Good times, good friends….poor Tigers!

I know, I know. I am failing at this 365 posts thing. Moving right along…

Last night we met up with friends at Home Team Grill to watch the Auburn-Florida bowl game. A good chunk of my extended family was actually in CA for the game, all of us Auburn supporters. Most of my family is going / went / will go to Auburn, except for me, my brother, and one other cousin. It was a good game, with a great first half…but then we lost it in the end. Super sad!

Anyhoo, Home Team Grill is a sports pub nestled in Eagle Village, right across (or I guess part of) University of Mary Washington. Jerseys from different teams, including UMW’s rugby team, and paintings decorate the walls. The menu is pretty standard sports fare – burgers, wings, wraps, and a fairly impressive salad list. HTG also does Happy Hour and food specials – Tuesdays are half off burgers, Wednesdays are wing nights, and Happy Hour drinks usually run until 7:00, with wine specials!

More memorable is the sheer amount of fun M and I have with our buddies. JC recently popped back into my life – we were friends in college and hung out for a couple of years before drifting apart. He and his wife are friends of friends, so they have been part of the group for a couple of years now. JC is absolutely hilarious, and anytime we spend time with him and his wife, we are always hysterically laughing over the most absurdly stupid things. Old friends, mixed with new friends, equals fun.

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Blue & Grey Brewery

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Fredericksburg is (fortunately for us!) in a great spot for people who like wine, bourbon, and brews. We have many nearby wineries, distilleries, and breweries.

Last night, M and I went to Blue & Grey for dinner. M had a coupon from Restaurants.com, and it was Happy Yappy hour. Dogs were welcome – we did not bring ours because Pickles skews more towards tazmanian devil clown dog than well-behaved quiet dog, and Chutney would be terrified at the number of inanimate objects, much less people.

Blue & Grey is a little out-of-the-way, but it has a nice outdoor eating area and a decent-sized interior space. The weather was phenomenal Thursday, so we ate outside.

 

M got Blue & Grey’s Stonewall Stout and Falmouth American Pale Ale. He prefers the APA, which is more of a refreshing summer beer. I had Reisling (I forgot which one!).

M ordered the Black & Blue steak, which is smothered in a creamy gorgonzola portabello mushroom cream sauce, and served with a side of delicious creamy mashed new potatoes. His steak was good, and he cleaned his plate. Which he always does, but still. This dish is also recommended to pair with Stonewall Stout.

 I had the Shepherd’s pie, which was essentially a deconstructed shepherd’s pie with a tiny lamb chop on top. The sauce for the meat was really good, and the potatoes were phenomenal. We both agreed, however, the chef seemed to be a corn-fanatic. The sheer quantity of corn kernels was a bit overwhelming.

Overall, we enjoyed our food. We liked seeing (well-behaved) dogs, and speculated Pickles will be society-friendly when he’s approximately 12. Chutney will need massive quantities of doggie anxiety meds.

Travelin’ on a whim

Tonight, I happened to catch Project Runway. They’ve sent their remaining 5 designers to a variety of places: New York (oh, you poor, poor, loser…sarcasm), Barcelona, Paris, London, and Berlin.

I’ve been to 4 of those 5 places. Which makes me realize how odd my life has been these last several years.

You see, I had never been on a plane before 10th grade. My brother and I were deaf, and we really knew nothing about it. No information on the whys, and hows, and what ifs. So my mom always had this lingering fear that the air pressure change might somehow affect us. One day, we somehow were talking about flying, and I said something about being somewhat afraid of it. My dad’s afraid of flying, and when my mom realized I was taking that same path, she knew we had to challenge it.

So we hopped a plane from Richmond, VA to Charlottesville, NC. A short, 90 minute flight. She stared at me nervously the whole time. At one point, I asked her what she was waiting for – “Is this the point where I clap my hands to my ears and let loose a bloodcurdling scream?”  But the flight was uneventful. We landed, we flew back. We declared it a win.

