Wednesday, May 24, 2017

9th Ave Food Festival 2017 Part I

Last weekend was the annual 9th Avenue International Food Festival in Hell's Kitchen. We've missed it the past couple of years because of scheduling issues, but made it on both days this year. The first day of the festival was on the cooler side (low 60s following days of summery weather) and a little bit cloudy so even though it was plenty crowded, it wasn't as packed as it could have been which was more pleasant for walking. We walked the entire length of the fair both ways, but most of the food we got on the first day came from the southern part of the festival. After we got to the end and took a short detour to pick some stuff up at Whole Foods, we realized that we weren't really that hungry anymore and that it would be best to leave the other stuff that caught our eye for the next day.

Part of the reason we were probably so full was because our first stop was Daisy May's for BBQ. We've had Daisy May's BBQ several times before (and even went for the World Cup challenge in 2014), so the pulled chicken and mac and cheese weren't anything new but they were quite tasty. We had debated between the pulled chicken and the pulled pork, and in the end chose the chicken. It was drier than the pulled pork usually is, but it wasn't that bad. The sauce, as always with Daisy May's, was very good. It had an excellent balance of sweetness and tanginess to pair with the chicken. The mac and cheese was rich and creamy, and the parts with the crusty, cheese-infused breadcrumb topping were the best. Unfortunately they didn't give us much of it, but we enjoyed what they did give us.

Our next stop as we made our way up the avenue was the Spam house (aka the "Spam Tiny House of Sizzle") which was offering free samples. There was no way we were skipping free stuff, so we got on line not knowing or caring what the samples were. By the time we got to the front, there were three options - Spam fries (which we thought might have been fries topped with Spam but were just griddled Spam cut up into fries), Spam sliders, and Spam musubi. We got one of each of the latter two and split them.

The Spam slider had a thin slice of Spam on a King's Hawaiian roll with some wasabi mayo. The Spam itself was most likely griddled, and it produced a nice caramalization on the meat. Paired with the sweetness of the King's Hawaiian roll and the spicy creaminess of the wasabi mayo, it was our favorite of the two options. The Spam musubi was exactly what we expected it to be. A took the first bite, and he had a little trouble biting through the seaweed wrapper. He thought there wasn't a ton of Spam flavor to this despite the rather large slice of Spam. Also, a lot of the rice seemed undercooked to A, but M didn't seem to have that same issue as it seemed fine to her. She also tasted more Spam flavor but that could be because she ate some of the rice on its own first before eating the entire Spam-rice-seaweed combination together.

Next up we stopped at A-Pou's Taste, a street cart we've visited before on the Upper West Side but hadn't seen in a while. They specialize in Taiwanese-style potstickers, and we had always found them tasty in the past. This time we got an order of five pork potstickers which were covered in hot sauce and soy sauce. We really liked these potstickers, and they were just as good as we remembered them being before. This wasn't too surprising as they basically brought their regular cart out to the event.

By far, the busiest block of the entire festival was the one taken up by the Big Bite Tour. A bunch of promotional tents giving out samples, and obviously there was going to be a crowd. Free stuff! There were samples of Mentos gum, Nestea iced tea, Blue Diamond almonds, Wholey Cheese crackers (which we were so excited to see as we had recently tried them for the first time, but that's for another post), Allegra (also extremely exciting and money-saving for us), and Turkey Hill ice cream, which ended up being the last thing we ate from the festival.

Without planning it, we got two different flavors of ice cream - vanilla bean and salted caramel. The vanilla ice cream was good. You could see the vanilla beans mixed into the ice cream itself, and that always makes a huge difference when comparing vanilla ice creams. A thought the salted caramel was just okay. It seemed more caramel and less salted, but in the end the overwhelming flavor in his mind was just sweet. M's not a huge fan of salted caramel, so she didn't feel like trying it, especially if A wasn't raving about how good it was.

We enjoyed our time at the festival other than having to dodge oblivious and/or inconsiderate people in the crowds. The one thing we did notice on the walk though was the absence of one of the vendors we had always looked forward to - Millie's Pierogi. No idea when they stopped coming since we've missed the festival for a couple of years, but we always stopped by their stand. Guess we'll have to look for them in Massachusetts to get our fix.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Week 15 - British

I really like Scotch eggs and was always curious if I could make them myself, but the fact that I don't deep fry at home posed a bit of a challenge. After we got back from London, I started looking around for alternatives and found a recipe for baked Scotch eggs on that looked promising. I saved it but never got around to making it, so it seemed perfect for the British challenge.

