Food

Edos1

Edo’s Squid

I don’t care if my new-found adoration for Edo’s makes me late in the game. I also don’t care if their customer service is not always warm, their steep staircase might detract elderly guests or I sometimes worry during dinner the floor might cave in.

Just like Millie’s, Coppola’s Deli and Dukes mayo, Edo’s Squid is a Richmond staple.

As it should be.

Braised Fennel.  Yes, it's as good as it looks.

Braised Fennel.
Yes, it’s as good as it looks.

Sausage (spicy), polenta and white beans.

Sausage (spicy), polenta and white beans.

Chicken cacciatore

Chicken cacciatore

I’m embarrassed to admit I hadn’t walked up the dark stairs until last September when I took my dad for dinner while he visiting from Texas. We dined on squid, arugula, and white bean salad, drank beers and fell in love with the sausage, polenta, and white beans while my dad did the same with his spaghetti.

Something about the cozy atmosphere, whizzing servers and smells of spice and pasta felt perfectly … Richmond.

Since then, I’ve been a fan. And that means dinners at Edo’s are with other fans – meaning my three Edo obsessed friends. I remember for a months last summer, they went twice a week. I should’ve known then the place was dynamite.

Edo’s no-nonsense service, hearty dishes, and cozy locale is a recipe for Richmond restaurant success. No wonder their tight dining room bustles with hungry patrons nightly and also tops Yelp, Urbanspoon, and was just mentioned in Style’s recent “The 30 Places to Eat in Virgina Before You Die”.

However, my opinion and adoration is very one-sided. If you don’t like a snug, noisy dining room, long waits and the possibility of having to grab your server’s attention, then this is not the place for you.

Not the place for you at all.

In fact, I’ve seen folks at Edo’s that didn’t get this memo – their arms crossed, standing in the narrow doorway all flustered and wondering why the wait is so long or holding bitch face at their table because it’s too noisy. My friends once witnessed an “almost” patron spit on the floor and yell through the kitchen window because his reservation was pushed back.

But don’t take it from me, listen to these other disgruntled diners (via Yelp) who make my fascination for Edo’s even stronger …

“If you like crowded, dark, loud restaurants with little to no description of what’s in the dishes, where you have to yell to hold a conversation, squint in the darkness to see what you’re eating, search for the waitress who seems to have forgotten about you, and leave with a large hole in your wallet: Look no further! This is the perfect restaurant for you!

I’m not sure why so many people recommended this place to me, but I probably won’t be back. To be fair, the food was pretty good, but for the price, I expect a much more pleasant dining experience.”

 or …

“The food was actually ok.  Not great, but not bad. Few notches above Olive Garden.

The food might have tasted better if not for the two major negatives below.

My 2 complaints, and the reason I won’t go back is:

1) unbelievable level of room noise.  Like no other restaurant I’ve ever been to. It sounded like a crowded loud noisy bar or nightclub.   My wife and I literally had to shout at each other to be able to hear from across the table.  Needless to say there wasn’t much conversation, we ate as quick as we could and got the hell out of there.
(you’d think they would install some ceiling baffles to dampen the noise)

2) We ordered a nice  glass of wine each.   It came in a scratched up juice glass… WTF?  I asked the waitress for a real wine glass, and got a snarky reply “that’s the way wine is served in Italy, and that’s the way it’s served here”.

I asked her if She had ever been to Italy.  Of course she said “no”

A few notches about the OG (Olive Garden)? I object.

Edo’s is not for the pretentious, agoraphobics or restless folks.  It is for people who love good food, can understand a busy dining room and go back wanting more.

What I recommend? Make reservations but if you miss this and wait, grab a bottle of Masciarelli. People watch a little.

Finally seated? Order the braised fennel. You cannot go wrong. Drown other people’s conversation with your own. Eat, drink and you’ll be good to go.

Edo's Squid on Urbanspoon

Party of One: Single & Cooking

I can tell that we are gonna be friends.

I can tell that we are gonna be friends.

No matter if you’re a master in the kitchen or your cooking skills are ho-hum, it’s likely your meals, preparation and eating habits shift with the different phases in your life.

For me, childhood was filled with homemade Texas-style meals made with love by my parents (yep, both of them). In college, it was heaps of creamy chicken ramen, grilled zucchini on the George Foreman, and many Coors Lights. Shifting to being in a relationship for quite some time, I became a ninja in our beautiful kitchen. Most meals were made with the help of Pinterest, my two hands, and something that’d make my girlfriend happy (think mac & cheese, vanilla bean cake, and enchiladas).

Now that I’m single, lots has changed, including eating and cooking.

In my recent short-term sublet, I had trouble befriending my small Fan kitchen. Although I made a crack pie and baked chicken, I wasn’t ready to get back into it again. The act of cooking had so many emotional strings attached to it I wasn’t ready to face.

