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Cool Article of the Week: 9/1-9/10

Photo credit: spoonful.com
Photo credit: spoonful.com

This cool article of the week comes from an email my mom sent me (hey mom!), and its for all of the sweet tooths out there!

She knows I LOVE these two things: Disney, and cupcakes.

So when I saw that it was the top 45 Disney cupcake recipes, from Spoonful, I was beyond excited to page through the photo gallery!

In this gallery you will see all sorts of Disney character goodness formed into cute cupcakes, including the aliens from Toy Story, the cars from the Cars movies, and one of my personal faves from the list, which I have pictured here: Cogsworth from Beauty & the Beast!

Enjoy, and please let me know which one(s) are your favorites!

FOODventures in CLEVELAND

One of my very good friends lives in Cleveland. Over the weekend, I road tripped up to #CLE to visit her and her boyfriend!

#FIRSTTIMEINCLEVELAND !

My friend has been telling me about all the amazing #CLE food, and the week prior to me coming, she even sent me an awesome link to a garlic festival. Garlic rules. We did drive by it, and not only was there a HUGE blow up garlic in the park, there was a guy dressed up in a garlic costume walking around.

In preps of visiting this dear city of Cleveland, who loves The Drew Carey Show? Me!

In my head I cue this song (which I played via my phone in my friends apartment Sunday to figure out what buildings I recognized this weekend):

There is SO much energy and pride for this city going on in #cle. Huge crowds headed to Indians games, people of all ages bustling around all of the cool neighborhoods, people grabbing drinks with their friends at the cute outdoor beer garden restaurants. Just a gorgeous place.

Here are some of the foodie places my friend took me to:

1) Tommys Restaurant

1824 Coventry Road
Cleveland Heights, OH 44118
216-321-7757

Hours:   Sunday – Thursday:  9am – 9pm
Friday:                       9am – 10pm
Saturday:                  7:30am-10pm

What I ate: Veggie Burger with cheese:  Brown rice, scallions, carrots, garlic, parsley, onions, adzuki beans, shaped like patties and fried. Served on a wheat bun. $8.75.

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My thoughts: Now THIS, my friends, is what I call a burger. By first glance, would you think this is all veggie? Me, no (well, maybe the sprouts would make me think it, but really, no). This burger is HUGE, and it will fill you up. The patty itself did taste very “meaty,” and had great a great flavor combination. I normally don’t like sprouts, but all the veggies piled together, along with the big wheat bun, made for a fantastic sandwich. It’s one of those stretch-your-jaw ones. What brought it over the top for me was the brown mustard sauce that came on the side, giving it the extra kick. The sandwich as a whole was not dry by no means: it was moist and juicy.

Why you should go: Now yes, I ate a veggie burger, but Tommy’s isn’t just a vegetarian place. There are lots of meat options. For breakfast, you can get items such as omelets or breakfast egg sandwiches (including the Elsie Combo, which has two fried eggs, two strips of bacon, Mayo, American cheese and peanut butter made into a triple decker sandwich (choice of toast). My friend told me the breakfast at Tommy’s is really, really good, but if you want to get that, you will have to come at the right time (we unfortunately missed it by 15 minutes). For lunch and dinner, there are plenty of beef-filled burgers, tuna sandwiches (such as the A.D. which has tuna, mushrooms, falafel, tomato and cheese), falafel sandwiches (such as the D.C. my friend got which has falafel, veggies, mushrooms, sunflower seeds, sesame sauce, cheese, pictured below), hummus, etc. Tommy’s is also known for its milkshakes, with flavors of Vanilla, Chocolate, Cherry, Peach, Strawberry, Coffee, Mocha, Mint Chocolate Chip, Root Beer, Black Cherry, Cookies & Cream, Cookie Dough, Moosetracks and Black Raspberry Chip. Pumpkin Pie & Peppermint Stick are its seasonal flavors. Tommy’s has also had visit from the likes of famous celebs such as Al Roker, Drew Carey, Heather Graham, Molly Shannon and Sheryl Crow’s band (yes, her band. One of our favorite parts of reading this on its menu). You can check out all of the celebs that have been to Tommy’s here.

2) Melt Bar and Grilled (several locations, I went to Lakewood)

14718 Detroit Ave.
Lakewood, OH 44107
216.226.3699

Monday-Thursday: 11:00am – 11:00pm
Friday-Saturday: 11:00am – 12:00 midnight
Sunday: 11:00am – 11:00pm
Bar open till 2:00am every night.

