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big night out, take two

31 May

Last night we headed out on the town to go to opening weekend of a new restaurant: Rosendale’s Modern Bistro. Although Rosendale’s opened a couple of years ago, Chef Richard Rosendale switched things up this past year, putting the formal, white-gloved service restaurant upstairs, and making the downstairs into the Modern Bistro. Getting back to basics with custom dining, the bistro is a more social experience, with moderately-priced dishes that are simple yet complex, and perfect for sharing. In light of the economy, Rosendale’s Modern Bistro is music to a foodie’s ear.

We’d made reservations in advance, and I’m glad we did – they were bustling! As we waited for our table to be ready, we were greeted by Vince, who offered to make us something special from the bar. More than a bartender, Vince wowed us with what he prepared – we had to track him down and make him give up the ingredients. My drink, on the left, included Creme de Cassis, orange Vodka, Triple Sec, a splash of cranberry juice and a squeeze of lemon. E’s drink, on the right, has (from what I remember!) Rye, Elderflower Liqueur and fresh lemon juice. I’m usually a lightweight, but these were so good that I had 2, along with a couple of sips of Malbec later in the evening.


Palates open and bellies growling, we were happy to see our appetizers and get dinner started! I didn’t want anything heavy or cloying, so I chose the Ham and Melon Skewers, composed of watermelon topped with prosciutto, which sat atop a reduced sherry vinegar syrup. Salty, cool and sweet, this was a perfect way to start off.


I normally don’t mention E’s meals too much, but I’ll make an exception. E chose the White Truffle Popcorn as his starter, and after I tried a piece, I was hooked. Tossed in butter, sea salt and truffle oil, it was reminiscent of the escargots in garlic sauce that I grew up with. Then again, I have a really strange palate, so maybe it’s just me.

We also had some really fresh bread, which was just how we like it; soft on the inside with a crisp crust, and sliced somewhat thin.


It was served with butter that was sprinkled with Himalayan sea salt and black pepper, which enhanced the butter’s creaminess and flavor.


When it came to mains, Chef Rosendale had me at “braise”. I ordered the Olive Braised Lamb Shank, which was described as “traditional braise, rosemary, natural sauce”. The lamb was perfectly tender, and the flavor was deep and complex. The meat fell off the bone, and was somehow tender and luscious at the same time, making it the perfect comfort food.


Since the menu was sharing-friendly, E and I split several sides. I normally hate sharing, but this weekend has been really fun – why limit yourself to one dish when you can try two?

The definite star of the meal were the French Beans with smoked honey, toasted almonds and tangerines. Absolutely magical, the beans were perfectly tender and the honey was smoky-sweet, with a slight bacon undertone. The almonds and tangerines rounded out the dish fabulously, adding just the right amount of crunch and acidity. Complex yet simple, this was a must-try.


I love ketchup, to the point that I was shipped two giant bottles of Canadian ketchup to tide me over last year. The sweet potato fries were so good that I didn’t even want the ketchup, as good as it was.


I loved that the Steamed Asparagus was subtle. Flavored with Hawaiian sea salt and lemon oil, they had a slight crisp left to them, and tasted just like they should. Simple works, and I wish more chefs would understand that the way Chef Rosendale does.


We were lucky enough to have the chef take a moment away from his busy kitchen and come to our table. It was especially great for E – in high school, he was at the Greenbrier in the middle of a culinary competition, and needed to crack a coconut and be able to use the shell, meat and water for various dishes, but had no idea how. In a world of hurt, E spent dinner preparing himself to crack the coconut using (sterilized) machinist tools his shop teacher had brought along. Thankfully, the then-sous-chef came over to his table, bringing over a chef’s knife and coconuts, and taught him how to do the cracking.

You may recognize Chef Rosendale from numerous specials shown on Food Network, and was the youngest member of Culinary Team USA and the captain of the team in 2008. He’s also a certified ice carver, the youngest chef to be on active status for the Certified Master Chef exam, and an all-around nice guy.

We had a hard time choosing a dessert to share, but finally decided on the Lemon Curd, which also had ginger ice cream, toasted meringue and crushed berries. Refreshing, tart, crunchy, sweet and soft, it was a great ending to a wonderful evening.


We were also brought out a teeny bit of creamy tapioca to try. Olivia (our server) was right – this was just like Grandma’s, only better.


