Saturday, June 30, 2012

525 at the Berry Burk - Still a Bit Green Around the Edges

The other evening we found ourselves downtown and headed over to 525 at the Berry Burk to see if any tables were available. On this weekday evening, vacant tables were plentiful although it seemed like the hostess was hesitant on where to sit us (we were extremely casual with hubby in a t-shirt). We did end up at a two top by the window which pleased us.

The newly renovated space sported clean contemporary lines. And the huge storefront windows on the front and sides are awesome.

525 at the Berry Burk

Our waiter greeted us warmly and we ordered wine: 2009 Flying Fish Merlot from Columbia Valley.

Flying Fish Merlot

Once the wine was poured and tasted, we ordered. Unfortunately, two of the items we wanted were not available: the duck confit spring rolls and the fried green tomato napoleon. We told the waiter to go away and come back in a few minutes. He surely felt a bit of our disappointment. We had already ordered our wine and I had my heart set on the duck. When the waiter left, hubby remarked that he seemed a bit green. Given all of the press for this establishment, the tweets, facebook posts, and the write up in Style Weekly touting the staff training, we were perplexed.

Onward. Our waiter was brave enough to return (he was really quite nice) and take our order.

We began with what I consider the ultimate in snack foods: Caramelized Onion Dip and House Made Chips.

Onion Dip and Chips

A generous portion of the indulgent dip with real onion chunks and thick salty chips. This brought to mind many a childhood gathering with party mints and dip made from Lipton's onion soup mix. Of course, at 525, the onions were not dried and had that sweetness from sauteing. Very good.  I'm all for a bit of nostalgia at $3 a pop.

 For our next course we chose from the selection of small plates. I really, really like that the plates can be small or a bit bigger for almost all of the menu offerings. This is a very good thing. It offers all kinds of flexibility (as long as the kitchen does not run out).

I ordered the small portion of Grilled Beef Medallions with Succotash.

Grilled Tenderloin and Succotash

The small portion was just right for me. The beef had a good grilled sear on the outside and medium-rare on the inside.

Hubby had the large portion of the Seared Sea Scallops with Sweet Pea and Lobster Risotto.

Scallops and Risotto

While the scallops were decent, he raved about the risotto (usually he is not a big fan of the creamy rice dish). The little lobster chunks added just the right touch and everything melded together fabulously. Unfortunately, there is a caveat to this dish. A couple of nights after eating at 525 we ran into a friend who had eaten there on the same night. He had ordered the scallops, too; the risotto was not as creamy or as done; he experienced some crunchiness.

Our waiter performed very well during our meal. He continued to pour our wine as we ate which I greatly appreciate. And then, as we still had a few bites to finish of our dinner, he asked us if we wanted dessert. I don't think he was trying to rush us, I just think as hubby had expressed earlier, he was green. For once I was nice and did not give him the evil eye, but we also did not order dessert.

525 at the Berry Burk is still in its infancy. We really enjoyed the food (but efforts may be needed to keep the deliciousness consistent). And our waiter still needed a bit more experience, but I'm sure he will quickly come up to speed and then exceed expectations.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Some Yumminess From Last Week

Last week we enjoyed some mighty fine dishes.

Burrata at Enoteca Sogno. OMG. Creamy, soft goodness. Simple, yet so satisfying. I've raved about this before. I'm sure I will rave again.

Burrata with Tomatoes

We went to brunch at The Boathouse at Rocketts Landing. The Fried Shrimp starter was so good. I know where I will go when I have my next hankering.

Fried Shrimp

Word to the management, however. We made reservations and arrived on time; while you did not have any outside seating available (which we did not request when making the reservation) you said you would seat us by the window; this made us happy. So which table were we seated at? The booth by the BRICK WALL. There were plenty of other tables. We asked to switch (our waiter promptly accommodated). We then proceeded to watch everyone else entering for brunch ask for another spot, too. The brick wall booth should be the seat of last resort.

Braveheart Beef Strip Steak with garlic and parsley compound butter with First Press Cabernet Sauvignon at Arcadia. The steak was indeed outstanding (better than the area steakhouses) and decently priced ($26).

