Tag Archives: food

{ The Down to Earth Cafe } ****

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1141 N 5th St
Perkasie, PA 18944
(215) 258-2233

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Eating out at a restaurant is often an experience that is driven and dominated by the desire to socialize. People go out for a meal to spend time with the ones that they love, and the food serves as the unifying element that brings them all together. Sometimes the food is very well prepared and someone will comment on its palatability, and other times, the food is just present as a mere necessity for sustaining life and a backdrop for the conversation.

What I am trying to say is that very rarely do people make an emotional connection with their food when they dine out. After all, they are not involved in the direct preparation of their food, nor do they often get the opportunity to watch as chefs transform raw ingredients into the entrée of their choice. The food arrives at the table, they eat, and go home.

The Down to Earth Café in Perkasie Pa offers a different kind of dining experience though—one that is atypical of the norm. In all facets of the restaurant, there is a permeating sense of community; a genuine connection established between every person, object, and meal that one comes in contact with. The servers feel familiar and their smiles seem genuine, as if they would rather be nowhere else in the world. The kitchen is partially within the customer’s view so that patrons can watch as their food is being prepared, and see who is responsible for crafting their meal. The food itself is sourced locally and organically—whenever feasible—and the menu showcases how simple high-quality ingredients can come together to create something delicious.

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I went for brunch this weekend and had very few expectations for this little café tucked away in a rather non-descript and rundown strip mall. But from the moment that I walked in, I knew I was in for a good meal! I ordered the Anti-Salerno Sandwich with grilled eggplant, zucchini, asparagus, onions, mushrooms, and roasted red peppers, topped with melted goat cheese on a fresh ciabatta roll ($8.95).

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I added a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and it was delightful! The veggies were chopped up nice and small so that each bite was clean, and the side of balsamic and grape quinoa salad was super tasty. I wish there had been a bit more than the level tablespoon that was dolloped on the plate, but it was excellent.

Veggie Sandwich 1

My boyfriend ordered the Farmer’s Panini Special with scrambled eggs, Blooming Glen scrapple, cheddar cheese, and baby spinach ($9.95). I am not one that cares for scrapple, so I did not sample his dish, but he said that it was hearty and delicious.

Scrapple Sandwich

To drink, I sampled one of the new Sipp organic sodas that they offered in the Mojo berry flavor with blackberry juice, mint, lime, and a touch of agave nectar. It was very refreshing and much less syrupy than a typical soda. Dare I say a healthy soda?

Menu and Soda

All in all, I cannot wait to go back and try some of the other fabulous meals offered at the Down to Earth Café…in particular the smoothies, which looked incredible!

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Filed under Bakery, Baking, Breakfast, Brunch, Buck's County, Cafe / Bistro, Coffee Shop, Cookies, Dessert, Fast Casual Food, Lunch Spots, Muffins, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Restaurants

{ The Borough Market in London }

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Whenever I go into a city, I feel pressured to eat—and drink—just about everything in sight. In a brief two-block stroll, I can usually find time to eat a pastry, sample a gelato, snack on an over-priced French macaron or chocolate, down a cup of fancy coffee, and possibly even grab a cocktail of some sort. It’s down right impressive, albeit slightly sickening to my friends that are forced to dip into every corner shop café with me!

Why does the city send me into this preposterous food frenzy, you ask?

Because I am from the suburbs!! The suburbs of Philadelphia, no less: a place where good food requires some serious gas mileage and planning. You can’t find an authentic Italian restaurant, a crab shack, a sake lounge, and an artisanal chocolatier all within the same one-mile radius! If you want Indian, you drive to Iselin, NJ. If you want Italian, you drive to South Philly. If you want French, you’re shit outta luck. My point is, that you’re driving if you want to get good ethnic foods. So when I see Cambodian sandwiches, ramen, French pastries, and kebabs all within the same street, I get beside myself and feel the urge to try it all simply because it is there!

My most recent trip to London kept me eating around the clock because of the seemingly endless number of cafes and pubs, each one more adorable than the next. I plan to give a full review each meal, but I want to start off with my absolute favorite food experience in London, which doesn’t take place in a restaurant at all, but rather an open-air food market called the Borough Market.

My idea of heaven is an endless Borough Market where every vendor has free samples and they don’t judge you for taking more than one, instead they encourage it! The food is free, and it has no caloric value, and you never feel full so you can just keep on eating, and eating, and eating. #FatGirlProblems

The Best Prepared Meal Item: Thai Green Curry Paella with Chicken & Seafood over Rice. I did my research on the market before going (aka Googled the shit out it to see what other bloggers were saying!) in so that I could make an informed decision on what to eat once I got there. I read that the Paella place was one of the best, and I can confirm that it was better than some seafood dishes I had in Spain. It was creamy and flavorful and the rice was tender without being mushy. A food experience that was borderline otherworldly.

