Had a great day on the Elizabeth River on the Schooner Virginia. A keg of beer from Bottlecraft VB and lots of friends - couldn't ask for more!
Shelby saw that Cobalt Grille did a burger night where the burgers were 1/2 off! I mean Cobalt if fancy stuff so the chance to have a meal half off there was a no brainer. I had the Park Ave burger with caviar, mushrooms, and Havarti. Very good!
Fortunately, hanging around in the food scene for years has allowed me to become familiar with a lot of talented people that work all aspects of the food/drink service industry. I'm not just interested in the plate in front of me, but I love knowing the people back of the house to the front who make it happen.
I love sitting at the bar too; finding a new beer or wine to enjoy and once in a while a fancy drink. You probably guessed from a quick glance of this post this is going to be about cocktails and you would be correct. I'm going to tell you how I got to drink a bunch of them one night and show you what they were.
My journey into an evening of cocktail sampling began one warm evening in Norfolk, VA. I drove Shelby down to a new Italian restaurant called Leone's so she could meet up with "The Ladies." After I creeped on them a little bit, taking photos, chatting, etc... I thought they should have their girl time so I left for the car. I needed to run some stuff to a chef I know down the way and I had time to burn. While I was walking down Granby St. I was spotted by another guy I know named Josh Seaburg. I wrote about him a couple of years ago when he was at another shop.
After spying me he messaged me and asked if I would be interested in trying out his new drink menu he created for Saltine, one of three new hot spots in the Hilton Norfolk The Main. Saltine, a seafood restaurant, has a beautiful bar on the ground level of the hotel that allows you to do some serious people watching - everyone coming into the large hotel lobby and people on the street.
Shelby told me, that her mother (Hi Nana!) told her, it is rude to turn down a drink so I accepted happily. After I ran my errand I made my way to Saltine, ready to be wow'ed. Josh has put in his dues and is serious about his drinks. He pays attention to detail and it's the small things that make the whole.
The menu, at the time, had not been tested by a layman as myself and I was ordered to give him feedback. Lucky me!
Attention! I'm just going to say right off the bat that the presentation of all the drinks was beautiful. Figured I'd add that caveat at the beginning so I didn't have to keep saying it throughout the post.
We started out with a White Julep - Wasmund’s peach-smoke bourbon mash, mint, simple syrup. This one packed a punch but was refreshing, loved all the ice.
Kuh-Shah-Suh (Josh explains the name is the phonetic spelling of the main ingredient Cachaça) This is made from pineapple infused Cachaça, lime, simple syrup, winter melon bitters, and garnished with dragon fruit. This was a neat, it even had a little heat on the end. While he was making it he gave the glass a spritz of green Chartreuse.
Western Medicine - Belle Isle Honey Habanero, lemon, and ginger syrup. It's garnished with candied ginger - when available. Shelby will love this one!
The Rosetta Toned was served in nice stemware and had a pleasant, sweet finish. It's made with Flor de Cana extra dry rum, lime, house strawberry cordial, Absinthe, and coriander. I'm a fan of rum!
The classic Piña Coloda, not much to say other than it was damn tasty and he didn't put it in his shirt pocket. Maybe next time!
(Shirt pocket reference here.)
The Vida Bandida - Vida Mezcal, dry Curacao, lime, Ignition Tincture, bitters. This was different, neat. Mezcal drinkers would like this, even if you don't like mezcal, try it anyway. Thug Life.
Cleaver Club is fun to watch being made. It is a mixture of Beefeater Gin, lemon, and nitro-raspberries. Josh busts out the nitro to prep the glass and it looks highly technical. The name of the drink, and the drink itself, pay homage to the classic cocktail The Clover Club.
The Audible Sigh was fancy and was garnished with fresh Passionfruit - Ketel One, passionfruit, lime, sparkling rosé, hibiscus/acai bitters. All the cool, trendy stuff in one drink, you might hear Josh give an audible sigh if you ask for him to make you one. It's worth the side-eye though, it's pretty tasty.
Bet you thought I would drink each one to the finish? Maybe I did...
