Tried the Oyster Sandwich at Commune, pretty good! Been a while since I’ve had one of these. I saw my buddy Vinny too, he’s just one of those guys you feel good being around.
We were invited to watch a move our friend directed at the University Theater at ODU. It was great experience and we bumped into a bunch friends. After the movie we ended up heading over to Chow with our buddy Carmen. We met Carmen a while back at Whole Foods, she's at Tinto's Wine & Cheese now - which you should check out if you haven't been yet!
Chow was open a hour later than most places about the area which meant we could relax and grab a bite to eat, a drink (or two) and not worry about rushing out or keeping the shop open on our account.
After grabbing a spot to eat we tried to figure out what to drink. Since we had Carmen with us we decided we'd have her peruse the wine list and pick a bottle we could share. She suggested a Zin from the Frank Family Vineyards. The 2013 Napa Valley Zinfandel was super smooth, fruity, and dark, just the way we like them. Good call Carmen!
The next line of business was figuring out what to eat. Chow's menu is centered around "southern comfort" food and it's truly represented! We've had dinner here a few times before and it's always been good. Speaking of good, I decided wasn't going to be with my entree because all I had to eat that day was two apples and a Caesar salad (seriously!)
I went for the Chicken Fried Steak (below), Shelby got the Steak Frites (photo at the top of the page), and Carmen got the Vegetarian "Meatloaf". I didn't try Carmen's, though I should have, but Shelby's dish was basically a delicious steak on top of some Parm-Truffle Fries. The compound butter on top was melting making the whole sexy. Yeah I said sexy. You can look at a Insta story I made here, sorry for the vertical and low-res clip. The Chicken Fried Steak was great and I loved the Collards I picked as a side. The mac and cheese looked good but I would have liked for it be more cheesy!
All-in-all a great meal with great company, I need to get back and try some of the burgers there, they looked great. Head to Chow, try it for yourself!
Fortunately, hanging around in the food scene for years has allowed me to become familiar with a lot of talented people that work all aspects of the food/drink service industry. I'm not just interested in the plate in front of me, but I love knowing the people back of the house to the front who make it happen.
I love sitting at the bar too; finding a new beer or wine to enjoy and once in a while a fancy drink. You probably guessed from a quick glance of this post this is going to be about cocktails and you would be correct. I'm going to tell you how I got to drink a bunch of them one night and show you what they were.
My journey into an evening of cocktail sampling began one warm evening in Norfolk, VA. I drove Shelby down to a new Italian restaurant called Leone's so she could meet up with "The Ladies." After I creeped on them a little bit, taking photos, chatting, etc... I thought they should have their girl time so I left for the car. I needed to run some stuff to a chef I know down the way and I had time to burn. While I was walking down Granby St. I was spotted by another guy I know named Josh Seaburg. I wrote about him a couple of years ago when he was at another shop.
After spying me he messaged me and asked if I would be interested in trying out his new drink menu he created for Saltine, one of three new hot spots in the Hilton Norfolk The Main. Saltine, a seafood restaurant, has a beautiful bar on the ground level of the hotel that allows you to do some serious people watching - everyone coming into the large hotel lobby and people on the street.
Shelby told me, that her mother (Hi Nana!) told her, it is rude to turn down a drink so I accepted happily. After I ran my errand I made my way to Saltine, ready to be wow'ed. Josh has put in his dues and is serious about his drinks. He pays attention to detail and it's the small things that make the whole.
The menu, at the time, had not been tested by a layman as myself and I was ordered to give him feedback. Lucky me!
Attention! I'm just going to say right off the bat that the presentation of all the drinks was beautiful. Figured I'd add that caveat at the beginning so I didn't have to keep saying it throughout the post.
We started out with a White Julep - Wasmund’s peach-smoke bourbon mash, mint, simple syrup. This one packed a punch but was refreshing, loved all the ice.
