Thursday, October 27, 2016


And now, after our brief DC diversion, back to reliving London from one year ago...

After our Sunday roast, we desperately needed to walk around to digest all that delicious food. There was a Sainsbury's grocery store down the street from the restaurant, and we hadn't yet been to one of those, so we thought that would be the perfect spot to walk, explore, and maybe pick up a couple of snacks.

Near the entrance, we were greeted by a sign advertising fireworks. Here on the East Coast, fireworks aren't legally sold in most places (there's a reason for all the giant billboards as you drive through South Carolina), so it was strange to see them so casually mentioned in a grocery store of all places. Interesting, but not about food, so moving on.

We walked up and down every single aisle of the store, spending a decent amount of time in the produce section even though we couldn't really buy anything and didn't have a kitchen in our hotel room. One of the things that I was fascinated by were these herb and seasoning pastes. I had seen some of these at home at the time, although they were not at all commonplace and were fairly expensive. Trader Joe's now has a couple (ginger, umami) at decent prices, but they didn't then. If we had this array at home, I'd probably pick up one of each of them.

I was so happy with their allium selection. There were just so many varieties and they all looked so good. There were these giant leeks, baby onions, echalion shallots, and so many other types of onions, all from British farms. That was one thing that I had been noticing at the grocery stores we visited, both here and at Waitrose the day before - all the packaging left no question as the origin of the produce, and in many cases, proudly proclaimed their British origin. The bag didn't just say "baby onions," but instead, "British baby onions." It wasn't just produce, but also in meat, fish, everywhere. We definitely don't see that in most grocery stores at home, and it was nice to see that type of national pride about the quality of their food. I don't know if it's because of how our food is produced in the States versus Britain, or if they have to do it because of regulations, but the feel was different walking through the store. It just seemed like people in London cared more about where their food was coming from in ways that many people here don't, and there was a lot more talk about sourcing and sustainability everywhere, not just at the higher end shops.

As we strolled the aisles, we came across some Yorkshire pudding mix which we considered buying as a "souvenir" of our Sunday roast, but didn't in the end. It did amuse us though, seeing that so soon after our meal.

We walked through an entire aisle of yogurt (and wished we could get some but we didn't have a fridge), and then noticed one of the big differences between US and UK grocery stores (that we knew about before but had forgotten) - eggs. Eggs in the UK are not refrigerated. There are all sorts of good reasons why not (more here if you're wondering), but even though we knew they were fine, it still felt strange seeing all the eggs just sitting out there because of how we've been conditioned to see them at home.

We also saw a couple of shelves with Nando's sauces which we were really tempted by. We hadn't yet gone to Nando's in London (although we planned to), but we had gone to Nando's in three different states in the US earlier in the year. But the last thing we really needed at home was more sauces or condiments.

As we started nearing the last aisles in the store, the lights dimmed. We thought it was just a temporary glitch, but then we noticed that the lights never got brighter. After noticing that the store seemed pretty empty and checking the time, we realized that the store was closing. When the lights dimmed, everyone just went to the front of the store and checked out. No need for an announcement or anything. It was so orderly. We couldn't imagine that ever happening at home.

Our haul from the store ended up being some more bottled water (so dehydrated all trip), a couple of mini bags of chips and a bag of fruit jellies (all of which we ate during the trip), and two things from the spices section to bring home. I was pretty excited about the dried kaffir lime leaves and have used them quite a bit, but I'm a little embarrassed to say that a year later, I completely forgot we even bought the piri piri seasoning and obviously haven't used it at all. I should get on that. Don't want to waste our souvenirs!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016


Yesterday we read some really disappointing news: Chipotle is planning to abandon ShopHouse, their fast casual Southeast Asian line. There aren't any ShopHouse locations in NYC, but we visited the Dupont Circle shop multiple times during our short visit to DC earlier in the year (which is also conveniently where we were up to in our DC trip recaps). We had heard about ShopHouse before Chipotle ever launched the line (mostly due to Pure Thai having to change the Shophouse in its name to Cookhouse), but never got to try it until this year. Sadly, it sounds like this means they'll never make it to NYC.