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The Best Cheese: The Borough Cheese Company’s 15 mo. aged Comte

It was the first cheese we sampled going into the market, and we continued to go back for more samples until we found ourselves just pounding down his entire platter one sample after another. Then it got awkward and we decided we were obligated to make a purchase, which was noshed down that same evening. I ate it like a slice of watermelon, right down to the rind, holding the wedge between my two hands.

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The Best Exotic Item for Purchase: Tartufaia Truffles’ White Truffle Honey

Need I say more? Truffle + Honey = guaranteed foodgasm

I might just have to fly back for more once I eat it all, and for only 5 pound a jar, it is the best bargain in London!!!

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The Best Eat at Home Purchase: West Country Preserves

I bought the Spicy Gooseberry with Cumin Seeds, which is more savory than sweet. It pairs well with chicken and meat, but also toast if your taste buds are like mine! I also bought one of the Ginger Curds, which is a sweetened yet naturally spicy spread that pairs lovely with toast and desserts. My friends got the pure Ginger Preserves, which were intensely flavorful but also amazing. The man knows how to sell too—he loves encouraging samples! I think I tried all 32 varieties before selecting my final two for purchase.

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Other Items I purchased and loved:

 Fresh Buffalo Mozzarella – So creamy and tender. I coupled these bad boys with some sliced tomatoes and avocado wedges when I got back home and they were lovely.

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Date and Walnut Bread from The Flour Station– I was on a date kick after my trip to Harrods (where I bought the best dates of my life!), and so I decided to get loaf of this bread. It turned out to be my breakfast pregame and late night snack for the remaining days of my trip. A fabulous purchase!

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1 BOROUGH MARKET YUM

Roasted Porchetta Sandwich with Applesauce and Rockett on Ciabatta – this was not my favorite, as I found the meat a bit too fatty and difficult to swallow. That being said, I did love the deep rosemary flavor to the meat and the pairing of the sweet applesauce, which is something I will replicate at home in the future.

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Mulled Wine – It was my first English mulled wine experience, so I will have a special place for it in my heart, but I went on to have much better from street vendors at the Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park. And priced at 4 pound a cup, it was difficult to catch a buzz!

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Chocolates and Fudge from Burnt Sugar– I loved the chocolate covered honeycombs made with rich dark chocolate, but learned that fudge is not really my thing. It might be the only food that I can say isn’t one of my weaknesses.

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Filed under Bakery, Baking, Breakfast, Brunch, Cocktails, Coffee Shop, Cookies, Dessert, International Restaurants, London Restaurants, Markets

Flex Mussels *****

 
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154 W 13th Street
New York, New York
212.229.0222

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If there is one food that I crave above all others, it is mussels. They can be prepared in a variety of ways, encompassing a broad range of flavors; from coconut curry Thai to classic French white wine garlic. There are mornings that I literally wake up and have a hankering for a steaming pot of mussels. Not cheerios….mussels.

Needless to say, if mussels are on the menu at a restaurant, I’m usually ordering them. And I have suffered dearly for this habitude, because lets face it, there are certain restaurants (i.e. Irish pubs) where you should NOT be ordering the shell fish. I know the bacon cheese burger is the safer bet, but I have no self-control and inevitably end up eating the mussels…..for better, for worse.

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This weekend though, I had the opportunity to go to Flex Mussels, which is renowned in NYC for their fantastic pots of ornate and unique mussels…23 different types in all! You can imagine how difficult it was to choose only a couple to share with my friends and fellow diners, Sam & Sara. In fact, a third party observer would have thought this was one of the most difficult decisions of my life the way that I carefully weighed out each option, debating whether to go with the tried and true classics or branch out and go for the exotic.

Finally, after a quick pep talk with our server, we arrived at a game plan. We would order three different pots of mussels to share among the table along with some truffle fries. First we got an order of the Dijon Mussels made with dijon mustard, white wine, creme fraiche, and parsley ($19.50). These were by far my favorite of the three, and I made that known by locating the pot directly in front of me and my big fat fork. The broth was so good, I would consider it drinkable. The mustard brought forth a tangy and acidic flavor that was carefully balanced by the creaminess of the creme fraiche. And the chopped parsley was fresh and earthy.

