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foodzings: April 2007

Sunday, April 29, 2007

The Vietnam (Restaurant) War

If you've ever been on a particular block of 11th Street in Chinatown, you know of the two rival vietnamese restaurants located across the street from each other. On the east side is Vietnam Restaurant, which had a facelift in the late 90's to become very cute and swanky. Before the renovations, it was quite a dive. On the west side is Vietnam Palace. Now I heard a rumor that they are run by family members who had a falling out and decided to compete against each other. Whatever the reason may be, I'm always up for vietnamese food. It's so one of my favorites.

I've been to Vietnam Restaurant probably half a dozen times, pre-renovation and post. I love it there. This was my first time at Vietnam Palace. I've heard good and bad things about it. In the same way I've heard good and bad things about Vietnam Restaurant. But I was definitely excited to check it out. We had a large party, and the upstairs, where they put us, was actually quite perfect for this. There was noone else there so we could actually talk and hear ourselves.

I had the broken rice combo, which came with chicken, beef, and shrimp. I certainly liked it. The beef was particularly good. And I have an extreme weakness for the pickled daikon and carrots that you always get with this dish. At Vietnam Palace it's not julienned, but just sliced into big pieces. That was especially delightful. MF got the bun (vermicelli) with pork and a fried spring roll. It looked damn good. She liked it. She also got an avocado milk shake, which did indeed look like a shamrock shake. She liked that too.

C had never eaten vietnamese food before, and that was in part why we ended up here. To right that wrong. He got the pho bo kho, which is a spicy beef stew noodle soup. He seemed to enjoy it. We were also mighty impressed by his use of the chopsticks for most of the bowl. He didn't resort to the spoon until nearly the very end (he picked up the spoon early on just for the picture below). Nice job C. He was also quite proud of his recent haircut. And in light of being part of his first vietnamese food experience, I promised to include his haircut in my blog. There he is ladies and gents, the first full back-of-the-noggin that has ever graced this here blog. And a big shout out to supercuts.

There were some other broken rice dishes, some more noodle dishes, some tea that tasted like root, papaya salad, crappy merlot, and on and on. In general, everyone enjoyed their meal. I can't say that I like it better than Vietnam Restaurant. But I did definitely like Vietnam Palace. I think they're quite different. Perhaps not in food, but in design and ambiance, and a little attitude. Different strokes for different folks.

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What a Used Car Salesperson Eats

On Monday my mom and I said goodbye to a trusty old vehicle that we've had for nearly 12 years. She served us well, but it was time to release her into the used car underbelly. Well, it actually went to a very nice family in West Chester, and we know they will take care of her. In celebration of the first, and hopefully last, time that I have to act as a used car salesperson, we celebrated with a meal at the H Mart food court. I had to go there anyway to pick up some chinese noodles, so why not, I said let's stop in and eat.

It was a beautiful day, and I wanted something cold, but there wasn't much to choose from cold-wise other than sushi, and I wasn't really feeling the sushi that day. I got laboki instead, which is just like dukboki (spicy korean rice cake) but with some noodles, and specificially ramen type noodles. It's one of my favorites and as usual, I wasn't disappointed. It was mighty spicy. We got it from Monsieur Tong Tong, a food court vendor whose name I particularly have a sweet spot for. There was one cold dish choice and my mom got that, which was cholmyun. That is a cold noodle dish, with a "sticky" or chewy noodle, called cholmyun, which is mixed with thinly julienned veggies like carrots and cabbage and then mixed with a tangy spicy sauce. Enjoy the before and after pictures, pre-mix and post-mix. I really liked this alot and will have to get it next time.

On a work lunch low-note, they served us turkey dinner on Wednesday. Only thing is, it wasn't real turkey, it was lunch meat turkey. The potatoes were good though and so was the stuffing, but the turkey. It was what it was. The beans were soggy. This lunch was provided by the same catering company who gave us the made-to-order stir fry and our last breakfast for lunch lunch. I wasn't excited about any of these meals they provided. I have a feeling maybe they know someone who works at my company or they've signed some exclusive contract with us which means they provide us with mediocre meals for dirt cheap. Since the weather is getting nice out, I just hope Chef Don comes back so he can grill for us again this summer...

