Eating with Rob

My new marriage and the eats that bring us together.

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Cinco de Desviación

Cinco de Mayo fell on a Monday this year, which meant that I had a nice long day without much of an opportunity to get a head start on dinner. BUT it also meant that my produce was still nice and fresh after my weekend grocery store outing, which was excellent news for my dinner plans and for these beautiful avocados.

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I can’t help myself when it comes to making festive eats for holidays. Food Network tends to agree, and I was thrilled to find this shrimp and avocado tostadas recipe in their magazine the month before (http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchens/shrimp-avocado-tostadas.html).

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I usually like to make my own guacamole (even though I don’t like guacamole, myself), but I followed the recipe for once…well, with the exception of the cilantro (which I also don’t like). But between the mashed avocados, scallion whites, lime juice, salt, cayenne pepper, I had stayed the course. One of these days I’ll figure out how to take a decent picture of the contents of a bowl so you can actually see what it looked like.

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The shrimp were a little more photogenic, though I have to say, the “medium” shrimp I’d picked up from my friendly neighborhood Kroger were a little smaller than I thought they’d be. Shrimp only need a few minutes to cook, but since I’d marinated them with lime juice, vegetable oil, garlic, oregano, cumin, cayenne, and salt, they really didn’t need much time on the stovetop for those flavors to develop. Confession: they also called for ancho chiles…but surprise! I don’t really like those either, so I left them out.

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While finishing the shrimp, I prepared a little assembly line of accoutrements, including the guacamole, tostada shell thingers, homemade pico de gallo (diced tomato, red onion, lime juice, and a splash of tequila), Greek yogurt (instead of sour cream!) and green onions for sprinkling.

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In the final moments before Rob walked in the door, I threw on some mariachi music and shook up a pair of margaritas (using David Wondrich’s recipe…I knew Rob would be so proud! http://www.esquire.com/drinks/margarita-drink-recipe).

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I thought he might tear up when he walked in - this was a great surprise! He seemed to appreciate my festive efforts, particularly the margaritas, since he’s usually the barkeep in our house.

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We both really liked the tostadas - they were fairly light and left us a little bit hungry since I hadn’t bought quite a pound and a half of shrimp like the recipe calls for. This was the only setback of my recipe deviance, as the flavors I decided to keep were wonderful together and gave us a nice change of pace from a more normative taco night. Who knows, if you were to actually do what this recipe tells you, you might like it even better than we did. Arriba!

Caroline

Filed under Rob Bratney food blog Richmond Virginia cinco de mayo Food Network Food Network Magazine shrimp shrimp and avocado tostadas tostadas avocado guacamole scallions lime juice cilantro ancho chiles margarita David Wondrich cocktail Greek yogurt pico de gallo tomatoes red onion tequila garlic oregano cumin cayenne salt

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Not Plato’s Republic.

While Rob and I didn’t love the location of our apartment at the time (because downtown Richmond is a little bit strange), I have to admit, we were very well-situated for pretty jogs. We were right next to the Canal Walk and very close to the bridge to Belle Isle, a pretty little island in the middle of the James River just south of downtown. On the morning of Saturday, April 26th, Rob and I took advantage of this and ran a few miles down to and around Belle Isle.

When we were finished, I suggested that we do what I always want to do after any physical exertion - have a beer. It was so beautiful outside that day, and since it was almost lunchtime, we decided to turn the idea into an outdoor lunch at Conch Republic, a restaurant on the James down at Rockett’s Landing, east of Richmond proper (http://conchrepublicrocketts.com/).

As you can see, we completely destroyed any and all fruits of our workout. We ordered a round of appetizers to share, including “swamp bites” (the enormous bowl of fried gator tail you see above), pretzels with beer cheese, and island nachos, topped with queso, jalapenos, lettuce, corn, and mango salsa.

Admittedly, I’m not a huge soft pretzel fan (I know, for shame) - they just always smell better than they taste to me. But Rob likes them, AND their beer cheese is made with Legend beer, and Legend is a pretty good local brewery just on the south side of the river. So Rob mostly took care of eating those, which was fine with me given the congealed look of the cheese.

The gator bites were my favorite, I mean, it’s hard to not to like deep fried meat dipped in ranch dressing. But the island nachos were also really good - I liked the creamy, spicy, and sweet combination of the queso, the mango salsa, and the jalapenos. We didn’t come close to finishing them, but a good effort was had by all.

