I made it to 46! Hoping to be around for a few more! We did the usual, cake and pizza with family.
Shelby really loved the candles she found for the cake too. They threw tiny sparks.
I made it to 46! Hoping to be around for a few more! We did the usual, cake and pizza with family.
Shelby really loved the candles she found for the cake too. They threw tiny sparks.
Thanksgiving is my holiday. I get up early, turn on the parade in NYC that's guaranteed to have terrible music, start getting dinner put together, and nip at the extra bottle of cheap red wine I supposedly bought for cooking.
This year was different though.
Pretense aside, this is actually a happy story - watch, you'll see. The hospital staff was really good with Marleigh and when she was moved down from the MICU into another room she had to share it with another patient. She'll stay anonymous but I will say it was an experience to say the least. Ask me in person and I'll tell you. IT was straight up movie material. Back to the story.
Before we drove up to the city Marleigh (and us!) were lucky that she has a ton of friends up there to look after her. One of her friends from Richmond, Rachel, was great about bringing her food and spending time with her. Thanks by the way to everyone who helped Marleigh out while she was there, even those cute, young doctors (you know our daughter is single atm right?)
We stayed at Marleigh's place while were in New York and I contemplated whether or not we would do a Thanksgiving dinner. Everything I bought for it - turkey, sides, pans, etc..., was all in Virginia. The night before Thanksgiving after we visited Marleigh we decided we'd walk to Union Square a few blocks from the hospital to check out Whole Foods. It was close and open by the time we left the hospital. You could guess it was packed! Everyone was trying to get their dinner stuff in order and here we are just mulling over the idea of maybe making one (I'm chuckling right now as I right this.)
You might assume we did roast a turkey because of the header photo for the post and you would be correct! But you know how much we paid for the turkey?
That's right, $0.15, that much. "How!?" might you ask, Whole Foods stuff costs hundreds of dollars! Well, that's actually not true because our go-to Tuesday night drinking wine, Don Simon Tempranillo, is only $4 and it's does the job.
Back to the turkey.
We shoulder our way through the throngs of people picking through what was left on the shelves and spy a display freezer with some organic turkeys in them. They were priced on average about $35 which isn't bad for being labelled free-ranged and organic. As we dug around we pulled one up from underneath the solid, frozen birds that had us both raise our eyebrows.
It was about a 15 lb turkey priced at 15¢. We did a double take and then expressed awe. The weight was listed wrong and whoever was printing out tags didn't notice? I mentioned that maybe I could ask a manager about buying it at the marked price but Shelby said just go to the register and buy it. Duh, I over-think things sometimes. So I tucked our prize under my arms as if to protect it from anyone who might have caught a whiff of what was going on and went to the front of the store. This was a sign we were supposed to make dinner while we were up there and by god I was going to do it.
Sooo many lines! But I'll have to say the store handle it likes pros and had people out of the store quickly. We would have been out quick too if I hadn't stood in a shopping lane that I thought was a check out line.
We get in the right line and finally to a register. The woman behind the counter grabs the the turkey and passes it over the scanner. What?! That's the look on her face if you can imagine. She swipes the tag again and comes up with the same price. A penny a pound. She looks up at us, gives a little shrug and says what we wanted to hear, "I'm going to go ahead and give it to you for that price." She then smiles and says something about the holidays and it was her birthday soon anyway. I said, "Mine too! November 28th!" We bonded and Shelby and I walked out of the store with the most inexpensive turkey we have ever bought from a store.
We picked up the rest of what we needed elsewhere and took the train home. Try to imagine the two of us carrying bags of groceries from Union Square to the train station to get back to Brooklyn - and it was freezing that night too! I mean it really wasn't that bad I think because of the score we landed. When we got back to the apartment I did some prep work and planned on getting up early the next day like I always do on Thanksgiving. It was queit otherwise and the whole place smelled that way it should when I'm cooking. It felt like home.
The next morning I got up, used Shelby's laptop to watch the parade, and got to work. I was able to manage using what Marleigh and her roommates had in the kitchen to put together a decent meal. Roasted potatoes, stuffing, spaghetti squash, stock for gravy, and of course, the turkey. They have a gas stove and it was nice cooking on gas again, it's been years.
We picked up containers for take-away and got everything packed up when it was done. After we got ourselves ready we took the train downtown. We walked Marleigh down the family day room and setup dinner. Marleigh seemed to like having a homemade dinner and it was nice to be able to spend time with her relaxing during a stressful time.
