Sunday, May 21, 2017

Destination California

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


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

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


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

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

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Skiza

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


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


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


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

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Sunset Taverna

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

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


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


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


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


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


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

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


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

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Southwestern Chopped Salad Kit

Product name: Southwestern chopped salad kit

Price: $3.29


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


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

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Week 14 - Southern

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

Friday, April 28, 2017

Just Beets

Product Name: Just Beets

Price: $2.99 for 1.3 oz bag


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


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

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Loaded Taco Burrito

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


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


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

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Ancient Grains and Nuts Granola

Product Name: Ancient grains and nuts granola

Price: $3.49 for 12 oz


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


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

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Tertulia

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

Monday, April 24, 2017

Pome-garita Ville

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


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

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Queens International Night Market

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


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


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


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


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

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


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


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

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

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Emma

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


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

Friday, April 21, 2017

Week 13 - Escoffier

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


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


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


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

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Week 12 - Dorm Food

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


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

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

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

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

The steps for our version of the ramen were:


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


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


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


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


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


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


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