This was a fun, spontaneous lunch for us. Conch Republic has decent bar food and a nice outdoor space right on the river, where we caught some rays and also watched some crew practice. Next door to Conch Republic is The Boathouse, which has a similar view but much nicer food, which we’d like to try sometime. While I wouldn’t necessarily recommend Conch Republic for exceptional dining, it’s a good experience for getting a little out of town and spending time outside with a nice view and a cold beer.

Caroline

Filed under Rob Bratney food blog Richmond Virginia Belle Isle Canal Walk Rockett's Landing Conch Republic swamp bites alligator fried gator gator bites ranch dressing soft pretzels pretzels beer cheese Legend beer cheese Legend Brewery island nachos nachos queso jalapenos mango salsa corn lettuce James River

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Non mi piace.

The last full week of April was a really exciting time for Rob and me…it was Richmond’s restaurant week! They have one every spring and every fall (http://richmondrestaurantweek.com/), and this was our first time playing. After perusing the list of participating restaurants, Rob and I decided we’d walk around the corner to La Grotta Ristorante, a fancy little Italian place in the Shockoe Slip (http://lagrottaristorante.com/).

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La Grotta has a really cool interior - as soon as you walk in, you go down some stairs into this neat basement with all kinds of pretty bricks and beautiful wood. We sat at the bar for dinner since we hadn’t made a reservation and began our meal with an assortment of breads to be dipped in a bowl of garlicky olive oil. I’ve read they do a different variety of oil every day. 

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Since Restaurant Week typically sticks to a prix fixe menu, Rob and I both got to select a first course to come with our meals. We both chose salads, and Rob had the Insalata Capricciosa you see above, involving julienned fennel, arugula, and Boston baby lettuce with raspberry dressing and some toasted walnuts, if I’m not mistaken. I had a Caesar, with the usual romaine, croutons, and Caesar dressing. Rob’s was definitely sweeter, but I love a salty Caesar dressing, and both were very good. 

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For his entree, Rob had the Quaglia Ripiena (stuffed quail). I think he was enticed by the idea of quail since that’s not something you see very often, but his decision was validated once he took his first bite. The little quail was roasted and stuffed with Italian sausage and fresh sage, served with pan juices, a little puff of mashed potatoes (with a potato chip sticking out of the top), and I think a little bit of sauteed kale.            

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While anything stuffed with sausage sounds like a good idea to me, I’m not much a sage fan, so I went with the veal marsala, thinly pounded veal served with mushrooms in a marsala wine sauce, with a similar accompaniment of potatoes and greens. This was an incredibly disappointing dish - it seriously tasted every bit like a school cafeteria’s salisbury steak. The veal was overcooked, and the marsala sauce (the main offender), might as well have come from a can. 

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I was so upset! Since I never have the heart to send anything back, Rob graciously shared a few bites of quail with me while I lamented and asked existential questions about the meaning of the random potato chip in the mashed potatoes. Luckily, our third and final course of tiramisu was pretty good. Not the best I’ve ever had, but a decent tiramisu, served on a bed of what I’m pretty sure was marscarpone cheese. 

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This place was so promising - I’d heard amazing things about the authenticity and the brilliant work of the chef. We were hoping that restaurant week would give us an affordable opportunity to try a nice new place that we would consider going again for special occasions, but instead this place got crossed off our list indefinitely. This experience made me feel cheap and like as a restaurant week patron, I wasn’t worth a quality meal. Maybe my veal was just a miss, but there are so many good restaurants in Richmond that I don’t feel a strong need to try it again.

Caroline

Filed under Rob Bratney food blog Richmond Virginia La Grotta Italian Shockoe Slip Restaurant Week olive oil bread salad insalata capricciosa fennel arugula boston baby lettuce raspberry dressing walnuts Caesar salad quaglia ripiena quail stuffed quail italian sausage sage mashed potatoes kale potato chip veal marsala tiramisu mushrooms marscarpone cheese

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Feaster.

After our scrumptious brunch, I spent the rest of Easter afternoon preparing dinner. My family doesn’t really have a lot of Easter traditions pertaining to food (except jelly beans), so I had a lot of fun in the week leading up to the holiday coming up with a menu that I thought would be festive and seasonal for the two of us.