I just wanted to give Josh a shout out for letting me try all these delicious cocktails and give him feedback on them. I think I'll be swinging by again tonight to revisit one or two of these. "The Ladies" are meeting there and I always crash a party.
Guess what? Here's another write-up on them! They sent me a message asking if I'd like to try their special Summertime smoothie, which as you all know, I accepted the offer. I was sent some gift cards to have lunch on them and try out the Watermelon Mojito Smoothie.
(Make sure you read till the end for a chance to win a $25 gift card.)
Shelby and I took a lunch break and headed to the closest Tropical Smoothie get business done. They had a big sign out front advertising the Watermelon Mojito and an Avocolada. We decided we needed both!
The shop is pretty popular as we ran into the lunchtime crowd. We ordered the Watermelon Mojito and Avocolada and two bowls: the Baja Bowl and Caribbean Jerk. The smoothies were done first so grabbed them and sat outside to enjoy the nice, warm weather.
First thing we tried was the Watermelon Mojito and it was very good! It's made of Watermelon (duh...), mint, and strawberries. I loved the light flavor of the watermelon backed up by the strawberry - very refreshing! The Avocolada was earthy and smooth, I liked that one too.
What you need to know is that the Watermelon Mojito is only on the menu till August 20th! So make sure you get in there and grab one for yourself. It was $5 and could pass for a lunch to be honest. I'm always full when I drink a whole smoothie.
Tell you what, they gave me a $25 gift card to give away to my readers! If you would like a chance to win it just leave a comment on this post and I'll pick someone tomorrow morning. Good luck!
We had the pleasure of snagging the last bag of Jubilee Seafood Eastern Shore oysters this past weekend. Nice salinity, sweet, and big. Grab some if you get a chance at the Old Beach Farmer's Market or call them to order.
There are a lot of places to grab a meal around here. It's funny because if you're not paying attention it's easy to miss a lot in close vicinity. This post is about one we recently (finally!) visited in Virginia Beach called Bonefish Grill. I'm sure if you live in the area you're probably saying to yourself, "Yeah, yeah...everybody has been there. Bang Bang Shrimp!", but I haven't. I have a mile long list of places to visit and Bonefish was on there somewhere. We ended up going because they contacted me and asked if I would like to come by a and try their Hand-Crafted Happy Hour.
Here's the blurb they sent me:
"Hand-Crafted Happy Hour menu, served 4:00-6:30 p.m. seven days a week, featuring upscale bar bites including sushi-grade Ahi Tuna Poke, Crispy Cod Sliders, Wagyu Beef Sliders, Crispy Au Gratin Bites, Mussels Josephine and Crispy Calamari priced at $6 each. Drink specials showcase a selection of Bonefish Grill’s handcrafted martinis and cocktails at just $5 each, including the Blueberry Lemon Drop, Tropical Tiki Martini, Raspberry Vodka Collins and Fresh Margarita. $4 house wines, $5 mixed drinks and $1 off draft beers are also offered."
When I'm offered free food I'm usually all over it, that didn't change with this offer either. They said I could bring friends, and as luck would have it, our buddies Amy and Alan were available to hangout. We met them at a local wine tasting then headed over to Bonefish Grill down the boulevard.
We met with the kitchen manager and he introduced us to our server. We settled in and ordered lots of drinks (of course.) Actually, we ordered everything on the Hand-Crafted Happy Hour menu to get an idea of what the place was dishing up. As listed above, this is what was on our ticket: Ahi Tuna Poke, Crispy Cod Sliders, Wagyu Beef Sliders, Crispy Au Gratin Bites, Mussels Josephine, and Crispy Calamari.
The drinks came out first and they were all pretty tasty. I don't drink a ton of mixed drinks but the margarita was my favorite. When the food came out I snagged all the plates to take photos. I always say I'm the worst dinner date. They filed out one after the other and the amount of food was impressive. The price point was great considering what you get and we really loved the poke. Super fresh and delicious, the calamari was good too! Everything was actually tasty and I could see us putting Bonefish Grill on the rotation.
