Nip tuck: Capshaw's Light gets a lift

Always eager for an excuse, Dish paid a visit to the Blue Light Grill this week to check on the status of their ongoing renovations. Like the prime minister of Italy, Silvio Berlusconi, the trend-setting bar and seafood restaurant took a short week off in early January for a nip and a tuck.

Improvements-­ fresh paint and other decor details– will continue in the months ahead, though without necessitating another closure.

Yes, the newly refinished table and counter tops look great, and I'll take sous-chef Todd Greiger's word that the kitchen changes have resulted in a cleaner, safer operation (they just got their highest health inspection score ever). But what really made my eyes pop and mouth water was the new, Asian-enhanced winter menu. I must've been too distracted by all the new eateries last fall to notice the major changes going on in the Blue Light kitchen.

Initially a line-cook, 24-year-old Reed N. Anderson was promoted to executive chef last July when Mike Ketola took his own chef's hat to Starr Hill, another Capshaw venture funded by the Dave Matthews Band manager.

"The great thing about working for Coran is the trust he puts in his staff," Anderson tells Dish. "When I was promoted, he basically handed me a blank book and said 'write it'."

Inspired by a lifelong relationship with a Malaysian exchange student, 10 months spent cooking and traveling in Asia, and several years working for LuLu Catering in San Francisco, Anderson gradually transformed the Blue Light palate from regional American into what he calls "country French with Asian influences."

Surprising hot-cool flavor and crispy-creamy texture combinations can be found in starters like a spicy tempura-fried tuna roll with ponzu (traditional dumpling-dipping sauce) and beurre blanc (a rich, buttery, slightly tangy French sauce) and crispy, coconut- and curry-encrusted shrimp with an orange sauce. Follow those with an entrée like "mahi mahi wrapped in (house-cured) prosciutto and chèvre grits" or "grilled duck breast with an orange and fennel salad and a cocoa-nib jus," and you'll probably see why Capshaw decided to advance this particular apprentice, instead of showing him the door.


Invest in beans

 The nearly 300 employees working in the brand new SNL Financial building (off Market Street between Seventh and Eighth) must love Dan Pribus. You see, thanks to Dan and his wife and business partner, Patty Pribus, this growing group of financial services providers doesn't even need to leave the building for a perky cup of coffee or a hearty bowl of soup.

On Monday, January 12, Dan and Patty opened their tiny, but well-fortified breakfast, lunch, and snack bar, The Bean, in a corner spot off the main courtyard. In addition to stacks of gourmet snacks and cases of cold drinks, the Bean features Greenberry's and Shenandoah Joe coffees and a variety of "foo foo" (aka "frou-frou") hot drinks like lattes and hot apple cider with a caramel shot, abundant baked goods, and homemade soups like chili, seven-bean vegetable and Maryland crab chowder. Plans are to eventually add panini to the mix-­ though I wonder where they'll put the grill.

When I popped in just over a week later, this crowded caffeinated cubicle was a welcome contrast to the rest of the floor-­ still eerily vacant. Dan was busy steaming milk and entertaining customers (who already seemed to be regulars) with his barista banter.

"What are you, mourning the cold weather with all your dark clothes?" he said teasingly to two secretaries who snuck out of their office for a warm cup– and a chuckle. No wonder that the Pribuses have developed a loyal following at their other venture– The Blue Ridge Country Store– which they've owned and operated for seven years. If the food and drink aren't enough to entice you, then go to The Bean when you're in need of some comic relief. It worked for me.

Todd Greiger.