Sunday, August 3, 2008

Oenophile at Large: Restaurant Reviews of Food 101 and Cottage Ethiopian Cuisine

Yes, that's right, two restaurants in the past week. Well, three, but I'm only up for talking about two this evening. Hubby has been super busy with work stuff, and I've been stressing over a major career change, so we've been feeling very low-effort in the kitchen. We made Baby Bam Burgers tonight (recipe no longer available online), and that was probably the most complex thing we've done in the past week. We had them with salads, and I was unable to get the motivation up to even make oven fries.

Okay, I can hear you grumbling. I'll quit whining and get to the restaurants.

Hubby and I went for date night on Thursday to the Food 101 in Virginia Highlands. We'd been to the space when it was Aurora, but it was long enough ago that I really don't remember what it looked like before. The dining room is open and airy, and the menu is definitely Southern, but with a gourmet flair. The menu shown online is not up to date.

We started with the fried green tomatoes, which were topped with fresh mozzarella and arugula pesto. The serving was 4 slices. The tomatoes were crispy on the outside and tender but not mushy on the inside, and the whole dish worked together well. We then moved on to the special salad, which included mixed greens, goat cheese, apple slices, dried cranberries, and chopped hard-boiled egg. Hubby got it tossed with the buttermilk ranch, and I had it with balsamic vinaigrette. Both worked well, and I was very impressed with the dressing. For my entree, I went for comfort food with the Thursday night "Blue Plate Special," Turkey Meatloaf (told you I'm stressed!). It's made with sun-dried tomatoes, topped with gravy, and served with sweet onions, roasted asparagus, and fingerling potatoes. Hubby had the Pan-Roasted Halibut. I'm not a fish person, but I had a bite, and I liked it. Although I was full, I had to try the "signature dessert," the Chocolate Bread Pudding. I don't usually go for bread pudding, but this one was really good. The texture falls somewhere between a chocolate souffle and a flourless cake. I couldn't finish it, but it definitely falls in the "dessert so good you need a cigarette afterward" category.

Hubby and I split a bottle of 2006 La Crema Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast, California). It's jammy for a Pinot with lots of cherry and goes down very smoothly. It paired well with my meal, not so well with Hubby's, but as he said with a shrug, "I like the wine, so that's all that matters."

Score card:
Atmosphere: Nice, romantic. The art is interesting. I didn't really like the painting of the two pigs staring at me as I tried to decide between what I got and the pork ravioli
Food: Very good
Wine list: Very good, nice range
Wait staff: Excellent
Desserts: Excellent
Vegetarian friendly? Hmmm, probably not
Kid friendly? No
Would I go back? Yes

Last night we met up with our vegetarian friends at Cottage Ethiopian Cuisine, which is located in a former Burger King on Piedmont. Once inside, it's easy to forget that the building had humble fast food beginnings with its stage in one corner for live music and bar with a television screen showing Ethiopian music videos, which are different but seem to focus on much of the same themes that American ones do, at least visually. We started with Sambusas, which are good and crisp if a little oily, and Timatim Fit-Fit, which is kind of like panzanella with tomato, peppers, onion, oil and vinegar tossed with little pieces of injera, the bread that everything is served on and with which you're supposed to eat. We were told by our waiter at Moya (see post from April 24 that Ethiopian food does not exist until it comes into contact with the bread, so we did have a semi-philosophical discussion as to whether that was a self-actualizing dish. We shared a very large Vegetarian Sampler for our entree with an additional order of Shiro, which are split peas cooked with onion, garlic, and spices. I did try the Honey Wine and found that although it's like a slightly syrupy off-dry Riesling, it pairs perfectly with the food.

Score card:
Atmosphere: Good for the space they've got
Food: Excellent
Wine list: Limited
Wait staff: Good
Desserts: Are you kidding? How can you eat dessert after having Ethiopian food?
Vegetarian friendly? Very
Kid friendly? If your kids are adventurous.
Would I go back? Yes

After dinner, we went to Tastings, which we've been meaning to visit since they opened earlier this summer. However, I have a library book to finish, so I shall have to write on that a little later in the week.

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