Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Have a Delicious Evening at Accanto

Okay all of you living in the Far West End/Short Pump area - Listen up! Accanto is nestled amongst you and it is very good.

Accanto is connected to Little Venice and located on Ridgefield Parkway. It was tough for us to find, but all of you locals out there should be able to zero in on the location very quickly.

When you walk in, the space looks like a bar. Well, it is a bar, with contemporary black bar stools and furniture. A full complement of cocktails can be mixed. A decent wine list is available.

Accanto Bar

But the best thing about Accanto is the chef - Ryan Baldwin. Ryan used to delight my taste buds at Tastebuds American Bistro. He decided to try a new venture and landed at Accanto to showcase his considerable talent. His menu is creative and inventive.

I'll let a few pictures entice you.

Guajillo Duck Confit Tacos with radish, pear-jicama-tomatillo salsa, crema, queso fresco, plantain chips

Duck Confit Tacos
I'm always a sucker for duck. This was very good. I loved the plantain chips as well as the pear-based salsa. 
Ginger Pork Barbeque Spring Rolls with cucumber-cilantro dipping coulis, daikon, and mango

Pork Spring Rolls
Crispy roll, but not oily. The pork had a lovely smoky flavor.
Braised Pork Belly Sliders with Scotch Bonnet Goat Cheese

Pork Belly Sliders
This dish came with three HUGE sliders. The pork belly was oh-so-tender. The goat cheese was not scorching hot. I ate one and took the other two home to make tasty leftovers.
with Grilled Pineapple Jicama Napa Slaw

Pineapply Jicama and Napa Slaw
This was such an incredible slaw/salad. Perfect for summer time dining. A bit of sweet, a bit of crunch, many mouthfuls of delight.
Curry Salmon with Marcona Almonds

Curry Salmon
Hubby is usually a sucker for salmon. Very satisfying for him.
Lavender Creme Brulee

Lavender Creme Brulee
We both marveled at the floral tones and we were very pleased with the presentation.
Yummy, yummy.

Of course, we wish Ryan were closer to our home, but Accanto is worth visiting. Ryan is a talented young chef and can conjure up dining magic. If you live nearby and you are pining for delicious creativity, you must go! At last you will not have to venture into the city proper (and the tax is only 5%!).

Sunday, August 26, 2012

A Bit of August at Random

First up: Tastebuds American Bistro currently features fresh roasted local figs as their small plate special. After experiencing some fresh fig awesomeness last year, we look forward to this seasonal delight. Freakin' fantastic with goat cheese.

Ault's Family Farm raised some summertime turkeys this year. How wonderful is that? Smoked turkey wonderful. Yum!

Smoked Turkey

We shared this deliciousness with some friends and sipped on our now-official summertime cocktail for 2012: a pjpink!  A pjpink consists of 1 oz (or more depending on your mood) of bourbon (Wild Turkey 101, preferably); 1/2 oz of Campari, add a few ice cubes, and top off with 4-6 ounces of sparkling lemonade (Sanpellegrino limonata, preferably). The cocktail turns a wonderful shade of pink, is not too sweet, and tastes oh-so-refreshing.

My oldest nephew started college this weekend. The night before he left we took him, his girlfriend, mom, and dad to Aziza's on Main. Best pizza they ever had. Thanks Aziza's for making this last night before the big leap into adulthood very special.

Finally tried Dixie Chicken. Great-tasting fried chicken. Loved the homemade sides - mashed potatoes are real, including the peel, and green beans were cooked with ham. A request - list your hours of operation on your web site. We tried to go earlier in the year, but discovered you were not open on Sunday - wasted time and gas.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Happy Birthday to The Roosevelt

The Roosevelt celebrated its first birthday at the end of July with a multi-course dinner paired with Wines by Gabriele Rausse. The theme, entitled Veneto, combined a bit of Italy with fabulous Southern comfort.

We hopped on The Roosevelt bandwagon late since they were so busy for the first half of the year, we could not snag a table. We have since enjoyed our culinary excursions to Church Hill. The Roosevelt inspired us to seek out new Virginia wines (still impressed that they present an all-Virginia wine list). We have also appreciated their cocktails (the Orange Door Hinge is a favorite) and, of course, the food (smoked duck was a big hit with me).

