If I have any regrets about quitting this blog (there are lots, actually), one of them would be that I haven’t yet been to Selba, Enoteca Sogno, lunch at The Citizen, Lehja or Mama J’s with Karen, Asian Galaxy, Mas Tapas in CVille, Mediterranean Brick Oven, or Phoenix Garden Vegetarian Noodle Soup House on Brook Road. I still hope to try those places (if we can find a sitter) but I’m gonna miss the show and tell experience that blogging and tweeting afforded me.
I never meant for my blog to be about restaurants, and maybe wishful thinking here, but I hope it ultimately wasn’t. It’s like that saying, “Great people talk about ideas. Average people talk about things. Small people talk about other people.” Philosophically, I wanted to talk about ideas, but I often settled for ‘things,’ like new places to buy food. The people and their businesses usually weren’t really what I wanted to be involved with. Except, I often liked restaurants (and sometimes the people too) and wanted to spread the word (failing to articulately split hairs here). And in the case of those places listed above, I’ve got a good feeling, or feel some affinity, and I’m sad I won’t get a chance to send the 15 Caramelized OpiNIONS readers out there to follow up on my recommendations.
If there were any justice, all of you would take me to a surprise going away party at Phoenix Garden. But, it looks like it’s just going to be an awkward goodbye, should we hug, okay see ya, kinda thing. I guess that happens when you announce that you’re breaking up and then continue to hang around for a few more weeks. Well, I tried to leave a legacy’s cache of posts as a parting gift. And the gift that’d be a great consolation in return would be if you all would pack Phoenix Garden day and night for the next year. Not because they’re good (I really don’t know yet), but because Richmond needs this dining option: vegan pho and banh mi sandwiches, fake meatball pasta dishes, Happy Family with five kinds of mock meat. Just look at the pictures on their website!
I gave up on Panda Veg back when it was Panda Garden and China Panda long before that. It’s time to support a new kid on the block of tofu. And this one seems like it has the potential to become more Sunflower in Vienna and less Grace Street grease pit, if it can overcome its location across from The Dump and past life as a strip club. The sign on the side is a bad omen, expressing a bit of desperation. Funnel cake might bring some people in, but probably not for the vegan chicken nuggets, and they’ll probably wanna know where the scrippers at.
Bike punx: I double dog dare you to put a PBR in your bike’s water bottle holder and pedal out Brook Road, past Taco Bell and the interstate, and coast to the bottom of a the long hill that leads to Phoenix Garden. Do it weekly. Call it “a noodle ride.” You’ll tell your kids about the days when you kept a weird little restaurant open with your Blue Ribbon beer fueled bike riding.
On the topic of vegan banh mi sandwiches, I’m glad that there’s a new option, but they’re going to have a tough time dethroning Jen Mindell’s version, made famous at the now closed Cafe Gutenberg. Today was Jen’s first day back slingin those subs in her Rooster Cart. It was stationed behind Bandito’s on Patterson, just off Boulevard. She’s switched to bonafide banh mi bread from Catina at Horsepen and Broad. The light and crispy bread, along with the BBQ tofu and picked veg are all totally dialed in perfection. If you missed your chance at one of these in The Bottom, now’s your chance. The Rooster banh mi might actually surpass any of her other sandwiches, by the way (it’s spicy fried mock duck, not actually male chicken, by the way). Maybe someplace like Pasture or Blue Goat will offer a cock’s comb sandwich as restaurant retort (probably already on the menu at Full Kee).
The sandwich you see above made me crave a Vietnamese ice coffee with condensed milk. Something about the spicy wanted sweet, or maybe I just hadn’t had my coffee yet. Then, I thought, someone needs to make that a milkshake flavor, or at least a bubble tea slush drink (not a banh mi milkshake, silly).
Somehow, these impulses and epiphanies sent me straight to RealiTea on Main.* I’d been meaning to buy some loose tea for brewing at home. Of the 60 varieties, I went with one I’d never had, Liquid Jade, a green tea with bergamot oil. It’s delicious. Very adult. With each sip, I feel more mature and full of gratitude. Namas-tea.
*are any local restaurants offering RealiTea’s tea? Get with that, folks. The stuff is not ordinary. It’s a destination drink. Full of flavors, perfect for food pairings, if you’re into that.