Thursday, June 30, 2016

Richmond, VA (part 1)

River City

So why Richmond? Don't really know only I've visited Gettysburg and Manassas and Harper's Ferry among others, thought I'd go and take a look this time at the heart of the Confederacy. 

On the way we found Piedmont Steak House, an old converted warehouse whose bar surrounds the building's original elevator. If you look carefully at the photo above, you can see the elevator's name--Energy Elevator Company--carved into the entranceway's overhead beam.

Interesting story on that elevator company--apparently they invented the safety brake, which is electrically held open; in the event of power failure the brakes clamp down, the folks inside kept safe. Only fourteen of these elevators were built, of which the Piedmont has one; soon afterwards Otis Elevators bought the company out so they could have the patent to the brakes. 

We were told this; checking online I couldn't find documentary evidence to back up the story. Doesn't necessarily mean it isn't true--you wonder at interesting little innovations like this that got bought up by large corporations or forgotten in the sweep of history. 

For a steakhouse the lunch was surprisingly light on beef; most of the menu focused on seafood, so we had the New England Clam Chowder (creamy sweet) the Roasted Tomato Soup (piquant) the Trout (flaky fresh) a lively not especially hot Pasta From Hell (shrimp banana peppers pepper flakes) and the steak and cheese sandwich (four ounce filet mignon swiss cheese carmelized onions) pictured below:

For the nicely crisped fries they had a little something special, a bottle of housemade tomato ketchup, all tangy tomato and vinegar and a hint of clove.

Finished the meal off with a coffee (that's the Italian name for what we like to call 'expresso' or the less caffeine-tolerant among us nickname 'rocket fuel') and a peanut butter and chocolate ganache dessert.

Reaching Richmond itself and landing on Broad Street we walked around looking for dinner (yes we're that kind of folk--sitting down to a meal the most urgent topic is where and when to have the next). 'A' insisted that we go down North 1st St. and check out Mama J's (Tripadvisor's top-rated restaurant in Richmond, if you're into that sort of thing); the rest wanted to go on down Broad, check out a few cafes. Out of curiosity (and just because 'A' kept insisting) I checked out the menu on my phone. "Soul food? Sold!"

Took an hour to get seated--it was that crowded--but the wait was in my book worth it. My plate was Fried Chicken (lightly floured salivatingly crisped) with Seasonal Greens (collard in my case with a deep porky pot liquor) Candied Yams (cinnamony, not too sweet) and a (light springy) Muffin.

 Other dishes include Fried Catfish with a rich Mac and Cheese and Mashed Potatoes in Gravy, and a Fried Pork Chop smothered with onions and green peppers. 'L' loved the mashed potatoes--light fluffy spuds topped with a deep brown gravy. The crispy fish had an indefinable flavor--don't know if it's the cornmeal or some spice--but the taste spread through the tongue and tickled my lizard brain pink (now this is fish!).

Dessert was a Chocolate Cake with Buttercream. We actually ordered that and an Oreo Cake but I suppose the orders got mixed up. We didn't complain though--the buttercream was that good.

Driving in from Petersburg the next day we sought out King's Barbecue but it was closed alas (on vacation); driving up I-95 we found PG BBQ instead, a tiny brick house (I'll huff and I'll puff and) with a cute ceramic pig nosing the ground out front.

I figured on covering as much ground as possible and asked for the Platter, only with Pork (minced) and Brisket (sliced), accompanied by Fried Okra, Hush Puppies (looked more like Hush Doggies they're so big) and Baked Beans. 

 The pork (slow-cooked shoulder) was juicy-tender the okra crisp the puppies corny with a touch of sweet; the brisket was dry alas, but not the Minced Brisket Sandwich shown in the pic below:

On a hamburger bun with a side of sweet mayo slaw it was a juicy revelation: chopped flesh, meltingly juicy and tender.

The Quarter Rack Pork Ribs were fatty tender, in a vinegary tomatoey sauce.

The day after that the party split up: half went on a road trip (don't ask) half on a window shopping spree (payday was still a few days away so we were on a tight budget). But coming together in the evening we decided to splurge and on 'L's' friend's recommendation checked out Croaker's Spot, on Hull Street.

Dark wood and brick; high-backed benches and heavy tables. It was crowded, though (thank goodness) we got seated quickly.

Drinks were sweet tea and lime or sweet tea and lemonade served in jars half the size of your head

Appetizer was a dozen oysters--little icy sacs of brine a kiss of lemon and and and

Croaker's idea of breakfast Fish and Grits: a slab of cornbread (heavy and faintly sweet) melted cheese with a tablespoon of grits stirred in a crispy fried egg and two planks of fried fish. Leave room on your seat to lie down and nap for a while.

Their signature dish: Eggleston's Fish Boat or two planks of fried fish a slab of cornbread house potatoes sauteed bell peppers and onions in a secret sauce.

 'L' ordered this a Seafood Bowl: shrimp scallop mussels crab legs in a bowl of rice and Creole butter. The juices of the shellfish mix with the butter and are sucked up by the rice (which in turn release starches into the hot broth) that thicken and flavor each other. The impression on the tongue is almost like a creamy risotto with firm almost crunchy in their freshness fish; to the eye it looks like Cthulhu trying to drag its way past a particularly narrow dimensional portal (and--horror film moment reigning supreme--being eaten in the process).

Dessert was a slab of Strawberry Shortcake (tangy with a light cake and even lighter cream) and a slab of Pineapple Coconut (crunchy shredded coconut creamy icing a bit of tang in the cake). For take home of course you kidding? One more bite and we would've burst like the Fourth of July.

To come: some sushi, some babaganoush, more barbecue, a monster dog.

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