Part two of the blog series entitled “Wining & Dining Mama Smart”* brings us to the Downtown Mall in Charlottesville, at a lovely little spot called Hamilton’s.
*Part three will come to you on [What (Mama Smart) Ate] Wedensday. As I said last night at dinner, I’m not sure how I made it the previous seven years of living in Charlottesville without ever making it to this “come as you are” restaurant, with a mouth-wateringly creative menu featuring the names of a plethora of local farms and food producers. [I ammended this statement quickly with the realization that for those seven years I was either a poor college student, or a poor unemployed teacher.]Not that Hamilton’s is unreasonably priced. It’s not. It’s actually an incredible deal for the quality of food you are served. And, I mean, you expect to pay a little more for the type of restaurant that serves you free bread (and butter that was squirted out of a pastry tube), right?After an amount of waffling* usually reserved for a much lesser establishment, famous for its yellow blocked letters, I decided that I should, in fact order the “vegetarian soup of the day.”
*I ordered it. Then I canceled the order. And then once I saw Mama Smart’s bowl, ordered it again.The subtly spiced tomato-based broth contained giant chunks of artichoke hearts, along with greens and chickpeas, all topped with clearly housemade croutons and a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese. I detected hints of garlic, paprika, and perhaps cayenne pepper, as there was just the slightest hint of lingering heat.I couldn’t go the whole evening without at least one special request. [This is me, after all.] I spotted Napa cabbage kim chi on the menu as part of a Korean sparerib appetizer, and I had to have a sample. [Delicious.]For the main course, Mama Smart did as her daughter would (normally, pre-vegan/vegetarian/”vegan with benefits” or whatever she is) do and ordered the special: pork chops on ancho chili spoonbread and asparagus.I don’t know much about how it tasted. But there wasn’t anything left at the end of the meal, so I think it was pretty darn good. After he accidentally (or perhaps fortuitously) ordered the very last in-house bottle Prince Michel 2007 Cabernet Franc* [if you look closely, you can even see the legs on that wine^]…
*Yes, we kept on ‘wining’ into the evening.
^It’s got legs. And it knows how to use them.…Mr. Mason Jar settled on the Polyface Farms (of Food Inc. fame) chicken breast, on sage dumplings* and sauteed kale with applewood smoked bacon lardons. I’m told it was succulently moist with a crisply finished skin.
*Note to self: make sage dumplings with sauteed kale. And bacon?And yes, I have saved the best for last. When our waiter asked if anyone at the table would be interested in the vegetarian for the evening, my eyes perked up…and I think I almost raised my hand. I was interested…VERY interested. Especially after he described it:
“Wilted spinach salad with slow roasted tomatoes and red onion; curried French green lentils; mixed greens with golden beets and candied walnuts, sweet potato and goat cheese ‘tart’; and a crispy farro cake made with cooked farro and tofu”My reaction? “I get all of that?”The egg was a bonus.*
*And yes, I ate it. In fact, I ate it and then did a little dance and sang about how I ate. It was a lovely song…something like “I ate an egg! I ate an egg! Doo doo doo doo…” I must say, being the “vegan with benefits”/vegetarian/ maybe-maybe not lactose-intolerant/”meat-lover who doesn’t eat meat right now” girl that I am, it was nice to be in an upscale restaurant where the vegetarian option wasn’t an afterthought (nor was it covered in cheese). I kind of want to go back every week just to see what innovations they make on the “vegetarian blue-plate special.”
Which, yes, is served on a blue plate.*
*And no. I didn’t notice this until my plate was empty.