The Perfect Gift

Find Gift Baskets filled with high quality wines, thoughtfully selected foods such as Vermont aged cheddar, Rowena’s baby bundt cakes, The Peanut Shop peanuts, fresh-baked biscotti at Wine Gourmet.

See Kimberly present all the baskets on Channel 10’s Our Blue Ridge, December 2010.

The Perfect Gift

The entire basket is assembled right here in the shop.

Perfect gifts for many people in your life.

Neighbors
Newlyweds
Fathers
BFFs
Referrals
Clients

Watch Mechelle put together the most popular gift basket of the season – the 2-bottle basket.

To order please call us at 540.400.8466 or email info@winegourmet.biz

Click Here for all Baskets

 

 

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Of Beer & Ball with Greg Roberts

Award-winning Sports Talk Host, Greg Roberts and Wine Gourmet’s Beer Buyer, Aaron Layman talk Football & Beer at Wine Gourmet, Roanoke’s Keg Headquarters.

Visit Wine Gourmet for List of KEGS.

 

Our Glorious Trip to Town House

We love our Wine Gourmet wine dinners.  They’re a great chance to enjoy a nice meal, promote our passion and hobnob with our favorite folks, our customers.  We have experienced delightful wine dinners at Stephen’s restaurant, Pomegranate, and Table 50 but, as high as the bar has been set, this last Saturday, we hunkered down for our most ambitious wine dinner yet.  We traveled to Chilhowie, a town so small the “Entering” and “Just Leaving” signs are back to back.  There, almost inexplicably, sits Town House, a restaurant whose executive chef was hailed just 3 months ago by Food and Wine magazine as one of the ten best new chefs in the country.

I had spent some time reading about John and Karen Shields and how they were enticed into coming to Chilhowie from the somewhat larger Chicago.  I knew that these two had been on the verge of accepting the roles of Executive Chef and Executive Pastry Chef at Charlie Trotter’s new restaurant in Las Vegas.  However, the lure of full kitchen control, proximity to their food source, and a break from the relentless spotlight common with star chefs in large cities brought them, instead, to Southwest Virginia.  Here was an opportunity for the chefs to hone their craft and an opportunity for diners, not living in a big city, to experience food prepared with substantial skill.

We piled a group of 25 diners into a bus (OK, “luxury motor coach”) that we’d hired for the evening.  Somehow, 25 separate diners making their way to Chilhowie and then facing a two-hour drive back after a full meal with wine didn’t seem like a great idea – and so, enter the bus.  We brought with us for the ride some nibbly foods, along with wine, and enjoyed a game of wine trivia.  We arrived in Chilhowie in a state of jovial camaraderie and were greeted warmly by the staff of Town House.
We were ready to let the culinary games begin.

I’ll have to confess that, though I began by taking notes as the courses came to the table, I stopped early on and decided I should just enjoy the experience. It would have been fun to have the opportunity to do a forensic analysis of the plates.  In some ways I wanted to take the dish to a place out-of-the-way, in the light and in the quiet, and study it – or better yet, ask the chef about it.  It’s the same impulse that makes a clever child want to disassemble a watch.  I wanted to fully understand, in order to fully appreciate, each of the components in the dish and how they were combined and organized for plating. Each dish contained items I couldn’t readily identify, even with the menu descriptions right at hand.  But because that kind of analysis wasn’t practical, I had to let the notion go and ponder it in hindsight – after having had time to digest it, if you will.

As each course arrived, I couldn’t help but notice the consistency of appearance.  Each plate could be admired on its own merit as a thing of beauty.  All had a deceptive “casualness” to their construction. They appeared naturalistic but were, in actuality, highly organized. Each bit of leaf and blossom, each delicate component was placed carefully with tweezers or tongs or chopsticks, there was nothing accidental in it.

Before discussing the meal, I should also take a moment to note that the service was, by any standard, exceptional.  Kyra Bishop (co-owner of the restaurant) and her staff, including Sommelier Charlie Berg, could not have been any more welcoming, gracious and attentive to our needs. No aspect of service was found wanting.

