Another resturant

Man, I love the food options here in Springfield, VA. I needed to go food shopping, but I was incredibly hungry. That’s never a good idea, so I had to eat something. I had seen this fairly non-descript restaurant with the uninspiring name of “Canton Cafe” near the Trader Joe’s I usually go to many times but I had never been hungry enough to actually give the place a go.

 

Here’s the thing, ever since I had really good Chinese food, the stuff here in the States has been really unappetizing. Believe it or not, the best Chinese food I’ve had wasn’t in Beijing (although the duck there was amazing), it was actually in Yemen. Im just a little too squeamish to enjoy a dish that I know is made up of chicken cartilage, goose intestines, or jellyfish. That’s the kind of stuff you routinely got over in China. Even when the ingredients were a little tamer, they inevitably left the heads on the thing you were eating, often times gracefully turned back to face you. They couldn’t do that in Yemen. The places I ate in were still mostly catering to the Chinese population, so the food had the same vibe as the stuff in Beijing, but they had to stick with more standard cuts of meat, vegetables, etc. It was amazing…

 

That’s a long winded way of saying that I missed that more authentic way of cooking. Imagine my surprise when I looked at the menu at the Canton Cafe and saw a dish called “Duck’s blood with yellow scallions.” Yowza, that sure sounds like the stuff I could get back in China. Sure enough, the menu was full of duck webbing, heads of things, etc. All of those things were listed under the “Chef’s specialties” there was another section for the more typical American fare of chicken with cashews, etc. I got one of the Americanized dishes (general Tso’s) both because I’m a little squeamish and I didn’t want to spend 20 bucks on lunch. It was a cut above the typical stuff I get, I’ll go back again when the Chinese mood strikes me.

When will you get your fill?

I was asking myself that this evening. I had Indian for lunch and I found myself going into a Pakistani place for dinner. North Indian and Pakistani food have more than a passing resemblance to each other, and I wondered why I hadn’t been satisfied earlier. I quickly let that pass because apparently I hadn’t been…

I tried a place that I had previously only been in for lunch. Honestly, their lunch buffet is probably the least inspiring of all of the ones in that shopping center. Dinner was a little different. I ordered some Pakora, a “fresh lime” drink, and lamb Khorhaini (sp?).

You can think of Pakora as pakistani fries, they are made up of potatoes, onions, and other veggies, battered and deep fried. They have a good amount of that “curry” kind of vibe to them and are generally very yummy. Well, the plate they bought out would have fed three people! I ended up taking a lot of it home.

The “fresh lime” drink was both less and more than I was expecting. It was little more than sprite with added lime juice and a big slice of lemon in it. Kind of disappointing, until I drank it. Turns out that liming up sprite will give you a drink that fulfills the promise of the various lemon/lime drinks out there that never really satisfy on their own. I’m going to have to try this on my own.

The lamb dish was amazing. Big hunks of lamb and… err, lamb stuff in an amazing sauce. There was ginger, cloves, lemon, what looked and tasted like jalapenos, and God knows what else combined in a flavor that makes me keep going back to places like this. It took me a moment or two to remember that when a restaurant like this says “lamb,” they mean it all comes from a lamb. I shouldn’t just expect the choice cuts, there was all sorts of cartilage, bone, veins, etc. in there as well as meat. I’m sure it all adds to the flavor, but I’m still a but too squeamish to dig into that without picking through it.

So to answer my question, I hope i never get my fill! I do love living here, eating immigrant food beats the hell out of the gentrified, over priced fare you get in trendier parts of town. If you ever come this way, I’ll be happy to introduce you to the real thing:-)

Food update

Just a quick follow up on my dining in the nearby Brookfield Plaza… I tried out Tippy’s taco house. How best to describe it? It isn’t as good as Baja Fresh, but they have Taco Bell prices and the food is worlds better than that! I had a burrito, taco, and some guacamole. Good for a fast food place, and the Mexican lime soda I had was really good too.

Went to the Korean place with a friend and I’m still not sure if I like Korean food. This was the third time I’ve tried Korean food. The prices were higher than the other places, but I had a dumpling soup that was pretty good. It’s not that I didn’t like it, but I’m not sure if there was anything to draw me back in. I might try to find a more knowledgeable Korean foodie and head up to Annandale, it’s supposed to be a Korean food haven.

Went back to Ravi’s kabob place, this time for kabobs. I dunno, I guess they were pretty good, but I don’t think they were as good as the Afghan place. Speaking of which…

The Afghan kabob place was a madhouse for lunch, it was much busier than any of the other places seemed to be. That boded well for the food, even if I had to wait a bit. It was a great lunch. The chicken kabobs were amazing, not so sure about the shami (ground meat) kabobs. I had a mound of rice, some potatoes, and great bread, you can’t complain about the portions that’s for sure! Ravi’s kabobs (the Pakistani place) just didn’t have as much flavor even if the sides were just as good. Cooking over charcoal like the Afghan place does makes a big difference in the taste, for the better. I need to try out some of the Afghan place’s non kabob fare to compare to Ravi’s one of these days.