The ingredients for the baked Scotch eggs were:

- 5 eggs ($0.25)
- 1 lb ground turkey ($4.50)
- salt and pepper ($0.05)
- thyme ($0.05)
- sage ($0.10)
- garlic powder ($0.05)
- flour ($0.15)
- bread crumbs ($0.35)

The total was about $5.50 but two eggs each wouldn't really be enough for dinner. (We ate a lot of other stuff along the way.)

The steps for the baked Scotch eggs were:

1. Hard boil 4 eggs.

2. While eggs are cooking, combine ground turkey with salt, pepper, thyme, sage, and garlic powder. [I didn't measure anything, but just used what looked like a good amount to me.]

3. Split turkey mixture into 4 even parts.

4. Cool and peel eggs.

5. Set up bowls for dredging system (this should have been my first clue that maybe this wasn't going to go perfectly) - one with flour, one with bread crumbs, one with the last egg beaten, one with water, and then the peeled eggs and turkey mixture in their own bowls.

6. Dip each egg in water, then flour, and surround with turkey mixture. Then dip in egg and cover in bread crumbs.

[When I did the first two eggs this way, they looked gigantic, way too large for a regular Scotch egg. For the last two eggs, I split one of the turkey portions into two and just used half on each egg. That left us with a quarter of the turkey mixture and no eggs, so I just made it into a turkey burger that we ate for an appetizer.]

7. Chill eggs for an hour. [It was supposed to be an hour but it was late, and I had somehow forgotten the chilling step was there. We ended up chilling it for maybe 45 minutes instead.]

8. Bake eggs at 400 degrees until turkey is fully cooked. We started with 30 minutes but they weren't done, so we probably cooked them for 40 minutes total.

9. Cut eggs in half and serve.

The Scotch eggs were okay. Not as much flavor as the ones in the restaurants, but healthier because not deep fried. Way too much meat surrounding the eggs, but I think that was my failure in execution rather than the recipe. I just couldn't seem to get a thin turkey layer to cover the egg evenly on all sides. I really don't know how they do it, even to deep fry it, and get it so even. The turkey wasn't bad as a substitute, but I probably could have added more seasonings to it. While this was good, I probably won't try this again as it's easier to just get them at a restaurant.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Black Bean Taquitos

We're really grateful for Trader Joe's customer-friendly policy. Returns there are no hassle, which makes it really easy to try new products with no fear of wasting money. (We recently returned some seeds to the store that we just didn't care for, and they had no issues.) We also love the sampling station and have tried some really good stuff over the years that we've gone on to buy.

But we're also grateful for the sample offerings because sometimes they showcase things that we don't really care for. On one recent trip, they had these black bean and cheese taquitos (main filling ingredients were black beans, mushrooms, jack cheese, and jalapeños), but we both found the taquitos themselves relatively flavorless despite all those ingredients. They were serving them with salsa (one we already have at home and will review someday), and the salsa was definitely needed to give it flavor. I've always passed by these and wondered if we should buy them, and at least now I know they're not for us. I don't think they're new, so clearly some people like them (and maybe more than liked some of our beloved discontinued items), but they're just not for us. Better to know that now, rather than buying them and not loving them or in other cases, returning them and wasting food. Samples are great!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Destination California

The current "destination" for Chopt's limited time salads is California, and all three of the options sound so good. We skipped the last destination - Pacific Northwest - because we had just gotten home from the Pacific Northwest and didn't really feel like trying them after having the "real thing." We decided some salads would be the perfect dinner for a recent, very hot night, and chose to try two of the California specials.

The first was the spicy Koreatown noodle bowl made with beet and carrot "noodles," Korean chicken, scallions, celery, a blend of napa cabbage, sunflower shoots, and sorrel, fried shallots, and the recommended spicy sunbutter dressing. This bowl was very good. This salad felt so light, perfect for summer, probably because the greens were dominated by crunchy napa cabbage. The flavors of the chicken were good, and the chicken combined well with the scallions, celery, and greens. We aren't really sure what went into the spicy sunbutter dressing, but it seemed like a good match.

If we were to point to any negatives, it would be that the shallots barely had a presence (sadly), and that the beets and carrots weren't really "noodles" like you would think of spiralized vegetable noodles. They were more like shaved vegetables, and once chopped, it was just like adding bits of carrots and beets to a cabbage-based salad as opposed to being the primary base. It was a good salad though and we were glad we got it. Very light, which is exactly what you need some days.