Check out the tiny spoons, especially compared to a sugar cube!

In all honesty, it has never taken me this long to write a review, let alone post it. Having worked in several restaurants and eaten in many others, I’m pretty critical. I kept waiting to find a flaw, but I couldn’t. Dinner at Rosendale’s Modern Bistro was, in all honesty, the best meal of the year, and one of the best of my life. The food was fantastic, and had a price point that allowed us to spoil ourselves, and try some of everything. The staff was amazing – after we were done, Olivia apologized for being so short-staffed. Apparently, there were only 3 servers that night handling a full restaurant, and we never even noticed. We must have had every single one of them at our table at one point or another, and not only were they friendly, attentive and fun to be around, but they genuinely seemed happy to be there, even with all the stresses of opening weekend. The blog actually came up in conversation, and Olivia even wrote down the URL and later invited me to a girls-only brunch the next time I was in town. So Olivia, if you’re reading, thanks for an amazing time, say hi to the rest of the crew for us, and give yourself a huge pat on the back for all of your hard work.

It takes a lot of hard work and dedication for a restaurant to survive, never mind thrive. I have a feeling that we’ll be seeing Rosendale’s for many years to come.

2 Dec

I’m sorry.

I’ve been a bad blogger.

Between family health scares, a pretty bad car accident (we’re fine, the car…not so much), holidays, visitors, and issues with Blogger itself, I’ve been neglecting you, and I’m sorry.

I promise to be better, and have some posts coming up really soon, I promise!

I can make it up to you, I swear, by letting you in on a great opportunity. I found this on Joelen’s Blog, and not only did I enter, I’m sharing it with you!

Marx Food, a great gourmet bulk food shop, has recently added a collection of Ritrovo’s Fine Finishing Salts to their shop, and is giving away a flight of the collection! The collection includes, from their site:

Truffle & Salt: A blend of dried Italian black truffle and sea salt, this flavor combination will enhance any dish with the aroma and flavor of Italian truffles including popcorn, mashed potatoes, pasta dishes, scrambled eggs and roasted meats.

Fiori & Salt: An aromatic blend of Italian sea salt and flowers including chamomile, poppy, mallow, marigold, lime, hawthorn, yarrow, wild orange peel, flower pollen, heather and lavender. This combination is a wonderful way to infuse olive oils, sprinkle over fresh mozzarella, finish cream soups and risotto or bake into breads.

Fennel &Salt: A combination of sea salt, fennel seed and orange peel this blend pairs well with sweet and savory dishes including wild salmon, goat cheese, chocolate truffles or caramel.

Sweet & Salt: A sweet and savory blend of Italian sea salt, dried & ground fruit, sweet spices, vanilla, chocolate and grape must, this combination pairs well with both aromatic and dessert dishes. Sweet & salt can be used as a rub for duck or pork, sprinkled on roasted squash, pumpkin soup, or buttery shortbread cookies.

Saffron & Salt: Red strands of saffron are blended with sea salt resulting in a flavor profile that is perfect for finishing paella, cioppino, pasta or fresh ricotta.

Sea & Salt: A combination of high-quality Sicilian bottarga, citrus, sun-dried tomato, and cardamom, this blend is ideal with pasta, steamed vegetables or used to cure seafood and enhance salad dressings.

Limited Edition Cervia Salt: From Cervia salt pans, this Italian moist fleur de sel is the crème de la crème of sea salts. With a light texture and rich flavor this salt can be used to finish meat, poultry and fruit dishes as well as sweets including white chocolate chip cookies and caramel chocolate combinations.

Just head on over to Marx Food, leave a comment on which salt would go the fastest in your household, and cross your fingers! This would also make a fantastic gift for the foodie in your life.

Oh, and hey, if you do enter, feel free to leave me a comment sharing your favourite here as well. Mine – the fennel, while E would pick the Truffle.

Good luck!

Very Good Taste’s The Omnivore’s One Hundred and Tigers & Strawberries’s Vegetarian One Hundred

10 Sep

Here’s a chance for a little interactivity for all the bloggers out there. Below is a list of 100 things that I think every good omnivore should have tried at least once in their life. The list includes fine food, strange food, everyday food and even some pretty bad food – but a good omnivore should really try it all. Don’t worry if you haven’t, mind you; neither have I, though I’ll be sure to work on it. Don’t worry if you don’t recognise everything in the hundred, either; Wikipedia has the answers.

