Food, review

Hoke Poke; Richmond, VA

Richmond, VA is very much a foodie town. But there has been a lack of proper poke for years now. Finally my wish has been granted and we have one in the form of the newly opened Hoke Poke in the Short Pump area of RVA. I’ve been three times in the last week.

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So in the vein of Chipotle this is a pick your base and add your mix-ins and finish off with an array of toppings and sauces type place. But of course instead of marinaded beef, chicken and pork you get raw fish! Delicious, perfectly marinaded raw fish!

Rice is the most common base for a poke bowl. The Sushi rice is your typical white rice but the bamboo is a more floral and surprisingly green rice. As well as low carb options, specifically kale and mixed greens. There is a wide array of proteins, both raw and cooked. Salmon and Tuna make up the back bone of their options. With spicy tuna and a sweeter version of both salmon and tuna also available. The mix in are a variety of fresh vegetables and fruits. You get four mix-ins with a large bowl and three with a small.

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The next bar you are going to hit is the toppings bar. Which has some things you would expect; cilantro, wasabi and pickled ginger. But also some more unusual things: seaweed salad and crushed flaming hot Cheetos in particular. You can have as many of these as you want, but the avocado is an up charge.

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Lloyd and I both went for the spicy tuna but I used a lot more toppings than he did. I also decided to try the bamboo rice. It was definitely filling and very tasty. The next time I went I opted for the mixed greens as a base and I think that might be the way to go. But I’m a weird Indian and don’t particularly like rice.

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I must also mention the boba milk teas! We tried the Taro and the Matcha. The boba was perfect and the flavors in the teas were rich and well balanced. I sampled the Thai tea and the golden milk tea on another visit. And if you go I would recommend the Thai tea, its definitely worth the calories. For non-tea drinkers you have to try their lavender lemonade. Have to.

9nWVHtFcThS2IOO4ogYbUAIf you live in the Richmond, VA area or have a Hoke Poke near you I definitely suggest a visit. If you haven’t had Poke and are a sushi fan than you should absolutely figure out a way to get this delight in your mouth hole.

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All in all, a llavender llama, lavender lemonade cheers to Hoke Poke! Thanks for coming to RVA!

Travel

Cuppa Cheer Tea Room; Ladysmith, VA

Lloyd and I recently drove up to Thurmont, Maryland to spend a weekend with some friends. Along the way we we spotted what is easily the cutest little Tea Room I’ve ever seen in Ladysmith, VA. Even the name of the town is darling! It was kismet cause I had googled for places where we could have afternoon tea on our drive up and hadn’t had any luck so when we saw it on an exit sign we knew we had to make a stop. The place is pretty small but that really adds to the coziness. Which was heightened by the cute knick knacks all over the shop. My favorite were the parasols hanging from the ceiling.

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They also had the most twee table settings. Everything was done up in lovely, bright colors with fresh flowers dotting their space.

All of the wall hangings were perfectly spring-like! And dotted all the available wall space. But it was so tastefully done that you didn’t feel overwhelming at all. I especially loves the way they used parts of the tea service in the decor.

But, the most important thing is whether the tea and the food stood up to our rigorous taste testing! Spoiler alert: it was! I also loved the doily detail on the menu!

The tea selection was great. I went for the Victorian Earl Grey and Lloyd had the Burgundy Blast. They were both perfect. Lloyd was in heaven, he loves any tea with hibiscus.

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The Earl Grey was exactly what I wanted with this delightful hint of rose that was unexpected and refreshing. And I just love the way milk sinks into tea so I had to share that visual with you.

The Menu was a sort of pre fixe situation in which you pick the number of courses you prefer. We just did the basic tea for two and were absolutely stuffed. It started off with a delicious pair of scones. Golden raisin and caraway seeds paired with a strawberry shortcake.

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I’m not usually a dried fruit kinda gal but I am lover of caraway seeds. Honestly it was one of the best scones I have ever had. It even came with cutest little side dish of lemon curd and butter.

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Next up we each got a “main” tea sandwich. I got the cheese on toast and Lloyd got the cucumber sandwiches. They were served up with cheese, fruits and vegetables and were scrumptious.