Kuh-Shah-Suh (Josh explains the name is the phonetic spelling of the main ingredient Cachaça) This is made from pineapple infused Cachaça, lime, simple syrup, winter melon bitters, and garnished with dragon fruit. This was a neat, it even had a little heat on the end. While he was making it he gave the glass a spritz of green Chartreuse.
Western Medicine - Belle Isle Honey Habanero, lemon, and ginger syrup. It's garnished with candied ginger - when available. Shelby will love this one!
The Rosetta Toned was served in nice stemware and had a pleasant, sweet finish. It's made with Flor de Cana extra dry rum, lime, house strawberry cordial, Absinthe, and coriander. I'm a fan of rum!
The classic Piña Coloda, not much to say other than it was damn tasty and he didn't put it in his shirt pocket. Maybe next time!
(Shirt pocket reference here.)
The Vida Bandida - Vida Mezcal, dry Curacao, lime, Ignition Tincture, bitters. This was different, neat. Mezcal drinkers would like this, even if you don't like mezcal, try it anyway. Thug Life.
Cleaver Club is fun to watch being made. It is a mixture of Beefeater Gin, lemon, and nitro-raspberries. Josh busts out the nitro to prep the glass and it looks highly technical. The name of the drink, and the drink itself, pay homage to the classic cocktail The Clover Club.
The Audible Sigh was fancy and was garnished with fresh Passionfruit - Ketel One, passionfruit, lime, sparkling rosé, hibiscus/acai bitters. All the cool, trendy stuff in one drink, you might hear Josh give an audible sigh if you ask for him to make you one. It's worth the side-eye though, it's pretty tasty.
Bet you thought I would drink each one to the finish? Maybe I did...
I just wanted to give Josh a shout out for letting me try all these delicious cocktails and give him feedback on them. I think I'll be swinging by again tonight to revisit one or two of these. "The Ladies" are meeting there and I always crash a party.
There are a lot of places to grab a meal around here. It's funny because if you're not paying attention it's easy to miss a lot in close vicinity. This post is about one we recently (finally!) visited in Virginia Beach called Bonefish Grill. I'm sure if you live in the area you're probably saying to yourself, "Yeah, yeah...everybody has been there. Bang Bang Shrimp!", but I haven't. I have a mile long list of places to visit and Bonefish was on there somewhere. We ended up going because they contacted me and asked if I would like to come by a and try their Hand-Crafted Happy Hour.
Here's the blurb they sent me:
"Hand-Crafted Happy Hour menu, served 4:00-6:30 p.m. seven days a week, featuring upscale bar bites including sushi-grade Ahi Tuna Poke, Crispy Cod Sliders, Wagyu Beef Sliders, Crispy Au Gratin Bites, Mussels Josephine and Crispy Calamari priced at $6 each. Drink specials showcase a selection of Bonefish Grill’s handcrafted martinis and cocktails at just $5 each, including the Blueberry Lemon Drop, Tropical Tiki Martini, Raspberry Vodka Collins and Fresh Margarita. $4 house wines, $5 mixed drinks and $1 off draft beers are also offered."
When I'm offered free food I'm usually all over it, that didn't change with this offer either. They said I could bring friends, and as luck would have it, our buddies Amy and Alan were available to hangout. We met them at a local wine tasting then headed over to Bonefish Grill down the boulevard.
We met with the kitchen manager and he introduced us to our server. We settled in and ordered lots of drinks (of course.) Actually, we ordered everything on the Hand-Crafted Happy Hour menu to get an idea of what the place was dishing up. As listed above, this is what was on our ticket: Ahi Tuna Poke, Crispy Cod Sliders, Wagyu Beef Sliders, Crispy Au Gratin Bites, Mussels Josephine, and Crispy Calamari.
The drinks came out first and they were all pretty tasty. I don't drink a ton of mixed drinks but the margarita was my favorite. When the food came out I snagged all the plates to take photos. I always say I'm the worst dinner date. They filed out one after the other and the amount of food was impressive. The price point was great considering what you get and we really loved the poke. Super fresh and delicious, the calamari was good too! Everything was actually tasty and I could see us putting Bonefish Grill on the rotation.