After dinner we went back to the room and relaxed a bit and watched some TV. Marleigh wasn't released until the next day which she was ecstatic about. She was going a little stir-crazy being stuck in the hospital, she wasn't allowed to leave the building the whole time she was there because she had an IV hookup. Apparently people used to be able to step outside but some patients were caught injecting stuff into their lines outside so they nixed that priviledge to prevent that from happening.
Once we got back to Marleigh's apartment she got cleaned up and we went out for a little dinner then returned to her place. I took the leftover turkey and carved up the meat and portioned it out for her with some gravy in baggies to freeze. All she had to do afterwards is take out whatever portion she wanted to eat and heat it up! I took the rest of the carcass and made turkey soup. Her roommates (who had returned to NY at that point) said it smelled good, that was nice. I told them to help themselves.
We meant to leave Saturday but we ended up going to IKEA Brooklyn and you know how that goes - hours of time browsing. It was fun though and Shelby picked up some shelving for Marleigh to help her organized her stuff. Shelby is huge into organizing and building stuff. I like to cook :)
The next day we got our stuff to leave and Marleigh was going to head to brunch with one of her best friends, Balin. When I went to get the car I notice that a car that looked similar to ours had it's driver's side window shattered. I thought, "Wow that sucks!" Then turned around and walked back towards our group. I turned around again and headed back to our car to pack our stuff. I went to the same car, because it was ours, and realized that our car had been broken into.
@#$%! Com'on man!
So our fairly new car had been broken into and the thief (thieves?) got away with about $4 in change and my old, ratty cheap sunglasses. It only cost us a $500 deductable to fix it. Nice. So we cleaned up what we could and packed the car then found a hardware store to tape up the window. I'll tell you driving 6 hours in a car with plastic taped to your driver's window is no fun. No fun at all.
After my initial pootiness and large coffees we made our way south. Shelby drove about halfway to let me rest a bit which I greatly appreciated. We made good time and I actually went out real quick that night.
This was definitely a trip to remember and we're glad Marleigh is bouncing back and hopefully will have this thing knocked out ASAP.
News Years Eve was pretty exciting and a little nerve racking for us. Instead of our usual celebratory activities of eating and drinking a lot, then watching bad NYE shows, we drank a lot, stayed up too late, and packed for a trip to Hawaii! My brilliant idea about staying up late was to make sure I was nice and tired on the plane so I could sleep most of the trip from Atlanta to Hawaii. Yeah, that didn't work out too well.
We were supposed to go earlier in the year to see our son, but the timing was off. This time we worked out the holiday schedule and made it happen. I'll be honest and say I wasn't excited about having to sit on a plane for 13 1/2 hours but to honest it wasn't that bad. We flew with Delta and it was a pretty good experience overall. We haven't flown overseas since we left Germany.
Anyway! Delta (international) was great, they kept us fed and we had a ton of entertainment with the on-board media system (I watched three movies), and lots of free drinks. Thanks Delta! So with about maybe one hour of sleep we finally arrived in Hawaii. We went back in time even! We left Norfolk, VA at about 8:30 AM, we arrived in Honolulu, HI at 4:30 PM. It's like magic!
Yeah, yeah, I know how time zones work, let me have my moment...
I'll be honest and say I really wasn't excited about visiting Hawaii before we left. I lived there back in the early 1980s and did all kinds of crazy stuff and thought, "Meh, no big whoop." I really wanted to see Chayce and Katie though, they were married about 6 months ago and we haven't seen them since.
That all changed when I we were approaching the island and I could see the bright, sapphire blue waters contrasted with the emerald green island. The airport was right next to the beach and when we landed I couldn't wait to get off the plane to stand in bright sunlight and take a look at everything clearly.
As soon as we let the terminal we were on an outdoor walkway heading towards baggage claim to pick up some beer we brought over from the mainland to Chayce. We had to get a couple of pics of ourselves too. New Years Day in Hawaii!
Chayce and Katie were supposed to meet us at the airport but I told them we were arriving almost an hour later and they were there. We told them to meet us at the rental car office where we were getting our car. It's funny driving down Nimitz Highway, the road our rental was off of felt just like being stateside - grey, concrete, and traffic.
Chayce and Katie showed up at the car rental and they gave us the traditional leis you see on TV. They smelled great and reminded me of what Hawaii smelled like the first I lived there 30 years earlier. After we got the car we all drove down to the Waikiki to the Hale Koa were we were staying for the next 8 days. It's right on the beach and next to the Hilton Hawaiian Village.
The hotel still had it Christmas decorations up and it was kind of nice. Our holiday so far had been a whirlwind of activity so being in super chill mode and getting to relax some more made it all very welcoming. Here's some photos in front of the trees.
We ended up on the top floor of the hotel facing the city of Waikiki, Diamondhead, and the beach.
