Social 52…fun food and drinks

Wow! It feels like forever since we’ve had a chance to try a new restaurant.  After a picture session with our youngest daughter for her senior prom, my husband and I decided to have a date of our own and meet my brother and sister-in-law for dinner at Social 52.  None of us had ever been there, so it seemed like a fun food adventure for all of us.

The restaurant seems deceivingly small on the outside.  It actually has quite a bit of seating when you include the bar.  Speaking of the bar, Social 52 has a respectable selection of craft beers and some fun cocktails.  My husband tried a few different brews.  You can have samples first before you commit.  I stuck with the dark and dusky Moscow Mule: excellent choice.

 

The menu reveals the owner/chef’s sense of fun.  Our seafood dip with pita points appetizer was outstanding.  Both my husband and I opted for the Bleu Shroom burger.  Let it be noted that I chose the “healthful” veggie side.  I still could not finish the whole burger.  Delicious, but oh so filling.

 

My sister-in-law chose the potato crusted salmon with honey ginger glaze.Potato crusted salmon with truffle honey glazeAnd my brother chose the chicken carbonara.

Chicken CarbonaraDessert was out of the question.  If you don’t mind the noise level, it’s a great spot for fun food and friendly, knowledgable service.

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Little Sister…LuLu’s

Anyone driving through downtown Richmond can’t help but notice the rampant renovation of our parks, roads, buildings, bus stops that makes it difficult to frequent many of our favorite businesses.  Let me say that LuLu’s on 17th Street is worth the effort.  Eventually, the 17th Street Farmer’s Market will emerge as a beautiful park like oasis nestled between charming restaurants, cafes, diners and small businesses, flanked by the historic Main Street train station.  But for now, it looks like your teenager’s bedroom.

That said, my husband and I searched open table for a nearby brunch spot that would take reservations.  We love Millie’s, but they don’t take reservations for weekend brunch.  We didn’t want to get up early to be at the head of the line, or wait an hour in the rain. As many times as I have walked past or down 17th street, I have not noticed LuLu’s. This was our first foray into this little cozy neighborhood hideaway.  Our waitress described it as Millie’s little sister.  It opened not long after Millie’s and welcomed  big sister’s overflow. Not surprising, since both serve hearty fare with elegance and imagination.  However, Little Sister takes reservations which is a beautiful thing for those of us who like to plan ahead and avoid a long wait. I love how LuLu’s incorporates artwork of the Main Street train station and mirrors the industrial feel of the train station and old neighborhood warehouses in Shockoe Bottoms. lulusrichmond.com

Enough about landscape.  Let’s talk food. This time we chose the Pomegranate Mule, good strong coffee, green tea, Shockoe Florentine, Huevos Rancheros, and the Red Velvet Shortcake…all full of flavor and flare.

The Mule was the perfect brunch cocktail: tasty, but not too boozy.  The Shockoe Florentine offered a perfectly poached egg:tender white and the yolk, when broken cascaded it’s lovely yellow goodness over the potatoes, English muffin laden with Serrano ham, and spinach, mixing with the creamy pimento cheese sauce. So delicious!

My husband enjoyed his Huevos Rancheros and strong black coffee.  I could not resist the Red Velvet waffle shortcake.  I am glad I gave into temptation.  The waffle was fluffy and tender, yet able to hold up to the rich cream cheese filling and strawberries, sauce and whipped cream topping without becoming soggy.

We will definitely return to try more of the brunch offerings and give dinner a try as well.

 

 

Ya Ya’s Cookbook…the best bite before or after a movie

Soon after I began this blog, I decided that I would only share the places I enjoyed.  Ratatouille’s dreaded food critic, Anton Ego I am not.   I am more of a food enthusiast.  It’s been a couple of months since I felt enthusiastic about one of the Richmond eateries we’ve explored, but Ya Ya’s Cookbook is definitely worthy of enthusiasm.

My mom and I decided to catch the last matinee at the Short Pump Regal movie theater, but we got the time wrong and came about an hour early.  We didn’t want to indulge in the usual movie fare of popcorn, soda and candy.  Two Guys Pizza is good, but we weren’t feeling that.  Johnny Rocket’s burgers, shakes and fries, while delicious, too heavy for late afternoon.  But then, cue the angel choir, we noticed a new place beside the movie theater!  The outdoor chalkboards lured us in.

