Wednesday, January 30, 2013


Every so often I find myself outside Midtown at lunch, and I try to take advantage of it by trying someplace new. Yesterday that was Wrapido on 23rd Street.

Wrapido from the outside - free falafel!

Wrapido has various vegetarian and meat options, which you can get in a pita (cheapest), a wrap or a salad. I went with the falafel (of which they have generous samples outside the restaurant) and decided to get it in a wrap. Everything was made fresh - the wrap was heated up on the griddle, the falafel came out of the fryer, and then I got to pick my own salads and toppings.

Not a great set of photos, but trying to show all the different salads

Wraps come with one dressing (I got tahini) and six choices from the extensive salad bar.  The salads ranged from regular vegetables like cucumbers and tomatoes, to seasoned salads like guacamole and chickpea salad. I decided to go with guacamole, seasoned carrots, chickpea salad, red onions, cilantro, and salsa (like pico de gallo).  That was one delicious sandwich.  The whole wheat wrapper was soft and chewy, the falafel was crisp and full of flavor, and the salads were fresh and healthy. I don't think I've ever put guacamole in a falafel sandwich, but it's good!

I think if we lived near Wrapido we would probably be regulars - healthy, cheap and lots of variety. Delicious meatless meal!

Joy Curry

I love getting Indian food for lunch. One place I tried recently is the new branch of Joy Curry and Tandoor on 39th Street (between 5th and 6th Avenues). I had ordered delivery a few times over the years from the Midtown East branch, but had never been in person to either location.

Joy Curry has several combos at lunch, including one with 2 vegetable dishes ($7.95) and one with 1 meat and 1 vegetable dish ($8.95).  All the combos come with basmati rice and naan. One thing to note is that if you get chicken tikka masala for your meat dish (as I did), the combo is more expensive at $9.50. I'm not really sure why chicken tikka masala costs more, but they did point it out before putting it in the dish, so at least they were upfront about it. If you see one of the guys on the streets handing out menu cards, there's a $1 off coupon on it, so with tax, it ended up less than $9.50.

Joy Curry lunch combo

I got the chicken tikka masala and the chana masala, two of my usual dishes, which allowed me to compare with other Indian lunch spots.  I thought these were both good, but I've had better at other places. Between the 2 dishes here, I liked the chicken tikka masala better.

Lots of chickpeas and chicken

One thing I like about Joy Curry and Tandoor is that, unlike Minar, they include both rice and naan in their combo price.  That makes them more similar to Indus Express, another place I like for Indian food lunches, although between the two, I would give Indus a slight edge over Joy.

Fresh naan

If you're in the 30s and looking for Indian food, I think Joy Curry is worth a try. I'm usually much closer to Minar, Indus Express and the excellent Mausam truck, so I'm not sure when I'll be back, but I feel lucky to have so many good Indian food options!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Chop't Po' Boy

I was looking for a light(er) lunch today after having my free hot dog, so I headed over to Chop't where I tried their Po' Boy salad for the first time.

The Po' Boy salad consists of romaine lettuce with FreeBird panko fried chicken, tomatoes, red onions and white cheddar cheese.  They recommend Tex-Mex Ranch dressing; I tried the spa version, but it was a little smokier than I was looking for, so I got my favorite Mexican Goddess dressing instead.

This was a great salad, one of the tastiest ones I have gotten at Chop't.  Much of that is probably due to the fried chicken and the cheddar cheese, both of which were so flavorful.  Add in juicy tomatoes, crunchy red onions and lots of greens, and you've got a winning salad combination. I'm glad this classic combination is always on the menu. I can see myself ordering this a lot!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Senegalese Chicken with Peanuts

It is yet another cold, wet day here, and that keeps my ideals of "need warm soup" alive. M has told me in the past about how much she likes the Senegalese Chicken with Peanuts from Hale and Hearty, but I never got around to trying it. There always seemed to be something else that caught my interest. After once more being told how great it was, I made myself promise that I would get it when it next was offered at my location. Hale and Hearty describes "This soup, which is served topped with crushed peanuts, is a spicy and complex African style tomato soup loaded with white meat chicken, peanuts and spices."

