Saturday, June 28, 2008

Vietnamese Salad Bowl

This Vietnamese vermicelli dish makes for a light summer meal, and is a great way to take advantage of fresh herbs and vegetables that are probably ripening in your garden as we speak. It's easy to make, and the ingredients can easily vary according to what you have available.

These ingredients were found at my local Asian grocery but recently I have seen the spring roll sauce available at the regular grocery store. Rice noodles are also available at most grocery stores but the Asian grocery has a larger selection and is cheaper. On a side note, the Asian grocery store owner told me that rice noodles have not gone up as much in price as rice has recently, but he expects that they will soon, so stock up while you can.

How to make Vietnamese Vermicelli Salad Bowl:

The first step is to prepare your vegetables. Shred some lettuce. Romain or iceberg usually works best. I used chopped cucumber, peapods, and sliced scallions. Typically bean sprouts and shredded carrots are used, but I didn't have any. I've also found that the julienned broccoli slaw sold in the produce department is good in this dish. If you are a fan of heat, you could add sliced jalapenos or chilies if you like. Chop up some fresh herbs, which usually consist of cilantro, mint, and basil. Chop some peanuts by putting them in a plastic bag and hitting them with a heavy pan.

Boil your rice noodles until just tender. Don't overcook or they will become mushy. Rinse with cold water and let them cool. Add about a cup or so to a large bowl.

Grill or broil some chicken, beef, pork, or shrimp. I used chicken tenders grilled on an indoor grill pan, seasoned with grill seasoning.

Then, assemble all your ingredients. Place your vegetables and herbs on top of the noodles. Place the meat on top and then sprinkle on the crushed peanuts. To eat, squirt with lime, and add sauce. For the sauce, I like to use a mixture of the spring roll and chili sauces in the picture above. The traditional sauce used in this dish is actually a thinner sauce and sometimes smells fishy, which I don't like. Once everything is in your bowl, stir the ingredients together and eat.

This dish also works well left over the next day. The rice noodles will keep in the refridgerator for a few days and, without having to cook the meat or the noodles, you can assemble this dish in about 5 minutes for a quick lunch or dinner.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Honduran Cuisine

(yuca con chicharron from Latino Grill, Pigeon Forge)

Latino Grill
Pigeon Forge

They can't all be winners. Part of being adventurous is trying things that you may ultimately find repulsive. This is a photo of a Honduran dish that looked promising because it was made with cheese, avocado, and lime. Who doesn't like that? But it was the pork skin, a non-benign type unlike the kind found in bags at the grocery store next to the chips, but rather like the pig had met its demise in the alley behind the restaurant. The sauce had a pungent, fermented smell that I could not get past and although I tasted the dish, I did not eat much.

This was my first experience with Honduran cuisine so I am not sure if this typical of all Honduran cuisines or just this restaurant. Baleadas, a Honduran tortilla filled with beans, egg, sour cream, and cheese were also on the menu and something I might give a shot on a subsequent visit. Anyone else ever tried Honduran food?

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Tell Us About Your Most Adventurous Meal

(Left: Dim sum dumplings, steamed rice in bamboo leaf, rice noodles, and chicken feet).

My mother would say that my most adventurous dining experience would be the snails that I plucked off the garden wall, scooped out of their shells and then ate raw when I was 2 years old. Or the tube of her lipstick that I ate. The most adventurous meal that I actually paid for however would be the chicken feet consumed at the dim sum restaurant. I don't know why this is considered such an unusual food to eat. It is after all just chicken. But, it's a part of the chicken not readily consumed in the US. I am sure that most of you can probably top this. So, my question is: What was the most unusual thing that you have ever eaten? What was your most adventurous dining experience?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Polish food

This short video, taken at the Barbakan restaurant in Chicago shows that Polish food can be more than bland dumplings.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

How to Win Over Your Mother-in-law. Tomato Paste!

Ghanaian commercial for tomato paste. If you are having mother-in-law issues, you will thank me for this post.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Adventure Dining Gold, Memphis Tennessee

Memphis Tennessee

Now this is my kind of restaurant. I happen to see it while driving past and made a sharp left turn, cutting off two lanes of traffic, and was thrilled to see that it was open on a Sunday. My kind of restaurant because the restaurant sign was barely discernible and it is Middle Eastern, which is so hard to find in Tennessee. The restaurant was in the back of a store, set away from the road in a small cluster of stores and not readily apparent to the naked eye. Inside, the signs were all in Arabic—including the no smoking sign—with secondary writing in English underneath. The menu featured all my Middle Eastern favorites such as baba ghanoush, kebabs, and kibbeh. The prices were very reasonable with an order of kibeh for only 2 dollars. The sandwiches were served in pita and baba ghanoush was used instead of mayonnaise, adding to the Middle Eastern flavor.

