03 April 2009

Caesar is rolling over in his grave!

What is food to one, is to others bitter poison.
Lucretius, De Rerum Natura

his past Wednesday a friend and I went to hear Mariza in concert for the second time in two months. At this rate, we will earn the title of fado groupies for sure! As anyone who has ever heard Mariza sing live, she delivers an incredibly moving and passionate performance every time.

Alas, I wish I could say the same for our pre-concert dinner. Neither of us had given much thought to where we were going to eat. The University of Richmond (where the concert was held) has a beautiful campus surrounded by large estates, ponds, lush green hills…and little else. We decided to play Russian roulette with his iPhone and found a little Italian place called Azzuro’s which touted itself as the “best Italian restaurant in the Richmond area.”

This may indeed be true, but I will reserve judgment until I have sampled some other Italian restaurants down in James River country. If it is true, it is a sad day for Richmond residents. To start, they brought us bread that I am certain was purchased from a grocery store three to four days ago: dry, flavorless and utterly unremarkable. I think sandpaper would have been a better choice.

For our first course, I chose the Creamy Avocado Crab Salad and my friend ordered the Oven Baked Scallops in Gorgonzola Cream Sauce. I was curious to taste the scallops as I myself have never baked them before. To give the chef his due, they were not unpalatable, but the scallops were a little over done and all I tasted was the gorgonzola cheese. I may end up trying a spoonful of gorgonzola with mine, but no oven baking. Scallops are delicate little creatures and generally like a short hot butter bath ~ five minutes maximum.

When I took a forkful of my crab salad I wondered aloud what the poor thing had ever done to the chef to warrant such crass torture. Its own mother would not have recognized it, drowning in a pool of mayo like some cheap chicken of the sea! Red onion had been added for colour, but it overpowered any other flavor, including the avocado, so that the battle for my taste buds and culinary respect was lost in one bite.

One would think this was torture enough, but no. We had already ordered our entrees and it was too late to turn back now. Yellow fin tuna for my dining companion and a chicken dish with artichokes for me.

Honestly, I do not think I have ever had a worse dish in my entire life (not including my mother’s chicken livers). I almost asked to the see the chef. Again, there was no sense of balance or respect for flavors and texture. Tomatoes and mozzarella covered the chicken in a red and white oozing mass ~ it looked more like a crime scene than dinner. And not an artichoke could be found in that swamp. None. A few mushrooms lurked about, but other than that…..whew. My friend did not finish his entree either. We literally could not eat another bite, our foodie sensibilities were in such shock. Dessert was unthinkable at that point. We just wanted to run far away!

The wine we each had was quite good, however ~ mine was a smooth shiraz that practically danced a pirouette on my tongue. But as my friend pointed out, the chef had not made the wine!

Mariza made it all better, of course. But just a word of caution ~ when in Richmond, avoid Azzuro’s and do some foodie research!
Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela
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