Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Sonoran DogWe’ve tried a Sonoran Hot Dog or two in the Phoenix area before but after seeing all the tv shows on El Geuro Canelo, I made it part of my mission to check it out while down in Tucson.
What I like about this place is that they have a small menu that focuses on a handful of items that they do well.  Carne asada burritos/tacos/tortas/caramelos, Sonoran Hot Dogs, and some Mexican-style beverages (aguas frescas, horchatas, cane-sugar Coke bottled in Mexico, that sort of thing).
I stuck with the Sonoran Hot Dogs and got a few to go for myself, including their Sammy, a Sonoran Hot Dog but with 2 bacon-wrapped hot dogs instead of just one.  Without diving in too much on what’s in a Sonoran Hot Dog, just keep in mind that it’s loaded… kind of like a Chicago-style dog.  Bolillo roll instead of a hot dog bun, hot dog wrapped in bacon, then filled with a ton of condiments including beans, mayo, mustard, tomato, and green salsa.
What makes El Guero Canelo great is their condiment/salsa bar.  Cebollas (grilled green onions), grilled jalapenos, red salsa, green salsa, pico de gallo (solid), avocado crema, radish, and limes.
The verdict – this place is solid.  Cheap dogs (a little more than $2 each, a little more than $3 for the sammy) and a quality condiment/salsa bar.  If they were open 24 hours a day, they’d make a killing with the drunk food crowd on weekends.
What am I trying next at this place?  Their carne asada burrito.  I saw someone take it back to their table and it looked like a nerf football.  You think Chipotle makes big burritos… that’s childs play.  I can put two of them down as a snack.  The burrito from El Guero Canelo looked significantly larger than what you get at Filiberto’s as well.
Until next time, do yourself a favor if you’re in the Tucson area to grab a dog from this place.  Especially if you need it to soak up some of that booze in your belly.

Lumihai BeachWhen this post goes live J. and I will be lying on a beach in Hawaii. We have 7 days and nights of relaxation planned or not planned as the case may be in Kauai. Though we don’t have any activities planned, besides lying on the beach, we do have our food plans well and truly under control.

As I have mentioned previously, J. is more often than not in charge of our eating arrangements when we travel. He researches, reads, studies and discusses all the possibilities. He has been responsible for finding some of the most unique, out of the way, hole in the wall, restaurants/foodtrucks/shacks that we have ever been lucky enough to try. He is always organized for our trips but when it comes to Kauai he has taken it to an entirely new level!

Here is the evidence – THE SPREADSHEET!

THE SPREADSHEET

Puka DogA comprehensive document, organizing possible food choice by local. It details opening hours, location, whether they take cash only or credit card and possibly most importantly what kind of cuisine they serve. We have choices of traditional Hawaiian plate lunches, poke, seafood, burgers, Japanese and who knows what else. He has found us so many to choose from there is no way we will get to all of them!

We went to Kauai back in 2009 and discovered some amazing places to eat. They have made it Mark's Placeonto the spreadsheet, along with some of J’s new discoveries. The places I am looking forward to revisiting are Shrimp Station, Puka Dog, Mark’s Place and Hamura’s Saimin and a few others. The shrimp at Shrimp Station were delicious and amazing. I had never tasted anything like the hot dogs from Puka Dog. Mark’s Place and Hamura’s Saimin were just cool, low key locals joints.

Shrimp StationOf course J. has found us a whole new  group of places to try out. When we travel we try to stay away from the touristy places (although Puka Dog is definitely a popular destination) and go where the locals eat. Kauai, the second time around will be no different. I’m really looking forward to trying out Koloa Fish Market and also Chicken in a Barrel but there are so many other delicious options who knows what we will actually eat!

Hamura's Saimin

I’m sure as you are reading this we are either lying on a beach or eating some fabulously tastyfood! Stay tuned for Live from Kauai posts later this week!

ALOHA!

FatooshOn my final day in Washington DC, I managed to sneak away for a delicious and yummy lunch. The conference I was exhibiting at had quietened down, people were leaving and I had a long night of travelling home to Phoenix ahead of me… a hearty delicious meal (and a couple of beers) were definitely called for.

Recommended by fellow blogger Alina and some great people I met at the conference, Zaytinya was my destination. Only 2 short blocks from the hotel that I was exhibiting in, I wandered down for a late lunch.

