The new issue of HR Growler will be out next month! If you missed my article from the last one, here it is: Blue Seafood and Spirits. Loved the food there and Chef Charles Thain is a great guy. I've included all the photos I took that night below:
There were two savory and one sweet crepe to order - we went with the Pasture-ize and the the Saison. The Pasture-ize was made with pasture raised sous vide chicken, fresh spring greens, pickles and sprint herb ailoi. The Saison was fresh spring greens, roasted benne sweet potatoes and sprint onions then dressed with whipped chevre and wild onion vinaigrette. Our creamy oyster mushroom soup was named Sedley's Finest.
There was a good crowd in Pendulum and it was nice to bump into friends and familiar faces. If you've missed Commune's pop-ups they'll be opening a restaurant in Virginia Beach with an expanded menu.
We always make sure to catch Grape and Gourmet's big tasting event, Cheap and Cheery, on the second Saturday of the month. It's a great way to try beers and wines you might not normally buy.
Here's who placed in the 7th Annual East Coast She Crab Soup Classic.
1st Place - Passion the Restaurant
2nd Place - Mahi Mah's Seafood
3rd Place - Tubby's Tavern
Honorable Mentions: Freemason Abbey, Blue Seafood & Spirits, and 328 Tequila Lounge
1st Place - Passion the Restaurant
2nd Place - Freemason Abbey
3rd Place - Tubby's Tavern
Honorable Mentions: Burton's Grill, McCormick & Schmick's, and 328 Tequila Lounge
The 7th Annual East Coast She Crab Soup Classic is happening tomorrow. If you're not familiar with this event, here's what happens:
Some of the area's best restaurants show up and serve their take on she crab soup. There are two judging categories - Critics and People's Choice. Those who attend will get a checklist and get to visit each restaurant's table. You sample their soup and mark which one you think is the best!
So far there are 17 competitors. Maninno's will not be competing this year but I heard they will have a table so everyone can still try their award winning soup!
Check out the event's page for information.
Order tickets here. $14 before the event, $18 at the gates if there are any left.
Sat, Apr 11, 2015 12:00 PM
24th Street Park, Virginia Beach, VA
I hopped online the other night and saw that Lynnhaven Pub had new glasses! The large tulips with the Pub's name emblazoned on the front and the classic hashtag #suckitlynnhavenpub on the back - I had to have one.
One thing about me that you probably already know if you spend time around me, is that I love glassware. It's something that started back in 1993 when I was stationed in Germany and started drinking German beer. Every little town there has a brewery and when they deliver beer to the local gasthaus they also give them glasses. I loved weizen bier and drank a lot of it over there (ask my friend Rob, he drank just as much of that stuff.) So after finishing a drink I would slip a weizen glass up my sleeve and take it home with me. If you didn't know where this "steal the pint/glass" thing came from, it was knuckleheads like me.
Rob and I were barracks buddies waiting for our names to be picked on the housing list, this happened about 3 months after being in country. That meant we finally got to be reunited with our wives and kids. Of course when Shelby was there I had to show her the "economy" - that's what we called going leaving base. We had dinner somewhere and she notice me trying to take a weizen glass and put the kibosh to my thieving ways. She said I better pay for it if I want it; it's funny because it never occurred to me to ask if I could just buy the glass. So after finishing a drink I would hold up the glass and ask, "Wieviel kostet das?" I was pleasantly surprised to find out that most people in the establishments over there would just say it was "frei"...free!
If I did pay for a glass it was about 2.5 marks, which was the equivalent to a buck American. I still have all my weizen glasses and some fest mugs from being in country and I love thinking about the time we spent over there and my first real experience with good beer.
Sorry, I got a little off track...so you noticed the #suckitlynnhavenpub hashtag? Rob, owner of The Pub, said it was something him and a rep started a while back for fun. It makes me chuckle whenever I see it, check out Instagram with the hashtag you'll see half of them are probably mine. Pay attention to Rob's posts and you'll see a few other funny, reoccurring hashtags.
Rob said there are only 140 of these glasses, this was as of Monday. I doubt there are that they will last long and this Friday is The Pub's famous Founders KBS (Kentucky Breakfast Stout) event. It draws a huge crowd and I would be surprised to any of these glasses make it past the weekend.
Disclaimer: I do not condone stealing glasses from any establishment! Ask if you can buy or have one.
I was contacted recently and was given information on a event happening this weekend called "Drink the District's Hampton Roads Beer Fest" . I'll be honest and say I don't know much about the group but apparently Drink the District started in D.C. as a way to put together affordable beer events for young professionals as one site put it.