So then my mom, my brother, and I began to travel. We did Bermuda and Alabama, primarily. In college, I went to the Bahamas on a horrible spring break. My brother went to London for a study abroad quarter. My mom and I did a mother-daughter cruise in Italy.

Then I met M. M’s family is all overseas. He, his sister, his mom, and his dad are the only US located members.  His parents are both internationally born; he and his sister are first generation Americans. In the time that I have dated M, I have been around the world and back every other year. In 2007, we did Cancun with friends. 2008, Paris and London with M’s orchestra. 2009, we married and went on our honeymoon in Barcelona, taking a cruise that went around the Mediterranean to stops in Italy, Greece, and Turkey. 2010, we went overseas so I could meet their family: Germany, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand. Then in 2011, we managed to stay mostly in the US. The day after Christmas, we flew out to Italy for another Orchestra tour. The trip lasted through the early weeks of 2012.

So now here we are in the first 4 months of 2013. We have been to Singapore, Indonesia, and Bavaria. Primarily for weddings. We are off to Canada in another month. And the orchestra should be announcing their 2014 destination soon.

Having been so many places, people often ask us where they should go. Italy and Germany are my top answers. Europe, in general, is amazing. They possess a different mindset entirely. Our relatives don’t prioritize fancy houses and possessions and….stuff. They live. They buy their meats and eggs and cheeses fresh from the local grocers, who get it from the local farms. They don’t have enormous refrigerators, and they have tiny freezers (if any). They eat what they love, and what they love is fresh, simply flavored foods. I usually come back from trips craving salt and hot, spicy foods: my American tongue is spoiled. They drink beers and wines for pleasure, not to excess. They dress for comfort, not show. And life just seems simpler.

I have never understood the Americans who have no inclination to leave the US. There’s an entire world out there, and it is amazing. It is profound. It forces you to look at your own life, your own thoughts, and your very being. You don’t have to make any great changes, but you should at least understand the differences between America and the rest of the world.

Restaurant week continues…

Friday night, we met up with our great friends JS & MS.

We had reservations at 730 at Ristorante Renato, which none of us had ever been to before, despite many years living in town. Renato is an old-school Italian restaurant, and feels immediately familiar even on the first visit. The food is classic Italian, with lots of white wine sauces, marinara sauces, and veal dishes.We decided to warm up with some drinks – MS had a sav blanc, I had pinot grigio, and the boys… Well, M ordered a dirty martini. JS, for some reason, decided to order one as well. He had never had one before. He hates olive juice. The drinks were served, he tasted it and said “well, it’s certainly dirty…”  JS was a champ and managed to finish it, though.

We all agreed on the restaurant menu from the get-go. M and MS ordered Oysters Rockefeller, and JS and I ordered the mozzarella in carozzo.

Here’s the thing: MS & I joke that our husbands are interchangeable. JS is as picky as I am about food, and MS and M are both the adventurous eaters with similar “favorites”. MS and M prefer red wine and seafood, JS and I are happy with sweeter white wines and basic chicken dishes. A double date match made in heaven!

Anyhoo, MS and M both really liked their Oysters. M said he liked this oyster dish better than True Luv, but only because Renato gave him two oysters instead of one. J and I both agreed the mozzarella was good, but we also wish the sauce had been thicker or poured on right before serving. The breading sat in the white wine sauce and of course got a little soggy. Sometimes the crunch is the best part, and I did miss that.

For entrees, MS and M both got tilapia with crabmeat, which was served as a generous portion. JS ordered the cheese ravioli, which looked wonderful and had perfect pillows of pasta. I ordered the Pollo Milano, breaded chicken in white wine sauce. It was accompanied by pasta with marinara sauce, which was perfect to cut through the white wine. We all cleared our plates!

For dessert, we decided to each get one of the three options. We asked our waitress to explain the Spumoni – she advised it was an ice cream dish with cherry, strawberry, and something blue. But DEFINITELY not pistachio. Maybe blueberry.

