Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Tea House at Lewis Ginter

Friends gave us a couple of day passes to Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens. We decided to visit today. Although a tad humid, the sun was not cruel and most of the children relegated themselves to the small water fountain play area. We encountered a plethora of bees, butterflies, lotus flowers, roses, etc. I hope you enjoy the slide show below:

For lunch we dined at the The Tea House run by Meriwether Godsey. I've always appreciated the iris-patterned carpet and the tables today also sported irises. We arrived just before noon to a sparsely populated dining room (a few more came in as we ate) and ordered champagne cocktails (the traditional kind with brandy, bitters, and a sugar cube).

The menu offered an eclectic variety of sanwiches, salads, and heartier fare. We both took a risk and ordered something that we would normally not select. My hubby took a chance on Crook’s Corner Shrimp & Grits - stone ground grits with cheddar & Tabasco topped with large shrimp sautéed with bacon, mushrooms, scallions roasted tomato & garlic. Unfortunately, all of the ingredients except for the veggies and shrimp competed with each other for the top dog prize. Too rich, too bacony (unusual for either of us to say anything has too much bacon), too tabasco hot, too cheesy, and way too much grease/oil. The presentation was not pretty either.

My order, on the other hand, was absolutely stunning in both taste and presentation. I had Shrimp Toasts with Sambal - sliced baguette topped with avocado cream, spicy mango sambal, & chilled shrimp. The dish was served with my choice of side and I chose the watermelon and feta salad. What an excellent choice! This was a fantastic summertime dish that popped with color and flavor.

Thus, my question is this - How can a restaurant get one item bang on and beyond, yet fail miserably at another? Because this was The Tea House prices were in the $12-13 range. Not inexpensive for lunch. Perhaps sticking to salads and sandwiches (typical "tea room" fare) might be the key.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

More Fun And Produce South of the James

This morning's jaunt to the South of the James Market was fun and busy. I forgot to pick up extra cash, so we had to forego coffee and breakfast (Thistledowne Farm had some awesome looking chocolate croissants - C'est la vie). This time we scarfed up the following:

Wax beans (we really like these beans!)
Red leaf lettuce
Red spring onions
Patty pan squash (the guy offering these had a great recipe pitch - slice horizontally, brush with olive oil, sprinkle with garlic powder, salt, and pepper, and then grill; we will be grilling on Sunday!)

Here are a few photos from today:

Garlic Bread

Twice this week I have made garlic bread – the first, a downscale version; the second, a more gourmet version. Both knocked our socks off. The key ingredient was the super fresh garlic from Fertile Crescent Farm that I picked up at the South of the James Farmers Market last Saturday. The garlic was so much easier to peel and exuded that oh-so-delicious garlickyness. Here are my garlic bread variations…

Garlic Bread – Variation One

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Mince two cloves of garlic and then mash them to a paste-like consistency. Add the garlic and a pinch of salt to 2 tablespoons of softened unsalted butter. Mix well. Spread garlic mixture over 6 slices of Italian-style bread (for this version, I picked up my already sliced bread from Food Lion). Sprinkle dried oregano over the bread slices. Sprinkle grated Romano cheese over the bread slices. Place the bread in a baking pan with a rack (I like to get air between the bottom of the bread and the baking pan). Bake for 5-7 minutes or until the edges are golden brown. Yummy, yummy.

Garlic Bread – Variation Two

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Mince two cloves of garlic and then mash them to a paste-like consistency. Add the garlic and a pinch of salt to 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and mix to combine. Brush the garlic mixture over 6 slices of Italian-style bread (for this version, I picked up the bread from The Fresh Market and asked the bakery to slice it for me). Place a thin slice of fresh mozzarella on top of each bread slice. Sprinkle the mozzarella with dried oregano. Place the bread in a baking pan with a rack (I like to get air between the bottom of the bread and the baking pan). Bake for 5-7 minutes or until the edges are golden brown. Delightful.

Whether downhome or upscale, it’s all good!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

A Trip to New India

On Friday we went to New India on Lakeside for dinner. Our friend really likes Indian food and has raved about this spot in particular. Since we had a decent Indian food experience in London, we decided to continue our culinary journey.