Here’s what I want you to do:

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating. (I’m italicizing them)
4) Optional extra: Post a comment here at www.verygoodtaste.co.uk linking to your results.

The VGT Omnivore’s Hundred:

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

48 – Not bad!

If you eliminate the 14 items I said that I wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole, that leaves 38 items left to try.

Now, onto the Vegetarian’s One Hundred!

1. Real macaroni and cheese, made from scratch and baked
2. Tabouleh
3. Freshly baked bread, straight from the oven (preferably with homemade strawberry jam)
4. Fresh figs
5. Fresh pomegranate
6. Indian dal of any sort
7. Imam bayildi
8. Pressed spiced Chinese tofu
9. Freshly made hummus
10. Tahini
11. Kimchi
12. Miso
13. Falafel
14. Potato and pea filled samosas
15. Homemade yogurt
16. Muhammara
17. Brie en croute
18. Spanikopita
19. Fresh, vine-ripened heirloom tomatoes
20. Insalata caprese
21. Stir-fried greens (gai lan, bok choi, pea shoots, kale, chard or collards)
22. Freshly made salsa
23. Freshly made guacamole
24. Creme brulee
25. Fava beans
26. Chinese cold sesame peanut noodles
27. Fattoush
28. New potatoes
29. Coleslaw
30. Ratatouille
31. Baba ganoush
32. Winter squash
33. Roasted beets
34. Baked sweet potatoes
35. Plantains
36. Chocolate truffles
37. Garlic mashed potatoes
38. Fresh water chestnuts
39. Steel cut oats
40. Quinoa
41. Grilled portabello mushrooms
42. Chipotle en adobo
43. Stone ground whole grain cornmeal
44. Freshly made corn or wheat tortillas
45. Frittata
46. Basil pesto
47. Roasted garlic
48. Raita of any type
49. Mango lassi
50. Jasmine rice (white or brown)
51. Thai vegetarian coconut milk curry
52. Pumpkin in any form other than pie
53. Fresh apple pear or plum gallette
54. Quince in any form
55. Escarole, endive or arugula
56. Sprouts other than mung bean
57. Naturally brewed soy sauce
58. Dried shiitake mushrooms
59. Unusually colored vegetables (purple cauliflower, blue potatoes, chocolate bell peppers…)
60. Fresh peach ice cream
61. Chevre
62. Medjool dates
63. Kheer
64. Flourless chocolate cake
65. Grilled corn on the cob
66. Black bean (or any other bean) vegetarian chili
67. Tempeh
68. Seitan or wheat gluten
69. Gorgonzola or any other blue veined cheese
70. Sweet potato fries
71. Homemade au gratin potatoes
72. Cream of asparagus soup
73. Artichoke-Parmesan dip
74. Mushroom risotto
75. Fermented black beans
76. Garlic scapes
77. Fresh new baby peas
78. Kalamata olives
79. Preserved lemons
80. Fried green tomatoes
81. Chinese scallion pancakes
82. Cheese souffle
83. Fried apples
84. Homemade frijoles refritos
85. Pasta fagiole
86. Macadamia nuts in any form
87. Paw paw in any form
88. Grilled cheese sandwich of any kind
89. Paneer cheese
90. Ma Po Tofu (vegetarian style–no pork!)
91. Fresh pasta in any form
92. Grilled leeks, scallions or ramps
93. Green papaya salad
94. Baked grain and vegetable stuffed tomatoes
95. Pickled ginger
96. Methi greens
97. Aloo paratha
98. Kedgeree (the original Indian version without the smoked fish, not the British version with fish)
99. Okra
100. Roasted brussels sprouts

76 – Wow!

There’s also nothing that I wouldn’t try in the Vegetarian list.

The strange thing is that I was fairly surprised by most of the items on the Veg list. They seemed to be really accessible to me, but I’m sure there are a lot of people in North America that have not heard of a fair amount of them, never mind having tried them.

I think the lesson here is that food is an adventure, with exposure being your map and curiosity being your compass. While there are items on both lists that you couldn’t pay me to eat again (sea urchin, anyone?), I’m glad to have tried them. After all, the anticipation of trying something new, and the feelings surrounding the effort are an experience in and of themselves.

What would and wouldn’t YOU eat?