I remember when I was a kid, tuna fish was always packed in oil – at least the stuff we ate my house. This was the 1970s everyone was eating tuna fish sandwiches, tuna casseroles, all of the that stuff. Eventually tuna was being shipped in water and marketed as a healthier alternative to the soybean oil it was usually in. My kids grew up eating tuna fish packed in water! We just kind of went along with it and never gave it a second thought.
Recently I was contacted by Genova Tonno (tonno translates to tuna in Italian) to review their canned tuna fish. Genova solid yellowfin tuna is packed in olive oil. If you don't know the difference between tuna fished marked as solid or chunk buy a can of each and check them out. I can tell you that solid tuna in a can looks like a sliced piece of fish nestled into a can whereas “chunk” tuna looks kind of mushy and shredded. They shipped me a nice gift basket to sample their product and inspire me to come up with some ideas on how their tuna can be prepared. It's a nice gift basket too!
I checked out the contents of the basket and grabbed one of the cans of tuna. I liked the branding, kind of along the veins of traditional tuna packaging. If you're into that type of thing, search the web for other examples. The blurb on the side of the can states:
Genova Tonno© Premium Yellowfin Tuna. Wild caught from deep waters, Genova Select Yellowfin if all natural with no additives or preservatives. Packed in the Mediterranean tradition with olive oil, it has a delicious flavor and is a natural source of Omega-3.
When I opened the can it wasn't fishy like other cans of tuna I've had, which was normally the cheapest, store brand. The oil was pretty much clear when I poured it out and the fish inside the can looked solid. I could pull apart flakes with my fingers and when I tossed a piece in my mouth it wasn't mushy at all. Pretty tasty stuff.
Of course the first thing that popped into my head was tuna salad, right? I love that stuff but I wouldn't be doing Genova justice if I just tossed it in a bowl with some relish and mayonnaise. I started to think about traditional Italian recipes and dishes that would compliment the solid, fresh tasting tuna they gave me. You'd probably like to hear a story of my Italian grandmother passing down tuna recipes from the Old Country being passed down from generation to generation but I can't do that. I was born in Bangkok and raised in Virginia Beach, VA – I had to do a little research.
One thing we like to do in our house – and Shelby is great at this – is experiment with food. She'll just take a mental inventory of what we have in the cabinets and figure out what goes well together and then make it. She hits the mark on the head too! I like to look up a few things, get an idea of where a recipe is trying to go and follow that path. After I get comfortable with it, I'll explore flavor profiles and ingredients to come up with something new; this is what I did for Genova. They gave me three cans of their premium tuna fish, so I came up with three recipes. Each one was a nod to regional Italian dishes, or so I hope, that incorporate Genova tuna fish. Find where Genova tuna is sold locally in your area and give these a shot. As always, feel free to modify the recipes to suit your own tastes and preferences.
A traditional Sicilian winter dish is the Blood Orange Salad. The fruit primarily grown in Italy but is also grown in Spain and the United States among other places in the world. The blood orange has a dark red pulp that is sweet and has many health benefits. Blood orange salad is usually made with shaved fennel bulb but I went with ground fennel seed that is bright and highly compliments the tuna and citrus. Click the this link for the recipe.
Arancini is Italian street food and consists of breaded, balled risotto that is fried to perfection. I'm a sucker for anything fried and this is no exception! I mixed it up a little bit and added some extra cheese and seasoning to the risotto that is then wrapped around a chunk of Genova tuna fish before it's panned fried. Everyone loves these things, I've made a bunch of them and shared them with friends and co-workers. This recipe is tested and true – click this link for the recipe.
I'll admit that this one isn't truly Italian but it allows me to share my Golden Couscous recipe with the world. I will usually make couscous with basil shrimp at home but it works well with the Genova tuna. The cool, refreshing tuna atop of the warm, paprika spiced couscous will be a crowd pleaser. We love Mediterranean and Anatolian food, give this a shot and you will not be disappointed. It's easy too! Click here for the recipe.
I mentioned a gift basket earlier and I wanted to let everyone know that Genova has generously offered to allow me to give away one to my readers. Check out the olivewood cheeseboard that comes with it, it's amazing. Shelby feel in love with it as soon as she saw it. Go to I-Heart-Food's Facebook page to learn how you could win this for yourself.
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.
We headed over to Phoebus, VA to watch Long Division play at Olde Towne Tavern. The tavern is tucked away in the old part of Hampton that in the right light would make you think you’ve stepped back in time a little bit. Very cool. Inside it was small, but still roomy if that makes sense. Good size bar, a couple of pool tables and seating throughout. We found a table and sat down.
Once we settled in we checked out the menus. Shelby had already looked online (she’s good about that) and was excited about getting the in-house chips. They served them in little tins and were pretty good. I put a little malt vinegar on mine. We ordered Crabcake Stuffed Mushrooms as an appetizer and those were very tasty. Good size and very moist. I’d order them again.
I ordered The Fishermans Platter—fried clams, fish, oysters, scallops and shrimp. Shelby ordered the pan seared scallops. The star of this mix was the fried shrimp. Fat, juicy and they almost melted in my mouth. They weren’t over breaded either. Next time I’m in that place, I might just order a big plate of these.
If you’re in the Hampton Roads area—Phoebus in particular—check out Olde Towne Tavern. It’s in a cool little town right on the water across from Fort Monroe. Check out Long Division’s music too, one of the best bands in the area.
Olde Towne Tavern - 31 E. Mellen St., Hampton, VA. 23663. 757-251-2636.
While visiting Washington I wanted to make sure we hit some of spots near the neighborhood. My father mentioned Boathouse 19 at the pier so we headed down there. The restaurant is located at a marina and has a great view of the sound and Narrows Bridge.
We sat inside because the weather was in the 80’s and the sun already gave Shelby a little burn earlier. The place was packed and we just made happy hour. We tried a few drinks and got the calamari appetizer. The calamari was great; I can honestly say it was some of the best I’ve had. I really wanted dungeness crab while I was in the area so I ordered a 1/2 lb portion as my entree. Shelby had the fish tacos, my dad ordered the fried cod and our friend had the 9 Alarm burger.
When my plate came out I was little surprised to see only half a crab sitting on my plate (with fries.) I asked our server is that was it and she apologized and said yes, that they even weigh them before serving. The crab was good but the portion was silly—especially for $24. Everyone else seemed to enjoy their food well enough. My dad said he really enjoyed the cod.
I’d go again and try some of the other things on the menu, but I won’t order the crab the next time. If you’re in the area check it out, we lucked out with the weather and maybe next time we’ll hit the deck.