Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Week 24 - From Scratch

The Week 24 "from scratch" challenge puzzled me. I wasn't sure what I could possibly make that would be entirely from scratch, and we both wondered how far the from scratch requirement went. Would I have to grind my own spices? What about olive oil? I wasn't the only one wondering, and after some clarification, it seemed like as long as you made something from scratch that you normally wouldn't, that should suffice. With that guidance, the logical choice seemed like hummus. We had never made that from scratch before, and A had been wanting to make his own hummus for some time, so no time like the present!

Starting from scratch for hummus!

We recently bought the Ottolenghi Jerusalem cookbook (finally) and decided to follow the hummus recipe from the book (which is also on Food52). To make it a full meal, we planned to top it with mushrooms and onions, similar to what you would get if you ordered a hummus entree at a Mediterranean restaurant. We were really, really excited about doing this challenge, both because we would finally be making our first Ottolenghi recipe and because we were going to try to make our own hummus.

The first step in making hummus from scratch was soaking the chickpeas (a little more than 1.25 cups) overnight. In total, they probably soaked for about 19 hours. A few hours into it, they started making popping noises, which I hadn't expected so I was wandering all over the apartment trying to figure out what was making random popping sounds until I realized it was coming from the bowl of chickpeas. They plumped up in size in just a few hours which was nice to see.

When it was time to start the hummus for dinner, I followed the recipe's instructions and cooked the chickpeas with a tsp of baking soda for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. After the 3 minutes were up, I added a little more than 6.5 cups of water (since I used a little more than the recipe's amount of chickpeas to start with) and set the pot on the stove to boil. It didn't really boil much for the first half hour, so I ended up raising the flame even higher at some point and it was done about 5-10 minutes after that. While the chickpeas are boiling, you're supposed to skim off any foam or skin floating on the surface, and there was plenty of that. Once the chickpeas were soft enough to easily crush between my fingers, I knew they were done and drained them. At this point, we also tasted them to see how different they were from canned chickpeas. There was a definite flavor difference, but even more of a textural one, just softer and a little less starchy. But so much more work.

Once the chickpeas were done, it was time to take out the food processor (which I try not to do very often because it takes up the entire counter), and process the chickpeas until they were a stiff paste. While that was going, we worked on preparing some of the items that needed to be added to the chickpeas in the food processor - measuring out salt, squeezing out fresh lemon juice, peeling and crushing garlic, and opening the tahini sauce. All of those were supposed to be added next while the machine was still running (although we had to stop it to add the tahini since too much of it was dripping on the chute and we wanted to use all the tahini we could).

The next step was to slowly drizzle in about 6 tbsp of ice cold water. About 15 minutes earlier, I had put a bag with that amount of water in the freezer to chill. We weren't really sure what the difference was between just adding water and slowly drizzling it in, but who were we to argue with Ottolenghi's methods?

After everything was mixed in, it was time to move the hummus to a bowl, cover it with plastic wrap, and put it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. It was pretty watery when it came out of the food processor, but we figured it would thicken up a bit in the fridge while it rested. However, during the time it sat in the fridge, a bunch of things clicked in my head and I started realizing that perhaps I made a mistake and it was going to be way too thin. But I tried to push that to the back of my mind so I could finish making dinner, and just hoped for the best.

While the hummus rested in the fridge, I worked on the mushroom and onion topping. The ingredients were simple - an 8 oz box of mushrooms, 1 onion, 1/2 head of garlic, a handful of pine nuts, a bunch of parsley, olive oil, and salt and pepper.

The topping itself was a simple saute and pretty easy to cook once it was all prepped. It didn't look exactly like the mushroom toppings we've had before at hummus restaurants, but I was fairly sure that it would work since it was pretty basic.

I pulled the hummus out of the fridge a few minutes before the mushroom topping was done. I was relieved that it had thickened up a little bit, but it was definitely not as thick as we were expecting or as we wanted it to be. So what went wrong? When I made the list of what I needed to get for the hummus recipe, I just wrote down "tahini." Having never bought tahini before, I hadn't noticed that the recipe called for tahini paste, and instead, I picked up tahini sauce. Since tahini sauce is already mixed with lemon juice and some other stuff, it made the hummus much thinner than tahini paste would have. Completely my mistake. It was still edible and it was okay, but it just wasn't what we were hoping for with our first hummus attempt. Lesson learned.

