Monday, December 21, 2009
I love Fire and Vine but initially I was apprehensive because it was a work function and why go to a place with a 5,000-bottle wine inventory if you can't sample any of it? That would be like going to McDonald's and not ordering fries. Anyway, of the 5,000 bottles, 350 are considered new world wines. In other words, they come from regions that have only been producing wine for less than 400 years. The lunch took place on a Friday afternoon and my manager treated us to a couple of bottles and I took the rest of the day off. I also purchased a bottle to take with me as a Christmas gift.
I have reviewed Fire and Vine's wine selection before so this time I'm talking about the food.
The lunch menu doesn't have a lot of variety and it is for this reason that the New World's Chef's Table is offered as part of three different combination lunches and also with any of the four entrees at no extra charge. The Chef's Table is basically a salad bar with very unique selections instead of your usual salad bar fare. If you order a soup & skewer or a wood fired sandwich the Chef's Table is extra.
I ordered the French onion soup
topped with gruyere cheese and croutons. I am not an expert when it comes to French onion soup. In fact, this may have been my first time and I'm grateful that Adam, our server recommended this over the soup of the day. It was very good. I was afraid that the onions would be overpowering and offensive but that wasn't the case at all. The soup had a mild flavor that I really enjoyed.
I also ordered the Cuban wood fired sandwich
The cuban is prepared with house-smoked porkloin, stone ground mustard aioli, olive caper relish, mozzarella and spicy pickle chips. The sandwich came with steak fries and only cost $8. It was the perfect accompaniment to the soup and made for a delicious lunch.
This is my third trip to Fire and Vine and I have yet to be disappointed. The service is always friendly and quick. Since it is the holiday season there were other luncheons going on but that didn't seem to affect us at all.
Fire and Vine has a daily happy hour from 4:30-7:30 where $5 woodfired pizzas and $5 martinis are featured. Check the website for the menu and other specials.
1556 Laskin Road
Virginia Beach, VA 23451
Monday, December 14, 2009
My third visit to McCormick & Schmick was the one that turned me around. It was during my company's holiday luncheon and had the company not chosen M&S, I probably would not have made a third trip. I will have to try it one more time for dinner just to be sure that today's assessment is an accurate one.
The luncheon took place in one of the back meeting rooms. The room was set up with five separate round tables which sat five people to a table. I don't think this layout was conducive to socializing but I suppose that is neither here nor there. I was there for the food.
The first course was an hors d'oeuvre of Maryland lump crab cake with tartar sauce:
The crab cake was prepared with just enough filler to hold it together. I enjoyed it and the portion size was perfect.
Next up was the Maryland Crab Soup:
The server warned us that this soup was spicy so those that couldn't handle spice had the option of ordering a salad. I stuck with the soup and he did not exaggerate ... if you like spice, than I wouldn't pass on this soup. Although it was called Maryland Crab, it was actually a spicy vegetable concoction with very little crab.
My main course was the blackened catfish with lump crab and sherry cream:
The fish was fantastic. The seasoning was perfect and the sherry cream was a nice complement to the seafood. The mashed potatoes were real and the green beans were not overcooked and mushy. Everything was delicious.
And for dessert, we had the upside down apple pie with cinnamon ice cream:
It was a good choice for dessert. My only complaint was that the pie was room temperature and I would have preferred it warm since it was being served with ice cream.
Overall, my third visit to McCormick & Schmick was a good one. The service was friendly, organized and quick. I feel as though our group was well taken care of and I would recommend it for large functions. Their menu can be accessed online.
211 Market Street
Monday, December 7, 2009
Burtons Grill is located in the Hilltop area of Virginia Beach on First Colonial Road and has been open for a year. My expectations for a relatively new restaurant aren't usually too high. Primarily because I don't want to fall in love with a place to see it replaced with another place in a year or so. I remember when Vivo operated at this location. I loved Vivo ... now it's gone. It was replaced by Zinc, which I never had the opportunity to visit. Now we have Burtons.
Burtons was quite busy on the Saturday night that we went and I was initially concerned when the hostess asked if we had reservations. Even without a reservation we were able to be seated immediately. There is plenty of seating in the dining area as well as the bar.
The menu displayed quite a bit of variety which was impressive. It includes several different appetizers, salads, burgers, sandwiches, seafood and steaks. The dinner entrees range in price from around $10 to $25. There are also reasonably priced vegetarian selections.
