Tuesday, February 28, 2012

V-day at L'Étoile

Elizabeth wishes there were 2 more.  They were yummy.
Because we're high rollers, we decided to have a fancy prix-fixe Valentine's Day dinner at L'Étoile (you DO pronounce the last 'l' - saying "L'etoi" sounds TOO pretentious).  For our first course, Elizabeth had the raw oysters, and Ben had the foie gras au torchon (talk about pretentious!) with marmalade. Elizabeth was a little disappointed at the paltry number of oysters she got - probably because, compared with Ben's foie gras, it was puny!  But honestly, Ben's appetizer was quite large, particularly by fine dining standards.  There was a large slice of foie gras and a bunch of other fun things.  Apparently torchon comes from the French for "dish towel" and is made by putting the foie gras in a towel and then poaching it. By the way, Elizabeth bought Ben the French Laundry Cookbook, which describes how to serve foie gras au torchon.

No trip to a nice French restaurant would be complete
without a little (or a lot of) foie gras.
Okay, just look at the pictures. My text description has gotten ridiculously pretentious ridiculously fast.

In the foreground is Elizabeth's filet.  Off in the distance is Ben's delicious
duck breast.  By the end of the night, after foie gras and duck breast,
Ben was quacking.
Crème brûlée.  Another classic.
Ben had the cheese plate to mix things up.  He'd never done
a cheese plate before.  Good choice. 
Elizabeth had crème brûlée for dessert (with all the accents, this paragraph might be the most pretentious one in the post).  Her words: "Whenever I crack the top, it always reminds me of the movie Amélie.  Well, actually I'm not sure I've ever had crème brûlée before. But I've cracked a lot of fictional crème brûlées in my head, and all those fictional crème brûlées remind me of Amélie."  It seems reasonable that a dessert as delicious and fun as crème brûlée could inspire dreams and fantasies like these.

Neither of us really think much about French food, and while L'Étoile is a fantastic restaurant that we planned on visiting eventually, it never really our short list of fancy places to try until recently.  (You have to pick and choose when you're on a law student budget - also, ordering that extra glass of wine or dessert can feel a little wrong when we're staring at almost $300,000 in combined law school debt in only a few short months.  Can't wait!)  But L'Étoile did not disappoint.

Perhaps, given the cost of dining there (we spent over $200 on this meal), we may not be back before we leave.  And it's hard to fathom eating this decadent, rich cuisine more often than just special occasions.  But maybe you will see Ben try out a few recipes from the French Laundry cookbook.  We will be sure to share our successes (or failures) with you.

C & D

Dinner at Brookville

Honestly, we never thought we would go to Brookville because, well, no one we know has ever gone there, and plus the website looked weird.  But the website changed!  So anyway, we decided to go, and we are so glad we did because the food and service were great.  Here are some pictures (note: not pictured - our appetizer of delicious shrimp and an amuse-bouche that slips our mind - again, the perils of not posting promptly):

Elizabeth had the fried chicken thigh on a bacon waffle.
Ben had the lamb dish, which featured lamb shoulder and chops.
Pretty good.

We shared the root beer float with bacon ice cream.  The menu was a little
bacon-heavy.  Nothing wrong with that.
All in all, it was pretty good meal.  Ben thought the chef sounded a little pretentious - we got a speech about local food at the beginning from our waiter that wasn't especially unique (many restaurants in Charlottesville source locally, e.g. The Local), and there were a lot more suggestions on what to order than normal.  Even still, the food was pretty good, and we'll probably be back at some point.  Where else can you get bacon ice cream?

C & D

Monday, February 27, 2012

Orzo Anniversary Dinner

Back to Orzo Kitchen and Wine Bar!  We really enjoy Orzo every time we come here but for some reason, it hasn't been on the tippy top of favorite places to eat.  It probably doesn't help that every time we look at the menu, we can never remember anything that we've ordered before.  It's like we have fond feelings but no actual knowledge to prove it.  Good but unmemorable food.  That feeling changed with this visit.  Orzo was on their A-game all night and at the end, we were both ready to put Orzo up there with the Local, Mas, and Fossett's and all the other fabulous fine dining establishments we're lucky to have in our li'l town of Charlottesville.

Ben resisted the urge to dive head-first into the plate
as Elizabeth took this picture.
Ben ordered the braised Niman Ranch pork belly, Carolina shrimp, creamy polenta, and caramelized Brussels sprouts.  This was SO delicious, especially, surprisingly, the Brussels sprouts.  I actually love Brussels sprouts but these were outshining the pork belly.  (A nod to you vegetarians. See, we like vegetables!)  The sprouts were just cooked to absolute perfection all around. The shrimp reminded me of the delicious and popular shrimp at Mas.

Dear Orzo, Thank you for cooking me perfectly.  My
death was not in vain.  Sincerely, Salmon
Elizabeth ordered the herb-dijon crusted salmon, orzo "risotto," truffle butter, toasted almonds and braised leeks.  The salmon - just cooked to perfection.  We cleaned our plates, the both of us.

We're pretty sure we ordered the arancini di riso:  risotto, ricotta, scallion pistou, remoulade with Italian white anchovies.  That app, the one we actually had, was a total winner, and the extra Italian white anchovies - they cost $3, were totally worth it.  Look at us, big spenders.  A lot of people don't like anchovies (anchovies are another one of our favorite tapas at Mas), but you're definitely missing out (an anti-nod to vegetarians there).  More anchovies for us then.

A good night was had by all.  And by all, we mean the two of us.  Yay Orzo!

C & D

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Restaurant Week at Fossett's

Charlottesville had Restaurant Week from January 23 - 29, so we decided to take the opportunity to go to Fossett's.  Of course, we accidentally wrote the date of our reservation wrong.  Elizabeth recorded the dinner as happening on Tuesday, but it turns out our reservation was for Saturday.  Luckily, Fossett's had room for us anyway, so we didn't get all dressed up for nothing.

