We played with mostly easy to prepare food in the rental house our first few days in Virginia Beach this year. Several attendees prepared some things in advance (or brought easy to fix eats, like a big spiral sliced ham and Hungarian Kielbasa from Cleveland's West Side Market), such that I didn't take as many pictures as usual. Sorry I didn't get Donna's Corn Chowder, Didi's Homemade Boursin, or Garner's delicious Turkey Stew. Garner also made pancakes for a breakfast, and between 2 stratas, Pork Chop Shop Christmas Ale Bacon & Eggs and pancakes - we wound up only having cheesy baked rice for breakfast once.
Twice, we were treated to Donna's Maple Sausage Strata, which we discovered was even more delicious drizzled with real Maple Syrup.
The most exciting culinary discovery of the trip (well, in my mind it was tied with the Peter Chang dumplings shown below, but that's just me) was a version of Wild Rice Burgers adapted by Chef Tom and his vegetarian wife Rosemary from a vegetarian offering at Duluth Grill. Not only did they send us the recipe, they sent us a box of ingredients so we could make them!
|Table is set for our last dinner with everyone in attendance|
|Served on Potato Rolls|
|Finished with ketchup and mayo, Didi's Boursin, or cheddar|
I'm usually not a big fan of veggie burgers. Most have either mushroom, which I don't care for, or beans, which I like, but not in a burger form. The base for this one was Wild Rice, which provided both intense flavor and sturdy but not too toothy texture, TVP, Mayo, Cheese, Panko and a few other ingredients and assertive seasonings - and gosh darn if it didn't almost have the mouth feel of a real burger, with savory flavor to boot!
After five days of "eating in," I became concerned that I wouldn't get my Peter Chang fix, so Bob and I headed out alone for Dim Sum even though there were still Rice Burgers left in the fridge. It was beautiful, ordered off of menus (photos of some of the menu pages are in my Flickr set of photos from this trip, because their website has only a truncated electronic menu).
|Cilantro Flounder Fish Rolls from "Snack & Cold Appetizer" menu page.|
Fresh, fresh fish, fried to a hot and succulent crisp!
|Spicy Dipping Sauce|
|Pork Belly w/Garlic Sauce - from the "Cold Appetizers" section of the Dim Sum Menu|
This was actually served warm - not hot or cold. Though we slightly preferred the pork belly dish we had last year at Peter Chang, this dish was most worthy, if a bit spicy.
|Sticky Rice Shaumai from the "Dim Sum" Section of the Dim Sum Menu|
I love these; it was one of the first Dim Sums I learned to make and you rarely see them in restaurants.
And finally, the culinary highlight of our trip (perhaps tied with those Wild Rice Burgers):
|Xiao Long Bao ("Soup Dumplings" or "Juicy Buns") called "Steamed Soup Buns" on the "Snack & Cold Appetizers" menu page.|
The delicate dough was just strong enough to hold together through the eating process. Piping hot soup and tender pork rewarded the patience needed to work the dumpling onto a spoon, nibble a little hole in the wrapper, and slurp.
Our last full day, we managed to herd all of the cats, um, guests in the house to go out together! We started with an afternoon showing of the new Star Wars movie, then headed across the parking lot from the theater to the rather new place called The Whiskey Kitchen, which describes itself as "Locally Brewed/Grown/Owned." Despite a couple of miscues, we shared a lovely meal and I'd be willing to give them another try.
|She Crab Soup|
I really enjoyed this creamy, crabby bowl of warmth.
|"Distilled Burger" with lettuce, tomato, red onion, cheddar, served on Brioche with fries.|
Bob's burger was cooked a little past medium, but tasted good.
And here is where the kerfluffle came in. The server had described the "Fresh Catch" of the day as fried Rockfish over Cajun Rice. It turned out that either she misspoke or the kitchen changed it up - whichever it was, the plate below was dropped first, with a comment that the fish "was coming."
|Cajun Rice Topped with Fried Rock Shrimp|
This plate came next (both to me, and to Margaret, who'd ordered the same thing):
|"Street Taco" flavored Rockfish|
The server dropped this without explanation beyond "here's your Rockfish". After Margaret decanted hers onto her plate of vegetables (which she'd gotten as a substitute for the spicy rice), I decided to do the same. Except the "street taco" seasoning on the fish did NOT go at all with the aggressively seasoned Cajun Rice. I asked the waitress what was up, and she explained that since she'd promised us Rockfish, but the actual special was the Shrimp, she wanted us to also have some of the fish. I scratched my head, wondering why she hadn't simply explained the mistake on the special before dropping it, and offered the diner the option of choosing something else. That Rockfish was fantastic (I did eat the fish, though most of the shrimp and rice were leftover and I didn't take them), and I would have happily ordered the tacos, or whatever else, to have that beautiful fish for my dinner! The server made it right, though, by taking my entree off the check, at her own initiative. No harm done.
For our last meal together before hitting the road, we again assembled at the perfectly-located, food service pack driven Margie & Ray's. The ice tea tasted much fresher than I remembered it from previous years, so that was a good start. Service was exceptional from start to finish.
|Bob's Bacon Omelet with Grits|
Yes, Margie and Ray remain full of culinary shortcuts: liquid egg product for the omelet, cheap food service breads, and pseudo-butter instead of real butter. But this was not a bad plate and Bob cleaned it.
|Margie’s Platter. Country Fried Steak with white gravy and 2 eggs served any style (over easy), grits, toast.|
Having learned to avoid eggs here unless they are poached or fried, I did much better than I had in previous years. The eggs were perfectly cooked, and the runny yolks perked up the otherwise bland grits (which at least did not have the texture of instant grits, as in the past). Even if that steak patty came out of a package, it was cooked well and was therefore crispy and enjoyable.
And so, we headed back to the frigid climes of Cleveland, fortified by a long week of playing with fun food and great friends.