The atmosphere, like the menu, is eclectic Asian.  After living in China and traveling in Thailand and Vietnam, I have an appreciation for Asian street food and Ya Ya’s offers variety without overwhelming with too many choices. The glass top tables, artwork, bicycle tables, industrial decor give a nod to several Asian cultures in a whimsical way.

The avocado rolls and fried spring rolls were the perfect before the show snack.

avocado rolls, fried spring rollsNext time, I’m saving my ticket stub for half priced apps. after the show!

DINAMO…hidden treasure

On 821 West Cary Street, nestled between homes, small businesses and the VCU campus you’ll find a hidden treasure of homemade pasta…DINAMO.  dinamorichmond.com Dinamo is a tiny spot that seats maybe 30 people at once, so if you want to eat there, better make reservations complements of opentable.com.

Accompanied by a fellow foodie friend, I enjoyed the sleek but still charming atmoshphere and superb homemade pasta dishes.

The menu offered a bounty of fabulous choices, making choosing difficult.

Wedding Soup:bread

I opted to begin my meal with the traditional Wedding Soup served with fresh baked bread…divine. My friend chose the tagliatelle with eggplant and I chose the calamari & shrimp with squid ink fettuccine.  Both excellent choices.  The generous portions provided enough for a second meal via our take home boxes.

Now, I must confess, that we both felt duty bound to indulge in at least two of Dinamo’s dessert  options.  I mean, in the interest of thorough investigation an all.   Tiramisu and Limoncello Tart…worth every calorie.

 

The Jefferson Hotel: Virginian Elegance

The Jefferson Hotel is a classic example of Richmond’s brand of Virginian elegance. The lobby hosts a regal likeness of its namesake in an atmosphere that honors both Jefferson’s love of all things French and his native home.

The hotel offers two restaurants of equal elegance. TJ’s offers more casual dining fare in an atmosphere of understated elegance.  Lemaire offers classic French cuisine in an atmosphere of formal elegance.

Both offer the perfect setting for celebrations.  TJ’s is the only place I found in Richmond that offers eggs Benedict on its daily breakfast menu.  Since eggs Benedict is our eldest daughter’s favorite breakfast, it seemed a fitting start to our day of shopping to prepare for her launch into her first adult professional post in Minneapolis.  She chose the vegetarian version of eggs Benedict and I opted for the Rivah omelette which includes one of Virginia’s best ingredients: crab.

Later that week we chose the Lemaire to celebrate my and my husband’s birthdays.  The pickled watermelon salad, heirloom tomato salad and crab cake opened the meal with summer’s bounty. The plates were beautiful, full of enticing texture and flavor combinations and just the right size to wake the appetite.

Our main courses, cooked to perfection, were equally beautiful, delicious and satisfying.  Beef tenderloin with duck fat potatoes, asparagus, crispy shallot, watercress, dijon Demi-glace; thyme roasted cobia with parsnips, garlic confit, tuscan kale, Surry county sausage and carrot butter; organic free-range chick breast with Yukon gold potatoes, shiitake, grilled scallion, chicken leg confit and parmesan cream; and open lasagna with vegetable ratatouille of beech mushrooms, marinated olives and ricotta salata with squash coulis were our choices.

No birthday celebration is complete without a sweet ending. Our finale consisted of  a cheese and fruit plate; lemon/raspberry tart; flourless chocolate cake/caramel mousse and a  creme brûlée’.

Lemaire successfully reminded us that food truly is edible art.

A Philadelphia Classic Comes to Richmond

 

When I was a kid, growing up just outside Philly, Bookbinder’s was the place to go for good seafood whenever you were in the city. I was sad to learn that the original Bookbinder’s closed, but elated to find out that it had re-emerged in Richmond.The Richmond location delivered all of the original elegance and superb seafood that I remembered in Philadelphia.

