Friday, December 31, 2010

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Hemingway

DSC_0661, originally uploaded by pjpink.
A Hemingway cocktail at Amuse. Vodka, citrus, and grapefruit foam. Refreshing and oh-so-drinkable. On this night the table service was delightful.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Drool-worthy Parsnip Bisque

DSC_0406, originally uploaded by pjpink.
A couple of weeks ago, I took the day off and hubby and I finished up our Christmas shopping. We stopped in Amuse for a well deserved respite and enjoyed parsnip bisque with serrano bits. The soup was extremely good (I'm still drooling). Please order it while it's still on the menu.

Unfortunately the service was less than stellar. I've eaten at Amuse several times both at table and at the bar. Table service has been good; bar service has knocked out socks off. I'm sure that this one time was an anomaly.

It's just a shame to ruin such outstanding food with less than adequate service.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Snow Again

DSC_0158, originally uploaded by pjpink.

Here's hoping all of you are safe and warm!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Traditions

Most of us have some kind of holiday tradition. For me it's a blend of childhood Christmas past and a married Christmas present which I hope lasts for many years into Christmas future.

Today we awoke at my parents' house a couple of hours south of Richmond on the edge of the North Carolina border. Kids, parents, grandparents, - wild excitement of ripping into packages and then consuming ham rolls, apple dump cobbler, and pounds of bacon. We eat lounging in the living room or standing in the kitchen. We attempt to avoid the remote control tiny cars or giggling electronic guinea pigs.

My hubby and I then pack up and head back to Richmond. It's a quiet drive listening to carols of the season and lost in thought gazing upon the stark winter country landscape.

Upon arrival home we kiss and snuggle with our kitties. Haul presents and gifts of food into the house and light the Christmas trees (yes, I have more than one). We snack on smoked eye of round, goat cheese, pepper jelly, and crackers. And then pop open a bottle of champagne. This year a Heidsieck Monopole Blue Top. We always crack open the real bubbly for Christmas mid-day. Lovely and yeasty. The right prelude for opening our gifts (this year included bottles of sambuca and anejo tequila!).

After presents, I make egg nog for after dinner. The nog is my own recipe. The only change this year is using vanilla infused Wild Turkey bourbon.

And this year, snow. An actual white Christmas. We walk around the neighborhood and enjoy the flakes as they begin to cover the ground and trees.

A wee nap before starting Christmas dinner. Dinner is always just the two of us and the menu changes each year (except for some type of mashed potatoes - these are a must-have). This year we enjoy salt and pepper encrusted filet mignons with a red wine shallot sauce as well as garlic mashed potatoes and sauteed green beans with shallots. To drink... a 1994 Heitz Cellar Cabernet Sauvignon.

I hope you are having a fabulous holiday season and enjoying old or new traditions.

Cheers and Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Christmas Eve!

DSC_0578, originally uploaded by pjpink.

May today be over the top with joy and happiness!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Getting Our Winter Tasty On

While Thursday was a snow day, I still had to work. Luckily, I could work from my own abode, but after many intense hours, I needed a break. Night had fallen, the snow had stopped and the world glistened with the fluffy white stuff and a myriad of festive holiday lights. We bundled up in heavy duty Army/Navy coats, insulated hiking boots, and nanook of the north hats and trudged over to Tastebuds American Bistro.

Along the way we took in some decorations


espied others out for a stroll

Strolling in the Snow

and encountered this cute fellow

Hi There!

Once inside and shed of our heavy winter gear, we warmed up with an Italian Whiskey Sour and a Sazerac (both made with rye). And then selected a Duckhorn Decoy Red for dinner (so glad this is on the wine list - yummy!).


And on this night, we could not resist the specials. To start we shared Portuguese kale soup. Warm, smokey, hints of paprika.


And then we had red beans and rice with braised pork, andouille, and greens.


Delicious! and appropriate for a cold wintery evening. I am not a greens fan, but I was able to eat some of mine without gagging (this is, indeed, a huge compliment to the chef and kitchen, really). My hubby sang their praises and thoroughly enjoyed his veggies. Being a meat girl, I liked the pork. Nice, tender chunks that could be easily cut with a spoon. The andouille did not overpower the dish and let the brasied pork do most of the work making this dish delicious. And we had ample servings to take home for leftovers. A nice relaxing dinner to make us forget the worries of the world.