The hummus with mushroom topping was still a good dinner, even if the hummus consistency wasn't exactly what we wanted. The taste of the hummus was good, but it was a little too salty. Even taking out whatever salt was in the tahini, I think it was still too salty for my taste and might cut down on the salt a little bit next time. Oh well. We'll need to work on this recipe some more.

I would usually list out the ingredients up top to figure out how much this whole experiment cost us, but we did it in so many pieces that it seems to make more sense to just tack it here at the end as a footnote.

- For the hummus: 1/2 bag of dried chickpeas ($0.75), 1 tsp baking soda ($0.02), 2 lemons ($1), 8 oz tahini sauce ($2.99), 4 cloves of garlic ($0.15), salt ($0.05) = $4.96.
- For the mushroom topping: 8 oz box of mushrooms ($1.99), 1 onion ($0.50), olive oil ($0.50), salt and pepper ($0.05), 4 cloves of garlic ($0.15), 1 bunch of parsley ($1), handful of pine nuts ($1.50) = $5.69.

The total was about $10.65. It did make a lot of hummus, but that doesn't include pita or anything else we could have eaten along with it. Considering that you can get a container of hummus at Trader Joe's for about $2, I'm not sure whether it's more cost-effective making it from scratch. It definitely takes longer, but I'm still glad we tried it. Next time, we'll make sure we get tahini paste instead.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Phillips Seafood

We stopped off at the Maryland House rest stop in Aberdeen, Maryland for a late lunch. It was always the plan to stop at one of the Maryland rest areas since they looked nice and renovated and like they had a lot of options for lunch. We were pretty impressed by the exterior of the rest area, bright and shiny and new, but didn't take much time to look at it from outside since the wind chill was still unfortunately in the 20s. Way too cold.

There were some familiar chains at the rest stop, stuff like Nathan's, Wendy's, and Dunkin Donuts, but also some more unique spots, like Currito (looked similar to Chipotle) and Phillips Seafood. Although Phillips looked a little (a lot) on the pricey side, we decided to stop there. It would be a little bit of a splurge, but our thought was, "When in Maryland, get some crab!" A remembered stopping by for some chowder once before on a business trip, but this was our first time trying it together.

We ended up spending about $35 at Phillips for our lunch, which was more than we expected for some fast food, but we hoped it would at least be tasty. We only got 3 things, so that should give you an idea of how expensive Phillips is. We didn't even get some of the more expensive things, like the crab cake and crispy shrimp platter (which was $20.49) or the lobster roll (also $20.49) or the seafood sampler basket (that one was $21.49).

One of the no-brainer choices for us was the crab cake sandwich ($14.99), which was a soft bun topped with "Phillips' famous lump crab cake," lettuce, and tomato. The crab cake was a single crab cake ball, and it was so much smaller than either of us expected that it would be, no bigger in diameter than a ketchup packet. (We measured.) Our first thought was, "That's it? That's what we paid $15 for?" We were planning to share everything, so neither of us got very much crab cake at all.

The crab cake was okay, but nothing special. The first bites were a little fishy for both of us, but for me, that eventually subsided the more I ate, and for A, it got better with the addition of some tartar sauce. I added tartar sauce too, but that was less about fishiness and more because I just found the whole thing rather flavorless. We know they distribute their crab cakes widely in frozen departments, so someone must like them, but trying this one here, their famous one, for the first time really didn't make us want to go out and buy them. It was a little disappointing overall since the sandwich was so small and then the crab cake was just mediocre to us. The sandwich also came with some seasoned waffle fries, which were fine but literally a handful of maybe 6 fries total. They gave us more ketchup packets than they did fries.

The second thing we tried was the baked crab pretzel ($11.49). Just like the crab cake sandwich, this wasn't very large considering how much it cost. It was supposed to be one of those large, soft, doughy pretzels topped with some crab meat and cheese, and then baked until the cheese was melted and browned. In theory, it sounds like this should have been good. Sadly, it was also just okay.

When we cut it open to split, we thought that it looked more like a tuna melt on a piece of bread. The base was supposed to be a pretzel, but for the most part, it just tasted like a bready pizza. The pretzel as a whole wasn't anything special, the flavor came more from the cheese than the crab, and the best bites were when you got crab, cheese, and pretzel/bread together, which didn't happen as often as you would think since there were only bits of crab and they didn't cover the whole pretzel. For the amount we paid, we really thought there should have been more crab, more cheese, and more pretzel.

