Friday, November 11, 2011

The Blue Goat

I just want to say, I'm not a food critic. I'm a food enthusiast- just someone who enjoys all things culinary and discussing its finer points. So, take anything I say as just someone from the neighborhood chatting you up. I also believe in supporting local business and try to do so whenever possible. So, I was excited to learn in the last year that The Blue Goat was going into the old Peking space next to the Westhampton theater on Grove.

I've been to The Blue Goat three times since it's opened, so I think I have a pretty good feel of the place. It defines itself as "An Urban Gastropub. Featuring euro comfort food, sourced locally, in a nose to tail concept." Which I would agree with after perusing their menu. They are also quickly becoming a social touchstone within their community as it's clear that building relationships is important to them and their business. Everytime I'm in, either the manager or the director of operations is coming up to the table to check on everything, they care here and it shows.

On to the fun stuff- the food! Incredible. Seriously, if you're thinking about trying it, you should go. Their menu is not the traditional "Starters, Mains" etc. instead you can opt for a few smaller plates tapas style or you can go for a heavier course. My first two visits I ordered a variety of plates to share. First and foremost, I must mention the pommes frites with pork dust and garlic aoili. Sick, wrong and delicious. I brought a girlfriend in visiting from Chicago and she said without a doubt, they were the best fries she had ever eaten. The beet salad with goat cheese over greens is wonderfully seasonal as they've started tossing pomegranate seeds in- a nice counterpoint to a lot of the richness you will ingest from their menu.

As for heavier entrees, the goat ravioli in browned butter will melt in your mouth. The chicken and pepperoni fettucini is ok - nothing really stood out to me about this dish other than the exquisite chunk of authentic Italian pepperoni. And lastly- the gnocchi. Oh the gnocchi. No one in this town knows how to make it properly much less sauce it properly. It has been a lament of mine for the past almost 8 years of living here in Richmond. But at last, my angst has been quelled by this masterful plate of perfection, made possible by the chef, Kevin LaCivita's, grandmother. Thank you Kevin, from the bottom of my heart, for making this soul satisfying dish for us. However, I'm having a hard time ordering anything else on the menu b/c I just can't get enough!

Be on the lookout for special events, they are trying many different things out. We recently attended a Virginia Beer Dinner this past Wednesday that was delicious, education and great fun! They want to try and do these beer dinners at least once a month. And oh, did I mention that Steve McKenna was behind the bar? I kept seeing posts about him on the goat's Facebook wall, but I thought it was some sort of inside joke that I wasn't privy to- but no, he really IS behind the bar and making some serious mixologist magic. I was told his ginger marys for Sunday brunch are not to be missed.

The Virginia brewers included in this past week's dinner were Roanoke Railhouse, Legend Brewery and the newest kid in town, Hardywood Park. The beers ranged from dark amber lager to many different styles of belgian. Each was paired with a complimenting food accompaniment which included a charcuterie board, duck rillettes, housemade sausage of venison/pork/duck/proscuitto and an apple tartlet with caramel gelato. The brewers went around to each table to discuss their process and its end result- I learned that you add more sugar if you want a drier beer. A wonderful night- great food, great beer, great company and yes, we did officially get Steve McKenna'd.

If there's any downside I've experienced, it's not too significant, just a little inconsistency from the bar. They have a few house specialty handcrafted cocktails on their drink menu. If made right, you will feel transported by their alchemy. If not, you will taste a heavy hand in their flat lack of charisma. These drinks are works of art, not to be made by any schmoe, even in a waitstaff pinch. I hope they work the kinks out of the inconsistencies. In the mean time, I'll be sticking to some Fat Tire. Oh yeah.

The Blue Goat

5710 Grove Ave.

Richmond, VA, 23226


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Oven Roasted Cauliflower

Find yourself wanting to jazz up boring old cauliflower because you know you should eat it, but you just can't get past the taste? Welcome! I want to give a sincere, heart felt thanks to Emeril for providing this tasty recipe. You can find the original here, my adjustments are included below.

If you find yourself with leftovers, throw them in the blender with some chicken stock. This makes an excellent puree you can serve with another meal!

Oven Roasted Cauliflower with Parm, Lemon & Garlic
Adapted from recipe courtesy Emeril Lagasse, 2003

6 to 8 servings

1 large head of cauliflower, cut into small florets
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon+ sliced garlic
2 tablespoons lemon juice (juice of 1 lemon)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
Chopped chives, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.

