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Friday, March 24, 2017

A happening surprise - The "King Street" Oyster Bar in Leesburg, Virginia

WHO WOULD HAVE GUESSED - A CULINARY "OYSTER" EXPERIENCE - JUST LIKE A FINE WINE.  

You may wait or even be asked to move down and change your seat when first settling in . . . but don't be annoyed, the more the merrier is the Oyster Bar theme and vibe.  This happening, street-facing, window-exposing restaurant is one you won't want to miss!

The Oyster Bar is one of the newest palette-pleasing spots in downtown, Historic Leesburg.  With an atmosphere that is lively and even loud at times, it exudes a faux water-front mindset or style in both decor and atmosphere.  It has come into its own and the food is definitely worthy of its descriptive name!  Rick Allison, the owner, has dabbled in the past with seafood fare, but he has hit his mark with this very successful and sought-after restaurant (and bar) on King Street in downtown Leesburg, Virginia.

When first visiting the Oyster Bar with friends and co-workers (we working down the street), I tried several of the appetizers and slowly made my way through menu item . . . having a particular mind-set and how I would expect an "Oyster Bar" to taste and feel; I had a Boston or Maine vibe preconceived in my mind.  After the weeks went on, and I experimented with several plates, I came to realize that this food was not only good . . . it was VERY GOOD!  It ventured far from what I was used to in its tastefully "unique" style.  Some dishes adorned a Spanish flare, demonstrating to me that the owner has an obvious knack for seafood with the unexpected twist.  Rick has brought in a culinary team that while adding excitement to his offerings, he is staying in touch with what works price-wise and pulls in people regularly that go "out" to eat and spend their money to get what they want and will only pay for  . . . EXCELLENT FOOD!

Moving right along to the important stuff . . . some of my favorite appetizers are the Blue Crab and Corn Chowder, the Columbian Ceviche (yummy with just the right amount of tortillas to go with and a rarity!), and the Asian Tuna  that several friends order regularly.  Recently, I dabbled with the crab cake (ordering no bread to savor the actual crab cake ingredients).  Growing up in Maryland, I loved to pick crabs with family and friends we caught ourselves, this was a curiosity and typically I won't usually order a crab "cake" enjoying just the pure crab with ALWAYS BUTTER.  It was not the largest crab cake I've ever had (without the bread keep in mind), but the friendly server was kind enough to include and add a side of delightful green beans which quantity-wise then  passed my taste test and it was delicious.  


A great way to sample many of the menu items is to visit during Happy Hour (3:00 - 6:30 pm) where both $5 specials and 1/2 price oysters, along with drink specials are offered.  Two of my initial favorites stemmed from happy hour and are the Columbian Ceviche and the Crab Sliders - both had just the right amount of seafood in each dish.  Some other's  favorites are the Calamari and the Mussels, but really everything is worth sampling.  Lunch starting at 11 am and dinner are served 7 days a week, and the menu includes everything from Filet Minot to decadent desserts with some entree-style salads, a great Burger, Lobster Mac & Cheese and many seafood dishes in between.


My daughter, a foodie well beyond her food years, enjoyed a Basil Encrusted Chicken (Pasta) that she just loved with pesto.  I have to share that she is one of my own biggest food critics and compliments when I cook "Italian" or any meal at home, and she will be now be ordering that Pasta dish again and again because I have seen that she loves food so much that she never wants to be disappointed when it comes to food.  She'll realize in time that when you try more out, you learn more about what flavors work best together and it opens up your palette.  Afterwards  if she grows even more of a love of food and she cooks a lot like I love to do, she'll try to make the dish herself at home and change it up and experiment . . . just to enjoy the process and experiment to have some culinary fun.  

SO . . . DO YOU KNOW YOUR OYSTER?

Given the name "Oyster" Bar, I recently inquired as to the various types of Oysters being offered because I had not dabbled much with fish/seafood varietals or differences-  even though both of my parents are from Boston (dad is a "Southie" and lived a block from the water).  We grew up with all types of seafood and fish and thoroughly enjoyed all foods with the Italian side and my dad (and his dad) loving to cook.  I was completely impressed learning that some oysters are not just saltier than others or take on a different size or shell size and shape (similar to how vegetables, fishes and meats take from their environments), but they truly vary to a point where one can become quite the enthusiast after looking into their differences from waterway to waterway and region to region.  For example, West coast oysters, the owner shared, are smaller and sweeter . . . while East coast oysters are larger and a bit saltier and brinier, encased in shells with more shades of brown, green and white.  

