Thursday, August 16, 2012
Virtue Feed & Grain
106 South Union Street
Alexandria, VA 22314
I read somewhere that Virtue Feed & Grain had been nominated by Bon Appetit as one of the 50 best new restaurants in America. The first thing I thought, was "waitaminute, I went there back in January...how can it still be a new restaurant?" Oh. It probably had only been open for a short while in January. My second thought was that they had probably sufficiently worked out all the new restaurant quirks and it's now getting nationwide recognition. Coincidentally, I had some friends come into town that were staying in Old Town Alexandria and wanted to meet up for some dinner and drinks. Two birds and one stone later, we decided on an early dinner (6ish) at Virtue Feed & Grain. Make that three birds, this is officially my first return visit to a place that I've blogged about and am blogging about again. Yeah, just go with it.
When I got there, I still marvel about how friggin' big the place really is with the upstairs space, long bar, outdoor seating and the myriad of booths on the first floor. It was somewhat packed at that early hour and definitely busy with a bar full of people and tables filling up quickly. I may be off on this, August could be the dead month everyone says it is, or I just don't understand DC as well as I should but I know in NYC if a restaurant was nominated as one of the 50th best restaurants in the country then it would be impossible to get in. This seemed a little less than impossible. Who knows, maybe it fills up later in the evening. It just seemed weird to me.
My friends were from the South so I wasn't sure how they would respond to the rather eclectic items on the menu. But, when I opened it up, it seemed to have mellowed just a little bit since I last visited. They did take very well to the vast array of beers that were offered and my buddy's wife sampled a couple of their signature drinks. As for me, I tried a Port City Derecho, which came about from a local brewery that lost power during those freak winds about two months ago. Losing power meant losing some refrigeration and one batch of lager fermented at a higher than usual temperature and became a steam beer. The beer itself was nice with a hint of bitterness on the aftertaste. Close to a lager but felt a touch heavier too.
For my entree, I got the pan roast monkfish with artichokes barigoule. Now, I've got a question. I write a food blog so should I know what a barigoule is? Logic says I should but WTF is a barigoule. According to the Food Network, it's artichokes with onions, carrot and garlic braised in wine and water. This particular one had some baby potatoes (at least I hope they were since they were all potatoe-y). While I liked the monkfish which was lightly breaded, it's essentially a blander type of white fish which needs help from other things on the plate. The barigoule provided this in spades. The artichokes, carrots, and potatoes provided a nice flavor elevator (remember that guy on Master Chef who called himself the flavor elevator, I'm co-opting that now) for the wonderfully sweet and rich broth. The crunch on the fish did help out with giving it an extra dimension of texture but I would probably eat any protein with the barigoule.
Wait. Yes, I watch Master Chef. Don't judge. It's like watching a train wreck. Wait. This guy has a website? That actually promotes himself as the flavor elevator? Yeah. Awesome, isn't it? I can't make this stuff up.
My next experience with Virtue Feed & Grain seemed very much like my first experience with Virtue Feed & Grain. Overall, the meal was very pleasant and more importantly, my out-of-town guests seemed to enjoy it very much and was the kind of restaurant they don't really have down where they live. I don't know if we got a meal worth of a nominee of one of the fifty best new restaurants in America. But, we weren't really looking for that. What we got was a good meal, great adult beverages, and a nice evening of good conversation. Oh, and I got to write a blog post using the words, flavor elevator.