Monday, October 27, 2008

Richmond Restaurant Week - Where Will You Be Eating? has the low down on all of the participating restaurants, plus menus for most of them.

I will be at Six Burner on Wednesday. They have duck confit. Yummmmm!

3 courses for $25.08 with $2.08 going to the Central Virginia Food Bank. Happening now through Nov. 2.

So...where are you eating?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Dark Chocolate Caramel and Sea Salt Cordials


Available at For the Love of Chocolate in Carytown. $7.90 a pound.

For the Love of Chocolate
3136 W Cary St
Richmond, VA 23221
(804) 359-5645

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Iron Horse and Wine - A Friday Night Roundup

Friday night provided some nice wine experiences and dinner in Ashland.

Free tasting at Once Upon a Vine on MacArthur - The ever pleasant and very knowledgable Charlie Knight poured selections from White Hall Vineyards. Our favorite was the 2006 Petit Verdot. Virginia is producing some very good Petit Verdot. It may be worth a few road trips to try some more.

Next we drove to Ashland. Before dinner we visited The Caboose for a free wine tasting. The knock-our-socks-off choice here was 2006 Avieso Reserve Malbec Mendoza from Vinos de los Andes. The most hearty malbec I have ever tried.

On to dinner at Iron Horse Restaurant. The was the first time we had been.

Pros - Very good wine list with reds in all price categories from the high elegance of Chateau Gloria ($72) to the very drinkable Montebuena Rioja ($20). Great Fried Oyster appetizer -very sweet with just the right amount of breading. Large portion entrees (House-Brined Pork Chop and Brazilian Rubbed Rib Eye) ensured that no one left hungry and both meats were delicious. Reservations were made on Open Table. One other plus - watching the trains roll by.

Cons - Half of the establishment was a bar/pub with a live band later in the eveing, the other half was fine dining. We were not able to join the live band because that area allowed smoking. The noise from the bar echoed around the dining room, thus our table for two was not very intimate. The side dishes were less than par. My roasted red potatoes were raw and crunchy (inedible for me). Also, while the highest priced dish on the menu was $27 for a NY Strip, my Rib Eye special turned out to be a whopping $35 (discovered when the bill was presented). For this price, my potatoes should have been perfect. For dessert we shared a poached pear and pound cake, but we were not told that it would be accompanied by a raspberry sauce. I can't stand raspberry and had to send it back.

Best perk of the evening - Our wine. We selected a 2004 Provenance Vineyards Merlot, Napa Valley for $40. A tasty bottle at a very good price.

If we lived in Ashland, we might frequent Iron Horse occasionally (sticking to the menu offerings where the prices are known), but given the uneveness of our experience, we would be hard-pressed to drive the extra miles from Richmond.

Ironhorse on Urbanspoon

Friday, October 17, 2008

Sat. Oct. 18 - Free Wine Tasting at J. Emerson

Free friendly reminder - J. Emerson located at 5716 Grove Ave. will host a free Bordeaux tasting from 5 - 7 PM on Oct. 18. The most excellent line up includes:

2006 Blanc de Valandraud No. 2, St. Emilion
2005 Lalande Couturier rouge, Bordeaux
2005 Ch. Fonguillon L'Enclos rouge, Montagne St. Emilion
2005 Bad Boy Rouge, Bordeaux
2003 3 de Valandraud rouge, St. Emilion
2001 Ch. Clement Pichon rouge, Haut Medoc

I hope to see you there!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

New Q in Town

On Friday evening we found ourselves on Midlothian Turnpike and headed over to The Wine Cellar for the weekly Friday night free tasting. On this night, budget-friendly wines were featured. We liked the Runaway Merlot from the Central Coast of California the best. Decent body and mouth-feel with a layer of dark fruit on top. And $10.95 was within our budget.