For our appetizers, we had the hand rolled trofie, which was made of braised local lam shoulder, rosemary and stony man cheese.  Trofie are gnocchi made with flour, water and a little bran.  stony man cheese seems to be local Virginia cheese.

Everything we had (including the trofie) was just amazing, so we thought we'd share some pictures we took.  Enjoy!

From pancetta wrapped monkfish, braised red cabbage, mustard nage,
rye croutons.

Wagyu beef, horseradish beignets, maitre d'butter, crispy garlic,
parsley fonduta.  Yum.

Duck confit with ricotta gnocchi, baby mustard greens, butternut squash
nage and cracklin's.  At least, we think this is that...
This is the problem of very late updating.

Frozen vanilla bean souffle, red wine
poached, spiced Albemarle apples.
Ben had the souffle pictured left, and Elizabeth had the Sticky Toffee Pudding with Medjool Dates and whipped Devonshire Cream but the picture came out fuzzy. This souffle was much better anyway.

Some of our friends mentioned that Fossett's went with the B menu (i.e. no super fancy ingredients like foie gras) because of Restaurant Week.  We don't know if that's true, but we do know that our meal was fantastic.  Hopefully we'll have a chance to go one more time before departing to DC.  And if not, then maybe we can make the 2.5-hour drive every now and then.

We're still working on our backlog of pictures and commentary, so hopefully we'll have a few more posts in the coming days.

C & D

Tomato, Burrata, and Spinach Salad

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Fish Friday: Cod Fish & Chips

Sorry this image is so phallic.
We borrowed the fish recipe from Alton Brown, using some fresh cod.  (Also, we used a Fat Tire from the beer - at some point we'll write an ode to Fat Tire.)

C & D

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Roadtrip: From Los Angeles to Austin, TX

The crab claw curry and pineapple fried rice from Jitlada.
It has been a while since we've posted here.  This is in part because 1) it is difficult to find the energy to write after spending 8 hours on the road, and 2) classes have started again.  Thus we have a bit of a backlog of things to talk about.  (After this post, we have to talk about our recent trips to Orzo and Fossett's.)

We decided to do the roadtrip for reasons that are unclear to us in retrospect.  Even so, we had a fantastic time over our seven days of traveling.  We also got to try some interesting food (though we won't bore you with tales of the footlong Spicy Italian sub from Subway).

The Crying Tiger from Jitlada.
We started in Los Angeles, and for dinner we went to one of our favorite Thai restaurants, Jitlada, with some friends from the area.  We first went to Jitlada in January 2011, when searching for a random place to eat after coming from the Griffith Observatory.  We ended up going back about a week later (our trip to LA was about 10 days long).  This is definitely the best Thai restaurant we've ever been to.  In addition to being especially delicious, many of the dishes here are SPICY.

We started with the tom kha soup, which was so delicious that the table decided to order seconds.  For our entrees, we had the crab claw curry, crying tiger, and pineapple fried rice.  Though all thought the crab claw curry was delicious, Ben probably ended up eating most of it given its insane level of heat.  (Elizabeth may have blacked out momentarily from the spiciness - we didn't know that was possible.)  The crying tiger, which apparently was featured on Food Network's The Best Thing I Ever Ate, was also delicious.  The pineapple fried rice served as a nice contrast to the heat of curry and crying tiger, and the presentation in a carved out pineapple was lovely.  We're definitely looking forward to coming back here next time we're in LA.

Ben just had a steak, but he tried some elk too.  Delish.

After LA, we drove eastward, making stops in Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon, Santa Fe, and Texas.  Sadly, we did not get the full picture of Southwest cuisine during the rest of the trip, but there were definitely some highlights.  Staying at the Grand Canyon, for example, Elizabeth tried elk for the first time, and it was pretty good.  Neither of us had ever seen elk on a menu before, though we did see plenty of signs along the road telling us to watch out for them.

The elk, with delicious mashed potatoes and veggies.
Mmm... brisket and ribs.

When we got to Texas, though, we did go to two standout places.  The first was Smitty's, in Lockhart, Texas.  Lockhart, which bills itself as the "BBQ Capital of Texas," has several great barbecue places to choose from.  Ben has previously been to Smitty's, and we decided to go back.  We ordered the brisket, some ribs, and sausage.  Served with some bread, an avocado, and a couple of Shiner Bocks, the meat was phenomenal: juicy, flavorful, tender, delicious, juicy... all the things that make great barbecue great.  And, of course, no sauce was necessary.  (It's apparently a crime to ask for sauce for your barbecue in Texas.)
Ribs, with a side of lovely avocado.

When we got to Austin, we went to a "trendy" Mexican restaurant called Takoba.  Elizabeth had a mango-habanero margarita, and Ben had a house Mexican martini.  Both were quite yummy - the mango-habanero margarita had a lovely kick to it too.  We started with the queso fundido, and for our entrees, Ben had the tacos al pastor and Elizabeth had the tortas de carnitas.  It was a fantastic meal - though inexplicably Ben couldn't finish his food, and Elizabeth rightly made fun of him.

Adding spice to fruity beverages?  Jitlada, meet Takoba.

The queso fundido.  So yummy - this may have been the
dish that put Ben away.

The tortas de carnitas.  Fabulous.

The tacos al pastor.  Ben could only wave wistfully at these.
And also taste them.  Yummy.

All in all, it was a great trip, and we ate pretty well.  Next time, Orzo and Fossett's, two of our favorite places to eat in Charlottesville.

A tomato from a friend's garden in Riverside, CA
A Louis Vuitton Store in Vegas - not actually edible
Everything's more syrupy in Texas
C & D