Even though they weren't on the Happy Hour menu we ordered some Bang Bang Shrimp too. Super light batter and nice sized shrimp. The sauce their in is so good, I could probably eat 4 orders of these in a sitting. After we plowed our way through the food they kitchen had a surprise for us and brought out their Summer Berry Bread Pudding. I mean we really couldn't eat anymore but it looked great so we tried and almost ate the whole thing.
After really finishing up with dessert we said our goodbyes and thanked the staff for hooking us up with a great meal. We'll definitely will be heading back.
I met up with my buddy Chase (check out his bottle shop - Bottlecraft Virginia Beach!) for a drink yesterday at Esoteric and were lucky to have Devin behind the bar, always a good time when he's there. After our first round Chase was looking for a suggestion and Devin mentioned the Piña Colada. It was in a nice tall glass garnished with a pineapple leaf, I took pics of Devin with the drink because it seemed like the natural thing to do...please enjoy.
This will actually fit into his shirt pocket.
After Chase drank some he insisted that I have some too, I took a little sip then I was told to drink more. It was pretty good.
Bay Local Eatery has opened a new location in Virginia Beach! It's located on Laskin Rd. where Metropolitan Oyster Exchange used to be. Metro was doing great but they decided to pare down a little bit and sold the spot Bay Local. I hate seeing Metro go, it was solid with a great people but I know Bay Local will take the baton running.
This week they had their soft opening with family and friends but then opened the flood gates to stress test the system to work out any last kinks on the line, see how long it would take to get the tickets knocked out and how the new/relocated staff handled crowds. We felt lucky to be invited for an opportunity to eat there before it officially opened to the public the next day.
When we arrived at 1:00 it was packed! We had a little wait but it was only about 15 minutes, pretty good considering at the original location they waits are usually about a hour. While we waiting I cruised about the restaurant to check it out. The floor plan is similar to what it was with Metro, open space with booths along the walls and high-tops in the center but the decor has changed a lot. It's more in-line with the original Bay Local feel to it, homey and inviting. The huge "M" behind the bar is now a stained glass panel that glows a warm gold.
I bumped into owner Adrian and we chatted a little bit about what's new and life in general. He's be on the ground with this, making sure things have been running smoothly from electricity in the back to the hostess stand front of the house. My pager went off indicating we a table, Shelby and I took our seats.
The great thing about soft openings is that you pretty much get to try whatever you like from the menu. That doesn't mean you go crazy and order everything just because you can, but it's definitely a good opportunity to try something different! We decided we'd start with a couple of appetizers but then had a hard time figuring out exactly what we wanted, there was a lot to choose from and it all looked great. So....how about drinks then?
Shelby got a mimosa, it was moscato with a scoop of sorbet in it. Cute and tasty! I got a bloody mary, Bloody Bay actually. I always get one of these when we eat at Bay Local. It's a spicy house mix that has just enough burn to keep you hanging in there.
The starters we finally choose were the Shrimp, Scallop, & Bacon Fritters and the Poppin Champagne Fried Carolina Shrimp. The fritters were great but we really loved the shrimp, the batter was light and the shrimp were plump and not over cooked.
Adrian said we need to try the Bay Local Oysters too, so put in for a half dozen. They were delicious! Loved how creamy they were and the greens they were adorned with. I could easily eat two dozen of these!
Coming to a decision on entrees was hard too, Shelby kept eyeing the shrimp and grits but she also loves crab cakes. Easiest thing to do was have her order the grits and I would get the crab bennie then we could split them! Shelby's "Just Right" Shrimp and Grits were very good. The texture was great especially with the cheese and sausage blended in throughout. It's finished off with sautéed onions, sweet peppers, and bacon - so good! I'm all about that savory flavor profile. She also got the cinnamon fried biscuit on the side, those things are dangerous.
My Crab Cake Bennie are something I've had before but it's one of those things you can order over and over again and it doesn't get old. I opted for tots on the side, you always go for the tots!