After too many Lean Cuisine’s, bowls of Special K Red Berries, and bland salads, I grew bored. And thin.

Once I moved into my new place (with one sexy looking kitchen), I’m starting to re-learn the joy of cooking again.

So what does one eat when they’re single? Well, this is the part I’m slowly discovering. I’ve adjusted my recipes and portions to steer away from huge and extravagant meals but I still aim to make something that makes me happy, satisfied, and feeling good.

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greens + quinoa + other stuff = awesome

In my hunt for single people foods (of course, this means getting lost in my new grocery store plenty of times) I’ve discovered Quinoa has been a great foundation for meals. If you’re interested, here are some easy creations I’m obsessing over at the moment …

Quinoa + red apple + dried cranberry + red onion + blue cheese + balsamic + pepper

Chopped kale + quinoa + hard-boiled egg + avocado + sun-dried tomato + almonds + goat cheese + oil + vinegar

Baby greens + quinoa + black beans + tomato + avocado + shredded cheddar + Catalina dressing + Greek yogurt + crushed blue corn chips

Greek yogurt + quinoa + fresh berries + honey

The discovery of creating food just for me has been a learning process (like most recent events have) and something that I’ll look back on with a smile. Everyday, a new kitchen tool unearths, a new idea incorporates into my meal, and my inner kitchen maven returns.

The List: Dog Friendly Patios

Lunchtime: Grant + I at Union Market

Lunchtime: Grant + I at Union Market

The great outdoors has become my newest friend. Every weekend Grant (my beagle-dachshund mix) and I spend hours walking in the Fan, going to the dog park, the river, and sitting under huge trees at Dogwood Dell.

Weekends are our time – however, during our adventures, I get hungry.

Thinking there would be plenty of dog friendly patios, I did a quick Google search and discovered only a handful of options – none which excited me (or Grant).

I know there had to be more so I dug, and dug some more. I’ve reached out to dozens restaurants and compiled a list that’s sure to give you and your pups a chance to grab a bite to eat or a cool drink …

1. Strangeways Brewery (2277 Dabney Rd)
2. Alamo BBQ (2202 Jefferson Ave) Churchill
3. Southern Railway Taphouse (111 Virginia St #100) Downtown
4. Caliente (2922 Park Ave) Museum District
5. Crossroads (3600 Forest Hill Ave) Southside
6. Lamplighter (26 N Morris St) VCU/Fan
7. Center of the Universe Brewing (11293 Air Park Rd) Ashland
8. Hardywood (2408 Ownby Ln)
9. Food Truck Court (at Hardywood or Richmond First Baptist Church at Robinson & Monument)
10. Cafe Caturra – (5811 Grove Ave) Near West End
11. The Savory Grain (2043 W Broad) The Fan
12. Ipanema Cafe (917 W Grace St) The Fan
13. Union Market (2306 Jefferson Ave) Church Hill
14. Fresca on Addison (22 S Addison St) The Fan
15. F.W. Sullivan’s (2401 Main St) The Fan
16. Portrait House (2907 W Cary St) Carytown
17. Barrel Thief (5805 Patterson Ave) Near West End
18. McAlister’s Deli (1300A Gaskins Rd) West End
19. Brio Tuscan Grille (9210 Stony Point Pkwy) Stony Point
20. Casa Del Barco (320 S 12th St) Downtown
21. GlobeHopper (2100 E Main St) Shockoe Bottom
22. Barrel House (140 Virgina St) Downtown
23. Triple Crossing Brewing (113 S Foushee St) Downtown. They’ll be starting their Dog Days of Summer soon.
24. 23rd & Main Taproom at Sette (2300 Main St) Shockoe Bottom. They even have a Monday Yappy Hour until 8 for doggy parents. Genius.
25. Acacia (2601 W Cary St) The Fan
26. Weezie’s Kitchen (3123 W Cary St) Carytown
27. Home Team Grill (1630 W Main St) The Fan
28. Poe’s Pub (2706 E Main) Shockoe Bottom
29. Patrick Henry’s Pub (2300 E Broad St) Church Hill
30. The Franklin Inn (800 N Cleveland St) Museum District
31. En Su Boca (1001 N Boulevard Ave) The Fan / Diamond
32. Palani Drive (401 Libbie Ave) Near West End

 

If there are any to add, feel free to shout it out at grublikeagirl@live.com.

Happy Grant.

Happy Grant.

 

New Beginnings: broken heart, better food

2 months ago, my girlfriend and I made the [hard and tearful] decision to end our 4 1/2 year relationship.