Service started with an “amuse bouche”  – a “cookie” whose sandwich was made from a flour of black olive paste and a creamy filling of olive oil and meyer lemon.

Though its appearance gave it a convincing picture of sweetness, it was anything but. The cookie was soft in texture and richly savory, earthy really. Girlfriend Beth, among others, didn’t care for it.  She so wanted a chocolaty, sugary experience because that was the visual cue but, bite after bite, it failed to deliver for her on that level.  Others, myself among them, relished these flavors and wished for more.

For our first course, a “Soup of Watermelon & Slow Cooked Tomato”.  This cold soup was a deconstructed, inspired-by-gazpacho beauty – with raw beet juice, quenelles of watermelon, a smoky slow-cooked tomato, and oysters.  Layered over the top, along with leaves of geranium and shiso, a Japanese mint, were sheets of watermelon rind as thin as a political promise.  It was the type of dish that shattered any slim hope you may have had that this would be a casual meal.  It fairly demanded your attention.

I might even call this, “discomfort” food.  It made you squirm a bit.  You had to accept a profusion of flavors, each rising and falling in their intensity like a gale-tossed sea surface.  First it was the sweet of the beet juice, then the brininess of the oyster, the herbal delicacy of the geraniums, the earthiness of the tomato, on and on.  The textures of the dish, a cascade of squishy densities, were variations on a single, soft theme.
It was also the dish about which the diners were most divided.  Some prized it as something exotic and ephemeral. Others felt that it lacked harmony, that the flavors were too disparate to manage any cohesiveness.  To me, it was much like tasting a complex wine.
In wine, I often find flavors that would, in themselves, be off-putting.  A cabernet, for example, might, in addition to its fruit, have notes of tobacco, leather, cedar, or earth. Disparate certainly but somehow these items still find harmonious expression in the glass.  To me, that’s what this dish was about, a spectrum of flavors and textures and visuals that built a sensory experience.  Whether or not you liked the experience, you had to admire the art of its construction.
With this course, Sommelier Charlie served a rosé of Malbec (Marguery Rosé).  Its deep extraction gives it more body than most rosé’s ,which the wine needed to avoid getting lost in the cavalcade of flavors associated with the soup. And its rich fruit married very nicely to the beet juice that was the “broth” of the soup.

Our next course was Corn & Crispy Pork Tail.  This plating even included strands of corn silk.


It was a delicate affair of corn-several-ways ringed by a pool of basil-infused toffee sauce. It was delightfully sweet without a hint of the cloying. The piece of cracklin’, from the pork tail, was crispy and earthy and stood in appropriate counterpoint to the sweetness of the corn.  We enjoyed Chateau Lahuc Les Tour with this course, a lovely Sauterne whose pairing with this dish was synergistic in that it too was both sweet and complex.

For a main course, we were presented with Lamb Shank Cooked in Ash.  This dish is mind boggling in the extent of its preparation. It would be nearly impossible to make at home as many items needed the support of specialized kitchen equipment and ingredients (see the link at the bottom).  It’s unlikely that your neighbor will have a cup of xantham gum or pickled green garlic or sheets of acetate available for you to borrow.  But that matters little.  What’s important is that the kitchen has done all this for you and it’s now plated and sitting between your silverware as a thing of beauty with a frilled top-piece of impossibly thin, crispy eggplant.


The lamb was rich, earthy and tender as a mother’s kiss.  It was absolutely one of those most delicious things I’ve ever eaten.  – Should I ever be facing the electric chair, I know there’s a significant chance I’ll be requesting this from the warden as my last meal.
With this course Charlie served us a Les Paillieres Gigondas.  This dense, smoky, earthy, spicy wine from the southern Rhone easily matched the bold flavors of the lamb.  If the entire meal had consisted of just this course, I would still have left the restaurant a happy man.

We finished with a dessert, prepared by Karen, – Parsnip Candy.  The “candy” consisting of strips of parsnip poached in syrup and then dried. Several strips of the candy topped a dish of parsnip ice cream, “yeast sponge”, banana and “aerated” coconut (try making that at home).

