Thursday, October 30, 2008

1 North Belmont

Friday, this blogger celebrated a birthday out in the swinging metropolis that is Richmond. My hubs was so kind as to take me to 1 North Belmont. This was a highly anticipated event as I am a closet (no more!) francophile.

We arrived for our 7 o'clock seating and the restaurant was about half full. We were allowed to choose our table, which I thought was nice, so we situated ourselves next to the quiet, empty bar area. The decor itself was warm and modestly elegant with chippendale style chairs at all the tables, silver candle lamps and white table cloths. Overall, 1 North Belmont does a good job at creating a quiet, cozy, romantic environment. The wait staff is kind and gracious, albeit a little stiff. The restaurant never did completely fill or feel busy.

Since the evening had a touch of chill, the hubs and I opted for soup as our first course. An inspired choice indeed! Hubs had the seafood bisque. Apparently, it was so good, his vocal chords were paralyzed until he was finished. :) I ordered the butternut squash soup. The serving staff came out w/a soup tureen for each of us and ladled our soup, steaming hot and fresh, right before our eyes. Hubs soup was served over crab meat and chive, my bowl appeared w/candied pear and creme fraiche in the bottom. I have to say, my butternut squash soup tasted like a bowl full of Thanksgiving and was truly lovely.

For dinner, hubs ordered the steak au poivre, which was perfectly cooked and tender. I ordered the Sole Meuniere, which was fileted tableside. And it was quite a show! In silence, for what felt like an hour, we watched the waiter pull 4 filets off of the Sole with 2 large tablespoons. This was not a $49 worth show. That's right, you read that right, the Sole was $49. Hubs steak was $46. So, I will state at this point unabashedly that our meal was VERY overpriced. Granted, our meals were good, but each of our entrees, in my humble opinion, should not have cost over $35 each. The fish was decent, but not noteworthy.

Once the entrees were consumed, hubs and I decided to head off to Can Can for post-dinner drinks and dessert. I would like to mention as I perused the Can Can menu, I noted that their Sole Meuniere cost $23.50. Which, I believe is much more reasonable for this dish. Our meal at 1 North Belmont which included bottled water, 1 glass of Austrian Pinot Noir, 2 soups and 2 entrees was $150. Yes, you read that right...........$150.

Hubs and I agreed that we appreciated the atmosphere of 1 North Belmont more for our occasion b/c it was without the bustle, clatter and general cacophony always heard echoing from the rafters of Can Can. But, bottom line, we believe we paid way too much for our meal. I would however, recomment 1 North Belmont as the starting point for a Girls Nite Out. Or an end. You could have soup(which is quite filling by itself) and champagne or dessert and champagne up at the bar. But, we will probably not be back for a special occasion.

*Addendum: Recently, we made travel plans for Vegas (12/08). I'm doing a little research on Bouchon and it starts to dawn on me. Bouchon, THOMAS KELLER'S CREATION, is more reasonably priced than 1 North Belmont. It literally almost makes me want to tell people to never go to 1 North, just on principle.

1 North Belmont
1 N Belmont Ave
Richmond, VA 23220
(804) 358-0050

Monday, October 20, 2008

Avenue 805

Friday nite found the hubs and I out at Avenue 805. I have to say, I immediately liked the comfortable ambience and atmosphere upon entering this establishment. Dim lighting, original art on the walls, votives flickering everywhere, pale blue & green, pleather booths, stacks of wine stashed all over and a little Jack Johnson playing in the background......(and hubs plugging his ears in protest). Whomever designed the decor, obviously put a lot of thought into it.

We were greeted and seated immediately. The restaurant was about 3/4 full when we arrived around 7:30, seemingly doing a brisk business. We took a table at the very back of the restaurant, far from the chilly breeze blowing through the front door. Warm bread was immediately brought to the table, which we promptly tucked into.

For apps, we ordered the evening's special of smoked zucchini ravioli in a cream sauce topped with house made duck proscuitto as well as the white bean hummus platter w/fresh veggies and toasted foccacia. Both were excellent and I would easily order them again.

For drinks, I ordered a glass of the house Malbec. It should be noted that Avenue 805 favors their patrons selecting bottles of wine for the table and does very few wines by the glass. And mine had been sitting around too long in an opened bottle, teetering on the edge of undrinkable. I would love to have ordered a bottle of a full bodied cabernet, but the hubs doesn't drink wine and I can't finish a whole bottle by myself. And if I could, I'm not confessing it here! LOL! ;)

For entrees, we stuck to the basic pasta menu. The hubs ordering fettucini alfredo with shrimp. The alfredo sauce was creamy deliciousness, but the shrimp was rubbery. Which to me is an unforgivable sin. My gnocchi were soft potato pillows of delight, smothered in a bolognese sauce that was too sweet and not seasoned enough for my taste. I would love to see a gnocchi option with a tomato cream sauce and lardons added to the menu. Actually, that is my perpetual search in this city anytime I'm eating gnocchi.

For dessert, the hubs tried the carrot cake and it got an enthusiastic two thumbs up. Which is rare praise from him! The cake was moist, fragrant with spice, lacked raisins (which is a plus for the hubs) and had a rich cream cheese icing. I had the standard creme brulee, which fit the bill in texture as well as taste. I also ordered a post-meal coffee which arrived in a "Barryshnicow" mug. And as silly as it sounds, this sealed the deal for me to come back. I love a comfortably elegant restaurant that serves great food, but doesn't take itself too seriously.

I'd also like to note the service- friendly, responsive and every course was to the table, piping hot within minutes. Top notch and unbeaten in my experiences dining around Richmond. This is obviously a restaurant that cares about it's patronage and I, for one, will be back even though our entrees fell a little flat this first visit. B/c overall, Avenue 805 has all the characteristics of what I look for in a "regular" place. :)

Avenue 805
805 N Davis Ave
Richmond, VA 23220
(804) 353-2505

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

It's Chili Time again, folks!

