Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Dear Mango

Dear Mango,
You thought you had me, didn't you? You didn't think I'd lean over the kitchen sink, ripping the flesh from your stone with my teeth like a cavewoman, did you? But I did. And I'd do it again. But don't make me; I might want to share next time.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Los Rosales

When I went to P.S. Noodle Pot last week, I noticed a restaurant named Los Rosales in the same shopping center. And oddly enough, when I got back from lunch, Bites had posted that Los Rosales offered a menu that's different from the standard order-by-number Tex Mex joints around town.

So last Friday night, the Significant Omnivore and I decided to check it out. And I'm really happy we did. The most striking things about the menu are not only do they take the care to note that the rice is vegetarian, but there are five vegetarian options on the menu. And it's not just peppers and onions.

While we were looking over the menu, our server Adriana brought us a three-section dish with salsa, refried beans, and pico de gallo with some chips. The salsa was different from what I'm used to--it had a consistency that was near apple sauce. It didn't look either appealing or unappealing--just different. But it was very good. It had a sweetness about it that I really liked.

Since there were so many options on the menu for me to choose from, we decided to go ahead and get an appetizer. There was a spinach dip, but we decided on cheese dip. Adriana suggested the queso fundido, but I told her I was a vegetarian and didn't want the sausage. She suggested getting it without the sausage because it was much better than just the standard cheese dip. And it was served with thick, warm corn tortillas as well. It was definitely a good suggestion. As you can see, we got a small cast iron pan full of fresh cheese. And easily the best corn tortillas I've ever tasted (though we still needed a few chips in order to finish off the cheese).

After some serious consideration, I decided on the Aguacate Relleno con Pistachios--stuffed avocado with a seasoned mix of pistachios, zucchini, mint leaves, lime juice, sour cream and pepper. I was intrigued, to say the least.

And I was not disappointed. The stuffed avocadoes were delicious. The tastes of the pistachioes and avocado mixed together well with just a hint of mint. The sour cream gave it just a bit of tang and added to the creaminess. And the avocado used for the base was at a perfect ripeness--no brown spots and with a vibrant taste. On the side were some steamed vegetables (well done--not overcooked at all) and the vegetarian rice that has diced carrots, celery and corn mixed it (I believe they're roasted before being mixed in, but I could be wrong). The flavors all worked really well together to create a wonderful meal (my Corona Light helped that out just a little). Side note: the SO's chicken enchiladas came topped with an avocado sauce that was similar to my avocado stuffing, but minus the pistachioes and mint (but just as tasty). I think he had a hard time settling on the enchiladas, having been tempted by ceviche and fish tacos.

Even though we were both stuffed and couldn't finish our meals, we opted for dessert. Adriana listed off a few cheesecakes (made off-site by a local bakery whose name I didn't catch), but she recommended the mango cheesecake. So we went for it.

And, again, delicious. The fresh slices of mango and the strawberry sauce were nice touches for an already wonderful cheesecake. The cake itself was fluffy and cakey just the way I like it (New York style) and the mango flavored layer was delicate and sweet. It was a great way to end the meal.

So I have a new favorite Mexican restaurant. Actually, just "a" favorite Mexican restaurant since I rarely patronize the order-by-number, lard and chicken stock-filled Tex Mex joints created specifically for us gringoes that seem to exist on every corner not already populated by a Taco Bell. This is the kind of Mexican food that most of us rarely ever get to experience.

Another thing that's different about Los Rosales is the atmosphere. The upscale feel of the menu is matched with real tablecloths and linen napkins and a "rustic" Mexican decor (mostly Mayan in influence) that includes candles on each table. There wasn't any mariachi music blaring from the speakers or the feel that you needed to get in and out in a hurry. It was a very comfortable and relaxing atmosphere that made it easy to enjoy the thoughtfully prepared and presented (and delicious) food.

Los Rosales
1307 Bell Road
Antioch, Tennessee

Update: Los Rosales will be temporarily closed until January 12, 2009.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Bacon, Beer Brats, and Cole Slaw

I made the mistake had the great pleasure of having the SO accompany me on a journey through Whole Foods Saturday evening. That meant having to go down the refrigerated aisle--one that I rarely go through on my own.

Immediately, his eyes were drawn to the Tofurkey Beer Brats. I'm not a huge fan of fake meats, but I figure that once in a while, I should indulge him. And what better dinner to have on Memorial Day Weekend than some grilled brats?

Not far from the brats was the facon, though. His eyes spied the package of LightLife Smart Bacon and just lit up. Okay, we can have fake bacon, too.