Mythos Beer

Taking my traditional seat at the very big bar I was ready for a nice cold beer and some great food. I ordered my Mythos beer, a Turkish beer that I had never tried before and perused the menu. The girls I met at the conference had insisted I try the $25 Mezze Lunch. It was a 4 course meal with multiple choices under each course.

For first course I went with the Fattoush salad, a combination of tomato, cucumber, red onion, green pepper and radish. This had a delicious pomegranate vinegar dressing over it. Given the heat of DC, it was such a light, fresh and yummy start to the meal. The fresh pita bread they kept refilling throughout the meal was a great accompaniment.

ArayesSecond course was a difficult choice for me. I could have had any of the 4 choices but decided to go with the Arayes, a dish I had never heard of or tried before. These were stuffed pita breads, filled with grilled ground lamb and tahini on a bed of garlic yogurt. I don’t think it is possible for me to describe just how delicious this small plate of goodness was. Such flavor but so simple. I could have eaten an entire meal just of those. However, with 2 more courses still to go, I thought I shouldn’t order a second round. I ordered another beer instead.

Spanakopita

For my third course I decided to stay with something traditional, Spanakopita. This was flaky, melt in your mouth house-made phyllo pastry that was then stuffed with spinach and feta cheese. Carefully rolled into a crispy, tasty roll and placed on a spinach puree. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. This was possibly some of the best Spanakopita I have every eaten. I couldn’t believe how perfect the phyllo was. I wanted to eat 6 of them, not just 1.

Apricots and yogurtI restrained myself and just sat back with another beer and waited for my dessert. I had chosen to go with the lighter of the 2 dessert choices, Greek Yogurt and Apricots. I actually didn’t read the description until after I had ordered it. It may have been the lighter of the 2 but oh my, did it sound delicious. A small cup came out, looking like a orange and white parfait. There were layers of muscat soaked apricots, vanilla yogurt cream, apricot sorbet and pistachio powder. If I hadn’t have been in a public place I would have licked the cup clean! Delicious, light and refreshing – an excellent end to an amazing lunch!

I will go back to this place – I actually would go back to DC just for a lunch here and a dinner at St. Arnolds. My DC trip was great both professionally and culinary! I ate great food that had been recommended to me, found my own little gem on my wanders through the city and got to spend some time in one of my favorite cities on the East Coast.

When in DC next I recommend you try one of the great places I visited or perhaps you will discover a little gem of your own!

Tortino Pasta.jpgMy final night in Washington DC, I took a gamble and went to Founding Farmers, hoping that being by myself I could get a seat. Unfortunately the gamble didn’t pay off. They were booked out and there was also a line out the door. Never mind, I had a back up.

On my walks around the neighborhood near my hotel I had spotted a small, Italian trattoria that intrigued me. Tucked into the basement of a brownstone, in amongst residences, Tortino just looked like the perfect neighborhood restaurant. Inviting, small and fingers crossed, delicious!

I took a seat at the bar to eat and also because it was still happy hour, I ordered myself a bellini (prosecco with peach puree). The bellini was delicious and I had to make sure I didn’t drink in a few seconds.

I chatted with the bartender about football (NFL… GO BEARS!) for a while and then asked him to recommend a pasta dish Bellini.jpgfor me. After making sure I liked seafood he suggested the pasta special. Handmade spaghetti with cherry tomatoes, mussels, and broccoli in a garlic butter sauce! I went with his recommendation!

While waiting for my food to arrive I sipped on a second bellini – I couldn’t help it, they were just too delicious!

My pasta arrived! A large bowl filled with spaghetti and a surprisingly huge amount of mussels. The pasta was good, al dente, just how I like it and how it should be. The mussels were perfectly cooked and smothered in the garlic butter sauce. The crusty bread was great dipped in the sauce. And even though I am not a big broccoli fan, I ate every bite.

This was a lovely, intimate little restaurant – it would be perfect for a date night. The food was good Italian comfort food and they had lovely, friendly staff who chatted to me and kept me company at the bar. Oh, and the bellinis were yummy.

I was happy with my random choice, even though it wasn’t Founding Farmers. I will go back to this restaurant next time I am in DC and will also hopefully make it into Founding Farmers too!

Mussels.jpgLast night I walked around downtown DC and worked my way towards another delicious dinner, recommended by Everyday Sarah Jane.