We also got the New England clam chowder ($6.49) which came with oyster crackers. This was the only bright spot of the meal. It wasn't absurdly overpriced like some of the other menu items (at least not compared to Manhattan prices), and it was actually really good. We found it both sad and amusing that a place which is supposed to specialize in crab had a better clam chowder than any of the crab items. Considering how cold it was outside, this chowder was exactly what we were looking for. In retrospect, we probably would have been happier if we both just got a cup of chowder and not all the other stuff.

The chowder was rich and comforting. There were clams, potatoes, celery, onions, bacon, and lots of cream. The only not so great thing about the chowder was that they topped it with a lot of Old Bay (of course, it's Maryland). It was fine mixed in, but A licked the chowder off the cover which had a disproportionate amount of Old Bay, which turned out to be a little too salty. Other than that, the chowder was good and definitely better than anything else we had eaten at lunch.

Considering the size of everything we ordered, we weren't really full when we left the rest stop, and A was actually still hungry, so it was a good thing that when we stopped off at Costco an hour or so later that they were offering tons of samples. We got some seven layer dip, Canadian bacon, cheddar cheese, shamrock ravioli with pesto, blue crab dip, tuna salad, clam chowder (yes, more), wild salmon, and cashew clusters, and felt so much better. Our curiosity about Phillips Seafood was certainly satisfied by this meal, even if our appetites weren't, so we probably will not need to stop by overpriced Phillips again. If we did get anything again, it would be chowder, just chowder.

Monday, June 20, 2016

DC Kickoff

A few months ago, we went on a short road trip to DC. We just needed to get out of the city for a little bit (although we did really just end up in a different city), and thought some time in a new environment, hanging out around pandas, and eating Ethiopian food would do us some good.

The morning we left for DC, it snowed a little bit, but fortunately that didn't screw up our drive too much. We left a little later than we planned, but made good time driving through Jersey. As a quick snack to start the trip, we decided to split some crispy M&M's that we had picked up from Target not long before. The bag was 99 cents for very few M&M's but it had been so long since I had had crispy M&M's that I couldn't resist picking up a bag.

The crispy M&M's had been back on the shelves for about a year already, but we hadn't gotten around to getting them. I think part of the reason we like them is the crispiness, that inner wafer-like center, and an overall texture reminiscent of a malt ball. But I think another part of it is also nostalgia. They hadn't had crispy M&M's for a decade or so, and we remembered them (and that age) fondly. The M&M's were fine, just not really a whole lot of them for the price, but it was nice to have them again.

We were planning to grab lunch in Maryland, but we were getting really hungry around Trenton so we decided to stop at a rest stop for a snack. Burger King seemed like the easiest option for something quick and not too heavy, and they had recently come out with jalapeño chicken fries, so we got a box of those as well as the onion rings I can never resist from BK.

We had tried regular chicken fries at Burger King before, and while we thought they were fine, we never thought they were amazing or anything really special. But these jalapeño chicken fries were different. They were so much better. You could taste the difference in the flavor and there was a definite jalapeño taste and sourness to them (in a good way). We weren't sure what the dipping sauce was supposed to be since no one gave us one with the box of chicken fries (no one really seemed to want to do much of anything at that BK), so we're not sure how well the sauce would complement the fries. But we liked these chicken fries and would get them again if they're still around.

As we sat at the rest stop for our break, we couldn't take our eyes off the news. That was the day that they had discovered a knife near OJ's old property, and it was partway through the season of The People v. OJ Simpson, and we were completely obsessed. Eventually we finished our fried snacks and tore ourselves away from the screen to get back on the road. It was a good thing we had stopped for a snack since we unfortunately hit a fair amount of congestion heading into Delaware, and we would have been so hungry if we had waited until Maryland to eat (and probably would have had even more buyer's remorse; more on that next). We were pretty happy with our snack, and more than anything, happy to start vacation!

Mango Taffy

More mango treats!

