Thursday, May 31, 2007

Cavanna Pasta

Tripp turned me onto Cavanna - a fresh pasta place in the far west end. They carry all sorts of fresh pasta from spinach fettuccini to gnocchi to tagliatelle. The specialty pasta can vary from day to day. I picked up some artichoke ravioli tonight and after boiling it I sauteed the pasta pillows in browned unsalted butter and fresh sage. Yummy! And they are a couple of doors down from Wine Lovers. Thursday is a great day to go. Wine Lovers has a wine tasting from 5:30 - 7 PM. Go sample some wine, choose a bottle for dinner, pick up some fresh pasta, and maybe, some sauce. Cavanna offers a variety of sauces such as vodka cream and walnut as well as pesto.

Cavanna Pasta
2272 John Rolfe Parkway

Byrd House Bounty

I managed to get myself back over to the Byrd House Farmers’ Market this week. I’m glad I did. And what did I do with this bounty? Well, I’ll tell you. I topped the onions. About half of the green parts were chopped and then placed in the freezer for later use. The rest of the green I froze whole to use as seasoning in stock. The onion part was chopped and sautéed in a little olive oil and a sprinkling of salt until soft. I chopped up the zucchini and added it to the onions along with another sprinkling of salt and fresh ground black pepper about 3-5 minutes before serving. The new red potatoes were quartered and boiled in salted water for about 30 minutes until tender. I drained them and put them back in the potato pot. To the pot I added salt, pepper, a couple of tablespoons of unsalted butter, and about a quarter cup of fresh chopped Italian flat leaf parsley and then mixed. The local bounty was served with a pork chop that was sautéed in olive oil. The potatoes were fantastic and I was pleased that I could use the parsley that we had growing in a pot in our backyard. But the star of the show turned out to be the zucchini. Extremely sweet and fresh. It was the best zucchini I had ever eaten. What a difference it makes when one has access to good local produce!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Yes, Virginia, White Wine Can Be Good

It’s safe to say that I am not a white wine girl. Even in the summer I prefer a full bodied red. If I partake in a white wine, more than likely, it’s of the sparkling variety. Well, this week I ran across two, yes, two white wines that knocked me over. The first white was a Heimberger Tokay Pinot Gris from Alsace. We had this at CanCan. This wine was a mouthful for a white. Creamy and smooth with an understated fruit component. The wine inspired me to order Sole Meuniere (yes, me, a non-fish fan). And, yes, it was delicious.

Wine number two was experienced at the River City Cellars special tasting. Once again, the wine came from Alsace: 2002 Charles Schleret Riesling “Herrenweg.” And yes, a weighty wine worthy of serious food. And here is where it gets even wilder. On the night of the River City Cellars tasting, my husband and I had to go separately due to schedules. Unbeknownst to us, we both brought home a bottle of this fantastic white (and he is no white fan either).

This is why wine remains exciting. You swear off a particular grape or type of wine and out of nowhere you discover a gem (or two). I want to thank all of the wine shops and those few restaurants that seek to constantly educate us about wine and who are not afraid to let us try before we buy.

Summer Wine Celebrations at CanCan

CanCan has a new line up of daily wine specials. These are available now through September 15.

Sunday - Half Price "Featured" Region Brasserie Bottle Night

Monday - Half Price Reserve White Wine Bottle Night

Tuesday - Half Price Reserve Red Wine Bottle Night

Wednesday - Half Price Rose Wine Bottle Night

Thursday - Half Price Carafe (House Wine) Night

Friday - Half Price "Half" Bottle Night

Saturday - Half Price Sparkling Bottle Night

Make sure to ask the wait staff about the wine special of the evening (in case they forget to mention it).

A votre sante!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Update on Sammy's

Sammy’s Bakery on MacArthur is now open on Sundays from 10 AM to 3 PM. And a good thing, too. I picked up a pepperoni and cheese focaccia for lunch. The bread was light and airy. The pepperoni was crispy and combined with the cheese there was a little salt action going on. A little bit of heaven smack in the middle of Northside. We consumed an equally divine rose – a Spanish Vina Aljibes Rosado (~$10.00 from Once Upon a Vine). Dry with prominent strawberry overtones amd a marvelous dark pink color.

A new local wine site has hit the web - Tripp Fenderson is the brains behind this celebration of wine in the Richmond area (with a few posts by yours truly). The basic premise is:

We like wine
We also live in Richmond.
This is our web site and you're more than welcome to hang out with us. 'Nuf said.

I love it!

