Jims Galley

Jims Galley

Friday, May 24, 2013

Restaurant Report: the new Venture Kitchen and Bar Hampton VA

Restaurant Report: The New Venture Kitchen and Bar Hampton VA

9 East Queens Way, Hampton, Virginia 23669  TELE 757 325 8868

I can’t say enough how pleased I am to have dined only the second day of opening at the new Venture Kitchen and Bar. This place is owned and operated by my friends Carlyle Bland and his lovely wife Chrissi who also own one of Hampton’s most popular pubs, Marker 20. The new Venture is located only a few doors down from Marker 20 in what used to be Brents. When you go there you will not recognize the place at all. They did a MARVELOUS renovation. Awesome bar, very clean lay out throughout, all custom built tables, the place just has a great feel to it! Really comfortable.

When I first heard Carlyle was opening up a second place it did not surprise me because they have done so well with their first restaurant venture that now has celebrated its tenth anniversary. What did catch me ear was that they were going to be featuring gourmet pizza. Now THIS I was excited about because I have been researching pizza and artisan dough making for many more years than I care to remember. Yes, I am getting old.

In the Hampton area as far as I can tell from the many experiences of trying local pizza fare, the news is not good. Only one or two places even do a half attempt at a good New York style pizza. And if you are like me a true Neapolitan pie is something to die for, but will die trying to find one around here. I have not found even one place that even runs oven temps high enough to do a Neapolitan pie, 900 to 1200 degrees, San Marzano tomatoes, maybe some buffalo Motz. I just cant find it and that is why I make my own. But even on my outside grill I can barely break 550 degrees. To my dismay pizza places around the Hampton area run oven temps anywhere from 450 to 550 degrees and folks, that just does not cut it.

For something as basic and simple looking as a pizza, to do it right is an extremely complicated thing and involves minute details in every step and every little thing makes a HUGE difference. Things like oven temp, the type of flour and oil, the kind of water, sourdough cultures or commercial yeast, kneading time, resting and ferment time, cooked or un cooked sauce, the type of tomatoes, fresh ingredients or dried, and the list goes on and on.

So, my hope was that at this new restaurant they would put together at least a decent version of a NY pie. I knew nothing of what they were really planning on doing so I got a big surprise when I walked in and checked out the kitchen.

The owner and my friend Carlyle was there and greeted me and was kind enough to let me take some pics and interview the head chef John Ledbetter. John is an experienced capable young man who knows his stuff and was a delight to talk to.

What I quickly realized is that this was not a cheap sub shop and frozen pizza dough outfit. No, this is a high class Tapas and Pizza place with probably the best Pizza you will find anywhere in Hampton Roads. I guess it is best described as California style however with some good legacy to the real neo style pie. They are doing some pretty amazing things like this…….
Toppings, lets start with braised short ribs, homemade real smoked sausage and home made meatballs made with their own slow roasted pork. Nothing frozen, all homemade, and nothing that fell out of a food service truck. This is the real deal. You will not believe the difference this makes. Absolutely delicious!

For cheese, they had fresh motz whole and grated which was fine. The may of had buffalo motz but did not see it and forgot to ask. It was good and just the right amount. The server also grated fresh parm and pepper at the table. Great touch!

FINNALLY A RESTAURANT THAT KNOWS HOW TO TURN ON A OVEN!!! The pizza oven in the kitchen is new and my friend chef John cranks it up to a decent 650 degrees. This means a pie in four minutes and giving the crust a nice spring. Also they have an excellent char on top of the dough that usually will only be found in a neo pie baked over 900 degrees. Keep up the good work!

The other nice thing about the dough is that they are doing a longer bulk ferment, two days or maybe longer. So far they are the only place I know that does it and it makes a difference. Most pizza places around here do a one day cold rise if even that long. My pies I bulk ferment for three to five days.

The flour is a bread flour which is a higher gluten content. They are not using a high gluten commercial flour like most places. They don’t need it, the preparation they are doing with the dough is very good and they are turning out a very nice dough.

One thing that the restaurant really pushes is that everything is made there on site, and fresh. I could not get pepperoni on my pie because they will be making it there fresh and just had not starting doing so yet. Not prob.

All in all I can’t say enough good things about this place. If you want something close to a real Neapolitan pie this is about it. It is flat out delicious and none of the places I have been to around Hampton Roads can compete with this. Their selections also are really well done.

So, give them a try! Prices are reasonable for a 10 inch pie. Don’t be expecting anything larger, they only have one size but it is a full meal for one, or even two.

This restaurant just opened and the oven is just starting to be seasoned. The only thing this place will do is keep getting better, and they hit a home run right out of the gate.

Good eats, Good reads, and tight lines.


Jim Baugh
Author of HOOKED
Soon to be released COOKED

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

London Broil with Shroom and Onion Gravy

Jim’s London Broil with Shroom and onion gravy.

Here is on of my favorites that is also going to be featured in my next novel COOKED. Great dish, easy fast to make, and inexpensive. Very healthy to!!

London Broil
One large onion
Your fav sliced fresh mushrooms
2 cups white ine
Two packs brown dry gravy mix
Cracked pepper and Sea salt to taste
Jasmine Rice
1\2 stick butter
Montreal Seasoning
Two cloves crushed fresh garlic
1\2 cup sesame oil

First to prepare the meat. Coat with Montreal seasoning, pepper and salt. Both sides and also take a fork and stab the meat throughout to help aide the marinating process. Add two teaspoons of white wine to the meat and drizzle some sesame oil over the meat. Place in fridge overnight.

