Saturday, July 30, 2011

Portland, ME - Walter's

This restaurant was amazing. It was recommended by a summer-Maine-r and he did not guide us wrong. First the menu was great - so many things I wanted to try!

We finally narrowed it down and started with the calamari. I thought it would be a small portion since it was an appetizer, but it was quite a nice size. It had a jalapeno and basil sauce on it (the one complaint of the whole meal was that there were probably a few too many fresh jalapenos). We then decided to have a side dish as a kind of an app to share and went with the bok choy with adzuki beans and togarashi seasoning. This was a little small for two to share, but definitely would have been a great size for one as a side. Oh and they were delicious - I especially loved the use of adzuki beans in it!

For entrees I decided to go with the scallops which were perfectly cooked and served alongside hummus samosas and sauteed spinach. The spinach had preserved lemon which gave an amazing light and fresh flavor.  My husband had the shrimp that were seasoned with togarashi and served atop a cold wasabi noodle salad. The contrast of the hot and cold with the spice from the wasabi was fantastic.

Our server was also excellent. This was probably one of the best meals I've ever had, and I want to return to Portland, if just for a meal at Walter's! (Don't worry Green Onion and Duner's, you're still up there in the top 3, you just have new competition!)

Walter's on Urbanspoon

Saturday, February 26, 2011

La Cocina del Sol - Crozet

I've been to this restaurant twice now and both have been good, so I figured I needed to blog it to everyone. It's not your standard Mexican joint with 20 different combo plates. There are tacos, burritos, and chimichangas. But there are also burgers, salads, sandwiches and soup with southwestern flavors. While I realize this may mean it's not true Mexican, it's the flavors and spices of a country's culture I love not necessarily the actual dishes, so I guess that's why this is a great take to me.

The ambiance isn't anything special, but I love the open kitchen feel. It's located just off Three Notched and there is plenty of parking behind which is nice.

Like I said I've been to La Cocina twice now. The first time I decided to go with the vegetarian tacos because they sounded good, and I remember it being delicious. Today I was there for lunch and decided to go for the veggie chimichanga. The chimichanga was huge (enough I brought home half!) and full of great vegetables and rice with fresh guacamole on the side.

In all if you're out towards Crozet, this is a great place to grab a quick bite. It's reasonable and you're sure to find something on the menu.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Brookville - Charlottesville

I don't know why I neglected to blog about Brookville last time we went, because it was great then and great again this past weekend. Brookville's mantra is about serving locally sourced food. In fact 90% of the menu comes from within 100 miles, which is pretty awesome. The chef tends to prefer anything pig related, so be ready to choose from bacon, pork belly, pork tenderloin or maybe even pig ears, all of which will be delicious. Of course they offer a great wine and beer selection from Virginia as well.

So, last time we went to Brookville they had only been open a few weeks and it was pretty quiet in there. We were a bit worried since it was Friday night, but luckily Cville has pulled through and shown more support for Brookville over the last few months. Commensurately, they've expanded the choices on the menu, though it does remain small. (If you're a picky eater, I would definitely recommend looking at the menu before you go because you only get about 4 entree choices.)  Anyways, on to the food...

For starters we decided to go with some Virginia ham fritters and french fries. The fritters were balls of dough filled with ham and apple, served with dijonaisse dipping sauce and fried. As expected these elements all work great together. Conversely the french fries are nothing you would expect to put together...topped with sausage gravy, foie gras and shaved Parmesan cheese. We decided that there was pretty much no way we could avoid this one. It just sounded too ridiculous a combo, so we decided to jump in. Well we were not disappointed. It was rich (and I'm very glad we shared it 4 ways) but it was delicious. Definitely an omen of the entrees to come.

My husband loves pork belly, so of course he went right for that. It's served with roasted potatoes and apple puree, which was a wonderful balance to the rich pork. For myself, I was intrigued by the burger: 1/2 pound of meat (a blend of hangar, sirloin and bacon - yes, bacon) on a house-made bun with carmelized onions and the option of a fried egg and/or bacon on top (which, of course, I had to do). Here is where I'm kicking myself for not taking a picture...this burger was huge and awesome. Of course I only ate about half of it (my husband was more than happy to finish the other half) but it was the best burger I've ever had, no question. If you're willing to spend the money (this is not a Five Guys burger) it's everything you could ever hope a burger would be.

My one complaint with Brookville remains the lack of vegetables served with the meals. I am a huge vegetable lover and they are so easy to source locally, so it saddens me that they aren't used more prevalently in the dishes. I also hate that they don't have a vegetarian option. I enjoy meat but have plenty of friends who are vegetarians, and I was one myself for nearly a decade, so I always feel it important to have at least one option on the menu and widen your base of customers. Again, just me, your local food-a-holic, putting in her two cents.

Otherwise, go check out Brookville. You'll love the food and you'll truly be supporting the local economy. PS, the album I linked to below is my other love in life in right now (beyond my husband and puppy of course), so check out the Avett Brothers if you haven't before. They are amazing!

Brookville on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Continental Divide - Charlottesville

Too crowded, too noisy, too small, too bad. That's the tag line at Continental Divide, though I think they should add "too tasty" to the end personally. This small restaurant is Charlottesville's version of big Mexican flavors in a small space.