Suggesting a special East coast large oyster with a unique blend of garlic, cheeses and a flavorful combination of spices, the delicacy wowed me once again and was $5 a pop at happy hour.  Don't ask me the name as the oyster which was described and delivered to us, but it will wow your palette and this was not your average "oyster" by any means!

In doing a little oyster research out of a newfound curiosity, I've learned that Eastern Oysters are great for martinis because they are a bit saltier and larger, with a smoother/flatter shell which lays well on a serving plate.  West coast oysters are smaller and sweeter with more jagged shells appearing in shades of black, white, pink, green and purple.  Their taste is sweeter with notes of cucumber, cut grass, watermelon and other flavors have been noted.  Sound familiar?  Maybe like wine notes?  Exactly!  Also, the West coast oyster is less salty, so it lends itself well to Asian-style dishes and they are less briny (vinegary) than the East coast oyster.  

Tah Dah!  I have now been somewhat educated on oysters and want to venture more, all because of a little breath of fresh air in a new restaurant called  King Street Oyster Bar" in the downtown, Historic District of Leesburg, VA.  

Visit and make a reservation even better, but tell them There's Something About Mary's List sent you!  


Read more of Mary's blog which also appears on Mary's web site

Oyster photo credit to EastCoastMagazine.com and some great oyster information by Maris Callahan, she picking the brain of Chicago's Pearl Tavern owner, Matt Balikov.  Thank you!


Thursday, March 26, 2015

LIVE EARLIER TODAY on Good Morning Washington . . . THE WINE KITCHEN IN LEESBURG - Eat, drink and be educated!

"Good Morning Washington" on local Channel 9 (WUSA) visited the WINE KITCHEN in Leesburg, VA today!  


The Wine Kitchen Leesburg
The Wine Kitchen, whose motto is "Eat, Drink, Simply" has gotten it right.  They are filled to capacity every night for dinner . . . their staff has grown and is always extremely educated and friendly.  With a more recent Happy Hour Menu , they offer samples of delectable morsels in a much more light-hearted fashion while still presenting their always inviting DC-style atmosphere.  The Wine Kitchen's great vibe brings me in to one of my all-time favorite American Bistros time-after-time.  

The Executive Chef, Tim Rowley, is a prized possession at the Wine Kitchen and his style and relaxed demeanor add to the enjoyment of the dining experience.  He listens to his patrons if they have something to share and is available.  The local meats, produce and cheeses that he incorporates into his diverse menu, equally mirror this very "real" yet relaxed and palette-discriminating food style.  It is food you can feel good about eating, simply. 


WK Leesburg About Us
NOTE: The Wine Kitchen currently donates a portion of all our weekday lunch proceeds to Loudoun Free Clinic to help in their mission to support health care services for Loudoun County residents who would otherwise do without.

As originally posted, I try to visit every new restaurant in the area, and the Wine Kitchen is no exception.  Not only is their food and wine selection superb, but they have a willingness to educate us and add a bit of "social" to our dining experience.  I think you will just love The Wine Kitchen that has paired with local farms and others to impress your palette. 



The décor in Leesburg reminds me of a DC restaurant.  Their style though is quite unique in that they not only serve you food and wine, but you are adorned with a "descriptive wine card" paired with each glass of wine that you order.  I love this concept because it's both educational and social. 


Whether you are ordering food or wine by the glass (prices vary and are very competitive) or you are partaking in one of their "Flights," they add a unique touch by serving you one of their Wine Cards.  It adds to your dining experience as you try to decipher from your own glass of wine whatever flavors they have poetically described on this little card.  I think you will enjoy this fun, learning experience and walk away with one of those little wine cards as a special souvenir from a very special restaurant.  It's a great concept.


