Blow Toad: A Review UPDATE

See my Blow Toad review for an interesting update involving bull testicles.

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The Mill on MacArthur: A Review

Artichoke Po Boy with Sweet Potato Fries

Where: The Mill (MacArthur Ave. Richmond)
What: American Cuisine, Vegetarian
Number of People: 3
Total Cost: $100
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars

It was a celebrating kind of day so some friends and I headed to The Mill. I had never been there and was shocked considering I used to live across the street and I go to school around the corner. The food was excellent. They have a large variety of vegetarian and vegan options and today was Vegetarian Monday. I had the artichoke po boy, which was yummy. The artichokes were very well cooked and they came on chibatta with tomato, lettuce and a Cajun remoulade. I had a side of sweet potato fries and the house wine to drink. The sandwich was great. There wasn’t enough spicy so I got some remoulade on the side and it was perfect. The fries were great as well. We had two appetizers, vegetable pot stickers and fried oysters. The pot stickers were good. There wasn’t a lot of filling but the wrapper didn’t take over the taste. The oysters were delicious and came with some of the remoulade. Scott got the meatloaf and liked it. He had issue with the fact that his green beans were crunchy, but that’s how I like them. Sandy got the pasta primavera and also seemed to enjoy it. For dessert they had ice cream from Bev’s so I had the tiramisu gelato, which is always delicious, along with some decaf.

The atmosphere was very welcoming. There was a lot of light and everything was very simple. The waitress was very nice and attentive. She even offered another dessert to Scott since his cupcake was the last one and potentially a little dry. It was a wonderful meal and I will definitely be returning and introducing more people to this place.

Don’t Look Back (Taco Bar): A Review

Bean, Rajas and Chicken Tacos

Where: Don’t Look Back (W. Cary St., Richmond)
What: Tacos
Number of People: 2
Total Cost: $50
Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Adam and I heard of a new place in Cary Town that was the result of Nate’s Taco Truck, which was a big hitter on VCU’s campus for a while. We knew it had a strange name and it turns out we were right. It also turns out that the people who said the tacos were amazing were also right. The tacos were delicious. There are a variety of options on the menu, including vegetarian. They had all the basics, chicken, shredded beef, fish, carnitas and some nice additions such as bean, peppers, soy, and chorizo. They also had burritos, tostadas and the like. We tried a chicken, shredded beef, bean, peppers (Rajas), fish and chorizo with some guacamole on the side. Each taco is $3 and can be served traditionally (onions, cilantro and lime) or gringo (sour cream, cheese, salsa, lettuce) and either with corn or flour tortillas. We had corn on everything except the bean and mixed up the styles depending on the filling.

Tacos!

My favorite was definitely the fish taco. The fish was delicious and the cabbage slaw and sauce were just how I remember fish tacos. All of the others were also delicious. I definitely prefer traditional style because it’s simple and let’s the flavors show. Plus I’m a bit of a snob and want them to be as authentic as possible. The guacamole was also good and I’m picky about my guacamole.

I would definitely recommend this place to any one looking for a good, upscale Mexican restaurant in Richmond. The atmosphere was very modern with loud music in a tight space with TVs playing various shows and sports. They had a good beer selection and we hit at happy hour. The service was pretty good but not perfect, hence a missing star. I will certainly be going back in the future and taking a lot of friends.

Fish Taco

Pat’s King of Steaks: A Review

Pat's Philly Cheesesteak

Where: Pat’s King of Steaks (1237 Passyunk Ave, Philly)
What: Cheesesteaks
Cost: $10 per person
Number of People: 5
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars

Adam and I are in Philadelphia for Passover and its tradition to go to Pat’s for Passover. As long as you’re not eating Kosher, of course. I was leery about cheesesteaks because traditionally they’re made with Cheese Wiz and my experience with Cheese Wiz has never been good. But I was definitely moved to team Cheese Wiz. We walked up and the line was ridiculous but it only took about 15 minutes. We realized why when we got there and they were practically throwing cheesesteaks at us. We ordered and two seconds later we had a cheesesteak. It was stressful but we soon didn’t care because we were chowing down on amazing cheesesteaks. Cheap bread, cheap meat, cheap cheese with some onions and mushrooms turned out to be a delicious meal. Fast food at its best!

A few things you need to know. They only take cash and you definitely want to have your money ready. There are specific ways to order. To get a mushroom cheesesteak with wiz and onions you would say mushroom cheese wiz wit. Wit-out for no onions, mushroom pepper cheese to add sweet peppers and of course you can add different kinds of cheese but that’s sacrilegious.

If you’re in Philly you should definitely head to Pat’s.