First, when you go to Continental Divide, expect a wait. Luckily this isn't necessarily a bad thing as they make delicious and reasonable (read dangerous) margaritas. So, go early or go patient and thirsty.

The menu at Continental Divide is not your standard Mexican restaurant menu. You see nachos, but complete with goat cheese or bison chili. There is fresh (and perfectly medium-rare) tuna over crispy fresh tortilla chips. And there tacos filled with slow cooked pork. This is pretty much what we had when we went to Continental Divide last weekend, and all of it was excellent.

Perhaps the best thing about all this delicious food I'm making myself hungry for again right now is that it is easy on the wallet. A lot of places I review are a little pricier because I like to treat myself when we do go out to eat. You don't have to worry about that here. Two drinks, an appetizer and two entrees all for about $40 (including tip). You can't beat these prices, especially not with this quality of food.

Lastly, in case you need some awesome new tunes, check out the link above for Rodrigo y Gabriela, a great acoustic duo from Mexico!

Continental Divide on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Shebeen - Charlottesville

With the holidays and threat of snow, I have to say we haven't been out to eat much recently. Luckily January is forcing us back out into the world of wonderful Charlottesville dining, first with just a random Friday night dinner and soon with Restaurant Week! So, here we are with my first restaurant review of 2011, and it's a great one!

Shebeen is your standard pub, except that it's not Irish or English, it's South African. You'll find fish and chips and sandwiches on the menu, but you'll also find things from the braai (grill) and wonderfully seasoned and delicious dishes unique to Africa. The location is nothing special (a strip mall on the backside of Staples, facing MacDonald's near the downtown mall) but they did a lot with the decor inside.

The menu should keep most people happy with the variety on it. For starters we decided to go with the brinjal fries, also known as fried eggplant wedges and a banana "ketchup." The "ketchup" was amazing...a nice cooling effect on a piping hot fry.

For entrees, I opted for something from the braai while my husband went for a slow cooked dish in a
small iron pot. I had the peri-peri shrimp (pepper basted shrimp on skewers...9 of them!) with sides of mealie pap and mixed vegetables. I was a bit worried by the description of the peri-peri sauce, so I asked for the kitchen to go light on it. It was perfect. The mealie pap is described as South African cheese grits. Let's just say that this Southern girl loved the stuff. I would eat it everyday if I could! The vegetabeles were pretty standard but very good. My husband had the lamb curry potjie which was full of spices and flavors. It had a corn muffin with it that seemed to have a creamed-corn effect going on in the middle. Yum!

Overall I would definitely recommend Shebeen if you're looking for something different. Expect it to be crowded, so be open to getting a pint of one of their delicious pints before hand. But mostly, go to try some new flavors and relax!

Shebeen on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Charlottesville Restaurant Week!

It's that season again...Restaurant Week! This is a great way to get out and try a new place or 7 at a great price! Here's the deal, 3 courses, $26. There are some really great restaurants ... it continues to grow each iteration (January and July). For a full list of restaurants and a few with their menus up, check out cvilleyum. 

If you're looking for recommendations, I would say Fossett's but they are all booked! What about Ten for some great seafood with a Japanese twist or Brookville, the newest locavore place in town! I've been to both (but not blogged, eek!) and they are awesome! If you can't seem to find the time for this round, check back in the next 2 weeks for my reviews!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Tavola - Charlottesville

This past summer my husband and I had the pleasure to spend 11 days in central Italy. Needless to say we ate more pasta, truffles and pecorino and drank more wine than I thought possible. Enter my renewed love for pasta. So of course we've both been reluctant yet excited to try an Italian restaurant. Enter Tavola. I decided that the night before Thanksgiving was the perfect night to finally try one from Charlottesville's Italian scene.

We headed to Tavola at 6pm and thought surely we'd be ahead of the rush. They don't take reservations and I had been warned they fill up quick. Well that was certainly true. There are only about 10 tables and about 6 more seats along the bar. Unfortuantely 6pm wasn't early enough to get a table straight away, but we did get one relatively quick.

Having spent a week in Umbria, I decided the table needed a bottle of Umbrian wine so I opted for the Col Santo Rosso (Sagrantino-Sangiovese blend) and it was excellent, especially at a mere $33/bottle. Everyone else agreed too. Considering it's $21/bottle at Market Street wine shop, that's not a bad buy at all.

After getting our wine, we decided to all get soup or salad to start which was great, except for the teaser "salad of the day" which was sold out by the time we ordered (circa 6:30pm). I still went for a salad but did one off the menu instead. The salad was a great start of things to come.

For entrees we all went for something different. I chose the red beet and leek risotto with sea scallops. It was excellent and perfectly cooked, plus a beautiful color (see picture at right). My husband went for a classic carbonara and it was delicious while not quite as heavy as I have traditionally prepared it. Others at the table had the pork saltimboca special of the day and the garganelli alla zucca (butternut squash, kale, cream and garganelli pasta). Overall everyone was quite happy with the meal (though we all agreed the garganelli was the least favorite), and I was happy to have a real Italian dinner.

In short I look forward to a return visit and to trying more of the pasta and wine at Tavola!

Tavola on Urbanspoon