Saturday, January 08, 2011

Over a Week's Worth of Activity

First of all, I want to commend Dana Craig for her Richmond Times Dispatch article entitled Relish your resolution. She advocates a mighty fine New Years Resoultion: Support your local eating and drinking establishments. She proceeds to recommend some of the newest bright spots on the dining map. I've visited half of them and need to check out the other half.

This is a resolution I can keep or get back on the path if I stumble.

So, with that in mind, I have a recap of the past week (or a bit more).

Right before New Years Eve my mom came to visit. We toured the Capitol building, wandered around Capitol Square, marveled at the interior of the Old City Hall, and gloried in the stained glass of St. Paul's Episopal Church.





Wow, and all free!

For lunch we stopped by Urban Farmhouse for sandwiches. I had the Virginia Ham Cubano with the famed Surryano ham. Very nice. The lunch menu was inventive, but maybe a bit too creative for my mom. The only item that caught her eye was the Turkey and Havarti sandwich.


After a day of touring downtown and shopping in Carytown we went to Balliceaux for dinner.  They seated us in the back room which was a delight.


We started with a small plate of Morsels: fried hominy, olives, and spiced nuts and a cocktail called Fancy Free (bourbon, Luxardo, and bitters). Delish on the appetizer and just the right amount for three people.


One note: Balliceaux does not print their prices for specialty cocktails. Very annoying. I have paid some bucks for a finely crafted drink, but I want to know what I will be shelling out. Not having prices is akin to going to some of the chain eateries or a tourist trap. A restaurant owes its patrons transparency on the price front.

Dinner consisted of a heritage cheeseburger


duck breast with roasted leeks and parsnips and chervil potatoes


filet mignon with cauliflower persillade


We enjoyed a Rock and Vine California Cabernet Sauvignon with the meal.


Most excellent dinner. My mom liked the decor, particulary the folk-arty retro holiday decorations and the tiny lights hanging in the corners.

After dinner a jaunt up and down Monument Avenue to peer and ogle at the light spectacles of the various large old abodes. Fun and a bit treacherous if sidewalks had not been cleared (we declared the owners of these house Scrooges!).


Before going home we popped into Kuba Kuba for cafe con leches (sweetened) to go. A great warming dessert.


For New Years Eve we actually went out to eat. Tastebuds American Bistro offered a mutli-couse prix fixe meal. Since we could walk, we reserved an 8:45 PM seating. We both had a cocktail topped off with sparkling wine (fruit and grenadine-based for me; absinthe-based for hubby). Duckhorn Decoy Red continues to be our go-to wine here. Food highlights included poached shrimp with vindaloo sauce, duck ragout en croute, scallops with pork belly and greens (hubby continues to rave about the greens),  and rib-eye filet. I still sing the praises of this Northside gem.

For Sunday brunch we headed for a dose of Tarrant's Cafe for a farmer's omelet and eggs benedict.




Nothing fancy, but all satisfying, including breath-defying garlic rolls.


This week we ate out three times. First up was Bocca Toscana.


We had never been. The wine list was small with the typical Italian offerings. We selected an inexpensive montepulciano.


To eat we had Baked Spaghetti - large portion, meaty and cheesy.


and Chicken Piccata (a special for the evening) served with a side of pasta. The chicken was fork tender; the sauce was made to sop up with the bread that was served; I enjoyed the roasted red peppers in the dish; and my pasta had a choice of marinara sauce or garlic and olive oil (I chose the non-red sauce).



A more than decent place (and much better than our last Italian experince in Carytown...). As we walked out we spied one of the pizzas and vowed to return at some point.

On Thursday we were asked to go to dinner last minute with friends, who then asked us to suggest a place. We recommeded Tastebuds American Bistro. Since it was Thursday they had the prix fixe menu of salad, entree, and dessert for $18. Sazerac and an Italian Whiskey Sour were the cocktails for the evening with Duckhorn Decoy Red still being the red wine choice at this establishment.

Both the Spinach Salad with Pickled Red Onions and Goat Cheese Crumble and the Romaine with Cucumbers, Tomatoes & Onions in an Olive Vinaigrette were absolutely delightful. Not too big and packed with flavor.



For entrees Crispy Salmon Pho with Rice Noodles, Snow Peas & Mushrooms in Lemongrass Broth. Hubby could not say enough good things about how delicious the salmon was and how plentiful. The pho itself was more of a concept and almost deconsturcted (if that can be said of pho). One side of the broth was flavorful and savory, the other side was hot and spicy.


I (and another member of our party) had Pan Roasted Boneless Pork Chop with Corn Pudding Popover, Braised Greens and Apple Cider Glaze. Those greens again. Our friend also raved about the greens. For me, I preferred the pork (but I did have a few bite of greens with the cider glaze).

Dessert was a butter cake topped with homemade orange sherbert and whipped cream and a chocolate truffle torte.



Good company, good conversation, good food. I think we have new converts to one of my favorite restaurants.

Whew! and then last night we went to Vino Market for the wine tasting and to say farewell to our friend Dave. Dave has gotten another job in Williamsburg. We will miss him.

After the tasting we decided to try the Outer Banks Seafood Company. The place was packed. Just as we walked in they opened up an additional dining section so we did not have to wait. Black and white photos of the NC coast filled the walls. Our waitress, Ashley, was petite, young, and enthusiastic and usually works at the Virginia Beach location as a bartender.

The wine list has wines by the bottle and by the glass. But the wines by the glass did not have any by the bottle prices which we thought a bit strange. And since the strictly by the bottle selections were fairly high, we had limited choices. We went with the Sebastiani Merlot.


We then ordered crab corn fritters.


Never again. They were bland - no corn taste, no green pepper taste, no crab taste - even though all of these ingredients were clearly visible. The sauce was mustard-based topped with mango. The sauce did not pair well with the fritter. The dish just did not work. And our waitress asked us if we enjoyed them and we had to tell her no. But Ashley did a very good thing. She had the manager take the fritters off of our bill (even though we did not ask for a refund and we were not angry about the food). Kudos to Ashley!!

For entrees hubby had fried shrimp and oysters with sauteed squash and slaw. I had fried shrimp with mashed potatoes and a side Caesar salad.



All of the sides were mediocre: tired or bland or trying to add zing that in the end flopped. But the shrimp and the oysters were very, very good. If only they had a simple shrimp basket on the menu...

Lots of eats. Some good, some decent, some could be improved upon. All non-chain. All good service.

Go find yourself some local eats and soon.


BaconGrease said...

wow what a full schedulle of eating out!

bhw said...

It seems whenever a restaurant doesn't let you know the price, it's going to be pretty alarming. Not sure why they do that though?!