Friday, December 30, 2011

Tales of Two Wine Dinners

Hubby and I were fortunate enough to attend two wine dinners in December.

Scallop, lamb chop, and rockfish stated the wine dinner menu. What had I gotten myself into? Tastebuds American Bistro was hosting their only wine dinner of the year and a sparkling one at that. We reserved spots before we saw the menu knowing it would sell out quickly. And then I received the list of courses. I am not a lamb fan and I tolerate fish. Hubby asked if I wanted to cancel. I said no. I had eaten fish at Tastebuds before (at a wine dinner) and raved about it. I just had to worry about the lamb.

We arrived, albeit a bit late. I was sure dinner started at 7 PM. It began at 6 PM. Thank goodness they called us at 6:05 PM. We live so close we were seated and having an amuse bouche cocktail (vodka, sparkling, lemon accompanied by an olive!) by 6:15PM.

Course 1
Charred Sea Scallop, Chimichurri of Watercress and Grapefruit, Cucumber Foam with Secco Brut from Italy

Sea Scallop

The non-traditional chimichurri was delightful and enhanced the flavor of the scallop.

Course 2
Salad of Artisanal Greens, Southern Fried Golden Beets, Cambozola Cheese, White Balsamic Pear Dressing with Castillo Perelada Rosado Cava Brut from Spain

Fried Golden Beet

So we did call the restaurant ahead of time to request no blue cheese of any type. It gives my hubby violent reactions. The dressing was wonderful and the lovely rosy Cava paired very well. The fried golden beets were unusual and I liked the inventive take on the dish.

Course 3
Pecan Crusted Lamb Chop, Butternut Squash-Cherry-Blue-Cheese Cobbler, Swiss Chard Gastrique with Grasparossa d'Castelvetro Lambrusco from Italy

Lamb Chop

The moment of truth: lamb chop. And my god, it was fantastic. No musky lamby taste at all. I enjoyed every tender morsel. The cobbler (sans blue cheese) I also raved on about. A wonderful savory cobbler that was perfect for the fall going into winter time of year. The gastrique was interesting. If the room had been a bit lighter, one could have really picked up the dark green color and I'm not sure that would have been a good thing. But the sauce looked more brown in the restaurant lighting. And you may be asking about the Lambrusco wine pairing. This was not your Ruinite from an '80's college dorm. It was deep red and dry. A hearty sparkling and the perfect accompaniment to the awesome lamb.

Course 4
Butter Roasted Rockfish, Little Neck Clams, Sweet Corn and Yukon Gold Puree, Warm Lemon-Pancetta Vinaigrette with Argyle Brut from Willamette Valley Oregon


Fish after lamb, you say? A bit unorthodox, but the dish was richer than the lamb given the butter roasting. An excellent assembly of flavors. I loved the rockfish and it was great to have a few little neck clams. The corn and potato puree added to the richness of the dish. The lemon and pancetta gave a counter-balance. With all of these essences the Argyle Brut was an excellent choice of sparkling. Argyle Brut is well made and one of the best, most accessible, nearest-to-real-champagne in the market today. It ably met fish, butter, lemon, and pancetta and enhanced the course. Well done!

Course 5
Goat Cheese Filled Beignet, Rhubarb-Apple Compote and Chocolate Lavender Ganache with Fitz-Ritter Riesling Sekt from Germany

Goat Cheese Beignet

Yummy! I particularly liked the use of sweetened goat cheese for the beignet.

This was the only wine dinner Tastebuds American Bistro had in 2011 and since they are open on Sundays now, it is hard for them to host a dinner of this type. I'm so glad we took the blind menu plunge.

For the other dinner, we knew the menu ahead of time and attended a Holiday Feast in Alsace at Amour Wine Bistro. We had never eaten at Amour. The menu featured sauerkraut and Alsatian wine (all white). Since this was a dinner with optional wine pairings, it was a bit different than what we were used to. Only three courses had wine pairings.

Mise en Bouche - Tarte Flambee - Onion, Bacon, and Cheese on Flatbread

Tarte Flambee

A traditional Alsatian dish. Very tasty. I took the leaves off of the sprig of thyme and sprinkled it on the tarte and it was even better. No wine with this dish.