I have to admit that the outside of the place did not look very inviting. In fact as we approached the building we wondered if it was open. The small sign on the door did indicate open. We were a tad early. As we entered, the dining space was completely empty. No wait staff could be seen. We peeked around the corner and from the kitchen the owner waved and warmly invited us to a table. As we waited for our friend, we were presented with papadum along with tamarind chutney and mint chutney. The flatbread was okay – plain and grainy. The tamarind chutney had a sweet spicy flavor which I liked a lot. The mint chutney was hot, which surprised us.

Upon the arrival of our friend we read over the extensive menu. Very tough to decide. Our friend ordered Lamb Vindaloo ((boneless lamb in a hot and tangy sauce with potatoes and a touch of vinegar) and Garlic Naan. I was torn between the Tandoori Chicken and the Chicken Tikka Masala. The owner explained that the tandoori dish was dry and the tikka masala dish had a sauce. I was not quite sure what he meant, but I ordered the Chicken Tikka Masala (marinated in spiced yogurt, cooked in mildly spiced tomato, onion gravy, and creamy sauce). I also ordered Garlic Naan. Both my friend and I asked for medium hotness. My husband ordered Tandoori Chicken Tikka (boneless chicken marinated in yogurt sauce with special herbs and spices and grilled in tandoor). And he decided to try the Peshawari Naan (stuffed with sugar, raisins, and coconut).

Our friend devoured the Vindaloo with exclamations of satisfaction interjected throughout the meal. The tandoori arrived on a sizzling platter which reminded us of fajitas. And dry meant no type of sauce at all (which suited my hubby), but this did not mean devoid of flavor. The chicken breasts had been marinated and exuded deliciousness. My spouse was also impressed at how sweet and tasty the near-raw veggies (onion, cabbage, and green peppers) were. The tandoor was piled high with meat and veggies. We took almost half of the chicken home with us. He also enjoyed the naan. It held just the right amount of sweetness without being overpowering. He could not detect any coconut, however.

My dish presented itself in a cute metal bowl containing boneless chicken and a lot of sauce along with a side dish of basmati rice. What a wonderful blending of tomato/onion, creaminess, and spicy hotness. I appreciated the complexity of flavors. And the Garlic Naan – I could have sat there and eaten this flatbread all night.

I have to admit that we continue to be Indian food novices. We definitely do not have a discerning or sophisticated palate, but we do know if we like a thing or not. We enjoyed New India and plan to return to try other dishes.

New India
5516 Lakeside Ave.
Richmond, VA 23228
Eat In or Take Out

New India the Indian Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Saturday, June 20, 2009

South of the James Market

It's happening and everybody is doing it (even at 8 AM it's tough finding a parking space). The vendors (veggie or otherwise) present everything with pride. Today hubby and I bought:

Fresh garlic

Oakleaf lettuce


Wax beans



Blanchard's iced coffee (way too hot for the hot stuff!)

Lavender cheesecake (and shamelessly devoured it for breakfast)

We drooled over everything else (especially the barbeque!). Here are a few vendor links:

The Cracked Egg Bakery

Lovers Retreat Farm

Blanchard's Coffee

Victory Farms

And the link to The Market Umbrella.

And a few pictures to tempt the few of you that have not experienced the market. See you next time.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Comfort Food - South of the Border Style

Yesterday we were heading over to The Wine Cellar to peruse their offerings. Did you know that John from Anything Wine works there now? Go see him (or any of the rest of their helpful staff).

Anyhoo, we decided to try Chicken Fiesta for lunch. I know, don't rag on me too much. This place has been open for quite a while and everyone has raved about them. Well, we finally made it. The counter person warmly greeted us and since we had not been there before, she had us try a fried yucca while we reviewed the menu. Mmmmm, such crisp, starchy goodness. It was served with a mayo/mustard/garlic sauce (I liked the sauce, hubby did not, but did like the yucca).

I ordered the 1/4 Charcoal Roasted Chicken (dark meat) with rice and fried yucca and had a bottle of Jarritos pineapple soda. The soda was a bit too artificial-tasting for me, but the chicken was comfort food at its best - plain roasted with a crispy skin. I also enjoyed the yellow rice and did I mention how good the fried yucca was??? The chicken also came with a small container of very hot green sauce. Our couterperson made sure we did not mistake it for guacamole as some patrons have done.

My husband tried the Chicken Sandwich with fried yucca. Roasted white meat chicken with your choice of toppings including peppers and onions served on a sub roll. Hubby said that the next time he orders it, he will have it plain to let the chicken shine through.

