Monday, March 28, 2011

First date jitters

Guys take note, when trying to impress a girl on your first date, make reservations for a quiet, fancy restaurant. However be careful not assume that taking her to the next clichéd Italian restaurant is going to impress any girl. Instead, be creative and try out something new, like French food; all of the fancy, none of the cheese. Your vegetarian date will love this… as long as you overcome some of the barriers of French cuisine.

For a poor college student, French cuisine, with its foie gras and filet mignon, can really take a toll on one’s wallet, especially when paying for two. Furthermore, French food, like the foie gras and filet mignon stated above, are typically for the carnivorous diner. Rarely do we find French vegetarian foods so make sure that when you take a vegetarian out to a date that she doesn’t end up eating just a baguette. However, not all French cuisine needs to be expensive or meaty. I recently found a nice restaurant called Brasserie Montiel that was very affordable and surprisingly offered many vegetarian dishes.

Brasserie Montiel is a French restaurant in Charlottesville, and only about a 5 minute drive west of the UVA campus. With miniature candles illuminating every table and soft violin music playing in the background, their relaxed atmosphere is very conducive to conversation. In addition to the wide selection of vegetarian entrees, Brasserie Montiel also offers many mouth-watering vegetarian appetizers ideal for sharing. So for about $10-15 dollars per person, you can enjoy a romantic dinner with your significant other.

Brasserie Montiel offers more vegetarian appetizers and entrees than an average French restaurant in Charlottesville. There are different menus for breakfast, lunch and dinner, each with a variety of options for vegetarians. In the dinner section, the appetizers include dishes like the Baked Brie Cheese and Berries, Asparagus Baked Fig and Berry Compote. For my visit, I ordered an Eggplant, Portobello Mushroom, Seitan Moussaka as my entrée and a Wild Berry Medley and Grand Marnier Sabayon for dessert.

I was surprised to find Seitan in my food because it isn’t typically served in French cooking. Seitan, wheat gluten used as imitation meat, has a sort of spongy, doughy taste to it. Typically eaten by Buddhist monks on a strict vegetarian diet, I felt appreciated that the chef’s consideration to vegetarians.

seitan kind of looks like this

The sabayon was also delicious. Sabayon is a very light, fluffy custard-like dessert, made of egg yolks, sugar and sweet wine. My sabayon had a tinge of citrus as it melted in my mouth and balanced perfectly with the fresh, juicy berry medley of blackberries, blueberries and raspberries.

sabayon, anyone?

Eating the freshly baked bread that Brasserie Montiel served on the house reminded me of the infamous words of the female Chef, Collette , from Disney’s Ratatouille, “How can you tell how good bread is without tasting it? Not the smell, not the look, but the sound of the crust. Listen. [Bread crackles] Oh, symphony of crackle. Only great bread sound this way.” At Brasserie Montiel, the warm baguette crust crackled as I tore it apart and dipped it into the light, fluffy butter and the olive oil dressing. I felt like I was in France, sitting on the streets of Paris underneath an oversized red umbrella enjoying a meal outside on a warm summer’s day.

Sounds exquisite, oui? Your date will thing so, but your wallet will thank you.

Celery rating: 8/10

Atmoshere: 8.5/10

Quality of food: 8/10

Pricing: $$

Sweet Frog

If you haven’t yet visited Sweet Frog, GO! Located in the downtown mall, this all natural frozen yogurt store has is one the best new additions to Charlottesville.

The entire store if about the size of a small classroom cutely decorated in a pink-green motif.

Once inside, you’ll feel like a kid again, stepping into the candy store with a handful of coins The soft-serve froyo comes in a variety of flavors that rotate throughout the week. Aside from the classic flavors like strawberry and chocolate, they also try to mix it up with some wacky ideas like green tea, hazelnut, peanut butter and even coffee. I even stumbled upon some Red Velvet Cake flavored Frozen Yogurt! For those of you who are like me and have a hard time deciding what to order, I suggest you go with the classical Original Tart flavor. Unlike most frozen yogurts, the Original Tart actually tastes like yogurt! This tangy dessert is not too sweet and is perfect for anyone watching their carb intake.

The frozen yogurt is self-serve with and comes with about 10 flavors to choose from.

After selecting the yogurt (you can mix and match different flavors however you please), you will move on to the toppings station that includes everything from fresh fruit to gummy mochi (a Japanese treat) and even cocoa puffs cereal!

Everything looked so delicious that I had a very difficult time choosing what to get.

Now’s the perfect time to test out those dessert making skills and at only 39¢/oz, it is much cheaper than culinary school. After thorough contemplation, I settled on a Red Velvet Cake base with pretzels, fresh fruit, brownie bits and toffee chips. My ensemble was delicious, but I suggest trying the Original Tart Flavor if it’s your first time an authentic experience. Reference for the future: pretzels and ice cream go together like peanut butter and jelly: yummy alone, but delicious together. I strongly recommend it. Try it yourself! But fair warning: overindulging may result in singing taste buds.

Celery rating: 9.5/10

Atmoshere: 9/10

Quality of food: 8/10

Pricing: $

eat it with pretzals!

Red Velvet Yogurt with Blackberries, Strawberries, Toffee Chips, Brownies, and Pretzels

load on the fresh fruit!