Braveheart Beef

And the Cab was tasty, hearty, and paired well with the medium rare entree.

First Press

One other thing about Arcadia: The owner John Van Peppen graciously greets all of his restaurant patrons as they dine. He has this wonderful ability to sincerely express his appreciation for their visit. Always nice to see, which, in turn, acts as an example for his staff who also provide excellent and engaging service.

Monday, June 25, 2012

A Celebration: Gabriele Rausse Wine Dinner at The Roosevelt

To celebrate its first anniversary The Roosevelt is hosting a wine dinner featuring Virginia winemaker extraordinaire Gabriele Rausse. The theme is Veneto @ The Roosevelt. $45 per person plus tax and tip on Sunday, July 29 beginning at 7 PM. I'm sure these tickets will go fast. And if you were hesitating, here is the menu (subject to change):

Teaser (a traditional Veneto dish)
Crostini, sardine in saor, whipped lardo (passed/teaser)

First Course
Monkfish, porcini, cauliflower, salsa verde, anchovy bread crumbs

Second Course
Smoked pork shoulder, polenta, cranberry beans, cabbage, Virginia clams

Olive oil cake, mascarpone, orange sorbet

To join the celebration contact The Roosevelt at 804.658.1935.

Gabriele Rausse Wine Dinner at The Roosevelt

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

BAM Pizza

BAM Pizza by pjpink

BAM Pizza a photo by pjpink on Flickr.
Bacon, Roasted Apples, and Maple Syrup from Pizza Tonight!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Flowers, Tomatoes, Turnips, and a Poptart - All at SOJ

This past Saturday we had a great time at the South of the James Market. Lots of goodies and the cutest Poptart ever - just waiting to be adopted.

Check out the photos:

Blooming Beauties

Grape Tomatoes

Japanese Turnips

Poptart - a cutie pie who wants to be adopted
If you have pics of any of the area markets, please add them to the RVA Farmers Market flickr site.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Plenty Good on the Cheap

Don't Look Back. We went here to eat after watching a matinee of  The Artist at the Byrd. A selection of beers, don't ask me what, since I am not a beer fan. From other reviews and comments I have heard they have decent offerings. An eye popping selection of tequila from the cheap stuff to the esoteric anejos. The menu contains prices (very nice to see) so you know what you are getting into. If you want a margarita, just add a buck for a small and two bucks for a large. Of course, I cannot recommend any of the anejos as the base for the lime green cocktail, those amigos are for slowly sipping and contemplating the origins of the universe. I can recommend the Espolon Silver as a margarita base. While the mix is sweet, the Espolon still shines through. It's important to be able to taste the tequila in a margarita. I need to return to try out the sipping varieties (with DD or taxi in tow).

Tequila Menu


The food menu is flat out cheap. This is a good thing. Since Nate formerly of Nate's Taco Truck fame is running the kitchen show, we knew the offerings would be delicious. They were. We started with chips, salsa, and guacamole. This is not free like many of the other establishments, but I would gladly fork over the $3 bucks ($2 for the chips and salsa and a $1 extra for the guac). Delicious.

Chips Salsa Guacamole

I had the Pulled Chicken Taco and the Carnitas Taco, traditional style (lime and cilantro-topped, no cheese). Lovely as ever and since Nate is not at the South of the James Market these days, this is the place to grab these babies. Best of all - only $3 each.

Pulled Chicken and Carnitas Tacos

Hubby had the Carnitas Burrito with pinto beans. A huge and tasty dish for only $7.

Carnitas Burrito

Yummy and inexpensive (at least if you lay off the agave offerings). Don't think about it, just go.

6 Wineries 6 Personalities

For Memorial Day weekend we headed west to Staunton. During our trip we stopped at 6 Virginia wineries in the Monticello AVA region. We were inspired to seek out a few new (or new to us) Virginia wineries during a recent trip to The Roosevelt. The Roosevelt only serves Virginia wine. While I have had some decent Virginia wine in the past, I've also had some horrible pisswater, too. My motto: "Taste it before you buy it." Virginia wine over the years has been inconsistent at best with weather being a key factor. But winemaking talent and eclectic owners have also contributed to the less-than-stellar reputation. At The Roosevelt, we took a chance on a Pollak Meritage (a true unknown to us) and were pleasantly surprised. We were ready to explore.

