Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Mango Madness

I struggle to resist a mango in its sublime, summertime sweetness.  They make a happy, bright compliment to so many savory dishes.  If only their darn pits weren't so tricky to work around, not to mention enormous relative to the actual flesh of the fruit!  When my kids spy a mango on the cutting board, I can count on instantaneous hovering, with mouths open and not the slightest concern for the labor required to to amass just one juicy, yellow morsel.  Weakened by those sweet little faces, I've just embraced the reality that, as a rule, I need to purchase roughly twice the  quantity of mango specified in recipes.

Here are a few light, summertime dishes featuring mangoes; incidentally, seafood stars in all of these plates as well!

Seared Tuna with Mango Chutney (Click here for recipe)

This dish rocks, and why wouldn't it?  My girl Ina never lets me down.

(I know I talk about her like she's my BF.  I did actually meet her once when my friend and I waited in line outside Sur la Table with an 8 week old Andrew to have her sign our cookbooks.  I greeted her assistant Barbara - whom I instantly recognized from my dedicated program viewing - like we were old chums and then waited with eagerness for my 12 1/2 seconds in Ina's presence.  She goobed at Andrew, which kind of made my year.)  

Back to the food.   The rich chutney harmonizes perfectly with the light fish, which we happened to grill for this dish (but I've seared it as well before, and both techniques are divine).  Toasted coconut rice played a sweet supporting role.

Shrimp and Mango Salad

This dish was inspired by this Epicurious recipe for Shrimp, Mango and Avocado Salad with Sweet Chili-Ginger Vinaigrette.  We grilled shrimp (brushed with olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper) and tossed it along with diced mango - but no avocado since it didn't make it home from the store with me - in the dressing as outlined in the recipe.  The result was tasty and bright.  I love when a single bite satisfies tangy, spicy and sweet all at the same time.  The rice in the background is Barefoot's herbed basmati rice recipe. The broccoli is just lightly steamed and flavored with the sauce oozing over from the shrimp.

Mango Cucumber Rice Salad  (Click here for recipe)

While this is a rice salad per the title, my salad did not actually contain rice, due to my failure to read the recipe until mealtime was 15 minutes away.  Digesting the reality that my poor planning did not leave me with enough time to actually cook the rice, I defaulted to increasing the quantity of quick-cooking quinoa instead.  (So I guess a more appropriate title is Mango Cucumber Quinoa Salad....tomato tom"ah"to.)  Let's be honest here.... if you're a regular quinoa eater, you will find this simple salad to be pleasant and refreshing.  To me, the sweet mango plays nicely off of the crisp cucumber and salty crunch of the peanuts. If you're most men...oops I probably shouldn't have said that not typically a grain person, I'm going to guess that you'll find this boring and mildly tasteless.  Just trying to keep it real, friends...  The bowl next to the salad contained the main course:  Asian Black Cod with Hoisin and Ginger Sauces.  This was a yummy and flavorful partner for the salad.

Darnit.  To be entirely festive, this post really should have included some delicious cocktail like a mango martini or margarita.   Here's a recipe.  Let's pretend I made this too.  Cheers!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Date Nights

Date nights bring on the giddiness of Christmas morning for us.  Hub shares my appreciation for a delicious plate, so that's often our date night pursuit.  Richmond has pleasantly surprised us with some culinary treasures, so I thought I'd share a snapshot of some of our food experiences this summer.

Yes, I'm that weirdo in restaurants taking pictures of my plates.  While I aim for discretion, it's probably still shameful.  I've got to say, though, that I feel like I get to sort of relive these meals through photos after the fact.  So I'm just gonna keep on doing it.

The Black Sheep

This place is rustic and completely unassuming.  It's all about fresh, carefully prepared and beautifully presented homemade food.  The service is friendly too.  I'm a huge fan.

Our starter: 
Crawfish Étouffée “Gravy” Biscuit (no picture)- Crawfish Tailmeat in a Rich Brown Sauce Served over a Freshly Baked Parmesan Biscuit.  My review: Divine and perfectly spicy. 