We were pretty stuffed by the time our last plates were brought out and had to box up what we didn't finish. Definitely a good dinner of leftovers later that night! While we were eating Adrian came over and checked to see how things were going and asked Shelby if she'd like another mimosa. She was off for the rest of the day so she said, "Sure, why not." He came back with a huge one, we had a little laugh over that.
We settled up and headed out, on the way to the door we bumped into our friend Judy Cowling who writes the Turning Tables column for The Virginian-Pilot. It's always great to see her, we see each other a lot especially at events, restaurants, etc... We caught up then said our good-byes. I was about ready for a nap after our feast but I needed to get back to the office. I dropped Shelby off with the food at the house and headed back to work.
All in all a great day, any chance to eat at Bay Local is a good day. I hope you're planning on grabbing a bite there, you won't regret it.
If you know me, you know when someone asks me what my favorite restaurant in Virginia Beach is I'll say I have a few! Yeah, it's a cop out but there are so many places to eat in Virginia Beach and I've only visited a fraction of them I can't say for sure what the best one is out there. It's also a very subjective topic, we're all different!
OK, evasive talk aside, I will say that one of my favorite places to eat in the city is Terrapin. Hands down! I've posted and written about them a lot over the years but I just found another reason to visit the shop - TACO TUESDAY! Shelby saw it out there and said we should try it. $10 for hand-pressed tortillas with a carnitas plate and $6 Blood Orange Margaritas! You can't beat that for a meal at Terrapin.
I'm sure most of you have heard of Taco Tuesday it's basically an excuse to go out and eat tacos on a slow night for restaurants. It's been around since the early 80s and maybe earlier according to some stories.
That being said don't think that Terrapin really has slow nights, we went the second week of this taco celebration and got there about 5:45, 45 minutes after the door opened and had to be put on a waiting list. I swear the regulars, most whom appeared retired, must have been waiting at the doors and rushed the bar! Oh, forgot to mention Taco Tuesday is bar service only.
I'm not complaining about the wait because that gave Shelby and me a chance to check out the drink menu, chat, and eyeball what Rodney (ownder/chef) and crew were cooking up through the open kitchen's window. Love how he works, super chill. While we waited we sipped on a Little Italy and a Carré Me Home. The Little Italy has bourbon, cocchi barolo chinato, angostura bitters, and a lemon twist; the Carré Me Home is made with bourbon, triple sec, Drambuie, sweet vermouth.
After finishing our drinks and chatting with Rodney a little bit we finally got our seat at the bar. We asked for the tacos, of course, and a couple of Blood Orange Margaritas. The oranges were hand-squeezed and the drink itself was great. The carnitas were perfect, not that I expected anything less from Terrapin. The portion was nice, I was able to get four tacos out of my serving and left feeling full.
Basically, make an effort to hit Taco Tuesday at Terrapin. I don't know how long they'll do it and it's an easy way to get a quality meal at a great price.
You know how sometimes you just really need to eat that one thing, it keeps nagging you until you finally fill that void? For about two weeks now I've been craving some good ole' fashioned waffles with a lot of syrup. Not only that they had to come with the homemade sausage you get at Commune in Virginia Beach, VA. Basically, I needed to go to Commune again.
I have some free time this past Friday which provided me with the opportune time to take care of business. I told Shelby my plan (eating is serious business around here) and she said "Do it!"
So there we go, I was off to Commune.
I got in early enough which allowed me to sit wherever I wanted, I opted for the bar. After getting my drink I made the rounds and chatting with everyone, I gotta say "Hi". When it was time to get down to dealing with my cravings I told them about the waffles thing that was happening. Of course they had the Heirloom Cornmeal Waffles available...but they also had another item on the menu that wasn't going to be around for too long.
The two you see below, they started this trouble.
The week before Commune catered a beer dinner showcasing the first sour release for the local brewery Commonwealth Brewing Company. One of the items on the menu was a pork belly sandwich. They happened to have a little bit of this pork belly on-hand still and decided to put on the menu. The caveat for this offering was that as soon as they ran out of the peaches that accompanied the pork belly ran out so did the sandwich. I was told there were five of these sandwiches left in their current form before they were never, ever offered to another human on this planet and I went for the hook.
