Sunday, July 29, 2012

Bastille Day - Celebrating Old School Style

We've been fortunate enough to visit France several times. We love the traditional cuisine. No matter where we ate, it was delicious. If we are able we try to relive some French memories on Bastille Day and dine out at a local French restaurant.

This Bastille Day we visited a place that we had not been to in 6 years: Chez Max. Chez Max has that old school Americanized version of a French country inn. Dark paneling, country lace curtains, white linens, bistro-style chairs. Quaint and cozy.

We were warmly welcomed and we received attentive service.

[Just an aside on service. Actual French service is kick ass. The wait staff may seem aloof because they are not interested in your life or activities, particularly tourist activities; but their attention to detail and timing is impeccable. The silverware is replaced after every course; the wine is always poured before your glass is empty; the main course is never served before the first course has been finished and dessert is never considered until the rest of the meal is done. The pace is never hurried and we have time to discuss, consider, and appreciate the meal. We also experienced this type of service, for the most part, in the province of Quebec from the local pizza joint to the fancier places. I know that pay scales differ here and staffing constraints may be a challenge as well. I know it's a tough job; but after experiencing consistently great service, which is the normal expectation in France, I always make comparisons. I do appreciate the personable touch from a lot of the wait staff here in the Richmond area. If they could combine that quality with French-style attention to detail, the outcome would be the fantastic. Thank you for putting up with my rant.]

Now back to our Bastille Day celebration. Of course we needed to select a French wine, although Chez Max also has selections from other parts of the wine-producing world. We decided upon a 2009 Chateau Haut-Surget from Lalande-de-Pomerol. Hearty, yet smooth going down. A very pleasant combination and able to pair well with a variety of dishes.

Vintage Setting

We shared an appetizer special: Tuna Tartare with capers and pickled ginger. Yeah, this was good. A wonderful summer starter.

Tuna Tartare

For the main dish, hubby selected the Atlantic Halibut with a Dijon mustard sauce. The fish was very dense and meaty. He really liked it and I was much impressed with the bite I sampled.


And I had the only dish I could really have ordered: Roasted Duck Breast with green peppercorn sauce. It did not disappoint. The duck breast was pink and tender; the sauce, divine. The wine worked incredibly well with the meal. I loved the potato ring as well. A nice added touch.


We saved room for dessert on this evening. Hubby had the Creme Brulee and I decided upon the Chocolate Souffle. The brulee was lovely, warmed with a delicious sugar coating. The souffle was a bit disappointing. Instead of the delicate melt-in-your-mouth experience I expected, the dessert had more of a chewy texture. I would not order this again.

Creme Brulee

Chocolate Souffle

Traditional, old school French cuisine that met our expectations. Happy Bastille Day!

Bastille Day Tribute

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Retro Dining

As with every Giavos family venture, the Continental Westhampton contains everything to be a neighborhood crowd-pleaser: wonderful theme and decor, a menu offering a variety of options at decent prices, and generous portions to keep all satisfied. We finally tried this place with the great chrome and retro furnishings a couple of weeks ago. This time the wait was only about 10 minutes long (enough to order a Manhattan straight up from the shiny and packed bar).

Continental Bar

There were so many choices on the menu that we asked our waitress to give us time to read, lick our lips, and change our minds a couple of times. Knowing that portions were probably on the generous side, we could not order everything.

We ended up having two of the messier sandwiches from the "Eat With Your Hands" section of the menu: The Cuba Libre Burger and the Classic Ham and Cheese with Fried Egg.

Continental Cuba Libre

Ham and Cheese with Fried Egg

I thought the picks with the Continental banner added that just-right retro detail. We had our choices of sides. I went with house-made chips and hubby had fries. Both sandwiches required multiple napkins. My fried egg oozed yolk which was a bonus, but halfway through I gave up and grabbed my knife and fork. The burger had lots of flavor thanks to the addition of ham.

We were also pleased to see the Continental carry Kim Kim sauce, which means I could try it. And it was good.

The Line Up

There were lots of items that we still need to try such as the Kentucky Hot Brown, Lobster Hushpuppies, and Stuart's Baked Alaska... We'll have to return.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Hazy Comfort

During the horrendous triple digit spell we moseyed over to Comfort. We had not visited Comfort in a coon's age. We grew up with Southern-style cooking. I can cook these oh-so-familiar dishes. While I appreciate the concept, eating at Comfort has never been the priority.

