Tag Archives: Salad

{ El Vez } *****

 Chicken Chopped Salad1
 
121 S 13th Street (on corner of Sansom)
Philadelphia, PA 19107
215.928.9800

CHECK OUT THE MENU!

No one enjoys Mexican food more than I do. I know it’s a bold statement, but I dare to make the claim and stand behind it. I could literally eat a taco for every meal, each day, for the rest of my entire life….and be perfectly happy about it!

Naturally, being a Philadelphia resident and a Mexican food slut, I was very anxious to try Stephen Starr’s trendy El Vez restaurant, located on the corner of 13th and Sansom. The décor is fitting for a place located in the heart of Philly’s Gay-borhood; the colors are loud, bright, and fun with retro wall hangings, and uniquely structured booths. The bar is certainly a scene, drawing quite a noteworthy crowd throughout the evening (Charles Barkley was there the last time that I visited!).

elvez

I suggest that you grab a margarita at the bar before your meal but then head to a booth for your actual meal. Personally, I like to be out of the public eye when eating Mexican food, so I can get my grub on shamelessly. …Although sometimes I do get caught!

2014-03-15 18.47.41

#I’mNotPrettyWhenIEatMexican

My two favorite cocktails on the menu are: (1) Perfecto Margarita made with el jimador blanco, Cointreau, grand marnier, and fresh lime juice (on the rocks with salt, of course!)

Skinny Marg

(2) Guava Mojito made with Bacardi, Cruzan guava rum, pink guava puree, lime, and mint. El Vez is quite famous for their Blood Orange Margarita, but I not a fan of frozen margaritas, and it cannot be served on the rocks so I have yet to try it for myself (Yelpers rave about it though!).

Guava Mojito 

I have also tried the Pina Especiada with jalapeno-infused tequila and pineapple puree, as well as the Granada Margarita, which is their version of a pomegranate margarita. The pineapple one was too acidic and the pomegranate was very generic.

Pomegranate Marg

As far as food orders go, you MUST try the Taco Tasting Platter if you want to experience a variety of flavors in one convenient and satisfying plate ($25).

IMG_3679

It comes with an assortment of 5 soft-shell tacos, including: seabass, beef, chicken tinga, carnitas pork, and mahi mahi. The Mahi tacos are my absolute favorite and I usually ask for two of those, in place of the one seabass taco. The Mahi fish taco is life-changing, I kid you not!

Carnita Pork Steak Spicy Chicken

I also like their guacamole, which is an enormous portion to share for a table of 3-4 people. The Bazooka Limon with goat cheese, pistachio, chile flakes, and roasted tomatoes was recommended by my server on my first visit to El Vez, and it has remained my favorite. The creamy goat cheese offsets the acid of the roasted tomatoes and the pistachios add a lovely crunchy texture to the otherwise smooth Guacamole.

guace-640x425

Next on my list of suggestions are the Macho Nachos with shredded steak, black beans, smoked chili salsa, sour cream, white cheddar cheese, and monterey jack. These can be ordered in a half portion for just $6!!! It is a steal because the portion is still massive. If you are dining on a budget, this is the best bang for your buck!

Macho Nacho Upclose

If your looking to keep your figure, try the Mexican Chopped Salad with Blackened Chicken, which combines romaine, watercress, pumpkin seeds, tomatoes, chayote, corn, and black beans with queso fresco, crispy tortillas, and both chipotle ranch and cumin-lime vinaigrette. It looks pretty straightforward when it arrives at the table, but the layers of flavor are complex and delicious. I like to switch between the two dressings with each forkful!

Chicken Salad

Lastly, I recommend the Creamy Poblano Corn Rice as a side dish. It is similar to a rich and creamy risotto, and it packs a tiny bit of heat. Ultra decadent, but delicious.

P1030102

This is a great place to celebrate a birthday, or go in a large group because the atmosphere is fun and loud. There is also a great little photo booth near the stairs to bring home memories of your experience!