In a large skillet, (cast iron the best) melt one stick of butter on medium heat. Place the London broil in the skillet and braise both sides. Maybe two or three minutes cooking time for each side. Remove and set aside on a large cutting board.

Take a sharp knife and cut very thin slices of meat and place in a large backing pan. Once all meat is cut, drain the drippings from the sauté pan on top of the meat and drizzle with sesame oil. The meat should sort look almost like sushi tuna. (Very red and only braised on the outside of the meat.

Bake in oven at 350 for only about five to ten minutes then finish it off under the broiler for maybe 30 seconds. You want to be careful and NOT TO OVER COOK THE LONDON BROIL!!! It should still be fairly red when it comes out of the oven.

Mushroom Gravey:

This is simple. Melt butter in pan add wine and lot of cracked pepper. Toss in your brown packet gravy and add your water and some pan drippings. Add sliced onion and mushrooms and cook until nice and tender. Once sauce is thick, simmer on low. Very easy sauce to make however people will think you slaved for hours in the kitchen preparing it.

I served this with a side of Jasmine rice and it was just awesome. Typically I will use wild rice however I prefer the Jasmine. But what ever is your fav rice just use that.

This is an inexpensive dish to make and one of the best things is the LEFTOVERS!! You will never have a better steak sandwich than one made with the London Broil. Extremely good!!!!

Jim Baugh

Restaurant Report "Chesapeake Grill" Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel Five thumbs up.

Restaurant Report  “Chesapeake Grill” Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel

I have no idea why as many times as I have crossed the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel that I never thought to stop in and check out the restaurant. For some reason a conversation came up where this place was mentioned and like a light bulb turning on I thought, “Gee, I bet you could get a good fish sandwich there”. I mean really, if you cant get fresh fish dining over the Chesapeake Bay some 10 miles out over the water, then where else are you going to get it.

I still figured that this was going to be frozen food service product like you get at most restaurants. I was wrong.

I can be such an airhead. Parked my car, walked in to this place which up front looks like a gift shop with a little bar in back where you can order a limited menu, of which I did not see any fish sandwich.

I ask the lady behind this little counter if they had a fish sandwich on the menu. Fact is, this is all about I was expecting, a small food counter to order, small selection, and mostly to go. The lady said,

“Well, if you don’t find what you like here, why don’t you try our full service waterside dining experience?” I said,

“I thought this was it!”

“No sir, just walk down this isle and take a left, a waitress will be right with you”

OK!!! Now I got my game on, getting pretty excited here. WALLLA!!!

“Hi there mam, and sure I would love this table right by the window. Fantastic!!! I see one of my buddies fishing the rock piles, also a great view of a nuclear submarine heading up the bay, and a great view of a massive approaching storm moving eastwardly. Better call the girlfriend and tell her the Eastern Shore is about an hour away from building an ark!”

I sat down, and had excellent service from the waitress who was very attentive. Large selection of beer, I don’t drink beer really but had to have a Legend Brown Ale, just had to. The menu was fairly large and well laid out. It was explained to me that the fish was fresh local Flounder caught commercially and all the seafood, Oysters, Clams, everything was fresh.

Very pleased with what was brought out for me, a free cup of vegetable lentil soup that was awarded to me because of a free coupon I got when I purchased my CBBT Toll Ticket. The soup was excellent. I also tried the she crab soup and it was with out a doubt fresh crabmeat. I could tell is was all backfin lump, and not frozen. GREAT STUFF. Of course it needed more sherry, but I always like extra sherry with bisque.
The main course for lunch was beer battered flounder. I usually go for a lighter breading, but was curious to see how they would prepare this. It was fantastic!! FRESH FLOUNDER!!! Totally awesome. The tarter sauce was great as well as the slaw. Fries good to!

The atmosphere and view is really awesome and I was totally impressed with how good the service was. These people are on top of their game and really do a terrific job!!

So I will say this, even if you don’t need to cross the bridge tunnel, going to this restaurant is worth the toll and the trip. A truly great experience and I for sure will be back. Yall check it out and tell me what you think. I would give this place five stars and look forward to going back.

Jim Baugh

Virginia Originals \ Chesapeake Grill
Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel
One Island or call us at:
ph. 757-318-4818
fax: 757-318-6449

Hours of Operation:
Summer Hours (mid-April thru mid-December)6a.m.-10p.m. daily Current Fall/Winter Hours (mid-December thru mid-April) 7a.m.-7p.m. daily Closed Christmas Day
Hours subject to change

Jim's Seafood Marinara

Jim’s Seafood Marinara

Five cloves crushed fresh Garlic
One stick butter
Fresh chopped parsley
Cracked pepper
Sea salt
1\2 pound jumbo shrimp
1\2 pound Large scallops
50 fresh top neck clams
Two cups white wine
Whole wheat spaghetti
1 cup crushed tomatoes

Here is a great version of one of my favorite seafood dishes. It is a fresh seafood marinara however rather light on the sauce. Easy to prepare and a great company dish.

First up, pre steam you clams until they just pop open and set aside. I will remove about half the clams from the shell to add to the sauce, then add the clams in the shell at the finish.

Put your butter in a large sauté pan and melt, then add garlic and cook until lightly brown. Then add wine and then add all of the seafood and cook until barley translucent.

Add about three cups pre cooked whole wheat spaghetti as well as to the pan, stir over medium heat. Sea salt and caracked pepper to taste. Add parsley and stir.

Set for four minutes on medium heat and then add clams in shell and garnish with your fav parmesan and romano cheese.

Very easy dish to make and absolutely delicious! One version of this is to top off your favorite blackened fish, pre cook the fish and simple lay it on top of the bed of seafood pasta. Your company will go nuts!!!

Jim Baugh