Place the cauliflower florets in a large saute pan or a roasting pan. Drizzle the olive oil over the cauliflower, and season with the garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Place the saute/roasting pan in the oven and cook for 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure even roasting(I did this every 5 minutes). Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the Parmesan. Garnish with chopped chives/green onion and serve immediately while still warm.

Excellent with steak as an alternative to potatoes, or fish!

Gloucester, VA First Annual Wine Festival

I had the privilege of attending Gloucester, VA's very first annual Wine Fest along the picturesque banks of Capahosic and the York River on October 30, 2010.

How did I hear about this, you ask? Well, this is my home town. And for those of you that know nothing or little about Gloucester or poo poo it as a small country town, I invite you to read it's impressive history here.

Of even more interest to me than the wine, was the property where the wine fest was held. We were well off the beaten path of Rt.17 in the heart of Wicomico. We pulled into a large field on the water to walk over to Moton Center(or Holly Knoll as the house is properly named), recently purchased by The Gloucester Institute(off of RT 614). Originally the home of Robert R. Moton, Holly Knoll and it's inhabitant played a key role in American history, specifically the civil rights movement. Tours of the house were offered and the view from the roof was spectacular!(pic below)

It's amazing to me that every time I go home since I moved back to VA, I learn something new! And I really thought I had soaked up all there was to know, historically speaking, about my humble country county and here comes its first annual wine fest.

I really hope they hold it here again. It was a picturesque, clear, if not a bit chilly, sunny day on the water. All the vendors were friendly and accomodating. The kettle corn was to die for! I only hope they have a few more food vendors to choose from next year, my Nathan's hot dog didn't exactly cut it with my glass of white ;) Maybe BBQ would be nice addition? I ended up lugging home about 6 new varieties of wine, including a lovely Meritage from Athena winery that I can't wait to crack into at Christmas.

I highly encourage those of you looking for something a little different and a little less pretentious, yet rife with history to give this a go next year. Salut!

Brandied Apple Butter

As a result of a misguided romantic notion about apple picking, I ended up with some pretty amazing apple butter. Which, I'm happy to say, is going to be part of the Christmas sweet-treat package I make for friends and family this year.

So, I did a little research and decided Carter Mountain Grove, right up the street from Monticello and Michie Tavern, would be a fantastic place to pick apples. We headed out semi-early on a Saturday, took the hour journey and were greeted on the mountain by a teeming throng of screaming children with their well-meaning, but oblivious guardians. Who were weilding long, dangerous-looking, metal basket tipped apple-pickers. Which, I might add, on several occasions barely missed tops of heads and a few cars. Witnessing all of this, I then get out of the car and the icy wind whips right through me.

I make a split second excutive decision, abandoning all thoughts of meandering through orchards, I run for the pre-picked bushels. One apple pie, a gallon of cider, 1 bushel of Jonagold's and 1 shredded tire later- we have apple butter! And I have to say, I am in love with the crisp sweet taste of Jonagold apples. A cross between Jonanthans and Golden Delicious, the Jonagold have an attractive freckly gold and rose exterior. They are also a sizable fruit which is ideal when you have to peel so many for this project!

Typically you don't want to fiddle around too much with a canning recipe, but since apple butter is a high-acid item, it is a more flexible recipe than most. I had some applejack lying around from a failed attempt at a colonial cocktail that ended up with my friend and I gasping for air and gagging. Quite good in the apple butter though!

Hope this inpires someone to try a new project. I promise, it's worth it! PS- It helps to enlist some help during the peeling process. See below and note who's behind the camera and who's peeling ;)

B's Brandied Apple Butter (aka: Flat Tire Apple Butter)

Bushel of apples (makes approx 14 Qts of apple sauce, 3 of which will just be for you, and 3 which will be in reserve for this recipe, the rest goes in the crockpot initially for the apple butter)
5 Qt dutch oven & stockpot
8 Qt slowcooker
2 1/2 c. white sugar, divided
2 1/2 c. brown sugar, divided
1 c. orange blossom honey
1 1/2 c. apple jack brandy
6 tspn cinnamon, divided
1 tspn allspice
1 tspn clove
1 tspn cardamom
1 tspn fresh grated nutmeg
2 tspn salt
2 c. apple cider

Peel, core and cut apple into chunks. Place into dutch oven and stockpot. Fill to just overflowing. Pour 1 cup of apple cider into each pot. Cover each pot with a lid and bring to a boil. Cut to medium high heat and cook until apples are tender and fall apart. Approx. 20 minutes. Run through ricer or food mill (if you use a food mill, you can leave the skin on).