Sounds like a good excuse to have a drink to me! Seriously though, I'm glad the Virginia Zoo will be getting some exposure and the brewery line-up is pretty sweet. There will be over 75 beers and a couple ciders to sample. Check out the list below:
The event will be help in two sessions: 1:00-4:00 PM and 5:30-8:30 PM. Unfortunately it appears both sessions have been sold out but there looks like a stand-by list is open for the evening session.
There were 5,500 tickets, total for both sessions, which is pretty impressive for an event that had minimal advertising. Go ahead and head over to the registration page where you can buy tickets here. Maybe something will pop-up, and you'll be able to get in! They gave me a spiffy promo code ("ihf") for $10 off the online price if you can get in. Good luck and say "Hi" if you see me there!
- All images courtesy of Drink the District.
“First, we want to open up an honest debate on regional food. The biggest problem I have with a lot of the existing food writing is it has such a bias. We love this area too, but we feel like glossing over things that could be improved only does a disservice to people.” - Chris Felliini
The food scene in the region has had a boom in the last several years – food trucks, pop-ups and a good start in the farm-to-fork movement in additional to traditional brick-and-mortars. As veteran of local kitchens, Chris Fellini felt that there is more to said about what's going on. He's going to do it through writing with a magazine he founded called Southern Grit.
Self proclaimed military brat and raised in Virginia Beach, Chris is using his 10 years experience in the food industry to translate Hampton Roads' food scene, and if Chris has his way, all the way up to the D.C. area.
He was inspired by his personal travels, favorite food critics, writers and other magazines like Lucky Peach. He wants it to be visually engaging and have honest opinions about restaurants, food and other traditional or non-traditional operations in the industry.
Chris' initial idea behind creating a magazine was inspired by Joshua Fitzwater who runs 757ezine. They got serious about it last year after Chris had a heart attack in his mid-20s and Joshua underwent a surgery related to his weight loss. These events put things in perspective for the two and after kicking off a plan in October they were picked up in January. Work began on putting together the first issue around the theme “The Women's Issue” - each issue will be themed. The first run of print will have a circulation of 1,000 copies and the magazine will come out bi-monthly.
I caught up with Chris recently and had a little Q&A about Southern Grit:
CF: First and foremost, this magazine wouldn't be in existence if Fitz hadn't taken a chance on my writing in the first place. With the finished product, a lot of the initial appeal is the look. All things layout, photography, and design related are Fitz. It's his attention to detail that is going to draw readers in; it's the writing inside that will keep them coming back.
GC: What is Southern Grit?
CF: Southern Grit is a free publication focused on food. Each issue is themed. Between the look of the magazine and the writing, we're striving to be a publication that anyone would gladly pay money for. With keeping it free, though, we invite anyone with an interest in food to join in the conversation.
GC: How did you come up with the name?
CF: Fitz and I tossed around a lot of names. We wanted something edgy to match our content ideas. I threw out "Pantry" and "Southern Grit" at about the same time. We kept coming back to "Southern Grit" and Fitz was really pushing for it. Since we were so stuck on it, we went with it. Southern because of where we're from, and Grit because of the honesty that makes the backbone of the magazine.
GC: What will Southern Grit try to provide to readers?
CF: Southern Grit really has two focuses. First, we want to open up an honest debate on regional food. The biggest problem I have with a lot of the existing food writing is it has such a bias. We love this area too, but we feel like glossing over things that could be improved only does a disservice to people. There's a thin line between being honest and being an asshole, and we stay on the side of honesty. At first, we may get push back because people in the area aren't always shown the truth by reviewers, but our stance is that the only way someone can grow is with constructive criticism. The other part of Southern Grit is stepping outside the box of traditional food writing. By pairing great food photography with illustrations and other art media, we're offering a visual edge more akin to an arts magazine. Our content, too, doesn't just stick to restaurant reviews and recipes. We want to creatively discuss all issues that fall into the web of food. Everyone eats, so there's a lot to talk about.
GC: Will Southern Grit primarily cover food and restaurants?
CF: Southern Grit is themed each issue. So, in the context of that, we certainly will be covering restaurants and food. We have a section called "First Impressions" that's dedicated to showcasing new restaurants. However, the beauty of themes is that the content almost creates itself. For our first issue, the Women In Whites edition, we featured several female restaurateurs. However, our second issue focuses on alcohol, so our features will be on different styles of bars. Since each theme is different, expect the content to vary appropriately.
GC: Do you have a target audience?
CF: Our target audience are millennials and foodies. We want people who work in the industry to appreciate the magazine. We want people who are passionate about food to pick up a copy. At the same time, we're not Bon Appétit and we don't want to be. We think food should be fun, not pretentious.
GC: How far out of the area you hoping the magazine will reach?