First Course
Saucisse de Strasbourg sur Choucroute - Strasbourg Sausage on a Bed of Sauerkraut paired with 2010 Fritsch Pinot Blanc

Strasbourg Sausage with Sauerkraut

While I'm a bit timid about sauerkraut, this was lovely and mild. The sausage and other pork preparations were delicious. And the Pinot Blanc simply heavenly. The pairing with both the kraut and pork was sheer brilliance! I wished we could have had another glass of this heavenly nectar since the dish was fairly large portion-wise. A great example of traditional Alsatian fare.

Amuse Bouche - Grumbeerekiechle - Potato Pancake with Apple Compote

Potato Pancake

The apple compote was lovely. The potato pancake was a bit bland after the wonderful flavors of the first course. No wine with the amuse bouche.

Second Course
Coq au Riesling with Spaetzle - Chicken slowly cooked in dry white wine paired with 2009 Heimberger Riesling

Coq au Riesling with Spaetzle

This dish was bland which surprised me. We had been looking forward to this dish and had been the deciding factor in attending. The wine was a decent pairing, but overall we were not wowed.

Third Course
Munster en Croute - Munster Cheese in Puff Pastry

Munster en Croute

The pastry was flaky and the cheese strong. A great little course packed with flavor. Unfortunately, no wine was served with this course and the cheese was crying out (at the end, screaming) for some wine. I would loved to have seen which Alsatian wine could stand up to the cheese. An opportunity lost.

Fourth Course
Kougelhopf Glace au Kirsch, Beignets aux Pommes - Raspberry Ice Cream Confection with Apple Beignet paired with Cremant d'Alsace

Raspberry Kougelhopf and Apple Beignet

Hubby ate the raspberry, since I am not a fan and he was happy to have a double helping. I liked the apple beignet and also enjoyed the sparkling wine for dessert.

This dinner had some highs and lows. Being a fan of wine and food pairings, I had expected a wine pairing with all of the dishes. They were large enough to warrant it. I was mightily impressed with the first course - the best part of the evening. Hubby and I will need to go to Amour for a regular dinner sometime soon to compare experiences.

A shout out to both establishments for being nominated for the 1st Annual Elby Awards! Amour Wine Bistro was nominated for Best Wine Program and Tastebuds American Bistro Chef Ryan Baldwin was nominated for Rising Culinary Star.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Close to Perfection

Dinner at Enoteca Sogno:
  • Aperol Spritz
  • Occhipinti SP68 - Red Wine from Sicily
  • White Beans with Arugula and Onion
  • Duck Ragu with Tagliatelle
  • Marscapone Cheesecake with Maple
All wrapped up in personable service! Cheers!

Aperol Spritz
Aperol Spritz

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Here's Hoping You Got What You Wanted For Christmas!

Santa Ornament by pjpink

Santa Ornament a photo by pjpink on Flickr.
Happy Holidays All! I'll be enjoying an herbed rib roast with duck fat roasted potatoes and cranberry orange green beans,

Later on, I'll have a bit of egg nog with vanilla-infused Wild Turkey!

A Merry Christmas, indeed!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Merry Bah Humbug

We experienced a lovely tasting dinner at Amuse. The amuse bouche was a tasty little bite of chopped peppers and olives with feta on crostini. Festive and delicious. A sparkling pear cocktail for me; a cider, ginger beer, and blackstrap rum for hubby. Decadent. A small, yet satisfying charcuterie plate with coppa, prosciutto, and speck with the cutest cornichons, A 2009 Textbook Cabernet Sauvignon to accompany the entree (the waiter butchered the cork with no apology). Luscious. We ordered the special: Pot Roast with kale, parsnips, and potatoes. A wonderful presentation of winter comfort food with a slab of herbed grilled bread.

Great food. We were feeling merry. And while our waiter did not pay enough attention to us to refill our wine glasses, we did not pay him any mind. It's Christmas after all.

And then, while I was still enjoying my meal (still had food on my plate), our bah humbug of a waiter had the audacity to interrupt my meal to ask if we wanted dessert. I still had food on my plate and was actively eating! I still had Textbook wine to enjoy! I said no and he remained at the table to ask if we wanted any coffee. Hello!!? I had not finished my wine (which he never asked if he could pour more) nor my food. I was not ready to think about coffee. And then this waiter asked if I had finished my plate. NO! I still had food on my plate! The only reason I had not finished was because he had interrupted me.