Fill crockpot w/8 Qts of apple sauce. Add 1 c. each of the white and brown sugar, honey, 4 tspn cinnamon, rest of the spices, brandy and salt. You will have in reserve a 1/2 c. each of the white & brown sugar and 2 tspns cinnamon. Cook on desired temp until reduced by 1/3 to 1/2. Add reserved 3 Qts apple sauce, sugar and cinnamon, adjusting to personal taste. Cook until reduced by an inch or so or until desired thickness. If too thick, thin w/apple cider. If too thin, keep cookin'! Run through a blender or use stick blender for final texture.

This will make approx 26-28 half pint jars of apple butter.

For canning instructions, please refer to the experts here.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Apple Jelly

Well, it's officially fall round these here parts with the advent of Apple Jelly cooling on my counter top and the whole kitchen/house smelling like a spiced apple candle. Mmmmmm.......thanks Dave Lebovitz, for this inspiring post and recipe.

I grew up canning with my mother, but had not ventured back to my roots until recently. And I have to say, I'm glad I did. There's just something that feels so good about creating a beautiful & tasty product from local produce with your own two hands. Knowing that you'll possibly even give your project out as a gift at some point. And that gift will make someone terrifically happy on perhaps a crappy day they are having.

Sidenote: I concur with Dave that my jelly didn't set up until around the 230 degree mark. And this is really pushing it when playing with sugar. So, make sure to pull your pot off of the burner if you find yourself rising over the 220 degree mark and test every few degrees using the cold saucer method (notes in Dave's recipe).

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Caesar Salad

I'm a firm believer that no good Caesar dressing comes from a bottle. So, what's a girl to do during a salmonella scare when she's craving Caesar salad? Employ some good, old fashioned Duke's mayo, that's what. This dressing is not as thick as it would be with a nice fat egg yolk, but tasty and safe just the same!

Caesar Dressing
Serves 4

1 tbsp Duke's mayo
1 tspn dijon mustard
6 anchovies (in olive oil)
Scant 1/4 c. fresh lemon juice
3/4 tspn salt
1/2 tspn fresh cracked pepper
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3/4 c. olive oil
1/3 c+ grated parm reg cheese

Place mayo, mustard, anchovies, garlic, lemon juice, cheese, salt and pepper in food processor. Let it rip and then slowly add olive oil until combined. Taste and adjust seasoning, cheese and lemon juice to personal preference.

Toss w/chopped romaine (2-3 hearts or 1 big head) and a sprinkling more of cheese.

We also serve ours w/grilled/roasted chicken, roasted tomatoes and bacon on top. You could also make your own parm reg croutons to thrown in. Enjoy!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Tapas Nite

This summer has blown by and all of my friends and I have been scattered to the wind. So, I had to come up with a good excuse to corral us all together and that resulted in 'Tapas Nite.' Inspired by a Tapas cookbook two of them had given me as a gift, I might add.

I highly recommend a Tapas party if you like to theme it up. Just beware the salt lick of ham that crops up when you want to get your pinchos on. Take your Diurex early and often!

If you're looking for menu ideas, we had:
  • Pork tenderloin, caramelized onions and brie crostini
  • Ham, brie, walnuts and balsamic crostini

  • Marcona almonds roasted w/rosemary and sea salt

  • Beef empanadillas

  • Goat cheese and serrano ham empanadillas

  • Mascarpone, goat and chive stuffed dates wrapped in serrano ham

  • Swordfish ceviche

  • Shrimp salad

  • Potatoes roasted with rosemary, shallot, garlic and sea salt

  • Sausage and manchego toasts

  • Sangria

  • Cava for dessert

I made the potatoes (amongst a few other things) and they seemed to be a hit! So here's the recipe for you--

Potatoes Roasted with Shallot, Garlic and Rosemary

2 lbs smallish older potatoes, quartered
1 tbsp chopped rosemary
5 oz shallot- larger ones cut in half or quarters so they cook evenly
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1/4 c. good spanish olive oil
sea salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Bring water to boil, add potatoes and a fistful of salt. Once water is boiling again after adding potatoes, set the timer for 5 minutes. Strain. Toss in bowl with olive oil, rosemary and salt. Roast for 35 minutes. Add shallots and garlic, roast for approx 20 minutes more.