Besides sorting through my emotions (journal writing, carb eating, red wine drinking), I’ve also searched high and low for a new place to live (since we lived together in a house she bought for us … sigh). After touring my 10th place, I’ve decided on a swanky and modern apartment in Shockoe Bottom. It might sound fun and sexy but dismantling the stable life my girlfriend and I built together has been anything but easy or exciting.  However, there is a bit of eagerness towards moving downtown. There will be more energy and I’ll be within walking distance to coffee shops, restaurants, and the 17th Street Market.

During part of this time, my friends were kind enough to welcome me as a house guest in their sweet place on Strawberry and Park for a few weeks.  In the Fan, I’ve experienced a world I couldn’t experience in the West End-ies.  I’ve walked to the market to grab a bottle of wine, discovered and fallen in love with 8 1/2, and played cornhole on the sidewalk.  Very Fan, isn’t it?

While forcing myself to get out (ditching a ice-cream-eating-cry-fest) and explore, I’ve discovered amazing places and foods worth a mention …

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Proper Pie. I know, I’m late on this one. However, my first trip with my fellow RVAFC (Richmond Food Coalition) group made me an instant fan.  Their tangy and sweet strawberry rhubarb pie was out of this world. My fellow food-loving friend, Marcella (at Broad Appetite) is a huge fan and praises their Banofee pie (Banana and toffee).

Edo’s Squid’s braised fennel. This standard menu items is one I would normally passed up but my friends urged me to give this a try.  After one bite, I instantly claimed this one of the best dishes in Richmond.  It’s creamy, buttery, and something you’d never expect.

Viceroy's home made mozzarella

Viceroy’s home made mozzarella

The Viceroy. This swanky Museum District restaurant has no hint of Cafe Diem and has quickly become my happy hour hot spot (from 4 -7).  The bartender, Justin is fantastic and friendly. My favorite thing here?  Their homemade mozzarella wrapped in prosciutto with a balsamic reduction drizzle.  Get three for $11. 

8 1/2.  This quaint pizza joint on Strawberry Street has been on my food “want” list for quite some time. Since my friends place where I was staying was only a stones throw away, I quickly made the 15 step walk to pick up a mushroom and broccoletti. It was amazing.  

I’m not sure what’s in store for my personal journey and navigating a new life. However, I do know it will be filled with good food, new experiences, and a handful of friends.

Discovering: Polenta

polenta, sauteed kale, and pan seared chicken.

polenta, sauteed kale, and pan seared chicken.

I don’t know why I thought polenta was complicated.

Maybe because it’s so incredibly satisfying that I deemed it “impossible” to make on my own.

When I spot polenta on the menu at restaurants, I instantly gravitate to whatever main course it’s paired with.  I adore its warm and creamy flavor and complicated-to-explain texture. Bacchus’ polenta has the thick consistency like cornbread, topping it with melted mozzarella or Gorgonzola, Toast serves nestled around a beef link in true corn dog style, while The Roosevelt’s soft Mascarpone polenta makes a perfect pair with braised short rib.

It wasn’t until my friend (and fellow blogger) posted her take on a classic with her polenta grilled cheese.  It seemed incredibly simple and just what I needed for dinner last night but unfortunately, I couldn’t find the precooked polenta she uses at my grocery store.  Instead of ignoring my craving, I grabbed cornmeal, gouda, and butter and headed home to make my own homemade creamed polenta.

After boiling 3 cups of water and 1 cup of milk, I added 1 cup of stone ground cornmeal, and stirred … like it was nobody’s business.  While trying to ignore hypochondriac-like thoughts of getting tendonitis, the cornmeal started to resemble … polenta.

After stirring off and on for 30 minutes, my polenta was ready.  It was softer than I had anticipated so I stored half in the fridge – later to solidify and slice to replicate the grilled cheese recipe. The creamier half remained in the saucepan where I added sharp cheddar, gouda, and butter.

This cheesey and comforting polenta was a perfect match to my cup of hot tomato soup and 3 episodes of HBO’s Girls (best show ever).

I now have a nice-sized bag of cornmeal that has endless potential.

Funny isn’t it how sometimes we discover simplicity in the most complicated expectations.

P.S. – If you didn’t click on the recipe, don’t miss my friend’s blog, Picture Lane. It’s quite lovely.

HOVA1

Wine Time

Mulled Wine at Grayhaven

Mulled Wine at Grayhaven

There’s nothing like braving a rainy (and cold) Saturday to voyage on a wine tour, specifically the Heart of Virginia Wine Trail.

I’m no wine snob but, I enjoy learning more about the art and the interesting (and hard) work that goes in to creating one of my favorite beverages. So, when my friends mentioned a possible wine tour last weekend, I jumped on the opportunity.

snow + wine + friends

snow + wine + friends

Our journey started at 11 am at the James River Cellars in Glen Allen. This blew my mind … a winery in Glen Allen.  There, we purchased our $20 “passports” to the HOVA (Heart of Virginia Wine Trail) which would cover our tastings at 6 wineries.