CF: We're going to grow this slowly, so we don't overextend. Right now, we're really focused on Norfolk because of the existing food culture. We're also going to be at some key spots in most of the other 7 cities. In a year or two, I'd really love to have our magazine in Roanoke, Richmond, and the outer DC area because in Virginia, that's where food cultures are thriving.
GC: Your experience in the industry and recent life events seem to be key in your decision to start Southern Grit, what else influenced you?
CF: I've always been passionate about food, in all it's forms. I've also admired Pete Wells and Frank Bruni (NY Times food critics), as well as the content the magazine Lucky Peach keeps turning out. I'm very into writing as well, so this was a way to combine my two passions. At the end of the day, though, a lot of respect goes out to Joshua Fitzwater. He runs 757 E Zine, and was hanging out at O'Connor Brewing Co. (one of my current jobs) when I approached him about writing about food in his magazine. He was more than impressed with my article, and had the foresight to want to take this further. Really, without Fitz coming up with the idea of a strictly food magazine, Southern Grit wouldn't exist.
GC: You've been working in restaurants for over 10 years, anything you remember that really gets you?
CF: The biggest thing working in kitchens has taught me is that multitasking is the key to survival. A quote that has always stayed with me comes from Harry DiSilvestro, one of the owners of Y'not Pizza, my second job at 17. He told me to never burn a bridge, because you don't know where that bridge could take you down the road.
GC: How has the reception been when looking for supporters and advertisers?
CF: When talking to prospective readers, everyone seems to be really interested in our focus on honesty. And like I said previously, everyone eats so everyone has an opinion on food. As far as finding people who want to advertise with us, once they see the amount of time Fitz has put into the layout and look of the magazine, they instantly recognize that no one else is making a free publication of this caliber.
GC: What will be the initial distribution?
CF: Our initial run is going to be 1000 issues bimonthly in Hampton Roads. As funding grows, we want to do this every month and then start doing larger print runs. Fitz really has the expertise in this, as he's been growing 757 E Zine for over a year now.
Southern Grit: The Cutting Edge of Food Writing & Photography is having its release party this Sunday, 22 March, at O'Connor Brewing Co. in Norfolk, VA, 1:00-4:00 PM.
Southern Grit: The Cutting Edge of Food Writing & Photography is having its release party this Sunday, 22 March, at O'Connor Brewing Co. in Norfolk, VA, 1:00-4:00 PM. Entertainment by The Wet Boys and food will be available from CXB BBQ, Bodacious Pizza and Wings by My Mama's Kitchen.
Additional information provided by Chris:
Chris Fellini. 26. Grew up in Virginia Beach, but I'm a military brat so I've been all over. I've traveled on my own – all over the country and have seen what other regions do with food. I've also worked in restaurants for 10 years so I bring that experience to the table.
Joshua Fitzwater. 30, Norfolk Virginia, photographer, print designer, musician, suicide survivor, weight loss 150 pounds in the last 2 years, owner of the 757E Magazine.
One of the many things Shelby and I fell in love with while we lived in Germany was gyros - or at least that's what we called them. We were actually eating doner kebabs which hail from Turkey. There was a good sized group of Turkish people in Germany so naturally some of their dishes came with them. My favorite shop was one on the way to Nuremberg; the owner was of Turkish decent but born and raised in D.C. He had family in Germany and decided to move there and ended up running a little gyros shop. I first stopped by there on the suggestion of one of the other soldiers who had more time in country...and a car. I was going wherever he took me.
I fell in love after the first bite. It was great watching the lamb and veal, thinly sliced and stacked on a spit, turn on an upright rotisserie. I believe doner kebab translates roughly into "one that turns" or something like that. The meat would be shaved off the spit into a tray then it was placed into half of a large pita
Shawarma is basically the same thing as a doner kebab, each region has their own ingredients for the wraps/pitas and what you see above is the best shawarma I've had in Hampton Roads. It's from a shop called Mr. Shawarma in Norfolk, VA on 21st St. I remember hearing about it opening not too long ago and always meant to swing by. We finally hit the spot after going to the Evil Twin Brewing mini tap take-over at The Birch.
The shop is tucked in off the street and when we first walked in we saw some kids hanging out in one of the booths. The owner Avi Eli was behind the counter chatting with a customer while he prepared food. An assortment of toppings sat in front of Avi, his hands dashed into them tossing them on the flatbread according to the customer's order. Shelby ordered the falafel in pita and I got the shawarma wrap. While we waited for our food to be made we were given samples of the falafel - so good! I could eat a bucket of those things with the tahini sauce he topped it with. Avi is a lively guy with a sharp sense of humor, when Shelby said she didn't know what to do he said, "I have a girlfriend already, sorry."