Granted this wasn't an easy decision mind you.
I was internally battling the Waffle-mind, backed by weeks of waffle desire, with the Pork Belly camp that just showed up on the scene. Rock-Paper-Scissors - never mind, let's not even pretend. Pork Belly wins, it always wins in the end.
Because once you take a bite - and it's prepared properly - it's heaven in your mouth. It's the perfect combination of fat and protein that melts in your mouth it's hard to believe that it's real. That's what pork belly is, satisfying and decadent, you feel it when it happens.
Let's back up. I asked for waffles and was offered a pork belly sandwich and I internally battled it out only to have Pork Belly win with a predictable 10 second knockout. What happened? What did I get for this crazy expenditure of brain matter and physical stress?
The Burnt Honey Glazed Pork Belly Sandwich. Burnt honey glazed pork belly, soft smoked peaches, red onion, picked mustard seeds, burnt onion aioli and garden greens on a brioche bun.
Other then the fact that I can get delicious waffles from Commune on the regular menu, I heard that there were only three pork belly sandwiches left before they etched into the annuals of time. I actually walked over to the window and asked Chef Barry Smith what the deal was and he said this (I'm paraphrasing):
We made this for Commonwealth Brewing dinner last week and I only have enough peaches to [he goes and checks the fridge] make about three more sandwiches.
I see on on the griddle and comment about how delicious it looks and he then says:
Pork belly is my religion...
Pork Belly Sandwich please! Any person who makes a statement like that you have to take seriously.
I was not disappointed. This thing was crazy good and if you take into account the amount of work Commune goes through to get food like this on the table it's insane. Take another look:
It was so good! It was hard, but I only ate half so I could take the rest to Shelby. I was going to be picking her up for lunch and figured this would be a sweet surprise. I actually lucked out at the restaurant though, Barry came out with something he was putting together, a Pork Shoulder Terrine for the weekend menu. He asked me to come over and check it out while he saved some images of it for future reference.
It looked great. He said he was might adjust the composition a bit before the weekend rush but the terrine was going to stay the same. It took him about two days to put the main component of the dish together and it showed. It was a little smoky and very tender. He offered the dish to me after he had gotten his images and of course I didn't refuse.
So in the end, I didn't get my waffle fix but I did get to eat something that was amazing and I figured I'd just have to go back for waffles later.
Make it a point to swing by Commune for breakfast/brunch/lunch for a something a little bit different and take advantage of a dining experience in Virginia Beach.
We actually went out to dinner with friends last week!
You're thinking, "Yeah, yeah big deal", but it is for us. With the regular work week Shelby and I have and my regular schedule running around town, there actually isn't a lot of time we go out to just relax - let alone with friends. In the month of August, in the year 2016 we officially went out to dinner twice with friends. I can't remember that last time that as happened! The first time was with Cappy and Lauren to the Commis dinner earlier in the month (still working on the gazillion photos I took at that one) and the second was with our friends visiting from San Francisco.
Tatiana and Chris were staying in Sandbridge with family and wanted to hang out someplace close to the beach house and after putting together a short list we finally decided to hit Esoteric. I figured the food, beer menu and the atmosphere are great and we have the option to sit inside or out. When we arrived they were already out back on the patio. Warm (hot would be a little more accurate) Virginia summer nights are a little bit different than the cool ones in San Francisco.
We ordered the Charred Octopus to start and they house brought out some Roasted Shishitos grown in the garden and Pimento with their housemade crackers (which are great!) Our entree orders were the Pork Chop, Scallops, and Duck. I went ahead and ordered some other things to pick at which included a Charcuterie board and some wings. I had judged a "beer food" contest earlier so I wasn't starving though I got some bites from everyone's plates.