It was perfect!
We could stand on our little lanai and just watch Waikiki breath and move. The ocean was dotted with boats here and there that lit up at night. I really wanted to know what was happening out there. If we looked north, the mountains climbed to the clouds. It looked lush and wet, I felt the need to explore!
After settling in and catching up with Chayce and Katie we decided to grab a quick bite to eat. Chayce said there was a burger place near by he loved so we went with that. It's called Ted's Bigger Burger and they have a huge menu! It was reminiscent of the old school burger joints you only see in movies these days and they even had milkshakes and malts.
I liked the burger names (click on the image below to zoom in) and I ended up "Blue Wave" because I have a hard time passing up a good ole black & blue burger. I ordered a large vanilla malt too because I was on vacation and I haven't worked out since the beginning of December and I was on a roll.
Here's what else we had at the table:
After we ate Shelby and I both started feeling the 5 hour time difference and decided we should head back to the room to get a little sleep. After getting back to the hotel we figured we had to hit the beach real quick before hitting the sack. So we walked through the Hale Koa garden and went straight to the beach. The air was cool and even with all the city lights behind us the horizon was dark and we were lucky enough to see the "wet moon", meaning it looks as if the moon is crescent of bowl lit from the bottom. In Hawaii it's called Kaelo, "Dripping Wet Moon" month, it happens in parts of January and February. Tried to get a couple of shots below, not great but shows you what we were seeing. I also used the the Sky Guide app to figure out what else we were seeing up there.
We got out feet wet in the Pacific ocean walked along the shore and watched this guy shoot these little LED lit propelled toys into the air. That was kind of cool, he was actually selling them and the show he was putting on seemed to be working out well for sales.
Walking back towards the hotel we saw the Barefoot Bar was open still which meant we had to get a Mai Tai. We've had one before but I mean you have to when you're in Hawaii right? So we did.
I never usually order fruity drinks but I feel in love with mine as soon as I took my first sip (especially after I was told I should mix in the dark rum floating on top of the drink.)
After travelling all day, exploring a little bit, and topping off the night with Mai Tais on the beach we were ready for bed. Day One in Hawaii was wonderful and I was worried that the next seven would go by too fast.
How do you roast a turkey? Easy! Follow the instructions on the bag! Seriously though, it is pretty simple. Here are a few things to consider:
First, you'll have to get a turkey. These days there are so many options - but you have to think ahead. If you're looking for a locally sourced turkey you might be out of luck waiting a few days beforehand. Most places want you to order them so they can make sure they have the stock and can prepare it for you in time. I would definitely check with your local farmers and butchers first before giving up on the Buy Fresh, Buy Local route if you feel like you're late though.
Of course, turkeys are pretty big and most of them will be frozen. We usually cook birds over 20 lbs. and turkeys that size could take about 5 days to thaw! Take into account thaw time. Oh! Save the neck and giblets for the stuffing and/or gravy!
Second, if you're going to brine the turkey make sure you have everything you need ahead of time! If you're looking for a good brine recipe, use mine! I've been brining my turkey for a few years now and love how it turns out. There are some out there that think it is totally unnecessary or takes away from the natural flavor of the turkey. You'll have to determine that for yourself and do what you like.
Third, determine the the roasting time for the bird which is dependent on the size of the turkey, whether or not you've brined the bird and if you stuff the cavity. Check out Epicurious' page on roasting times here for some pointers.
Fourth, cook the turkey breast-side down for the first two-third of the way then flip it over to brown the breast. Approximately an hour breast-side up. This will allow the breast to baste in its own juices and you'll have crispy skin all around!
Let's get started!
I always stuff my turkey with dressing, but I do it lightly. The cavity is usually stuffed with aromatics too - citrus and herbs. I also don't tie (truss) the legs together. I know it looks pretty and some people swear by it, but I've found that my turkey roasts fine without it. I want as much of the skin exposed as possible and I believe the turkey will cook more even in those spots not concealed by the trussed legs.
Of course we use the drippings for gravy. I add vegetables, a little white wine, stock and butter to the pan before I place the turkey in it. I also use a rack to keep the turkey from sitting directly in the drippings while it's roasting. After the turkey is done I save the braised vegetables from the roasting pan for the gravy too. There is a good amount of butter in the pan for basting, I love how the butter cooks into the skin. Here's what you need for the pan before you put the turkey in it:
Ingredients (Roasting Pan)
Coming up next is gravy!
Do not pour out the drippings from the pan or remove the braised vegetables in the pan. These will be used to make a delicious turkey gravy and a lot of it too! No need to list ingredients here because we have everything we need. If you saved giblets for the gravy or stuffing make sure they're available.