We took our orders to go but ended up eating the fries/chips in the car. When we got home we both marveled at how good our food was. My shawarma had shaved turkey in it that was seasoned perfectly, I got mine "hot" so it was spiced up a bit but not too hot at all. Shelby's falafel was crisp on the outside but had a soft, firm texture when bit into.
This is definitely a "must try" if you're in Norfolk, wish he tried this sooner.
Check out fellow food and drink enthusiast Steve Attenweiler write-up on HamptonRoads.com.
When I first started to get into blogging and I mean actually starting one and sticking to it for the umpteenth time (seriously, I've been off and on the idea of online journals since about 2000) I searched for local blogs to follow. One of these was Our Beach Baby, a mommy blog based in Virginia Beach. It was nice seeing shots of Virginia Beach and creeping on someone's family. That sounded weird didn't it? Anyway...
Years later I actually met the woman who owned the blog - Tessa! We bumped into each other at Back Bay Brewing's tasting room at the Beach.
Oh, another thing about me, if we follow each other online I consider that an invitation to talk to you in person if I every see you in the wild. Keep that in mind when I'm in your face one day.
It's always nice to meet someone you've kind of known online for years and finally get to talk face to face. Tessa was there with her husband and his co-workers for a little party. Everyone was having fun, being loud and drinking beer of course. It's a brewery tasting room. They doors were open to let in some air because Virginia summers get hot! I invited myself to take their photos and someone got one of me and Tessa together too :)
Not too long afterwards Tessa started another site called vbbasics.com. I think she said it was something she was messing around with for a while and wanted to put more time into it. She'll be splitting a lot of time between the two because she's having another baby! That'll bring extra content for Our Beach Baby!
Tessa contacted me recently and asked if I would do a little Q&A with her to which I argreed. I love those things, they're fun and my site doesn't really put a lot out there about me personally. So here it is, enjoy and please bookmark VB Basics while you're there!
Shelby bought me a the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes book years ago and it's something I've used on a regular basis now to bake bread, pizza dough, baguettes - you name it. Recently though I been feeling an itch to try something new so I decided I'd find a few recipes online to try. I found two, one for a baguette and one for a croissant.
I felt bad, I getting my KitchenAid mixer cleaned up and realized I have neglected it. I got it for Christmas a few years back and it has not been utilized that way it should. I need to change that! Other than bread we have sausages we want to make too, especially a Thai sausage one in the Pok Pok book Marleigh gave me for Christmas this past year.
The baguette recipe was going to take two days to complete and the croissant was written out to about three. I started with the baguette dough, measuring out everything, mixing it by hand, adding a little bit of water as i went. Followed the instructions, overnight rest, everything! They turned out terrible! I'll take full responsibility for anything that went wrong with my baguettes, I'll try again and next time I have some ideas. I continued working on my croissants.
I used Weekend Bakery's classic French croissant recipe and it seemed to work out well other than taking three days to work. I know there is a right way to do this, but there has to be something a little bit faster! The croissants came out good but a little dense. Again, I think this has more to do with my technique but I'm going to look at several other recipes and figure out one that will best for me. This one was worked over three days!
I had fun, tried something different and ended up with some tasty croissants. I'll log more of my baking adventures when they happen.
This is actually from the other week but Shelby made sure he had a little something for his birthday. Chayce is 23 now! Happy Birthday! :)
I will usually make couscous with basil shrimp at home but it works well with the Genova tuna I was sent. The cool, refreshing tuna atop of the warm, paprika spiced couscous will be a crowd pleaser. We love Mediterranean and Anatolian food, give this a shot and you will not be disappointed. It's easy too! You'll need a few pots and two oiled ramekins to make what you see above. Do not overly oil the ramekins or else the couscous will stick! Approximately 2 servings.
- 1 can Genova Tonno tuna
- ½ teaspoon fresh chopped Dill
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped Red Onion
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped Cucumber
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped Red Bell Pepper
- 1 tablespoon chopped Green Onion
- 1 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Juice of 1 lemon
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- 2 tbsp Olive Oil
- 1 tbsp Pine Nuts
- 2 large clove Garlic
- 2 tablespoons of finely chopped Red Onion
- 1 teaspoon Cumin
- 1 teaspoon Turmeric
- 1 teaspoon Brown Sugar
- ½ teaspoon Pepper
- 1 teaspoon Paprika
- 1 cup Couscous
- 1 ½ Chicken Stock (heat in microwave before adding to couscous)
- Juice from 1 Lemon
- Grated rind of a Lemon
- 1 tablespoon minced Parsley
- Salt to taste
- Single parsley leaf and chopped tomato
- Prepare the tuna mixture and let sit in the refrigerator for an hour.