The other salad we tried was the spicy Sonoma Caesar which they advertised as being "back" so we guess they offered this at one time but we had never tried it. The Sonoma Caesar had a base of kale, romaine, and purple cabbage, and added chipotle chicken, avocado, parmesan quinoa crisps, and pickled cherry peppers, along with the recommended creamy Caesar dressing. This was a much heartier salad than the Koreatown bowl, almost entirely because of the kale. The texture of the kale was good, not that tough or chewy, just very hearty. The parmesan quinoa crisps were tasty, and I even remember remarking that if they sold those in bags as a snack, I'd consider buying them.

The chicken and avocado were good too, but the dominant flavor here came from the pickled cherry peppers. They were pretty hot, so if anyone can't tolerate spice, they might want to stay away from this one. (Yes, the salad is called spicy, but often things salad places label spicy aren't that spicy to me.) It was definitely nice having the avocado and the creamy Caesar dressing (and the Koreatown bowl) to counteract some of that heat. A liked this one better, but I couldn't decide between the two. There's one more from the California set - the grain bowl - and we definitely want to try that before the specials are over.

Sunday, May 14, 2017


Looking back at our time in Santorini years later, it feels like we didn't really do that much while we were there. Before getting there, we had grand plans of visiting the black sand beach, maybe a red sand beach or a vineyard too. But after riding in the taxi from the port to Oia and not liking the twists and turns of the road thanks to our driver, we decided to just relax and take it easy and spend most of our time in Oia. We also realized that we were just really, really, really tired. We loved our visits to Athens, Mykonos, and Naxos, but we had also traveled a lot in each of those places. In Santorini, we ended up just napping a lot, trying to get in as much rest as possible before we had to rejoin the "real world."

So after our visit to Ammoudi, I think we took another nap during the afternoon, or otherwise just rested in our mostly ant-free new room. We headed back out in the late afternoon to stroll some more of Oia, and decided to get a snack from a little cafe window on the main pathway called Skiza, choosing some sort of cheese pie.

Six years later, we honestly don't remember much about the pie itself (no idea if it was better than the breakfast pies or not), but we must have generally liked it or we would probably remember not liking it. (Assumptions like this are not how we like recapping things, but can't go back in time to create notes!) Mostly though, we remember this little dog that kept following us after we bought the pie and trailed at our feet as we ate the entire thing, hoping for crumbs to drop (or maybe for a bite). This wasn't an uncommon sight in Santorini, but we didn't mind. Although we didn't feed it any of our pie, we didn't feel bad about that since there were stray food bins for dogs all around the town. In fact, at one point, A pointed out the bin to the dog. The dog walked over, looked into the feeder, and then immediately walked back to look at our pie (and us). Guess it didn't want that.

After our pie, we joined the crowds to catch the sunset, which was supposed to be most spectacular from Oia, and it was the best one we witnessed while we were there. Once the sun had set, it was time to get some dinner and close out our first full day on the island.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Sunset Taverna

Somehow it's already mid-May, which means we're coming up on the six year anniversary of our honeymoon in Greece. Sadly we've not finished recapping that, so getting back to that...

Our first full day in Santorini started off stressful (dealing with the ants but luckily they were able to move us into another room in the villa; less scenic but less pests), but immediately improved after getting some pies for breakfast. After the pies, we wandered around Oia for a bit, just taking in the sights (lots of weddings, stray dogs, and ants, but also pretty buildings and the caldera) before heading for the (very long) staircase that would take us down to the water and the small port area called Ammoudi. We figured that we would just relax a bit by the water, explore the town (we thought it would be bigger than it was), and have some lunch.

There were a lot of steps and they took far longer than we thought, and they were also covered with donkey droppings everywhere, especially as we got closer to the bottom. We were pretty happy when we finally got to the port and didn't have to walk on the steps anymore. After looking around the port a little bit, we picked a taverna that had tables steps away from the water and decided to go there for lunch. The meal started with the usual bread (€2 six years ago), which was fine but we don't remember it being anything special.

We also got the horiatiki salad (€7.50), lots of fresh tomatoes and cucumbers and onions topped with feta cheese. We loved getting salads in Greece because all of the produce was just so fresh since everything was local.

