Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Belvidere at Broad

After an unsuccessful attempt to try The Belvidere at Broad after Thanksgiving, Davy, my parents and I went for dinner last week. The interior reminded me of a cleaner, brighter, slightly larger Fan bar, with a row of booths on one side, tables in the front, and a bar on the other side.

Chalkboard menus indicated drink specials, beers on tap, and food specials for that night. Our server was accommodating and friendly, and the bartender made my mom an excellent Manhattan with rye-soaked dried cherries.

My dad ordered the soup special, which was roasted red pepper and crab, and there was enough for all of us to have a few spoonfuls. It had a velvety texture and plenty of crab meat throughout the bowl, but it wasn't so rich that it ruined any of our appetites.

I ordered the turkey and white bean burger with a side of roasted root vegetables, and as soon as it came to the table I wanted to devour everything on the plate. The substantial burger was served on a ciabatta roll with feta, roasted red peppers, and a few other toppings, and the roasted vegetables were delicious without much seasoning.

The other dishes at our table were tequila grilled shrimp with mashed potatoes and brussels sprouts, "Sake Ginger Glazed Grilled Salmon" with rice and various vegetables, and the entree special, which was pan-seared duck. All of them were brightly flavored, with appealing yet simple presentations.

The Belvidere at Broad is casual enough for a regular weeknight dinner, but the food is carefully prepared and sophisticated enough for a special occasion. If you have friends or family visiting Richmond, or you're the one doing the visiting, I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Chicken, Pot Roast and Trifle

I think I'm finally out of the takeout and eating at restaurant rut that characterized a lot of lunches and dinners in the fall. Looking back over my cooking patterns since Thanksgiving, it seems that I'm depending on some easy, quick and reliable dinners. For example, I've been eating a lot of chicken. After I made a roast chicken and we got a couple of meals out of it, I made soup with the bones and the rest of the meat. There's are at least four servings of the chicken noodle soup in the freezer, waiting for Davy or me to get a cold or need some extra comfort.

Whole Foods had nice snow peas, and that prompted a stir fry dinner with boneless chicken breasts and some leftover broccoli. The other half of the chicken went into an enchilada casserole, which is a simplified version of my rolled, baked enchiladas. Both the stir fry and casserole allowed us to have at least one extra serving of leftovers for subsequent dinners and lunches.

I had never made pot roast before, probably because I didn't really eat it growing up, but the Pioneer Woman's recipe (I saw it posted on Seriouseats.com) intrigued me. It's a substantial yet very simple dinner if you have a Dutch oven, and I think it also makes an impressive meal for guests or anyone else you want to show off your cooking skills to. We had it for our holiday dinner with Shannon and John, and it lent itself to an easy presentation.

Shannon made a mouthwatering, three-cheese macaroni and cheese, and we had green beans from her garden as the vegetable. I made Giada De Laurentiis' Chocolate, Chesnut, and Orange Trifle, which I managed to mess up only a little after hunting down the chestnut component. The recipe calls for chestnut paste, an ingredient I knew I would have trouble finding. Someone who made the trifle said they found at Whole Foods, so I went and tried to find it, but the closest I came was chestnut cream. The nice guy who helped me even gave me the cream for free since they didn't have what I was looking for!

Despite the alternate chestnut material and the fact that I forgot to sprinkle orange simple syrup on the last two layers of pound cake, the dessert was pretty tasty. I made sure to chop plenty of bittersweet Ghirardelli chocolate on the top to make up for my minor mistakes, and it's only gotten better with age.

Monday, December 14, 2009

On to Winter

I almost don't want to admit it, but I love Whole Foods. I know I should be going to Ellwood Thompson's, but something about the shiny new store keeps drawing me back. Every time I go I find more fresh produce and another intriguing ingredient. On one of my trips, rockfish was on sale, and I brought home a sizeable piece for dinner. I placed it in a foil packet and laid some slices of lemon over the top. After drizzling the fish with olive oil, some dry vermouth, and parsley, I closed the foil and baked it for 15-20 minutes until it was just cooked through.

I spent my first traditional Thanksgiving away from home this year, so my parents and Evan came to Richmond the weekend before the holiday. We went to Helen's, which was Davy's and my second experience there. Both of us remembered the food being impressive but a little fancier and more expensive than we would have liked, but the cuisine and atmosphere at Helen's have relaxed. I would classify our entrees as traditional instead of sophisticated: chicken pot pie, pork tenderloin, a variation of fish and chips, Tuscan pasta, and sirloin. Everything was prepared with care and was extraordinarly delicious.

A few years ago I made a chickpea soup with ditalini that I have craved from time to time every since. I didn't save the recipe, so I was excited to find a very similar version by Jamie Oliver in his book Jamie's Italy. He describes the soup as a cross between a pasta dish and a soup because it is very hearty and thick. The base of the recipe is onion, garlic and celery, and I added a spicy Italian pepper.

Two cans of chickpeas and chicken stock went in after the sauteed vegetables. After everything simmered together, I removed half of the chickpeas and used my immersion blender to puree the other ingredients.

Finally, I added a few ounces of ditalini, let the soup boil until the pasta cooked through, and finished it off with fresh parsley and olive oil. It's a very substantial (meatless) meal, and especially satisfying in cold weather.

As Christmas approaches, there are an increasing number of occasions featuring food. Davy made me a special, tasty dinner of salmon over puff pastry, roasted potatoes, and sauteed chard.

Shannon and John came over yesterday for our annual holiday meal, and there will be some photographic highlights to share later this week, along with another round of Whole Foods encounters.