Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Thank You Colleen Curran!

Colleen Curran mentioned my blog as a favorite here. Thank you for being a fan!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Singing the Praises of a Fat Canary

The day after Christmas, I made my annual trek to Williamsburg. My husband still works in the ‘burg, so I tag along with him once a year to check out some familiar haunts and to marvel at how much the place has grown since I lived there six years ago.

I always have to eat lunch at The Cheese Shop in Merchant’s Square. The smoked turkey sandwich on wheat with extra house (which I have raved about before) is probably the only thing I truly miss on a regular basis.

After work my hubby and I try to eat at a nice place, mainly, to check out new restaurants and make a few comparisons to our current city of Richmond. Back in the day there were few places that we frequented. Le Yaca treated us well on a consistent basis and The Trellis was generally satisfying. The Colonial Taverns were always so inconsistent that we hardly ever ate there and still have no real desire to do so. The Williamsburg Inn, though nice (especially with Hans Schadler as Executive Chef), was quite expensive.

Now, we still find it difficult locating a great place to eat. A few years ago we tried The Blue Talon and had such a horrific experience and such evil email responses from the chef and management when we complained that we will never go there again. No way, no how.

And this year, we had a cocktail at The Trellis before dinner. We were pretty much ignored, even though it was early and not busy. I felt like such a tourist…

But, in the end, Williamsburg pulled it together this year and delivered a superb dinner and fantastic service. Fat Canary had both of us singing her praises. In years’ past we could never get a reservation. The place was that popular. This year with a bit more planning and a perusal of Open Table, we were able to secure a table for two.

As we entered, a hostess graciously relieved us of our coats and seated us in a tall-ceilinged green tinged open area. We were presented with the menu, a wine list (printed that very day), and a reserve wine list. Because Fat Canary is connected with The Cheese Shop in Merchants Square, and, subsequently, the wine shop in the basement, the wine list had fairly reasonable prices for a location in the heart of the tourist area. It took us a while to make up our minds and Dan, our waiter, displayed a great patience. We finally selected a 2005 Telegramme Chateauneuf-du-Pape for $46. We were well pleased.

Deciding what to eat turned out to be a chore, also. We wanted to try all of the appetizers, but, yet, we also wanted to order entrees. More patience exhibited by our waiter as we conversed and changed our minds several times. For starters we finally settled on House-made Mozzarella with Virginia Ham, Fennel, Artichoke, and Olive Salad ($12.95). The generous portion also sat upon pureed basil. Oh so heavenly! And we also ordered a special appetizer of the evening which featured rare tuna, flash-seared, encased in a thin wasabi crust ($14.95). Equally pleasing.

Other appetizer temptations included Carpaccio of Beef Tenderloin, Maine Lobster with Rosemary Grits, and Quail with Arugula. Next time we plan to go to the bar and just order appetizers!

For entrees we ordered Pan Seared Sea Scallops and Crispy Pork Belly, Farro, Brussels Sprouts, and Roasted Tomato ($22.50). The scallops were lightly seared and very sweet. We also had Grilled Beef Tenderloin, Green Beans, Oyster Mushroom and Leek Tart, Roquefort Butter ($34.95). Neither of us really like blue cheese (yes, you are allowed to boo me, if you must), so I asked if Chive Butter could be substituted. I had seen this compound butter used for another dish. Dan almost tripped over this request, but once he realized that I requested a butter that was being used he said it would not be an issue. And he was right. While the tart was too mushroomy for me, it turned out to be a good thing. The tenderloin was no small cut of meat and I wanted to savor every bite of medium rare yumminess. And all along the way Dan dropped by to refresh our wine glasses.

We could not resist peeking at the dessert menu and then ordering Profiteroles with Caramel Ice Cream drizzled with Chocolate and Caramel Sauce ($7.25). A tasty, yet fairly light dessert to end the evening.