James River Cellar had a impressive selection of whites and reds – with every flavor in between.  Leslie, who guided us through each tasting was kind and enthusiastic and had the patience as we tried to pronounce Gewurztraminer (a light, melon-y white) for the 5th time. My favorite was the Colonial Red, a newer non-vintage with a light flavor of cinnamon and a cooling finish of spearmint. This one would be perfect for those hearty holiday meals but also smooth enough for a summer barbeque.

Lunch.

Lunch.

Besides being a local winery, James River Cellar has Fridays on the Patio with live music, food vendors, and lots of vino. If that is not enough they have a BYOP (bring your own picnic) and acoustic music on every other Sunday (starting in May) called Sundays in the Shade.

Greyhaven's sommelier

Greyhaven’s sommelier

Only having a banana and cappuccino for breakfast, my stomach wasn’t ready to handle a day of drinking so we decided to eat lunch on the road.  The next winery was down 64 West so we wanted to skip the Short Pump chains and find a local country-fied eatery.  After pounding on our iPhones, we discovered Hickory Notch Grill and happily downed some barbeque, corn fritters, and fries.

Grayhaven Winery was the next stop and we made perfect timing because we witnessed a proposal in the hour and a half we were there.  Cheers!  Grayhaven had a warm-ski-lodge feeling on this particular cold day so I instantly fell in love with their warmed mulled wine (made with their Cab Franc).  Another plus? This place is dog friendly and we had a cute pup sit next to our table the majority of our visit. Mark your calendars for September 2014 because Grayhaven holds their Annual South African Food & Wine Festival.

My favorite lineup.

My favorite lineup.

We piled back in the car and started driving towards Louisa.  After getting lost and grabbing drinks from a questionable drive-thru convenience store, we arrived at our next destination, Weston Farm Vineyards.  This one had the most spectacular views by far. I also found my favorite wine here, the Petite Manseng. This white blend is smooth and uniquely nutty.  I grabbed a bottle ($14) for myself which I plan to break it out for a well-deserved pasta night.

Perfection.

Perfection.

We arrived at our next stop, Cooper Vineyards five minutes after they closed (at 5 pm).

Lucky for us, our HOVA passport lets you pick up where you last left off so now we have 3 more wineries in store for another weekend.

Virgina is for all lovers (food, wine, hipsters, and North Face apparel) so exploring more of this diverse and beautiful state is always a pleasure.

Fancy schmancy

Dinner With Friends

The fancy name is commonly called Dinner Party while others would call it “hanging out and food”. For me, I call it Dinner With Friends.

A dinner at my house is a special occasion in my book.

The days leading up, I scour my worn Bon Appétit magazines for the perfect (and easy) meal to make for my friends. I pick the wine, prep the playlist (more on this below), purposefully mismatch the table settings, and manage to vacuum all the dog hair off of the floor.

Two dinners ago, I made bone-in baked chicken, roasted butternut squash, asparagus, and a pie – simple and easily liked.  Last weekend, it was bread pudding made with fluffy Italian bread, fresh parmesan, and broccoli rabe. It ended with a warm apple pie and vanilla ice cream.

Throughout the night, bottles of wine accumulate on the kitchen island, conversations span from the latest Vine to profound and deep issues. At times, things get whimsical (or tipsy) where I’ve broken out my tarot cards and even unearthed my hookah. You never know what can happen when good food, good wine, and good vibes are going.

My latest dinner with friends obsession? The music. Besides the food, this is the one thing that can make a dining experience epic or hum-drum.  I’m a big fan of expanding my mind so any (and all) genre so it should be no surprise my last playlist included The Rolling Stones, The Shins, Pixies, Tegan & Sara, Madeleine Peyroux, and of course, Van Morrison.  Find my playlist here or below.

However you do it, whether it’s a pizza delivery, a themed dinner, or bring your own dish-syle, there’s something fuzzy and warm about friends gathering in your home to enjoy … everything.

 

 

Valentines1

Love Eats

Valentines Day is near.  While it remains at the bottom of my favorite holiday list, there’s still plenty of love birds who bask in the 14th.

For those who think ahead (and those who wait till the last minute), here’s a hearty list of RVA restaurants serving up a whole lotta love on that special day.

Texas De Brazil will be pairing wine, cocktail and dessert with the restaurant’s signature gourmet salad area and meat (duh) selection.

Regular dinner:  $44.99

Light dinner: $24.99

Brazilian cocktails: $7 – $9

Brazilian Rose: Guava juice, Grand Marnier and a choice of cachaca, the national spirit of Brazil made from sugar cane juice.