Product: Mango taffy

Price: $0.99 for a 3 oz bag

Quick review: We've tried the multi-flavor salt water taffy from Trader Joe's before (although we never wrote about it), so when mango taffy appeared on the new items shelf as part of the new "mango season," we decided to try it. After all, it was pretty inexpensive at 99 cents per bag, so even if it was just okay, no big loss. TJ's makes a big deal about the fact that their taffy is whipped, and not pulled, which makes it softer and "fluffier," and that seems to be true. It's a little less chewy than some other taffy and a little airier. The mango flavor is really nice. It actually tastes like a really sweet mango and not artificial, which is probably because they use actual mango juice.

Buy again? We're not huge taffy purchasers, so this was going to be more of a one-off whether or not it stuck around for the summer. We're glad we tried it and would get it again if the mood struck, but we don't need it all the time.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Yankee Stadium

I've been a Yankees fan for my entire life, but I have no issues admitting that the food at Yankee Stadium isn't even close to as good as the food at Citi Field. When you have Danny Meyer running the show over at Citi Field with places like Shake Shack and Blue Smoke, the boring food at Yankee Stadium just can't compete. We went to both Yankees and NYCFC games at the stadium recently, and both times we were just reminded about how ordinary and unexciting the food there is.

A ordered something called the "grub tub" on our last visit, and although it didn't have exciting food, it did have a pretty nice delivery system. It's basically an order of chicken tenders and fries made for one person, since it sits in a bowl on top of a drink in a collectible cup. It's much more convenient than getting a drink plus a tray of tenders and fries, since you can just hold this in one hand and watch the game. Points for the contraption, but the food wasn't anything special even though you're paying $18.75 for it.

There really isn't anything spectacular about the mass produced chicken tenders and fries at the stadium, so not a whole lot to say about it. I will say that they never gave us any sauce for the chicken, so that was a bummer. And the person seemed a little clueless on how to put the thing together, so they didn't put the straw in before loading the chicken and fries into the bowl on top, and just gave A the straw separately. He had to assemble it himself on the side before we headed back to our seats. I guess this is the first year they've had this, but still, put the darn thing together. On top of all that, A originally wanted to get iced tea since he was avoiding soda as much as possible, but somehow, in the 2nd inning of the game, this concession stand had already run out. How is that even possible?

When we went to the soccer match, we got one of those mega tubs of 8 chicken tenders and fries, but this time got it with garlic fries. Garlic fries are one of the things we actually like about Yankee Stadium, but they're really just fries with tons of garlic and oil on top and not really unique to this ballpark. Although I love garlic and I do like the garlic fries, I felt like a big heavy blob by the end of the night, full of greasy, unhealthy fries. We couldn't even finish it. It was just too much starch and after a while, even the garlic wasn't enough enticement to keep going.

I wasn't feeling inspired by the fries or the Johnny Rockets burgers or the chicken tenders when we were at the baseball game, and the BBQ kiosk where I had thought about going was closed the entire time, so I just went with the old ballpark favorite, the Nathan's hot dog. They had 2 sizes, although the person working there didn't seem to know what the difference in size was other than them having different prices. I went with the longer one which was $7, and then went to the topping stand planning to top it with mustard and onions. Mustard was there, but no onions. All they had there was mustard and ketchup (blasphemy). Why is all the food so boring?

I really wish they had better food at Yankee Stadium. Sure, you could show up early to the Bronx and head to one of the places outside the stadium for some Jamaican food instead, but if you're not able to do that, you're kind of stuck with those boring and not great options in the stadium. Why can't they take a hint from Citi Field and do something good and affordable? We've had the steak sandwiches at Yankee Stadium before, but they're really pricey, and that's really one of the only unique options at all. Maybe next year something better will turn up. It hasn't really changed much over the years, but I'll keep hoping.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Dark Chocolate Covered Peaberry Coffee Beans

So as a lover of all things coffee related, I had to try Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Covered Peaberry Coffee Beans. For those of you that don't know, peaberry coffee is special, round beans that are the rarest form of coffee. Typical coffee fruit pods produce two beans which is why one side is flat, but peaberries develop as single beans and are completely round. My first thought when seeing these was interest but also a little disappointment that Trader Joe's would "waste" such a rare and delicious coffee bean on a sweet treat. However, I decided to be as open minded as possible while trying them in an attempt to be as objective as possible.