There are too many dishes on the menu that I love to name, but suffice it to say "everything is top-notch."  The gourmet infusion into their farm-style dishes, as well as European introductions, appeal to the most meticulous taste buds and will possibly cause you to pause.  Some of my favorite dishes (they change often) have been the scallops (however they are being offered), the Butternut Squash Soup, and the Burrata is to die for you must try.  Others I've enjoyed have been:



The Rosemary Gnocchi - sweet potato, kale, walnuts, blue cheese and pomegranate reduction
The Hanger Steak  (A FAVORITE ) celeriac walnut risotto, sautéed spinach and shallot gastrique
The Braised Short Ribs - celeriac and black garlic puree, smoked mushrooms, sweet pan soy sauce 

Each day they have a selection of wonderful cheeses they present on their blackboard and under "Cheese and Charcuterie" offering three artisanal cheeses for $13 or a Charcuterie Plate for $12.  This is one of my favorite menu items, being Italian and enjoying worldly cheeses and platters of this type.   If you want to get a glimpse before dining, they have more than one location but the  Dinner Menu noting happy hour morsels in Leesburg is wonderful.

When it comes to their wines, it goes without saying that their name says it all!  The fact that they offer numerous non-domestic wines too from all around the world, I very much appreciate.  For several years now, I have given up on US wines (unless they are produced by a local, small vineyard) because they did not agree with my head, and I learned this stems from possibly the pesticides used or added preservatives for a long-term shelf life.  I have no worry at the Wine Kitchen, regardless, and with plenty of wine varietals to choose from and the obvious success of this restaurant today, others should mirror the concept. 

What also makes the Wine Kitchen so unique, is the offering of a smaller size portion of plated food (smaller plates).  They are certainly hearty enough, and I find them to be the  ideal portion.   The Wine Kitchen in Leesburg was one of the first to offer what I deem "gourmet" food in a lighter quantity and at a reasonable price.  The best part of this concept for me, I do not go home stuffed and feeling like I spent a fortune on dinner and a glass of wine.  Nor do I feel guilty not able to finish and having to bring home food I did not need to pay for in the first place.

The small plate concept is smart amidst a Town filled with busy, working locals, tourists on a budget venturing out, and simply people that like to go out to eat without spending a fortune . . . the Wine Kitchen has gotten it right, in my opinion, and they are filled to capacity every night for dinner because they have.

Because I originally wasn't keen on a few aesthetics of the restaurant (when they first opened up), I didn't feel compelled to return over and over if I was venturing out on a busy weekend night.  If you arrive early for your reserved table or you do not have a reservation for even one of their bar stools, you have to find a comfortable place to wait and it's not easy.  Their bar is not your typical restaurant bar, so it's too awkward to stand behind it because of those having dinner.  This leaves you in an open area amidst on-looking tables of diners and no comfortable place to lean and wait . . . this has been my only criticism of this beautiful restaurant to date.



The Wine Kitchen is a hot spot in Leesburg and you need to wait it out - your table, the food and the wine are all well worth it and your  experience will hopefully be FABULOUS.

Enjoy yourself - Mary!

The Wine Kitchen - Leesburg
7 South King Street
Leesburg, VA  20175
(703) 777-9463
The Wine Kitchen



Mary Dionisio Roberge - you can also find my blog on my Realtor web site with McEnearney Associates in Leesburg VA





Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Live and play in Leesburg - view a beautiful (historic) home for sale in downtown Leesburg!





See one of the most beautiful examples of a historic home (built in 1780) in downtown Leesburg and only steps away from all of the wonderful restaurants, shops and businesses I love to talk about and voice my opinion on this Blog.






Mary Dionisio Roberge



You can also find my blog on my Realtor web site with McEnearney Associates in Leesburg VA



Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Fabulous - my local perspective on Chimole


CHIMOLE  Tapas Bar & Restaurant - Unique, delicious Honduran Food, ART and DANCING!