- Heat olive oil in pot at medium heat for couscous.
- Put pine nuts into oil and let toast for about 2 minutes, stir constantly to prevent burning.
- Add garlic and red onion, sauté for 1 minutes till clear.
- Pour in cumin, turmeric, brown sugar, pepper, paprika and toast seasoning for no more than 1 minute. Add a little salt to taste.
- Add couscous and toast for 2 minutes.
- Pour in lemon juice and let reduce. This will happen quickly.
- Pour in chicken stock and cover pot. Remove from heat and let sit for 15-20 minutes.
- After stock has been absorbed by couscous, fluff with fork.
- Remove tuna from fridge and press half of the tuna into an lightly oiled ramekin.
- Fill the rest of the ramekin with couscous, press firmly.
- Flip ramekin onto plate and tap top until you hear a hollow sound. Gently remove ramekin.
Go back to Genova Tonno!
Arancini is Italian street food and consists of breaded, balled risotto that is fried to perfection. I'm a sucker for anything fried and this is no exception! I mixed it up a little bit and added some extra cheese and seasoning to the risotto that is then wrapped around a chunk of Genova tuna fish before it's panned fried. Everyone loves these things, I've made a bunch of them and shared them with friends and co-workers. This recipe is tested and true. You're going to need parchment paper on hand to pour the risotto on after it's done. 20-30 arancini, depending on the size you form.
Tonno alla Arancini
- 1 can of Genova Tonno tuna
- 1½ cups arborio rice
- 6 cups chicken stock
- ½ cup white wine
- 1 medium shallot or ½ small onion, chopped (about ½ cup)
- 2 cloves of Garlic (finely minced)
- 4 Tbsp unsalted butter
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- ¼ cup grated Mozzarella cheese
- 1 Tbsp chopped Italian parsley
- ¾ cup bread crumbs
- Kosher salt, to taste
- 1 inch of vegetable oil in a frying pan
If you haven't made risotto before you'll realize the process is a little involved. It's high maintenance, but worth it in the end. Seriously, you'll see.
- Pour the chicken stock into a saucepan and place on low heat. This needs to be hot when added to the rice.
- Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large pot then sauté the shallot and garlic. Approximately 2 minutes till clear.
- Pour the arborio rice in the pot and stir briskly for about 1 minute. Do not brown the rice.
- Add the wine and stir till reduced, you'll smell it and it'll smell good.
- Start adding the stock to the pot a ladleful at a time. Constantly stir the rice and stock until the stock has been absorbed into the rice. Keep doing this until the stock is gone, the starch and mixing will create a nice creamy texture to the risotto.
- When al dente remove risotto from heat.
- Pour risotto onto parchment paper and spread out as a thin a layer.
- Let cool.
- When cool, measure out squares of risotto, approximately 20-30.
- Make sure the risotto easily separates from the parchment, if not, use a oiled spatula to separate from the risotto from the paper before adding the tuna.
- Place a square of risotto in our palm with a piece of tuna in the center.
- Fold the corners over the tuna and ball into your palm, roll till round.
- Complete process till all the risotto or tuna is gone.
- Rolled risotto balls into bread crumbs till lightly coated.
- Heat frying pan with oil on medium heat and brown arancini, place on paper towels to remove excess oil.
- Serve and enjoy!
A traditional Sicilian winter dish is the Blood Orange Salad. The fruit primarily grown in Italy but is also grown in Spain and the United States among other places in the world. The blood orange has a dark red pulp that is sweet and has many health benefits. Blood orange salad is usually made with shaved fennel bulb but I went with ground fennel seed that is bright and highly compliments the tuna and citrus. Start with the tuna first and let the flavors blend, the orange salad is ready to go as soon as it is plated. Plating consists of arugula that has been used in Italy since the ancient times. This makes approximately two servings.
- 1 can of Genova Tonno tuna
- 1/8 ground Fennel Seed
- 1 teaspoon Lemon Zest
- 1 ½ tablespoons finely minced Red Onion
- Pepper to taste
- 4 Blood Oranges
- 2 Oranges
- 1 can of Solid Tuna in Olive Oil
- 1 small Red Onion, thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons Parsley, finely chopped
- 3 tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Kosher Salt to taste
- Freshly Course Black Pepper
- Arugula and/or leafy spring vegetables
- 3-4 Kalamata Olives sliced or chopped
- ¼ teaspoon Capers
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- The tuna is lightly seasoned so it doesn't get lost in the mix. Use a fork to toss the tuna with the listed ingredients, wrap then let it sit in the refrigerator for an hour while you prep the oranges.
- Place a layer or arugula on your serving plate. The rest of the ingredients will rest on top of the green.
