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Cool Article of the Week – 9/11-9/14

IMG_4608

This cool article of the week I just found today via my Facebook news feed.

It’s from one of my favorite foodie sources, The Daily Meal.

Have you been to your state’s fair? Did you have any fun foods-you-only-get-at-the-fair-once-a-year?

I moved to Ohio from New York, and have had the pleasure of attending the Great New York State Fair twice. My favorite parts: the food, and the wine tent.

Yes, there’s a huge tent, full of local wineries. Samples. Yum. (#ILoveWine)

So the following article is for you state fair lovers.

It’s titled “America’s 50 Most Outrageously Insane State Fair Foods.”

There’s an article and a complete slideshow with pictures for you to browse through.

Here’s a link to the article

And here’s what I’d love to try on the list  (without saying which state it’s from):

-Salad on a Stick: Salad that’s easy to eat and easily accessible? I’m in!

-Shrimp Corn Dog: It sounds like Fried Shrimp, except a corn dog instead of fried shrimp batter. YUM!

-Fried Pickles and Chocolate: The salty and sweet combo sounds intriguing, and the flavors likely balance each other out. That way, you can have your chocolate fix while having your fried savory fix. Mmm!

-Viking on a Stick: A DEEP FRIED MEATBALL. AMEN. 🙂

-Deep Fried S’mores: This sounds heavenly.

-Deep Fried Bubblegum: Well, it’s not actually bubblegum. But it sounds really tasty.

Deep Fried Goo Goo’s: Never heard of these until I read this article…It’s a chocolatey cluster deep fried. Chocoholics, rejoice 🙂

-Hot Beef Sundae: I actually saw something similar to this at a fair near me recently (the picture is above). It sounds SO good: roast beef, mashed potatoes, cheese, cherry tomato.

Deep Fried Cookie Dough on a Stick: Woah. I love deep fried Oreos, but this sounds like heaven too…. A fried ball of chocolate chip cookie. Wow.

Spaghetti Ice Cream: I’ve seen this in Syracuse before at Peter’s Polar Parlor. It sounds fantastic: a whimsical ice cream sundae. Mmm.

-Fried Jelly Beans: It sounds like it would be extra sweet, but it also sounds like it would likely be fruity, crispy and delish.

-Do-e-Oreo: I want you to go to the article and read what this is. Sounds sweet tooth approved. Sign me up!

-Pancake Burger: Oh. My. Gosh. A huge fluffy pancake for a bun. Om. Nom. Nom.

 

Weigh in: Which ones off the list would you try from the article? Comment below!

Cool Article of the Week — 8/3-8/13

This cool article of the week comes from BuzzFeed.

I came across a tweet from them a few days ago.

“This Song About Spaghetti Is The New Song Of The Summer”

First off, I think to myself, song? About spaghetti? But what about the classic song from childhood?

Then I’m thinking, song of the summer? I thought this was the song of the summer (check out this awesome video by Stephen Colbert! ):

Well then I decided to check out the article, and let me tell you, this song is something else! It’s really catchy, and kind of sounds like Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe!” It’s a song created for restaurant chain Spaghetti Warehouse.  Seeing this is very fitting, as there is actually one right in downtown Dayton!

40meatballs.com
40meatballs.com

The spaghetti-loving chain came out with the song a little over a year ago, according to syracuse.com. The chain is celebrating its 40th anniversary, and its website is currently 40meatballs.com versus just meatballs.com.

Before you listen for yourself, here are some of the lyrics that I heard:

Come and dine with us tonight

We’ll make you smile, and serve you right

We welcome you now

We are Spaghetti Warehouse

I don’t want to give anything else away because I want you to listen to it for yourself, and let me know what you think!

Meanwhile, happy spaghetti eating!

National Pizza Month — Your Stories (Part 1)

Courtesy of grubgrade.com

Happy National Pizza Month!

To celebrate… I will be sharing your stories on my blog about your memories of great pizza.

And here’s the first! From one of my friends, Maegan:

Best pizza story has to be the first time my bf and I cooked a meal together… it was pizza. Fresh dough, fresh ingredients. We made a BBQ chicken pizza with great sauce and goat cheese. It was perfection!!

 

Doesn’t that pizza sound incredible? It’s truly amazing how pizza making is more than just two people together making a pizza, it’s an amazing memory.

I look forward to hearing (and sharing!) more of your pizza stories on here! And if you have any pictures/videos of you eating/making pizza, I would love to share them too!

