Archive for June, 2009

Dining Out in the Neighborhood (and a review of La Strada in Del Ray)

Friday, June 5th, 2009

As we begin One Local Summer this week, it’s a good prompt to remember to eat locally when dining out as well. Family-owned, independent restaurants are struggling in this economy, and don’t have the corporate safety net that chain restaurants do. We’re lucky to live in a neighborhood with several great independent establishments that also emphasize fresh, local ingredients.

la strada del ray alexandriaWe recently celebrated a family birthday at a fairly new addition to our neighborhood, La Strada in Del Ray, Alexandria. La Strada has been open for about a year, and was top of the list of places we’ve been meaning to try. My in-laws were in town for my father-in-law’s birthday, so we thought it might be a family-friendly yet celebration-appropriate choice. It probably helped that we were dining on a slow Monday night, but the staff was warm and welcoming, even going out of their way to secure a birthday cake on extremely short notice. It is owned by a lovely family; Chef Stephen Scott has two young children and his mother graciously exchanged grandmother stories with my mother-in-law.

la strada del ray alexandriaWe had just enough room at the round corner booth, though on busy evenings I imagine the outdoor patio would be a great place to eat with kids. The boy was supplied with reading material and crayons while we waited for our orders to arrive, and the food was a great blend of fresh, seasonal ingredients incorporated in classic Italian dishes. You can check their website for daily specials featuring local produce. My father-in-law loved his light-as-air gnocchi in a hearty meat sauce; the husband and I split a family-size portion of ravioli in a morel cream sauce. It’s a little more upscale than your typical neighborhood Italian restaurant, yet the family-style servings enable you to enjoy great food without breaking the bank.  For an even better deal, visit La Strada during Del Ray’s Dining Week, which kicks off today and runs through June 14. La Strada is offering a 3-course dinner for just $29. Any restaurant that can satisfy picky New Yorkers and an active 2.5-year-old is a winner in our book. (Restaurant photo by La Strada.)

La Strada Osteria & Enoteca
1905 Mount Vernon Avenue
Del Ray (Alexandria), VA 22301

discover del ray dining week

“Discover Del Ray” Dining Week, June 5-14, features special deals at just about every restaurant in this kid-friendly neighborhood, including the deal at La Strada, 15% discount at Caboose Cafe, and free gelato at Cafe Pizzaiolo. Visit the website for full details.

(Shared with Fight Back Fridays hosted by the Food Renegade. Visit the round-up for more inspiration from fellow real food lovers!)

Opening Day at Upper King Street Market, Alexandria

Thursday, June 4th, 2009

The fourth Alexandria, Va., farmers market – and only mid-week option – opened for the season this week. The Upper King Street Fresh Farmers Market is held on Wednesdays from 3 to 7 pm, located just across from the King Street Metro station (blue/yellow lines) in a little park. If you’re coming from the Metro, look for the giant green wall which shelters the park.

upper king street farmers market alexandria

There were a full complement of new vendors this year, with Bigg Riggs farm (greens & jarred products) and the rainbow umbrellas of Maribeth’s Bakery the only familiar faces from last year’s inaugural season. Del Ray Market shoppers will recognize Tom the Cheese Guy (cave-aged cheddar, cheeses, eggs, yogurt and Amish baked goods), Shlagel Farms (spotted at Shlagel, the season’s first cherries!) and Vera’s Bakery (scones and more). Cibola Farms fills the sorely-needed meat vendor slot with high-quality Virginia grass-fed buffalo, pork and more. (I believe this is Cibola‘s first foray into Alexandria, they also sell at Penn Quarter, Dupont Circle, Arlington and others.) Breadline appears with artisanal baguettes and baked goods, and Long Hollow Ecological Farm from the Shenandoah Valley is another new produce vendor. I only recently discovered Long Hollow at the Oakton market, and their strawberries are the most flavorful I’ve found on this coast. (And I had market-fresh California strawberries on Sunday, so that’s saying something.)

upper king street farmers market alexandria va

This market is great for restocking the fridge mid-week, especially if you, say, fly back into town on a Wednesday morning and have nothing on hand. With the addition of Tom and Cibola, it now passes the complete-meal test as well. And most importantly, it’s just a short walk beyond our neigborhood playground.