Chef Ian Hock came out to say "Hi" and after a little chat he brought out a couple of The Veil Brewing beers they had stashed away in the fridge. This was a great treat for us and our guests because if you know anything about Veil beer their cans go quick and are only sold at the brewery in Richmond. We all shared the Lil' Kitty Boi IPA and Eternal Shredder DIPA. Man I love their beers, you should check out pedigree on The Veil Brewing's Matt Tarpey, here's a good article at Good Beer Hunting.
After sipping our beers and ordering a few more Resins, I asked if we could slip into the kitchen to meet the crew. Ok, the elephant in the room is that Tatiana's husband is Chris Cosentino, a world renown chef who has pioneered snout-to-tail cooking in the U.S. They also own Boccalone and the restaurant Cockscomb, both in San Francisco. The guys in the kitchen were excited for the fact that he was eating at their shop so it was a treat for Chris to come back and hang out.
Shelby and Tatiana were hanging out back while we were in the kitchen but we all eventually made our way to the bar and drank more beer. Go figure right!? All in all, it was a great time and we were glad we were able to get out and have a proper sit down and just hang out. We need to get to San Francisco those two keep saying. Don't be surprised when we show up on the doorstep Tatiana and Chris, I know we've been saying that for years but it's coming. Here's to seeing you in your town next time!
I stopped by Commune today to catch up with owner Kevin Jamison and on my way out he hooked me up with a peach croissant to take home for Shelby. Love the new boxes and the croissants they make are very good!
I have fallen in love with The Stockpot's Lamb Burger Salad. Oh, here's what I'm talking about.
The Stockpot was formerly a pop-up in the area that moved into brick-and-mortar within the past year. I used to grab a soup from them at the Old Beach Farmer's Market on the weekends - just across the street from where they are now. Knowing how good their soups are, I knew their shop menu would have to be super too. I try to explore items other than soup when I visit now.
I first tried the Lamb Burger Salad when I was flying solo for lunch. Shelby had a lunchtime commitment that day. A straight shot down I-264 to the Oceanfront, I was there in no time. They have pastries, toasts (open-faced sandwiches), wraps, salads and much more! The Lamb Burger caught my eye right off the bat. I ordered it and while I was waiting, owner Ann Galante, kindly gave me a bowl of their soup du jour - Chicken Tortilla. It was delicious, love the broths they make in house.
I finished my soup right as my salad arrived and I was excited. I love food, I get excited over it (see name of blog.) The burger smelled wonderful and the dish itself was beautiful. Nice colors, bright roasted tomatoes, cabbage, cucumber, and mixed greens lightly tossed with a dressing I'm still trying to figure out. As you can see in the photo up top, the burger sits upon this lofty throne of goodness waiting to be bathed in a nice, light wasabi dressing.
I intended on eating half of it and taking the other half home to Shelby, but I ended up eating the whole thing. I reasoned that the greens would wilt and I would buy her a fresh one soon - I did a week later ;) Take a look at the burger:
Try it yourself. Better yet, try everything they have, it'll be worth the few pounds you put on.
Hashi's Ross Riddle jumped into Esoteric's kitchen next to the restaurant's own Ian Hock to serve a great brunch to lucky patrons. You always know when you're eating Hashi, whatever it's form.
See all the photos from the pop-up here.
I've agreed to help out WAVY.com's HR Scene by contributing to the blog. I'll be writing about places to eat and everything related (surprise!)
Here's my first entry on Commune down at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront. Check it out!
We were recently in Richmond visiting with Marleigh. She told us that a guy we met at Rappahannock Restaurant was opening a new restaurant with with some partners serving authentic Thai food.
When we met Jason Lough at Rappahannock last year he told us he was from Virginia Beach, and we actually knew some of the same people. Jason runs the bar at Sabai putting together creative mixed drinks and cocktails. He's also part of the creative force behind what the restaurant is doing. Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to talk to the kitchen because they were packed the night we went.