Happy Pizza Month!

 

(PS, I definitely ate pizza today…It was “John’s Favorite” from Papa John’s with extra sauce….Incredible! I loved the mix of the crispy pepperoni, the meaty, tender sausage and the herbs and spices on top of the cheese!)

Kat

SYRACUSE — Searching for the Winning Omelet…and Finding it at Stella’s.

Once upon a time, there were four omelets. The stinkbomb, the nostalgia, the ideal, and the winner.
The stinkbomb was disgusting.  I made it in the microwave when I was eight years old. I was curious: I wanted to know what beaten eggs mixed with random food would smell and taste like. It turned into a fluffy, yet smelly mess and I couldn’t eat it. I did not want to eat eggs for a long time.
It later grew on me to try scrambled eggs. Then I tried different variations of eggs, such as fried egg sandwiches in my college’s dining hall, and of course, omelets. I fell in love with vegetable omelets while at Quinnipiac University at the Acropolis Diner. I always think back to this omelet; for me, this is the nostalgia. The juicy vegetables mixed in with the fluffy eggs made my impression of omelets spark.
Then came the ideal. This was the omelet i saw on the internet. Chef Jacques Pepin explains how to make the ideal on the Travel Channel show “No Reservations:”

Crack open some eggs. Do it on a flat surface so the yolks don’t break. Put them in a  bowl with some salt and pepper. Break yolks with a fork. Beat them so there are no egg     whites left. Add fillings such as fresh chives. Pour mixture in frying pan coated with     butter. Make sure eggs that are solidifying get pushed around with a fork (did you know eggs cooked at high temperatures can toughen them?). Fold over when a crust starts to form. Plate when it gets just a little brown.

Compared to the nostalgia omelet, Jacques’ omelet is too soft. The nostalgia omelet is light, fluffy and just a tad brown.
The winner comes from Stella’s Diner, tucked away in the Northside section of Syracuse at 110 Wolf St. This diner won not only Best Diner this year in the Syracuse New Times, but also in Table Hopping.
The menu at Stella’s lists its omelettes (spelled the French way, where the dish originated in the mid-16th century) on the first page. The 14 omelets listed ($5.69-$6.59) take me on a culinary trip, including omelets such as the San Francisco, (broccoli, spinach, tomato and Swiss), and the one I found most unique: the New Orleans: onion, peppers, sausage, Cheddar and Creole sauce. I chose the “New Yorker” omelet (broccoli, mushrooms and Cheddar cheese).
This omelet is a winner: I’ve tasted tough, browned omelets before and omelets too soft for me. My “New Yorker” was a bright yellow half-moon pouf filled with broccoli and mushroom pieces cooked just right: not too tough, not too soft and just a tad brown. As I took each bite, I could clearly pick out the soft, yet textured green broccoli pieces from the meaty, gray mushrooms. What really surprised me was the sharpness and texture of the cheddar: I was not expecting it to taste so sharp and look so stringy versus gooey.
With tax and tip, I paid around $11 for my meal. Considering the large portions, not bad.
Omelets at Stella’s are a must. It is my winner. This omelet is no stinkbomb, and packs the punch of the omelet-to-try in the Syracuse area.

The winning omelet.

—-

Stella’s Diner

110 Wolf St.

Syracuse, N.Y.13208

HOURS:

5 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. (Mon. – Tues.)

5 a.m. – 9 p.m. (Wed. – Sun.)

(315) 425-0353

http://www.stellasdinersyracuse.com

(Note: the preceding is a food essay I wrote back in January, 2011 and am posting now.)

SYRACUSE — The Mother’s Day Meal that only cost me $11!

Yes, tonight my Mother’s Day dinner cost just $11.

All thanks to my dear foodie-food-blog friend, Nandini. (Check out her blog by clicking here. Amazing recipes especially for you vegetarians out there!)

So how did Nandini and I pay about $11 each for a huge feast, including an alcoholic beverage for each of us?

LivingSocial.com.

Nandini had bought a deal a few months ago through LivingSocial Syracuse for The Mission Restaurant right in downtown Syracuse.

The deal was this: pay $15 for $30 worth of food at The Mission Restaurant.

We both had meant to go for dinner together awhile back, however, our schedules have been extremely busy this semester and haven’t gotten together as much as last semester.

