Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Tertulia

We've wanted to go to Tertulia, Chef Seamus Mullen's Spanish restaurant, ever since it opened in 2011. Back then, they didn't take reservations and we didn't want to deal with long waits, so we put it on our list of places to try someday. Recently A saw a deal on Blackboard Eats, and it seemed like the perfect time to finally go. We had some fantastic tapas when we were in Barcelona a few years back (some of which we've written about here) and still dream about the dishes we got there, hoping we can someday find someplace at home that would meet that standard. We tried as much as possible at Tertulia hoping to find some new favorites. Here's what we got (in the order they arrived at the table) and our thoughts.

Pan con tomate (toasted bread rubbed with tomato), $8


M: If I go to a tapas place and pan con tomate is on the menu, I like to order it, both because I like it and because it offers a standard by which to compare places. The bread here seemed like country bread that was lightly rubbed with garlic and then tomatoes, and toasted on a grill. The crust was very crunchy, but the insides were nice and soft. The parts with garlic tasted really good, but the garlic unfortunately wasn't uniform throughout. I liked it and it was probably my second favorite dish of the night, but not the best pan con tomate we've had.

A: I liked that the bread was grilled as it gave it a nice smokiness and crunch while still allowing the inside to be soft and pillowy. The tomato was fresh and sweet, but there seemed to be a distinct lack of garlic flavor. I didn't really get any in the pieces of bread that I got. This wasn't bad, but we've definitely had better pan con tomate in our lives.

Rillette de credo (with beet mostarda and housemade pickles), $15:


M: This was one of the specials of the day, and it sounded really good. It reminded me most of the chicken pot we got on our appetizer board at our Sunday roast in London, as it literally was a little pot of pork and pork fat. The flavor was good, mostly just the flavor of the meat even if a bit salty, and it went well with the beet mostarda. The grilled bread on the side was good, but not enough so we had to get seconds, and also my first piece was a bit over-toasted and blackened. I wasn't that into the pickles though.

A: This was my favorite dish of the night. It was rich and creamy, and the grilled bread added a smoky flavor and some crunch. The pork was soft and flavorful, and the pickles were really interesting. They weren't traditional cornichons; they pickled all sorts of vegetables and fruit. The most interesting thing in my mind was the pickled strawberry. The beet mostarda added an element of spiciness, and the dill made it nice and fresh.

Nuestras patatas (crispy potatoes, pimentón de la vera, garlic all i oli), $9:


M: Potatoes are another thing I try to order at tapas restaurants. These potatoes were on the crispy side, kind of crunchy on the outside but nice and soft in the middle (at least for the bigger pieces). That was good most of the time until we got to some of the smaller crumbs which just tasted burnt. The best part of this though was the garlic aioli, and the bites that didn't get some of the aioli definitely were not as good. I love smoked paprika and it was very dominant in the flavor here, which I liked. This was my favorite dish of the night.

A: I usually really like patatas bravas (the closest comparison for this dish). They were crisped up really well, but some of the smaller pieces were overly crispy. I didn't mind that, but the seasoning that they put on the potatoes made those small, crispy pieces really salty. The aioli tempered the saltiness, but I didn't find it very garlicky. Also, the smoked paprika they dusted it with was very overpowering along with the salt.

Croquetas de jamón (Ibérico ham croquettes, membrillo), $12:


M: I love croquettes but hadn't even noticed these on the menu until one of the tables next to us got an order of them. I was expecting solid fried balls filled with ham and potato mush, but these were more like a hard shell with some sort of creamy ham sauce inside. I think I was expecting something denser. The ham was there, but not that strong in flavor, and I wasn't that into the quince paste (membrillo) but that could be more personal preference about mixing fruit into the dish.

A: I was not expecting what we ended up getting with these croquettes. I was expecting a solid croquette with jamon, but it was basically a fried ball surrounding a stew. It was really odd, and the quince paste made it even odder. It added a sweetness that didn't really seem to pair that well with the salty croquette.