Bev’s Homemade Ice Cream: A Review

Nutella Gelato

Where: Bev’s (2911 W. Cary, Richmond)
What: Ice Cream
Number of People: 2
Total Cost: $7.33
Rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve been to Bev’s several times and never reviewed it but today it is time. Everyone should know just how amazing Bev’s ice cream is. It is amazing. Today I had the Nutella Gelato and it is one of my new favorites. Some of my other favorites include Samoa, Honey Almond Oatmeal, Basil and so many more. I always get mine in a sugar cone and they also have waffles cones, cake cones and of course various cup sizes. They have set flavors that are always there and then new flavors every week. I always like to get one of the new flavors because they are always interesting and unique. Today Adam had the Cinnabean (cinnamon coffee) and Dark Chocolate S’more in a cake  cone with rainbow sprinkles. They also have different kinds of shakes and desserts and homemade pastries, cakes and/or pies. And it is always amazing. Any time I go in to Cary Town I always have to stop by and see what’s new. There is plenty of seating and the people are great. It’s just an awesome place all the way around. Plus, today my ice cream looked like a cat. Eat at Bev’s!

Cat Face Ice Cream!

BlowToad: A Review

Bleu Ball Pizza

Where: BlowToad (2907 W. Cary, Richmond)
What: Pizza and Beer
Number of People: 2
Total Cost: $50
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars

**UPDATE**

I just learned that the steak that was on my pizza was bull testicles. I guess I should have asked what swinging steak was but still feel like that should have been obvious on the menu. It was good but now I know why I couldn’t figure out what was different about it!

**End Update**

I visit Cary Town on a regular basis and it is one of my favorite places in Richmond. Like most people here I was incredibly curious and seriously concerned when I saw the sign for BlowToad go up where the BBQ restaurant used to be. BlowToad, what the heck is BlowToad and how could they possibly have good food? Well, I checked it out online after it had been open for a while and it had good reviews so after the end of the French Film Festival Adam and I decided to check it out. Adam is incredibly picky about pizza with the whole being Italian and actually eating pizza in Italy thing so it was a stretch.

The atmosphere was nice. It was loud and the lighting was low. Nice and romantic. There was also the option for outdoor seating but it was a little chilly so we stayed inside. They had a great selection of beer and I had a Crispin Cider. They did the very trendy thing of bringing out cups and a big bottle of water that you can pour yourself which I appreciate. All of the waiters also used iPads which seems like a fabulous idea. As someone who worked in a restaurant with no technology and now being an iPad owner I can only imagine the convenience it provides.

Pizza with Eggplant, Ricotta and Anchovies

When it came time for food I ordered the Bleu Ball pizza and Adam did a make your own with eggplant, ricotta and anchovies. The Bleu pizza had thing strips of steak, bleu cheese and onions. It had a great thin crust and minimal amounts of sauce. The cheese was good and the onions were nice and crunchy. The steak strip things were interesting. I couldn’t quite figure them out but they were tasty and added to the overall pizza. The pizza’s are $12 per pizza and the make your own is $8 with $2 per side. They are all 12 inches. Adam says his pizza was good but I don’t eat anchovies because they’re gross so I can’t vouch for it. But as I said before, he’s picky. He described it well saying that the pizza was good American-style pizza but not quite up to Italian standards. It was definitely tasty and worth the trip. Our service was a little slow so they got dinged a star for that but again, worth the visit.

Capital Ale House: A Review

Italian Burger

Where: Capital Ale House (4024 Cox Rd.)
What: American, Burgers and Beer
Number of People: 4
Total Cost: About $25 per person
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars

It was a day worth celebrating on Thursday so we decided to head to Capital Ale House. They have a great selection of beer and the burgers are always good. And as a bonus it needed up being Endless Mussels night so Adam was happy. Our server was excellent at suggesting beers since looking through the menu would probably take a good hour. I ended up getting the Italian burger which was topped with mozzarella, pesto and tomato. It was an excellent mix if flavors and all the toppings were pretty mild so they didn’t mask the taste of the burger. And I always love Capital Ale’s fries because they are the perfect size and never too crunchy. Plus they have great dips.

And of course, dessert. We all shared the brownie sundae and it was delicious. Brownie with vanilla ice cream, brownie bites, caramel and chocolate sauce, and whipped cream. It was awesome. Unfortunately I don’t remember the names of the beers we had, but they were tasty. Capital Ale House is a great place to go if you want a good burger and a beer in a casual, yet sophisticated atmosphere.  

Willie’s BBQ: A Review

Pork Sandwich Plate

Where: Willie’s BBQ (2245 Pocahontas Trail, Quinton, Va.)

