Monday, January 30, 2012

Jewish Penicillin

This week, Dennis got sick.  So, I made his favorite “I’m sick” soup: Tortellini Soup.  As he started feeling better, I got sick.  So, I made my favorite “I’m sick” soup: Chicken Noodle Soup. 

The main reason the Chicken Soup for the Soul books caught on so was because Chicken Noodle Soup is one of the most feel good foods out there.  It’s warm and the slippery noodles are easy on the stomach and every sip seems to make the world melt away.  My guess is the reason Chicken Soup is so effective in making you feel better is that it lulls the germs and viruses and bacteria into a state of taste euphoria.  Then they don’t feel like attacking your body anymore. 

My limited scientific insight aside, the health benefits of Chicken Soup have been proven in labs.  Dr. Stephen Rennard at the University of Nebraska Medical Center decided to test Chicken Soup’s abilities and has continued to conduct research on it for over 15 years.  One things he tested was Chicken Soup’s anti-inflammatory properties.  How that works is the Chicken Soup slows the movement of the white blood cell, Neutrophil, resulting in less inflammation.  Rennard’s findings were even featured in the Great Food Almanac.
His wife, Barbara, says hers is the best Chicken Soup.  That may be so, but a better truth is that every person’s mom makes the best Chicken Soup.  It is the one you grow up eating when you are sick or when it is cold and blustery.  That serious of tastes become the sense memory surrounding chicken soup.  No can ever match it, no restaurant can ever reproduce it. 

When I made Chicken Soup this week, I took what I remembered about my mom’s Chicken Soup and did my best to recreate it, right down to the can of Cream of Chicken (one of the few times my mom ever used cream of anything).  The only thing I changed was adding spinach (because I used a pre-sliced mirepoix and so the vegetables were too tiny).  I also added curry in the hopes that the turmeric and spices would break up my clogged sinuses. 

Sitting on the couch, wrapped in a blanket, cradling a bowl of steaming soup, it is hard to feel sick anymore.  Instead, you can’t help but feel a little comforted.  Did it work?  Well, I am still a little sick.  But think how much sicker I’d be had it not had been for the Chicken Noodle Soup.  

**If you want a copy of Barbara Rennard’s Chicken Soup Recipe or want to read the full article, check out  
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Friday, January 27, 2012

Food Photo Friday: Jan. 27th

To find a nominee for this week's Food Photo Friday, I asked some friends on Twitter if they had any suggestions.  The nomination I got was from kimmunro.  Kim nominated a picture from her blog, Strawberry Ginger, a blog that is one part cooking, one part memoir.  

The picture comes from a post on Nutella Stuffed Chocolate Cookies and the final products look fluffy and decadent.  Kim does something really fun with her step-by-step pictures; she puts then a slideshow.  When I first started writing my blog, I debated a long time about how to incorporate the recipe pictures in a way that wasn't cumbersome or that made the post too long.  I went with YouTube videos, but I really like Kim's solution.  You can click along at your own pace and see the story of the food unfold picture by picture.

The picture below was my favorite from the Nutella Stuffed Chocolate Cookies series.  I liked the play of the rack lines and round cookies as well as the soft background against the dark cookies.   
Thanks, Kim, for nominating and sharing your picture with me.  
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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Tales from the Groceries

I am a nosy person.  If I turn on the TV and start watching something with intrigue, gossip, etc, I nine chances out of ten stick around to see what happens.  The show could be terrible, but I just have to know.   When I was living in Staunton, which is a fairly small town, I constantly got to hear pieces of gossip.  It didn’t matter if I knew the person or not, I always loved hearing it.

Next to being a little too obsessed with food, gossip is my next biggest vice.

Even as a kid, one of the things that I loved to do while waiting in line at the grocery store was to sneak peeks at the groceries of the person before and after me.  Although I guess that isn’t but so bad, I often then made personality guesses based on the groceries.  That is pretty bad.   
What made me think of this was a trip before Christmas to the grocery store with my mom.  While in line, behind us was a woman in her early seventies.  I watched her plop her groceries on the belt.  She started with 7 medium sized frozen pizzas.  Then, she brought out English Muffins, two loaves of cheap white bread, a gallon of Hawaiian punch, three hams, and a few other items.  For a while, I couldn’t figure out what her deal was.  I couldn’t imagine a 70-some mature woman eating Tombstone pizzas, while cooking two hams, and sipping Hawaiian punch.  Then, it finally connected . . . grandmother making sandwiches for grandchildren.   