- You'll need a sharp knife to cut the skins and pith off the blood oranges then cut them in slices as seen in the photos. The regular oranges you'll slice the pulp out of the skins after skinning them them. You'll want to ensure the seeds are removed from both types of oranges before plating.
- Lay down a layer of blood orange then a thin layer of red onion.
- Place the regular orange on top of the blood orange and red onion, space evenly to allow room for the tuna.
- Spoon the tuna mixture between the oranges and then garnish with olives and capers.
- Drizzle with olive oil.
Serve chilled to room temperature. This would be good with a vinaigrette too!
I remember when I was a kid, tuna fish was always packed in oil – at least the stuff we ate my house. This was the 1970s everyone was eating tuna fish sandwiches, tuna casseroles, all of the that stuff. Eventually tuna was being shipped in water and marketed as a healthier alternative to the soybean oil it was usually in. My kids grew up eating tuna fish packed in water! We just kind of went along with it and never gave it a second thought.
Recently I was contacted by Genova Tonno (tonno translates to tuna in Italian) to review their canned tuna fish. Genova solid yellowfin tuna is packed in olive oil. If you don't know the difference between tuna fished marked as solid or chunk buy a can of each and check them out. I can tell you that solid tuna in a can looks like a sliced piece of fish nestled into a can whereas “chunk” tuna looks kind of mushy and shredded. They shipped me a nice gift basket to sample their product and inspire me to come up with some ideas on how their tuna can be prepared. It's a nice gift basket too!
I checked out the contents of the basket and grabbed one of the cans of tuna. I liked the branding, kind of along the veins of traditional tuna packaging. If you're into that type of thing, search the web for other examples. The blurb on the side of the can states:
Genova Tonno© Premium Yellowfin Tuna. Wild caught from deep waters, Genova Select Yellowfin if all natural with no additives or preservatives. Packed in the Mediterranean tradition with olive oil, it has a delicious flavor and is a natural source of Omega-3.
When I opened the can it wasn't fishy like other cans of tuna I've had, which was normally the cheapest, store brand. The oil was pretty much clear when I poured it out and the fish inside the can looked solid. I could pull apart flakes with my fingers and when I tossed a piece in my mouth it wasn't mushy at all. Pretty tasty stuff.
Of course the first thing that popped into my head was tuna salad, right? I love that stuff but I wouldn't be doing Genova justice if I just tossed it in a bowl with some relish and mayonnaise. I started to think about traditional Italian recipes and dishes that would compliment the solid, fresh tasting tuna they gave me. You'd probably like to hear a story of my Italian grandmother passing down tuna recipes from the Old Country being passed down from generation to generation but I can't do that. I was born in Bangkok and raised in Virginia Beach, VA – I had to do a little research.
One thing we like to do in our house – and Shelby is great at this – is experiment with food. She'll just take a mental inventory of what we have in the cabinets and figure out what goes well together and then make it. She hits the mark on the head too! I like to look up a few things, get an idea of where a recipe is trying to go and follow that path. After I get comfortable with it, I'll explore flavor profiles and ingredients to come up with something new; this is what I did for Genova. They gave me three cans of their premium tuna fish, so I came up with three recipes. Each one was a nod to regional Italian dishes, or so I hope, that incorporate Genova tuna fish. Find where Genova tuna is sold locally in your area and give these a shot. As always, feel free to modify the recipes to suit your own tastes and preferences.
A traditional Sicilian winter dish is the Blood Orange Salad. The fruit primarily grown in Italy but is also grown in Spain and the United States among other places in the world. The blood orange has a dark red pulp that is sweet and has many health benefits. Blood orange salad is usually made with shaved fennel bulb but I went with ground fennel seed that is bright and highly compliments the tuna and citrus. Click the this link for the recipe.
Arancini is Italian street food and consists of breaded, balled risotto that is fried to perfection. I'm a sucker for anything fried and this is no exception! I mixed it up a little bit and added some extra cheese and seasoning to the risotto that is then wrapped around a chunk of Genova tuna fish before it's panned fried. Everyone loves these things, I've made a bunch of them and shared them with friends and co-workers. This recipe is tested and true – click this link for the recipe.
I'll admit that this one isn't truly Italian but it allows me to share my Golden Couscous recipe with the world. I will usually make couscous with basil shrimp at home but it works well with the Genova tuna. The cool, refreshing tuna atop of the warm, paprika spiced couscous will be a crowd pleaser. We love Mediterranean and Anatolian food, give this a shot and you will not be disappointed. It's easy too! Click here for the recipe.
