Thursday, September 29, 2011

My, What Great Buns You Have

We hit Ejay Rin at the right time just as they expanded their menu and put some kick-ass duck on the menu.

Ejay Rin

We had headed off to Manchester for the Art Works 4th Friday shows (yours truly has a photo on display in the All Media exhibit). We then decided to hit Ejay Rin since we were in the neighborhood.

I liked the warehouse feel, the clean lines, and the giant fishes hanging on the walls.

Tables Chairs Bar

Our waitress, Jenny, was fun and noticed my WRIR t-shirt and talked about her volunteer work there. (BTW, kudos to all of you who donated this time around.) She let us know that there were new menu items and duck was one of the featured items.

We started off with a sparkling vinho verde. Light, refreshing, gulpable. And ordered some steamed wontons stuffed with local sausage and served with a tasty chili sauce. The wonton skins were thin and light, so the dough did not weigh down the appetizer. Delish.

Steamed Wontons

We then ordered a Novy Four Mile Creek Red from the North Coast of California. Some body, a hint of spice, a bit of jam. A good choice for the upcoming food.

Novy Four Mile Creek

We then had to try some steamed buns. But what to get? A no brainer for me. I ordered crispy duck breast with house-made duck sauce and jicama. Hubby tried the Korean fried chicken with spicy slaw and black bean sauce. Both were great and sported a great deal of flavor. I liked the meat, crunch (cabbage or jicama), and sauce combination on both. Hubby liked his chicken better. I liked my duck better. My duck buns were kick-ass. I might have to get these buns every time I come back.

Duck Buns

Korean Chicken Buns

We continued on our culinary exploration and selected the Rice Bowl with pulled pork, poached egg, vinegar carrots, cucumber, and scallions with a side order of Kimchi. When Ejay Rin first opened there was a rash of comments in the blogosphere about dishes tasting bland, not enough seasoning, etc. Here's my take: The wontons and steamed buns had spectacular flavor explosions with lovely sauces. The rice bowl was more laid back and since it did not explode with flavor, one could easily discount it. I added some soy sauce to give the dish a little punch. I took most of it home, since I had scarfed up buns and wontons earlier. When I had the rice bowl for lunch the next day, the subtleties of the pork and richness of the egg appeared.

Pulled Pork Rice Bowl

Of course, the toned-down nature of the rice bowl went well with the kicked up kimchi. I am surprised at how much I like kimchi. Granted, I've now only had it three times (Korean Gardens, my cafeteria at work, and Ejay Rin), but I really liked the spiciness and heat. Since I'm not a huge cabbage fan, this is phenomenal. And at least one other person likes the kimchee here, too. As we were arriving this guy was leaving and said that we had to try the amazing kimchi. He was right.


And I could not resist trying dessert: Fried buns with ginger pickled apples, pear/yuzu ricotta, and truffle honey. This was not hubby's cup of tea (or plate of sweetness). For me, the apple was okay. I really liked the fried buns and the ricotta combination. Fried dough and sweet creamy goodness.

Fried Dessert Buns

I was more than satisfied with my meal and the atmosphere. And, as an incentive to cross the river on a weeknight Ejay Rin features an "I'm not cooking tonight you Cheap Bastard!" special: $28 for two people (throw in a bottle of select wine offerings for an extra $15). The Cheap Bastard lets you select 4 steamed buns - all alike (get the duck buns - you'll be happy you did), a large bowl of vegetable fried rice with a pickle plate to share, and two almond cookies and scoop of  rice cream. You can add different types of protein for a few dollars more.

So, whether you are duck fans or cheap bastards, Ejay Rin has something for everyone. Go admire some buns soon.


Sunday, September 25, 2011

SOJ 9/17/2011 and 9/24/2011

A couple of cloudy/rainy Saturdays at the South of the James Market, but still good stuff to pick up.

Ugly Apples

On Alert

Lemongrass and Chicory

Classical Guitarist

Pizza Oven

Doggies at the Market

Breakfast Pizza


Wheeled Market Basket

If you have photos of any of the markets in the area, post them here.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Magpie - A Sweet Little Birdie

Between the earthquake and Hurricane Irene, we discovered a little birdie called The Magpie. And wow! can this bird sing. I had been following them on Facebook while they were in the midst of construction and now they take advantage of the medium to communicate delectable specials. The special that drew me in was a seared flatiron steak with lobster tempura tail, golden beet gnocchi, green beans, oyster mushrooms in a mushroom broth.

