Kimchi Tasting by Gingko

 
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Dessert Course: summer hibiscus rice cloud, kimchi puree, puffed wild rice, wild berries ~ Chef Collin Wagner

It’s always great when a dinner exceeds all expectations. I’m usually dubious about multi-course dining because usually, one or two items drag down the entire experience. But this was not the case with Cassie Keene’s Gingko Kimchi Tasting held last Sunday, June 10th at Kitchen Thyme.
I couldn’t really pick my favorite dish, each held their own in a delicious and memorable way. Such impeccable plating. I’m not really big on frou-frou, “tweezer-to-death” kind of dishes,but I do welcome good presentations as long as they could deliver on flavor.

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plating the first course

 A friend and I were with 2 other couples at our table. One couple was Steve and Sarah Kim of Kimkim sauce and Steve knows Korean food. Interestingly enough, the other couple was Asian – the guy was also Korean but I’m not sure if his wife was. And we were quite the collective group of food-obsessed peeps – our conversations ranged (and lingered quite a while on/) from Korean fried chicken to the best pho and bahn-mi and of course what kimkim sauce was good for – fried eggs and mac and cheese. Oooh, and apparently Queens Dim Sum in the same Steinmart shopping center could give Full Kee a run for its dimsum money.
Anyway, I digress.
The kimchi was excellent. The dishes paired with them, perfect. So here they are in order of appearance.

 
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1st Course: cucumber kimchi gazpacho, smoked duck, cumin yoghurt, shaved radish, borage ~ Chef Tim Bereika
 
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2nd course: Nappa Cabbage kimchi, charred calamari, roasted potato, black olive puree ~ Chef John Maher
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3rd course: Watermelon rind kimchi with rosemary, Va honey-glazed pork belly ~ Chef Ryan Evans

We had an amazing palate cleanser. 

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palate cleanser: rvabeermeister Mango Hefeweizen sorbet with pickled mango and black pepper ~ Chef John Maher
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4th course: Shaved daikon radish kimchi, 48 hour beef brisket, fried green onions, smoked fish sauce emulsion ~ Chef Aaron Hoskins
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5th course: ramp kimchi, grilled sardines, pickled ramp ~ Chef Randall Doetzer

The ramp kimchi could be my favorite kimchi. Served with grilled sardines and pickled ramps, the Asians at our table (yes, me included) started craving some hot steaming rice to go with the kimchi and sardines. Or maybe we were all just high on kimchi. 🙂

Anyway, all good things must come to an end. The rice cloud (featured at the top of this post) effectively prepared our palate for the sweet ending. I could eat 10 of that donut with the dulce de leche pastry cream.

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dessert course: kimchi macaron, kimchi donut with dulce de leche pastry cream, kimchi dusted truffle ~ chef collin wagner, chef tim bereika, chef john maher

Uhm, and I think the boys were having too much fun. 😉

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*all pictures taken with iPhone 4. Hurray for Kitchen Thyme for having good lighting. 😉

RVA eats – Amour Wine Bistro, Peter Chang, Secco and more

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tarte flambee

Oh… hi. This blog has not been abandoned. It’s just getting harder to write something when all has been said and done in other social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest. Sometimes I wonder if blogs are still relevant. Apparently, I think they still are because here I am updating mine, albeit less frequently. I think I need to find some sort of direction. I’d like to delve more into pastry experiments, after all I have a ton of cookbooks to do research.

Another direction is the local food scene which has gotten a bit more interesting and I thought I should get all those food pictures off of my iPhone.

Let me start with our recent dinner at Amour Wine Bistro for restaurant week

Selling macarons on Saturdays at Amour has its benefits. I don’t have to think twice about where to go for a special dinner after a long day (or week) and I’ve always loved the restaurant’s cozy set-up. 

As usual, it was an impeccably executed dining experience. We especially enjoyed the asparagus, garlic and bacon tarte flambée – an Alsatian flatbread that resembles a pizza. My chilled pear soup below was very refreshing.

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Chilled pear soup, mango, creme fraiche

Our main course of lamb navarin (a hearty French lamb stew) was an ode to the flavor of lamb. I could usually tell if a lamb dish will taste good when I catch a whiff of that all-important lamb aroma – lamb aficionados know what I mean – I think it has something to do with how the fat melts into the muscle or maybe it’s just the quality of the lamb. We were surprised at the sizable portions considering it’s 3 courses for $25.00! We had enough leftover for lunch the next day because we knew to save room for dessert! 