Lastly we finished off with a pastry trio. We were honestly so stuffed that we couldn’t finish all the desserts. But they had a delicious lemon tart, a chocolate chip and shortbread tart and some walnut chocolate fudge.

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I was taken with the cute way they brought out their check. It reminded me Alice in Wonderland.

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Speaking of Terrie and Charlotte I wanted to take a moment to introduce the two ladies I met there. Terrie is the owner and does all the cooking, she was the sweetest lady and her inspired idea for a tea room has definitely been a winner. Charlotte was our very knowledgable server and tea connoisseur.

After dessert we were able to take a little turn around the gift shop. Most of the products are actually hand made by Charlotte who also goes by M’Lady Alanna. I was so impressed with her handmade tea cozies. Dobby the Elf would have been beside himself!

My absolute favorite was this handmade shrug. It looks like something straight out of Outlander. If you read the label you’ll notice it says “Emily Bronte Shrug” this is because they host literary nights about once a month! It sounds fantastic and I’m definitely adding it to my to-do list!

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All in all if you ever find your self driving up I-95 towards DC I think you owe it to yourself to plan for afternoon tea at this quaintly English tea room!

Food

Zuzu Tapas Restaurant, Napa, CA

We only went out to eat once while in Napa, preferring to cook at home. But our one meal out was definitely a home run. Zuzu in Napa, CA is a tapas restaurant that has a full wine and beer list, serves tapas in the traditional Spanish small plate style and also has authentic sangria and paella on hand to satisfy any customer. I got to have dinner with two of my oldest friends (and bridesmaids), Ermentrude and Phryne. As well as my friend, Kimbrough, from Richmond, VA whose heart is as golden as her hair.

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I know small plates are a bit of a fad right now but tapas have been around for much longer than they have been hip in the restaurant scene. There are a couple of different origin stories but my favorite is that King Alfonso X of Spain had some mysterious illness that prevented him from eating large portions. So instead he ate only small meals with wine. This trickled down to the common people and became so popular that to this day wine must be served with food and so small plates are an integral of Spanish food culture. In fact when I visit my family in Spain we stop at this small restaurant in downtown Malaga and eat their entire tapas menu (except the sweet meats). The picture below is circa August, 2014. We are full of food and wine and all smiles!

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But back to Napa, 2018. When I was looking for restaurants I actually found two different tapas restaurants blocks from each other on Main St. After some research I decided we should try Zuzu and I am so glad we did. They don’t take reservations but after a short wait at the bar we were seated and able to cheers to an auspicious start to our Napa travels! They have a great wine collection and we enjoyed a lovely Tempranillo with dinner. But what’s better than Spanish wine with Spanish tapas?

The most difficult thing about tapas is trying to decide what to order. We decide to each pick 2 things and then threw in about three honorable mentions based on the staff’s recommendations. The staff was brilliant and knew exactly what order to brings things out in. They started with the cold items and slowly built up to the heavier offerings. It was the perfect meal and in true Spanish fashion took us over an hour to get through. Some of my favorite dishes were the seared rockfish, roasted beets, arugula and shaved truffle salad and calamari ceviche pictured below. I also loved the flat-iron steak and fried Manchego but by the time we got to the heavier dishes I had put my camera away so I could just enjoy the food and company.

Zuzu is a smallish two story restaurant and we were nestled under the stairs. It was perfectly cozy and intimate this way. And since I’m short I wasn’t even at risk of banging my head! I didn’t try the other tapas restaurant to give a fair comparison but the vibe we felt when walking past to get to Zuzu was definitely not as homey. I think we made the right choice. Although speaking of choices we couldn’t decide what to get for dessert so we just got one of each!

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Clockwise from the top we have a chocolate cream de pot, a caramelized apple empanada, a basque cake and a piece of heavenly tres leches cake. Despite the 12 small plates prior to this all four dessert plates were completely cleared. I can’t say enough how much I loved this meal. If you ever find yourself hungry in Napa and unsure where to eat I think you must go to Zuzu!