Senegalese Chicken Soup with Peanuts

I don't know what the difference is between African style tomato soup and non-African style tomato soup, but I appear to like both. This soup felt creamier than other tomato soups, but it's marked as dairy free so I can only assume that they have some magical non-dairy creaming substance. My guess would be coconut milk, but I'm probably wrong, and I didn't really taste any hint of coconut. This soup is full of onions, scallions, and bits of shredded chicken, but the star of the show is the tomato-based soup. It's rich and spicy, and it looks like some form of chili oil has been mixed in. The crushed peanuts added on top give the soup a very nice crunchy texture and a mild peanut flavor. There was an underlying sweetness from the tomatoes themselves, and it all made for a very enjoyable, very warming soup.

Hot Dogs and Glögg

Today was a dreary winter day but Norwegian Cruise Lines tried to brighten it up a little bit with an event in Times Square celebrating their new ship, the Norwegian Breakway.  They had a few palm trees, a cruise photo station, some giveaways, and more interesting for me - food tasting!

The event on a crappy weather day

One was the "classic" New York Sabrett hot dog because the ship will have a few of these hot dog carts onboard.
New York hot dogs for free!

It's been awhile since I've had a regular NY hot dog with mustard and onions, but I do love them. Cheap and tasty. The only thing I didn't like about this one was the bun was too bready. I ended up leaving half of the bun.

They were also serving a warm drink, which was appropriate for the 30 degree weather.  I thought people were just drinking apple cider, but it turned out to be glögg, which they described as hot apple cider mixed with black currant juice.

The event's version of glögg

Googling glögg, it sounds like this is a traditional holiday drink - a Scandinavian mulled wine.  (More info and a recipe from NPR here.)  I really liked the (non-alcoholic) offering at the event and am now really intrigued about traditional glögg. Maybe next holiday season.

We haven't been on a cruise since 2011 (the Carnival Glory, which we reviewed in full (the only trip we've ever finished recapping) here).  Chances are slim, but maybe we'll win the free trip on the Breakaway's maiden voyage!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Portuguese Kale Soup

I've seen this Portuguese Kale Soup a couple times on the menu, and I keep seeing similar soups offered everywhere that I'm traveling within the Northeast. I figured that, at some point, I should try it. Today, in the bitter cold, I wanted to try what was noted as "[...] tender luscious beans, potatoes and, of course, gently simmered kale. Bolstered with sausage and a touch of crushed red pepper, we know why it's a New England favorite."

Portuguese Kale Soup

This is a very wholesome soup that is rich and hearty even while being dairy-free. The white beans, potatoes, and red beans offer a great deal of body to the soup, and they help to temper the saltiness of the sausage. The red pepper brings a nice, mild heat to the soup that warms you up even more than the hot soup itself. The kale doesn't really offer much flavor, but it adds a leafy bite to the soup as well as all of the vital nutrients that kale offers on its own. One item that's not mentioned on their website is the addition of diced tomatoes. The tomatoes offer a really nice acidity to the soup and a soft texture to pair on top of the bite of the sausage and the mush of the beans and potatoes. There also was some celery added that offered some additional bite as well.

Overall this was a very hearty and warming soup. It was flavorful and bold, and the heat kicks up your internal temperature very well.

Cajun Chicken and Sweet Italian Sausage

It was windy and chilly at lunch today - a delightful 6 degrees for a wind chill - which meant it was a perfect day for soup. (I know that's warm compared to the arctic midwest temps, but that's cold for NYC!)  I originally set out to get the curried chicken chowder (which A reviewed earlier today), but after trying the chicken and sweet Italian sausage soup, I changed my mind and decided to try something new instead.

The chicken and sweet Italian sausage soup was perfect for such a cold day. It felt like a soup that you would get at someone's family home, simple, hearty and flavorful.  In addition to the chicken and sausage, there was bacon, mushrooms, tomatoes, celery, onions, potatoes, rosemary and some other herbs.  It would be really healthy except there is also some butter in it.