There was about a 40 minute wait, which wasn't a problem because the drinks at Sabai are soon to become a staple for the bar crawlers in town. Check out some of the drinks we ordered:
I got to sip everyone's drink but we were heading back to Virginia Beach later so I only wanted a taste. The drinks were put together well and the flavors complemented each , giving you that exotic feel and packing a punch. They might look frou-frou but they will lay you out if you're not careful. Once we got our table we had a chance to order. We tried a few appetizers and the four of us ordered different entrees.
We had the Larb Gai and Sai Gok appetizers first. Larb Gai is a basically a meat salad, Gai translates into chicken. The ground chicken is heavily spiced with thinly sliced vegetables. It can get eaten by wrapping or pinching it from the plate with lettuce or endive. The Sai Gok is a variety of sausage made is Thailand and surrounding countries. It's pretty spicy too and we loved it. Dipped in the dipping sauce made up of fish sauce, vinegar and sugar, it was even better.
Our entrees were great. I had the Pad Krapow Sap Kai Dow that is a spicy ground pork and mine came with a fried egg on top with a side of rice. i mixed it all up together and ate that way. I love this stuff. Shelby got the grilled chicken that tasted as good as the way it looked. The Pineapple Fried Rice was served in a the hollowed half of a pineapple was great and Ethan's Pad Thai was pretty good too. I definitely want to make another trip and try some of the other stuff on the menu. I would love a chance to talk to the chef too, he apparently is from Thailand and if trying to bring the Thai street food experience to Richmond. So if you're in Richmond, and looking for good Thai food, you'd do yourself a favor by visiting Sabai.
I was on Granby St. yesterday chatting with the owner of Brink Anchor (where Jack Quinn's used to be) and realized I was super hungry. Sometimes I get wrapped up in the idea of what it is I want to do and forget to do things like, say, eat. So I was starving after my visit with Phil and was trying to decide where to eat lunch. It's been a while since I've had a lunch option in Norfolk since I live in Virginia Beach and I'm at my regular job during the day (no, I don't blog for a living.) The decision wasn't hard to reach after remembering a photo I saw online this week. The image depicted a mountain of a sandwich - no more like a volcano with lava of peach chutney tumbling down stacked, curry braised pork. It was called the Shah Raan and I was going to rise to the challenge issued by Field Guide to "conquer" it.
I mentally prepared myself, image Sir Edmund Hillary getting that high knowing he was going to climb Mt. Everest. I was right down the street from this monster, all I had to do was find a parking spot. The Fates were with me because a car pulled out of a spot right in front of Field Guide and I quickly slid in and paid the meter. It was a beautiful day, overcast and cool, I love how it feels when it's like that.
I walked into Field Guide and was greeted by Jeremy behind the counter and saw an acquaintance Chris Revels seated at the bar. He was taking a break from mural painting a few blocks away. Jeremy mentioned it had been a while since I've been there, which is true, but I knew exactly what I wanted. I asked for the "big ass sandwich". He smiled knowingly and shouted to the kitchen, "Big Ass Sandwich!" I waved to Cristina and crew in the back and headed back to say hi.
My sandwich was being made as I stepped into the doorway to the kitchen. I watched from afar, a little giddy with the idea that I was going to eat it. I know it sounds cheesy, but I get excited about eating - especially good food and Field Guide is on point. Always. I chatted a little bit about the Shah Raan and Cristina (Waffletina)told me about some of her other projects she's working on. By the way, if anyone wants to rent a great space next to Toast in Norfolk, get in touch with her. The space could be used for about anything and the rent would be a great deal.
The Shah Raan sandwich was created by one of the line cooks in Field Guide's kitchen. I love the fact that the people in the back have the opportunity to put something together and then have it featured in the shop. David Hausmann, the creative mind behind Field Guide and several other projects in Norfolk, has been spot on when introducing new concepts to the area. Especially those dealing with food, I mean who doesn't like Handsome Biscuit? Back to the sandwich - the Shah Raan is made up of curry braised pork shoulder, sunflower pecan raita, and peach chutney. I'll be honest and say I have no idea what the name means, I think it was just something the guy came up with when they made it. It sounds exotic and the sandwich itself reflects that with Indian-style curry infused in the pork, just enough so you know it's there. The raita is lightly tossed with red cabbage and the peach chutney rounds out everything with a slightly pungent sweetness. What's really neat about this is the flavor profile is usually seen used with chicken or lamb, I think it pairs perfectly with pork though.
