Sunday, June 29, 2008

Burgers and Onion Rings - Mmmmm!

Last night we had a family get-together at my aunt and uncle's house. For supper my cousin made these fabulous Andouille Burgers and Fried Onion Rings. Both are recipes from Emeril Lagasse. Extrodinarily delicious and mouth watering. I can't wait to try it at home!

The Black Sheep - Good and Plenty

Friday night we left home early in search of The Black Sheep. We had heard some rave reviews and wanted to try it ourselves. I applaud any restaurant willing to go through the rigors and nuttiness of opening an establishment in the city of Richmond and locating on what is still considered off the beaten path for most. Thus, word of mouth will be extremely crucial for this kitchy little converted storefront. As we stepped into the open space I immediately noticed the little ceramic salt and pepper shakers gracing the booths and tables. We arrived early and snagged a booth looking out of the huge picture window. Two white puppies held our salt and pepper. And an enormous ceramic frog served as the base for our table lamp. The glass floral vases filled with dirt and planted with herbs added a nice touch as well. Our waitress bedecked with various piercings greeted us warmly and enthusiatically. She was attentive throughout the evening without being overbearing.

The Black Sheep's wine list is tiny, but holds inexpesive, drinkable options. We ordered the Big Tattoo Red from Chile for $16.

For dinner, lunch and dinner offerings can be ordered. "The War of Northern Ingestion" both intrigued and amused. The side note indicated "They aren't subs, they're battleships." We espied the CSS Virginia (fried chicken livers with shredded green cabbage onion, apple, and remoulade sauce for $7) sailing forth to another table. The plate sported a two-foot long French baguette. The Black Sheep serves these behemoths "with a knife for doing battle and a napkin to signify your surrender." We were not in a war-like mood and sallied on over to the dinner options. I just had to try the Chicken and Dumplings ($10) - white pan roasted chicken with homemade herb dumplings (very biscuit-like) in a light cream sauce with minced carrots and celery. Nothing splashy, just basic comfort food and plenty of it. My dish came with my choice of sides. This was definitely an issue. I did not need anything. Our waitress intuited my dilemma and suggested the Orzo Salad - orzo, fresh veggies, herbs, and sunflower seeds tossed in a light citrus vinaigrette. I took her advice, but boxed it up to go and will be having it as part of my dinner this evening.

My hubby decided to try one of the specials for the evening - Penne Pasta ($9) tossed with summer veggies (squash, tomatoes, green beans). He added grilled Mahi Mahi for an extra $5. He enjoyed the pasta, but was thrilled by the fish. Once again, the plate was graced by a large portion that was meaty, yet moist.

We were very pleased. For this Friday evening, business slowed to a trickle around 7 PM and then picked back up nearer to 8 PM. Once word gets out about the great food and the great prices, lines should start forming.

Some of the other menu items we look forward to trying include:

Breakfast (served until 2 PM) - Black Sheep French Toast (with nutella - drool, drool, drool) and Beret Frittata (goat cheese, broccoli, herbs, and onion). And don't forget a cup of Community Coffee

Lunch (served from 11 AM until closing) - Spice Trade Salad (frisee with Asian pear and avocado with a creamy Garam Masala yogurt dressing) and USS Monitor (Swedish meatballs topped with Farmer's cheese and green onions)

Dinner (served from 5 PM until closing) - Blue Ribbon Pork (pork cutlet with VA ham and Swiss cheese served with buttered noodles)

Other Sides - Broccoli Salad and Dirty Rice

And don't forget Something Sweet - White Russian Brownie and Profiterole (topped with almonds and honey and filled with cardamon rosewater ice cream)

The Black Sheep is located at 901 W. Marshall St. They are open Tuesday - Sunday and are non-smoking (yeah!).

Black Sheep on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Intriguing Wine Tasting at J. Emerson

On June 25 from 5:30 - 7:30 PM J. Emerson will hold its June wine tasting featuring an interesting mix of items including:

Broadbent Vinho Verde
Spy Valley Sauvignon Blanc
Quinta do Crasto Douro Red
Vilafonte Series C
Chateau Musar

I am looking forward to the Chateau Musar - probably the most famous Lebanese wine and darn tasty, too. Of course, the tasting is free.

J. Emerson is located at 5716 Grove Ave.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Our First Homegrown Zucchini, Ever!

What an amazing thing of beauty!

At Last, Lunch at McLean's

I'll admit it. I have lived in the River City many years and have never eaten at McLean's on Broad St. My hubby and I remedied the situation today. We now understand why the parking lot is full - friendly staff, cheap food that tastes good. I had the patty melt with sauteed onions and Swiss cheese on grilled rye bread. Greasy spoon heaven. And my husband was quite taken with the jumbo burger that was topped with a ripe, sweet tomato slice. I was also partial to the Pepsi with crushed ice.

The building and the wooden booths have been through some wear and tear over the years. And the place still has a smoking section, but there was enough air circulating in the non-smoking section that the cigarette smoke was not noticible.

I really liked the signs announcing that the wait staff practices phone etiquette - if you are on your cell phone, they will respect your privacy and not approach your table until you have finished your conversation.

