Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Rivah

Last weekend I was down at "The Rivah" with some friends and my family for the weekend in Whitestone. On the way down we stopped at The Virginia Street Cafe in Urbanna for lunch and a visit with my 92 year old aunt. The Virginia Street Cafe offers a nice selection of local seafood- I loved my softshell crab sandwich and my two year old dug into the fried shrimp special. They make a point of using local seafood.

The next day, Ed and I stopped for a bite at a local roadside food shack, Rocket Billys for a second breakfast. Had a great ham, egg, and cheese sandwich. Had a nice chat with Rocket Billy himself about his business, food sourcing and the world in general. I was very surprised to hear that 99.9% of his product comes from the corporate behomoth Sysco- the only local ingredients are oysters, but even then its not all of the time. For a modest operation such as Rocket Billy's, he relies on the consistency (both in availability and pricing) that a large distributor can offer. It's too bad though- the "localness" of a place like Rocket Billy's loses some of its cachet with this revelation. But I guess only higher end restaurants can afford to buy local. But the day before in Urbanna I was told otherwise. What's really the driving force? Convenience ?

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Figs, Glorious Figs

My fig tree, just 4 years old, loves its home next to my stucco house where the summer sun warms it doubly, even when night falls. I have had two crops this summer with the new batch ripening as I write. I can hardly get them from the back yard to the kitchen before they disappear.

In case you were wondering, here are some historical and scientific facts from our friends at Wikipedia interspersed with my musings. Fig Trees are a species from the genus Ficus, which includes about 800 species of woody trees, shrubs, and vines.
There is circumstantial evidence that figs were among the first cultivated crop, based on preserved specimens in Jericho.The figs were grown some 11,400 years ago, and because they were of a mutation which could not reproduce normally, it is proposed that they may have been planted and cultivated intentionally, one thousand years before the next crops domesticated (wheat and rye).

It has been suggested that the Tree of Knowledge from the Garden of Eden was a fig tree, famous for its large leaves that came in handy for Adam and Eve to cover themselves in the first recorded moment of shame. It is interesting that they are purported to have aphrodisiac qualities and the fruit when split open has certain similarities to a woman’s sex. Is it not ironic that a tree with the leaves used to cover Adam and Eve from self-conscious shame in the Garden of Eden yields fruit with such lovely qualities?

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Gourmet Baby Food

Today's New York Times has an interesting article about a new trend in feeding babies alternatives to the usual bland jarred fare that is the norm for most people.
The author brings up some interesting issues around eating patterns, organic, fresh vs frozen vs jarred and the role of food in kids' lives.

As I wrote in a previous post, "No Chicken Nuggets in my house" but I try not to make a big deal out of eating so my kids don't develop neuroses around food. I try to give them what we are eating, but don't press the issue. Tonight I proudly watched my two year old tackle his first ear of corn. He had eaten some cut off the ear, but insisted on having an ear as well. And I should mention that they were grilled and then topped with a lime adobo butter. He ate the whole thing.

Duro is hard to like

A restaurant that proclaims itself as a unique pasta experience sets the bar high, especially in a town that claims as its own the magical Vasaio trio of Mamma Zu, Edo Squid, and 8 ½, The Franco’s family of restaurants, the LoPresti empire and even the simple pastas and takeout from Mainly Pasta . My experience at DURO was far from being unique and Duro can’t be included in my Richmond Pantheon of Pastas. While the name Duro is a reference to the Durum wheat that pasta is made from, a more apt connection may to an alternate definition of duro, “hard, ” as in “hard to get a waiter” or “hard to like.”

To be fair, the appetizers that we had were okay. The house calamari was palatable- a combination of sautéed squid with onions, capers and olives, but the soggy bread that it sat upon took away from the dish. Perhaps it had sat too long before arriving at our table. The other appetizer we had was our first taste of “the unique pasta experience.” And it was good. Little “bags” stuffed with pear, a mild cheese of some sort and topped in a white sauce. My only lament is that we had only enough for a taste. My main course included one of my favorite pairings, lamb and rosemary. The dish advertised braised lamb shanks over rosemary pasta. When I think braised I think moist and juicy. Not so- the braising liquid must have run dry, as was the lamb. And I couldn’t find much evidence of rosemary in my pasta.

I expected more from a seasoned chef, especially one that created the expectation of a “unique pasta experience. “