Browsing: Food & Travel

Crazy for Carbs

December21

Doesn’t matter if its bread, potatoes, rice or pasta-I gotta have my carbs.  I would rather have an extra scoop of noodles than dessert, any single day of the week!  In the same way that people get sweet and chocolate cravings-I have carb attacks, especially salty carbs.  Lucky for me sometimes a handful of wholegrain pretzels can satisfy it.

So on the second day of being snowed in at the Mall of America, we discovered Noodles & Company.  I LOVE this concept-two different noodle bowl sizes done in Asian, Mediterranean or American Style.  I choose from the Asian section and sampled the Pad Thai-a rice noodle stir-fry with scrambled egg, carrots, cabbage, sweet chile, citrus, peanuts, sprouts and cilantro.  I added a chicken breast-yum!

The family also sampled a Chinese Chop Salad (sesame soy tossed mix greens, sprouts, cabbage, red pepper, cucumbers, carrots, crispy wontons and black sesame seeds), Pasta Fresca (penne with balsamic, olive oil, white wine and roasted garlic, red onion, tomato and spinach, Parmesan or feta)  Bangkok Curry (coconut curry, broccoli, carrots, red pepper, onion, mushrooms, rice, noodles, served on cabbage with black sesame seeds) and Pesto Cavatappi (curly pasta, basil pesto, garlic, mushrooms, tomatoes, wine, cream, Parmesan and Italian parsley.  Alas, we wanted to taste the Wisconsin Mac & Cheese but had no room.  And the best part-lunch for seven: $51!

Kath’s quote: “Life is a combination of magic and pasta.”-Federico Fellini

the power of love

Expect the Unexpected

December15

To say that our family adventure to Minneapolis this weekend did not go as expected would be a colossal understatement.  The premise was simple enough-head down for a Christmas shopping day on Saturday, go to the spa while the guys were at the Giants/Vikings game on Sunday, drive home Monday. 

We get lots of storms on the prairies but “The Great Storm of 2010” was so surprizing.  When we arrived at about 8:30 on Friday night there was not a trace of snow.  But on Saturday morning we couldn’t see across the little lake that we were staying on and the driveway was completely drifted in and we had to wait to be plowed out.  As we kept our plans of heading to the Mall of America, we thought “we’re hardy folk-how bad can this be?” OMGoodness-visibility was ZERO and that was before the snow froze to our wiper blades and we could not see out the windshield.  D had to skillfully maneuver around cars in the ditch and others parked underneath overpasses trying to clear their views. 

We did a first lap of the Mall and when we rendezvoused at about 2 pm, we let the gang decide where they wanted to eat.  I was a bit surpprized when with almost 40 choices, they picked the familiar- Tony Roma’s.  I guess they could see how stressed out we were and they too wanted something “safe and familiar.”

So we settled in for “stacked” chicken, seafood fettuccine and ribs of course.  The food was pleasant enough but the service was short-handed and distracted.  Little did we know that the city was in chaos and the mall was making arrangements to get staff home safely by closing early.  We’re reasonable people-we understood that we weren’t their priority.

We were all sitting around the same table, enjoying each other’s company and reflecting on our adventure thus far.  We knew that our vehicles had been guided through the storm by angels-we were content.

Tony Roma's on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.”-M.F.K. Fisher

Laugh often, love deeply.

One meal can change a day

December9

On this particular day we were travelling from Sicily up half of the leg of the Italian boot to the Amalfi Coast.  The day started at 5 am with a van ride from the cozy home of our friends in Castellammare Del Golfo to the Palermo train station.  Driving in Palermo is so stressful that I was thinking about a big glass of Chianti by about 6:30 am. 

We had a reservation in a first class car and thought we were set.  Unfortunately another family thought the same and we spent most of the day with people who virtually ignored our existence.  Of course there was the language barrier which was our inadequacy not theirs.  But they held boisterous conversations while we tried to sleep, stretched their legs and leaned on us when they wanted to sleep and passed their shared lunch passed our faces when they wanted to eat.  And they were more accustomed to the heat than we were and thought it was just fine in the confined space without the AC.  But D and I always try to make the best of everything and so we spent the hours staring out the window at the Mediterranean, going for walks up and down the train cars and going up on deck when the train was boarded onto a ferry for the crossing from Messina, Sicily to mainland Italy.  

By 4 in the afternoon we had reached our transfer destination in Salerno- a hectic/crazy seaside town and boarded a bus destined for Amalfi. I mistakenly took a window seat and although the vista is “to die for”, I didn’t particularly want to do so in the middle of our second honeymoon.  The hour long leg was extended because now it was almost the dinner hour and we found ourselves in the midst of Italian rush hour.  Amalfi was even more frenetic and we managed to just barely get onto a jammed bus before departure.  Someone offered me a seat at the back of the bus and D was stuck standing next to the bus driving.  “No worries, it’s only a 20 minute trip” our eyes said to each other.  Minutes later a tremendous thunderstorm rolled in and the bus litterally parked on the mountainside.  Once the torrential rain passed we would surely be on our way- but no. 

I had done my research and knew that it was feast day to celebrate the saint of Prairiano’s home church.  What we didn’t know though was that there is only one road in and out of town and that the road that we were planted on was temporarily closed so that the townspeople could enjoy their procession to the church carrying their saint and the ensuing fireworks.  D tried to converse with the bus driver to determine how far from the town we were because now that 20 minute bus ride had taken and hour and a half.  When we finally arrived in town we determined that we had been one mountain curve away and could have walked it in five minutes.  Ah well, when in Rome…..