Brazilian Kiss: Ciroc vodka, Cointreau, Chambord and fresh squeezed lime.

Terra Andina Sparkling Moscato:  $10/glass, $40 per bottle

Desserts:  $5 – $7.50

Up-and-coming Kitchen on Cary is making sure you get your V Day on with a glass of pink champagne (included with dessert).

SOUPS

Caramelized Cipollino onion soup, Focaccia Crostini, Virginia McLure Gratinee $6

Roasted Local Wild Mushroom Bisque, Organic Thyme, Sherry Essence and Shaved Parmesan $6

SALADS

Roasted Heirloom Beets, “Spikey” Arugula, Crispy Peppered Goat Cheese, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Truffle Sea Salt $9

Hearts of Romaine, Parmesan Cracker, Alici White Anchovies, House Made Caesar Dressing $8

ENTREES

Pan Seared Jumbo Scallops, Lemon – Garlic Cauliflower and Fennel Risotto, Gremolata $21

House Cured Smoked Bacon Wrapped Beef Tenderloin, Garlic Smashed potatoes, Tarragon Lobster Butter $29

DESSERTS (Served with a glass of Pink Champagne )

Chocolate Pot De Crème, Peppermint Bark $7

Fresh Berry Parfait, Chambord Sabayon, Caramel Gallette $8

West End Patina is serving up a delicious 4-course menu for $60/ per person

FIRST COURSE

Ham hock & white bean bisque, duck confit, crispy kale $6

Sweet potato & caraway, duck confit, crispy kale $8

Manakintowne greens with roasted shallot, goat cheese, citrus, cranberry vinaigrette $10

Manakintowne arugula, Kite’s Country Ham, Virginia peanuts, aged cheddar, local honey vinaigrette $9

SECOND COURSE

Wild scallops with polenta, root vegetable ratatouille $9

Braised oysters stone ground grits, bell pepper, roasted shallot, veal-demi $13

Duck confit risotto, cloth bound cheddar, house smoked sausage, local mushrooms $11

Foie Gras, cranberry & white chocolate bread pudding, tangerine sorbet $13

THIRD COURSE

Wild scallops, local mushroom risotto, tarragon foam, lobster broth $MP

Loch Duart Salmon, butter & thyme basted, maple polenta, brussels, house-made bacon, hollandaise $26

Pan roasted Ashley Farm’s chicken breast potato gnocchi, local greens & mushrooms, chicken jus $24

Pan seared duck breast, black rice, duck confit, orange variation, grape veal-demi  $28

Marinated New York Strip lobster and potato hash, braised winter greens, sauce bordelaise $32

DESSERT $8

Tonka bean crème brulee, vanilla gelato

Chocolate cake salted caramel, vanilla gelato

Local maple pana cotta, coffee bean brittle, hazelnut gelato

 

In addition to these sexy menus above, there’s more to check out here …

Short Pump’s Kona Grill is serving a steak and lobster duo for $39.95 from the 14th – 16th

Bistro Bobette’s Valentines menu will run weekend long 2/13 – 2/15

Mosaic’s 3-course Prix Fixe menu will run $89 per couple plus for $30 you can add a beer or wine with every course

The way chocolate should be. Love Gearhart's.

The way chocolate should be. Love Gearhart’s.

Amici Restorante will offer V-Day specials in addition to their regular menu

Hanover Tavern will offer a 3 course dinner that includes Reisling-braised chicken and raspberry creme brulee. How sweet it is.

The Boathouse will boast a glamorous menu from 2/13 – 2/15 which ends in chocolate covered strawberries.  Live jazz on Valentines night.

And … if you’re not the dining-out-with-everyone-else type, you can’t go wrong grabbing a bottle of vino and box of Gearhart’s Chocolate.

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Estilo South American Restaurant

Cultural cuisine is making a notable round in our growing food scene. From Curry Craft and Carena’s Jamaican Grille to Comida Casera (Brazilian and Salvadorian cuisine), we’re becoming a city happy to introduce ethnic flavors to a mostly southern fare-fixated population.

When Toast owners, Jessica and Josh Bufford discovered another space would be available in the same Village shopping center, they jumped on the opportunity to open another restaurant which would gravitate toward Latin-inspired fare. Estilo South American Restaurant opened in August with a menu inspired by the Bufford’s recent trip to South America and Puerto Rico. Authentic offerings include Ceviche, Peruvian Chicken, Duck Confit Pozole, and Sopes (corn cakes topped with your choice of meat and sauce).

Since “estilo” translates to “style” in Spanish, the sexy and dim dining room reflects its name to perfection. Light woods, cozy booths, and an elongated concrete bar combine to create a neutral and alluring ambience. It’s only when you look out the front door and peer into the parking lot do you realize you’re in a West End shopping center, between a CVS and Starbucks.