What: Dinner

Number of People: 2

Total Cost: $18

Beef Brisket Plate

Rating: 4 of 5 stars

I lived in Charles City, Va., while in college and I learned that if you want home cookin’ Charles City is the place to be. A BBQ place opened up where the hole-in-the-wall McDonalds used to be and I had never been but had heard good things. One of my cousins even works there but since I don’t get back to Charles City as often I hadn’t visited. I finally had the chance and inclination to go and I have already been back since. Yes, Willie’s BBQ is that good. Adam and I went on a trip to visit my Grandmother and did not regret it. I got the Pork Sandwich Plate ($7.95) with Macaroni and Cheese (all of the sides are homemade) and a drink. Adam got the Beef Brisket Plate ($11) with Baked Beans, Candied Yams and Corn Bread and a drink. The meat was extremely tender and the available sauces were great. I preferred the North Carolina-style sauce, which is vinegar based, as opposed to the Virginia-style sauce, which is tomato based. The sides were obviously homemade. The mac and cheese was so incredibly cheesy without being dry as some homemade mac and cheeses can be. The beans and yams were sweet and the corn bread was crumbly and moist. As a hole-in-the-wall, off-the-beaten-path place it did not have very much decor and the music was as random as possible. But I think that helps give it charm. The service was great since the people who work there are friendly and they obviously enjoy their job as well as the food. You can take anything to go and there is indoor and outdoor seating.

If you ever find yourself on I-64  or Rt. 60 and want to take a rest, stop at the Bottoms Bridge exit and try out Willie’s. It is well worth the stop.

Williamsburg, Va: A Food Tour

Williamsburg, Va., is one of my favorite places to be. It is beautiful, full of history and has a lot of great food. For our one year anniversary Adam and I decided to take a trip to Williamsburg and enjoy a relaxing non-weekend (it was Tuesday).

Chorizo Pumpkin Pasta (front) and Smoked Chicken Cassoulet

Where: Second St. (400 2nd St.)

What: Appetizer, Dinner and Wine

Number of People: 2

Total Cost: $98

Rating: 5 of 5 Stars

Our first food stop was dinner at Second St.: An American Bistro. I had asked around on Facebook and received some great recommendations for places to try. Second St. seemed like a good fit and it was only a five minute walk from where we were staying. They don’t take reservations so I just called 30 minutes ahead. We had a great experience there. The atmosphere is charming and romantic, the service was great and the food was delicious. They had a fantastic decorating idea of serving our water in old wine bottles with the labels removed. Definitely a good use of bottles and it looked very chic.

We ordered a bottle of Act 12 of 1619, ’09, ($31). It was a Chardonnay that was nice and smooth and nutty. For an appetizer we ordered the Fried Green Tomatoes ($7.90). They were buttermilk and panko coated with red onion marmalade and dill aioli. The tomatoes were perfectly fried and the marmalade was fascinating. At first I thought they were sweet peppers but in fact were onions. There could have been more aioli, especially since it gave a nice contrast to the sweet of the tomatoes and the marmalade.

For an entrée Adam ordered the Smoked Chicken Cassoulet ($15.90) and I ordered the Chorizo Pumpkin Pasta ($16.90). From what I had of the cassoulet it was delicious and hearty and Adam certainly loved it. The pasta was delightfully different. The chorizo gave it a nice spice. The pumpkin sauce wasn’t sweet which let the pumpkin stand out. It was served over penne and topped with chili-toasted pumpkin seeds that gave a nice crunch. Overall it was a great meal that suited celebrating an anniversary.

Chocolate Pâté

Where: The Trellis (403 W. Duke of Gloucester St.)

What: Coffee and Dessert

Number of People: 2

Total Cost: $36

Rating: 5 of 5 Stars

Anyone who has been in or around Williamsburg has probably heard of The Trellis and for good reason. The chef who created the Death By Chocolate cake is from The Trellis so how could we go to Williamsburg and not eat some cake? It is a beautiful restaurant that has a great atmosphere. We ordered decaf coffee and it was brought to us in a french press that the waitress pressed for us. We ordered the Death By Chocolate Cake ($10.95) and the Chocolate Pâté ($8.95). The cake was amazing. It is seven layers of different kinds of chocolate from ganache to mousse to cake. My favorite layer was definitely the ganache and my least favorite is the oddly airy/crunchy center. It was served with chocolate ice cream and a delicious white chocolate truffle that had a hint of lemon. The pâté was basically a thicker chocolate mousse and it was served with a pistachio profiterole. It was rich and creamy and pretty much awesome. Needless to say, after this rich meal we were exhausted and ready to relax.

