I am on the NoVA Elite Squad this year, which means that I get invited to awesome events! Back in July (I'm so far behind on posting, lol) - I was invited to a tasting event at the (then) new Tupelo Honey Cafe in Arlington. We got to hear about the menu and try several dishes and drinks. It's a really great way to get an impression of a restaurant without having to visit several times in order to try a lot. That's our fearless leader, Gretchen, in the photo there (check out her blog here).
I thought the location was really cute, on a corner near Ballston with a nice patio. The decor was warm and inviting, and the staff handled the madness of the event quite well. We got to try several drinks, starting with the happy hour special of sparkling sangria. I actually did not like that drink, though many others did, because it tasted more like a vodka and soda than a sangria. After that, I ordered the Violet Beauregarde (props for the cute name) with vodka, St. Germaine, blueberry puree, fresh mint, fresh lemon, and sparkling wine. I LOVED that one. I also loved the non-alcoholic blueberry spritzer that they passed around, but not the rosemary lemonade (too bitter).
As for food, we tried the Goat Cheese Grits Poppers with Jalapeno Apple Salsa (4:00, my favorite); Fried Green Tomatoes with Grits (1:00, also really liked); Country Ham Wontons with Shaved Brussels Sprouts (10:00, very good); Pecan Crusted Goat Cheese with Apples and Figs (not pictured, pretty good); Salt Roasted Beets with Goat Cheese and Pesto (6:00, disappointed with this one); Pimento Cheese Dip (too spicy for me); Mac and Cheese with Cajun Shrimp (also too spicy for me).
My takeaway was that this is Southern food, get the fried stuff and the cheesy stuff and the grits - if you try to go healthy, you will be disappointed. Everything we tried was from the small plates menu, so I would like to return to try an entree. Or better yet, bunch - I hear the brunch is fantastic.
My thanks to Yelp and Tupelo Honey Cafe for their generosity! You can read more about the event here.
You may be interested in: Yelp Progressive Brunch at Springfield Town Center
Last month, I wrote about a competition that I was invited to attend as a media person, and the breakfast meet and greet that went with it. Well, the finale event of the competition was 3 weeks ago, and it was wonderful! I apologize for the delay in writing about it, but 2 days after the event I flew to Texas to keep my mother company while she recovered from surgery, and I just got back! So let's talk about this thing!
As I mentioned before, Launch Pad is a competition sponsored by Mess Hall, Ris, and Union Market to give culinary entrepreneurs a jump start. The winner of the competition would take over the Ris stall in Union Market for 6 months.
I had never been to Union Market before this, so I got there early in order to wander around. This place is so cool! They were having a farmers market outside, with live music, and inside is a series of stalls with all kinds of food. What a foodie dream!
I really wish that I lived closer to this market, because it is really cool. I hope that you DC dwellers are appreciating this!
The Launch Pad event took place in Dock5 - the event space at Union Market. It really is a big industrial loading dock that you can set up any way that you like for your event.
This week, July 12-19, is Restaurant Week at the newly renovated Springfield Town Center in Springfield, VA. You can check out the menus for the 5 participating restaurants here. As a member of the NoVA Yelp Elite Squad, I was invited to try out the restaurants ahead of time. We had such a fun time and ate SO MUCH FOOD, it was insane. Check out what we were served below, and make sure to stop by Springfield Town Center this week for great deals on yummy food!
Our first stop was Yard House, an American restaurant with a huge menu including a big vegetarian section, and tons of beers on tap.
They served us an Ahi tuna salad, mac and cheese, and a Moscow Mule. The tuna was really well seasoned and perfectly cooked, but I didn't care for the greens. The mac and cheese was AWESOME - the pasta was the perfect texture and it was loaded with chicken, bacon, mushrooms, and truffle oil. So good - I definitely recommend it. The Moscow mule was light and refreshing, and really lovely on a hot day.
Next up was Chuy's - OMG CHUY'S!!! Words cannot express my excitement. You see, I am from Texas and this Austin based chain is my jam. The fact that it has migrated with me to VA is just the best. The manager here was super on point and spent a lot of time talking about how they make everything fresh in house. And yes, that is a giant strawberry margarita and pina colada swirl you see there.
You guys - I have a computer again! Yay!!! We are still in the process of settling in, but I at least have a place to post from now. Right before we moved was my 30th birthday, and I was kind of bummed because I had wanted to do a big trip to New York but the timing with the new house meant that we couldn't. Jasper told me that he was going to plan a smaller trip to a surprise location, so right in the middle of packing we hopped in the car and head to... The Inn at Little Washington! What a great surprise!
It also worked out nicely as a pre-anniversary trip because it was almost to our 5 year wedding anniversary! I can't even believe it - time flies!