But this weekend was the weekend! And with coupon in hand, we headed over for a feast of fresh, delicious and most certainly delectable Pan American food. This was my second time to The Mission, with the first time only having an appetizer.

A view of the side of the restaurant from outside during late afternoon.

Here’s some history about the beautiful building the restaurant is in: according to The Mission’s menu, the building used to be the Syracuse Wesleyan Methodist Church and was built in the 1840s. This building also was “an important 19th century way-station on the Underground Railroad.” There is actually a “cramped tunnel” in the basement of the building.

The inside of The Mission.

And you can see such history when you walk into The Mission. Beautiful peach colored walls with a deep blue ceiling which has intrinsic designs. Gorgeous stained glass windows line the perimeter of the restaurant, giving the restaurant lots of natural lighting. What I learned at the end of tonight’s meal, which I didn’t know until tonight, was that there is a balcony above the kitchen if you look up, where the restaurant’s office is. The waiter told us you can only access the office/balcony by ladder, and then told us how everything in the office was transported up there through using the ladder. I actually asked the waiter too if he peers out over the restaurant while he’s up there and of course, he replied with a “yes.”

When Nandini and I walked in we were told we would have a 35 minute wait. We decided to head to the bar and get margaritas. Nandini got a regular margarita on the rocks with a salt rim for $5.50. For $6, I got a strawberry margarita:

Mmm, mmm, good. I must say it did get a little watery towards the end, but that does happen with a lot of frozen drinks. And hey, it was a warm day out today, in the 60s/70s! Hooray! The margarita had a light strawberry taste with a hint of tequila peering in, which was good. I got a sugar rim as well, which was delicious!

We were then seated probably about 15 – 20 minutes later, in a really cute circle booth in a corner of the restaurant. We were greeted by our friendly male waiter who gave us fresh-made Tostaditos and Salsa (chips and fresh-made tomato salsa). What Nandini and I both loved about the chips was that there were no signs of oil at all on the chips, meaning they were either baked or really, really well – drained. The salsa melted in your mouth with the fresh chunks of ripe red tomatoes, onions, herbs and spices and what I thought was a lemony-type taste in it as well. It was the perfect start to the meal.

We then perused through the menu and found a side dish we decided to share as an appetizer. I have had plantains before: fried plantains my friend made for me one time and then a fried plantain steak sandwich at TGI Fridays that was so obsessively-good. But never have I had the following side dish: fried green plantains with mojo.

I’ve also never seen plantains presented in such a way: these looked like potato latkes to me. This appetizer was savory versus the expected-sweet: the plantains had a rich texture and with the seasonings and salt on top, was perfectly balanced with the mojo sauce on the side: a tart vinegar-like dipping sauce with several seasonings and spices on it. These also weren’t greasy at all, even though they were fried. These were only $3, and if you want to try a great non-meat appetizer, this is definitely for you.

Thinking about what to eat I thought about my friend Jessica who was with me the last time I was at The Mission. I credit her for introducing me to pulled pork at Mexican restaurants, and I have been eating pulled pork at these types of places ever since. I remembered she had a burrito the last time we came with the ‘Puerco Pibil’ filling: “Yucatan style shredded pork with achiote and orange,” according to its menu. I decided to get this $11 burrito, and get vegetarian black beans inside it. There was a choice of salsas to choose from to put on top of the burrito as well: I chose Tomatillo Serrano: “Tangy green salsa with bits of blackened tomatillo. Bold heat.” I love tomatillo salsa: I love the refreshing taste of the green tomatoes and I love the spice the fruit gives off when you eat that kind of salsa.

While unfortunately the picture I took of my meal didn’t come out, this burrito was honestly one of the best I have ever had in Syracuse. The pulled pork was outstanding: it melted in your mouth and I actually felt like I was eating at a barbeque joint versus a Pan American restaurant. The chef at The Mission knows how to cook meat, that’s for sure! The beans gave the burrito a nice, rich flavor as well, with the salsa on top being the slight kicker. I say slight because it wasn’t as spicy as I thought it would be. The salsa was a little bland, I’ll admit, but I overall enjoyed the burrito. And of course I got my new obsession guacamole on the side. The Mission’s guacamole was rich, filling, creamy and very flavorful. I saw a sign on the way into the restaurant that you can get its guacamole to go anytime when you come in, so if you’re looking for the fresh stuff, definitely stop by.