Please don't judge me, but I didn't even try to pick up my sandwich. I mentioned that I would probably use a fork and knife and Jeremy laughed and grabbed me my flatware and a bunch of napkins. I was going to need them. They call mustaches "flavor savers" for a reason!
I was working on my sandwich when Dave walked in. The guy is busy and was hitting his spots tying up loose ends. We chatted for a bit about some ideas he had about expansion, new shops and things he'd like to introduce to the area. Exciting stuff. I have to mention that Cristina put together a great dessert for me made with a almond shortbread recipe she loves. The recipe is actually from one of Dave's old restaurants The Boot, I'm sure a lot of you remember that place. 80/20 Burger Bar is in the old location now. The dessert was made with charred peaches, a delicious homemade cream that reminded me of Shelby's Dirty Cake, and a little bit of mint leaf. So good!
I was able to finish my whole sandwich. That thing was huge, so unlike Hillary who did manage to reach the summit of Mt. Everest I made it about halfway. I bowed out gracefully asking for a container to package my unfinished portions so I could share them with Shelby later at home. I was very satisfied with the whole experience and told myself to not wait so long before visiting Field Guide again. Oh, and thanks for the beer Jeremy.
Additionally, here are a few shots of the mural Chris was working on.
Well, not that secret because it was advertised at the counter, but it's not going to be on display every day and if you miss it you'll be sorry if you're a smoothie fan. The Strawberry Lemonade Smoothie! I was contacted by a rep for the cafe to try it out and got a couple gift cards in the mail. After finally getting to corner a lunch we headed to Tropical Smoothie Café to give the secret menu item a shot.
Before they mailed me I had no idea Tropical Smoothie Café had lemonade. I know when Shelby and I notice a frozen lemonade on a menu somewhere we gotta try it. The idea of a strawberry lemonade smoothie was great. We used to drink a lot of smoothies because our daughter worked there for a summer in high school. She was able to make her own at home and would offer us one if she was putting something together. We would grab them here and there while we were out too because it seemed like a healthier, tastier alternative to burgers and fries (and I'm not knocking the fast food classic!)
Ah, Paradise Point, how I loved you so...
Back to the Strawberry Lemonade Smoothie. I was told the strawberry lemonade was the first ever offering on the Tropical Smoothie Café secret menu. If you don't know about secret menus, some restaurants have an off-the-record menu those in the know can order off of. Panera Bread had a Power Chicken Humus Salad that used to be a secret menu item that became so popular in some areas you'll see it on the regular seasonal menu now. So if you know what to order you can ask the person behind the counter for the secret item and walk away with a nifty off menu item to enjoy all for yourself.
We invited our friend Alisa to join us because we figured we'd grab some food while were there. It's been a while so I figured there would be new stuff on the menu. I would normally get wraps but they had tacos listed, Alisa and I figured we'd both order tacos to try them all. Shelby ordered the Tzatziki Beef Wrap. We sat down and waited for the smoothies and food to be made.
Oh yeah...coincidentally one of Shelby's coworkers happened to stopped by, not that she had any idea we where going to be at Tropical Smoothie at lunch or anything. Please read the sarcasm in that comment, Crystal was creeping us big time.
When the order was up I grabbed it and we divvied up the goods. I tried the strawberry lemonade smoothie first. It was delicious. Something about those two mixed up in a velvety, icy drink that makes it super good. With the weather being warmer it was very refreshing. By the time you read this it won't be as hot outside but you can still grab one of these! They'll be on sale for approximately another three months. So if you go in and don't see it on the menu, no worries! It's on the secret menu and just ask for it by name. As for the food, it was pretty good too. I will definitely get a tzatziki wrap for myself next time!