I loved the spices and the flavors of the soup, all the vegetables, and also how tender the chicken was.  The only not so great thing was that some pieces of sausage were a little "tough" as if there were cartilage or casing included. Even with that though, it was a good soup, and I loved the flavor.

In addition to the soup, I got a half of one of my favorite sandwiches there - the cajun chicken sandwich.

This sandwich has spicy cajun chicken, monterey jack cheese, tomatoes, baby arugula and Creole mayonnaise on the usual ciabatta bread. I'm a big fan of this combo of ingredients and hope this sandwich never leaves the rotation!

It looks like the frigid weather is going to continue, so we'll see if tomorrow is another soup day!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Curried Chicken Chowder

M reviewed the Curried Chicken Chowder before, and she raved about it the last time we both went out to Hale and Hearty together. In fact, she's continuously raved about it since then so when I saw it on the menu today, I knew what lunch I was going to get. Now, it certainly helped that the weather outside is a bit on the colder side today. Hale and Hearty describes the soup as "[...] a creamy, Indian style chowder, loaded with diced potatoes, white meat chicken and just the right amount of spices."

Curried Chicken Chowder

Wow, M wasn't lying when she said this was good. The soup is definitely creamy and has to have cream/butter to achieve this, but it doesn't feel heavy at all. Along with the aforementioned potatoes and shredded chicken, the soup contains the standard mirepoix veggies diced up. Everything else is a secret spice/curry blend, and I want to find out what it is. Will they ever tell me? I highly doubt it. The soup itself has a hint of sweetness balanced in with the savory curry flavor. It's a very warm and comforting soup, and on a day when the high temperature was well below freezing, this soup really hits the spot and warms you from the inside out.

While this soup doesn't beat out my current favorite, I think this might have taken over spot #2 on my own personal list. Speaking of which, I should probably make my own list somewhere to document this...

Kebab Cobb

Another healthy lunch, another Chop't salad. This time I got the kebab cobb, the first non-seasonal salad I've gotten from Chop't.

Looks like an ordinary salad, but it was tasty and had much more "stuff" than the picture shows

The kebab cobb consists of Freebird grilled chicken, feta cheese, red onion, peppers and pita chips (I substituted chickpeas), with romaine lettuce.  The recommended dressings are the spa Greek yogurt tzatziki or the red wine vinaigrette.  I went with the spa tzatziki but they ran out before we could finish adding to the salad (it was a late lunch) so I got some Mexican Goddess on the side, since Mexican Goddess dressing makes everything better. (Seriously, it does.)  I'm a big fan of Greek salads and this was fresh, clean and healthy.

I was at a different Chop't from my usual location because this location (East 40th Street) was running a special LevelUp promotion, which they are using instead of their loyalty cards. I love LevelUp, but it's somewhat disconnected running that at the same time there is an existing loyalty card for the other locations. Unless you exclusively go to this location, it's going to take a lot longer to earn that free salad.  Anyway, the kebab cobb was good. I wonder what I should try next!

Monday, January 21, 2013

A Bit of Wichcraft

The other day at work, we had a catered lunch with sandwiches and salads from 'wichcraft.  I've only been to 'wichcraft a couple of times since they are on the pricey side, so I was looking forward to the opportunity to try something new.

The sandwiches weren't labeled, so I'm not 100% sure which ones I had. I think the one above was the roasted turkey with avocado, onion relish and aioli (the online menu also says there should be bacon but I don't remember bacon in this sandwich). I'm not really sure about the one below. When I ate it, I thought it was pulled pork with a cabbage and carrot slaw and seasoned mayo, but nothing on the current menu seems to match that.  The sandwiches were just okay, and the thing I remember most about both of them is that there was an overwhelming amount of mayo.  Too much creaminess that seemed to mess up the balance of the other ingredients in the sandwich.  They were also a little salty.