Heavenly.   Delicate, complimentary flavors pervaded this sweet-as-a-puppy final course. It wasn’t merely good, it left you wishing you could have a moment alone with the serving dish to assault it with a good licking.
With this dish, Charlie produced Phileo, a fragrant and delicate dessert wine from Barboursville Vineyards in Orange County Virginia whose flavors of peach and roses made for an exquisite pairing.

It was an evening of enormous pleasure enjoying fairy-tale foods and knocking shoulders with the folks for whom we get out of bed in the morning.  Thanks to all who went and keep your eyes peeled for our upcoming wine events.  We have plans for additional dinners locally . . .
– and we all want to get back to Chilhowie

A happy table - soon to be happier.

A restaurant full of good folks.

Check out this link for a look at the recipe for Lamb Shank Cooked in Ash.
Warning: not for the faint of culinary heart.
http://www.starchefs.com/chefs/rising_stars/2010/washington-dc/recipe-australia-lamb-eggplant-john-shields.shtml

Take Comfort – Comfort Cuisine has Dinner Ready for You

You are going to love it!  Pick up your freshly-prepared meal and a bottle of wine anytime.  Just visit Comfort Cuisine or call 540.427.1244, order your meal and pick it up at Wine Gourmet.

As for Comfort Cuisine, you’ll fall in love with their foods made with fresh, whole foods.  Everything Chef Jon makes is plain deliciousness.

Check out the video and get a sneak peek of how your meal will be prepared.

Sangria. You’re welcome.

Sangria Tasting at Wine Gourmet, Thursday, Sept 10, 5-8 pm

Sangria is the perfect summer sipper.

Sangria is a host’s best friend.  Made properly, Sangria is tasty, food-friendly and a perfect quaffer for guests “not into wine.”

Sangria originated in Spain. The word Sangria comes from the Spanish word, sangre meaning blood. The drink gets its name from the red color of the wine used in a traditional sangria recipe. The drink is also made with white wine which is called sangria blanco.

Sangria is basically a mix of wine, juices, soda water and fruit. Any young red wine can be used in a traditional recipe.

Tried and True Tips for Making the Best Sangria:

1.         Good, quality ingredients are important in this drink. Wine is the dominant ingredient, so take care to use a good wine.

2.         It’s important to allow time for the wine to blend with the fruit.  A few hours or even overnight in the refrigerator will enhance the flavor.

3.         Add soda and ice just before serving.

4.         Use a Spanish Rioja to get the authentic flavor of red Sangria.  We have a few wines that are perfect- Protocolo Tinto $8.99 and Montebueno Rioja $9.99

Published in: on June 30, 2010 at 8:36 pm  Leave a Comment  
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One Foodie Couple’s Journey Through Spain – Part II

Adam Z. Markham

In our last chapter we discussed conspicuous consumption and the eating of “all-things-pig”.  Well, why change when you’re on a roll?

After leaving the Mercado de San Miguel, we set out searching for what is literally the single oldest restaurant on planet Earth (at least according to the Guinness Book of World Records).  Casa Botin opened in 1725 and has been operated continuously since.  Think about that.  The place is 51 years older than the United States.

Casa Botin

Casa Botin

Our motivations were pure and well-founded, as Casa Botin´s specialty is suckling pig roasted whole in a wood-fired oven.  As luck would have it we were only about a block from the place.  When we arrived it appeared they were closed for the afternoon but two young guys coming out told me they still had some reservations left… for 11:30pm!  When we went in, the guy in front of me apparently got the very last reservation of the evening.  I begged the man at the desk.  I begged some more.  He absolutely and adamantly refused to give us a coveted slot.  I am not ashamed to admit that when we left the building I wept a little.

My adoring wife, sensing my pain, tried to go back in but they had locked the door.  She then found the door to the kitchen and barged in but was summarily dismissed by the head chef and manager… the nerve!  She then came back out and knocked on the front door until the Maitre De came and unlocked it again.  As he let her inside I stayed put and, honestly, I prayed in Spanish.  She emerged with a smile on her face and fists clenched over her head.  At this juncture I feel the need to point out the following:  it is a sign of true love when your wife literally gets down on her knees and begs, BEGS a man for a dinner reservation all so she and her husband can eat a baby pig.  We had dinner reservations for 11:50pm… WHOO-HOO!