ShopHouse is modeled after Chipotle but with Southeast Asian ingredients and flavors. The bowl starts off with your choice of base - rice (jasmine or brown), cold rice noodles, or salad. Next up is the protein - chicken, meatballs, steak, or tofu. After that, you pick one vegetable (corn, green beans, or some seasonal choices) and a sauce (curry sauces or others). There are also a bunch of garnishes and toppings that are not limited to one, stuff like papaya salad, pickled vegetables, herb salad, toasted rice, crispy garlic, crushed peanuts, and chiles. After visiting Chipotle for so many years, we were pretty familiar with the format (except for the part where they limited you to one item in certain categories).

On our first visit to ShopHouse, we both got brown rice bowls. M got brown rice topped with chicken satay, the seasonal vegetable special of butternut squash with Thai basil, green curry sauce, all of the salad toppings, toasted rice, and fried garlic. A got all the same garnishes and toppings on his bowl but also added the chiles to his, which was brown rice topped with the pork and chicken meatballs, green beans with chili jam, and red curry sauce. We were so happy with our bowls, and after finishing, immediately wanted to go back up to get another bowl. Not so much because we were still hungry, but because they were that good. It was the perfect dinner after a day of traveling since each bowl was packed with vegetables and other healthy ingredients, and they were so full of vibrant flavors.

Even though we weren't in DC for very long on this trip, we found time to make a second visit to ShopHouse a couple of days later. We really wished there were one in NYC, but since we knew there wouldn't be one, we wanted to make sure we got some more of those delicious bowls. This time, we both got the meatballs because they were our favorite the first time. M got the green beans (her favorite vegetable from the first visit), and A got the charred corn (which we hadn't tried yet), but otherwise we stuck with the same curry sauces, garnishes, and toppings as the first time. The bowls were a little smaller than the first time, but we weren't as hungry, so it was fine. We were just really happy with how tasty everything was, and the flavors themselves were just like what you might find in a regular sit-down Southeast Asian restaurant. Not what you would expect from an American chain, but we mean that in the best way.

Considering that Chipotle has now publicized that they didn't see the results they wanted from ShopHouse, it seems unlikely that someone will step in to save the day and pick them up, but we're hoping that maybe we're wrong about that. There have been so many nights that we've sat at home, wondering what to eat for dinner, trying to find something tasty and nutritious and well-balanced and flavorful, and we've just wished we could wander over to ShopHouse, except that there isn't one here in NYC. It's a shame that Chipotle has chosen to drop them and instead focus on pizza and burgers (is that not a saturated enough market?). Have they not noticed the popularity of all the poke joints or the Indian fast casual places? It seems like, at least here in NYC, people have an interest in Asian fast casual flavors, or at the very least, something different from the usual Chipotle meals. Sad that we'll likely never see a ShopHouse here now.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Pig and Butcher

One year ago today, we were in London enjoying one of our favorite experiences of the entire trip - Sunday roast at The Pig and Butcher in Islington. We hadn't planned on a Sunday roast prior to getting to London (and therefore had no reservations anywhere), but felt like it was just such a classic English experience that we should try to fit one in. We only had one chance to do it, our first full day in London, and even though the wait was an hour and a half, we knew we had to do it.

We already mentioned what we did with our waiting time (some snacks and a trip to the Emirates), and we were really excited (and hungry) when we finally made our way back to the restaurant. We had read some reviews of various Sunday roast places at our hotel, and The Pig and Butcher seemed like a consensus good restaurant. We were also pretty happy with our choice of restaurant because of their philosophy on food and hospitality. The place just felt so welcoming and friendly, and they focused on locally sourced, sustainable ingredients, with a menu that changed every day depending on what was available. Our table was located right near a giant drawn map on the wall showing which farms were the sources for all the meat and fish on the day's menu. This was definitely the type of place that we wanted to be at for our roast.

We started off with some drinks. M was still feeling a little off and very dehydrated from traveling, so she chose not to get any alcohol with supper. A got the beer of the week, which was a German IPA called Handwerk. The beer didn't have the same hoppy bitterness as one would find from an American IPA and it also didn't eventually turn sweet like the IPAs A normally drinks. It was crisp and refreshing, though. A prefers the American IPA style compared to the European IPA style but in the end it was still a good beer. We also got a bottle of charity water for £1. It's called charity water because they make a donation to a charity that provides clean water to impoverished regions.

