Saturday, September 13, 2014

Mermaid Winery~ Norfolk

Nestled in the back of a small shopping area is Mermaid Winery, boasted as the first "urban winery" in Virginia.  Outside is an adorable seating area with grapes growing along the fence encompassing it, unfortunately we were unable to take advantage of it due to the fact that it was raining this evening.  The ambiance is fantastic, industrial yet homey, with a great bar plus couch seating, as well as tables in the back for dining.  There's an extensive wine list, little of which is local with the exception of Mermaid Wineries wines, which are mostly from Charlottesville.  They offer a wine flight as a tasting, which is $8 by the way, so there's no explanation of the wines just a small piece of paper so you know the origin and varietals of wine.  The wines are delivered in quite a grandiose fashion though, please see the pic attached.  The wines are good, not great, but good, and fairly priced.  They do offer a variety of wine flights for all tastes which is kind of cool if you're looking for something new.  The only complaint we would have is the slow service when we arrived, but we will give them a bit of a break considering a large party arrived as we were ready to order.  It was a pleasure lounging on the couch with a few friends enjoying a glass of wine and chatting.  I would recommend it, a good first date joint.

Mermaid Winery on Urbanspoon

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Bubba n Franks ~ Carrollton

If you're up for trip to Carrollton and you're a barbeque fan you should definitely stop and Bubba n Franks; oh and you must be hungry.  Right off  Route17 (Bridge Rd) in a mini strip mall, you might miss it when you drive by but you won't regret going inside. 
Right when you walk in you can see the open kitchen and you order directly to the left at a counter, which has had the same lady working every time I've been.  She's a sweet, friendly lady too, which fits the personality of the restaurant; decorated with "country" art, old advertisements, records, and finished concrete floors.  We both ordered the same thing, which was about $10.00 each.  You seat yourself, fix your own drink, and then someone will bring out your food when it's ready. 
On to food.  As you can see from the pictures below there's no such thing as a small portion here.  The salads were fresh, crisp and overflowing out of the bowl.  We loooooovvvveee ranch dressing and theirs is fabulous, that homemade kind.  I had fries which were hand cut, nothing special but a good accompaniment, same deal with the macaroni and cheese that Em had.   The hushpuppies are homemade, light and tasty, but a little greasy.  The pulled pork is moist and flavorful, doesn't even need a sauce, but if you want one, they have two choices in squirt bottles by the drink table.  There's a Carolina style sauce that's your basic vinegar based sauce and a Kansas City sauce that has a kick to it and is tomato based.  It's just good barbeque at a great price, don't have a lot of other words for it. 
Overall rating 8 out of 10.

Bubba-N-Frank's Smokehouse on Urbanspoon 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Broken Egg Bistro ~ Suffolk

Emily's little sister (Savannah) is in town tonight, so thought we'd play it safe with what used to be a staple in our restaurant rotation and hit up the Broken Egg Bistro in Suffolk, but this evening our meal was an epic fail.  I want to give them credit that on the majority of our past visits the food and service has been great, please note we did not say all visits, but we're going to focus on this one.  Typically a Friday night at this place is packed but we were seated immediately, and there was no wait when we left this evening.  BE has nightly food and beverage specials, we enjoy Fridays due to the $4 martinis.  After several minutes we were greeted by our server, who did not tell us her name; she took our drink orders and told us about the special, but looked at Emily like she had three heads when asked about the soup of the day.  Someone else delivered the alcohol and our dim witted server delivered Savannah's drink, as we placed our dinner order she again posed a very perplexed facial expression so much so that it became a topic of dinner conversation.  Please note that service is just as important to us as the food itself, and it was seriously lacking this evening. 

We placed our orders.  Savannah ordered the "build your own burger" with tuna (ordered medium), avocado and sprouts on a brioche.  The tuna was bland and dry, no flavor, no burger juiciness,  no nothing, and served with frozen fried onion rings; our server never provided or asked if we've liked condiments either.  I'm going to go off on a tangent here about onion rings.  I understand that some people like the fat, thick onion rings (get your mind out of the gutter) but as a huge fan of the thin, lightly breaded onion ring I feel like a minority.  You can rarely find these, unless you're in my kitchen, so in the next public election I vote to bring back the thin onion rings.  OK I'm done with onion rings, and will get back to our meal.  Emily and I both are trying to lose weight so we attempted to be healthy and both ordered the goat cheese and spinach salad, I ordered a cup of chili to accompany mine and she ordered the spinach artichoke dip as an accompaniment. We'll start with the spinach dip-bland again, tasted store bought from the freezer section at the grocery store, maybe not even that good.  The chili, well you can get better at Wendy's and for cheaper if that's you're thing.  It also came with cheese and onion, which according to the menu was available upon request and I did NOT request. 

Before we go into our rant about the goat cheese salad, I'd like to comment on the beverages.  We both ordered martinis for our first round, come on who can resist a $4 martini.  We ordered different drinks, but both had the same complaint, too strong.  I like my alcohol, but damn, I don't want it to blow me away on the first sip.  Second round, Emily says her pineapple up down cake was better than her first drink.  I ordered the "cherry bomb," but no cherries were present when delivered; our brain dead server did recognize this mistake and returned my drink with a cherry, it was better but nothing special.

