21st Birthday!

20 07 2010

My last big milestone birthday has been passed. I am now 21. What a wonderful birthday weekend it was, and how fortunate I am to have such loving family and friends celebrate the day/weekend with me.

On Saturday (07/17), I was off to Chris’ house for dinner (chicken marsala, yum!), video games (I’ve been really getting into Okami lately), and a movie (The Young Victoria). The chicken marsala was delicious and we finished the black bean and corn salsa.

On Sunday, my birthday, Chris came over around 12:30 PM with a pot of Victory roses and a bottle of Lucky Duck red wine. Then, my parents, Chris, and I went to A&J Restaurant for lunch. The restaurant was a bit packed and we had to take a number. While waiting, my mom, Chris, and I went to Maria’s Bakery, which is right next door, for some bubble tea and to buy a cake for me. I had a strawberry bubble tea while Chris got an original bubble tea and we decided on a coffee-flavored birthday cake for after dinner.

Our number was finally called and we got a table near the window and quickly placed orders. We all ordered beef noodle soup (牛肉面 aka Niu Rou Mian), with three appetizer platters. They also make bubble tea, but I prefer Maria’s because it’s catered especially for bakery items and bubble tea. Everyone seemed to like their beef noodle soup. Chris and I both prefer our noodles to be thick rather than thin (force of habit, perhaps? Refer to earlier posts about NRM). We both scarfed everything down fairly quickly, while hot steam from the soup wafted around our faces, causing a bit of perspiration, but nonetheless, it was a great lunch. Chris is usually not a big fan of A&J because according to him, the soup is like “soy sauce soup”, but he thought that it was pretty flavorful. Perhaps it was a stroke of birthday luck on my part? ;)

For dinner, Chris took me to the Sea Pearl, a restaurant off of Strawberry Lane. The restaurant was very classy; as soon as we walked in, I could tell it was a high-end restaurant. There was a bar, with dozens and dozens of liquor bottles along the walls. A chandelier made of sea shells and sand dollars glimmered above the bar. Sand dollars and sea shells made up a curtain, illuminated by lights hidden beneath. Mahogany dark tables and matching chairs decorated the interior of the restaurant. Each table had white plates, a black napkin in which two silver forks and a knife were wrapped, a salt/pepper shaker (counterclockwise spin gave salt, while a clockwise spin revealed pepper), and orange table mats which looked like they were composed of ramen noodles or something from the sea (sounds much less exceptional than it actually was; I thought it was a very creative and fitting touch!) on which all the dishware and cutlery was placed. The hostess led us to our table, next to some high windows, and gave us our menus.

Sea Pearl's interior

While looking over the menus, our waiter came by to introduce himself most graciously. He then went to get two glasses of ice water and a basket of bread and plate of butter. The bread had a hint of onion, and it was very delicious. The waiter came by as we munched on our bread and took our orders. Chris and I decided to share an appetizer of blue crab and corn soup with green chili crème fraiche. I decided on the oven roasted Chilean sea bass with spicy shiro miso glaze, sliced jalapeno, baby bok choy, and coconut jasmine rice as my main course. Chris ordered the pan sheared sea scallops with pureed celery root, celery, mandarin oranges, shaved fennel, baby greens, and lemon vinaigrette.

The waiter had thoughtfully split our soup beforehand and presented our appetizers to each of us in a dishware similar to a gravy boat. As soon as he placed the soup before me, I could already smell the blue crab; I love seafood soups because of its distinctive smell. I selfishly spooned my soup until it was gone and put it aside. Some more bread, and then the main course arrived!

Our appetizer: blue crab and corn soup!

My eyes popped at the sight of my main course. A huge portion of sea bass, as well as two ginormous bok choys and a towering block of jasmine rice and sliced carrots that made up the “hair” of the block of rice. Chris’ dish portrayed six huge sea scallops arranged along the circumference of the plate. Between each scallop stood a mandarin orange. In the center was a salad of greens. We shared our main courses, and I tried some of his scallops and he tried the sea bass. We ate our meals with some pinot noir that the waiter had recommended, my first sip of  being 21. I love the way the restaurant prepared the sea bass. Chris finished his main course before me, and helped me with some of my carrots and rice.

Two glasses of pinot noir to accompany our dinners

My main course: oven roasted Chilean sea bass.

Chris' main course: pan sheared sea scallops.

After the main course, Chris and I decided to share a passion fruit crème brûlée. The dessert, served in a ramekin, was placed on top of a black napkin, a leaf of spearmint placed next to the dessert – all this was placed on a rectangular white plate. The waiter presented the plate with a single candle for me and wished me a happy birthday. I blew the candle out, and Chris and I shared the task of breaking the crème brûlée.