Steak and Lobster

Even though these letters are overused I have to say OMG! It was fantastic.

We had such a great meal that we went back the same week.

The Magpie is located on the corner W. Leigh and Norton streets in the Carver Community. The decor is quirky and eclectic featuring dark wood, red velvet, and vintage items adorning the walls. They sport an ample bar.

Magpie Bar

Magpie Dining

The wine prices are the best I have seen lately for a Richmond restaurant. During our visits we happily consumed 1448 and Impuls 71. Great reds.


Impuls 71 Back

For each visit we were graced with a lovely Amuse Bouche.

Amuse Bouche

To eat, we selected either entrees or small plates depending on their specials and our own whims for the evening. Small plates we tried on various evenings included:

Fried Hearts of Palm with roasted poblano pesto - a great take on the ubiquitous fried zucchini. A good-sized portion. The unique pesto made the dish more delightful.

Hearts of Palm

Flatiron steak with poached quail egg, bok choy in a duck broth - this was a small plate special. When the waitress brought it over, she asked if I also wanted a spoon. My hubby immediately said yes (for me). The steak was lovely. The egg gave the broth an added richness. I cut up the bok choy and scooped the veggie up with the spoon and the broth. It was like I had a soup and an entree. Great flavor all around.

Steak Egg Duck Broth

Arborio Rice-Crusted Tuna with golden beet puree and herb salad - hubby ordered this on a whim. He's not a fan of arborio rice, but really enjoys tuna. He was pleased with the crusty outside and scarfed up the tuna itself. The golden beet puree added an extra dimension.


Duck Paupiette with bacon, roasted poblano, chive cream cheese - we had to ask the waitress to describe this dish. Basically, they take the bacon and top that with a thin strip of duck and spread the rest of the ingredients on the duck; roll up the concoction, skewer it with a rosemary twig, and grill. Yummy, yummy.

Duck Paupiette

Small plates run from $7 (mixed greens salad) to $15 (corn dog lobster tail). Most are ample in size. And everyday there is a new small plate special.

For entrees we had the OMG surf and turf described above and Braised Berkshire Pork with mashed yucca, smoked heirloom tomato, and coconut au jus. The pork did not need a knife. It fell apart into delectable bite-sized portions as soon as the fork touched it. And it was wonderful having mashed yucca instead of potatoes. A bit more starchy with nice soft chunks of yucca. Once again, an outstanding entree.

Braised Berkshire Pork

Entree prices range from $18 (house-made fettuccini with veggies) to $29 (cast iron seared antelope - I have to go back and try at some point).

We also splurged on dessert. Cherry bread pudding with ice cream and tequila caramel sauce and Coffee cake with espresso cream and caramel sauce. Desserts were good, but lacked the wow factor that the small plates and entrees had.

Cherry Bread Pudding

Coffee Cake

I know I have gushed a great deal about The Magpie, but this place was fantastic for both hubby and me. Small and cozy with an interesting decor. Imaginative dishes. A wonderfully-priced wine list. It's very rare that we return to the same place within a week, let alone a month. And there are other dishes we have yet to explore. My only complaint is that they are not within walking distance of my house.

Red Carnations

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Cheap Date Night at Garnett's

Garnett's Cafe in the heart of the Fan is featuring Cheap Date Night every night after 6 PM from now until Oct. 1. Any two menu items and a bottle of wine for $30.


Not bad with cute retro decor to boot.

Garnett's Interior

We enjoyed a Domaine de Brau Majelus Merlot. Light in body and pleasant with our sandwiches.

Domaine de Brau

To eat we ordered a Louisville Hot Brown (open-faced with turkey, cheese, mornay sauce, and the ever-important bacon) and Croque Florentine (Black Forest ham, cheese, spinach, onion, and mornay sauce).

Louisville Hot Brown

Croque Florentine

Very satisfying with a lovely homemade pickle slice.