Main courses:  
Trout Tinker Creek (no picture) - Pan Seared Rainbow Trout with Bacon, Snow Pea Shoots & Mushrooms.  Served with a Brown Butter Corn Sauce.  Ryan said this was the best white fish dish he has ever had!  I mean, who wouldn't adore brown butter corn sauce though?

Arctic Char Grilled Niçoise - Fillet of Arctic Char, Grilled & Served with Grilled Potato, Grilled Fennel, Haricot Vert, Tomato, Mussel Salad, Black Olive Vinaigrette & a Deviled Egg...Served Over Organic Mixed Greens. This was entirely divine.  Each, gorgeously fresh component was amazing in its own right, so combining them just made it all the more incredible.  I could have eaten the kalamata olive dressing with a spoon.  This dish ignited a grilled fennel obsession... so much that I finally had to make some earlier this week!  Love love love.


I love the small plate concept, and this restaurant offers an experience worth remembering.  It's practically a dive, which I totally appreciate and kinda love. Thanks to Kate for letting me know that it's a place worth visiting!  The best dish was the one in the middle below:  Buttered Brussel Sprouts with Sea Salt and Pine Nuts.  The waiter said they are like candy, and I thought he was nuts until I tasted them and enthusiastically concurred.

Other dishes:   
Seared Beef Teres Major with Cabrales Sauce - decadently rich and complex
Grilled Asparagus with Garlic, Olive Oil, 3-month Manchego, and Romesco sauce - The asparagus was almost too al dente for me, but the accoutrements more than made up for it!
Bloody Mary Poached Shrimp with Grits - my second fave; it was incredible!!
Pork Tenderloin with Raspberry Sauce and Greens - pleasantly sweet and simple, but nothing to write home about.

We wrapped it up with Apple Fritters with House-made Vanilla Ice cream.  The fritters were reminiscent of funnel cake; who doesn't love funnel cake?!

Chez Foushee

This was just a dessert stop for their signature Lemon Butter Cake. I don't have a picture, because someone (ok, me) somehow entirely devoured before the camera could capture it.  The waiter poured coffee on me, and I almost didn't notice it amidst the shoveling.  This dessert has all of the best texture qualities of cake, pound cake and cheesecake, accented with sweet, lemony goodness.  I will SO be back there again.


I think the cat is out of the bag on this joint, since we had to wait nearly an hour despite our senior citizen-esque early arrival.  You can order entree portions or opt for small plates.  We did both!

Dorado's Tacos - Seared Dorado, Corn Tortillas, Jicama Cucumber Slaw, Pickled Red Onion, Lime Wedges, Avocado, Cilantro Lime Crema, Grilled Zucchini, and Coconut Black Beans.  - The beans, oddly, were what I remember most.  They were so surprisingly sweet and delightful.  I also love me some pickled onions.

(Sorry for the fuzzy pictures from here on....)

Voodoo Shrimp - Wild-Caught Shrimp, Allspice, Rum, Chorizo, Torta Round, Banana, Soft-Fried Egg, Habañero   A slightly oozier egg yolk would have elevated this plate from tasty to wow, but the concept of this dish is so up my alley!  The rich egg and sweet banana were a great offset to the zingy shrimp and chorizo.

Pobresito - Fresh Fried Oysters and Shrimp, Tomato, Habañero Tartar Slaw  The crunchy oysters were nice, but I would be lying if I didn't admit that my palate longed for horseradish.  I have really happy memories of fried oysters and cocktail sauce at the Old Ebbitt Grill bar in DC with my late and horribly missed friend, Gene.


Cabo Crab Cakes - Lump Crab Cakes, Cabbage, Lobster/Lime Cream, Saffron Potato Cakes, Broccoli  I think I missed the point, since the highlight, to me, was the potato cakes!

Remember the opening scene of "My Best Friend's Wedding" where the restaurant kitchen frenzies to bring Julia Roberts' character a perfect plate, and all hold their breath awaiting her critique?  I fantasize on the idea of gallivanting from restaurant to restaurant, sampling amazing cuisine (you know, for free, of course) just to write a little paragraph about it the next day.  Oh yeah, and I'd get paid for that too.  HA!

PS - Thanks to hub for being the best date ever. xo