Nandini let me try her $11.25 Tres Queso enchilada, which had Monterey Jack, Mexican cotija and queso blanco in a tomatillo sauce. The picture of her enchilada came out:

The cheese in the enchilada was outstanding: while it appeared rich and creamy it was actually very light, tangy and flavorful.

The Spanish rice that came on the side of our dishes was very good too. It had just the right amount of spice in it. My dish, unlike Nandini’s, came with something that looked like cole slaw on the side. It was actually ‘cabbage salad,’ and had an amazing spice to it, which Nandini told me was cumin seeds. Tasting the cabbage salad reminded me of eating Nandini’s amazing Indian cooking. (Again, please check out her blog!)

Once we finished our entree-feast, we perused the dessert menu. We ended up splitting the $5 Banana Bread Pudding.

I’m a huge fan of banana bread, so pudding of the bread? Yes, please!

Banana Bread Pudding at The Mission, $5

It was made with macadamia nuts and Mexican chocolate, served warm and topped with rum-caramel and chocolate sauces and fresh whipped cream on the side.

This was one of the best desserts I have ever had in Syracuse as well. I must point out though that the warm bread was not really a pudding-type texture in my eyes. However, I’ll admit , I haven’t had a lot of bread pudding to know what the texture should be, so I could be wrong. The two strongest flavors of the dish were the rum-caramel sauce that heightened my taste buds, and the macadamia nuts, which brought out the savory in the dessert.

After eating all of this food, the bill came out to around $34 for the both of us, including tax. Using the LivingSocial deal Nandini had, we each spent about $5 on the meal including tip, and then $6 previously at the bar.

Thank you, Nandini, for showing me the true-story wonders of not only LivingSocial.com, but The Mission.

And a HUGE Happy Mother’s Day to all of the mother’s in the world today, especially my mom. I love you very much and am so grateful and thankful for you.

—–

The Mission Restaurant

304 East Onondaga Street
Syracuse, NY 13202-2085
(315) 475-7344

Hours:

Monday: 11:30 am – 2:00 pm | Tuesday thru Thursday: 11:30 am – 9:00 pm

Friday: 11:30 am – 10:00 pm | Saturday: 5:00 pm – 10:00 pm | Sunday: 5:00 pm – 8:00 pm


SYRACUSE — My Cinco de Mayo 2011 dinner.

Happy Cinco de Mayo everyone! I know it’ll be over as of this time of night…But what was I thinking about all day today? Guacamole.

It’s honestly my latest obsession in food.

And this obsession started when Chipotle came to Syracuse.

Photo courtesy of avocado.org

Look at the picture to the left of the California Avocado Commission’s ‘Guacamole Auténtico.’

Avocado fans: looks delicious, right?

Guacamole consists of avocados, of course, but there are many variations of the delicious, creamy, flavorful dip. Tomatoes, lime juice, onions, cumin, you name it, it could be in guacamole. And hey, the calorie count for the bowl to the left is good – 170 calories per serving!

When I think of guacamole lately, I haven’t thought just about the delicious, fresh ingredients, but the health benefits of avocados too.

One of my best friends, who happens to be an amazing CNA (Certified Nurse’s Assistant), told me that avocados burn off fat in your belly! This excited me even more about eating avocados. While yes, they are creamy and to some, may be considered “fatty,” according to LIVESTRONG.com‘s article on “Food That Helps You Lose Belly Fat,” avocados contain healthy monounsaturated fats, and have potassium, fiber, folate and vitamins A & D. The article also says avocados keep you feeling fuller longer! And some belly fat just may burn off too.

Here are some other facts from Avocado.org:  avocados are sodium and cholesterol-free and have only five grams of fat per serving! Also, the avocado is also known as the “Alligator Pear” due to its pear shape and green skin.

But guacamole also makes me think of Mexico, as guacamole is of Aztec origin. Which leads me to now yesterday, Cinco de Mayo. I’ll admit, I don’t usually celebrate this holiday every year.

But this year I decided to have a little solo celebration. And tonight, I thought I’d learn a little bit more about this day and why it’s so important.

According to HuffingtonPost.com, “Cinco de Mayo commemorates the Mexico’s surprising victory over the French — then said to be the world’s most powerful army — at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. Still, the holiday is often confused with Mexican Independence Day, which is actually Sept. 16, and receives limited recognition throughout much of Mexico, despite acknowledging the country’s heritage.”

So on May 5, back in 1862, Mexico won victory over the French. And on this day, many celebrate the holiday by heading out for some margaritas and/or eating some Mexican food.