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lamb navarin

For dessert, I ordered the strawberry chocolate tart. A dense chocolate cake similar to a brownie. It was pleasantly bittersweet and did not cry “sugar overload”, I welcome such refined and simple desserts.

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Chocolate tart

I challenge anyone who says there are better sorbets than what Paul Heitz makes. I must say he is obsessed with making them and I guess that is why they are so good.

 
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sorbet trio – grapefruit, mango (hubby forgot the 3rd one which was hidden behind the wafer

As the hubby wouldn’t shut-up about the tarte flambee, I think it wouldn’t be long before we pay another visit to Amour. It’s also available at the bar and that flatbread paired with an onion soup gratinee would make a great meal in itself.

Peter Chang – living up to the hype

In an odd corner of a strip mall in the much maligned area that is Short Pump lies the new “It” restaurant. Peter Chang’s China Cafe opened with so much fanfare, it was bordering on the absurd. But I have not heard of him – I don’t know why he had flown under my foodie radar but I was not as psyched as everyone was. Maybe because I’ve grown up with homecooked-Chinese food – courtesy of fabulous Cantonese cuisine of my dad and grandma – it takes a lot to impress me. Plus, I thought I was not into spicy food…

Except … apparently I was. And it took Peter Chang’s Szechuan cookery to convince me.

To enjoy Szechuan cuisine, it is best to ask for help ordering or to check out this guide. On a recent trip with another couple, I made the mistake of ordering all spicy food, we had to put in a last minute order of Beijing smoked duck to seek relief from all those fiery peppers.

Everyone online or in reviews were raving about the dry-fried eggplant but I did not really care too much for it as I didn’t taste much flavor. Now the scallion-bubble pancake below, I loved.

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scallion-bubble pancake

My favorite dish that evening was this amazing crisp bamboo fish. 

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Bamboo fish

Also a favorite, was the szechuan lamb chops. I’m curious if all those peppers are really meant to be eaten. I usually brush them off because the meat is plenty spicy without them.

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Szechuan Lamb

Another satisfying dish was the mapo tofu which I’ve raved about in a previous post.

And our palate relief as mentioned earlier was the duck dish that was served with pancakes, scallions, cucumbers and hoisin sauce. *Look at that skin!*

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Beijing smoked duck

As I live near Short-Pump, I’m surely going to be a frequent visitor to Chang’s establishment.

Secco Wine Bar – restaurant week

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Pork Belly porchetta

As everyone that have tasted this porchetta agree, it’s pretty darn amazing, I could probably eat two of it. Desserts were also very good. I liked my cream puffs but I liked the composition of hubby’s olive oil chocolate ganache and sweet basil more. I was going to order a scoop of the cardamom gelato but was told that it was only with a complete restaurant week menu.

Fried Chicken

Blowtoad

Ever since I’ve watched “The Help”, I’ve had a craving for cast-iron buttermilk Fried chicken. Here’s Blowtoad‘s tuesday night special.  

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Buttermilk Fried Chicken at Blowtoad

So for most of buttermilk fried chicken I’ve had, most of them seem to have all their flavor in the crunchy skin. The meat, though juicy, was devoid of much seasoning. Is this typical?

Pho Saigon

I’m so happy to have tasted these chicken wings from Pho Saigon. They’re flavorful all the way to the bone. And because they are not breaded, they’re not disgustingly greasy the next day and tastes just as good. I think they’re one of the best chicken wings in Richmond.

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 Fried Chicken Wings

Ironfish

     Should have posted about this wonderful Branzino sooner. A bit pricey but delish!

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Branzino

Zorba’s

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Feta cheese and olive appetizer

Unfortunately this was the only picture I had on my phone that looked decent. I initially thought Zorba’s was a typical “Americanized” Greek restaurant in a strip mall, but after eating the leftovers I’ve decided it’s a place I’d like to put in regular rotation. The yogurt lamb kebab is not to be missed. 

Seoul Buffet

      Heading over to the Southside, there’s a Korean buffet restaurant. I’m not too fond of buffets but I think it’s a great way to familiarize yourself with the offerings of an unfamiliar cuisine.

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bibimbap bar

My favorite, as I’ve discovered, is the Jap Chae. It’s a sweet potato noodle that is stir-fried and doused with some sesame oil. I just love the texture and the crunchiness of the vegetables.

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Jap chae

So that’s a few noteworthy eats I’ve had in Richmond from the past few weeks. Ironfish was way back in January but I felt it was so good not to mention here. 

     

Peter Chang’s China Cafe

I’m cautiously optimistic.