I tend to only eat one or two at a time since this is usually something of a sweet caffeine supplement for me in the afternoon. I drink so much coffee during the day as it is that I probably should never be eating these, but whatever. Flavor-wise they aren't much different than any other chocolate covered coffee I've had in the past, but the dark chocolate is clearly of good quality. I like these as a quick, sweet jolt of caffeine for the post-lunch energy dip, but I still think it's a waste to use good peaberry beans. Save that stuff for actual brewing.

Buy again? Nope. Tasty treat, but a waste of good beanage. I feel like my not buying is a protest to that.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Black Seed Chef Specials

Black Seed Bagels recently finished up another spring full of chef collaboration bagel creations, and despite our intentions to try most (or a lot) of them, we kept forgetting and only made it there to get the first one of the set. The same thing happened last year too, when we only made it there to try the squid ink bagel sandwich through their Mission Chinese collaboration (although we never got around to writing about it). We liked that one, so we were pretty excited for the new ones this year as they all sounded so good.

The first bagel special this year was designed by Chef Sara Jenkins from Porchetta. It was supposed to be a za'atar bagel with labne (strained yogurt), turnips, cucumbers, radishes, and mint. We headed down to the East Village shop (our first time at that location) at the end of a food crawl since the special was supposed to be available all day. Unfortunately for us, when we got there and ordered it, they let us know they were out of mint, but offered to substitute parsley and dill. Even though that wouldn't be exactly as designed, we went with that, since we thought it would still be good, and then we could still try everything else. What we got looked nothing like what we had seen on Black Seed's own Instagram though.

M's review: This bagel sandwich was supposed to be Turkish-inspired and it sounded so fresh and clean, full of yogurt and refreshing vegetables. What we got was heavy on the creamy yogurt, missing a vegetable (A and I disagreed at the time on whether it was the turnip or the radish, but it was the pretty pink colored one from the Black Seed picture), and generally nothing special. Would it have been better if we had been able to get it with mint? Probably, but the dill wasn't a bad match for flavors like that, and I'm not sure that was really the issue. (Despite agreeing to parsley and dill, we found no parsley.) It was fine to eat, but mostly disappointing because of what we were expecting to get. Had they told us they were also missing vegetables in addition to mint, we probably would have just gone back another time or gotten something else. In the end, it just felt like what we got was nothing like what it was supposed to be, and like we had wasted our time since we went specifically to try that. Maybe we hit the East Village location on a bad day, but the Nolita one seemed better run from what we remembered. It was a little disappointing, especially since in the end, this was the only special we actually got this year.

A's review: I'm not really sure where to start with this. Of all of the collaboration bagels that Black Seed had announced, this was one of the ones we definitely wanted to try. We're both fans of Turkish food and flavors, but this was a complete disappointment which had nothing to do with the planned bagel. We arrived later in the day, and when we asked if they still had the collaboration bagel they said yes. However, they did note that they had run out of mint but could substitute in dill and parsley to try and mimic the flavor as best as possible. We thought that sounded okay so we paid and started waiting. After getting the bagel, we noticed that so many of the other ingredients were also missing, and they never even bothered to let us know. Had we known about all of the missing ingredients we would have just said no. In the end, the combo they put together didn't really work. The labne was supposed to be paired with mint, but since they had run out they subbed in dill and parsley (supposedly). The dill was okay, but even after saying they would sub in parsley, they forgot the parsley. Also, the other missing ingredients just made the bagel seem bland and empty. In the end, the flavors just didn't shine through together, and all of the missing ingredients or subbed ingredients just made the whole thing seem like a mish-mosh of flavors instead of the composed combination it was meant to be. Complete disappointment.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Silverbrite Keta Salmon

I've always wanted to do a series of cooking posts where I followed the recipes given on the backs of cans or packages of food, but usually I buy things to be used in other recipes and never have a chance to do it. When we prepared for the root to stem challenge, however, we were looking through the fish section at Trader Joe's and realized that the recipe on the back of the silverbrite salmon package would be perfect for the meal. I was finally getting my wish.

This wasn't our first time buying salmon from Trader Joe's, but it was our first time buying salmon of this type. I'm not that knowledgeable about the different kinds of salmon and the differences in taste or nutritional value, so I don't really know where silverbrite stands among the others. I do know that it was a little bit cheaper, but the quality still seemed fine.

