Sunday, May 21, 2017

Destination California

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, May 14, 2017


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

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

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

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

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Sunset Taverna

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Southwestern Chopped Salad Kit

Product name: Southwestern chopped salad kit

Price: $3.29

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

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