Monday, May 16, 2011

Poppy Hill Tuscan Kitchen

I finally got to Poppy Hill! And once again, it was not a Party of One. One of these days I'll go out alone maybe... but last night three friends and I decided to go out to dinner. It was last minute, and we were in downtown Fredericksburg. Perfect! We headed to Foode (because I had Groupons!) but by the time one member of our party took us on a 5K walk (and I was wearing heels) up and down the cobblestone and brick streets and sidewalks trying to find the place (and then I realized I had the address printed on the dang groupon) we made it there around 8:15. They closed at 8pm. We were hungry. Defeated. Disappointed.

I will say that Foode looks awesome. It's set back off the main street and has iron bistro chairs in a courtyard. I can't wait to go back... one night before 8pm. We headed back towards William Street and decided to pick a place. I didn't want pizza, and I've already blogged about Bistro Bethem and La Petite, but would have gone back to either in a heartbeat. Then S suggested Poppy Hill. I always forget it's there. I got excited. I'm starting to think there's something wrong with me because I get that excited about food...

We arrived at Poppy Hill a short time later. The restaurant is located in the basement of an old building at the corner of William and Charles Streets. There are bistro tables set up on the sidewalk at street level and heading down the old stairs into the restaurant in three and a half inch heels was interesting, but I made it. I had to duck my head to get into the room. The restaurant is small, but quaint. There are two levels inside as well, basement and what I would call "the pit". I wouldn't want to work the pit and have to navigate those stairs. Still, it was cozy and warm, original art graced the walls, linen napkins and table cloths on the tables. There was one other table when we walked in. Our server didn't seem overly excited to see us, probably because they closed at 9:00 and we rolled in about 8:30. We promised to be nice.

One thing I should mention about Poppy Hill is that the menu is small and changes daily, depending on what fresh ingredients are available. Their menu online is not indicitive of what is actually being served on any specific day. They are a farm-to-table type restaurant (a concept I absolutely LOVE) and clearly use quality ingredients. The wine list is very nice as well. I ordered a Montepulciano, which I've discovered I can't pronounce properly until I've had two glasses of it. As we sat down, our server brought us a basket of fresh bread, with plates and olive oil for dipping.

For starters, S ordered the bruschetta and I ordered the steamed mussels. Side note here: our server kept pronouncing it "BrooSKETTa" which bothered me enough to google the word this morning, only to find that I'm a dumb American who has been pronouncing the word improperly for a good portion of my life. So, S ordered the brooSKETTA. I was going to steer clear of it, because it was made with goat cheese, and generally I am not a fan of the goat. If we're grilling and chilling with some cabrito, I'm down... but I'm just not big goat cheese lover. The bruschetta was served with thinly sliced and toasted Italian bread, sweetened goat cheese and fresh tomato. I was told I had to try it... so I did. It was actually really good. The cheese was super creamy and not overly goat-y (as if that makes sense) and the tomatoes weren't overcooked. Lovely. Our mussels were steamed with white wine and garlic and were tasty. We also ordered house salads, which were a plate piled high with mixed greens (no iceberg lettuce here), some sliced carrots and an Italian toast point with some more creamy sweet goat spread on it. Yum. At this point in the evening, they'd run out of tomatoes and there were no candied pecans on our salads as the menu read... but the dressing was a semi-sweet poppy seed vinaigrette. It was delicious. We made do without the tomatoes and pecans.

For dinner, I chose salmon. K ordered salmon as well until I commanded him to get steak. I've decided that I'm overbearing and bossy. I felt bad for a second and told him to order whatever he wanted... but he stuck with the steak. I was going to share my salmon anyway... just wanted to try more than one dish. He's starting to figure out that it's all about me. Sometimes. S decided on the fettucini alfredo with grilled chicken and W went with one of the nightly specials: a cod filet served over shrimp risotto and topped with a mediterranean relish. Everything was beautifully presented and delicious. K's steak was medium and served with an espresso and mushroom sauce that was phenomenal. His sides were fresh asparagus and roasted potatoes. My salmon was crispy on the outside and juicy and tender inside, served over the shrimp risotto. Three asparagus spears laid over the salmon. There was a tapenade (which I probably misspelled) that was supposed to be served on the salmon, but I asked for it on the side. It was very good, but I generally don't like to cover the taste of salmon with a lot of sauces and extra flavorings, so I left it alone. S's bowl of fettucini alfredo was a good sized portion and was creamy and good (he said), and W's cod looked wonderful as well. The shrimp risotto was ok.. I felt like it needed a little more flavor and a lot more shrimp, but the white wine was evident, and it was a good consistency.

We were too full to think about dessert, but there was no tiramisu or creme brulee so we were safe. We chatted with our server a bit and asked for our checks. Ours was $76.31, for two glasses of Montepulciano, steamed mussels, a dinner salad, steak, salmon and iced tea. Overall, we spent probably a little over an hour at Poppy Hill talking and laughing and enjoying ourselves.

Will I go back? Yes. Should you try it? Absolutely. Although we came late, our server didn't rush us along so she could go home. She was sweet and gracious and attentive. The kitchen was quiet and didn't make any noise about us being there too long, and even offered to run across the street when they realized they were out of tomatoes so we could have some for our salad. The food was delicious and thoughtfully prepared, the restaurant was warm and cozy and felt a little like we were in someone's home. All in all, it was an unplanned, relaxing evening with great friends. I needed that, guys... and I'm so grateful to have each of you in my life. Best yet,  I now know how to properly pronounce the word "bruschetta". I'm probably going to still say it like a dumb cracker, though.

The details:
Poppy Hill Tuscan Kitchen

1000 Charles Street
Fredericksburg, VA 22401
(540) 373-2035

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