I figured a restaurant full of RVA food critics and writers couldn’t be wrong. I saw nothing but unbridled praise on my twitter-feed during Peter Chang’s China Cafe dinner event on opening week.

It’s my fault that I let that spur me into immediately checking the place out with expectations running so high only to be dashed by a less than stellar dish. The greasy and tasteless Jing Jiang duck reminded me that the place was not yet a week old, and even under the helm of an experienced chef, needs time to find its rhythm.

So I thought to wait a few more weeks before going back – except those darn, almost delirious raves on my twitter feed wouldn’t stop.

With lowered expectations, I decided to order take-out.

I am happy to report that my to-go lunch has sublimely surpassed my expectations. Hopefully, in the coming weeks, the staff will be better trained on how to describe some cryptically-named dishes to customers unfamiliar with their menu. Though some items are common, the more interesting ones are not.  A knowledgeable waitstaff could really set Peter Chang’s China Cafe apart from being just another Chinese restaurant in a strip mall.

Here were the dishes I liked: 

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Mapo Tofu – my favorite
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Golden Mountain Chicken
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Bok Choy and Mushroom

I wish they’ll start serving the bok choy with tofu skins, I saw it on their menu but it’s only available with mushrooms right now. 

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Pumpkin balls with black bean paste

Conspicuously absent are any porcine fare, huh? I was tempted to order the crispy pork belly and spare ribs but I’m on a no pork and red meat diet for a few weeks. So those dishes will have to wait.

😦

A Roosevelt Brunch

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Potato, mushroom, sausage hash with salsa verde

It’s rare that you can drag me out for breakfast, brunch is a better option. Why? Because I think the “Hungry” Hubby makes the best coffee and that caffeinated cup is what I’m looking forward to every morning. In fact, every time we’ve had to go out of town we dread the shitty hotel coffee.

Anyway, last Sunday, despite turning in late after dinner and a movie with friends, we were up relatively early and I surprised the HH by suggesting to eat brunch somewhere. I’ve always wanted to try the Roosevelt brunch.

There was one problem. When I checked their menu online, most of the items with butter used vanilla butter. Vanilla and hubby’s nose don’t mix – it tastes like cough syrup to him – I’ve accepted that it’s a physiological issue with his palate and not psychological (okay, sometimes I do wonder).

So scratch the ricotta pancakes. Some of you may ask, “Well can’t you just ask the server to give you regular butter?” Yes, but knowing how the Roosevelt gets so busy, I’d hate to make special requests. Besides, I’m always in the mind that the chef knows best and when you make substitutions you kinda veer away from his vision of the dish.

We arrived 5 minutes before they opened for brunch which was 10:30 am. That’s one thing about me too, I hate waiting for a table and I’d rather be the first one through the door (there was already a group ahead of us though). By 11:00 am, the restaurant was packed.

We were promptly given water and it was a good thing we were ready to order by the time our server returned. In a bustling place like this, it’s best to get your order in before the 4-tops or 5-tops go in (heaven help you if you’re behind a group of 10.)

Which is why I hate to go out in groups to a popular restaurant. Most of my friends don’t seem to grasp the urgency of getting your food order in to the kitchen quickly – we can catch up on stuff later people – heck I wouldn’t let HH use the restroom before ordering.

Yes, I know, I maybe weird, but waiting for food is not one of my virtues.

Anyway, I went for – what else – the fried chicken thighs, cast-iron potatoes, slow-cooked egg and sausage gravy. I’m a fried chicken fiend and a sucker for runny eggs, so this dish is a winner for me. The chicken was crisp and the meat was juicy. HH had a bite of the chicken and thought it needed more seasoning, but for me it was perfect. I thought my potatoes needed crusting as it was touted as cast-iron prepared, but it was still yummy – nothing like breaking the yolk over the potatoes and spooning that medley into my mouth.

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Fried chicken thighs, cast-iron potatoes

My hubby’s dish of potato, mushroom, sausage hash was a revelation. The salsa verde went so well with this combination. The sausage was packed full of flavor and reminded me of chorizo. The only catch was, I knew it wasn’t enough food for him which gave us a perfect excuse to get a biscuit as I’ve been eyeing someone at another table tearing into one. Thankfully, the vanilla butter was served separately.

So the Roosevelt is a great dinner and brunch spot. If I just lived closer, I probably would be there every time Kendra tweeted something new on the menu. I wonder if they’ll ever open for lunch?

