Prepare Your Own Meal at Volcano

Volcano Hot Stone Grill
14706 Lee Highway
Gainesville, VA 20155
571-421-2710
www.volcanohotstone.com

Casual American Fare | $$

What a delightful treat when our friends Ron and Judy took us to dinner at Volcano. It was a chance to enjoy time with wonderful friends and try something different. I would have to cook my own food. I don’t normally do this, even at home. I lack all the skills to prepare a meal but I was told anyone can do this. Just put meat on a super-hot rock and a few minutes later you’re good to go.

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Volcano is not a large space but is usually busy so reservations are a good idea on Friday and Saturday nights. When you first enter you’re greeted by an attention-grabbing water feature behind the bar.

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For an appetizer we started with a cheese fondue and a nice selection of breads and fruit for dipping. I vaguely remember a fondue dinner many years ago but these days my fondue dreams revolve around chocolate for dessert. I was pleasantly surprised when the Aged Emmenthaler and Gruyere fondue had a mild taste and excellent consistency, not too thin or runny.

Deciding on my hot rock entrée was hard work. I knew it would be meat but the selection is better than most. Standard fare of seafood, Tenderloin Filet, Sirloin Steak, and Herb Rubbed Chicken is offered with wild game like Bison, Wild Boar, Kangaroo, and Rabbit Sausage. I went with the Filet and Rabbit Sausage. Before long out came the sizzling hot volcanic rock, seasoned with Himalayan salt. Our waitress must have told me 5 times to be careful it’s like a million degrees. She spotted I need constant female supervision right off the bat. I wasn’t sure I could stand waiting while a whole filet cooked so after a few minutes I cut up bite-size pieces. My steak was excellent and the Rabbit Sausage was delicious.

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Each plate comes with an assortment of dipping sauces made in house. Mine came with Honey Mustard, Horseradish Scallion Tarter, House Steak Sauce, and Roasted Portobello Mushroom Au jus. I appreciated the different choices because while the steak was great with the Honey Mustard I felt the rabbit tasted best with the Roasted Portobello Mushroom Au jus. The meats are all quality cuts and served in generous portions. My wife ordered the Bone-in Veal Chop and was shocked at how big it was. There are several sides from which to choose. I went with the Mac & Cheese and Jasmine Rice with Asian Sesame Ginger Sauce. The Mac & Cheese was not the more traditional macaroni in a sort of cheese casserole. I’m guessing most people am like me and prefer the cheesier version over a macaroni noodle lightly coated with a thin cheese sauce. On my next visit I will probably double up on the rice.

For dessert we settled on the Milk Chocolate Fondue. I’m fond of chocolate and dipping things in liquid milk chocolate is about as good as it gets.

While the fondue was great what I really had my eye on was the honey drizzled Baklava. Not something you see on many dessert menus in our area so once our waitress mentioned it I was hooked. It was everything I had hoped, tasty flaky phyllo dough with a savory sweet nutty filling. Try sharing Baklava with someone first if you have not had it before. When I say sweet I mean super sweet.

The décor is modern with ample lighting but as I often find the modern design and materials create a noisier environment. If you are looking for a quiet dinner come early. Our waitress Tammy was very helpful and attentive. Owners James and Barbara McGillivray have done an excellent job bringing a unique concept to Northern Virginia. Volcano is fun but the wide selection of wild game makes it a special destination.

Serve Our Willing Warriors Visiting Chef Program

SOWW Visiting Chef Program Logo

I am very excited to be working with Serve Our Willing Warriors an all-volunteer tax exempt organization creating the Bull Run Warrior Retreat. The Retreat is in Haymarket, VA on 44 acres at the foot of the Bull Run Mountains. The 11,000 square foot house will provide “a home away from home” for our outpatient Warriors and their families residing at nearby hospitals.

While the remodeling is underway I will be working on developing the Visiting Chef Program. We envision a program partnering with chefs who come and create once in a lifetime magnificent meals for our injured warriors and their families. As part of the program we will be planting a garden to take a farm-to-table approach to providing meals with fresh vegetables and herbs.

If you are a personal or restaurant chef willing to occasionally volunteer your time to prepare delicious memorable meals for our Warriors and their families please contact me at zilliox(at)live.com. It is a chance for you to do what you love and give back to those who have given so much for us.

Dizzy Pig for Great BBQ Rubs

Dizzy Pig BBQ
8763 Virginia Meadows Drive
Manassas, VA 20109
703-273-3580
http://dizzypigbbq.com

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Every so often I stumble across a great product I have never seen before. Recently a local chef told me about Dizzy Pig barbecue rubs. I was excited to learn they are made a few miles from my home and have a small retail outlet at the factory.

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Since 2002 Dizzy Pig has been making high quality barbecue rubs used by professional BBQ competition teams and top chefs across the country. Today they offer 16 unique blends to spice up your grilling.

