03 August 2010

Chillin' with my homies Shirley, Nielsen, and Sephiroth

As I do with all of my culinary adventures, I'd been planning this day for a while.  The second I heard that Distant Worlds was coming to Wolf Trap I bought tickets.  I didn't even think about it.  It had to be done.  And what a spectacular show it turned out to be.  Let's not get ahead of ourselves, however.  There was much eating and adventuring to be done prior to the show.  Onward my gentle sirs!

Another thing I was eagerly anticipating about this day was having breakfast at Miss Shirley's in Roland Park.  As soon as I read their menu online I popped culinary wood.  Fried green tomatoes?  Funky Monkey Bread?  Creamy bacon grits?  Yes, please.  So after a short trip around 695 West and down 83 South we had arrived.  Here's a tip for all of you potential diners: If you drive a block past Miss Shirley's there's free parking at Spaghetti Eddie's which is owned by the same folks.  Hassle-free parking equals copious amounts of bonus points.

We walked inside and were greeted by both a host and a hostess.  As it was a gorgeous day we requested al freso dining and the hostess happily obliged.  Superb service through and through.  Despite being sat next to a table overflowing with spoiled toddlers, the ambiance was quite pleasant.  I've never seen so many MILFs in my life.  This is definitely where the well-to-do come for breakfast and that is reflected in the prices, but more on that later.

Our waiter greeted us and took our beverage order, returning, drinks in tow, in mere seconds.  I told him I'd been eyeing the menu for weeks and would need help deciding and he gladly provided assistance.  It was almost to the point that he was overjoyed to help me decide.  I half expected him to pull up a seat next to me.

I first inquired about the Market Price for the Eastern Shore Cakes and he immediately waved those away.  "They're too dry" he said and I appreciated his honesty.  Alright, I told him.  How about appetizers?  I had heard good things about the fried green tomatoes, the sweet potato fries, the funky monkey bread, and the grits.  I also mentioned that I'd never had chicken and waffles before, and was looking for an entree that danced the ballet of sweet and savory.  Mrs. Micro had her eye on the smores stuffed french toast.  He said that ordering all of those things would definitely be too much food so he suggested we get the bread, tomatoes, and grits and split the chicken and waffles for our meal.  Done.

I have no idea how they prepared our food so quickly, but five minutes later all four dishes hit our table at once.  Holy Hell this was a lot of food.  We were up to the task?  You're GD right we were.

Funky Monkey Bread
Pull apart bread covered in pecans, bananas, chocolate chips, cinnamon, chocolate sauce, and a dusting of powdered sugar.  Served with even more chocolate sauce for dipping.  Wow.  My first bite shocked my taste buds as I hit a spot of pure cinnamon, but after carefully managing my bites the rest were quite lovely.  It was soft, hot, and deliciously pull-aparty with a crunchy crust that was a tad much in some spots.  I quickly gobbled up the banana and the pecans and dipped every bite into the extra sauce.  Heavy-handed cinnamon dusting aside, this was a great way to start the meal. 

Bready innards
Next up was the FGT.  While the crispy coating and the lemon-herb aoli were fabulous, I was disappointed that I couldn't really taste the tomatoes.  I found that quite odd as we're smack dab in the middle of tomato season.  My dad is pulling out some ridiculous Cherokee Purples from his garden and I've been feasting on them like a great white in a kiddie pool.  Upon closer inspection I noticed that the tomatoes themselves were very pale, almost off-white.  Boooo.  While the crust was fan-tiggity-tabulous, I can't recommend this dish.  Hopefully we just caught an off-batch of tomatoes.

Perty Tamaters
Not so perty tamaters
Last up on our round of appetizers was the grits.  I dug into this dish with euphoric memories of the earth-shatteringly good grits at Mesa Grill.  I just don't know Bobby Flay makes grits that good.  Unfortunately, these weren't quite on par with Flay's.

Scoop o' Grit Loaf
I'd seen pictures of these grits online and knew they were going to be on the... pasty side.  I prefer my grits creamy and bisque-like, but I was hoping that somehow these grits would gooify upon breaking into them.  As you may have guessed, that didn't happen.  The flavor was spot on, just nothing mind-blowing.  I could taste the bacon and cheese and they were great, but I just couldn't get past the texture which reminded me of the paste we used use in grade school.  You could take a forkful of these grits and turn it upside down and they wouldn't budge.  I can't recommend this dish either for those of you who, like me, prefer looser grits.  But for lovers of grit loaf, this is right up your alley.