I mentioned a gift basket earlier and I wanted to let everyone know that Genova has generously offered to allow me to give away one to my readers. Check out the olivewood cheeseboard that comes with it, it's amazing. Shelby feel in love with it as soon as she saw it. Go to I-Heart-Food's Facebook page to learn how you could win this for yourself.
Our daughter turned 25 this weekend! So weird to think about how much time has passed. We love you and you're doing a great job out there!
Mom & Dad
When the first Europeans arrived on the shores of the Chesapeake they had an unfortunate skirmish with a group of Native Americans in which both sides retreated a little worse for wear in the end. The Chesapeake natives were on the beach again the next day and when they saw the Europeans heading to shore again they took off to the woods. As the landing party checked out the Indian camp they found large oysters roasting in the fire. Here is a first hand account of settlers getting a taste of the local delicacy recounted in "The Beach: A History of Virginia Beach, Virginia. Virginia Beach Public Library":
"On the second day, another party went ashore and penetrated about eight miles inland without encountering any indigenous settlements. This landing was probably east of Lynnhaven Bay (called
Morton's Bay after their wounded comrade), as the Chesapeakes' principal town was located near the mouth of the Lynnhaven River. Although no Indians were found, the Englishmen did find a fire where
oysters were being roasted. The natives had fled, or at least withdrawn, leaving the oysters in the fire. According to Captain Percy, "We ate some of the oysters which were very large and delicate in
taste." These oysters became known as Lynnhaven oysters and enjoyed an international reputation as delicacies into the twentieth century."
Chris Ludford has been running these waters for decades now and has seen big changes, good and bad, concerning the Lynnhaven. He's active in the preservation of our legacy stock and will take you out on his boat for a first hand experience in oyster farming. Here are his own words on how all of us can help.
"For the last 20 years the Lynnhaven River has either been closed or severely restricted to harvest due to water quality mainly but also due to lack of harvest effort. Fortunately both factors have improved and the latter mainly focused on highly sustainable aquaculture. Recently, however, there has been an increase in the harvest of wild Lynnhaven oysters. This is occurring on privately held bottom and cannot be regulated. We hope that wild harvesters only take a small percentage of their holdings and invest in future wild harvest by planting shell and or seed. An aquafarmer by definition must plant seed or invest in the production of oysters in some way. The unfortunate reality is that removing this stock without respect is akin to clear cutting old-growth forests and is not sustainable. Most of these animals are large, 5+ year-old, spawning stock oysters that we need to rebuild the wild population of the river. Oyster biology is such that the seed of oysters free-floats for a short time over great distances before settling. We desperately need this stock to continue to rebuild the river's wild population and keep her clean with their great powers of filtration."
"What will we do? Conservation groups and oystermen on the Lynnhaven are working together to develop a certification or label of sustainability for Lynnhaven River oyster producers. The criteria for this label is being developed and will include a required majority percentage of harvest to be from aquaculture, a limited harvest of wild annually and possibly some work with conservation groups on the river.
What can you do? At this point in time I encourage you all to ask the people, restaurateurs, watermen and dealers that serve/sell wild Lynnhavens to inform you about their origins and methods of harvest. Ask to see the tag. There must be a tag on every bag or box as required by law. Please tell them how valuable wild Lynnhavens are and that it is important to you that they are harvested sustainability and with respect. These animals are literally dinosaurs and the subject of attention from scientists, conservationists and the watermen for their ability to resist disease.
Who is currently doing it right? Quite simply: If a person or business has no aquaculture or farm-raised oysters in their production of Lynnhaven River oysters it would be difficult for themselves to be called a sustainable producer or farmer. If you are buying Lynnhaven oysters you should request farm-raised, sustainable oysters. If you buy wild ask if the producer is limiting their harvest in some way or using spat-on-shell methods to replenish wild stocks harvested.
I want to thank you for taking the time to read this and hopefully act on my recommendations if you find yourself in agreement. Please remember how valuable those large, wild oysters are to river filtration and repopulation.
This past January's Merroir Terroir at Terrapin was a good one. Local oysterman Chris Ludford and Terrapin's sommelier Daniel Kieser were at the helm of the event with a nice line-up of West Coast oysters and bonus appearance of a local favorite.
We arrived just in time to sit and catch the beginning of the event. We were lucky enough to be sandwiched in-between friends and aquintances—Rex and Lisa Hamaker to our left and the Jo Ann and Buzzy Hoffheimer to our right. Chris talked a bit about oysters and some techniques in enjoying the experience. Looking at the oyster being served, the color of the shell can give you an idea of the environment it was raised in, the size and shape are good indicators of what region they came from, etc..
