Saturday, March 22, 2014

River City Smokehouse Sandwich at Lunch

River City Smokehouse Sandwich by pjpink

River City Smokehouse Sandwich a photo by pjpink on Flickr.
Lunch serves up a pile of BBQ for their River City Smokehouse Sandwich. Enjoy with a Guinness on draft.

Bacon-Wrapped Pork at Tastebuds American Bistro

Bacon-wrapped Pork by pjpink

Bacon-wrapped Pork a photo by pjpink on Flickr.
Tastebuds American Bistro currently offers a Bacon-Wrapped Pork Tenderloin with Pickled Beet and Onion Relish, Herbed Mashed Potatoes, and Braised Savoy Cabbage. A delicious dish for this time of year.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Fried Chicken Night at Saison

Yummy! Saison gets its fried chicken on every Sunday night. A quarter chicken (your choice of light or dark meat) and two sides (their choice, not yours) for $8. A truly tasty bargain. The chicken is moist and tender and arrives piping hot, so fingers beware! And, yes, eat it with your hands. Not a fried chicken fan? The regular menu is also available. The pork chop satisfies, too.

Saison also serves up a fantastic array of inventive cocktails and currently carry one of my favorite wines, Field Recordings Fiction.

Saison serves up a variety of cocktails in vintage glassware

The Boulevard features Rye, Cocchi Torino, Cynar, and Campari

On this night the sides were smokey mac and cheese and potato salad

The pork chop was a tasty alternative for non-fried chicken fans

 Go early or make reservations. Enjoy.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

A Special Cocktail from Tastebuds American Bistro

Barrel-aged Rum, Byrrh, and Blood Orange Juice was the featured offering on Valentine's Day at Tastebuds American Bistro. Although they have a tiny bar, they serve up spirited craft cocktails for under $9. And they have the best cocktail cherries in RVA (no sickeningly sweet fake maraschinos for them).


Saturday, March 01, 2014

Fried Chicken with Grits and Kimchi at Amuse

Traditional fried chicken with a hot little twist at Amuse. So good.

A Chef's Kitchen in Williamsburg

At last, a culinary reason to go to Williamsburg. A Chef's Kitchen is a complete delight and well worth a trip to the former Colonial Capitol. Owner and CIA-trained chef John Gonzales along with his CIA-trained assistant, Nick Allen, present an entertaining, informative, and delicious multi-course meal paired with wine. The venue hosts no more than 40 diners per night. The tables are configured like stadium seating in a movie theater facing a kitchen. John and Nick prepare the meal in front of the dining audience while passing along preparation tips and bits of food wisdom, as well as a bit of wry commentary about the world of food. Questions and photography are encouraged. The menu changes every month with a eye towards seasonal ingredients. When we dined in February we tasted a stellar line-up and were provided recipes to try at home.

Enjoy the photos and make plans well in advance. Weekend seatings fill up very quickly.

John Gonzales prepping waffle chips. After the meal a dining participant asked about how he balanced his work with home-life. He stated that his venture here which is now in its 10th year was less work and less stress than any other culinary position he had held. 

Nick Allen preparing to sear strip loins. Both he and John displayed a welcoming conversational manner. They enjoyed imparting their knowledge and displayed a quick wit for any hiccups in the cooking process.

Pierre Larousse Blanc de Blancs  sparkling was served as we arrived. All of the wines served paired well with the food and were inexpensive. A Chef's Kitchen contains a small wine shop and every wine is $10 a bottle.

First course - Roasted Apple, Parsnip, Sharp Cheddar, and Applejack Brandy Soup with Pasqua Pinot Grigio Delle Venezie. Great soup for a winter evening. The tiny apple chucks gave a sweet texture. Sharp cheddar was melted into the soup with diced chunks to garnish. I liked the melted cheddar. For cheddar lovers, the diced morsels would be welcomed. For non-cheddar lovers (like me), I would omit the diced cheese.

Second course - Mixed Baby Lettuces with Toasted Pistachios, Pineapple, and Creamy Watergate Lime Dressing and Skillet Baked Corn Bread. I really enjoyed the pineapple and nuts in the salad, a culinary deconstructed nod to the Watergate Salad of years' past, but the star of this dish was the cornbread. John touted the wonders of a cast iron skillet and the need for fresh corn meal. He mixed up the batter and cooked it for 15 minutes while we were eating the soup. Light and tasty, not too sweet. The recipe is flexible enough to add more sugar if one prefers a sweeter taste. Heavenly!