Dessert: crème brûlée

Most unfortunately, dinner ended too soon, but it was absolutely exceptional. I loved every dish, especially the blue crab and corn soup and my main course, the Chilean sea bass. The sea bass is what Sea Pearl is known for, according to the restaurant and Chris and its many reviewers. And now I can say that I fully agree, because it was the best sea bass I’ve ever had.

After dinner (although not too soon after dinner, considering how very full we both were!), Chris, my parents, and I celebrated the end of the night with a coffee-flavored birthday cake that my mom bought from Maria’s Bakery earlier that day. This cake was almost like a mousse cake, very fluffy and not super sweet.

What a fantastic 21st birthday!  A special thanks to Chris, for spending the day with me and for dinner and the gift and everything <3


Ni Hao Café

10 05 2010

The end of the spring semester is just around the corner, and Chris and I are finishing our junior year of college. Since we’re currently busy studying for finals and wrapping the semester up, we unfortunately do not anticipate a lot of cooking going on until after finals are finalized.

Today, however, we went to Ni Hao Café, which is a Chinese restaurant located right on the Corner (a popular food spot for students, locals, and visitors alike). Ni Hao Café caters mostly to undergrad and grad students, as the food is pretty quality and the prices are relatively cheap. Typically, it is under $10 for an entrée. During lunch, there are $5 specials that come with rice. They even have Happy Hour, Mondays-Fridays from 4-6 pm!

Chris and I have actually been to Ni Hao Café several times, mostly with our classmates. However, today, we decided to go there for lunch! We were the only ones in the restaurant for awhile, although there were some people who came in for takeout and eventually by the time we were ending our lunch, two groups of people came in. Chris and I both ordered beef noodle soup (the third time NRM has come up in our blog!). We wanted to compare their NRM to ours.

The first thing I noticed about Ni Hao’s beef noodle soup is that the noodles are very thick and wide; Chris calls them fat rice noodles. The noodles we used were pretty thick and wide too, but I don’t think they were as wide as Ni Hao’s. The beef seemed pretty good. Chris thinks that it was more restaurant-style than the traditional NRM. It wasn’t spicy and didn’t have a very distinguished star anise-taste like ours did. Overall, it was pretty good beef noodle soup and I would recommend it to friends/family/strangers and eat it again.

Ni Hao Café's beef noodle soup

Yum! Next time we go to Ni Hao, we’ll be sure to try other delicious dishes. I’m especially interested in their dim sun plates! :)

Taste of China Part Deux + Wild Wings Cafe

18 04 2010

Readers, you get a special treat today. Two back-to-back restaurants!

Yesterday night, Chris’ parents and his sister came to visit him. We went out to eat at Taste of China. When we arrived at the restaurant, it was jammed packed with people and we had to take a number. About 10 minutes passed and we were seated at a really big table meant for 8-9 people. Most of the waiters looked stressed, walking briskly around trying to take everyone’s orders and bring around dishes and drinks.

Our selections:

  • Hot appetizer: 3 scallion bubble pancakes (葱油泡饼).
  • Hot appetizer: Hot & Spicy Beef Rolls (麻辣牛肉卷).
  • Cold dish: Sliced beef and beef tripe with hot pepper sauce (夫妻肺片).
  • Chef’s Special (Entrée): Roast fish with green onion (竹塔烤鱼片), which is fried fish sautéed with onion and chili powder and ground cumin.
  • Meats: Braised beef with tomato in hot pot (蕃茄牛腩锅)
  • Entrée: Braised beef fillets with chili sauce (成都水煮牛).
  • Veggies: Oilseed Rape (油菜).

The food was delicious. We also got a big tub of rice, which helped with the spiciness. I especially liked…everything! But in particular, I enjoyed the sliced beef and beef tripe with hot pepper sauce, the roast fish, the braised beef with tomato and the braised beef fillets in chili sauce (so essentially, everything!). The oilseed rape was good too, and so were the scallion pancakes. We ate most of the food, and only the oilseed rape, braised beef fillets in chili sauce and a very small portion of rice were left. We boxed our leftovers and Chris’ parents gave them to us.