I was pissed and the evening tarnished. This person at Amuse had waited on us in times past and had always been a bit nonchalant. Tonight he was downright annoying.

A restaurant of this caliber and and price point should have better staff (and most of the other staff members who have waited on us in the past have been delightful).

The next time we make plans to eat at Amuse, which might be a while given our experience tonight, we will request to not be served by this bah humbug of a waiter.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

SOJ 12/3/2011

The last South of the James Market for this year. The winter market begins next Saturday at Patrick Henry School. Lots of greens and yummy white turnips. Mrs. Yoder still had donuts and I needed one last fix before Spring.

I was extremely sad to hear that Fertile Crescent Farm is pulling up stakes and moving to Floyd to start a new adventure. I will miss your produce, particularly, the washed and bagged arugula. The best. Good luck with your new endeavor.

Here are a few photos:

White Turnips

Carmen is ready to be adopted. Contact Richmond Animal Care
Getting Ones Greens On


Sunny Lettuce

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

Sunday, November 20, 2011

T-Bone Prep

T-Bone Prep by pjpink

T-Bone Prep a photo by pjpink on Flickr.
To make herb-roasted T-Bone steak:

Chop up fresh parsley and oregano and a clove of garlic. Add just enough olive oil to mix and then add sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Rub the mixture on the steak and let rest at least 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

In a frying pan that can withstand high oven temps, heat on stove over medium-high. Place beef in frying pan and sear for about 2-3 minutes per side. Place pan in oven and roast for 20-30 minutes depending on how you like your steak. (Be careful pulling pan out of oven. Use oven mitts!)

SOJ 11/19/2011

Vendors still in abundance at the South of the James Market. We picked up our pre-ordered fresh turkey from Ault's yesterday. Quite a few vendors selling lovely looking lettuces and greens as well as persimmons and fresh ginger. Mrs. Yoder continues her donut reign. Two more Saturdays for the regular market. After that, the winter market kicks in.

Here are a few photos:

Persimmons for Sale

Oyster Mushrooms


Peppermint Schnaps

If you have local market photos, post them here.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Chasing Away the Marathon Blues

What does one do when the Richmond Marathon has one penned in on all sides? I'm glad that the marathon brings honor, glory, and, hopefully, some tourist dollars to our fair city. But I literally cannot go anywhere in a car until it's over.

This year we were smart and strolled over to Dot's Back Inn for brunch. After a Bloody Mary and a Mimosa we weren't caring that much about feeling trapped.

Bloody Mary

And then I had the Smithfield Benedict - English muffin, country ham, fried egg (over easy), and hollandaise sauce. Served with a side of home fries. Yummy!

Smithfield Benedict

Did Richmond have a marathon?

I want to thank the staff for making extra efforts to get to work. While they made us forget all about our brief inconvenience, they had to park quite a ways from Dot's and hoof it to work.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Veal Schnitzel

Veal Schnitzel by pjpink

Veal Schnitzel a photo by pjpink on Flickr.
Tastebuds American Bistro is featuring Veal Schnitzel with apple-cranberry cabbage and roasted potatoes this weekend. Yummy.

They also have added a 2006 Beronia Rioja Riserva to their red wine line up. Lots of complexity and very tasty.

And if you have room for dessert try the lavender and black pepper ice cream. Floral with a hint of heat.

Breakfast at the Silver Diner

The Silver Diner in Innsbrook has Surry sausage on the menu!

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Overindulging at Lemaire

Before heading over to the InLight Festival a couple of weeks ago, we stopped by the bar at Lemaire to enjoy a cocktail, appetizers, wine, etc. We were lucky to grab a couple of bar stools. A couple of the tables in the bar area were reserved. A big party was whooping it up at the front of the bar. We arrived early enough to take advantage of $5 Manhattans and the 3 appetizers for $20 deal.

The Manhattans hit the spot.

The bottom of a Manhattan

We then ordered wine from the Discoveries List ($30 or less a bottle) - A Redtree Petite Sirah from California. Not too heavy. Very tasty. A decent choice given the variety of food we ordered.

redtree petite sirah

BBQ Pork Quesadilla - lots of flavor and very filling. It was strange for me to be eating melted cheese on BBQ pork, however.

