Press 626 Review: Childhood Memories

This tastes like my childhood. 

 I say this phrase often, but most recently to a friend while enjoying complimentary chips and dip at a local restaurant. In the midst of her laughter, she said, "the Chef in the movie Ratatouille said the same thing, but I don't even know what that means". Since I've never seen the movie I cannot verify the validity of that statement, but I told her that for me, it is the moment I take a bite of something and the aroma, texture or taste of the dish reminds me of a food from my childhood years. 

Just think of the texture of a rice cake, the smell of bologna, or the sweet taste of a little huggie juice box, the flavors of those things are engraved in your brain, and for me, anything can trigger those memories. In the case of the chips and dip scenario, the tangy flavor, and tiny presence of onions reminded me of my days of eating french onion dip straight from the can. Lets be real, if the opportunity presents itself today, I'd still do it.

Now into my adulthood, a memorable and no fail childhood meal is the grilled cheese. In sickness and in health, with a bowl of tomato soup, I always ask my grandmother to make me one, cause nothing gets better than that sandwich, until now. At the beginning of my food journey, I found solace at Press 626 in Norfolk. A wine bar and restaurant with a happy hour consisting of half off glasses of wines, discounted small plates, and a relaxed atmosphere, they were everything I was looking for.

Looking at the menu, an obvious choice for my first order was their "Award Winning Grilled Cheese". Consider this a 2.0 version of your grandmas sandwich. It had the perfect balance of that gooey tv commercial pull apart cheese with Vermont Cheddar, swiss and pepper jack. The addition of goat cheese gave it a creamy and tangy kick in between two perfectly toasted pieces of sourdough bread. I added tomatoes and avocado but found that the avocado was unnecessary and got overpowered by the soft texture of the sandwich. With a side of fries and basil ketchup for dipping, my childhood self jumped out and I never looked back.

In my year of eating there, I've attempted to try something new and failed every time.  What can I say, kids are stubborn.

Visit Press 626

I couldn't resist taking a bite before taking a picture. 

I couldn't resist taking a bite before taking a picture. 

Weekend Zest

If you're like me, when I've managed to get through manic Monday, and over hump day, on Thursday I'm frantically thinking of events and fun things that I can get into over the weekend.
Thankfully for you and me, I did some research ahead of time and found some events that I'm sure will be fun to attend.  If you plan on going to any, give me a shout!

Friday, March 4th

Saturday, March 5th

Sunday, March 6th


Meeting Chef PETER CHANG

During my tenure here on earth, I've had a total of 3 celebrity encounters. How about you? If you had the pleasure of meeting a celebrity, how did you react, if not how would you? Picture it: You see them, your eyes begin widening with excitement, your breath quickens, and your heart races in a mad dash attempt to say hello, grab your phone, and open up the appropriate app to capture the moment. 

In the same breath you are greeted by many other dedicated fans who have the same mission in mind as you. If you're bold, you throw yourself at the celebrity, take a selfie and hope that it comes out halfway decent. In a "Stepford" world you will have a friend or kind stranger who grabs your phone, throws you in the trenches, and snaps a perfectly clear photo of you and the person you admire. In 2 of my 3 cases I could neither grab my phone or clearly introduce myself. All I, and many others are left with, is a story of their efforts with no tangible evidence of the moment to back it up....until now.

January 2016 I was lucky enough to get on the list for a private tasting at the newly opened Peter Chang restaurant in Virginia Beach Town Center. The event was hosted by Yelp Hampton Roads, and in full disclosure I am a Yelp Elite member and have to apply for access to these events . For several hours, myself and 50 other people partook in a endless sampling of eclectic and mouth watering foods. 

(For some brief back history) Peter Chang is an award winning Chef who specializes in traditional Chinese Szechuan cooking. He previously worked as the Chef for the Chinese Embassy and is currently a semi finalist for the prestigious James Beard Award. Additionally, he has been featured on the Travel Channels show Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmerman. Point. blank. period, Peter Chang is one of, if not the THE BEST Chinese Chef in the United States, and to have access to one of his restaurants here in my backyard is something I do not take for granted.

Getting back to the event. The feast consisted of an assortment of cuisine including numbing noodles, almond chicken, steamed buns with custard and egg filling, fried eggplant, and the list goes on. 2 hours and one full stomach later, my body emitted that long sigh that signals that it had reached its maximum capacity of food consumption and it was time for a nap. Not so much as a second goes by, and it was announced that Chef Peter Chang himself had been in the kitchen cooking all of the food for us. As Chef Chang came out to greet us, a bellowing of cheers and applaud filled the restaurant, and my day had been made.

SO. Lets pause and take a moment to revisit those celebrity sighting feelings again. Shock and awe, heart palpitations, sweaty hands, grabbing my phone....check, check and check. 

Connecticut must be in my future, because when a call went out asking if anyone wanted a photo with Chef Chang, I jumped at the opportunity! No pushing or shoving needed, just a simple introduction, a handshake and a smile. Finally, a true celebrity encounter had occurred with the story and physical evidence to back it up. Third times the charm!



Zest Your Heart Out

Food is something that gives us as humans life, energy, and on some unexpected and unwanted occasions, a few extra inches. In my life food is more than just a meal, its an experience, a lifestyle, a release from the headaches of the world. Like wine, cheese, or a nice leather bag, the act of venturing out to experience food gets better with age. But this statement is today, words from my 2016 self, at this moment last year, I had yet to reach that level of thinking.

Early 2015 I started a personal journey. I refused to consider it a new years resolution, because I wanted to make this a journey of a thousand miles, not just an around the block power walk. My journey was as alphabet soup as it could be, get out of the house. Not just going to work and meetings, but to go places, make connections, participate in thought provoking activities, eat amazing food....but do it all, alone. Although I considered myself a free spirit that didnt let anyone or anything stop me from living life, something was missing. It was the idea of friend that getting out and seeing the good in life with no distractions from familiar faces was the only way I could find it.

Spoiler Alert...I found it, almost, maybe, well not really. In the midst of my weekly food comas, online reviews, and occasional panicked mass texts to friends of "do you want to do happy hour", 8 months flew by, and my journey of finding the missing "IT" in my life had not yet been fulfilled. But along the way, I found something, that being my intense love for food, my soulful passion for making connections, and my renewed zest for life.

 This blog could have been called anything, my journey of a thousand meals, my seat at an endless buffet of random opportunities, or just Watch Kim Eat. But, this blog, my open diary, "So Full Zest" is a place where, in terms of my life and the food in it, I'll find it, eat, add a pinch of whimsy, write about it, and maybe even find my life's it factor along the way. Follow me through it.