Follow The White Rabbit

Friends! It has been a hot minute since ya’ll have heard from me. I’ll skip the sob story but 50 hour work weeks left me with little motivation to write.

I have had many notable changes in my life within the last year – graduation, new jobs, some unmentionable, basically every one in the book, and the most recent, I’ve moved! I was on a sentimental streak my last few weeks and a packing rampage until I left the state I have lived in my whole life – aside from my 8 month stint in Savannah. Richmond, though, will forever hold a special place in my heart.

I’m here to tell you about one of the newest and hottest restaurants in town, if I do say so myself. Apparently, a few others agree.

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Coda Urban Bistro, my first place of employment after I graduated, has since closed and opened up as Vagabond. For the Richmond foodies out there, you may know the chef – Owen Lane of The Mag Pie. Ironically, since the writing of this post’s first draft, Owen actually won Elby’s Chef of the Year. The Elby Awards are put on by Richmond Magazine to honor the RVA restaurant community. If that doesn’t give you reason enough to try it, I’m not sure what will.

In a few short months, it has become my favorite restaurant in Richmond. I may be rather partial but in actuality, very few people in the service industry have the pleasure of saying such a fact. The prices would gain a $$$ from Yelp/Zomato. I’m warning you now so you don’t walk in and walk out based on one look at the prices.

It’s worth it, I promise.

The space itself is awesome. An interesting mixture of rustic and modern. Fixtures and wall accents also add a whimsical flair. For example, the star constellation that lines the downstairs dining room. The speakeasy downstairs is also one of my favorite places to hang out.

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Owen has a tendency to change the menu often but to me, that keeps it fun and exciting. He designs the menu in a small, medium and large plate fashion, which encourages sharing among your party.

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The cuisine is rustic and globally inspired to bring magnificent creations to your plate. The menu is a thing of pure beauty for the meat lovers of the city. (Disclaimer: it is a very meat heavy menu.) I admire his menu because Owen likes to use every part of the animal that he can. I.e. Pig Head Torchon.

Beef tartare, a spin on the McRib, Honey Nut Cheerio Ice Cream. General Tso’s Sweetbreads. Grilled Broccolini, Fois Gras Spinach Dip … the list goes on.

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If you can get over the raw meat factor, the beef tartare is unreal. Kick from the onion, subtle flavor from the soy balances with the flavor beaming from the beef. Oh my goodness. If you couldn’t tell, probably my favorite thing on the menu. The honey nut cheerio ice cream tastes like you’re eating the bowl of cereal. Short ribs cooked to perfection served with housemade gnocchi. I’m not sure how he does it but I’m glad he does. I could seriously go on about all the dishes that he has whipped up.

Even for the likes of a measly burger, they take it to a whole new level – the combination of beef, pork and venison creates a unique flavor. And for someone with as high of fry standards as I have, I will be hard pressed to find a comparison. If he’s reading this, he will be sassy I am commenting on the burger and fries more than anything else. Sorry, O!

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I cannot tell you how honored I feel to be able to work with such an awesome chef and an incredible team to help build Vagabond into what will, hopefully, one day become legend.

Needless to say, Vagabond is a must try in a city of food lovers.

Follow the white rabbit!

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PS: As for my blog, although we have been taking some time off, my baby will continue but we are moving in a different direction with a complete revamp as I moved to Beer City USA – Grand Rapids, MI! Stay tuned, cheese heads! It’s gonna be really cheesy!

Eat, Drink and Be Thankful

It has been a few weeks since I last posted something. This fall has been a crazy ride full of changes and new adventures! Today’s post is out of the ordinary and not about food.

This week is Thanksgiving! My favorite holiday – we all wonder why. Even though this holiday is often neglected and falls in the limelight of Christmas. This year, I get to try my hand at roasting the turkey – aka the big leagues.

This time of year – and I’m sure a lot of you can relate – always makes me reflect and think about life. I have tried to adapt this type of thinking to everyday rather than limiting it to this time of year. Research shows this can make you a happier person.

Happy Habits | This article delves into a few habits for happiness – including gratefulness.

Anywho, per tradition on Thanksgiving, we go around the table and proclaim what we are thankful for this year – I highly suggest giving it a try. Through the years, the answers have changed – from my imaginary friend (good one, Jo) to last year’s -almost being done with college.

This year: it’s about life.

Use this day, instead, to pause and reflect on all the awesomeness of life. Even with all of the things that have changed in my life recently, I am still thankful for the life I live and who I have become. I feel fortunate for all the opportunities I have been afforded, the places I’ve seen, the people who surround me and the life I have been given.

With everything that is going on in the world, we often forget about the good things and the things we truly have to be thankful for in our lives. We find ourselves stressing about a measly dot on the page without thinking about the big picture. We often find ourselves taking our life for granted.

Besides the food, this is why I love Thanksgiving. A holiday dedicated to being thankful – because we all need a little reminder sometimes of how great life really is.

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Fall Roasting: Chicken

Back to my roasting kick, this week is one of the more complicated things to roast: chicken. It is still very simple but not as easy as tomatoes. As someone who wants to begin her small business as soon as possible – stay tuned – being frugal has become a forefront in my life after graduation. And also developing this blog. I know my baby needs work. Every day, I think about what I could be doing to make her better. One day, she’ll be great.

Anywho, whole chickens and turkeys can be an amazing asset to a food-frugal kitchen. They require a bit of up upfront cost – what you may not be used to with the package deli meat – and work. But the results are amazingly worth it. Both taste and wallet wise.

This was my first time ever working with a whole chicken like that. I had seen them and touched them, whole turkeys too. But actually having to go inside to clean and wash it out, never done that. It was such an odd thing in my mind at the time! It really cracked me up.

I used a recipe from the Pioneer Woman, Aee, the Food Network star. She and I related on this cracking up with whole chicken thing. I hope she doesn’t mind I changed a few ingredients. Because of my recent love affair with sage, I decided to add that and some garlic instead of her suggested lemon zest. Yes – sage and her suggested, rosemary. So much flavor!! I didn’t forget a bit of lemon juice though.

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Ingredients:

1 whole chicken – rinsed and dried

3/4 cups butter – softened

1 tablespoon sage

2 garlic cloves – minced

1 teaspoon lemon juice

6 sprigs rosemary

Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Remove leaves from 4 of the rosemary sprigs. Chop finely, as well as sage. In a bowl, combine softened butter, rosemary, sage, minced garlic cloves and salt and pepper to taste. Line a baking sheet with foil and lay the patted chicken down – breast side up. Smear the butter all over the bird – under the skin and inside the cavity. Sprinkle the lemon juice all over the chicken. Place rosemary leaves inside the cavity. Place the chicken into the oven and roast for 1:15 or until cooked – the skin should be golden brown and juices sizzling. Carve it up and enjoy!

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The recipe caused the skin to be crunchy and the chicken to remain moist and delicious. Thank you, Aee. The garlic and sage added a great flavor to the chicken. And really, who would not be interested in a butter drenched chicken, unless you’re a vegetarian. This chicken sustained me for three weeks using it on salads and sandwiches, even pasta dishes. Frugal, you see!

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This may not be the healthiest thing on the planet but hey, this chick was well worth it on all other fronts.

Lil’ Italy in RVA

Can I just say how happy I am that it’s fall? Crisp air and new beginnings. Everyone makes a big hoopla about all the girls loving fall. It really is one of the best seasons – especially for food – makes me so excited! Fall is a sign of new beginning, the last leg before the new year. Even the trees are telling us things are about to change. It is really beautiful!

Named to be the best sandwiches in Richmond in 2015 and years before, Coppola’s has been a Richmond staple for over 30 years now. It is a delicatessen if I have ever seen one. It sort of looks like a hole in the wall, something you’d see in New York, aside from the huge Coppola’s in the window.