First, the facon. It's been nearly a decade since I've eaten bacon and I really don't remember much about it other than what I didn't like--which was those little cups of fat that would form and hold grease. Disgusting. So in that regard, Smart Bacon is nothing like the real thing. It reminds me a bit more of the turkey bacon my mom microwaved in the 80s just after my stepfather had his first heart attack. Which is to say that it wasn't bad but nothing I'd trip over myself to eat. The SO seemed to like it. It got crispy easily, though I thought it dried out a bit. I may have overcooked it. I think it could stand to have a brushstroke of olive oil on each side next time. And three slices each (plus eggs and toast for him and just toast for me) were enough to keep us fueled for much of the say.

After a day of play, we came back home and fired up the grill (all natural charcoal, by the way) for the brats. We had to stop by the grocery to get buns and a few other things beforehand, though--including slaw. You can't have brats without slaw. But we both like vinegar slaw and the pre-made slaw just did not look appetizing. So I thought, hey I can make slaw, right? After racking our brains a bit, we figured out that it's celery seed in the slaw we like, so we picked up some of that, too.

First, a review of the brats. They were good. Though I say that as a person who's never had a brat in my whole life. I remember seeing kielbasas and such around at various functions pre-vegetarianism, but I have never, ever liked sausages. But, again, the meat expert also agreed they were really good. Though he did admit that if given the choice, he'd go for the real thing.

After grilling them on each side about 10 minutes on a hot grill, they were ready. The outside got a little dry and crispy, but the inside was very tender and moist. And not icky like I remember real sausage. Perhaps it was the comfort of knowing there's nothing utterly disgusting in there. But the taste was very good and had a decent-sized hint of beer. It went nicely on wheat bun with spicy brown mustard. The SO topped his with some local Tennessee Chow-Chow.

And the perfect side dish? Well, aside from the tater tots I heated up...cole slaw! Homemade cole slaw! Okay, I know it isn't hard, but it's just never really occurred to me to make my own, so allow me to pat myself on the back just a bit. I looked up a few recipes and really didn't find a whole lot that really excited me, so as usual, I came up with a Frankenrecipe that--this time--actually turned out pretty well.

Vinegar Cole Slaw
16 ounces of finely chopped cabbage or a package of cole slaw mix
1/3 cup canola oil
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
A few shakes of celery seed
A few drops of lemon
A little ground sea salt and black pepper

Mix all in a bowl and let sit for a little while to marinate.

See? Not much to it, but really, really good. Certainly, you don't have to use four types of vinegar, but I had them on hand, so why not? I do recommend at least using a little apple cider vinegar with the white to give it a little umpf. And it's vegan. In fact, except for a tiny bit of whey in the brat buns, the entire meal was vegan.

We'll not talk about the butter I put on my toast earlier in the day, though. I swear, when it's gone, I'm going to try Earth Balance. I wonder if they make one that tastes like Danish butter...

Thursday, May 22, 2008

P.S. Noodle Pot

Just about once a week or so, Sarcastro tweets that he's hitting up a noodle joint. Curious to know exactly what that was (particularly since it seemed to be a regular thing), I inquired. Turns out that in a little strip mall behind a Walgreens that's next to a mini-golf place, there's a noodle joint.

What is a noodle joint? Well, according to P.S. Noodle Pot's secondary name, they are the International Noodle House of Asian. Okay, still doesn't tell you what you want to know? They have various Asian noodle dishes, most notably in clay pots. They're pretty cool.

I happened to be in the area of the Noodle Pot one day and stopped in to get a takeout menu. When I saw that there were these fancy clay pots of Thai noodle dishes as well as some Chinese and various other types of noodle dishes and tofu dishes, I figured this might be a good place for a foodie outing.

So several of us gathered for lunch this week and tried various things on the menu. I opted to get an express lunch that came with vegetarian (by request) egg rolls:

They were tasty, but I prefer fresh spring rolls to fried, so I'll make note of that next time. Despite several requests from five very hungry and inquisitive people, they didn't seem to be bothered by special requests.

For an entree, I ordered the Tofu Delight:

It was good, but I was a bit disappointed that it was served with rice instead of noodles. So I'll have to go back and figure out how to get some noodles with this dish. It's worth noting that this vegetarian lunch was much better than last week's Thai dish that was not only light on vegetables, but had no tofu at all. I was hungry an hour later! No risk of that at the Noodle Pot. I had enough after filling up to have another meal.

Because of a bad experience at yet another Thai restaurant earlier in the week (Nashville has no shortage of Thai food, apparently), Claudia decided to order a Pad Thai for the table to share. She was kind enough to order the vegetarian version that came with tofu:

It was very, very good. I like the copious amounts of peanuts and the large wedge of lime. I think everyone enjoyed it quite a bit.

