Friday, August 21, 2015

Twist Martini & Associates - Va Beach, Town Center

Twist Martini & Associates has a prime, corner location directly across from the Sandler Center, which led me there Sunday evening. We walked directly across the street to Twisted after waiting among others at the hostess stand of McCormick & Schmick’s for about 5 minutes. After waiting a completely flustered hostess announced to no one in particular that the “kitchen was running behind”.  Don’t these places prepare for concert nights?
The clock was ticking so we headed on over, checked out the posted menu and decided to give Twist a try. There were about 3 groups eating outside, and the inside bar was similarly full, but the dining area was empty. It also smelled like smoke. Not food smoke either, cigarette smoke. Usually I would have left at that point, but we were running out of time. A host/waiter showed us to an outside table and gave us menus. 

Once again…we wait. No water, no nothing. Some girl who worked there was decorating the sidewalk tent sign like it was going to go on display at the Chrysler Museum. She was 10 feet away and never budged from the sign. The table next to us was served, and still no recognition for us. Finally, our server arrived and we order everything at once. We are brown liquor lovers, so it was Jack Daniels Manhattans for us both. In my world all bars are judged on their ability to make a good Manhattan. Since Manhattans (and brown liquors) have risen in popularity over the past several years, most bars have improved on this item. Ten years ago, it was a different story. My husband ordered the Baby Spinach Salad from the Apps menu. It is served with strawberries, candied walnut, goat cheese and a Vanilla-Balsamic Vinaigrette.   We both opted for light fare entrée’s. I selected the Petite Fillet with Roasted Potatoes and Vegetables; he selected the Grilled Pork Chop, with Wild Rice, Apple Butter, Fried Onions and Bourbon-Thyme Drizzle. 

The Manhattan’s were excellent. I inquired about the fantastic cherry; one of the servers was very knowledgeable, explaining to us that they were Luxardo brand Maraschino Cherries, imported from Italy.  Additionally they use top shelf vermouth, Contratto Roso. Its details like this that take a drink up a notch or two! My husband said the salad was superior. Or course, this meant I had to taste it. The spinach was very fresh, but I think it was the vinaigrette that put is over the edge. I was excellent. My petite fillet was cooked to perfection, and the small plate is plenty for a meal. 

So, here’s the big miss. My husband’s entrée never arrived. Well, let me correct myself. We got the check, (from which they removed the pork chop), paid, and then the pork chop arrived. It looked awesome too…but we will never know how it tasted. Everyone was very apologetic, and we were offered complimentary drinks after the show for compensation. However, it was a work night, and we decided not to take them up on the offer. 


4517 Commerce St
Virginia Beach, VA 23462

(757) 995-7878


Friday, August 14, 2015

Steinhilber's Restaurant - Virginia Beach, VA

This weekend was time to revisit an old favorite, Steinhilber’s. Boy, did we time it right! Saturday’s weather was unseasonably mild, with low humidity, low temperatures and a nice breeze. That’s the perfect combination for dining al fresco on the water in Virginia Beach! Whenever you dine at Steinhilber’s, make sure you request a table with a water view, available both inside and outside. If the weather is nice, I recommend dining on the patio. I noticed that they have added several gas fueled fire-pit tables to their outside assortment. These would be great on cooler evenings.

After taking drink orders, our delightful server was quick to mention that they had a bounty of fresh vegetables, especially tomatoes, originating from the garden next door. How’s that for local? Two of the salad specials for the evening took full advantage of this bounty. They offered their twist on the classic Caprese and Tomato with Lump Crab. She had me at “Lump Crab”. My husband ordered the Seared Ahi Tuna Appetizer.

For his entrée he ordered the Baked Seafood Combination, which is a 3 oz. lobster tail, 3 scallops, shrimp and lump crab. My husband happens to be a soft shell crab fanatic. If a restaurant has them available, he is going to order one. They had them so he added one on to his order. I selected one of the specials; a bone in pork chop cooked with a peach barbeque glaze, served over a succotash of black eyed peas and corn. We ordered cocktails which we enjoyed while munching on cornbread and enjoying the view.

 All plates arrived in a reasonable time frame. We never felt rushed, and we never felt like we were waiting. The tomato did NOT disappoint, and the lump crab was very generous. The Ahi Tuna was also delicious. A tender cut, with a nice avocado sauce drizzle. The chop and succotash was special. Pork can be a tough meat to time right. It needs to be cooked through, but not over cooked. This chop was perfection. It was tender and juicy. I loved the peach glaze and it paired very well with the succotash. The seafood, including the soft shell crab, was another home run. 

Although I forgot to photograph it, I would be remiss if I neglected to mention dessert. I ordered the pecan pie with vanilla ice cream, noted to be a family recipe. Wow. This is a serious piece of pie people! The crust was very unusual. It reminded me of peanut brittle. It was crunchy with a distinct nut flavor, not at all your standard flour crust. The pie filling was heavenly. An extra spoon was brought out for the Mr., but I’m pretty sure he didn’t get more than a bite. I wasn’t into sharing my pie…which he is used to by now.