Even though they weren't on the Happy Hour menu we ordered some Bang Bang Shrimp too. Super light batter and nice sized shrimp. The sauce their in is so good, I could probably eat 4 orders of these in a sitting. After we plowed our way through the food they kitchen had a surprise for us and brought out their Summer Berry Bread Pudding. I mean we really couldn't eat anymore but it looked great so we tried and almost ate the whole thing.
After really finishing up with dessert we said our goodbyes and thanked the staff for hooking us up with a great meal. We'll definitely will be heading back.
I had to share these Tuna Kebabs I made for dinner last night. My friend James caught a bunch of tuna off the coast here and gave me belly. I had to freeze so I figured since it was frozen I would cube it and put it skewers. The marinate was simple: teriyaki, garlic, onion, salt, and pepper. I tossed on some cherry tomatoes my mother gave me and some red onion.
Simple and delicious...it looked pretty too!
Our daughter Marleigh reminded us it was National Tequila Day! I was like "Yes! Drinks on a Monday night!" Not really, well, maybe...anyway we made margaritas. Marleigh made the pretty one in the photo above and stylized it with her plants which we are babysitting while she moves to New York.
Enjoy my friends!
Father's Day was nice this year. I was taken to Bay Local on Laskin along with my step-father Johnpa and we a great brunch. I had a Bloody Mary with a soft shell crab on it, how wouldn't that make your day?
Our daughter had to head back up to Richmond a little later after brunch and said I'd be getting a gift in the mail. It showed up the next day and I was surprised to see I got a Carolina Shuckers. It even had my initials engraved on it.
It worked best for me to put the oyster down on a cutting board and apply pressure to open it. Of course this could change depending on the type of oyster you get. I would usually open at the hinge with my smaller shucker. Anyhoo, check it out! Hit their website and see what else they make, this was a great gift that I'll definitely put to good use. Thank you Marmite!
Every week I check one of our local cupcake shops for their Monday $1 special. Basically everything in the shop is a buck! It doesn't happen every week, only if they have leftover inventory before they start the fresh baking cycle.
Luckily I saw on Instagram that they were open today, when lunch time came around I decided to swing by on the way to picking up Shelby. At the shop I picked out way too many cupcakes and cookies to take home. I was about to check out when I saw Tracy, one of the owners of the sugar shack, who offered me a little treat.
The shop was starting to offer ice cream sandwiches and she asked if I wouldn't mind trying one. I don't eat a lot of sweets but ice cream sandwiches are high on the list. Of course I would eat one, twist my arm already. There were a few varieties: chocolate chip, brownie, sugar cookie, and the one I got, a brownie/cookie mix! I rushed out of the store will my loot to pick up Shelby, I didn't the sandwich to melt.
When we got home the first I had to do was photograph my food (you all know this, I've been doing this 6 1/2 years now!) Fortunately, Shelby is a great sport when it comes to this stuff and even has great suggestions on how to shoot stuff. We did a quick round in the backyard shade then started in on the sandwich.
It was really good! I like the cookie and brownie mix, getting a bite of both with the ice cream was great. Mr. Man, aka Jasper, gets his favorite dog treats from Twisted Sisters too. They bake dog cookies he absolutely loves. Shelby was nice and gave him some of our ice cream sandwich. We kinda had to, he was staring us down big time.
I met up with my buddy Chase (check out his bottle shop - Bottlecraft Virginia Beach!) for a drink yesterday at Esoteric and were lucky to have Devin behind the bar, always a good time when he's there. After our first round Chase was looking for a suggestion and Devin mentioned the Piña Colada. It was in a nice tall glass garnished with a pineapple leaf, I took pics of Devin with the drink because it seemed like the natural thing to do...please enjoy.
This will actually fit into his shirt pocket.
After Chase drank some he insisted that I have some too, I took a little sip then I was told to drink more. It was pretty good.
Happy Mother's Day to all the Mom's out there! I hope you all had a great day :)
I recently told you all about Redwood Smoke Shack, a BBQ food truck that has placed itself soundly in the top tier of BBQ in the area. I love BBQ and smoked meat. Pulled pork, beef brisket, BBQ chicken - whatever! If it was on a grill I'm probably going to like it.
