Food

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pad thai 06 sauceI first had Pad Thai at a little Thai place in Portland that no longer exists. The sauce was rich and peanutty. I soon found out, after trying the dish at many other establishments, that this wasn't exactly traditional. Still, I loved that original Pad Thai, and was determined to figure it out.

The secret is the sauce. Don't get Pad Thai sauce. Get Satay Sauce. This is my brand, which I get from the local Asian market. Yeah, I could make it myself, but this is better and easier.

pad thai 01 rice stickGet a half pound of medium rice stick soaking in hot water. The package says, warm, but they're just kidding. Get a large pan heating up over mediumish heat with a couple tablespoons of olive oil.

pad thai 02 onionsSlice half an onion and add it to the pan. Stir it frequently until just translucent. Keep in mind, I like to caramelize the heck out of my onions. If you don't, start throwing in the next ingredients after a few seconds.

pad thai 03 carrots ssAdd hard veggies, like carrots, and a splash of soy sauce. There will be many such splashes, so sorry if you're monitoring your sodium intake. Stir frequently and cook about three minutes.

pad thai 04 soft veg peanutsAdd the softer stuff. In my case, a small zucchini and a third of a red bell pepper. Also add a clove of diced garlic, and a handful of unsalted peanuts. This is where I normally add a small can of bean sprouts, but I forgot 'em. Add a splash of soy. Cook, stirring, for about another three minutes.

pad thai 07 eggsBeat two eggs. Move all the veggies over to one side of the pan, and add the eggs and a splash of soy sauce. Stir the eggs until cooked, keeping them mostly separate from the veggies. Skip the eggs if you want to go vegan.

pad thai 08 noodlesDrain and add the noodles, the entire jar of sauce, and (can you guess?) a splash of soy sauce. Use two spoons or spatulas or whatever to toss it all together until it's a gorgeous mess.

pad thai 09 nomNom your Pad Thai.

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breakfast loafThis is moist and yummy, and with all the nutritious things in it, makes a good addition to breakfast. If you won't be eating both loaves quickly, be sure to freeze one--I found out the hard way that a week in the cupboard is too long!

Dry ingredients

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2-1/2 cups bread or all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon cinammon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Everything else

  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup cream
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • Generous 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 pears, peeled and cored
  • 1 medium zucchini
  • 2 medium carrots
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease 2 9-/12 inch loaf pans.
  2. Sift together the dry ingredients (who am I kidding? I just dump 'em in and stir a bit).
  3. Process the pears, zucchini, and carrots together to a very rough puree.
  4. Combine the eggs, cream, milk, and butter in a large bowl. Mix in the brown sugar and honey. Stir in the pureed mixture and lemon zest.
  5. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir until just mixed. Fold in the almonds and raisins.
  6. Bake for about 75 minutes (though check at 60). Test with a toothpick or sharp knife. This bread is very moist, so your tester will only come out mostly clean.

 

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falafel and slaw

Dinner tonight had a very different flavor profile from my usual. But that's why I explore recipes--to expand my horizons. I modified both recipes, because that's what I do.

Falafel
(modified from this recipe by Shiksa in The Kitchen)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups garbanzo beans, soaked overnight
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup Italian parsley
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 eggs  (I confess, I used one, but the patties didn't stay together well, so I'd add another)
  • 1-3/4 tsp salt
  • 1-1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • Olive oil for frying

Put everything except the oil in a food processor and pulse until you get a coarse meal texture. Do not over-blend or you get hummus. Not that there's anything wrong with hummus.

Cover and chill for at least 2 hours in the refrigerator.

Heat oil in pan over medium heat. Form patties, and fry for about 3 minutes on each side.

Teriyaki Sauce
(modified from this Food Network recipe)

  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 tsp white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 tsp brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1-1/2 tsp garlic, finely minced

Put ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat until sugar is dissolved

Bring it all together:

Finely slice and lightly stir-fry veggies of choice. I used about a cup of broccoli/carrot slaw. Add teriyaki to taste, and cook a little longer.

Transfer patty to bun, then lift out some veggie slaw with tongs, to avoid a ton of teriyaki on your burger.

Om nom nom.

Carmel Cafe and Wine Bar served us one of the best meals we've had so far in Florida. And with all the good food we've been finding, that's saying something.

The atmosphere is modern and relaxed, with colorful abstract art on the walls. Ordering can be done with your server, or you can use the provided iPad. The iPad system is very well designed, with bright pictures that do, indeed, look like the meal you are served. Each item includes a helpful wine pairing tab.

Spinach Gnocchi

Our appetizer was Chickpea Fries, served with two sauces: a savory tomato jam and a tangy curry aoli.  The fries were a little plain on their own, but they are meant to deliver these fantastic sauces. I honestly couldn't decide which I liked better. I could have made a meal of this alone.

