil Leaves

Preparation
Muddle basil and simple syrup in the bottom of a rocks glass. Add Belle Isle Ruby Red, Ice, Top with fresh grapefruit juice. Garnish with a lemon.

Recipe by Kelsey Ibarrientos

Happy Hour With: Hourwise

Richmond, ConversationElizabeth FuquaComment

Running a small business is hard. But when you’re in the service industry, running the back end of your company while you’re up on a ladder or under a sink? That’s even harder. In 2012, friends Ethan Wirt and Jon Hill teamed up when Ethan’s house painting business was growing, but he was having trouble finding software to help him manage his business. They realized that what small business owners often needed was a “back office” to help them with administrative tasks they were simply too busy to take care of. Hourwise was born and the two set off to help other service industry businesses experience growth that wasn’t overwhelming. 

Hourwise supplies an on-demand workforce for businesses who need assistance with their administrative tasks but don’t need or want to hire full or even part-time employees. We sat down with Hourwise co-founders, Jon Hill and Ethan Wirt, and COO, Jason Bello, to talk about the rapid growth of their own Richmond-based business and how the startup community works and plays together. 

Who plays what roles at Hourwise?
Jon: Myself and Ethan are the co-founders, but Ethan focuses on sales and marketing partnerships. Jason Bello is our COO that we brought on last year. We convinced him to move out here from San Diego to be our big thinker. He’s a process driven guy who has worked for Accenture as a business analyst. We all met at UVA and we’re happy to be working together again. 

Ethan: I think of the three of us as three legs to a sturdy stool: Sales(Ethan), Process(Jason), and Technology(Jon).

What’s the status of growth at Hourwise?
J:  A year ago we had 10 full time employees. Today we have 25 full timers and 5 part timers. We now have folks we call “pro-assistants” who are exceptional and experienced at helping small business owners and therefore take on a heavier load or larger businesses. The rapid growth we’ve seen is partly due to an exploratory partnership with Thumbtack, which is a lead generator and has been great so far. 

We are really able to pull in some young, fresh talent thanks to our “startup” status. Most employees on the floor are in the 22-26 age range. They have to be tech savvy and excited to help small business owners succeed. 

The youthfulness in the office definitely makes the environment more fun. Everyone hangs out after work, supports each other's bands and creative ventures. In general, everyone respects their peers, and there’s a level of authenticity from that culture. They are motivated to move forward and we are working toward getting them to unlock their creative potential. 

E: I completely agree! Coming out of Lighthouse Labs, we really felt like we had a strong BETA service, but we still hadn’t cracked the nut of how to sell the service to our contractor base. The partnership with Thumbtack drives consumer leads to contractors, so we had a steady supply of fresh consumer leads to PROVE our value to contractors. Once we learned to stop saying, “give me some of your leads and I’ll prove it to you” to “let me introduce you to new clients and prove it to you,” signing up new contractors wasn’t the issue anymore, rather scaling the platform, processes, and people become the new challenge! 

What types of services does Hourwise offer through your pro-assistants?
J: Our clients can redirect inbound leads to us. We will answer their phone calls and white label the service. We can then set up appointments or do follow ups. Follow ups are incredibly important and there are statistics about how many follow ups it takes to get a job. So our platform includes a follow up process that takes a huge amount of work off our clients’ plates.Clients can pay for our services by the minute, or they can pay us based on a percentage of the jobs they win - whatever works best for their needs.

Technology wise - we’ve built a scalable communications platform where we can switch from brand to brand instantly and our assistants can focus on 10-15 businesses at one time. We’re building some exciting things on top of that engine that will really enable us to scale. Right now we are covering 97 businesses in 19 states. We are actively hiring and adding on to our team so that we can offer 24/7 coverage. 

E: Different studies have shown that 80% of non-routine sales occur only after at least five follow ups. Think about that - it takes at least five continuous follow up efforts after the initial sales contact before a customer says yes. Five! That’s a lot of time for someone running a business to be pursuing leads. In fact, 44% of sales people give up after one “no,” 22% give up after two, 14% give up after three and 12% give up after four. That means 92% of sales people are giving up after four no’s and only 8% are even asking the fifth time. When you add into that the fact that contractors are not even salespeople, you can see how a business like ours can help service professionals generate and get more leads in the long run without using up their time doing sales instead of their actual work. 

How do you keep your team motivated?
J: Every other week we try to do something like a creative competition for top performers. We are working on becoming more intentional and really getting everyone striving to do their best work. 

E: The real motivation comes from the very real connection between the work our Pro Assistants do, and the meaningful, tangible impact it has on the business owners we service. But it doesn’t hurt when our top performer gets a Hoverboard or a flight around Richmond in an open air WWII plane either. 

Talk to us about the challenges Hourwise faces.
J: Growth is the real challenge, and finding the right people to help facilitate that growth. None of us have grown a business like this and you have an idealistic approach when you start but then you realize there is a necessity for structure. We are learning the hard way that good quality communication is key, but I think we’re doing a good job.

Tell us a little bit more about  being a part of the startup culture in Richmond. 
J: We are pretty involved in the startup ecosystem, and that has helped tremendously. Jim Ukrop with NRV, and Will Loving with Altron Capital are in our corner and have been instrumental in our success.  We were also fortunate to partake in Lighthouse Labs two years ago. That mentorship network continues to be supportive to this day. Really, the entire Richmond ecosystem has been invaluable. 

What’s in your startup library?
J: Lean Startup, Running Lean, Good to Great

E: E-Myth, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Where do you see Hourwise in 5 years?
J: Hourwise will be THE platform people rely on to get work done and save time.  We want to revolutionize the way trade services are done and elevate expectations in an industry that hasn’t changed much in the past 100 years.  In that process, the technology we are building will open up remote job opportunities to support the tradesman across the country.  We’ve always had a personal mission to connect the unemployed and underemployed with meaningful work, and believe that we are on a path to do that.  

E: I believe that Hourwise will be THE brand that Pros go to for all things “Business”. The Hourwise platform will support pros through all aspects of their brand - providing tech, tools and connections for marketing, sales, financial, administrative, compliance, purchasing power, to name a few. 

How does the team spend Happy Hour(wise)?
J & E: Starting an afternoon right with a nice glass of grapefruit moonshine on the rocks from Belle Isle. Duh.