Last month I got a message from a guy named Jon Basco asking if I wouldn't mind checking out his authentic Texas BBQ operation called Red River Smokehouse. Of course I said, "YES!"
(I didn't really yell like that, it was in message, but that's how it sounded in my head.)
A little bit about Red River Smokehouse, the truck is named after the Red River that separates Texas and Oklahoma. Jon is a Texan transplanted in the area through his service in the Marines. After getting out of the service he ended up staying here and with him his take on BBQ. I think we lucked out.
Red River Smokehouse was going to be at Commonwealth Brewing Co. early the next week after we talked and I planned on meeting him there. Monday rolled around and it was the big day, I mean I get to eat BBQ and drink beer at the beginning of the week, that's about as good as it gets. I went straight to the truck to meet Jon in person and check out his setup. He uses a custom trailer that affords him a lot room (more than some of the rigs I've seen out there) and it's equipped with a smoker on the back. Jon let me jump up and check out the truck but I didn't get too far in because he was busy and I didn't want to get in they way. I told him I was going to grab a beer and he said he'd put together a little something for me try. Excellent.
I love Commonwealth Brewing Co., they have an IPA called Wapatoolie that is hazy, citrusy, and amazing to drink. I know some people might look for something a little darker to pair with BBQ but I like to say, "I can do what I want!"
I grabbed my beer and was scoping out a place to sit with some good lighting and notice a someone getting their photo taken in the brewery and then immediately recognized her as one of the local lifestyle/fashion bloggers Tilley Hansen of Tilley's Threads. We follow each other online but have never met in person, I'm all about meeting the people I see online. I figure if you can creep on them online you can definitely (at least) say hello in person! She was with her friend and photographer Meridith A. Bright who shoots for Elizabeth Ashley - Virginia.
After chatting for a bit I went to check on the food, luckily it was finished by the time I got to the truck. I know I already posted a photo up top there, but here is another because we eat with our eyes first right?
I got hooked up with some smoked turkey breast, BBQ pork ribs, brisket (dry and wet), and some sides. I went straight for the beef brisket first. Jon explained to me earlier that this brisket was only seasoned with salt and pepper then, of course, the smoke. It was delicious! Seriously, after having the brisket I was thinking I really needed to sit down and do a comparison from the notable BBQ trucks out there. I could eat this stuff all night.
The ribs were excellent, didn't fall apart, the meat firm on the bone. Lightly sauced and tasty. The turkey breast was a nice surprise too, some people out there don't eat beef or pork so bird is always a good to have on the menu too. I liked the smokey flavor.
I liked the mac and cheese a lot and cole slaw is always good. Oh yeah, look:
Usually when I'm out, I'm the one taking all the pictures. It was fun to watch someone else out there doing their thing. I peeked outside and saw someone else I knew...
...Boss Lady Caity! She runs the Your Pie Pizza joints in Virginia Beach and Norfolk. Try their pizza if you haven't yet, the Great White is my favorite. Let me get back to the BBQ.
If you haven't tried Red River Smokehouse you need to. Put it on the list of great BBQ trucks we in the area you need hit and definitely get the brisket!
I have another truck I'm scheduled to visit, I've had their food a few times before but I'm going to check out the operation a little more in depth! Till next time!
Shelby and I took a walk earlier, the weather was beautiful, there was a breeze and people were grilling. As soon as you smell it you immediately want to bust out your grill and cook something outside!
We committed to hit the store after our walk and pick up something to cook. I was thinking maybe doing BBQ chicken but Shelby said it had been a while since we grilled burgers and went with that instead. When I make my patties I like to take two small plates and smash the ground beef thin. Shelby really likes when the burger is larger than the bun. We also love to toast and butter the bun - a pet peeve of mine is if you get a burger and the bun isn't toasted. It really does make it that much better.