We had three types of salads.  My favorite was the red potato salad, which had crunchy vegetables (celery, scallions) and a mustard vinaigrette.  There was also a salad of mixed greens with parmesan cheese and a lemon vinaigrette, kind of like a caesar salad without the anchovies, which was simple but good.  Finally, there was a chickpea salad. I usually love chickpea salads but I didn't love this one. Apparently I had this last time I went to 'wichcraft but completely forgot. There was a flavor in this chickpea salad that I couldn't decipher but didn't really like.  I don't remember feeling this way the last time, so maybe it was something in this batch that was different.

Overall, the meal was just alright. I was expecting more since their ingredients are pretty high in quality and people seem to rave about their expensive sandwiches. Maybe it was just the selection we got in the catering, but I was underwhelmed. 

Sunday, January 20, 2013


The day after we went to Maison, we used another one of our vouchers at Artichoke Basille's Pizza in Chelsea, hoping that it would redeem a mediocre food weekend.

Our voucher covered an 18" pizza and 2 beers for about $23 (before tax/tip).  Considering that most pizzas at Artichoke are $28-30, we thought this would be a pretty good deal.

For beers, A chose the Artichoke house brew and M got a bottle of Heineken. The Artichoke house beer was a little sweet. Almost oddly sweet. Even though a lot of people classified it as being a light beer, it was full of flavor and body.

Although we had heard great things about the Sicilian pizzas, especially the Vodka Sicilian, we thought that for our first trip we should go with the namesake artichoke pizza.  Although there were mixed reviews online about the artichoke pizza, we like artichokes and we like artichoke dip (what some people compared it to), so we decided to try it.  The pizza was described on the menu as a pizza with artichoke hearts, spinach, cream sauce, mozzarella and pecorino romano cheese.

The pizzas at Artichoke are gigantic.  As you can see from the photo below with A's hand in it, they're huge and 2 people can definitely not finish one pizza in one sitting unless they are starving and overstuff themselves.  In fact, A's initial response to this monstrosity being put down in front of him was, "Good lord!"

But while the artichoke pizza was huge, it wasn't great.  The creamy sauce only covered the first 1/3 to 1/2 of each slice. While that added moisture to the pie itself, it was very heavy. The lack of sauce on the rest of the slice made it very dry, though. It was sort of a damned either way type of situation.  There was no discernible spinach. It was incredibly doughy. For a pizza called an "artichoke pizza" there were barely any artichokes. The cheese didn't cover the full pizza (not even close). For all the criticisms online of it being too oily and greasy, it was the opposite for us - dry and so, so doughy.

Overall this was a fairly disappointing meal. Parts of this signature pie were very flavorful but extremely heavy and the others were very dry and doughy.  (When we made our leftovers at home, we added garlic powder and Italian seasoning, which improved it somewhat but couldn't fix the overwhelming feeling of being weighed down by dough.) Will we come back to Artichoke? Maybe, maybe not. If we do, though, we know what we won't get.  In the end, this weekend ended up being less than satisfying for dinners, but at least we used our vouchers and got them out of the way.

Friday, January 18, 2013

IGK - Spicy Curry Udon

It's been a very long time since I reviewed something new from IGK. That's more a product of me not trying anything new to be quite honest. This is pretty much a weekly stop for me on my lunch runs. I love this place, and I'm glad I have something new to talk about from their offerings.

Granted, this offering is from their weekly special menu so I'm not sure how often it will be available, but I will seriously have to consider it every time I see it.

I wasn't sure what to expect with the Spicy Curry Udon. For some reason I was picturing some sort of curry-based soup with udon and chicken added. I honestly have no clue why I thought that considering the sign clearly states curry on top of udon noodles and not noodles in curry. Regardless, I was very pleased with what I got.