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Eatin' - South Philly Style

Sunday evening provided my most in-depth drive through the heart of South Philly. As I drove around getting to Passyunk, I thought to myself, huh, so this is what South Philly looks like! I wouldn't exactly call it... picturesque. But it's quite the experience. It's very... South Philly. I eventually reached my destination - Marra's, on East Passyunk. Word.

We're talking old school Italian here. On the outside, it looks like a diner. It's covered in black shiny tiles. Inside, it's covered in dark wood, not nice wood, but like plywood type wood. It's a fourth generation family owned restaurant, housing one of the oldest brick pizza ovens around. Apparently, they're pretty famous for it. They also sell some good and reasonable house wines by the glass and carafe. It was a beautiful day so they had the ceiling fans running. There was a slight problem though as there were lights right above the fan, so as the blades rotated, it created a near strobe effect onto our table. It immediately gave me a headache. We asked our waitress if they could turn the fan off, and they did! They were quite obliging!

I went with an Italian standard - eggplant parmigiana. The eggplant was cut lengthwise so the pieces were big, and I ordered it stuffed with ricotta. Yum! It came with spaghetti and gravy. Yes, I said gravy, not sauce, as when you're in South Philly, you say gravy. It is actually quite gravy like, it doesn't have any chunks of tomatoes or anything, it's a fairly thick and consistent sauce. I liked the eggplant alot. It was cooked very well and the sauce tasted great. I was a big fan. J got the lasagna. See,it looks just like a big lump of sauce. Who knows what's under there!

E got the pizza pescatore, or the seafood pizza. It came with shrimp, mussels, and clams. I had a little piece and it was quite good. If you like seafood, and what sane person doesn't, you'd like this pizza. I don't think that I would ever order it on my own, but it was definitely worth trying.

There was also an order of the chicken florentine, which I did not taste, but was apparently good. And last but not least, there was another pizza, one which included anchovies. I'd never had pizza with anchovies before. I'm someone that will try anything once, so I was quite happy to try it for the first time. I did not have a problem with it. It was just salty and fishy. Why anyone would want to have a fishy salty pizza is beyond me, but it wasn't bad. I prefer sausage myself, thanks!

It was such a beautiful night that we had to find place to sit down and have dessert/drinks outside. We took a stroll up Passyunk, passing hip Cantina Los Cabbalitos which was quite packed, a different swankier restaurant which was less packed, and ended up at adorable Roselena's. It's a restaurant and an ice cream/soda shop place attached. The restaurant part is overly adorned with antiques. You've never seen anything like it!

There were many desserts available, as well as coffee and hot chocolates. It was so lovely that I did not want to get anything hot. Most of the dining party got some fancier drinking chocolates. E got the ice cream sundae. I went with a blackberry spritzer. I don't remember the name of it, but the menu said it was French. I don't care where it came from, it was damn good. It was a very lightly flavored spritzer with actual fresh blackberries! Perfectly refreshing on a lovely warm evening.


Sunday, April 22, 2007

Random Bites

At work, there are very few places to eat, at least within walking distance. Downtown Conshy has a few decent choices, but down where we are, there are only a few options. One is the Mona Lisa Cafe, which is next to one of the bigger office buildings. It's not that exciting of a place. I had the chicken quesadillas there the other day, and it wasn't half bad! I was quite pleased.

For Wednesday's lunch, we had another new and interesting one, made-to-order stir fry from a catering company. I was quite leery of an american catering company making stir fry. It wasn't anything special, as I couldn't really put my finger on what flavoring it was. Let's just say it was "asian" or "oriental". It wasn't bad though, as I got to pick my meat of choice, and I picked shrimp. They were big and pretty good. The fried rice was pretty blah and and egg roll was pretty bad. It was all weird and soggy and had big chunks of mushy vegetables. However, the fortune cookies they served were some of the best I've ever had. So fresh and crunchy. Yum.

