Monday, June 30, 2008

NYC: Ice Cream and Sushi

I got back to Florida yesterday from visiting my friend who just moved to Hoboken, NJ. It's only a 10 minute train ride into New York City. We did a lot of exploring and ate some really good food. Today and Wednesday I'll post the highlights of my food adventures. It was a yummy trip.

The first journey was through Chinatown. I've been to NYC several times but have never ventured there. It was a mob scene! It was the most crowded of anywhere I went to the whole trip. Tourists and vendors were crowding the streets. I was thinking of buying a purse, but the huge crowds in every store deterred me. I really didn't need a purse anyway. I wanted to get some solace from the hordes of people, and it was a hot day, so ice cream sounded great. I remember hearing about Chinatown Ice Cream Factory, so we asked around and finally found it. We walked up to the store and there was a line out the door, so it had to be good! They had a list of flavors, "exotic" and "regular". The exotic flavors were flavors Americans are born and raised on like chocolate chip, pistachio and cherry vanilla. The regular flavors were asian favorites like red bean, green tea and lychee. I wanted to try one of each so I settled on almond cookie (regular) and coconut fudge (exotic). They were both excellent! The flavors were both very creamy. The almond cookie had very small bits of cookie with a great almond flavored base. The coconut fudge had the perfect amount of coconut flavor (I hate that "suntan lotion" taste I usually find in coconut products, which is overpowering) and a rich fudge swirl. You could taste each of the flavors in each bite.

Now onto the sushi...We ventured back into Hoboken and were ready to relax. We were starting to get hungry and I hadn't had sushi in a while. My friend said, "Nothing will be as cool as Dragonfly" (Dragonfly is the BEST sushi place in Florida, it's in Gainesville). I agreed with her, but thought we should try it out anyway. So we headed into the Sushi Lounge. It's very unassuming from the outside, but then we walked in and it was a very modern, dark atmosphere with a DJ playing house music. I turned to my friend and said, "It's exactly like Dragonfly". It was pretty crowded, the bar was full as were most of the tables. They had a good selection of martinis, and I had one which was a combo of sake and plum wine. The menu was great! They had a big selection of innovative rolls. I had one with tuna, salmon, avocado, mango and a sweet miso sauce (that's the large roll in the picture). My friend had one with lobster, mango and jalapeno. The service wasn't the best, but I wasn't in a rush so that was okay. I'd highly recommend it and I'm sure I'll be going back next time.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Taste Test Tuesday: Morningstar Corn Dogs

I've had pretty good luck with Morningstar products. I love their Chik'n Patties, so I thought I would try something new. I'm definitely a huge fan of corn dogs. Who can resist that deep fried goodness when you're walking through the fair? It's been a long time since I had a corn dog, so I wanted to give these veggie ones a fair shot.

Cost: $3.49 for a 4-pack
Serving Size: 1 corn dog
Calories: 150
Fat: 4g
Carbs: 26g
Fiber: 3g
Sugar: 4g
Protein: 7g
My Rating: 4 out of 5

The size of these is a little bit smaller than a regular corn dog. They are thinner because there is less cornbread on it than you would usually find on a corn dog. I was super hungry when I decided to eat one, so I cooked it according to the microwave directions. That was probably a mistake. The crust of the cornbread was not crispy as I would have hoped. It was a little bit on the chewy side when you bite into it. But that is my only complaint. Overall it was really tasty! The cornbread had the right amount of sweetness. There was a good proportion of the hot dog to cornbread ratio. The veggie dog tasted just like a real hot dog...I was in shock. It tasted great with yellow mustard. I'll be definitely eating this for my "healthy junk food" meals that I crave.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Miami Beach: Tantra

I was so excited about the Miami Spice preview week so of course I had to try it out. After looking at all the menus, we decided to go to Tantra. None of us had ever had a meal there, and the menu looked really good. So Tantra here we come! (Sorry no food pics...I forgot my camera).

