Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Nordstrom Cafe - MacArthur Center, Norfolk VA

Nordstrom Cafe dish Bleu Cheese and Pear Salad
Alex and I revisited one of our all time favorites today, Nordstrom Cafe. I love this place. There is such a variety of foods, and the preparation is always excellent. Another constant is service. They are on spot. Don't think that the cafeteria style set up will lead to sub-par service. They have a dedicated staff of professionals. Some of them have been there since they opened. The lady who usually makes the salads (I do not know her name, I just refer to her as the "Salad Lady") is wonderful. I even get a little disappointed if I happen to go there on a day when she is not working. Today Alex ordered my favorite, the Blue Cheese and Pear Salad.The Salad Lady politely waited for me to announce my selection. When I said, "You know I want that too. It's my salad, " she said, "I knew you wanted it, but wasn't sure if you knew you wanted it." Ah, the Salad Lady has a sense of humor too...nice! A friend joined us today and ordered the Tomato Basil soup and Caesar Salad. A nice combination for a cold, rainy, early spring day. If only I could have ordered a glass of wine and hung out for the rest of the afternoon....

Nordstrom Cafe dish Caesar SaladThe Blue Cheese and Pear salad was superb. I must confess, I had it this past Saturday as well, along with a divine piece of orange-cranberry cheesecake. This dessert is not a regular item, so I felt an overwhelming need to order it. Delicious, and my lunch companion agreed. He started with the Tomato Basil Soup and the Chicken Mozzarella sandwich, both of which he enjoyed and this was also his first Nordstrom Cafe experience. Laine and I love taking people there for the first time. I might be a Nordstrom addict at this point, but we all have something. There are worse things. Like Laine, I wished we could have stayed longer, had a drink and relaxed, especially with this dreary weather.

Nordstrom Cafe dish Tomato Basil Soup

Nordstom Cafe Marketplace
MacArthur Center
300 Monticello Avenue
Norfolk, VA 23510
(757) 314-1111
Menu and Restaurant Information Click HERE

Friday, March 25, 2011

Bardo - Edibles and Elixirs - Revisited, Norfolk, VA

I want to continue to love Bardo, but my friends and I had a very off night there recently. We had a reservation and were late. Our fault and put us on the first come, first serve list. No problem, the hostess said it should be about fifteen minutes. We were talking and having drinks and not completely watching the time. I started to take note at the thirty minute mark and asked the hostess our status. She said ‘it should just be a few more minutes’. This cat and mouse game continued with me asking and her saying a few minutes until we were seated over an hour after we arrived. Now, if she had simply told us the wait would be forty-five minutes to an hour, we maybe have made the decision to go elsewhere. But she did not go this route and instead repeatedly mislead us into thinking we would be seated soon. She seemed like a shy girl so maybe she was new and was not a pro at judging how long a table would take. I tried to give her the benefit of the doubt, but I kept coming up empty and irritated.

After we were finally seated, our waitress was nice and our food was pretty good. I ordered a few of my favorites, the hot nuts, the tofu pad Thai, the eggplant fries and a newer dessert, the fried vanilla bean cheesecake dumplings. The taste was fine, but the cracker consistency of the dumpling made them difficult to eat. There were three of these and the cream cheese was spread between two of these fried ‘dumplings’. A raspberry coulis was drizzled across the plate. The dumplings were more like crackers. I would not order these again and wish the dumpling had had a softer consistency. The rest of the table was pleased with their food as well. A mussel special, the rockfish special with a succotash, tuna tataki, more eggplant fries, the creme brulee duet, some dim sum doughnuts and a heaven and hell rounded out our meal.