Kitchen 64

After a few false forays, we finally landed at Kitchen 64. The menu posted on the front window, not to mention the sign at the top of the building advertises breakfast. When we arrived on Saturday morning, the place was forlorn and locked up. Since no hours are posted, yet, I have no idea when breakfast or lunch is served. If any of you know, give me a holler.

But never fear. We continued to be resolute and went back early on Saturday evening. We dined al fresco. The evening was lovely. The building blocked most of the gusty breezes. And, surprisingly enough, the traffic was barely noticeable. I did take a gander inside. Both the bar and the dining area is non-smoking (thank you dining gods for smiling upon the Northside with breathable air!). I liked the funky and shiny green bar top (which was very lively) and the Trask paintings high up above the blond wood booths. The menu held appetizers, salads, sandwiches, entrees, and pasta dishes. Something for everyone. The wine list was short, but contained at least one gem: A 2004 75 Wine Co. Cabernet Sauvignon, Amber Hills Vineyard. We knew this was a gem because we had tasted it earlier in the day at a special tasting put on by The Wine Cellar. Full-bodied, good fruit, and just plain yummy. The Wine Cellar retailed this wine for $24.95. The price at Kitchen 64 was $36. Not too shabby and extremely serendipitous for us.

Food wise we could not resist ordering the Roasted Red Peppers and Fresh Mozzarella as an appetizer ($7.95). Surrounded by olive oil and sprinkled with a fresh basil chiffonade, it was a great starter for an evening of outside dining. The other great thing about this dish was the flexibility. If you wanted tomatoes instead, you just had to ask. The only thing we would add to the dish is Balsamic vinegar. And since a salad dressing option is oil and Balsamic vinegar, we would probably just have the wait staff bring the oil and vinegar with the appetizer. The bread was a little course and a little yellow and a little hard. The slices were accompanied with butter pats, but tasted much better with the olive oil from the appetizer plate. Once again, we would request the oil and vinegar dressing for the bread. As we still munched on our appetizer, my husband’s house salad arrived. (I assume with most new restaurants kitchen timing can be tricky at first. Our appetizer, salad, and entrees eventually all piled up on our table at the same time. I’m confident that this will be worked out in short order). The Vidalia dressing that my husband had requested did not appear (the kitchen was out), but a creamy Greek with Feta appeared on the side and he was quite satisfied.

As for entrees, we selected the Home Run Pasta($11.95) – linguini with meat sauce and meat balls covered with cheese and baked and The Duchess of Pork($14.95) – sliced pork tenderloin topped with thyme-roasted shallots accompanied by mashed potatoes and sautéed vegetables (green beans, zucchini, and asparagus on this night). First of all, these entrees were BIG. The pasta was served up in a huge white ceramic bowl. The meat sauce was hefty and bursting with flavor. And we loved the ample amount of gooey melted cheese. The meatballs were also huge, but milder in flavor. We could only eat a third of the dish (lunches at work will be divine next week!). The pork did not disappoint but lacked that in-your-face flavor that the pasta had. But once again, the portion was huge and we boxed up half of it. As we enjoyed our food other selections passed our table destined for other diners. All looked very large and delectable. Sandwich and burger plates were piled high with fries. The nachos were enormous. A shrimp dish made us envious (and this was after we were full from our own dinner).

Generally, we do not consider dessert, but with a new place, a lovely evening, and a restaurant within walking distance, we splurged. Desserts could be viewed from a rotating carousel between the bar and the kitchen. My husband was tasked with selecting something for us to share. He returned raving about how big the peanut butter chocolate cookies were and how tempting Death by Chocolate would be to the taste buds. In the end we ordered the Key Lime Torte ($3.95). Homemade with tiny bits of lime peel in a graham cracker crust, served with whipped cream, fresh blackberries, and a raspberry sauce. Delicious!

Funky and fabulous . Several of the wait staff sported multiple visible tattoos. All were pleasant and commented on how good the food looked or smelled. Our waitress, Sara, was thrilled that we ordered a bottle of wine. She wants to learn more about wine. We turned her onto The Wine Cellar. She has a fabulous journey ahead of her. And we have a fabulously new local joint to enjoy. Life is indeed good.

Kitchen 64
3336 N. Boulevard

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

A Word to the Wise

If Buz and Ned's happens to be out of pork (like they were last Monday), go somewhere else to eat. They can do pork up right, and I always drool over the baby back ribs, but the beef brisket and catfish are just okay and the prices are too high for just okay. We were also disappointed that the wine list has been pared down to three extremely cheap varieties. All right, I admit it, we were probably the only people to order wine by the bottle at a barbeque joint, but I, for one, miss drinking a Perrin Cotes du Rhone or a Roseblum Zinfandel or even an Australian Shiraz while chowing down on smoked ribs. And if you order a 4 piece catfish dinner, make sure you count your pieces...