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Next we enjoyed the Fra Diavolo mussels made with San Marzano tomatoes, olive oil, fresh basil, crushed red pepper flakes, and garlic ($19.50). Sam insisted that we order this classic, and although I thought they were good, I probably would not order them when at Flex again. Instead, I would opt for a more complex broth when at the Mecca of mussels, and save the run-of-the-mill spicy red sauce for the amateurs. I will admit that the large chunks of crushed tomatoes were delightful on the fresh baked bread provided for dipping and dunking!

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Lastly, we recieved our order of the South Pacific Mussels, which were made with kaffir lime, cilantro, white wine, and lemongrass. I tried persuading Sam and Sara to order the Thai mussels instead, which were very similar to the South Pacific in flavor, but with the added richness of curried coconut milk. Unfortunately though, it was two against one and we ended up going with the lighter broth. I wasn’t crazy about these because the broth was too almost too light. There was nothing sticking to the the meat of the mussel. I hoarded the remaining dijon mussels while my eating companions picked at their mistake.

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Last but not least, I must review the truffle french fries which were served with a creamy aioli dipping sauce. They were really delicious and made a perfect accompaniment to dip in the mussel broth (especially the dijon….did I mention it was drinkable?).

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I am looking forward to my next dinner at Flex and I will definitely be trying the Thai Mussels along with the Mediterranean which has shrimp, kalamata olives, fennel, lemon, anise, and oregano ($22.50)

Ohh and I almost forgot to mention the wine/cocktail selection, which is pretty reasonable for NY fine dining. My friends and I shared a bottle of the Vincent Dampt Chablis for only $54. The selection of wines was also fairly extensive, which is somewhat expected at a mussel-centric restaurant. I mean, what goes better with mussels than wine?!

…..besides crusty bread, of course!

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Filed under Bars, Cocktails, New York Restaurants

{ The 2013 Gluten Free Expo – Seacacus, NJ }

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I LOVE food trade shows, it’s all about shootin’ the shit with people and sampling free food!! And if a particular vendor really takes a liking to you, you might just get some party favors to take home with ya (…l’m considering an investment in a rolley suitcase for the next show!).

This past weekend was the 2013 Gluten Free & Allergen Free Expo in Seacacus, NJ and I had the opportunity to attend with my friend and co-worker, Liz, who happens to be gluten intolerant. Although I have not been diagnosed with any sort of gluten intolerance, I have been trying to omit gluten from my diet over the past couple of weeks, in an attempt to resolve some chronic stomach troubles. Unfortunately, I am still struggling with tummy troubles, but I have noticed a significant decrease in joint/back pain since cutting back on my gluten intake. I am also not nearly as bloated and who doesn’t want that?!

My experience at the GFAF expo was thus kind of unique because I was unfamiliar with many of the products since I was new to the gluten free community, but since I had consumed gluten products in the very recent past, I had something to weigh these gluten free substitutes up against. Liz on the the other hand, was very knowledgeable about the different vendors product lines and really there on a mission to research egg-less gluten free products (her pet project is to make a vegan pizza crust for Jules!).

So what vendors were the highlights for Liz and I?!?!

{No. 1}   HAIL MERRY - Pre-packaged desserts

Most Knowledgeable About GF Baking & Best/Biggest Samples

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Like I mentioned earlier, Liz was on a hunt for egg substitutes in gluten free baking. Majority of the vendors used egg in their products, but the woman working the Hail Merry table, Claudia, was so knowledgeable on egg alternatives….and not only was she knowledgeable, but she was willing to share a wealth of information on the topic with us! She told us that chia seeds and flax meal are both good binding agents to use in place of egg, but that chia seeds are better for breads that you want to rise like banquettes, while flax meal is a firmer binding agent that is better for flat breads, crackers, and pizza crust!!!

She also gave each of us a bag of delicious macaroons to take home with us, as well as a super cute tee shirt with their logo on it! The caramel sea salt macaroons were my favorite out of the four different flavors , followed by the chocolate mint miracle tart, which was melt in your mouth goodness that I will certainly be buying in the near future!

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Merry, I hail you as my favorite vendor at the the GFAF Expo!

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{No. 2}   OMISSIONGluten-Free Beer

Best Brand Ambassadors & Best Gluten-Free Beer

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After working our way around the large room of vendors, Liz and I arrive at the final aisle of tables. We are stuffed, we are tired, we are five seconds away from calling it a day, and then we realize we are at the gluten-free beer aisle!!! Suddenly we perk up because it is time for happy hour!

Beer has never been my drink of choice, and I have absolutely zero experience with gluten-free beers, but Liz loves a good cold one and is rarely satisfied by the variety available in state-controlled Pennsylvania (as I am rarely satisfied by the wine selection!). She was all sorts of excited for this aisle and definitely hit it off with the sales rep at the Omission Beer table. She was so passionate about the brand and knowledgeable about the product. We learned that the beer is made with traditional beer ingredients, including malted barley, which is specially crafted to remove–or shall I say, omit–the gluten. It actually breaks the chains in the protein bonds, making it safe for gluten intolerant people to consume.

The company offers two different brews: a Pale Ale (5.8% ABV) that is bold and hoppy, and a Lager (4.6% ABV) that is much lighter but still very refreshing and crisp. Between the two, I definitely preferred the pale ale, although the Lager is the one that took the gold medal in the 2012 International Beer and Cider Competition for the Gluten Free category.

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Liz said that this beer tasted the most similar to real beer that she can remember. She noted that it didn’t have a funny after taste, which is her most frequent gripe with GF beer.

{No. 3}   THE CAKE OVERGluten-Free Bakery

Best Tasting Gluten-Free Desserts

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Liz and I ate a lot of sweets while at the expo, but I think we both agreed that the desserts sampled by The Cake Over, were by far the best! They had cookies, and cupcakes, and brownies and all of them were equally as delicious. The owner, Allison Teperman, is originally from Moscow, Russia and her bakery which is located in Lake Hiawatha, NJ, specializes in gluten-free, dairy-free, and low-fat desserts.

The stand out treats for me were the almond crescent cookies, which my grandmother always makes during the holidays. I would have never known that these European bad-boys were gluten-free if someone hadn’t told me!

Of course, Liz instantly reached for the chocolate stuff, as she is a self-proclaimed choco-holic (and I am her witness!).  The chocolate brownies were incredibly rich without being too dense or overly sweet.

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And I loved the chocolate fudge cupcakes topped with chocolate mousse!! They were outrageous and dairy free, might I add!!

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If I ever needed a gluten-free specialty cake, I would definitely go out of my way to get it from The Cake Over. Not only is the product amazing in it’s flavor and texture, but the bakers are tasteful in their cake decorations as well!

{No. 4}   GLUTENBERGGluten Free Beer

Best NEW Gluten-Free Product

Glutenberg

All of the household names in the gluten-free market were at the expo (i.e. Udis, Glutino, Glutenfreeda, ect…), but Glutenberg is a newer addition to the market….well, the US that is! Proving successful in the Canadian market since 2011, Glutenberg is available for purchase in the United States, and has already won the gold, silver, and bronze awards in the “gluten free category” at the World Beer Cup!

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There are three different brews available: (1) a Blonde Ale (4.5% ABV) with notes of pepper, floral hops, and fruity citrus, (2) an American Pale Ale (5.5% ABV) with hints of apricot, grapefruit, orange, and caramel, and lastly (3) the Red Ale (5% ABV) which is the winner of the gold medal and much more like a stout beer, with notes of coffee, caramel, and toasted nuts.

My favorite?

The Red Ale without doubt. And best of all, Glutenberg is 100% gluten free. May sound shocking that this a bragging point, but most other gluten free beers do in fact contain very small traces of gluten, at less than 5 PPM.

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{No. 5}   EVERYBODY EATS – Gluten free & Nut free bakery

Best Gluten-Free/Nut-Free Breads

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Gluten free desserts are no longer that hard to find, but good gluten free bread is another story. Heck, it’s even getting hard to find good artesian bread with flour these days! But the tides are a changing, thanks to Everybody Eats bakery in Brooklyn, NY.

The multi-grain high-fiber loaf  that they sell is a-m-a-z-i-n-g. Not amazing because you’re thinking of it as a gluten free product, but amazing because its just a top quality bakery product. In fact, it was so good that I couldn’t help but buy a bag of the deli rolls to take home–6 come in a bag for just $10! And each roll serves up a whopping 6 grams of fiber and 6 grams of protein!

Check out their website to order bread online if you can’t locate a good gluten free bakery near your home. Apparently, they freeze great too!

{No. 5}   OLA GRANOLA - Gluten-Free Granola

Best Gluten-Free Breakfast Cereal

Ola Granola

I eat Greek yogurt at least once a day, whether it be for breakfast or as a snack, but either way, I like it to have a little crunch which means granola! Finding a delicious granola is easy–who doesn’t love oats roasted in honey with clusters of nuts and dried berries?!? But finding a healthy, low-calorie granola that still tastes good is a bit more challenging. Now tack the gluten free requirement onto that list, and you’ll be reading package labels at the super market all afternoon! But Ola Granola has filled the gap in the market, providing a delicious Gluten-Free, 100 calorie per saving, low glycemic, non-GMO, Vegan, soy-free, kosher, 0 trans fat, whole grain granola that is 100% all natural!

They offer four different flavor varieties, but my favorite is the Chocolate Banana Chip, which is a tasty combo of crunchy banana chips and semi-sweet chocolate chunks melded with oat clusters. 1/3 of a cup is 100 calories with only 15 calories from fat!

I will say that although I was impressed with the product, I was very disappointed by their sales rep at the show. She was rude and apathetic about the product. Fortunately for the company, their product is good enough to sell itself.

My other favorite granola that was NOT at the convention (sadly) is Living Intentions Superfood Cereal in the Raspberry Detox flavor. It is all organic, raw, gluten-free, vegan, non-GMO and is fortified with Zeolites, milk thistle, hemp, cranberry, artichoke, and red beet root. You can order it online or buy it at Wegmans or Whole Foods.

{No. 6}   San-J - Gluten Free Salad Dressings & Sauce

Best Gluten Free Cooking Sauces

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It comes as a surprise to many that soy sauce contains gluten, but it is true that regular soy sauce contains about 40%-60% wheat! Thankfully, there is an alternative sauce called tamari, which is a richer, smoother sauce composed of 100% soy beans. Personally, I find tamari to be saltier in flavor than regular soy sauce though, so I’d use caution when putting on sushi!

The San-J company has been making traditional tamari sauce for nearly 200 years, but they have more recently introduced a line of gluten free cooking sauces in their product offering. Many other Asian cooking sauce brands will use soy sauce as their base instead of tamari, since it is cheaper, but San-J keeps all of their sauces tamari-based.

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My favorite of their cooking sauces, in order of preference are: (1) Thai Peanut Sauce — perfect for grilled meats or pad thai noodle dishes (2) Spicy Szechuan Sauce — a spicy but delicious sauce that would be great on skewered beef and (3) Orange Sauce — which begs for some grilled chicken and fried rice!

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Overall. the expo was a success and I look forward to attending another one in the future! As for the egg-less pizza crust….well, Liz and I experiment with Flax Meal on Thursday. I will keep you posted on our findings!

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Filed under Bakery, Food Expos, Gluten Free, Tradeshows

{ Jicama, Cilantro, and Pineapple Salad }

Jicama Salad

I always get a little nervous when I work with an ingredient for the first time, but this weekend, I decided to take on the challenge of jicama to serve at my South American dinner party. I’ve enjoyed jicama at several Mexican restaurants before, but I have never cooked with it myself….until now! To be honest, I didn’t even really know what jicama was until it I was getting ready to cut into and realized I should probably Google this information before hacking into it.

Could I eat the skin? Would there be a pit or seed in the center? Heck, was this thing in my hand a fruit or a veggie for goodness sake?!?!

Turns out, jicama is a kind of Mexican root vegetable that grows on vines and is part of the legume family. It is very low in calories and has several health benefits: it is high in fiber, anti-oxidants, inulin, potassium, and other vitamins.

I decided to prepare a simple Jicama, Cilantro, and Pineapple Salad with Fresh Lime Juice and Serrano Chilis. This salad is spicy, tangy, and sweet all at the same time, and surprisingly it turned out to be one of my favorite dishes at my dinner party. I even ate it for breakfast with my omelet the following morning!

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Ohhh…..there is no pit/seed and you want to peel that skin off (thank you Google!).

{ Ingredients }

  • 1 jicama, peeled and chopped into match sticks
  • 1 1/2 cups of pineapple, cut into chunks (I used fresh)
  • 1 serrano chili, minced (remove the seeds first to make less spicy)
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt

{ To Make the Salad }

Combine the jicama, pineapple, and serrano chili in a mixing bowl. Add the lime juice and cilantro and toss to mix well. Add the kosher salt to taste. Allow to sit for 15 minutes for the flavors to develop and then serve!

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Filed under Breakfast, Brunch, Recipes

Lilly’s on the Canal ****

Outsde of Lily's
609.397.62422
2 Canal Street
Lambertville, NJ 08530
 

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Unlike most females, I’m not usually one to make a big fuss over my birthday. Sure, I like a glass of champagne and something sweet to celebrate the start of a new chapter in life, but rarely do I attempt to make formal plans and I NEVER get caught trying to split the bill with my “20 closest girlfriends” at some hoity-toity birthday dinner. Those dinners always turn into a shit-show when the check arrives and the 3 real best friends—usually the roomates—end up having to pay the remainder of the unsettled bar tab while the 17 drunken acquaintances dance away.

This year, I wanted to celebrate my 24th birthday in the normal fashion—doing something quiet and relaxing. My friend, Liz, took me for a pedicure and treated me to lunch. It was a gorgeous day so we drove out Lambertville, NJ and went to Lily’s on the Canal for some Class-A chick food. The menu features incredible gourmet salads, unique sandwiches & wraps, and delicious homemade desserts. It is an ideal restaurant to bring a woman on a date, and it is the perfect spot for a ladies luncheon.

I decided to order a modified version of the Baby Spinach Salad, which came fully-loaded with grilled marinated chicken breast, balsamic glazed Portobello mushroom cap, goat cheese, seasonal tomatoes, avocado, and balsamic vinaigrette ($14). 

Chicken and Spinach Salad 

There is not one bad thing I can say about the salad. It was all of my favorite ingredients on one plate in a perfect entrée-sized portion! The chicken was warm and juicy, and the mushrooms were seasoned perfectly. I also am a huge fan of their homemade salad dressings.

Liz ordered the same salad but got it standard issue with Grilled Marinated Chicken Breast, Balsamic Glazed Portobello Mushrooms, Buttermilk Bleu Cheese, Seasonal Tomato, Avocado, and Ranch Dressing.

We also decided to share an order of the Skinny French Fries ($5), which are cut shoestring style and fried to golden delicious crisp!

Lily's French Fries

Some of my other favorite meals at Lily’s include:

The Penne with Vodka Sauce—and I usually add chicken, but you can also choose to add grilled shrimp ($15). Like it says on the menu, “it’s an oldie, but a goodie!”

I am also obsessed with the Caesar Salad with Chopped Romaine Lettuce, Creamy Goat Cheese, Applewood Bacon, Parmesan Croutons, and Caesar Dressing ($13). It is a twist on a classic Caesar, which normally has Parmesan, but the goat cheese and freshly cooked bacon bits put this salad over the top!

The burgers at Lilly’s are also quite good, and can be ordered in several different variations. I like the Three Mini Angus Beef Sliders, which are served open face with Swiss cheese, sautéed mushrooms, onions, and skinny fries ($12)!

Sliders and Fries

A lighter way to enjoy their burgers, is by ordering the Burger Salad (made with Certified Angus Beef or Vegetable Patty) served over mixed greens with red onion slices, guacamole, spinach hummus, and black bean salad with a balsamic vinaigrette ($12). Not only is it delicious and filling, but you cannot beat the price for what you get!

The only dish I have tried that I wouldn’t recommend getting would be the New York Strip Steak with Blue Cheese, Mushrooms, and Onions over Skinny Fries ($25). The steak was small and very fatty. It was also very oily and too way heavy with the fries.

Steak and Blue Cheese

If you can manage to save room for dessert, I would suggest ordering a slice of one of their incredible seven layer cakes: Coconut Cake, Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake, Carrot Cake, Chocolate Truffle Cake, Chocolate Kahlua Cake—just to name a few!

Dessert Display

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Filed under Bakery, Buck's County, Cafe / Bistro, Cakes, Dessert, New Jersey Restaurants, Take-Out

B & B Ristorante ***

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702.266.9977
3355 South Las Vegas Blvd (@ the Venetian)
Las Vegas, Nevada

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I’ve got nearly 24 years of life experience under my belt now, and I am finally learning how to speak up and get what I want from people. So when the hotel told me they didn’t have the non-smoking room that I requested available when I got in tonight, I managed to weasel an upgraded suite with $200 worth of comps to spend anywhere in the casino. And for a foodie like me, that meant an extravagant steak dinner.

So I did a little research on the restaurants located in the Venetian and got excited so see Mario Batalli and Joe Bastianich’s B&B Ristorante on the list. I’m not one to shy aware from dining alone, so I dropped my bags in my baller room and headed on down for a proper meal.

B&B Ristorante

I started off with a full-bodied red wine, which was almost life changing (as it should be at nearly $17 a glass!). The server said it came highly recommended and I savored it slowly throughout my entire appetizer, which was Batali’s famous Grilled Octopus with “Fagiolo Marinati” served in a Spicy Limoncello Vinaigrette ($21). It was really incredible. The octopus was tender and parts of it had a nice grilled char to it. The bacon fat added a great deal of rich flavor but the lemon vinaigrette helped to brighten the dish and keep is fresh and clean. I would add this to the list of 10 best things that I have ever put in my mouth.

