Monday, September 30, 2013

Falling in Love with Merroir

My hubby has always been the oyster fan, generally, fried oysters. If fried oysters appear on the menu, he gets them. No chance for me to share an app or a small plate. For the most part, I give in because he enjoys these Virginia delicacies so freakin' much. He can tell whether those babies are sweet or if they remind him of the "dirty water" shellfish he grew up eating.

Raw oysters are another matter. He will eat them, but won't go out of his way. I could pretty much leave them stranded. We did have some truly kick-ass tiny pink ones when we were in Oregon that I continue to rave about and we tried some Anderson Neck cuties at Dutch and Co which were small and sweet. I was surprised at how good they were. So was hubby.

On a mellow and sunny Sunday in August we decided to drive to Topping, VA to check out Merroir. Yes, lots of folks around here have raved about them. But raw oysters? and particularly on a hot summer (or even spring day)? No way. Well, the stars aligned and we arrived. Great setting along the Rappahannock. Everyone was eating outside (including some frisky little dogs). We could have our pick of sun or shade. We chose shade. The menu was short, but featured many tempting dishes, including sliders for non-seafood eaters.

We began by ordering a Picpoul de Pinet. The crisp, slightly grapefruity white from France was a nice choice for the feast to come.

Of course we started with raw oysters. Merroir offers three varieties that they harvest. We chose the sweet Rappahannocks. I (and hubby) were impressed. I would order these again. We also shared some steamed shrimp that weren't too shabby.

We then progressed at a leisurely pace into a second course. I gravitated towards the Sunday brunch special - crabcake, fried green tomato, bacon, and fried egg sandwich. So yummy! My partner selected the tomato, mozzarella, and basil salad along with some steamed clams. We both were able to satisfy our seafood cravings while sitting back and watching the river scene. Yes, love at first bite.

As the fall gets into full gear, the river setting should just get even better.

Enjoy these photos of the food and scenery at Merroir.

The entrance to the outside dining area. Merroir also offers a few inside bar seats during in-climate weather.
Relaxing at Merroir
A couple with their pooches enjoying the sunshine.
Picpoul de Pinet
A refreshing white wine for brunch
Swallow the Leader
Swallow the Leader
Rappahannock Oysters
Sweet raw oysters. Not slimy.
Steamed Spiced Shrimp
Steamed spiced shrimp. Ask for extra napkins.
An Oysterista ready to take an order
Crabcake with  Bacon and Egg
A perfect brunch offering - fried egg, crabcake, bacon, and fried green tomato
Tomato Basil and Mozzarella Salad
A salad drizzled with balsamic vinegar
Steamed Clams
Steamed clams with lots of summer flavor
Water View
A beautiful water view

Friday, September 20, 2013

The 38th Annual Virginia Wine Festival - Life is Grape

On a glorious Saturday morning, hubby and I headed a bit north to Great Meadow at The Plains for the 38th Annual Virginia Wine Festival. We were sent a couple of media passes from Madison+Main to check out the celebration of the grape in the Commonwealth.

First of all, the weather turned out to be perfect. Temperature in the low 70's; blue sky dotted with fluffy white clouds; a gentle breeze.

About 50 wineries had gathered around the Great Meadow fields along with wine-related vendors and a wide variety of food vendors. Throughout the day participants streamed in traveling by bus or snaking their cars through the fields to park. Due to the popularity of the event and the vast numbers of wines available to taste, wine tents became more crowded after 1 PM and a strategy was implemented to taste the wines that interested us. Being big red fans, we opted to skip most of the whites.

A couple of standout wines for us included Rogers Ford Petit Verdot. This was a new winery for us and we were impressed by the nose and flavor of this red grape which grows well here in Virginia. We were also attracted by the unusual bottle that was sourced from Milan.

Rogers Ford Petite Verdot

Another standout was Rosemont. We enjoyed each of their wines we tried - Lake Country Red, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot. This up and coming winery located in Mecklenburg County continues to impress.


Right beside Rosemont, Castle Hill Cider offered a dry sparkling, Celestial, and hint of sweet cider, Gravity. The sparkling tickled our noses and our fancies.

Castle Hill Cider

The best wine of the day was the Virginia Trianon from the Williamsburg Winery. This Cabernet Franc sported a wonderful flavor and also contained a lot of body with a bit of tannin. While most of the wines we tasted were at least decent and some were very enjoyable, most of the time, the wine was light to medium-bodied. Not the Trianon. It was great to see this long-established winery producing a lovely product.