Coles de Bruselas (grilled Hudson Valley brussels sprouts, wild boar bacon, mojo verde), $14:


M: I had high hopes for this dish but didn't really like it at all. The Brussels sprouts were fine, a little crunchy, but the entire flavor of the dish was a little on the bitter side. Not sure if that was from the meat or the sauce (even though there was not much of either), but the taste was a little off-putting for me, and I didn't really want much of it sadly.

A: I usually really like Brussels sprouts cooked with bacon, but there didn't seem to be much of any bacon in here. I had one piece, and that was about all of the bacon we got in the dish. I felt bad since M didn't get a piece, but I didn't think we'd only get the one piece. Other than that, the sprouts tasted pretty good. I didn't taste the mojo verde at all, but the sprouts themselves tasted okay. This was fairly plain, and it ended up being my least favorite dish of the night.

Txipirones a la plancha (baby squid, grilled bitter greens, warm tomato vinaigrette), $16:


M: This dish was pretty good. The "baby squid" weren't quite as small as what I was expecting based on what we had eaten in Barcelona that was called txipirones, but they were fine. All together, there wasn't really anything wrong with the dish other than it was a little bit salty, and the combination of everything together tasted nice and fresh with all the vegetables. Unfortunately it reminded me that we still haven't found a txipirones dish in the States that remotely matches what we had in Spain.

A: This was the dish that M and I were most excited for. On our vacation to Barcelona we fell in love with txipirones whether they were grilled or fried. The tomato vinaigrette was sweet and fresh tasting, and the grilled bitter greens weren't bitter, but they offered a bit more freshness to the dish. My big complaint, though, was that the dish was pretty salty overall. It made things hard to eat and made the dish rather disappointing.

Arroz a la plancha (Calasparra rice, snails, wild mushrooms, celery, fennel, Ibérico ham), $23:


M: I liked this one more than A did. The rice was a little bit like a risotto, very creamy, and the flavor was familiar, even if I couldn't quite place it. It tasted a little charred, but not in a bad way. The toppings were really fresh and it was nice getting some light vegetables alongside the heavier rice. After we ate it, I was listening to some guy at the table next to us who kept raving about this dish to his meal partner, and while I did think it was pretty good, I'm not sure if I'm even close to as into it as he was. It came out with the txipirones, and between the two, I liked the squid better, but this was fine.

A: I didn't know what to expect from this dish, but it sounded really interesting. I love snails as a general matter so adding them to what amounted to Spanish fried rice seemed like a great thing. Overall this was just okay. The main flavor came from the ham, and there wasn't that much of it. The snails also had a bit of a sour taste to them. It wasn't completely off-putting, but it wasn't great.

Tarta de Santiago (traditional almond tart, stewed berries, creme fraiche gelato), $8:


M: The dessert we associate most with our time in Spain is almond cake, having had an excellent one at the end of lunch one day and being completely surprised by how wonderful it was. This one was not as soft as that almond cake, and also just kind of stiff. I wasn't a big fan of the gelato and gave most of it to A, but I did like the berry sauce. Overall, it was just okay. Still better than the Brussels sprouts.

A: Harkening back to our Barcelona trip again, we had a great Tarta de Santiago at lunch one day. I even tried to recreate it here at home with mixed success. This rendition was... different. Instead of being a smoother, finer ground almond meal cake, this was very coarse and a little stiffer. The creme fraiche gelato was odd as well. It tasted just like creme fraiche, but I don't know that those two flavors go together. The berries were really nice.

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We did like our meal at Tertulia overall, even if it was a bit salty and not as good as we were expecting it to be. We've had so many amazing tapas over the years, both in the States and in Barcelona, so it's a decently high bar but one that we thought this one would soar over based on the reviews we remembered. In the end, it wasn't bad for tapas and we were glad we went, but not something we need to race back for sometime soon.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Pome-garita Ville

Last year, we were really invested in Ample Hills' Flavor Frenzy competition, rooting for the ultimate runner-up, Breakfast Trash: Frooty Edition. We were hoping that one would be back in the competition again this year so we could get some more, but sadly it wasn't. It wouldn't have mattered if it made it to the final two again though, since we missed the taste-off weekend because we were in Seattle.