We had reservations at 9:00 and were seated immediately. The path to get to the bar and dining room is grass, real grass! It's pretty neat. The hostess told me they replace it once a week. The decor is Indian themed, with rich colors and subdued lighting. They have an ample dining area, but it was only about half full. I was surprised it was that empty. We were seated and handed menus, but the menus we were given did not include the Miami Spice menu. We had to ask for it, and our server did not look too pleased. In my opinion, they should include it with their regular menus. It seemed like they were trying to fool the guests (When I looked around, it seemed we were the only ones who even knew about the menu). Also, the regular menu seemed a little but pricey. Appetizers were about $15, entrees were about $40.

The service was very good. After we ordered, we were immediately brought warm bread with olive oil and raspberry vinegar to dip. The water was constantly being refilled at the table. The first course came out and it looked great. It was a Thai Style Shrimp Cake. It was okay. It was served lukewarm, and the cilantro was a little bit overpowering. My entree was the Kobe Sirloin wrapped in bacon and served with roasted sweet potato wedges. It was delicious. The steak came out perfectly cooked and was very tender. The bacon was a nice touch and added a good flavor to the steak (come on...everything is better with bacon). The sauce they served with the sweet potatoes was perfect! It tasted like a garlic aioli with cinnamon, sounds a little strange but it tasted great and accentuated the flavor of the sweet potatoes. Now onto the grand finale...dessert. The server described it as "chocolate cake with ice cream", which did not do it any justice. The dessert was the highlight of the dinner. The ice cream was creamy and just sweet enough for the cake, which was a pyramid shape of dense, bittersweet chocolate. It was rich and slightly undercooked in the middle...which was perfect for me! Overall, it was a great dinner, but I would not come back for the "regular" menu, which was too expensive. Our bill came to $70 per person, which included 2 drinks each & tip. Not bad for a 3 course decadent meal.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Taste Test Tuesday: Planters Daybreak Blend

This week I'm tasting the new the Berry Almond Trail Mix variety of the new Planters Daybreak Blend. I was looking for some healthy nuts to add to my diet, when I spotted this new product line from Planters. The package says "Start your morning with a delicious combination of crunchy granola clusters, tangy cranberries, almonds and other wholesome ingredients". Sounds good to me! It's always good to have a snack with a balance of healthy fats, fruit, and whole grain.
Cost: 2.99 for a 5 pack
Calories: 180
Fat: 7g
Carbs: 27g
Fiber: 3g
Sugar: 19g
Protein: 10g
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5

I was expecting lots of filler and a small amount of fruits and nuts. Then I opened up the bag and was pleasantly surprised. It looked like a great mix of almonds, granola, cranberries, and golden raisins. It was the perfect size for a healthy snack (probably 1/3 of a cup). The granola is crunchy, and the fruit and almonds also had great texture. If I could make one change to it, I'd reduce the amount of sugar. The sugar definitely sweetens it up a little bit and it's not overpowering, but I'm sure it would still taste great with a little less. Overall, it's a great snack that will keep your hunger at bay.

Monday, June 16, 2008

West Palm Beach: Bar Louie

I went up to West Palm this past weekend to do dinner a movie with some friends. After seeing The Happening (which was such a disappointment), we decided to have dinner at Bar Louie. Bar Louie is a new restaurant that opened in City Place about a month ago, where The Original Steakhouse was located. We walked in and were able to seat ourselves. The decor has dark woods and olive greens, with black & white pictures on the wall. The restaurant area was about half full, but the bar was pretty packed. We sat down in a booth (that was already stained, don't they clean these things?) and were ready to eat.