The other night, I tried out some Trader Joe's eats - chicken masala and garlic naan, both from the freezer aisle. The chicken wasn't bad, it was a bit watered down though. It comes with brown rice which didn't do it for me. When I eat indian food, I just expect basmati rice. It would have been much better with just normal basmati rice. The brown rice, especially since it was frozen and then nuked, was quite soggy. Now the naan! It was so good! Yes, it's frozen, but after you heat it up in the overn for just a few minutes, it really does taste fresh! Like it just came out of whatever oven naan is normally made in. I will definitely be buying the naan again! I could eat it just by itself.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Japanese Curry

So the curry rice dish from Sang Kee inspired me to cook some curry. I don't like typical curries you may find in an indian or thai restaurant, for those have coconut milk. I have this strong aversion to it. It's not that I unlike coconut, but I don't like coconut milk in my food, and I only like coconut for certain things. So it's not my favorite thing in the world, but I'd certainly love a hot fresh macaroon now and then.

I like curry in the japanese way. I'm not sure what kind of curry powder it's made from (definitely not red or green), it's tan. And it typically comes with potatoes, onions, carrots, and some type of meat. I grew up on this stuff as my mom often made it growing up. It always seemed so exotic.

They sell the flavoring blocks in packages. It's basically the curry powder and other stuff made into these things shaped like thick candy bars. It comes in different spicy ranges, mild, medium, and hot. I prefer mild. I don't like cooked carrots, so I just took chicken and onions and cooked them, added some chopped up potatoes that I'd pre-steamed, and then added the water and the curry mix. You cook it up for awhile and then pour it over rice or noodles. It's so easy and delicious.


The cutest little Japanese market

There's this Cherry Blossom Festival thing going on in the Philadelphia area. Last Saturday, they were having a japanese food tasting at this japanes marketin Narberth - Maido. I've never been to it before, even though it's very close to my house. I thought this would be a good opportunity to check it out and taste some good food, for free.

The market is very cute. I would say 95% of the food is Japanese, and the rest various Asian. They even have a food counter so you can get some hot food. So far as this food tasting goes, they made it out to be alot bigger than it actually was. They did give away some ginger flavored miso soup, which was weird, some japanese pancake called okonomiyaki, which was pretty good, some sushi rice sprinkled with mixed seaweed, which I just loved, a few different drinks, snacks, and desserts. But it certainly didn't fill you up! We were hoping to make a lunch out of it. Ha. I did pick up a few things and it's nice to know that a missing ethnic ingredient can be had only 5 minutes away. And if I ever feel the need for some yakisoba, I know where to go.

So in order to eat real lunch, we ended up at Sang Kee Asian Bistro again. I ordered the roasted pork wonton noodle. It came with some shu mei type dumplings and roasted pork. The pork was delicious. The broth itself was very bland, which I expected because it just comes in a chicken broth, but with a little hot sauce, it tastes just great. We also had a house special noodle bowl, which was much bigger, and had a little bit of everything.

On the non-soup side, we had an order of penang baked seafood fried rice. That was delicious, in a curry sauce with seafood, including scallops. It seemed like an asian paella. I'm a big fan of this, and next time I will order this. Also, the seafood pan fried noodle, which is in a ginger wine glazed sauce with big bits of seafood with crispy thin egg noodles. This is plain, but tasty. Finally, we had the beef mei fun in black pepper sauce. I expected this to be very spicy and peppery, but it actually was quite good and not heavily peppery. As usual, the service was pretty good. I also noticed that at their bar, they have little built in TVs into the bar so you can eat and watch TV. Strange.


Monday, April 16, 2007

Post Aqua debaucle meal

So we did have to eat before the movie, as it was getting late, and I was still hungry. And I hate being hungry. There weren't very many options at that point, as the clock was ticking, so we ended up going to Pagoda Noodle Cafe, which is literally next to the Ritz East. I've been there before, before going to a movie at the Ritz, and I've had good experiences.