We followed the recipe pretty closely and other than the salmon, we already had all the ingredients at home which made it easy. The ingredients were:

- 2 tbsp olive oil ($0.40)
- 2 tbsp butter ($0.40)
- 2 tbsp whole grain dijon mustard ($0.60)
- black pepper ($0.05)
- 1 package (about 1 lb) silverbrite salmon ($6.55)
- 1 tbsp honey ($0.20)
- 1/4 cup water ($0)

The fish preparation cost about $8.20, but almost all of that cost is the fish itself. Not too bad.

The steps to make the salmon were:

1. Heat olive oil and butter in skillet until butter melts.

2. Add mustard, stir and cook for 1-2 minutes. (The mustard seeds popped quite a bit.)

3. Add fish, skin side down, to pan, and sprinkle with pepper on top.

4. Saute salmon until lightly browned. The recipe gave the measurements as 3 minutes per side when defrosted and 6 minutes per side when frozen. Our salmon wasn't completely frozen but also not completely defrosted, so we did about 5 minutes on one side and then 4 minutes on the other.

5. Flip the fish back over to skin side down, add the honey, and cover the skillet with a lid to finish cooking. (This was a little bit confusing in the original recipe, as it said to cook on both sides, and then said, "Turn fish," before adding honey. It wasn't clear if it meant turn the fish again (as we did it) or to add the honey on the first turn, but we think it turned out well the way we did it.) Cook until fish is opaque.

6. Remove fish when cooked. Add a little water to deglaze pan and heat over high heat to reduce sauce. Pour pan sauce over fish to serve.

We really liked the salmon and especially the honey mustard sauce, much more than we thought we would when we saw how blackened the sauce had become. We worried that it would taste somewhat burnt, but it actually was really good. It had a good amount of sweetness from the honey and also from the mustard since the second jar of mustard we opened (didn't have enough in the first) seemed a little sweeter than the first. This salmon and the honey mustard sauce were actually perfect as complements to the roasted fennel and carrots. We would definitely get this salmon again and follow the exact same recipe!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Mango O's

If you've walked around Trader Joe's lately, you've probably noticed that there is mango everywhere. Candy, cereal, body butter, salad, slaw, flatbread, mochi, sorbet, salsa, popcorn, ginger chews, pretty much anything you can think of, there's a mango version - even babka. Hopefully we'll be able to get a few mango product reviews posted before the season ends!

Product: Mango O's

Price: $3.29 for 11 oz box

Quick review: We didn't actually purchase these, but M's parents had on a previous mango-filled visit, so we tried them at their house. This cereal takes the usual O's cereal and adds in mango puree to the O's themselves, and then also pieces of freeze dried mango. M isn't a big cereal lover, but she wanted to try these just to see if they'd be a good snack. She had a piece with the freeze dried mango and thought it had nice mango flavor, but was a little on the sweet side. A thought this was far too sweet to be a daily thing. The sweet, sugary mango pieces completely overpowered the cereal pieces, and as is often the case with freeze dried fruit they had an odd, not quite natural flavor.

Buy Again? Not for us, as it's much sweeter than we would like for cereal. M's parents have started mixing it with other (non-sweet) cereal, which balances it out a little bit, and maybe it would be good with some vanilla yogurt, but this isn't a cereal we need to have.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016


One year ago today, we were in Brooklyn hitting up a couple of places for our Women's World Cup eating challenge (yes, we're still posting about that, but hopefully will be done soon), and went to Buka, a Nigerian restaurant, for dinner. Neither of us had ever had Nigerian food before, and it was always one of our greatest regrets that we never made it to an African restaurant during our World Cup eating challenge the year before. We wanted to make sure we rectified that for this challenge.

Since we had a late lunch, we skipped the appetizers and each ordered one main course. There was an entire section on the menu devoted to tomato-based stews, which were described as the most popular meal in Nigeria, so we decided to go with that. Each of the different proteins could be ordered with fufu (we both chose the pounded white yam fufu) and sauce (which seemed to us more like vegetable sides) for only a few dollars more, so we both did that and chose different ones so we could try as much as possible.

For A's stew, he got goat and for his sauce, he picked the efo, which was finely shredded spinach with onions and dried fish. The goat was a little tough and hard to eat for the most part. I only tried a bite of the goat, but my piece was okay. That was because A was kind and gave me one of the few tender bites of goat that he had, but a lot of the rest was tough. We both really liked the side of efo. It had so much flavor, especially with the addition of dried fish.