St Arnold’s Mussel Bar on Jefferson Street was my final destination and it was worth the walk. I arrived at a great, but small basement bar. There was a line out the door but the one benefit of eating alone is getting to skip the long line, and be seated immediately.

Though there are other delights on their menu I was always going to have mussels, it Pilsner.jpgwas just a matter of choosing what flavor to go with. In the end I chose to have the House Specialty, forgoing the Thai curry mussels and the Mexican inspired mussels. The specialty is Mussels St. Arnold’s – Mussels cooked in a house beer sauce with caramelized shallot, garlic and thyme and finally… wait for it…duck fat! Seriously, who cooks mussels in duck fat!

After ordering my mussels, my beer arrived. They have a fantastic selection of beers to choose from and I am sure if J. was here we would have made a night of it. When i say we, imean me and J. would get me home… Traveling alone I settled for a single beer, a Bavik pilsner. Yum!

Frites and bread.jpgThe mussels arrived accompanied by frites and bread… Carbs, seafood and duck fat – I was in heaven!

The frites were crunchy and perfectly cooked, not too oily. Dunking the bread into the beer sauce seemed incredibly decadent. The mussels themselves were perfect. The steaming cast iron pot was filled with plump juicy mussels, all open, which I think is the mark of a good seafood restaurant.

The broth was sweet and savory at the same time. Not oily or fatty at all. If I hadn’t Duck fat broth.jpgbeen bursting by the end of the meal I would have asked for the broth to go and had it as soup today. So deliciously good. They were some of the best mussels I’ve ever had.

It was a good thing I had a 2 mile hike back to the hotel to work dinner off. Thank you fellow bloggers, we’re two for two on restaurants! Being seated quickly also meant I got happy hour food prices with the mussels and frites costing less than $10!!!! Love it.

Friday night I am going to try Founding Farmers, I wasn’t able to get a reservation but thought I might try walking in, even though it is incredibly popular. I have a back up if necessary. Wish me luck!

Steamed dim sum.jpgFirstly, thanks to everyone who gave such great food suggestions for my trip to DC. I would need to stay here a few weeks to make it to all of them but unfortunately I only have 3 nights. I arrived into the city late this afternoon and have already been out to try the first of the 3 places I decided on.

Ping Pong Dim Sum was recommended by FreshDaily 101 We have a weakness for dim sum. I had to go to this place, just so I could send photos of the delicious food back to J. To make him jealous… Oh, and it is so close to the hotel. It is a really nice restaurant, not at all what the name suggests and tonight it was packed and energized for their Wednesday mojito madness. I stayed away from the mojitos but was ready for a good meal after having only a smoothie hours before back in Arizona.

Although the menu isn’t completely traditional, it still offered all of my favorites and Ping pong selection.jpgthen some. After perusing the menu, I decided on the Ping Pong Selection which gave me my favorites and a mix of their more unusual dim sum flavors. To accompany the dim sum I ordered a draft beer I had never seen before, yuengling lager.

The beer came out quickly and it was delicious, a nice accompaniment for dinner. The Ping Pong selection was 10 different dim sum for $20. A little more expensive than other dim sum but I think in the end it was worth the money.

My first plate came out with 3 pieces, a honey roasted chicken puff, a Vietnamese rice paper shrimp roll and a crisp potato cake. Not the most traditional but incredibly delicious. All three were very fresh and crispy. The potato cake was amazing and so crunchy on the outside but creamy inside. A really good start to the meal.

A little different.jpgThe remaining items all came out in a large steamer. I do love being presented food this way. They were all still steaming and looked delicious. I left my favorites until the end… Eating my way through a steamed sea bass dumpling, a chicken, pineapple and lemongrass dumpling, a crabmeat and prawn dumpling and a beef and cumin dumpling. They were definitely fresh and perfectly cooked to my liking. They were unusual flavors but I really liked them. The beef had Indian flavors to me and the sea bass was just amazing.

Finally I came to my 3 favorites and how I measure any dim sum restaurant… Har gua, seafood shu mai and a char sui bun. The first two were good, tasty and well made. The char sui bun was the final test. It was so very good… After years of eating these after nights out in Japan, they are still one of my all time favorite foods. The bun was light and fluffy and pork had such great flavor.

I was so pleased.

This is a different dim sum restaurant. If you are looking for traditional, it isn’t the place for you but I say live a little, try something different! This is a great place to do that… Pineapple, cumin, and potato in dumplings… Who wouldn’t want to try that… Plus some of the best steamed pork buns I have eaten.