Although a lot of the starters sounded delicious, we chose to begin with "The Board" (£17.50, all prices as of a year ago) which had a sampling of a bunch of different things. The contents on the board change every week (and we still check out the menu from time to time to see what's being offered), and the one we got had a Scotch egg, cheese fritters, Trealy Farm ham, potted chicken, radishes, anchovy butter, crostini, and pickles (pickled cabbage and cauliflower). We were a little disappointed since the menu the previous week had had black pudding croquettes and we were hoping to try those, but missing out on dishes is always possible when a restaurant changes their menu all the time based on availability.

Our favorite part was probably the Scotch egg, which tasted like breakfast sausage and egg wrapped up into one and was really delicious. One of the more interesting items was the potted chicken, which we didn't know anything about beforehand, but really was just a pot of shredded chicken, almost like a dip, which we spread onto crostini. Everything on the board was really good, but it probably wasn't necessary to get (other than to satisfy our curiosity and try more new things) since the roasts were more than enough food for our midday meal.

For our main courses, we both selected different meats from the roast section. There were four options for the roast: chicken (which was only served for two people to share), pulled pork, leg of lamb, and sirloin. Although M would usually choose the chicken given those meat choices, she went with the pork because it sounded good and because she didn't want A to be forced to also eat chicken. Considering how good the pork turned out to be, she didn't regret that decision one bit. A picked the sirloin because when he thinks of a roast, he often thinks of something like pot roast which is a large hunk of meat. It also helped a lot that the waiter (owner?) mentioned that it was prime rib so that was a really easy decision.

The pulled pork was a slow roasted Hampshire pork shoulder (£16.95), which came with applesauce on the side and also a side sauce of dijon mustard (which I picked based on their suggestion). If this all sounds familiar, it's because both of us chose our Pig and Butcher roasts for our favorite food experiences last year (here and here). As M mentioned then, that was the best pulled pork she had ever had in her life, and that's still true to this day. It was so different from other pulled pork we had had, since that was mostly barbecue. The texture was similar, but the flavor of the meat was just so rich and comforting. Although M doesn't usually gravitate towards a giant plate of meat as an entree, she would absolutely get this again, if only there were a place here that we could get this.

The beef option for the roast was a 35-day aged roasted Hereford sirloin (£18.95). The prime rib (which was only allowed to be ordered rare) was sublime. The meat was super tender, and it had just the right amount of seasoning. A got the horseradish with it, and the pairing was perfect. The jus that came with was made mostly from the beef stock which was imparted with a great deal of flavor. Adding the horseradish gave it a great spice kick that horseradish is known for.

Every roast came with the same sides: Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes, creamed leeks, and vegetables (primarily Hispi cabbage and carrots). Yorkshire pudding is one of those classic English dishes with a name that's often tricky here in the States because it's nothing like what we think of when we think of pudding. It's basically a giant puffed bread, which was so good but so filling, even though it felt airy. The leeks gratin came in a little cup on the side and were so rich and creamy. The roast potatoes weren't nearly as soft as we were expecting, but a little crispy on the outside like they had been fried. The vegetables were good. We had never had Hispi cabbage before, and it was sweeter than any cabbage we have found back in the US. Paired with the carrots, it was a nice mix of textures with a sweet finish to pair with the meat. We really liked all the sides, but unfortunately we were so full that we couldn't finish everything on the plate.

We were so stuffed after finishing our meal (definitely no room for dessert) and so incredibly happy. The roast was exactly the type of thing we wanted to experience in London as it's such a quintessential eating experience. We would definitely recommend that everyone try to make it to a roast if there on a Sunday. British food gets such a bad reputation for being bland and flavorless, but this meal (and others later on) proved to us that that is definitely not the case.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Citi Field

Back in June, we wrote about the food at Yankee Stadium and mentioned how much more we prefer the offerings at Citi Field. We were lucky enough to be able to go to a baseball game at Citi Field this summer, but since we got to the game a little late and lines were long, we pretty much limited ourselves to places with short waits. That turned out to be a great move though, since it was how we ended up at Papa Rosso, one of the new spots this year.

Papa Rosso was the new pizza place at the ballpark run by Danny Meyer. We figured the pizza would be good, especially since we had previously had the pizza at Marta (also Danny Meyer, and which we will someday write about) which was delicious. There were three options - pepperoni, margherita, and mushroom and cheese. We got two pizzas, since if we were still hungry, we could always just buy something else.

