Saturday, February 18, 2012

Found: Fresh Beets!

So, in my last post I lamented the lack of fresh beets during a visit to Pomegranate, but I am happy to report I found them at Local Roots Cafe in the Grandin neighborhood of Roanoke. I have visited this establishment a few times but have been hesitant to write about it because it has never been spectacularly bad or good. I have since changed my mind. I now heartily suggest giving this chic eatery a try.

It was my birthday a couple of weeks ago and my gift is always an evening of no cooking, among other goodies. Since it is my day to be queen, I also get to decide where we go on my non-cooking night. Not finding anything new or interesting to give a whirl in Roanoke, I decided we would give Local Roots another try. The last time we went, the food had been somewhat mediocre and the service was slow, but I am always up for giving places second chances when the sins are minor. So we journeyed down to Grandin for the evening. I made sure to ask for a "warm" table since their storefront is all window. We got a cozy booth across from the bar that had a nice vantage point to see the happenings in the kitchen and the goings-on in the dining room. The menu was MUCH better this time- more well-rounded with delectable sounding bites, a reasonable and eclectic wine list, just better!

We started with an order of mussels with pancetta, an arugula salad with goat cheese and beets, and a bottle of a Spanish Grenacha. We watched the food coming out of the kitchen as we waited and it made us hungry for our impending meal. The mussels arrived in a stout-sized bowl overflowing with yumminess. There was a selection of different homemade breads surrounding the bowl and oodles of fresh green-tipped mussels inside. The broth was heavenly. It was chocked full of pancetta, fresh tomatoes, garlic, fresh herbs and balanced seasoning. They were the best mussels I have partaken of in recent memory. Accompanying the mussels was the salad. The arugula was beautiful and peppery. It was lightly dressed with a raspberry smear on the side of the plate. The goat cheese was a little lacking. I felt like that was the one dark spot. A little more goat cheese would have given that perfect pungency to set off the rest of the salad. But I will tell you what was not lacking: BEETS. They were golden and garnet hunks of perfection. Tenderly toasted, juicy, and FRESH! The salad and mussels set high expectations for what was to come.

Our next course consisted of succulent duck served with sunchoke, couscous, asian pear and szechuan pepper jus and a pork porterhouse served with shitake mushrooms, green cabbage and wood-fired potatoes. Both plates were delicious, but the duck far exceeded the pork. Service was very timely and attentive. Everything was so good we decided to indulge in dessert and port.

The dessserts are not as homey as the rest of the meal. It seemed this was where the chef was trying to flex his gastromolecular muscles. We ordered a chocolate dish that was a freeze dried shell filled with peanut powder and a cream. We also ordered a pear dessert that was a riff on a cobbler. Neither was spectacular, but not terrible either. The Port on the other hand was magnificent. I just think you can't go wrong with a 20 year Tawny to finish off any meal.

Overall, the meal was wonderful and we actually went back the very next weekend for another round of mussels and beets as a pre-movie appetizer. It is nice to see an independent, locally-sourced restaurant doing things well. We will definitely go back!

Local Roots Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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