Sunday, August 31, 2008

Surry Sausage

Last week my parents and grandmother came up for brunch (and to admire my new stove!). The weather was nice enough to eat outside. Our meal consisted of mimosas, fresh peaches and blackberries, frisee aux lardons, roasted potatoes, Surry sausage, and coffee. A lovely meal.

Have you ever had Surry sausage? These smoked pork sausage links, made right down the road by S. Wallace Edwards and Sons are delightful. We encountered them many years ago while living in Williamsburg. The Grocer's store in Colonial Williamsburg carried them (along with Edwards smoked petite Virginia ham), and we treated ourselves to them on occasion. The Fresh Market also carries them here in Richmond for $4.99 a pound. I usually pan fry my links and eat them plain or sprinkled with Parmesean cheese. But these wonderful local morsels can also add deliciousness to soups, beans, and stews as well.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Follow the Cook Shoutout

I want to thank Follow the Cook for featuring my Shrimp and Pasta Salad recipe on her blog. Please check out her yummy recipes as well.

From The Barrel Thief to Brazil

Thursday evening and we found ourselves stepping out on the town once again. First of all, I received a last-minute invite from colleagues to join them at The Barrel Thief in Short Pump for wine and nibbles. I had never experienced the place and eagerly accepted. Wines by the glass ranged in price from $6 - $14 (12 choices in all). The best part was the option of tasting up to two wines before choosing what would be imbibed. I loved this feature! I tasted a 2005 Brouilly ($12 a glass) and a 2005 Hess Mt. Veeder Cabernet blend ($9 a glass). In the end I went with the hearty cab (well-deserved after a day at work!) All wines were also available by the bottle.

To nibble we sampled the local mixed green salad with a light lemon basil vinaigrette ($6), roasted garlic white bean dip with crostini ($6), a cheese sampler that featured a soft goat cheese with truffle ($10), and a sliced baguette with extra virgin olive oil and a balsamic reduction for dipping ($2). All yummy. I especially liked the goat cheese. The slice looked a bit like brie with the rind (which I simply cannot eat), but The Thief did not offer anything so offensive, thank goodness.

The Barrel Thief features bread from The Flour Garden and microgreens from Manakintowne Specialty Growers. When I return (with hubby in tow, hopefully) other delectable offerings, besides the wine, include Teriyaki Tenderloin ($14), Serrano Ham and Manchego Panini ($8), and Nutella and Pound Cake Panini ($5). I am now salivating over the opening of the second Thief on Patterson.

After laughter and conversation at The Barrel Thief I hooked up with my spouse and we travelled further north to Ashland Coffee and Tea to hear a wonderful Brazilian jazz group – Quatro na Bossa. Folks – go see them. They are playing a couple of times at Havana ’59 in September. The sultry vocals of Laura Ann Boyd spread an infectiously happy samba fever to the entire audience. We finished the evening with an espresso milkshake.

Yes, I had quite a lovely evening and you are free to be envious.

Barrel Thief on Urbanspoon

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Date Night at NSG

We did not know it was date night, but my car roof has a hole in it, so I could not stop at the grocery store to pick up something to cook. When hubby arrived home we decided to visit our local watering hole - Northside Grille on Bellevue. And it was date night - a Caesar Salad, Rolls, a Bowl of Pasta, and a bottle of wine - to share for $30. The pasta dish changes each week. Last night it was linguini with Italian sausage and spinach with a roasted red pepper cream sauce. Yummy! The pasta bowl was large and I enjoyed the leftovers for lunch today. The wine was a 2005 Crane Lake Cab from CA.

Date Night is every Wed. at Northside Grille. A cheap way to have a decent meal. And, you can eat at the bar if you want like we do.

Northside Grill on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Free Wine (and beer)

All Total Wine locations are having a free Pinot Noir (and beer) tasting on Saturday August 30 from 12-6 PM. They promise 15 pours and appetizers.

Free is good...

Monday, August 25, 2008

Lemaire - Doubly Disappointing

Last month my hubby and I went to Lemaire at the Jefferson to celebrate his birthday. Big mistake! He wrote the following letter to express our feelings that evening:

To the Management and Staff at Lemaire and the Jefferson Hotel:

My wife and I dined at your establishment last night and, frankly, our experience was less than stellar. In fact, sub-par is the word that comes to mind.

We did experience some good things. The hostess held out a warm greeting and seated us at a window. She also congratulated me on my birthday. It was very nice that you read my comments/request on the Open Table reservation and thank you for utilizing Open Table. Our cocktails were delicious and refreshing. We liked that the bar featured a Pimm’s Cup and a Tequila Sunrise. We ordered a 2005 Chateauneuf-du-Pape from your wine list. A 2006 appeared. For an establishment such as yours, not to have updated the list to reflect the change in year or at least for the staff to alert us to this fact is an oversight. The wine was presented to us and I was asked to taste it before I had finished my cocktail. A minor glitch in attention to detail, but still a glitch all the same.

