Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Another Opportunity to Cook!

It's a banner week. This is the 2nd night I've been able to prepare dinner. And what did I fix?

Fried Chicken - salt and pepper chicken breast, dredge in flour, fry in olive oil
Garlic Mashed Potatoes - real butter and a touch of cream are a must
Zucchini with Basil - briefly sauteed in olive oil

This meal called for a not-too-heavy red wine. My choice: 2003 Vincent Girardin Emotion de Terroirs Pinot Noir. A light, yet tasty Burgundy.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Dinner 4/24/2006

Here's what I am preparing for dinner:

Yukon Gold Potatoes Roasted in Duck Fat
Roasted Red Bell Pepper Drizzled with Balsamic Vinegar
Center Cut Pork Chops, Salt and Peppered, and Sauteed in Olive Oil

To Drink: 1990 Chateau Simard Saint-Emilion

Something has to chase away the Monday blues...

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Afternoon Refresher

As the days warm up, a little cool refreshment is in order:

1 Tablespoon Lavender Syrup
4 ounces semi-dry white wine

For the white wine I used a 2004 Bloom Riesling from Mosel-Saar-Ruwer (Germany). It's available at Total Wine. The Lavender Syrup is from Yves Delorme, but is probably available at Fresh Market or Ellwood Thompson's.

A Votre Sante!

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Beauregard's Thai Room

A friend of mine recently returned from Seattle and continues to crave Thai food. I've been to Thai Diner and Thai Diner, Too and even though the food was decent, neither establishment insistently calls me back. And even though Mom Siam has received great reviews, every time I have been the food was uninspiring and the service abysmal. We settled on Beauregard's Thai Room, located on Cary St. between downtown and VCU. It had been years since we had eaten there. In fact, the last time we visited, it was the only Thai restaurant in the area.

As we entered and descended to the hostess stand, we were somewhat leary. The cigarette haze enveloping the entrance was noxious. We held our breaths and headed upstairs to the non-smoking dining area (not a trace of a cigarette here). The restaurant is housed in a traditional large brick Richmond row house with soaring ceilings. The dining room decor is formal, complete with custom Napoleonic drapes, yet, the walls are a seafoam green. An odd mix of formality and casualness.

We perused our menus and the wine list. Since we expected our entrees to be spicy-hot, we bagged tradition (red wine) and ordered a 2004 Jekel Monterey Riesling - tart green apple with a brief hint of apricot. Bill, our waiter, had a little trouble with the wine service and began taking orders before we even had a chance to taste the wine. Hey Bill, slow down next time!

For starters, my husband and I ordered Thai Dumplings, our friend, Wonton Soup. The dumplings were very different from the other Oriental dumplings we have tried. These were wrapped in thin Wonton wrappers. Much more delicate. The ground shrimp and pork filling also had more flavor. The sauce was vinegary and HOT! We congratulated ourselves on ordering the Riesling! A very tasty beginning.

For the main course, I decided on Gai Pad Med Ma-Muan (Cashew Chicken) - Sliced chicken breasts sauteed with cashews, onions, scallions, and dried chillies (2 star spicy). My friend and my husband ordered two versions of Pad Thai. Our West coast traveller selected Pad Thai - Traditional - Fried rice noodles in a sweet and sour sauce with shrimp, scallions, egg, bean sprouts, and ground peanuts (no star spicy). My husband ordered Beauregard's Pad Thai - Rice noodles sauteed with shrimp, fresh vegetables, Thai spices, and ground peanuts (1 star spicy). All were delicious. The Cashew Chicken was fresh with a few broccoli flowerets thrown in and the sauce was flavorful, yet light. I was a little disappointed, however, with the spiciness. My husband's dish had more of a kick than mine. The shrimp in both Pad Thai dishes were large and yummy. The noodles were light, but filling. As we dined our friend shared pictures and tales of Seattle.

It was well worth going back to Richmond's original Thai restaurant. The dishes were better balanced and we liked the tribute to an older Richmond via the building. When we dined the weather was rainy, so, we were not able to take advantage of the courtyard behind the building. Next time, we'll choose a clear evening and eat al fresco!

Friday, April 21, 2006

Wilmington, NC - Recommendations

Driving back from Florida, we stopped for a couple of nights in Wilmington, NC. We really liked the city. A dearth of diverse restaurants, extremely pleasant citizens, a Riverwalk, and horse and carriage rides where for Easter the horses wear bunny ears. A great place to relax and if you need the beach, it's just a few miles away. Here are some places we recommend...

To stay: Blue Heaven Bed & Breakfast
Only a few picturesque blocks away from the river front. Affordable accomodations, high ceilings, great Victorian front porch. Say "Hi" to Jay!