The mushroom and cheese pizza was topped with fontina, ricotta, pecorino, mushrooms, and rosemary, and the margherita was pretty standard for a margherita pizza with crushed tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil. Both pizzas were really good. The flavors were great, and the crusts were crispy but still soft inside. Between the two, we preferred the mushroom pizza because it had more flavor, but they were both good. This isn't grading on a curve either because it was pizza at the ballpark. It would have been just as good from an actual non-ballpark restaurant.

Midway through the game, we found out that our tickets (which we had gotten from a friend) also included access to the Promenade Club. Since a lot of the food kiosks had lines, we decided to venture in there to check out the options. We were greeted with shorter lines and options for wings, empanadas, arancini, and where we ended up going, the Goya burrito bar. We had seen a nachos stand outside that looked really good, so we got some chicken nachos, covered in rice, beans, pico de gallo, salsa, jalapeños, lettuce, cheese, and guacamole. Not the best nachos ever, but certainly good enough for a ballpark snack.

When people talk about Citi Field eats, they usually mention Shake Shack, the Pat LaFrieda steak sandwiches, or now, Fuku. But even outside of those very popular ones (with long lines), there's plenty of other good food all over the ballpark. We haven't been to every ballpark, but Citi Field has to be near the top when it comes to the breadth of options for food. As far as food goes, it's always an enjoyable place to catch a game.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Brasserie Horta

We only had a short time to spend in Brussels (1.5 days), so we tried to make the most of our only full day in the city. One of the places we were really interested in visiting was the Belgian Comic Strip Center, so it was our first stop that day. Belgium has a pretty rich history when it comes to comics, originating both the Smurfs and Tintin among others, and the museum looked pretty cool. (It was, although we probably would have appreciated it much more if we had more than a rudimentary knowledge of Dutch or French.) Before visiting though, we were pretty hungry and there weren't really any other places open and/or nearby to eat, so we grabbed some lunch at the restaurant on the ground floor of the museum, Brasserie Horta.

As usual, we started out with some drinks that were the same price as water, Orval (€3.90, all prices as of 2010) for A and Mort Subite Xtreme Kriek (€2.75) for me. After getting kriek the night before at dinner, I was completely hooked on that cherry-infused beer. Our introduction to kriek was one of the bright spots from that dinner at the Grand Place.

I had already had a couple of spaghetti versions during our time in Belgium, so I decided to once again go with spaghetti bolognèse (€8) for my order. It was a giant plate of pasta covered with a very generous helping of cheese. For the price, it was a much larger portion than I thought it would be. 6 years later, I couldn't tell you which spaghetti bolognèse was the best we had during our entire time in Belgium, but while this was fine, I'm relatively sure we preferred the ones we had in Brugge.

A ordered a dish from the section titled "nos suggestions du moment" (which probably needs no translation) - penne au pesto vert, crème et lit de Jambon de Parme, parmesan (penne with green pesto, cream, prosciutto di Parma, and parmesan cheese) (€14.95). It was pretty much what the description said it was - penne pasta in a cream sauce with some prosciutto. I don't really see any pesto in the picture, just parsley. A remembers that the bites with prosciutto tasted better, but neither of us really remember enough about this dish to comment any further. It was fine, but it's been 6 years.

The one thing I will say about this brasserie was that the portion size, at least with my spaghetti, was quite a good deal. There was so much spaghetti that between the two of us, we just couldn't finish it. We hate leaving food behind (and there was no way we could box that up and save it), but we just couldn't eat any more of it.

Overall, our meal at the brasserie was fine. It definitely served its purpose, providing us enough fuel to make it through the afternoon. I don't know if things have changed in Brussels since our visit 6 years ago, but since it was a Sunday, the area near the museum was completely empty. I have so many pictures from our walk from the metro to the museum with not a single other person in them. Needless to say, there weren't many options for eating other than the museum's restaurant. Although not the most exciting choice, it worked well enough and the food was good enough. Just probably not a place we would go out of our way to go to if we weren't going to the museum.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Pesto alla Genovese

When I was going through our overflowing pantry recently, I noticed this bottle of pesto alla Genovese that was expiring soon. Apparently I had bought it from Trader Joe's almost 18 months earlier, thinking it would come in handy for a quick/shortcut meal, and then it got buried in the back of the pantry. This wasn't the first time I had bought the pesto. I think we previously used it on a pizza in place of tomato sauce, but I wanted to try doing something different with it this time.