Leave a comment

Filed under Brunch, Buck's County, Cocktails, Dessert, Gluten Free, Lunch Spots, Mexican Restaurants, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Restaurants, Take-Out

{ 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

Leave a comment

Filed under Recipes

{ Herbed Israeli Coucous with Apples, Cranberries, & Almonds }

A day characterized by complete gluttony, laziness, and endless vino, it is no wonder that Thanksgiving is one of my favorite American holidays! Unfortunately though, the dinner, which normally packs about 3,000 – 4,000 calories (not including the next-day turkey sandwiches), leaves most American’s feeling stuffed for days/weeks/months. So why not lighten the meal up a bit?!?

The easiest way to cut back the number of calories in your Thanksgiving feast, it to serve lighter and healthier side dishes. Get rid of that artery-clogging green bean casserole, which costs you about 276 calories, and end the tradition of sweet potato and marshmallow casseroles, which add an additional 476 calories to your plate! Instead, opt for for sautéed and steamed fresh veggies that are prepared without incorporating a stick of butter and heavy cream.

This recipe for herbed Isreali couscous, encompasses all the flavors of fall and would make a delicious (and healthy) addition to any Thanksgiving buffet table! The herbs serve as a refreshing palate cleanser and the light vinaigrette is an interesting contrast to the richer gravies and sauces on the table. Furthermore, the cubed green apples and slivered almonds work together to deliver just the right amount of crunch to the dish.

On the other 364 days of the year, this couscous makes a fabulous side dish for lamb and roasted chicken. It is also great to bring to picnics and parties!

{ Ingredients }

For the Couscous:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups Israeli couscous (or barley or orzo)
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 medium green apple, diced
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted in oven*

*Note: To toast the almonds, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Arrange the almonds in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely before using.

For the Vinaigrette:

  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

{ To Make the Couscous }

In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil on medium-high heat. Add the couscous and cook, stirring occasionally until browned and aromatic, about 3 to 5 minutes. You really want to open up the nutty flavors of the couscous so it is important that you let it brown properly!. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the liquid has evaporated. Transfer the cooked couscous to a large bowl and set aside to cool.

Add the parsley, rosemary, thyme, apple, dried cranberries, and almonds.

{ To Make the Vinaigrette }

In a small bowl, combine the vinegar, maple syrup, salt, and pepper. Whisk in the olive oil until smooth. Pour the vinaigrette over the couscous and toss to coat evenly.

1 Comment

Filed under Recipes

The Black Horse Tavern ****

215.579.6152
101 South State Street
Newtown, PA 18940

CHECK OUT THE MENU!

Happy Hour--a time, usually between the hours of 6-8, when drinks are offered at reduced prices, encouraging co-workers to mingle outside of the office setting.

This is what Happy Hour used to be–back in the 1990’s when people had jobs and could afford to keeping purchasing cocktails long after the drink specials had ended. But with the unemployment rate ticking ever higher, the definition of Happy Hour is changing: it is no longer only a place for the over-worked to release steam, it is also a valuable networking tool for the unemployed to try to find work. And bar/restaurant owners are recognizing this paradigm shift caused by the economic recession, offering better drink prices, extending discounts to include menu items, and even beginning their Happy Hours earlier in the day (before the 9-5er’s are released from their cubicles).

As an unemployed college graduate (or stay-at-home-daughter, as I prefer to say), I recognize the valuable opportunity that Happy Hours provide for networking (and budgeting) and I try to make it out to one each week. Of course, I also need to vent my frustrations of failed interviews and wasted cover letters!

Right now my favorite Happy Hour hands-down is The Black Horse Tavern in Newtown. They do it all right:

  • Starts at 5 pm, ends at 7 pm (Mon-Sat)
  • $3 drafts, $4 wines, and $6 martinis
  • 1/2 price menu items
  • Trivia on Friday nights (for free drink prizes–I won one last week!)
  • Free bar food available during Happy Hour (usually their delicious flatbreads!)

In my opinion, it’s the best deal in town and like all good things, it draws a consistent crowd. Aka: If you get there after 5 pm expect to sip your delicious martini while standing! They have an extensive speciality martini list, but I recommend the Grapefruit Bubbling Cosmo with Ruby Red Vodka, Cointreau, Lime Juice, Cranberry Juice, all topped off with a splash of Champagne. It has a perfect blend of citrus without tasting artificial.

As far as bar food goes, YOU MUST GET THE TRUFFLE FRIES!!! They come topped with Parmesan Cheese and Belgian Aioli and they are to die for!