By this time we were so frazzled that we glugged the champagne that D had arranged would be chilling in our room and set out to find some supper.  Our first choice was a famous place that was very busy and I was so overheated by the humidity and champagne that I insisted that I would have to sit at one of the tables by an open window.  Because they were set for four and we were only two, we were refused and so we declined.  Well the owner was exasperated with us and made his frustration quite known to the rest of this diners. We had created quite the scene.

Our second choice was close and we knew by our research that they served on their rooftop terrace.  But of course, it was closed due to the storm that had just passed but the lovely owner of La Strada could totally see my distress so she pulled a table next to an open window and brought me my own fan! 

We shared a Quarto Pizza and Fusilli with langostino and asparagus.  The taste of the food was amplified by our day’s events, so to describe it as delicious and satisfying is such a gross understatement.  By the time we wandered back to our hotel for a Limonciello our whole psyche had been tansformed.  We were in an ancient town with views of Positano from our window.  The rain had stopped and stars were making their appearance. 

Kath’s quote: “One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.” ~Luciano Pavarotti

The complimentary appetizer served that evening at La Strada-I had come to the right place.

Amore.

Poc Chuc-Isla Mujeres

November23

Even though I have been to Isla Mujeres seven times, there are still little places that I have not had an opportunity to try (and this is a tiny island).  I almost always stay in Centro which is the town at the north end of the island where the ferry from Cancun deposits you.   This way you can walk to the beach, for groceries, to restaurants and local shopping in less than 10 minutes.  Poc Chuc is on the corner of a couple of Centro’s main streets and I have walked past it oodles of times.  On the last afternoon of my last trip to Isla, I finally got the opportunity to sample their offerings and was absolutely delighted. 

The decor is a happy collection of Caribbean colours and motifs.  The furniture seemed to have been freshly painted and you could see right into their cozy kitchen.

I ordered the Chicken Mole not having enjoyed it for 15 years since a trip to Cozumel.  Sister #3 says that there are over 40 ingredients in a good mole and my first taste would confirm that.  Cocoa and peppery tastes were prominent in the sauce poured over a tender leg and thigh that was served with rice and tortillas.  All this for 70 pesos or the equivalent of $7 CDN and get this-the cerveza was cheaper than a coke.   Someone else ordered Chilies Relleno and shared tastes with me so I was doubly content. 

Not the Mole

Kath’s quote:  “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”-Benjamin Franklin

Don’t worry be happy…..

Peasant Cookery

November12

How do two foodies celebrate their last evening together before one of them goes on a vacation?  By finding a new restaurant to try of course.  We had intended to visit this establishment when it was Oui and almost went to celebrate our last wedding anniversary.  But the Urbanspoon reviews were not glowing and when we are acknowledging a special event, we want “glowing”.  So I am not surprized that there has been a change in culinary direction.  I understand that the previous menu was very daunting for the kitchen and this simplified version should ensure stellar dishes from the chef.  Some of the former favourites have found their way onto the Peasant menu.  Simple, well prepared, tasty food is what we are all about and looked forward to tucking in.

We were sat immediately by a really personable fellow and he accurately predicted that we would enjoy one of their round booths.  The decor has not changed immensely and we loved the high ceilings and two walls of windows.  A lovely glass of wine was recommended and a wonderful baguette basket was delivered.  Bread and wine, a simple and yet so satisfying combination that have sustained generations and indeed civilizations.

Thinking ourselves to be poutine aficionados, we couldn’t resist sharing an order.  My husband and I discovered cheese curds together at the Minnesota State Fair which does not just contain a food concession but an entire arena designated to local food preparation  (AND we saw Kenny Loggins in concert that night so I was in heaven).     

The Peasant version of poutine is authentic using a made from scratch gravy and a fairly generous numbers of curds.  But on this night they salted the fries before the toppings were added and even though I love salty foods, it was a bit much.  Next time I think we’ll try a pate.

Remembering my recent trip to NYC where I sampled the most amazing fried chicken at  The Redhead, I was excited to repeat the treat or at least determine if the dish lived up to my Grandma’s recipe.  I would crown her the Queen of Peasant Cookery. 

Although the chicken underneath the crunchy coating was tender enough, I guess my standards were too high as something was off.  The chicken seemed to have been braised or boiled first to tenderize it whereas in my mind a marination works best.  The coating was over salted and also seemed to be overcooked.  And even though I did not finish my portion, the two little drumsticks and thighs did not warrant the price tag (in our humble opinion).  The coleslaw was just okay and the warm potato salad had way too much mustard for our liking.

BUT D’s pork chop was divine!  Well trimmed,  juicy, tender and perfectly cooked to medium.  The accompaniments too were well selected and prepared and lucky for me, D was prepared to share.  I sliced the left overs up for a sandwich the next day and it too was delicious.

So I wish WOW! Hospitality all the best with this concept and know that having peeked into the wine bar and loving the ambience, we will be back.

Peasant Cookery on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote:  “A married couple who enjoy the pleasures of the table have, at least once a day, a pleasant oppurtunity to be together; for even those who do not sleep in the same bed (and there are may such) at least eat at the same table.”-Jean-Antheleme Brillat-Savarin

Let love be multiplied.

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