Thanks again Fresh Daily 101. This was a wonderful start to my trip. Tomorrow night is St Arnold Mussel Bar.

We’re back!

We haven’t really been anywhere but it seems as though life got in the way of the blogging for the last few months… However just because we were too busy to blog doesn’t mean we were too busy to eat.

We have been eating as hard as always. The last few months have been a combination of travelling, delicious tastes, addictive drink and great cooking home!

So stay tuned for some tales, recipes, photos and FOOD!

We’re happy to be back…

Betel Leaf.jpgFirst let me apologize for my absence. I haven’t been well and have not been up to sitting down and writing when I Watermelon.jpgget home from work. I hope I am back to normal and be posting regularly again from now on.

Back to food!

J. and I still have so much food to write about from our time back in Australia. I thought I would share one of the meals we had at a great Asian restaurant in Melbourne while we were there.

For Christmas we were lucky enough to get a $100 gift card for Red Spice Road, a very cool, very delicious Asian restaurant in one of the gorgeous laneways in Melbourne. For those of you who don’t know Melbourne, it is filled with small laneways that have some of the best food, coffee and nightlife the city has to offer, well really, Australia has to offer. Whenever in Melbourne, time must be taken to wander these laneways and see what has changed, discover new places and visit old favorites.

Oysters.jpgJ. had never been to this restaurant before so we decided to go all out and get the $75 per person tasting menu… Tofu and mushrooms.jpgwhy not when we had the gift card! We mistakenly thought that we needed to pick a few of the items from the huge tasting menu to have, however it turned out that we got enough of everything on the menu for two… Oh dear!

The first trio of dishes were little nibblies or starters. Just a bite of each for us. But those bites were magnificent! First up was Betel Leaf with Chicken, Crab, Coconut, Chilli & Kaffir Lime. I usually find things wrapped in betel leaf to bitter but this was just perfect. The chilli & lime fought against the bitterness and the sweet crab and coconut just tied it all together. The next bite was Watermelon topped with Sticky Pork, Peanut and Prawn Relish. As weird and unusual as this sounds it was probably my favorite thing of the night. I don’t actually know how to describe this accurately but it was a burst of sweet, savory flavor in your mouth. I could have eaten 12 of them but we only got 1 each.

Lamb Ribs.jpgThe last dish in this first trio was an Oyster with Chilli Jam, Lime Juice and Crispy Shallots. Now IBeef salad.jpgam not sure if I have ever expressed the love J. and I have for oysters on the blog before… but we seriously have an obsession with them. I think we would have been happy to eat the oysters and nothing else if we could have had 3 dozen of them! These were the perfect bite, but sadly just one bite each.

A few sips of wine and a little chatter later the next trio of dishes arrived. These would be the appetizers. First was the Beef, Rice Noodle, Herb, Pickled Carrot, Cucumber and Shallot Salad, seriously spicy and delicious. There is something so refreshing about this kind of salad!

Kingfish salad.jpgIn this trio we also had Crispy Tofu with Mushrooms, Wombok, Bamboo, Green Onion and Masterstock Duck curry.jpgand Twice Cooked Lamb Ribs with a Tamarind and Coconut Relish. Both of these were completely amazing. The lamb ribs, well the meat just fell off the bone and then the tofu dish was unbelievably delicious. J. even enjoyed the tofu.

I was getting full, really full by this stage and the main dishes were still to come! I thought they would be small but they were huge and this trio had my favorite dish from this restaurant in it so I had to find room to eat!

The final trio… could we do it??

First was the Raw Kingfish, Green Tomato, Asian Celery, Green Chilli and Coriander Salad, light and perfectly cooked… we managed to squeeze all of this in. J. was a trooper and pushed through the pain. Also in the trio was a Duck Red Curry with Pineapple and Sweet Potato. This was a creamy, spicy curry with just the right hint of sweetness. If I hadn’t already had 7 other dishes I could have dived into this!

Pork Belly Perfection.jpgThe last dish was the dish that I come to Red Spice Road for… Pork Belly with Apple Slaw, Chilli Caramel and Pandan Cream.jpgBlack Vinegar. What do I have to say really… the name says it all. Crispy pork belly with chilli and vinegar – PERFECTION!