I finally got a whiff of the drinks list. The cocktail menu is not on the website, unfortunately. There is a prodigious whiskey listing, but when I finally heard about the mixed drink offerings, hubby and I had to visit. Comfort features a lengthy list of interesting and not-sweet concoctions. Comfort mixes the new with traditional classics such as a Sazerac, Bitter Restaurant Staffer (with Fernet), Pale Rider (with Irish whiskey and Cynar), and Old Pal (Wild Turkey Rye, Campari, and Dry Vermouth). Since travelling to Italy last year, we have become fast friends with Amari - Italian herbal digestives that have a bitter edge. We were pleased to see Comfort employing a number of these for their libations. On this evening both of us tried the Old Pal. We became fast friends.

Old Pals

For dinner hubby ordered a home-style item that I will not fix - meatloaf. I do not like meatloaf and I will not make it. Even if I did, it would not be like his Mom's (isn't that always the case?). Comfort's meatloaf was denser and different enough that he enjoyed it without having to compare it to his childhood memories. His sides were green beans (not cooked Southern-style, thank goodness) and mac and cheese.

Meatloaf and Green Beans

I had a pork chop with corn and mashed potatoes. The chop was large and tasty with the right amount of salt and pepper, the potatoes were potatoes (good, but I can make them good, too), the corn was spectacular - fresh and buttery. The meal was large enough for me to take half home to enjoy later in the week.

Corn Chop Potatoes

Comfort has a decent wine list and we decided to stay in the Commonwealth. We enjoyed a 2009 White Hall Vineyards Petit Verdot. Inky dark red color, but medium-bodied to pair with the Southern comfort fare.

White Hall Petit Verdot

For dessert, hubby could not resist the banana pudding - served up creme brulee-style. He really liked it. I can just show you the photo. I can't eat bananas.

Banana Pudding

But I had a different after-dinner treat: Averna. Averna is one of those Italian amari that is traditionally served after a meal to aid in digestion. Herbal and sweet with a slight bitter edge. It was great to see this offered and I was happy to have the opportunity to indulge.

Comfort Dining

One word of caution: While Comfort's air conditioner was working overtime, she just was not up to the task of cooling the vintage building in the record-swelter heat. We sweated through the meal (this Southern lady was definitely not "glowing") and decided we would need to return to Comfort when temperate weather reappears.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

SOJ 7/7 and 7/14

Summertime at South of the James Market. It's blazing hot, so it's to everyone's advantage to arrive early. As hot as it is shopping for all of the delicious variety of products, it's even hotter working in the fields or slaving over a hot stove/oven to provide us with all of this goodness. My thanks to everyone who works so hard to bring me and others such delightfulness.

With the hard work comes a feast for the eyes. The colorful variety of tomatoes always catch my eye as well as the bright peppers. Peaches, watermelon, and berries abound. Coxcomb is also in undulating bloom. And don't forget the adorable canines.

Stuffer Tomato

Pepper Variety





Fast Friends

Mottled Cutie

If you have any photos of any of the area markets, post them to the RVA Farmers' Market site and stay cool y'all!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Another Visit to The Roosevelt

Earlier in July we headed back to The Roosevelt to enjoy another meal. This time a rehearsal dinner filled half the space. A bit strange since there is no way to partition a group gathering. And when the best man stood up to make a speech, all I could think of was Four Weddings and a Funeral. It took an enormous amount of effort to keep from rolling my eyes and bursting out with guffaws. I do wish the bride and groom a happy journey despite my cynicism.

In any case hubby and I ate, drank, and made merry. We began with cocktails: Jasper's Rum Punch and The Orange Door Hinge. Hubby enjoys rum and on this blazing hot night, it was very refreshing. My Hinge contained Espolon tequila and blood orange juice with a jalapeno hint and Kentucky Ale 8 soda. I have lately been won over by Espolon. The taste of the tequila shines through no matter what is added. This is a very good thing. I liked the black sea salt around the rim, too, but beware, it will temporarily turn lips and tongue black.

Jasper's Rum Punch
Jasper's Rum Punch
The Orange Door Hinge
The Orange Door Hinge

We shared a salad and a snack: Peach and Burrata Salad and Fried Pork Rinds. The salad was the best thing we encountered all night (the rest was good, this was simply outstanding). The salad also contained arugula and hazelnuts with a Banyuls vinaigrette. So yummy. The pork rinds were still crackling as they were served - a grown up version of pop rocks and a nice crunchy companion to the salad.

Peach and Burrata Salad

Pork Rinds

The Virginia wine of the evening was a King Family Meritage. Once again, I'm happy that The Roosevelt had the gumption to only offer Virginia wine and that they select quality producers.