To imbibe: Wilmington Wine Shoppe
Great wine tasting every Thursday evening. Sells wine by the glass and is open late, especially on weekends! The shop also makes deliveries to Blue Heaven.

For seafood: The Pilot House
Located along the Riverwalk. The hostess offered to seat us at the window; we didn't even have to request it. The seafood platter and crab cakes made for scrumptious eating. The Leaping Lizard Merlot was good, too. As a side dish, Hoppin' John was served - rice and black eyed peas with just enough cayenne to tingle the tongue. Blue Heaven can give you a coupon for a free appetizer or dessert, too!

For outdoor cafe dining: Le Catalan
A small restaurant that has set up French-style tables and chairs on the Riverwalk dock. A petit reminder of Paris and great for people- or dog-watching. Try the sausage and cheese plates with baguettes. Wash the meal down with a glass of Stephen Vincent Cabernet Sauvignon. Magnifique!

Walk around, window shop, visit a historic house, and stroll along the river.

For dinner: Caprice Bistro
Once again, French. The second floor houses a Sofa Bar - comtemporary couches with the obligatory Martini list. The first floor contains the bistro. Bustling, attentive waitstaff and the owner/hostess greeting and conversing with diners. The Burgundy we selcted to drink was sold out, much to our waiter's chagrin. When he handed us the wine list he had told us everything but a Pouilly-Fuisse was available. (We understand that further discussions would be taking place during the Monday staff meeting to prevent this from happening again!) With a little trepidation on our part and our waiter's, we ordered the 2003 Chateuaneuf du Pape Domaine du Lazaret (we had the same wine at Disney, but this was a much better price). Sigh of relief; it was in stock. And even better than the last time because the price was very reasonable. For the first course I had the Butternut Squash Soup - very lovely. My husband ordered the Chilled Cucumber Soup - very refreshing. For dinner I had a duck duo - pan seared breast, medium and leg confit, well-done. The duck breast was sublime. Very tender. The confit lacked salt and was not as tender, which is odd; generally, restaurants will excel better at the confit than the breast. Steak frites was the meal for my spouse. He had been craving it ever since he read the menu earlier in the afternoon. He was not dissappointed. The frites were as good as CanCan in Richmond (or in Paris).

For after dinner coffee: Port City Java
Port City Java has numerous locations, but we were not familiar with the franchise. The Mochaccino was perfect after dinner!

Wilmington still has a lot to offer as far as eating - Tapas, Fondue, Thai, Upscale, other French, other Seafood, more Coffee Shops, etc. We are trying to figure out when to return for a long weekend (just not in the hot Summertime).

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

California Grill

For our last night at Disney World we dined at the California Grill. Located on the top floor of the Contemporary Resort, the restaurant gives an excellent view of the Magic Kingdom area and the Seven Seas Lagoon. The added bonus, if you time your reservations right, is that you get to see the Magic Kingdom fireworks. Of course, this added bonus comes with a few minor annoyances. Because of the fireworks, a ton of large family groups descend - no wait - ascend onto the restaurant. Lots of kids. Lots of whiny and tired adults. And the noise! When you step out of the elevator you think you have actually descended into Dante's first circle of hell. Loud boisterous restaurants can drive me into cranky mode. And this turned out to be one of those occasions.

Our waitress, Rachel, came to our rescue. She was calm and patient. We had time to peruse the wine list and the menu. For imbibing we selected a 2001 Trefethen Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa. Although California Grill offers sushi and sashimi, I had eaten fish in some form three nights in a row. Thus, we skipped the fish and decided to share a Hearts of Romaine Salad with Green Goddess Dressing and Aged Parmesan. When the salad arrived, the kitchen staff had already separated it onto two plates. This attention to detail and service was a godsend and soon the restaurant noise faded into the background.

For dinner, my husband decided upon the Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Creamy Goat Cheese Polenta, Cremini Mushrooms, Zinfandel Glaze, and Sage. I ordered Oak-fired Beef Filet with Three Cheese Potato Gratin, Sugar Snap Peas, and Tamarind Barbecue Sauce.

But wait...the fireworks are about to begin. The main course is put on hold until the Magic Kingdom show has ended. We take our wine glasses with us to the observation deck. The music and narrative, complete with Jiminy Cricket and the Blue Fairy, is broadcast over speakers. Gigantic explosions are always fun. And Cinderella's Castle...well, it's a fairy tale vision.

Upon returning to our table, we were relaxed enough to notice that most of the functioning kitchen prepares the meals behind a bar out in the open. Watching kitchen staff coordinating the dance of food preparation is always fascinating. Doing this in a transparent setting takes skill from a management/chef perspective and from a skill perspective. We noticed two seats at the bar closest to the cooking action were unoccupied. Next time, those seats are ours! Watching these professionals will be an entertaining show, too.