As we followed Flavor Frenzy this year, we found ourselves rooting for a sorbet called Pome-garita Ville, a combination of pomegranate, tequila, Corona, orange, and lime. Unfortunately, just like last year, it lost. (Not liking this pattern.) We figured that since we hadn't ordered any pints during the competition that we probably wouldn't ever have a chance to try it, but we were pleasantly surprised when we showed up at Gotham West last weekend and it was there. It was refreshing, the flavors were bright, and it just seemed like the perfect treat for warm weather. Too bad it didn't win. Hopefully next time, we'll be backing the winner...

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Queens International Night Market

One year ago today was the opening night of the Queens International Night Market. We were really excited about this - cuisines from all over the world, affordable dishes around $5 each, lots of stuff we had never tried before, and a beautiful spring day - and apparently so were hundreds of our fellow New Yorkers. We got there before they opened and the line circled around and around on each side. It was absolutely packed, so crowded that later in the night the nearby train platform got seriously treacherous as there were so many people on the platform that nobody could move or get off the trains when they pulled in. We were glad we went early, but early was still bad.


Once the market actually opened for business, people streamed in from both sides. We were some of the first people in, as we had found the shorter line on the park side, and immediately started trying to figure out where to go. Lots of places already had lines, and decisions had to be made quickly. We ended up choosing a couple of spots on our side of the lot (never made it to the other side the entire night), splitting up, and waiting in line to get stuff, as we watched the aisles fill up, the lines get so long that they were crossing over each other, and the lot get so congested that there were many places where you literally could not move or got carried slowly by the moving crowd around you.


A waited on line for Burmese Bites, which didn't have a terrible line (yet) because we had gotten there so early, and which we really wanted to try after following them on Facebook for a bit. Burmese food isn't that easy to find in NYC outside of the occasional food fairs, so we were really happy to see them here. They had two options on their menu signs: keema palata and chicken curry palata (the one we got). Palata is a flaky flatbread that is similar to paratha or roti, and this one was topped with a really flavorful chicken curry and accompanied by a little cup of slaw on the side that packed some heat if we remember correctly. The portion size wasn't big enough for a meal, but that was good since the whole point of night markets like this is to roam and try lots of things. We were really happy with this and would have considered getting more if not for the lines.


From the Burmese food line, we could see a stall for Eve and Johnny's Caribbean style shark sandwiches, so M went over there. The line didn't look too bad at the time, and M was probably about 10th in line, so we thought the wait wouldn't be too, too bad. As she waited, she saw the lines around her getting longer and longer by the second, so she was glad that she had gotten in line early. However, since it was the first night of the market, it seemed like they hadn't gotten their prep done in time to open, and while M waited in line, A showed up with the palata, and we finished it, and then we waited some more. Under normal circumstances, A would have left M in line and gotten something else to share while waiting, but these lines were not normal.


The Caribbean style shark sandwich was basically Trinidadian bake and shark, fried flatbread with seasoned fried pieces of shark and toppings. We'd had bake and shark on our WorldEats to-try list for some time, but had just never made it out to spots in Brooklyn, so this was convenient. These sandwiches were topped with lettuce, tomato, cucumber, cole slaw mix (cabbage and carrots), cilantro and onions, pineapple, and three sauces: tamarind, chaden beni (a green culantro sauce), and a creamy garlic sauce. All together, it was so good. From the first bite, the mingling of all the flavors was good.