Everyone was pleased with their drinks choices; a few beers, an Amakuchi, a Pacific Rim and some others. One in our party ordered a Thai Almond, a drink she has previously enjoyed. It consists of vodka, Kahlua, amaretto and coconut milk. It arrived looking pretty with a flower, but upon tasting, she made a face, indicating something was ‘off’ in the drink. Asking for problems, I tasted it when she asked and thought it was horrible. She said in the past, the drink was always smooth and this had an odd consistency, almost like cottage cheese. Gross, right? When the waitress came back around, my friend described the problem with the drink. The waitress apologized and asked if my friend wanted anything else in replacement. Since we were almost finished with dessert, she said no and asked for it to be removed from the bill. It seemed like a reasonable request to me, until I saw the waitress reappear with the same drink. I knew this would not be good. The waitress explained that the bartender told her that people had been returning drinks all night and that everything in the drink was on point (i.e no expired coconut milk) and that they would not remove the drink from the bar bill.
I was appalled. First, if drinks had been returned all night, might it not be the bartender who is the cause? Second, if a customer is not happy, a restaurant, or any other business, for that matter should do whatever they can to rectify the situation. The small amount of currency they lose on one drink should not deter them from making a customer happy. It seemed like the bartender was cranky because he or she had to remake a few drinks and took it out on my friend. A third point, why did the bartender make the nice waitress deliver the bad news instead of doing it herself or himself. We were all pretty ticked between the waiting game and the drink and I will probably not rush into Bardo anytime soon. I still like their food, but I can think of quite a few other places where I can spend my money and avoid meal drama.

My experience has shown me that contacting the restaurant after an incident like that above will usually garner an apology and sometimes more. Monday morning, following this Friday night affair, I emailed Bardo and nicely explained what had happened and how surprised I was, especially about the drink. It has been five days and I have not received a reply. I waited this long to write update our blog to see if I would get some type of response, even a simple apology and that management would speak with the staff. The lack of communication has left me with an even more sour taste in my mouth than that drink.

Here’s my two cents on Alex’s Bardo adventure. Next time, ask for the manager right when the incident happens. Don’t dink around with the worker bee’s. Especially the server. Those poor server’s are always the bearer of bad news from the kitchen, or the bar, or whomever else works behind the scenes and doesn’t have to “deal with” the public. Get the manager on duty to come to your table and lay it all out for them. This is the person the restaurant hired to handle these sorts of concerns. If he or she fails to address the situation properly, then you know without a doubt, that you can cross that restaurant permanently off your list.


Gourmet Gang - Downtown, Norfolk, VA

Gourmet Gang dish Napa Cabbage Salad
March 25, 2011
Another weekly salad special. This is the Napa Cabbage Salad with chicken (it also came without chicken). The salad is advertised as featuring seasoned almonds and ramennoodles, diced red peppers, broccoli & spring onions tossedwith a sweet soy dressing for $7.25 or $8.25 with chicken. This was not one of my favorites. In my opinion, there were far to many ramen noodles. I didn't realize this at first, because they were all on the bottom of the salad. All the additional ingredients were chopped small, so it was impossible to avoid the noodles while trying to get a bite of the other salad parts. In retrospect, I now realize that the salad did not have the advertised seasoned almonds. Perhaps they ran out? On a positive note, the dressing was very good, and the chicken was moist and flavorful.

March 17, 2011
This week's salad special is right up my alley. As you know from previous posts, I am a big fan of the Nicoise. I think GG (as Alex and I call it) did a great job with their version, which sticks closely to the traditional recipe;flaked tuna, red bliss potatoes, greenbeans, egg, olives and red onion on a bed of mixed greens withbalsamic dressing - $8.50. Gourmet Gang dish Nicoise Salad Unfortunately, Alex's sandwich order got botched, which never happens there. Apparently there was a big run on the Vegetarian/Vegan ruben; tempeh, swiss cheese, apple sauerkraut &dill pickle topped with vegan special sauce & served on softrye bread. Take off cheese and go Vegan - 7.95, They ran out of the apple sauerkraut, a key ingredient, but failed to mention it, and didn't serve it on her requested bread choice. Oops. No luck of the Irish for Alex today!

