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foodzings: November 2007

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Work Lunch Outing

I typically don't go out to eat lunch during the week. Sometimes I'll go and grab food, but most of the time when we're not being fed, I will bring my own. Last week my team went out for our "last supper" lunch. We're getting a new boss. It's quite a traumatic thing. It deserved some team commiserating. Since we're in Conshy, there weren't many options, and noone wanted to make a decision, so we ended up at the Boathouse. It's not an exciting place, but it's somewhere to go.

D got a burger of some kind. There's bacon on it. Can't go wrong with bacon! K got a chicken BLT sandwich? Looks pretty good, eh? The kept poaching his fries, they were good. Again, bacon on his sandwich, another winner.

R went with the chicken pesto sandwich. It's got feta cheese on it. I'm not a fan of feta cheese, but otherwise, the sandwich sure looks good. See, it comes on a fancy "rustic focaccia" roll. I went with the good ol soup and sandwich combo. It was the soup of the day - shrimp and roasted corn chowder. Pretty good I must say. The salad was a big house salad. Much bigger than I expected. Good croutons. I picked the sesame ginger dressing. It wasn't as much dressing as it was a marinade, so it was a bit on the strong side. I shoulda gone with vinaigrette. I had my first leinenkugel that day. You know what, I enjoyed it. Probably a bit too much...

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Friday, November 23, 2007

H Mart Eatings

I had the fortune of eating at the H Mart food court in Upper Darby a couple of times this past Thanksgiving week. It sure beats other crappy fast food. It's fast, but so not crappy. A ordered dukpoki, a perennial favorite of mine. It was good, as usual, but tasted slightly different than before. Still good though. She thought it was just fine. I actually tried to make dukpoki the other week. It was an experiment. It didn't turn out very well, at least certainly not restaurant-worthy, but it wasn't horrible. I was able to eat it and enjoy it, at least slightly.

There are a few food stuffs that I crave regularly. One is chicken teriyaki from mall food court places. Seriously, this is no joke. I get this every two weeks or so for lunch, because my body needs it. The other thing is the tonkatsu from Monsieur Tong Tong's at the H Mart food court. I could eat this all the time. Tonkatsu is a japanese dish, of panko crusted pork cutlet with a sweet sauce. It's huge. Just look at it. There's no scale from this photo, but believe you me, that is a huge ass plate. It's a giant piece of pork cutlet. You can easily make this at home and you can buy pre-made tonkatsu sauce, but really, this place is the best. Their sauce is heavenly. And it always comes with a little macaroni salad, some corn salad, shredded cabbage, and rice. Yum, yum, and yum.

On my second visit, I ordered the dolsot bibimbap for C to eat. He wouldn't pick anything, so I had to do the picking for him. I knew it would be a safe bet, as I had fed him some regular bibimbap my mom had made a few weeks ago, and he enjoyed that. Plus, the crackling of the food in the hot ass bowl adds for dramatic effect. It was ok, I've had better, but it was a bit mild and heavy on the sesame oil side. But it did make the table hot, literally.

What did I eat? I went with yukkaejang, one of my favorite korean dishes of all time. I haven't eaten in a long time, but my grandmom makes pretty good yukkaejang. Hers is spicy and heavy on the sprouts. This one did not have any sprouts, but it did have enoki mushrooms, wood ear mushrooms, too many scallions, fern bracken (the brown woodsy stuff), and clear noodles. It was spicy, but not freakishly so. How do you eat this? You scoop up some rice in your spoon, dunk your spoon into the stew to grab some of the goodies in your spooon, then shovel and chew. So good. It's the perfect thing to eat on a cold ass day (think the equivalent of pho, if you wanted korean food).


Thursday, November 22, 2007

A Vegetarian Thanksgiving!

I'm not one of these people crazy about thanksgiving. Now I love turkey and mashed potatoes just like the next person, but I don't need a special day on the calendar to require it. My family never does much for it anyway. And this year, I didn't even hang out with them. Instead, I had the pleasure of enjoying my first vegetarian thanksgiving brunch with k and c and her immediate family. It was all delicious.

Witness the blueberry french toast casserole that was one of the "brunch" dishes. That be chunks of cream cheese in there. Drool. It was nice and mild, and not too sweet. There was also some blueberry syrup to pour over it.

There were also assorted pastries (bapka and muffins) and this gorgeous spinach frittata. It was so hot that it cracked the plate. Oh, and seeing as how it was brunch, we had mimosas. And by we, I mean mostly me. I believe I drank most of them.