After the tasting Q Barbeque caught our eye. Open for only a week and still awaiting a nod from the ABC Board, we couldn’t resist. We walked up to the counter to place our order. If you want anything other than barbeque – go somewhere else. These folks seemed serious. Behind the counter sat two huge stainless steel smokers. Now we had to decide what to order. My husband selected the Pork Q-Plate ($7) that came with beans, slaw, and a roll. I could not decide between the beef brisket and the ribs, so I got a Q Combo with both and a side of hush puppies ($12). Chicken was also an option, but for us barbecued chicken is a last resort. Other sides (outside of the norm) included Mac and Cheese, Corn Pudding, and Greens.

Our seating options included a semi-circular bar facing a big screen TV, booths, and tables. We liked the bar concept and when Q receives its liquor license, I’m sure it will be popular. At each table were bottle of Sweet Sauce, Mild Sauce, Tabasco, and Pepper/Garlic Vinegar. When it comes to barbeque and sauce, everyone has a different opinion, but we were not enamored of the sauce – too thick and sweet. And my hubby thought the pork, even though smoked, had a slight sweetness to it as well. He liked the beans, but the slaw was too vinegary for him. The beef brisket arrived in chunks, not sliced, but was extremely tender and smoky and contained a good portion. The hush puppies contained just a hint of sweetness to ward off any bitter cornmeal harshness. On to the ribs – the combo had three meaty spare ribs already separated. Very smoked and falling off the bone. No wet sauce on these babies, but the rub had a bit of red pepper giving the smoky goodness an extra kick. No other sauce was necessary. By far the ribs were the stars of the meal with the brisket coming in second. Both meals contained plenty of food, in fact, my Combo was a bit much (but I appreciated being able to try a variety).

Rib only prices begin at $6 for three ribs, $12 for a half rack, and $18 for a full rack. We will be back for the ribs.

Q Barbeque
2077 Walmart Way
Midlothian, VA

Q Barbeque on Urbanspoon

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Shaker Apple Pie

When we were in the Berkshires we visited the Hancock Shaker Village. In the gift shop we purchased a bottle of Sabbathday Lake Shakers' Rose Water. This was prepared by The United Society in Maine which is one of , if not the only, active Shaker community. With the rose water came a few recipes. One for apple pie, which turned out to be delicious and a different taste sensation due to the roses.

Shaker Apple Pie

3 cups peeled sliced sour apples (I used a sweeter Honeycrisp variety)
2/3 cups maple or white sugar (I used turbinado sugar)
1 tablespoon rose water
1 tablespoon heavy cream
Pastry for two 9 inch pie crusts (I used the Pilsbury rollup crust)

Slice apples into mixing bowl and add sugar, cream, and rose water. Mix thoroughly. Line the pie dish with pastry. Fill with apples and cover with pastry. Vent the top. Flute edges. Bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes.

The rose water permeated the apples and definitely gave the pie a floralness. I really liked it. The Shakers also suggest using rose water instead of vanilla; add a drop to coffee; or use in cookies, cakes, and ice cream.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Vacationing in the Berkshires - Part 7

Last day. There were a number of things we considered, but it was very rainy in the morning, thus, we meandered up to Hilltop Orchards and Furnace Brook Winery in Richmond, MA for wine and cider tastings. The Johannisberg Riesling was decent and my hubby also liked the Shiraz, but the French style Cidre and the Johnny Mash Hard Cider were the true winners. We also picked up some Honeycrisp apples (over 20 varieties were available). If we had remained in town, the fresh-baked pies would have tempted us.

On our way back to Great Barrington we stopped by Hoffman Pottery

We lunched on Steak Frites at Cafe Adam.

Back in town we Main Street and Railroad Street for a little shopping. The most interesting shop was Karen Allen Fiber Arts (yes, that Karen Allen - we actually saw her in town a couple of days earlier waiting to go into Bizen!).

Before dinner we went back to Napa for a glass of wine at the bar. Both the host and our waitress from the other night warmly welcomed us back. For dinner we went to Castle Street Cafe for dinner and live jazz. We started with Antipasto of olives, fresh mozzarella, proscuitto, and roasted red and yellow peppers. For the main course a roasted Cornish game hen and meatloaf and mashers. Good food and good music, but crowded with lots of locals - almost everyone who entered knew everyone else. Very apt for this quaint, yet intriguing small town.