I get so excited for Fall, b/c that means I get to bust out my soup and chili repetoire. Today, I've made my first batch of chili for the season and I have to say it's my tastiest one yet! I never make the same chili twice and this one's a little more en fuego than I normally make (per hubs tastebuds' request). So, this recipe should hopefully make you heat seekers happy. Simultaneously, I think it's pretty flavorful. The smell alone makes my mouth water.
I hope you get to make and enjoy this!

B's Bohemia Chili

Olive Oil
1 onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded, deveined and finely chopped
1 lb ground chicken
3/4 bottle of Bohemia beer
Smoked Spanish Paprika
Dried Oregano
Chipotle Chili Powder
Chili Powder
Powdered Garlic
2 Poblano peppers- roasted, seeded and finely chopped
2 14.5 oz cans of diced tomatos w/jalapeno
2 28 oz cans of plum tomato puree
5-6 cans beans of your choice (I used white & red kidney as well as pinto), drained and rinsed
1 1/2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 c. chicken stock
Salt and pepper to taste

Turn on broiler and blister 2 poblano peppers (about 6-7 minutes per side). Once roasted, put the peppers in a small bowl covered with plastic wrap. When cool enough to handle(approx 10-15 minutes), skin, seed and chop finely.

Meanwhile, heat a dutch oven w/a little olive oil in it over medium heat. Add onions, garlic and jalapeno sweating for approx. 5 minutes or until onion is translucent. Crank the heat to med-high and then add chicken along with half of the amount of spices you intend to use.

I don't give exact measurements for the spices b/c everyone's tastes are different. I will tell you that to start I use a palm full of chili powder, 1/2 palm of garlic powder, 1/2 palm of chipotle(this has A LOT of kick!), 1/3 palm of smoked paprika and a hearty pinch of oregano.

Once the chicken is cooked through, I add the 3/4 bottle of Bohemia and tomato paste. I let it simmer until it becomes like a thick gravy surrounding the chicken, approx 10 minutes.

Transfer chicken mixture to a crockpot and add the other half of your seasoning, poblanos, tomatos, beans, chicken broth, salt and pepper to taste. Cook on low 6-8 hours. Serve with corn bread! (this particular day, I made cheddar, scallion corn muffins, mmmmmm........)

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Whole Paycheck......

......finally made my way over to Short Pump to visit the new Whole Foods. I'm really still in shock that we got one. Since transplanting here from Chicago, it's something I have yearned for. Yet, when the store opened, I stayed away b/c I knew it was going to be bombarded.

Somehow this past Sunday, a friend talked me into popping into the WF. I was feeling brave that day (maybe it was the mimosa's from Millie's) so I said, "Sure! Why not?" And I was delighted to find, it's still as wonderful as I remember. It was busy, but not as insane as I had imagined.

Gorgeous and varied produce. So many kinds of yogurt, it boggles the mind. Cheese for days. Hot and salad bars, that, if I lived closer, would mean I would never cook again! I was very excited to find Fage, a greek yogurt called for in a lot of recipes I have on hold to try. And I'm happy to report I left unscathed with a mere $25 worth of goodies in tow.

I'm even more excited for the opening of Trader Joe's. Quality organic products at even more fair prices than WF. Yay! Richmond has finally come into the 21st century!

Note to self: Leave reusable shopping bags in car for impromptu shopping moments such as these.
Note to WF: A wider variety in the whole grain pasta would much appreciated. Didn't see much here I couldn't find at Kroger. Would esp. love to see whole grain orzo!

Millie's Diner

Ok, I know Millie's is held in high regard and is much beloved in this town. And as much as I want to fall in love with Millie's, I find that for some reason, I just can not. I love the variety of their menu and what they represent as far as a quality local restaurant. However, I have yet to find something on the menu that speaks to me and beckons me to come back for more.

This past Sunday I went a-brunching with my ladies. A big part of brunch for me would be the beverages. Two complaints here-- bloodies at Millie's are neither tasty enough, nor do they have any heat, the mimosa's are extremely acidic and left me with indigestion. (And this is saying a LOT b/c I have an iron stomach).

I had the Huevos Rancheros, which were tasty enough, but nothing to write home about. And the "salsa" on top was actually super chunky and akin to pico de gallo. Others in my party had the breakfast burrito, eggs benedict served on a croissant and cheddar biscuits with gravy. The biscuits and gravy disappeared off of my friend's plate at light speed, so I take that to mean she enjoyed them. :) The eggs bene on a croissant got rave reviews, I have decided I will have to go back to try this. And lastly, the burrito, there was a bit of a scuffle over this particular item.

Normally, my friend is offered(by her regular waiter which we did not have on this day) to add eggs to her breakfast burrito. This particular Sunday morning, that did not happen, so my friend asked for eggs to be added. She was told a flat, "no." Granted, the sign upfront does say- "no substitutions" and that always puts the fear of God into me to not to have a "When Harry Met Sally" moment. But, since the precedent was set for my friend that she could have eggs, she was taken aback. And then sullen. I daresay it almost ruined our fun brunch. As a consolation prize we did get toast and apologies later.

I will say the coffee and potatos are great. And if you've ever read any of my other reviews, these are the 2 most important criteria in my opinion of a breakfast/brunch place.

In all, it was ok. Was it worth an hour wait? In my opinion, no. My preference for brunch in this town so far is for Can Can or Kitchen 64 (AWESOME bloody mary's).
2603 E Main St
Richmond, VA 23223
(804) 643-5512