Ambiance-5 - outside on this day!


Friday, July 31, 2015

Zorba's - Virginia Beach, VA

Greek Side Salad - Nice dressing!

Greek food, oh how I love thee. Good Greek food, oh how difficult you are to find! Recently life events had me driving up and down Princess Anne Road in VA Beach, and Zorba’s caught my eye. Online reviews were a mixed bag. Google+ said awesome, Yelp said…not so much. An evening tournament at VA Beach National put me at the right place at the right time, so the family agreed to give it a go. 

They are located in the same strip center as the original Mannino’s. Not as nice as some of the newer centers nearby, but I am sure the rent is easier to manage. The interior is casual. No need to dress up. The far wall has a hand painted mural of Grecian landscape. As my daughter expressed, it was probably done by someone kind of new to painting. Service was brisk and friendly, which was good because we were hungry! We started to order cocktails for the adults, but were warned that the bartender wasn’t really up on anything to fancy, so we stuck with house wine. Next we ordered fried calamari appetizer, kid’s cheeseburger, Moussaka and Gyro Platter. My daughter begged for a BLT (off lunch menu), but the kitchen wouldn’t do it. I get it, but we were one of three tables at 7:30PM. It’s not like they were slammed. 

The calamari came out quickly and looked under-cooked, not golden crispy. We were quickly told that they had just changed out the fryer oil. Hmmmm….alright. It was just “okay”. There was nothing special about it and no interesting seasoning. The accompanying marinara was watery, and a complete failure as a dipping sauce. Next the meals come out, again rather quickly. In error, by daughter was brought a ground lamb burger from the regular menu, not a kid’s hamburger. It did not go over well. I thought it tasted great, with spicy seasoning, but I am not an 11 year old. The server was awesome, and quickly suggested spaghetti and meatballs. This also arrived quickly, but alas, the same watery marinara sauce was used. All three of us tasted it, and gave it resounding thumbs down. 

Calamari-This is NOT full portion. We ate some before I remembered to photograph!

Lamb Cheeseburger
I was the Moussaka recipient. I know from experience the labor that goes into preparing this dish, which is why I prefer to order it at a restaurant. Theirs was really good, with a nice spice in the meat and thick béchamel on top. I thought it was a little heavy on the potato layer, but otherwise a great dish. The Gyro platter, like the calamari, was just okay. The only standout from that dish was the tzatziki sauce. It was loaded with garlic and just the right amount of salt. Exactly the way I like it.

Gyro Platter


I won’t be rushing back to Zorba’s, and my quest for good Greek food continues. How I miss The Street Cook

4402 Princess Anne Rd.
VA Beach, VA 23462

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Zeke's Beans & Bowls, Norfolk, Virginia

I had eyed Zeke's Beans & Bowls more than a few times as I drove down Granby Street.  Finally, yesterday I had not one, but two opportunities to give it a whirl.  My husband and I decided to try Zeke's smoothies for lunch.  I went for something lighter, blueberry, strawberry, mango and honey.  Zeke's only adds a tad of soy milk, or almond milk upon request and ice so the smoothie is mostly fruit and nothing artificial.  My husband had the peanut butter, banana and honey smoothie and while I despise bananas or anything with that flavor, I did taste his for the good of the blog.  The banana was not the overpowering flavor as in some of the chain smoothies.  My mind immediately started working on a peanut butter smoothie variation sans banana...
The smoothies are what I would classify as a medium in size and run $8 before tax.  My husband was a tad shocked as our two smoothies plus tax were $19 and change.  I reiterated these are not mass-produced and this is not a chain (thankfully).  And hey, we didn't have to make it, no fancy mixer required!  Think the SNL skit with Sarah Silverman about the $600 mixer.
I had perused Zeke's menu and on my way home, decided I would try one of the bowls...and another smoothie.  Back and forth I went in trying to decide what food item to try first.  Finally, I settled on the Keali's Special Poke but with a great suggestion by Christine, who works there.  I had half tuna and half tofu versus all tuna.  I asked about the sizes, the small looks like a small soup container at a Chinese restaurant and the large looks like the small container at a Thai restaurant.  Being in the clean plate club, I went with the large.  Christine said I would have plenty (does she know how much I eat, I thought).  I also ordered a peanut butter, mango and honey smoothie.  She suggested mango as the best substitute for banana - it was a winner and just might be my favorite smoothie right now.  I have an answer to all of my anti-banana problems when ordering a smoothie. Before I just said 'throw yogurt in there instead of banana'.  Due to a similar consistency, mango works better overall.
I sat at the counter and talked with Christine about the Arts District and Zeke's.  She had a lot of good news to share about both.  Zeke's at the oceanfront has been around for about three years and I think it is a good fit for the Norfolk Arts District.  The decor is funky (vintage typewriter present!) with art, books on art, books on movies and things of that nature (right up my alley).  It is a small-medium sized space and very comfortable.  They have cucumber water 'on tap' at no charge - a real treat.  When my bowl and smoothie came out, I realized I had a ton of food.  The bowl looks deceivingly small but was pretty heavy.  When I sat down to eat, I realized just how much tuna and tofu I had.  That warrants the $16 price tag for the large.  Keali's Special has Sriracha and it is fairly spicy which I prefer but if you are afraid of spice, just ask them to go light on that - they seem very accommodating.  I probably did not need the smoothie but I am not sorry I had it and I was stuffed after the bowl...but not uncomfortable stuffed, more satisfied stuffed.  I did not ask for rice with my bowl but you can include that for $1 and it would be pretty hearty.  I am eager to try another Poke or the Kale Salad I saw come out to another customer.  It looked great with a bunch of avocado sitting on the top.
Zeke's will be seeing me again very soon.