One mildly odd thing was the fact that this restaurant was also name Jerusalem but was not affiliated with this Jerusalem restaurant in Kansas City, where I had dined only a few weeks ago.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

As the Blog World Turns

Here is a summary of some recent goings on in the blogosphere:

1. Great news! The infamous knitted guinea pig dress pattern and photo that I though were lost in some black internet hole, have been found, faithfully preserved by a blogger. The original site went down shortly after I sent the link to my brother, who in turn passed it along to a few thousand of his bored coworkers at the huge company where he works. What I found interesting was the horrified expression on its little face, although someone who has owned guinea pigs told me that they always look that way, even when not wearing a frilly green dress. The pattern includes detailed instructions on how to take proper dress measurements for your guinea pig. I had been searching for unusual knitting patterns and found that one, along with a knitted intestinal track and a penis cozy.

2. Catsworking has been hijacked. It has inadvertently become an Anthony Bourdain gossip site after this article became hugely popular, and was then followed up with the provocatively titled "Was Anthony Bourdain's First Wife a Vampire?" If you are interested in Bourdain gossip, this is your site. However, I will caution you that if you want to retain your image of him as just a lovable, free spirited, pickled livered, chef/author/TV host you may want to keep your innocence and not click on those posts. I am off to check out another of catsworking's intriguingly titled posts "Laura Bush's Misplaced Breasts."

3. There is a new meta blog for adventure diners called Mondo food. This allows those of us who are lazy to leaf through many food blogs all at once. There seems to be a wide variety of nationalities and food types represented so this seems to be a great resource for new blogs and unique recipes.

4. In analysing my stats I found this interesting: Who would you think would send more referrals? Sherxr over at Ur Resident Chef or Technorati? Sherxr 21, Technorati 2. Therefore, we can conclude that Sherxr is better than Technorati ; )

5. We may be having a heat wave but hell sure must have frozen over. Not only did knitwithcats update her blog TWICE in less than a month, but she is promising another post once she finishes the sweater she's been knitting for 8 or 9 years. (I think I might have finally pushed her over the edge with this post and may not return for Saturday knitting lest I be hit. We knitters are a surprisingly violent bunch. It's not uncommon to see brawls break out over sock patterns).

6. Even though there is a law about Tennesseans and Georgians socializing, and us Cubs fans certainly don't think much of Yankee fans, I thought I should mention Chilly at On the Bricks because he is always my top Entrecard dropper, despite my spastic return drops. For you non Entrecarders, this means he clicks on my website everyday. He often has interesting posts like this one: Man Gets DWI After Riding Motorized Cooler.

Thanks to my nieces I am now hooked on the Disney Channel and can't get the theme song from the Suite Life of Zac and Cody out of my head!!! This is worse than my noisy neighbors! Now I'm wishing they would come back and play their guitars at 1am so as to blocks out this infernal song!!! na na...Suite na na....

Stay tuned next time for: na na...Suite na na. Grrrrr! As the Blog World Turns.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The English Rose

The English Rose
Chattanooga Tennessee

Elegant china tea pots surround you in this former historic hotel turned English tea room. The English Rose is located across from the famous Chattanooga Choo Choo, thus the history as a hotel, as it was the ideal location for newly arrived train passengers to Chattanooga.

It's a comfortable place to sit and enjoy a pot of tea, which will arrive at your table dressed properly with a tea cozy. The tea is probably the best in the city and despite frequent attempts, I have never been able to match the taste in my own kitchen.

The food consists of dishes such as cottage pie, bangers, and Dover sole. The desert menus include sherry trifle, sticky toffee pudding, and lemon cheesecake. All food is carefully prepared and tasty. The staff is authentically British. There is also a small store selling imported British delicacies (my favorite is the rose flavored Turkish Delight) and eclectic gifts.

Dineometer rating: 90%

Friday, June 6, 2008

Adventure Dining: Iran

Now this looks exotic! So colorful with tapestries and raised, pillowed, platform tables. Unfortunately the video is short and does not show much.