When I’m in the grocery store, I wonder what people think of me and my groceries.  I tend to stand out in groceries because I’m the one in no hurry, wandering up and down aisles, checking out sales, new products, anything really.  Unless I’m just popping in for a few things, I usually can’t get out of a grocery store in less than an hour.  Now that I live in a town with a Trader Joe’s, I’m the one with eyes like saucers and literally skipping down the aisles.  This weekend, I was also the short, five-foot tall happy looking brunette asking the manager of the fish counter about fish heads they might have lying around.

We foodies are a strange bunch and I’m sure our groceries speak volumes about us.  Are you a brie, a goat cheese, or a block of sharp cheddar?  Are you romaine, arugula, or iceburg?  Do you get your chicken and red meat on the bone for flavor, do you get large cuts so you can cut them up yourself, or do you go for the tidiest one possible?  

If you were standing in line behind me at the grocery store, what would your groceries being saying about you?   

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Monday, January 23, 2012

Seafood Salad

I came up with this recipe because mini shrimp was on sale for $2.49.  For that price, I knew I wanted to buy them and then figure out what to do with them later.  Dennis discovered them in the freezer and asked, "are you going to shrimp salad?"  So, that's what I did.

I've never made Shrimp Salad.  So, I thought about the things I like to do with shrimp and then figured out a dressing to bring it all together.  Since I like my seafood spicy, mine has a lot of kick; you may decide to omit or substitute. 

1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1/4 cup Ranch dressing
1/2 tsp chili oil (can use olive oil instead)
1/2 tsp dried dill 
splash of lime juice
pinch salt and pepper and cayenne pepper flakes
1/4 cup celery, diced
1/2 cup cucumbers, diced
1 tablespoon capers
8 oz. mini shrimp (thawed)
4 oz. imitation crab, cut into small pieces
5 sesame seaweed snacks, crumbled up

  1. Whisk together dressing ingredients: Greek yogurt, Ranch, chili oil, dill, lime juice, salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper together in a medium size bowl.   
  2. Add celery, cucumber, capers, mini shrimp, and imitation crab.  Stir together to combine.  
  3. When you serve, top with crumbled up seaweed snacks for a little extra sesame and salt. 

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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Panda Garden

It is now about 8 months since my trip to Korea, and I’ve been keeping my foodie sense alert to the chance of getting Korean food.  In July, I gave it a good shot with Fancy Hill Korean Diner, but, alas, it just wasn’t what it could be.  Other than that, the opportunity to have Korean food hasn’t come my way. 

Last week, though, the food gods smiled on me.  Tucked away, in a very nondescript looking Chinese restaurant in Lincoln, NE, is the closest I’ve come to getting satisfying Korean food in America. 

Panda Garden is a place that on my own, I probably would have never gone to.  It is in a strip mall between the Super Saver Grocery Store and a Target.  Also, a name like “Panda Garden” speaks more to mass cooked and generic Chinese food.  Although a place I might have checked out on a night when I was looking for low key Chinese, there is a strong chance I would have just passed on by. 

Luckily, a new colleague introduced me to the place.  Not just luckily, that is food karma at its best. 
Though Panda Garden does offer a long line of reasonably priced Chinese food, it is worth the extra money to splurge for the Korean.  There is a long list of the classics—Kim Chee soup, short rib soup, Bhim Bahb, and sweet potato noodles.  Plus, all the dishes come with four different kimchi.  The first time I went, the kimchi assortment had broccoli, cabbage, potatoes, and eggplant.  The second time, it was daikon, cabbage, potatoes, and  cucumbers. 

On the visit I made with my colleague, I got a vegetable and tofu soup that was spicy, red, full of lovely tofu, and what almost looked like chopped up mung beans.  It was so satisfying on a cold day and hit the spot beyond words.  On my recent visit, I went with Korea nostalgia and got the Kim Chee Chi Gae, kim chee soup with mung bean sprouts.  Probably not quite as good as the vegetable and tofu soup--it was a little too tangy.  However, even though not as strong, it is still a soup that I would order again.

