Saturday, January 24, 2009

A Yummy Visit to Capital Coffee & Desserts

I met a friend for coffee at Capital Coffee & Desserts (2928 W. Cary St.) today. I've always appreciated the delicious desserts, friendly staff and coffee there but forgot about the goodness of their lunch offerings. When I arrived today I was hungry and although I'd planned on a sweet treat, I was tempted by the sandwich selection.I decided to try the "Roma" panini made with fresh mozzarella, homemade bread, roasted red peppers and a zesty pesto mayo. This sandwich was seriously gooey and delicious. Lots of melty, delicious cheese punctuated with tangy peppers and savory herbs. The crusty homemade bread (and keep in mind I come from an Italian family where bread is of utmost importance) was sliced just right and added a satisfactory crunch to an indulgent sandwich. I finished the meal with a delicious Vienna blend coffee. What a tasty treat.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Goodness that is Arianna’s Eggplant Parm Pizza

I know other bloggers have given this pie love, but I had to take a moment and blog about the amazing Italian-American goodness that is the eggplant Parmesan pizza at Arianna’s Grill. A hand-tossed, slightly chewy, crunchy-on-the-bottom pizza crust is topped with a combination of pungent Italian cheeses, thinly sliced fresh basil and, of course, eggplant Parmesan. Now I know, eggplant Parmesan on a pizza may sound a bit odd, but the crunch of the crust, flavorful breading, slightly mushy eggplant and fresh basil flavor might just be one of the most satisfying combinations I’ve ever tasted. Even my boyfriend who’s a definite “where’s the meat?” type of guy craves this pie over any pepperoni-, sausage- or ham-topped variety. Add a pretty big Mixed Green Salad for $5.50 that last night came with delicious garlic-stuffed olives, and you’ve got the best meal ever. Plus, it's delivered to your doorstep if you live in the Museum District or Fan. If not, it's sooo worth the drive. The only question left: can I stop at two slices?

Monday, January 19, 2009

Carena's Jamaican Grill: So-So at Best

After a lot of anticipation, I finally made it to Carena’s Jamaican Grill on Saturday night. As evidenced by the headline, my hopes for a trip to delicious Jamaican-food heaven were not quite realized.

Order-placing was a bit shaky: our server returned twice within about 3 minutes to ask if we were ready to order, then left us sitting with our menus folded up for about 5 minutes before returning to take our order. We ordered an appetizer, a bowl of soup and two entrees. At this point, we were left to wait for our appetizer of fried calamari with pineapple-curry dipping sauce for at least 20 minutes. Oh, and by the way, it was about 8 p.m. and there were only three other tables in the restaurant. I wish I had actually been timing this. In the time that we waited for our appetizer, another table ordered and received dessert. And, a table that arrived after we’d placed our order received something of a fried variety. When the calamari finally arrived there was no mention of the wait time. At that point, we told the server to bring the soup too for fear of another 15-minute lag time.

On to the taste: The calamari, once it arrived, was pretty darn good. The breading was a flavorful, flaky variety, and the pineapple dipping sauce was sweet with a curry kick. The calamari itself was tender and not chewy. A dollop of the calypso sauce on the table, and this dish had a zesty sweet-spicy flavor.

The pumpkin-coconut-curry soup was smooth and slurp-worthy. I love innovative soup combinations and every bite of this blend delivered pumpkin sweetness, curry tang and coconut hints. All around a delectable flavor.

The entrees arrived just as we were finished our appetizers. We prefer a brief pause between courses, but no big deal. I ordered jerk chicken and my companion had the curry chicken. Both dishes were, well, bland. The curry chicken was moist and juicy, but there was barely any curry flavor. There was an abundant sauce, but it tasted as though the meat hadn’t actually been cooked in the curry. Rather, the less-than-flavorful sauce was doled on at the last second.

My jerk chicken was smothered in gravy that tasted like a tangier version of barbecue sauce and the jerk spice rub I adore was scant. I ordered a glass Riesling to pair with my meal because I was expecting a spicy dish that would be tempered by the sweet wine, but it just wasn’t all the flavorful. Upon second thought, I decided that if I’d never had any type of jerk before I might have thought this was good, but I’ve had jerk in Jamaica. I mean, the jerk at Caliente is better and that isn’t even owned by a Jamaican chef. My boyfriend works for VCU Medical Center and swears the Caribbean cart (which he believes every person must drive to VCU at lunch and taste at least once) far beat his curry chicken.

Both meals were accompanied by a cabbage mixture and red beans and rice. I found the red beans and rice to be pretty bland, but the cabbage mixture was delish. It wasn’t overcooked so the cabbage still had a bit of crunch, and it did provide a nice contrast to the jerk.

Dessert looked pretty good. I’d still stop back to try coconut crème brulée, but after our 20 minute wait we decided to skip it and head on home. With some of the delicious dishes, Carena’s definitely has potential to be a great restaurant, but the kinks with the service and entrees definitely need to be worked out. Next time we’re down in the South Side, we’ll be giving Ruchee a shot.