Since I didn't get a noodle pot of my own, I took a photo of Claudia's. I'm not sure what kind of meat was in it, but it's in there somewhere. I believe it's the Tom Yum Pot. It was boiling when it arrived and still steaming when we were very near finished eating (note: you can see the steam in the photo). So if you go for a pot, either plan to stay a while or order a glass of ice. It looks tasty, no?

I think Claudia was much happier with the Pad Thai, though. Everyone else seemed to like their dishes as well. I think it's definitely worth another trip. Plus, the service was very friendly and helpful.

But don't everybody go at once. Sarcastro's worried the place will get crowded and he'll have to wait for his food in the future. I figure they'll take care of their best customer, though.

P.S. Noodle Pot (formerly Rice Bowl)
1307 Bell Rd
Antioch, TN 37013
Phone: (615) 445-4990

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Bits & Pieces

We're half-way through World Vegetarian week, but I don't have any recipes to post. So I'm going to share a couple of stories instead.

Last night, I was at my local Kroger picking up some pre-washed organic baby romaine lettuce (because yes, I am that lazy) and I hear "Excuse me, ma'am" from behind. There was a time when I didn't answer to ma'am, but I realize that at 35, I'm a ma'am and I just need to deal with it.

Anyhoo, it was an older gentleman who was holding a bunch of asparagus in his hand. He asked, "Can you tell me what the difference is between this bunch of asparagus and this other one right here?" He was inquiring about the organic selection. After a little more information exchange, I realized that he really didn't know what the implications were of "organic." I explained to him best I could that farmers have to grow the organic foods according to government regulations that among other things, dictate that it's not grown with a bunch of toxic pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers. I went on to tell him that it's most important that you buy organic for items that don't have a consumable peel (I don't buy organic bananas) and that, overall, I find that organic foods taste better.

That last bit of information is really all he cared to know. He said he goes to a grocery about once every two years, but was entertaining last evening and wanted to buy some food that was good. So I kind of wasted a bit of his time. And mine. Oh, well. If you have any other questions about what organic really means, I suggest you check out this entry at Almost Vegetarian.

Anyhoo, in case you think that all vegetarians are humorless food police determined to keep you from eating all the living creatures in the world, you should check out this very funny article over at Slate that I found via 101 Cookbooks. Though, FYI, I don't enjoy the smell of cooking bacon. Or any cooking meat, generally. Never have. And I don't even remember what bacon tastes like because I wasn't ever a big fan. So all you bacon lovers can just give up on me. Oh, and I might be judging you for what you eat. Because a lot of you eat total crap. And you should stop.

Friday, May 16, 2008

A week of unremarkable food

I haven't updated this week because I have, quite frankly, eaten very little that was worthy of note. And what I did eat that was noteworthy occurred last night and both items were prepared by friends. I ate three banana macadamia nut with cream cheese frosting cupcakes (yes, three which is why I didn't sleep last night) and some beet salad. Yep, beet salad. The occasion was a party to watch the season finale of The Office and you can't honor Dwight without beet salad. My friend tried this recipe from Taylor and it was actually quite tasty. My first beets ever.

But I have also had an overly salty Panera sandwich, Thai stir fry that was just noodles mixed with a little cole slaw mix and a couple of broccoli florets (no tofu at this restaurant), a "veggie" sub (not that I'm complaining, but when did cheese become a vegetable?), and a bean and rice "peasant plate" served with cold, stale tortilla chips. The Panera sandwich was so salty that I was swole up like a parade balloon for a solid 24 hours after eating it. Everything else was just varying levels of "meh."

Huh, I remarked on them after all. More than they deserved. I hope I have a much better food week next week.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Nutritional Yeast

Well, I finally picked up a barrel can of nutritional yeast at Whole Body (??? why do I have to go across the way and get it at Whole Body instead of Whole Foods???). Now, I'm just trying to figure out what to do with it. Last night, I did sprinkle some on my broccoli, thereby making it slightly more palatable. But I need to do more. The small amount on the broccoli did not give me the B12 boost I'm looking for.

This post over at Music City Bloggers makes me feel like I should make some "cheese grits" with it just to prove to Fluffernutter that one does not need a dubious Kraft food to make good cheese grits, but I don't know if I'm up for the challenge. I'll put some thought into it for sure. And I do need to figure out how to make my own fried tofu with it as well. I'm going to go broke buying the nuggets at Whole Foods that are $7.99 per pound otherwise. And I think that might be a good way to use that yellow cornmeal that taunts me from the pantry.