The vegetarian Rueben sounded great - apple sauerkraut, tempeh, swiss, sprouts and pickles. Of course, after the last time, I am only ordering my sandwiches on multi-grain since that is my favorite (no wraps, please). This sandwich came on rye, but Gourmet Gang has never had an issue changing anything so I put in my request. They were out of sprouts, so I chose cucumbers as a substitute. This is the first time this has ever happened, but they made my sandwich on the wrong bread, the rye. When I saw it, I asked if it was too much trouble to change it and they said no problem. When the second version of my sandwich arrived, the apple sauerkraut was missing, to my dismay! That was the part about which I was most excited. When I asked if it had been left off, they told me they ran out. I asked if my original sandwich was still around and they had it, so I took that. I was pretty disappointed. We arrived at 12:15pm, which seems early to run out of two ingredients. They did have a regular Reuben on the menu as well, so I guess they had a run on these sandwiches. I was so excited about this sandwich, but the ordeal killed it for me. I hope they have it again, so I can try it with all of the ingredients (the way I want them, of course). I still adore Gourmet Gang, but was let down this time.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Kebab Shack - Granby Street, Norfolk, VA - NOW CLOSED

Kebab Shack Vegetarian Platter
Another repeat this week. I had the pleasure of revisiting one of my Granby Street favorites, Kebab Shack. I ordered the vegetarian platter again, but noticed a few changes. Tabouli had been switched out for black bean hummus. It resembled gray wallpaper paste, or as a fellow diner said, "It looks like some kind of treatment you put on your face." Undeterred, I gave it a shot and rather liked it. Two thumbs up. Still, it made for quite a bit of hummus on the platter, so I would like to see the return of the Tabouli. Kebab Shack Greek SaladA dining companion ordered their Greek Salad, which looked great and was only $5.99. Another ordered the Chicken Tandoori platter. Both received votes of approval. They were also kind enough to make a special order, hot mint tea for someone in the group. I love when places go above and beyond to please versus saying "it's not on the menu". Another great meal at Kebab Shack.
Kebab Shack dish Chicken Tandoori

Kebab Shack
319 Granby Street
Norfolk, VA 23510
Mon-Thur 10:30AM-10PM
Fri-Sat 10:30AM-2AM
Sun 12PM-10PM

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Rockafellers - Virginia Beach, VA

Rockafellers Exterior
Back in the day, I used to frequent Rockafeller’s quite often. The bar and deck could get packed with summertime revelers, and their food was always good. One of my favorite hangover “cures” was their Eggs Benedict with Lump Crab meat, with a corresponding Bloody Mary … or two. My hangover days are a thing of the past, and I rarely find myself down at the oceanfront looking for a place to have lunch. However, free tickets to the Home and Garden show at the Virginia Beach Pavilion had me thinking about switching things up and dining at the beach.
I called up my buddy Alex and asked her for some oceanfront suggestions. The one that hit me most was Eurasia, which unfortunately for me, is not open on Sunday’s. I had been thinking about Rockafeller’s but had no idea if it still had its luster.
Rockafellers Interior
The parking lot was full, but valet was a thing of the past. That’s okay; we know how to park our car. We were seated promptly at a comfortable 4 top by the window. Since it was rainy this gave me a place to stash purse, hats, jackets, etc. The weather was pretty dreary, but I will always love a water view. It’s peaceful to watch the activity on the water and the rocking of boats in their slips. Rockafeller’s still has a nice brunch menu, which leans heavily toward seafood dishes. In addition, I was pleased to see a nice selection of both lunch and brunch specials on the chalk board. We are early risers and had already had our breakfast hours ago, so lunch was more on our minds. Our server was prompt, and pleasant. We started out with Bloody Mary’s (of course) and raw oysters. The Bloody Mary’s hit the spot. They have a slight kick, lots of pepper, and a dash of seafood flavor (my guess is clam juice). A Stoli’s Bloody Mary is $5.50. Folks, that is a bargain anywhere! Rockafeller's dish OystersThe oysters were not the best I have ever had because I wanted them to be bigger. However, they tasted wonderful, and were nicely cleaned and presented. Oysters and Bloody Marys go together like Johnny and June. Honestly, I would have been very happy to sit there eating oysters and drinking Bloody Marys for a good part of the afternoon.
Rockafellers dish Grilled Tuna Caesar Salad

For the main course, I selected the Grilled Tuna Caesar Salad and my husband order a special, Fish and Chips. The orders came out rather quickly. My tuna was cooked to perfection. I ordered it medium rare, and was served something closer to rare, which was actually better! It was a good grade of fish, and really melted in my mouth. The salad was pretty basic, and a bit heavy on the dressing, but paired nicely with the fish. The Fish and Chips looked awesome, and my husband commented that the accompanying salsa was really good.
Rockafellers dish Fish and Chips
We were in and out of the restaurant in about an hour and 15 minutes. We never felt rushed, and at the same time we never had to wait for a refill or our check or anything. The server did an excellent job. I really enjoyed myself and would not hesitate to return to Rockafeller’s in the future. It’s nice to know that there are still some oldies out there with some game!