For my stew, I chose the tilapia. I had been picturing chunks of fish fillets immersed in the stew, so when the plate arrived with a whole fish on it, I was pretty surprised. I blame my shock for not deboning the fish the way that we would when we normally order a whole fish, so I ended up with little bones everywhere before I remembered to do it. The fish itself was good, but it was a lot of work. For the sauce, I wasn't sure what to pick, so I asked for a recommendation on what went well with the tilapia. They suggested the egusi, ground melon seeds steamed with spinach and dried fish. We had no idea what that would be like, in texture or taste, but it was pretty good. If we remember correctly, we think we liked the spinach better, but this was still good.

This was definitely a different eating experience for us and why we decided to do WorldEats in the first place. We originally tried to eat it the traditional way, grabbing some fufu (which was so filling) and using it to scoop up some of the stew. They even gave us big bowls of water to dip our fingers in. We had no idea what we were doing but tried to do the best we could, but it wasn't working that smoothly so eventually we gave up and used the utensils that were also provided on the table. We definitely would return to Buka as we want to try more Nigerian food, like the stew of West African land snails that they were out of on the day of our visit. It's a type of cuisine we don't have much familiarity with, and we want to learn more.

Buka is at 946 Fulton Street in Brooklyn.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Berlin Currywurst

On one of the first really nice days of the year, M and I went out for a nice afternoon because I had taken the day off from work to help take care of some repairs around the apartment. We ended up walking down the High Line and generally enjoying the day and weather. Near the end of the walking path we found ourselves down at Chelsea Market looking for a snack. We walked around for a little bit, and we ended up stopping in at one of the newer spots in the market, Berlin Currywurst.

The menu was very straight-forward which makes sense since they're trying to capture the simplicity and feel of a Berlin street cart serving this iconic dish. You first pick your sausage and then decide how you want it (in a roll or as currywurst). We opted for the Bratwurst Currywurst with their original sauce since that's how it's done in Germany. The currywurst comes out sliced and smothered with sauce along with a small hunk of bread.

The sausage itself was nice and soft with just the right amount of snap to the casing. It was seasoned beautifully. It wasn't too salty, and the spices they mixed into the meat complemented the sauce we chose. The sauce was a great mixture of sweet, tart, and spicy flavors as the curry powder really brought out the rich flavors of the tomato-based sauce. The bread, which they describe as a crispy German bread, was not all that crispy, but we preferred that as the soft interior did a great job of sopping up the remaining sauce after we were done with the bratwurst.

Overall we both liked our snack. It wasn't the cheapest, and it certainly wasn't the healthiest, but it was definitely tasty. Would we get it again? Sure, but there's so much to eat in and around Chelsea Market that we're not sure when we're going to make it back here. (We do also want to try it for breakfast sometime though, since we've never had those dishes before and they sound really good.) Since the previous spot we visited for currywurst (Wechsler's) is now sadly closed, at least we now have a place where we can get our currywurst fix if the craving ever strikes.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Southwest Chicken Quesadillas

Even though it's apparently now "mango season" at Trader Joe's, here's a quick review for something non-mango...

Product: Southwest Chicken Quesadillas (from "Taos Joe" which amuses me)

Price: $3.69 for 2 quesadillas

Quick review: These quesadillas were pretty good, although I found them a little on the salty side (despite being only 490 mg of sodium per quesadilla). I found them more flavorful than some of the other microwavable Mexican and southwest items at TJ's, probably due to how much stuff they have packed into each one. They weren't super thin quesadillas without much filling, but instead they actually had quite a bit of meat and vegetables, which I liked. Inside each quesadilla, there was monterey jack and pepper jack cheese, chicken, corn, peppers, spinach, black beans, and various seasonings to give it that "southwest" flavor (stuff like cumin, cilantro, chile peppers, paprika, and more). It was pretty easy to prepare it in the microwave, and it made for a really quick and easy lunch. Would it have been better out of the oven or finished off in a skillet? Yeah, probably, but the whole point of getting this for me is for lunch to be simple, convenient, and lazy.

Buy Again? Yes. Maybe not every time since it's a little salty and it's more cost-efficient to get something like vegetable burgers, but at $1.85 per quesadilla, it's definitely a good lunch for the price.