Wednesday, October 6, 2010

City's Best Kept Secret

My favorite lunch spot in Richmond - hands down - is not really a spot at all.  It's a cart that parks on the street in front of my office building during lunch hours, only during the week, and only when it's not raining or too cold.  I am in love with the Tarragon Chicken Salad from Christopher's Runaway Gourmay.  If you think I'm overreacting about this stuff, you've probably never tasted it.  I have to believe the secret to its amazingness is vinegar.  I've tried duplicating the recipe at home on a number of occasions and thought I was brilliant to add, in addition to chopped fresh tarragon, tarragon vinegar.  Well, I am not so brilliant after all... it just didn't capture that perfect note this stuff delivers.  The mixture's also got a gentle sweetness that comes - I think - from the golden raisins that become reconsistituted by drinking up said presumed vinegar.  I attemped that tactic too with no success.  Why haven't I just asked for the recipe, you wonder?  Well, I did and was shot down with the response that the "secret sauce" remains a secret from even the employees.  It's probably because there's some illegal additive that makes it so addictive. 

I brought 5 lbs of it on a winery tour this past weekend for a dear friend's bachelorette party, along with a handful of Whole Foods baguettes that I tore into rustic quarters.  Despite its modest plastic packaging, it proudly took center stage in the feast.  While my brain is retreating to our table that sat in the glorious sunshine overlooking the tranquil vines (can you tell I'm enjoying this cerebral vacation?), I'll add that I made a simple but flavorful sun dried tomato pasta salad, another Barefoot classic, to serve on the side.  I'm providing that recipe below, as some of the attendees requested it.  I encourage anyone else to try it as well, as it's a buffet addition that's far more exciting and tasty than your standard pasta salad.   I typically make it exactly as outlined in the recipe.  In cases like this where I'm not certain about the palates of the group, however, I tend to omit potentially controversial ingredients.  So this time, the kalamata olives didn't make the cut.  I personally adore them, but I know a fair number of folks that don't!


Nothing happens until I make it happen. said...

Yeay I am not alone in loving the Tarragon Chicken Salad from Christopher's Runaway Gourmay! I used to eat it nearly everyday when I was on MCV Campus. I am now in Virginia Beach and I miss it dearly. My sister is still in Richmond and I beg her to buy me a large order when she can, which is not very often b/c she is not around campus anymore either.

When I was pregnant I begged my sister even more to bring me some down to Virginia Beach but then she began to refuse b/c she swore their "secret ingredient" must've been crack b/c it was so addicting!! haha... I've even called them to see if they'd ship me an order via UPS so it would get to me in one day. However they refused. Not surprised b/c there's mayo in it but who knows... it was worth a shot! haha

I left Richmond 8 years ago and still can't get the flavor out of my head! It is to a point where I am now going to try to mimic the recipe. Hmmm.. where to start. Looks like you've already tried... so thanks for sharing... atleast now I know I'm not alone and that there really is a secret ingredient that I probably won't ever be able to mimic... but I guess I'm going to try... I'll probably just start googling tarragon Chicken salad and making each one... any link on the closest recipe you found? any idea what the cheese wedge was? and tips on the pesto pasta? Any help is appreciated! Been craving it for so long!! And to anyone in the RIC area, who's never tried them, I 100% recommend Christopher's Runaway Gourmay cart!

Lady Em said...

It's my favorite too! I have been trying to figure out the recipe for their marinated cucumbers, which are amazing too. I can't duplicate it.

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