We don’t eat out a lot. Well, let me rephrase that. We do eat out, but it’s either cheap friend chicken from a gas station, an Italian sub from WAWA, or some fancy ass restaurant where we enjoy the experience that comes along with eating there.
I’ve been really lucky to have been able to have some really, really delicious meals in the last decade or so. 1919 and Marmalade in San Juan, Puerto Rico just to name a few. A few years ago while traveling for work, I ate around Austin and San Diego too.
Where I live, here in Richmond, there’s a food scene that’s been up and coming the last few years. There are some brave chefs out there making some really interesting and challenging food that don’t make you feel like you’re on the set of The Menu while eating. The scene in RVA is casual, but with a focus on southern flavors and often, seafood. I can’t say I’ve ever been a big seafood person. I do try everything that’s put in front of me and I’m pleasantly surprised by fish from time to time, but I digress.
Back to Brenner…
My partner and I keep a list of all the restaurants that make any noise around town or a little ways away (we’ve got DC you know!) We check it and when we have something to celebrate or when we just want try something new, we’ll hit the list and make a reservation. That list was created about 3 years ago and in that time we’ve managed to just keep going back to the same place, time after time.
At this point we’ve celebrated multiple birthdays, bonus celebrations, Christmas dinners, and just because occasions at Brenner Pass. We’ve gone in the Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall. They put a card on the table and gave me a champagne toast for my birthday. I created a collage Christmas card for the chef Brittanny and staff this year just to say “thank you,” for being a part of so many wonderful nights over the past few years.
Date night is never disappointing at Brenner Pass.
Let’s talk about this visit in March of 2023. We were there for a celebration of life and times and knew that it was going to be a dinner to reflect the feeling.
We started with a half dozen of these frilly shelled oysters from British Columbia, CAN. They were salty, clean, and tasted of the sea. The inside of the shells were so lovely I almost wanted to take one home and make something (crystalized shells anyone?) We threw them down, quickly, with a heavy dose of horseradish, lemon, and the perky mignonette.
I chose a new drink for the season, False Friends, and it was like drinking a salad. In a good way. Let me explain, the explanation for the drink indicated that there was a hint of vinegar and a spiral cucumber in and around the drink. When you lifted the cup to your mouth, you smelled the vinegar first and then the cucumber from the glass before tasting the actual drink which tastes of mostly neither. Steve does an incredible job taking everyday stuff and just giving it a kick in the ass that then kicks me in the mouth (not too much though because I’m a toddler and can’t take too much liquor flavor.) The combination of the drink and the oysters were like eating Spring.
Our usual way of eating here is that we order a few drinks, a appetizer or seafood something, and then a few small plates. We rarely actually eat entrees when we go to places because we like to taste as much as we can and our little tummies can’t handle much. This time though, I decided to go big (it went home, but that’s for later.) I saw a new pork chop on the menu and I knew that I had to get it. Side note, when I normally go to a ‘nice’ place, I get the pork chop because it’s easy to cook it wrong and if you can’t make that, I don’t want to eat there again. I knew that it would be good though because everything is good there.
I was right. It was like a 10oz, on the bone, huge chop of pork. It looked glorious. Covered in some sort of bitter salad and Calabrian Chili stuff that created a smoky and sweet flavor along with the tomato reduction. It was a very nice pork chop, but I didn’t realize it was covered in a Chili that I guess I have a hard time with now. So, I ate a ton of it, and set it aside to wait for dessert.
My husband, who doesn’t really eat pasta at home and mostly doesn’t love it, ordered the lamb gnocchi and destroyed it. I should mention that we never eat an entire meal out all at once unless we’re sharing a singular entre. He crushed the plate of perfectly proportioned gnocchi and “yummmmm’ed” the whole time. It was really, really good. Almost an Indian spice, very warm and not quite Winter, but you could taste the cusp of the next season’s inspiration in the dish. The gnocchi themselves were like the softest potato pillow I’ve ever had the pleasure to eat. Literally melted in your mouth along with the sumptuous spiced lamb.
This is the point in the show where we look at each other, full to the brim, and share the “look at the dessert menu, but know you aren’t getting any” look. Lucky for me, I’d finished eating with the intention of looking at that dessert menu. He saw the look in my eye. The defeat that we were about to get a dessert anyway. We did.
We ordered a lemon chevre cheesecake and an Americano.
I know cheesecake is an easy thing to eat/love because it’s cream damned cheese. Guys, this one was seriously the best one I’ve ever had. No real goat flavor, just a creamy texture that created such a sensation in my mouth, along with the lemon curd and oat crush, I wanted to eat the whole thing by myself! I didn’t, but I wanted to. He was able to make room for a few bites after all.
We left with a porkchop the size of one you’d get a standard restaurant and it was lucky enough to be a snack, crushed later that night.
After 12 visits and a handful more to the place next door, I don’t think we’ll stop visiting any time soon.
Stay smol, xoxo