Ventana Doesn't Have A Highchair

Terry and I are planning to take William out with us one evening for a meal during Charlottesville's "Restaurant Week". It's mostly nicer places participating, but I saw from the website photo that Ventana didn't have tablecloths, which makes it baby-friendly in my estimation (we don't take William anywhere he could yank off a tablecloth). We hadn't been there before (I think it's new, but I don't keep up with this sort of thing as much anymore so I'm not sure just how new), so I'm glad I asked about a highchair when I called for a reservation.

Because THEY DON'T HAVE A HIGHCHAIR! The guy on the phone offered to put us at a banquette so William could sit between my husband and I, but I said that wouldn't be useful since he's too short to sit at the table, so I canceled the reservation.

Now I'm not nearly as interested in trying them out-- I'll not go there unless I hear from friends that it's really good. In the meantime, I'll give my business to more family-friendly establishments.

Not A Big Fan of Da Luca Wine Bar in Crozet

Da Luca Wine Bar opened in Old Trail some time ago, but my husband and I had not yet tried it out. Until tonight. The food was actually quite good, but the service was so bad I don't think we'll be going back anytime soon.

A woman seated us when we arrived a little before 7pm, and she also told us the specials and took our drink order. She said happy hour had just ended, but it was ladies night so I could get a particular glass of red or white wine for $5. So I tried the red. She said our waiter would be around soon.

But he was not, so she took our food order when she came back with our drinks. I had also requested a glass of water at that time, but never received one. Eventually, after failing to get our waiter's attention after our third tapas course or so, I finally asked the guy who brought out the food (I think it was the bartender) if he could get me a glass of water. He did bring it quickly at that point. He also got me another glass of wine as soon as I requested it.

It was already 8pm when we decided we'd like another two tapas dishes, and had our order slip waiting on the table. But no one came over to take our order. We told the sitter we thought we'd be back around 8:30pm, so I asked my husband if we should just skip it, but he said we had time.

It took them a really long time to take our next order, I had already finished my glass of wine before the food finally arrived, and I had been nursing it. We didn't wind up getting out of there until 9pm. AND they charged us $7 for each glass of wine instead of $5 like the first woman said they were.

My husband declined to bring this up with the waiter, since we were already running late we didn't want to sit around waiting for the waiter to try to fix this. He wasn't a very good waiter-- he seemed good-natured and was attentive when he had time to visit our table, but the management had him covering the entire restaurant (apparently with the help of hostess and bartender) and it was just too many tables for him to handle. A waiter with 5+ years of experience could have handled the place, but this guy didn't seem that experienced. At any rate, I blame management for under-staffing the place, not the waiter for being unable to keep up. Having worked as a waitress for several years in the past, I deem myself capable of making this distinction.

My husband said he'd leave $4 off the tip to make up for being overcharged for the wine, but I doubt he actually did that. Whatever-- because of their poor service, Da Luca already cost us an extra $5+ in babysitting fees, bringing their total overcharge to almost $10. Which was more than 10% of the bill.

The wine and the food were good. I forget the name of the wine, but I thought it was a really good $5 wine (and about what I'd expect from a $7 wine, as it turned out to be). We tried some potato gnocchi with gorgonzola, baked goat cheese with grapes, nuts, and field greens, Moroccan tuna, beef carpaccio, eggplant ravioli with carbonara sauce, and some dish that was a variation on shrimp quesadilla. I've got no complaints with the food; it was all delicious and seemed to be brought to the table expeditiously once it was prepared. It just took a long time between plates either because the waiter didn't relay our order efficiently, or the kitchen was slow, or they just presume no one is in a hurry.

Bottom Line: The wine and food at Da Luca is very good, so if you accept the atrocious service that is unfortunately the usual state of things here in the Charlottesville area, then by all means give it a try. If the poor restaurant service typical to our area drives you crazy, you won't find a respite from the madness here.

Wendy's Fish IS Good

I saw the commercial for Wendy's fish sandwich last week. It's all about how the Wendy's fish sandwich is cod, but no one knows what fish is in the sandwiches of other fast-food joints.

I used to really like the McD fish sandwich, but sometime last year they changed it somehow, and it was no longer as good. So I was predisposed to try the Wendy's version once I saw the commercial.