We enjoyed our main courses. My husband thought the pork very tender and tasty. The polenta was too cheesy. With my fillet, the sweetness of the tamarind sauce paired well with the grilled meat. The sugar snap peas were very sweet. The potato gratin was too heavy and cheesy for me, but hubby lapped it up. The restaurant was clearing out a bit and dinner was relaxing.

As we were finishing our wine, we needed to decide whether to have dessert. Our verdict: share one dessert. But what to get? After some negotiations we settled upon Braeburn Apple and Brown Butter Tart with Apple Brandy Ice Cream and Caramel Sauce. And while my spouse ordered coffee, I finally had the chance to try G. E Massenez Poire Williams Eau-de-Vie (the pear brandy I could not obtain at the French bistro in Epcot). The apple tart gave us a nice end to the evening. The apples had the right amount of tartness, not too sweet. The sweetness came from the caramel sauce and the ice cream. The brandy packed a lot of alcohol with a hint of pearness, but was drinkable with dessert. Not something I would have after dinner on a regular basis.

Despite all of the noise and chaos in the beginning, California Grill is a place we consistently return to every time we are at Disney. The fireworks, great wine list (with not-too-outrageous prices), and professional and knowledgeable staff have been memorable every time.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Around the World in 80 Drinks

While hubby was at his conference I went to Epcot. Years ago, it was difficult to find anywhere to consume alcohol at Disney World. The adult beverage situation remained discrete. Now, you can drink your way around the world - yards of English ale; French, Italian, and German wines; sake; margaritas. And all of it can travel with you around the World Showcase. Not that I mind. A glass of Riesling on a warm day or some Champagne in the evening before dinner is relaxing in a pleasant, well-manicured setting.

For lunch I decided to go to Italy and do the "woman eating alone in a full service restaurant" bit. I think the Italian staff felt sorry for me. I was able to be seated outside at a great table for people watching. Roberto, my waiter, gave me special attention (or at least it seemed that way - maybe it was just that Disney magic). I ordered a Rossini (sparkling wine and strawberries). Nice, light, and fruity. To eat I had taglione with shrimp in a tomato vodka cream sauce. The pasta was fresh. The tomato and cream balanced one another. The taste was garlicky and slightly spicy. The shrimp was decent as well, but the fresh pasta and sauce was where it was at.

My husband joined me in the evening over a glass of Pommery Champagne (I truly enjoy the bubbly stuff). And then we dined at the Bistro de Paris. But first we had to wade through the Spring Break chaos. The Bistro is on the second floor above the more brasserie Chefs de France restaurant. You enter the Bistro from the back and walk up a gently curving staircase. But you must wait until your name is called! There are four chairs to make your wait more comfortable. Whoa! there are 16 people waiting. The stairs for tired tourists (especially children) are prime real estate for perching, thus, making it difficult for anyone to climb the stairs. Poor planning. Also, when making reservations, we were informed that the dress code was business casual. This is never enforced. We saw all of the myriad of tourist outfits that one can imagine. The chaos downstairs translated to our waiter, Cedric, upstairs. This must have been the first time he experienced a truly busy week. He was flustered in both organization and the English language. We told him to take his time; we were in no hurry. The visible relief shined through. For wine we chose a 2003 Chateauneuf du Pape, Domaine du Vieux Lazaret. Silky smooth, yet hearty. We ordered Ribeyes Flambe with Green Pepper Sauce to eat. And the entree was flamed with cognac right at the table. Our own little fireworks show! And this was why we decided on this dish. Ribeyes tend to have a lot of fat (this steak was no exception), but once the fat was trimmed, the meat was tasty - medium rare. The sauce went very well with the beef and the wine. The meal was accompanied with roasted garlic and shallots. A great pairing. For dessert my husband ordered the Chocolate Variation - chocolate sorbet, molten chocolate cake, and chocolate mint liquid. Chocolate heaven. We wanted to end the evening with Poire Williams (pear brandy). Alas, the Bistro did not have any, even though it was listed on the dessert menu.

As a note of caution, dining at Disney is very pricey no matter where you go. I paid $6 for a hot dog and chips for lunch at the hotel snack bar one day. Count on salads, burgers, and sandwiches to be twice as much as normal. The wine prices are astronomical with the mark up for some wines being three times retail. There are no bargains, so be prepared and start saving your pennies now (throw in some dimes, and quarters, too).

