Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Year in Food

Obviously, 2013 was a big year in running.

But it was also a huge year for food!

So here are some culinary highlights from 2013.


Lift -  I would be afraid to add up all of the cash that I spent at Lift in 2013. From "Meeting of the Minds" breakfasts with Prabir to grab and go lattes, spontaneous lunches, and post-run noms, Lift was my go-to spot. Favorites: Caramel Latte, Fancy Oatmeal, Everything Bagel with Hummus and Greens, Turkey, Apple, & Brie Panini.

Turkey, Apple, & Brie Panini with Pasta Salad

Garnett's Cafe  - This has become known as "Our Place" for Marcey and I. If we can't think of any other place to go, one of us says "How about Our Place?" and it's a done deal. Always a winner, especially for Happy Hour. How can you beat $3 glasses of wine - and not just house wine, but the entire list? Favorites: Devils on Horseback, White Bean Crostini,  Grilled Beef & Gorgonzola Sandwich, WBLT Sandwich, Kale Soup.

Devils on Horseback - so good I had a collage of photos 

Richmond on Broad - When my friend Gail asked if I wanted to meet her for lunch at Richmond on Broad Cafe, I had no clue what she was talking about. This little spot opened in 2013 and is part of the University of Richmond's Downtown presence. It became a hit with me thanks to its build-your-own-salad menu, which is mind-bendingly difficult to figure out, but worth it. Downtown was lacking a good salad place and this filled that culinary dearth nicely. Just take your thinking cap. Favorites: Build-Your-Own Salad, Roasted Butternut Squash and Chicken Salad, ROB Cobb Salad.

Richmond Favorites

Stella's - I don't really think I need to further expound upon the perfection that is Stella's. The Stella's Filet that I ate post-marathon was gastronomical heaven. Favorites: Kreatopita, Mushroom Saganaki, Dolmades, Kalamari, Keftedes, No. 5 Pasta, Stella's Filet, Pikelia, Souvlaki, Stella's Crabcakes, Kotopoulo

Proper Pie - Take your appetite, because I insist that the only way to properly enjoy Proper Pie is to eat both a Savory and Sweet selection in the same sitting. Favorites: Mince & Cheese, Chicken Chile Verde, Sausage Role, Strawberry Rhubarb, Apple & Cheddar.

Bistro 27 - Be adventurous and go for the Chef's Choice. You won't regret it. Favorites: Chef's Choice, Beef Carpaccio, Scallops and Bacon, Beef Ravioli, and whatever the special is (it's always amazing).

Lemaire - A no-brainer when it comes to the question, "Where can we go to feel fancy?" A confession: I've never actually eaten dinner at Lemaire (outside of a wedding reception, which I don't officially count), but I've gone to plenty of Happy Hours, including my 30th Birthday Party.  Put on your LBD, call your girlfriends, and go feel fancy. Appetizers are 3 for $20 and each night features a different drink special, so you won't have to spend fancy. Favorites: Sushi Grade Ahi Tuna Crudo, Artisanal Virginia Cheese Platter, Cornmeal Fried Kosher Dill Pickles, Local Charcuterie Platter, Fried Black Eyed Peas and Shiitake Mushrooms.

La Grotta - When you go to dinner in this subterranean Italian restaurant, you can almost feel like you really are in Italy. My suggestion is to eat like an Italian when you go to La Grotta, meaning have ALL of the courses (split some with your dinner date) and stay there for hours. Feeling Italy withdrawal, Husband and I treated ourselves to a long, four course meal that was worth every penny. We were so full that we could barely walk up the stairs to leave - a sure sign of a good Italian meal. Favorites: Calamri Fritti, Antipasto Del Giorno, Carpaccio di Manzo, Insalata Mista, Insalata Del Cuoco, Fettuccine alla Papalina, Agnolitti alla Panna, Vitello Verdi, Salmone Adriatico, Mousse Cake, Profiterole, Tiramisu, Frutti di Bosca.

Can-Can Brasserie - Since spending a few weeks in Europe this year, I have developed quite a taste for cappuccino. I also learned that the only way to truly enjoy a cappucino is by sitting and drinking it in a leisurely fashion. Taking one to-go is simply a travesty for all involved. With this in mind, I have taken to skipping lunch hour and instead taking a cappuccino hour instead, heading to Can-Can at about 2:30 in the afternoon to enjoy a leisurely cuppa and pastry. Can-Can is also home of the "fragel" - a french bread bagel - and the best croque madame this side of Paris. Favorites: cappuccino, fragel with cream cheese, Croque Madame, Onion Soup Gratinée, Chicken Crêpes, frites.

The Dairy Bar - Feeling like a big, fat breakfast? Head right on over to The Dairy Bar. The benches are uncomfortable as all get out, but your belly will be happy. Due to its proximity to Sports Backers Stadium, The Dairy Bar is a post-MTT-run favorite that we hit up numerous times throughout the training season. Most of my runner friends love "The Griff" - a breakfast sandwich and peanut butter and banana shake combo. Personally, I just love their biscuits. And a Milkshake is an absolute must - it is what they are known for. Favorites: The Mayor, Chili & Cheese Omelet, peanut butter milk shake.

New Richmond Discoveries

The Daily - If I had the money (and was running enough to offset my consumption), I would make The Daily a daily event. Marcey and I enjoyed our "Christmas Date" here the other night and it was nothing short of fabulous. I have a feeling it may become a haunt in 2014. Favorites: Seared Scallops, Edamame Crostinis, Pork Chop with Kale and Sweet Potato Puree, Seared Salmon with Crispy Quinoa Cakes, Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Salted Caramel Ice Cream.