Ordinarily I avoid Wendy's like the plague because I've never had a good experience that one in Charlottesville. They are always painfully slow and the food has been unimpressive, certainly not worth the wait.

But now that we go to Waynesboro to shop, I decided to take a chance on THAT Wendy's. I'm glad I did!

First of all, I got my order blazingly fast.

And when I sat down and took a bit of the sandwich, my first thought was, "Wow, this is really good!"

I didn't have great expectations, despite the commercial, but I must tell you that it was the best fast-food fish sandwich I've ever had. I think it's in the same ballpark as many restaurant fish sandwiches. It's more expensive than the McD version, but it's so much better it's totally worth it.

The fish was good, the batter was light and crispy (and actually was batter, not the crumb-thing that McD uses). Whatever sauce they used was good-- in retrospect, I didn't even notice the sauce, whatever it was really let the fish take center stage.

Bottom Line: I wholeheartedly recommend the Wendy's fish sandwich, it's delicious.

Double-Pork Squash Bake (recipe)

I was tossing things together for dinner in order to use up some leftover pork tenderloin, and I've got to write this recipe down so I can make it again.

First cut a butternut squash in half, remove the seeds and strings, and cover both halves with plastic wrap. Microwave on high for 8 minutes, then let stand in the oven until you need them-- they will still be very hot.

Preheat the oven to 375F. Cut one apple into 1/4" cubes. Cut leftover pork tenderloin into 1/4" cubes until you have a pile equal in size to the apple.

Cook three slices bacon in a skillet. Take them out and slice them crosswise into little strips, throw into a bowl with the diced tenderloin. Sauté the apples in the bacon fat in the skillet. Add 2T butter and melt it with the apples, remove from heat and set aside.

Put one half of the butternut squash away to use in another dish. Scoop the flesh from the other half of the butternut squash, keep the chunks large (tablespoon size) if possible. Gently stir the squash into the pork and bacon, just to mix. Pour the apples and all the liquid from the skillet into the bowl with the other ingredients. Stir to mix.

Dump it all into a casserole dish to fit (a small casserole dish is best so the ingredients are several inches deep). Dot the top with butter, and sprinkle with brown sugar (I probably used about 2T butter cut into 8 dots, and 2T brown sugar).

Bake about 20-25 minutes. I only did 15 minutes this time, and I think it could have used a little more time. Remove from oven, add salt and pepper to taste, and serve.

Masaman Curry Is Pretty Good

Yesterday I tried a new brand of ready-to-pour curry sauce, the World Foods Masaman Curry.

I don't remember where I got it, but most likely Whole Foods or Harris Teeter. The web link there lists it for over $6, but I think I paid between $4 and $6, I don't remember exactly, it was on sale.

It was pretty good, but not the best ready-made curry sauce we've tried-- there is a brand at Whole Foods I prefer, but there's not a huge difference. I'll get whichever is on sale because they're both relatively expensive.

This is one of those items I'm curious to try from scratch. I looked at the ingredients, and there are a few exotic ingredients, but probably nothing I couldn't get my hands on, or grow at home.

It's vegan; here are the ingredients from the label: Water, Coconut Milk (20%), Onion, Sugar, Shallot, Palm Oil, Dried Chili (3%), Garlic, Modified Tapioca Starch, Tamarind Puree (1%), Salt, Lemon Grass, Galangal, Kaffir Lime Leaf, Yeast Extract, Cumin, Cinnamon, Cardamom, Nutmeg, Star Anise (.1%), Cloves.

So the main thing is the coconut milk. I haven't looked at the prices for that lately, for all I know the unit price of the plain coconut milk is about the same as the unit price of this curry sauce. But if it's much less, I really should try making this at home, since both Terry and I like it, and it's e-a-s-y.

Just brown your meat (we usually use fish or chicken), open the jar and pour the sauce on top of the meat, and simmer while the rice is cooking. If I made it myself, there would be a little more to it than opening the jar, but not much if the spices were pre-mixed. I can probably find a jar of curry spices somewhere. In NYC when I go up there next month if not here. And if I add my own fresh onion, shallot, and garlic, the improvement in the flavor will probably be commensurate with the increase in the preparation effort.

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