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.

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!

D.C.’s Old Ebbitt Grill

My husband and I had the pleasure of spending a day in D.C. with some Minnesota friends. Lunch combined some of our favorites: Friends, Food and History.  Old Ebbitt Grill has been a Washington D.C. watering hole of Presidents and dignitaries since President Grant.  The current location is not the original, but the beer stein collection is.  The bar is a replica of the F Street location and the clock above the entrance was saved from the previous location. The gas lamps look authentic for the period.

Marble floors and staircases, original to the old National Metropolitan Bank next door, grace the restaurant as well.  The whole atmosphere tells the tale of powerful men meeting amid masculine symbols of hunting, strong spirits, fine dining and wealth.

The food is spectacular as well.  Old Ebbitt’s serves the best lump crab cakes I have ever tasted, bar none.  The trout was praiseworthy as well.  Attentive service completed our memorable luncheon.  If you want to dine there, don’t forget reservations…the place was packed on a Tuesday afternoon!

Afterwards, enjoy a walk and take in the White House, Eisenhower Executive office building complex, Washington Monument and some clever D.C. humor.

The New, Chic Peter Chang

My family is thrilled that Peter Chang has opened a second location on Broad and Boulevard…much closer to us than the Short Pump location.  The new Peter Chang’s is chic-very downtown.  The new menu includes Peking Duck-definitely a must try when the whole family is in town.new Peter Chang: Peking Duck

The cold Wood Ear Mushroom appetizer reminded me of our time in Chengdu, and the Calamari appetizer was a great twist on the Italian standard.

We enjoyed some of the new dishes that were not previously on the Short Pump menu:  Sweet and Sour lotus root and Shredded Chicken. Delicious!

Of course, we indulged in our must haves: Sichuan Peanut Chicken and Shrimp, Pea Pods and Asparagus.

Give the new location a try.  The food is fabulous, the service superb and the decor divine!

GATOR GOURMET 2017

My daughter is a Gertie Girl, so I get the inside track on the annual Gator Gourmet event at Saint Gertrude High School on Stuart Avenue.  It has become one of our favorite annual events; one that we will continue beyond our daughter’s graduation.  This year’s winners were North End Juice Co. for best dish; Rare Olde Times for best dessert; Elegant Cuizines for best display.

Tuna Tartar Cones,   Bailey’s Irish Whiskey Cheesecake,   Gator cupcakes

However, I must tell you that there were some other vendors that also knocked it out of the park for flavor and flair.  Kitchenette served a remarkable gingersnap/warm cheesecake appetizer that was something I’d like to have at my next party. Morton’s prime rib and triple chocolate cake balls were tough competitors for two of the winning categories.  Buddy’s brisket reuben bites were melt in your mouth amazing. Cater 2 Events’ sweet potato ham biscuits were another memorable taste sensation.  Best Cafe’ VMFA offered their wonderful tarragon chicken salad; Kitchen on Cary served deviled ham as well as some pork rind appetizers that were delicious and attractive.  Birdie’s showed up with her dependably good pimento cheeses; Honey Baked Ham returned to give us tasty turkey and ham and bourbon chocolate cake.  Support Suppers revealed a whole new way to bring delicious, elegant food to shut-ins, mothers of newborns,  or friends and family recovering from illness; Zoe’s Kitchen brought some delightful hummus and pita; newcomer: Two and a Half Irish-men wowed with gingerbread and Irish soda bread; Mellow Mushroom returned with their dependably delicious pizza; Patrick Henry’s drink mixes wowed with 3 different choices, and Sara Ayyash donated yet another stunning cake that gave the winning display a run for its money.

Welcoming Spring and Saint Patrick to Church Hill

Daffodils and tulips abounded; cherry and dogwood blossoms revealed their glory in time to welcome Saint Patrick to Church Hill.   The annual St. Patrick Festival offered plenty of wonderful Irish food: corned beef, beef brisket, bangers (sausages), Irish soda bread, gingerbread, and scones, fish and chips or even a burger if you wouldn’t venture to try the Irish fare. I opted for the Irish twist on BBQ by Alamo BBQ:  The Irish Train Wreck.

Alamo BBQ Irish Train Wreck

There were green beards, kilts and bagpipes a plenty.  Wandering the Broad St.  blocks between 24th and 26th Streets, I was entertained by traditional Irish folk music, Irish rock n’ roll and young Irish dancing troupes at the various pavilions all for a free will offering of $5, or whatever you could spare.

If you fancied a souvenir T-shirt, St. Balderick’s offered some great options. If you were looking for a traditional Irish wool sweater, Irish coat of arms or crosses, or some traditional Irish jewelry there were some beautiful offerings from the vending tents.  St. Baldricks Irish wares standDefinitely something to make an annual tradition.