Addedum: The staff also padded my credit card bill by $40. I'm still getting this straightened out.

Food Show and Wine Tasting Saturday at The Wine Cellar

The Wine Cellar located at 2017 Walmart Drive off of Midlothian Turnpike will have a free Food Show and Wine Tasting event on Saturday, May 19 from 1-4 PM.

Food tastings include:

Black angus tenderloin
Pork tenderloin
Rib chops
A variety of other gourmet products

Wine tastings include:

Calera Chardonnay
75 Wine Co, Sauvignon Blanc
75 Wine Co, Cabernet
Artezin Zinfandel
Longview Reserve Cabernet


Cooking in a make-do, jury-rigged kitchen is quite a challenge for me. I can't find specific utensils. Sometimes I wonder if some of my equipment were merely dreamy ghosts mocking me. This discombobulatedness constantly puts a damper on my culinary inspiration. Tonight, however, I was visited by the ghost of past great meals. My first stop was The Belmont Butchery. Tanya, bless her heart, convinced me that I needed a veal chop. Once that had been decided, I also ordered a miniscule amount of proscuitto. As I drove home, I prayed to an unknown pagan god that my husband had not eaten all of the Swiss cheese that had been purchased for snacking reasons this past weekend. For once, the gods smiled upon me. My home-cooked meal consisted of:

Veal chop stuffed with proscuitto, Swiss cheese, and fresh sage leaves (seared in olive and black truffle oil and then roasted in the oven)

Baked mashed potatoes with black truffle oil and Romano cheese (boiled, mashed with the oil, Romano, a tablespoon of butter , salt, and pepper and then baked in the oven)

Diagonally sliced carrots (sauteed in butter and seasoned with dried lavender)

To drink we had a 2003 Estancia Meritage from Paso Robles. This widely available gem boasts a blend of 79% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, and 6% Petit Verdot. Smooth, yet full-bodied. And available at Total Wine for ~$22 a bottle.

Lip-smacking inspiration returned for at least one night.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Drink in this Spaniard

My blogger friend Tripp turned me onto a new wine shop, Wine Lovers, way out in the Far West End. Located in the John Rolfe Commons Shopping Center at 2284 John Rolfe Parkway. They carry a decent variety of vino and have wine tastings every Thursday (I’ve signed up for their weekly email alerts). But the find of the month was a dark, delicious Spaniard – 2004 Montebuena Rioja for $7.99 a bottle. Very fruity, but with a significant amount of body that pairs well with pasta or pork/chicken with a dark, rich sauce. Of course, it’s also mighty fine by itself. Apparently, Robert Parker gave this little gem 90 points (which may or may not hold sway with any of you). Wine Lovers give a 10% case discount, so, you can purchase it for $7.19 a bottle. Just think, a tall, handsome Spaniard at a bargain price.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Another Dose of Tarrant's Cafe

Last Monday my hubby and I had the pleasure of conversing and dining with fellow blogger Tripp at Tarrant’s Café. Tripp had a nice write up as well as a great picture of the place. Monday is the evening to go. No waiting for a table on this night, but the bar may or may not be able to serve pina coladas. While I stuck with a grilled chicken sandwich (I am such a sucker for Texas Toast), both Tripp and my spouse ordered entrée specials – Pork Tenderloin with a dark berry sauce (predominantly blackberry) and Blackened Wahoo with a pineapple-mango salsa. Both garnered good comments. I tried my husband’s Wahoo and it was surprisingly delicious with flaky white flesh and hot Cajun spices (fish is not a favorite of mine). I am now tempted to try the crab-stuffed tilapia! Amid the conversation on food, wine, and blogging we refreshed our parched throats with a Banfi Chianti. I look forward to continued conversations on my favorite topics!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Burgundy Tasting at J. Emerson on May 15

The wine tasting at J. Emerson for this month is Burgundy, The Cote D’Or. Can you say Advance Yummy? Here are the scrumptious details:


Tuesday May 15, 2007 from 5:30ish to 7:30 PM (I put the ish in based on the timing of the last tasting)


2005 Maurice Ecard et Fils, Bourgogne AOC
2003 Louis Latour Santenay
2002 Domaine Carre-Coubin Volnay 1er Cru
2003 Earl Daniel Bocquenet Nuits-St.-Georges
1998 Domaine Anne Gros Chambolle-Musigny

Added Bonus

Special pricing will be available on all Burgundies during the tasting. Woo-hoo!