The sandwich was stuffed full of shark which was a really nice surprise. Often we've found "special" sandwiches to skimp on the protein portion, but this was definitely not the case. The shark itself was tougher than we were expecting, but it had a nice fish taste to it that didn't seem very foreign. It was more fishy than a typical white fish but far less fishy than an oilier fish like mackerel. The combination of all of the slaws and toppings combined to make a sweet and savory that was completely balanced and perfectly complemented the shark. We would have definitely gotten two of these if we had known they were so good and thought ahead about how bad the lines were around us.


After eating the shark sandwich, we thought about trying something else, but after getting stuck in the crowd for a few yards, it was unbearable and quite claustrophobic and we decided to leave. We couldn't make sense of what line was ending where, and it was nearly impossible to walk. On our way out though, we did see a stall without much of a line. It was for Haitian food from Belmere, which worked for us, since when we were doing WorldEats in geographical order, Haitian was where our journey stalled.


We ordered something small there (considering that the prices of most things were the same there, this was probably the least food for the price), and then took our to-go box into the park to eat. It felt so good to get out of the mess that was the night market, and we kept watching more and more people streaming in. As far as the food, we got a piece of stewed chicken which was pretty tasty and topped with some giant onion slices. There was also a little slaw on the side that was spicy, primarily pickled cabbage with a few carrot and cucumber pieces mixed in.

The Queens International Night Market is a great idea, but we were so uncomfortable during our visit there that we couldn't wait to leave. (We ended up finishing our dinner at a taqueria which was delicious but not the plan for the night.) There were serious crowd control issues, which to their credit, they have been trying to remedy this year by selling admission tickets for the first two weekends. We do want to go back, as having that many vendors representing cuisines around the world is totally our thing, but we'll probably wait a little longer into the summer to go.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Emma

This month, Lenwich has been running a special promotion for a $5 sandwich of the day during lunch, rotating different sandwiches every weekday of the month. Not only was I interested in this because $5 is a good price for lunch when the sandwiches are regularly about $9, but it would be a good way to try out sandwiches I hadn't ordered before. I missed most of the ones in the first half of the month, but finally made it last week for the Jimmy T (not new to me) and the Emma.


The Emma is smoked ham, smoked turkey, cole slaw, Swiss cheese, and Russian dressing on bread of your choice (I got a whole wheat roll). It's kind of like a "healthier" twist on a Reuben, and I really liked it. Everything just went really well together, it wasn't as salty as I expected considering the ingredients, and I liked having the cole slaw to balance out all the meat and cheese. I would get this again.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Week 13 - Escoffier

I wasn't very excited about the Escoffier challenge and put it off for weeks. A French chef and cookbook writer, he was the one who codified the recipes for the mother sauces. It would be easy enough to do a mother sauce for the challenge, but there was just a challenge for that last year, which probably accounted for some of my lack of inspiration. In the end, since I didn't want to make the same thing, I decided this time to go with béchamel.


At least that was the plan. The primary ingredients in béchamel are white roux and milk, and I was getting ready to put together the ingredients photo when I opened and sniffed the milk. Despite the fact that we hadn't really opened it that long ago, it had already gone bad, so that wasn't going to work. I decided to switch to veloute, so I ended up doing the same sauce as last time, but this time I turned it into a mustard sauce instead, which was what I had planned to do with the béchamel.


I made the sauce the same way as last time - butter and flour, and then chicken stock. Once the sauce was done, I added in some dijon mustard. A helped with it since the flour was so resistant to breaking up and needed constant stirring, and I also had to add a little more flour to thicken it up, but eventually it was done.


We put the mustard veloute sauce on top of some panko chicken tenders and green beans. It was a little salty from the combination of mustard and chicken broth, but tasted fine. Once again, it made too much, even though I had cut down the amounts from last time. I was glad to finally cross off this challenge, even if it ended up being a variation on the same mother sauce as last time. Maybe next time I'll end up doing the béchamel.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Week 12 - Dorm Food

When I think about dorm food, the thing that immediately comes to mind is ramen. We weren't technically allowed to have cooking devices in the dorms, but a lot of people did, especially those little hot pots. One thing you could make with those was cheap packaged ramen, so making an "upgraded" ramen seemed perfect for the challenge.


