G’s Birthday: Blue Apron & Red Rooster Bar
Far, far too long ago, G & I ate at Blue Apron & Red Rooster Bar in Salem. And we meant to go back for the Spring menu. But I was trying to write a Master’s thesis. And the we meant to go in Summer, but G & I were fixing up a house to sell and then fixing up the house we bought. And then we meant to go in Autumn, but we were still working on that damn house (and still are). But G’s birthday came a few days after Thanksgiving, and I knew it was the perfect excuse to finally go back.
This time we had a reservation, so we didn’t spend any time in the wee little bar area (I think four people can squeeze in at the bar–if they’re skinny), but I do love the narrow, shoebox space with it’s exposed brick and warm lighting. The Old Fashioned I ordered at the table was a little weak–I think the bartender added water to it, which I personally am not a fan of (I like my Old Fashioneds boozy and boozier)–but I’ve heard the martinis are good. I’ll have to try a martini next time. Or stick to wine (they do have a well curated wine list featuring wines from around the globe and close to home).
Surprise, surprise: we started with the Duck Confit. Again. Again! I could eat this every day, actually. (I’m regretting not using the flash…oh well). Anyway, no hand cut fries or pickled vegetables this time, but rather some lovely pears and apples and walnuts with a little frisee on top. Tender, moist, and that charred skin? More, I need more. I managed to pick lightly at the duck, letting G enjoy his fair share of the birthday confit, but when he left to use the restroom I may or may not have picked every last bit from the bone. Graceful? Maybe not. But so so good.
Next was one of the night’s specials: Bouillabaisse. One of the most formative moments of my food history is a Bouillabaisse I ate at a tiny French restaurant in downtown Atlanta during food week. I have no idea what the name of the restaurant is and it took me for-ev-er to find the place on my bike, but I met up with my summer love interest (the former co-owner of a restaurant I loved called Tea Space), the former chef of Tea Space, and the chef’s girlfriend. It was the first “real” restaurant I went to as an adult. With adults. And I had no idea what I was eating, but I fell in love with it–the rich yet fresh dishes, the wine, the conversation, and the intimate space of the restaurant. I think I can trace my love of eating out to that one meal.
And at that meal, I ate bouillabaisse. Bouillabaisse symbolizes the perfect marriage of simple, rustic food and art–simple seafood, broth, bread. Blue Apron’s bouillabaisse, while maybe not as perfect as the first one from that meal in Atlanta, was incredibly satisfying. Featuring rockfish (I think?), shrimp, mussels, and scallops, the seafood was balanced with a rich broth that intensified the sweet and salty elements of the seafood. The fish, for me, was the weakest point–it seemed overcooked, though G thinks that’s the way it should be cooked…I’m still going with overcooked (and not very flavorful). The shrimp, mussels, and scallops? And the zucchini (by zucchini, I mean, the best zucchini I’ve ever had–tender but still crunchy, seared…)? Perfection. And, as last time, extremely filling. Even with the both of us eating off of it, we couldn’t finish it all.
Our other dish was another special: NY Strip Steak. I think by NY Strip, they meant the entire state of New York because holy jesus, that steak was massive! And for under $30? I don’t know how they’re making any money. For reals. Served with mashed potatoes, zucchini & carrots, with a mushroom-bacon sauce–I have no words. It was cooked perfectly (medium-rare), and, again, between the two of us, we had a decent chunk left over. G, a self-declared worshiper of mashed potatoes, begrudgingly let me try a bit of them and I’m a fan–though if you’re watching butter and cream, well, don’t let yourself near them (they’re probably 70% butter). But, come one, eat the butter, eat the cream–it’s good for a happy outlook on life.
Surprisingly, I’ve gotten some mixed feedback from my first Blue Apron review–especially about the portions being small. Yes, this is only my second time at the restaurant, but I’m still blown away by the potions. I splurge when I’m there, I eat more than I usually would. The small plate of the Duck Confit is more than enough to feed me. This time we shared that one small plate and then two large plates that were specials–and we couldn’t eat it all. And G is 6’2″. I might be small, but he sure isn’t. I stand by my previous review–Blue Apron is a steal for quality and portions. We ate for under $100 (pre-tip) including drinks (which I would find very very hard to do in another place with food of this quality). Blue Apron, you’ve still got my vote!
Blue Apron Restaurant & Red Rooster Bar
210 East Main Street
Salem, VA 24153-3803