I used a pound of Angus 80/20 and I made a tiny burger for Jasper. He's really is spoiled. I dressed my burger up with some American and cheddar cheese. I cut up a whole onion and put it on the vegetable grill rack too. I made two layers of cheese, onion, and burger. I also added a little pickle, mayo and a ton of lettuce (I love lettuce on a burger!) This is how it came out.
Love those smokey backyards this time of year...
Bay Local Eatery has opened a new location in Virginia Beach! It's located on Laskin Rd. where Metropolitan Oyster Exchange used to be. Metro was doing great but they decided to pare down a little bit and sold the spot Bay Local. I hate seeing Metro go, it was solid with a great people but I know Bay Local will take the baton running.
This week they had their soft opening with family and friends but then opened the flood gates to stress test the system to work out any last kinks on the line, see how long it would take to get the tickets knocked out and how the new/relocated staff handled crowds. We felt lucky to be invited for an opportunity to eat there before it officially opened to the public the next day.
When we arrived at 1:00 it was packed! We had a little wait but it was only about 15 minutes, pretty good considering at the original location they waits are usually about a hour. While we waiting I cruised about the restaurant to check it out. The floor plan is similar to what it was with Metro, open space with booths along the walls and high-tops in the center but the decor has changed a lot. It's more in-line with the original Bay Local feel to it, homey and inviting. The huge "M" behind the bar is now a stained glass panel that glows a warm gold.
I bumped into owner Adrian and we chatted a little bit about what's new and life in general. He's be on the ground with this, making sure things have been running smoothly from electricity in the back to the hostess stand front of the house. My pager went off indicating we a table, Shelby and I took our seats.
The great thing about soft openings is that you pretty much get to try whatever you like from the menu. That doesn't mean you go crazy and order everything just because you can, but it's definitely a good opportunity to try something different! We decided we'd start with a couple of appetizers but then had a hard time figuring out exactly what we wanted, there was a lot to choose from and it all looked great. So....how about drinks then?
Shelby got a mimosa, it was moscato with a scoop of sorbet in it. Cute and tasty! I got a bloody mary, Bloody Bay actually. I always get one of these when we eat at Bay Local. It's a spicy house mix that has just enough burn to keep you hanging in there.
The starters we finally choose were the Shrimp, Scallop, & Bacon Fritters and the Poppin Champagne Fried Carolina Shrimp. The fritters were great but we really loved the shrimp, the batter was light and the shrimp were plump and not over cooked.
Adrian said we need to try the Bay Local Oysters too, so put in for a half dozen. They were delicious! Loved how creamy they were and the greens they were adorned with. I could easily eat two dozen of these!
Coming to a decision on entrees was hard too, Shelby kept eyeing the shrimp and grits but she also loves crab cakes. Easiest thing to do was have her order the grits and I would get the crab bennie then we could split them! Shelby's "Just Right" Shrimp and Grits were very good. The texture was great especially with the cheese and sausage blended in throughout. It's finished off with sautéed onions, sweet peppers, and bacon - so good! I'm all about that savory flavor profile. She also got the cinnamon fried biscuit on the side, those things are dangerous.
My Crab Cake Bennie are something I've had before but it's one of those things you can order over and over again and it doesn't get old. I opted for tots on the side, you always go for the tots!
We were pretty stuffed by the time our last plates were brought out and had to box up what we didn't finish. Definitely a good dinner of leftovers later that night! While we were eating Adrian came over and checked to see how things were going and asked Shelby if she'd like another mimosa. She was off for the rest of the day so she said, "Sure, why not." He came back with a huge one, we had a little laugh over that.
We settled up and headed out, on the way to the door we bumped into our friend Judy Cowling who writes the Turning Tables column for The Virginian-Pilot. It's always great to see her, we see each other a lot especially at events, restaurants, etc... We caught up then said our good-byes. I was about ready for a nap after our feast but I needed to get back to the office. I dropped Shelby off with the food at the house and headed back to work.
All in all a great day, any chance to eat at Bay Local is a good day. I hope you're planning on grabbing a bite there, you won't regret it.