Reservation secured, we headed back to our hotel, the Petit Palace Puerta del Sol to sleep off our experiences at the Mercado and to gird our loins for that which lay ahead.

Roast Suckling Pig!

That evening we arrived at Casa Botin early (at about 11:40 pm, mind you) in eager anticipation of our meal.  Let me tell you unequivocally people, it did not disappoint.  Our new little porcine friend arrived on our plates in steaming, succulent glory.  The meat was pale, juicy, mouth-wateringly tender and shockingly flavorful.  The skin… THE SKIN!  The skin was the color of honey and was perfectly crunchy.  It was divine.  Accompanied by nothing more than simply roasted baby potatoes and a bottle of 2005 Acon Crianza that was 100% Tempranillo, this was absolutely the dinner of a lifetime.

On our way home we made two pit stops.  First, we stopped into a bar for a nightcap.  The only reason I bring up this particular place is because of a rather unusual wall-hanging.  They had the mounted, coal-black, mummified head of an enormous boar behind the bar wearing a giant pair of sunglasses that concealed its eye sockets.  The eyes themselves had evidently been replaced by glowing light bulbs.  This is a country that spends a potentially inordinate amount of time contemplating pig.  These people are alright by me.

Our second stop was for churros and chocolate.  Churros are a sort of extruded doughnut batter that when deep-fried comes our looking like a five-inch long noodle about the diameter of your thumb.  It is served with hot chocolate.  Every single late night reveler in Madrid apparently ends the evening with a stop off for this treat.  Kendall and I had heard about it, but frankly we had a bit of trouble understanding the fervor for a simple cup of hot chocolate with a doughnut.  Make no bones about it, one of my favorite things on earth is chocolate but come on, how good could it really be?

Churros & Chocolate!

We doubt no more.  When you walk in there are no choices.  The only options are “uno, dos, tres”, etcetera.  What was it like?  Forget I ever used the words “hot chocolate”.  This stuff came out in a steaming mug and you could practically stand a spoon up in it.  It was thick, dark brown and viscous and was freakishly delicious.  The churros had a perfect crunch and tooth on the outside and were soft and pillowy on the inside.  Dipped into the chocolate, they were the stuff of legend.

It was then off to bed for yet another round of digestion.

In our next installment intrepid reader, we awake in preparation for our 200 mile drive north through Bilbao (complete with a visit to the Spanish Guggenheim!) on our way to the coastal town of Deba.

…Adam

One Foodie Couple’s Journey Through Spain – Part I

Adam Z. Markham

I recently read an opinion by the editor of Bon Appetit magazine that one of the primary reasons people travel is for food.  I know in our case it is.  When my wife, Kendall and I decided to honeymoon in Spain, food was definitely one of our motivating factors.

Ah, Spain.   A better decision we could not have made.  If you have not personally travelled to Spain, I cannot begin to encourage you strongly enough, especially if you are a foodie.  Over the next month or so I will publish several installments detailing some of the more spectacular aspects of our journey.  What better place to begin than in our first stop, Madrid, with an homage to my well-known predilection for all-things-pig!

Museo del Jamon!

Museo del Jamon!

The pork, MY GOD, the pork in Spain!  Most of the Spanish must eat pork three meals a day.  The sheer quality and quantity of pork product the two of us ate in the first 36 hours alone is unimaginable to mere mortals.  Suffice it to say, we went to the ¨Museo del Jamon¨.  Yes, you read that right folks… the Museum of Ham.  The Museo del Jamon is actually less a museum and more a food store/restaurant.  Kendall and I made a conscious decision to make it our first official meal in Spain.  We simply ordered up a sampler platter of Iberico hams and sausage products along with a bowl of olives, some beautiful Manchego cheese and a loaf of nice, crusty bread.  Perfect in its simplicity and accompanied by dos grande cervezas, this was, I swear, one of the greatest meals of our lives!