Note: In our house, I'll have the neck and giblets simmering on the stove the whole time the turkey is roasting. In the simmering pot I'll add the same mix of vegetables and herbs put in the roasting pan. Brown the giblets and vegetables before you pour in the liquids to simmers. This will make a flavorful broth, reduce it by half. When it's done, strain out the giblets and neck, keep these. Pick the neck for as much meat as you can get. Add this to the gravy later.
This takes anywhere for 15 to 30 minutes to complete. You can speed it up by adding a little bit of flour or a nice, dark roux.
Marleigh is home this weekend for Mother's Day and she brought up 8 & Half pizza from Richmond! If you haven't had it, you need to the next time you're in Virginia's capitol city. The shop used to be an old bakery (form what I was told) and when you walk in it smells like sweet, roasted garlic. Love it.
Marleigh arrived home with three pizzas! We ate about two of them, I had three pieces even though I already had dinner at Lynnhaven Pub earlier. Brisket, a beautiful brisket sandwich from The Pub.
After eating some pizza we remembered we needed to drop off Marleigh's car for a service so we drove to the dealership and dropped the car off. On the way back home we saw a fox, she was fast and darted behind bushes and cars, avoiding my attempts to get a photo of her. We heard a bunch of yelling down the street while we were trying to find the fox, so we drove around the neighborhood and found a bunch of cars parked on the street.
Some kind of party was going on down the street and we saw a girl sitting on the corner looking creepy, it's been a while since I've seen anything like that happening around here. We headed home and ate more pizza and went to bed eventually, the Old Beach Farmers Market was in the morning and I needed to get up and try to make there before it closed. I have a bad habit of showing up right before it shuts down for the day.
Virginia Beach Restaurant Week 2015 has kicked off for the new year! Just thinking about all the possibilities for lunches and dinners has me worrying about my cholesterol and blood pressure. If you're not familiar with Restaurant Week, participating area establishments offer lunch and/or dinner specials at reduced prices to entice diners to visit their restaurants to try something new. On average lunches are $10 and dinners run from $20-$30.
Virginia Beach Restaurant Week is celebrating its 10 year anniversary with over 90 restaurants taking part. We were able to hit a few last year: Braise, Croakers, and Chic's to name a few. Our first Restaurant Week outing this year was to Mannino's for lunch! If you didn't know it yet, Mannino's has the best She-Crab soup in Virginia Beach—hands-down. I don't say those words lightly either! Starting with a good soup sounded perfect since we're in cold weather now. Shelby made reservations for us at the new Oceanfront location, this will be our first time at that shop.
They have an extensive Restaurant Week lunch menu made especially for Restaurant Week. I didn't realize how much they were offering until I actually checked out the menu. For $10 you get two courses: The first could be Prosciutto & Fresh Mozzarella, Calamari Friti or a cup of the Award Winning She-Crab soup! (I know what I was ordering.)
The second course ran one and a half pages, anywhere from salads, sandwiches (including an Oyster Po' Boy), and a wide range of pastas and sauces. We had 5 in our lunch group Shelby, myself, Nana and Marleigh who brought along a friend for us to meet. Once we were seated our server brought out a hot, fresh loaf of bread for the table and small plates to mix olive oil and balsamic. We used the delicious, crusty bread to dip into the mixture and finished off the small loaf quickly. I asked for another immediately afterward. The table pretty much stuck with the first course She-Crab soup except for Nana who has an aversion to shellfish. Our meals came with salads too, a nice house salad and a Caesar. As for entrées we ordered the following: Two plates of Four Cheese Ravioli (one spicy), Vitello Parmigiana, Smoked Turkey & Provolone Panini and a Fried Oyster Po' Boy.
When the first course was brought out I was surprised at how large the calamari plate was, it was the regular serving size. The soup came in cups, as described on the menu. Nana ordered the calamari and passed it around the table to share, even after doling out some to everyone she had a healthy portion left to herself. The She-Crab soup was spectacular as expected. The large chunks of sweet crab meat were hiding just below the creamy soup and I made sure to divvy out equal amounts of each with every bite. I can be a little anal about how I eat my food. The Caesar was very nice and I loved the croutons that came with it, I like mine a little airy. I didn't try the house salad but it was pretty with a variety of lettuce and long slivers of carrots and beets.