Me?

I decided to head to one of my favorite quick Mexican food spots: Chipotle.

I went tonight to the location near SU. The line was very long, but very well worth the wait.

Here’s my burrito bowl that I had: carnitas (pulled pork) with pinto beans, chipotle-lime rice, cheese, medium-hot salsa and of course, the star of the show, guacamole. The carnitas was especially tender tonight which made the bowl extra delicious. The guacamole and salsa were the overpowering flavors over the rest of the bowl’s ingredients, however. It was a delicious, filling entree.

Tonight's burrito bowl.

When I’ve been going to Chipotle lately I’ve been getting a side of guacamole on the side with some chips. Unfortunately, tonight, the location I went to ran out of chips as of 9:30 p.m. So, instead of getting chips and guac tonight, I decided to walk to the corner store down the street to get some Nacho-flavored Combos, hoping they’d make up for my lack of chips and guac:

My nacho-flavored Combos I bought.

While unfortunately these combos tasted just like the regular cheese combos and didn’t have much spice to them, I love Combos, so I definitely devoured those too tonight.

Now I really wanted a margarita tonight to wash this all down. Because the Chipotle by campus doesn’t have a liquor license yet to sell margaritas-in-a-bottle, I thought the corner store might have a margarita cooler-in-a-bottle that I could have.

While they unfortunately didn’t have this either, I decided to get something completely different. I got Twisted Tea, and decided to try the “Sun Brewed Style” version.

My Twisted "Sun Brewed Style" Tea. Ooh La La. 🙂

I remember having Twisted Tea back in senior year of college and remembering how awesome it was. This hard tea tonight had that tea flavor, which was good, but it did like sun-brewed tea-soda in a way, which I don’t think was as favorable as the other Twisted Tea I’ve had before.

Overall, my Cinco de Mayo was very well-spent.

Again, happy Cinco de Mayo everyone! I hope you had an amazing time celebrating too and had some guacamole and maybe a margarita too! Please share with me what you did on this holiday!

Cheers.

SYRACUSE — One Iron-Chef-style of a Birthday Dinner at KOTO

Photo courtesy of goodtimeznow.com

KOTO Syracuse Japanese Steakhouse — Hibachi & Sushi Bar

2841 Erie Blvd. East
Syracuse, NY 13224

Hours:

Mon-Thu 11am-3pm, 4:30pm-10pm
Fri 11am-3pm, 4:30pm-11pm
Sat 12pm-3pm, 3pm-11pm
Sun 12pm-10pm

Happy Hour :
Monday – Thursday 4:30 to 6:30
(at the bar only)

Phone#: 315.445.KOTO (5686)

—-

“It’s party time!” Our hibachi chef David said to our table last Thursday after cooking our meal.

He chopped bright green zucchini into tiny cubes and with his silver spatulas, aimed one at a time at the seven happy mouths around the table.

“One…. two…. three!”

The cubes flew in the air, landing in some of our mouths on the first try, and some, it took an extra time (or two).

David has good aim.

It was my birthday last Thursday. While I had a combined birthday party with another friend on Saturday, I wanted to do something on my actual birthday with one of my friends that I knew would be a fun time.

I thought of KOTO on Erie Blvd. I hadn’t been to this fairly-new restaurant all year, and now was the perfect opportunity to seize the moment and try it.

When I entered the restaurant with my friend Alicia, we were both wowed at the beauty and décor of the restaurant. At the center of the foyer is a beautiful waterfall fountain. Later in the night I discovered there were fish swimming around in the pool below the fountain: beautiful orange, white and black speckled fish.

The parking lot was packed, and when I have driven by it before, it always seemed to be that way. Fortunately, our wait time was only just a few minutes.

We were led to a big square table with two other groups: a family of three and two very nice girls who looked around my age.

After ordering a glass of smooth, rich malbec (a delicious red wine I recommend to you all) it was time to study the menu.

This menu is extensive, friends. There were three huge pages of anything from appetizers such as jalepeno fried shrimp, sushi rolls such as the Erie Blvd. roll (1/2 salmon, 1/2 tuna and avocado topped with crab meat), and on the back page in the left hand corner on the bottom, was what I was looking for: hibachi!

Hibachi is one of my favorite culinary experiences. Not only for the amazing fresh food cooked in front of you, but for the “show” like experience itself.