I went with a spicy ramen with tofu recipe from Pinch of Yum as a starting point since I had never made anything ramen-like before, and went from there. The ingredients list, with our adaptations, is:

for miso paste (all approximations other than the miso, only thing I measured):
- 1/3 cup miso ($1)
- 1 small spoonful gochujang ($0.50)
- 1 heaping spoonful minced garlic ($0.30)
- about 2 tsp ginger paste ($0.30)
- about 1.5 tbsp mirin ($0.30)
- about 1 tbsp grapeseed oil ($0.10)
- a couple tsp toasted sesame oil ($0.15)

other ingredients for ramen:
- grapeseed oil for sautéing ($0.10)
- 1 package of firm tofu, sliced ($1.32)
- 1/2 large red onion, sliced ($0.49)
- a handful of dried shiitake mushrooms, rehydrated, stems removed, sliced ($0.50)
- 4.5 cups of water ($0)
- 2 spoonfuls chicken bouillon ($0.75)
- 1.5 cups water from shiitake mushroom rehydration ($0)
- 3 eggs ($0.30)
- 2 rice ramen cakes ($1.50)
- 6 green onions, sliced, whites and greens separated ($0.65)

The total cost for dinner (which had no leftovers) was about $8.26. Not bad at all for a complete and filling meal.

The steps for our version of the ramen were:


1. Place shiitake mushrooms in warm water to rehydrate.
2. Heat grapeseed oil in large pot and add tofu to fry. [I intended to have larger pieces of tofu but it broke up a lot when frying it. Not a big deal to us.]


3. While tofu is frying, mix together all ingredients for miso paste and adjust seasonings to taste if needed.
4. When tofu is mostly done, add a couple spoonfuls of miso paste to tofu and mix in. [This is where the tofu mostly broke up.]
5. Remove tofu to separate bowl.


6. In the same pot, add a little more grapeseed oil and then add the sliced mushrooms and onions. Cook until beginning to soften and then add a few spoonfuls of miso paste and cook for a few more minutes.
7. Add the chicken stock (water plus bouillon) and water from the mushroom rehydration bowl. Start to stir in miso paste one spoonful at a time and stir to help dissolve. [I probably added a little every 5 minutes or whenever I remembered as we made other things.]


8. While cooking the mushrooms/onions in chicken stock, soft boil the eggs. [I followed the instructions from the inspiration recipe - add eggs to boiling water, cook about 7 minutes on lowest heat setting, run under cool water, and then peel. Unfortunately (a) the first egg I dropped in cracked a little on the bottom of the pot so it broke which is why we ended up doing 3 eggs instead of 2 and then (b) the water didn't cover the eggs so we had to add some more water from our hot water heater on top. The timing still worked out fine for the egg texture, except peeling was an adventure as only one egg stayed intact. Clearly I've never made soft boiled eggs before.]


9. When the eggs are done boiling and are cooling, cook the ramen noodles according to the package instructions. [Took less than five minutes for us.]
10. Add the white parts of the green onions to the broth when you drop the noodles in the boiling water.


11. Once everything is done and tastes right, start assembling the bowls. Ramen noodles on the bottom, topped with tofu, then broth, and topped with the soft boiled egg and the green parts of the scallions for garnish.


Overall, this ramen experiment was pretty good. The texture of the noodles themselves weren't exactly what I was thinking they would be, as they were much thinner and less substantial than I had imagined. The broth didn't have the depth or nuance that a lot of ramen restaurants around here have, but I wasn't surprised by that as I used chicken bouillon and didn't make a bone broth or anything. Since we have so much good ramen around here, this seemed less like that and more like a good miso-based noodle soup which was just fine for dinner. (I mean, how much does dorm room packaged hot pot ramen taste like real ramen places?) I really liked the miso paste here, and could see using that combination for something else too, like sautéed vegetables. Pretty happy with how this turned out for dinner on a cold night.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Lobel's and More

Baseball is back! In addition to the game itself, one thing we look forward to every year is seeing what the new offerings are at the ballparks, since someday we're still hoping to visit them all. Here in New York, we've generally found the food at Citi Field to be better than Yankee Stadium, but during our visit to Yankee Stadium this week, we hoped we would find the gap narrowing. Our first stop was Lobel's, a meat shop from the Upper East Side that also operates some outposts at the ballpark.