Monday, April 10, 2006


Excuse me, but that's "Todd English's bluezoo." I have now been officially cited as being out of the loop. Until I ate at his place at the Dolphin resort in Disney World. I at least had heard of one of his other restaurants - Olives. When I looked him up on the internet, he's a dreamy catch. But, alas, we are here for the food and wine.

bluezoo bar

glass baubles

The bluezoo interior lured me in. Big, tall, round columns with varying blue mosaic tiles. Glass baubles hanging from the ceiling like jellyfish. Copper bar and wavy metal wall panels representing schools of fish. The bar area was loud and contemporary (non-smoking, yay!). The dining area, more upscale, yet, cosy. We started off with two glasses of Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. Tart and refreshing. It paired well with the garlic shrimp appetizer and the little neck clam flatbread. The clams on the flatbread were sweet and the place did not skimp on the number of clams. The shrimp were nestled in creamy polenta and chives. The chives were a good choice. They added a flavor burst to the shrimp.

For the main dish we ordered a 2002 Stags Leap Syrah to drink. And to eat, I ordered the nori wrapped tuna and my husband selected the mahi mahi with a lemon parsley sauce. We also ordered a side of tempura haricot verts (green beans). The tuna was a leap for me. I'm not a fish fan, but since I was at a fish place, I decided, what the hell. The tuna was served rare, which suited me fine (I've been known to eat tuna sushi on occasion). It was extremely tender. I didn't need to use my knife to pull it apart and it was not that fishy. The nori, however, imparted a fishiness to the tuna. Still, the quality of the tuna won out and the wasabi sauce added just the right amount of tongue-tingling zip. The Syrah turned out to be a great choice with the rare tuna. My husband enjoyed his fish; the only disappointment being that the sauce was not lemony enough for him. On to the tempura haricot verts. Tiny French green beans fried in tempura batter; served Belgium style in a paper cone with truffle mayonaise. A lovely treat.

No room for dessert, but what came out of the kitchen and presented to tables around us looked very tempting.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Propaganda & Stromboli

We are on our way to Disney World with the rest of the Eastern seaboard since it's Spring Break. On the way, we stopped in Santee, SC at Maurice's Barbeque. Great smoked pork with a tangy, sweet mustard sauce. And we are talking mustard yellow. However, the confederate propaganda was way over the top. Stickers, posters, flags, literature - even a book about Confederate Jews! To top it off, Maurice had his portrait hanging in the dining room with a Confederate flag in the background. As good as the BBQ was, I felt slightly nauseous.

In you are ever forced to stay in Palm Coast on your way to more interesting parts of FL, check out Caruso's Italian Cuisine in Old Kings Common Plaza. The decor ain't hitting on much (no sign of a Confederate flag, though), but the Deluxe Stromboli was fantastic! Light crust, fresh-tasting tomato sauce, good mozzarella cheese, pepperoni, sausage, onions, and green peppers.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

What's for Dinner?

Tonight it's thick center cut pork chops and fresh green beans with shallots. For the pork chops I'll mince a clove of garlic and chop up some marjoram and thyme, drizzle some olive oil over the herbs and add some salt (I like coarse-ground sea salt). Stir and rub over both sides of the pork chops. Set in refrigerator, covered, for about 1/2 hour. Meanwhile, break the green beans. Soak in water for 10 minutes. Boil in salted water for 10 minutes. Drain and set aside. Turn on oven to 350 degrees. Slice shallots (I usually use about three). Place shallots in a pan, pour in a little olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and saute on medium-low until tender and golden brown. As the shallots are cooking heat a frying pan (a pan that can also go in the oven) for the chops (medium-high heat). When the pan is hot, sear chops, about 3-4 minutes on each side. Place the chops in the oven uncovered about 20-25 minutes. By this time, the burner temperature for the shallots may need to be low (the more golden, the better, but do not burn). About 5 minutes before the chops are done, add the green beans to the shallots and saute. Add salt and pepper to taste. If you like softer beans, cook longer. If you like them crunchy, cook less. Remove chops from the oven. Make sure you use a potholder! I inadvertently picked up a hot frying pan handle one evening and my husband ended up cutting up my food for the night! Serve with a 2003 Cotes du Rhone or a Spanish Rioja or even a decent California Merlot.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Coppola's Deli

Enter Coppola's (in Carytown, just east of the Byrd Theatre).
Order sub (Industrial, no tomato, grilled).
Select beverage (San Pellegrino Aranciata).
Pay cashier (nice dude).
Walk outside (It's sunny and 70 degrees).
Sit down (Coppola's features little "bistro tables" in front of the deli).
Receive sandwich (from nice server dude).
Eat sandwich (yummy salami, yummy hot peppers, yummy bread).
Watch traffic (both the pedestrian and SUV kinds).
Enjoy life (need I say more?).