The curry came loaded with carrots, onions, and potatoes and was heated with the chicken before being layered on top of the udon noodles. They finished the dish with a drizzle of teriyaki sauce, scallions, sesame seeds, and pickled radish. The curry was a very fragrant and flavorful Japanese curry. It wasn't too spicy, but I could definitely get some latent heat prevailing through the dish. I've had many Japanese curries in the past, and this one was a very good offering. I've never had it on top of noodles before, though, so this was an interesting new experience. It was, sadly, also a bit of a messy one. My poor shirt has some new curry spots that will need to be addressed later. Overall, I really enjoyed this dish, and I'm looking forward to getting it again when I get a chance. I'll just need to remember to wear a bib next time!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Brazilian Black Bean

The way Hale and Hearty describes this dish: "The national dish of Brazil, this classic flavorful soup is a blend of black beans with delicious traditional spices. Contains pancetta" it's clear that they are going for their version of Feijoada. M and I have had some tasty Feijoada that we should write about at some point and also some less than stellar offerings as well.

In essence, Feijoada is a black bean stew full of different cuts of meat. It's stewed with some herbs and spices and is often served with rice and farofa. Hale and Hearty obviously did not give rice or farofa, but this soup was quite delicious.

Brazilian Black Bean Soup (aka Feijoada)

The soup/stew is incredibly hearty and warm. It feels like home, and it was perfect for today's dreary weather. Along with the pancetta, they added large cuts of beef and diced up sausage as well. They added in some diced onions and celery as well, but those were a bit harder to distinguish. The added meat was really a surprise since it wasn't listed on the soup's description, but I guess it makes sense since without it this would just be a black bean soup flavored with pancetta.

I really enjoyed this soup, and I'm hoping that enough people liked it so that Hale and Hearty keeps it as part of the rotation.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Piccolo Cafe "Lunch Sandwich"

Located on 40th street close to 8th avenue is Piccolo Cafe. I remember when it first was opened I kept thinking I should try it because it had a very rustic look to the architecture and design, and the food sounded good. For some reason, it took me years before I actually ended up going. I went a couple of times last year, but I never ended up writing about it. Not because it wasn't good, but I was much lazier about blogging back then. But hey, no time like the present to continue my diligence with writing right?

Today I went and got their "lunch sandwich" which is a special sandwich that they have yet to name. In fact, my order was written as "new sandwich". The new sandwich contains chicken, mustard, arugula, roasted peppers (both red and yellow), and buffala mozzarella all on a nice country loaf.

"Lunch Sandwich"

After I took a bite, I realized that this was actually the first sandwich I got from them last year as well so at least I'm still reviewing that first meal. The sandwich itself is extremely well balanced. The chicken doesn't have a great deal of flavor, but it doesn't have to because the rest of the sandwich is so full of flavor. The mozzarella is wonderfully creamy and not overly salty. The roasted red and yellow peppers are nice and sweet, and the arugula adds that nice spice that it's known for. The mustard ties it all together with a bit of heat and some much needed acidity. The bread, I think, is a nice toasty ciabatta. It's perfectly toasted to give that crunch from the crust but still be nice and chewy on the inside.

The sandwich, and all of their sandwiches, also comes with a little side salad.

Not the greatest picture of the salad

As you can see, the side salad comes in a little clear plastic cup. I find this to be very nice as the included oil and vinegar dressing can be easily shaken up to coat the mixed field greens. It's a nice refreshing addition to the meal.

Overall I find that the sandwich and salad are a very satisfying meal. It's a little on the pricier side of Midtown lunching, but for the amount of food you get, it's very much worth it.

Roasted "Fingerling" Potatoes

One of the two recipes I picked for the cookbook project was roasted fingerling potatoes from the Williams-Sonoma A Taste of the World cookbook (one of the United States recipes).  I didn't really want to buy bread to accompany the soup and wasn't sure if the soup would be enough for dinner on its own, so I thought some potatoes might be a good side dish.

The recipe was fairly simple except for one thing - we couldn't find fingerling potatoes.  We did find a 5 pound sack of gourmet potatoes at Costco, which included fingerling potatoes, but that was a lot more potatoes than we needed and we thought they would be easy to find at the grocery store. No luck!  The recipe did say we could use "other waxy potatoes" so we ended up substituting those little red potatoes for the fingerling potatoes.  We had no idea fingerling potatoes would be so hard to find!