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As often is the case when I’m preparing a big meal, I think it’s best to start with dessert - that way, there’s plenty of time for things to cool, set, and other things desserts need to do. So I excitedly began by preparing a carrot cake, one of Rob’s favorite desserts. I used Alton Brown’s recipe (http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/carrot-cake-recipe.html), and as you can see, my food processor! (aka “the kweeze”)

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The last time I made a carrot cake, it was for my college roommate Kate Bax’s wedding, and I shredded the carrots by hand (http://omnomwithrob.tumblr.com/post/76439557467/lifes-a-happy-song). It took almost an hour and turned my hands completely orange, so you should have heard me “squee!” when the food processor that Rob’s aunt Joni got for me took care of business in like 30 seconds. Amazing.

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I loved using the food processor so much that I followed Alton’s advice and used it for my liquids, too! After combining the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients and the perfectly shredded carrots, I poured the whole thing into the cake pans I got from my other college roommate, Rachel Zak. Our apartment smelled so. good.

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But it would only get better from here. Once the cake was done and out of the oven, I was ready to move to the lamb. I had never prepared lamb myself before, and I thought it seemed quite appropriate for the occasion. So I bought a leg of it from Belmont Butchery a few days before (http://www.belmontbutchery.com/).

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It wasn’t cheap - I think it was about two pounds of meat and yep, you’re reading that right, it cost $27.34. But I had planned the expense, and even though the fresh cuts at Belmont Butchery are a little more expensive than you’ll find at the grocery store, the freshness and excellent customer service is always worth it. Plus, I love butcher paper and everything that comes in it. Behold.

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Just gorgeous! I treated it with Alex Guarnaschelli’s recipe (http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alexandra-guarnaschelli/roasted-leg-of-lamb-recipe.html) that I’d seen in my Food Network Mag (the December issue, actually). I loved the idea of the lamb with a little dijon mustard, white wine, and fresh thyme. I roasted it in my oven until it got to a nice medium rare.

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In the meantime, I thought a fun appetizer for Easter would be deviled eggs. A more recent issue of the Food Network Magazine had come with this little pull-out book of 50 deviled egg recipes (hellooooo nurse), and I selected the triple onion (http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/articles/50-deviled-eggs.html). Because who cares about breath.

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My mommers taught me how to make boiled eggs, and I haven’t deviated much from her original instruction - just cover eggs with water from the tap and bring it to a boil. Once it’s rolling, remove from heat and cover for 8 minutes. After the eggs were cool, I extracted and mashed the yolks with some French onion dip, some scallions, and some French-fried onions. Triple onion indeed.

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I went ahead and served these to Rob before the rest of everything was ready. They were tasty, by virtue of being deviled eggs, but I didn’t think the French onion dip added much more unique flavor than a usual spoonful of mayonnaise would have done. I think the crunch of the French fried onions was the best part, otherwise I think a plain old deviled egg would have been just fine. By the way, I love that this photo is blurry - I clearly couldn’t contain myself in the presence of that ridiculous stache enough to hold the camera still.

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One other thing I’d prepared for our dinner was a side of veggies. I’d selected, you guessed it, another recipe from my Food Network mag - butter-braised carrots and leeks (http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchens/butter-braised-carrots-and-leeks.html). Carrots are obviously a fan favorite when it comes to vegetables thanks to their sweetness, but I also really love leeks - these big, sophisticated onions are fresh and mild, and they really balanced out the carrots well.

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So after cooking these on the stovetop with butter, nutmeg, salt and pepper, and lemon zest, it was time to serve. My lamb had been resting out on the counter for about fifteen minutes so I wouldn’t lose those juices I’d been working so hard to achieve.

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Speaking of juices, I’d also made a pan gravy from the drippings, just by putting the same roasting pan the lamb had been cooked in on my stovetop, adding some chicken stock, and letting it reduce. It looked just perfect in the vintage Pyrex gravy boat gifted to me by my lovely friend Nikki Pourladian

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Rob very graciously offered to slice our little leg o’ lamb. I was slightly disappointed to see that it was a bit more done than I wanted it to be - I’d cooked it to the exact internal temperature listed in the recipe for medium rare (130 degrees), yet it looked more like medium than a medium rare. Which is hardly the end of the world, but when you spend $27.34 on a piece of meat, you want to cook it right! This picture actually makes it look a little less pink than it really was.

