Saturday, February 28, 2009

Va Wine Expo SunTrust Governor's Cup Grand Tasting

I attended this portion of the Va Wine Expo last night and it was a great time. This year the space was much bigger and the wineries were more spread out. I chose to pay the extra money for the Friday event after attending on Saturday afternoon last year and feeling a bit overwhelmed by the crowds. It's never fun to have to push your way in to taste. Last night, the event wasn't at all packed and we rarely had to wait to taste. Plus, there were tasty hors d'oeuvres from chefs around town. The standout hors d'oeuvre was definitely a pork salad served on a crab chip from J. Frank, personal chef to Frances Lewis.

In terms of wine, all the usual players were there with a special pour that wouldn't be available to taste for the rest of the weekend. My favorites including Delfosse, Barboursville and Keswick were there and there were also some great new players. One of my favorite surprises was Mountfair Vineyards. Located in Crozet, this winery only produces reds right now and had three available to taste. All were big, bold blends that were fruit-forward and delicious. I took home the Belated and the Inaugural.

The other standout was Vino Curioso, a winery that doesn't have a tasting room yet, so the opportunity to taste was even more exciting. This Winchester winery has creative labels and wine names with some tasty options. I took home the Franc the Tank Cab Franc and the Sangiovese.

I also have to give props to New Kent Winery. Another new winery only about 30 minutes away, these wines were also delicious. I especially liked both of their Chardonnays, which were light and fruity. Even the Chardonnay Reserve had only a light kiss of oak. This is a welcome alternative to oak-filled California Chardonnays. As soon as it warms up, I'll definitely be planning a trip down to the tasting room with a picnic in tow.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Addicting Dip

So I happened upon Sam's Club on a pre-Super Bowl tasting day. I'm always tempted by fancy dips, spreads, etc. and often have to talk myself out of taking them home. Have you tried the locally made Miss Bonnie's Jalapeno Cheese Spread from Kroger? I can rarely buy that stuff because I love it soo much I can't stop eating it. Spicy cheesy goodness that goes well on everything...

Back to present. Of all the tempting toppers I tried on this Sam's visit, there was one I had to bring home. Upon tasting the Channel Island Bay All Natural Buffalo Blue Cheese Spread, it seemed as though the tub just leapt into my cart. Since it's come home with me, to the dismay of my love handles, it's become my newest eating best friend. I've spread it on turkey sandwiches, spread it on crackers, veggies and toast, and visions of buffalo-blue-cheese chicken salad are dancing in my head. The spread is made with sour cream, maytag blue cheese and hot sauce, and it has the perfect creamy texture with a blue-cheese bite and mildly spicy finish. This stuff is sooo good, but be forewarned: it's addictive! Just writing this post is making feel the need to go grab and another dip.

The Caterer’s Corner Café: W for Weird

My coworkers and I just tried the Caterer’s Café in the former La Petite France spot for lunch, and it was a bizarre experience. First off, the décor has not been changed from the restaurant’s original formal, straitlaced design including the china, cloth napkins and silver. The menu spans sandwiches, soups and a salad bar.

Upon walking in, I saw the “salad bar,” which was a table in the middle of the restaurant with soup and some salad fixings. Everything was in pretty small bowls including one tiny container of greens, so I decided to skip this option and go for the soup/sandwich combo with the soup du jour, tomato, and the dill-tuna salad sandwich on multigrain bread. The meals arrived on fine china: a bit like eating lunch at your grandmother’s house. The food was all fine, I’m not gonna say spectacular. The soup tasted homemade but it came out lukewarm and was extra chunky. The tomato pieces were kind of chewy as if the soup hadn’t simmered long enough. The tuna was light on mayo but also on flavor. The best part of the meal was the dill potato salad with redskin potatoes, fresh dill and a creamy, smooth texture.

When our checks were brought, they weren’t taken for a while. Keep in mind we were the only table in the place and she was pretty much standing off to the side watching us. Maybe she was waiting for a break in the conversation to interrupt? Finally, the server came over and we asked if we were supposed the checks bring up them to her (since she gave us kind of an odd look as she took them). She responded with a confused “yes” but then took them into the back. English wasn’t her first language, so maybe she didn’t understand the question? When the receipts returned, there was no place to write in a tip and she stood right over our shoulders as we signed, so discussion of how/should we tip wasn’t really an option. On the car ride back to work, we decided the spot and experience deserves a “W” for “Weird” rating. I know this place is newly opened, so maybe they'll work some of the kinks out in the future...