- Fingerling/other waxy potatoes (2 lbs - $4.99)
- Rosemary (used about half the package - $1.25)
- Sea salt (already had this - $0)
- 1 head of garlic ($0.50)
- Olive oil (already had this - $0)

The total for this dish was about $6.75 (not including ingredients we already had in the pantry), which is not that different from how much a side dish of roasted potatoes would cost in a restaurant.  I suppose that in this case they're fresh, homemade, and the portion size is a lot more than what you would get in a restaurant side order, but I was just surprised at how much it ended up costing.  I think you could make this same recipe with regular potatoes cut into smaller pieces, and it would be just as good and would cost much less.  (Actually I think A did make that at some point before...)

The recipe was fairly easy, but the time consuming part was cleaning the potatoes. (They don't look great in the photo but I felt the need to clean out the eyes of the potatoes.)  After that, all you have to do is coat the potatoes in olive oil and roast them in the oven for about 30 minutes (turning them a few times), surrounded by rosemary leaves and unpeeled cloves of garlic.

The finished potatoes don't look as attractive as the pre-roasted potatoes but they came out pretty well.  They were soft and not dry/chalky.  Garlic and rosemary go really well with potatoes, and the light seasoning was good.  The potatoes ended up being an appetizer instead of a side dish since the soup was still simmering on the stove, but I think they were a success.  I would definitely be interested in making this again, but I hope next time the potatoes will be a little less expensive!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Cookbook Project Preview

One of our 2013 food resolutions is to be better about our "cookbook project."  To refresh, the cookbook project is where A and I take turns (since our kitchen isn't big enough for both of us) picking recipes out of our many cookbooks and trying them out, and then write about our results.  Our goal has always been to do at least one per month but we've never done more than 2 in a calendar year.  But ever since we decided to do this, we've always done January!  (See the cookbook project write-ups for 2012 and 2011.) 

For tonight I picked out two recipes - white bean, escarole and meatball soup and roasted fingerling potatoes - thinking that they would be great for a wintry January night.  It didn't turn out to be as cold as we expected but the dishes still turned out pretty good.  When I planned out the kitchen time, it was supposed to take a little over 2 hours, but I am so slow and out of practice that it took about 3.5 hours to finish the entire project.  But it was very fulfilling when it was done!  Write-ups to come.


We don't go out that often for French food, but we bought a Groupon to Maison, a brasserie in Midtown, and last weekend, decided to enjoy our multi-course French meal.

Brasserie Maison

Our Groupon included 2 glasses of house wine, 2 appetizers, and 2 main courses.  The meal started with a bread basket and an olive oil butter.

It was low light but the butter was kind of pink, even though it looks orange in this photo

This was, sadly, one of the better parts of the meal. Neither of us could pinpoint the added flavor that made the butter pink. A thought he tasted a bit of cream cheese and smoked salmon which made no sense, but it really did taste like it. M thought it was a little tomatoey. The waiter said it was just olive oil mixed in with the butter, but we've never known olive oil to turn butter pink or add additional flavors like the ones we thought we tasted.

We both chose white wine and each got a glass of chardonnay.


The wine wasn't bad. Neither of us is a huge chardonnay fan, but we thought it was pretty good. It had a little sweetness to it and was crisp.

One of the appetizers was fried calamari, which came with a lemon and saffron aioli.

Fried calamari with aioli

The calamari was lukewarm at best. We were confused since we figured it was freshly fried so it should be nice and hot. The aioli was actually light considering what it was, but was nothing special. Maybe it was the lemon that gave it some freshness. The breading started falling off as we ate though, and the calamari towards the bottom was soggy, and that was really disappointing.  The calamari itself didn't have much flavor or seasoning on its own, which was also disappointing and made the aioli quite necessary.

We also got the goat cheese tart for an appetizer - a flaky crust topped with caramelized Spanish onions, marinated goat cheese and topped with cherry tomatoes, tossed in fresh cut basil and olive oil (according to the menu). It came with a mixed greens salad on the side.