I was actually a bit warm after walking from Aqua to the Ritz, but went with a hot noodle soup anyway. I got the Hot and Sour Seafood Noodle. It was basically like hot and sour soup, but with noodles. And instead of tofu and pork, it had seafood in it. I quite enjoyed it. But I really like hot and sour soup. If you don't like hot and sour soup, it's unlikely you would enjoy this.

We also got one of the specialties - Stuffed Chinese Purple Eggplant with Shrimp. We've had this before and it was as delicious as ever. It is the small eggplant stuffed with shrimp, which they fry up a little bit, and then put it in a nice and mild black bean sauce. We also had some spring rolls which were also good. They were quite meaty.

Service at Pagoda Noodle is quite good. They're attentive and your food comes out fast. This was again, a stark contrast to the Aqua non-experience. If you're going to the Ritz, then I'd highly recommend it for a quick pre-movie bite.

Pagoda Noodle Cafe
125 Sansom Walkway
Between South Front & South 2nd St

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Malaysian, Take 3? HELLZ NO!

I was really excited, extremely excited, to try Aqua, the third and final (that I know of) Malaysian restaurant in Philadelphia. Unfortunately, it was not meant to be. It's a damn shame because I was so looking forward to it, and because it is small and cute and stylish.

We were going to catch a movie at the Film Fest, so I specifically planned to go there since I could walk there from the Ritz. Did I mention how excited I was? When we arrived, it was a bit crowded, with some people already waiting. Right in front of us a group of 3 got seated right away. I was thinking optimistically at this point. I told the hostess there were two of us, she looked around, and she said can you wait 10 minutes? Sure, I said. So then we waited. A big group of 6 came in right after us, and then another group of 3. We waited some more.

It's very sparsely decorated, but has a spectacular waterfall/water display towards the back. Really, it is quite cool and stylish. Did I mention we kept on waiting? Then they sat the group of 3. I was getting peeved. Meanwhile, for the past 15 minutes, an empty but unbussed table sat unbussed. I was willing to bus it myself. They moved some tables around. We waited some more. 20 minutes after initially talking to the server, we went over again and said we'd been waiting for longer than people she had just sat. She said "oh, I did not know about you."

That was the end for me. And we were out of there. If we weren't in a time crunch, I might have stayed and tried it anyway, if for nothing else than the food. But because of the time, we bolted. And I was pissed. I'd read some reviews online that the service was not very good and could be very spotty. If my experience is any indication, I'm never going back there. It is such a sharp contrast to Penang and Banana Leaf since the service there is so fast and attentive. The fact that Aqua made me wait 20 minutes after saying 10 minutes and then "forgot" about me, is a deal-breaker. I realize it was a busy Friday night, but you can't just forget about people. If it's that easy for them to screw that up, then how easy can they screw up everything else? Sorry Aqua, I guess you'll have to feed someone else with your bad service instead of me. Thanks anyway. To the public - don't bother! Stick with Penang and Banana Leaf!

Aqua Malaysian & Thai Restaurant
you don't want to know where it is...

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007


My friend is really quite obsessed with the pizza from Franzone's. It's one of these things that apparently people love or hate. They got it for lunch at work once, and so many people complained about it that it never came back again. I've been hearing about it for months, so I finally got to experience it myself. It's in a random tucked away strip mall in Conshohocken, off of Ridge. It's officially a pizzeria and restaurant and sports bar. There's actually a room with a pool table and a smoking section. They also sell beer, bottled and on tap.

I didn't order the pizza myself, but did try it. It looks CRAZY. First off, it has an extremely thin crust. Then, they put the cheese on first, and it's a special Wisconsin blend of cheese. Finally, they put the sauce on last, and they put it on with a swirl. Crazy, huh? The sauce is also extremely sweet, so it's definitely not for everyone. And because it's applied in a swirl, not every bite of pizza will include sauce. It is an extremely strange thought. But I loved it! I guess I'm one of the people who like it. I like sweet food, so I knew that I would like the sauce. The texture of the pizza, the crust, and the cheese is excellent. It's thin and light and crispy, not crunchy at all. And because it's so thin crusted, it's so easy to eat. And even though there wasn't sauce in every bite, I still enjoyed it. The cheese was special, as I could tell it was different than plain old mozarella. I am a Franzone's convert.