Vacationing in the Berkshires - Part 6

We traveled up to Williamstown today to check out The Clark Art Institute. Even though small, the place held an impressive collection of Impressionist paintings as well as a smattering of other gems.

The two main buildings displayed contrasts between dark and light, modern and traditional.

To the side a lily pad pond.

Up the hill a contemporary stone and glass structue featuring Homer and Sargeant paintings.

And then even further up the hill, a path leading to a stone bench

and then an idyllic descent through pasture and meadow.

The focus on both art and nature made this a great art museum.

We stopped in Lenox at Bistro Zinc for an early dinner. The Cassolet and Coq au Vin were excellent and traditional (think cooked white beans, house-made sausage, and chicken literally falling off the bone!).

All washed down with Artesa Elements.

We had dinner early to attend Shakespeare and Company's portrayal of Oscar Wilde's The Canterville Ghost. The intimate indoor space recently opened and this was the second play to be performed in it. While not Shakespeare, a delightful romp. If you go, make sure to inquire about any discounts. Full price tickets are steep.

After the show we stopped by The Red Lion again, but headed to the basement to The Lion's Den for some spiked coffee and acoustic music and humor from James Mee. It was the first time that we had heard "New Hampshire" jokes (if you don't have anything nice to say, you must be talking about New Hampshire). A little amusement, good music, tasty coffee, and a real fire in the fireplace. A good ending to another wonderful day.

Vacationing in the Berkshires - Part 5

Over halfway through our trip. Today we wandered over to the Hancock Shaker Village outside of Pittsfield.

What a great place to visit. So peaceful in the Autumn with sheep and cows grazing and roosters crowing. Not to mention the round stone barn, the working gardens (heirloom seeds available in the gift shop), and a variety of other buildings to investigate. We spent much more time than anticipated and enjoyed every minute. The private non-profit museum did have a cafe for lunch (soup and sandwich fare) so we could spend as much time as we wanted amongst the restored structures. I highly recommend spending time here if you are in the area.
For dinner this evening we were back in Great Barrington at Pearl's Restaurant.

The space featured contemporary chrome and black tables and chairs with the booths wrapped up in brown sleek wood. All against a brick wall backdrop.

We began by sharing the Vietnamese Vegetable Spring Roll with a Yuzu Chili Dipping Sauce and a half bottle of St. Supery Sauvignon Blanc. The fried spring rolls featured mushrooms as well as carrots and other veggies with a dipping sauce more sweet than spicy. Hubby decided upon Watermelon Sake Glazed Tuna with Watermelon and Watercress Salad. He also ordered a side dish of mashed potatoes since the tuna did not indicate a starch. I ordered the Red Chile Miso Roasted Duck Breast with Wild Rice Waffle. My spouse's tuna was just right, bright red on the inside and just-seared on the edges. He also liked the watermelon. The dish also came with rice, so he really did not need the extra side dish. But I needed the mashed potatoes because I really did not like the wild rice waffle so it worked out. The duck had a saltiness due to the miso, but I did not detect the red chile. It was still good.

The best order of the night turned out to be the red wine - 2003 Chalk Hill Estate Bottled Cabernet Sauvignon, Chalk Hill, Sonoma County. Silky smooth, good fruit structure yet still holding forth some tannin to ensure a great food pairing. What a delight! And all for $52. We have since discovered how much of a fantastic bargain this wine and wine price turned out to be.

Vacationing in the Berkshires - Part 4

Today we were set on doing a wee bit of hiking - nothing too strenuous or steep - we are old and out of shape. We stopped by Guido's Fresh Marketplace for provisions. This was about as close as one could get to Elwood Thompson's. Two local producers caught our eye - Rawson Brook Farm from Monterey, MA (a few miles away) offered chive and garlic chevre and Berkshire Bark had chocolate bars that we could not resist.

We then headed to Beartown State Forest and hiked around Benedict Pond (a 1.5 mile loop). Very lovely and picturesque. After the loop we picnicked by the pond.

For dinner we played the tourists and headed to The Red Lion Inn and the main dining room.