What I ate: Monte Cristo: honey ham, smoked turkey, Swiss, American, crispy battered & deep fried, mixed berry preserves $11.50 .

IMG_4776

My thoughts: One of the best grilled cheese sandwiches EVER. HANDS DOWN. I’ve had a Monte Cristo at Bennigan’s before, but this blows Bennigan’s sandwich wayyy out of the water.I wasn’t sure which sandwich to choose at first. All of the grilled cheeses (the restaurants specialty) on its menu were mouthwatering. I narrowed it down between that one, The Dude Abides (homemade meatballs, fried mozzarella wedges, rich marinara, provolone & romano) and the Parmageddon (potato & onion pierogi, fresh napa vodka kraut, sautéed onions, sharp cheddar). I originally didn’t want the Monte Cristo, but when I saw the guy next to me get it, AND the waitress said its the restaurant’s signature sandwich, and with my friend saying I should try it, I got it, and woah. This is a balanced nirvana sandwich: there’s the savory of the honey ham, smoked turkey and two cheeses, then with the sandwich being battered and deep fried, AND with the sweet powdered sugar on top, AND having the tangy mixed berry sauce to dip in on the side, it was like this beautiful fried dough cheesy goodness. I was hungry, and devoured the entire plate. The hand cut fries were great too. A great bang for your buck too.

Why you should go: The experience itself is even more reason to go. There will be a bit of a wait depending on the time you head there, but instead of being given the standard beeper or just name calling when your table’s ready, this restaurant steps it up a notch with labels. But not just any name labels. Mine said something along the lines of “Garfield 1232-3”. My friend and I had absolutely no idea what that meant, but that’s okay. It’s all part of the awesome fun. And hey while you’re waiting, check out all of the cool decor around the room, as well as throughout the restaurant.  As you head to your table, the host will explain the label’s meaning to you. Apparently the one I wore was a phrase from a jingle from a roofing company commercial. Tons more funky phrases like that on the labels. The #1 reason: its grilled cheeses are to die for. And if you’re vegetarian, there are plenty of options too (even though the menu has a lot of meat filled ones). Just check the menu for V (vegetarian), VA (vegetarian option available), and VG (vegan available). Truthfully, as it’s a grilled cheese place, I’m not really sure why people would get anything else on the menu, but I will say, the other stuff on the menu, such as burgers, desserts and appetizers, look great too. But yes, when you go to Cleveland, you need to head to Melt. ASAP.

3) Big Al’s Diner

12600 Larchmere Blvd Cleveland OH 44120

What I ate: The dish that landed this mom & pop dining spot on Food Network’s “The Best Thing I Ever Ate” show, its corned beef hash, along with some scrambled eggs and wheat toast.

IMG_4790

 

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My thoughts: Chef Michael Symon named the corned beef hash the “best thing he ever ate,” on that show, also saying it “magic on a plate.” I definitely thought it was delicious: I liked how the corned beef was salty with the mix of the green peppers and the potatoes that were cut up and looked like unfried French fries. The eggs were fluffy and moist. I just felt like it needed a sauce on top. Just to make it a little more moist, and to add a creamy texture to the mix. I’ll admit, I added hot sauce and pepper on top to give it that extra oomph. So while Michael, I do not agree with you this time, you definitely have a contender.

Why you should go: It’s definitely that hole-in-the-wall diner in the neighborhood that people flock to, and I could see why. Prices are pretty cheap, the food is good, and you can get breakfast, lunch or dinner. A small forewarning though, something we learned while there: you have to seat yourself. We waited for a little bit and then noticed how people were seating themselves in tables as soon as a party upped and left, so we followed suit. Also, be prepared to wait a little while for your food, as they say they cook each dish to order. We did wait a little while for the food. But overall, we thought it was a decent place.

Now something I also learned from my friend while in Cleveland is that this city is full of amazing BEERS! Some places we checked out/walked by that I recommend: Market Garden, Nano Brew, Great Lakes Brewery, and Tremont Taphouse.

At several of these places we witnessed outdoor beer garden seating (I LOVED the outdoor seating at Market Garden at Tremont Taphouse: both had places to sit outdoors with beautiful hanging bulb lights).

