Friday, February 29, 2008

Defining Comfort

Merriam Webster defines comfort food as: food prepared in a traditional style having a usually nostalgic or sentimental appeal. And this makes sense to me. When I think of comfort food country fried chicken and mashed potatoes tops my list. Roast turkey is a close second. Both remind me of the good parts of growing up.

So, when my husband emailed me the other day informing me that work was a beast, life generally sucked, and he wanted comfort food for dinner, I naturally thought of chicken. Of course after so many years of marriage, I have finally learned to ask what he meant by comfort food. And a good thing I asked. What he really wanted was either steak and baked potato or pasta. Neither traditional nor nostalgic where we were raised.

What he really wanted was good for to go with good wine. The Fresh Market had NY Strip Angus Steaks on special this week for $8.99. Seared medium rare and accompanied by a baked potato loaded with sour cream, green onion, and crumbled bacon. Yum, yum.

The wine turned out to be extra special. We pulled out a 1996 Seavey Vineyard Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Smooth, slightly tannic, and lots of body. The taste reminded us of dark plum and Portobello. A complex combination that worked well with the beef.

And yes, we were comforted.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Apples in Pear Nectar

Apples in Pear Nectar

2 apples (Gala or Fuji) peeled and cut into thick slices
½ cup pear nectar
Splash of orange liqueur (Gran Gala or Grand Marnier)

Put all ingredients in a pan. Turn stove burner to medium. Cook, stirring frequently, until most of the liquid evaporates, leaving about a tablespoon as a sauce.

What a wonderful winter side dish or dessert (just add whipped cream!). Because of the nectar, sugar is not needed. And since the apple slices are thick, they maintain their shape. I betcha this would make a great pie filling, too.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

I Now Know Beans

Thursday evening – potentially bad weather approaching, my hubby might or might not bring home a friend from work (and we might or might not be eating dinner together). We have dealt with chili and its aftermath for days. The friend did not make it. I did not pick up anything to prepare. The frozen stuff was completely out of the question. So, we went out. We pointed the car in the direction of downtown, but still mulled over options – Millie’s, Lulu’s, Café Rustica, Tarrant’s – all good choices. But do you ever run down a list and none of them ignites a spark of “Yes, that’s the place for tonight!”? Nothing clicked. As we approached Broad St. Enoteca Sogno popped into my head. Perfect for this evening. We bee-lined to mid-town.

We had dined at this unassuming Italian restaurant a while ago. Their steaks, especially the herb-roasted T-bones are heaven. Alas, rib-eyes were the steak of the evening. We don’t favor this particular cut and decided to branch out to other menu options. On this night about 75% of the tables were occupied, but even so, the place maintained a calm and quiet demeanor. Perfect for enjoying wine and conversation. A casual, relaxed wait staff enhanced the tranquility.

We poured over the simple menu. A few appetizer choices, a couple of salads, pasta and gnocchi with multiple sauce options, chicken and veal dishes, a brief list of specials. We decided to share the Crostini with White Beans and Arugula. This had been a heavily negotiated choice. I wanted something to share. My husband wanted to order soup or Calamari. Neither of those options appealed to me. After a little more wrangling, we compromised. And a happy mouth time was enjoyed by all. We received a plate with a pile of very large white beans surrounded by toasted baguette-style sliced bread. Sounds plain and simple, huh? But the beans were tossed with a few arugula leaves, red onion slivers, olive oil, salt, pepper, and a very, very scant amount of vinegar. All of the beans were done – no crunchies (I detest going to a restaurant and getting crunchy beans). And quite delicious. We kept raving about the beans. They had picked up the flavors of the other ingredients. Such bean perfection is rare to encounter. We raved about those beans the entire evening. And congratulated ourselves on remembering this place as a dining option.

For entrées I chose the Veal Piccata and my spouse ordered Penne with Sausage and Rapini. I had three nice-sized pieces of slightly seared veal with a sauce that hinted of lemon, but did not overpower the dish. The dish also came with a side of spaghetti with just enough red sauce for flavoring, but did not compete with my main dish. Very delicious. My husband also enjoyed his dish. He was particularly please with the quality of the pasta.

We toasted the entire evening with a bottle of 2001 D’Orcia Brunello di Montalcino. A wine that kept its flavor despite the vinegar in the beans and the lemon in the Picatta sauce. What a wonderful evening.

Enoteca Sogno on Urbanspoon

Monday, February 18, 2008

Imbibe Some Italians

J. Emerson will be conducting their free monthly wine tasting on Wednesday, February 20 from 5:30 – 7:30 PM. The theme for the evening is Italian. Get yourself to the shop at Libbie and Grove to enjoy the following:

· 2006 Foradori Myrto, Trentino-Alto Adige (Sauvignon Blanc blend)
· 2005 Seghesio Barbera d’Alba
· 2002 Fattoria La Valentina “Spelt” Montepulciano d’Abruzzo
· 2006 Marchesi di Gresy Dolcetto d’Asti “Monte Aribaldo”
· 2001 Conti Sertoli Salis “Sassella” Valtellina Superiore DOCG

J. Emerson continues to present fantastic, higher-end wines for the public to taste. I definitely appreciate the opportunity! May you gladly imbibe as well!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Eats at 18

My husband’s 18 year old niece came to visit us for a month. She resides in Tennessee and had only been to Richmond once for a few days. We wanted her to sample some of the great eats that the city offered. Here is where we took her:

· Northside Grille – down-to-earth neighborhood spot
· Tarrant’s Cafe – we love the expansion!
· Mekong – first taste of Vietnamese cuisine
· Osaka (Huguenot) – introduction to sushi and tempura
· Weezie’s Kitchen – drooled over the real mashed potatoes and roast beef sandwiches
· Can Can – great burgers, onion soup, and people watching
· Krispy Kreme – hot doughnuts now!
· Gutenberg Café – the Bottom at its best, and don’t forget the Affogato
· Kuba Kuba – an utterly delicious dive – a limeade and a café con leche were required beverages

Of course, there were tons of other restaurant candidates, but we also traveled to DC for a week and visited Mount Vernon, Williamsburg/Jamestown, and Monticello. And speaking of unique experiences, no trip would be complete without seeing a movie at The Byrd on a Saturday night!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A Loss of Dough

I am in mourning. My two most favorite bakeries closed within two months of each other. Sammy's Bakery gave up the ghost at the end of the year. I will miss the father/son duo, the cheese and cherry danishes (especially the warm ones), and the baguettes.

And then Metro Bakery ups and leaves for another state. Their Italian Peasant Bread was the best in Richmond, hands down. The chocolate chip shortbread was also a winner.

I hope all go on to bigger and better endeavors. But I sure will miss their dough.