Friday, May 17, 2013

Paleo Eats Out in Richmond, VA: Review of Rappahannock

We don't eat out that often anymore. I'd rather cook my own food so I can control the ingredients, even if it means that I feel like I spend my life doing the dishes. Ian helps a lot these days, and has cooked me full meals that are as delicious as anything I would order in a restaurant. He has truly learned how to cook without following a recipe, and it has been fun to watch and of course delicious as well. I always cooked before going to culinary school, but after I graduated it seems like it is always my responsibility. Don't get me wrong -- I love to cook for people and be in charge in the kitchen, but it is always nice when someone cooks a home-cooked meal for me. He has really been getting into smoking meats lately, so look forward to some of those recipes.

Not only has Ian learned how to cook since we have been together, but he has also become a real foodie. He will eat pretty much ANYTHING, other than coleslaw. He's not afraid to try offal, and he will eat any vegetable I throw at him. When we go out to restaurants, he pours over the beer menu, while I look at the food. Often he looks up and says, "What are we having?" We "team order," meaning that we order a few things and share them. I love it! And yes, he still drinks beer. He abstains from all other grains, but like some other men out there, he still enjoys them in the fermented state. He maintains a healthy weight, and like I've said before, we aren't obsessive about "paleo perfection." We also occasionally indulge in dairy, but mostly when we eat out, or the rare occasion that I buy raw milk cheese.

Recently Ian had a meeting in Richmond, VA, and I tagged along for the day. While he was in a meeting, I went shopping and stumbled upon a Whole Foods, of course. I just seem to gravitate towards them. I couldn't help snagging a couple of bottles of GT's Strawberry Kombucha, a Theo chocolate bar, and some Hail Merry Chocolate Macaroons. I've been waiting to try some Hail Merry products ever since I saw fellow "paleo-ers" enjoying them at the PaleoFX via instagram. They are really delicious and fudgy. I actually like them more than other paleo-friendly macaroons that I have tried before, and they were less expensive. I'll have to be careful with them!

After his meeting, we set off to lunch at a restaurant in the Art District in downtown Richmond. We were going to go to a restaurant called "Pasture." When I googled "Richmond, VA Paleo" the restaurant came up in an article talking about how the chef partners with a Crossfit box and sells pulled pork and veggies for the athletes to take home, which sounded promising. Their website however was not working, and so I couldn't view the menu. I figured a restaurant called "Pasture" would be right up our alley. After we paid for parking in a public lot behind the restaurant, we walked in and were less than pleased with their lunch menu. As Ian so eloquently put it, "If I were here eating with a bunch of friends I could find something to eat, but if you had showed me this menu online, I wouldn't really want to go with just us." I felt the same. Nothing was labeled "local," "grassfed," or "pastured" and the lunch menu consisted of mostly sandwiches, and a few uninspiring salads. Pass. So we left. If you are ever in that situation, I encourage you to do the same. It's your money -- spend it where you want to! Since we had already paid for parking, I got onto my Urban Spoon App and found a restaurant on the very next block, called Rappahannock. Jackpot. They had me at "Local Asparagus Salad."

It wasn't a large restaurant, nor was it a large menu, but I wanted half the menu! Take a peek:

Rappahannock's Facebook Page describes themselves as "Upscale, yet casual seafood joint nestled in the historic Grace St. corridor in downtown Richmond, serving up seasonal dishes, craft beers, incredible wine selection, signature cocktails and an enormous raw bar focusing on our very own oyster farms, Rappahannock Oyster Co. has assembled incredible talent to revolutionize the concept of farm to table."

In typical fashion, we team ordered four things, and ate them in two courses. Of course we ordered the "Local Asparagus Salad," and it was sexy...

The asparagus was lightly grilled along with roasted spring onions, pickled oyster mushrooms, and tossed with arugula. The asparagus was still hot, and so it nicely wilted the arugula. Alongside the salad was a slice of burrata, which is a type of cheese made from mozzarella and heavy cream.  "Burrata" means "buttery" in Italian, and it was the perfect name for this luscious cheese. Next to the burrata was a dollop of Pistachio Pistou. Pistou is traditionally a blend of herbs, garlic and olive oil that is served on top of soup, but this one was almost like a pistachio pesto without cheese. I mean, pistou and pesto are in the same family, but I liked the pairing and the way the chef phrased it. If you want me to eat at your restaurant, good menu descriptions and interesting flavors are key. This dish was absolutely delicious. The whole salad was drizzled with black olive oil, and tiny pieces of the cured black olives dotted the plate. It was unctuous.

The second salad we had consisted of Sweet Gem Lettuce, cucumber, French breakfast radish, avocado, and green goddess dressing. I loved how peppery and creamy the salad was at the same time. Of course I am a sucker for avocados.

We enjoyed the two salads as a first course, and then ordered the Tuna Crudo and the Lamb Burger, sans the bun for our second course. When our waitress asked Ian if he'd like another beer, I felt like saying, "Yes, he'll have another beer and I'll have another Asparagus Salad." But seriously, we should have ordered another one.

The Tuna Crudo was artwork. The description on the menu enticed me: Tuna Crudo, preserved lemon, castelvetrano olives, radish, Calabrian chilies.  What I appreciated about the dish was that  each piece of thinly sliced tuna was topped with each of the aforementioned condiments, and it looked as if they had placed each one with tweezers. Attention. To. Detail. I totally got it. The chef plated it in such a way that you would be forced to enjoy each perfect bite the way he intended.

We also ordered the Border Springs Farm Lamb Burger with Mountaineer cheese, candied red onions, and harissa aioli. We also ordered the fingerling potato salad as the side. Don't judge me -- plenty of paleo peeps eat white potatoes on occasion. When we inquired about it, the waitress told us that it was a German style potato salad, meaning that it was vinegar based, rather than mayo based, so I felt just fine about splitting a small portion with my man. Isn't he handsome?

I was thoroughly happy with our service and experience at Rappahannock, and if you are in Richmond I encourage you to try it. Executive Chef Dylan Fultineer has crafted a beautiful menu, full of real foods, interesting touches, and local ingredients.

By the way, maybe "Pasture" is a good restaurant with good ingredients. Maybe their dinner menu is more interesting, but their lunch seemed lacking. I understand that often nice restaurants have a hard time turning a profit, so they make up for it with inexpensive lunch offerings. I'm not a total snob, and I will eat at restaurants that don't have local, grassfed, or pastured ingredients, but they have to TEMPT me in some way with something interesting and out of the ordinary. Just saying. In a few weeks I'm going to Orlando to visit my to-be in-laws, so I am sure that we will go to some fun restaurants and farmer's markets in town. Until then, it's back to cooking and washing dishes. :)


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