On the "Thanksgiving" side of things, we had roasted acorn squash stuffed with wild rice stuffing. So gorgeous and lovely. I'm not much of a stuffing person, let alone an acorn squash person, but I did enjoy this. Would I ever order something like this in a restaurant? No, but I was definitely game for this on this fine vegetarian day.

I've never really had brussel sprouts in my life. I think I tasted one once for the first time in grad school. To me it just tasted a bit sour. I never tried one again. Not because I did not like it, but because I never ordered it out nor did I ever make it on my own. So really, I just never had the opportunity. These were glazed roasted brussel sprouts, and they were delightful little morsels of kid-hated forced-fed veggies. If this is how brussel sprouts were prepared all the time, all kids in this world would love brussel sprouts. Look how gorgeous they are. They tasted gorgeous too.

Of course we had some roasted potatoes. We also had garlic mashed potatoes, the obligatory corn. One of the highlights of the meal for me was the soup - rosemary butternut bisque. It wasn't much to look at, just an orangey paste, but man, it was beyond delicious. I had two helpings, and I could have had more. I would have ladled it over rice and eaten it for a week. So so good.

And of course we had pies. I brought sweet potato and peach (and by the way the sweet potato pie that I bought at Giant, some of the best sweet potato pie I've ever had) and k's mom made a cream cheese pie. All in all, even without turkey, it was a great feast for the eyes and the stomach.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Tacos, Tacos, Tacos

I've been going to Taqueria La Veracruzana for years. Ever since going to grad school in Texas, I've been a big fan of real mexican food. And honestly, the mexican food in Philly does not really compare, but there are a few gems, like this place. In a world full of Qdoba, Chipotle, and Baja Fresh, this taqueria kicks butt. And it''s cheap.

They always give you chips and two salsas - red and green. They're pretty damn spicy. And the chips are usually freshly fried, and on this occasion, particularly greasy. But I didn't mind. We also ordered some guacamole. You could totally tell it was just freshly made. They don't mash it up too well, they leave it fairly chunky, and the avocados were nice and ripe. They put nice chunks of ripe tomato in there too. Yum.

We all ended up ordering tacos. A got chicken and C got chorizo. Don't be confused by the menu here. The tacos are in the "lunch" section, but it doesn't mean that you can only get tacos for lunch. You can get them whenever you want. It's always three tacos and they come on corn tortillas and are garnished with onion and cilantro and limes. Nothing fancy schmancy, just tasty.

I got the al pastor tacos, which are pork with pineapple. It's a nice contrast of savory and sweet. And these particular hunks of pineapple were super sweet. I also always get the beans and rice when I'm here. The rice is just fine, nothing exciting, but I just love their beans. They're so creamy and you know they're totally made with lard. Screw the lard-free refried beans.
Service here is fine, nothing great, but nothing bad. And you all know about the ambiance, there is none.

Taqueria La Veracruzana
908 Washington Ave

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Banana Leaf, again!

A came into town from California to spend thanksgiving with her husband's family. She stayed with me for a few nights, and we ate up a storm. Her first night we were supposed to have a quick bite in Chinatown and then catch a free movie at the international house. Unfortunately, I was stupid and drove in by the art museum, and they had closed roads in preparation for the parade. Der. We never made it to the movie.

We did make it to chinatown and went to Banana Leaf. I still love this place. We got the Satay Tofu as an appetizer. I liked it from the first time I was here. I love that it has cucumber and bean sprouts in it. Two of my favorite things. It looks slightly gross in the photo, but I swear this stuff is good.

A ordered the Captain's Noodles, which has flat noodles in a malaysian soy sauce with shrimp, chicken, and pork. I loved it. It had a strong and sweet flavor and I love the greens in this, which I believe is chinese broccoli. And the wide flat noodles are a favorite as well.

I knew I wanted a noodle soup dish, so I went with Seafood Lo Mein Soup. It comes with thick yellow noodles and shrimp, scallop, squid, and veggies. It was a fairly mild tasting soup, with an eggy and thick texture. I dug it.

As usual, service was good and fast. They are pretty nuts about filling up your water. You take one sip and they fill it up! They also give you a complimentary dessert, whatever this stuff is. It has tapioca and barley in some kind of green porridge. I wasn't too crazy about it and it was pretty bland. But I love that they just give it to you. It's very korean restaurant-esque.