Last Thursday flashed me back to watching episodes of Iron Chef on Food Network.

The chef comes out, has a certain amount of time with you to cook beautiful, fresh dishes.

David came out with his big cart full of goodies: the meat/fish/veggies/rice/etc. stacked on big silver trays, the colored unmarked ketchup-type bottles of sauces, the special gadgets for later on in the show.

He started our experience by going around the room and repeating what we ordered. He had a great memory. When he got to the younger boy at the end of the table, he completely went wild.

“You ordered CHICKENNNNNNNNN! CHICKENNNNNNNNNNNN!! Bawk bawk bawk bawk bawk!” David said in a high pitched voice.

One thing I’ll admit before I tell you more about the show: it made me nervous that I didn’t notice any overhead fans above each of the hibachi tables. There were a ton of hibachi tables throughout the restaurant, and they each had a little faucet attached to them on the side (in case of fire, I assume). However, every other hibachi place I have been to in my life thus far has had some sort of ventilation above each table. Was it hidden and I didn’t see it? I was really expecting a lot more visible ventilation.

David first had a little tossing-the-spatulas show for us. He rolled them behind his back, throwing them very close to our face and catching them right back. As soon as he drew a smiley face with sake on the grill and lit it on fire (HUGE flames in front of our eyes, making me think about ventilation again), it was really time for the food magic show.

Alicia and I both got the salad to start, which was different than any other salad I’ve had at a Japanese restaurant. Most times I have had an iceberg salad with a bright orange colored tangy ginger dressing. This one was large mixed leafy greens and romaine with a very creamy ginger dressing. While the dressing was full of that strong ginger tang, the creaminess actually balanced the dressing and went very well with the mixed greens.

The rice was put on the griddle and David swirled it around with his spatulas. He tossed an egg in the air and caught it with his spatula several times. The egg quickly fell to the griddle and somehow, David managed to pick up the shell with his fork-like utensil without a single chard of shell in the fried rice. Bravo.

By this time David had already handed out two sauce-trays to us. One was specifically called “YUMMY  YUMMY” sauce (with David’s huge grin to go with it). That was a creamy orange-colored sauce, that tasted like spicy mayo you get at sushi restaurants but with a twang to it. The other sauce was a brown, sweet ginger sauce that was very light to the taste. It went well not only with the fried rice, but was a great dipping sauce for the luscious fried sweet potato sushi-roll Alicia and I ordered as our appetizer.

Since I have been to several hibachi places over the years, I had a feeling as to what was coming next: the onion volcano. If you haven’t seen an onion volcano it is a very simple procedure. David took rings of an onion and built a volcano-looking structure with the biggest ring as the base, building it up to the smallest ring on top. David sprayed a ton of sake in the volcano and set it on fire.

Again, I was thinking about ventilation. The huge flames coming out of the volcano turned into piping smoke, which David then pulled out another thing I’ve seen at many Japanese restaurants: the boy-toy. This is a doll of a boy where if you push it down, water comes out of it. Everyone usually laughs at this, and for some reason I was dying laughing by then. David turned to me and really started cracking up:

“Ohhhhh you must reallyyyyy be enjoying this huh!” David said.

“OH YES,” I said while still dying of laughter.

The show started to die down a bit after this. Once he started cooking up the meat and fish for us at the table, besides watching him cook with such precision, there wasn’t as much to see. He doused everything with several sauces and spices, that again, were unmarked.

Regardless, my meal was fantastic. The vegetables, served on my plate first, were tender, juicy and filled with that teriyaki/sake flavor in every bite.

I’m a huge fan of the fried rice at hibachi restaurants because it is fresh-made and has more of an airy taste versus the heavier taste and texture at Chinese restaurants. Last Thursday’s fried rice was incredibly flavorful of soy sauce, and with the fresh-cooked egg in it, really made the dish.

However, it really was my meat and fish that stole the show for me. I ordered filet mignon, cooked medium, and it came out perfect. It was tender, juicy, and had several sweet yet spicy flavors mixed into it. It was a balanced taste, which I appreciated. I also ordered salmon, which had a subtle caramelized crunch to it, yet melted in my mouth. It had a sweet teriyaki flavor to it, yet there were also crunchy sesame seeds on top of the salmon, adding to the balance of flavors.

But just when I thought the show was over, the show had just begun. The zucchini cubes went flying in our mouths first. But then the real show started for the over 21 crowd.

