The custard torch — imagine an Olympic torch, but with rich, creamy custard where the flame goes — has been passed in Del Ray: The Dairy Godmother is under new ownership.
“It took a long time to find the right person who is both a combination of heart and business knowledge,” said Liz Davis, the Wisconsin native who founded the much-beloved sweet spot in the funky Alexandria neighborhood.
That person is Russell Gravatt, long a fixture in the area dining scene. He was involved with Amy’s Ice Creams in Texas and helped found the original Austin Grill restaurant chain here.
“When I heard Liz was going to retire and take on the next stage of her life, I called her up and said, ‘I’m interested,’ ” Russell said.
Liz and Russell have known each other since shortly after the Dairy Godmother opened. Though he lives in Maryland, Russell would stop by and sample the wares while the two talked shop. He once gave Liz gift certificates so she could take her two children to his restaurant.
“I was deeply touched,” Liz said. “It was so thoughtful. He was somebody who could see how hard I was working. I took my kids there on my one day off, and we still remember it very well.”
More recently, Russell said his two teenage daughters would demand that he take them from Bethesda to Alexandria for custard. “On the weekends, that’s a pain in the [bottom] to drive,” he said. “We did it because there’s nothing like it.”
Said Liz: “His only flaw is he’s not from Wisconsin. I think the customers are going to forgive him.”
Said Russell: “I’ve promised that before the summer’s over I have to take a frozen-custard trip to Wisconsin with my wife and kids and try 10 or 12 stores.”
Russell has worked for the past four years as an event chef for Design Cuisine caterers. Now he’s taking on a new challenge, though one made easier by Liz’s reputation and expertise.
“The nice part is she’s perfected it over 16 years,” he said. “It doesn’t require anything — except learning everything she knows in her head. That’s a book taller than I am, and I’m 5-10.”
Speaking of books, Liz is working on a combination Dairy Godmother cookbook and children’s book. Now that she’s sold the business, she’ll also be able to put more time into making custom Christmas crackers, those British holiday favors.
And customers will still see her around the Dairy Godmother, helping Russell learn the ropes. “I will be as involved as Russell wants me to be,” she said. “I feel in some ways this is kind of a partnership.”
“I’ll take full advantage of that,” Russell said. “I want to make sure it’s a seamless transition.”
Any chance that Russell will rename the shop the Dairy Godfather?
He laughed. “No, my kids have forbidden that,” he said. “They like the Dairy Godmother, and that’s that. Why change anything? Besides, Marlon Brando’s the only godfather there’ll ever be.”
Now it’s Russell making a custard they can’t refuse.
My recent musings on the scourge of delicate articles of clothing that must be hung to dry, rather then shoved in the dryer, prompted many suggestions from readers. The most common one was, “Quit being such a lazy whiner, John.”
The second-most common was to invest in some zippered mesh bags.
“I have several and as delicate clothes get dirty I place the items in the mesh bag and on laundry day just zip them up and place in the washer with other items,” wrote Elaine Horsfield of Oak Hill, Va. “The items do not get tangled and when the washing is finished I retrieve the bag or bags and can hang the items with no difficulty.”
Lu Clark of Ellicott City, Md., offered her own advice: “Throw everything in the dryer. Wait five to 10 minutes, then the dainty stuff will have been separated. It will still be wet, but only damp. No shrinkage. Easy to hang up and the dryer unwrinkles everything. Just don’t forget to get to the dryer!”
Sammie R. Young, an 88-year-old who lives in Silver Spring, Md., said that after his daughter got married and his wife died, he came to miss “the delicates tangled amongst the other laundry going into the drier from the washer.”
Finally, Bill Evans of Vienna, Va., offers this: “After several disasters over the years I have learned never wash any clothes that don’t belong to me and never take clothes from the washer and put in the dryer unless they are mine!”
For previous columns, visit washingtonpost.com/johnkelly.