That first evening we went out for tapas.  A simple salad made of canned tuna and tomatoes was a delight (Spanish canned seafood products bear no resemblance to their American equivalents and are, in fact, often even better than fresh).  Our second course was a glazed pork chop accompanied by French Fries.

"The Best Pork Chop EVER"

The description may not sound so exciting but the dish itself led Kendall to exclaim “this may be the best pork I have ever put in my mouth!”  We had a pitcher of fantastic sangria with our meal.  Sangria in Spain seems to be a much simpler affair than it does in the States and makes me want to rethink my recipe no matter how good it might be.

Caviar & Vodka!

Our second day on the ground we went to Mercado de San Miguel, one of the largest and most notable food markets in Espana.  We stayed for over three hours and enjoyed exquisite Spanish sturgeon caviar (we had a small sample of the relatively inexpensive $70 per ounce kind since the Russian Beluga ranged up to $4,000 per pound!) with the finest, smoothest Russian vodka I have ever tasted.  We also sampled grilled octopus and potato skewers and then olives stuffed with pickled sardines and roasted red peppers.  We drank a Taittinger Rose Champagne with strawberries (yes, a French Champagne in Spain – fear not, we had plenty of Cava as well) followed up by fois gras topped with a Valencian orange marmalade.

Sea Urchin, Ostra Gigante and Cerveza

We are adventurous eaters in general and had decided to push ourselves to the limit so we then went to the fishmonger and ordered up fresh, raw sea urchin and ¨gigantic oysters¨ on the half-shell.  Sea urchin.  What can I say?  Honestly, it tasted exactly like the ocean smells (on a good day) and was indeed a bit challenging.  I am not entirely sure we are dying to repeat the experience but I would not trade it for anything.  The oysters, on the other hand, were not in the least bit challenging and were washed down with Spanish Estrella Damm cerveza.

We then moved on to the butcher counter and had a (GET THIS!) $50.00 per pound beef that had the texture of fine silk and was cured in a style similar to Spain´s famous hams.  It was an absolutely sublime experience that you would have to try to believe.  Think chipped beef if chipped beef was one if the greatest red meat products you have ever put in your mouth.  We then proceeded to the queso counter and had a “Minitorta de Oveja”, one of the best, creamiest, funkiest cheeses I have eaten in my life.

Minitorta de Oveja

After an experience like this, what to have for dessert?  How about  ENORMOUS prawns?  I’m talking bigger-than-hot-dog prawns.  The problem was we then realized that we would have to buy about a dozen of the things and honestly didn’t feel up to it after such a bout of conspicuous consumption.  I asked a very nice bartender I had met earlier if a smaller quantity was available.  When the fishmonger turned his head for a moment she surreptitiously grabbed a couple and shoved them at me.  Kendall and I snuck off into a corner to gulp them down but before we could the bartender came running back over with a couple of lemon slices for the squeezing.  Good shrimp.  I’m talking good shrimp.  Our new friend sat watching us happily as we consumed our illicit goodies.  When we were done we literally sucked the fat out of their heads for good measure!  What I would give to have such an experience available to us here in the Roanoke Valley. 

Surreptitious Shrimp

Next Chapter:  Suckling pig at the oldest restaurant on earth!

…Adam

We Drank a Raspberry Beret

Adam Z. Markham

…but decidedly NOT the kind found in a second-hand store.

My wife and I recently had my sister April and brother-in-law Sean to dinner.  The dinner part was easy:  planked Moroccan spice-rubbed salmon (see photo of delighted cook as exhibit #1…) served with wild rice and garlic-sauteed greens.  Dinner always seems to be the easy part.  The difficult part for me seems to be dessert.

Exhibit #1

Planked Salmon!

We tossed around several ideas.  Homemade sorbet?  No, it was not seasonally appropriate. Chocolate mousse? Too much labor. Fruit and cheese platter? It seems sort of underwhelming after such an assertive dinner. Well, how about we just go buy some sort of dessert at Fresh Market? No, it kinda feels like a copout.