We also got the tomato keftedes (€7.50), something we had previously read was a Santorini specialty. They were basically fried tomato patties, and we learned here that this was definitely something we wanted to get more of when we were in Santorini, especially if you couldn't really find them elsewhere. There was just something about the flavor, probably from all the fresh, local tomatoes they were made with, that made them so unique and so good.

Along with our vegetable appetizers, we got some freshly grilled fish (€29.25). A picked out the fish because M trusts him to do this. He picked out a skorpion [sic] fish because the workers said it was local. What they didn't mention was that it was a trash fish that was mostly just used in stews and not eaten whole like we were asking for. After reviewing the prices, he was happy to see that it was a moderately priced fish and not one of the more expensive fish types. (Whole fish could get really expensive at some spots in Greece.) He picked a medium sized one and asked them to grill it (and again, they never mentioned until later that that was not how it was usually prepared). As with all fresh fish grills we had gotten in Greece, it was a simple salt, pepper, olive oil, and herb grill with a lemon wedge on the side.

The fish wasn't bad, but it definitely wouldn't be our first choice if we were to ever do this meal again. A remembers that certain parts of it had a bit of a bitterness to it, and those could be the parts that were closer to the poisonous spines that this fish is known for. Thankfully neither of us got sick from eating this, but it's possible that those parts of the fish would have been left out if it were prepared in a stew. Otherwise the fish was a fairly standard flaky white fish, maybe a little firmer than the other ones we had gotten.

Overall, our meal here was nice. It was a great location on the water, the food was solid, and the weather was fantastic. A also got a frappe since he had fallen in love with them on this trip. The only real downside was that there was a very rude and loud family dining at the restaurant at the same time who seemed like they might have been from one of the many cruise ships that were docked in the area that day. They yelled at the staff about a simple mistake they made in a dish, and they were just generally so loud, what people usually think of as stereotypical loud Americans. They also seemed completely clueless about the geography or even where they were, and somewhat (loudly) proud of their ignorance, reinforcing more negative American stereotypes. Not the restaurant's fault though, and we felt pretty bad for the staff.

After relaxing in Ammoudi a little longer after our meal, we ended our time there by taking a taxi back up to Oia because we didn't feel like walking back up the donkey poop-filled stairs. There were also even more donkeys on the stairs after lunch so we could only imagine the fresh batches that would be awaiting us if we walked up. If you're going to Ammoudi, beware of the donkeys!

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Southwestern Chopped Salad Kit

Product name: Southwestern chopped salad kit

Price: $3.29

Quick review: When we saw this at Trader Joe's, it immediately reminded me of a similar salad we got from Wegmans years ago. We really liked that one, but don't have a Wegmans nearby so only got it a couple of times. This one was very similar to what we remember of the Wegmans one (although it's been a while), except that the TJ's one had chunks of cheese in it. The ingredients in the salad were green cabbage, romaine lettuce, carrots, radish, cotija cheese, roasted pepitas, tortilla strips, green onions, cilantro, and a spicy Southwest avocado dressing. The flavors were good, it had lots of different ingredients so it wasn't boring, and it was nice to have a different salad kit from our usual Asian cashew chopped salad.

Buy again? Yes, absolutely. We've already eaten three of them, and hope they keep this kit around.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Week 14 - Southern

Unlike some of the other recent challenge themes, one that I was really looking forward to was Southern. We love Southern cooking, in part because it always brings back good memories of our road trip to Savannah. We had brought back some grits from South Carolina from that road trip that we wanted to use for this, so A suggested that maybe we should make some salmon over grits. That sounded good to me, especially after I decided to tack on some collard greens to the combo. This was one of the easiest meals to plan out and we didn't even really have to look at any recipes to know what we wanted to do. Since we both had a pretty good idea of what we wanted to do, we were also able to work on it together. Team dinner-making is fun.

The first part was the salmon which we bought frozen from Trader Joe's, thawed out, patted dry, cut into smaller slices, and then rubbed with olive oil and homemade seasoning based on Emeril's essence recipe that we still had leftover from the last time we made shrimp and grits. That stuff is so good, and it kept the flavor much better in this smaller quantity than the old Costco-sized container that we used to have.

We baked the salmon at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes, and it was perfect. We should make salmon like this more often. It's really easy and packs in a lot of flavor.