308 Mediterranean Ave, Rudee Inlet
Virginia Beach,

Monday - Saturday
Lunch: 11am-3pm
Dinner menu is available
during lunch hours
Dinner: 3pm-10pm
Early Birds: 3pm-5:30pm
Brunch 10am-2pm
Dinner 2pm-10pm

Rockafeller's on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 7, 2011

Balliceaux - Downtown Richmond

Balliceaux Exterior

We garnered quite an appetite working our way through the Picasso exhibit at the Virginia Museum of Fine Art and were more than ready for a great dinner. After perusing a list of critics’ picks and consulting a trusted local, we settled on Balliceaux in the Fan, hip, bustling with activity and one of my favorite districts in Richmond. As with any popular area, parking is never easy. Luckily, we were able to find a spot a few blocks away, though I dinged my mom’s car on the license plate of the vehicle behind us. Sorry! It was a tight fit and options were limited. Post-crisis, we walked down a cobblestone alley to our destination. Upon entering, I was even more excited about our choice. The music was a little louder than usual (a good thing!) and selections were Talking Heads, Chromeo, Broken Bells and other great artists. I felt at home immediately. Quite a few hipsters hung out at the bar with their cell phones and the booths were packed with more stylish young folks. Reservations are only taken for parties of six or more, but we knew this going in, put our name on the list, ordered drinks and relaxed. With a few minutes to kill, I was able to take in the scenery and people watch. Balliceaux has an eclectic feel - blues, greens and grays decorate the walls as interesting pieces, such as glass antlers hang from the ceiling. Near the bar, a set of stairs leads up to the dark wooden waiter station and then down to a live music area. Time passed quickly and we were seated in about fifteen minutes. Our table near the front sat next to a cute tiled table with a Fu Manchu lamp. A huge mirror hung on the opposite wall from where we sat. A pale distressed turquoise wooden frame encompassed this piece that had to be four or five feet high by four of five feet wide. It was truly an amazing sight. We were greeted by our waitress, dressed in a fun, ho-down type of skirt of black and white and black motorcycle boots. All of the wait staff were dressed very hip and in their own styles, all different but which seemingly went together. No uniforms here!.

Balliceaux offers a variety of dishes with their own twists. Soups, an artisan cheese plate, lamb meatballs and sausage and clams are some of the starters. Duck breast, filet mignon and quail are included in the entree list. Kim chee, sweet potato fries and mashed potatoes are offered as additional sides and then there are a few sandwiches, such as a falafel flat bread, burgers and a pastrami sandwich. Balliceaux also had three non-meat choices. The selections this night were porcini risotto and southern fried twin oaks tofu. They were out of the third choice, vegetarian lasagna. I noticed on another version of the menu they offer panko crusted twin oaks tofu, roasted eggplant biyaldi and ricotta and fig pie. Those all sound delicious. We started with the tandoori fried cauliflower, which came in papad with the signature chick pea salad surrounded by sweet pickles. There were a number of flavors in this dish, but it was amazing and I have had nothing like it previously. Everyone was very impressed by this appetizer, especially the chick pea salad. Two at the table ordered soup. I went with the roasted pumpkin-mushroom and another the coastal blue crab. My soup was good, but I was expecting more of a pumpkin punch, rather than a vegetable soup. Not bad, just not what I had presumed. The coastal blue crab received a mixed review - one liked it and the other thought it was just so-so. For dinner I selected the porcini risotto which combined arborio rice, sun dried tomato, sweet onion, asparagus and asiago cheese for $17. This was outstanding. Topped with a few mixed greens, the dish melted the various flavors together perfectly. It was a large portion as well and to make sure I was able to try dessert, I took home leftovers. The other entrees at our table were pan fried rainbow trout with smoked scallop-cranberry-cornbread stuffing, spaghetti squash and beurre noisette for $23, sesame-potato crusted catfish with spicy grilled sweet potatoes and honey glazed broccoli rabe for $21 and then shrimp and grits for $13. A side of collard greens and some truffle fries were also thrown in for good measure and were both excellent. Everyone was delighted with their entrees and even the shrimp and grits, which was designated a ‘small plate’ was larger than expected.
Balliceaux Interior
Along with a few mixed drinks, the table shared J.K.Carriere Provocateur 08 Pinot Noir. Reasonably priced, the drinks were mixed well and the wine went nicely with the meal.