My entree was the Ravioli Verde. The vegetables were a perfectly-prepared textual foil for the creamy pasta and deeply flavorful buerre blanc. He had the Spinach Gnocchi, and though the sauces were similar, there were subtle differences. I honestly couldn't tell you which dish I liked better. His gnocchi had a not-too-soft bite and rich flavor. The only missed note was the caramelized brussels sprouts we ordered to share. They weren't actually caramelized, as far as I could tell, but rather very heavily smoked. The smoke flavor overwhelmed the poor sprouts, and the bacon were just tasteless, tough bits.

Dessert Trio

Dessert Trio

We also went for dessert. I had the cannoli, and the seasonal filling was Nutella-based. I'd never had Nutella, and I'm a new fan! Bill had the dessert trio (pictured). The truffles were mocha and almond-coffee, and in the middle was amaretto cherries and cherry custard. He was in heaven.

The sprouts won't keep us away from this wonderful place. It's too spendy to visit all the time, but we'll be there as often as we can manage.

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You call these enchiladas?

You call these enchiladas?

After we came home, I looked up reviews for Poblanos Mexican Grill. One of them said "you're an idiot if you eat here." Well, an idiot if you eat there more than once. I liked the pretty tile work all over the restaurant. I liked the waiter who looked a little like Peter Frampton. If we'd been served food, I might have liked it, but I don't believe what we had qualifies.

Vegetarian burrito with mushroom gravy

Vegetarian burrito with mushroom gravy

He had a vegetarian style burrito. He found it edible. The sauce was this bizarre, salty, mushroom gravy that would be more at home on a trailer-park Thanksgiving table than in a Mexican restaurant. The tortilla was stuffed with a variety of vegetables, but oddly, neither beans nor rice were present, not even as a side.

I had the Enchiladas Suprema, which was one each of their enchilada offerings. One was filled with plain melted cheddar, the second with canned refried beans, the third with barely seasoned taco meat, and the fourth with dry chicken. There was no enchilada sauce, just a dollop of sour cream and a tiny bit of canned tomatoes on the top, so the entire dish was dry and there was nothing to hide how unappetizing the enchiladas were.

I have no idea why we dared order dessert. My rationalization was that we had a weird sopapilla at another local restaurant, and I wanted to see if it was a Florida thing. Well, this sopapilla was certainly not the same as the other place. Nor was it anything I would identify as a sopapilla. There was a fried tortilla with wedges of ice cream on top. There was plain cinnamon (no sugar) dumped on some bits of the tortilla. The whole thing was drizzled with what tasted like Hershey's syrup and--get this--squeeze butter. Go have some ice cream with butter and tell me if you like it. I'll wait.

Wasn't very good, was it?

So yes, Poblanos: you're an idiot if you eat here.

 

mamicarmens

Don't be fooled by the mild-mannered exterior.

\We found pupusas!

This little shop is on 15th street in Bradenton, just south of SR70. We got hooked on Salvadoran food at La Guanacita back in Beaverton.  As a test dish, Bill decided to order the same thing he used to: pupusas queso con loroco.

pupusasquesoconloroco

Pupusas, queso con loroco

They were a bit bigger, and he liked both the pupusa and the curtido better.  A wonderful, filling meal.

chuletascontajedas

Chuletas con Tajedas

I had Chuletas con Tajedas, "chuletas" being pork chops (they're under there!) and "tajedas" being fried green banana slices. The pork chops were smothered in a layer of tajedas--which taste a bit like french fries--cabbage, tomatoes, and a light mustard sauce. While the chops were neither tender nor moist, I don't think they were meant to be. The flavor was fantastic, and getting a bite with everything was an eye-roller. So. Good.

Service was excellent, and the interior was charming and comfy. I look forward to working my way through the menu.

Aquatica Portlandicus Obnoxiiosi

Aquatica Portlandicus Obnoxiiosi

There's a reason Molly Brown was unsinkable. Got myself out to the pool today, and had a blast doing laps and watching the anoles on the fence.  I found my back uncomfortably arched during my breast stroke because my ass is, well, extremely buoyant. I haven't done any actual swimming in decades. Once I got going, I enjoyed it. And I certainly have no fear of drowning. Ever.

Besides the swimsuit, my Florida wardrobe is laid in. It is full of skirts, shorts, and bright colors. I haven't felt pretty in my clothes for a while, and I'm enjoying the girly turn.  The Spousal Unit even shopped today, getting some shorts and a gorgeous Guayabera that looks so good on him.

Thing I learned today: when you are on the freeway, and must slow down because the monsoon has reduced visibility, you engage your emergency flashers. It's apparently a tropics thing, as the Spousal Unit had seen it before.

Before we moved here, we kept hearing from the locals how frustrating the elderly drivers were. I am actually finding the mature, experienced drivers a damn sight safer than the young, uptight jerks that dominate the roads in Portland. Yes, people occasionally drift over to your lane without signaling. But they don't swoop over and cut you off.

Something we've done twice already is stop to help a turtle cross the street.

Florida Soft Shell Turtle, hitchin' a ride.

Florida Soft Shell Turtle, hitchin' a ride.

Today this fella was crossing just a few yards from the condo. We set him down in the grass, and another couple stopped to see if help was needed, and ask about turtles in general. They were always afraid to pick them up because they didn't know which ones would bite. The Soft Shell sat docilely in the grass while Bill petted it and explained that this one wasn't all that bitey, and how they could recognize the snapping variety. After a few minutes, the turtle made his way to the pond and splashed on in.

On to the restaurants...

Lunch was Bangkok Tokyo, which, as the name suggests, has a pan-Asian menu. Chinese, Thai, and Japanese. I ordered my standard Chinese test of sweet and sour pork, and Bill ordered his Thai test of massaman curry. I was promptly served sweet and sour chicken, but didn't fuss. The portions were good, and the sauce standard. The white rice was nice and sticky, which I love. The plating was very pretty: I got a carrot bird, he got a carrot goldfish. The massaman was coconut-heavy, lacking the other spices that usually balance that out. The spice was quite nice; he ordered medium and got it. They had some intriguing desserts, so we both had a go. I had Thai donuts, which was a puff of fried pastry with little sweetness, and a dipping sauce of sweetened condensed milk and crushed peanuts. It was very yummy. He ordered the honey banana, which was vanilla ice cream (usually coconut, but they were out), and bananas fried in tiny dough packets. The bananas on their own weren't sweet enough, but taken with a little ice cream, they were just right.

All in all, well, I might go back just for dessert.

Nothing to do with food. I just like this picture of the Spousal Unit.

The Spousal Unit at the Stonewood Grill.

We went to see a second house for the day (it was meh), and had dinner at the Stonewood Grill & Tavern. I was thrilled to find that one of their steak treatments was "Oscar style," as I hadn't had that in many years. I ordered a small filet Oscar style, which means it's topped with asparagus, crab meat, and Bearnaise. It came with veggies and garlic mashed potatoes. Bill had to work a bit, as the place isn't built for vegetarians, but he had a bowtie pasta sans grilled chicken. They went over and above for him, adding extra veggies and some of their bruschetta sauce to the dish, which added tons of flavor. The cream sauce was very light, and didn't interfere with the wonderful mix of vegetables with the pasta. A superior veg dish.

Mini Filet Stonewood Oscar Style.

Mini Filet Stonewood Oscar Style.

My steak was a little dry on the edges, but perfect once you got a bite into it. Nearly fork tender. The asparagus was perfect, the Bearnaise tasty and not overdone, but the crab meat was fishy, and I skipped most of it. The garlic mash was the star, and I had to protect my plate from Bill. Light, fluffy, not too much garlic, with a wonderful herb infusion. The veggies were the only sour note on my plate. The zucchini and yellow squash were badly overdone. I think they meant to have mushy roasted peppers, but crisp would have been so much better. The carrots were pretty good, but none of the other vegetables survived the addition of too much thyme. Thyme is a strong flavor, and it absolutely didn't work here.

Florida Orange Cake

Florida Orange Cake

Dessert was joy in my mouth, and even if the rest of the meal had been mediocre, the Florida Orange Cake would probably lure us back. A rich pound cake with mild orange filling was topped with Dreamsicle frosting. The frosting was overpowering, but so, so good it was hard to stay away from. The whipped cream and the white chocolate chips on the side were superfluous. The trick with this cake was to take a bite, then afterward, a nip of orange. Absolutely fantastic.

And now it's time to get the remote away from The Mad Clicker.

 

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Last night we went to look at our first house. We will be renting for a year or so before we buy.  The space was amazing--open plan, tile floors, high ceilings. Basically everything we ever wanted in Portland, but couldn't find. There were a few small problems, and there are a lot of places to look at yet, so we're probably not renting that one. But it was nice to know that the listing was for real, because it had a "too good to be true" quality to this girl of less-than-affluent background.

Samosas

Sad little samosas.

After the showing, we hit the first mall on the parkway (University  Parkway is more or less one long mall), and went to the first non-chain restaurant we came to. Tandoor Indian Cuisine was a very pretty restaurant. A bit of a surprise, as we couldn't really see in the windows, and from the outside it could well have been a 3-table takeout place.

The papadon were flavorful, and served with a fantastic onion chutney. A bit sweet and very crunchy, with a nice bite.  The vegetable samosas were lackluster. They were serve with a trio of toppings: tamarind sauce, cilantro chutney, and more of the onion chutney.  All of the toppings were very good, which was lucky since the samosas needed them.

Malai Kofta

Chef Boyardee Kofta.

The dumplings in the Vegetable Malai Kofta were yummy, and just the right texture. The sauce was tomato-heavy, and when mixed with the cheese, tasted very reminiscent of Chef Boyardee spaghetti sauce.  At first, this was a little delightful, but it became less tolerable on subsequent bites.  The Saag Paneer was very plain. Some salt perked it up--but I don't expect to add salt in an Indian restaurant. The paneer was unsalted, and the spinach was flat and nearly tasteless.

So, pretty place, but the food wasn't good enough to go back for. We will continue our search for Indian in Sarasota.

On our way home, these guys were across the street from the condo:

sandhillcranes

Mr. and Mrs. Sandhill Crane

Every day here we see white herons, great blue herons, sandhill cranes, and ibis. And probably a few more big birds that I don't know the names of. They are not shy, and you often have to wait for them to saunter across the road in front of you. Gorgeous things.

We have been having a good old tropical rain storm all friggin' day. Sunshine State my ass. At least it's warm. Also, even though it's pouring down rain, there still tends to be sunlight coming from somewhere, so it's not really dark.

Went phone shopping at the Verizon store, only to find that they were out of most of the phones on display. Also, I still hesitate at the monthly price of a smartphone. Ouch.

mipeublalights

Lunch was at Mi Pueblo, which is the prettiest Mexican restaurant I have ever been to. Custom door frames, fantastic tile work, and gorgeous religious iconography. I so want the punched metal lights they had everywhere. Weirdly, the booths were standard ugly and way too low, allowing the child behind my to play poke-and-duck. Taller booths would also have worked as a sound baffle, as the place was so loud I left with a headache.  But other than that, gorgeous. The food was...well, it was food. The Spousal Unit ordered a bean burrito, which was tasty, but uninspired. I ordered the Pollo en Mole. Basically chicken with melted milk chocolate poured over it. That was a pretty sad excuse for mole. But hey, stuff anything in a tortilla and it tastes better. The only picture I remembered to take was of our mostly-devoured sopapilla. It was a puffed pastry dusted with cinnamon and sugar, and you put the honey and whipped cream on yourself. No sauce. It wasn't what I know as a sopapilla, but it was still plenty tasty.

mipueblosopapilla

We've been eating out way too much. The food here is pretty damned good. Since Getinmybelly.org is not quite upgraded enough to update, I'm going to summarize our food adventures so far, and transfer it over there later. No pictures, no notes. Gonna fix that, as our goal is to go to a new place every time we venture out.

Rincon Cubano is a bit of a cheat, since we came here in March. We haven't had a lot of Cuban food, but this is far and away the best we've experienced. Layers of fantastic flavors, great service, and a relaxed atmosphere. This is already a comfort food spot for us.

Lucky Pelican doesn't currently have a working website. He had a butternut squash ravioli, which was very rich and a bit sweet. A nice depth of flavor. I found it a bit too rich for an entire meal, but he loved it. I had the lobster bake. The mussels were the best I've ever had, and the lobster was mild and delicious. The clams were very strong and fishy, and I didn't finish them. For dessert, we tried the Havana Banana Brulee. Caramelized banana slices atop a custard and a pastry cup, served with ice cream and caramel sauce. The bananas and custard were fantastic. The caramel sauce on the ice cream was very strong, but perfect when eaten in a bite with the rest of the dessert. Sadly, the pastry cup was thick, dry, and crumbly.

Carrabba's serves some very nice Italian. He had the Penne Franco, I had the Seafood Cannelloni. His was eye-rollingly good. Mine was fine, though not perfectly fresh (supertaster problem--I know your seafood is going off a day before it does).  For dessert, we had the Sogno Di Cioccolata "Chocolate Dream". It was lighter than we expected, and an excellent chocolate fix.

Tonight we ventured over to Kumo Japanese Steak House and Sushi Lounge, because I saw what I thought were several crunchy rolls on their menu. We shared Haru Maki (sweet Japanese egg roll) for an appetizer. It was indeed a little sweet, and served with a sweet chili sauce. I liked it. For entrees, he had Vegetables Love, which included several types of vegetable rolls. It was a very nice plate of food.  I tried a Tiger Roll and a Green Dragon roll. Sadly, these weren't the crunch rolls I was hoping for. They had deep fried elements, but there was no crunch, and mostly it was standard sushi. There's nothing wrong with that, and it was all high-quality, but it's just not my thing.  The restaurant itself was beautiful, though loud. Service was mixed. We'll probably go back, and I'll try a steak instead of hoping for redneck sushi.