To go with the salmon, we made some collard greens. In the past, we've made collards mostly with bacon but this time we opted for meat-free ones. (I can't really call them vegetarian because they were made with chicken bouillon.) I threw in a lot of seasonings with the collard greens - salt, pepper, garlic powder, chili flakes, paprika, and freshly ground South African smoke seasoning from TJ's. There may have been more stuff that we threw in with those, but it's been a couple of weeks since we made this so I don't remember exactly. That list is, if not exactly what we used, pretty close.

After sautéing some onion and garlic in olive oil, we tore the collard greens into smaller pieces and added them to the pot along with all the seasonings, a few cups of water (enough to barely cover the collards), and a spoonful or two of chicken bouillon.

Once it was all mixed together and boiling, we simmered them for about 45 minutes until they were nice and soft. They came out really well, both in texture and flavor. While we like collards with meat, they were totally fine without them, nice and peppery.

For the final portion of dinner, we made some grits. The main ingredients for this were grits from Palmetto Farms (such good stuff), milk, water, butter, sharp cheddar cheese, and salt. There was also supposed to be black pepper, but A forgot to add it at the end, and we decided to forgo it since the essence seasoning on the salmon would have more than enough flavor for both of them.

A pretty much followed the Alton Brown recipe for cheese grits, which cooks the grits in milk, water, and salt until they are creamy, and then adds the butter followed by shredded cheese. The end result is really rich and creamy and cheesy and delicious.

We were really pleased with how this meal turned out. Everything had so much flavor, and it was actually pretty easy to make, especially with the two of us in the kitchen working on different things. We had plenty of collards and grits left over which made for a nice lunch for me the next day. We would definitely make this again.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Just Beets

Product Name: Just Beets

Price: $2.99 for 1.3 oz bag

Quick review: Just Beets were literally that - just beets. The bag consisted of a little over an ounce of dehydrated beet chips. We really like beets, so even though the price tag was a little high for the amount, we thought they would be worth a try. They were okay. They tasted like beets, and the texture was a little chewy, like a lot of the other dehydrated fruit at TJ's, and not crunchy like vegetable chips. (We did eat these a little bit past the best by date, so maybe they were affected by that, but no way for us to know.) They were fine, but nothing we were still raving about an hour later. Even if they had been crunchier chips, they still wouldn't have been worth it for the price, in our opinion.

Buy Again? Not likely, because they're pretty expensive for the amount that you get. (What's in that bag photo was the entire thing.) We'd rather just eat regular beets.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Loaded Taco Burrito

I don't watch very many commercials, but somehow my ears always perk up when there's one for Taco Bell, most recently their loaded taco burrito. Supposedly this was supposed to be a "coupling" of a crispy taco and a burrito, which to me just sounded like a burrito, but I tried to keep an open mind as we gave it a try.

The loaded taco burrito consisted of a "double helping" of ground beef (double compared to the taco which makes sense as you can't fit as much into a taco as you can a burrito), cheese, lettuce, tomato (although we did not really notice much, if any, lettuce or tomato), tortilla strips, sour cream, and avocado ranch sauce. I guess by "loaded taco burrito," they just meant that they were taking the fillings of the usual crispy taco plus the shell and putting it into a burrito, but really that's just a burrito with tortilla strips in it. Nothing about it, even after tasting it, made me think, "Whoa, it's just like eating a taco but in burrito form!" It was just a burrito. A also wasn't all that impressed with the "inventiveness."

That said, it wasn't bad. The flavor was actually pretty good, between the meat, sour cream, and avocado ranch sauce, and it was relatively satisfying. Nothing revolutionary though. And it was definitely not worth kicking the naked chicken chalupa off the menu for this. (Bring back the naked chicken chalupa!)

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Ancient Grains and Nuts Granola

Product Name: Ancient grains and nuts granola

Price: $3.49 for 12 oz

Quick review: As I've mentioned before, anything with "ancient grains" in the name attracts my attention, and this bag of granola was no different. I ate a little of this plain, but most of it combined with vanilla yogurt, and it was really good. A combination of rolled oats, brown rice syrup, turbinado sugar, coconut oil, brown rice flour, oat flour, buckwheat groats, red quinoa, chia seeds, puffed amaranth, almonds, cashews, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, coconut, teff, and molasses, this granola was definitely packed with healthy ingredients. As for the taste, it wasn't as sweet as some other types of granola which was good, and texturally it was nice and crunchy and crispy.

Buy again? Yes. I have some other bags of granola to go through first, but would definitely get this one again.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017


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.


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...