Goat cheese and tomato tart with some greens

This was probably the best thing we ate during the meal, but even this was just okay. We've had cheese tarts in the past that have been better. The crust was a little hard and not nearly as flaky as the description led us to believe. The cheese was rich and flavorful, and the tomatoes were very fresh. The salad was just a mix of greens with some oil and vinegar mixed in.  The onions were fine, but despite the description, there was barely any basil.

For the main course, M chose the roasted chicken, which was accompanied by mashed potatoes, ratatouille and thyme jus.

Roasted chicken, potatoes, and vegetables - a classic brasserie dish

Flavor-wise this dish wasn't that bad. The ratatouille was flavorful and definitely the best part of the dish. The mashed potatoes were smooth and buttery, but were just "there." The chicken, while decently flavored, was very dry. It was difficult to cut, and even the jus, which we didn't get much thyme from, couldn't save it.  We had a pretty good French roasted chicken in November in Chicago (which we will write about someday), and this wasn't even close.  And that one was a takeout order!

A chose the moules provencale (fresh tomatoes, sweet garlic and basil).


We don't go out for mussels very often in NYC, so our standard for mussels is Chez Leon in Brussels, Belgium (someplace we also haven't written about but hope to get to someday).  Although that is a somewhat touristy spot and not even the best mussels Brussels had to offer, they were so much more delicious than these mussels.  These were fine and passable, cooked decently well, with a decent tomato and onion sauce.  But they were nothing to rave about. The broth was also creamier than we expected.

The mussels came with crispy fries.  It tasted like lemon aioli for the dipping sauce but we heard one of the servers just call it mayo.

Fries and mayo

The fries were good.  One of the better parts of the meal because of their crispiness.  Not sure it's a good thing that fries and bread were the better parts of the meal (after the goat cheese tart). The aioli/mayo was a nice touch and reminded us of Amsterdam and Belgium with their fries. The fries weren't as good as what we had in Europe, but they were still tasty.

In addition to the food being mediocre, the experience was also not very pleasant, not all of which was the restaurant's fault.  The tables weren't that close together, but somehow A got kicked by the woman sitting next to M, who also never even tried to move her coat which was covering half of M's seat.  Then, halfway through the meal, we were boiling and drenched in sweat as if we just finished a cardio workout.  A lot of people looked warm.  When we left we realized why. There were apparently heaters in the banquette that were burning hot to the touch, so M's jacket felt like it had been laying on a space heater. Leaving the restaurant was a relief as the heat was becoming unbearable by the time we finished our main courses.  If you do go to Maison, we would recommend avoiding the tables with banquettes right by the window. Way. Too. Hot.

We weren't sure what to expect with this meal, but sadly it was only mediocre.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Potbelly Cole Slaw

The other day I met my mom for lunch at Potbelly where we enjoyed some turkey and provolone toasted sandwiches.

We also shared a cole slaw, which I mentioned in October as the only side salad at Potbelly that I hadn't yet tried.

Potbelly's cole slaw has a lot of celery salt (it's a dominating flavor) and the pieces of cabbage are really crisp.  There are also little carrot bits mixed in. I don't usually prefer cole slaw (although it is the healthiest of the big 3 side salads, much healthier than potato and macaroni salads) but this one was pretty good.  I think it would come in second in my Potbelly side salad ranking, after potato salad, but before tomato/cucumber and macaroni.

And no matter how healthy or unhealthy any of these side salads are, they are so much healthier than my beloved sugar cookies...

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Flagstaff Food Truck Cobb

Every 60 days, Chop't introduces a new set of seasonal salads.  I went to check out the current seasonal salads online today and as soon as I saw the Flagstaff Food Truck Cobb, I knew I was headed to Chop't to get one of those for lunch.

There was bread on top, but the salad is more attractive without it

The Flagstaff Food Truck Cobb salad consists of FreeBird piquin pepper chicken, hominy, tomato, pepper jack cheese, red onion and pita chips (I substituted chickpeas for the the chips) chop't with romaine lettuce, and is recommended with creamy chimichurri dressing (which I got after trying a sample).

