Saturday, January 19, 2013

Dinner at La Conguita in Jersey City, NJ

Dan and I went to THREE different restaurants in downtown JC only to either be ignored wholly at the door, seated then ignored for an inordinate period of time, or told the wait was much longer than we were willing.  So we ended up at La Conguita and the food AND service were EXCELLENT and much less expensive than dinner would be at most other places.  Sometimes the service there isn't the greatest, but this time it was as good as one could ask, and the new stuff we tried was amazingg.

Garlic Shrimp appetizer with Cuban bread - SO DELICIOUS.  BEST THING I HAD ALL NIGHT.  The shrimp was perfectly cooked and pretty large.  Cooked in garlic slivers and oil.   Spread the rest of that garlicky goodness on the bread.

My usual order of Pernil with rice, red beans, and maduros.  As usual excellent and sooo much left over.

Jalapeno Steak Sandwich - Thin cut steak, jalapeno slices, onion, oaxacan cheese and mayo plus the perfectly cut fries.   The steak was nicely cooked - not overdone, which is great b/c it was so thin.  Of course Dan loved the pepperyness.
Bread pudding with vanilla ice cream, chocolate chips, and caramel.  ALL HP's fav sweet things.  First of all, this was soo tasty, sweet, and the right texture.  Second, ONLY $4.  Soul Flavors (third place that f-ed us over) has an excellent bread pudding that is I believe $9.  So all in all, despite the stinky start to the night, I would say we were winners going to La Conguita.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Home-made Miso maple-glazed salmon, kale, and brown rice with quinoa

More healthy food Asian-style.  The first time I went to Sushi Samba I had the most amazing miso-glazed chilean sea bass.  Some of the amazingness was the sea bass itself - super flaky and meaty and melted in your mouth like butter.  The other part of the amazingness was the miso glaze, which I had never had.  I went back to Sushi Samba with another friend and had the sea bass plus miso glazed eggplant.  Now everyone who knows HP knows eggplant is on the list of foods that I dislike.  But the miso made it edible and actually tasty!  So finally I bought a package of miso paste last night and found a good recipe for salmon including sriracha and maple syrup, among other ingredients.  I sauteed the salmon on the cast iron skillet for a few minutes because that's what the recipe called for, but I realized this salmon had no skin to crisp so I probably didn't need to do that.  Then I just broiled it for about 10 minutes and it came out amazingly delicious, but the skillet looked messy with the excess glaze having kind of burned/hardened.  Oh well.  Nothing a little water and scrubbing can't fix.  Dan made the kale, and I made the brown rice w/quinoa from scratch on the stove.  Next time though I plan to use the rice cooker. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Dinner at BaoHaus in NYC

Nicole and I went to BaoHaus in the East Village/Gramercy.  The restaurant is TEENY TINY but fortunately it wasn't crowded.  I was a little full still from lunch so I don't think I was really that hungry.  The food was good but I imagine not the best bao in NYC.  I think I liked the Haus Bao the most - beef cheek, followed by the Chairman Bao (pork belly) then the Birdhaus Bao (fried chicken).  The beef and pork belly were definitely flavorful but the pork belly was a little fatty (duh) and smaller.  The fried chicken was pretty big and overflowed from the bun but there wasn't much other flavors.  The taro fries were tasty and the sauce was spicyyy.  But I was so full I don't think we really needed to share it ha.

Birdhaus Bao - fried chicken with cilantro, Haus seasoning salt, crushed peanuts, and Taiwanese red sugar

Haus Bao - beef cheek with rushed peanut, cilantro, Haus Relish, and Taiwanese red sugar

Chairman Bao on the left - berkshire pork belly, crushed peanut, cilantro, Haus relish, and Taiwanese red sugar
Haus Bao on the right

Taro fries served with Haus sauce

Home-made Salmon, Kale, Carrot Chips & Corn Casserole

Another home-made meal to continue the general new year tradition of home-cooking.  Lots of corn casserole left-overs.  I made my usual pecan encrusted salmon, then made cajun spiced carrot chips and Dan made the garlic kale.  Delish and healthy.
Plate #1

Plate #2

Home-made Steak, Asparagus, Baked Potato & Corn Casserole

Dan and I decided to celebrate our anniversary by cooking a nice hearty and meaty meal - steak!  Unfortunately we didn't have a grill plate or cast iron pan, but it definitely came out better on the stove than when I used the Foreman.  Dan also made garlic asparagus and the baked potato.  HP made the corn casserole courtesy of Paula Deen.  I used soy milk instead of regular milk but it definitely came out   well - more sweet than savory but a nice side addition.  I made half with cheddar cheese for me.  The recipe was a lot for two people though.  I think this size would be good for a Thanksgiving crowd.