Third course - Flash Fried Chesapeake Flounder Filet with Fennel Slaw and Brown Butter Caper Sauce served with Pere et Fils Chardonnay-Viognier. I love capers. I love fennel. I am not a fish fan, although I have come to realize that the fish I do not like is the fish that is poorly cooked. This flounder knocked my socks off. It was so tasty, so moist, and not fishy. A delightful surprise for my evening. Afterwards I related my experience to Nick and he explained that the secret is not to overcook the fish. 

Course four - New York Striploin Steak with Roasted Bell Pepper-Oregano Onion Saute served with Colsanto Ruis Sangiovese-Merlot. Medium rare perfection and a generous portion of beef. A Chef's Kitchen uses certified Hereford beef which The Fresh Market carries.

Fifth course - Almond Frangipane Torte with Warm Apricot and Cherry Chutney a la Mode. A very sweet ending to a marvelous evening.

A truly enjoyable experience. In the fall they feature venison. It would be worth going back.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

White Bean Hummus

For this year's Super Bowl I fixed a White Bean Hummus that wowed me. Yes, freakin' awesome. I read through a couple of recipes, but ended up throwing some items together on my own.

15 oz. can white beans (I used cannellini beans), drained
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 T. minced shallot
1/2 dozen salted capers
1 t. ground cumin
1 t. dried dill
Salt and pepper to taste

Place all of the ingredients in a food processor and puree until smooth. Serve with red and orange bell pepper strips and/or carrot sticks.

I also ate the hummus with some pita chips, but, honestly, I liked it better with the bell peppers. This particular fact amazed me more than anything else.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Rocky Ridge Reserve

Rocky Ridge Reserve by pjpink

Rocky Ridge Reserve a photo by pjpink on Flickr.
We attended the debut of Rocky Ridge Reserve from Blue Bee Cider. A perfect day for a cider tasting. Extremely dry cider aged in an old apple brandy barrel. Barely effervescent that makes for a great aperitif or a first course (I have a Tuscan white bean and arugula salad in mind).

Only 356 500 ml bottles are available. We snagged number 134.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Steamed Spicy Pork Dumplings at Haiku

Steamed Spicy Pork Dumplings by pjpink

Steamed Spicy Pork Dumplings a photo by pjpink on Flickr.
These pork dumplings from Haiku were perfect fare for a cold winter's night. The wrappers, delicate; the pork, tasty; the sauce, hot and spicy.

If only the heating unit for the restaurant had been able to keep up with the heat of the dumplings...

Tuesday, January 21, 2014


Leviathan by pjpink

Leviathan a photo by pjpink on Flickr.
I'm sure we paid way too much for this wine at Morton's (thank goodness for gift cards!), but Leviathan was a lovely and bold red. Kick ass!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Sugar Shack Donuts

Sugar Shack Donuts by pjpink

Sugar Shack Donuts a photo by pjpink on Flickr.
Yummy, yummy! Sugar Shack Donuts are awesome. Featured here are chocolate glazed, red velvet, and green fairies (with an absinthe drizzle).

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Supposed Cassoulet

Supposed Cassoulet by pjpink

Supposed Cassoulet a photo by pjpink on Flickr.
When we visited Max's on Broad right after they opened, I was delighted that this Belgium/French establishment featured Cassoulet on the menu. The description stated the following:

Cassoulet - duck leg confit, pork belly, sausage, white beans, fried sage, braised kale

I could not wait to order it. The photo above is what I was served. Sausage, check; kale, check; pork belly, check. A teaspoon of duck confit and two white beans. The rest all carrots, onions, and celery in a soupy broth. So disappointing.

I took most of it home with me, added some tomato paste and served it over pasta the next evening.

Granted, these guys were just opened and I have heard good reports on their other entrees, but if you advertise cassoulet and you list the ingredients, please present something that matches the description.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Huevos Kuba

Huevos Kuba by pjpink

Huevos Kuba a photo by pjpink on Flickr.
Brunch at Kuba Kuba. Yummy! Don't forget to enjoy a limeade or some Cuban coffee.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Cheers to You on New Years Eve!

