Monday, December 21, 2009

Fire and Vine

One thing I enjoy about the holiday season is the opportunity to eat out often. Holiday parties, luncheons, get-togethers ... I love it. Last week my department celebrated the season with a luncheon at Fire and Vine on Laskin Road in Virginia Beach.

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
(757) 333-4824

Fire & Vine Woodfire Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Monday, December 14, 2009

McCormick & Schmick

Third time's a charm.

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
Virginia Beach, VA 23462

McCormick & Schmick's Seafood on Urbanspoon

Monday, December 7, 2009

Burtons Grill

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:

It was a great way to end the meal.

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

741 First Colonial Rd
Virginia Beach, VA 23451

Burtons Grill on Urbanspoon