Many folks were waiting in the lounging area, but we had made reservations and were seated right away and immediately ordered two glasses of Mionetto Prosecco. I stuck with tradition and ordered New England Chowder and Roasted Native Turkey with Stuffing, Whipped Potatoes, and Pan Gravy (accompanied by a dab of cranberry sauce, of course). I loved every bit of it! The chowder was as expected - tender potatoes, just a hint of bacon, and a good amount of succulent clams. The turkey had truly been roasted and the ghost of Norman Rockwell's Freedom From Want enveloped me as I consumed this oh-so-American meal. My husband started with the soup of the day - a vegetable soup that had been pureed. Not bad, but he was envious of my chowder. For the main course he had Grilled Organic Salmon with Roasted Red Potatoes, Chive Puree, and Red Onion Confit. All were delicious by themselves, but none of it paired together properly. The lesson of the Red Lion - stick to the very traditional for something outstanding. We had a very difficult time deciding what wine to order. Fortunately, for us The Red Lion featured 25 wines by the half bottle, a surprisingly large and varied selection. Thus, we ordered two half bottles of red to enjoy with our meals. The first was Volnay 2005, En Chevret, Louis Latour. Very cherry-like and a stand-out with the turkey. The second was Domaine Du Grand Tinel 2005, Chateauneuf du Pape. Much more sturdy in body and a winner with the salmon. The meal portions were quite large, thus, we had no room for dessert. I would have liked to try the Warm Indian Pudding or the Pumpkin Creme Brulee. Perhaps another trip.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Vacationing in the Berkshires - Part 3

We can't get a decent weather report up here. We either see Albany weather or Springfield. Neither are accurate for this area. With the way the clouds and wind whip up over the hills, it may not matter.

Today we saw some sun peeking out, thus, we headed to the Berkshire Botanical Gardens in Stockbridge. 15 acres with a little woodland trail thrown in. Despite the upcoming chilly weather, a lot of flowers greeted us.

We window-shopped and lunched in Stockbridge. A quaint small New England town. So quaint that Silver Fox busses dropped off a gaggle of tourists.
We slipped into a quiet alley to eat at Once Upon A Table. A tiny, brightly colored space.

I ordered the special - Omelet with Goat Cheese, Sauteed Onion, and Potato and a glass of Qupe Syrah. The potatoes had a yummy baked poatao doneness that melded beatifully with the goat cheese. My husband tried the New England Clam "Chowdah" and a Caesar Salad. The salad was decent, but he thought the soup was overrun by the ham, taking away from the clams. I thought it was quite tasty, but not traditional.

After lunch we headed to the Norman Rockwell Museum. A beautiful setting with scultures gracing the lawn. The permanent scultures were fashioned by Peter Rockwell (Norman's son). The temporary ones portrayed different artists' interpretations of garden gates. The museum also moved Norman Rockwell's red barn studio from the middle of town to the museum site.

Inside the museum the actual paintings were the best. The light shines out in the paintings that a magazine cover could never capture.

For dinner we hit the Bizen - a Japanese sushi/Robata grill/Kaiseki restaurant. We sat at the sushi bar, marveled at the Hispanic sushi chefs, and ordered a Mark West Pinot Noir.

We then proceeded to order tuna rolls, grilled teriyaki duck (small plate), shrimp katsu, yellowtail sashimi, and lobster/avocado roll. All good. I particularly liked the duck and the lobster roll.

Now on to the show. The Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center (recently restored to its former grandeur) shows old films on Mondays. We took in The Third Man which starred Joseph Cotten and Orson Welles.

Since we had walked to dinner and a movie, we decided to be decadent and stopped by Allium for after dinner drinks and possibly dessert. A Sambuca for my spouse. For me, I ordered Hennessey cognac and a French press of Great Barrington coffee to make my own cognac coffee. Our engaging bartender was manning the bar once again. We also decided to split a dessert - warm flourless chocolate cake (with molten chocolate in the middle) sitting in a pool of caramel sauce with a scoop of SoCo vanilla ice cream on top. Oh my god good! After finishing dessert and coffee we ambled back to our temporary abode.

What a varied and wonderful day!