For appetizers we ordered the Vidalia Onion Bisque and the Fried Oysters. Both were excellent. It shows that you take pride in your seafood selection. We definitely thought we were in for a real treat for the remainder of the evening. Alas, it was not meant to be. I was so delighted by the sweetness and quality of the oysters; I asked the waiter where they were from. He said he would follow up with the kitchen. He never came back with the information, even though he cleared our plates and delivered new dishes. The wait between our first and second courses was longer than it should have been. Another table arrived after us and had finished two courses and left by the time our second course arrived. This may have explained why our spoon bread was room temperature. If this dish had been served piping hot, it would have been the hit of the evening. My wife would have raved about it for months; instead, she took a few bites, commented on the lack of heat, and we took it home with us. This morning she microwaved it for breakfast and thought it was much better hot. My filet mignon, although a good cut of meat and cooked to my order, was lacking some of the promised flavors. Did you use bourbon and brie in the dish?

The most disappointing and to the point of downright annoying was the end of our meal. As we waited for second courses to arrive, most other diners had left. As we made our way through the second course we thought at least we will have a quiet romantic end to our meal. We never should have entertained this thought. Even though we were still eating, the wait staff began noisily setting up for breakfast the next day. This was at 9 PM. As we ate, all we could hear was clatter from silverware and dishes. In fact, one waiter clattered down coffee cups and 10 minutes later another waiter took them up again with the same vigorous amount of clatter. The noise bordered on rudeness as we hurried through the rest of the meal so we could escape to a more peaceful landscape. We did not hurry enough. The dining room next to ours also started setting up the breakfast buffet. We heard what sounded like pots and pans crashing down an interminable number of steps. It was so loud, my wife jumped and exclaimed about some potential kitchen disaster. 10 minutes later, we heard a similar cacophony. We then knew it must be some regular nightly ritual. But why would this occur when diners are still present? To top it off, my wife was presented a piece of birthday cake and was congratulated by the waiter instead of myself. The thought was appreciated but the attention to detail was again missing.

We moved to Richmond six years ago and always wanted to experience Lemaire’s storied hospitality, service, and cuisine. Unfortunately, at this point, we are not likely to return and we cannot recommend this place to others. I hope with the coming renovation, that not only the surface features will improve (particularly the fuzzy sound speaker tortuously sending out classical music), but that kitchen coordination, wait service, and attention to details will also be addressed.

Thank you for your attention,

About a week later an employee from the Jefferson (my husband did not catch his name, unfortunately) called and apologized profusely and then told my husband to expect something in the mail. We were pleased that we received a phone call and thought it would be some sort of gift certificate.

That was three weeks ago. We waited patiently, but three weeks seemed to be more than enough time to receive something in the mail.

Needless to say, we have been disappointed twice now due to lack of service and attention to details. Why would I or anyone else shell out big bucks for such a lousy experience?

Lemaire on Urbanspoon

Thursday, August 21, 2008

What Will You Eat?

Here’s a chance for a little interactivity for all the bloggers out there. Below is a list of 100 things that Very Good Taste from the UK thinks every good omnivore should have tried at least once in their life. The list includes fine food, strange food, everyday food and even some pretty bad food - but a good omnivore should really try it all. Don’t worry if you don’t recognize everything in the hundred, either; Wikipedia has the answers.

Here’s the deal:
1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Red out any items that you would never consider eating.

Here is my list (with a few comments thrown in):
1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile (I'm counting this because I like alligator)
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich

14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle

18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream (DeLucca's is awesome)

21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper

27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea (tea at The Jefferson!)
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads

63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs (I had these at CanCan and they were delish!)
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum

82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant. (I consider Charlie Trotter's to be sufficient)
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers

89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa

94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee

100. Snake

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

SOF at J. Emerson Aug. 21

J. Emerson on Grove Ave.will be tasting wines from the South of France on Thursday, August 21 from 5:30-7:30 PM. The free line up includes:

2006 Domaine Saint Andre de Figuiere, Cotes de Provence
2007 Domaine de la Mordoree, Lirac, White Rhone
2006 Ermitage du Pic Saint Loup, Coteaux du Languedoc
2002 Chateau Pradeaux, Bandol Rouge

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Kitchen Renovation Saga Part 11 - A Kick-Ass Stove

At last, after years of waiting, I finally have the stove! A Wolf 6 burner all gas baby. It's beautiful! I am overjoyed that I can now bring a large pot of water to a roiling boil and that I can truly simmer. I'm still working out the oven features with the convection piece, but I'll figure it out. And since the stove and hood were installed we were able to complete the cabinet installation.