I go to a lot of events - I mean a lot! If you follow me on on Instagram (click on my feed to the left) you'll know I'm out and about all the time. Most of the events I go to revolve around beer, reason being is that there are basically more beer events than there are food events. Food events involve a ton of planning, prep work, staging, cooking, etc... I definitely try to attend any food event I'm invited to, they're great for checking out a chef's innovation and creativity. Needless to say, the food is a treat to eat of course!
I was recently contacted by Kate from Hoffman Beverage, a large distributor in our area, about helping promote a beer and food event that would be located at the Virginia Aquarium. They've invited me and Shelby to come hang out and do a couple of my favorite things:
Eat and Drink
Oh, that's Kate in the photo below! She was buying me beers at our meeting in Norfolk but that isn't why I agreed to be involved with this, honest!
Note: If you want to buy me a beer if we ever end up at the bar together, I will gladly accept ;)
Her idea, Evening On The Creek, was to do something that was different than the what has become the standard event model of setting up a table, have volunteers pour beer, rinse-dry-repeat till you're drunk. Kate and the team wanted to pair some unique beers from breweries they have in their catalog with some goods eats. The result looks pretty delicious too! Ticket holders will be treated to some great beer and food at tasting stations that allow people to take their time to appreciate their pairings and peruse the components of the collective meal. All of this will be at the wonderful Virginia Aquarium over looking the beautiful Owl Creek.
I can go on but I'm going to copy and paste the official event notice here for you to check out. There's a link below to purchase tickets too, "Early Bird" tickets are on sale until MARCH 24th, 2017 for $75. I hope to see you there!
The Official Stuff:
Join 20 local, regional and national breweries in support of Virginia Aquarium’s Stranding Response Team as they host the “An Evening on the Creek” on March 25th at 6 pm. Each expertly crafted beer, chosen in part for their rarity or limited quantities will be masterfully paired with complementary artisanal eats created by Chef Jason Congleton. Enjoy these rare, limited quantity beers and amazing food all while overlooking the beautiful view of Owls Creek and stunning environment of the VA Aquarium.
(GF) European Cheese & Charcuterie Platter- Rabbit & White Wine Sausage, Wild Boar with Cranberries & Shiraz Sausage, Garlic & Herb Gouda, Dilled Havarti, Aged Provolone, Creamy Gorgonzola, 3 year aged White Cheddar, Spicy Garlic Pickled Veggies (V) *Without the Sausages*
Bavarian Style Smoked & Beer Braised Wild Antelope Bratwurst with House made “Southkraut”, Quick Pickles, & Creole Grain Mustard Crème in Split Top Lobster Roll (Stadium Dog on steroids)
Schweineschnitzel Street Taco – Savory Pan Sauteed Breaded Chicken Tenderloin Cutlet with hints of Lemon & Citrus, Red Cabbage & Local Apple Slaw for a little sweetness, Spicy German Potato Drizzle
Tasting Station 4: "Tasting Room Only"
Smartmouth IV Chocolate Porter, Devils Backbone Cocoa Bear (Russian Imperial Stout), Back Bay Owls Kreek (Farmhouse style mixed grain Grisette w montmorency cherries), Young Veterans Brewing Company Goat Locker.
German Spaetzle, sautéed with Wild Forest Mushroom Glace & topped with 48 hour Beer Marinated & House Rub Seasoned Flat Iron Steak (V) *Without the Steak*
**each week new limited beers will be announced!**
Poke Bowl – Duet of Garlicky Spiced Arctic Char & Eastern Shore Blue Crab With Citrus Essence Poke, Shaved Carrot, Pickled Shallot, Diced Mango & Pineapple, Red Ginger Wakame “Salad”, Toasted Sesame, Honey-Gochujang Mayonnaise, Rainbow Trout Roe, Sticky Rice
The truck is actually a trailer with the smoker attached to it; looks pretty cool! The menu has lots to offer: ribs, brisket, pulled pork, sides (including the huge Supreme Potato), and much more! I got a sampler plate, a couple of beers and dug in.
Bonus: I saw a lot of friends and my fellow photographer buddy Amanda from Stellar Exposures. Check out the food!