We had discussed dessert earlier in the day and jumped at the menu when the waitress offered it. At first, I thought we would order two since only two of us had been jockeying for dessert all day, but then my mom suggested we get three and there were no protests. We settled on the four layer amaretto genoise with chocolate icing and a raspberry coulis of sorts, the chocolate creme de caramel and finally, the apple crisp. The genoise was the winner. This was the lightest cake I have ever had and the amaretto and raspberry touches made the dish. The creme de caramel had a layer of caramel and brandy at the bottom, topped by a chocolate cake which was closer to a brownie’s consistency, followed by chocolate mousse, then whipped cream and a few berries. Great dish, but RICH. While small, this dish should be shared. Even I, who never turn away an extravagant dessert, could only eat a few bites. The waitress threw a scoop of the vanilla bean gelato (flavors change daily) on top of the apple crisp, which was made with granola instead of a brown sugar and nut topping which is common. It was good , but we decided this was the least exciting of the desserts. Of course, if you like something a little less over the top, the crisp is a good choice. Other desserts included chai chocolate pate,
warm churros & coffee sauce and a selection of cheese and preserves. I was surprised the dessert prices were $6 each - generous portions and such unique combinations would have made me assume a higher price tag - a pleasant surprise.

Service at Balliceaux was excellent as well. Our waitress was friendly, but not overly in our faces. She checked on us, but not too much. I felt our bill was very reasonable for all that we ordered. I thoroughly enjoyed myself at Balliceaux and was lucky to have great dinner company for the visit.

We were pretty tired and therefore, did not stay for the live music, but from the looks of things, the fashionable crowd was picking up and I have a feeling Balliceaux is a great night life spot in the Fan. I hope to go again and find out for certain.


Balliceaux serves dinner daily, lunch Tuesday-Friday and brunch on Sunday.
203 N. Lombardy Street
Richmond, VA 23220

Balliceaux on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Yorgo's Bageldashery - Norfolk, VA

Yorgo's Bageldashery exterior
Who goes to Yorgo's and doesn't order a bagel? Laine and Alex of course! Famous for their "New York Style Kosher Water Bagels", Yorgo's has been a popular spot in Norfolk for years. Previously they had a location on Plume street downtown, which lead to many morning meetings with Yorgo's Bagels. This location has been closed for a while now, and I had not been to Yorgo's in ages. The truth is, I could live quite happily if I never ate another bagel. They just don't excite me. So when Alex suggested Yorgo's for lunch last Friday, I was hesitant. Does Yorgo's have any other offerings worth the effort?

Yorgo's Ghent location on Colonial Avenue is a bit of a logistical challenge at lunchtime. Located directly on the street with 3-4 parking spaces out front, you will most likely have to park across the street or down 20th street and walk. No biggie, just awkward.
Yorgo's Bageldashery interior
The interior has a definite deli vibe. There is the usual counter, chalkboard menu, and upright up cooler of drinks. There is also an open refrigerated case of prepared menu items, like salads. I admit I was a bit put off by previously prepared salads. I know many restaurants to do this, I simply prefer the freshly prepared type. We had arrived a little after the lunch rush, and as a result the prepared salads were depleted. My Greek had to be made fresh. Yorgo's Bageldashery dish Greek Salad

I was completely underwhelmed by the salad. It was small, lacking in imagination and vegetables. Essentially it was lettuce, a few cucumber slices, olives, feta and a slab of my nemesis...the red onion. Oh well, what did I expect? When you go to Yorgo's order bagels, or just order a drink and hang out with your buddies while they eat bagels.