Tastebuds American Bistro will be hosting dinner on New Years Eve with a 6 PM seating and an 8:45 PM seating. The late seating may be full by now, but if you want an early dinner, call them at 804-261-6544. 4 courses for $50 per person plus tax. A couple of items that caught my eye: Duck Ragout en Croute with Blueberry Confit and and House Made Orange Sherbert with Chocolate Truffle and Aged Pedro Jimenez Sherry Sauce.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A Double Dose of Food Happiness

Last weekend we had opportunities to dine at both Wild Ginger and Osaka at River Road. Yummy, yummy!

We went to Wild Ginger after partaking in the wine tasting at Vino Market. Vino tasted out an unusual South African white that was awesome! The name began with a "C." It was so good they sold out and I had to order some. Unfortunately, the weather has deterred me from picking it up. If you ask for it, Hunter and Dave will know what you are looking for.

Anyhow, we stepped into Wild Ginger fairly early and the place was fairly empty and could easily accomodate a couple without reservations. Later on all of the tables were filled.


Always a plethora of delectable menu items and specials. This time we both decided to have steak for the main course, so we ordered a bottle of Ladera Cabernet Sauvignon to enjoy with the meal.While decent, not the best considering the price. We would have been better off choosing The Prisoner. Oh well, we wanted to try something we had not tasted before and sometimes disappointment ensues.


No matter, the food was fantastic. To start we shared the special lobster tempura roll with lettuce, avocado, and kani. Lovely.


For entrees hubby ordered the special teriyaki glazed NY Strip with asparagus and three oysters rockefeller.


And I had the filet mignon with fried wontons stuffed with wasabi mashed potatoes and served with a black pepper sauce.


My spouse's steak was HUGE and tasty (we had to take some of this beef home). And the glaze was very light, so the sweetness did not overpower the dish. The oysters were cheesy and satisfying. My filet was plain, but perfect and oh-so-tender. I liked the black pepper sauce that came on the side. I could use as little or as much as I wanted. Nice touch. The wontons were a cute side dish with hints of wasabi, but nothing that blasted out one's sinuses.

No dessert - we were stuffed and happy.

A couple of evenings later we popped into Osaka.


This time we ordered the Patricia Green Osaka Cuvee. Osaka managed to obtain its own blend from the famed pinot noir producer.


When we tasted it, the wine seemed a bit on the thin side and young (2009). Not what we were used to from other Patty Green offerings. We sipped and ordered the special appetizer to share: smoked duck spring rolls.


The spring rolls were amazing. The meat was slightly smoked. The wine paired very well with this dish.

For entrees, hubby selected the shrimp and vegetable tempura. Great shrimp, but he was dissappointed with the veggies. He was not expecting sweet potato or plantains and the broccoli and zucchini did not taste fresh.


I had the shrimp tempura roll. Always good. And the yellowtail and scallion roll.


This tuna roll with the soy sauce was the quintessential food pairing with the Osaka Cuvee. Absolutely incredible! I highly recommend this wine/sushi combination. It's difficult to pair reds with sushi and given our initally assessment of the Osaka Cuvee, we thought we were destined for disappointment. It was so nice to be overwhelmingly wowed.


Sunday, December 12, 2010

A Tacky Light Encounter

DSC_0006, originally uploaded by pjpink.

On our way home from Wild Ginger we cruised in search of festive lights.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Definitely Not BFF

Right before Thanksgiving we decided to dine at Amici's. The last time we were there was before the renovation. We sat on the patio with the outdoor heaters keeping us warm. It was an intimate, magical setting and we had some good food.

This time, not so much. The patio is now enclosed and is bright, crowded, and loud. We chose to stay anyway because we remembered the delicious fare. One waiter seated us and reviewed the specials. The waiters then switched up on us and our new one spouted the specials again (leaving one of them off of his list). No matter. We ordered an inexpensive Valpolicella and was served a bread basket with a garlic spread. The bread was fine. The garlic spread was more doughy than garlicky, really quite bland.