Being a newer restaurant, I often acknowledge and expect some experiences to be a bit rocky (staff and food can have adjustment periods, too) but I was disappointed with our server’s lack of urgency and enthusiasm. I usually order a drink with dinner but our server never offered or even mentioned a cocktail. She quickly took the cocktail menu away, so I passed on a boozy beverage. Speaking of drinks, Estilo is the type of place to replace soda glasses with a fresh one (instead of refilling the same glass). No complaints there except when my girlfriend’s 3 empty glasses noticeably accumulated on our tiny high-top … slightly annoying and a miss on our server’s end.

The Papa Rellena ($7), described as “potato fritters stuffed with cheese and Peruvian roasted chicken” sounded like a good way to start. The perfectly round spheres of fried goodness in front of me looked promising but the inner 15 year old inside couldn’t help exclaiming “balls!”. Breaking away from my immaturity, the Papa Rellena was satisfactory but missed prominent flavors of roasted chicken and cheese (the main ingredients).

After digging into the menu online a few hours before dinner (of course), I was set on ordering the Mofungo ($19) – grilled shrimp, crab, mashed plantains and tomato-lime sauce. This whimsical-named dish hails from Puerto Rico and is traditionally rich in garlicky flavors. The mound of starchy mashed green plantain was not smooth as I had hoped and the scoops of bland crab meat intensified the plantain’s dry texture. On the other hand, the large shrimp were good but lacking in flavor even though they were deep in a sweet and undefined sauce. Never having mofungo before, I still knew it lacked something intense and distinct.

Unfortunately, my girlfriend’s carnitas ($14) reflected the same tame flavor and her side of plantains sadly sat cold in a bowl of brown sugar.

If I go back, it’d probably be for drinks. Here, you’ll want to order carefully. According to other folks, there are a few bright spots: Sopes, ceviche, and tortilla soup were all praised.

Foodie News

backgroundDouble D’s, anyone? Carytown sweet tooth joint, Dixie Donuts merges with West End’s Daylight Donuts (at 10260 Broad St).  Maple bacon donuts for all.

February is for wine lovers with the Annual Virginia Wine Expo.  This vino-enthusiast event runs from 2/18 – 2/23 at the Greater Richmond Convention Center. Get your tickets here

The Village Shopping Center (home to Toast and Estilo’s) will soon welcome Charlottesville-based Christian’s Pizza. Previously home to Cheeburger Cheeburger, Christian’s will offer reasonably priced pizza pie – carry out or dine-in.  Their most buzzworthy pizza? Avocado & Feta.

Check out their menu here

EAT Restaurant Partners (think Blue Goat, Wild Ginger, and Fat Dragon) newest Fan project, Foo Dog will open in the spring.  The menu is geared towards Asian street food – casual and hip, of course.

Sub Rosa Bakery finally opened their doors again last weekend after months of post-fire repair and renovations.  Show this Church Hill bakery some reclaimed love with a poppy seed croissant or Heirloom wheat bread loaf.

Yes, it is.

Mekong

Living in Richmond and haven’t heard of Mekong? You haven’t lived in Richmond long enough.

I’ve kept passing over Mekong on my list of “I’d really like to eat there” so a recent farewell dinner for a friend (heading to Washington state) finally helped knock this place off my list.

Besides being a haven for beers and beer lovers, Mekong serves warm, authentic Vietnamese food, perfect for this frigid-ass weekend.

Mekong3There’s nothing fancy about the décor or space – tiled ceilings, recessed lighting, and banners promoting craft beer span the walls. Large round tables spread across several conjoined dining rooms, each buzzing with all types of diners – all consuming cold glasses of beer. Mekong’s space is huge – and very well should be since it’s “The Place for Beer Lovers”.

Mekong is one of many gems nestled in a 2-story shopping center. Above Mekong, there’s a dance studio – we didn’t notice until towards the end of our dinner when the sound of pounding feet and a solid beat boomed from up above. I look at this not as an annoyance but pure character.

I chose a local cider first. Ironically, I had tuned in to my favorite NPR Food podcast days before which discussed what real cider should be – tart, slightly bitter, crisp, and only a little sweet. This is exactly how this Potter’s Craft cider ($7) tasted and was completely different from those super-sweet commercial cider options (think Angry Orchard and Woodchuck).

Glancing over the large menu, I chose the fried pork dumplings to start (4 for $4.95). My grandparents, father, and his siblings spent years living in Taiwan in the 60’s so [real] Asian cooking has been penchant to my palate. My grandmother’s homemade dumplings (called jiaozi in Chinese) are out of this world so of course, I had to compare Mekong’s. The verdict? Pretty spot on, slightly oily but the savory pork and chewy wrapper was amazing and tasted pretty familiar.