Sure not exactly like what I got in Korea, but the spirit of Korean pride in the food was there.  Panda Garden is run by a friendly, happy looking couple.  When the food comes out, the wife stops in to make sure that you are happy and that the food is pleasing.  With me, she also brought out a to-go cup just in case I couldn’t finish the soup.  And just like the restaurants I enjoyed in Korea, if you want any more rice or kimchi, they are happy to give you more.  That is such a gracious gesture and really makes you feel welcome. 

With Panda Garden right on my way home from work, I expect there are many cold Lincoln nights that will be warmed with a large steamy bowl of Korean soup.  
Panda Garden on Urbanspoon
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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Pizza Improv

As mentioned on Sunday, I decided to try my hand at making pizza dough.  While I was at Trader Joe’s getting the ingredients for the dough, I picked up a couple of topping options.  Combining those with things in the pantry, I did a little Pizza Improv to get together a great toppings embellishment to go with my pizza dough attempt. 

In total, I had 16 options for sauce and toppings:
1.) Breakfast Pizza
The first option could be a “Breakfast Pizza.”  For this, combine rosemary, butter, olive oil, lemon zest, and capers to make a sauce.   Then, add fresh arugula, mozzarella, tomatoes, and cooked pancetta for toppings.  Cook for half of its time, then take out of the oven, crack the eggs on top, and cook for the remainder.  
Yummy, yet not quite what I’m craving, and maybe not fancy enough to show of the crust.  A keeper for another day. 

2.) Meat and Potatoes
Another route would be to go with a manly meat and potatoes option.  For this, I’d sauté the onions in a pan, add the tomato soup and rosemary, then reduce to a sauce.  Then, I’d crisp up the pancetta and parboil the potatoes.  Give the dough a generous smear of sauce, top with potatoes, pancetta, Parmesan, and mozzarella.
Tasty, but a little more labor intensive than I wanted. 

3.) Arugula Pesto
Make a pesto out of olive oil, arugula, capers, almonds, and Parmesan.  Smear on pizza dough, then top with tomatoes, mozzarella, the crisped pancetta, and Parmesan.  Cook the full time.  Then, remove from the oven, add avocados, and place under the broiler for a minute. 
Overall, the combination made for a nice decadent, but fairly fresh, topping for handmade, wheat pizza dough.      

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Sunday, January 15, 2012

New Year Firsts

I’m not a big one for New Year’s resolutions.  This year, though, with moving to a new state, it seemed natural to think about life changes.  Since so much of my life seems to center around food, you can guess where I decided to initiate change. 

Well, the first resolution isn't directly about food and is just associated with food.  That resolution was to make more off an effort to use reusable bags.  To do that, I just need to get into the routine of putting the bags in my car and remembering to then take them into the store. 

The second resolution was to start making my own bread.  The commitment to make my own bread came about because of Michael Pollan’s philosophy that you not eat anything that you don’t recognize as food.  Sure, store bread looks like food, but Pollan discusses how too many of the ingredients in the average loaf of bagged bread look nothing like recognizable food components.

As well as being healthier, it can be more cost effective to make your own bread.  Now, with living in a two person household and needing to pack lunches regularly, having something that is affordable and better for us just makes sense.

For those of you who follow me on Twitter and Facebook, you know that I eased into making my own bread by making pizza dough.  That proved to be a lot of fun and I’ll give you all the details about making it on Tuesday. 

Friday, I took the next big step by making a loaf of whole wheat bread, solo.  I say solo because my friend Ellie was nice enough to walk me through making a “no knead” bread before I left Virginia.  That will probably become my default way of making bread because it was unbelievably easy.  Plus, you can make up the dough and let it hang out in the fridge for a couple of days thus allowing you to just pull off dough as you need bread. 
First Rising
Before I fully commit to the “no knead” method, I wanted to try making a kneading style bread at least once so that I can compare.  So, I went to a former “bread making bible,” the Tassajara Bread Book by Edward Espe Brown.  This book is a pretty fantastic “everything you wanted to know about bread” and all of the variations.  He starts with a basic yeast base and then tweaks and adds to make all sorts of bread combinations.  It also comes with info on scones, sweet and savory breads, and details on rolls and stuffed breads.   

This recipes has brown sugar, half wheat and half white flour, salt, olive oil, and dried milk.  I did like kneading and patiently rising the dough, however I'd like to bring in the mixer to start the sponge (which requires you stir it 100 times).   

