Dave Adams from Green Flash was in town getting the new brewery up to snuff. We met up at the Old Beach Farmers Market so I could show him around a bit and invite him to some of the locals. I got to congratulate Three Ships Coffee's Ms. Cosmopolitan too (wink.) Oh, made a quick pit stop at Bottlecraft Virginia Beach too.
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.
Everyone has their garden game going on! I'm sure a lot of you that have tons of stuff you planted thinking, "Heck yeah! That'll be cool to have!", then end up with buckets of said item. Cucumbers is one, they grow like crazy and even if you love them you'll have to admit you can't use them all. How about eggplants? I mean you can only eat so much Eggplant Parm right?
I got another another idea - Baba Ganoush!
If you don't know what Baba Ganoush is, it's basically hummus made with eggplant instead of chickpeas. Yeah, yeah, I know that's super simplifying it but you get the idea. Speaking of simple, I'm going to tell you how to make it quickly and use up all those eggplants you have stacked up in the corner.
Here's what you'll need.
- 3 Medium Eggplants
- 3-4 Cloves Garlic
- 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- Juice of 1 Lemon
- 3 Tablespoons of Tahini
- 1/4 Cup of Parsley
- Salt and Pepper to taste
There is a little bit a prep you'll have to do before you end up with the finished product. The eggplant needs to be roasted or grilled. I roasted mine the last time I did it for convenience. I do prefer grilling them though, adds a slight smoky flavor to the dish.
You'll notice in the photo above I'm sweating out the eggplant with salt. Adding salt will draw out bitterness and moisture from the eggplant, it takes about an hour. Is it totally necessary?
So if you're in a pinch for time you don't have to sweat it (haha, get it?) Eggplants these days aren't that bitter so you can skip this step.
Before You Start:
If you want to sweat the eggplant thickly slice and then heavily salt both sides. Do not cut the eggplant too thin. If the the slices are too thin they'll be hard to work with and they will dry out quickly Place on a tray or rack and let sit for about 30-45 minutes. You'll see moisture bead up on the surface of the eggplant. When done, rinse the eggplant under cold water and thoroughly pat dry with paper towels. Place them loosely in a roasting pan.
When using the food processor, pulse for as long as needed to get the baba ganoush to the desired consistency. The shorter in the processor, the more chunky. The longer, the smoother it will be.
- Move an oven rack up to the top notch and then pre-heat the oven to broil.
- Place eggplant on top rack and roast about 15 minutes then flip and roast another 15 minutes. When the eggplant feels soft, they're done.
- While the eggplant is in the oven, put all the other ingredients except the parsley in a food processor.
- When the eggplant is done, take it out of the oven and let it cool down.
- Add the eggplant to the food processor and run it through until it hits the desired smoothness.
- Add the parsley and pulse until it is chopped and distributed evenly.
- Scoop into a bowl, garnish with some olive oil and a little more parsley.
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.
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 contacted to talk a little bit about the local beer scene on the area's public radio station WHRO. HearSay with Cathy Lewis does a weekly segment called the "Delicious Dish" where Patrick Evans-Hylton, a well-known regional chef and author, talks with Cathy about food happenings in the area. Next month is Virginia Craft Beer month so today's topic was craft beer (of course.)
Find a copy of the latest HR Growler, I have photos from breweries and events from around the Hampton Roads area. No food articles or recipes this time around, but my Grilled Cheese Bistro story should be in the next one!
Last weekend Shelby mentioned grilling burgers for dinner but we ended up making this instead. It was super tasty but for the next few days I just wanted a burger!
Yesterday I came home later than usual and Shelby was in Norfolk, I figured I'd grab a bite to eat somewhere and get my burger fix. It had been a while since I visited Home Republic at the Oceanfront and they have one of my favorite burgers in the area called the Galaxy Burger.
The Galaxy Burger has thick applewood smoked bacon, grilled onions, hop infused cheddar cream and Galaxy Sauce. All of these things makes a great burger - check out the photo, I had it in a to-go box and it still looked great!
When I got to the restaurant I said my hellos and chatted with Keith and Jeremy in the kitchen briefly. I ordered a Juice "Sea" Fruit IPA that Home Republic brews in the shop and sat down for a bit. It's Shark Week and one of the televisions had some knucklehead swimming around on a shark-silhouetted board mounted with cameras baiting the sharks. Real smart...
I asked for my burger to be put in a to-go box because I planned on giving Shelby half of it (mmm...maybe a little less) but I ate about three-quarters of it and all the fries.
I finished my beer and headed out feeling satisfied and full. Grab a Galaxy if you're in town, it's a good one.
I'm still around, really, but things have been really busy. That, and my struggle with time management and short attention span - a MILLION things happening all the time!
I have a bunch of stuff I've been meaning to share, going back to our anniversary in May! A trip to the Midwest, festivals, etc... I'm working on it now.
Slowly. I'm getting there.
A few things coming up are new restaurants, beer joints, Hampton Roads first Dîner en Blanc, markets - all kinds of stuff.
One of the first recipes I ever used to make something was BBQ sauce. It was from a Betty Crocker cookbook my grandparents gave us in a care package while we were stationed in Ft. Bliss, TX. Being a young, enlisted couple we didn't get out much at all. Getting a box full of dry goods and a cookbook was great. My grandparents were once a young army family and they knew what would be useful for us, they were very practical. Oh, I gotta write about the time I was trying to use the book to make biscuits but I read the recipe wrong. We didn't eat biscuits that night.
Fast-forward to the present time and we're still cooking! It's actually been a while since I made BBQ sauce but it's the first that popped into my head when I was asked to submit a recipe to the latest HR Growler. The theme was "Summertime", grilling! Who doesn't love to cookout over the summer. Fire-up the grill, open a good beer and take in the experience.
I wanted my sauce to have a little heat and, of course, beer! I made four different recipes before settling on a delicious, balanced sauce that goes great with chicken and pork. Just about any beer will work, I liked the Blue Mountain Brewery A Hopwork Orange and the Enjoy By 4.20 by Stone Brewing Co., stouts would work well too. Try it out, mix it up, add or remove what you like.