We visited 6 wineries. All of the wines we tasted were drinkable. Some were good. A couple were stunning. We were pleased at our findings. Each location had a different personality. The trip was a lot of fun and we came back with three cases of wine to enjoy.

Virginia Wineworks/Michael Shaps: A no-frills operation. The tasting room is in the midst of the barrels and tanks. Shaps sources all of his grapes from the local area and only selects the best of the bunch for his high-end wines. He also is a consulting winemaker to many other Virginia wineries. Located south of Monticello at the end of a gravel road. We brought home Michael Shaps Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot.


Michael Shaps Barrel

Bleheim Vineyards: Part of the celebrity wine trail. Owned by Dave Matthews and situated next door to Trump Winery. Inspiring Americana setting with a white barn, sweeping vistas, and a cool label for their Painted Red series. We purchased Cabernet Sauvignon and Painted Red.

Clematis and Barn

Green Expanse

Blenheim Painted Red

Green Ford Truck

Pollak Vineyards: A large operation producing a series of polished wines in a pastoral setting with vines, mountains, and pond. Pollak grows all of their grapes which is totally opposite from the Shaps approach. For home consumption we carried back Viognier, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Meritage.


Pollak Pond

Stinson Vineyards: An up-and-coming site with baby vines planted all around. They use a combination of locally grown grapes plus their own production. The also have a cool ceramic vat for winemaking. We purchased the Meritage Red.

Vineyard View

Ceramic Vat

Mountfair Vineyards: Hands-down the best winery we visited from the wine view point. Located down a dirt road, this little place only produces red wine. Everything we tasted was hearty and wonderful. They also taste out Thibaut-Janisson sparkling wines. We bought Belated, Engagement, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and a bottle of the Thibaut-Janisson Blanc de Blancs.

Mountfair Vineyards


Glass House Winery: The best place to drink a glass of wine. Choose between the balcony overlooking the pond or the tropical greenhouse conservatory. Both wonderful settings. Handmade chocolates are also available along with a chocolate dessert wine utilizing cocoa powder during winemaking process. Glass House also had a healthy sense of humor. We took home the Twenty-First, a red blend and Meglio del Sesso, the chocolate dessert wine.

Glass House

Tropical Setting

Pay No Attention To The Dog's Eyes

The trip made us appreciate Virginia wine a bit more. We recognized that over the last 10 years new places have popped up that are making seriously nice-drinking options. Places are figuring out what grows better in the region and branching out to embrace the unique Virginia terroir. Some have honed their skills on a few stellar grapes. I hope they keep up the good work. I now want to explore other new-to-me Virginia wineries.

But in the end "Taste it before you buy it" still reigns supreme. On the way home we stopped at the Greenwood Gourmet Grocery in Crozet. They carry a ton of local wine. And I was taken in by the name - Well Hung Vineyard. I bought a bottle of Verdot-Merlot, untasted. Once we opened the bottle and tasted it we had a new name: Strung Up (and I was strung along). Oh well. Wine, no matter where it comes from, can be good or not. At least 6 Virginia wineries are making a reputation for the Commonwealth and are leading the way to putting Virginia on the global wine map.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Farm to Table at Zynodoa

Located in historic downtown Staunton, Zynodoa serves creative dishes inspired by local producers. This contemporary restaurant has garnered great press up and down the eastern seaboard, but as many times as we had visited Staunton, we never stopped to partake of the "inspired southern cuisine." This oversight was addressed during the Memorial Day weekend.

Despite not having reservations we were gracefully guided to a table for two at the back of the establishment near the kitchen window (too high for me to watch the action, unfortunately).

A Spearmint Mojito for hubby to celebrate the start of a weekend getaway

Spearmint Mojito

and a Ginger Pear Martini for me with a candied ginger swizzle.

