Saturday, December 22, 2012

Image courtesy of Tay-Ho Restaurant

     Kim, Yuki and Sam Tu have been in the food industry for 23 years; they grew up in the Tan-A Supermarket, which their parents own. Now the three siblings have gone into business for themselves. On Nov. 18, the three siblings opened Tay-Ho Restaurant, (7927 W. Broad St., 346-0889), and began serving traditional Vietnamese food in a modern atmosphere.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Contestant Reflects on 'Next Great Baker'

Chesterfield County resident Melissa Payne was among 13 competitors in the
TLC show "Next Great Baker." (Photos courtesy Melissa Payne)

Last year, Melissa Payne, owner of Couture Cake Creations and co-owner ofSweets Couture in Chesterfield County, tried out for TLC’s Next Great Baker.After not being chosen as a contestant on season two, she decided to try one more time and was hand-picked by Buddy Valastro, star of theCake Boss, to compete on the show for this season.         

Monday, December 3, 2012

Amour Shows Some Love

     Amour Wine Bistro in Carytown wants to show its appreciation for Jo and Rob Pendergraph ofManakintowne Specialty Growers for the fresh produce they provide year round. “The Farm Table” event on Wednesday (Dec. 5) beginning at 5:30 p.m. will include a four-course meal prepared by chef Rob Hamlin as well as wine pairings.

Swap Food, Decorate Gingerbread

     Sampling homemade goodies is part of the program at Slow Food RVA’s annual meeting and Holiday Food Swap on Sunday (Dec. 2), from 4 to 7 p.m. at Pasture (416 E. Grace St., 780-0416).

Dine Out, Help Others

      A few Richmond chefs will be heating up the food scene on Monday (Nov. 19) to benefit hurricane relief and local food security efforts. Heritage restaurant will have a Hurricane Sandy Relief Fundraiser, with proceeds from the event going to the Stephen Siller Foundation, which will distribute the funds to families in need in New York and New Jersey.

Friday, November 9, 2012

A World of Possibilities

      Sitting at a small table on the edge of Ellwood Thompson’s Local Market patio on a crisp fall afternoon, Ingrid Schatz, the new bakery manager, describes her passion for making French macarons.
Photo by: Isaac Harrell
      Schatz grew up traveling the world, from Russia to the Dominican Republic. She began her career as a pastry chef after spending three years working in finance and marketing in London, where she baked for friends on the side. It wasn’t until she told her mother about her dreams of becoming a pastry chef that her mother revealed that Schatz comes from a long line of Swedish bakers, including her great-grandfather and his brother.

Food Day promotes sustainability at VCU

Students, experts and activists gathered to promote healthy, sustainable dining and to learn how to eat well on a budget during three days’ worth of events for National Food Day.
Representatives from VCU, the Fulton Hill area and other organizations working across the city met on Oct. 22 to discuss access to healthy food in Richmond in a “Food Justice in Our Community” panel discussion.

VCU Qatar student compares campuses after visit to Richmond

After seeing VCU’s Monroe Park Campus, VCU Qatar student Marianne Bermejo noted that there are vast differences between VCU’s Richmond campuses and her home campus at VCU Qatar.
VCU Qatar is made up of around 250 students, she said. This is a far cry from the Richmond campuses that enroll over 31,000 students. Bermejo explained that all majors are housed in a single building at the VCU Qatar campus, which is located in an area known as Education City in the country’s capital of Doha. Education City houses satellite campuses from a number of American universities, including Georgetown, Texas A&M and Carnegie Mellon.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Food Day is Coming

Kids at Richmond Public Schools will have a chance to see if they like kale chips as part of the community’s second annual celebration of Food Day on Wednesday (Oct. 24).
     “Richmond Public Schools have put together a menu of options that different schools can select from, says Stacy Luks, a member of Slow Food RVa’s leadership board and the coordinator of Richmond Food Day 2012. “They are going to be doing kale-chip tasting on Food Day, if not the whole week.”

The Second Presidential Debate

Last week I was given the opportunity to attend an Obama watch party and tweet for NBC 12's Decision Va. blog. Check out the reactions from the crowd via my tweets:

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Richmond Action Dialogues: conflict within the group

     Last week’s dialogue left nearly everyone with a heavy heart, wondering what could be done to mend some of the rifts within the group. At the previous Richmond Action Dialogue the students were asked to anonymously write their inner conflicts as well any group conflicts. When the conflicts within the group were revealed, the tension in the room was palpable. Some were feeling hurt because they felt judged by people they just met, while others felt there was a lack of concern for other people within the group.