Switching to a beer, I selected Bruery’s Autumn Maple Ale brewed with spices and molasses … kind of like a boozy Thanksgiving in a bottle. I made a good decision, its perfectly mellow sweet potato-like aftertaste perfectly complemented my Ga Kho Gung, ($10.95) chicken caramelized with ginger, garlic, and pepper sauce served in a clay pot. The chicken was juicy and plump with no overcooked chewy texture. I wasn’t impressed but I also wasn’t let down. Ginger chicken is a standard dish to order. Next time, I think I’ll go out of the box.

Mekong 1

Egg noodle goodness.

My friend ordered the best meal of the night (l conveniently sat next to her) with her Mi Xao Don Bo ($11.95), beef egg noodles sautéed with mushrooms, broccoli, snow peas, carrots, onions, baby corn, and water chestnuts. Not only did this taste amazing, but it also looked fantastic. It’s one of those plates that draw reactions like “ooooh” or “damn, I should have gotten THAT”.

Although my experience with the service at Mekong was a little cold and emotionless, the warm energy of the restaurant is one of a kind. Diners appear giddy while enjoying good food and beer at one of Richmond’s famous restaurants.

This won’t be my last visit here. This is comfort food in a different flavorful realm. Mekong’s obsession with serving their patrons with honorable craft beers doesn’t hurt either.

Mekong on Urbanspoon

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An Inconvenient Booth

We’ve all been there. You’re enjoying dinner or out grabbing drinks and it happens.  You suddenly find yourself surrounded by bothersome tablemates. By this, I mean rude, noisy, drunk, and distracting.

I’m not sure if I’m becoming old and sensitive, or honestly attempting to relish in a good dining experience but I feel it’s happening more frequently.  From the sniffling sick folks who sit arm-lengths away (who should be at home in bed) to fighting couples (half their meal is a fight and the next half is silence), loud eaters, complainers, and over share-ers. I understand different types of people [and their personalities] need to dine outside of their homes but in the middle of Heritage is not the time or place to unleash your loud gossip, inappropriate sex jokes, or lash out at your server.

Last week while having dinner at a newly opened restaurant it happened … all around me. Maybe it was because I was dining in the heart of Short Pump or the diverse mix of cuckoos that flock to a new restaurant.

My girlfriend and I were seated next to a husband, wife, toddler, and their friend.  To keep it brief and accurate, there was a lot of vocal fry, “and I was like’s”, and Richmond socialite name-dropping.  These were the type of folks who proudly spoke above normal volume levels, wanting nearby diners to listen to their oh-so-fascinating lives.

While the wife was in the ladies room, the husband complained to the wife’s friend about the bar scene in Short Pump, loudly confiding, “There were no hot women” (referring to a lame straight hangout in “Downtown Short Pump”).

Awkward. I’ve got no problem with what you’ve got going on but please don’t make me hear it while at dinner … especially when I’m nearly elbow-to-elbow with you.  During the same dinner, the other folks sitting on the other side treated their server like poo and deconstructed their beautiful burgers by removing the bun to make them low carb.  Is Atkins still a thing you do in public?

Ever find yourself in this tablemate predicament?  Trying these few approaches and maneuvers might help …

1: As soon as you notice your “surroundings” are going to be unpleasant, suddenly act cold and ask your server if you can move to another table with a more comfortable temperature.

2: Engage yourself in a fascinating conversation with your own dining companion(s). Mentally blocking your attention is an instant relief.

3: Get a drink or three. Alcohol soothes even the noisiest table of “ladies who lunch”.

4: Deal with it. Turn lemons into lemonade and embrace the backwoods manners, obnoxious conversation, and hot mess sitting next to you.

Here’s a prime example – while having dinner with my dad in a low-key Church Hill eatery, we sat close to a semi-intoxicated redhead perched at the bar. Her conversation with her friend was loud and intense. Her life story and relationship woes were pouring out of her mouth as she shoveled warm mac-n-cheese in.

Being the slightly annoyed Virgo I am, it was easy for me to become instantly irritated but after some time, we became captivated by her poignant words, phrases, and life philosophies.  So much so that we started keeping a log of the real serious stuff that was practically Pinterest worthy. My favorite quote from her?

 ”It’s impossible to know who you are, unless you know who you were.”

Damn right.

As a child, my hero, Mr. Rodgers softly sang “won’t you be my neighbor?” This was the approach we were all supposed to take, right? Sorry to say, ol’ Rodg…Dinner is a different story for me.

Yep, that time of year is here.

A Very Foodie Holiday

The weather is cold, the lights are up, my waistline is expanding, and the shopping madness has begun.

It must be the holidays.