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As a final touch, I hearkened back to my waitressing days at CC’s City Broiler (http://www.ccscitybroiler.com/), and added some goat cheese that I’d mixed with very slight amounts of horseradish and dijon mustard. That’s the way they served their rack of lamb, and I thought that it would be a tangy and delicious compliment to the dijon preparation that went into the lamb and gravy themselves.

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This dinner was a.maz.ing. The vegetables were perfectly braised, buttery and a little tangy with that bright hint of lemon zest. The lamb was tender and juicy, and it was a textural home run with the velvety goat cheese. The mustardy, herbaceous gravy on top of it all was the icing on the cake.

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Speaking of the icing on the cake, we were very challenged with this dinner to save room for dessert. But we persevered and each had a big helping of my scratch-made carrot cake. I wish I’d had a little more cream cheese frosting, but the cake was so moist that it really didn’t need it.

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Well there ya have it, folks - a really good dinner that managed to make its way out of my kitchen. The eggs, the veggies, the lamb, and the cake were such a celebratatory way to end the Lenten season, and I was so thankful that my weekly fasting was finally over. Like I said before, that was a big challenge for a girl who loves cooking and eating as much as I do, but the awareness I gained about my privilege as a well-fed individual made me all the more grateful for every meal that has come my way ever since.

Caroline

Filed under Rob Bratney food blog Richmond Virginia Easter Easter dinner carrot cake food processor leg of lamb lamb Belmont Butchery dijon mustard white wine herbs thyme Food Network Magazine Alton Brown Alex Guarnaschelli deviled eggs triple onion deviled eggs french onion dip french fried onions scallions carrots leeks butter braised carrots and leeks goat cheese horseradish lemon zest gravy

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Room at the inn.

On the morning of Sunday, April 20th, Rob and I woke up and dolled up for Easter morning mass. I’m an Easter vigil type ordinarily, but given our dinner engagement the night before (http://omnomwithrob.tumblr.com/post/95290373812/everythings-kosher), we thought we’d go in the morning. I’m a member at the Cathedral in Richmond, but we wanted to try something different and see about St. Patrick’s, a Catholic parish in the Church Hill district of Richmond.

We didn’t get there early enough, and we were greeted at the beautiful church by beautiful old church ladies telling us there was no more room. We discerned that the 11 am mass we had just tried to get into had been our last chance, as there were no later mass times offered anywhere else in the city that we could find. Rob, who is not Catholic, was so sweet and thought maybe we could buy an old Bible at a used bookstore and read in a park somewhere or something. But as you might imagine, if we couldn’t find an open MASS on Easter Sunday, we definitely couldn’t find an open bookstore. So we said a hail mary and did what I think Jesus would have wanted.

Dot’s Back Inn is a greasy spoon diner on the north side of Richmond (http://www.dotsbackrichmond.com/), and we’d actually been wanting to try it for some time. After ordering a pair of mimosas (served in PINT glasses), Rob and I selected our respective brunches from the specials menu they were running on that fine Easter Sunday. I like to think that Jesus was a biscuits and gravy man, so that’s what I had.

These were obviously delicious. The sausage patties looked a little freezer-sectionish to me, but they tasted pretty darn good. The gravy was very hearty with lots of chunks of sausage, all served over what felt like house-made biscuits. A good choice.

Rob made a good choice too with the shrimp and grits. I wasn’t a huge fan because they had bleu cheese crumbles on top (yuck), but between those, the bacon, and the bell peppers, it was actually one of the prettiest shrimp and grits dishes I’ve seen. I think we’ve both had tastier versions, but I appreciated their interpretation.

Dot’s is great. It reminded me so much of the places Rob and I used to eat all the time in college (Lucy’s, Ernie’s, Broadway Diner, etc.), the likes of which actually aren’t too common here in Richmond. While we were sad to miss mass on one of the most important days of the liturgical year, we found some consolation in our grits and gravy. Plus, I was fueled up to spend the rest of the day cooking a big Easter feast we would be having for dinner that night - stay tuned!

Caroline

Filed under Rob Bratney food blog Richmond Virginia Church Hill St. Patrick's Catholic mass Easter Easter mass Dot's Back Inn diner biscuits and gravy sausage sausage patties gravy biscuits shrimp and grits shrimp grits bleu cheese bacon bell peppers

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Everything’s kosher.

