Recently, I’ve been doing a lot of “food exploration,” delving in lots of ethnic cuisine, but my all-time favorite cuisine is still American… modern American cuisine. I look forward to modern ingredients in what may be “traditional” American food—for example, I get excited over a bison or lamb burger over the commonplace hamburger, and I love it when restaurants list practically all of the ingredients used in a dish right on the menu. I adore the details. Garnishes, condiments, and sides make life happy. (That sounded quite type-A-like, I just realized.)
So for lunch today, I went with my dad to downtown Leesburg for some good eats and adventure. The buildings are small, quaint, and definitively 18th century—there’s even a restaurant called “Green House” or something that specializes in 18th century cuisine. I have my doubts about the authenticity of the food there… but that’s another issue for another day. Because no, I did not eat 18th century food today—what about that whole speech about MODERN ingredients in food again? My taste bud vacation was in a restaurant called Tuscarora Mill, a little establishment in a “colonial” mall that looks tiny on the outside, but is in fact fairly spacious on the inside. The building has apparently been around since the 19th century, and the restaurant is in a renovated grain mill. Long history with food, eh? ;)
This was my first time eating truly “local” food at a restaurant. “Locally raised” “Local farm” etc. on the online menu actually made me really, really excited. When confronted by it again when I arrived, all of the choices seemed so good that I honestly didn’t know what to get. Okay, well, I narrowed it down… to about four things (would’ve been five, but my dad took one of the possibilities, so I knew I could taste that one). I was confronted with the following dilemma:
_ Locally raised lamb burger + sautéed onions, gorgonzola-rosemary aioli. Lamb? Love. Burger? Haven’t had one in ages… could be amazing.
_ Local farm egg omelet du jour: brie, spinach, salmon + truffled grits, tomato salad. I love omelets, and the combination sounded delicious. But honestly, I have to admit that what really hooked me was the side of truffled grits. Mmmm…
_ Shrimp and grits + spinach, tomatoes, country ham, madeira, truffled grits. I had seen a recommendation for this dish on Yelp!, and even the waitress recommended it. Because I am stubborn and dense, I ended up going with the next option, which was—
Pumpkin raviolis + rapini, parsnips, sweet onions, walnut purée, cherry glen goat cheese cream.
Oh. My. Pumpkin. Pie (how clever am I… wow, I’m obnoxious). Other than leaning a bit towards the greasy side (my fancy napkin was used well), this dish was amazing. The combination of flavors was simply phenomenal. This was my first time eating ravioli that wasn’t adulterated with marinara/tomato sauce. Tomato sauce is alright on pizza, but anything else… eh. Instead of disgusting ketchup-flavor stultifying the quality of the entire dish, I was greeted instead by a sweet, familiar, orange creaminess when I wrapped up the photoshoot and bit into a ravioli—a Western dumpling, so says my dad. The walnut purée certainly contributed to the deliciousness, because there’s no way that pumpkin purée on its own could be so flavorful and creamy.
Dance on, tastebuds, dance on. Keep on moving, because soon enough, I will have finished my whole plate. I ate all of the pumpkin-cheese nirvana with the exception of one piece, which I traded to my dad for a hunk of his rainbow trout. Frankly, I’m kind of glad I didn’t get this—it was a little flavorless for me, but my dad liked it, which is rare outside the realm of noodles. Whenever I ask him his opinion on a non-noodle dish, 99% of the time, he’ll respond with “hai xing” (“it’s okay”). It’s really rare that he says it’s actually good, which made me really happy. It was his birthday, after all! :)
Grilled rainbow trout + cajun spices, almond butter, asparagus, whipped potatoes, capers. I stole the capers.
The flavors in this dish were spot on satisfying—there was a little bit of each, other than spiciness. The creamy pumpkin inside the ravioli was deliciously sweet in the magical way that winter squash is, and that sweetness was balanced by the sharp pungency of the grated cheese (not sure what kind) on top. There was just the right amount of cheese—too much cheese in food makes me throw up, and I don’t mean this metaphorically (I haven’t gone to the Macaroni Grill since…). The rapini was a bit overdone, but it was pleasantly bitter—an even better contrast to the pumpkin. I found it kind of funny that the other vegetable in the dish, parsnips, consisted simply of tiny chunks of garlic-looking things scattered about. Actually, I thought it was garlic, so I ate it expecting that pungent garlicky flavor… imagine my surprise.
Of course, the other creamy component of the dish lie on the outside—the goat cheese cream poured over everything. I think it would have been better if they had used slightly less of this, as the dish was a bit too oily and warranted a too much use of my napkin. But I was happy when I saw “cherry glen goat cheese” on the menu. Cherry Glen is a local goat cheese farm/company, which I happened to read about in a (free) magazine I picked up at Whole Foods two weeks ago. It was pretty cool to be able to see and taste something in a magazine in real life. ;)
My conclusion: I love pumpkin ravioli. This lunch was extremely satisfying, both for my taste buds, my belly, and my spirit. Awesome flavors = happy taste buds. Rich cream is extremely filling, if that weren’t obvious enough. And my spirit? Well, I conquered a fear food today!—cheesy, creamy, fattily delicious pumpkin ravioli! And I felt good about it! AND I ATE PAPA JOHN’S PIZZA FOR DINNER AFTER THAT. And I went trick-or-treating! Sooo glad my friends all hate Butterfingers and Milky Ways! More for me! :)
In your freaking face, ED. No pumpkin-cheese nirvana for you. I just realized that my choice of food did a really nice job of reflecting the season and the holiday~ :D
Goodness… just look at that pumpkin porn oozing out. Cover up, baby! D: