Wednesday, August 19, 2009

the great shrimp boil comes to the Chateau!

For those that read this blog you may already know this -- but contrary to popular belief - bears do eat other things besides fish and that includes shrimp. As a matter of fact Betty and I have been on a big peel-and-eat-shrimp kick. I decided to try a shrimp boil in the fashion of classic New England and Southern Low Country dishes.

boiling water with sea salt, old bay seasoning, fresh squeezed lemon juice, whole lemons, potatoes, onions, and shrimp

I started the boil with the potatoes and onions for about 6 minutes, then added the corn for another 5 minutes and then added the shrimp -- which was frozen uncooked shrimp from Whole Foods -- for 3 minutes.

drained shrimp boil with half of lemon

Wasn't sure what to expect from this meal because it seemed too easy. Just heat some water, add some spices and then boil -- but it really was just that easy. Everything tasted delicious. The potatoes and onions were slightly overcooked as was the shrimp but no worries. I also whipped up a mayo-sriracha-old-bay-seasoning sauce to go with everything and Betty and I devoured our food. Can't wait to try this again with a slightly tweaked boiling time game plan.

bear-eakfast of champions vs. 1.0: prescription for pancakes

I decided to try out a recipe for pancakes that did not seem too complicated from our folks at This is a big thing for a bear who is all about culinary improvisation rather than prescription: :

Good Old Fashioned Pancakes
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted

unflattering picture of homemade blue berry pancakes, crispy bacon, one egg over medium and breakfast potatoes with cheese and onions

The pancakes were very easy to prep and bear oh bear did they taste soooo good. I suppose with as much butter in them as the recipe prescribed I could do no wrong -- but this was truly the breakfast of champions. Perhaps I could get used to this whole recipe thing...the link for the pancakes are below:

the return of the 2-flip: middle eastern 2-flip chicken

Back to the kitchen for some 2-flip chicken. Recall 2-flip chicken got it's name cause you only need to flip it twice to cook it. This time i marinated the chicken in turmeric and lemon juice and then topped it with the heatwave seasoning. I also made some lemon rice with bhasmati rice, fresh lemon juice and rind and chicken stock. Grilled up some zuccini, squash and onions as a side. Also made season some greek yogurt with cucumbers, onions and spices. Smacked some Trader Joes hummus in the middle crowned with a pita chip. Very fresh and tasty meal. I flip you not.

turmeric lemon chicken with lemon rice, grilled zuccini and squash, yogurt and hummus

and then a gyro salad comes along...with the taste to carry on...Jimmy V's Grill & Pub

Betty and I decided to stop in at Jimmy V's Grill & Pub to grab a bite to eat after spending the afternoon venturing out and looking at real estate. I ordered the gyro salad while Betty got the cheeseburger

gyro salad with gyro meat, pitas, olive, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions & feta

The salad was tasty, refreshing and gargantuan. I got to get my gyro fix with all the seeming lightness and nutrition of a salad. I would like to take a moment to note that thin cut gyro meat is a rarity in Columbus these days. If anyone knows of a place that slices and serves thin cut gyro meat holla atcha' bear.

cheeseburger with American cheese and fries

Betty reported that her cheeseburger was classically delicious. I had a bite and agreed.

This was probably our fourth time going to Jimmy V's and I must say that every visit has been consistently fresh and tasty. Definitely worth checking out if you're interested in bar food with Greek flare.

eating exhibition volume 1..The Ohio State Bear at the fair...

Betty and I ventured out to the Ohio State fair to meet up with some dear friends. I was excited because this was my first time going to the fair and I was excited to see, smell and eat all the foods that I had heard about over the years. It's safe to say that I made up for all the years that I had not been to the fair and truly put on an eating exhibition.

fried cheese stick and fair fries...

When we entered the fair I was ready to eat and we started with whatever was in close proximity - in this case a fried cheese stick and french fries. The fried cheese stick was decent. Was more batter-y in the manner of a corn dog but can you really go wrong with fried cheese? The french fries were yummy as well.

cinnamon-sugar dusted fresh fried baby donuts

I had read about the above donuts from columbusfoodie's blog and decided we had to try them based on the glowing reviews. These were one of my favorite foods that we tried that day. Freshly fried donuts topped with cinnamon and sugar. The donuts were warm and soft and melted in your mouth when you ate them. Not like any donut I've ever eaten -- sinfully delicious.

fair pep pizza

Yep still going strong -- i just had to try fair pizza. The slice was lukewarm but still had a pretty standard taste that was better than your average pizza joint. Simple tomato sauce, simple cheese and plain pep not bad -- though perhaps not really necessary on the consumption list of everything I ate that day.

strawberry and mint chip ice cream from the dairy barn...

Up next was trying out the ice cream at the dairy barn where they have the famous butter cow. We ordered ice cream -- and I thought perhaps the ice cream was made fresh that day when we ordered but later saw a sign for Velvet ice cream -- so maybe it wasn't fresh. Either way I was underwhelmed with it. Part of the reason for my apathy towards it was that we decided to be frugal and have our scoops in one cup which saved us ~$2.50 rather than ordering separate cups. I had the mint chip and Betty had the strawberry which didn't really blend well together. The ice cream reminded me of ice cream from back in the day. Simple yet ultra creamy -- but beyond that- nothing remarkable. I suppose that works for most folks but I think Jeni's and Graeter's have me spoiled and have my taste palette expecting more with action packed flavors and unique ingredients.

chicken and noodles

thanksgiving dinner

Yep. Still going. The above picture looks like something you might get from a lunch cafeteria -- which having grown up on Indian food -- I admit I always had a curiosity for cafeteria food. That being said I really enjoyed my chicken and noodles and Betty's Thanksgiving dinner. The only complaint being the styrofoam plate and bowl -- and that they ran out of cranberry sauce.

caramel topped apple dumpling with scoop of vanilla and cinnamon ice cream

Last food purchase of the day I promise. Closed the food-filled day at the fair with an apple dumpling. Definitely saved the best for last. This originally just came with vanilla ice cream but I thought it'd be good to mix it up with a scoop of cinnamon. Very tasty. The apple betty was piping hot and the ice cream with it was tremendous. I loved it.

I had a great time at the Ohio State fair catching up with dear friends, learning more about Ohio's wonderful wildlife and livestock and eating way too much food. We hope that this year will start a tradition of us going every year with our friends.

Friday, August 7, 2009

the return of the nacho bowl...chili cheese edition

Getting back to basics after our NYC trip. I cooked a mother crock pot of chili with black beans and kidney beans. I like cooking chili because you can remix it into a number of different meals depending on your mood throughout the week. I remixed the chili for the meal below by topping the chili with shredded extra sharp cheddar, diced onions, sliced jalapenos, and a dollop of sour cream topped with green onions. Playing the role of side kick was a mixed green salad with tomatoes, onions and salsa. Bowling was never tastier! ;)

bear in the city day 3: no dosa for you! - Amma

For one of our final meals in NYC my cousin took us to one of his favorite Indian restaurants in the city called Amma. He described it as a place that has unique menu items that you wouldn't expect to see at your typical Indian restaurant. When we arrived at the restaurant it had a quaint, contemporary lounge feel. The place was empty as we were having a late 2PM lunch. After perusing the menu we ordered from their pre fixe lunch specials. I decided on the bhel puri for my first course, the shrimp balchao for the appetizer and the tandoori sea bass for my meal. Betty was bummed because the South Indian lunch special of idly and dosa was unavailable. How you gonna be an Indian restaurant that serves South Indian food and not have idly and dosa? Come on now.

bhel puri consisting of puffed rice, lentils and potatoes served with a tamarind chutney

This was pretty tasty. I've never had it before but it reminded me of what namkeen chaat -- if such a thing exists -- might taste like. My only complaint was that the puffed rice was soggy from the chutney by the time it arrived to our table.

minimalist shrimp balchao

I've had limited exposure to Indian seafood dishes so I was pleased when I saw the shrimp and sea bass on the menu. The shrimp was good but there were only two shrimps on the entire plate. They should've used a smaller dish for plating. The shrimp was tasty with a tangy tomato seasoning with mother curry and masala over-currents. I've never had shrimp like this but imagine if someone made a spicy shrimp bruschetta. Pretty good but over seasoned.

tandoori sea bass

My sea bass was cooked perfectly. The fish flaked off like butter and was enhanced by the seasoning and buttery tomato curry accompanying the fish. Again there was a bit of overkill with the seasoning but still very good.

palak besan ki kadhi

My cousin had the kadhi which is a yogurt based soup with fried vegetables and chick pea flour balls in it. The kadhi was pretty good.

chicken tikka

Betty had the chicken tikka and was not impressed with it finding it overseasoned. I tried a bite and found it tasty however.

Overall Amma was decent food at slightly high prices -- but such is the norm when you dine out in NYC. The meal delivered on my cousin's promise of unique selections and combinations. At the same time I found some of the classic dishes like the chicken tikka and kadhi to not be anything extraordinary. I would say Amma is gourmet Indian food and though tasty -- I felt like they were trying to hard with their flavors that often made simple dishes overly complicated e.g. too much masala and curry sauce with the sea bass, shrimp, and chicken tikka. If you do go I would recommend not ordering anything classic and instead venture out and try something new from their extensive eclectic menu.

Monday, August 3, 2009

bear in the city day 2 continued: Mexican Haven From the Rain - La Herradura Inc.

so we got to see the Fleet Foxes, the National, Organized Konfusion and a bit of the Pharcyde before the rain got the best of us. Betty and I decided it'd be better to take our soaked furry selves back to my cousin's place to dry off and warm up. I'm glad we did because instead of eating festival food I had one of the best tasting Mexican meals of my bear existence. My cousin took us to La Herradura Inc. On the way there I was surprised that we passed at least 3 other Mexican restaurants. Betty and I were both hungry when we entered the restaurant and when I saw my green El Yucateco I couldn't help but feel we were going to be in for a treat. My cousin asked for their hot salsa -- and for the record -- this was the first time that I actually disliked a hot salsa. It had a good heat -- but had a strange creamy-spinachy texture that didn't sit well with my tastebuds...I did keep eating it though because it was unlike any hot salsa I'd ever tasted.

chips, salsa, strange hot sauce, El Yucateco de Magico

For my meal I ordered an a la carte pastor taco and the carnitas huarache. When the taco came out I knew I was going to be in for a treat.

very tasty pastor taco

This taco was large and in charge. Everything about this taco was twice as nice as anything I've had in Oh. The pork, pineapple, onions and cilantro were present in mass quantities and man oh man did it taste good. All this for only $2.50...what's messing with this? See what came out next:

incredible Mexican carnitas huarache

The huarache came out on a narrow fried masa bread that was very similar to pita bread. This was accompanied with a layer of refried beans, marinated pork, lettuce, cheese, avocados and sour cream. The flavors were so tasty together meat and bean with the freshness of the lettuce and avocados. I was ready to come back to this place for breakfast the next day. I even tried their horchata that was very tasty and my only my second time trying it ever.

I was slightly disappointed that we got rained out for All Points West but I think it was a blessing in disguise as Betty and I got to spend more time with my cousin and venture out and try this truly delicious restaurant located at 563 Main St in New Rochelle NY.

bear in the city day 2: I ♥ John's Pizzeria...

Day 2 of our quick NYC trip found us focused on 2 major goals:
  1. hit up John's Pizzeria our favorite NYC pizza joint.
  2. hit up All Points West for a day full of music
Goal 1 was pretty easy since we've been there 3 times before. We go to the original John's Pizzeria on 278 Bleecker street. When we spotted John's -- Betty and I smiled a huge bear smile and realized we were only moments away from enjoying one of our favorite dining experiences of all time. John's is a dive but it feels like home to us. We ordered a simple plain cheese pizza and reminisced about our previous visits there while we waited in anticipation for the pie.

  • When my sister and I first went to NYC we researched the city's best pizza and John's seemed to be the place to try. We stumbled upon John's by accident without even knowing where it was. We had walked all over the city and were hungry and dehydrated and out of nowhere John's Pizzeria showed up on the horizon, a welcome Oasis to re-energize our stomachs and spirits.
  • After our fond memories of our previous venture to John's -- Betty and I trekked there for my second visit to NYC and we met up with a dear friend to catch up. The pizza again was the showcase for a memory filled visit.
  • My third trip was for my bachelor party with my boys and though my compatriots struggled with my marathon walking expedition of the city as the precursor to the evening -- they welcomed John and a number of pitchers of beer into their stomachs and heart.
  • ...and now 2 years of marriage later -- Betty and I were ready to feast on our prized pie.

simple, plain, delicious cheese pie. John's Pizzeria.

No disappointment here -- as yums-in-my-tums as I remembered so fondly-- except that we didn't order a pie to go. Again reiterating my post from our Boston trip -- good pizza = thin crust, tangy simple sweet tomato sauce, greasy cheese all baked in a brick oven with coal -- baked until slightly blackened with carbon goodness. I ♥John's Pizzeria. I had a list of other pizza joints to check out but time did not allow us to explore. Next time we're there we'll have to try Grimaldi's, Arturos, and Artichokes. Any other NYC pizza joints you recommend?

bear in the city day 1: a mushage of flavors - Fusia

Betty and I hit up the Big Apple for the All Points West music festival and to visit my dear cousin. We had a direct flight from Columbus to LaGuardia and took a bus into the city to meet him. We were starving when we arrived so we decided to check out a Thai spot called Fusia. The place was contemporary and nice on the inside but our attention was directed to reviewing all the wonderful menu items. We decided to split the chicken sate and I ordered the shrimp wanton soup and Volcano roll for my meal.

small but colorful picture of the chicken sate

bad picture of extremely tasty shrimp wanton soup

beautiful Volcano roll: shrimp tempura & cucumber topped with spicy tuna and red tobiko aka flying fish roe

The shrimp wanton soup was incredible. Great broth, plenty of free floating shrimp and 3 shrimp wantons at the bottom of the cup. This was a promising start to the meal.

The chicken sate was plated beautifully and got me geeked about my main course the Volcano roll. The chicken was seasoned enough to be tasty on its own and the peanut sauce took the taste to the next level.

When the Volcano roll arrived -- it's beautiful plating got me that even more amped to devour the whole plate. I quickly got my wasabi and soy sauce mixture together and took my first bite. I took my time chewing the roll and scrutinizing the taste. The mixture of textures was great - you have crunchy shrimp tempura, crispy cucumber, soft tuna, and juicy roe...but the flavors were underwhelming. The tuna had no character -- it tasted like it was mixed with something else that created a tuna pulp of sorts that really took away from the distinct taste I normally expect and love from tuna. Rather than a marriage of flavors from the shrimp tempura and tuna it was a mushage of blandness. It took some work to finish the rest of the meal but Betty and I still had a great time catching up with my cousin and enjoying the fact that we were in NYC. Fusia was fun to try and I really enjoyed the shrimp wanton soup. Their sushi unfortunately was weak sauce -- especially for an item that was the chef's special. The experience there made me appreciate my favorite Columbus sushi joint - Akai Hana even more. Fusia did have me wondering what NYC restaurant has the best sushi -- I'd settle for better sushi then Fusia. Any suggestions for when Betty and I are there next?

Saturday, August 1, 2009

To buy or to brown bag? Pizza Day at the Rossi Junior High...The Rossi

Betty and I met up with a friend at the Rossi for happy hour. I was curious to try their pizza after reading some good things about it in the Columbus blogosphere. I'm a big fan of NYC pizza and have a bad habit of comparing most thin pizzas to that genre of pizza. What I read about the Rossi was that it was pretty good and ultra thin so I was ready to investigate the claims. When we arrived at the Rossi I was all business and was ready to try their simple ultra thin cheese pizza. When it arrived it looked pretty promising:

I think of crucial NYC pizza as having 3 things:
  1. ultra thin crust with carbon burn marks
  2. simple and sweet tasting tomato sauce
  3. and cheese that's greasy and blends the sauce into the crust for one yummy fusion of a taste.
I used these 3 guidelines to compare and rate the Rossi. As for the crust -- this is the thinnest crust I've ever seen on a pizza NYC included. It was pretty tasty but was simple and a bit undercooked for my tastes. The cheese was ample and pretty good. No excessive layers of grease deposits as most NYC pizzas possess -- but I'm a pizza blotter anyways. The sauce was the low point for me. I found the sauce to be more of a tart tomato pasty style sauce then I usually go for and so as I ate the pizza -- which don't get me wrong -- I still devoured -- I didn't quite have that fusion of crust, cheese and sauce that I drool about when I dream of say John's Pizzeria. Betty claimed that I really liked the pizza regardless of what I'm writing above. All in all the pizza was pretty good but not in the revered category that I cherish my favorites that include Adriaticos, Flying Pizza, Hound Dogs, Surly Girl and Grandads. I do think I owe the place one more try to pursue a toppings pizza since I failed to do so on this past trip -- so I think happily the verdict is still out on the Rossi's Pizza - until next time...

tacos unleashed...Don Patron 3

A short week this week found Betty and I going out to eat lots and catching up with old friends. This time we were meeting up with a friend visiting from Oakland and dined at Don Patron 3 in Clintonville formerly Talitas. The interior of the place has changed from what I remember of Talitas as has the menu. I was surprised about the extensive number of items available on the menu. The chips were alright. Did not taste fresh or anything but they did the trick. The salsa tasted fresh but was over cilantro-y. Our friends commented that the salsa was especially fruity with a strong lime taste. No worries about the chips and salsa however because the El Yucateco pasodoble made an appearance. A quick way to this bear's tummy is to have El Yucateco on-demand, all day, every day.

chips, salsa and El Yucateco pasodoble

Continuing my trend of exploring Mexican style tacos peaked by the recent explosion of the topic on the Columbus blogosphere I ordered their taco trio platter but mixed up the meats with: pastor, chorizo and carnitas. Each was topped with cilantro and onion on 2 corn tortillas though you had the option for cheese, lettuce and tomato on flour tortillas as well. It took some time for the meal to come out -- 10-15 minutes -- which got me excited about the tacos because I couldn't help but fell they were making them fresh and putting a little extra TLC into our food. I was also eager to see how these tacos would compare to my adventures at Cazuelas and Los Potosinos.

pastor taco up top, chorizo taco to the right, carnitas taco below

I started with the chorizo taco. Squeezed some lime on it and put some of the spicier sauce that came out with it...very tasty. The meat was hot. The chorizo had a nice smoky flavor that was complemented well with the cilantro, onion and lime. I then moved on to the pastor taco. The pastor was sweet and was accompanied with pineapple chunks. A great blend of flavors especially when I added some El Yucateco to the mix. I saved the carnitas taco and apparently the best for last. This taco surprised me because I thought it would be the blandest of the 3 meats I tried but it had a simple grilled but still flavorful taste that had me wanting more. As previously mentioned I'm not much of a soft taco person but the Mexican style that features cilantro, onions, lime and corn tortillas has me hooked. I will say that the carnitas soft taco was the best soft taco I've had yet. The tacos came with beans and rice which are hard to mess up and were pretty standard. Betty had a pineapple chicken dish which was pretty tasty as well. Overall I was very impressed with Don Patron 3's tacos. Nothing too amazing about the chips, salsa, rice or beans but pretty good margaritas, very tasty tacos, El Yucateco pasodoble and the comfort of reasonable prices will make me a repeat customer in the near future. I have discovered these past months that there is crucial Mexican dining beyond El Vaquero and I'm excited to discover my next taco taste-ploration very soon.

a marriage of flavors...Amar India

Betty and I were in Dayton from Wednesday night until Sunday for my sister's wedding. An exciting action packed and emotional weekend of memories with loved ones and of course as is typical with Indian weddings...a sampling of every delicious combination of veggies and meats under the Indian sun courtesy of our favorite Indian Restaurant and caterer in Dayton, OH Amar India. The legend goes that Amar India was one of the first Indian restaurants in Dayton, Ohio and also catered the first Indian wedding in the city so how fitting decades later that Amar India would cater not only our wedding but my sister's too.

Enough of that onto the food.

Up first food from the Lady's Sangeet

aloo tikki with channa, cilantro, onions and chili powder, namkeen on the side

This was the first time I've seen a specialty tikki stand at a catered event which made it double-so-sweet that it was on my parent's patio. The aloo tiki is essentially a spicy potato pancake. The tikki is then topped with seasoned garbanzo beans, onion, cilantro and then spiced up with chili powder and masala. I scooped up the namkeen -- aka deep fried seasoned nuts and flour mixture with other crunchy treats -- and ate them with each bite. The flavors tasted like a match made in heaven. The tikki's were delicious as a matter of fact I had 3 of them and was still salivating for more.

Up next dinner:

starting with the left going right counterclockwise: I'm thinking it was basant chicken (seasoned chicken), plain nan, rice pilaf with cholay (seasoned garbanzo beans), saag paneer (spinach and cheese), green chilis, mint chutney and spicy onion chutney

This meal was rich but delicious. Crucial to Indian food for me are side garnishes -- onions, green chili's and Amar India's special spicy onion chutney are must haves in excessive amounts in this case. Think of those as my Indian version of El Yucateco. Everything tasted delicious and even better being around all of our friends and family at the party. Truth be told, I was never a spinach eater growing up until I had Amar India's saag paneer. Ever since then I've been a champion of Indian spinach. Many times I've noticed that restaurants do not put enough paneer with the spinach but that night there was plenty of paneer to go around.

I had more food photos from the weekend festivities but the lighting was off on them so I was not able to post them. When we left Dayton we left with an arsenal of leftovers from Amar India to eat throughout the week. To give you an image of how well we ate:

starting with the rice at high noon, nan, saag paneer, saag with corn, cholay, lamb do piazza (lamb curry), chicken tikka makhani (tandoori chicken in a butter sauce)

Oh man I ate like a cholesterolking this week. This food was so delicious even 2 days later. My only complaint would be the richness of the food which has an excessive amount of cream and butter. This in contrast to the lighter but still tastier version of Indian food my mom or I usually make though my mom usually will fatten up her food with cream and butter when guests are coming into town. Eating this food day in and day out was a bit indulgent but it's not often I have an opportunity to devour such food. This weekend was a great homecoming to catch up with family and friends that I have not seen in a long time and to celebrate my sister's marriage through singing, dancing, gup-shupping (talking), and of course indulging in very tasty colorful foods and sweets.