Today I tried the Indian/French Bakery place for lunch. The buffet didn’t actually have a lot on it, but what I tried was really good. Butter chicken, chicken tandoori, some sort of curry chicken, rice, potatoes masala, eggplant masala, naan, it was all really good. Plus it was only 8 bucks for the buffet! I’ll be going back there, it might even become like my Indian place in Yemen, one of my more frequent places to eat…

So I still haven’t tried the Vietnamese place, the other (buffet) Pakistani place, the Chinese place, or the pizza place yet. Updates will come soonish I’m pretty sure…

Food!

All I had left in my larder was saltines and salad dressing, so food shopping was in my future. The problem was that I was also ravenously hungry and nothing spells a really expensive trip than going food shopping on an empty stomach, so I decided to check out some of the local restaurants. Purely in order to save money of course…

I went up to Brookfield plaza and went to Ravi’s kabob house III. I had kabobs on the brain but when I went in, the place smelled really good and I decided to get something Chicken Jalfrezi. It was a chicken and peppers thing in a tomato sauce. Of course that sauce was amazing, turns out it was a Pakistani dish, my American palette couldn’t differentiate it from an Indian one, but it was amazing.

I took a tour around the shopping center and took a proper inventory. There was Tippy’s taco house, La Hacienda, an Afghan kabob house,a Korean place, a Vietnamese place, a pizza place, a Chinese place, another Pakistani place, and a south Indian/French bakery. Don’t laugh, the eclair was quite good.

Tippy’s Taco house was a fast food joint, there were a bunch of people chowing down in there of all different ethnicities. Mexican fast food can be decent, they even have taco kits you can cook back home! I might give them a try.

La Hacienda bills itself as a sports bar, it’s windows are all blacked out and there’s sound equipment in there, looks like there’s also dancing and whatnot. It bills itself as a Salvadoran/Mexican place. Doubt I’ll ever eat there, but maybe carry out, the menu looks pretty good.

The Afghan kabob lace has even less atmosphere than a typical strip mall place, but he cooks over charcoal, so that has some promise. I think it’s pretty much all kabobs there, one oddity is that they have the nicest take out menus of anyone there in the mall.

Nobody in the Korean place would give me the time of day, but it looks good, there were only Koreans there, and each table had a mysterious metal door in the middle of it. It looked like a pretty nice place though. I wonder what it costs, I hope it’s in the same ball park as the other places.

The vietnamese place also only had Vietnamese folks in there, it bills itself as a bar and restaurant, looks it too. It smelled good in there.

I’m less than hopeful about the pizza place. They had posters up of pizzas that any Yemeni would think looked delicious, but they looked pretty bad to these American eyes. I wonder if they are catering to the Pakistani and Indian crowd? I dunno, maybe they are just using stock photos for their posters and menus, but really, they looked really bad.

The Chinese place seemed to be the typical dreary Chinese take out. I’ll probably try it at some point, but I don’t expect much.

I can’t figure out the other Pakistani place. It featured a buffet which makes me suspicious, and it also was filled with tacky lacquer furniture, it screamed EXOTIC EAST!!!!! a little too loudly. Plus, the waitress was a south east asian, clearly hired help as opposed to the family business vibe the other places gave off. Still, the place was filled with what looked like Pakistanis, and the menu is making me think they may be the real deal, I might try some of their stuff via take out.

The South Indian/bakery place was also a buffet affair, and it has a definite cafeteria vibe to it. The food actually looked good though, and that’s saying something, buffet food always tends to be rather icky. Place was filled with Indians and/or Pakistanis, so that bodes well too. Like I said before, the eclair I had was good, and the other baked goods looked really good too. I’ll give them a try one of these days.

So there was all of that plus two pakistani grocers (one with a halal butcher) and a Korean one as well in this one shopping center. I haven’t even gone to the other Afghan and Pakistani places in the neighborhood, plus there’s a Hard times cafe here too. Maybe it’s a good thing I don’t have enough money to eat out all the time, I’d weigh a ton!!

I made caramel!

With all this popcorn around, what better thing to make than carmel corn? It went pretty smoothly, it’s in the oven right now, I’ll be able to taste it in 20 minutes or so.

I gotta tell you, this was the first thing I ever made that scared me. I had heard many bad stories about burns with candy making and that was what I was doing essentially. Not only was it hot, but it was also sticky. So if some got on me, it would burn and burn… I’ve used industrial deep friers before, and I know they were quite a bit hotter than 250 degrees, but they were never as enticing as this stuff was. It was just calling out to me to taste it as it bubbled away…

I managed to resist it and pour it into the bowl with the popcorn without burning myself. Once I had transferred it into the oven and let the remnants in the mixing bowl cool down I tasted it. MMMMM, what is better than caramel really? This was much better than those ones wrapped in plastic in the store. Of course it was also much stickier as well. This is never, ever coming out of my teeth. I think I ruined a brillo pad cleaning up too…

Anyway, I already consider this a success. Here’s the recipe if you’re interested.