We also purchased a kitchen island with a decent work space area and a good amount of storage. Yeah!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Restaurant Wine Pricing

Anything Wine links to a great article about restaurant wine pricing. If you ever order wine in a restaurant, it's a must read.

Where Is The Joy In A Crunchy Bean?

On Wednesday evening we tootled over to Six Burner. It was nice to see them busy. We took advantage of their $10 carafe of red special. On this night we enjoyed a Powers Cabernet Sauvignon. A yummy bargain, indeed. My husband ordered the fried oyster appetizer and the heirloom tomato and mozzarella salad to arrive at the same time. Six Burner served up a generous portion of the seafood. The salad was good, too with shaved (possibly aged?) mozzarella. I had the pork shank which was oh-so-tender and moist. It was served with sautéed Swiss chard and applewood smoked bacon lardons and an apple cider vinegar sauce. I usually detest Swiss chard, but the bacon and sauce did not let any bitter green taste touch my tongue. I was pleased until I encountered the lima beans. These beans looked fantastic – pale, plump, enticing. Alas, every single one of those suckers was crunchy. What I would consider raw with no opportunity to soak up any of the mouth-watering sauce. I have to give our waiter high praise. When he stopped by to inquire about our dinner, I had to confess that I simply could not eat the beans. He sympathized and said that was how the chef intended to serve them. But he also offered a side of garlic mashed potatoes or polenta as a substitute. I asked for the potatoes and was quite comforted. We finished our meal with illy coffee which we love to drink, but haven’t made the monetary commitment to serve at home.

So, now on to my rant. Maybe it’s because I grew up in the South, but, in my opinion, any bean – lima bean, butter bean, navy bean, pinto bean, October bean, black bean, cannellini bean, great northern bean, kidney bean, cranberry bean, or for that matter black-eyed peas needs to be COOKED! Crunch has no place in the above line up (please note, I did not include green beans in this bean roll call). The beans can be firm, but the tooth jarring simply hardness must disappear. I’ve been to a couple of places where the waiter insisted that this was the intention of the chef. To my mind it just seems like the kitchen was slacking. Where is the joy in a crunchy bean?

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Black Sheep and Watermelon

At last breakfast at The Black Sheep with the Feasting on Richmond Meetup Group. I did indeed adore the French Toast with Nutella. The dish came with warmed orange syrup which I asked to be put on the side. And while the syrup was tasty, I did not want to taint my Nutella (yes, I am a freak, but a happy freak).

My husband ordered the biscuits and sausage gravy. The gravy was not the ubiquitous thick white stuff that most places serve. This was a bit thinner with visible chunks of spicy sausage. And a steal at $4.

We both savored the Community Coffee. I ordered mine iced and added a touch of cream. My hubby had his hot and straight. Both were refilled as needed.

We also enjoyed chowing down with the other members. And discussing Deviled Eggs - should sweet pickle relish be included or not? When we inquired about the availability of the Develed Eggs at The Black Sheep, our waitress replied that they had sold out last night and that Kevin's Mom would be arriving soon with more. Kevin's Mom may need to increase her production!

If you want to meet some very nice folks and love to try new places, check them out. Lauren, the Restaurant Fairy, organizes lunch meetups, weeknight jaunts, as well as weekend adventures. Our group today boasted nine diners. Most were captivated by the French Toast, but Frittata and Rancheros Neuvos were also consumed (and looked quite yummy!). The Black Sheep offered a variety of sodas including Blenheim Ginger Ale (mild or hot) and Cheerwine (regular or diet) and served in glass bottles.

After a lovely breakfast my hubby and I made our way to the Watermelon Festival. What a fine day and we found a parking spot in the shade. Williams Bakery featured Watermelon Bread
and a variety of cupcakes

and Weezie’s offered Watermelon Beverages of the alcoholic variety.

Since we had eaten a late breakfast, food took a back seat to people watching. Because the weather was not blazing hot, we stopped by Bin 22 and enjoyed a spectacular glass of red wine – 2006 Grilos Vinho Tinto from Dao Portugal. Heavier than we expected with a bright cherriness that we could have enjoyed all day.

We hope to have the opportunity to stop by one evening to mull over an entire bottle.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Filipino Festival Visit

Thank goodness it was not any hotter at the Filipino Festival! The sun was a scorcher and there were not enough seats under the tents to view the stage (and get relief from the heat!).

We arrived a little before noon and parking was already filling up quickly. The food line seemed long, but flowed quickly. And, yes, there was lechon...

We ate heartily with the lumpia and the pancit being our favorites.

This was my plate. Clockwise from the rice I had lechon, chicken adobo, pancit, and lumpia.

Next year, if it is any hotter, we will pick up our food at the drive-thru station.