It was a chilly night so we decided to begin the meal with soup. I had the butternut squash soup:
this was a first for me so I wasn't sure what to expect. It was creamy and smooth with a silky texture that I really enjoyed. Bryan ordered the she-crab:
Also very good. The crab was plentiful and there was a bit of a kick to it -- not too much but just enough to let you know what you were eating.
We were anxious to order our entrees: rockfish. We've been slacking and this is the first time that we've had our favorite fish this season. My dish was prepared with seafood risotto:
The local rockfish is bronzed and served over risotto with calamari, shrimp, tomatoes and spinach. The flavor of the seafood risotto was bold but it did not overpower the delicate flavor the fish itself. It was a lovely balance. Bryan ordered the rockfish with the crabmeat and shrimp risotto:
This was a little different and when I first looked at it I thought it would taste bland. Seeing the corn and snap peas gave me that impression but when I tasted it, I knew I was mistaken. It was topped with a lemon butter sauce which gave it a wonderful flavor, again not enough to overpower the fish, but just enough to enhance it.
For dessert, we shared a warm apple crisp topped with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce:
Burtons has a great wine list and you can either peruse all ninety-nine selections or you can choose the 100th wine which is listed as the special of the evening. On our night the special was a 2006 Slipstream Shiraz Grenache from Australia. I was not disappointed.
Burtons' ingredients are fresh and locally grown. They defintely pride themselves on their customer service. Our server was friendly and very knowledgeable. There was practically no wait time in between courses yet we didn't feel rushed. The General Manager stopped by our table to check on us which I always feel is a nice touch.
Burtons is also open for lunch and Sunday brunch and the menu can be accessed online at http://www.burtonsgrill.com.
Friday, November 27, 2009
I do and I'm happy to report that I have found the perfect place for me to do just that. I had no interest in the Black Friday sales but I did need to pick up a few things and afterward I decided to stop into the Bean There Cafe located at Towne Place in Greenbrier.
Saturday, November 7, 2009
Tiki is a beautiful place. It is my understanding that it has been completely remodeled and whoever was in charge of the remodel did a fantastic job. The restaurant is tastefully decorated, the lighting is beautiful and there are flat screens over the large bar area. There is also outdoor seating provided for when the weather warms up. It is really a nice looking place.
Unfortunately, that is where the praise ends.
I’m not exactly sure who the target audience is for Tiki Island Bar and Grill but I do know that I’m not part of that group. It only took a few moments to go through the menu because there really isn’t that much on it. I was hoping to confirm that information by checking the website but the site is still under construction and could not be accessed. I seem to remember a few steak dishes, a fresh catch, burgers and sandwiches.
As an appetizer we ordered the Oysters Tiki
Interesting dish as it was a spin on the classic oysters rockefeller only this had melted cheese, black beans and corn. It was very pretty to look at but the flavor just sort of sat on my tongue.
As an entrée I had one of the Luau noodle bowls (which can also be ordered with rice instead of noodles)
My bowl was prepared with seared scallops, plenty of vegetables and teriyaki sauce. My problem with this dish is that the noodles and the sauce overwhelmed everything else. The food was literally drowning in the sauce. In my opinion the dish could have been greatly improved if the sauce was more in the background so the flavors of the scallops and the vegetables could have taken center stage. Along with the entrée came a bowl of she-crab soup
It wasn’t bad. Rich and creamy with chunks of crabmeat but it also had big slices of onion and the top was sprinkled with Old Bay instead of sherry which I had never experienced before. For my taste, the onions should have definitely been in the background for a she-crab soup instead of visible as in a vegetable soup. Just my opinion.
One last thing: I usually have a glass of wine or a cocktail with dinner. At Tiki I ordered a cosmopolitan with top shelf vodka. I always do this so I’m used to paying a little extra but in my estimation $12 for a cocktail is totally overpriced.
Clearly, I’m not the target audience and that’s okay because I probably will not be returning. You can check it out for the atmosphere but I would go someplace else for a good meal.
Monday, November 2, 2009
Anyway, the Silver Diner is known for it's funky atmosphere with the oldies music and the juke boxes on the tables and its classic American fare. It's a diner right in the heart of Pembroke. It's simple, it doesn't over promise or under deliver. You get what you expect to get at the Silver Diner. What did I get?
Cajun salmon and eggs. There are two large cajun-style salmon filets hidden under the tomatoes. This dish is listed on the brunch menu along with many other dishes all served with eggs. The fish was cooked perfectly and the tomatoes were warm and the potatoes were good too. I passed on the eggs. It was a good meal at a very good price.