After the bread, salads, soups and calamari we were getting full. I had to finish Marleigh's soup because it would have been a sin to let that go back to the kitchen to be dumped! When the entrées were brought out we saw they really did stay with the regular menu portion sizes (or close enough!) I had the Vitello Parmigiana, veal Parmesan, that I really enjoyed. I don't get out for Italian much so this was a nice change of pace. The veal was lightly breaded and cook well, the cutlet was sitting on top of a mound of penne and sauce. I ended up giving the rest to Shelby in a take-out. She had the spicy ravioli and was gushing over the sauce. Nana had the panini and seemed pretty happy with what she ordered, it looked good and she ended up taking home some too. Marleigh's friend Patrick had the oyster po' boy that was huge. It had at least 6 plump, fried oysters in it with all fixings to the side with two sauces to choose from.
Overall everyone was impressed with the meals being offered on Mannino's special menu for Restaurant Week and can't say enough how great of a deal it was for $10 a plate! I hope we're as lucky with the next place we pick. Make sure to get out and see what's being offered, the chefs and kitchens usually put something special together to let people get a taste of what they have to offer. Take a tour of Virginia Beach's restaurants, see if you find a new favorite out there.
Virginia Beach Restaurant Week runs from 10-19 January 2015.
The day after Thanksgiving I meant to put together a big post about what I cooked for the holiday write a little about family but I didn't. Our son Chayce was home for the weekend and it was nice to spend time with him and kind of relax a bit. Before you know it the weekend is gone and Shelby and I are in the house alone again.
I was cooking when Chayce arrived at the airport on Thanksgiving Day. Shelby and Marleigh picked him up. It was great to see him walking up to the house and our dog Jasper didn't know what to do with himself. So he ended up running around in circles creating a wide circuit between the mailbox and Chayce. He eventually rolled over onto his back and piddled in the air.
I've been working my turkey game and the past couple of years the turkey has been roasted upside-down. This been done by plenty of people for as long as turkeys have been roasted I'm assuming but it's new to me. After talking to someone last year I decided to try it and I think it turned out great. The breast meat is constantly basted in the juices and the skin on the bottom of the turkey is brown and crispy. Everyone knows crispy turkey skin is the best! The last hour of roasting was breast side up to brown it and then about 20 minutes resting. The brine could be tasted in the turkey and complimented the bird. I was pretty happy with how it turned out and everyone seemed to enjoy it.
I made our favorite mashed potatoes: heavy cream, garlic, Parmesan and a stick of butter. A little parsley is good too but I forgot to put it in while I was running around the kitchen. I was actually only an hour behind serving which is pretty good for me. We had 7 dishes or so, not including the pies Shelby made the night before, some easier than others to put together. The gravy is usually last to be made. I use the the braised vegetables from the turkey pan to make the gravy in addition to the giblets and neck stock.
After we all ate dinner we celebrated my birthday--it was the next day but it's easier to do it while we have everyone in one place. Shelby made my favorite: yellow cake with chocolate frosting. Every since I was a kid this has been my favorite cake to eat. I think it was because we didn't get stuff like that often and seeing the typical yellow cake and chocolate frosting on the packaging looked really tasty. Luckily, anything buttery is good in my book; I love it every time.
We were able to do a little bit while Chayce was home but before you know it he's back on the plane and out of here. We'll be able to visit some more over Christmas and there is always something going on here, but it's nice when we have the kids home again.
I get the day off on Memorial Day, like most people. First thing I thought of when I woke up was my Grandfather. He was a veteran if the Second World War in Patton's army. He's no longer with us but he has been a big influence in my life. The time I spent with my grand parents was great. I miss them both.
Marleigh came down for the long weekend to relax and it was nice to spend time her. He saw the new X-Men movie, cooked-out and watched Mad Men! Today we're at the beach. The Ft. Story beach is low-key and relaxing. The weather is great and there is a nice breeze.
After we left, I stopped by the local grocery and picked-up some snow crab legs that were on sale. We picked them for dinner then Marleigh left for her place. Very nice day.
Makes me wish I would have put in my 20 and retired from the Army. Spend the Spring/Summer with days like today.
Happy Mother's Day Shelby!
I meant to get this out yesterday but we've been running around like crazy; didn't spent a lot of time online.
What we did do it take our son to the military processing center where he signed his contract with the Navy. He flies out today.
Kind of a bittersweet weekend, but we are proud of him.
When Valentine's Day comes around people like to scope out what other people are doing. When they ask Shelby and me, we usually say "nothing." I think some people are surprised but we've always been low-key about these holidays. Birthdays are the same way. We've been together for a long time and I think since we were on a tight budget when we first got married (see About) we've always just enjoyed a card and/or some candy. As the years went by we just kind of kept things simple and we're good with that.
I did get Shelby a card and I decided instead of giving her a real flower I made one...from Maltesers!