The end product looked beautiful, but needs some tweaking.  For one, the cook time was for two loaves, and so I should have reduced it.  I also learned my lesson about covering the bread with a damp cloth.  By the end of the rising, I had a bit of bread skin on the dough that kept the dough from binding with itself.  This caused the bread, when cooked, to kind of fall apart where the skin line was.  

Cook and learn.  That is the motto of food exploration. 

Overall, with its successes and failure, there really is nothing quite like having a sandwich made with bread your fixed from scratch.  Also, though I’m sure it has been said before, there is something really miraculous about making a loaf of bread.  You start with just flour--loose, formless powder.  You end up with something to eat and enjoy that has form and purpose.  That is a pretty amazing transformation.  

I think this is a New Year’s resolution worth keeping.  

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Friday, January 13, 2012

Food Photo Friday: Jan. 12th

For the first Food Photo Friday of the new year, I'm featuring a picture from the blog Life with Mel. Mel, supported by her very cute dog Pippy, has a great food blog that tracks her "pilgrimage toward Cooking Perfection."  Not only a great tagline, but her blog reflects her adventures through learning how to be a better cook, and I think that is a quest that many readers can relate to.

The picture I chose from Mel's blog is a picture that she posted on Food Frenzy.   The picture struck me because it combined two of my favorite things--pancakes and bacon.  Not only is it a great combination of ingredients, but the photo itself is really noteworthy.  The nice juxtaposition of circles and lines as well as the contrast of warm and cool colors makes this a very yummy picture to look at. 
  LifewithMel Thanks to Mel for allowing me to feature her picture.  Please check out her post on making "Bacon Pancake Sticks."  Such a marvelous idea.

Also, if you have any pictures you'd like to nominate for the next Food Photo Friday, please send me an email ( or leave a link in the comment area.
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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Southwest Pit BBQ

Before moving to Lincoln, NE, I went to’s website while they were having a Christmas sale to stock up on gift certificates to restaurants I wanted to try.  The first one on my list to try was Southwest Pit BBQ on P and 16th

Given that Lincoln is the home of Ribfest, I figured any bbq places in town have high standards.  So, I was pretty excited to get to load up on all the different smoky options that Southwest has to offer.  Because of having to spend $35 to use the gift certificate, Dennis and I got an excuse to try a lot.  Given the very reasonable prices on the sandwiches and sides, getting to $35 was a little tricky to do.   To get a full sample, we ordered a full slab of ribs, 10 wings, one brisket sandwich, one pulled pork sandwich, coleslaw, and potato salad. 

After sampling everything, I had rather mixed feelings. All the meats are incredibly tender.  The ribs and wings just melt off the bone and the brisket and pulled port are incredibly moist.  There is a nice touch of smoke and that helps give the meat a little depth. 

The con is the sauce and flavor.  Everything felt a little under seasoned.  The sauce, that was on all four meat options, simply lacked depth.  Even so basic as a tad more salt and pepper and spice would have gone a long way to bring out more of a savory quality. 

All in all, a good deal and not a bad place to pick up a pulled pork sandwich in a pinch.  However, for the most have bbq in town, I think I’ll keep looking.      
Southwest Pit BBQ on Urbanspoon
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Monday, January 9, 2012

Spicy Corn Chowder

This is an adaptation of corn chowder that makes it more Mexican in theme.  Because of partially pureeing the black beans, it is not the prettiest of soups.  You may want to leave the beans out till after the puree to help keep them intact and the aesthetic a little more vibrant.  Instead of bread or crackers, it is really great served with Blue or Sweet Potato Tortilla Chips. 

2 medium red potatoes, cut into small pieces
2 ½ cups water
½ tsp salt
2 tbls. olive oil
3 celery stalks (about ½ cup), diced
1 Poblano pepper (about ½ cup), diced
½ cup carrots, diced
½ onion, diced
1 15-oz can black beans
1 18-oz bag frozen corn
1 cup white wine
4 cups vegetable stock
¼ tsp red pepper flakes (more to taste)
1 tsp. oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
½ cup salsa
1 cup milk

  • In a medium pan, place potatoes, water, and salt.  Bring to a boil and cook for around 5 minutes, until the potatoes are partially cooked (or still give slight resistance to fork). 