Silver Diner did not WOW me but it will certainly do in a pinch. The food was hot, the service was fast and the price was right.
4401 Virginia Beach Blvd.
Virginia Beach, VA
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Zest is located right at the end of Sandbridge Road and probably as close to the beach as you are going to get. The sign out front is so small that I missed the entrance to the restaurant the first time and had to circle back. There appears to be plenty of parking for the size of the restaurant.
Upon entering I was asked if I wanted to sit up front at the counter or in the back in the dining room. I chose the dining room which was set for dinner. Even though it was about 12:30 in the afternoon, I was the only patron and the lights had to be turned on and the server turned on some music for me: first classic rock, and then she changed it to jazz which I actually preferred. At the door I was handed the lunch menu on a single sheet of white paper which listed a large variety of sandwiches to choose from. I would have preferred a wrap or a salad and I was surprised that there weren't any on the menu. Before ordering my sandwich I asked to see a wine list (still celebrating my birthday). The list was varied and was fine for lunch but I didn't see anything that I would have enjoyed had I been there at dinner time. I ordered a glass of Sauvingon Blanc and a curious sandwich that was called, "I don't know what it's called but it's sooooooo good!"
After that build up, I had to order it. The server admitted to having never tried it but she assured me that everything Zest serves is good. The sandwich was made up of roast pork, roast beef, cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato and horseradish on foccacia bread. I had my choice of chips or pasta salad. I ordered the pasta salad which was penne pasta with cucumbers, carrots, tomatoes and onions with just the slightest hint of vinagrette. It was light and very fresh tasting. The sandwich was huge and I was able to eat more than half of it. It was so good. I was a little apprehensive when I saw the horseradish but it didn't overwhelm the other flavors at all.
The restaurant itself is small and cute with a beachy feel to it. If it weren't so far from where I live I would really make an effort to visit at dinner time. Nevertheless, I enjoyed my lunch and I'm sure that during the summer season Zest is much busier than when I visited and since the dining room is so small I would recommend making reservations. Check their website for the dinner menu.
312 Sandbridge Road
Virginia Beach, VA 23456
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
It takes a lot to get me to go to Norfolk. Why? I don't know. Let's forget for a moment that I drive to Norfolk everyday for work. But my office is nowhere near Downtown and parking is not an issue. I live at the beach and I'm a creature of habit. Downtown is difficult to navigate if you are not familiar with the area. Where am I supposed to park anyway? A couple of weeks ago I stumbled across my new favorite book store, Prince Books. I love this place and one day I will own a place just like it ... at the beach, of course. Anyway, inside Prince Books is a little cafe called The Lizard.
The Lizard is quiet and unassuming and simple and comfortable. The Lizard prides itself on only using ingredients that are produced locally and while their menu seems pretty simple: sandwiches, wraps and salads, there seems to be a little something extra involved that I really enjoyed.
I initially wanted a nice bowl of soup but they weren't serving any on this particular day so instead I ordered the Taster Sampler for $7.50
The taster sampler includes a little bit of everything: chicken salad with peach chutney, fresh dilled tuna salad, hummus, sun-dried tomato pesto and a side of green salad topped with feta cheese. It sounds like a lot because it is a lot but it wasn't heavy. I said before that I wasn't a fan of hummus and while The Lizard's hummus didn't convert me or anything it was pretty good.
The menu also includes signature sandwiches like roast beef and turkey and surry ham and cucumber and all the sandwiches are served on their own homemade bread. You can even get a grilled cheese sandwich made from fresh mozzarella and provolone cheese with tomato and basil mayo. Sounds good.
There is plenty of seating at The Lizard, either at a booth or a table and the store has free wi-fi. On the day I visited, there was only one person working in the cafe. That didn't slow down my service but it took a while to get the tables cleared away. I would have wanted to sit at a booth but most of them were littered with the previous guests' dishes.
The Lizard is a cool little place and I'm assuming that it gets pretty busy during the week with the folks that work Downtown. They are open Monday thru Friday from 9 to 5 and Saturday from 10 to 4.
So, like I said, it takes a lot to get me to go to Norfolk but so far I've been to Prince Books and The Lizard twice and I predict many more trips in the future.
109 E Main Street
Norfolk, VA 23510
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
The café itself holds seven tables and six seats at the counter. When I arrived the counter was full and all but two tables were filled. I was seated immediately even though my sister had not yet arrived, which I truly appreciated because it wasn’t long before more patrons arrived and occupied the other two tables.