Pulled Pork Quesadilla

Fried Calamari - a bit different that what we are used to. This looked like it came from a bigger squid. Very tender. Although the menu stated crispy, not so much.

Fried Calamari

Tuna Martini - my all-time favorite app at Lemaire. Raw tuna with seaweed salad and accompanied by three types of fish roe. The red roe is the best.

Tuna Martini

Hubby also ordered the Virginia country ham and pimento cheese sandwich which he thoroughly enjoyed.

Grilled Ham and Pimento Cheese

The sandwich definitely hit the overindulgence mark, but, still, a great start to the evening. Photos of the InLight Festival are posted here.

Mrs. Yoder's Donuts

Mrs. Yoder's Donuts by pjpink

Mrs. Yoder's Donuts a photo by pjpink on Flickr.
Get them hot at the South of the James Market on Saturday mornings. Yummy!

The Mill on MacArthur

Over the last several months we have eaten at The Mill on MacArthur three times. We always want to see a local neighborhood restaurant succeed, especially one that we can walk to. Unfortunately, our experiences have not made us enthusiastic fans. The first time we had breakfast at dinner - typical eggs, bacon, biscuit, potatoes. I was happy that we had a breakfast option, but the potato pancake was not to either of our liking. The Mill has since dispensed with breakfast food after 4 PM. Our second experience was much better for lunch - Black Angus Sliders and Oyster Po Boy. I loved the caramelized onions on the sliders and they were the perfect size. The oysters were decent. Both came with house-made chips. Also good.

Last week was our third trip. This time we ordered a couple of appetizers and a pizza. Hubby is always drawn to oysters, so he ordered the fried oyster starter.

Oyster Pieces

It looked like the oysters were cut up into pieces instead of being fried whole. He couldn't really tell, but he was disappointed with the app.

I tried the grilled wings. I liked the grilled-ness and the wings were very meaty, but, otherwise, these wings were bland. No zip; no zing. The ranch dressing did not enhance matters.

Grilled Wings

We shared the pizza special: Philly Cheesesteak Pizza.

Philly Cheesesteak Pie

Not too bad; although hubby kept complaining the he could not taste the meat as much as he would like. The other ingredients overpowered the meat. The crust was crispy but a bit thick and a bit sweet. The more we ate, the more it seemed like refrigerated pizza dough from the grocery store. The crust just did not satisfy.

If we visit The Mill again, we will stick to the sliders and chips. If they ever replace the potato pancake with real mashed potatoes for the turkey blue plate, I will want to at least give that a whirl.

Monday, October 17, 2011

10/15/2011 at SOJ

A fine sunny day for the South of the James Market. We made sure we arrived early to shop so we could then proceed to the Richmond Folk Festival (which was also mighty fine). Pears, fresh ginger, green beans, pork chops, a duck egg tako from Boka Tako (glad to see them back), and Mrs. Yoder's donuts. Yummy, yummy!

Some fabulously fine photos:

Autumn Delight

Intense Stare

Sea of Purple

White Turnips

A Touch of Autumn

Hanging out at SOJ

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

Sunday, October 02, 2011

SOJ 10/1/2011

A cool October 1 for the South of the James Market. Pumpkins are arriving as well as Japanese turnips. Casselmonte Farms also had fresh ginger.

Here are some photos:

Bright Squash

Fresh Ginger 3

White Radish

Fall Bouquet

So Sweet

Pork Taco

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

Secco and the End of the Summer of Riesling

As Summer came to an end, Secco rejoiced with $5 glasses of Riesling.

Summer of Riesling

  If that wasn't enough, they also featured a $10 prix fixe lunch. Your choice of panino with a mixed green salad and dessert.

We delighted in a rosemary pork sandwich with spicy plum chutney and chevre served with the salad and fried chickpeas. The panino was a bit sticky due to the chutney oozing out of the bread, but still delicious. Neither hubby nor I are a big fan of chickpeas. The fried variety surprised us by its tastiness.

Pulled Pork Panino

For dessert we had a lovely ice cream sandwich: two vanilla pizzelli encasing chocolate hazelnut gelato.  Yummy!

Pizzelle Ice Cream Sandwich

A nice ending to Summer. Bring on the Fall!

Wine Bar View