On the night of Saturday, April 19th, Rob and I were invited to have dinner at the home of one of my classmates, Lisa, with her and her fiance, Matt. Lisa is a year below me in the counseling program here, and like me, she spent the first two years of grad school in a long-distance relationship. On this night, Matt was newly moved to Richmond, and Lisa wanted him to meet us! So fun.

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So we met up at Lisa’s place near Carytown, and she and Matt prepared us a wonderful dinner with some Mexican flair. We watched as Matt artfully cooked thin strips of steak that would be the main attraction of our carne asada entree.

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While Matt cooked the steak, Lisa made the accompaniments. Among these was a nice big helping of assorted bell peppers and onions that she sauteed on her stovetop.

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Most impressively, she also made cauliflower tortillas! She did most of the work on them before we got there, so I’m not quite sure how she did it. They were a little thicker than your standard corn or flour tortillas, but they were sturdy and pliable - a hearty substitute! I thought they were delicious.

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As if that wasn’t enough of a treat for Rob and me, Lisa remembered that one time I expressed interest in desserts from her Jewish culture. So even though they didn’t quite fit the Mexican theme, she made us macaroons! They were so simple - little more than shredded coconut and sugar, and maybe an egg? Scooped into little balls and baked with a little golden crust on the bottom and around the edges.

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This was a lovely evening! Lisa and Matt took great care of us with this well-prepared dinner, and it was so wonderful to finally meet Matt and to swap stories about long-distance and getting married in grad school. In fact, Matt and Lisa tied the knot right here in Richmond in a beautiful ceremony on June 1st! Rob and I are so happy for you both and hope you have many delicious meals like this one in your future :)

Caroline

Filed under Rob Bratney food blog Richmond Virginia grad school long distance relationship carne asada cauliflower tortillas bell peppers onions macaroons

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Lettuce pray.

There wasn’t anything particularly special about Monday, April 14th. I did my usual drill of clinical work, class, and lab meeting before catching the campus connector back to our humble abode. But it was just as good a day as any for lettuce wraps.

I have to admit, I did not follow the procedures in this recipe very closely (http://www.thecomfortofcooking.com/2013/09/slow-cooker-asian-chicken-lettuce-wraps.html). I didn’t use my slow-cooker OR my microwave and instead just used a skillet to cook my chicken mixture. But I DID stick pretty well to the ingredients, between the ground chicken, the accompanying vegetables, and the hoisin sauce. The only thing I think I was missing were the water chestnuts, but I couldn’t be too bothered in the presence of my favorite vintage Pyrex dish from my dear friend, Kassie Kresse! Let’s take a closer look.

Ugh I love that thing! Anyway, while the chicken had been cooking, I’d started some white rice so that my filling would last a little longer (we’re on a budget, yo). Here it is, in another pretty vintage Pyrex dish…I have a few of them and wish I had more!

I also prepared a little platter of other ingredients, most essentially the lettuce for wrapping. I used big leaves of romaine lettuce, and I also chopped up a little pile of scallions and fried some wonton strips.

Do you remember when I made Christmas-tree shaped crackers for my cohort holiday party? (http://omnomwithrob.tumblr.com/post/86238929952/its-good-its-good). When cutting the tree shapes out of my raw wontons, I saved the scraps in a Ziploc baggie and put them in the freezer. I referenced them many times over the next few months, frying them up on demand whenever I made an egg-drop soup or some other meal where they’d be appropriate. This was definitely one of them!

So when all of my components were done, it was time to assemble. Rob and I methodically placed a little mound of the chicken/veggie/hoisin mixture into a big romaine leaf, added rice, scallions, and wonton strips, and also a little bit of store-bought wonton dipping sauce (I’m just still not brave enough to try making anything like it myself).

These were quite good! My only regret was actually the romaine, which was too bad - when you’re making lettuce wraps, you’d prefer to not regret the lettuce. While tasty, it was very difficult to maneuver, as the leafy green end was soft and couldn’t hold up to the weight of the filling, but the white end was so stiff that if you tried to bend it, it broke. So next time, maybe we’ll try Boston Bibb or another type of lettuce that wraps a bit easier.

So even though these were a little messy, Rob and I really enjoyed them (he’s probably texting his friends about it in that picture! or not, I actually have no idea). I felt good about us having a pretty light dinner, featuring ground chicken and veggies that could have been thrown in the crock pot in the morning for an even easier preparation. They’re no P.F. Chang, but you know exactly what’s in them, and you can add and subtract ingredients to make them your own. Amen.