I had the pleasure of enjoying this meal with my big and one of my best friends, Hannah. This was her first time enjoying this great spot. I had previously had a salad and boy was that thing piled high with goodies. Although that was almost two years ago, I remember it being a great salad so I was excited when I finally got the chance to enjoy it again.

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I got the Industrial, their equivalent to the Italian. This puppy was piled high with deli meat, which was delicious. The meat had great flavor. And the provolone was perfectly melty. The house cured peppers on top were awesome. They added a different element to this sandwich and gave it a little kick. Per usual, my favorite part was the bread. The thing that literally holds it all together. It was nice and crusty on the outside, but the inside was soft, making it the perfect accent to this sandwich.

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Coppola’s claims to be a little taste of Italy. To me, with the fresh ingredients, this statement is held to be true. This spot is prime for your lunch time meal or if you’re looking for a darn good sandwich.

Fall Roasting: Tomatoes

These last few weeks have been crazy! I am getting off of an 20 work day streak. I finally got a day off on Saturday. Why? The Union Cycliste Internationale bike race championships were in Richmond this year. The world came to Richmond that week.

It was amazing to think that of all the places they could have held the race, they chose to do it in the city I have called home for four years now. Not to mention, there were Belgians everywhere. Because they really really love cycling in Belgium. I made a few friends. It was an awesome experience to be a part of. Unfortunately, my life became all consumed by work for the last few weeks.

I have been on this roasting kick lately. It’s fall so somehow it seems fitting. Like my roasted red peppers, roasting different foods, besides chicken – see later posts – is quite easy. Ridiculously so that I’m surprised more people don’t do it on the regular. Roasting is easy and it also adds another depth of flavor to the ingredients in whatever you are making.

One of my favorites so far and one of the easiest to make is roasted tomatoes. I may start making it at the beginning of the week just to use throughout the week. Roasted tomatoes are a great and easy way to add some spunk to your meals. With pasta, on salads and most importantly, added to grilled cheeses.

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Ingredients:

2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes

1/4 cup olive oil

1 tablespoons assorted herbs to taste

Salt and pepper to taste

Set your oven to 400 degrees. Wash the tomatoes and chop all of them in half. Place cut tomatoes in a bowl. Add the olive oil and herbs. Stir and once finished, put the tomatoes on a cookie sheet. Roast them in the oven for about 12 minutes.

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Ever since I discovered the homemade Boursin cheese recipe, it’s been hard to find a time where my refrigerator didn’t have a jar of it sitting inside. It is legitimately the secret to a good grilled cheese. The combo of the creamy Boursin with the roasted tomato flavor and the melty havarti and pesto Gouda. The flavor is delicious.

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I suggest trying this recipe with other veggies like cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and definitely potatoes – the cook time will vary for each but the concept will be the same.

Like I said, roasting food is fun, easy, and not to mention, delicious! This is only part one of my three part roasting series. The others will explore some techniques not as simple as the above.

Michigan’s [Food] Adventure: Part 3

Onto my last post of my Michigan adventures.

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I, now, very happily, have the honor of telling you about one of my favorite places ever. Mackinac Island – pronounced Mackinaw, not to be confused with Mackinaw City that is located on the lower peninsula of Michigan. It is one of the most beautiful and best kept secrets of the US, The island itself only has three vehicles – police, ambulance and fire truck. Otherwise, the modes of transport are bike and horse. Yes, horse.

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The island sits between the division of Lake Huron, the east side of Michigan and Lake Michigan, the west side of Michigan. I have been fortunate enough to have visited this islands more than some Michiganders have. For over ten years, I have looked forward to this quaint piece of American delight. Since there are no cars, the island feels like a whole other world, almost like you stepped back in time. Things seem more simple. Probably why the movie, Somewhere in Time, was set here on the island and in the Grand Hotel.

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The Grand Hotel

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The four of us plus a photo of me!

If you make your way to Mackinac Island, not going to the Grand Hotel is basically a sin. I have been fortunate enough to have been blessed with the opportunity to stay at the hotel three out of my four times on the island. It is an awesome resort with its great food, elaborate decoration, and old fashioned charm. It really is like going back in time. Sidenote: check out Somewhere in Time if you haven’t seen it already. Great movie staring the young Christopher Reeve AKA Superman and Jane Seymour featuring this beautiful island.