I also really like the flatbreads at this place. The Margarita is very simple but delicious made with fresh mozzarella, fresh basil, oregano, olive oil, and spicy marinara sauce. It’s tasty finger food that is easy to share, and I’ve got to admit that it is better than some of the pizza places I’ve tried in these neck of the woods.

Last but not least, I also tried the Caesar Salad with crisp hearts of romaine and a garlicky brioche crostini, dressed to perfection with a Caesar drizzle. It was a great portion for like $4, which is definitely recession-approved pricing!

Although I have only been to the Black Horse Tavern for Happy Hour, I hear from my neighbors that the kitchen also makes fabulous burgers and steaks for dinner. In fact, one of my neighbors said it was one of the best steaks that he has had in years (and this guy is a credible foodie in my book!).

Bottom line: if you are looking to avoid the rather pretentious cougar scene at La Stalla, and you want better bar grub than Isaac Newtons can offer, head to The Black Horse Tavern! You won’t be disappointed.

Leave a comment

Filed under Bars, Cocktails, Philadelphia Restaurants

La Brigada ***

Estados Unidos 465
San Telmo, Buenos Aires
(+54) 11 4361.5557

CHECK OUT THE MENU!

Lets face it, you’re going to get a good piece of steak no matter where you decide to eat in BA (I would honestly consider beef the cultural glue here…like music is to New Orleans). But if you’re on the hunt for the absolute best parrilla in terms of atmosphere, service, and quality of food–as most visiting tourists are–then you will certainly stumble across the name La Brigada at some point in your search (albeit be on Google, at  your hotel concierge, or local word of mouth).

Located in the heart of San Telmo and filled with gaucho/futbol memorabilia (all Boca, of course!), La Brigada is considered a major contender for the title of best parrilla in Buenos Aires, competing alongside Cabana las Lilas, Don Julio, and La Cabrera, just to name a few. One unique feature that has helped to set La Brigada apart from the rest, is that they serve the steak by cutting it with a spoon–a testament to its tenderness. Naturally, upon hearing word of this, I went to witness it myself!

The atmosphere of the place is very old-school, not dingy in any way, but broken in (as all well-loved things are). Images of cows and futbol players hang side-by-side on the walls, and crisp white linens and shiny crystal glasses adorn the tables. Upon entry, you will submit your senses to the heavenly and pungent aroma of steak, which will have you smacking your lips in anticipation of your meal. Cue the ordering frenzy!

My friends and I started our dinner off with a nice bottle of Rutini Malbec and then embarked on the delicious and abundant bread basket. Next we shared an order of Provoleta, which is a wedge of provolone cheese gilled in a cast iron skillet until it turns a delicious golden color at the edges. The provoleta was served nice and hot, and I thought it was very tasty. Although, I must admit I tend to like mine with a little more “umph.” You know, sautéed onions, peppers, and herbs (I acknowledge that it’s not traditional, but I am a modern and progressive 22-year old).

Next we ordered a simple Mixed Green Salad with Tomatoes and Onions, tossed in a balsamic vinaigrette. A salad is a salad, need I say more?

Now we get to the stuff that really matters…..the STEAK! My friend and I decided to share the whopping 30-ounce Baby Beef (mainly because this is the cut rumored to be served with a spoon…I’m a sucker for presentation) and it was enormous! Note: The portion below is on my half of the steak!

Unfortunately though, they did NOT cut it with a spoon. Not my meat, not no ones, which was a rather big disappointment. The quality of the beef, however, was incredible. It was a couple of inches thick, with just the right amount of marbled fat, and it was cooked to perfection. I asked for it medium and it actually came out medium (this is to say as American’s would define medium). I have found in Buenos Aires that they often overcook the meat, so to see red drippings on the plate when I finished was a refreshing change.

Two of my other friends ordered the Bife de Lomo in Peppercorn Sauce, which was an absolute disaster. The peppercorn sauce had some sort of metallic aftertaste (almost inedible) and the steak was completely overdone, despite their requests for medium-rare temperature. A french chef would have been appalled seeing a steak with absolutely no red hue. In fact, it was so bad that neither of them finished their meals. And it is this inconsistency between a fabulous steak and a horrendous steak that leaves La Brigada with just 3 out of 5 stars.