Now for the main attraction: my first chicken and waffles experience.

I couldn't help but think of Tokyo Breakfast...
This dish would've been monumental if it weren't for one crucial flaw: the waffles had no texture.  Now, since I've never had chicken n waffles I don't know whether or not this is the norm, the chicken was definitely crispified to the max, but I like my waffles with a nice crunchy edge to them.  These reminded me of when I was a kid and too lazy to toast my Eggos long enough to get them crispy.

Needs mo butta!
 Spongy waffles aside, the rest of this dish rocked, the star being the light and fluffy Pappadew-Jalapeno butter.  My only complaint is that I wish there were more.  The chicken was crunchy, tender, and juicy and I loved the honey-mustard drizzle.  After quickly running out of butter to spread around I asked our waiter for some maple syrup and made a little pool of syrup and Miss Shirley's hot sauce (which is suspect is just re-bottled Texas Pete's... Correct me if I'm wrong).  Salty sweet, spicy crunchy.  I see why so many people rave about chicken n waffles.  It hits all the right spots.  Here's a picture of an ideal bite:

Fork of goodness
Finally a picture of the ruins of a once great bounty of food.  You can see Mrs. Micro still hammering away at the FM Bread.  I'm a lucky, lucky man:

The check came out to over $41 which is pretty damn steep for breakfast, especially since we only ordered one entree.  I would definitely love to return to Miss Shirley's to try more of the menu, but at this price point, I'll need some time for my wallet to recover before I consider coming back.

Continuing on with our Day 'o Fun, we made our way down to the D.C. area and hit some serious traffic on 495.  At 10:30am.  WTF?  Don't you people have jobs?  Oh wait, they all work for the government.  RDO's FTW!  Finally spotting our exit I sped off the exit ramp.  We went from congested, exhaust-choked stop-n-go traffic to quiet serene forested back roads.   Well, I guess that's the Greater D.C. area for ya.  Feast or famine.  Our destination was the VA side of the Great Falls Park and we lucked out with a gorgeous day of perfect weather.

It was really neat to read about the canals and how they worked and to see the posts with just how high the water had risen over the years.  See how far up we are in the second picture?  They had a post with lines and dates on it of where the water had risen to that was even higher than that.  Crazy.

I had three places in mind for dinner, depending on what we were in the mood for.  We had some time to kill, but we didn't feel like dealing with the possibility of hitting rush-hour so that ruled out Pizzeria Orso in Falls Church.  Our other two options were Sushi Yoshi and Thai Pilin.  I had heard both were good, not great, but I was in the mood for Thai so we drove the short distance over to Thai Pilin in Tysons Corner.

I knew they closed for an hour at 4 to change over to dinner, but they had no problem seating us when we arrived at quarter of.  You walk up and order at the window then are given a number and take a seat and your food is brought to you.  Not fine dining exactly, but we were dirty and sweaty from hiking so it suited us just fine.  Another dish I'd heard a lot of good things about, but have never tried is Som Tum or green papaya salad.  I also had a hankering for some drunken noodles, called so I ordered them with tofu.

Som Tum
Initially the bitterness of this salad really assailed my taste buds, but as the flavors had time to sit in my mouth I found myself going back to it again and again.  The texture was fabulous, and the bittersweet flavor profile was rounded out by the wonderfully roasted peanuts.  I just kept shovelling more and more of it into my mouth.  The funny thing is the Mrs. was doing the exact same thing to the drunken noodles across from me.

Drunken Noodles with Tofu
While the tofu was a tad dry, the noodles were sweet and scrumptious.  She really liked the snap from the fresh green beans as well.  I tried a few forkfuls of the noodles but my attention couldn't be kept from the salad for very long.  We polished off both dishes almost entirely.  I guess all that hiking really did work up an appetite.  I didn't have high expectations for this place, and while not great, it more than satiated my craving for Thai.  Mission accomplished.  Another thing I'd like to point out is the blazingly fast service.  We walked up at quarter till 4 and we were back in our car and on the road by 4:05 and the show wasn't until 8:30!  Fear not, for we had one more destination on our itinerary before making our way to Wolf Trap: Nielsen's Frozen Custard in Vienna.

After finally locating parking that didn't threaten to tow me, we moseyed on in to Nielsen's.  Immediately upon entering I started to get excited.  The place was open and airy, filled with natural light from big windows and plastered with forest green and wood tones one would expect to find at a golf & country club.  I approached the register and the kid behind it immediately recognized my shirt as a shirt.woot shirt.  I was in a happy place.

