Monday, December 23, 2013

Fredericksburg, VA

I have lived in Virginia most of my life and have visited quite a lot of it, but I had never spent any time in Fredericksburg until the Monday before Christmas. Sure, I have passed through it on US highways 1 and 17 heading to DC and to the beach respectively and sure, I have driven by hundreds of times on I-95, but I have never stopped to take in the city until just now. The restaurant being closed on a Tuesday (Christmas Eve) afforded us the opportunity to get away from Funchester for an evening of adult fun.

Our friends Pete and Laurie moved from Gainesville (within visiting range) to Fredericksburg (outside visiting range) about three years ago when Pete was able to buy an insurance agency down there. And in the interim, we just haven't found a way to get together. We finally did manage to get together and because they live right downtown in an old converted factory, we got a great look at downtown Fredericksburg all decorated for Christmas as we made our way to their house. It's quite a beautiful town full of colonial and Civil War history and lots of historic architecture. I'd like to go back and see more of the town than we saw on our 18-hour whirlwind visit.

Venison Summer Sausage

Old Gouda, Always a Favorite
They had munchies all laid out for us when we arrived and after 90 minutes driving through the pouring rain, we were happy to be warm and having cocktails. Believe it or not, Pete made me my first Martini ever. I am not a liquor drinker and the thought of drinking gin up in a glass didn't appeal too much to me, but I really didn't mind it: it was much better than I thought it would be.

Laurie...

...and Ann Kibitzing over Cocktails
This sign is appropriate: we took our two beasts to meet Sadie, Pete and Laurie's lab mix who was a good sport and shared her beds and toys with our dogs.

Don't All Dog Lovers?
After cocktails, we bundled up and walked a couple of blocks to kybecca for dinner. Given that it was Monday night, our options for dining were limited and I for one am very thankful that others were working so that I could play for a change. It doesn't happen very often. And the place was hopping busy, clearly much busier than they expected and were staffed and prepped for. I'm guessing that so many people had the night before Christmas Eve off that they wanted to go out and socialize. Our server handled it like a champ though and I certainly tipped her well for running all night long.

kybecca is primarily a small plates concept, something that I have tried to get to fly without any success in Winchester for years, and so we ordered all the small plates on the menu, except for the boquerones which were 86'ed when we got there.

We ordered lobster spring rolls, shrimp and pork cigars, apples and Manchego, crispy pork belly, frites with cilantro aïoli, Spam and kimchee sliders, and fried Brussels sprouts along with a beet salad from the salad portion of the menu. The spring rolls and pork cigars are standard drinking food. The pork belly was just barely OK; the product we make at the restaurant would embarrass this. The frites were among the best I have ever had and we had to have two orders, they were that good! The Spam sliders were awesome drunk food, but we each only got a nibble because they too were 86'ed when we tried to reorder. The sprouts and the beets were good enough but not memorable. The apple and Manchego salad really was a throw away. I would either rework it or take it off the menu.

Lobster Spring Rolls at kybecca
They have a great selection of wines in Enomatic machines for glass pours, but we ordered off the bottle list, which, compared to what I am used to is a little small and mostly composed of wines that are not my style. Rather than push my palate with one of the many fruit bombs on the list, we had a couple bottles of 2008 Linden Hardscrabble, tried, true, food friendly, and always delicious. I don't usually play it safe when going out, but our server was clearly way too busy for us to play 20 questions in the process of finding a palate-friendly wine. Next time.

Our boy Pete likes to eat so we also ordered a couple big plates: a hanger steak and a confited duck leg. The steak was well enough cooked, but didn't do anything for me in that I am totally spoiled by the local beef that we get at the restaurant. Moreover, the duck confit was just passable and well intentioned but didn't have the depth of flavor that it should have. I should give classes in how to confit things.

In any case, we had a great time at kybecca, great service considering the circumstances, and it is a concept after our own hearts. We'd certainly give it another shot.

Pete and I finished the night back at the house with a touch of whiskey, a local small batch product from Bowman's (known in my day across Virginia colleges as suppliers of some really bottom end aka "affordable" stuff) called Abraham Bowman Pioneer Spirit, a very nice bourbon-like whiskey and as good as any bourbon that I've had recently.

Breakfast at 2400 Diner

The next morning, Christmas Eve, we started by clearing cobwebs with coffee. After coffee, we got a mini-tour of town from Pete on the way to his office, which sits oh-so-conveniently cater-cornered from the 2400 Diner, where naturally, they know him by name.

After checking in at Pete's office in a repurposed historic hotel, we popped across the street around 11:15 to the diner, thinking that we had good timing: after breakfast and before lunch. No such luck. It was jammed and we had to leave a phone number and take a walk down the hill to the Rappahannock River while waiting on a table to clear.

It's a classic Greek diner with a few stools at the counter and booths around the outside. The Greek influence becomes apparent on the lunch and dinner menus, but we came for breakfast. I ordered chipped beef and the server asked me what I wanted it served on. Seriously? Toast. Duh! I then asked her why it was even a question and she said some people like it on biscuits, but then she opined, "Biscuits are for gravy." And so they are. Ann ordered scrapple because she had never had it before and it was pretty decent scrapple, though I like a touch more cornmeal to mine so that it is a touch firmer. Not sure that Ann would ever order it again, but I am so happy that she is open to trying anything.

Prices are extremely reasonable for breakfast and the food is decent enough; needless to say, the portions are vast. We did have to wait about 45 minutes from order to food arriving, so the kitchen was clearly backed up and I didn't really see the reason for it. I could have knocked out breakfast for all the tables in the house in 20-25 minutes. Maybe they just work in slow-mo there. If I lived nearby, I might visit once or twice a year, but I cook a lot better breakfast at home, though that's true for most things.

After breakfast, we got another little tour of the downtown and then we finally had to hit the road back to Winchester, driving through a few crazy snow squalls as we crossed into the Shenandoah Valley and home territory.

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