Grilled Octopus

The delicious appetizer got me very excited for my main entrée, which was a Steak Tagliata with Salsa Verde (aka Chimichurri sauce) and Roasted Fingerling Potatoes ($42). Unfortunately, I thought the main dish was a-w-f-u-l. It was almost inedible, and I am still unsure as to why I didn’t send it back and just ask for another serving of grilled octopus. The steak was soaked in oil, which did not lend itself well to the oily chimichurri accompaniment. The potatoes were also very rich in oil and practically burnt to a crisp, I don’t think I ate a single one.

Steak Tagliata

The entrée was a bust but the appetizer and wine was unforgettable, making B&B Ristorante very difficult to rate. I’ll give it three stars overall, but probably won’t be back anytime soon.

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Filed under Italian Restaurants, Las Vegas Restaurants, Steak House

Tao Las Vegas *****

Chilean Sea Bass2jpg
702.388.8338
3344 Las Vegas Blvd. South
Las Vegas, NV 89109

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Last month, I went out to Las Vegas for a couple of days to scope out the Pizza & Craft Beer Expo at the Las Vegas Convention Center for work (very, very hard work, might I add!). Basically, I spent two full days just sampling different specialty beers and cheeses, followed by two long nights of fine wine and good food.

Out of all the restaurants in Vegas, Tao was one in particular that I wanted to try and it just so happened to be conveniently located in the lobby of my hotel. After reading several yelper’s comments, I found that most considered Tao to be a restaurant serving very small plates of food at an extremely high price, which they considered unjustifiable. But I think when food is extraordinary and unforgettable, then to hell with portion size and if you can afford it, to hell with the price. So was Tao worth the splurge for a special indulgence? Continue reading to find out!

Tuna Tartar

To start we ordered the Spicy Tuna Tartar served on Fried Rice Cakes ($18). I am used to eating tartar with something extremely crunchy to to counteract the raw texture, like a fried plantain chip, or a wonton,  so I was hesitant whether or not I would enjoy the fried rice accompaniment, but it worked perfectly with the fish. It didn’t seem too mushy and the flavors were so on point, complimented by the spicy cream sauce that was drizzled on the bottom of the plate. I was scraping this stuff up with my fork it was so good.

I also wanted to order two classic Asian appetizers so that I could accurately assess the food, comparing it with dishes that I was already familiar with at other Asian restaurants. So we got an order of the Satay of Chilean Sea Bass with Wok Roasted Asparagus ($19).

Chilean Sea Bass Satay

The fish was cooked to perfection and the satay sauce was served in just the right portion—not too heavy and not too light. Although, I tend to prefer chicken satay and would like to try that next time.

Squab Lettuce Wraps

We also tried an order of the Squab Lettuce Wraps ($15), which peaked my interest because how often do you see squab on the menu?!? They were delicious and came with a huge portion of grilled meat. In fact, we had to ask for more lettuce shells to use it all up. This was a great bang for your buck if you’re on a budget.

As far as entrees were concerned, we contemplated ordering a bunch for the table and sharing, but there was really only one dish that I wanted to try—the infamous Miso Glazed Chilean Sea Bass ($39). Google anything on Tao and this is sure to be mentioned at some point in the article; they are known for this signature dish. So I convinced everyone to order their own dish and had zero regrets because my sea bass was unforgettable.

Miso Chilean Sea Bass

It was the kind of dish that easily commands the price and gives me a season to visit Tao at some point in the future (the very near future, I hope!).  The fish was like butter, just falling apart with each poke of my fork.  And the sauce, which was more like a delicate broth, was unique in flavor, without too much saltiness (contrary to many blogger opinions). I also enjoyed the sautéed vegetable medley underneath the protein, which bathed in the broth, soaking up the miso flavors.

The other dish that really stood out for me among the six entrees, was the Wasabi encrusted Filet Mignon, served with a stack of tower of Tempura Onion Rings ($40).

IMG_1219

This was a smaller portion—as filets tend to be—but it was also incredible and unlike any other steak seasoning that I have tried. The wasabi added a nice heat to the exterior of the beef and the temperature on the cooking was just right. I am not a huge fried onion fan, so I would have preferred an alternate side dish, but A+ on the steak.