Being a meat shop, Lobel's is known mostly for their steak. A got a prime steak sandwich at Lobel's years ago, the first time we went to the stadium after their opening. He didn't really love it, especially not considering the very, very, very long wait for it. He definitely didn't feel like it was worth the wait, and considering the usual length of the line when we passed by, we never went back. We decided to give them another try this time, as the line was much shorter than it used to be and they had some new menu items.


One of those new items was the classic meatloaf burger ($12.50) which came with cheddar cheese and crispy onions on a toasted brioche bun. I love meatloaf and we were really looking forward to this burger. It was the primary reason we were going there at all. The first thing we noticed was that, compared to the other food we got, it wasn't that warm. All the sandwiches seemed pre-made, but the others were at least warm to the touch. Second, once we opened it, the meatloaf patty seemed kind of small and dwarfed by the bun. At least there was a good amount of fried onions on top.


The burger itself was okay. Outside of the texture being different from a regular patty, nothing about the flavor screamed meatloaf. It didn't have a ton of flavor. The onions were fine, but even though it looked like a lot of onions, there wasn't really that much onion flavor. The bun was kind of soft and not really toasted like the description said. We were kind of disappointed as we were expecting it to be so much better.


The other sandwich that interested us from Lobel's was the hickory molasses glazed grilled chicken sandwich ($8), also on a toasted brioche bun, which the menu said came with "leaf lettuce, vine ripened tomatoes, Bermuda onion." While these sandwiches were warm, the bun didn't seem toasted like they said. However, we forgot all about the bun when we saw that the sandwich had no lettuce, tomato, or onion whatsoever. It wasn't a fluke either, as we had ordered two of these and neither of them had any toppings. We hadn't ordered them without toppings and they had come out quickly and pre-made just like the meatloaf burger, so either they forgot to add the toppings before giving it to us or the menu was just plain wrong.


The sauce on the chicken wasn't bad, but it was a very one-note chicken sandwich and kind of ordinary. Lettuce, tomato, and onion probably would have improved it, but it still wouldn't have stood out as special compared to other chicken sandwiches elsewhere. Sadly, another disappointment.


Another member of our group got the steak and potato fries ($15) from Lobel's, and after trying those, I had buyer's remorse. First, this dish was made fresh and was the only thing we really waited for. It came with steak, fried russet potatoes, bacon, cheddar cheese, and green onions in homemade gravy with sour cream. The gravy had a great rich flavor, the steak was tender, the flavors of the whole combination together worked, and the potatoes were nice and crisp. From this dish, it seemed like the Lobel's outpost was capable of putting together a good dish with lots of flavor, so what went wrong on the other two things we got? Such buyer's remorse.


We were still decently hungry after splitting our two sandwiches, so after a few Yankees runs, we went off in search of more food. We ended up getting our usual garlic fries ($9.50), which were fine, except despite the strong garlic aroma and some visible garlic, they didn't have as much garlic flavor as we thought they would. Garlic fries should be really garlicky!


We also got some Bronx Bomber hot dogs ($8 each), which A noted was his favorite thing that night. Sure, ballpark hot dogs are good, but when compared with the specialty food, they really shouldn't have been the best thing we ate that night. (The steak and potato fries were probably better, but that was just a taste, and A opted not to try it.)


A was pretty unsatisfied with most of the stuff we got at Yankee Stadium so he got some ice cream to try and improve the night. The ice cream was his second favorite thing that night.