We thoroughly enjoyed dining at Fat Canary and will sing her praises to all who are willing to listen. One more interesting morsel – The restaurant name does not refer to a bird, but alcohol. It references a poem by John Lyly from the Colonial era: “Oh for a bowl of fat Canary, rich Palermo, sparkling sherry…”

Fat Canary
410 Duke of Gloucester St.
Merchants Square
Williamsburg, VA

Fat Canary on Urbanspoon

Sunday, December 28, 2008

A Welcome New Year's Announcement - A Smoke-Free Bistro Twenty Seven

I just discovered that Bistro Twenty Seven will officially become smoke-free on Jan. 1. Hats off to everyone at the corner of Broad and Adams for enabling all to enjoy their wonderful fare in an atmosphere that showcases the skills and aromas of the kitchen.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Holiday Tripping Down Monument

Not as many festive Christmas lights are shining this year, but we found a few gems. Seasons Greetings to all!

Where in Richmond?

My hubby and I ate here last night. Do you recognize it?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Standing Rib Roast

Last year I attempted to make a standing rib roast. I was a virgin rib roaster and I still had my crappy old Sears Outlet stove. And little did I know, but I selected a pretty crappy recipe to follow, too. Needless to say, it sucked. The seasoning, not tasty; the meat, too rare. What an expensive disappointment.

I opted to cook a regular old turkey for Christmas this year.

And then The Fresh Market went ahead and featured Standing Rib Roasts for $7.99 a pound. I felt a faint tug in the direction of the meat counter. No, no, no. I only stopped in to pick up a couple of pork chops for dinner. Oh dear, one of the roasts appeared small, in fact, it was a one-rib rib roast. I broke down and purchased the thing.

I found a recipe for Rosemary Rib Roast in the Williams-Sonoma Holiday Entertaining recipe book and prepared the roast thusly this past Sunday:

3 pound rib roast (3 inches thick), tied
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped
2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
1 teaspoon pepper, or to taste

Let roast stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Combine butter, rosemary, salt, and pepper. Slather the butter mixture all over the roast. Place the roast in a roasting pan, rib side up. Let the roast cook for 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and roast for 1 hour. Take roast out of oven and loosely tent with foil. Let the roast rest for about 15 minutes. Slice thinly and serve.

I now understand the joys of a Standing Rib Roast. What beefy deliciousness. I really think the high heat at the beginning made all of the difference (and a more manageable piece of beef).

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Tiny Bubbles at Affordable Prices

Many many moons ago I graduated from drinking crap fizzy wine (think J. Roget) to champagne (Moet Red Star). What a huge eureka moment! I finally got it. And to this day I enjoy drinking the real stuff. Unfortunately, my champagne tastes have not been wedded to a champagne budget. So, while I enjoy proseccos, cremants, and cavas from various regions, I am always on the look out for French bubbly under $30.

About a month ago, we ran across Jeanmaire Cuvee Brut from Epernay at Trader Joe's for $18.99. We only purchased one bottle just to try it. And last night we finally opened the thing. Yeasty smells emanated from the bottle and had us salivating. The taste was a bit applely and not too acidic. We congratulated ourselves on our good fortune and drank it with a frisee salad with diced Surry sausage and fried eggs.

Now I need to make another trip to the Far West End.

Friday, December 05, 2008

All Dressed Up and Oh So Yummy

Thanksgiving memories. Although Christmas remains my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving ranks right up there because I get to cook dinner. Granted, I have to cook in another kitchen far, far away without my favorite pots and utensils, but I still get to indulge in preparing a feast. (If I could fix a prodigious feast at my house, Thanksgiving would surpass the Ho Ho Ho variety.)

This year the menu included:

Roasted Duck
Mashed Potatoes
Roasted Fennel, Carrots, and Red Bell Peppers
Pear and Cranberry Pie

(I also cooked a turkey so we could have traditional turkey sandwiches and to make two huge pots of turkey soup.)

