Thursday, August 26, 2010

Eating in August

We're more than halfway through the CSA hiatus, and to say that I've been eating well for the past few weeks would be an understatement.  I will say that this is one of the best times of the year for food, between vacation, festivals, and eating out just because. There's something about the time before the students return and while everyone is regrouping for fall that makes me feel lucky to not have to think about school for myself or anyone else.  It's almost as if I have an extra few weeks of summer to enjoy.

Going to the grocery store at the beach is more fun for some reason (Davy said it first and I agree wholeheartedly).  We ate very well in the Outer Banks: roast chicken, lobster, grilled soft shell crabs and tuna, homemade pizza, and a summery risotto that I think was one of my best.  Local tomatoes, green beans, corn and chicken sausage from Harris Teeter were wonderful together with the creamy rice and parmesan cheese.  The kernels of corn added the perfect amount of sweetness to the dish, and also gave it another layer of texture that was very pleasant.  

Lately we've been having a hard time picking places to go for brunch.  A lot of the fan restaurants don't change their menu and we've gone often enough to get sick of them.  Kitchen 64 is good, but we often leave disappointed and feel that it should have been better.  A couple weekends ago we made our way to Tarrant's for Saturday brunch.  I had a Greek omelet with large chunks of feta, artichoke hearts, kalamata olives, tomato, and roasted red peppers.  There were delicious red potato homefries and fresh fruit on the side.  The omelet had three eggs and the plate was huge, but $9.95 still seemed a little pricey to me. Even the brunch menu is more expensive than the dinner menu, it's definitely worth a return trip, especially since the options are more varied than our regular brunch spots.   

Later that day, in the spirit of branching out, I experimented with a new lemonade recipe I'd seen online.  It's not pretty, but the "Balsamic Lemonade Cocktail" is refreshing and tart, with a little added richness from the vinegar.  Essentially, this is homemade lemonade with vodka and 1-2 teaspoons of balsamic vinegar, but it's tasty enough and different enough to become a mainstay.

Our trip to Tarrant's was a result of going to Black Sheep, finding a long wait, and being too hungry to stay.  The same thing happened recently when we tried to go for dinner.  Neither of us had the patience to wait for thirty-forty minutes for a table, and we detoured to Ipanema Cafe.  I happen to love the mostly vegetarian menu and the basement atmosphere there.  They have great drink specials, especially from 5-7 p.m., and there are always good beers on tap.  As an added bonus, one of the servers was a girl who used to work at Bev's when Davy and I were going regularly (and I'm not embarrassed to say she knew our order).  We ordered beers at the bar and were seated within five minutes.  Davy went with the tried and true grilled cheese, and I ate the chili and corn gratin over rice and lentils, which was unique and delicious. 

The Hanover Firefighters Crab Feast has been a highlight of my summer (year?) twice before, and this year's event did not disappoint.  The crabs seemed to be sweeter and meatier this year, and there were endless amounts of them.  

We were also fortunate enough to eat crabs at our friend Keith's the following day, which were even better because he steamed them himself. The Old Bay-style seasoning he got with them was a perfect blend of spiciness and sweetness, and eating crabs twice in one weekend is the best possible way to end the summer.  If it's really over, that is.  I may try to stretch it for few more weeks.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

CSA Meals - Weeks 11 and 12

I'm leaving for the beach tomorrow and most of the produce from Week 12 has already been used, so I'm combining this week and last week in my post.

Last Tuesday evening we grilled burgers, corn, and summer squash.  It was a fun, seasonal dinner, although the corn from Victory Farms wasn't wonderful.  When I cut it off the cob for a salad on Thursday, however, it fared much better.  We ate it at a friend's house with arugula, cherry tomatoes, feta, and a red wine vinegar and shallot dressing.  The sweet tomatoes, peppery arugula, salty cheese, and the soft crunch of grilled corn kernels is now one of my favorite salad combinations, and I happily ate the remainders for lunch on Friday.