The Potatoes au Gratin (or shall i say, Batatas a Gratinada) were fantastic though!!! They were creamy, and cheesy, and probably my favorite part of the meal. They came as an unexpected complimentary side to the Bife de Lomo, but were large enough to share among the entire table. Likewise, the French Fries were also very tasty!

My other friend (already a getting a little tired of beef), decided to order the Chicken Parmesan (or Milanesa Suprema Napolitana de Pollo). Given the size (which you can see below), she  was able to spare me a couple of bites and I thought it was delicious. I wouldn’t normally order chicken at a well known steakhouse, but I was impressed by the dish.

Last but not least, we ordered a Creme Brûlée  and round ofcafe con leches for dessert. The creme brûlée was spot on and a perfect way to end our meal.

Overall, I would be willing to give La Brigada another chance because half of the meal was great, but I do prefer La Cabrera and Cabana las Lilas as it stands right now (and I plan to try Don Julio this coming week to make my final judgement!).

Leave a comment

Filed under Buenos Aires Restaurants, International Restaurants

Corner Shop Cafe ****

212.253.7467
643 Broadway (and Bleecker)
New York, NY

CHECK OUT THE MENU!

I was preparing to photograph my lunch today (a couple of delicious chicken quesadillas), when my phone alerted me that I had “insufficient memory space” to store the images. Considering that I upload and delete my photos as I write reviews, this notification means that I am seriously behind on blogging (too much eatting, not enough writing!). I was forced to go through my collection of food photos and decide which images looked the most decadent, deleting the others that were not up to par. This sounds like an easy task, but choosing which images to part with was a painstaking process. Needless to say, my quesadillas were cold by the time I finally finished. In order to make space for future reviews, I will be backtracking a bit and intermittenly posting some articles on New York grub.

The first review is from one of my favorite lunch/brunch spots in NYC–The Corner Shop Cafe. Their menu is an eclectic mix of sandwiches, pastas, salads, and eggs but these often simple dishes are far from the ordinary here.  The Corner Shop Cafe has mastered the art of delivering the classics with a whole new twist, taking them to another level. For example, their PB & Banana Grilled Sandwich which comes on cranberry raisin bread dipped in french toast batter, served with honey and minted berries ($9). Clearly, this is not your mom’s PB & J!

Some how I fought the temptation of ordering this mastermind creation (along with the Creme Brûlée Dipped French Toast ($11)), and instead opted for a lighter lunch of Steamed Mussels in a white wine garlic sauce with parsley, peas, and tomatoes ($12). Let me tell you, these mussels were fan-freaking-tastic! The mussels themselves were plump and fresh, and the sauce was out of this world. The herb parmesan crostini soaking in the bowl was also a very nice touch and made the meal more satisfying.

My friend Sam ordered Brie & Basil Panini with aged tried cheese, oven roasted tomatoes, and prosciutto on a toasted ciabatta roll ($13). Again, a very common menu item, but executed perfectly. The ingredients were all very fresh, from the salty to prosciutto to the flakey bread, and the side salad was dressed perfectly with a nice light vinaigrette.

My other friend Ariana went all out and ordered the Truffled Poached Eggs on Toast Platter with two organic poached eggs atop grilled asparagus, shiitake mushrooms, roasted tomatoes and drizzled with truffle oil served with grilled ciabatta bread ($10). A little bit of food jealous crept up on me when this plate was brought to the table. You know when you second guess your meal decision and get grumpy because another person’s food at the table looks better. Ariana was kind enough to fed me forkfuls every now and then though, so it lowered my post-order dissonance. Everything on the plate was fantastic and for the menial price of $10, it tastes even better!

We also all shared a bowl a Cream of Tomato Soup ($7), which paired great with my herb parmesan crostini. I highly recommend this soup because they only use enough cream to cut the acidity of the tomatoes. You can see by the color of the broth that the cream isn’t too overdone or heavy. It begs for grill cheese dipping!

Also, the prices on the drinks were very reasonable. We had a couple of Mimosas and a round of Chardonnay for about $10 each. I am looking forward to going back to the Corner Shop Cafe as soon as I return to the states!