From the Youtube poster:

Inside of the Yord (Tent) restaurant outside of Shiraz. They had live music,
fresh-baked bread, amazing regional foods, and traditionally dressed people.The
Ghashghai are a Turkish nomadic group inside Iran.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Mexico City Architecture

While looking for the taco stand photo I used in the last post, I came across a few photos I took years ago of doors and windows in Mexico City. I loved the grand architecture and enclosed courtyards, and took probably a whole roll of film just of buildings.

So to make this in accordance with the theme of the blog, I will discuss my culinary experiences in Mexico City. Basically I had altitude sickness for the first two days out of the four that I was there, and could only manage apple soda from Carls Jr. Not very adventurous. Fortunately, I eventually recovered and experienced the wonderful and famous Cafe Tacuba as well as some delicious mole sauce at a restaurant that had a rooster crowing from somewhere in the back the entire time we dined.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Tacos 101

Mexican taquerias seem to be springing up everywhere. I have seen them in even the smallest of towns right here in Tennessee. Taquerias offer an opportunity to try an authentic taco that is more flavorful than the Taco Bell knock-offs that most people are used to.

An authentic taco is typically served open faced with fresh cilantro and onions on top. No cheese, no lettuce. There is a wedge of lime for squeezing and maybe some radish slices on the side. Red or green salsa may also be provided.

You will be asked if you want flour (“harina” in Spanish) or corn (maiz) tortillas. Authentic tacos tend to be smaller than the Taco Bell version so you may want to order a few more than you normally would. Typically people will order a few at a time, and then a couple more if desired. Filling options include chicken (pollo), carne asada (grilled beef), chorizo (sausage), barbecue (which may be chicken or pork), carnitas (chunks of pork), or al pastor (flavorful pork cooked on a rotisserie skewer). Tacos al pastor are the ultimate taco and an art form in and of themselves. They deserve a post of their own and I shall oblige this in the future. You may also see ingredients such as lengua which is cow tongue, or tripa which is cow intestine. On the streets of Mexico City, you will see vendors selling tacos of eyes, brains, and a variety of other cow parts.

(above) A taco vender in Mexico City prepares cow head meat for tacos.

I have discovered at a few different taquerias around the Tennessee area that there may be two menus available—one in English with the typical Americanized Mexican food options such as fajitas and crunchy tacos; and one for Latin Americans with authentic tacos, tortas, and aguas frescas (juice drinks). I think that the taqueria owners assume that most gringos will not be interested in the authentic food and just want the Tex Mex version they are used to. I would encourage them to give us gringos a shot because by offering the authentic tacos, I think sales would increase.

Often at taquerias, the bill is not brought to your table but you must instead go up to the counter to pay. So, if you have been sitting, waiting patiently at your table for quite a long time after most other customers have come and gone, trying to send subliminal messages to the waiter, hoping that the check will arrive, this may be why.

I met the ultimate taco aficionados on vacation in Puerto Vallarta recently. A nice couple that seemed to know of all taco selling locations in the city and in their home city of Houston. Mention a taco location in either city and they would immediately be able to provide a full review and list of other locations with better tacos. True adventure dinners these two were, who even dropped off their suitcases at the airport and then ran across the street for one last taco fix, arriving back at the airport just in time to board the plane. They declared the taco stand across from the Puerto Vallarta airport to be the ultimate, and given their passion for all things taco, I would believe this opinion.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Mennonite Bakery

The Swiss Pantry
Belvidere Tennessee
The Swiss Pantry in Belvidere Tennessee is known for its freshly baked goods, bulk groceries, and cheeses. The store is owned by a family of individuals who are of the Mennonite faith. Belvidere Tennessee is rustically located about 20 miles off Interstate 24, over a hour away from Chattanooga, and approximately 15 miles from the Alabama border.

On my most recent visit a fellow customer purchased an entire shopping cart of cookies. I guess with high gas prices, he wanted to stock up. I purchased what was probably the best pecan coffee cake I have ever had. Although they do not use preservatives in their bakery, it remained fresh for days and was just as good three days later as the day I bought it.

They will also prepare a sandwich for you, and have chili, as well as a homemade soup option which changes daily. This would be a great place for a picnic lunch if you happen to be driving in the central, southern part of Tennessee. Get yourself a ham sandwich and an old fashioned sarsaparilla root beer in a bottle and sit outside at the picnic table, enjoying the quiet view of the Tennessee countryside.