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Friday, June 22, 2012

Dinner with Mom at Aziza's

When one moves from the suburbs to the city, like I did, there are certain things that become abundantly clear very quickly; parallel parking requires serious mojo, people are friendly no matter how close together their houses are, and that this was where I belong. 

Another major discovery was the abundance of fabulous new restaurants within walking distance that served fresh, interesting, and affordable food. As a kid, downtown restaurants where places we went on special occasions and in college I tended to forgo haute cuisine in favor of what I will loosely refer to as "bar food" before heading out for a night on the town. Needless to say my palate was not terribly complex. I have now been spoiled by these gastronomic gems and can no longer look at frozen chicken or chain restaurants with the same youthful naivete. I hope that by profiling some of my favorite downtown restaurants, and trying out some new ones, I can encourage you to expand your culinary horizons as well.

Last night my mom and I had a fabulous dinner at Aziza's on Main Street in Shockoe Valley. Think of my mom as a culinary Robin to my Batman. We both love going out and HATE doing dishes. Aziza's has been a long time local favorite for it's Wood-Grilled Fire Oven Pizza, Lebanese inspired dishes, and the majestic cream puff! 

The view from our table.

I started off with a glass of Santa Julia Viogner (Argentina) that somehow magically made the day float away from my first sip. My mood also lifted considerably when our waitress let us know that it was still happy hour and my glass was only $5. It's the little things that make this girl happy:)

Bread....glorious bread!

Tip #1: If a restaurant's menu doesn't change with the seasons, you are probably eating something that had to travel a great distance to get to your table. Not good for your ecological or culinary health!

First Course: Squash Blossoms

For s starter I ordered one of the specials, squash blossoms with a reduced tomato-based sauce and balsamic drizzle. It was wonderfully fresh and melted in my mouth. It reminded me of a deconstructed vegetable stew.

Arugula and Mixed Greens Salad

My mom has, in my opinion, an unhealthy obsession with arugula. While I appreciate it's virtues, my love has not reached her heights. When mom asked our waitress if it would be possible to get a simple green salad, even though it wasn't on the menu, she obliged and produced an arugula and mixed greens salad with fresh parmesan. Delish!

Entree: Pan Roasted Rockfish

For our main course we both got the Pan-Roasted Rockfish with Cucumbers, Artichokes, & Brown Butter Escabeche. Don't worry I had to look that up too:). The Rockfish had a fabulously crispy crust and was perfectly cooked. I also love the unexpected inclusion of small slices of pickled cucumber which gave every bite just a little bit of tang.

Although I wanted to try a little bit of everything for desert, we settled on a slice of Lemon and Blueberry Cheesecake. I found it not too sweet (which I hate) and very dense (which I love). The topping was reminiscent of a fruit crumble which is a summer favorite of mine so I was thoroughly happy!

Mellow downtown decor and a great wait staff also made for a fabulous evening! Batman and Robin will be back soon!

Lemon and Blueberry Cheesecake. 
I saw this sign on the walk back, brought to us by Globehopper Coffee and Lounge, and thought it was too hilarious not to share!

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