1 Comment

Filed under Cafe / Bistro, Coffee Shop, New York Restaurants

Cumana *****

Rodríguez Pena 1149
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Recoleta
001 4813 9207

As I mentioned in the previous post, Ariana and I have become ¨regulars¨ at La Cholita–frequenting the restuarant at least once a week to get our parrilla fix. But we aren´t the only one´s in BA that know about the deals to be had there, so there is often times a wait to get in (get there after 10 O´clock, and you´re not leaving until 1 or 1:30…no, I´m not joking). Luckily, right next door is a resturant called Cumana. It is the same price point as La Cholita, and the food is equally as delicious, but the menu offers a completely different selection of Argentine cuisine. Rather than parrilla, Cumana serves up food typical of the Northern region of the country, including homemade cazuelas, pizzas, calzones, empanadas, and potato dishes. Most people show up with the intentions of eating at either La Cholita or Cumana, but inevitably put down their name for both once they see the crowds waiting outside. Pretty much, which ever restaurant can accomodate the party first wins. Nobody goes home upset!

Inside Cumana, you will find an equally mixed crowd of locals and tourists. The locals come becasue the prices are unbeatably cheap, and the tourists come to sample a wide variety of the delicious cazuelas, which are thick and hearty stews served in lerge clay vessels. They come out steaming hot, and they never seem to cool off…you will still be blowing on the last spoonful (if you can even manage to eat that much of these filling casseroles, of course!) Some of the cazuelas are simply legumes, others include meats such as chorizo and beef, and then of course there are those that offer a mixture of vegetable and meat. My favorite cazuela at Cumana is the one with Lentejas y Chorizo (lentils and sausage). The menu simply reads Cazuela de Lentejas, but the Chorizo is a delcious surprise that adds a nice smoky flavor to the dish. The lentils are cooked to a tender perfection and the meal overall is like a hug in your belly.

I also hear that the Cazuela al Pastor is incredible, although I have never gone to Cumana hungry enough to tackle the dish myself. The waiter described it almost like a Sheppard´s Pie, layered with hearty ground beef, mashed potatoes, and cheese. Again, this is all baked and served in a large clay pot (it is on my list of things to eat in the very near future!). When I don´t order the Cazuelas de Lentejas, I go for the Locro–a thick soup made with beans, potatoes, squash, ham, and chorizo. It is like Pasta Fagiole on steriods, and without a doubt a ¨stick to your ribs¨ kind of meal. Although the locro is very delicious at Cumana, I must be honest an admit that there is one better at La Cocina on the corner of Puerrydon and Santa Fe (the review is coming soon!).

If your craving more than soup, I highly, highly, highly, recommend the pizza and calzones at Cumama. There is some special ingredient that they use, which makes the flavor of the pizza very unique. I can´t figure out if it is an herb, or if it is special cheese, or what. I am a pretty good food detetctive when it comes to identifying ingredients, but they have me absolutely stumped. Normally, I would ask the waiter for the secret, but given the language barrier, I am left to wonder. I like the Rucola Pizza with Fresh Sliced Tomato, Cured Ham, Mozarella, Tomato Sauce, and Oregano. It is salty, gooey, goodness. The calzones are also enourmous and look amazing (definitely enough for two people to share).

If you´re looking to eat soemthing I little lighter, as I was the other night, it´s not gonna happen here. I ordered the Ensalada de Cumana thinking that the vegetables would be healthy, but the salad came out in an enourmous baked bread bowl, topped with gobbs of mayonnaise. All of my biggest ordering errors in Argentina have involved salad and salad dessings. The menu will often read; ¨vinaigrette a la casa,¨ ¨ceasar dressing, and ¨dressing especialidad.¨ But do not be fooled….these are just synonyms for disguising the word mayonnaise. And not a drizzle of mayonnaise, an overwhelming heaping of it (see photo below). The moral of the story; order your salad plain and ask for a side of oil and vinegar. Otherwise, you might as well have just ordered the fattiest steak on the menu. Of course, once I removed the top layer of mayo covered lettuce, the salad was delicious. But I hate having to operate on my food before it becomes edible.

Leave a comment

Filed under Buenos Aires Restaurants, International Restaurants