THE SALAD:  the epic fail of the evening; please note that if you order this salad it is not what is advertised on the menu.  Let me begin with the one positive of the salad:  the panko crusted goat cheese.  It is delicious, good portion size, cooked well, no complaints.  So the salad on the menu is described as "panko crusted goat cheese with spinach, kalamata olives, roasted red peppers and cherry peppers stuffed with prosciutto and provolone dressed in a red wine vinaigrette."  So for the not so positive, consistency seems to be the first visual problem as Emily's salad is thoroughly coated in the vinaigrette, however mine is not.  The salad was also topped with whole garlic cloves, I like garlic, but damn, I don't want a whole clove much less 8 in my salad. 

Our biggest issue with this salad was peppers, they were not what was advertised, i.e. not cherry peppers, which are rated a 0 on the scoville scale.  If you're not familiar with the scoville scale it rates peppers on a scale of 0-1.5 million based on hotness, 0 being the mildest.  The jalapeño is rated around a 2500-10000, depending on the cultivation, just to give you an idea of how this scale is rated.  I enjoy spicy food, but this was even too hot for me who loves a jalapeño pepper.  The prosciutto and provolone stuffing was pretty much pointless considering you couldn't even taste it over the flavor of the pepper.  Emily couldn't even eat it, it was so hot.  When explained to our server that the peppers did not seem to be cherry peppers, she stated that was the standard pepper that they had always used for this dish.  Another employee, who never identified himself as a manager then approached our table and inquired about our meal, we explained our concern about the peppers to him as well and his response was basically the same as our servers, he did agree to take the tuna burger off our bill after our complaint that it was dry. 

Just so you  know, if you have the Foursquare App on your phone and you check in at BE you can get a free mini dessert.  We were so disappointed in our meal that we decided to skip our free dessert.  Overall a poor experience, especially when you consider being charged $2.59 for a glass of lemonade; as a career food service employee a glass of lemonade costs about $.04, quite a profit they're pulling from that one glass, huh?

Although we've had good meals here in the past, we're both now reconsidering whether we'll return to BE in the future. 

The Egg Bistro on Urbanspoon

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Six ~ Hampton, VA

So I want to start this post by explaining the concept of a "tapas" restaurant, having read many reviews that were negative about tapas restaurants because not all diners understand this concept.  The definition of tapas is "a wide variety of appetizers or snacks," according to Wikipedia.  It is just that, a variety of genres of food all served in small plates, i.e. appetizer or snack size.  Plates are served as they are made, not all at once, as the original idea of a tapas meal was designed to encourage conversation and not a singular focus on eating an entire meal.  So if you're heading to a tapas restaurant don't expect large portions or one type of food like Mexican or Italian, and don't expect all your items at once; take your time, enjoy your food and fun conversation that's often initiated by the food. 

Ok so on to the review of Six, a tapas restaurant in the Phoebus section of Hampton, VA.  I would first note that Six is an intimate restaurant with only about 9 tables and a bar; tonight we chose to sit at the bar and there was steady flow of traffic during our meal.  We were greeted right away by the staff as there is no hostess and encouraged us to sit wherever we liked.  Just an FYI, we only sat at the bar because we both found the bartender to be quite attractive, there was a table available, but hey we wanted eye candy and a meal.  Six has an extensive alcohol menu; including many wines, beers, cocktails, and martinis; we both chose the sangria that was made with a Shiraz that was sweet, but I could still taste the wine and neither overpowered the other.  After reviewing the menu, which is separated into "cold" and "hot" categories, we chose to start with the pistachio cream cheese stuffed dates and the stone fruit goat cheese bruschetta.  The dates arrived first, Emily is describing the dates to me as "moist and fresh," and we find this completely hilarious, but they were, and the combination of them with the cream cheese and honey was a perfect pairing, but almost dessert like for a first course.  The only drawback to this dish was that the pistachio flavor was very faint in the comparison to the cream cheese and date.  Second dish:  stone fruit goat cheese bruschetta was the clear winner of all six dishes we tasted.  The bread was soft with a slight toast, so it didn't crumble under the toppings, the good quality goat cheese with white peaches, basil and balsamic was an unexpected combination that worked together but complimented each component.  Third dish:  tuna carpaccio with capers, red onion, parsley, evoo, and lemon.  The raw tuna was perfectly sliced and while we expected the pungent taste of red onion to overpower the delicate flavor of the tuna, it did not.  Overall a solid dish that we would order again.  Fourth dish:  lamb gyro with lettuce, tomato, and tzatziki.  This dish was not exactly what we expected based on the description, which was a smaller version of a traditional gyro.  What we did get was more of lamb slider on a pita wedge with the toppings placed on the side.  The lettuce, tomato and onion were lightly flavored with some sort of oil based dressing, and when combined with the sauce and lamb slider, it tasted like an upscale version of a traditional gyro.  On to dessert, a salted caramel brownie a la mode and peach bread pudding, which was an item du jour.  I'm a huge fan of the salty/sweet combination and found the salty was lacking on the brownie, otherwise it was a typical brownie with ice cream, nothing that stood out from other brownie a la mode's I've had in the past.  As for the peach bread pudding, which was still steaming when it arrived, it had the perfect combo of bourbon and peach flavor but as with the brownie, was nothing special above and beyond your normal bread pudding.

Having worked in food service for 12 years, service is just as important to me as the food.  The bartender was attentive without being annoying and smothering us.  No chain restaurant "up sales" here, but willing to offer an opinion on the menu items when asked. 

Overall rating on a scale of ten, we'd give it an 8.  Definitely worthy of a revisit, especially considering their menu changes often and we're always up for a new and innovative dish. 

Six Little Bar Bistro on Urbanspoon