Food - 5
Service - 5
Beverage - 4
Restrooms - N/A
Ambiance - 4

Zeke's Beans & Bowls
800 Granby St, Norfolk, VA 23510
(757) 963-5220 

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Saturday, June 27, 2015

Toast Bar - Norfolk, VA

Toast, how we love thee...
Tuna Melt
Today was our first experience at Toast.  We liked Field Guide, have heard great things about Handsome Biscuit and figured this had to be another endeavor in food excellence.  Located in a spacious, new-old (read: hip, renovated) building at the corner of Colonial Avenue & 24th Street.  We were greeted by a very pleasant guy I recognized from Field Guide.  We grabbed a booth by the window to get ready for what would be one of the best lunches we have had.  The server was extremely helpful with the menu and any questions we had (we ask a lot if you remember). 
I debated between three savory toasts, the Tuna Melt, the Eggy Weg and the Egg Salad.  After the three starving parties at our table agreed to split the Tuna Melt as an 'extra', I settled on the Egg Salad with lime chili oil and kimchi, based on that being the more unique of the two egg toasts, according to the server.  Our third musketeer ordered the Texas Pig with peppers, micro greens, pickled onions and sour cream, which she thoroughly enjoyed.  She was slightly nervous about the Tuna Melt (she does not like tomatoes) but we convinced her to give it a whirl and she could not believe how much it tasted like bolognese.  We thought the same - this is a winner.  The egg salad was creamy, not too heavy and with the lime chili oil and kimchi had some texture.  I find egg salad needs something extra to balance the softness of the eggs and mayo.  
Egg Salad
Texas Pig
 All of that led us to dessert, the main attraction.  In reality, we had looked at dessert first and Laine and I could have lived in just that BUT to give a fair review, we wanted to eat a 'real' lunch first.  The server recommended the churro which sounds really good but we had our hearts set on the Tres Leches and the PNUT.  The Tres Leches is 'lighter' if a dessert of bread, condensed milk and butter can be called light.  We went 'all the way' with the PNUT by adding the recommended malted chocolate ice cream.    This dynamic combo consists of peanut butter, homemade jam, ice cream and chocolate chips on top of the waffleloafle bread, a Toast specialty for their sweet toasts.  This was out of sight and put us over the edge.  We had all had one and a half regular toasts and split the two desserts so I would say we can give a well-rounded review...Toast is wicked good and we will be back, soon.  As Laine mentioned, this would be a good spot for post-ODU football game dining.


The premise is that each dish is served on top of a piece of Toast, hence the name. The thought of this brought haunting images of chipped beef on toast to mind, but after checking out their Facebook page, I decided to give it a try. Toast is just across the railroad tracks on Colonial Ave, close to Handsome Biscuit. It’s nice to see businesses exploring options and succeeding in Park Place. They have their own parking lot (bonus) and a cute outside dining area. The outside dining is right next to the street and the parking lot, making it a little less appealing. Since our lunch coincided with a torrential downpour, we opted to dine in.  There is counter seating overlooking the outdoor eating area, about 15-20 seats around the bar and several booths. It has a solid urban vibe with exposed brick and minimalistic décor. I like the look of the open kitchen with the large brick archway.

The menu is very interesting, with a lot of variety and very reasonable pricing. They have eggs, chicken, tuna, pork, beef, bacon and vegetarian selections. There is a bar, so mixed drinks and brews are available. Since we had to return to our jobs working for the man, I tried their in house Ginger Beer. It was awesome; very crisp tasting and sweet like a Sprite, but with the added zing of ginger.

The portions are hearty. As a first timer, you might think that the entrées will be “less than” a sandwich, but you would be wrong. They are “greater than” the average sandwich! The delicious bread is at least one inch thick, with a hearty crust. It is, of course, toasted. Next, your choices are piled high on top. It can only be eaten with a fork and knife. I liked that they provide an oversized serrated knife. This lets you cut all the way through the toast without destroying your dish. 

All of our choices were stellar. The Tuna Melt is very unique. The server warned us that it tastes more like Lasagna than a Tuna Melt. Say what?! He was right and I am still not sure how that can happen! When it was all said and done, my heart belonged to the PNut. It sets the new standard for dessert decadence. We will be back.

Toast Norfolk
2406 Colonial Ave
Norfolk, VA 23517  

Beverage -5