Freemason Abbey Restaurant & Tavern- Norfolk, Virginia

Located in the downtown area of Norfolk, the Freemason Abbey was built and dedicated as a church in 1873.  Over the years, this location has changed hands of ownership eventually becoming a restaurant in 1988.  This a a unique place with the architectural structure of a church and rustic decor.  There are quite a few treats on the menu so look for the extended review for more details.  She Crab Soup is popular in Virginia;however, Charleston South Carolina has bragging rights for the origin of She Crab Soup.  Scottish settlers in the Charleston area brought various types of bisques to the area.   She Crab Soup is a creamy crab soup with a spicy yet mild kick.  White pepper is often a component of the recipe.  It is a winner at the Freemason Abbey restaurant and can be ordered as a cup or in a crock size.   Another sensational pre-dinner choice is the artichoke dip as an appetizer.  It is a marvelous combination of bacon shallots and artichoke hearts.  Moving on to dinner,  my dining companions and I order three different dishes.  Of the three dishes ordered(Seafood Platter/Chicken Picatta) for the main course, the roast prime rib Aus Jus hands down was deemed the best of the dishes.  The Midwestern beef is slowly roasted and served with hearty mashed potatoes and string beans with almond shavings.  I ordered the seafood platter but I was not terribly impressed.  The crab-cake was very good and fresh tasting.  The scallops and shrimp were over cooked. The good news about the fish was that is was tender:however, the flavor was bland.  On Friday’s different wild game such ostrich, bear or deer on the menu.  As for dessert, there is in an outstanding apricot bread pudding drunk with brandy sauce and smatterings of raisin.  The deep dark chocolate Black Velvet cake with cream cheese frosting is quite a impressive cake.  It is moist and rich with flavor.

Review featured in Crystal Johnson’s East Coast Pit Stops Series:–Soul-Food-Restaurant-Examiner~y2009m7d15-East-Coast-Pit-Stops-In-Search-of-ComfortFood-in-Virginia

What’s cookin’ in Alaska? (by Monica Johnson)

Image from Caribou Crossings Cabins and Adventures

Image from Caribou Crossings Cabins and Adventures

Go ahead and admit it! When you were younger you thought Alaska was one big sheet of ice with nothing but igloos and Eskimos. Well with time, a few episodes of Northern Exposure, and the help of the cruise industries; Alaska is not as much of an enigma as it once was. However, you still might not know what’s cookin’ in the land of the white nights.

Believe it or not Alaska has a huge selection of wild berries from the wilderness regions of the state. They are in limited supply and are a very important part of the brown and black bear’s summer diet. Locations like: Anchorage, Kodiak Island, Juneau, Fairbanks, and the Kenai Peninsula contain these berries (commonly used for jams and jellies). Berries include:

• wild blueberries                        wild blackberries

• wild salmonberries                   rhubarb

• wild ligonberries                       wild black and red currants

• wild rosehips                              wild high bush cranberries

• wild mossberries                        wild fireweeds

But it’s not all about the berries, although they are berry, berry delicious (Just a little berry humor…berry little!). Alaska is known for its cold water seafood. What don’t they have is the question? There’s halibut and trout, but Alaskan Salmon rules, and it is often served as smoked salmon, cured salmon, salmon jerky and indian salmon candy. In other words, salmon is king, but the throne is usually presumed to belong to Alaskan King Crab. Alaskan King Crab differs from dungeness crabs, or the blue crabs found in the other states because of the sheer mass of this crustacean. Alaskan King Crab can easily feed a whole family. Now that’s a meal fit for royalty!

Here’s where it gets interesting! So let the game begin, and the hunters in Alaska enjoy game like: moose, caribou, elk, and bear. It’s not just a delicacy; it’s a major part of many Alaskan’s daily protein, especially those who live outside of the main cities. There are not a lot of fresh, fruit and vegetables available in the winter.

Reindeer, although not native to Alaska, is also enjoyed in the form of commercially available sausage. It was brought to Alaska from Siberia in 1892 because the whale’s, which were a major part of native Alaskans diets, were becoming less and less available.

Now if you happen to go to Alaska and you happen to hear somebody call someone “sourdough” –  don’t incite a riot. They are simply using slang for a person who lives in Alaska! The explanation comes from the Klondike Gold Rush. At that time, everyone kept a pot of sourdough starter in their kitchens. By feeding the starter with a little new flour every few days, the wild yeast was kept alive and they could bake bread at any time. That bread is called sourdough bread.

So, now that you know what’s cooking in Alaska, click here for an authentic Alaskan recipe called Bouillabaisse-Alaska. Try this recipe at home!

Information about Alaskan food was taken from the Alaska Wild Berry Products website: Click here to visit their site!

Other sites: Caribou Crossing Cabins and Adventures