UPDATE!

OK, I took it out of the oven and let it cool a little. That’s important, I panicked a bit when it first came out because it was still all gooey, but just a few minutes later, it got crunchy again… It’s good! I had a few issues where the caramel pooled a bit so those pieces are a little gooey still, but that’s alright. It’s also more buttery than I am used to, but butter on popcorn is a good combo. I’ll definitely do this again!

Popcorn!

There aren’t many things as wonderful as good popcorn. One of the things I did for Christmas was to order some good popcorn. I’m not talking about the microwave stuff or the stuff you can find in the store, I’m talking good popcorn. Here’s what I got:

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I pop it up on the stove and it is wonderful! As an added bonus, the pot I’m using has a transparent top, so I get to watch it too… I’ve found that if I add popcorn salt to it before it pops, I don’t need any butter! No really, it is that good. Finally, a snack I don’t feel guilty about…

Who says I can’t cook? LOL!

Gustatory lows and highs

I decided I wanted chicken palak (an Indian spinach dish I grew to love while I was in Yemen) while I was in the gym on sat. This had been an ongoing wish from me, I had been looking at various recipes for a while. So I stopped by the store on the way home to pick up the ingrediants. Got home and realized that I had forgotten the onions and garlic. DOH! It was too late to go back to the store and have any chance of eating it for dinner.

So the next morning I went to the store, got the rest of the ingredients, and set about making it. The sauce looked good out of the blender, but I could never get it to taste right. Not only that, I couldn’t get it to the point that I wanted to eat it… I think the problem was that I was way out of my depth using spices like that. If I were cooking pork chops, I’d have a pretty good idea of what is going to work and what isn’t. Combinations of cinnamon, cloves, bay leaves, red and green chilies, cardamon, and ginger? Not so much… I’ve bookmarked an Indian cooking cookbook for rank amateurs on my Amazon wish list that I will get after the holidays. I need some real guidance before I try tackling that again…

Later that night, Dad, Butler, and myself went down to VA Beach to go see Nathan. He had picked out a restaurant that he had wanted to try for a while called The Terrapin. I ordered a salad, and when I got it, I said, “OK, here we go…” It was the classic teeny-weeny thing that looked nice, but on first sight looked silly because it was so small. Well, it was tasty, and Nathan’s appetizer of their fancy mac and cheese made me hopeful. The entrees were hits for all of us. They all had some sort of fish dish, I got a chicken thing. They were all decently sized and cooked to perfection. For dessert, I had a sampling of three freshly made ice creams and sorbet. Their berry sorbet was amazing….

I don’t usually drink alcohol, but I do have a weakness for Cognac. I might have one for brandies in general, but so far I have only sampled some cognacs… Luckily for me, I only crave them after a really good meal, and last night was one of those times.

I ordered a Remy Maitrtin VSOP. Oddly, the waiter asked me if I wanted it on the rocks. Huh? Do people really do that? What a waste that would be.. Anyway, one of the delights of drinking that stuff is smelling it. We’ve all seen the brandy snifters, the proper technique (as far as I can tell) is to hold the glass in your palm to warm it and swirl it around in order to get the most out of the olfactory experience. This was the first time that I had been given a slightly warm glass, I put my nose down to smell and WHOOOSH! It was like huffing Cognac… Quite a bit more intense than I was bargaining for. I’m not saying it was unpleasant, but wow…

Anyway, it was a nice ending to a great meal. As badly as my day started off food-wise, it ended that well. Great company and great food is as good a way to end an evening as I can think of.

Pomegranates

I learned to love pomegranates when I was over in Yemen. I bought a few, but they were kind of a pain to eat. I ate them over the sink by cutting them in half and then just spreading the seeds out and gobbling them down. The problem was that method was messy and they stain like crazy. I ended up getting the fresh juice at the juice stands and loving it. I also combined it with fresh orange juice for an especially wonderful beverage…

When I went to someone’s house to eat, they had pomegranates out of the fruit and we ate them with spoon. Much more civilized, and a hell of a lot easier…

So how do you eat pomegranates? Well, you could try the sink method above, but I don’t recommend it unless you’re wearing dark clothes… Here’s a good way to do it. Quarter them in a sink. There’s a lot of juice, and it stains, so the sink is your friend… Then, you can spread open the quarters underwater and simply brush the fruit off of the pith with your fingers. The fruit sinks to the bottom of the bowl and the peel and pith floats! After you have done that, you can drain the water and munch away! You can also add them to salads, ice cream, or even put them in the blender for a great juice… I eat the seeds. They’re good fiber and I honestly don’t taste them really, they have a very weak nut/seed taste that is totally overwhelmed by the juice.

The fruit inside should be anywhere from a pink to a deep red and be sweet. There is a significant amount of tannin in there, so sometimes you may not be up to eating an entire pomegranate. I keep my fruit in an old cool whip container. I got about 10 oz. from two fruits! Eat them while they’re here! Enjoy!