Virginia Beach Restaurant Week 2014

Virginia Beach Restaurant Week 2014

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.

Croakers

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.

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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.)

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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”
 St. Charles at Croakers

St. Charles at Croakers

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.

Braise

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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.

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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.

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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?

Sonoma Wine Bar & Bistro

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.

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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.

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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.

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Chick's Oyster Bar

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.

 Chayce shaved!

Chayce shaved!

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.

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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.

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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.

 

I'm On A Boat!

First, I would like to thank Rex Sr., Lisa and Rex Jr. Hamaker of Taste Tidewater Tours for inviting me to the event. We had a great time!

 Pleasure House Oysters

Pleasure House Oysters

Buy Fresh Buy Local Hampton Roads (BFBL) in conjunction with Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) and Lynnhaven River Now (LRN) hosted an oyster habitat tour through Lynnhaven Inlet. There were two boat runs, one in the morning and another in the afternoon, taking approximately 50 passengers around Broad Bay Island. Between boat trips there was a reception where we were given information about the history of Lynnhaven oysters, the science behind increasing the population, and how oysters help our waterways.

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The Back Deck was our rendezvous point for our group; we lucked out with beautiful weather, sunny and warm. We check in with Rachel Burns from BFBL who gave us our wristbands and drink tickets. At the pier we saw our ride and most of the patrons already on the boat. We jumped on and said our hellos and recognized some faces. I was happy to see Cappy Sinclair on board, also with BFBL, who was getting the wine uncorked and ready to pour once we were underway. We were introduced to Karen Forget of LRN, we also met Chris Moore and Kate Wilson of CBF; they would guide us on our tour.

 Captain Jimmy Stollner

Captain Jimmy Stollner

Our ship’s captain—Jimmy Sollner—took the helm of the Bea Hayman Clark and talked to us a little bit about the boat, safety procedures and how we are all responsible for clean water and what grows in it. Ready and secure we left the pier, Karen began to point out a few things in the inlet. The first small island we passed (Fish Island I believe) was stacked with old concrete from the first Lesner bridge tore down in the 1950s. She showed us oyster castles that are used to help them cluster and grow. Along the bulkheads that protected people’s yards along the channel you could see little oysters glistening in the sun. Some people who have property on the water volunteer to help grow oysters with cages submerged just a few feet from their backyard.

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 Oysters in the wild!

Oysters in the wild!

 The boat trip around Broad Bay

The boat trip around Broad Bay

We made our way down the north side of Broad Bay and passed by First Landing State Park—formerly Seashore State Park if you haven’t been here in a while. We saw several other spots where preservation efforts have taken place. Seeing the park from the water, people walking/jogging along the trails was very interesting. We made our way to the southern side of Broad Bay and headed back to our point of departure.

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Back on land the event reception was ready and the next group to go out on the boat were there waiting for us to return. We were served rockfish bites, a buttery clam chowder, huge shrimp, and oysters. More information was given about the Chesapeake Bay and the tributaries that flow to it. CBF, LNR, and BFBL gave examples of the effort they go through to increase the health of the oyster population, and the Bay in general, for everyone to enjoy.

 Cappy, Chris and Cam

Cappy, Chris and Cam

Chris Ludford from Pleasure House Oysters was on deck with some help from Cam Chalmers of Lynnhaven Oyster Company shucking oysters. Chris had a little talk with us about the oysters and showed off some monsters he pulled out of the water just hours earlier. These are the same oysters we had the pleasure of eating—so good, a little salty and meaty. There was a line for these things while the reception was in play. I also need to mention that they had great local beers on tap and Virginian wine available. I had a couple pints of Young Veterans Brewing Co.'s award winning Pineapple Grenade Hefeweizen.

 Shrimp and Rockfish Bites

Shrimp and Rockfish Bites

 Clam Chowder

Clam Chowder

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We mingled for a bit and started to make our way home when group two stepped on board the Bea Hayman Clark. It was a great day with good people and food. The day was a great learning experience chased with delicious food and drinks.

Please check out the photos of the inlet and the rest of the trip here.

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 Grabbing a "Pineapple"

Grabbing a "Pineapple"

 Lisa and Rex Hamaker

Lisa and Rex Hamaker

 Rachel Burns

Rachel Burns

 Rex Jr., Bill, and Julie

Rex Jr., Bill, and Julie

 Shelby and Me :)

Shelby and Me :)

Merroir Terroir at Terrapin

We had a great night at Terrapin's Merroir Terroir event hosted at the bar. The restaurant has been hosting these exploratory dinners that allow guests to sample the affect “merroir” has the flavor of the clam. Climate, water, the beds the oysters mature in, all effect the flavor the bivalve. Brian Williams of Terrapin paired our oysters with a select wine that complimented the three different oysters we were served.