IYLEP visited Peter Paul Development Center
and taught the Children about Iraqi Culture

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Just the Beginning

By: Alix Hines
“Don’t look at people with one eye,” is a common phrase in Iraq that reminds us all to not judge someone on a mere first impression, but rather to look much deeper to see what’s on their hearts.
     It’s amazing to see how a group of 24 Iraqi students and five American mentors bonded and have already formed friendships in less than a week. Before our group had even spent 24 hours together we were dancing to salsa music on the boardwalk in Virginia Beach, bonding over pizza and even singing some long lost Eminem songs.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Richmond: a city still in the midst of segregation

Latrease Gregory moved to Creighton Court after her home in the Blackwell community was demolished for revitalization. Now she said her home is once again being threatened by the promise of a healthier community, but she says the redevelopment in the Blackwell community left some people homeless.
Driving along I-64, a newcomer to Richmond may not be fully aware of what is directly in their line of vision as they enter the city. Creighton Court, one of Richmond’s public housing communities, is one of the first public housing projects that can be seen from the interstate. On a short, 10-minute drive through Church Hill in Richmond’s East End a newcomer may unknowingly drive past five of the public housing sites all within a two mile radius of one another.
John Moeser, professor emeritus of urban studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, said that this concentration of poverty in the East End wasn’t an accident, but rather a means of maintaining the social construct of poverty. Moeser explained that the high density poverty that is concentrated in the East End is a result of segregation and ultimately the lingering effects of the Civil War.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Fighting cancer, one relay round at a time

EDITOR’S NOTE: This semester has partnered with VCU’s School of Mass Communications “iPadJournos” mobile and social media journalism project. Those VCU students reported the following story.
By Alix Hines and Tina Irizarry (Special to
RICHMOND, VA – Shaun Kelley has already survived one round of cancer, but is now battling the disease again. To support his own and others’ fight against cancer, he came to VCU’s Relay for Life event on Saturday with his daughter Adrienne Wass and his wife Sue.
    The VCU organizers counted more than 50 teams and 505 participants who walked the track one round at a time at West Cary Street. At the end, the organization had raised $37,000 for the American Cancer Society, just short of its annual fundraising goal of $40,000.

Porn as revenge, complete with Facebook links, unnerves many

EDITOR’S NOTE: This semester has partnered with VCU’s School of Mass Communications “iPadJournos” mobile and social media journalism project. Those VCU students reported the following story.
By Alix Hines and Tina Irizarry (Special to
RICHMOND, Va. – Dani Wynn received a call from her boyfriend last month, saying that she was featured on “Is Anyone Up,” a pornographic submission website. It is a site people use to post nude photos of others and take screen shots of their social media accounts so site visitors can contact them.

Downtown garden to produce fresh produce for soup kitchens

EDITOR’S NOTE: This semester has partnered with VCU’s School of Mass Communications “iPadJournos” mobile and social media journalism project.  Those VCU students reported the following story.

By Alix Hines and Tina Irizarry (Special to

RICHMOND, Va. – W. B. Braxton-Bantu had a “meager meal” for breakfast at Conrad Soup Kitchen on a recent Sunday morning. It consisted only of a small portion of oatmeal and a cup of coffee. He said that it’s difficult for soup kitchens to provide fresh fruits and vegetables.
    Braxton-Bantu is just one of the hundreds of people living around Richmond without knowing where their next meal will come from and how nutritious it will be. But Green Unity, a VCU student organization, wants to change that. The students are planning a community garden next to the Larrick Student Center on the MCV Campus that will provide fresh produce to the Central Virginia Food Bank and local soup kitchens.

To read the rest of this article please go to:

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A churchyard of local celebrities

    On March 23, 1775 Edward Carrington stood outside the window of what is now known as St. John’s Church. A group of about 100 of America’s earliest leaders gathered at the small church in Richmond’s East End for the Virginia Convention.
    Patrick Henry, a man known as a powerful orator stood near the window and delivered a speech that would go down in history as his Give me Liberty, or Give me Death speech. His speech swayed members of the Virginia House of Burgesses to send Virginia’s militia to the front lines of the Revolutionary War. Henry’s words rang out amongst the crowded room and into the churchyard where Carrington stood:

It is in vain, sir, to extentuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace--but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!

Pictured: Ray Baird
Photo by: Alix Hines

Monday, April 9, 2012

Changes to Come in Richmond’s Projects

Plans to redevelop public housing in Richmond could force residents to relocate while the city rebuilds the housing. The redevelopment could lead to healthier communities that have both housing and businesses. The process is meant to transform public housing communities into areas where people of all incomes would like to live.
            Mayor Dwight C. Jones and his administration plan to address the issue of public housing in Richmond’s East End by working to deconcentrate poverty in that area. The two projects that the city plans to redevelop first are Creighton Court in Richmond’s East End and Whitcomb Court located in the Eastview area, bordering Jackson Ward.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Taking to the streets to help those on the streets

            One day as William Williams was sitting in Monroe Park, a soccer ball came flying toward his head. Little did he know, that soccer ball would alter the direction of his life. Williams was homeless at that point, so he decided to catch the soccer ball and join Richmond’s Street Soccer team. He said that from that day on, the group put him between two cones, and he’s been playing ever since. Williams’ life started moving down a new path.
            He said that by joining Richmond’s Street Soccer team- formed as a part of Street Soccer USA that helps to encourage homeless individuals or those at risk of becoming homeless- he went through not only a physical change in environment, but a mental change as well.