If you have not been to the newest, happening restaurant and bar on King Street in the Historic District of Leesburg, you are missing out!  Filled with such "energy," the live music and style of this special restaurant causes one to pause and ask "AM I IN LEESBURG?"  We are lucky to have it. 
The food is excellent, and after going through some growing pains very early on due to the "instant" attraction of locals to this very festive restaurant, you won't be disappointed and should try it again if you have not been recently.  The food is homemade by the owner who buys the best ingredients, and I can attest to this having bumped into her grocery shopping!  Yovanna has a warm and welcoming personality that adds just that extra touch to make you want to come back time after time. 
CHIMOLEShe has music often . . . but on Friday nights (yes they're back!) it's one of my favorites (Toto Rivera & Alex) who bring energy to the evening with American/Latin live music.  The dancing begins after 8:30 pm or so with live music and ends with even those who claim to have "two left feet" dancing in the aisles.  Enjoy dinner and music or pop by after dinner elsewhere and unwind.
One of my favorite attractions of this cozy restaurant and bar is the international artwork adorning the adjoining gallery walls, also a part of Chimole.  Take a stroll with a glass of Jovanna's wonderful wine offerings and fall in love with a piece or two and bring it home.  I did!  To get a glimpse of the atmosphere, Take a peek and tell Yovanna that Mary sent you!   
The uniqueness of this restaurant and wine bar does not stop at your musical and visual senses, the wine selections are meaningful and well-priced.  One of my favorites is a Tempranillo blend, and I am very particular about my wines.  She offers organics as well.
Do not miss out on this classy, warm restaurant that now has an outdoor area for the warmer months and a fire going for those daring souls who enjoy the outdoors all year round.  The back patio will grow and have a bit more work done in time, but I for one will be frequenting it. 


Enjoy yourself -  Mary Dionisio Roberge


You can also find my blog on my Realtor web site with McEnearney Associates in Leesburg VA

Monday, December 17, 2012

The New Lounge at Palio Ristorante Italiano - Revised in February 2015!

The Friday before Thanksgiving, a couple friends and I stopped by the new lounge at Palio in downtown Historic Leesburg.  I need to share . . . it is truly gorgeous. The exquisite tile floors glisten, the chandelier sparkles, and the unique custom wood bar beckons you to sit and stay awhile.  The owner, Michael O’Connor, has really outdone himself and proves why he is a strong advocate for bringing good food and atmosphere to Leesburg.

For those who are familiar with the original, smaller bar area, this is so much more: more tables, more bar space, music and more socializing.  The bartenders are very personable and they really know their wines.  Check out this Peach-tini that my friend ordered - a full bar available:



And of course, what would a trip to Palio be without the food? A cook, and half Italian myself, I know good Italian food when I taste it. Palio has gone through a few Chefs, and after a few recent visits, their food was delicious and the menu much more diverse.


During a past visit, we tried the delicious Squash Soup which was rich, creamy and could have been a meal in and of itself.  We also had the Buffalo Mozzarella, and I mean the REAL deal.  It is luscious, melt-in-your-mouth goodness served on a bed of delicious greens and beautifully presented.  The portion was plentiful, and you haven’t had real Italian Mozzarella until you’ve tried this.  It reminded me of Italy.  Next we had the Calamari, served with a home made marinara sauce.  Calamari can easily be overcooked to the point of chewiness, but at Palio is comes out tender and just right.

All in all, it was a great night in just the kind of friendly, yet upscale, lounge atmosphere that Leesburg has so badly needed. Be sure to stop by the next time you are out on the town!



2 West Market Street, Leesburg, Virginia
Palio of Leesburg
703.779.0060




Enjoy yourself -  Mary Dionisio Roberge
You can also find my blog on my Realtor web site with McEnearney Associates in Leesburg VA

Friday, October 26, 2012

Superior Nails

This family-owned nail salon is by far the best in town. Paul and his wife treat their customers like gold. They are obvious veterans of the business and had a salon in Sterling for many years before moving to Leesburg. They will get to know you and remember your name. My daughter loves that they are very “detailed” and do great designs that match her nail color really well!

Not only is the service excellent, it is very reasonably priced - $40 for a mani/pedi that comes with paraffin wax. Personally, I think it’s the best pedi massage I’ve had.

The environment is also very relaxing, with soothing music playing in the background.  Plus they allow you to relax as you want while sitting in the pedi chair. This is not just a nail salon either - they also cut hair, do waxing and more. Most importantly, it is extremely clean and overall top notch.