We were well pleased and even more pleased when we learned that Chicken Fiesta will be opening another roost on Broad in the near future. Yee Haa!

Chicken Fiesta on Urbanspoon

It Suxx Not

During our obligatory trip to TN to visit family we ran across this wine and had to try it.

Full-bodied and bold without the awful jamminess of some South Australia Shiraz. The only thing that did suck was the price - $23.50. A bit steep for regular purchasing.

River City Supper Club #4 - A Drug Dose

On Friday, I renewed my addiction to Tarrant's Cafe and the other members of our club began their induction into intoxication. I rediscovered or learned quite a few things that evening:

  • Never work out so hard the morning of Supper Club that you throw your back out and miss the food drugs altogether (sorry G, better luck next time).
  • Tarrant's menu is incredibly varied and mouth-watering. Everyone in our party changed his/her mind 5 times before we ordered (and not because the wait staff was slow - Julia took care great of us).
  • The garlic knots are still to-die-for (everyone had this opinion except my hubby who is so very picky about bread - this is one of his few flaws).
  • All entrees come with soup or salad; a vanishing practice in this day and age.
  • Whitehall Lane Vineyards Napa produces an incredibly delicious Sauvignon Blanc and Tarrant's carries it at a very decent price.
  • Tarrant's continues to carry Jean-Luc Colombo Cotes du Rhone Les Abeilles Rouge at a tasty price and continues to feature a special wine (Ravenswood Petite Syrah on this night) not on the regular wine list.
  • I confirmed with Julia - our lovely, beaming waitress - that screwcap wines are much harder to open that those with a regular cork.
  • The fish entrees were particularly good and the side of barely basil risotto was a bit of creamy ecstasy.
  • Alas, the bread pudding has coconut in it, much to my dismay since I absolutely detest the stuff (but to the future delight of G. since he received the the dish via carryout box).
  • And I am hopelessly inept at remembering to carry my camera along to the restaurant to document our wonderful experience.

Tarant's - still our drug of choice.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

A Letter of Thanks to My Aunt and Uncle

Dear Aunt and Uncle,

Thank you ever so much for living vicariously and treating your daughter, her husband, myself, and my hubby to dinner even if you were not able to attend. We decided to go to Can Can, which you have enjoyed in the past. We began with cocktails and a Salumi Plate (Cured and Fresh Sausages, Jambon de Bayonne, Cornichons, and Whole Grain Mustard) along with bread and butter. We ordered a bottle of 2006 Brouilly to enjoy with dinner. A very nice Beaujolais that your son-in-law praised. Your daughter took a sip and declared that she might could drink it, thus, my most wonderful aunt, you may be able to try it, too!

For dinner we all ordered items that we could not or did not readily prepare at home:

Roast Lamb Loin and Braised Lamb Shoulder with Sautéed Mustard Greens, Rosemary Potatoes, Fava Beans, and Lamb Jus

Salmon au Poivre with Zucchini Puree, Roasted Baby Zucchini, Patty Pan Squash, and Roasted Tomatoes

Roasted Monkfish with Jambon de Bayonne, Peppers, Fennel, Crushed Potatoes, Haricot Vert, and Smoked Paprika Broth

Pancetta Wrapped Trout with Melted Red Onion, Black Radish, and Baby White Turnip

We ended the meal with Apple Babka (Sweet Yeast Bread soaked in Apple Syrup, Apple Butterscotch Ice Cream , and Apple Fritter) for dessert.

Afterwards, we retired to our house to converse over cognac that we had brought over from our trip to London. What great conversation about food, wine, liqueurs, house remodeling, Virginia wine, children, pets, sleeping late, etc.

What a fantastic evening! Next time we hope you can accompany us.

Your ever grateful niece.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

A Favorite Italian

Vietti Nebbiolo. Wow!

River City Supper Club #3

Mommy and Daddy Gourmet hosted the latest episode of River City Supper Club. You can read about it here. Let me say that all of the food was delish! I really liked the olive and homemade ricotta cheese torte and the bacon, quince paste, and goat cheese on crackers (great melding of strong flavors!). And all of us drooled over the ceviche!

Once again, a great time was enjoyed by all members. I wanted to post a few more tasty pictures of our evening.