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Made from fresh all natural ingredients, Dizzy Pig rubs have no MSG, are gluten free, and low in salt. Unprocessed raw sugar is used in the process which helps create a more intricate flavor at higher temperatures. The low salt content means you can add more rub to get just the right taste for chicken, ribs or steaks.

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The Dizzy Pig retail store also sells the ceramic Big Green Egg cookers. Twice  yearly they hold DizzyFest bringing together Big Green Egg owners to cook and party. The next DizzyFest is June 7, 2014. A brochure describing the various rubs is available here. Stop in and meet the friendly staff or order online through the web page. A good first step is to order the sampler pack and try 11 rubs.

The Brick – Warrenton’s Pizza Paradise

34 Main St.
Warrenton, VA 20186
540-216-3940
www.thebrickpizzeria.com

Neapolitan Pizza | $

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I love pizza. Mine almost always came with loads of meat. Anything other than meat was something people in California ordered on their pizza. That was until I wandered into The Brick. I am not sure why I agreed with my wife to order a pizza with arugula on it but I am glad I did.

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We started with house made meatballs with San Marzano Tomato Sauce and Shredded Mozzarella. The meatballs were delicious and filling. They had a wonderful soft spicy taste that neutralized the unremarkable mozzarella.

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While we did not order a salad I could see all the ingredients were fresh and colorful.

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Our hand tossed pizza came with Roasted Garlic Cream Sauce, Pancetta, Olive Oil, House Mozzarella, and Arugula tossed in Basil Vinaigrette. It was heavenly, the flavors mixed together perfectly creating the best pizza I have had. My wife shocked I liked a pizza with arugula,  immediately texted 3 or 4 friends to tell them the incredible news. Pancetta is right up there with bacon for creating a bold flavor that works well with the basil. The brick oven helped create a perfectly baked paper thin crust to hold the roasted garlic cream sauce. It all went together magnificently.

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For dessert we tried the Sweet Knots, Hot Dough Knots made with Brown Sugar, Cinnamon and Mascarpone Butter Cream. They were awesome and probably a million calories.

The Brick is in the basement below its sister restaurant Black Bear Bistro. When you come in the front door keep moving and don’t stop for anything. No matter how inviting the main dinning room looks the real treat is the pizza downstairs. The Brick has seating at a few tables and around a bar that faces the brick oven. At the bar you see everything made right in front of you. Additional seating will be available outside weather permitting. At peak times there may be a wait.

Our waitress Angie greeted us and got sweet tea quickly.  She was attentive and made sure we had whatever we needed. The noise level was high at 81 decibels but sitting at a table close to the wall I didn’t have trouble hearing. Check out the menu here then head over to The Brick to get some fantastic pizza.

Lunch With Great Friends

About the only thing better than visiting a nice restaurant with a great chef is visiting with friends, all great cooks. This weekend we met in Radiant, Virginia to celebrate a friend’s retirement with a pot luck lunch. Everyone who came is a great cook except me. Lunch was perfect.

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Ed brought a wonderful vegetarian soup and Pat came with a beautiful fruit salad. On my plate above is my wife’s fresh green salad with Kale, the “it” vegetable of 2014, Bonnie’s Spanakopita a Greek spinach like pie, Mary’s super smooth Broccoli and Rice Casserole, and Steve’s Smoked Salmon.

I am not a big spinach fan but Bonnie does something to her Spanakopita that flips the “I like that switch” in my brain. The fresh herbs and cheese really give it a distinct savory taste. Steve smoked the salmon for hours that morning. It was off-the-charts fantastic with a smoky taste just this side of the over-the-top line giving it a rich woody flavor that was a great compliment to all the dishes.

We loved seeing everyone and thanks for giving me an incredible dining experience that didn’t cost me $300.

Lunch at Frost Cafe in Culpeper

Frost Cafe
101 E Davis St.
Culpeper, VA 22701
(540) 829-0344

American | $

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In the heart of downtown Culpeper, Virginia we found Frost Cafe a vintage diner serving all your favorite comfort foods.

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Ample booth and counter seating means limited wait times even during peak periods like Saturday lunch.

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I saw Corn Beef Hash on the menu and had to try it. I was not disappointed; it was really good real corn beef hash. It pushed the limit of my personal salt tolerance but that would not keep me from ordering it again. It has been so long since I have had corn beef hash I forgot how good it can be. Memories of getting dismal hash so many times have kept me from ordering it. The eggs were eggs and the roll was nice and warm. I would have liked the bacon to be crisper.

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My wife was happy with the fried catfish she ordered. The mashed potatoes and gravy could have used more flavor but her beets were tasty.

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Our server Emily was great and gave us some helpful menu suggestions. The restaurant is a large space that absorbs noise and keeps the level low. Culpeper has some great restaurants like Foti’s and It’s About Thyme, but if you just want a quick solid lunch stop in to Frost Cafe.  Bring cash, they don’t accept credit cards. There is an ATM conveniently located next to the cash register if you forget so you don’t have to wash dishes.