My parents were in town for the weekend, and I took the opportunity to use up some veggies in a frittata.  We chopped and sauteed zucchini, onion, and tomato before adding eggs to the pan and sliding the whole thing into the oven to broil for a few minutes.  Even though we ate it with cinnamon oatmeal biscuits, it still felt like a healthy breakfast. 

The crisp, sweet peppers were all sliced and eaten with hummus for various days' snacks.

When my parents left on Sunday, they'd generously donated several bright red, homegrown tomatoes to our produce bowl on the counter.  We got two heirlooms in the share on Tuesday, so I seized the opportunity to make scalloped tomatoes.  The recipe was adapted by Deb on, and the original was written by Ina Garten.  I can't say enough about this dish.  It's savory and sweet at the same time, with an almost tangy bite from the caramelized tomatoes and a spicy zest from fresh basil.  We made a meal of it with feta-stuffed zucchini bites

and ate the leftovers on Wednesday on crisp slices of bread.  It's definitely worth making if you have extra, nearly overripe tomatoes around, or even if you just want to make something impressive and tasty that doesn't require a lot of work.


As I mentioned in my previous post, there will be a two week CSA hiatus because of the heat and my vacation.  I'm still going to try to post about what I'm making and eating at restaurants, and hopefully I'll make it to some farmers markets too.   Happy August!

CSA Hiatus

After this week, Davy and I will be on vacation, and then the farm is taking a two week CSA break.  The hot temperatures and lack of rain has significantly slowed their planting down, and they're going to add two weeks of shares onto the end of the session.  Yesterday we got:

- watermelon

- cantaloupe

- heirloom tomatoes

- zucchini

- onions

- peaches

Monday, August 02, 2010

Saturday Night on Cary

I've already professed my love for Can Can several times on my blog, and now I have a new Cary Street restaurant to gush about.  Davy, my parents, and I had one of our favorite meals in Richmond at Acacia mid-town on Saturday night.

Multiple bloggers and reviewers have talked about the delicious homemade cocktails at Acacia, so I was excited to have the chance to sample a few.  I ordered a vodka drink with muddled peaches and ginger, which was fantastic, and my mom got a rum cocktail with lemon and cinnamon syrup.  It was both comforting and exotic, and not overly sweet.  Before I had tasted any of the restaurant's food I was ready to return for that drink.

After an amazing pork belly experience at Helen's, we couldn't resist trying Acacia's version, which was served with shitake mushrooms over seafood salad.  The pork belly was, of course, decadent and flavorful, but not as crispy and meaty as we remembered from Helen's.  We also sampled stuffed halibut cheeks, which were tender and delicious, and barbecued sweet toads.  Sweet toads are taken from the tail of the puffer fish, and the meat is noticeably sweeter than the rest of the fish.

None of us had any complaints about our entrees, and I was lucky enough to sample bites from everyone's plate.  The duck was moist and smoky, the rockfish succulent and substantial, and the softshell crabs melted in my mouth after the initial crunch.  My main course was sauteed black sea bass with "zucchini linguine," broccolini, and pine nuts.  The fish was exceedingly fresh, and the vegetables were perfectly cooked. 

We all looked at the dessert menu, but I wasn't wowed by any of the options; only one mentioned chocolate and that's what I really wanted (for a change).  After we inquired and found out that Acacia doesn't serve espresso, we decided to go to Can Can for coffee and dessert.  The night was very pleasant, especially compared to our recent steamy temperatures, and we wanted to sit outside.  Unfortunately we would have had to wait, but the host seated us by the front windows, which were wide open to let in the (almost) cool air.

Can Can happens to have their desserts divided into categories on the menu, and the chocolate section contains three tantalizing creations.  I opted for the Pastel de Tres Leches, which I've had before, and it was as wonderful as the last time.  There's a sizeable, moist chocolate cake drizzled with ganache on the plate, and a large scoop of chunky cookies and cream ice cream keeping it company.  Neither of them lasted very long once our waiter set the plate in front of me.  

I'm already plotting my next trip to Acacia, which may just be a quick stop at the bar to enjoy a drink with the cinnamon syrup.  More likely, however, the food will keep me on Cary St. for much longer, and the lure of chocolate at Can Can will draw me to the front window.