“WAITAMINUTEI’VEGOTIT… WINE!”

Villa Appalaccia

Wine.  What more could you ask for in a dessert? We tossed around the idea of port or possibly a sherry but it just didn’t feel unique enough for the occasion.  What we finally decided on was Raspberry Beret from Villa Appalaccia.  If you have never tried this delightful offering from one of Virginia’s premier wineries you are truly missing out. And, if you are convinced that sweet wines or non-grape based offerings are only for unsophisticated plebians then you are denying yourself a truly sublime experience.

Raspberry Beret is obviously a raspberry based wine. With 5% residual sugar it is definitely sweet but it has plenty of fruit and more importantly acidity to create a perfectly balanced dessert wine. With 12% ABV (alcohol by volume) it is also no slouch in the complexity department.

Raspberry Beret

Lest it be wrongly assumed that we had skimped on the dessert portion of the menu we decided to buy a single beautiful bar of dark chocolate – something with a cocoa content of around 75-80% should do nicely, thank you very much. We just broke the chocolate bar open at the table and passed it around like a cheap jug-o-hooch at a fraternity party.  Let me tell you, Raspberry Beret is dark chocolate’s best friend.

You can usually find Raspberry Beret at Wine Gourmet along with lots of other dessert wine offerings.  It sells for $19.99 for a half bottle (375ml) and is guaranteed to provide plenty of wow factor at your next dinner gathering!

…Adam

 

Clubbing It

Adam Z. Markham

Are you a wine “newby” seeking out ways to learn a bit more about wine and its many nuances?  Or perhaps you are an experienced wine connoisseur who is simply looking for some new and interesting varietals to add to your repertoire?  Or maybe you are a die-hard “hop-head” with a love for discovering new and exciting beers?  You, my friend, need to check out the Wine/Beer of the Month Clubs at Wine Gourmet!

Wine of the Month Club

The Wine of the Month Club at Wine Gourmet is an absolutely fantastic way to get your feet wet in the big wide world of wine.  It is also a great way for those more experienced in the ways of the grape to learn a few new tricks.  Here’s how it works.

Every month our experienced staff works with our distributor network to pick out a delightful pair of wines specially for you, one white and one red.  The combined cost of the two bottles will not exceed $30.00.  That price, incidentally, includes a discount of $2.00 of per bottle which you will continue to receive on any future purchases you may make [this discount is above and beyond the case (10%) and half-case (5%) discounts you normally receive at Wine Gourmet].  You also receive detailed tasting notes on both wines and an invitation to our annual Wine of the Month party (complete with nifty gift)!  You also will be comfortable with the knowledge that you are getting the opportunity to experience a couple of fantastic wines that have been hand selected for your enjoyment.

This month our Wine of the Month selections were voted “Best of Tasting” at our Wine of the Month party by the Wine of the Month members themselves.  The featured white is the Latitud 34 Torrontes from Bodegas Carelli.  A wonderful Argentine, it has a stunning bouquet and carries plenty of tangerine and peach on the palate.  My wife and I tried a bottle last week and now have several residing in our wine fridge!  Our red offering this month is Domaine Puig-Parahy from the Cotes du Roussillon region of France.  A cuvee of 33% Carignan, 33% Old-Vine Grenache and 33% Syrah, this wine is full of flavors of blackberry and stonefruit while having an underlying quality of herbaceousness.

Connoisseurs Club

Our Connoisseurs Club takes thing to the next level.  The fundamentals are the same but this club specializes in highly allocated, hard-to-find wines that you will find an absolute delight no matter what your level of wine knowledge and sophistication.  With the Connoisseurs Club the ceiling on cost is moved up to $60.00 for both bottles.  The discount per bottle is raised to $5.00, which again is good in perpetuity.