(Ingredients, but ignore the tomatoes; I didn't end up using them)

I decided to make some pasta with a vegetable pesto sauce (which I only realized later had probably been inspired by Trader Joe's frozen pesto pasta dish). For the sauce, I sauteed some mushrooms, onions, and zucchini, and then mixed in the pesto sauce and let it cook for a bit covered at a low temperature. We then put the sauce on top of a bed of vegetable penne.

The pesto sauce was okay, but it definitely didn't have as much flavor as we thought it would. The main ingredients of the pesto were basil, oil, potatoes, grana padano cheese, pecorino romano cheese, cashews, pine nuts, and garlic, but considering that basil was the first ingredient, there was barely any basil flavor to the pesto. It didn't have strong flavors of anything at all. Maybe that was because it was nearing the end of its usable life, but I don't think that's entirely it. My memory of this pesto from the pizza experiment was that it was a little on the salty and heavier side, but not exceptionally strong in basil flavor then either. If we're going to use a pesto for a dish like this, we would prefer it to have more flavor.

Buy again? Not likely. We have heard that the refrigerated pesto has more flavor, so maybe we'll try that one sometime.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Legal Sea Foods

A little over ten years ago, we spent Memorial Day Weekend in Boston because A was playing in a basketball tournament. I tagged along for the weekend, and we spent our first night in Boston having dinner at Legal Sea Foods, an East Coast seafood chain that originated in the Boston area. We have pretty fond memories of that dinner, so when we were on our layover at Logan on our way to Portland, we decided we should have a nice, relaxed meal at Legal Sea Foods in the terminal.

We figured Legal Sea Foods would be like a lot of the other nicer sit-down airport restaurants we've been to - relaxed, not super crowded, a good place to leisurely pass the time. We couldn't have been more wrong about the location in this terminal. It was packed the entire time (even though it was not peak meal time), there was a wait list, and they had crammed a lot of tables into a small space right next to the security checkpoint. We hadn't realized just how crowded it was going to be, especially considering that the price point isn't exactly cheap, so we ended up waiting a little bit before we could squeeze into a table.

The one thing we knew we were going to get was a mug of the New England clam chowder ($6.95). You could smell the chowder everywhere in the vicinity of the restaurant, and the aroma was amazing. I couldn't stop talking about chowder the entire time. After trying it, I liked it a lot. A thought it was good but not amazing, so between the two of us, I think I liked it more. It was full of clams and potatoes and vegetables, and just felt so comforting between our flights. At the start of the meal, they also gave us two rolls that we liked and dipped into the chowder.

Besides the chowder, we ordered two sandwiches, both of which came with fries and cole slaw. Both accompaniments were fine, but nothing extraordinary. For his sandwich, A ordered the crispy fish sandwich ($12.95) which came with lettuce, tomato, and tartar sauce. This was kind of standard, but mostly good. A thought the fish was a little greasy, and I just remembered the part I tried being nice and flaky. In the end, it didn't make much of an impression on us.

I ordered the tuna burger ($16.50), which was described on the menu as "freshly ground tuna, chili paste, crumbs and spices." What arrived wasn't exactly what I was expecting. We've had tuna burgers with ground tuna before, and they've always been a bit of a loosely formed patty with lots of stuff mixed in. This one was a lot more solid and formed than I thought it would be, but that was fine. As far as the flavor, we didn't really taste much chili paste or spices in it. It was fine, but we expected it to be more flavorful.

As we watched all the mugs of chowder being delivered to other customers, and then saw a plate of onion strings on the table next to us, we wondered if perhaps we should have ordered differently. Maybe a mug of chowder for each of us along with a side of onion strings, or maybe we should have just splurged and gotten a platter of New England clam bellies. Although we're glad we got some fish and seafood by stopping in at Legal Sea Foods, the location in our terminal wasn't really the relaxed, leisurely meal we were looking for on our layover. It was still nice to have a good meal, but we ended up relocating to another section of the terminal right after eating (a pretty nice new section that we quite liked) and took some (food coma?) naps. Hopefully at some point we can make it back to New England in the summer for some proper seafood exploration.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Parsnip Chips

We bought these chips earlier this summer, but didn't get around to eating them until now. They should still be at Trader Joe's though, since we're pretty sure we saw them on our last visit.