Bagels are great and Yorgo’s does a fantastic job with this quickie food. They have numerous flavors of the bagels themselves as well as more than a few types of cream cheese. Honey wheat, everything, whole grain, sourdough, chocolate chip, cinnamon raisin are some of the bagels and the cream cheese spectrum ranges from herb to cinnamon and sugar to blueberry. I have been to Yorgo’s quite a few times. My favorite cream cheese-bagel combo to date is the pumpkin cream cheese on honey wheat. This is a seasonal cream cheese and tastes exactly like pumpkin cheese cake. I am counting the days until next fall, when I assume it will resurface on the menu. I have also had the cinnamon and sugar on the cinnamon raisin bagel. A stellar pairing, if I do say so myself. There is never too much cinnamon. A friend had the scallion once. He said it was good, but beware, it has a STRONG aroma.
Yorgo's Bageldashery Awning
Yorgo’s also has a ton of bagel sandwiches and other breakfast items. Egg salad, tuna salad, chicken salad and even a tofu egg salad and a tofu chicken salad. I have had both of the tofu versions and was quite pleased, especially with the tofu egg salad. Eggs, bacon, ham, turkey and soy sausage and a variety of cheeses are other sandwich choices. There are daily vegan items, such as the vegan burrito and a daily vegan cream cheese.

You can order breakfast all day at Yorgo’s, but if you are shopping more for lunch food, they have that covered as well. If you are not in the mood for a bagel, they have Challah bread (the best!) and wraps. Lunch meat, peanut butter and jelly and even liver are some of the lunch findings. A friend had the Mediterranean wrap recently and the ingredients were more of an Indian style with chick peas and curry, rather than traditional Mediterranean style sandwiches which make me think of a vinaigrette, olives and feta. He did say it was good, but was not what he expected. The only drawback to the wrap is its size. Yorgo’s must be using the small tortillas so you are really getting two-thirds of a wrap instead of a full. I definitely think they should opt for the larger tortillas - that would give a diner a fair-sized sandwich. The subjects of contention I have with Yorgo’s are the salads, the plate sizes and the drink prices. Like Laine, I ordered a Greek salad and while there were plenty of olives, the lettuce was sparse and there just wasn’t much to it. I also had ordered a side of the tofu chicken salad and was glad because the salad was so small and was still $6 or so. You can go to a few other places and for about the same money, get a much larger and robust salad. On the plate size note, even if you order a wrap, it comes on a bagel plate, you know the paper plates that are the size of saucers. It is awkward, makes for a mess and they should go up to a ‘side’ paper plate. As for the sodas, the fountain is serve yourself BUT the large is $ is soda, for crying out loud. It kills me when restaurants charge more than $1.75 for a soda, even with refills.
Yorgo's Bageldashery dish Greek Salad Platter
The dessert category is another in which Yorgo’s excels. They have brownies, cookies (regular and vegan), raspberry bars, my all time favorite, the carrot cake cookie and some other treats. The carrot cake delight has the consistency of cake but it is a cookie and fabulous - novel idea, Yorgo’s! I have only had one sweet indulgence of which I was not fond. The Challah bread pudding sounded superb, but it had so much rum in it, I was gagging. Yorgo’s was solid with the idea, but went a little overboard with that crucial ingredient. I might have been drunk after a few bites. It is hard to remember, now that I try.

While there is ample space to sit in the restaurant, it is extremely packed on Saturday and Sunday mornings, so plan accordingly. They do move pretty fast, so you can order something to-go and skip fighting over a table. Parking can be a bear on the immediate block of Yorgo’s, but there is a large parking lot across Colonial and on side streets. Not sure about the parking rules though, so make sure you check for any signs that indicate a ticketing area. The atmosphere is very deli and a lot of folks are in very, very casual clothes, some a little too close to pajamas for my liking, but to each his own.

While I will avoid the salads, Yorgo’s hits the mark with bagels, sandwiches and sweets.


Click Here to view their Menu
Yorgo's Bageldashery
2123 Colonial Avenue, Norfolk, VA
(757) 623-6609 ‎

Yorgo's Bageldashery on Urbanspoon