  • While potatoes are cooking, in a large soup pot (4 qt. or more) over medium heat sweat celery, poblano, carrots, and onions for about 5 minutes.  Then add red pepper flakes, oregano, salt and pepper, frozen corn, beans, and white wine.  Cook for about 5 minutes. 
  • By now the potatoes should be done.  Add potatoes and their water to the soup as well as the vegetable broth.  Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. 

  • After simmering for 45 minutes or so, place half of the soup in a bowl.  In the pot, take a hand blender and puree the soup.  Then, return the half that is not pureed back to the pot.  At this point, add the salsa and milk and cook on low for another 10 minutes or so.  

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Saturday, January 7, 2012

Thelma's Chicken and Waffles

Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles
I first had Chicken and Waffles at Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles in Los Angelos.  I was visiting a friend who lived in Orange County and of the few list of things I was determined to do, Roscoe’s was the top.  Though it may sound like a strange combination, it is the best of all worlds when done well.  Crispy fried breading, salty savory chicken, waffles that are crunchy outside and squishy inside, and syrupy sweet maple goodness drizzled on top.  It is breakfast, lunch, and dinner, all on one plate. 

Chicken and Waffles has a pretty intriguing history.  One source said that it harkens back to the early 1800’s.  However, another source contradicts that, claiming that there is no mention of any Chicken and Waffles recipes in Mrs. Porter’s Southern Cooking (1871) or What Mrs. Fisher Knows About Old Southern Cooking (1881), two of the earliest African American recipe texts.  Other histories credit Wells Supper Club with the raise of Chicken and Waffles by serving late for dinner, early for breakfast meal to jazz musicians.     

In my last visit to Roanoke, Mom and Dad wanted to take my boyfriend and I out for lunch.  In brainstorming where to go, I just so happened to walk by Thelma’s Chicken and Waffles while in Downtown Roanoke.  Since I had never eaten there and I’m such a big fan of this flavorful and soulful combination, it just made sense to give it a whirl. 

Thelma’s Chicken and Waffles has been around Roanoke for a quite a while, but has only recently moved to its Downtown location.  You feel like you’ve been welcomed into someone’s home from the moment you walk in the door.  Friendly smiles great you and soul food exuberance is apparent in all the staff.  They boast of serving the “true flavor of the south” and the menu reflects that joy. 

Although lots of great looking items on the menu, I was there on a mission and that mission was Chicken and Waffles.  Luckily, a waffle with a fried piece of boneless breast was on special, and so all four of us ordered up a plate.  Dennis and I go the side of potatoes; Mom and Dad got fried apples. 

All of us agreed, the Chicken and Waffles were awesome.  The chicken had a great balance of spice, pepper, and saltiness, using a tasty crunchy outside to hide a juicy chicken inside.  When you cut the fried chicken, juices just ooze into the sofy, slightly sweet waffle below.  Mom and Dad loved the fried apples that were decadent and delicious, and Dennis and I loved the potatoes.  The “fried potatoes” aren’t really like fried potatoes at all.  Instead of little cubes or slices of potatoes, it is more like a potato mash with seasoning and a little onion--such a perfect side bite to the Chicken and Waffles. 
While eating, I noticed there were two definitive approaches to consuming Chicken and Waffles.  Dad and I cut up the chicken breasts in smaller pieces and distributed them over the waffles so that each bite of waffle was topped by a piece of chicken.  Mom and Dennis kept the chicken on the side, slicing off a bit of chicken and placing it over a bite of waffle, keeping both waffle and chicken independent until the moment of the bite.  

In sitting back in the booth, enjoying a post sweet and fried high, I wondered how many tasty meals we all missed by not having gone to Thelma’s earlier.  On the website, Thelma’s ends the commercial that they are the place “where the food is for thought and it is always a family affair.”  That is the best punchline to experience eating there.  Don’t make the mistake I made by not trying Thelma’s.  I don’t want you to live with that kind of regret.  
Thelma's Chicken & Waffles on Urbanspoon
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Thursday, January 5, 2012