Product name: Parsnip chips

Price: $2.99 for 5.2 oz bag

M's quick review: I picked up these parsnip chips when they first came out, thinking they would be a healthier version of potato chips. They were crispy, sort of like potato chips, but so much sweeter than I was expecting them to be. They grew on me a little bit as I ate more of them, but they were still sweeter than what I was looking for from our snack time. The chips I liked the best were the ones with more salt on them because the salt balanced out the sweetness more.
Buy again? It's a no for me. They're fine, but I prefer other TJ's chips.

(We forgot to take a picture of the chips themselves before we ate them all, but they did pretty much look like the picture on the bag)

A's quick review: Eh, these are okay. They're sweeter than regular potato chips since they're made of parsnip. I prefer less sweetness when it comes to my salty snacks so this was a little less pleasant in that regard. I also feel like these were a touch greasier than some of Trader Joe's other chip offerings.
Buy again? I don't think I need to get these again since there are better options out there in my opinion.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Jalapeno and Honey Chevre

This was the August spotlight cheese at Trader Joe's, which we liked when we tried it earlier in the fall. We thought it was gone after August, but then we saw it in the cheese section tonight when we went to the store, so we were pretty happy. No idea if it's back for good, but hopefully it'll be a permanent addition to the chevre selection.

Product name: Jalapeno and honey chevre

Price: $2.99

Quick review: We're fans of most chevre from TJ's (at least the savory ones we've tried), and this one was no different. You could definitely taste the jalapeno in this cheese, and it was fairly spicy, more than we expected. That said, the jalapeno was balanced out by the sweetness of the honey and the creaminess of the cheese. We thought this flavor of chevre really worked well.

Buy again? Yes. (Just in case it's not back for good, we bought two more today.)

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

San Diego

If you're wondering where we've been for the past week (probably no one), we just returned from a wonderful week out in San Diego, which is one of our favorite places in the US. The weather is great, the food is delicious, there is an abundance of good craft beer, and the vibe of the entire city is so relaxed. It's a great place for a getaway.

We've been to San Diego a few times before, but since we always spent a lot of our time at the zoo (after all, we are called panda bytes for a reason), we never really explored as much of the city as we could have. We made up for it this time, driving around, exploring new places, and eating a lot of good food. Can't wait to share more soon!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

La Rose Blanche

After a bit of a frustrating afternoon traveling around Brussels and not being able to see most of the places we wanted to, we spent the rest of our afternoon/evening in Grote Markt (The Grand Place) in the center of the city. It was a beautiful square surrounded by grand architecture and was an amazing setting to walk around. We happened upon La Rose Blanche right near the edge of the square, and the menu seemed like it was full of traditional Belgian dishes so we thought it would be a good place to eat for the evening.

We chose to sit outside as the weather was gorgeous, and the scenery was so majestic to behold. There was also some sort of festival or concert going on, and there was a full orchestra playing music, as well as marching bands and lots of other entertainment. It felt so surreal to be there as if we were back in some city celebration back in the day.

As we often did during this trip, M and I each got a beer for dinner. M chose a kriek by Mort Subite, and I got a Chimay Blue. This was the first time we had really encountered kriek, a sour cherry beer mostly found in the Brussels area, and it was wonderful. Unfortunately, it was also about this time that things started to turn a bit. The waiter came to pour our beers, and he inexplicably spilled some of my beer on to the table. Instead of apologizing, all he said before leaving was, "Dangerous!" Yes, this is a touristy spot, and yes, we don't speak his precious French language, but it's rare that I see such terrible service. (M's note: We have nothing against French people or the French language, but this waiter was just the embodiment of every stereotype out there about French people and their attitudes towards tourists. And we weren't even in France!)

Because we were hungry, we decided not to send the bread basket back. I don't remember if we were charged for it like in other European countries, but I'm not sure we cared at the time. It was a few pieces of a nice, crusty French loaf. Other than that, though, it was fairly standard.

I liked the Carbonades a la Flamande (Flemish style beef stew) that I had back in Brugge so much that I wanted more of it so that's what I ordered. From what I remember this wasn't nearly as rich or flavorful as the previous night's offering. It was fine, but there was a noticeable difference. Coupled with the rude and inattentive service (more on that later), this was a severe step down.