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It may cost money to even go on the grounds, but the $10 is definitely worth it, especially if you are going to the lunch buffet. this buffet is probably one of the classiest buffets you may even look your eyes upon. And the menu is so extravagant. Salad buffet, cold buffet with pasta salads and smoked fish, and a hot buffet with things like beef tips and pan seared salmon.

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When I returned from my trip, my coworkers were hating on me because “who vacations in Michigan? It’s Michigan.” Well guess what, Michigan is not as bad as people make it out to be be, mostly because in general, people equate it solely to Detroit, which is on the up and up, by the way. It is one of the most naturally beautiful places in the US, especially when you are speaking on Mackinac Island. I am not saying number 1, but it definitely makes the top 10. For my personal list, top 5. Make the case for yourself though and give the mitten a chance.

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Michigan’s [Food] Adventure: Part 2

The Great Create-Your-Own-GR-Bar-Crawl


Hop Cat | I thought this bar was a Grand Rapids native place. Turns out, Hop Cat is a small restaurant chain much like Jack Brown’s in Michigan, Wisconsin, even Kentucky. Most of them being in Michigan, the first location was in Grand Rapids in 2008. Their main goal is to bring you great beer but they also boost some solid munchies.

We visited Hop Cat on Courtney’s birthday and then again for Courtney, Rachael and my create-your-own-GR-bar-crawl. The decor is wacky with bikes in the ceiling and all those old fashioned liquor ads, even on the ceiling. A very laid-back vibe, much like Michigan itself. The beer list is just about a mile long and when one runs out, the words “no beer for you” get stamped across the description. It made me giggle on multiple occasions.

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Now to the food. The three of shared all of these yummy goodies. So get ready for the low down.

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Meat Head Pizza Rolls | One word: delicious. Something about pizza toppings wrapped up in a wonton and fried is just marvelous and tasty in my mind. I mean, think about it. The melding of most people’s guilty pleasures – pizza and Chinese. Anyways, the cheese is melty and the wonton is crunchy. Seriously good.

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Pretzel Nuggz | Talk about some solid drunk food. Not that I was drunk, but I would imagine they would be great when I in that state. My much loved pretzels cut into little balls, fried per usual, and drenched in butter. Holy jeez, pass them over. Served with beer cheese, keep it coming. Or drink it, like Rachael did. If these pretzels had been in normal pretzel form, it would have one of the best I’ve ever had. Just salty enough, light and moist.

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Quesadilla | Cheesy with all the flavors a quesadilla should have. The black bean dip in the filling pairs perfectly with the house cheese blend. But really, who doesn’t like bean dip, especially when it’s on a cheesy quesadilla. the added spinach makes you feel seemingly healthy with all this cheese involved.

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Crack Fries | These fries are rightfully named. I don’t say this often, but they are some of the best fries outside of Belgium. They are not at all the same style as my beloved Belgian frites. But the spices are on point. They are also fried to what I consider fry perfection, which can be explained by the beer batter they are drenched in before frying. These puppies are also served with the beer cheese – like I said before, keep the cheese coming.


Stella’s Lounge | Being the burger woman I am, when I heard the supposed best burger in the US was around the corner in Grand Rapids, it was hard to not make the case to go. The burger was really good. But I have to say it was not the most amazing burger I have ever had. It was moist and juicy, as  a burger should be. And the flavor was up there, one of the best. But in my opinion, it’s hard to judge all burgers on the same playing field because of the different types of beef. I have to be honest when I say that their fries were not nearly my favorite. They had an odd seasoning, which basically killed it for me.

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Stella’s also boosts this ridiculously strong variation of a Long Island Iced Tea. It even comes in its own souvenir glass.

Needless to say, if you happen to find yourself upon a Hop Cat or in GR at Stella’s, I dare you not to go in and make your belly a happy one.