We were full… 9 dishes of food… I know it was a tasting menu but those servings were not small… And then there was still the dessert. I didn’t know if we could do it but the waiter promised us it was light and refreshing…Pandan Cream with Puffed Wild Rice, Peanut Praline and Coconut. Well, the waiter was right. It was fresh, light and delicious. The best thing to finish off our feast.

It was a long meal… 3 hours. It was a delicious meal and it was a big meal! We were both so impressed and happy with our dinner. We didn’t really need to eat for a few days after but of course we were on holidays so that didn’t happen.

So if you ever find yourself wandering around Melbourne’s laneways definitely check out Red Spice Road!

BBQ Lamb.jpgA few weeks before we jetted off to Australia, J and I did our own version of marinated grilled lamb. It was delicious, I was pretty happy with it. However, we also requested for our trip home that my Dad make us his herb & garlic barbeque lamb. Even though ours was good it didn’t come close to what his is like.

That first Sunday we were home Dad whipped this up to go with our Wombok Salad.

First thing first. You need to be able to get a de-boned butterflied leg of lamb. If your local supermarket does that for you great! Otherwise you might need to find a specialty butcher shop (not something we have a lot of here in AZ). This recipe uses a 2kg piece of lamb.

In a bowl 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, 3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced thinly, 1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper, 2 tablespoons of wholegrain mustard, 3/4 cup dry white wine and 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh rosemary leaves. Mix this together well. Then, in a shallow dish lie the lamb out as flat as you can and pour the marinade over the top. Cover this and then you refrigerate for a minimum of 3 hours… I always like to do this overnight.

Dad cooks his on the BBQ, and I think this is why his tasted better than ours, which we cooked inside on a grill pan… The BBQ just makes everything taste better.

After marinating for a few hours/nights, remove the lamb from the marinade. You can use the marinade as a sauce later so put it into a shallow pan and set aside. Place the lamb flat on the pre-heated BBQ over low heat, sprinkle with salt – we use around 2 teaspoons of salt. Cover the top of the lamb with foil if you aren’t cooking it in a covered BBQ.

Cook for 15 minutes and then turn and cook for another 15. You can cook more or less depending on how you like your lamb cooked. This comes out a medium – medium rare. After the 30 minutes cooking time brush the lamb all over with mint jelly. Cook for another 3 minutes on each side. This should get the lamb nice and brown with a thin crust. Remove from the BBQ and rest.

Meanwhile, inside… add ¼ cup of chicken stock to the leftover marinade and slowly bring to a boil. Reduce heat, simmer uncovered for 5 mins. Slice the lamb and then drizzle the sauce over the top.

Now I am sure it is obvious how much we love this. I won’t go on and on and on… I will the photos and the recipe speak for themselves… But you do have to love some Aussie lamb on the BBQ!

Wombok Salad.jpgI am a big fan of salad during the summer. When we were home in Australia Mum brought out some of my favorites. The one I want to share today was made the first Sunday we were home and some friends were coming up from Brisbane for lunch.

This is what I refer to as a Wombok Salad but it is probably more accurately called, Oriental Fried Noodle Salad . Sometimes I add roast chicken or pork to it but this day we had it as an accompaniment to Dad’s grilled lamb.

Now be careful… this is so easy you might just get it wrong!

Finely slice half of one large Wombok (or Chinese cabbage) until it is just above the base. The leaves around the base can get quite thick and bitter so I use a little but not all of that thicker part. Put all of this into a large salad bowl.

Then put 100 grams slivered almonds into a fry pan and gently brown them. I was kidding about the whole be careful because it’s so simple but the number of times I have got distracted and burnt my almonds is unbelievable. When browned just take these off the heat and let them cool.

Meanwhile, chop up 6 green onions (spring onions), these don’t have to be too fine but don’t do giant chunks either. I usually cut them around ¼ of an inch long. When cut throw these into the salad bowl with the wombok.

Next up is to make the dressing. In a bottle put ¼ cup of white vinegar, 1 tablespoon of light soy sauce, 2 teaspoons of sesame oil and ½ a cup of olive oil. Close the bottle and shake furiously!

Just before you are ready to serve throw in 1 small packet of fried noodles, the almonds and then pour the dressing over the top. Gently mix everything together and it is ready to serve.

I love this salad… It is one J likes too which is always good. I could eat this without anything else for lunch anytime. It was great however with Dad’s lamb… so delicious. This was just the start of the feast my parents put on for us when we were home!

P.S. Check out the salad bowl we used in the photo… very cool!