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.

 

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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.

 

 

MIJAS…Carlos Londono’s tribute to his daughters

Richmond Restauranteur, Carlos Longdono’s newest offering of Central American cuisine is Mijas Mexican Kitchen and Cantina.  Located in Shockhoe Slip in the former La Grotta location of 1218 E. Cary St., Mijas is upscale without being stuffy.  I loved the white linen tablecloths, chandeliers, and Mexican artwork.

Service is attentive and friendly, but not intrusive.  We started with drinks and Mejas Mexi Rolls.  My husband had a couple Dos XX Lagers and I had the divine Pina Colada.  The Pina Colada was so delicious that I saved it for dessert.  The Mexi Rolls were a tasty spin on a traditionally Asian appetizer.  The cilantro sauce truly made them exceptional.  We leisurely enjoyed our drinks, appetizers and chips/salsa without being rushed into the main course.  We appreciated that our waiter held the entree order until we finished our appetizer, honoring our request to let us take our time.

I was tempted by the delicious laditos (sides), but I am glad that I resisted this time because our platos portions were generous.

My husband chose the grilled pibil (pork cooked in banana leaves) tacos and I chose the pibil entree’.  The fried plantains were especially delicious and the pickled onions atop the rich pork and rice provided just the right touch of bright acidity.  I will say that I took more than half of the plate home to share the next day with our daughter.

Next time, I think we will share an entree and try some of the those tempting laditos, and maybe leave room for Flan, Tres Leches, or Pots de Creme.

Virginia Historic Gardens Tour 2017

Although I have live in Virginia for almost three years now, this is the first year that I  found out about the Virginia Historic Gardens Tour.  An avid gardener myself, I had to go to at least one of several tours offered in and around Richmond.  I chose the Windsor Farms tour: a glorious neighborhood planned in the 1920’s to resemble an English village.  One of the homes that was moved to the neighborhood dates back to 1745.  The gardens were beautifully manicured.  Some were quite old, originally designed and landscaped by Gillette.  The tour also included a tour inside the homes, which were as stunning as their gardens. The last stop on the tour was Jefferson’s boyhood summer haunt, Tuckahoe Plantation.

The ticket was expensive $45 at various vendors prior to the event, or $50 at the tour site.  However, since the proceeds go to restore and maintain historic public gardens and state parks, I felt it was worth it. If the cause wasn’t worthy enough, the inspiration certainly was.

My photos don’t begin to capture the beauty of the tour, but they will at least give a glimpse.  STYLE MAGAZINE did a wonderful feature on the tour…that’s how I found out about it.  Check out their article.

A $15 luncheon was offered at the Tuckahoe women’s club, but I was too determined to visit every garden, so I did not bother to take a lunch break.  Free water bottles and comfort stations were also offered along the tour route.

I plan to take a different Richmond tour every year, before I venture out to Virginia’s many other historic gardens.  The tour is certainly well attended-I met visitors from Kentucky, North Carolina, and Maryland as well as from all over Virginia.  Large tour buses jostled between patrons and parked cars throughout the neighborhood.

Lured to Kitchen on Cary

Kitchen on Cary’s appetizers at this year’s Gator Gourmet lured us to their restaurant last night.  Chef Michael MacNight knows how to wow with farm to table offerings.  Located in historic Shockoe Slip, this sleek eatery offers more than great food and atmosphere…the live guitar music made for an extra special date night.

We started our meal with with a Golden Beet Salad and some Truffle Fries.  The golden beets are a bit sweeter and milder than the common red variety.  Served on a bed of baby mixed greens, sprinkled with goat cheese then topped with a bright vinaigrette the beets were a triumph.  We tried to save some of the Truffle Fries to eat with the meal, but they were just too delicious.

The menu said meatloaf, but when our server delivered it to the table…well, let me tell you, it wasn’t Mom’s meatloaf!  This meatloaf was more like a chopped steak, wrapped in bacon and topped with a gluten free onion ring served over broccolini and a cloud of mashed potatoes and gravy.  Oh my, sooo good.

Meatloaf

I opted for the Lamb Chops.  Grilled to medium perfection, the generous serving of 3 chops with pomegranate seed sauce over broccolini and mashed potatoes satisfied my longing for lamb.Lamb Chop thriceThe dessert menu tempted, but Lent isn’t over yet, so I finished the meal with a lovely cup of tea.  I coming back for the Rum Chocolata!