We began the meal with a classic shrimp cocktail, followed by my stuffed salmon, my husband’s crab cake and our daughter’s steak filet. The garlic mashed potatoes, creamed spinach and asparagus with hollandaise rounded out our meal beautifully.Shrimp cocktail

 

My husband and I shared a crème’ Brule’ and our daughter opted to take home most of the colossal chocolate cake.

The seafood was fresh and cooked to perfection. The service was excellent. The atmosphere was elegant and quiet. Definitely a special occasion spot worthy of several return visits.

Food Books Galore!

In September, we will have lived in Richmond, V.A. for three years. I continue my quest to get to know not only my new city: Richmond, but also my new state: Virginia.

My February trip to Mt. Vernon inspired me to read some of the treasures I discovered in their bookstore and my local library.

mt veron image

It’s taken me several months, but I have finally finished these five great reads: Eight Flavors by Sarah Lohman, Southern Food and Civil Rights by Frederick Douglas Opie, Thomas Jefferson’s Crème Brulee’ by Thomas J. Craughwell, The Best of Virginia Farms by Ci Ci Williamson and Julia Reed’s South- Spirited Entertaining and High Style Fun All Year Long.

Eight Flavors

At first, I thought Lohman’s Eight Flavors was going to be a dry history of American cooking, but Lohman’s anecdotes brought depth to the history because at it’s core, history is about personal stories: people.

Eight Flavors reminded me that we bring our personal fears, bias, and racism to food, yet in spite of ourselves, we love the food of those we fear. Food builds bridges, brings acceptance of a new culture, even if that culture is misunderstood or muddled in interpretation. I.e.: chow mien, chop suey, spaghetti and meatballs….

Southern Food and Civil Rights

Frederick Douglas Opie is a history professor at Babson, College and a regular contributor to Splendid Table. Southern Food and Civil Rights, is just one of his food history books. Opie’s premise is Napoleon’s observation that “an army marches on its stomach”. Throughout the book, Opie demonstrates that feeding protestors was central to all successful civil rights movements. As a child born in the 60’s, my understanding of American civil rights movements was more limited than I realized, so I appreciated learning that as early as the 1930’s, Black communities began protesting and using boycotts to force white store owners to hire people from the neighborhoods where they had businesses and from the communities that shopped in their stores. Once one campaign was successful, word spread throughout the country. One grocery store was even put out of business because it refused to comply. I think that is called “cutting your nose off to spite your face”.

Professor Opie graciously answered my questions about eliminating food deserts in our inner city neighborhoods and offering “great tasting healthier options”. He also directed me to a helpful webcast by Dr. Alvenia Fulton of Chicago.

https://soundcloud.com/thedinnertablewithfredopie/dr-alvenia-moody-fulton-queen-of-nutrition

Thomas Jefferson's Cre'me Brule'e

I knew that Thomas Jefferson was a man of many interests and talents, but I had no idea that he was America’s first foodie.   Thomas Jefferson’s Crème Brulee’ by Thomas J. Craughwell chronicles Jefferson’s enthusiasm for European foods and their introduction into American culture. Jefferson even went to far as to bring his slave, James Hemmings over to Paris so that James could be trained as a French chef. Because slavery was illegal in France, James was officially a free man, so Jefferson had to pay him regular wages and allow him to roam freely on his time off. James even learned to speak French better than his owner. Jefferson promised to give James his freedom once they returned to Virginia, if James would first return to the Virginia and train another slave at Monticello. Jefferson went back on his word, delaying James freedom for several years…because he could. Nonetheless, we have our third President to thank for introducing many varieties of fruits and vegetables, as well as popular dishes like macaroni and cheese and ice cream to the U.S.A.

The best of VA Farms image

The Best of Virginia Farms by Ci Ci Williamson inspired me to make my own list of maple sugar farms, bed and breakfasts, gardens, arboretums, and national parks that I want to visit now that I live in Virginia.

Julia Reed's South

I finished up with Julia Reed’s South Spirited Entertaining and High Style Fun All Year Long by Julia Reed. Julia has inspired me to try to re-create her menus for dinner parties and holiday celebrations. Southern hospitality is real and Ms. Reed brings it alive in her gorgeously photographed book. The photographer, Paul Costello chooses idyllic settings to showcase Ms. Reed’s beautiful food and table settings.