After hearing about dessert options we could not resist sharing a slice of lemon chess pie. Yummy.

Lemon Chess Pie

If the economy is squeezing you a bit, Garnett's is a great place to enjoy some down home goodness at a decent price.

Plate Display

Simple, yet so good

A negroni and white beans and arugula with crostini at Enoteca Sogno.


White Beans and Crostini

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

SOJ 9/3/2011

Here are a few photos of the South of the James Market on Labor Day weekend. Picked up some awesome peaches that I roasted. Incredible! We were out of town last week and missed all of the local goodies last Saturday.

The Best Peaches





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

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Enter to win a Tastebuds American Bistro Gift Certificate!

My first guest blogging gig at Real RVA! Check it our here. I put put together some of the myriad reasons why I love living in the Northside.

Enter to win a gift certificate to Tastebuds American Bistro by Monday, September 12.

Monday, September 05, 2011

The Blue Goat

After a couple of tries we finally secured a table at The Blue Goat. We decided to go early on a Monday evening.

Blue Goat Sign

I adore the blue goat theme, especially the mural. Whimsical and fun.

Blue Goat Mural

The bar was busy this evening and the bartender was showing off bar tricks. Interesting considering some of the business clientele.

The menu features local produce and house-made offerings. Diners can choose a variety of small plates to Nibble ($7 each), Graze ($11 each) or Feed ($15). We ordered one or two dishes at a time and kept the menu to determine the next tasty morsel to enjoy. Dishes arrive as they are prepared. If one wants to eat in a certain order, selecting one of two dishes at a time ensures the desired progression.

First up, or course were cocktails and wine. For the cocktail it was The Only Thing You Drink: Aperol, St. Germain, Lime Juice, Rosemary Sprig. I really like Aperol which has a slightly bitter orange flavor (I imbibed quite a bit of this in Italy), but the sweetness of the St. Germain overpowered the subtle bitterness of the Aperol. This is not necessarily the fault of The Blue Goat. Many specialty cocktails in the area tend to be on the sweet side to accommodate local tastes. Still, very pretty presentation.

The Only Thing You Drink

The wine list offered many choices at decent prices. We went with Terra Blanca Arch Terrace Cabernet Sauvignon from Washington State. A nice red with good body and fruit.

Arch Terrace

To eat we began with the pate maison with gherkins and pickled peppers. Wrapped in bacon and sporting pistachios, the pate was a nice departure for us and very enjoyable with the crostini provided.


Next up we selected the pork and venison bolognese over house made gnocchi. What a spectacular dish! Meaty and flavorful sauce, shaved parmesan cheese, and the best gnocchi I have ever had - light fluffy pillows of pasta. Yum.

Bolognese and Gnocchi

Polyface farm pork belly over white bean cassoulet. The pork belly was on so tender and the belly fat had melted over some of the beans. Great flavor. And then I tried a few white beans and this is where The Blue Goat faltered. The beans in the cassoulet were crunchy. A disappointment to be sure. If the beans had been done, it would have added that creamy/starchy aspect to the dish and I would have waxed rhapsodic. I want to give kudos to our waiter, however. He noticed that we had not finished the beans and asked about them. We relayed our experience. After taking the half-eaten dish back to the kitchen, he said the chef apologized and we were comped the dish. So while the dish faltered, the service did not.

Pork Belly Cassolet

We then tried the pommes frites with pork dust, sea salt, and garlic aioli. Yummy. Great flavor and crisp on the outside and creamy baked potato softness on the inside. Probably the best I've had in Richmond. And it was great to have the garlic aioli for dipping.


And we splurged on dessert: Chocolate Godiva Pate and Caramel and Lava Salt Gelato. Both delicious.

Chocolate Pate

Caramel Ice Cream

Food at The Blue Goat (for the most part) was sensational. Slight missteps were handled promptly and satisfactorily. The wine list was not over-priced. The prices on the food did seem a bit high. I loved the frites, but $7 for a small serving might be tough for some folks to shell out. The bolognese was part of the Feed menu, but seemed small in portion for the price (maybe it was so good we wanted more). Desserts were $8.

Go for the exquisitely prepared food, but keep an eye on your wallet as the small plates add up.