For this dinner, we both stepped out of our comfort zone to celebrate.

Sardine in Saor
Sardine in Saor (pickled sardine) with Whipped Lardo on Crostini served with Vin Gris de Pinot Noir
Monkfish, Porcini, Cauliflower, Salsa Verde, and Anchovy Bread Crumbs served with Dry Rose
Smoked Pork Shoulder
Smoked Pork Shoulder, Polenta, Cranberry beans, Cabbage and Virginia Clams served with Cabernet Franc
Olive Oil Cake and Orange Sorbet
Olive Oil Cake, Marscapone, and Orange Sorbet served with Collage
A lovely dinner. To The Roosevelt: congrats on being in business for a year; may you continue to tantalize our taste buds with inventive Southern fare and libations.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

A Very Happy Birthday

For a number of years, hubby and I would take each other out to a surprise location (often new) for our birthdays. We always like trying new places (as you can attest to). Unfortunately, the surprise place, be it new or old, somehow disappointed on that special day. A strange phenomenon.

For hubby's birthday this year, no surprises. We went to Tastebuds American Bistro and, per usual, we had a mighty fine experience. And since we are regulars, Andrew and Valentina also had a couple of special items for the occasion.

The cocktail of the week was a Cherry Collins with two types of gin. Yeah, hubby likes gin.

Cherry Collins

A special wine was ordered for us: Adelsheim Pinot Noir. Unbeknownst to Tastebuds, this is our favorite Oregon Pinot producer.

Adelsheim Pinot Noir

We ordered Olive Tapanade with Goat Cheese and Crostini. And then was presented with a special appetizer: Duck Two Ways. Delicious! We spent some time experimenting with the various parings: duck with olives, duck with goat cheese, etc. All good.

Olive Tapenade and Goat Cheese Crostini

Duck Two Ways

For the main course we both ordered Crab-stuffed Flounder. Yes, I ordered the fish and it was good.

Crab-stuffed Flounder

Sweet endings reign on birthdays and hubby did not miss out on Chocolate Cheesecake.

Chocolate Cheesecake

Tastebuds gave hubby and experience to remember. We truly appreciated it and will stick with our local favorite for future celebrations.

(And this past week, I convinced my new boss, his wife, and a teammate to eat with us at Tastebuds. Everyone enjoyed this wonderful neighborhood gem!)

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Chateau Ste. Michelle Riesling at the Richmond Jazz Festival

Yesterday hubby and I attended the Richmond Jazz Festival* at Maymont.  We arrived around 1PM, survived the humidity and the rain, and had a fantastic time. We spent most of our time near the Virginia is for Lovers stage. There was lots of great music. We particularly enjoyed Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue. Check these guys out if you have the chance.

Tucked in among the vendors Chateau Ste. Michelle had set up The Reason for Riesling Tent, pouring three different Riesling styles from the Washington State producer. All were from the 2011 harvest and ranged from dry to sweet.

First up we tasted the Dry Riesling. With the very first sip we felt a tongue tingling effervescence. Apple dominated this Riesling, thus, even though this wine was dry, it had enough fruit to please the palate. This wine would be a great base for a white wine sangria. It would also be a nice accompaniment to shrimp or scallops.

Dry Riesling

The next wine was the Columbia Valley Riesling. This medium-dry offering sported a heavier mouth-feel and reminded us of the weight of an Alsatian Riesling. We picked up apricot essences. Because of the weight of the wine, this turned out to be our favorite of the three.


We could see ourselves sipping this on a warm afternoon or enjoying with a roasted chicken and sauteed green beans. It would also pair well with some of the food offerings from the Jazz Festival vendors like Chef Mamusu and the Curry Fried Lake Trout with Jollof Rice, Greens and Cornbread.

Curry Fried Trout and Sides

The last wine tasted was the Harvest Select Sweet Riesling. Lower in alcohol (10%) and definitely sweeter than the first two Rieslings. However, not cloying sweet like some dessert wines. This wine which showed some hints of peach was the crowd favorite and would be a good choice for folks who prefer non-dry wine styles. We could envision the multitude of pairing possibilities: spicy food, macerated peaches, or cheesecake.