Scallion pancakes

Sliced beef and beef tripe with hot pepper sauce

Hot & Spicy Beef Rolls

Braised beef with tomato in hot pot

Roast fish with green onion

Braised beef fillets with chili sauce

Hmm, doesn’t everything look so appetizing? Very good food in very good company :)

Today, Chris and I went to Wild Wings Cafe. The restaurant is located right next to the Amtrak station, on West Main Street, towards downtown Charlottesville. I must comment, the parking lot is super bumpy and not at all paved. When we went into the restaurant, initially we were going to be seated upstairs, but the hostess discovered there were no seats left, so we were seated in a booth downstairs. Our menus were handed to us, and Chris and I began looking at the menu of this highly popular restaurant, which we never set foot in until today.

Our selections:

  • Appetizer: Steel Town Spuds (a generous portion of Big Fat Fries or crispy Buffalo Chips covered with ranch dressing, bacon, scallions & melted cheese) – we chose the Big Fat Fries!
  • Main course: 25 piece sampler, 5 flavors (Jalapeño cheddar, the Slayer (hot garlic wings), Ragin’ Cajun, honey mustard, Flaming Parmesan). All the wings were served with celery and homemade bleu cheese or ranch dipping sauce. We asked for both sauces.

These wings were super yummy! I especially liked the Slayer and honey mustard. Chris’ favorite was the Flaming Parmesan. Unfortunately, we forgot the camera back in the dorms, so there are no pictures of these fantastic wings :( However, we really like Wild Wings Cafe! Can’t wait to go back someday!

Guadalajara and a surprise!

14 04 2010

This past weekend, my parents came to visit me and Chris.

After much debate, I remembered there was a fantastic restaurant (from what I heard from friends) called Guadalajara. There are 3+ Guadalajara restaurants in the Charlottesville area alone, but the one we went to was the one on Rt 29.

It was a really nice restaurant, from its exterior/interior appearance to its delicious food. Unfortunately, I didn’t take any pictures of the food we ordered, but I will describe what everyone ordered.


  • My mom – Lunch carnitas (pork cooked in seasoning blend, served with beans, lettuce, guacamole, jalapenos and tortillas).
  • My dad and me – Lunch chimichanga (flour tortilla filled with beef topped with cheese, lettuce, tomato, sour cream & guacamole, served with Spanish rice and beans).
  • Chris – Burrito California (steak burrito with cheese and served with refried beans and rice).

I love Guadalajara <3 I hope to go back again soon! There’s another Mexican restaurant in the area that Chris and I used to frequent – Aquis es Mexico. Both these restaurants are fantastic and serve truly amazing food.

My parents also gave us some premade food for the weekend.

Premade Mom dishes

Asparagus and Shrimp

Haagen Dazs Ice Cream

They prepared some cooked soybeans and dried tofu, asparagus and baby shrimp and bought 2 mini cartons of Haagen Dazs caramel dulce de leche ice cream :) The asparagus and shrimp were eaten really quickly by our resident fatty (hint: not me :D) and we still have a little bit of the soybeans + tofu. The ice cream was gone in one day as well.

I am planning to make a special surprise dinner for Chris this Friday, so stay tuned for more details!

Taste of China

4 04 2010

Happy Easter!

Warning: Reading this post while hungry might send you straight to the fridge/freezer/telephone.

On Friday, I made spaghetti for dinner! Quite simple; we had a bag of Italian capellini pasta and a bottle of organic tomato and basil sauce. I heated up some ground meat first in the pot, and then added the tomato sauce in. Stirred in some more basil leaves and a splash of pepper. Then, I remembered that we had some leftover baby bella mushrooms in the fridge, so I chopped the remaining mushies and added them to the sauce as well. In our rice cooker (creative, n’est pas?), I heated up some water and put the pasta in there to cook. As we didn’t have another pot for the pasta to cook in, we usually use the rice cooker. One has to be a bit inventive in college dorms.

Making spaghetti

Chris' bowl of spaghetti

The spaghetti was good; Chris gobbled it all up quickly and then went for seconds. He finished it all on Saturday for lunch. I wish I had bought meatballs to school, because they would have made the spaghetti tastier.

Saturday night, Chris and I went to Taste of China (川娃) for dinner. He had been there before with some people from our hall, and said it was really good. The restaurant is in this semi-remote shopping center, where the biggest attraction is the Outback Steakhouse. Next to the restaurant was an insurance company o.O But there were plenty of people inside the restaurant, all munching happily on authentic Chinese cuisine. Chris and I were seated by the window, and we took awhile to glance over the menu.

Our selections:

  • Hot appetizer: 3 scallion bubble pancakes (葱油泡饼). Cost: $5.50.
  • Chef’s Special (Entrée): Roast fish with green onion (竹塔烤鱼片), which is fried fish sautéed with onion and chili powder and ground cumin. Cost: $14.50.
  • Entrée: Braised beef fillets with chili sauce (成都水煮牛). Cost: $12.50.
  • Veggie: Pea shoots sautéed with Chinese green vegetables (豆苗抄青菜). Cost: $8-9 (wasn’t on the menu).