Our CC selections this month are a matching pair from Longboard Winery in Sonoma County.  Produced in very limited quantities, this is a truly phenomenal pair of wines.  The Longboard Chardonnay 2008 is fermented in 90% stainless and only 10% oak which results in a much better balanced wine than many of the Chardonnays coming out of California in recent history.  It is rich with citrus on the palate and only the slightest hint of oak.  Its counterpart is the Longboard Point Break Red Blend.  A blend of 58% Syrah, 33% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Malbec and a smattering of Carignan and Zinfandel, this wine is sure to please!  It is full of red fruit and cherry and has intense raspberry flavors.  With well-balanced tannins, this wine would be delicious match for Cuban-style beef or spiced-up hamburgers.

Beer of the Month Club

Beer lovers rejoice!  Our beer buyer and in-house guru on all-things-beer, Aaron Layman is definitely the man to befriend if you love beer.  Every month Aaron selects 2 stupendous 6-packs for your enjoyment.  The total cost each month will not exceed $25.00 and that includes a $1.00 per 6-pack discount on your selections.  And, like WOM and CC, your discount is also good on any future purchases of these beers and is above and beyond our regular case discount (10%).  We also throw an annual party for our Beer of the Month members!

In summary, no matter what your flight or fancy, Wine Gourmet has a club for you.  Please give us a call or come visit the store to sign up for one (or more) of our clubs.  With great discounts, well thought-out choices and our knowledgable staff by your side you can’t go wrong!

…Adam

Williamsburg Mini-Vacation

Adam Z. Markham

When my wife and I met (and things started progressing nicely) she made it clear to me that one of her absolute priorities in life was vacationing.  Since I feel exactly the same way, I not only didn’t see this as an obstacle to the progression of our relationship, I saw it as a bonus!

Fast-forward to real life.  My wife and I are extremely busy people.  Between my job at Wine Gourmet, my musical engagements, teaching banjo and guitar lessons, Kendall’s job in the Advance Auto corporate office and “home-keeping” duties, both inside and out, it seems we rarely have a stretch of days off at the same time.

A year or so ago we came up with a concept that helps to tide us over between our “real” vacations.  Once a quarter we make sure there is absolutely nothing on our calendars.  Sometimes we use this time to plant our hindquarters resolutely on the sofa and do nothing.  Sometimes, however, we choose to get away for a few days.  This past weekend was just such a time.

Castillo De Fuendejalon

Castillo De Fuendejalon

We left Thursday night for Richmond, where we spent the night with our friend Tracy.  She prepared for us a wonderful meal of spinach lasagna and we opened up a bottle of 2006 Castillo De Fuendejalon, a very nice Spanish wine that is 75% old-vine Grenache and 25% old-vine Tempranillo (and the $10.99 price tag you’ll find on it at Wine Gourmet makes it a bargain as well!).  After dinner, to celebrate Tracy’s new job the three of us shared a bottle of Bitch Bubbly (no, I don’t make these things up…): a fun, slightly sweet rose’ sparkler .

Bitch Bubbly

Bitch Bubbly

First thing Friday morning we joined my daughter Haley, who is a student a VCU, for breakfast at 821 Cafe on Cary Street.  WOW!  We had an amazing experience.  I had a breakfast burrito (which are so often bland, squishy, insipid affairs that appear on menus with far too-great a frequency these days) that was absolutely delightful!  It was stuffed with ham, rosemary potatoes, cheddar and perfectly done black beans.  Kendall had a smoked salmon platter that was astounding.  The salmon was like butta’, I tell you!  Haley (a vegetarian) had a breakfast platter with veggie sausage that actually looked, smelled and (by all reports) tasted like the real thing.

One of the things that impressed me most about 821, however, was the beer selection.  A sign on the fridge intended for employees read “shift drinks – draft or mimosas only – no bottles or cans”.  If one was an employee at 821 this would hardly be an impediment.  The draft selection is fantastic and includes Olde Richmond #4 Brown Ale and Legend Gold Ale (both of which, incidentally, are available at Wine Gourmet).  The draft beers at 821 are $4.00 each and during happy hour are only $3.00.  The best part?  On Thursdays happy hour lasts all day long!