Virginia Trianon

And let's not forget lunch. Various food trucks were offering anything from Mediterranean fare to shark tacos to vegetarian selections. We were intrigued by Christina's Sexi-Mexi Food Truck burritos. I opted for the East Indian Chicken and hubby tried the Crazy Cuban. I liked the fact that the wrap was seared. A very nice a flavoring detail. Both burritos were packed with ingredients. Hubby's featured pork, black beans, pickled onions, cheese, jalapenos, and avocado. Mine contained chicken sauteed in tikka masala with rice and pineapple. We got away from the crowd and settled upon some rocks jutting out from the ground beneath a shade tree. Great food, good wine, perfect day. As it stated on on wine tasting glasses - Virginia Never Tasted So Good.

Christina's Sexi-Mexi

A wine festival is always a great way to try wines produced in Virginia. In some cases the winemaker attends and pours the wine for your enjoyment. Most wineries produce a variety of wine from dry to sweet and if one is an imbiber, at least one wine (if not more) should be a palate pleaser.

Enjoy a few more photos as you plan your next trip to a Virginia Wine Festival.

Unicorn Winery explaining the benefits of wine
Love the Hat
AmRhein sported the best hats
Everyone was having a blast at Rockbridge
Wine Tote
A unique wine tote from one of the many vendors offering wine related items
Mountfair proved to be popular
Buy Democracy...Wine
Democracy Winery had the best T-shirts
Enjoying the white wines from Barboursville

Monday, September 02, 2013

An Evening of Specials at Tastebuds American Bistro

Yes, Tastebuds American Bistro is still my favorite dining spot in RVA. Hubby and I look forward to the weekly email listing the specials for the weekend. We then email each other to indicate we must eat there this weekend. We try to make reservations on Open Table and sometimes will leave a message. These guys ALWAYS read the messages. On this occasion I just stated "Yeah veal." We were set to dine on a Saturday. About an hour before dinner, we receive a call from Valentina making sure I still wanted veal. They had an early run of veal orders and wanted to make sure they reserved an order for me.  Talk about customer service.

And Andrew and Valentina do not reserve their customer service just for me and hubby. Take the wine we enjoyed on this trip - MacRostie Pinot Noir. Tastebuds American Bistro regularly hosts a table of four who always orders a pinot noir. Andrew ensures that pinot noir is on his list, but not just any run-of-the-mill stuff. He wants the pricing to be reasonable, while introducing the regulars to an expanded palate of the grape nectar. Hubby and I reap the benefits. It's all good. And despite my usual aversion to California pinots, I thoroughly enjoyed this one. It had enough punch for me and a lingering cherry essence. I can be such a sucker for cherriness in a wine.

MacRostie Pinot Noir

For dinner we started with a Shrimp Saganaki with fresh tomato, feta, and a touch of ouzo. What a great dish. Tons of flavor. The licoriceness of the ouzo really made this dish special. We had to request extra rolls to sop up all of the feta and tomato sauce.

Shrimp Saganaki

And, indeed, I had veal scallopini with fresh fig sauce and a green peppercorn-lemon risotto cake. Tastebuds has delicious veal and I love if when the fresh figs arrive and they utilize them in different ways. The fig sauce was delightful and different. The risotto cake featured a refreshing lemon accent. Lovely fruits of the summer.

Veal Scallopini with Fresh Fig Sauce

Hubby selected seared scallops with pancetta cracklings and housemade wide fettucine. He greatly enjoyed his meal. The generous portion of pancetta crackling was particularly appreciated.

Seared Scallops with Pancetta Cracklings

We also enjoy eating here because not only are Andrew and Valentina a wonderful and welcoming couple, but the rest of the staff also makes our experience special. Currently, James, Leanne, and Greg all say hello; ask us about our day; and other places we have eaten at lately. They understand we are here to enjoy the food, but to also relax and take a slow approach to dinner. This combination of good food and good staff along with the fortunate walking distance location keep us coming back time and again.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

RVA Pepperoni Pizza from Pizza Tonight

RVA Pepperoni Pizza by pjpink

RVA Pepperoni Pizza a photo by pjpink on Flickr.
Pizza Tonight occasionally hits the South of the James Market. When they do I order a pizza. On this day I had the RVA Pepperoni with tomato sauce, mozzarella, and caprese salami from Olli Salumeria. Yummy, yummy!

Braised Rabbit with Hominy and Corn at Belmont Food Shop

While Belmont Food Shop changes its menu frequently, I was fortunate enough to dine there when the appetizer list featured Braised Rabbit with Hominy and Corn. Tender chunks of rabbit with a creamy-silky sauce. The balance of corn and hominy perfected this dish. Because of the richness, the portion size was just right as well.

We had not planned to eat here, but arrived early enough to snag a couple of places at the bar. I also enjoyed the Roast Chicken with Spoon Bread and Spinach. The chicken was moist and tasty; spoon bread, spot on with the balance of corniness and sweetness.

The wine that I imbibed was the Petit Petite from David Michael. One of my recent favs, but a bit pricey given a restaurant down the street offers it for $12 less per bottle. I guess the wine prices make up for the fantastic price of the $30 three course prix fixe.