Full tray of corn casserole

Baked potato, casserole, t-bone steak and corn casserole

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Home-made tilapia, green beans, brown rice & quinoa

Decided to start being healthy and cook our own meal.  Dan sauteed tilapia with garlic and butter, and blanched then sauteed green beans with garlic.  I made the brown rice and quinoa.  To be honest, I microwaved it hahaha, but still very tasty.

Brunch at Beechwood Cafe in Jersey City, NJ

Another solid brunch at Beechwood.  It was pretty crowded when we went; we actually had to wait in line, which is rare.  We got some fruit to start and each ordered very typical dishes - croissant with sausage, egg, and cheese for me, and "chiles quiles" for Dan HAHAHA.
Bowl of fresh fruit

Chiles quiles  - tortillas with salsa verde, cheese, poached eggs, tomatoes, and sour cream

Croissant with sausage, egg, and cheese

Dinner at Brasilia Grill in Newark, NJ

A bunch of us went to Brasilia Grill for Andrew's belated birthday celebration.  Several of us (myself included) got rodizio, meaning a series of meats, often quite salty, brought around on sticks and freshly cut in front of us.  We probably had 10-15 different types, ranging from the best (beef ribs) to things I'd rather not have again (chicken hearts).  I wouldn't say it's the best rodizio I'd ever had.  I think my favorite is still in Hackensack.  But for $27ish dollars, pretty good deal.  I had slightly more restraint this time so I don't feel as gross.  The buffet is pretty good - esp the shrimp.  I didn't take pics of each individual meats because that would've been annoying and not such a great photo.  Tracy and Andrew got some mixed meat platter that she took a pic of for me so you can all see an assortment of MEATTT.

Assortment from the buffet - mushrooms, zucchini and shrimp

Unsure about top left, shrimp, fresh mozz and cherry tomatoes

BBQ mixed meat for 2.  I'm sureee this lasted for several meals

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Dinner at Ramen Setagaya in NYC

I really felt like ramen but didn't want to wait at Ippudo, so Karem and I instead went to Ramen Setagaya on St. Mark's Place.  The place is pretty small with fast turn-over, and stools instead of backed seats.  However, very cheap and the wait stuff is patient and doesn't rush you.  I'm def no ramen expert but I thought my spicy miso ramen was delicious and second-best ramen I've had after what we ate in Hawaii.  Now if only someone could tell me where to find Hawaiian-style ramen in the NY metro area...

Vegetable Gyoza - nothing special and lacked real flavor.  Also too greasy. 

Spicy miso ramen - LOVED THIS.  Nice broth that gradually built up in spice.  Included bamboo shoots, corn, pork, bean sprouts, and half-boiled egg.  A very hearty portion as well.  I started getting full and feeling the spice before I finished.

Tsukemen - cold noodle with dipping sauce made of grilled pork, bamboo shoots, scallop, seaweed, and scallion.  Karem didn't want hot soup but then later regretted it since the sauce was hot anyway but the noodles cold/lukewarm ha.  Plus I don't think the "sauce" was as flavorful.  She used some of my broth to liven it up.
Vanilla mochi ice cream.  LOVED IT.  A perfect end.

Nice smooth and sweet sake that I ordered while waiting.  I really enjoyed it with my soup.

Brunch at Amelia's Bistro in Jersey City, NJ

Well another lovely snowstorm delayed plans to go to brunch in the city, so Dan and I instead went to Amelia's Bistro in JC.  Fortunately the food was delicious and service super fast this time.  When we've gone during nice weather and sat outside, service has ranged from good to so terrible Dan complained to the manager with my parents there.  This time though everything came out quickly and it all just hit the spot. 
Complimentary basket of mini muffins - blueberry and corn.  Normally I detest fruit in things, but the blueberry muffins were actually nice with the jam.  Corn is fabulous on its own.

