Friday, February 22, 2008

Book Rec: My Life in France

As if I did not already adore Julia Child enough, I went ahead and read her book. Thoroughly absorbing, entertaining and honest, My Life in France now resides on my favorite books list.

I'm no book reviewer, but an excellent overview can be found in the NY Times Sunday Book Review:

I urge anyone with a love for food, esp. French cuisine, to check it out! It has so much warmth and insight. I didn't think it was possible to like and respect her more, but I do after having read this book. She states her political & basic life philosophies in a simple, straightforward and compassionate manner. I found myself nodding in agreement with her many times and thinking to myself, "She's actually someone, if I had found myself during the same time/proximity that I quite possibly could have been friends with!" :)
I found the political parallels between then and now not only ironic, but also disturbing.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Cafe Milano

I've decided to start mixing it up on this blog. I eat out probably as much as I cook at home. So, I thought I would throw in a few restaurant reviews to keep things interesting.

Well, the first weekend of February found us with my dad and his wife visiting us here in Richmond, VA. They always like to do interesting and fun things when stopping in. Thus, we ended up in DC on a Saturday, tooling around the DC Mall area in a trolley car. There's so much to see and do, it certainly can all be overwhelming. I recommend picking 2 or 3 big things to do. That will surely eat up 8 hours of your day. At which point, you will be ready for cocktails and dinner. Which is exactly what we did!

I asked for a recommendation from a friend for a place that was special for my dad's birthday, that would not mind our "tourist gear." (ie: jeans, sneakers etc.) We were directed to hit up Cafe Milano(, a Milanese style Italian restaurant. I'm so glad I did not read any reviews on this restaurant before we went(I trust my friend implicitly). It's a bit of a chi-chi place with some cache, as I read online once we got home. Although, honestly, we didn't know that or feel that when eating there! The restaurant itself was casually elegant and we were treated to some of the best service and food I have ever had! Although, getting to this restaurant in Georgetown from Union Station was quite the adventure for us out of towners :) But, I'll spare you that story.

We started with the salmon carpaccio w/mixed greens & apple salad and a special of fried calamari, smelt & shrimp served with a side of spicy tomato sauce. I highly recommend both. I'd love to go back and try the beef carpaccio as well. Our main courses consisted of the Osso Bucco w/Saffron Risotto, handmade spinach egg noodles with a veal bolognese sauce and a Cinquebuchi Bulgari. We were told the Osso Bucco is marinated for 2 full days before then being roasted for a minimum of 12 hours. As you might expect, it fell off of the bone. My husband threatened my life if I tried to take another bite of his Risotto. :) My veal bolognese w/fresh noodles hit the spot as I had been craving something with a red sauce. That delicate, tender pasta is beyond addictive in its texture. The sauce ratchets everything up to insanely good.

Dessert really took us over the edge. The table shared a chocolate torte served with honey ice cream, a crema catalana (like a hazelnut/espresso flavored creme brulee, but softer) and a sorbetto tropicale (3 layers of sorbet in a white chocolate shell, served with a piquant raspberry sauce). All were good, but hand's down the Sorbet served in the white chocolate shell was the best.
Overall, this is one of the best restaurant experiences I have ever had. The service was attentive, at times humorous, always helpful. The food was fresh and expertly prepared with evident passion. One of my favorite parts of the experience has nothing at all to do with the food. In the congested area of Georgetown, parking is at a premium. Cafe Milano not only has a pay lot across the street, they also have a garage right next door! Love that convenience!
We will most likely be back for our anniversary this year! All our best to the highly talented and passionate chef!

B's Richmond Food Digest for Jan/Feb 2008

.....well, it's come to this. After living & kvetching in Richmond for 3 1/2 years, I'm going to have to stop bitching about food and food resources in Richmond. Why? Well, here's my short list:

* Belmont Butchery made top 100 "Best" list in Saveur Magazine (and happens to be one of my favorite places in Richmond)
* Wholefoods and Trader Joes are coming to the West End
* Penzy's is moving into Carytown very soon
* Julep's and other wonderful local restaurants that don't sacrifice quality for quantity
* Organic farming that has made it's way to the 17th street Farmer's Market
* The Edible Garden-
* Jean-Jacques Bakery

I also want to warn everyone about DeLux-- the new hip, "hot" spot in town :) It is a FAB.u.lous. lounge/bar. But, don't go expecting good food. If you're hungry and not a foodie/not picky, this will be right up your alley. I blame VA's ABC laws-- you have to sell a certain percentage of food in order to sell booze. And thus we get a crappy menu b/c folks really just want to sell booze in some instances and really don't care about the vittles. All that aside, I really like the atmosphere, the staff is gracious and on their toes, not to mention the cool lights in the ceiling that change color. It's a perfect spot for a cocktail out with the girls.

Also on my short list to hit this next month or so are:
Brunch at Bacchus (not my fav rest. but they just started serving brunch, so I have to try it!)
Lift (coffee shop)

I'll end on a tribute and a sad note:

Jumpin' J's has closed it's doors. Allegedly, the owner of the building wanted to try their hand at their own restaurant and didn't even give J the option of buying or re-renting the building. J is so disheartened, she is convinced she will not be opening another place. Which makes Richmond a sadder place for not having a jewel like Jumpin' J's around-- we will miss you!!

Salmon Croquettes

These take me back to my childhood. Of course, my mom's recipe was a little different and contained Saltines. Which are still a good choice of filler. But, once you've tried Panko-- it's hard to go back! Normally I like a fresh salmon filet, but when the cupboard is bare and you don't want to run to the store, this is a nice "backup" recipe. :)

What I love the most about these is that my husband, who hates salmon, can't get enough! These go great w/some whole grain parmesan couscous (recipe in blog) and a nice green veggie or salad.

B's Salmon Croquettes (or "Patties" if you're southern ;) )
Serves 2 hungry people

1 14.5 oz can of sockeye/wild salmon or equivalent fresh poached salmon (again sockeye rec'ed)
1 egg
1/2 cup(ish) of panko
A few chopped green onion
Squeeze of lemon (tspn or two)
A few shakes of Texas Pete
Extra panko to bread salmon with

Mix all ingredients except extra panko. Form into cakes. Press into loose panko on all sides of each cake. Let cakes set up for at least 1/2 an hour in the fridge (insures they stay in one piece). Fry off in non-stick skillet w/pam over medium heat (so they heat through and the panko coating does not get too brown).


Dictatorial Tastebuds?

Anyone else bossed around by their tastebuds? I know I am! Here's today's latest craving order-- chocolaty oatmeal cookies. Who am I to say no to that? ;)

Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies
*adapted from an allrecipes recipe by Cheryl

1/2 c. AP flour
1/2 c. whole wheat flour
3 tablespoons unsweetened
cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup margarine(I used smart balance)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate
chips(I omitted)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease cookie sheets. Stir together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon; set aside.
2. In a large bowl, cream together the margarine, brown sugar and white sugar. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Stir in the dry ingredients using a wooden spoon. Mix in the oats and chocolate chips. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto cookie sheets, leaving 2 inches between cookies.
3. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven, or until lightly browned. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.