The food arrived, and it looked so yummy I just wanted to gobble it all up right away. But I restrained myself long enough to take pictures of our selections and then, Chris and I started eating. The scallion pancakes were warm and although they looked really big, it was just filled with air, so once you tore open the pancake, the size diminished significantly, leaving behind a crispy and delectable pancake. The braised beef was delicious; not spicy at all in my opinion (though I’m relatively resistant to spicy foods), but the beef was very tender and I loved mixing the sauce with rice; it gave the rice a nice, zingy flavor. The roast fish was really scrumptious; each piece was crunchy and savory. And the pea shoots and green veggies were a healthy and tasty choice.

Pea shoots and Chinese green veggies

Braised beef fillets with chili sauce

Roast fish with green onion

Scallion bubble pancakes

We had to have most of the food bagged up for takeout afterwards, as it was too much for just the two of us to eat in one sitting. But we did finish the scallion pancakes and most of the roast fish. The beef and the pea shoots/green veggies remained in plentiful quantities for today’s leftovers :)

Taste of China was an excellent restaurant! I definitely want to go back sometime. It is perhaps the best, most authentic Chinese restaurant in the Charlottesville area.

As always, bon appetit!

An Evening at Fleurie

11 02 2010

After this past weekend of continuous snow, Chris and I were finally able to celebrate his 21st birthday at Fleurie Restaurant in downtown C’ville on 2/9/10. Fleurie is right on 3rd St NE, which just branches off of the downtown mall area. Because it was snowing and dark, it was harder to see the restaurant sign, but we did manage to find it after awhile.

Once we entered the restaurant, a waitress stepped up to us and asked for our coats and umbrella. She hung them up on a coat rack and then gathered up menus and seated us at a window table. It was a very cute, cozy restaurant. There was only one other couple there at the time who sat next to us, all dressed up as well. The restaurant had around a dozen tables and a couple of booths. There was a bar in the corner, with numerous wine and champagne bottles all stacked up. Rows of glasses were lined up as well. The wine list has a variety of French reds and whites, American red, Burgundy and Bordeaux wines, champagne and sparkling wine; wines can be requested by the glass or by the bottle. I wish I took pictures of the restaurant itself to post.

After we sat down and were presented our menus, Chris and I mulled over the choices of appetizers and main courses. There were about 10 options for appetizers and main courses. I decided on a lobster bisque with tarragon for my appetizer and the salmon for my main course. Chris also wanted a lobster bisque with tarragon for his appetizer and for his main course, the pan-seared skate. He also asked for a wine recommendation to go with his main course. The waitress recommended a Brancott Reserve Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand. While we were waiting for our appetizers, the waitress brought us bread and hot butter, as well as this delicious tomato soup  (I’m not quite sure of the full name).

While enjoying our bread and (still) hot butter, the waitress brought our appetizers, lobster bisque with tarragon. The bisque was absolutely fantastic and both of us finished far quicker than we should have. Our main course came a little while afterwards. Upon arrival, I could tell that it was a tasty delight. My salmon was medium-rare, and it was a bigger piece than I thought it would be. It was on top of potatoes and onions with chives and this delicious sauce, whose name I also cannot recall. Anyways, it was delicious; it’s the best salmon I’ve had in a restaurant. And Chris’ main course, skate, was delicious as well. He particularly enjoyed it and ate it very quickly. I gave him some of my salmon to try, and I tried his skate as well.

My salmon

Chris' skate

After our main courses (which ended too soon!), we were given dessert menus. We decided to split a passion fruit gratin with a raspberry sauce. It was amazing; passion fruit gratin is essentially a souffle except it’s cooked on the plate, not in a bowl like the traditional souffle. The raspberry sauce gave it a little edge, making it the perfect dessert to end our dinner. In addition, I had requested that the restaurant give Chris a little extra dessert with a birthday candle, which they served with the gratin. All in all, the perfect end to a perfect night.

Passion fruit gratin with raspberry sauce

Passion fruit gratin and birthday treats

On his actual birth date, I had bought a tiramisu cake from Kroger, which I thought looked very tasty, and not too big for the both of us to share. In addition, I bought two other desserts for his birthday from Hotcakes.

Cupcake and fruit tart from Hotcakes

Tiramisu Cake

I highly recommend this restaurant to anyone. It’s a little pricey, but well worth it. Indulging a little never hurt anyone!

Happy 21st Birthday, Chris!