King Family Meritage

For dinner proper: Flap Steak with Fingerling Potatoes and Housemade A1 and Smoked Duck Leg with Cheddar Grits and Oyster and Sausage Gravy. The flap steak was similar to a flat iron. Hubby enjoyed it, but was not a fan of the A1 sauce. I was lured in by the duck, which was fabulous. I even enjoyed the oysters. The grits were too rich for me and I really could not eat them. I have to be careful about creamy-cheesy offerings be it quiche, alfredo sauce, or even mac and cheese. Other diners would have scarfed them down and asked for more, I'm sure.

Flap Steak

Smoked Duck Leg

Richmond has been blessed with some wonderful places to experience good food and drink. The Roosevelt continues to be one of these special places. Go soon and enjoy for yourself. And one more thing - despite the temperature of 100 degrees outside, the restaurant was cool and comfortable inside. A difficult thing to achieve with older buildings.

The Roosevelt

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Smoked Pork Tenderloin at Tastebuds American Bistro

Smoked Pork Tenderloin by pjpink

Smoked Pork Tenderloin a photo by pjpink on Flickr.
Tastebuds American Bistro continues to treat deserving palates with various specials. Last week they featured smoked pork tenderloin with a pear and cilantro salsa. Truly wonderful!

Meze Ora

Be it weekday or weekend Stella's remains busy. A testament to great talent and to the RVA eating public. And even though reservations can be made via Open Table, we always seem to attempt to eat here on a whim. Each time we are eating early and there are only places at the bar or the communal table. We chose the bar.

Meze Ora

Arriving early (before 6 PM) is rewarding in itself due to Meze Ora. That golden time of the evening where small plate specials eagerly greet diners. These are truly small bite-size offerings and bring back the true concept of appetizers. We enjoyed the Prawns with Skordalia (a thick intense garlic sauce). The shrimp were large, plump, and meaty. Just the right bite while enjoying a cocktail before dinner.

Prawns and Skordalia

And speaking of cocktails, Stella's offers a plethora of Greek-influenced libations. Hubby was bold and ordered the Siga Siga (Slowly, Slowly), a concoction of ouzo, fresh basil, homemade syrup, and soda. He thoroughly enjoyed the strong anise flavor. This overwhelming and sweet drink definitely needs to be sipped not chugged.

Siga Siga

I took a more lofty approach with the Sophia: prosecco, aperol, and citrus. Very refreshing.


As Meze Ora melted into the evening, we turned our thoughts to dinner. Stella's only offers Greek wine. Kudos to them for doing this. Only a place with a great reputation (and the exquisitely tasty food to back it up) could take this leap. Since we do not know anything about Greek wine, it makes for a difficult choice. And the bottles listed were not the same as the bottles offered, which added to the confusion. We eventually settled on a Cabernet with some assistance from our bartender. Decent, but what we ordered the last time we thought was better.

Greek Cab

Dinner, as always, was divine. I ordered the old nostalgic standby - Stella's Filet, grilled with a sherry dijon crab cream. Yummy, yummy. Medium rare with nice chunks of crab (no skimping on the seafood aspect here). I loved this dish at the old Stella's and I love this dish now.

Filet with Sherry Dijon Crab Cream

Hubby enjoyed an equally satisfying dish (at least for him) - Pan Seared Salmon with spanakorizo (braised spinach and rice with olive oil and lemon).

Pan Seared Salmon

After dinner we were checking out the bottles at the bar and espied something we were not familiar with. When we inquired of our bartender he presented us with Skinos Mastiha and poured a wee bit for us to sample. The spirit is derived from the mastiha tree resin. The resin harvesting only takes place on the island of Chios. The spicy-sweet clear liquor was a revelation. Stella's uses it in cocktails, including a Greek sazerac, but it can be sipped after dinner as well. If you are into spirits and are up for trying new things, I highly recommend it.

One day we might plan ahead and make reservations to eat at an actual table at Stella's. In the meantime we will stop by on occasions to check out the bar and revel in the Greek-influenced deliciousness.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

SOJ 6/30

We arrived at the South of the James Market really early to attempt beating the heat. Due to the hellish temps and power outages, a few vendors could not make it. The ones who could make it had beautiful items. Enjoy a few photos.

Bonnyclabber Goat Cheese

Cherry Tomatoes



East of Afton



If any of you have photos of the market, add them to the RVA Farmers Market flickr site.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Farewell to The Marinara

Matt Sadler aka The Marinara promoted the food culture of RVA with enthusiasm. He wrote articles, blogged, tweeted, and coordinated Sunday Suppers with many of the local restaurants. He and his family moved to Florida this weekend.

Before he left, Pasture hosted a farewell happening and came up with a special cocktail: The Southern Marinara. Green tomatoes, borage, oregano, mint, lemon, and gin - a spicy and tasty combination, A fitting tribute to Matt.

Southern Marinara

Good Luck Matt! We will miss you!