Golf Pro Shop or Famous Frozen Custard Venue?
The great thing about Nielsen's is while they serve the traditional chocolate and vanilla custard, they have two other rotating flavors which were coffee and coconut.  I knew I wanted a concrete so after a quick perusal of the toppings I placed my order of a vanilla custard concrete with marshmallow, peanut butter, and cashews.  With the Mrs. love of all things coffee she went with a coffee custard concrete with marshmallow, peanut butter, and oreos.  Let the joyous feast begin.

The main detractor of concretes for me was the fact that they get their name from the ability to turn them upside down and they don't budge... like concrete, ya dig?  I like my frozen dairy treats to be nice and soft and melty.  Boy was I surprised when the kid brought me out an overflowing King's Cup of oozing gooey custardy goodness, served in a plastic bowl to collect the overflow.  "Holy crap", I yelled over to my wife who was still ordering, "look at this thing!"  Ya wanna see, don't ya?  Well, alright...

A concrete that is anything but
Yes.  God, yes.  I was glad I got the vanilla and not the chocolate because every bite was laden with richnes from the peanut butter and cashews.  Every single bite.  Blended to perfection.  The combination was almost overpowering, but I could still detect a subtle marshallowy note.  This thing was just out of control.  I've already been thinking of excuses to go back down to Virginia just so I can go back to Nielsen's.

The Mrs. wasn't quite as blown away with hers as I was with mine, although hers was even more ooey-gooey. 

MMmm, runny...

I didn't particularly like the crunch from the oreos.  I would've preferred the softer cookies you find in cookies and cream and the like. Plus the coffee custard tasted a tad synthetic to me, although whether or not that's true, I couldn't say.  In the case of custard it's never a bad move to stay with the classic vanilla.  Even though she wasn't floored, just look at the pure joy custard can bring to someone:

Happy Mrs. Micro
Isn't she adorable?

With full bellies and even more time to kill we wandered the quaint streets of Vienna for a few hours.  We checked out some antique shops and some kitschy gardening and housewares stores.  Finally around 7 we headed the short distance over to Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts, or simply Wolf Trap, to see one of the most eagerly anticipated concerts of my life: Distant Worlds.

They didn't let us in until 7:30 and they didn't seat us until 8, but I didn't mind.  I was taking it all in.  I hadn't seen this many nerds in one place in my entire life, and I go to the Renaissance Faire every year.  But I can't really talk, I mean, I was there too, wasn't I?

Wolf Trap
Upon entering my program my heart sank.  They weren't playing any of the top 3 songs I wanted to hear.  I was severely disappointed.  It definitely soured my mood and took away from my enjoyment of the concert.  But as the orchestra took the stage, I tried to keep my chin up.  This was Final Fantasy afterall.  The greatest RPG series of all-time.  It was going to be awesome no matter what they played.

Let the show begin
I'm not going to go into too much detail about the songs or the performance.  It was great and went by so fast that I struggled to take it all in.  When the last song (the opera between Maria and Draco from Final Fantasy VI) came to an end people started exiting immediately.  But I sensed something was amiss.  We kept on clapping and cheering and wouldn't you know the conductor came right back out and busted into the #1 song I wanted to hear: Tina's Theme.  I didn't cry like I thought I was going to, I held it together.  I know you're probably thinking I'm an uber-wuss by the thought of crying from video game music, but you have to understand that this music takes me back to being a child playing these games with awe and wonder and the idea of limitless adventure.  It takes me back to a simpler time before the weight of the world turned me into a pessimistic a-hole.

While they performed, they showed the opening credits from FFVI with the credits from the concert inserted in.  People cheered when the names were displayed and that took away from the experience slightly, but nonetheless I was overjoyed to hear my favorite song.  They weren't done yet.  Encore #2 was One-Winged Angel, another one of my top 3 songs.  I was blown away.  I left with nothing but awe and happiness that I was fortunate enough to see some of my favorite video game music of all time performed live by a very talented orchestra.  What an amazing day.  As always, thanks for reading.

Miss Shirley's on Urbanspoon
Thai Pilin on Urbanspoon
Nielsen's Frozen Custard on Urbanspoon

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Nakiya @ Taste of Baltimore said...

I've never had chicken and waffles before - that looks really delicious!

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