Other dishes ordered included the Diver Sea Scallops with Red Curry and Thai Basil ($35), which were very fresh and soft in texture. I liked these a lot, but would probably order them as an appetizer to share rather than an entrée.

Scallops in Curry Sauce

The Roasted Thai Buddha Chicken ­­­($28) was good but nothing terribly special. Wouldn’t suggest it.

Buddah Chicken

We also had an order of the Vegetable Fried Rice ($13) a with rich fried egg on top, which was amazing. Put a fried egg on just about anything and count me in. Had a nice thick soy glaze drizzled over the dish and comfortably fed six people as a side dish.

Vegetable Fried Rice

Overall, I walked away from Tao a very happy camper and would definitely be back for more of that Miso Glazed Chilean Sea Bass. I will admit though that some of the dishes were just average and if I hadn’t ordered some of the more spectacular ones (the steak, the sea bass, and the tuna tartar) then I would have left feeling….well….duped. My advice is to read the reviews on Tao (you’re doing a good job if your reading this now!) and then order the dishes that people and critics like myself recommend as fabulous, even if it means stepping out of your comfort zone a little. To be honest, I’ve only ever had sea bass one other time and I was totally nervous about committing to the dish at the cost of  $40, but it was what they are known for and now I understand why.

Go to Tao if you’ve played a good night in Vegas and have some money to throw around on a good meal.

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Filed under Asian Cuisine, Las Vegas Restaurants

{ Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette }

Cilantro Dressing on Fajita Salad

I love Southwestern-style salads, but I hate the calories that come with Chipotle Ranch salad dressing. So I set out to make a healthier alternative with fewer calories. The result?

This flavorful cilantro-lime vinaigrette made with greek yogurt. The yogurt gives the dressing a smooth creamy texture without the fat, while also sneaking in some additional protein.

I use this dressing as a veggie dip, as a sauce for chicken and beef empanadas, and of course, for salads (my favorite is over spinach in combination with with my black bean corn salad recipe).

{ Ingredients }

  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup 0% plain yogurt (I like Fage or Chobani)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp lime juice
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp white vinegar
  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp sea salt

Cilantro Lime Ingredients

{ To Make the Dressing }

  1. Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender and puree until smooth.

In food processord

  1. Continue to add olive oil 1 tbsp at a time as necessary to create a smooth finish.
Finished Dressing

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{ Tres Leches Macaroons – Gluten Free! }

Finished Macaroons

I have always been a fan of caramel ever since I was a little kid, but when I moved to Argentina and was introduced to Dulce de Leche my mind was literally blown and I have been an addict ever since (I actually have a dulce de leche-scented candle burning in my room at this very moment!). You see caramel is made from pure sugar, but dulce de leche is made from sweetened milk so it has a much richer and creamier texture. In Latin American cultures, dulce de leche is used to flavor all sorts of sweets and candies, from ice cream (the best is Freddo), to lollipops, to cakes, and cookies (“alfajores”).

Dulce de Leche

Ever since my return to the US, I have been looking for more and more ways to include it in my baking recipes at home. The result?

These mouth-watering tres leches macaroons, which make for a perfect passover dessert since they are gluten free! I made them for my friend Liz’s cookie exchange this holiday season, and they were a smashing hit. I might also add that they stayed good in the refrigerator for about 2 1/2 weeks when stored in an air tight container.

And as if coconut and caramel aren’t already decadent enough, I also like to dip my macarons in chocolate! They are sinfully good and ridiculously easy to make, so print this recipe out and make them please!

{ Ingredients }

  • 2 – 14 oz bags of sweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 – 14 oz can of sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 Tbsp sour cream
  • 1 Tbsp heavy cream
  • 1 tsp good vanilla extract (I use Madagascar)
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 1 bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips for dipping (optional!)

[ To Make the Macaroons }

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

2. Combine the shredded coconut, the condensed milk, the sour cream, the heavy cream, and the extracts in the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment.

3. Mix the ingredients together on a low speed until well thoroughly combined.

Macaroon Mix

4. Use a large ice cream scoop (#12) to spoon the batter onto a baking sheet that is lined with parchment paper. Do not press down on the cookies!!

Unbaked

5. Bake at 325 degrees for approximately 8-10 minutes, or until slightly golden brown around the edges.

Baeke2d

6. Use wire racks to allow to cool completely on baking sheet. Then dip in melted semi-sweet chocolate, if desired!

Dipping Macaroons

7. Or drizzle with melted semi-sweet chocolate!

Chocolate Drizzled

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Filed under Baking, Dessert, Recipes