I myself ordred a cheesesteak and cheese fries. The steak was quite good. It came in a much different roll than I expected. I would have to say that I've never had a cheesesteak in this kind of roll, as it has a glossy crust, as if it had an egg wash on it. The grilled onions were sliced extremely thin and they weren't quite cooked enough, but it was still good. It also seemed like they hollowed out the roll a bit so the meaty filling would fit into the roll.
The cheese fries on the other hand were not very good. They were extremely greasy to begin with, and instead of a cheez whiz kind of a cheese, it came with what seemed to be the same Wisconsin blend they use on the pizzas, that they broiled over the fries so that the cheese melted. It didn't work. The cheese was too chewy and stuck to the plate and it was just weird. It would have been much better with fake cheez. Yey on the pizza and the cheesesteak, ney on the cheese fries.

1940 Main Ave
Conshohocken, PA


Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Hotel Buffet

We had an all company meeting on Monday at the Marriott. I love these, because they feed us, haha, buffet style. I got there a bit early so I was able to take some quality pics. First in line was "make your own cobb salad". There was romaine lettuce, chopped beef, avocado, hard boiled eggs, bleu cheese, bacon, tomato, cucumber, shrimp, chicken, and cheese. Plus two different dressings. I ended up having a mostly bacon salad with some lettuce and other stuff. There was supposedly a red wine vinaigrette, but I think it was actually some fat-free italian dressing that wasn't very good.

We also had some garlic mashed potatoes, which were super. I had several helpings of that. There was also some chicken breast in an orange glaze sauce. It wasn't bad chicken, but I think it was a bit undercooked so I only had a few bites. It seemed way too pink. There was also salmon which I did not try and a grilled veggie mix with green beans, and shredded peppers and carrots. The veggies were good.

Finally there was the dessert table. There was fresh fruit and mini apple tarts. Also some bread pudding and mini chocolate cheesecakes. The fruit was fine, if you like that kind of thing, which I do. The little apple tarts were good, the pastry shell quite crunchy, perhaps too crunchy. I quite like bread pudding so I enjoyed this one. The cheesecake wasn't bad either. I probably ate a bit too many mini desserts. Oh well!

Monday, April 9, 2007

Malaysian, Take 2

Sunday was day 2 for me for the film festival, and also Easter. Nothing wrong with Easter folks, but it can be quite irritating when one is trying to eat that day. Most everything is closed, except for chinese restaurants and the movies. So I guess for me, it all worked out. I had to trek from 2nd to 16th, and had to stop at Chinatown again. This time, not only because I wanted to, but also because pretty much every other food establishment was closed. Since I had been to Penang, I'd been thinking about Banana Leaf, a competitor around the corner. I decided to give it a shot.

From the outside, Penang and Banana Leaf actually look quite similar. They both have really long skinny industrial-like windows. But once you get inside Banana Leaf, it's a whole other story. The place is not industrial at all. It's very island-y, slightly Swiss Family Robinson, with some quite crudely painted drawings on the wall. And an awful lot of fake rocks everywhere. There's also a sushi bar, which is the other big difference. But aside from decor and the sushi, the menu at Penang at Banana Leaf are essentially the same. And when I say essentially, I actually mean exactly. Down to the order of the sections of the menu, and the order of the dishes themselves. I found out after a bit of reading that Banana Leaf was started by "refugees" from Penang. I didn't know that refugee meant carbon copy the menu. One would think that maybe some of the menu items would be switched, you take some out, you add some in, you move it about. But no, not here. The menu is crazy identical, down to where it says "Please ask server for advice before you order!"