Close-up on the Flagstaff Food Truck Cobb... still not sure why it is a "food truck" salad

This was a really unique salad, mostly because of the hominy.  I haven't eaten much hominy over the years, and this was the first time ever eating it in a salad.  The texture of the puffed up hominy was definitely different from anything else in the salad, and it worked well with the crisp lettuce, juicy tomatoes, and creamy pepper jack cheese. The chicken was seasoned with piquin chili peppers (which according to Chop't's Facebook page, are citrusy, smoky and nutty), but I didn't find that the chicken had that much heat or strong flavors.  Perhaps that was offset by the cream in the chimichurri dressing, which also contained a fantastic combination of herbs.

I would definitely get this salad again.  But next time, I think I would get red and green peppers instead of chickpeas. I think that might work better with the other ingredients and the southwestern style. Also, instead of the chimichurri dressing (which was quite good), I might go for something else a little healthier like the Mexican Goddess dressing that I loved so much in the Pink Goddess.  I think that cilantro-jalapeno kick might work really well here.

Maryland Crab

Continuing my job as the unofficial taster of all Hale and Hearty soups, today I went with their Maryland Crab. I hadn't been inspired for the past few days with their soups, but every day I looked at this entry and thought that I should try it. The soup is described as "After crab cakes, the next best dish to come from Maryland, a rich satisfying soup loaded with sweet crab meat and fresh vegetables."

Maryland Crab Soup

The first thing that I got hit with when I opened my soup container was the unmistakable smell of sweet crab meat. That was a great first impression. Along with the shredded crab meat, classic mirepoix vegetables, peas, potatoes, green beans, and fresh corn. The soup base itself is more tomato based and reminiscent of a Manhattan Clam Chowder. There's more pepper to this broth, though, and I find that the extra spice pairs well with the sweetness of the crab. The corn was a very pleasant surprise as it still had that firm, crispness that would denote uncooked, fresh corn. There are other leafier green spices added as well, but my palate is sadly unable to determine what they were.

This was a very balanced soup. At first I thought it was a touch on the salty side, but the more I dug into it with the potato and vegetables, the more that was cut. Overall, this was a very enjoyable soup.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Terminal 3

It had been over 5 years since my last trip to Las Vegas, and over 9 years since A's last visit, so when we exited the plane at McCarran Airport, we were both surprised. It was so spacious, bright and new. Where were the old gates with the dingy colors and old slot machines? This new terminal was really nice.

Since we had some time before hotel check-in, we decided to get a snack from the small food court near our gate, which had a Burger King, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, and Pei Wei Asian Diner.

A got his caffeine addiction fix at The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, which offered a nice Costa Rican blend. Costa Rica is his favorite blend from CBTL so he was pleasantly surprised to find it available while in Vegas, even if it was more expensive than in NYC.

We also got some food from Burger King, after taking a look at Pei Wei (a place we had seen in other cities but had never tried) and not finding anything we really wanted.

I snacked on my usual onion rings.

Unlike some of the Burger Kings at home, these were nice and crispy, so they were a good snack.  I hope Burger King never gets rid of the onion rings, because it's nice to have an alternative to fries.  I just wish they would serve (non-sweet) curly fries here in the US like they do in Europe.

A also got a Whopper Jr.

The burger was fine, about the same as it is at any other outlet.  A doesn't really like going for fast food burgers at the big chains, but when that's the only real option, a Whopper/Whopper Jr is one of the better choices.

We were planning to eat a "real" lunch once we had checked in to our hotel, but we needed this quick snack to tide us over until then, since it was already late afternoon in NYC and all we had each eaten was half a sandwich and piece of chocolate.  Not the most exciting meal but Terminal 3 doesn't have a ton of options (something we'll touch on a little later when we recap our return trip) and most of them are chains you can get in any city or any airport.  But I guess it's not that surprising considering that many of the popular Vegas restaurants on the Strip are imports from elsewhere as well.