Saturday, January 29, 2011

Salt and Pepper by Candlelight

DSC_0104, originally uploaded by pjpink.

Isn't it romantic?

Sam Miller's

After being out there for 35 years, we finally dined at Sam Miller's.

I had gone on-line to see the menu. A lot of traditional offerings; a couple of inventive ones. We actually made reservations (a bit unusual for us).

When we arrived there were a few folks at the bar and the dining room was less than half full. So, where were we seated? Not in a little cozy corner for two (even though we had made reservations and cozy tables were plentiful). We were seated with a grand view of the dining room entrance and the TV at the bar playing that night's NBA game.



We received our menus and the choices did not match the on-line menu. Gone were any signs of inventiveness. Oh well. Hubby was on the wagon tonight and I almost ordered a glass of wine. On second thought, the place was not busy and I did not trust the turnover of the open bottles. I ordered a whiskey sour, instead. (This turned out to be a good move. Later in the evening another couple, seated after us in a cozy corner, sent back a glass of wine.) Upon ordering, our waiter asked which type of whiskey I wanted. I asked what the house brand was. After a bit of hesitation, he stated Evan Williams. Fine by me since it would be added to sour mix. At this point I got the impression he was used to serving business entities with corporate accounts.

To eat I ordered the crabcake sandwich on a freshly made roll. Hubby ordered the salmon over mashed potatoes. My crabcake was decent, but not the best in Richmond. A bit bland for my tastes. The roll was a typical upscale sandwich roll that I can find at Kroger's or Martin's. When the salmon arrived, it was over roasted potatoes and topped with asparagus (these sides were on the fish of the day offerings). When we pointed this out our waiter said all dishes came with these sides for the evening. We had to insist that we had read the menu correctly and had even seen another table (also in a cozy table) receive the type of dish we ordered. He returned with the correct sides and said he thought we had ordered the fish of the day. Really?

The salmon was a great piece of fish and hubby thoroughly enjoyed it.

Upon clearing our plates, our waiter asked if we needed separate checks. Really? I understand that Sam Miller's must make its living from the business/convention crowd, but none of those types of groups were dining there that night. It just seemed a bit odd.

While the fish was good, the rest of the experience was less than satisfactory. I'll throw Sam Miller's back into the business/convention ocean and seek sustenance on other shores.

Sam Miller's Warehouse on Urbanspoon

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

All Ablaze

DSC_0543, originally uploaded by pjpink.

We celebrated a friend's birthday in a blaze of glory at Kabuto's.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

South-er of the James Winter Market

After a two month hiatus, we visited the winter farmers market on Forest Hill Ave next to the Blockbuster building. One of the reasons we made the journey was due to Ault's Family Farm participating.

Winter Eggs

While they have stopped offering chickens until the Spring, they still have pork, lamb, and eggs. We picked up a couple of nice-looking pork chops for later in the week.

We tasted wine from Grayhaven Winery.


I liked the Cabernet Franc and Chambourcin the best. They also grow Pinotage (only a handful of producers grow this grape in the States).

Other vendors included Simply Savory.

Brown Ale Mustard

Tater Dave's bread.

Tater Dave's

Pizza Tonight.


Snider Brothers Greenhouse Bus.


For lunch we picked up beef brisket and ribs from Tex.

Tux-it Up!

Lovely smoked meat. When you order Tex promises to "put a hurtin' on ya" with his food. His potato salad is really "motato" salad (nothin' poor about his salad). Now Tex can be a bit slow in getting out the orders, but what he lacks in speed he more than makes up for in entertainment. He is contantly jawing with his customers and making them smile.  Both the beef and the pork were great. The ribs were the best. And Tex cuts the meat off of the rib to better facilitate wolfing down the smokey morsels. The meat with a side of  "motato" salad or baked beans and sliced bread is $9.75 (including tax). He also offers turkey legs and chicken as well as smoked sausage (Tux-it Up!) and hot dogs.

You can see these photos as well as other RVA farmers market photos on Flickr. If you have photos of any of the local markets, post them here.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

I Never Thought I Would Like Blue Oyster Cult

After eating out so much the previous week, we decided to stay at home and enjoy homemade pizza, a roasted chicken from Ault's Family Farm, veal piccata (from Belmont Butchery) with roasted red peppers and angel hair pasta, chicken stir fry, and, finally, hot dogs and chips.

Near the end of the week 007 and her newly-wedded spouse asked if we wanted to join them for dinner. We were ready to eat out and decided to go to Wild Ginger. Oh so yummy!

Due to various circumstances, I was the only one drinking. I had a good tasting margarita and then a glass of the Terra Blanca Cabernet Sauvignon from Washington State. The cocktail took the edge off of the work week, but was just a cocktail. The cab was very delicious and satisfying.

We started with Peppercorn Calamari - tempura fried tossed with cilantro and red pepper and served with homemade gyoza sauce.


Oh my god! simply incredible. The calamari was fresh. The tempura breading, perfect. The sauce, divine. We saved the rest of the sauce for the sushi to come. When we get a hankering for fried calamari, we will have to go back here.

For the main course our party had Yellowtail and Scallion roll, Vegan roll (with brown rice), Seaweed Salad, Heavenly Roll (lobster tempura, lettuce, kani, and avocado), The Vamp roll, and Blue Oyster Cult roll. All good. I want to tell you guys about the two rolls that were new to us.

First up: The Vamp - Black pepper tuna and avocado topped with spicy scallop and garnished with seaweed grass.


I thoroughly enjoyed this. The tuna was ever-so-slightly seared with the black pepper, but still had all of the raw goodness that I expected. The avocado paired well and the scallop was a bit spicy, but not overpowering.

Next up: Blue Oyster Cult - Tempura oysters wrapped with goat cheese and topped with seared filet mignon, tobiko, and spicy aioli.


Hubby had been eyeing this roll the last few times we had dined here and tonight was the night to try it. He took one bite and insisted that I try it, too. He would not let me say no. So, I relented. It was extremely good. If you like oysters, you must order it. Liking the band of the same name is not required.

We had great conversation and truly delicious food.

We have dined at Wild Ginger serveral times and always enjoy the meal. And while we did not have the same waitress serve us as the last time, she recognized us and said hello. It's always nice to be welcomed back.

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.