I ordered the tofu satay for an appetizer. It is tofu that is cut on the diagonal and fried. Then they stuff it with blanched or steamed (not sure which) sprouts and julienned cucumbers. It's all toped with a peanut-based satay sauce. It was great. I love tofu, cucumbers, sprouts, and satay sauce, so no surprise there. It was the first time ever eating this so I couldn't say how it compares to the Penang version.

For the main dish I ordered the prawn mee. It was also freakin cold on Sunday, so after all that walking, I wanted something hot and steamy. I was torn between that and the asam laksa, both spicy noodle soups which I'd never had before. I asked the waiter for advice and he recommended the prawn mee. I think maybe he thought that was the "safer" choice and assumed that I wanted the "safer" dish. I actually just wanted to know which one he would have eaten. Oh well. So prawn mee is a "Banana Leaf's favorite!" I bet on the Penang menu it says prawn mee is a "Penang's favorite!" It has egg noodles, sliced pork, shrimp, a few bits of a mysterious green veggie, and bean sprouts and comes in a spicy shrimp broth. When I first started eating it, it seemed a little bland. But as I ate more, it took on a much stronger flavor with each bite. And it has a very strong and pungent taste and smell, that's very shrimp-y. The soup also has a strange gritty texture, as I think it is shrimp paste based, and that must be the dissolved shrimp paste. I liked it, but I wasn't crazy about it. The pork tasted weird so I stopped eating the pork after a few tries. The shrimp were good though. I wouldn't get it again though, not because it was bad, but because there are so many other things to try on the Banana Leaf menu.

The staff and service is good. They're very attentive and are quick to fill your water glass. The food also comes out quickly. Since I've been to Penang so many times, I think I'll just have to try Banana Leaf a bunch more times! Considering that the menu, pricing, and location are essentially the same, and the decor really doesn't sway me one way or the other, I'll just have two Malaysian places to choose from when I'm in Chinatown. Nothing like a little friendly competition.

Banana Leaf
1009 Arch Street

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My Love Pho You

On Saturday, I did alot of walking. The 16th Philadelphia Film Festival was going on (and still is), and so I wanted to catch at least one flick, but had to go to the Kimmel Center by 8PM. A colleague had laid some free tix to Art Garfunkel on me earlier in the week. He's not my scene, but I knew my mom would be into him, so I took her. It'd been her first time to the Kimmel and let me tell you, for those of you that haven't been there, go! It's a beautiful building, on the outside and the inside. And the large hall is even more gorgeous and has the most amazing acoustics you've ever heard. It's a totally beauteous place.

While hauling my butt 13 blocks to get from 2nd to Broad, I had to stop in for a quick bite. And on my way, of course, was Chinatown. This is a girl that never gives up a chance to stop in Chinatown. If you remember, Saturday was freakin cold. And after walking all those blocks, I decided that pho would be my meal of choice. So I stopped at Pho Cali, again.

Do you remember the first time you had pho? I do. It was the summer after my freshman year of college in Cleveland. I was staying that summer at a fraternity house (yeah, hilarious, I know). That's ok, it wasn't a real fraternity, it was the nerd fraternity. One of the people staying there that summer had a car, and he was going to go drive and eat Vietnamese food. Vietnamese food? What's that, I thought! I had no idea. I'd never had it before. So we trekked to the west side of town to a tiny Vietnamese place. I didn't remember what it was called, but I just googled it and it is called Minh-Anh. Gosh. So it's good to know it's still there.

So this guy also gushed about this thing called "cinnamon soup". Yes, cinnamon soup. That absolutely sounds gross now that I think about it, but at the time, it sounded fascinating. And I had to have it. It was actually pho he was talking about, and I loved it! And from then on, I've been hooked. At Minh-Anh, you didn't get the giant bowls that the chain pho places typically serve. You got a tiny mini bowl and you treasured every flavorful spoonful of broth and every crunchy sprout. Mmmm.... I also had my first goi cuan (fresh summer rolls) there, and also my first bun (rice vermicelli bowl). Now that I think about it, I realize how much Minh-Anh has affected my eating life. Thank you!

