Saturday, January 25, 2014

Jenna's Cafe- Virginia Beach, VA (Chic's Beach)


Back in the days when I lived in the Lunatic Fringe zip code (AKA Chic’s Beach)  I used to frequent Jenna’s pretty regularly. Jenna’s does a couple of things really, really well. They have the best, fresh out of the oven pita bread. Their hummus is extra special. It has a great taste and a nice smooth consistency. Their pita sandwiches are hearty and fresh. Two people could easily split one pita sandwich and be satisfied. Oh yeah, and pizzas. I am a firm believer that the crust makes or breaks a pizza. They make a great pie.

I haven’t been to Jenna’s in a  few years now, and I decided to pick up a lunch to-go order for myself and my mom. They were running a special on Saturday, two pita sandwiches and a Greek salad for $16.99. That’s a great deal! I got the turkey and cheese for my mom. They have a roasted red pepper pita with provolone and feta, but since I love their hummus I asked to sub that for the provolone. I was told there would be a couple dollar charge to do that, and I told them to go for it. The one person working the counter and serving all the tables told me that the kitchen wasn't that busy and the wait wouldn't be too long. This is what my mom calls “Famous Last words”. The guy who came in behind me also ordered the special and grabbed a table to dine in.
My view for 40 minutes

Now the wait begins. Jenna’s is not in any way fancy, which is fine. Considering the location I don’t think anyone really expects it to be. It has blue-gray walls, red chairs, with cheap, TJ Maxx looking art on the walls. Low overhead. About 15 minutes into my wait I see the server come out with a big Greek Salad. She serves it to the guy who came in after me. Several minutes later his table gets their sandwiches AND the couple who came in after him get their hummus platter. Hmmmm….. I ask the girl what’s up? Is my order ready to go? She has to check on that. More minutes pass, more food is coming out. Cooked food, like pizzas, gyros….The girl now tells me that my food was dropped on the floor and they had to start over. Okay, I am glad they don’t serve food off the floor, but why did that incident bump me to the back of the line? People have finished eating and are leaving as I sit and wait. I call my mom and tell her that I might be there in time for dinner. I am regretting that I paid for this food when I ordered, otherwise I would have simply left and gone to Taste Unlimited or some other spot along the way. After waiting 40 minutes I go up to the register and beg for my food. Now I get a sea of excuses “its all made from scratch” “it’s all freshly prepared” blah, blah, blah. What she failed to understand is that everyone else’s order which came in after mine, but was served before mine, was also “freshly prepared”. Patience is something I struggle with every day, and I was really biting back my usual spew of sarcastic venom when miraculously my order was ready. Choirs of angels began to sing Hallelujah as I bolted out of the door. Seriously, an apology and maybe a free cookie would have gone a long way at that point.

My poor mom had to listen to this rant, which she did as always, with infinite patience. As soon as I started eating, I got less and less ticked off because the food was so freaking good. The Greek salad is really nothing special. It is iceberg, a few slices of cucumber, 2-3 chunks of tomato, a couple of peppers and herbed feta. Their vinaigrette is interesting. It is slightly orange and has a host of mystery herbs and spices (maybe some paprika?). It adds some interest to an otherwise boring salad. You are given a full pita with the salad, and these are nice, thick, hearty pitas. The sandwiches were heavenly, and packed with ingredients which came oozing out of the sides with every bite. I got half of the pita eaten and had to throw in the towel because I was full.

Note to self: Next time, call in the order ahead…because there will be a next time.

Greek Salad, comes with a full pita. It had a decent amount of feta cheese, but it drifted to the bottom of the container.