Last year, I had prepared roasted fennel and carrots. What a hit. This year the dish was expected. I was happy to oblige. What made a lasting impression this year turned out to be the dressing. I make my own, of course, but never use a recipe, and I’ve never fixed the same thing twice. This year bestowed upon me an even greater challenge. We travel to Knoxville for Thanksgiving every year and I usually make my way to The Fresh Market to pick up all of the items for all of the fixin’s. Not this year. The road from my mother-in-law’s house to the store had turned into a parking lot on Wed. afternoon. We settled on going to Kroger’s.

The dilemma in going to Kroger was the sausage and the bread for the dressing. I really detest the Johnson’s brand of Italianesque sausage. So I dewired my brain (and did this while all of suburbia mulled around in Kroger’s), and thought “Maybe breakfast sausage would do?” Three choices stood out – Jimmy Dean Sage, Tennessee Pride, and Mayo’s. The sage tube tempted me first but after reading that both Jimmy and the Pride contained MSG, I opted for Mayo’s from Lenoir City, TN. This tube was wrapped in cloth and then encased in plastic. I then mulled over bread options. Slim pickings, but the Hawaiian Sweet Bread won out. Both of these selections turned out to be quite excellent choices. Mayo’s sausage was smoked and smelled devilishly divine and the Hawaiian Sweet Bread had a texture akin to the colonial Sally Lunn variety.

Now, here is my attempt to recreate this recipe in a written form.

pjpink’s Thanksgiving Dressing

1 sweet onion, diced
1 pound smoked sausage, preferably Mayo’s from Lenoir City TN (Surry sausage may also work well)
1 round loaf of Hawaiian Sweet Bread, torn into pieces
2 Bartlett pears, peeled, cored, and diced
2/3 cup dried cranberries
2/3 cup chicken broth (approximately)
½ cup of Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.Sauté the onion in a small amount of olive oil over medium heat until tender and translucent. Add the sausage and cook until done, breaking up the sausage into tiny chunks as it cooks. When the sausage is just done, place the mixture in a bowl and set aside to cool. In a bowl large enough to accommodate all of the ingredients, add the torn bread pieces, pears, and cranberries. Add the cooled sausage mixture and the parsley. Pour in about half of the broth and begin mixing the ingredients with your hands. Add the rest of the broth as needed until all of the bread is moist and everything begins sticking together. Place the dressing into a 9” x 13” glass or ceramic baker. Bake for about 30 – 45 minutes. Serve whilst hot.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

a date with mommy and daddy

My husband and I met mommy and daddy gourmet at Tastebud's American Bistro for a lovely "blind date" dinner the weekend before Thanksgiving. mommy and me ordered the cassoulet (I still can't resist the duck confit!). daddy and hubby went for the burgers - cooked exactly to order. We also drooled as pizzas went past us to grace another table. This time, before the cassoulet I ordered an appetizer of the evening - roasted pear with warmed goat cheese and crispy proscuitto. Yummmmmy! It was a cold and blustery night. The roasted pear, the duck, along with the wonderful conversation made the night absolutely perfect. The "icing" of the evening came with the "to die for" sighs and moans from daddy gourmet as he devoured his bread pudding for dessert.

It was such a pleasure to meet and eat with another couple who enjoy food and wine as much as we do. (Let's do it again real soon!)

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

2006 Ermitage du Pic Saint Loup, Coteaux du Languedoc

Let me repeat: 2006 Ermitage du Pic Saint Loup, Coteaux du Languedoc. I tasted this wine back in August at one of J. Emerson's monthly tastings. I bought a bottle and put it on my wine rack. A couple of weeks ago we finally opened the bottle and were thrilled! Dark fruit, but not jammy. Full bodied, but not barnyardy. A veritable delight at $17.95 per bottle. And the last time I went into J. Emerson, I purchased the last two on the shelf.

I hope they acquire some more.