We arrived just in time for afternoon tea, which was lovely. Both the sweet and savory bites were delicious and I love that they make all of their own accompaniments. I had a delicious caramel tea that I ended up buying from the store because it was so good.
You guys, I have been in such a writing funk since I have gotten back from vacation. I don't know what is going on! But I do want to tell you about the restaurants we visited while we were in San Francisco, and I will try to post more frequently from now on. Kailey, my sister-in-law (who we were visiting), is a chef in SF (here; that's her at 0:35 and 1:35), so we let her take us on a culinary tour of her favorite spots. But I determined on our first day that I was just going to enjoy the vacation and not worry about taking photos. So I don't have any food photos to show you, sorry!
Before we get to food, I should mention that we stayed at the Hotel Drisco and really enjoyed it. We had a corner room on the top floor and the views were amazing - we could see Alcatraz, the Golden Gate Bridge, and most of the city. All the windows really helped because, like many older buildings in the city, Drisco has no air conditioning. Opening all the windows made for a lovely cross-breeze, though it was too noisy to leave them open at night. The hotel includes a continental breakfast, and I am not talking about just cereal and muffins. They have all kinds of pastries with homemade jams, spreads, and toppings. Also fresh juices, cereal, yogurt, bagels, fruit salad, hot oatmeal, smoothies, salami and cheese, hard boiled eggs, and antipasto style veggies. In addition to various coffee blends, they will also make espresso drinks to order. It is a very nice perk. They also have a wine tasting every evening with cheese and salami, coffee all day, free wifi, free bikes, and the staff are very friendly and helpful.
I had heard of this place in some magazine or other because of the homemade poptarts. So when I was in Reston and craving some mid-day breakfast, I decided to try it out. It's kind of like an upscale version of an old-fashioned diner. If that makes any sense.
The menu is a mini newspaper (or bulletin, if you will) that also has some articles on the namesake and how the restaurant was founded. They have boozy milkshakes (very on trend right now), so I tried the Bananas Foster with banana rum and caramel. Very good.
Then I tried the signature breakfast combo - The Big Mark - which comes with 3 eggs, 2 bacon, 2 sausage, hashbrowns, toast, and a poptart (I chose the brown sugar bacon flavor). Everything was great except for the sausage, which was way too spicy for me. The poptart was indeed tasty, but I thought it needed a higher filling to crust ratio.
I brought a couple more flavors of poptart home (blueberry cheesecake and strawberry, I believe) to sample a range and so that Jasper could try them. Again, they were good but we both agreed they needed more filling.
Here's the fun news for breakfast-loving me - they are opening up a location at Mosaic, which is very close to me! I might even sample some non-breakfast items... maybe... probably not.
So, I'm kind of obsessed with the new shopping area called Mosaic District, I spend a lot of time there. It has a lot of restaurants, but not many of them are sit-down type places. Of the few that are there, I like Matchbox the best. The food is good, the drinks are decent, and it's right next to the movie theater. For these reasons, it tends to always be crowded. But don't let availability on Open Table fool you - every single time it has claimed to have no reservations, we have walked in and been seated in less than 15 minutes. It's billed as a pizza joint, but more than half the menu is other types of food. I'd say it's pretty comparable to Chef Geoff's, but in a better location.
One thing that is pretty cool is that they have wines on tap, so you can order by the glass pretty easily. But what's even cooler is a deal with Swirl and Sip where if you buy a bottle of wine from them, Matchbox will waive the corkage fee!
This is one of my favorite pizzas - the prosciutto and black mission fig with black pepper, arugula, and honey.
Another favorite (for Jasper, as well) is the chicken pesto pizza.
This is the crab and avocado salad with roasted corn and tarragon aioli.
I have an obsession... with a salad shop. This must be what being an adult feels like. I never used to like salads AT ALL, and then I tried Sweetgreen and now a salad is my treat to myself after working out. Not like, "oh don't wanna ruin that workout, so here's a salad;" but like "good job, now you GET to eat this salad." Weiiiiiiiiird. Who am I?
Anywho, Sweetgreen is awesome. It's like any fast food joint (Chipotle, Subway, etc...) where you travel down the line and build your meal, in this case - a yummy salad made with local ingredients (check the blackboard to see which vendors they use).
They have a number of pre-designed salads (my favorite is the District Cobb) and one seasonal salad per month (above photo is the May 2014 salad), or you can go custom. You can also customize a menu salad. For example, I like to get the District Cobb but swap sweet potatoes in for tomatoes and change the dressing to balsamic vinaigrette (which is super good). You get to choose how much dressing you want (light, medium, heavy) and also if you want bread (the bread is really good, but I try to resist).