When it came to tasting you want to smell the oyster, sip it's liquor and then slurp it in. You can pick up the different textures of the oyster when you chew it. Some parts are strong then others, some sweeter. He also talked a little bit about umami. Umami has been classified as one of the five basic tastes together with sweet, sour, bitter and salty. It was founded in Japan, hence the name, and was only officially recognized in the 1980s. It is savory and can be found naturally in tomatoes, aged cheese and dry cured hams among other things. Oysters are packed with it!
As we listened to Chris the plates of oysters started to appear from the kitchen. We didn't know what we were going to be having, so it was a pleasant surprise to see what was going to be our launching point.
The first oyster we were having was one of our favorites, the Kusshi. These are from the West Coast and have small, deep bowls. The oysters form these types of shells due to tumbling that breaks off the edges. This prompts the oyster to grow a deeper and thicker shell. Blonde, lavender to dark hues color the scalloped shells. The batch we had were very varied from one to the next. Chris suggested that they might have mixed up several batches from the farming area which caused the differences. Variation in color is due to bottom sediment make-up. Daniel poured a 2012 Domaine Pichot Vouvray Le Peu de la Moriette Demi-Sec from Loire, France with this oyster. The pairing was perfect! Sipping a little bit of the white with a little bit of the oyster in my mouth blended well and highly complimented the flavors of both. Great finish and lingering aftertaste was very pleasant.
Second, we were poured Sokol Blosser Evolution 18th Edition, a white blend from Oregon. On our plates were the Rolls Royce of oysters – the Kumamoto! These were raised in Humboldt Bay, CA and had salt up front with a sweet, butterly flesh. The bite was crisp and fruity—think green grapes or light melon. I've only had these a couple of times so this was a treat. They are small but pack a punch, I could imagine eating a bag of these by myself. The wine was bright and paired well with the initial saltiness of the oyster liquor; I think the Evolution would definitely be good with spicy food.
Our third course was another variety of Kusshi known as a Shigoku (which means something along the lines of “outstanding” in Japanese), this particular oyster is being marketed under the name “Fat Bastard.” What separates these from other Kusshi oysters is that they are tumbled by the tides themselves. The oysters are put in bags that are suspended by floats so they never touch the bottom. Twice a day when the tides change the oysters are tumbled. I expected the shells to be bright without coloration, but they were lined with thick, dark stripes. Regardless of what the shell looked like (which was pretty!) they oysters were delicious! Shelby said it was her favorite oyster of the night. Meaty with a strong melon finish. We had a 2012 Côte Bonneville Cabernet Franc Rosé from the DuBrul Vinyard in the Yakima Valley, the arid desert region of Central Washington hold ideal growing conditions for certain grapes. It was citrusy, a little strong for the oyster I thought; still a good bottle though.
We actually got a fourth course and we made our way back to the East Coast with Chris' own Pleasure House Oysters! Salty liquor, juicy, these were bred especially for Terrapin restaurant. Smaller and easier to eat, these were started in 2013. The standard Pleasure House Oyster is huge, the idea behind farming these a little smaller was that it would be a lot less oyster to handle from one shell. The big ones are called chokers for a reason. Daniel poured a 2012 Bollini Pinot Grigio from Trentino, Italy. It went well with the five Lynnhaven mollusks Chris generously gave us. It was my lucky night too, one of the patrons at the end of the bar had a pea crab in her oyster I got to eat. About eating it herself, she said something along the lines of "maybe next time."
While we enjoyed out oysters and wine Chris described some of the recent conditions of the Lynnhaven. In 2013, Lynnhaven Inlet didn't have as much rain which in turn increased the salinity of the water. These conditions directly affect the flavor of an oyster. The tide has a huge influence on how an oyster tastes too. Tide creates flow, the flow of the water provides food for the oysters. Like most of what we eat, the animal's diet can be detected in its flesh. He said we should consider the oyster when we purchase animals to eat. Try to know where they came from and how they've been handled. The Pleasure House Oysters we ate that night were only touched 15 times before we ate them.
Oh, another nice thing about Merroir Terroir that night is that it was Shelby's Birthday. They brought out a little Valhrona Cocoa Chocolate Pudding with Sea Salt and Olive Oil. Next to the pudding was a single candle that glowed warmly at the low-lit bar. A great way to cap off the evening of great oysters, wine and company.
Yesterday was Shelby's "bertday"! Normally we have family over for cake and pizza, like we do every year for our birthdays. This year though we had cake night the day before her actual birthday and had dinner at Terrapin last night. This month's Merroir Terroir ended up being on her birthday, Merroir Terroir is Terrapin's seasonal wine and oyster pairing they hold once a month--I'll write more about that later. I just wanted to give a little shout out to the best wife and buddy a guy could have. Happy Birthday Shelby! XXXOOO