When you order pho, you basically need to know what type of meat you want in it. I typically just go for brisket. You also can choose flank, steak, tripe, tendon, meatballs, or any combination of the above. It comes out in a bowl with rice noodles, the soup, your meat(s) of choice, onions, green onions, and cilantro. Immediately after you order pho, before you even get your pho, they bring you a plate full of mung bean sprouts, some sliced jalapenos, some lime wedges, and some basil. And at every table, you always have sriracha sauce (the spicy sauce), hoisin, and garlic chili sauce. And you put any of these ingredients into your pho. Then you shovel and enjoy! For me, I stick in all the sprouts and some sriracha. That's it for me, I'm a simple pho kinda girl. I also ordered a limeade. So so good!

Oh yeah, by the way, after the Kimmel, I made my mom take me to capogiro. And I also forgot to say that after that night at Penang, I also stopped at capogiro. Hilarious. Ladies and gents, my addiction is fully raging.

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Thursday, April 5, 2007

Food for work

We had more training today and they brought in lunch for us. Luckily, it was not mustard sandwiches from Panera bread, it was alfredo penne pasta with chicken and broccoli (and a tiny bit of artichoke), and garlic mashed potatoes. The potatoes were awesome, made with red potatoes and filled with potato skins. Yum. They weren't very garlicky, but they were still good. The pasta was also pretty good, but a bit bland. I had to throw some hot sauce in mine. Plus I got to grab the one and only Hank's black cherry soda. They also had some little mini desserts and I had a macaroon. It was delightful.

After work, we had a going away party at Spamps. I had blogged about the mediocre sushi lunch there before, so I wasn't expecting much. They had some appetizer type stuff for us. I had some pot stickers, other dumpling type stuff, chicken on a skewer, mini crab cakes, and some california rolls. I quite enjoyed the pot stickers but they didn't have any type of dipping sauce. That was a bummer. The other dumpling wasn't very good. It had beef in it, but had an odd flavor. The chicken was quite good, plain, but cooked very well. The mini crab cakes were alright. The california rolls, however, were surprisingly good and fresh. I was quite happy with it. And I had my current cocktail of choice - orange vodka with sprite with a lemon. Totally refreshing.

Why you should read Blogs...

Because you will win free stuff! I got to see a great show at the Khyber this week - Kristoffer Ragnstam and Robert Gomez. All because since I started blogging, I've been reading blogs more, and while I don't remember even entering this random draw, I apparently did, and won free tickets to the show from the Phillyist. It was a fantastic show, nearly noone was there, and I got to meet both bands. And they were also great. Good times. Now on to the food...

My friends M&M invited me over the other night to have some leftovers of soondubu (Korean tofu stew) and cioppino that they had made. You know what? They were both good. Soondubu is one of those things that is very Korean and there are restaurants who only sell soondubu. They have one thing on the menu and that's it. They make it very easy to make at home these days because they have packets with the flavorings that you throw into some water along with a package of tofu and also toss in some frozen seafood mix that they especially sell for situations just like this. I've never made it myself, but my brother has. If he can make it, then anyone can! The cioppino was also good. We ladelled it over linguine noodles and there were mussels, fish, onions, and tomatoes. Good job M&M!

Then M made me try this weird Chinese "dessert". He kept calling it dessert but it was really booze with some rice in it. It says "fermented sweet rice sauce" on the label, but it's basically some sweet rice in water that they fermented. It's gross, extremely strong, and not likeable at all. Blech. M is crazy for liking this stuff!

I made a giant hot bowl of udon noodles the other night. It'd been in my freezer for awhile so I wasn't sure it would turn out good, but it certainly did. Udon is a thick Japanese noodle, but Koreans like it alot. The frozen packet I was using was Korean. It comes with the noodles and the flavoring packet and the veggie type stuff. It turned out really quite delicious. But I think I need some bigger bowls.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Try these burgers

Last Friday night I went to Copabanana for the first time in years. I think the last time I went was probably nearly 8-10 years ago and I was at the one on Chesnut street. All I remember was that the nachos were good and the drinks were even better. They have these things called "Spanish fries" which I 'd never heard of before. They're fries that come with sizzled onions and jalapenos and your choice of cheese - whiz or shredded cheddar. They come with any burger that you order as a side. They're also known for their burgers. And now know why.