David lifted the clear sake squirt bottle above his head.

“Sakeeeeee!” he said.

While there was one person under 21 at the table, it turned into quite the sake party. David aimed the clear squirt bottle at each of our mouths. We were drenched by the end of it.

The man sitting at the table had so much sake in his mouth from David’s spraying that the sake was literally foaming out of his mouth.

When he got to me, he sprayed so much in my mouth that when I bent my head down a little bit to close my mouth, sake not only drenched my shirt, pants and face, but went in my eye. My eye burned for a few seconds, but I tried to laugh that off.

All of the girls at the table were squealing and screaming at David’s sake squirting. I think he was trying to go for a record with each of us as to how much sake we could possibly consume in our mouths.

Yes, despite the drenching, it was a fun time. But yet, the party was still not over.

For $6 you can get the “birthday” package, which includes tempura ice cream with a candle on it, the staff singing to you and a souvenir picture.

The staff came around to me and made me get up out of my seat.

Then they told me to “shake, my booty, shake, shake my booty.”

I love to dance, so I did shake it in front of the entire restaurant.

The staff sang a song to me about getting old and my face turning red and counting on down “Happy Birthday to You!”

The tempura ice cream was delicious: all I could taste was the rich, fried batter with the chocolate sauce on top. The ice cream looked yellow. While I’m assuming it was vanilla, it was one of the best ice creams I’ve ever had.

Next time I go there, I am really going to look harder for ventilation above me, though. While the restaurant had very high ceilings, I really felt there should have been some more visible fans.

My birthday was filled with love, happiness and culinary experiences I’ll never forget.

Thanks, KOTO, for making my birthday very special and for reminding me of the importance a single amazing food experience can mean to a person, regardless of how drenched you get from some sake.

SYRACUSE — $20 or Less: Two Ships Passing in the Night — Darwin

DARWIN. 211 N. Clinton St. Syracuse

HOURS: 9 a.m.  to 3 p.m., Monday thru Friday.

http://www.darwinonclinton.com

(315) 373-0484

Attention vegetarians (and non-vegetarians, too!)!!!

There is an amazing $8 sandwich at Darwin for you to try out the next time you’re looking for a great sandwich for lunch.

It’s name? Two Ships Passing in the Night.

Here’s what its’ website says about the sandwich:

TWO SHIPS PASSING IN THE NIGHT ($8)
Get it…  “No MEAT!”  You can thank Dave for that one.  Vegetarians have had a hit or miss experience at DARWIN.  We’ve been working on that.  We haven’t had a strictly vegetarian options until now.  We’ve decided to do our version of the “French Smuggler.”  A popular veggie sandwich that consists of fresh, soft mozz, marinated portabello mushrooms, frizzled red onion, a thick slice of parmesan crusted tomato, fresh spinach and basil stacked on Pasta’s stretch and finished with our homemade creamy balsamic.  Vegetarians…  We hope it was worth the wait.  Non-vegetarians…  You’ll love it too..

This sandwich packs a punch of delicious flavors: the thick slice of mozzarella is the true “meat” of the sandwich alongside the juicy portabello mushrooms. The frizzled red onions bring a sweet crunch, with the fresh spinach and basil bringing the strong green flavors. The balsamic brings the entire sandwich together with its sweet yet tangy flavors.

Here’s me showing what the sandwich looks like:

SYRACUSE — Midnight Snack: Sauteed Mushrooms

I got home about a half hour ago and I kept thinking about what to eat for a little midnight snack. I love anything chocolate-related, but tonight I raided my fridge and found a beautiful package of mixed mushrooms that I bought at Wegmans.

At the Wegmans in DeWitt, N.Y. there is a section right as you walk into the produce area that has chopped veggies in plastic-wrapped packages. The one I got, “Mushroom Blend,” was $3.70 and included white mushrooms, Portabello mushrooms and shiitake mushrooms.

After first rinsing them in a colander with water, I sauteed the mushrooms in EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) and balsamic vinegar on the stove for about 10 minutes on medium heat.

The balsamic gets soaked into the mushrooms for a delicious, tangy yet sweet taste. Each mushroom has its own distinct flavors: the white having a fluffy, lighter taste than the meaty, fleshy Portabello’s. The shiitakes have a tangier taste.

If you’re looking for something different at midnight, please try this too and tell me what you think! It’s an under $5 snack too, and you’re getting a serving (or two) of your daily vegetables. Yummy!

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