A Struggle Dating Back to the '60s

Photo by: Alix Hines
Deb Lassiter, a Norfolk native, traveled to the Capitol of Virginia for the fourth time since Feb. 20 on Saturday to show her discontent with the current political temperature of the Virginia General Assembly.           
            Women and men presented a united front against the ultrasound bill, which would force a state -mandated ultrasound be performed 24 hours before an abortion procedure could occur. Originally, the ultrasound bill would have required women to have a transvaginal ultrasound before having the procedure completed but the bill was amended to require only a transabdominal ultrasound. Protestors were outraged that Virginia’s legislature would mandate a medical procedure; one that many said violated women’s right to privacy and ultimately violated women’s rights.

Capital Budget proposed at Richmond Planning Commission Meeting

Plans to craft Richmond into a tier one city dominated the proposed capital budget presented yesterday by Byron C. Marshall, the chief administrative officer for the city, at the Richmond City Planning Commission meeting.
Marshall said the city’s budget focuses on seven specific areas ranging from creating more inclusive communities and neighborhoods to working toward a more sustainable Richmond. All of the focus areas are designed to make Richmond a tier one city or a major metropolitan area within the country.
The capital budget, Marshall explained, proposes that the city invest in the riverfront. He said by making the riverfront more accessible, Richmond will attract more families to places like Belle Isle and Brown’s Island. Additionally, the city has plans to improve the Canal Walk for the same purpose of attracting tourists and bringing Richmond residents to the James River area.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

A Pearl of Wisdom

Pictured left to right: Laurie Blakey and Laura Condrey,
co-owners of Pearl's Cupcake Shoppe.
Photo by: Alix Hines
      ​On the morning of every childhood birthday, Laurie Blakey, co-owner of Pearl’s Cupcake Shoppe, recalls going to her grandmother’s house where her favorite cupcakes were awaiting her. Blakey explained that her grandmother, Pearl, made every birthday special by having a house full of fresh flowers, a present and cupcakes waiting for her grandchildren when they arrived early on the morning of their special days. She said that Pearl made miniature orange blossom cupcakes, her favorite, for every birthday. Now Blakey features the same cupcake at her shop, Pearl’s Cupcake Shoppe.
     ​Co-owners Laurie Blakey and Laura Condrey opened Pearl’s Cupcake Shoppe March 1, 2010 at 5812 Grove Ave. Blakey and Condrey had worked together for years in the real estate business before they ventured into the world of cupcakes. Blakey had retired and was at her beach house. She explained that she was trying to figure out what to do with the rest of her life when a show about cupcakes came on T.V. While she was watching the show and contemplating her next move, Condrey called to catch up with her friend. Blakey then told Condrey about her idea to start a cupcake shop. Condrey immediately said she wanted to be a part of creating the business.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Tanya Gonzalez: A Career of Culture

          Witnessing the triumphs of a community working to achieve the “American dream,” and helping families that have had a family member deported, are just a few of the events Tanya Gonzalez, manager of the Hispanic Liaison Office in Richmond, experiences during a day at work.
Gonzalez has been the manager of the Hispanic Liaison office since 2004 and describes her job as a juggling act because the office works in reaction to the needs of the Hispanic community it serves.
            Gonzalez’s roots are in Mexico, where her father was born. A disconnect from her culture during her teen years left Gonzalez searching for her roots in college. Eventually she was able to reconnect with her Mexican heritage and that has translated to her work with the Richmond Hispanic community. Gonzalez’s Hispanic culture isn’t just a part of her past but part of her daily life and the way she combines her passion for culture with her compassion for the people she serves.
            “I think that this job for her [Gonzalez] isn’t just a job, it’s almost like a mission,” Mayela Heifetz, a volunteer at the Hispanic Liaison Office, pointed out.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Time Traveling: The 150th Anniversary of the Civil War

Ruth and Jack Johnson at the Virginia Historical Society's Civil War exhibit.
Photo by: Alix Hine

         About 150 years ago, history teacher Ruth Johnson’s great, great grandfather arrived in the United States as one of the many three-hundred dollar soldiers joining the fray during the Civil War. On the boat from Europe, he met the young lady he would eventually fall in love with.
When they arrived in America, the two soul mates parted ways. She went to live with her family in Cincinnati, Ohio, and he went on to Philadelphia to join the Union army to take the place of a man that didn’t wish to fight for the North. He later relocated to Cincinnati where fate took over and he encountered his love once again.
“They were walking on opposite sides of the street along one of the main streets in Cincinnati and they saw each other again…” Johnson said.

A National Treasure Hunt

          Andy Beyer lived in Harrisburg, Pa., for seven years and never knew there was a waterfall in her hometown. One day as she was passing through, she decided to stop and do some geocaching. Her GPS lead her to a cache near a waterfall that she never knew existed. She skeptically went to the location and found not only the cache she was looking for, but the waterfall as well.
Geocaching is a game that involves people across the nation and the world hiding objects for others to find, and then posting the location online. After the location is posted, anyone can look for that object using a GPS or a smartphone. Participants visit the geocaching website, type in their zip code, and then the website provides the user the coordinates of geocaches near them. Beyer said that the geocachers enter the coordinates into their GPS and start looking for the cache.
“Geocaching is using multi-million dollar satellites to find Tupperware in the woods,” Diane Leiter, a member of the Central Virginia Geocaching Association, said.