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Sunday, November 18, 2007

Cold food for cold days

The other week, I was perusing foodtv and ended up liking this Soba Noodle-Vegetable Salad recipe by Ellie Krieger. Who's Ellie Krieger? I have no idea, but this salad looked good. Wet ingredients on the left, and "dry" ingredients on the right, it was quite simple. Why did I make this when it was 30 degrees out? Sometimes, I'm not so seasonal. This would be a great light meal when it's hot out.

I left the mint and basil out of my version, because I'm not too into hunks of mint or basil. But it tasted just fine to me with just the cilantro. The salad is extremely crunchy and the dressing is tangy and good. It also looks quite beautiful with all the intense colors. It actually tasted even better a day later when the soba noodles had gotten more firm. When you first make it, the noodles get a bit too soft. Once refrigerated, they harden up again. Here it is served up with some of the asian inspired pickles I had made. I had gone to the food bloggers potluck and had eaten way too many of these. I made them on my own and they turned out just great. And if I can make em, anyone can make em!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Zot - Mostly Looks...

Zot is a fairly new Belgian restaurant to grace the Philadelphian scene. We weren't sure, but we think it opened earlier this year. Located on an unfortunate block of Lombard near South Street, it serves "belgian food by a belgian chef". The place is very attractive. You can definitely tell they spent a lot of money on the construction and decoration. Located in an old rowhouse, there's a wine bar and piano in the first room, the regular bar in the second room, and then just dining at the back.

We got there fairly early on a Sunday, so for awhile, we were the only patrons in the place. Everybody had a beer before we were seated, but I was not partaking that evening. They do have a tremendous beer selection. They'd better, after all, it is belgian. The tableware was also attractive. The water glasses slant sideways. The silverware is freakishly long and different.

I and L ordered the pate as an appetizer. It was served on a piece of 12x12 ceramic tile. This is the first time I'd ever witnessed anything like this. Although cute, honestly, it was much too big for the small tables. The tables were already overrun with crooked glasses and long skinny silverware. The tile was just too much real estate for not that much food. The pate also did not come with enough bread/crackers. And while they did give us complimentary bread, it was gone very quickly and they weren't very good about giving us more. We had to keep asking. You'll see that as a running theme here.

I went with the orval onion soup as an appetizer. I enjoyed this very much. It's pretty much their take on french onion soup, but made with orval beer and with different cheeses on top. It was strongly flavored, yet as you can see, a bit too charred on top.

For main courses, the options are few: a selection of mussels, a selection of various meats, or a selection of fish. And with each of these, you can pick the sauce or the ingredients for how it is prepared. D ordered the monkfish. The green sauce is the spinach garlic sauce. With meat/fish entrees, you also get to pick a starch. D picked the stoemp bacon. Stoemp is basically like mashed potatoes, but also includes other root vegetables, and in this case, also bacon. The fish and the sauce were quite good.

L was a brave one. She went with the sweetbreads. I forget what kind of sauce she picked. She picked the stoemp with leeks. I'd never had sweetbreads before, so this was a real treat. To my surprise, I liked it!

I's selection was the duck breast. I believe he got this with the choron sauce. Choron is like hollandaise or bernaise, but with some tomato puree. The duck was extremely well cooked. I'm not a duck fan myself, but my little bite was scrumptious. I's stoemp of choice was with carrots.

So that left me, and I went with mussels. I picked the "snob" mussels, which are made with lobster bisque, cream, and cognac. I only got the 1/2 kilo but there were plenty of mussels for me. And they weren't puny either. There was a good mix of sizes and some were quite large. I enjoyed them a lot. In fact, I really enjoyed all the food that night.

Now here's where the problems began. I also ordered a side of the pommes frites. But did I get them? No, at least not right away. All of our food came out, everybody else dining in the restaurant got their pommes frites, but I did not. So I asked for them. And then I waited some more. The mussels were soon all eaten. I asked a second time. Then they finally came out. Did they apologize? Half-assed, yes. Our server joked "well, they're good for dipping!" since all I had left was the broth from the mussels. As if making light of the situation that I did not get the food I ordered until after everyone was done with all their food and until I'd asked about it twice, would make me feel better about the situation. She was so wrong.

So the service is lacking. Seriously. They don't fill your water much. They do the first time and then leave wine bottles filled with water on the table so you can refill. But they don't check to see if you need any more. Like I said before, they also don't give you more bread. They also don't really bother to check if your food is ok. And they certainly don't seem to care if you get the food that you order. And don't get me started on the check. I don't know how long we had to wait until they picked up our check, and getting change, even that was a hassle.