Shelby loves Maltesers. It's her favorite candy. Before, I would have to drive anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour to the only shops in the area that carry them. Now we have one in Virginia Beach that keeps stocked up; I guess I'll tell you it's the big Kroger on Holland Rd. but you better buy them all!
All it took was about 7 bags of Maltesers, some jasmine leaves, and lots of tape. She really liked it.
Happy Valentines Day Mrs. Shelby.
The Birch in Chelsea (West Ghent, Norfolk, VA) has been listed in the top 50 craft beer bars in the United States by RateBeer.com. The only one in Virginia on that list, we're pretty lucky to have it. The other week they hosted a Steal the Pint night featuring Left Hand Brewing.
Specialty Beverage of Virginia, who distribute Left Hand in our region, were there in a show of support for the event and The Birch. A representative from the brewery, “Left Hand” Dan Conway was available to talk to customers and help promote the brewery. He was moving about bar and tables talking about the available beers and/or just chatting with the visitors. Since it was Steal the Pint night, the first Left Hand beer ordered garnered the patron a nice Irish-style pint glass with the signature red, left hand emblazoned on the front. The back of the glass had “Sometimes you're not in the mood for what everyone else is having.” printed on it. Neat glass.
We talked to Dan a bit about his work and his beers being served at The Birch. Really nice guy, he travels a lot and has been with the company a while. He goes from state to state hosting events for Left Hand in the Atlantic region; he's based out of Philly. He said the two American ales on tap that night—Deep Cover (American Brown Ale) and Jackman's Pale Ale (American Pale Ale)—were discontinued because they competed with some of their other signature beers also on the market and breweries do rotations in general. I ordered both the Americans and shared them with Shelby and Chayce. They were good, easy to drink. Chayce liked the Milk Stout Nitro (Milk/Sweet Stout); Shelby had the St. Vrain Belgian Tripel.
While we were having our drinks I talked to the Specialty guys, Phil Shannon, Jeff Joyce, Scott Warden and Christain Maute. I tend to bump into these fellas at the beer centric events all around the area. One thing for sure, if you see one of them there will be beer nearby. This is a good thing.
The Birch's owner, Malia Bublick, was constantly moving around the pub, never standing still for too long making sure drinks were poured and the plates handled. In a little lull she did come over to our end of the bar and we talked about how things were going. It was a Thursday night and I asked her about the full house. She said the Thursday crowd is usually pretty good, but when you give away glassware you always get a few more people who show up.
After we finished our drinks and said our good-byes. It's always nice visiting The Birch and I really enjoyed meeting Dan from Left Hand. Hopefully we'll catch them again in the near future.
View the photos from the event here.
In the Hampton Roads area we recently finished up a couple of restaurant week events for Virginia Beach and Norfolk. Newport News still has one going on till February 2nd and Portsmouth will be running theirs in April. Unfortunately, we only made it out for Virginia Beach's because of bad weather and a head cold that popped up during Norfolk restaurant week. I meant to have this written up last week but I've been pulled in a few different directions. Better late than never tough right?
Virginia Beach Restaurant Week (VBRW) basically works this way: participating restaurants offer a lunch and/or a dinner at a discounted rate. Most of the time the dishes they serve showcase what the eatery has to offer and it also affords people the chance to try out different places without breaking the bank. Shelby and I tried four places in Virginia Beach, I'll give you a little rundown on what we had.
As soon as Shelby and I got off of work we started checking out the restaurant week menus. It was hard to choose one place to eat but we finally settled on Croakers Neighborhood Grill. We've heard good things about the Virginia Beach local's spot and the menu looked good. Croakers is located on Shore Dr., if you're not familiar with Virginia Beach, Shore Dr. runs the length of the Chesapeake Bay to Norfolk.
When we pulled up the parking lot was packed. After a couple of run-arounds we got a spot and went inside. It reminded me of the classic Virginia Beach aesthetic—beachy, colorful, and the feeling its been around for a while. The hostess immediately seated us and the server came out and gave us info on the restaurant week menu. Croakers gave you the option of having a drink or cocktail instead of your third course dessert. We both opted for drinks, Shelby got a chocolate martini and I got a beer.
The appetizers being offered were Fried Calamari, Oysters Rockefeller, and Breaded Popcorn Shrimp. I chose the Rockefeller and Shelby got the calamari. The calamari had a great batter on them. Probably a beer batter with a little bit of Chesapeake Bay seasoning at the end. You get the whole squid; I love the tentacles. The oysters were good but I've been eating so many Oysters Rockefeller lately, I've been spoiled (I'm talking about Croc's.)