My concoction, a marriage of the roasted red pepper and the hummus pitas 

Jenna's Cafe
2104 Pleasure House Road
VA Beach, VA 23455
Phone:(757) 460-0973

Jenna's Cafe on Urbanspoon

Friday, January 17, 2014

Zushi Japanese Bistro - Virginia Beach Town Center

View of bar area and entrance
Friday nights traditionally mean sushi at my house, so B.B.King at the Sandler Center on a Friday night meant finding sushi at the Town Center. Getting to the Town center at 6PM on a Friday is no fun. It starts with a traffic backup on the interstate exit ramp that leaves you sitting at a dead stop  while people fly past as they try to enter the highway. If you survive this trial, you next have to endure creeping along at a snail's pace while you merge in and out of traffic trying to make your turn onto the roads that will get you to a parking garage. However, by the time you make it to your destination, this garage may be full and you will have to maneuver once again through the traffic to another garage. Can you tell I am not a fan? Why the city built this destination without any upgrade to the highway is a mystery to me. It took 30 minutes to go 1 mile. Make sure you add this travel time into your planning if you need to be somewhere at a specific time.

Sushi Bar
We made it to Zushi just in time for our reservation. The interior is nice, modern with dimmed lights and a natural color palate. A full bar is located up by the entrance if you need to wait, as well as a comfortable seating area. Several tables were marked as reserved, one of which was ours. We were promptly seated and orders were taken for drinks. The menu is basic sushi restaurant. There is some variety in the sake menu which isn't seen everywhere. Dinner entrees come with choice of miso soup or salad. We ordered the Sushi Dinner and I got the Chirashi bowl. The restaurant really started to fill up and by 6:35 there was a wait. There were three sushi chefs in view and our orders came out quickly. Once we were served, our waitress kind of disappeared. They have metal chop sticks, which were extremely slippery, and the fish seemed to keep slipping around. My daughter, who is still working on her chop stick skills, could not master them. The fish was good quality, and well proportioned. The sticky rice was slightly sweet, just the way I like it. It didn't take us long to finish, but we had to track down our server for the check. Once we got it, we had to stop the hostess to pay. Our server appeared to be in the weeds, as they say.

Overall, I liked Zushi and would definitely return if I was at the Town Center again on a Friday night. It would not be a destination place for me though. The sushi chefs were very friendly and pleasant, but service was slow and inattentive. I also thought it was overpriced. What can I say? My heart still belongs to Kyushu which is less that 3 miles away.

Zushi Japanese Bistro
4540 Main Street
Virginia Beach, VA 23462
Phone:(757) 321-1495

Seating Area

Sushi Dinner

Chirashi Bowl
Zushi Japanese Bistro
4540 Main Street
Virginia Beach, VA 23462
Phone:(757) 321-1495

Zushi Japanese Bistro on Urbanspoon

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Josiah Chowning's Tavern - Williamsburg, VA

Josiah Chowning sign Colonial Williamsburg
Josiah Chowning
My mother started a tradition of picking me up from high school on the last day before break and taking us into Colonial Williamsburg for a little sight seeing and nourishment. We would walk up and down Duke of Gloucester street checking out the Christmas decorations on various buildings and then we would go to one of the taverns for lunch. We continued this tradition into my college days and well beyond. Thus began my deep affection for Williamsburg at Christmas-time and tavern dining.

This year I headed up to the Colonial district with my brother in tow. If you can get yourself motivated in the morning, it is always better to head out to any tourist-type attraction early. Experience has taught me that this is the best way to avoid the crowds. The rubber hit the road on schedule and we were able to snag a spot in my favorite pay by the hour lot with minimal effort. Even though we were going to spend most of the day walking, I still get happy when I get a good parking spot.

This year's decorations were beautiful as always. The morning started out a little cloudy and then cleared as the lunch hour approached. We read every posted menu along the street. My brother had his mind set on Christiana Campbell's Tavern which is located past the end of Duke of Gloucester just beyond the Capital building. Unfortunately, once we got there we learned they were not open for lunch. The first place we checked out had Brunswick Stew on the menu. That was it for me! After looking over all available options, we headed back to Chowning's Tavern.

If you have never dined in one of the historic Taverns, it can be a little startling when "characters" enter your room and perform. We were witness to two young colonial men discussing the proper attire for one's approaching nuptials. They were surprisingly comedic, and not intrusive. Some diners participated in the conversation, but if you did not want to do so, you were politely left to your own personal conversations.