Caroline

Filed under Rob Bratney food blog Richmond Virginia lettuce wraps ground chicken chicken chicken lettuce wraps hoisin sauce fried wontons scallions green onions lettuce romaine romaine lettuce P.F. Chang

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Beneath the rose.

I have to admit, I’m a little bit of a homebody, which is an easy pattern to maintain when you’ve always got a buttload of work to do. Rob, in contrast, loves to get out of the house at any and all times, but especially after I’ve kept myself cooped up in the apartment for a long time. This was very much the case on Sunday, April 13th, and when Rob asked if I wanted to get out of the house, my workload was somehow mobile enough to land at Subrosa Bakery, over in the Church Hill district of Richmond (http://www.subrosabakery.com/).

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A nice change of scenery compared to my big blue couch, I have to say. While I plugged in my computer and settled into our table, Rob ordered us some coffee (he likes their lattes) and a few things to munch on.

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I had a chard and feta tart, which I’m pretty sure was a seasonal item because they seem to have a rotating selection of tarts featuring seasonal greens. I’m not usually a huge chard enthusiast, or even much of a greens enthusiast. But…it was just so beautiful. I couldn’t resist.

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This tart was hearty, delicious, and filling. It had the nicest little twisted crust that was just lighter than air. The topping was earthy and creamy without overwhelming the delicate pastry that scattered and crunched and made a glorious mess when I ate it.

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Rob had a plain croissant, somehow resisting the pain au chocolate. Despite my preference for the chocolate version of most things, I still had to have a bite. See how graciously he shares - while guarding the rest :)

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Honestly, we got pretty spoiled by the absolutely perfectly flaky croissants we’d had so often in New York, but Subrosa gives the Big Apple a run for it’s money. They achieve a very similar texture but with the addition of that signature woodfired flavor which makes the croissant both look and smell a little bit more deeply…brown? Baked, I guess would be the word.

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Rob and I stayed for a few hours, and we actually got served another round of caffeine by a new barista practicing his macchiato skills. We did not protest, and found them to be pretty good! In all, my first trip to Subrosa Bakery was a very positive one, despite having so much to work on. I’m glad that I never went before their big fire closed them down for so long last year, because I never had to know what I was missing. It’s a beautiful bakery with amazing breads and pastries and friendly neighborhood charm.

Caroline

Filed under Rob Bratney food blog Richmond Virginia Church Hill Subrosa Bakery bakery tart chard feta feta cheese chard and feta tart croissant coffee macchiato

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Yesterday was Thursday.

Another Friday in Lent, another meatless Friday dinner. When planning my menus, especially when dietary restrictions are involved, I actually have a lot of fun going through all of the bookmarked recipes I haven’t tried yet, looking for something that fits the bill. For Friday, April 11th, I had found this recipe for ricotta dumplings with goat cheese and herbs logged away on my Pinterest page (http://www.thekitchn.com/quick-recipe-ricotta-dumplings-145961). A fabulous meatless option.

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I had really never made anything like this before - I’ve made dumplings maybe once or twice, and they haven’t generally had a cheese base. Luckily for me, this recipe was incredibly easy - if you can mix together a heap of ricotta cheese with eggs, flour, salt, and pepper, you’re in good shape.

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Speaking of shape, I had to roll out my dough and cut them into little shapes (as you can see, I was very creative). The dough was super soft without being sticky, which made the rolling out process pretty painless. Once cut, I just had to drop them in some boiling water and wait for them to float. Floating = doneness in dumpling land.

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While preparing the dumplings for a main course, I thought we’d have my favorite salad of all time as a side. You guys remember how much I love CC’s City Broiler, the restaurant where I used to waitress in Columbia? I love their salad so much, we served a deconstructed version at our wedding (http://omnomwithrob.tumblr.com/post/66829933451/garth-marriage-is-punishment-for-shoplifting-in-some). Since we got a mandoline as a wedding gift, I was thrilled to finally be able to serve this salad in its appropriate vessel, a cucumber bowl!

