Review: The Southerly at the Southern Season

One of the perks of running a blog is you get approached to cover cool things. This happened recently when Southern Season reached out to Sara and I to attend a tasting tour at their Richmond location. Now I, whose foodie enthusiasm is limited to Starbucks and McDonald’s iced coffee, had never heard of Southern Season, but Sara, a Northerner with a fascination for southern things (she likes biscuits and gravy more than my late grandpa), could not reply yes fast enough. She had previously shopped there and had been wanting to go back.

I was further proved to be in the dark when my friend, Sandra Tran, decided to visit me the day of the tasting tour. Sandra owns an ice cream store in Arlington, VA (you should really stop by Nicecream Factory if you’re in the area – it’s quite the tasty show), so I brought her along. As we pull up, Sandra exclaims, “You didn’t tell me it was Southern Season! Ohmigawd, I love this place!”

A few years ago, Sandra spent two summers in Chapel Hill, NC where Southern Season originally sprang up in 1975.

I went every day after work.
— Sandra

So what is Southern Season if you’re a noob like me? Well, it’s a gourmet grocery store. But not just that. Other features include:

  • A Food Network-esque kitchen for cooking school with classes offered like, “Cooking with Beer” and “Biscuits 101 and 201.”
  • A wine salesroom (and drinking area) that is “more than one dimensional” (they sell organic, no sulfur, and just your regular local wines, not to mention your rare wines). I guess they don’t have Franzia. My mom might be disappointed.
  • They have a cheesemonger. I didn’t even know that was a word, but it is. And it’s also a certification. From the American Cheese Society. Yes, a real thing. They call their annual conventions “cheese camp.” (I’m certainly cheesing.) Anyhow, they take their cheese seriously as they should.
  • A coffee bar with this cool gravity cold brew called a Yama. Literally the device is screaming for an Instagram. And they have 257 coffees – Starbucks, sit down. (They wouldn’t let me try them all; I don’t know why.)
  • A department store corner full of kitchen appliances. It’s all about quality. Aka none of my thrift store pots and pans can compete with what they have going on in the corner. Their house and home manager also adds, “If there’s a gadget we don’t have, then you probably don’t need it.”
  • A CANDY AISLE. Except it’s more than a candy aisle. They have moonshine cordials and, well, damn.
  • And a restaurant. Because do you ever go to the grocery store and think, “Gosh darn, I am so hungry, so let me buy everything?” Except at Southern Season, you go, “Gosh darn, I am so hungry, let me go sit down in the restaurant.” Or even better – because I’m often at the grocery store in sweats after working out – the restaurant has to-go options!
The roasted beet salad. Do you see that curried banana foam? You have to try that.

The roasted beet salad. Do you see that curried banana foam? You have to try that.

Since Sara covered most of the grocery store stuff (though I don’t think she praised the Yama cold brew machine or the moonshine cordials at all, and they deserve honorable mentions), I’m going to talk about Southerly Restaurant and Patio.

We got to sample several different items while there. You would think, since it’s a tasting tour, these would be abbreviated portions. Not at all! See the pictures (which Sara took, because I was too busy taking notes in my phone and trying to be casual about it aka rocking the table as I tapped words into my notes).

So in our first picture, let’s pretend I’m fancy and say these words all the time. We have a roasted beet salad complimented with pea shoot pesto, elderflower whipped goat cheese (as opposed to young flowers), speck (I didn’t ask what that is), arugula, and curried banana foam that had me foaming at the mouth for more. Seriously, that foam. You have to get it.

The roasted chicken (you can see the bacon chorizo cornbread peeking out like the tease it is).

The roasted chicken (you can see the bacon chorizo cornbread peeking out like the tease it is).

Then we got to try some options on their new fall menu. Basically, this 90-degree weather can hurry away so I can eat some more of their bacon chorizo cornbread (!!!) with roasted chicken (yes, the chicken is an afterthought once you try the cornbread); collard green romesco (add a word onto your vegetables and your income bracket jumps up 10%); beet puree; grilled frisee (that’s a plant Google Images taught me); and cashews. Now the chicken came on the bone, which is to be expected, except this was sorta a fancy tasting (the waiter added more ice to my iced tea), and I had flashbacks to my etiquette dinner where you are not supposed to use your hands. BUT the chef knows what he’s doing because that poultry came off the bone like a … well, you fill in the simile.

Pork and other sins.

Pork and other sins.

Finally, we had pork accompanied with tater skins that were double baked (I have never had such tasty potatoes), wild mushroom ragout, and candied carrots. I decided my run that morning had been officially negated – but don’t stop; keep it coming.

Worst/better, our hosts told us they have $5 pancake breakfasts every Saturday (along with other brunch foods). Obviously Sara and I are going back. And for happy hour. Because happy hour. They have $5 mojitos on Mondays. #MojitoMonday is going to start trending on Instagram, I just know it.

So look forward to our upcoming review of their brunch! In the meantime, I may also attend one of their cooking classes on food writing because you can tell I don’t have good descriptions for describing chicken parting from the bone.