How We Spent Other People’s Money

In case you forgot [which I’m sure you did, but I won’t hold it against you], I won something in February. I promised I’d let you know how we spent it, so here goes.

But first, I have to preemptively address what I’m sure will be on a few of your minds after the post: the picture quality. First, I got tired of being the creeper taking photos of all of her food, so I have very few to share with you. Then, I got tired of carrying the camera around, period, because it’s so huge. Then, Grady ate a very expensive walnut so we had to sell the camera so we could reach our goal of actually being able to pay next month’s rent. Hence, no camera until we dig up my old point-and-shoot.

That said, I’m sorry my food looks like we ate in a basement. I promise both of these experiences were out-of-this world, and all thanks to $250 from Zagat. The best part? We even had leftover money on the card to stock the fridge at Whole Foods. A successful contest, indeed.

The first use of the card came during Staunton Restaurant Week, where we drove to Staunton to finally check Zynodoa off of our list. It had come highly recommended by many, many, people, and after Staunton Grocery closed before we had a chance to try, we thought we shouldn’t waste any time getting here. We had a stunning, 3-course meal of eclectic Southern food for $31 a person, plus drinks. I blame the Ox Eye Riesling I paired with my meal [along with this article which got me thinking about wine stigmas and why they’re silly] for beginning my addiction/craving/desire for sweet white wines. I’m hooked right now.

Here’s the menu, which started with their famous buttermilk chive biscuits.

First course for me was the bibb salad: apple, boursin cheese and candied pecans. For Shaun: Polyface fried chicken livers. I snagged a bite of his cornbread because I am a carb floozy, and couldn’t commit to just the biscuit.

bibb salad.


Second course: for me, the Caromont ricotta gnocchi. These were more like GIANT fluffy potato cakes than traditional gnocchi, but the flavor was unique [thanks to the Caromont] and creamy. Definitely a winner. Plus, any potato dish with rosemary in it is sure to be a hit. Shaun got the whole trout with brussels and potatoes. It was good, but his comment was that he would definitely get something else next time.

L: trout; R: gnocchi

For dessert, we both snagged the maple pecan bourbon tart with vanilla ice cream. Not pictured because we were too busy stuffing face.

Restaurant Week is always a great way to introduce yourself to a new restaurant for a great value [remember our last one?], and I wouldn’t have changed a thing about Zynodoa – except how far away it is. Give it a try when you’re up in Staunton, but make sure to make a reservation. It’s tiny!

Then, two weeks later this happened:

And gosh darnit, we deserved a treat. We originally planned to go to our go-to TREAT YO’SELF restaurant post-run, Tavola; but then, this blog popped up and reminded us of the best vegetarian entree I’ve ever had.* Thus, plans were changed, reservations were made, and after a glass of wine on the rooftop at Commonwealth [my new favorite people watching spot, but only in the early evening before it turns into yup-fest], Shaun and I made our way to ZoCaLo for my two favorite things in this city [no joke]: the Mezcal Old Fashioned and the Black Bean and Corn Chile Relleno.

tequila, mezcal, chile-infused bitters. heavenly.

I wish I would have had the self-control to snap a blurry iPhone photo of the Relleno before I dove in, but I didn’t. You’re welcome to refer back to this post if you want to see another blurry iPhone photo of it. IT DOES NOT DO THIS MEAL JUSTICE. MEAT LOVERS [SHAUN, ROB, I’M LOOKING AT YOU] LOVE THIS DISH. YOU WILL NEVER WANT TO EAT ANYTHING ELSE AGAIN. Phew. Glad I got that out.

Since our 6:30 reservation was a little too late for us that night [no joke, fell asleep at 9PM after the half marathon], we didn’t extend our visit into more drinks and dessert, which meant we had more money on our Zagat card! An early morning trip to Whole Foods on Easter Sunday cleaned it out, and we were able to make a delicious Easter dinner.

Thanks, Zagat! I’m happy you thought our Best Meal Ever was objectively awesome, as well. I hope we did right by you guys with our prize. It certainly allowed us some budget wiggle-room.

* I originally wrote “the best vegetarian entree I’ve ever had in my life,” before I realized how redundant that is. Unless, of course, we have a debate about at what point I became a “life” and whether the nutrients I received prior to that point were ACTUALLY the best, but I think even pre-natal Courtney would have gotten gnarly at ZoCaLo.


Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Categories: Beverages, C-Ville, Food


Courtney grew up in Reading, PA, and has lived in New York City (where she earned a bachelor's degree at NYU), Prague, Philadelphia, and Charlottesville (where she received a J.D. from UVa Law). Courtney and her new husband will settle in Philadelphia following a six-week Euro-trip extravaganza in September of 2012. Courtney's interests include music, writing, criticism, fitness, travel, cooking, and sports. Please enjoy the blog. LinkedIn: Tumblr:


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