Side note: I'm disturbed by the phenylalanine content in the nutritional yeast, though. Seems to be in all of them and I haven't yet figured out why. I prefer to avoid it (though I'm not PKU) so it's not a danger, but this requires further investigation...

Monday, May 5, 2008

Nobody's perfect

As I was toasting my Provence Organic Grains bread in the breakroom and preparing for lunch, a few of my co-workers were talking what they were having for lunch today. One had fewer leftovers than she thought and I piped in with my comiseration: "I didn't have time to go to the grocery this weekend, so my salad's significantly smaller today than usual. I'm going to need a snack this afternoon myself." She asked, "You eat really healthy, don't you?"

Is that what people want to hear? That I eat really healthy? I'm not sure, but I'm a terrible liar. My response: "Usually, I eat fairly healthy. Though yesterday for lunch I went to Sonic and had a grilled cheese, Sonic-size tater tots and a Route 44 cherry limeade." That is nowhere near healthy.

It's America; what can I say? Sometimes I pig out on total crap. Total crap that is created specifically to taste really good (to Americans, I suppose). And it was good. Despite the fact that the grilled cheese was on white bread (Texas toast-sized white bread!) and the cheese was American cheese ("American cheese" should be an oxymoron) and that the tater tots were so greasy that they tasted more like "fried" than potatoes. And that the cherry limeade tasted more like a Pixie stick rather than cherry or lime. Regardless, I was thisclose to getting dessert, too. It's a downward spiral.

I am filled with both shame and the desire for another cherry limeade. There's a Sonic nearby my office. I'm trying to forget it exists.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Iron Fork Nashville

First of all, I'd like to thank Claudia of cook eat Fret for getting me a ticket to Iron Fork last night. The SO (Significant Omnivore) couldn't go, but she felt I should be there. So I hitched a ride with Smiley and RUABelle and headed to LP Field.

At 6:30, the event was already packed with people. The crowd was so large, it was difficult to roam from table to table visiting each restaurant because it was more like two long lines down the sides (plus the lines to get drinks). Not good for me since I had no interest in standing in line for food I'm not going to eat. And there was a lot of that.

Each restaurant was giving out tastings which had to be simple to transport and prepare either on site or beforehand. So there was a lot of shrimp. And meatballs and chicken. Luckily, I pled my case to a few friendly people who let me cut in line for the handful of restaurants offering something I could eat. So a big shout out to these restaurants for recognizing there are some herbivores that like fine food.

PM -- already one of my favorite restaurants, they served a delicious vegan spicy noodle dish. As you can see from the photo below, they were well prepared for the crowd as well as prepared to help keep me from going hungry.

Green Hills Grille -- I've never been to GHG when it wasn't crowded, so I don't go often, but it's a nice place with a now-better location and with a good selection of vegetarian items. They served ziti with marinara, spinach artichoke dip and Key Lime pie all from their menu. Their marinara is nice and chunky and bright, just the way I like it.

Whole Foods -- thankfully, they had a lovely gazpacho. I just wish I could have had a bit more. They, like many of the vendors seemed to be a little overwhelmed by the crowd.

Wildwood Oak Fired Kitchen -- this place isn't very far from my house, but I've never been because their menu is very meat-centric. But they were serving tacos with a jicama slaw and avocado puree that could be prepared without meat and was quite delicious. I can't tell from their website if this is something on the menu or something they prepared special for this event, but I may check them out sometime...with a backup plan in mind.

Zola -- still my favorite restaurant in Nashville. They served desserts instead of entree bites. A Morroccan spiced brownie and some sipping chocolate. Excellent. Of course. Pictured below is Deb Paquette of Zola during the competition to prepare the "secret ingredient," fiddlehead fern.

Yes, they had to prepare a dish with fiddlehead fern. The ironic part being that I didn't get to eat any of the fern. Though the rabbits in my yard never touch my ferns, so I'm not sure that it necessarily qualifies as rabbit food, but I digress...

The judges tasted each dish and Deb Paquette actually won the competition. I'm sure it was a wonderful dish as every time I've gone to eat at Zola, I've ordered off (not from) the menu. There's always a vegetarian selection, but I usually just ask for the chef's selection (minus peppers and onions) and I always get a wonderful meal. Now, I have no idea if they're in the kitchen grumbling about the vegetarian who wants something different than what's on the menu, but if they are, it's never showed on the plate.

I heard rumors of some other vegetarian-friendly fare, but by the time the lines were of a manageable length, most of the food was gone. There are few things in life I hate more than standing in line. Being hungry falls a little behind standing in line, so...hey, maybe next year I can snag some leftovers from the judges' table. Though with my luck, the surprise ingredient won't be suitable for rabbits.