I always look forward to having a traditional beverage at the taverns. They offer tavern cocktails, a nice selection of beers, and of course non-alcoholic selections. My favorite is a Rummer. As you may have guessed, it is rum with apricot and peach brandy on crushed ice. Depending upon the weather, a hot toddy may run a close second. The brisk walk in the crisp winter morning air had perked my appetite (not that I need much help in that area). I was ready for my Brunswick stew! I ordered the cup size and for my entree I selected a Crab Cake salad. My brother ordered a cup of stew as well and a Salty Virginia Ham sandwich with Cheddar Cheese on marble rye. While waiting for our order, the table next to us received their beer sampler. You get to choose three beers from the house selection, which is then served on a cute tray with slots for three mugs. I made a mental note to try that next time if I can get past the Rummer.

The stew came out first and was delicious. Very traditionally prepared with the tomato based liquid, chicken, Lima beans, corn and potatoes, topped off with a couple of pieces of chopped okra. It was a hit! The crab cake salad was a nice surprise to me. I did not expect to be wowed, but I was. The lemon caper sauce was a nice touch, and the additional dressing served on the side was an especially flavorful Italian blend, which tasted as if there was a hint of champagne included. The lettuce was fresh and sweet. My brother's sandwich looked great with thick stacks of fresh ham. I barely got the chance to photograph half of it! Speaking of which, I completed my meal with a cup of coffee and Chocolate Caramel Pecan pie. The perfect ending!

Currently there are several great dining options in the heart of Colonial Williamsburg. Don't be intimidated by the taverns. I have dined in every one of them, and always have a great time. Typically they don't take reservations for lunch, and several are closed for the winter season. Check out the Colonial Williamsburg website for information on tavern hours and menus.


***Check out an accompanying post for pictures of Colonial Williamsburg
Christmas decorations***

Chowning's Tavern Menu
Christmas-time lunch menu

Crab Cake Salad at Josiah Chowning's Tavern in Colonial Williamsburg, VA
Crab Cake Salat

Virginia Ham at Josiah Chowning's Tavern in Colonial Williamsburg, VA
Salty Virginia Ham

View from the dining room at Josiah Chowning's Tavern in Colonial Williamsburg, VA
Duke of Gloucester Street as seen from table

Josiah Chowning's Tavern
109 E Duke of Gloucester St, Williamsburg, VA 23185
Hours: (vary by season) Sunday 11:30am – 3:00pm, 5:00pm – 11:00pm
Josiah Chowning's Tavern on Urbanspoon

Colonial Williamsburg Christmas Decorations

Colonial Williamsburg is loaded with charm in every season, but the Christmas holiday and the decorations that come with it take this charm to even greater heights. I love walking up and down the streets checking out all the wreaths, garland and swags. In today's world where faster is perceived as better most of the time, I enjoy soaking in the atmosphere of a time long gone past. A time when things were crafted by hand using the resources indigenous to the area. Creativity abounds in this year's decor. I hope you enjoy my pictures and perhaps next year you might gather up some apples, pine cones, boxwood clippings or whatever else you have at hand and try some creating of your own!
This was magnificent in person. Even after asking the attendant we were not able to determine all the "ingredients". 

A fun twist on the usual fare was found by incorporating playing cards on the coffee house Wreath and windows. 

The wreaths are all live, and the local bird population loves them too. Maintenance must remain ongoing during the holidays, as consumed parts and pieces need to be replaced. I especially love apples and pine cones. This is my personal favorite. The bird in the shot was a random bonus!

Wood shavings on the cabinet maker's wreath. 

The photo does not do this justice. There were quite a few displays with pomegranates. 

Artichoke and apples, boxwood, pine and wheat. Lovely!

The classic welcoming pineapple.

Apples Galore!

This location was the winner for me. Bridles, stirrups, antlers, apples and pine. Really well done!

It is difficult to see but this one has a powder horn and a tomahawk. We saw several uses of pheasant feathers throughout the town. 

Very unique. A mushroom!