The atmosphere at the café was relaxed. The annual Neptune Festival was taking place and it seemed that many of the guests were coming in from the festival for a bite to eat. I just happened to be at the Heritage and had a craving.
While I waited, I looked over the menu and the wine list. The wine list only had six wines to choose from: three red and three white. With a name like “mojito café”, perhaps you expected me to order a mojito, right? I would have but I’m not a fan. So, I settled on a glass of red.
I also ordered the empanadas as an appetizer:
They serve these pastry turnovers filled with either ground beef, chorizo and cheese or olives. I ordered three so I could sample all of them. The pastry itself had a buttery flavor that was crispy but not too hard. The filling was just enough and I had to fight myself not to finish them before my sister arrived. Once she did, we placed our orders. She decided on the camarones al ajillo
This dish consists of sautéed shrimp with garlic, lime juice and fresh cilantro served with rice, beans and fresh asparagus. The shrimp were larger than expected but they seemed a little tough. Overall everything blended nicely and tasted good.
I had the Latin fricassee with chicken
This dish included sautéed peppers, asparagus, onions, olives, tomato sauce and chicken served over rice. The combination of flavors resulted in a mildly sweet taste that I just loved. It wasn’t at all complicated and looked and tasted like something I could probably make myself. If I were into that kind of thing.
The service at Café Mojito was good. The server was pleasant and even though it was quite busy she seemed to have it under control. The other guests appeared to be enjoying their experience as well. This isn’t the type of place where you feel rushed to leave. Mostly everyone was lingering over their meals as they chatted and socialized.
Parking is available in a small lot right behind the restaurant and Café Mojito serves both lunch and dinner, however, since the beach season has ended their hours are changing. Check their website for details.
300 28th Street
Virginia Beach, VA 23451
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Azar's Natural Foods is located on Prescott Avenue in Virginia Beach. It is very unassuming and you probably wouldn't know it existed unless someone told you about it. That's why I'm here.
Azar's is a small diner style restaurant with an adjacent gourmet market. The dining area is filled with cute tables and the large glass door in the front of the room allows for plenty of natural light. The shelves in the market are filled with an impressive assortment of cheeses, pastries, fruits, nuts, meats and wine. I have only been to Azar's for lunch but I really want to go back for dinner so I can try the wine.
The menu is an array of Mediterranean specialties in the form of soups, salads, wraps, herbal pizzas among other things. Azar's provides both vegetarian and vegan choices. I ordered the half and half combination platter for $8.95. Which for me included the chicken taewook wrap and a bowl of tomato basil bisque.
The chicken taewook wrap is prepared with baked marinated chicken, cabbage, tomato, pickles, parsley and a touch of "Mama Lina's dressing" all rolled in a toasted pita.
The bisque was sweet, rich and creamy. It is prepared with a touch of hot pepper which gives it some kick. I was pleased with the portion size in the combo platter. I was expecting smaller but it was very filling and a great value at only $8.95.
Each meal is served with pita triangles and hummus. I'm not a fan of hummus but I'm told that Azar's is delicious. I tasted it and was not moved. I was also not moved by the fact that there was no silverware on the table and we had to spread the hummus with the spoon that came with the soup.
One menu item that is definitely worth trying are the rolled oat cookies. They are a mix of nuts, seeds and oats and sweetened with honey. These cookies taste so good you'll swear you're doing something wrong, but you're not.
Azar's also has a location in Ghent and their entire menu can be accessed on line here.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Twenty minutes may have passed before we were finally seated. The sign outside the restaurant says, "home of the $2.99 breakfast" but when I opened the menu, I swear I didn't see any breakfast for $2.99. I did find out later that the $2.99 breakfast consists of two eggs served with homefries or grits or baked apples and toast. Not bad for three bucks.
Our server, a young woman dressed as a pirate chick (similar to biker chick I imagine) came over quickly to get our drink orders. There was so much activity in the restaurant and I believe that most of the people were vacationing as we were.
Even though my eyes couldn't find the $2.99 breakfast on the menu I did notice many different breakfast combinations to choose from. I settled on the Italian frittata with grits:
Can you see that pool of butter on top of the grits? Probably not the best way to start my day, but I don't make it a habit so I took my chances. The three-egg fritatta was loaded with onions, tomato, green pepper, mushrooms and romano cheese. Everything tasted good and definitely filled me up.