So of course, when the Spumoni arrived….the “blue” layer was bright green, pistachio, and had slivers of pistachios throughout. We thought it was hilarious, and while I’m not a fan of pistachio, it was still quite well made. M and JS ordered the cappucino panna cotta, and MS had the cannoli. The cannoli was small and had a pleasant cinnamon taste.

Afterwards, we trekked out into the cold and went a block down to Castiglia’s. Castiglia’s is another Italian restaurant that recently had an amazing renovation to a chic, modern, upscale neighborhood bar and restaurant. We squeezed into a table at the back and the boys had a beer, MS had another wine, and I had a Ciroc Chic (Ciroc, pineapple, pomegrante, twist of lime). We sat and talked, laughed, and caught up.

We had a delicious meal, but the company of great friends makes anything memorable and more fun.

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Restaurant Week in Fredericksburg!

It’s a lovely time of the year! Our downtown restaurants offer 3 course dinners for $20.13.

M and I went to Kybecca first.  He had an appetizer of cuttlefish and sausage, followed by beet salad, and then braised pork cheeks. M also tried the wine flight. He enjoyed his food overall. The beet salad was a bit too large of a portion for him. I thought the braised pork cheeks would benefit from a sauce or jus of some sort. It was very fatty, which is great, but a bit dry.   The menu didn’t offer anything appealing to me, so I picked the hummus plate and the garlic truffle double-fried fries off the regular menu. The hummus needed a lot of salt, but was fresh and clean. The fries are addictive, and served with a cilantro aoli. A more acidic or stronger aoli would be wonderful – perhaps roasted red pepper. Fair warning: it’ll take a few days to get all that garlic out of your mouth!

M and I also went to True Luv’s, which is a lovely restaurant on the banks of the Rappahannock River. M had a fried oyster with caviar and a seafood risotto with scallop and shrimp. The risotto was creamy and well prepared. For dessert, he had a gingerbread cake with pumpkin ice cream, which he absolutely loved. I chose, from the regular menu, the fried chicken lollipops with clover honey and french onion soup. True Luv really has amazing frying techniques – we can’t decide if it’s the breading, the oil, or both. Their batter is always perfectly crispy, the meat wonderfully juicy, and just absolutely delicious. For dessert, I had a warmed chocolate cake with a healthy dollop of whipped cream. The cake was huge, but rich, moist, and delicious.

 

A great weekend about town

This was a great weekend.

Fredericksburg’s annual Wine Festival at Old Mill Park was this weekend. Husband and I went yesterday, Saturday. We were there about 5 hours, and got to hit each vineyard. My favorite wine was Westwood Farm‘s raspberry wine. It was delicious, great with chocolate, and I got a glass to end the day perfectly. We wandered around the booths and then sat on the banks of the Rappahannock river, talking and waiting out a quick drizzle. Before we left, we purchased three cheeses from Marshall Farms – white cheddar, garlic and parsley, and buffalo. They are SO good and will not last long in my fridge!

We came home and took a nice nap, then headed out to Taj, a brand new Indian restaurant right near us. The food was good – I had a Lamb Do Piazzo (spelling?), and Husbie got the buffet. He had three huge plates before he finally gave up. I had leftovers as well, but the sauce for my lamb was delicious. Spicy, but not overbearing – it was a cozy, warm dish that was perfect with the cooler temps of the evening.

Friday night, we went out with friends for a late night birthday celebration at Bonefish. Great company, great food, and amazing service from our waiter Matt. This is the second time we have had a large 10+ group there, and Matt has been attentive and wonderful each time! We passed a thank you on to his manager, so hopefully he gets a nice kudos!

Hope you had a great weekend!!

Hey Y’all!

It’s a new (or new-ish) year, and I’m determined to finally get the blogging going!

I’ve previously had blogs about pop culture and movie reviews, but fell off of those sites pretty quickly.

My goal for this site is to post regularly about several different topics: exploring Fredericksburg, VA and its surrounding areas, talking about our international travels, food, and pop culture; with a sprinkling of tidbits of my life…