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.

Restaurant Week Experience

We ended up going to two "official" restaurant week places. The first was Charles City Tavern with friends.


An old farmhouse tucked away along Route 5. Complete with porch and friendly kitty (had to pay a belly rub toll to enter).



The butternut squash soup was fantastic and suited the region's return to Autumn.


The crabcakes (sitting atop corn and ham saute) were almost pure lumpmeat crab. Very nice. The corn was yellow and out of a can.


The wine list was short and short on bottles under $50. In fact, one of the under $50 bottles was sold out. While we had nice-tasting bottles, it was tough to pay the equivalent of two meals for a bottle of wine. Because of the wine expense, we will probably not make a point of returning to Charles City Tavern on a frequent basis.

On the final night of restaurant week we popped into Water Grill for a drink at the bar and ended up staying for dinner.


Wine choices were more varied and more reasonable. We had a very nice Hendry Cabernet.


For apps, we had fried oysters and the lobster and shrimp pot stickers. Hubby loved the oysters. The pot stickers were extremely disappointing. Gummy and not a lot of flavor. The soy sauce that accompanied them killed whatever flavor was present. Another sauce that complimented the dish needed to be presented. I would not order these again.

For entrees we had a tenderloin with whipped potatoes (for me) and crabcakes  with whipped potatoes (for hubby). He really liked the crabcakes (I liked Charles City Tavern's better). My beef was most excellent. Tender and tasty. The potatoes were dry and tasteless, unfortunately.

Good for the restaurants for supporting the Central Virginia Food Bank. I was disappointed in all of the controversy over who was "allowed" to participate (as if no other restaurant could donate to a worthy cause). Once again, I prefer to make my own donation and eat where I want.

One last question - why was restaurant week held at this particular time? Wouldn't it be better to hold it in the dead of winter when restaurants are traditionally slow? We didn't even bother to eat at Acacia's because we knew it would be zoo-like.

And a final shout-out to RVA News for keeping everyone up to date on the restaurant line-ups and their menus. You guys rock!

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

A Thump on the Head to Libbie Market

Specifically, the wine aisle and the wine manager (or assistant manager) and the wine rep. I was trying to view the wines. These assholes were standing in the middle of the aisle totally engrossed in their inventory. I actually turned to face them and they ignored me and did not bother to move.

I did an about face and did not even contemplate buying wine from them. Instead I dropped some bucks at J. Emerson.

Too bad, Libbie Market.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010