Bryan ordered an omelet with spinach and feta cheese but the thing that I found fascinating was the biscuit and gravy that he also ordered:
I have never seen a biscuit that covered an entire plate. I stay away from the B&G because it's just too heavy but I did taste this one. Awfully light and fluffy for a biscuit and the sausage gravy was just right ... I still wouldn't be able to eat the whole thing though.
I was surprised at how quickly the food hit the table based on how many people were being served. I noticed the owner, Carol Ann Angelos walking around in the midst of the breakfast rush. She too, was dressed in the pirate garb and she stopped at our table to see how everything was. She also gave us coupons to visit her other restaurant, Carolina Seafood which is a seafood buffet.
The Jolly Roger has been around since 1972 and is the oldest Italian restaurant on the beach. The friendliness of the staff is one of the reasons why I love going to the Outer Banks. It seems to represent easy living. And what is wrong with that?
Friday, September 18, 2009
Bryan suggested that we stop at the Outer Banks Brewing Station at milepost 8.5 on the main road into Kill Devil Hills. “Brewing station?” I thought. I wanted to eat not drink beer. He assured me that it was a restaurant and I didn’t have to worry. The brewing station does serve handcrafted beer and there was plenty available. Apparently, the beer menu changes frequently because Scott Meyer, the brew master is constantly trying new things and coming up with great brews. I have to admit right here that I am not a beer drinker so I am far from qualified to review it. Bryan, on the other hand, is somewhat of a connoisseur and has reported that the Olsch and the Dog House Tripel were fantastic.
There was plenty of activity on the first floor of the restaurant, in the dining area and especially at the bar. We were seated immediately on the second level where it was much quieter. I didn’t particularly have an issue with this but I would have preferred to have been given a choice as to whether I wanted to sit upstairs or downstairs. I think Bryan wanted to be downstairs closer to the action. I, on the other hand, just wanted to eat.
We started our meal with the old school crab and artichoke dip. It was mild in flavor, topped with bread crumbs and served with the house bread. As I said earlier, I was starving so I don’t know if we finished it so quickly because of that or if it was just really good. Okay, it was really good.
I ordered the daily fresh catch which was red snapper. It was prepared with sautéed potatoes, artichokes, asparagus, kalamata olives, roasted red peppers and capers. It was an interesting combination of vegetables that seemed to complement each other quite well. Nothing got lost in the mix. It was delicious.
Bryan ordered the pasta special which consisted of swordfish and shrimp over penne pasta and seasoned vegetables. I noticed that this dish wasn’t loaded with pasta which would force you to search for the fish and shrimp. It was nicely balanced.
For dessert, our server convinced us to order the Monkey Mousse. She explained that it was a take on Chunky Monkey ice cream and it is prepared fresh at the brewing station. This creation is layered with a graham cracker crust, banana cake and chocolate mousse and it’s drizzled with chocolate and banana sauces. Trust me, it looks heavier than it actually is.
It was ridiculously good.
I was not expecting to be so impressed with the food at a beer brewing station. I actually expected regular bar food: hot wings, onion rings and the like but not so at the Outer Banks Brewing Station. It also bears mentioning that the Outer Banks Brewing Station is America’s first wind powered brew pub.
The service at the Station was spot on. Friendly, attentive and knowledgeable. Elizabeth, our server was patient and understood completely when I stated how hungry I was and that we just came in from Virginia Beach … she was quick with the cocktails and everything hit the table in a reasonable amount of time.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Thursday, September 10, 2009
I love sushi. I don't review it often because what can you really say about it? All I really want to know is if it's fresh or not. Some places are obviously better than others but I can't say that I've had a bad roll unless it was from the grocery store or one of those stands in the mall. And even those weren't horrible.
I tried everything on the plate and loved it. I particularly appreciate the way the food is presented to me. I prefer this much more than the sushi buffets that I've visited.
My daughter, who is not a sushi fan ordered the chicken teriyaki box
This dish includes chicken teriyaki, rice, salad, miso soup and a California roll. It was more than enough for her and perfect for anyone who is invited to a sushi restaurant but doesn't want sushi. It looked good and it tasted better. There are other non-sushi boxes available on the menu.
If you are in Kempsville and you want good sushi, I'd recommend Yu-Mi. The restaurant itself is clean and nicely decorated. You have the option of sitting at a booth or the sushi bar. I enjoyed a glass of Pinot Grigio and still got out for around $50. I think that's pretty good for three people.