Entrees were Blackened Chicken, a NY Strip or something called St. Charles. Here's the description:
“Chef's choice of fish pan sauteed and topped with fresh mushrooms, tomatoes, scallions and shrimp which have been simmered in our special sherry, lemon and butter sauce – delicious”
Sounded good, we both ordered it. I was glad I did, normally this is a $20+ dinner but they put together a little something for restaurant week and it was so good. Out of everything I tried during VBRW, this was my favorite. They used talapia the night we went and it was cooked perfectly. I'm actually going to write more about this dish later, so I'll stop now. Definitely worth a try.
The second thing we tried was the lunch menu at Braise the next day. Braise recently opened in the city by the locally known chef Bobby Huber of Bobbywood fame. Braise was offering a $10 lunch with a few options to choose from. We went with one of our friends—Alisa—who had never been before.
I was really excited about was that Chef Huber's popular Oyster Stew was on the special menu. Shelby and Alisa both got the Braised Short Ribs with Cheddar Grits and Fried Spinach. They offered starters before the aforementioned dishes: Emily's Famous Lumpia or a Wedge Salad. I had the wedge salad while Shelby and Alisa, again, chose the same thing. Emily's Famous Lumpia.
Let me back up a bit. When we arrived it was packed! We lucked out because we were able to grab the only available table. We settled in and eventually our server arrived, it took awhile because the volume of customers in the restaurant. We looked at our menus, were given water, and then we ordered. We got our food eventually but my water glass wasn't refilled. I'm only mentioning it because that is my one major pet peeve when I eat out. I hate not having water, it really bothered me. I ended up drinking Shelby's since she didn’t want it.
I loved my salad. I love lettuce, so this would be easy to make me happy. The wedge had crumbled bleu cheese and dressing poured over it. A nice balsamic was dashing around the plate with some grapes and tomatoes. Mixed in with the cheese and dressing was nice, chewy bacon. Good stuff.
I didn't try the lumpia but Shelby and Alisa both seem to enjoy them. The entrees took long time to get out, and as I mentioned, I had no water. When the food came out, they forgot one of our entrees. I was worried it would take a while to get the missing plate out, but he was back quickly with it.
The oyster stew was very good. Tasty with perfectly cooked oysters and mildly seasoned. I like being able to taste the oysters without them having to compete with the rest of the soup. Potatoes and more bacon were in the bowl too, can't go wrong with that combo. The Braised Short Rib was good and the portion was small, but I guess I shouldn't complain about a $10 lunch right?
We've been to Sonoma before and liked the service. The food was good, but I thought a little overpriced and my entree could have used a little seasoning. I was looking forward to trying again though.
We went for the lunch menu and we had another of Shelby's friends, Crystal, with us this time. It was later in the week and the lunch crowd was manageable. The soup of the day was the first course and we had a choice of Chipotle Pork Taco, Blackened Crabcake Sandwich, and Seared Mahi. Shelby and Crystal went with the crabcake and I picked the tacos for variety.
The soup of the day was French Onion, which is one of my favorites. It was delicious and the cheesy baguette was great for soaking up all the broth. The Crabcake Sandwich was pretty good, not overloaded with filler, but definitely not lumpcrab. The tacos weren't too exciting and but they were good.
The last place we tried was Chick's at the Lynnhaven Inlet. A local staple, if you live in Virginia Beach you know about this place. I'll have to admit though, I've never been. I didn't realize how big this place is, on the outside it doesn't seem like much. They have a several bars services the different sections of the restaurant. We were seated on the deck which was enclosed for the season. Casual and relaxed, easy place to roll into for a drink or to grab a bite to eat. I'll probably write a little more about the place later.
Luckily we had Marleigh and Chayce with us that day and we met with my step-father, John and my sister Diane. After we were seated I walked around a bit to check out the joint. I bumped into Gerald from Hoffman Beverage who was there with one of his people who was pushing Monster drinks at the bar.
The lunch menu offered some pretty good choices: Open with a salad, She-Crab Soup or ½ Dozen Oysters (steamed or raw) and an entree choice of Fresh Catch Sandwich, Blackened Mahi Tacos, or Everything Greek Salmon Salad.
Chayce and I ordered the oysters, his steamed, mine raw on the half shell. Shelby got the She-Crab soup. She had the Greek Salmon salad and I thought I'd try the tacos here too. Chayce got the fish sandwich which turned out to be flounder that day. It was huge and looked great. My tacos, again, weren't anything I got excited over and Shelby said I might not want to order tacos anymore. Her Greek salad was huge too and out of everything we had that week, she said that was her favorite. The She-Crab was very good too. I'd like to go back again and try some of the other menu items, they have a lot to choose from.
All in all restaurant week was fun, like I mentioned earlier, it's a great way to get out and try some places you might not normally head to. The prices were good and the overall experience was a good one. Can't wait till next year's event.