After breakfast Kendall and I drove to Williamsburg where we checked into the Historic Powhatan Resort, a fantastic place that is a steal.  The condo we rented had a full kitchen, master suite with king-sized bed, a second suite with a queen and a pull out sofa in the living room.  I looked on their site and found a room like I described above for $79 per night (although we booked ours through Hotwire and got it even cheaper)!

Christiana Campbell's Tavern

Christiana Campbell's Tavern

That night we dined at Christiana Campbell’s Tavern in Colonial Williamsburg.  We had a remarkable dinner.  Even though the wine list was not-half-bad we chose to start out with a house drink, the Vodka Kir.  A blend of vodka and Creme De Cassis topped with a splash of lemonade and a couple of blueberries, while not a traditional colonial beverage, it was great.  Our appetizer was the Fried Oyster Salad.  It consisted of huge, perfectly fried oysters nestled in a bed of simply dressed greens accompanied by semi-crispy ham lardons, a spicy “gunpowder” remoulade and a corn relish similar in preparation to chow-chow (northern folks commence to scratch their heads in curiosity…).  It was beautifully executed and the combination of flavors was exquisite.

We followed that up with the Fricassy of Shrimp, Scallops and Lobster.  The seafood was remarkably fresh and was simmered in a light sherry-butter sauce with peas, tomatoes and leeks and served around a mound of brown rice. It was absolutely heaven on a plate! Finally we enjoyed the Grilled Tenderloin of Beef and Salmon.  The salmon was topped by an almond aioli that was delicate and delicious.

As an after dinner drink I ordered the Rummer.  Supposedly one of the most authentic drinks on the menu it was a VERY strong but tasty combination of dark rum, apricot and peach brandies with a fresh lime.

For dessert we had what was honestly one of the best things this confirmed chocolate lover has ever eaten.  A chocolate pie crust was filled with layer of what was essentially a pure chocolate ganache followed by a layer of chocolate mousse and topped with a layer of what must have been a white chocolate mousse.  This dessert was so astounding we walked a couple of miles the next day to have another as our lunch only to discover Ms. Campbell’s establishment is only open for dinner!

The entire experience, while certainly not inexpensive was well worth it.  The dimly lit room was a wonderfully authentic setting and periodic visits by reenactors (including a visit by Ms. Campbell herself) was the icing on the cake.

Saturday morning we slept late and decided to go straight for lunch.  We went to the Cheese Shop located in the Merchant’s Square area of Colonial Williamsburg.  Not only is the food emporium at the Cheese Shop a foodie’s dream, the sandwich counter in the rear was recently listed third on a list of msn.com’s “15 Essential Sandwiches” in America, and it completely lived up to the hype!  In my mind a perfectly composed sandwich is as good as anything you can possibly put in your mouth and these were no exception. They were amazingly well-composed of artisanal ingredients and delicious in their simplicity.

Cheese Shop

Cheese Shop

Downstairs is a fantastic wine cellar that has a cool semi-industrial vibe.  It reminded me a bit of Wine Gourmet in the sense that their goals are “high quality, intriguing uniqueness, and great value”.  Also, their staff was knowledgeable and professional while not being even vaguely pretentious.  All of these are traits we pride ourselves on at Wine Gourmet and it is always a treat to find another store that shares similar values.  Kendall and I decided on a bottle of late-harvest Zinfandel to save for a special occasion.

Afterward we went to the Smithfield Ham Store to satisfy my well-known desire for all-things-pig.  We were fortunate enough to not only sample products of the porcine variety but to also participate in a tasting of Virginia Wines.

Before heading home on Sunday we visited the exhibits at Jamestown Settlement.  Neither Kendall nor I have been there since childhood but we were very impressed.  The experience was thoroughly enjoyable and highly educational… if are in the neighborhood it is a must-see.

If you find yourself in need of a little “vacating” of your own you would be hard pressed to have a more relaxing and spirit-renewing mini-vacation than a trip to Richmond, Colonial Williamsburg and Jamestown.  Only three-and-a-half hours or so from Roanoke, it was an easy drive, and it proved to be a quite economical trip as well!

…Adam