I personally love the fruity beers myself, so here’s my list of what to find in #CLE that’s fruity and delicious:

IMG_4773ACE Pear Cider (pictured left): Got this at Melt Bar and Grilled. Essentially tasted like a cold sparkling glass of pear juice. It wasn’t overly sweet, but it wasn’t too bitter either. My friend agreed, saying she thought it tasted like pear juice.

Southern Tier Pumking (pictured right): My friend had this at Melt Bar and Grilled. A spice-filled, warm, cozy tasting beer.

ACE Pumpkin Cider (not pictured): Got that at Market Garden. My friend and I both agreed it tasted like Pumpkin Pie in a glass.

 

There are so many neighborhoods, so many foodie places to check out in Cleveland. The next time I visit, I want to venture into its Little Italy neighborhood, and check out the bar devoted to chocolate.

Next time you head to Cleveland, or if you are from there, please let me know where you go to eat/drink, or please let me know where I should go next!

Enjoy.

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.

Food-cation NYC : Spring Street Natural

Spring Street Natural Restaurant

62 Spring St.

New York, N.Y. 10012

212-966-0290

http://www.springstreetnatural.com

—-

Lunch at Spring Street Natural in NoLita was deceiving.

Its website describes its cuisine as fresh, healthy and affordable.  One would assume reading this, that the menu would be full of light, affordable options. Does all-natural-affordable mean paying higher price? I beg to differ, especially if the meal made me feel overfull and gassy. Yes, gas is natural. But even if finishing lunch was an option, I couldn’t, since a fly decided my lunch was awesome and dove into my three-quarters eaten sandwich.

Perusing the lunch menu, there were many items using indicators of all-natural: “free range,” “natural,” “organic.” There was a grilled vegetable sandwich (toasted onion ciabatta with grilled portobello mushroom, grilled zucchini, roasted red peppers, fresh mozzarella and sun-dried tomato pesto; served with Terra vegetable chips & baby greens), scrambled tofu (with red onions, shiitakes, fresh thyme, curry, mesclun salad, and organic brown rice), pumpkin ravioli (crispy pancetta, napa cabbage, brown sage butter, hazelnut crunch). Sounds somewhat healthy, right?

However, it was the grilled free-range chicken burger that stuck out as the dish to try: toasted brioche bun, melted pepper jack cheese, chipotle mayonnaise and hand-cut French fries. Chipotle mayo. Yes please.

When the burger (pictured right) arrived at my table, its presentation was sloppy. In one corner of the plate, the sandwich was engulfed in a white blob of cheese, in another, a mound of dark, thick fries. The only way to get to the meat was to eat through the fries. They were hard, cold and greasy.

The creamy chipotle mayo, however, was a perfect dipping sauce. The spicy kick actually enhanced the fries’ flavor.

In another corner, lettuce and tomato tried to peek out.  There were also two small sauces, one of which spilled onto the rest of the food.

Once the burger could be eaten, fries were stuck in the cheese. The meat was also too big for the bun. While the burger meat had specs of green in it, (hopefully leeks?) the burger had no flavor.

One positive: the bread basket before the meal was a hit. Its website boasts on making as many of the food items in-house as possible, including the breads, which derive from organic whole wheat flour pie crusts. Whole-oat bread (pictured left) greeted us at the table with sesame seeds in it, giving it a nutty flavor. It was light, yet crunchy and satisfying. Another looked like an orange pound cake that had a surprisingly olive taste. After taking guesses as to what it was, the waitress said it was tomato rosemary bread. This bread had a balance of sweet and savory flavors.

Lunch there is a no-go. Head to McDonalds and skip this so-called natural food.

SYRACUSE — RAW FOOD at Green Planet Grocery!

When you think of “Raw Food” what is the first thing that comes to mind?

I think of raw meats, fish, vegetables and fruits.

My last post was about different “Green” food items. This post will talk about a “Green” grocery store: Green Planet Grocery. It recently opened just off of Route 5 in Fairmount, N.Y. My friend Deandra told me about the supermarket and how they have a Vegan Raw Food Cafe there as well. She was telling me the other day about their Raw Food Nachos that were AMAZING, and I was immediately very curious about this “Raw Food” and what it’s all about.

What is raw food? Here are some bullet points about it, from the website http://www.thebestofrawfood.com :

“We call food raw if it is:

  • Uncooked – never heated above 42 C/118 F degrees.

and preferably:

  • Unprocessed – as fresh (or wild) as possible
  • Organic – no irradiation, preservatives, pesticides or GMO.”