The Roosevelt
623 N. 25th street
(804)658-1935

Frosty weather, hot soup

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Pho at Pho So 1

The weather does not need to dip below freezing for me to crave hot soup. I think eating noodle soup is in my DNA and I would want it in hot humid weather just as I would in these current frosty conditions. However, when the mercury plummets, there appears to be an increased compulsion to seek out that hot steaming bowl of broth, whether to eat or just wrap my fingers around for comfort.

I’ve also seen my twitter-feed explode with people feeling “under” the weather after last weekend’s spring-like air morphed back into winter. By the way, I never remember the winter being this fickle.

Whether true or not, I always felt that spicy food was good for when you get the onset of a cold. Once, the hubby and I were stuck at a company outing on a bitterly cold day that “chilled to the bone” comes to mind. We were fortunate to end up going to a friend’s house for dinner. She was making seafood gumbo and she inadvertently made it too spicy. I mean, we couldn’t take a bite without taking a swig of water. Our mouths were on fire, beads of sweat dotted our foreheads and we were tearing up and sniffling endlessly. Well, by the time dessert arrived, hubby and I were both feeling better. I think the spicy food induced an artificial fever and nipped the virus in the bud before it had the chance to propagate. Again, there is no science behind this so take this claim with a grain of salt. 

So I thought it would be nice to compile a list of noodle soup places for rva folks to have handy; just in case the noodle-soup urge hits them:

  1. Thai Diner – spicy noodle soup. Have it with chicken for a spicy take on chicken noodle soup. Order it as spicy as you can endure when you feel the inklings of a cold. (8059 West Broad Street)
  2. Pho So 1 – my place for authentic Vietnamese pho, very reasonable prices and it comes in two sizes. (6403 Rigsby Rd)
  3. Dalat – for a tamer pho. My hubby doesn’t like strong flavorings in soup and their menu is a great middle-ground between us. (9125 W Broad St # L)
  4. Thai Flavor – chicken noodle soup. You can pick your noodle type: egg noodle, vermicelli, thin rice noodle and wide rice noodle. The broth tastes like the one they use for Tom Yum Goong.(Innsbrooke shoppes – 4040-F, Cox Road)
  5. Full Kee – Roast duck and Hong Kong style noodle soup. Request the breast meat as leg part is hard to eat in a soup. Also, you can add vegetables. (6400 Horsepen Rd)
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Full Kee Roast Duck noodle soup

Several suggestions from twitter that I’ve never tried or haven’t tried in a long time include:

Mekong – for pho and they also have a great beer selection. (6004 West Broad Street)

Pho Tay do – for pho. cash only. (6328 Rigsby Road)

King of Szechuan – for hot pot. (3991 Glenside Dr)

If you have any other favorites, please add them in the comments section. 

Happy slurping!

Lunch at Amour this week…

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Duck wrapped in bok choy and shitake

It happens all the time, a beautiful spring-like day comes along and the first thing that comes to mind is where I’m going to have lunch that day. Today I thought of Amour Wine Bistro‘s big window, so perfect for Carytown people-watching.

In order to snag one of those 2 window-side tables, it’s probably best to be there when they open for lunch, 11:30 am. I’ve also decided that I was just going to stick with the salad for lunch and finish off with a sorbet trio.

Boy, am I easily swayed.

Amour Wine Bistro‘s menu changes every week depending on seasonality and wine region. The theme this week was “New French in New Year“. I saw the duck breast on the menu but I still had a strong resolve to order salad until my server, Tripp, told me how good the duck plate was. Duck was wrapped in shitake and bok-choy and baked, it comes with asian slaw (which I love) and get this… the ginger-mashed potatoes was flavored from the duck confit fat (which every “confiter” knows is liquid gold).

I was also really hungry and I didn’t think chewing on salad would satisfy that gnawing in my belly.

What can I say, I loved my lunch…words escape me right now but trust me when I say the combination of everything was simply perfection.

But that was not all. It takes a lot for me not to order the chocolate creme brulee or the sorbets – Paul Heitz is the master of sorbet, I never liked sorbets until I have tried his…they are so creamy you can almost mistake them for ice cream.

The Espresso, champagne and hazelnut panna cotta with raspberry-brioche French toast and pure maple syrup was too hard to resist.

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espresso panna cotta

Uhm, I’ll let the “after” plate tell you whether I liked it or not.

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The lunch duck plate + dessert was $16.00. I think that’s such a great price for the quality and level of food, not to mention the service you are getting. Here is the complete menu for this week. 

Amour Wine Bistro
3129 W Cary Street, Va 23221
353-4020
email: reserve@AmourWB.com