Boulevardier by pjpink

Boulevardier a photo by pjpink on Flickr.
I hope you celebrate safely but deliciously. Boulevardier from Rappahannock (Bulleit Bourbon, Campari, Cocchi, Vermouth di Torino, Brandied Cherry)

Dinner at Le Yaca: A Cautionary Tale About Food Service ...or maybe our bad luck with waitstaff whose names begin with K

Last night we ate at Le Yaca in Williamsburg. This traditional French restaurant has been around for years. We dined on superb cuisine. The pureed onion soup, divine. The beef filet perfectly cooked to a medium rare with a peppercorn and cognac sauce, yum. A crab cake piled high with succulent lump crab meat and drizzled with a light butter sauce, mmm. The apple tart, sublime. The molten lava cake mixed dark chocolate with a cake approaching a souffle consistency, masterful. A glass of an Oregon Pinot Gris to start and a delightful Bordeaux for the main course.

Yes we loved the food. Usually, the food spurs our conversation with expressions of delight and how talented the kitchen is. What happened last night? All we talked about was our waiter. And unfortunately his name began with a K. Here in Richmond we had multiple bad experiences with a waiter whose name began with a K at Amuse. This K was abrupt and not customer-focused, perhaps a bit arrogant. We avoided Amuse until we were sure this person no longer worked there. Thankfully, he has left and we frequent Amuse regularly - all of the other wait staff at Amuse have been delightful (so go enjoy lunch or brunch or dinner or cocktails).

So our K from Le Yaca was not rude or arrogant. Just slightly inept and ungraceful. We kept trying to move past the foible only to encounter another one. Basically, a series of unfortunate incidents.

As we were seated K began clearing dishes from another table and it sounded like they were dropped in a bin, a dissonant clash to the quiet and cozy atmosphere. This clash repeated itself whenever K cleared tables.

Per usual we discussed what to drink and eat. We were asked about cocktails. We weren't sure. We were told about the wines by the glass menu and we ordered a Pinot Gris. We only discovered a cocktail list when we left. If K had offered us the list, we probably would have selected a cocktail with a higher price point than the glass of wine.  No big deal. The Pinot Gris was a classic expression of the Oregon style and very enjoyable.

We ordered the meal and a bottle of wine. K was attentive in keeping our glasses filled through the life of the bottle of Bordeaux (something most restaurants here in Richmond could take note of), but when opening and pouring he was a bit fast leading to a drip on the pristine white tablecloth (no big deal, this happens all the time) and a big drip on our dish of butter for our French bread. No apologies and no offer to return with a new dish of butter.

As we finished our soup and the bowls were being cleared K also cleared our white wine glasses. Hubby had finished his; I had not. When I objected he placed it back and then realized he had placed his fingers inside the glass. He apologized and plucked a napkin from a neighboring table to wipe the glass. Really? Am I in a French restaurant?

We get through our entree and still had a glass of wine to enjoy from our bottle of Bordeaux. While we had finished out entree our plates had not been cleared and dessert arrived. Is this really a French restaurant?

With our wine still to drink and desserts cooling, K asked us if we wanted coffee. Hubby just looked at him and at our glasses of wine and looked at him again and said "Not yet." K finally got that we still had wine to drink.

We finished our wine and enjoyed dessert. As we took our last bites K presented us with the bill. No opportunity to order coffee (we ended up going to Starbucks across the street). So no after dinner coffee at a FRENCH restaurant.

And then I realized we were at a French restaurant in an American TOURIST town. We were herded like tourists, not treated as patrons or customers. What a shame. I did not skimp on K's tip. Maybe he had a bad night, but he did miss a couple of opportunities to earn more. And Le Yaca missed an opportunity for me to wax poetically on their food alone.

For all of the hard-working servers in the RVA area. Thank you for what you do. Thank you for allowing me to focus on the food and the lovely dining experience. Thank you for allowing hubby and I to take our time to decide upon what to drink and eat and to have coffee after dinner and dessert if we wish. And if your name begins with K, please prove my theory wrong that K waiters may not be up to snuff.