525 @ The Berry Burke - When I worked for the Symphony (YEARS AGO), a vacant space catty-corner from the entrance to the concert hall had "Coming Soon!" signs plastered on it. We waited and waited... and waited. Nothing happened which I worked there, but at long last, this year 525 opened up in the space. Not only is it a great spot to grab a meal before going to see a concert or show at CenterStage (make reservations... everybody else does the same thing and the place is absolutely packed until 8 pm on show nights), it also has a great lunch menu with divine salads. Favorites: Onion Dip, Pot Stickers, Baby Field Green Salad, Prosciutto & Arugala Salad, Seared Sea Scallops, Bourbon & Pecan Bead Pudding, Key Lime Pie.

Dinamo - I haven't yet had Dinamo's dinner, but if you're looking for something different for breakfast, I can't recommend Dinamo enough. The cappuccino is the most authentic Italian-style that I've had stateside and the Eggs in Purgatory are not to be missed. Favorites: Cappuccino, Eggs in Purgatory, Latkes. Edit: I just checked out Dinamo's website and apparently they aren't doing breakfast anymore. Glad I got it while the getting was good! I would still go back to try out Lunch or Dinner.

Eggs in Purgatory, how I will miss you!

Lunch - A tiny, tiny hole in the wall place in the Scott's Addition neighborhood, I discovered Lunch when I attended a production at the nearby Richmond Triangle Players theater and the ticket included a coupon for the restaurant. Seats are hard to come by and if you're lucky enough to snag one, you'll find out why. Thought I've only been at lunchtime, they also serve breakfast and dinner. Favorites: Loaded Spinach Salad (it's huge!), The Old Country Kitchen (Grilled Cheese Sandwich & Soup), The Fay Sandwich

Loaded Spinach Salad with side of Potato Salad

Beyond Richmond

Lu Chat Noir, Washington, DC - Ever since BFF and I went to Paris in May 2010, we take every opportunity that we can to try to capture a bit of Paris here in the States. I can tell you that it pretty much impossible... Paris is Paris and there is nothing like it. But we did find this restaurant in Northwest DC that comes close. Just this past weekend we had an absolutely wonderful brunch, complete with baguette that was perfectly crusty yet chewy. Favorites: Crèpe fourrée, Salade au chèvre chaud, Bijoux de boeuf sauce au poivre, Poulet grand-mère, Saumon nordique, Eggs Norvégiens, all of the crepes.

Grano's Pasta Bar, Baltimore, MD - In September, Husband and I traveled to my least favorite city for a wedding. Deep into marathon training, I needed to do a long run on Saturday morning and therefore needed some good carb loading the night before. An Urban Spoon search later and I found Grano's Pasta Bar. It is pretty much a kitchen with a few chairs - you build your own pasta, which is then cooked right in front of your eyes. A very authentic Italian experience, I loved it so much that I dragged Husband back the next day for lunch. Favorites: Pomodoro, Pesto, and Vodka sauces, any of the fresh pastas (cooked to al dente perfection), meatball, cannoli, and cappuccino.

Penne with Pomodoro Sauce, fresh bread and spiced olive oil 

L'amuse Guele, Paris, France - The two hours that I spent at L'amuse Guele were the single most heavenly 2 hours of my life during 2013. I have to tell  you how I found this place, because it is a wonderful tale of connections.

I was feeling melancholic and missing Paris, so I searched for books about Paris on amazon.com and came across Karen Chase's "Bonjour 40: A Paris Travel Log".  I downloaded and devoured the book. I loved it so much and found that Karen and I had loved so many of the same things about Paris that I sought our her website and left a note on her blog. I also "liked" her on Facebook and soon discovered that she too lives in Richmond. A few months later, she published the book in hard copy and I entered a contest put on by another local blogger, Kelly of Austen Hill, to win a copy. I did win, and suggested that instead of mailing the book, we should all meet at Can-Can to sigh about Paris together. Which we did! I had so much in common with these two ladies that we are now all good friends who happy hour/breakfast/lunch regularly. In September, I had the opportunity to be in Paris for 24 hours, so I naturally asked Karen for her advice on how to spend that time. She insisted that I go to L'amuse and connected me with its owner, Dorothee, via Facebook.

When I walked into L'amuse a few weeks later, Dorothee recognized me immediately, kissed me, and treated me like an old friend. To be honest, I can't even recall what I ate there beyond telling you that I ate it slowly and cherished every bite to its fullest, trying to make those moments last forever.

Every Single Place That We Ate At in Italy (except the crappy tourist trap in Venice) - Everything we ate was delicious. All food tastes better in Italy... even the packets of sugar and honey. No, I am not exaggerating. Most of the places were holes in the wall that I will never be able to tell you the name of, but I did carefully record some:  Ristorante Antico Gatoleto in Venice, Ristorante Fortunato in Rome, Giolitti Gelateria in Rome, Li Rioni a Santiquattro in Rome, Osteria del Porcellino in Florence, Casa Tratorria in Florence.

The Restaurant in St. Goar, Germany Where I Ate This Jagerschnitzel: 

I've always said that one of the main reasons that I run so much is because I like to eat a lot, and the above clearly shows that! Frighteningly enough, I didn't even cover all of the places that we tried out in Richmond this year (yes, there are more!).

That's what 2014 is for, right?

Now if only this injury would calm down and I could get back to running to offset all of my culinary adventures.

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