Raw food is food that is uncooked and is very fresh. And chef Mariesa Pitonzo from the Raw Food Cafe stresses that in her blog Eye of Raw, where she writes in her bio page the following about herself and her transformation to the Raw Food Diet:

“My raw transformation has completely changed my life.  With in the first three weeks of my transformation, I lost 15 lbs and gained so much energy. I did this by eating many different foods, the only difference is that they are healthier for the body and contain so many enzymes that your body wants and needs!

So why not cook your food? Cooking your food kills all the enzymes and nutrients that it has to offer. Your body needs nutrients to function properly, different nutrients and vitamins affect different organs in your body. The enzymes are whats going to help the digestion process. I highly stress buying local organic fruits and vegetables so that you can get all of what your food has to offer you. If local is not available, still buy organic. This not only produces more nutrients, it is pesticide free and better for your consumption.

The benefits of being RAW: High Energy, you will be the weight your body desires to be, (never count a calorie again!) no brain fog, you will be chemical free, the list can go on and on.” — Mariesa Pitonzo on EyeofRawFoods.com

Deandra and I hopped in the car yesterday and drove over to try some of the “Raw Food” chef Pitonzo had to offer! I was extremely excited about trying something new and completely different from the average grocery store food.

Once we walked in, we were greeted by friendly staff at the cashier counters and headed straight over to the Raw Food Cafe, which is straight ahead as you walk into the Green Planet Grocery. Chef Mariesa was cooking up a storm in the cute kitchen they had in the cafe. The whiteboard had the Raw Food menu of the day, which included the entree, an Antioxidant Salad, and the assortment of smoothies you could get.

Antioxidant Salad (half size), $5.99, Raw Food Cafe @ Green Planet Grocery

We both decided to try the Antioxidant Salad, which certain was full of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, including Asparagus, mixed greens and herbs, a raspberry and kiwi salad dressing, pomegranate seeds, poppy seeds, pumpkin seeds, and more. The half salad that we each got was $5.99, but you could get a full sized for $8.99.
Wow!! What a salad…What I really loved about the salad were the different flavors I had in my mouth. Between the sweet, yet creamy dressing (which Mariesa said she used things such as coconut oil and EVOO in it) , the actual fruits in it, the raw veggies and different seeds on top, it certainly filled me up for the afternoon.

"Green Machine" smoothie (small): Raspberries, Blueberries, Kale and Spinach, $3.99

The smoothie very much impressed me as well. I am a HUGE fan of smoothies, especially ones with lots of yummy fruits in them. While Deandra got an AMAZING smoothie called “Chocolate Banana” that had frozen bananas, almond butter and cocoa bits in it (it was a filling, delicious dessert-type-of-drink!), I got a “Green Machine” smoothie, which was DELICIOUS as well! I have heard this name for a smoothie before, with the “Green Machine” smoothies from the “Naked” juice brand. But this smoothie I had was great: For $3.99 I got to choose two fruits and two vegetables to make my “Green Machine.” I first chose raspberries and blueberries for my fruits, because I LOVE those two fruits dearly, and I know that blueberries especially have high antioxidants. Mariesa chose Kale and Spinach for me as my two vegetables, and my smoothie turned out delicious. While Mariesa said the fruits would overpower the vegetables, they didn’t at first for me: I tasted the leaves of the kale and spinach. But later, as I took sips, I tasted the berries and enjoyed my smoothie immensely.

Walking around the store afterward with Deandra, I also found a DESSERT made by Mariesa in a refrigerated case: a vegan, raw, gluten-free and soy-free Chocolate Lavender Cheesecake. One slice is $5.99.
Chocolate and Cheesecake = LOVE!!!

But lavender? In a dessert? This was new to me. I was once again, quite curious.

I thoroughly enjoyed it. Please watch my video below to find out more about the cheesecake! I’ll tell you this: it was very chocolately and decadent, yet tasted very healthy and fruity. The pomegranate seeds gave it that extra kick of deliciousness!

While I am not a vegan or vegetarian ( I love eating meat!) I really enjoyed trying all of these new ways to prepare food, and you could definitely try them out too!

Check out Mariesa’s website:  http://eyeofrawfoods.com/

And if you want to check out Green Planet Grocery, here’s their information:

3514 W Genesee Street
Syracuse, NY 13219
Phone: (315) 488-7777

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