This time we went to the one in University City. I started off with a mango margarita. The margaritas all come with your own shaker so you can pour your own drinks. They have the regular margarita as well as fruit flavors. They're good, and they're strong! They reminded me of the mexican martinis I would have at Trudy's in Austin. Ah... I really miss those days! The fruit margaritas come with a sugared glass, the regular ones come with salt, you have to ask special to not have it salted.

So back to these burgers. I'm not sure why they tasted so good, but these burgers really were good! I'd had a few people rave about them to me, but I was thinking really, a burger is a burger. I'm not sure what kind of crack they put in these burgers, but they were really good. It's a half pound hamburger patty cooked to your choice, and it normally comes on a sesame seed bun with your choice of toppings. They have many pre-determined toppings of your choice with catchy names like the "Copa", the "Acapulco", or the "San Remo". I went with the "Atlantic City", but with fried onions instead of raw. It was great. I asked for a kaiser roll, but it came out with the regular sesame seed bun. That was my only real complaint, food wise. It came with those Spanish fries, and I had the whiz. I liked them, but they weren't tremendous or anything. The sizzling onions were a little too raw for my liking, and they would probably have been even better more cooked. I ate around the jalapenos. I still like the spicy chili cheese fries from Nifty Fifty's the best. I could eat that as a meal!!!

This place plays music really loud. And at a certain point in the evening, a dj started spinning, and it got even louder. So if you're looking for a nice calm evening, this isn't the place for you. But if you want a really tasty burger and to get a bit tipsy on some good drinks, then this place is a good time.


Sunday, April 1, 2007

Suburban Mexican Goodness

I love me some mexican food. Especially because I went to grad school in Texas and the one thing that Texas has better than most states is mexican food. I've had alot of it, and the best has come from Texas or Mexico. Philadelphia has some good mexican food. And it has lots of bad mexican food as well. Most people know about a few places downtown, and the taqueria on Washington Ave. There are also a few gems in the suburbs as well, and my favorite is the Taqueria La Michoacana in Norristown. Yes, Norristown. While I love the taqueria on Washington Ave, it's not exactly what I would call a restaurant, even though you can sit down and eat. It's much more of a pick-up kinda place.

The taqueria in Norristown is a proper restaurant. Don't poo poo them because they happen to be in Norristown. Yes, it's not the best neighborhood, but it's not their fault. The restaurant itself is a small but cute and colorful place. They have a rather crazy and huge painting on the ceiling of a falcon biting into a snake. There's some requisite Mexican decorations and knick knacks. They have fancy table tops. They have a few TVs playing Mexican shows. The walls are bright!

Now, onto the food. They give you free freshly fried chips and three different salsas - a pico de gallo, a green sauce, and a red sauce. The pico was pretty bland and benign, but the green and red were both really good and had a decent kick. The chips were also delicious, having been freshly fried. I had been craving enchiladas verdes, so I went for it. They came with 6 enchiladas (it was alot) and also rice and beans. And it was covered with freshly grated queso fresco. I had beef in mine and it had a good amount of sliced meat in it, it was not the most tender, but well cooked and flavored. I liked them alot. H got the chicken fajitas. She wasn't crazy about them, but she liked them just fine.

I was full, but we decided to get a dessert - fried ice cream. It's different than the fried ice cream you would find at an Asian restaurant, in that it's not dunked in a thick batter. Instead, they coat it with what seems to be crushed corn flakes, and then fry it. And they serve it with some whipped cream and strawberries. It's very sweet and decadent, and for people that aren't chocolate-crazy, it's great. So if you're in the mood for some good mexican food suburban style, give this place a shot.

Taqueria La Michoacana
301 E Main St
Norristown, PA 19401