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Here’s how you do it: slice up your cucumbers lengthwise on a mandoline and shape two slices into a little bowl, secured by halved roma tomatoes on either side. Insert spring mix and romaine lettuces, and top with diced bell peppers, feta cheese, french fried onions, toasted walnuts, and if you’re like me, a mix of balsamic vinaigrette and ranch dressing. I must have made a thousand of these in my year at the steakhouse, and of the many food tricks I’ve learned from being a waitress, this is one of the best.

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Side note: Rob came home. Peach is thrilled by their reunion.

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ANYWAY, after just a few minutes and a few batches of dumplings in boiling water, my dumplings were ready to be dressed. The recipe calls for “a handful of fresh herbs,” which honestly is what I do for most recipes that calls for ANY specific herb.

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Empowered, I selected mostly fresh chopped rosemary and a little basil and heated it in some butter. Then, I combined my dumplings with this mixture and with a spoonful of goat cheese until everything was evenly coated.

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We loved this meal! The recipe was really affordable (plus we had leftovers for a day or two), as well as fast and easy to put together. I loved the texture of the homemade dumplings - the ricotta really made them fluffy, and the tangy goat cheese combined with the earthy herbs and the silky butter made for a great flavor combination. It’s awfully sweet of Rob, who is not Catholic, to go meatless with me on the days when I do. With meals like this, I don’t think he minded.

Caroline

Filed under Rob Bratney food blog Richmond Virginia Lent Catholic ricotta dumplings ricotta dumplings goat cheese herbs rosemary basil CC's City Broiler Columbia Missouri cucumber tomato french fried onions spring mix toasted walnuts feta feta cheese bell peppers butter

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Baby, we were born to run.

The other post that I forgot to…post before getting sushi at Akida took place on the morning of Saturday, March 29th. The last weekend of March every year is a very busy time for the Richmond community, as it is usually when the Monument Avenue 10K race takes place (http://www.sportsbackers.org/events/monument-ave-10k/.

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For some, this means training, conditioning, and in general, running. For me, it means cookies.

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Rob was running the race this year with his co-workers, so I got up at one of those ungodly running hours to drop him off. Because of the high volume of participants, runners had staggered start times based on their estimated completion times. Rob actually wasn’t due to start or finish the race in about two hours, so I thought I’d go home and whip up a finish line treat to surprise him.

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This was a challenging idea for me, not just because this was an impulsive decision with no premeditated grocery visit, but in the running context. When I played volleyball in high school, we did our share of sprints as well as distance running in practice, so I’m very well aware of how sensitive a stomach can be after intense exercise. My usual gooey, sweet dessert selections didn’t seem like the best fit. So I did some searching for oatmeal cookie recipes, which made a little more sense to me, and stumbled upon these ginger lemon oatmeal cookies (http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/melissa-darabian/ginger-lemon-oatmeal-cookies-recipe.html).

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This was a really simple drop cookie recipe, but with interesting twists with the lemon (always something we have on hand for Rob’s homemade cocktails) and ginger (which I’d bought for my salmon burgers - http://omnomwithrob.tumblr.com/post/94663629422/and-the-pickles). I finished the batter in probably record time (I must have succumbed to a parallel racing process, myself), and they cooked really fast too, just about ten minutes.

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Well within my allotted time, I had these cookies cooled and in Ziploc bags to present to Rob and his friends upon their glorious finish. I waited and waited in the rain (of course it rained, why wouldn’t it rain?) until I had waited so long that I was actually kind of worried. I saw a few of Rob’s co-workers pass, but after about an hour, still no Rob. I couldn’t get ahold of him because he’d left his phone with me for the run, and I started to wonder if he’d gotten hurt or something.

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Eventually, I found the number of one of Rob’s co-workers (from whom I stole this photo, thanks Jah!) in his phone and asked if she’d seen him. Turns out, he’d finished just fine, and I had just MISSED IT. He literally ran right past me at some point, and I just didn’t see him. In fact, because he hadn’t been expecting me, he was already celebrating at a bar across town with everyone. So I hung my head and began the rainy walk home with my cookies, that were immaculate, yet all for naught. They were tangy and sweet, not unlike the bittersweet feeling I had - I was very sad to miss Rob’s accomplishment. I’m just lucky that cookies are a meaningful coping mechanism for me, and when he got home, we both enjoyed them very much.

Caroline

Filed under Rob Bratney food blog Richmond Virginia Monument Avenue 10K 10K Monument Avenue runners cookies ginger lemon oatmeal ginger lemon oatmeal cookies

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