The menu has a solid offering of appetizers, salads, sandwiches, pizzas and burgers. It's a slightly more upscale version of a typical sports bar menu (think Duffy's meets Yard House). They also have a pretty large selection of beers and mixed drinks. The mixed drinks were original and intriguing. I almost got the Strawberry Basil Caipiroska, but settled for a Blue Moon instead. The prices are reasonable here as well, with most entrees ranging from $10 - $15. My dinner was the Luigi Sandwich. It's Bar Louie's version of a cheesesteak, with thinly sliced rib eye, cheddar, and the usual sandwich condiments. The sandwich was good, beef seemed to lack a little flavor but cheddar cheese was sharp and melty. The bread was soft and fresh. The fries were perfectly cooked, with the right amount of seasoning. Our service was good too, but the food came out a little bit too quickly. I will definitely be going back, it's a great place for a casual dinner.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

I'm now a Great Cook

I just joined a great site, Great Cooks Blogroll, with lots of other great cooks and food fanatics. Go to Simply Daily Recipes to view all the other delicious blogs out there!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Taste Test Tuesday: Clif Bar

Happy Tuesday! I'm going to be adding another weekly feature to the blog...Taste Test Tuesday. I'll be sampling a product every Tuesday and writing my opinions on it.

My first victim is the Oatmeal Raisin Walnut Clif Bar. Here are some facts. This information is for 1 bar. You can buy these in cases as well, but I bought it individually.
Cost: .99
Calories: 240
Fat: 5g
Carbs: 43g
Fiber: 5g
Sugar: 20g
Protein: 10g
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5

I opened up the wrapper and unveiled the Clif Bar. It was a little smaller than I had hoped, but it looked like it had some substance. I took my first bite and it was good! Every bite has a little bit of the title ingredients, oatmeal, raisins and walnuts. All the ingredients were evenly dispersed. Even though the bar itself is fairly small, it is dense but soft, and fills you up more than you think. It had a great flavor as well, very similar to an oatmeal raisin cookie. This is great for a quick breakfast and will sustain you until lunch. Also, it's all natural and has vitamins and minerals, so eat up!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Miami Spice Sneak Preview

Miami Spice month is a great time of year when some amazing Miami restaurants offer their goods at a discounted price. These specials run from August through September. This year they're having a sneak preview that runs from June 16 - June 30. For lunch, the price is $26.00. For dinner, the price is $36. This includes a 3 course meal, and most restaurants will give you a choice of about 3 of their dishes for each course. Click Here for a list of all the participants.

I'm going to make sure to make it to Miami Beach for the sneak preview. There are so many good restaurants, I'm not sure which to pick! I've heard may great things about Talula , so I'll be excited to try it out. My favorite from last year was Table 8.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Lunch at Publix Greenwise

On Thursday, I went to the Grand Opening of the Publix Greenwise Market in Boca Raton. It was mobbed! I finally found a parking space and walked in. They were handing out recycled cloth bags with samples and coupons inside, that was a nice touch. The layout is pretty good, similar to the one in Palm Beach Gardens. The prepared foods and express lanes are on the left, and then further back they have the deli, cheeses, meats and fish. They had a very impressive selection of everything and were giving out lots of samples. It is VERY similar to Whole Foods, except they don't have a make your own food station (which I really like). But the positive side is they do have alot of the "regular" items that aren't organic or natural so you don't have to go to a regular Publix on a separate trip to buy things like toilet paper. I was really impressed with the produce section! It had fruits and veggies I had never even heard of and everything looked super fresh.

Then it was time to eat. I was debating between the carvery, which had hot items and the salad & wrap station. I decided to go for a salad. They had great options. I opted for the Baja Chicken Salad. It was a little but pricey ($8.29), but worth it. On the salad was peppers, tomatoes, cheddar, black beans, spicy sunflower seeds, and chicken. The chicken had a great spice rub that went well with the dressing, which was a little bit sweet (similar to a white balsamic I've had before). They put alot of chicken on the salad and it was very filling. I couldn't even finish it all. I'll definitely be going back for sure, but I'll wait a week or 2 until the grand opening crowds simmer down.