Roanoke Date Night

Before Christmas, I was spending time with my parents before moving.  While staying with them, I joined them on their Friday “date night.”  Most Friday’s, Mom and Dad start the evening at Burger in the Square and then head to dessert at Yogurt Café, making for a great food night of heavy and light.
Burger in the Square
Burger in the Square is one of the best places in Roanoke to get a hamburger.  The website even goes so far as to say that they are Roanoke’s “most awarded burger,” and I’d believe it.  Nothing fancy, they just serve good quality hamburgers.   This shows in the their 3 rules: 1.) beef is ground fresh everday; 2.) they always inspect the ingredients; and 3.) they treat the customers like they were friends.  The third rule in particular true; the woman taking my parents order knew they were regulars and remembered what they usually order. 
I’ve been their twice and tried two different burgers.  Most recently, I got “The Three Cheese Burger,” featuring Provolone, Swiss (although I substituted Pepper Jack), and American.  This is a super cheesy burger (as the picture shows) and has long strands of gooey goodness that stretch out with each bite.  It is so cheesy that if you aren’t careful, the bun might just slide off.  

Though good, the burger I got on a previous visit, “The BBQ Barbeque Burger,” was my favorite.  I love bbq sauce and I love bacon, so how could those two things on a perfectly cooked juicy burger be a bad choice? 
Yogurt Café
Like many, I’m a fan of the new wave of frozen yogurt cooling the country.  Although it can very easily turn into a less that financially fiscal dessert if you pile on too many toppings, as a modest post palate teaser it can be a great way of a little something sweet and satisfying.  After a big ole cheesy burger, frozen yogurt can be especially pleasing. 
Mom and Dad’s frozen yogurt stand of choice is The Yogurt Café, which is near Burger in the Square.  They usually keep about eight yogurt flavors, with the eight split up into sets of two for twisting options.  Then, there are crunchy cereal topping options (like Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Fruit Loops, and Cookie Crips), the more traditional toppings like fruit, nuts, and sprinkle variations, as well as a warm section for hot butterscotch, fudge, and caramel. 

I wanted to try a twist of the mint yogurt with the blueberry and top it with fruit and nuts, but Dad thought that sounded weird.  And, truth be told, I’m a sucker for warm caramel and butterscotch, which wouldn’t have worked with mint and blueberry.  So, I got the Cake and Cappuchino twist topped with nuts and caramel--warm, yummy, melty goodness.
All in all, a great combination and I can see why it is my parent’s Friday night combination of choice.  I was just lucky they let me come along!
Burger In The Square on Urbanspoon

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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

White Oak Tea Tavern

Tucked away in Troutville, VA, in a tall, thin, old style log building that was built in 1783, lies a quaint, dainty tea room.  Containing only about five tables in one room with a couple tables in an upstairs room, the White Oak Tea Tavern offers the tea room classics you would come to expect, and some that you might not. 

For those wanting a tea experience, there is a shelving unit that features about 14 black teas, 3 green teas, 4 fruit teas, and 2 whites.  Several things remind you that White Oak takes their tea seriously.   You can smell each tea before you order.  The tea pots are clear so that you can watch the gradual changes in hue.  The biggest tell, each table has a gadget that has three sand timers to gauge how long you want your tea to seep.  When served, the waitress will recommend which timing option goes best with the tea, and the tea pot is rigged to raise the tea out of the water to stop brewing.   
In a previous summer visit, my parents and I all got the iced tea of the day which was blueberry.  Fruit teas always worry me a little because they can be syrupy and artificial tasting.  This tea had a slight blue tone, but carried a refreshing hint of fresh blueberries.  Pairing a subtle fruit note with a mellow black tea, the tea tastes blueberries having seeped in black tea.  For this visit, I got the seasonal appropriate hot option, Wassail.  White Oak makes their Wassail with White Oak tisane, cloves, cinnamon sticks, sugar, and water.  I think they could cut back a little on the sugar, but I loved the mixture of warm, bright, fruit, and spice.  My Dad described it best as a cross between cranberries and  cherry with a touch of orange. 
Food options are limited to two chicken salad variations—hot and cold—and develop your own sandwich or build your own bagel concoction.  I really have come to appreciate places that offer just a couple of menu options.  It represents a certain care in honing those few items as well as pride in doing them well.   
My parents got the cold chicken salad, the “Chilled Cranberry-Almondine Chicken Salad.”  The description of the cranberry chicken salad boasts that it is made of 21 ingredients.  Between the three of us, my family got to about 16: water chestnuts, three kinds of nuts, dried cranberries, onions, spices, etc.  After brainstorming for the course of the meal, though, we couldn’t quite figure out the rest.  Together, the concoction is more savory than sweet and is served with a carboliciously satisfying, freshly baked “paesano” Italian bread and an oil-balsamic dipping sauce.