A Trifecta at The Track

We celebrated our 21st wedding anniversary with a quiet dinner at The Track Restaurant in Carytown. And we picked a winner. Of course, the standout by a wide smile was our waitress, Sara. Sara is also the Cheese Goddess at River City Cellars. Her energy and low key effervescence made everyone feel welcome, including a group of high schoolers having dinner on prom night. But what really impressed me was her timing. Since the Kentucky Derby had run that afternoon, we ordered mint juleps. The bartender served them (which was a nice added touch). As we enjoyed the fine balance between whiskey, simple syrup, and fresh mint Sara also took our order for a bottle of wine and entrees. While Sara found the bottle she did not even begin approach us to open it and have us taste it until after we had finished our cocktails. Hallelujah for a waitress that knows when to open a bottle of wine!

One small bump along the rail was the wine list. We had wanted to splurge with a 2003 Chateauneuf du Pape. Alas, it was not available and we settled upon a 2004 Rutherford Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley. The cab emitted spicy flavors and a chewy feel (is it my imagination or are 2004 California Cabs trending toward the spicy realm?).

We both ordered Filet Mignon, medium rare, with a tomato/asparagus medley, and a corn infused butter. Real roasted red-skinned potatoes rounded out the plate. What bliss. The medley and butter melded with the tenderness of the beef without anything overpowering the other. Once again, a fine balance.

To change things up a bit, we had skipped appetizers so we could order dessert. My husband’s dense chocolate torte with whipped cream was dreamy, but the mini crème brulees stole the show. Three tiny ovals of creamy goodness laced with Bailey’s Irish Cream, Kahlua, and Frangelica. We thoroughly enjoyed comparing each flavor against the other.

For a special occasion The Track did not dissapoint.

Get Yourself to the Byrd House Farmers' Market!

I found a beautiful, bodaciaous head of red leaf lettuce at the Byrd House Farmers' Market on Tuesday for only $1.00. A bargain by anyone's standard and darn delicious! The market announces its vendors every week. This past week vendors included plants, herbs, produce, fresh eggs, farm raised local meat, bread, and desserts. I can't wait for next Tuesday.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Dogwood: A Bit of Blight?

On Friday we dined at Dogwood Grille and Spirits with another couple. My husband and I had never been, although it had always been a goal. Our friends had not eaten there in quite a while. I, for one, was quite excited. This heart-of-the-Fan restaurant located on Main St. had garnered great reviews in the past and was named Style Weekly’s 2006 Restaurant of the Year. The night was perfect; we were eating with dear friends. What could be better?

I’ll begin with the water. The regular, generic tap water was infused with mint. And while I advocate anything that will perk up city water, no one alerted us to the water’s altered statebefore pouring. I liked the wine list. It contained a variety of choices and the price points were not exorbitant. The higher end selections were decent for a restaurant. Our table selected the Hahn Estates Cabernet Sauvignon. Slightly spicy and jammy. It turned out to be an interesting choice since the table ordered either seafood, fish, or Creole for entrees. But up next, the appetizers: Venison Carapaccio, Tuna2 (Tuna Carapaccio and Tuna Tartare), and Barbequed Duck Wontons. The Venison won the most raves of the night. The tuna was decent, but the Saki shooter, which accompanied the dish, had an alcohol burn that overpowered the dish. The wontons, again, were decent, but the Asian-influenced slaw was tastier and preferred. Entrees consisted of Crab cakes with a tartar sauce, roasted potatoes, and green beans (the special of the evening); Tuna steak; and Quail stuffed with Andouille sausage atop dirty rice. My husband wanted me to stress that, at least for him, tartar sauce has no business anywhere near a crab cake. Thus, even though lump crabmeat filled the cake, his opinion was “The tartar sauce sucked.” And even though the special boasted roasted potatoes, the received potatoes seemed to be of the boiled variety. One of our friends ordered the Tuna steak. He loved the sides (and mea culpa I can not remember what the sides were), but thought the tuna had just come along for the ride. The Andouille overshadowed the delicateness of the quail; however, the dirty rice had a nice, spicy flavor, and had an abundance of crawfish. With both the crab and the tuna, we discovered something amazing – the wine (a spicy Cabernet) acquired a pronounced vanilla taste. Very interesting. We skipped dessert and had truffles and cookies along with Sambucca, Belle de Brillet, and quiet conversation at our friends’ house.

For me, Dogwood Grille and Spirits had no “wow” factor. And at these prices, “wow” must be present. All of the items on the menu appealed to the imagination – interesting and unusually juxtaposed ingredients – unfortunately, the food did not realize its potential on this visit. At least the place is non-smoking. I salute them for providing a breathable atmosphere.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007


The Belmont Butchery has the most divine smoked prosciutto. Enough said.