While we do acknowledge that we didn't try some of the other specialty places since they are easily visited from home and for cheaper - places like Hale and Hearty, Bareburger, and Mighty Quinn's (which we had just visited the day before) - it seems safe to say that Citi Field still has the edge when it comes to ballpark food in New York. Maybe someday that'll change, but this visit didn't convince us.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Week 11 - Pies

I had a bit of trouble figuring out what to do for pie week. I pulled up lots of pie recipes, but I just wasn't really feeling inspired to make any of them. I had already made a version of shepherd's pie earlier in the year, and even though I had both puff pastry and phyllo dough in the freezer, nothing really caught my eye. I put the pie search on hold until one night when I was searching for something else on BBC Good Food, and I came across a recipe for a leek, bacon, and cheese tart. Sure, technically, it was a tart and not a pie, but close enough. It looked like other things that I've seen called pies before, and since I'm not officially participating and the goal is really to just do something new, it was good enough for broadening my horizons.


The ingredients for the tart were:

- olive oil for sautéing
- 3 strips of bacon, chopped
- about a cup or so of chopped leeks
- 1/2 cup or so of grated cheddar cheese
- about 2/3 block of garlic and herb Boursin
- one sheet of puff pastry

It's too much work to figure out how much this all cost, as the puff pastry, Boursin, bacon, and leeks all came out of the freezer and had been there for months, so I'm not going to estimate.


The steps for making the pie/tart were:

1. Over medium heat, heat some olive oil and add the bacon. Fry bacon until mostly cooked and then add the leeks and cook until softened. (Could probably skip the oil and just use bacon fat, but I thought of that after I had already poured the olive oil into the pan.)

2. Grease a baking sheet and unroll the puff pastry on to the sheet. Top with the soft cheese/Boursin, leaving edges empty.


3. Add leeks and bacon mixture, and then top with grated cheddar cheese.


4. Fold over the edges on all four sides. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.


This tart was really, really good, although that shouldn't have been a surprise considering how well leeks, bacon, and cheese go together. It was also really simple to make, and confirmed to us that we should buy the frozen puff pastry whenever we can find it at Trader Joe's since they consider it a seasonal item. I would definitely make this again and also experiment with other fillings.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Mackerel in Sunflower Oil

We bought this canned mackerel some time ago, and it's been hanging out in our pantry with other canned fish and assorted pates for months. No idea how much it cost when we got it, but it's $2.99 now. Although we got it a while ago, it was still more than six months out from its best by date when we had it, so still perfectly "fresh" to eat.


M's review: I wasn't sure how much I was going to like this as it looked like there were little bones in it (despite the fact that it said boneless) and mackerel has a tendency to sometimes be fishy. The bones didn't end up being an issue as A determined they were edible, and surprisingly, I didn't find the mackerel fishy at all. The taste was absolutely fine, very mild, but they were a little on the dry side despite soaking in that much oil. That was the only negative in my opinion.
Buy again? I think I would, which is not what I expected. Maybe the dryness was just a fluke.


A's review: I like canned fish. From a young age my mom got me hooked on those canned sardines, and mackerel was right up my alley. Mackerel on the whole is an oily fish and has that "fishy" taste that a lot of people don't like. Somehow, after soaking in sunflower oil, it was less fishy. Also, it was much firmer/drier than I expected with that oil bath. Even so, it was enjoyable and tasty.
Buy again? Yes, assuming it's not too expensive.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Naked Chicken Chalupa

I was reading Grub Street earlier today and they were talking about a new Taco Bell experiment - a taco shell made out of a fried egg debuting this month in Michigan. I can't say that I'm very excited about the idea of holding an oily, squishy egg in taco form, but it reminded me of the last unconventional taco shell that Taco Bell had, the one made out of fried chicken that they sold across the country as the naked chicken chalupa and which was gone within a month.