Since Mom and Dad got the cold, I tried the warm chicken salad option: the "Baked Spinach and Artichoke Chicken Salad" that is cooked in a paesano bread bowl.  The effect is something that is warm, gooey, rich, and deeply satisfying.  The combination of squishy light bread and rich sauce with big chunks of chicken, artichoke, and swirled with spinach is an effect to be savored and relished.  I don’t often allow myself such a carby and creamy luxury, but I figured I owed it to my blog community to take one for the team. 

White Oak Tea Tavern makes a great place for those wanting to relax with some tea or enjoy a meal.  Make sure to call ahead and make a reservation because table availability is limited.    The helpful staff will do their best to make you feel at home and you will enjoy this quaint, simple definition of a tea room experience.   My Mom described White Oak Tea Tavern as having a homey feel with a step back in time, and I think upon visit that you’ll agree with this observation.  

White Oak Tea Tavern on Urbanspoon
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Sunday, January 1, 2012

Wild Wolf Brewery

The Brew Ridge Trail is the series of breweries and cidery that runs from Nelson County to Crozet to Charlottesville.  I’ve been to three on the trail--Devil’s Backbone, Blue Mountain, and Starr Hill—but hadn’t been to Albemarle Cider Works and Wild Wolf.  Since I was completing my “bucket list” of wineries and breweries, Ellie and I went to Wild Wolf.  

For a long time, Wild Wolf Brewing Company was in a smaller location, but recently opened a permanent home in an old, refurbished school house.  Also on the property are five tobacco barns that have been refurbished and turned into boutiques.  The whole property is a great statement to found spaces and revitalizing the old. 
Wild Wolf has both a BrewPub and Sports Bar.   Originally, Ellie and I had planned to just have a snack and try the beers, but the trip to White Hall had been such an adventure that a full meal seemed in order. 

Because this was my one shot, I wanted to do a tasting to sample all the beers.  I tried the main five for $5 and then paid an extra $1.50 to try the seasonal beer, the Double Saison.  The five beers were four Wild Wolf creations—Autumn Ale, Pils, Howling Pumpkin, and a Porter—and a guest beer called the Hoppyum by Foothills Brewing Company.   Each had very different flavors. . . .
  1. Hoppyum:  I’m not a big fan of IPA’s, and the Hoppyum was a little too bitter with strong grapefruit notes for my taste. 
  2. Wild Wolf Pils: Clean, smooth, with a slight corn finish. 
  3. Howling Pumpkin: Very interesting with a strong pumpkin flavor.  Good for sipping in the fall while enjoying the foliage.
  4. Wild Wolf Porter: The favorite.  Coffee notes and full body, but not a porter that leaves you feeling full.
  5. Autumn Ale: A good standard red and somewhat like Killian’s Irish.  Overall, a very nice sipping beer
  6. Double Saison: Lots of honey and peaches, making for a sweet beer.  On first sip, Ellie and I were big fans and then it got a little too sweet for a before dinner or sipping beer.  Better with food to help cut the sweetness.

As well as interesting beers, I enjoyed the food.  Full of exciting appetizer options, like Root Beer BBQ wings or mussels and chorizo, and entree options, like butternut squash risotto or seared salmon with cheesy polenta, but I decided to try the “Veg Delight.”  The “Veg Delight” is a sandwich of puffy bread, basil marinated tofu, portabella mushroom, parmesan, spinach, and a slight dressing.  Although tofu sandwiches are very hit or miss, this was really satisfying.  Although the roll was a little too much bread, the tofu was flavorful, the mushroom rich, and the combination satiating.  Served with a side of seasonal vegetables consisting of Romanesco, cheddar, and purple cauliflower, it was a very appeasing and fabulous meal. 

Wild Wolf confirmed a hypothesis I’ve had.  Route 151, the road the runs through Nelson County, is turning into a must visit for the microbrewery crowd.  Within about 45 minutes, you can hit three fantastic breweries and enjoy both well-developed beers and menus.  Just make sure to pace yourself and enjoy the scenery.  

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