Next time, we'll have to order breakfast. Most of the egg dishes offer a choice of bacon, fat back, fried bologna, link or pattie sausage. And don't forget the grits and red eye gravy. Weekday lunches feature hot turkey or roast beef sandwiches. I can't wait.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Loin of Pork with Fennel

Borders listed a fantastic recipe from Ina Garten - Loin of Pork with Fennel. And I made it last night. The only change I made was using dry vermouth instead of Pernod or white wine. And my version looked every bit as good as the picture. The fennel and onion added an almost-sweet flavor to the pork. I served it with slices of bread covered in sesame seeds and a 2003 Chateauneuf-du-Pape which had spicy overtones and floral undertones (an unusual combination for a Rhone).

I was quite pleased with how the dish turned out and would definitely consider making it for dinner guests.

Courtyard Dining

On Wed. the air temperature was perfect for outdoor dining. We knew that many of the typical haunts would be slammed. We decided to try the courtyard at Beauregard's Thai Room. We were rewarded with an empty table by a bubbling fountain, summer time blooms, and a relaxing atmosphere.

We ordered a 2005 Estancia Zinfandel to imbibe.

Then we ordered Spring Rolls - Light, crispy skins with a transparently sweet sauce.

I enjoyed Beauregard's Duck - Served with a tamarind sauce. Quite yummy.

My hubby enjoyed the Ginger Beef.

What a lovely evening with good food, good service, and a perfect courtyard.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

A Disappointing Bastard

Fat Bastard Brut Sparkling, that is. Even though it had a lot of fizz, the stuff still tasted thin and flat. There are a ton of dry sparklings out there for around $10 per bottle. We will avoid this one in the future.

Saturday, June 14, 2008


I enjoy margaritas. Always on the rocks. If I'm imbibing a bottom shelf bar 'rita, then I get it with salt. If the tequila is halfway decent, then no salt. I love sipping Patron Anejo, but seldom can afford it. Good tequila, to me, has a licorice/black pepper taste that is ever so smooth. My husband and I disagree on what we actually taste, but this is what I taste. Last night was margarita night and I bought a middle-of-the-road priced Sauza Gold from the ABC. I wanted to try something other than Cuervo. And the taste that I like so well came shining through in my margarita. To the tequila I added a squirt of fresh lime juice, a splash of orange liqueur, and topped it off with some El Paso Chile Company Margarita Mix.


Thursday, June 12, 2008

Shula's 2 Scores a Field Goal

Another night where cooking just did not appeal. Yeah, it happens. And it seems to be happening with more frequency. When this mood strikes us, we are making more of an effort to try new places (unless we walk to some place in our neighborhood). Last night we went to Shula’s 2. My hubby had been wanting to give it a whirl and the mail had graced us with a free appetizer coupon. So, what the hell? We traipsed up to the Sheraton on Broad. We found a big open room with a bar on one side, a number of booths hugging a couple of the walls, and tables filling in the rest. Not terribly busy except for the myriad of televisions with various ESPN channels (all channels were extremely clear). A few folks were smoking at the bar, but surprisingly enough the odor did not drift over to our table (no barriers whatsoever to block smoke).

The menu had the typical appetizers for a sports bar, a wide variety or $9-11 sandwiches and burgers, a decent salad list, high-end steaks ($30 range), and $14-24 entrees. We ordered potato skins for our free appetizer – lots of bacon, but the microwave missed heating up the middle of one of them and my hubby bit into cold potato. And the entrees came out before we had finished the skins (don’t you hate inept kitchen timing?).

We did order wine – 2005 Chateau Souverain Alexander Valley Merlot for $25. Very yummy and a decent price. Once we tasted the wine, we had to order steak of some sort. We nixed the high end filets and strips and opted for a sirloin ($21) and skirt steak with chimichurri sauce ($20). My husband said that his sirloin was the best and most tender of that cut that he had ever had. Scorrrrrrre! Unfortunately, the smashed red skinned potatoes were tasteless (even with shredded “parmesan” cheese generously topping the side dish). His sautéed mixed veggies remained neutral in the taste fray. My steak was tender as well, but had already been sliced, thus, it tended to be on the medium than medium rare side. The beef tasted like it had been marinated in the sauce and featured a strong garlic flavor with a hint of vinegar and greens. Very satisfying. My sides were black beans seasoned with chilies and plain white rice.

We had plenty to eat, so no dessert. Which turned out to be good. Right before we left a group of women were seated at a booth near us and they all started puffing away. So, I have no idea if Shula’s 2 even has a non-smoking section.

Bottom-line. They didn’t make a touchdown, but they did kick a field goal. If we go again, it would have to pass the odor test. And we would stick to the steak and wine – although, they do offer a mac-n-cheese entrée that could be intriguing…

Monday, June 09, 2008

Jade Mountain Syrah

Last night we enjoyed a 2004 Jade Mountain Syrah Snows Lake Vineyard Red Hills Lake County California. What chewy, plummy, purplely goodness. The heady nectar paired well with a grilled flank steak that was marinated in olive oil, red wine vinegar, minced garlic, and fresh thyme. For a side dish the same marinade ingredients were used to roast shallots and red-skinned potatoes. Once the roasting finished, soft goat cheese was added just before serving.

The wine was obtained from Once Upon a Vine and the potatoes were purchased at the Byrd House Market last week.

Baby, it may be hot outside, but give me a good Syrah and I'm not quite so cranky.