For entrees hubby ordered penne pasta with a piedmontese style meat sauce. Similar to bolognese. As soon as he had a bite he leaned over to me and said mine was better. While a decent dish, a bit pricey if I can make something better at home. I decided to have baked homemade cannelloni pasta filled with veal in a tomato cream sauce. Very creamy, very cheesy and absolutely no flavor at all. I ate half of it and did not ask for a to go box. Is cannelloni not supposed to have any taste??

Our waiter asked us if we wanted dessert twice and took a long time bringing us our bill.

After some really good recent experiences with the Richmond restaurant scene, Amici's only served up bitter disappointment. It was definitely not the old friend we remembered.

Amici Ristorante on Urbanspoon

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Happy Happy Sparkling Sparkling

Tastebuds American Bistro hosted a divine sparkling wine dinner last night. We were fortunate enough to have attended the sold out affair. As usual Tastebuds served up thoughtful imaginative pairings.

Course 1
Sweet Corn and Aged Cheddar Flan with Smithfield Ham, Micro Salad, and Blackberry Vinaigrette
Fitzritter Sparkling Riesling, Germany

Probably the best food/wine pairing of the evening. The riesling stood up to all of the flavors of the dish, especially the spicy micro greens. And when sipping with the flan it enhanced the cheddarness of the flan.

Course 2
Autumn Squash Gnocchi with Calvados Gastrique, Crispy Pork Belly, and Local Fuji Apple
Santa Margherita Prosecco, Italy

Hubby could not stop raving about the pork belly and I liked the gnocchi with the syrupy Calvados drizzle. The prosecco was our least favorite of the sparling choices.

Course 3
Pan Roasted Black Grouper with Brunoise of Root Vegetable, Lemon-Fennel Essence, and Lavender Butter.
Baumard Cremat de Loire, France

The French sparkling was very herbaceous with a hint of anise. An unusual taste, but a great choice for this course. The lavender butter that bledned into the dish was pure genius. And I truly enjoyed the grouper. Good restaurants will eventually turn me into a fish eater.

Course 4
Duo of Duck - Sliced Breast with Leg Confit Bread Pudding and Curried Pumpkin Sauce
Barbolini Grasparosa Lambrusco, Italy


I signed up for this wine dinner because of the duck course. The breast was sliced and medium to medium rare. Yummy! But the leg confit bread pudding was to die for. So rich and flavorful. I hope they offer this on the regular menu. And, yes, we had an Italian red sparkler to imbibe. It worked well with the dish and curried sauce.

Course 5
Creamy Brie, Bartlet Pear Marmalade, Polenta Cookie, and Sour Cherry Coulis
Cresta Azul Semi-Sparkling Cava, Spain


I am not a brie fan and am still not a brie fan, but I enjoyed the polenta cookie and cherry sauce. I thought the cava was not as sweet as it should have been for this dish.

What an incredible evening. It was great to have such a warm, glowing feeling on a particularly chilly evening.


Tastebuds ususally hosts wine dinners about once a month. They are $50 per person and are always good.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Last Day of SOJ

Farewell South of the James Market until next year. I want to thank all of the participating vendors. Both hubby and I looked forward to going to the market every week. You guys work hard and produce lovely fresh produce as well as other delights. I was not able to take any photos today, but here are a few from before Thanksgiving.






A Fave

A Fave, originally uploaded by pjpink.

One of my favorite places to eat in Richmond.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Tribute to Wonderful Restaurant Staff

It's so nice to go into a favorite restaurant and be recognized, indeed, appreciated. I'm sure all of us search for that special place with good staff and good food. And good staff must come first! Last week we found ourselves patronizing two such places: Bouchon and Tastebuds American Bistro.

When we walked up to the bar at Bouchon Olivier immediately recognized us and knew that the last time we had sat down at Bouchon was during the InLight exhibition. How awe-inspiring! We ordered a nice Chinon (cabernet franc)


and then perused the bar menu finally deciding upon trout and chips


and the burger and frites.