Death By Chocolate Cake

If you are going to Williamsburg there are a few other places I would recommend. Definitely check out The Cheese Shop for lunch. They have great sandwiches. You can also get cheese and wine or beer and sit outside and enjoy a tasting. The selection of cheese is amazing and they have a ridiculous amount of local products such as espresso rub for meat. (Keep an eye out for that this weekend.) We went on Wednesday and split a Prosciutto and Provolone Sandwich with roasted red peppers. We also got a 1/4 lb of Prima Donna Aged Gouda and a Rustic Role. I always like to get some Chownings Tavern Root Beer as well since it’s made in Williamsburg.

Prosciutto and Provolone Sandwich

Another place to check out is Wythe’s Candy Shop, conveniently located next door to the cheese shop (both of which are across the street from The Trellis). They have wonderful handmade candies and caramel apples, as well as local goodies such as peanuts and jams.

Williamsburg is one of my favorite places to visit to relax and enjoy great food. I cannot wait for an opportunity to go back and do it all again!

Rustic Role and Prima Donna Aged Gouda

Handmade Truffles from Wythe's

Lemaire at The Jefferson: A Review

Where: Lemaire at The Jefferson, 101 W. Franklin St.

What: Dinner, Dessert and Wine

Number of people: 2

Total Cost: $110

Overall Rating: 5 of 5 stars

For our anniversary/Valentine’s Day Adam decided to splurge with some extra spending money and go to one of the best fine dining restaurants in Richmond, Lemaire, located in the famous Jefferson Hotel. I had been to The Jefferson for a cotillion-like event in college and Adam had never been but you don’t have to live in Richmond long to know that if it’s at The Jefferson it’s going to be good. The meal was delicious and certainly high quality with excellent presentation, although with small portions (part of the early bird special we used). The staff, especially our waitress, were very hospitable and the atmosphere was sophisticated and Southern, yet with a modern flair. The alligator is the “mascot” of Lemaire and it was entertaining to see the giant statues everywhere. The restaurant specializes and certainly prides itself on using local foods that are prepared fresh.

Adam learned from the Web site that Lemaire had an early bird special (5 pm – 6 pm) with a fixed menu of appetizer, entree and dessert for $30 per person, as well as three glasses of wine for an extra $15. There were two appetizer selections, a soup and a salad; three entree options of steak, salmon or vegetarian; and two dessert options. Adam and I both chose the Cream of Sunchoke Bisque as an appetizer and the Buckhead Petite Filet as an entree. Adam got the Butterscotch Creme Brulee and I got the Southern Pecan Tart for dessert.

Neither Adam nor I knew what a sunchoke was but decided we wanted bisque as opposed to the salad option. It was served elegantly with the locally grown oyster mushrooms and herbed roasted tomatoes in the center of the bowl and the bisque poured around when it was brought to the table. Apparently a sunchoke is known as a Jerusalem Artichoke and is a type of sunflower. The taste was wonderful. The bisque was hearty yet with a muted flavor. When you bit into the tomatoes they had an intense acidic flavor that complimented the sunchoke well and the mushrooms were incredibly buttery and added a great texture. When our waitress came to take the bowls she sarcastically commented on how much we didn’t like the bisque.

Since we were getting a deal and wanted to take advantage of it, we both went for the filet. As I said before the portions were small (although the bisque was a “normal” size) so the filet was only about two ounces. It came with a bourbon mustard demi-glaze, Sage Mashed Potatoes and Brown Butter Cabbage. The filet was excellent. The glaze was not as flavorful as I expected and it was difficult to taste the mustard, but the filet did not really need it. The glaze did give a mustard hint, but not as much as I would have liked. The mashed potatoes were perfectly flavored and a good consistency. The cabbage was also a great addition.

And of course the desserts were amazing. The creme brulee was very sweet and had a nice crunchy top. The tart was very Southern with a nice twist with added chocolate and Cinnamon Latte Ice Cream, as well as a strawberry and blackberry that were great with the Honey Cinnamon Caramel. I wanted to give an Italian kiss when we were done.

With the meal we ordered the wine deal (three 3 oz pours) to share. The waitress chose the wines because as she said, they are all professional wine drinkers there. For the appetizer she brought us a chardonnay. I don’t have the specific names since we were celebrating and not “working”. It was light and paired well with the bisque. For the filet she brought us a California cabernet that was incredibly smooth while being bold enough to stand up to the red meat. I am not a fan of intense or dry wines but this cabernet was delicious. Dessert was paired with an Italian dessert wine that was almost like a syrup. It was perfect and could only be taken in small sips.

The meal was amazing and we felt like we had spent our money, well Adam’s money, well. It was a wonderful, romantic evening at one of the premier attractions in Richmond. I will have the return the favor some day soon and treat Adam to a night at Lemaire. Well, maybe lunch.