Shelby was told they her office would be closed because of the weather and thought we could have one of our bottles of spiced wine we've been holding onto.
Well, more like forgot about the other year. That's beside the point.
We rediscovered a bottle of Jamestown Cellars Settler's Spiced Wine from the Williamsburg Winery. We love the Williamsburg Winery because when Marleigh (see About) was younger she was a Highland dancer for 10 years and she would have competitions on the grounds of the vineyard. It always seemed to rain whenever the competitions were going to run. We learned that having a large piece of plastic in the trunk and a blanket made life a lot easier they events.
The the name of the place brought back a lot of good memories.
We opened the bottle and you could smell the spice as soon as the cork popped out. It had a nice color when poured and it tasted great. Shelby thought some nuts would go well with the wine, we pulled out the can of mixed nuts in the cabinet. Good idea.
I liked the hazelnuts, Shelby liked the lone Brazil nut. The nuts and spiced wine reminded me of the Christmas markets in Germany. You could always count on Glühwein and roasted nuts at the Christkindl markts. I guess we could have tried warming up the wine but Shelby saw that it said to serve at room temperture.
The wine was sweet and the spice was very pronounced. It was easy to drink but I don't know if I could drink too much of it at one sitting. It's a great seasonal wine that was well put together. Checking out the snow and sipping on something different was a nice change of pace.
I had to give a shout out to my lovely wife, Shelby, today. It's her birthday! It's crazy to think that the two of us have been together since we were both 16; she is infinitely patient with me.
She gets her Cold Stone Creamery Chocolate Chipper ice cream cake every year. This year they decided to mix it up for us by using green icing for the lettering--even though I asked for white--but it tastes the same so no harm, no foul. (Not really, use white next time!)
I hope you had a great day baby, looking forward to celebrating many more with you!
Our daughter--Marleigh--is a Jr. Designer at Need Supply Co. in Richmond, VA. They recently had a brunch potluck and she made a breakfast casserole her mother likes to make for these things. Turned out to be a hit.
Read about it here!
I take a ton of photos. I try to go through them and figure out what I would like to post but many fall by the wayside. After going through my holiday posts I wanted put up a little bit about a biscuit run I did with my nephew.
Handsome Biscuit in Norfolk, VA makes sweet potato biscuits with just about anything you can think of between them. The favorites include the biscuits that have fried chicken, but they do one with peanut butter and jelly, potato frittata--like I said--everything. Their end of year special was allowing you to add caviar to any biscuit you bought.
Anyway, back to the story. Shelby's sister was in town with the family and when they're here our nephew usually stays with us. We'll play the latest Call of Duty hours on end--seriously, hours. This year,Chayce left before New Years and Thomas was stuck with me and Shelby. TJ (my brother-in-law) had a lunch to go to, so I decided to take Thomas out for brunch! This is where Handsome Biscuit comes in.
I've had every biscuit on the regular menu at Handsome Biscuit.
They'll have specials here and there but I've made it a point to eat every one written up on the board in the shop. I think the Bleu Blazer is my favorite but the Stevie is a close second. Since it was Thomas' first time there I suggested he try the Hella Fitzgerald. It has fried chicken, sausage gravy, and bacon. You can't go wrong with it. You can probably guess what I ordered: Bleu Blazer.
We ordered our biscuits to go and I figured we'd run down near Nauticus and the Pagoda to sit at U.S.S Wisconsin and eat. Look up the the old battleship sometime, neat stuff. There is a little memorial park at the pier with stories about different ships of historical significance and the sailors who manned them.
Oh before we went to the park, we stopped by Shady Grove Marketplace in the Freemason District of Norfolk. We needed something to drink, so we picked up a couple of sodas and chatted with Emily--part of the husband/wife team that owns the cool, cozy cornershop. The weather was great for late December, we were able to sit outside without jackets and eat. We finished our biscuits, checked out the Pagoda and headed home to meet the rest of the family.
I really enjoyed this.
Every year Richelle and Dave Davies open their house for a Christmas Eve brunch with friends. It's a nice little get together where people get an hour or two to chill out and eat some good food with good company.
We usually bring something and this year Shelby had the idea of bringing some baguettes and dipping oil to hand out. I basically used my go-to bread recipe, doubled it, and made small loaves. We bought some 4 oz. Ball jars and mixed in some olive oil, Herbes de Provence, salt/pepper, and fresh garlic. We had an old produce basket from a summer CSA pick-up I dressed up and inside I stacked the breads and oils.
Turned out great and even the kids liked the bread. It was funny seeing them walk around gnawing on baguettes.