The naked chicken chalupa came out at the end of January, and within the first week, I picked one up at Taco Bell for lunch and absolutely loved it. I wanted to get more, but there isn't a Taco Bell super close to us at home and our February weekends were pretty packed, making it difficult. Sometime near the end of February, less than a month after releasing it, they announced that the naked chicken chalupa would be gone before March. I had missed the news for a few days (was pretty busy with work and stuff), so by the time I finally learned about it, it was too late. The naked chicken chalupa was gone. I always knew it was going to be a limited edition item, but I didn't think it would be that limited.


There was a lot of buzz around this chalupa when it first came out because it was replacing the regular fried chalupa shell with a shell made of fried chicken. Inside the fried chicken shell were the usual chalupa toppings - lettuce, tomato, cheese, and avocado ranch sauce. Eating it, it was just like eating a regular chalupa. The taste was so similar, except better since the fried chicken shell not only had the flavor of the regular fried chalupa shell but also fried chicken. It was so good. Unfortunately, now it's gone. Was it that expensive to make? Did they run out of fried chicken shells? It got pretty good reviews as far as I could see, and there was a lot of hype about it, so why was it gone so soon? Hopefully this will be like some of the other menu items that Taco Bell brings back from time to time. If so, I will definitely be trying to get as many as I can.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Off to Seattle

We had a Friday evening flight out to Seattle, and after getting to the airport and going through security, we only had a short time to grab some dinner. We were flying JetBlue so we were pretty familiar with the food court options - pizza, Asian food, burgers, sandwiches, salad bar, soups and the like. All generally fine, but nothing fun like Shake Shack or some of the other more interesting options we've found at other airports. 


We took turns picking up dinner, and when I went up to order, many of the lines were long. It seemed easiest and quickest to just pick up some ready-made food from Cibo Express, that generic deli that you can find at lots of airports. None of the sandwiches were that interesting, and they were also all pretty expensive, so I went with chicken noodle soup (although I should have gotten a small instead of a large as it was a ton of soup to drink before getting on a plane and very, very hot) and an assortment of salads from the cold bar. The soup was okay, but didn't have a ton of flavor and probably could have used more chicken stock. From the cold bar, I got a Southwest bean salsa, buffalo chicken pasta salad, pasta salad with chicken and tomatoes, and tuna salad. They were light and refreshing, which was good before getting on a long flight.


When A went up to get his dinner, there was no line at the Boar's Head Deli, so he got a build-your-own sandwich there with focaccia bread, cracked pepper turkey, pepper jack cheese, red onions, tomatoes, lettuce, and spicy deli mustard, which he had them toast. Overall, it was a good sandwich - a good combination of flavors and good ingredients - although A did find it a little over-toasted in parts. I had buyer's remorse after I tasted his sandwich, as it was just so much better than everything I had gotten and not that different in price (about $11 total for each). I knew they made pretty good sandwiches there (since I got that on our way out to San Diego), so I wished I had waited in line for it instead of getting what I got. A's sandwich was even better than the one I got there last time. We decided that, whenever flying JetBlue in the future, we'll probably just get some Boar's Head sandwiches as they do seem like the best quality option, even if a little pricey for a sandwich.


A also got a small cup of the potato cheddar soup from Cibo. It was very creamy and rich, but it wasn't all that cheesy considering the name. You could taste some cheese, but it wasn't a dominant flavor. It had chopped vegetables and potatoes, and was generally a hearty soup. It was warm and comforting, and a perfect complement to the sandwich he got.


On board the flight, we settled in and waited for them to come around with the snack baskets, one of the highlights of the JetBlue experience. I was ready to get my usual Cheez-Its and chocolate chip cookies, but when they let us know the options, there were some changes from our last visit. They now had Rold Gold pretzels as well as cinema style (basically butter flavor) Popcorners (instead of kettle). Fantastic improvements, in our opinion, and we got all of those, including the cookies, over the course of our flight. We arrived in Seattle around midnight, so it was pretty much straight into a taxi to the hotel at that late hour, but it was a pretty good first day (or night) of vacation!