Harvest Select Sweet Riesling

All three were delightfully quaffable. Summer is a great season to enjoy Rieslings, including the variety from Chateau Ste. Michelle.

Pouring Riesling

*Full disclosure here: I was contacted by a social media marketing company and asked if I would be willing to review the three Chateau Ste. Michelle Rieslings at the Richmond Jazz Festival. In order to taste the wines, we were provided passes to the Festival. We truly enjoyed tasting the wines.  We also really appreciated the incredibly talented musicians at the Festival.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

A Middling Feeling

According to Merriam-Webster:


French, from Italian mezzanino, from mezzano middle, from Latin medianus middle, median
First Known Use: 1711

And a middle or median evening is what we experienced at Mezzanine. The dishes were delicious. We were intrigued and please with the Watermelon with Basil-Mint Cream and Prosciutto. While I had envisioned a salad, this dish was a deconstruction allowing us to pair and experiment with differing tastes.

We also raved over the Virginia Pork Carnitas with Black Beans, Mole, Tumeric Rice and Peach Salsa. The pork was tender and flavorful. The peach salsa, an outstanding accompaniment.

Pulled Pork with Peach Salsa

But sometimes something happens that colors the entire evening, kind of like going to the theater and someone in the audience is playing games on his smart phone and I can see the tiny screen light up. I'm thinking about the annoyance instead of enjoying the show.

Something very tiny, but very annoying happened during our Mezzanine meal. One of the waitstaff (someone helping out our waiter) cleared our appetizer dishes. A fork and knife were used and remained on our plates. Instead of taking the utensils and bringing us new ones, and instead of asking politely us to keep our utensils for the next course, this person grabbed the utensils and plopped them back on the table. Really? I know this is a small thing, but let's face it. This was a bad service move and I thought about this lack of service/training/experience/apathy for the rest of the evening. It's been about 3 weeks and I'm still incredulous. Small plates at Mezzanine range from $14 - $18 and entrees run $18 - $35. Why would I want to pay these prices for dirty utensil plopping service?

I shaved my tip by $1. Our real waiter was much better and I did not want to leave completely embittered. I have to say, it will be a while before I return. I can get dazzling food elsewhere with better service.

Monday, August 06, 2012

A Confession and a Plea for Enlightenment

I will admit it. I just don't get Dim Sum. What's so great about it? Okay, I'll agree that all of those photos are enticing. I look at Dim Sum steamed dumplings and I nudge hubby and exclaim: "We need to try this place!"

We have now tried Dim Sum three times over a span of years. Full Kee was first. We had a difficult time understanding what was in the dishes, but everything we tried was fairly bland. We were not impressed. We have enjoyed other offerings at Full Kee.

Next up was Mark's Duck House in Northern Virginia. Once again, we tried it, we experienced blandness. We just did not like it. We continue to enjoy and rave about the duck.

A couple of weeks ago we had lunch at Queen's Dim Sum. The place was pleasant. Queen's had a Dim Sum menu to describe what we were ordering (which we greatly appreciated). The wait staff were patient and attentive. We had steamed pork and shrimp, fried meatballs, taro root, and a couple of others. The results? Neither of us liked what we ate. Everything seemed bland.

Based on our triple experience, it's us, obviously, not the eating establishment.

So, for all of you Dim Sum aficionados - What's the big deal? What am I missing? I am in need of enlightenment.

Dim Sum
Looks delicious enough to entice

Grilled Cheese from Tarrant's Cafe

Grilled Cheese by pjpink

Grilled Cheese a photo by pjpink on Flickr.
One of my favorite sandwiches in RVA comes from Tarrant's Cafe. Swiss and American cheese with bacon and ham on grilled Texas toast. Hell Yeah, this is good. And it comes with a plethora of side choices. I opted for onion straws.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Market Colors: SOJ 7/21 and 7/28

The South of the James Market exploded with color during the last half of July. The produce has been spectacular despite the wretched heat. Check out the photos below and support your local, hard-working, sweaty farmers.

Salsa Kit (explored)

Market Colors


Pizza Tonight (or this Morning)

Sitting Pretty

Swiss Chard

In the Pink

If you have photos of any of the area markets, please post them to the RVA Farmer's Market site.