M got the Boulettes a la Marolienne (meatballs with tomato sauce, onions, Faro beer and pommes frites). Except the fries didn't come with the meatballs, even though the menu specifically said pommes frites. We had photos of the menu and we knew there were supposed to be fries, so where were they? We don't remember all the details this many years later but we think there was an extended period of trying to flag the waiter down for fries, and we don't recall whether they actually arrived since we never took a picture of them if they did. Maybe we were too frustrated about the whole situation and just dug into the fries, or maybe the waiter never brought them even after we asked and we just gave up. No recollection other than that there was some frustration and aggravation about the whole situation (more on the service later).

We also opted to get an order of Fondus aux Fromages (parmesan cheese croquettes). M and I are huge fans of croquettes, and we also really like cheese. At first we thought they might just be something like mozzarella sticks, but instead these were blocks of parmesan, fried and oozing with deliciousness.

In the end, this meal was just okay. The food was nothing special, and the waiter we had was incompetent and also completely inattentive. It took several times for us to actually flag him down whenever we needed anything, and we actually did need things because of all the things that were missing or wrong in the first place. At first we thought it was because we were clearly Americans, but the Spanish tourists sitting a couple tables down from us also were given the silent/ignoring treatment to the point that all of us were joking that we clearly all didn't speak the right language.

Overall, while the food didn't make a lasting impression and the service was terrible, the enjoyable scenery and the beautiful music salvaged some of the night.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

German Chocolate Cake

Ever since our favorite ice cream at Target (the Market Pantry birthday cake flavor) was discontinued, we haven't bought much ice cream there. On a recent trip, we found this German chocolate cake ice cream in the clearance section and figured we would give it a try. Almost all the pints of ice cream in the freezer until this point had been Ample Hills (side note: how have we still not written about their Star Wars ice cream yet?), and we thought it would be fun to try something new (and cheaper).

M's review: This tasted just like chocolate ice cream to me with little hints of coconut and caramel. The caramel flavor wasn't very strong, but I mostly associate German chocolate cake with the flavors of chocolate and coconut, so that was okay with me. This was pretty good chocolate ice cream, but nothing so special that I would put it on our shopping list for our next trip.

A's review: This was a really rich chocolate ice cream with some chocolate chunks and flecks of coconut mixed in. I didn't get any caramel flavor, and the coconut was all but nonexistent. I do like a good chocolate ice cream, and this did taste good for that, but it certainly wasn't a German chocolate cake.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

National Taco Day

Happy National Taco Day! To celebrate, I went over to Choza Taqueria at Gotham West, since Choza was offering a free taco with every meal for the occasion. An order of tacos there included three tacos, so with the free one, I was able to get about 2/3 of the taco options on the menu. This wasn't my first time at Choza, but it had been a little bit since my last visit so I couldn't remember which of the fillings was my favorite. Luckily they let you mix and match.

For the National Taco Tuesday promotion, you could choose between the chicken and garbanzo tacos. I went with the garbanzo taco (technically garbanzos y hongos - garbanzos and mushrooms) since I had already ordered the chicken as part of the set. The garbanzo and mushroom taco was made with Mexican crema, salsa negra, and avocado. I liked this one, and the best part was the smoky sauce. The mushrooms were very juicy, and the addition of the chickpeas made it even heartier.

The pollo taco at Choza is kind of unique. I liked the way it differed from your standard chicken taco, combining citrus-roasted chicken, charred pineapple, buttermilk-tomatillo salsa, queso fresco, and cilantro. Pineapple is more commonly associated with pork and al pastor, but it complemented the citrus-flavored chicken here pretty well. I also liked the buttermilk-tomatillo salsa, a combination of flavors you don't normally find in a taco.

The third taco I tried was the chorizo, which was spicy Mexican pork sausage, poblano peppers, salsa macha, queso fresco, and cilantro. Of the four, this was definitely the taco with the most powerful flavors with lots of spice from the chorizo and the poblano peppers. It was a little salty because it was chorizo, but not too bad. I really liked having the poblano peppers on top adding a lot of freshness.

The last taco was the carnitas - braised pork shoulder with tamarind, chipotle crema, escabeche, and cilantro. The flavor of the meat here was pretty good, but the cabbage on top dominated the flavor and texture of the taco a little bit. I'm not really one to complain about extra vegetables to balance things out though, so I was okay with that.

Even though the tacos from Choza looked on the small side on the platter, they were pretty filling. Four was more than enough for lunch for me. I think my favorite was probably the chicken, but they all were pretty good. Out of all the options at Gotham West, Choza is one of the most affordable, so I see more tacos in my future.