Tipsy Ginger Pear

Zynodoa displays a Farm to Fork board listing local producers and purveyors.

Farm to Fork Board

While imbibing our cocktails we ordered the Caromont Goat Cheese Tartlet with melted leeks and a shortbread crust.

Caromont Goat Cheese Tartlet

Both of us exclaimed, murmured, and moaned over the tart's allure with each bite. We were familiar with Caromont because the lovely Sara Adduci (former cheese queen of River City Cellars and Secco and now cheesemonger at Feast! in Charlottesville) introduced us to this wonderful Virginia product a few years ago. Zynodoa prepared an extrodinary dish. Creamy with a slight goatish tang, a hint of leeks, and a touch of sweetness with the shortbread crust. A rich starter that can be easily shared and lusted after.

We opted for a non-local wine. Zynodoa's wine list offered several Virginia bottles, but we spotted the Marietta Petite Sirah, Alexander Valley. A favorite of ours that we had not enjoyed in quite a while.

Marietta Petite Sirah

And the wine paired extremely well with our choice of entree. We both ordered the the Buffalo Creek Steak Frites: Grilled Skirt Steak with Crispy Potato Wedges, AM Fog Oyster Mushrooms, and Horseradish Aioli.

Steak Frites with Oyster Mushrooms

A lovely dish. The steak was cooked to a perfect medium rare. We adored the potatoes and we could use as much or as little of the aioli as we cared to. Yummy. But the big surprise happened to be the mushrooms. Maybe because they were local; maybe due to the chef's expertise; perhaps a combination; in any case, they were freakin' awesome! Fungi usually do not thrill me. Some I have detested; some, tolerated. Only a scant few servings have I liked and quality of the product and expert preparation have been the key. These I really raved about and scarfed them all down. I was that impressed. (By the way, for you mushroom lovers, AM Fog offers their lovely fungi at the South of the James Market!)

Good drink. Awesome food. Mostly local. Zynodoa.

Looking Back: Broad Appetit 2012

Yes, fabulous as always. And the weather cooperated. Not so freakin hot as in the past. I continue to applaud all of the independent restaurateurs in the area who wow us with imaginative and delicious creations. I love that the festival takes place in the heart of the arts district and the city allows Broad Street to be blocked off. Having the vendors placed in the median and tables and chairs set up on the sidewalk allows for easier pedestrian flow despite the overwhelming crowds. It looked like there were enough wine stations, but the ID checks and beer lines were a bottle neck. Of course, some vendors run out of food. This happens every year. I think most vendors have learned to adjust. Vendors running out by 1:30 PM just isn't right. To a few other vendors that were late setting up - Plan Better. You are there to showcase your stuff. Poor planning/execution does not impress.

Let me share numerous photos and some of the food that delighted hubby and me.

Balliceaux Booth
The Magpie
The Magpie
Sticky Rice Prepping
Sticky Rice
Cake Pops
Cake Pops
Sold Out
Nothing left but the liquid
Pink Bus
Love the Pink Bus!
Banh Mini
Bahn Mini from Popkin Tavern
Duck Fat Fries
Duck Fat Fries from On the Rox
Pork Belly Bun
Pork Belly Bun from Sticky Rice - So Good!
Curried Goat
Goat Curry from The Magpie - These guys took a risk that turned out to be fabulous. I appreciated that the goat was boneless, too!
Foggy Ridge Cider
We had cider instead of wine. Foggy Ridge rocked it with dry hard cider. Good stuff.
Cochon de Lait
Cochon au Lait with Gouda Grits and Pork Cracklings from Chez Foushee. Our favorite dish from the festival.
Piquillo Peppers Stuffed with Goat Cheese
Piquillo Peppers Stuffed with Goat Cheese from C'est Le Vin. Divine.
Seared Scallop
Seared Scallop with Corn and Bacon from Spoon. Delicious and the winner of the Best Dish.

If you have never attended Broad Appetit, shame on you. Hands down the best food festival in the area. The shear variety is worth checking out. I always go early (not as hot and not as crowded).  I encourage the rest of you to go later so I can enjoy my food with less people :)