It's a pretty restaurant. It has pretty servers. The food is pretty. But really, it's missing something. I'm not sure what it is, but it's just too much show and not enough substance. It's all very pretty, but underneath it all, you see some homeliness. They definitely need to step up their game because Zot could be so much better. It has so much potential, but it has to follow through. Otherwise, you're going to keep reading reviews like mine.

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Notes from Novemberfest

Last weekend, M and E hosted Novemberfest. A german themed beer party, guests had to bring a unique beer of their choice. And did they ever. I haven't seen this much beer in a long time. It was everywhere. There were all different countries represented. Someone even brought smoked beer that cost $5 a beer. And yes, it tasted smoked. Like you were drinking a sausage. Gross, yet fascinating.

M spent days preparing the main dish - sauerbraten. It's a german roasted sour meat dish. I remember having it in Germany once, and I remember liking it. She said she was preparing the meat for days beforehand. It had an intense sour flavor and since the meat was slow cooked, it was tender. I love red cabbage. It doesn't matter how it's prepared, I just love it. I was also starving by the time I got to the party, look how shaky I am the picture's even blurry.

M also made some german bread and german peasant chicken legs. A brought some fried veggies. All the food was great.

The food highlight for me were the desserts. We're not sure who made them, but someone made brownies with nuts, caramel, and coconut. And someone, it might have been the same person as the brownies, also brought the most delicious apple bundt cake I've ever eaten. OH MY GOODNESS. It was beyond moist, with big chunks of fresh apple. I could have eaten the whole damn thing. Seriously.


Soup Time

Remember the beautiful dutch oven that I got for christmas last year? I finally busted it out again. I picked up an old copy of the Moosewood cookbook from a yard sale earlier this summer, and with the weather being all cold and crappy, it got me in the mood to make soup. I decided to make some succotash chowder. First I cooked up some onion, garlic, and celery with some basil and thyme. I don't like celery, so I left mine purposely huge so I could easily fish them out later. Meanwhile, I had soaked the lima beans for many hours and had been simmering them. I'd also cooked up some potatoes.

You then add some frozen corn. I had gotten some extra sweet organic sweet corn from TJ's.

You then add the lima beans in there. I also took some of this mix and pureed it with an immersion blender (a new toy I'd just picked up for future soup making) to make the soup thicker.

And to finally chowderize it, the potatoes and milk are added.

I removed the celery at this point. So the mistake I made was that the lima beans weren't cooked enough. I followed the recipe, but I should have followed the instructions on the bean bag instead. I should have soaked them for hours longer and certainly cooked them even longer. They turned out crunchy, which isn't very appetizing. So mostly, I just ended up fishing around the lima beans. The rest of the chowder itself was quite fine.


Thursday, November 8, 2007

More company eats

We had our quarterly company meeting last week. Typically, it's at the West Conshohocken Marriott, but it was moved last minute to the ACE Center. Not a bad thing. They told us some stuff during the meeting, but nothing was surprising. We all knew what was coming.

The lunch was alright. I've had better meals there. Similar to my last meal at ACE, it was a little lackluster. The chicken was a bit dry, but the red pepper sauce was great. The creamy italian salad dressing was actually quite noteworthy.

Desserts, as usual, is where the ACE really stands out. There were multiple pies, cakes, chocolates, and even fruit. I went with the apple pie again. I can't help myself, I know what I like.


Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Random Food Items

We had another all day offsite at the ACE center a few weeks ago. This means non-stop eating. They ply us with drinks and snacks all day. Breakfast, hot and cold, ice cream, fruit, it just doesn't stop. Lunch this time was not nearly as good as some of the other days. The hot entree selections were lacking. But the dessert selection was good, as usual. Whenever there is a buffet involved, my plate always looks like a big slop of mess. I just love variety, is all. The pie, delicious! And I made mine a la mode.

On another exciting note, I did something incredibly cool in October, I took a glassblowing class. And before class, M would make us dinner, because she's just that cool. We had crab ravioli one night, chili another night, stew one night, and one night we had this pasta bake that she made, with sausage, ham, and peas. What's not to love? I loved it. How come I can't ever make something like this? Or morever, how come I never make anything like this? She said it's the simplest thing in the world. But I just never make stuff like this, even though I love it and could eat it every day.