 Chris Ludford of Pleasure House Oysters

Chris Ludford of Pleasure House Oysters

 Brian Williams and Erika Caylor of Terrapin

Brian Williams and Erika Caylor of Terrapin

Merroir Terroir starts a little early before the dinner crowd shows up. At the bar, our places were set and the resident mixologist—Erika Caylor—helped Brian and staff get us ready. Our oysters were provided by Chris Ludford of Pleasure House Oysters. Chris is a local oyster farmer and firefighter; he’s been seeding and harvesting oysters since 2009. Before farming his own oysters he was a crabber, fisherman, and he sold other peoples oysters from stands around Virginia Beach.

After the seats became occupied, Chris began to give us some info about oysters and harvesting them. I learned that oyster harvesting starts around October here and ends April 30th. He talked about the different spots he liked to start his oysters and talked about the waterways in the area. He also told us a neat tidbit about oyster shells—oysters from the West Coast tend to have a scalloped shell while those on the East Coast do not. Before we started to eat the oysters he suggested we sniff, drink the liquor, then eat the oyster. Easy enough, let’s go!

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 Shelby!

Shelby!

While this was happening Brian poured our first wine, Domaine Jolly Petit Chablis 2011. He explained to us how the Chablis he served was from Portlandian soil, young and steely. The wine itself was unoaked to prevent it from overpowering the oysters. That brings us to the oysters: Kusshi oysters imported from the West Coast. They are small with thick shells, ours were tumbled and lost most of the frill outside of the shell. The thick, deep shells of the oysters held clean, sweet meat and a tasty liquor. West Coast oysters, at least the ones we ate, tended to be smaller than what we’re used to in the East.

 Kusshi Oysters

Kusshi Oysters

The next wine we drank was a Louis Jadot Steel Chardonnay 2012, again this was unoaked and had fruitier notes. The sweetness of this wine was perfect for the salty Pleasure House Oysters, Chris’ own brand he breds in the Lynnhaven. In addition to the pronounced saltiness of the oyster, they were crisp, juicy, and had a little citrus. I like how that paired with the Chardonnay too. I loved the liquor in the huge shells on the plate. I think I heard the term “choker” used in reference of the size of these things.

 Pleasure House Oysters

Pleasure House Oysters

Our last wine was a Lincourt Steel Chardonnay 2012. From the Sta Rita Hills in California, fermented in steel, fruit forward and low mineral. The oyster paired with this was the Kumamoto or “Kumis”. They were harvested from cold waters of the Puget Sound in Washington State. These were delicious—buttery, crisp, and nutty. I could have eaten a couple dozen of these myself. The shell on these were very scalloped, unlike the Kusshi we tried earlier and the color variation went from off-white to black.

 Kumamoto Oysters

Kumamoto Oysters

After finishing our oysters Chris and Brian mingled with the patrons of the dinner and answered any questions we might have had. While Shelby and I got our things together I was already thinking about next month’s Merroir Terroir, hoping I’ll be able to make the event again.

Click here to more photos from the dinner.

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Oysters...I need them

I don't know what it is, but I've really been craving oysters lately. Patrick Evans-Hylton said I could be pregnant. Oh, thanks again Patrick for the offer to attend the Virginia Wine & Oyster Classic this past Saturday. It pained me to turn down those tickets!

Oysters! Shelby and I talked about it and we thought we should try to buy a couple from several different regions and do a little write up about it. I think it's going to happen, just need to put a plan together. 

 Virginia Oyster Regional Guide

Virginia Oyster Regional Guide

Check out this chart and page from Virginia Tourism page. Lays out the different regions and what you can expect from the oysters you eat from them.

Nice!

Red Crab

We tried Red Crab for the first time this past weekend and really enjoyed them. Virginia is pushing the Red Crab as an alternative to Blue Crab since the later has dropped in population. We prepared them the same way we would Blue Crabs but we also ate them with butter—I never do that with the Blue.

Overall worth trying and pretty tasty. We bought ours at Uncle Chuck’s Seafood and Produce in Virginia Beach, VA, at the VB Farmers Market.

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