Superior Nails is located just off Battlefield Parkway in the Exeter Shopping Center, where the new 7-11
is located.

700 Fieldstone Drive NE, Leesburg, VA 20176
(571) 918-0926

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Travinia Italian Kitchen - a marvelous spot in Leesburg!


Travinia Italian Kitchen has been a great addition to Leesburg's growing restaurant scene.  With live music, outdoor seating, welcoming and fashionable decor ambiance, and great food, Travinia is sure to be one of Leesburg's hot spots this spring and summer.

First, the food: Their menu features delicious Italian comfort food and Travinia's own special dishes.  While they went through a rough patch with their food I noticed, it has been great again for the last couple of months!  Here is a sampling of  my own favorites:

  • Rigatoni Bolognese: Braised Short Ribs in a red sauce with a dollop of Mascarpone (an Italian Cream Cheese that melts beautifully and in your mouth!) tops this exquisite dish, all served over a hearty bowl of Rigatoni.
  • Veal Scaloppini: Simply delicious and plentiful!  I go a more Italian traditional route and have red/marinara sauce over just my Capelini instead of the veal sauce which is a lemon butter with artichokes, mushrooms and pancetta. 
  • Polo Isabella: Chicken Breast (add risotto, yum!) and goat cheese with a lemon butter sauce served over a bed of spinach.  This is a favorite of many of my friends.
  • Mussels: The mussels I had came in their own "nontraditional" sauce which I loved.  A wonderful treat which I highly recommend - you will not want them to take your plate if there is bread left and scooping up the sauce using your shell/spoon is a delight!
  • Margherita Pizza: My daughter gets this almost every time and loves it.  Served with fresh mozzarella and plum tomatoes.  A great kid-friendly dish that adults will enjoy as well.
  • I've enjoyed the Caesar, Spinach & Goat Cheese and Granny Smith Apple (not what you think) salads which are all good and plentiful.  When ordering one to accompany your own Entree, "share."
  • One dish I do not recommend and commented on to a waiter for the kitchen (as did several friends who I asked not to judge them on this dish!) is the Butternut Squash Ravioli.  Why?  Simply because they are served in butter, and it is too much and does not compliment the ravioli.  Butter turns to oil too when heated for a while, so if you love Butternut Squash Ravioli as I do, ask for a sauce substitute like a "light cream."  I'd love to see them pair these with a light Sage Cream Sauce I make for my own yellow squash ravioli which would compliment it and not overpower the delicate flavor of the squash. 
Next up, ambiance: Immediately upon your entering the restaurant, you are greeted by a lovely atmosphere with plush couches and a hostess who treats everyone who arrives like gold.  I believe she has been there since the restaurant opens, and she is an incredible asset to their team.  Now that it is warm outside, you have a number of seating options:  1) indoors at gently curving rows of tables and spacious booths; 2) outdoors on the patio where there are fire pits that add charm and fun to the restaurant; or 3) the bar area, which opens up to the outdoors in the spring and summer for some wonderful breezes.  If you choose to sit indoors, you can see your food being prepared through the glass divider to the kitchen.

On the weekends, allow for a wait time, but do not be dissuaded from staying - Travinia has a spacious waiting area with plush couches and their wait times are often shorter than they say they will be.  Kids and adults alike are able to sit much more patiently than in such a relaxed environment.

The background music is lively without being loud, so it is always possible to have a conversation with your friends and family while you dine at Travinia.

And speaking of music - Travinia has live jazz every Wednesday from 7 to 10pm.  I so was pleasantly surprised to find this out when I was at dinner one evening, so we decided to stay longer to enjoy the fun duo that was performing!  And coming soon, there will be a band every Friday night from 10pm to 2am with the dining area cleared for dancing.  I can't wait for the fun to begin!

Be sure to check out this happening and delicious restaurant the next time you treat yourself to an evening out.  You will not be disappointed.

1605 Village Market Blvd SE, Suite 104, Leesburg, Virginia
http://www.traviniaitaliankitchen.com/travinia-leesburg-va.php