I warned my girlfriend a day before Thanksgiving that I was giving us a week deadline for any mall or shopping center purchases.  I don’t have agoraphobia or a grinch-syndrome, just holidaycrazypeopleshoppingphobia.

Tolerating the crowds and parking it doable but it’s the savage-like behaviors which emerge from seemingly normal citizens when this season comes around.

Over the past few years, I’ve approached the gift giving season with more opportunities, thought, and strategy.  Online shopping, DIY gifts, and shopping (early) at local stores are my go-to’s.

Here’s a few foodie (and non foodie) gift ideas I’m using with my friends and family that are worth sharing.

Buerre and Sel Jammer Time

Buerre and Sel Jammer Time

1. Home made cookies are a key to the heart, specifically Buerre and Sel Jammers they’re dense, salty, and sweet.  Place these in a wide mouth Mason Jar, add some twine, name tag and you’ve got yourself a perfect co-worker gift.

2. Making a purchase from ScoutMob’s food and drink sections. Everything is handmade by different folks across the globe.  When you’re eying that engraved leather beer growler, chai masala popcorn, or pickle making kit know your money is supporting awesome small businesses and artists.

3. Get crafty and make your own scrub. This year, I’m using this simple recipe I got from Jillee over at her blog, One Good Thing.  This concoction is made of coconut oil, Epsom salt, and essential oil (I’ll be using lavender, cedarwood, and grapefruit). I splurged and bought an 8 pound tub of Virgin Coconut Oil I’ll use to make around 10 scrubs.  The leftover oil will be put to good use with cooking and baking.

4. Be kind and shop local. Richmond’s got tons of shops catering to foodies, amateur chefs and everyone in between.  Row House Soaps, Penzy’s Spices, and WPA bakery are all fine choices, especially when giving gifts to folks that don’t live here. Everyone can use a little RVA love.

Crack Pie Goodness

Holiday Sweets: Crack Pie

This Thanksgiving, I’ve skipped tradition by toting pumpkin or pecan pie to dinner.  As I do with most planned things, I took quality time to research which sweet treat I’d be bringing to this Turkey Day.

My mom and I ...

Texting with my mom.

What did I choose? Crack Pie.

I’m in love with it.  Apparently, everyone else is, too.

Bon Appetite never steers me wrong so when I read up on the pie’s back story and recipe, I was sold.

This dessert is the in-house favorite with a heavy fan base created and sold at New York’s Milk Bar. At $44 bucks a pop, you have to wonder why the buzz, right?

Have one bite of this and you’ll know why.  The brown sugar, cream, and mild custard base is heavenly.  One person at my Thanksgiving table proclaimed, “It’s like the good part of pecan pie without the pecans”.

Some dessert recipes are challenging to make but, this one is incredibly easy. So easy, I’ve made it twice in the past 3 days.

Find it at http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/crack-pie or follow the directions below …

Ingredients:

Crust:

Nonstick oil spray (I used a flour-based one)

9 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature

5 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 tablespoons sugar

1 large egg

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons old-fashioned oats

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1/8 teaspoon baking powder

1/8 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

Filling:

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 tablespoon nonfat dry milk powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled

6 1/2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream

4 large egg yolks

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Powdered sugar (for dusting)

Directions for the crust:

- Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 13x9x2-inch metal baking pan with parchment paper; coat with nonstick spray. Combine 6 tablespoons butter, 4 tablespoons brown sugar, and 2 tablespoons sugar in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat mixture until fluffy, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl, about 2 minutes. Add egg; beat until pale and fluffy. Add oats, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and beat until well blended, about 1 minute. Spread this mixture onto prepared baking pan. Bake until light golden on top, 17 to 18 minutes. Transfer baking pan to rack and cool cookie.

- Using hands, crumble oat cookie into large bowl; add 3 tablespoons butter and 1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar. Rub in with fingertips until mixture is moist enough to stick together. Transfer cookie crust mixture to 9-inch-diameter glass pie dish. Using fingers, press mixture evenly onto bottom and up sides of pie dish. Place pie dish with crust on rimmed baking sheet.

Directions for the filling:

- Preheat oven to 350°F. Whisk both sugars, milk powder, and salt in medium bowl. Add melted butter and whisk until blended. Add cream, then egg yolks and vanilla until well blended. Pour filling into crust. Bake pie 30 minutes (filling may begin to bubble) on center rack. Reduce oven temperature to 325°F. Continue to bake pie until filling is brown in spots and set around edges but center still moves slightly when pie dish is gently shaken, about 20 minutes longer. Cool pie 2 hours in pie dish on rack. Chill uncovered overnight.

- Sift powdered sugar lightly over top of pie. Cut pie into wedges and serve cold.

Pretty much says it all.

Pretty much says it all.