Monday, January 31, 2011

La Petite Auberge

As I contemplated where to go for dinner this past weekend, my phone rang. It was an old friend asking if I'd like to have dinner with her family and some other friends at La Petite that evening in honor of her birthday. I, of course, said yes. So, I'm already changing things up on you. It wasn't a 'Party of One'... it was a 'Party of Four'... but then it just turned into a party. I love my life... but I digress.

I arrived at La Petite Auberge (311 William Street, Fredericksburg, VA) around 6pm, a little early for our 6:30 reservations, so I walked into the bar and ordered a glass of Chilean cabernet. (Forgive me, I never saw the bottle) As I stood sipping and waiting for my friends, I recognized one of my bar customers as she walked in. We chatted, her boyfriend came in and suggested I sit with them and wait at their table. They ordered a bottle of Naked Mountain (the cork says "Drink Naked". Love it.) and an order of calimari. La Petite serves their calimari with an aioli sauce opposed to marinara, giving it a little different flavor. It was very good, crisp and fresh, not frozen and clearly battered there in the restaurant. And, they served the rings only, no tarantula-looking tentacle pieces (major bonus points there for LPA!!).

My dinner friends arrived and I thanked my Naked Mountain friends for the conversation and hospitality and walked into the bar area to meet the others. We sat and talked while we looked at the menus. I chose an apple and avocado vinaigrette for an appetizer, and rockfish with lump crab meat for dinner. The others at the table ordered steak, caesar salad, steamed clams and mussels and crab stuffed flounder. The restaurant was very full, so our appetizers took a while, but were well worth the wait. The avocado was perfectly ripe and neatly sliced on the left side of the plate. The apples were sliced and on the right, and the two fruits were separated by two slices of tomato. A creamy vinaigrette was served in a ramekin. The presentation was beautiful, the dressing was amazing, and I've been craving another plate since that night. More cabernet arrived, more conversation, and dinner was served. It was again beautifully presented, and the portions were generous. I would guestimate an 8-10oz piece of Rock, which was topped with deliciously sweet lump crab meat. The sides were scalloped potatoes and steamed carrots. I don't even want to talk about how many Weight Watcher's Points the bearnaise-esque sauce likely had in it, but I'll get over it. The rockfish was perfectly cooked, excellent and although I hate to admit it, I cleaned just about everything off of that plate. I considered taking the last roll and sopping up the remaining sauce, but I decided to pretend I had manners and let it go.

Our server came to ask about dessert, which I declined. There were fresh strawberries with Chantilly, Chocolate Gateau and Creme Brulee, among other things. Most days, I would sell a kidney for good creme brulee... but I passed it up. (If she'd have suggested more avocado and apple, I'd have probably jumped on it like a fat kid on a cupcake.) We paid our tabs and my dinner friends left, so I re-joined my Naked Mountain friends at the bar for a little more wine.

and that's when the party began...

Anyway, total time spent at La Petite was around four hours. Dinner took a long time. It would have been completely bearable had one of my table mates not been a semi-impatient six year old. My bill was just over $44.00 (for the avocado and apple, the rockfish and two glasses of wine) plus a $10 tip. The server was friendly and efficient, but the kitchen seemed a little slow. The restaurant was very busy and our server had tables in two different areas of the building, but I was extremely happy with the overall experience. Would I go back? In a heartbeat. Should you go? Definitely. But don't be in a rush. Enjoy. Relax. Pace yourself. Save room for dessert and tell me all about it. Stay away from the creme brulee though. That's all mine. :)

Thursday, January 27, 2011


Here it is… my food blog. Try to contain your excitement please. It’s embarrassing.
 The idea for this blog came out of boredom, really. My two teenagers spend every other weekend with their father, and when they’re away things get slow around here. The dishes are done, the laundry is clean and I get tired of talking to whatever assorted animal has decided to make itself home in my home. I hate cooking for just myself. It’s boring. So, from now on… every Friday or Saturday that Thing One and Thing Two venture off to Casa de Papa, I’m taking myself out. Fer realz. And then I’m going to tell you all about it. The wines, the appetizers, the main course, dessert, the service. I’ll tell you where and when I went. I’ll tell you if it was horrible, just average, or if you need to find someone and go get you some. Dinner. Get some dinner. Stay on target, k? Most times I will be alone… but I’ll be just fine. I’m going to start in downtown Fredericksburg, VA but if I don’t get bored with this whole venture, I might skirt out into the surrounding area a bit. I might even throw some recipes at you… I’m kind of unpredictable like that. Seriously, sit back down. I’m not done yet.
I should tell you a little about myself.
No, I’m not a formally trained chef or someone who’s been highly educated in cultivating new varieties of plant life, or placing only heirloom and organically grown produce and free range, grass fed meats into my mouth. I’m not a food critic and no one is paying me to do this. I just like to eat.
Sadly, I have excellent taste. I hate mediocrity. I can’t stand chain restaurants and always getting exactly what I expect. The same “steak that’s almost cooked right, but not quite, just like last time… and the server is too busy to complain about it, just like last time… so just suck it up, pay the bill and let them flip the table quick so the cook can over-grill the next guy’s steak too” kind of meal. Makes me crazy. Really. This is where my excellent taste bites me in the butt. If and when I go out to eat, my expectations are high, particularly if I’m spending a fair amount of my hard earned money. I expect good, friendly service. I expect the food to look appetizing. I expect to find at least two wines on the wine list that don’t taste like dirty socks. And I expect that when I put that first forkful of the chef’s creation into my mouth, that my eyes close and it’s a “yesssss… that’s what I’m talking about” moment. Sounds a little perverted now that I’ve typed it. I don’t simply eat. I enjoy. I have a relationship with my food. I don’t eat for sustenance. I eat because I really, truly love really good food. I don’t want average. I expect excellence. Don’t disappoint me.
I’m pretty sure somewhere along the way, I missed my calling. I should be a chef. I love to cook for other people. I’m pretty frickin good at it. (Do you hear that? It’s me tootin’ my horn) I also love the restaurant industry, and so for the past twenty plus years, I’ve kept one foot in it. I’ve been a server, a bartender, a pastry 'chef' (trained only in grandma and mom’s kitchens). I love watching what comes out of the kitchen, seeing customers having a good time with their friends and family, watching special moments happen, and I love helping other people have that “yessss…” experience. Quiet.  I’m not the only one who does that. I’ve seen it. They close their eyes. They savor. They make a weird moaning noise, which is admittedly a little bizarre, but I’ve done that, too. Maybe I enjoy working in a restaurant because it’s helped me to realize that I am not the only one who actually has had a love affair with dinner. Maybe you have. Maybe you’re just afraid to admit it. Maybe we need to go to dinner together.
How’s seven o’clock? I’ll make the reservations.