Eggs Benedict with potato hash.  Dan got this and said it was pretty damn good.  Def better than Beechwood.  I tried some and thought it was tasty and not too salty, but I think I generally find it hard to eat too much of any Eggs Benny dish because I find the sauce so rich.

Farm House Skillet - my go to!  Pan fried potatoes, onion, bacon, tomato, spinach and cheddar topped with two fried eggs, and side of baguette.  THE BEST BREAKFAST EVER. 

I moved the eggs so you could get a better look.  Cooking everything together makes every bite unbelievably tasty with a mix of different things each time.  Had a good amount of oil but wasn't too much.  I usually get the eggs scrambled but felt yoke-y

Home-made Peppermint Bark

I made my first attempt at peppermint bark after a co-worker foolishly gave me a mug full of Ghiardelli peppermint bark.  I could eat them allllll day.  Unfortunately I believe I cooled both the dark and white chocolate for too long, because most of the layers separated and it took wayyyy too much effort to cut the bark into pieces.  I mean it still tastes good, but not as pretty or perfect as I would like.  Oh well.  It was my first try and now I know what I did wrong.  Hopefully by next holiday season I will have perfected it so I can give them out as holiday treats.

P. Bark pre-stabbing for several minutes with a large chef's knife

Final product, strategically positioned so it looks successful haha

Lunch at Cracker Barrel in Sanford, NC

I have never been to Cracker Barrel before.  I feel like I've seen it many times on road trips but just never had the opportunity to go to one.  The store itself is super cute.  Had we more time and no children around, I would've liked to go shopping.  The walls are decorated with super cute old advertisements and other fun things.  Though it's a chain I really like all the local stuff they had as decor.  The food was also very home-y and Southern.  Cheap too.  I think my entire plate was under $10.  I got a platter of pulled bbq pork with two sides - sweet baby carrots and dumplings.  Plus they gave us a big basket of biscuits and cornbread.  The pork was good though not very hot.  Had nice flavor and wasn't too heavy.  The carrots were a nice light compliment.  I forgot to take a pic of the dumplings, but basically they're Bisquik but made into almost gnocci-like blobs.  Personally I thought they lacked flavor and had a paste-like consistency.  Apparently it's a popular thing in the South that I just don't get.  Kind of like grits.  But I won't even go there haha

Yummy pulled pork with baby carrots.  Boo unnecessary and unrequested pickles


Lunch at Sandpiper Seafood Restaurant in Fayetteville, NC

The fam went to North Carolina to visit my brother, his wife, and kiddies.  I had requested in advance some NC barbecue, as I had never been there before and wanted to see what the fuss was all about.  We went to the Sandpiper, which was buffet-style.  There was lots of seafood and a few bbq dishes.  Not a ton, but still a good representation of what the food was like.  Lots of fried dishes, lots of veggies that lacked seasoning and bright colors.  But at least they had veggie options, right?  Anyway, I'll probably miss some of the dishes on these plates, but here's a glimpse of some of the buffet options.

My plate #1 (from L to R clockwise) fried chicken (that was the smallest size I could find btw), mac and cheese, spaghetti, fried clams, bbq brisket, fried fish of some sort, and fried okra.  All the fried things were great.  Hard to mess that up.  The bbq brisket was actually really tender considering it was sitting under a heat lamp for god knows how long.  The mac and spaghetti were also both solid, though not the best HP has eaten.

Mom's plate #1: bbq chicken, some mysterious thing above it, broccoli, and fried shrimp

My plate #2: bbq chicken, broccoli, corn, biscuit with honey spread, bbq pork, bbq beans, bbq meatloaf, more brisket, and some greens.  All the bbq stuff was pretty tasty, though the brisket and pork were the best.  The greens were very bitter, and the corn was syrupy sweet.  I guess the veggie to meat balance wasn't so good ha.  The biscuit was nice and fluffy though.

Mom's plate #2: carrot, hush puppy, cornbread, fried shrimp, fried okra, fish

Dessert! I found apple crisp, so of course had to make it a la mode.  Delish!