The trout was light and topped with almonds, herbs, and a squeeze of lemon. A touch fishy, but I'm hyper-sensitive to fishiness, and still a nice dish for a nice price. The housemade chips were simply divine. My hubby raved over the burger (and the frites were, of course, wonderful). He kept remarking that the burger was not really seasoned, but surprisingly tasty. Olivier told us that the burger was a blend of ground brisket and ground skirt steak. And then another bar patron let us know that the meat is ground only after a burger is ordered. As we left the chef came out and asked if we enjoyed our meal. Folks, we have a winner!

And then a few nights later we wandered over to Tastebuds and caught the lull in between the early crowd and the late rush. Valentina warmly greeted us. Patty has waited on us the last few times we dined here and she served us once again. She knows we like to take our time and sip our cocktails before ordering. We also like talking to her about wines and cocktails both here and at other establishments. She has a wealth of knowledge and a refreshing down-to-earth attitude. A sidecar and Bordeaux martini graced our table this evening.



Delicious. I believe Tastebuds has some of the least expensive specialty cocktails in town.

For wine we noticed some new offerings and selected a Duckhorn Decoy. Incredible!


Dinner consisted of the tuna special


Mozzarella filled risotto cake with a spicy marinara


Sliced beef tenderloin with arugula and fava bean puree.


Can you say yummy? Imaginative and satisfying.

As we were finishing up Andrew came over to tell us about the December 6 sparkling wine dinner. 5 courses paired with different sparklers. $50 a person. Just to whet your appetite, the first course is: Sweet Corn Aged Cheddar Flan, Smithfield Ham, Micro Salad, Blackberry Vinaigrette with Wine Pairing: Fitzritter, Sparkling Riesling, Germany. Can you say yummy again? Make your reservations now...

And thank you Bouchon and Tastebuds for making our dining experiences special.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Glasses, menu, and cocktail at Amuse

DSC_0242, originally uploaded by pjpink.
Last Friday we ate dinner at the bar at Amuse. The VMFA was adorned with lots of fancy dinner parties, black ties, and glitzy outfits. We arrived in chic blue jeans and sweaters. No matter. Tommy, our bartender took very good care of us starting with an Amuse sidecar (cognac, cointreau, pear puree, and a dash of lemon) - a heady slice of liquid autumn. We followed up with a Frog's Leap Sauvignon Blanc, celery root bisque (exquisite), seafood stew (yummy), and steamed clams. Everything except the clams pleased us. And the clams and broth were good, but the broth contained potatoes that were crunchy. I really detest crunchy potatoes.

We had such a good time eating and drinking at the bar that we did not have time to wander around the exhibits. Thank you Tommy, for making our evening such a delight.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Get Your Seafood On

A few weeks ago Fatback and Foie Gras posted an article about sugar toads at Arnest Seafood Restaurant in Manquin, VA off of Route 360 as you head toward Tappahannock. Based on the write up we decided to try the place for lunch.

Arnest is located in a non-descript strip mall. Nothing to draw your attention per se except word of mouth.


Booths and tables were generic. In the back was the seafood case with shrimp, flounder, other fish, and frog legs. I liked the lighting over the booths. The bulb was ensconced in old oyster cans.


Fried shrimp, hushpuppies, fries, and green beans. The shrimp were nice and meaty. The hushpuppies, perfect balance of corn meal, sweetness, and a hint of onion. The fries, so-so. The green beans were cooked Southern-style with a hint of ham.


Flounder sandwich and crab chips and a bowl of shrimp bisque (new to the menu).  The bisque was more chowder-like. Creamy and filling (only available by the bowl). The flounder was a nice size and satisfying. The crab chips were AWESOME!


When I am craving fried shrimp, this will be on my list to visit. Casual and laid-back. Everyone else who came in for lunch were local and knew all of the other diners and restaurant staff. If you go, make sure to get the crab chips as a side dish. They are house made thick potato chips with just the right amount of seasoning.

Ducks in a Row

SOJ Photos - Beginning of November

The South of the James Market continues through the first Saturday in December. Enjoy a few Fall photos from yesterday.






If you have pictures of any of the local markets, post them here.