Filipino Festival Sat. August 9

I am going to check out the Filipino Festival today. It's being held from 10 AM - 8 PM at Our Lady of Lourdes, 8200 Woodman Rd. Lumpia, Pancit, Adobo, and Lechon are all on the menu. Yummy!

The Heat Is On At Pad Thai

We journeyed off the beaten path to Pad Thai for dinner last night. I had eaten there over a year ago with friends, but my husband had yet to try it. On a Friday, this place buzzed! Clearly, a popular joint and non-smoking. We were seated and ordered a pot of jasmine tea ($2.50). The last time I ate here, I raved about the steamed dumplings, so we began with steamed marinated chopped pork and shrimp wrapped in soft egg wonton and served with soy sauce ($5.95). I still loved the delicate wonton wrapper encasing the filling, but the filling did not match my fond memories. It was very heavy, thus, negating the implied lightness in the word “steamed.” They were still tasty and the soy sauce contained a sweetness that paired well with the appetizer.

For entrees, I took a traditional stance and ordered Pad Thai with Chicken – stir-fried thin rice noodle with dried bean curd, bean sprouts, peanut, scallion, radish, and egg flavored with special sauce ($8.95). My hubby chose Pad Cashew Nut with Chicken – stir-fried cashew, onion, water chestnut, scallion, and dried pepper served with jasmine rice ($8.95). Both dishes could be ordered with one’s choice of meat and one’s choice of spiciness – mild, medium, hot, or extra hot. And ingredients could also be omitted upon request. (I omitted the bean sprouts because they have always tasted like dirt to me.) Unlike some other Thai restaurants these days, medium spiciness meant these old eyes watered profusely amidst my nose running. Both dishes were chocked full of flavor. My rice noodles picked up the special sauce and the chicken was very tender. Tiny pepper flakes throughout the dish ensured that with every bite the heat increased (just think what hot would have felt like!). The Pad Cashew had a brown sauce and a mound of white meat chicken. Whole dried peppers were added to this dish. The scallions added a nice touch of color. As the heat mounted my husband contemplated a Thai beer - Singha or Chang, but muddled through without it. And while Pad Thai offered a choice of house Cabernet, Merlot, or Chardonnay, they really should look into carrying bottles of Riesling or Gewurztraminer to pair with the spicy dishes.

It was great to see this out of the way place doing well and serving delicious food and I have some spicy leftovers to enjoy for later.

Pad Thai
8456 Meadowbridge Rd.
Mechanicsville, VA 23116

Pad Thai on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 04, 2008

Zorba's in Northside

When we moved to Richmond, we were thrilled that Zorba's at 4026 MacArthur Ave. delivered. While not the ultimate pie in Richmond, a damn sight better than any of the other delivery options in my area. It took us a while to figure out the exact combination that has now become our standard - medium pizza with green peppers, onion, pepperoni, and extra cheese.

Zorba's continues to be our standby when we do not feel like cooking and want to stay at home. We are having our standard tonight along with a bottle of Enotria Barbera from Mendocino. Just what a Monday needed!

If you live in Northside, call them up at 264-5370. They need a $10 minimum to deliver and are open 7 days a week from 4-10 PM.

Zorba's Pizza on Urbanspoon

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Long Overdue for Another Visit - Cielito Lindo

Still a fantastic Mexican place. And one that we had inadvertently forsaken for quite a while. My hubby and I met 007 there last night.

It was too blazing hot to eat outside, but the blond booths and the cool interior beckoned us. I’m still fascinated by the alcoves giving homage to various icons.

Cielito Lindo continues to concoct a kick-ass margarita. All of us were partial to the Gold variety: 1800 Anejo and Cointreau on the rocks generously served in a water glass. Mmmm! We had also forgotten that the salsa contained a slightly smoky flavor which added to our delight. For starters we shared the guacamole. The perfect cool, creamy dish to begin the evening with lots of avocado chunks and the right balance of cilantro and salt.

For dinner 007 ordered her favorite (mine as well!): Talapia Verracruz – fish served with an olive and caper verde sauce. She declared it as good as ever. My hubby turned out to be in a tamale mood, which was, quite frankly, bizarre. Every time he had ever had tamales he had not cared for them. The masa was always too heavy and overpowering. Well, not this time. The masa was more akin to a light and tasty cornbread encircling a tasty pork filling. We were very impressed with the texture and the taste. I opted for the Carne Asada Tacos – spicy pork with cheese and pico de gallo. I had my choice of soft corn or flour tortillas. I chose the corn because I had the option. Very satisfying. All dishes came with Spanish-style rice and we had the option of a side of refried beans, black beans, or a black bean/corn/carrot salad.

While we were enjoying our dinner, a couple of guys walked in to pick up a catering order. Some other lucky Richmonders were also eating well this evening.

Cielito Lindo
4702 Forest Hill Ave.

Cielito Lindo Mexican on Urbanspoon