Monthly Archives: October 2010

Restaurant Review: The Wine Bar

We actually had a purpose for being in Toronto and that was to see my favorite band of all time, Stars.  If you have never heard of them, I highly recommend giving them a listen.  They are all sorts of amazing. They have this great indie pop sound, and there are two lead singers, a man and a woman and both have wonderful voices.

We were kind of pooped from our afternoon excursions but we were set on having a good dinner.  We decided on The Wine Bar.  The only reservation we could get was for 6 PM.  The restaurant itself is beautiful, with two large bars on both sides of the restaurant, running the entire length of the restaurant.  On the back wall, there was a huge display of all things pickled and it was color coordinated.  We sat at one of the bars, right in front of the chef’s station, where we could see all the cooking, aka magic happen.

We started with the most important order first, drinks of course.  We both got dirty martinis.  They were pretty pricey at $12 a glass but very good, with tiny delicious olives.  Then we got down to the business of eating.  We ordered french fries with three dipping sauces, home-made ketchup, pesto mayo, and spiced aioli.  The fries were plentiful but a little greasy.  J attributed it to the oil not being hot enough.  I liked the spiced aioli a lot.  We also ordered a creamy tomato soup with pepper croutons.  That was delicious.  Nice and creamy with a nice tangy tomato flavor.  I didn’t think the croutons did much for the soup but we thoroughly enjoyed the bowl.  We also ordered a prosciutto salad with frisee lettuce, cherry tomatoes, and a vinaigrette. It was absolutely fantastic, very light, bright, and the prosciutto just added this delicious smoky, meaty flavor to everything.

As entrees, J ordered a seared mackerel and I ordered the “Miami” short ribs.  Both were great.  J’s mackerel was perfectly cooked and flavored. My short ribs were actually Korean short ribs and they were so freaking tasty.  Full of flavor and tender.  They were a little sweet, salty, and garlicky.  YUM.  So I hate to admit this, but I ended up ordered another order of the ribs because I knew it was going to be a long time before I had ribs like that again.  The waiter thought we were going to order dessert, and looked a little flummoxed when we asked for more ribs.

We ended being at The Wine Bar for two hours! We had such a delightful time there.  We headed over to the concert and Stars totally rocked the place.  It was amazing!

Tagged , ,

Restaurant Review: Smoke’s Poutinerie

I was pretty adamant that while in Toronto, we had to try poutine (a French Canadian dish consisting of fries, smothered in gravy and cheese curds).  So after our lunch of delicious ramen, we wandered around Toronto a bit.  I got a bubble tea (yay!) which was really delicious actually, perfect blend of jasmine and black tea, perfect amount of sugar, and bubbles of course!

I was also in search of a place where we could get poutine.  My feet hurt so much from walking around that we made our way back to our hotel eventually and lo and behold! Smoke’s Poutinerie is literally across the street from our hotel.  Sometimes, it seems that fate just wants me to eat good food.  Of course we went straight in and ordered a traditional poutine.  They had at least a dozen different types of poutine: Mexican, hamburger poutine, an Oktoberfest poutine, etc..  I also got this soda pop that looked like real soda.  We got our order and dug in.  It was good, the fries were nice and crispy for like two seconds before getting soggy with gravy, the gravy was very flavorful and rich, and the cheese curds were curdy.  We both agreed that while the poutine was good, that we preferred our fries naked.  I also would like the cheese to be melty versus curdy.  But at least we got to try it.

The soda also was very good.  It was black cherry flavor and when I looked at the list of ingredients, there were only five or six ingredients and I could pronouce all of them. I also thought the bottle itself looked old school and charming.  All in all, a nice meal at Smoke’s.

Tagged , ,

Restaurant Review: Kenzo Ramen

J and I spent the day and night in Toronto on Saturday without Future Foodie (!).  Yes, it was our first night away from our daughter in over 20 months.  We stopped in Syracuse, dropped her off, and drove off towards the border.  Of course, we had done lots of food research prior to trip (about 10 pages worth and yes we are weirdly obsessed with food).  We both really wanted some good Asian food as Toronto has a substantial Chinatown and a large Asian population.  Once we got to our hotel, a Hilton Garden Inn, which was really nice by the way, we made our way towards getting some Asian food in our bellies.  We were right downtown and Chinatown was only about 3/4 of a mile away.  On the way to where we thought we were going to eat, I spied a line at this tiny little Japanese ramen restaurant called Kenzo Ramen.  They had big pictures of all the ramen bowls they sold and I told J that this was going to be our final destination.  I always think it’s a good sign when a restaurant is crowded and if it’s an ethnic restaurant, crowded with people from that nationality.  We waited about ten minutes and sat and ordered as quickly as possible.  I ordered a chicken ramen noodle dish and a hot ramen noodle dish.  The noodle bowls came out fairly quickly.  The bowls were very large and steaming hot.  Both were delicious.  The noodles in both dishes were perfectly cooked, firm but not too firm.  The broth in the chicken ramen was delicious, nourishing and there was definitely miso in it.  It had egg, mushrooms, ground up chicken, and lots of bean sprouts in it.   I would have preferred more noodles to bean sprouts but overall it was very good.  The hot ramen dish was so, so good.  It had the same type of noodles and mix of vegetables but also had some ground beef in it.  The broth was so good, red and spicy. I just slurped it up.  My favorite was the spicy noodle dish and J loved the chicken ramen. Overall a great experience but the one not so great thing about Kenzo Ramen is the pretty bad service.  No one was unfriendly but I literally had to ask three times for a glass of water and they finally brought me some at the end of our meal.  I understood that they were busy but still.

We were talking about how sad it was that Albany didn’t have anything close to a ramen shop.  We think it would go over really well.  One can dream.

Tagged , , ,

Recipe: Healthy Garbage Smoothies

So Future Foodie is like the weather lately with her eating habits.  One day, she LOVES broccoli. The next day, it’s like I’m making her eat dirt.  So…it’s been “fun” having our nightly family dinner together lately.  But it has forced me to be a little bit more creative in how I can get nutrients into that little body of hers.  So I started making smoothies and literally threw in anything nutritious into the mix to see if she would drink it.  Hallelujah! She downs them like it’s her job.

To make the smoothie, I start with a bullet. I throw in a whole banana, any other fruit we have in the house (apples, pears, grapes, frozen blackberries, cantaloupe, etc.), a tablespoon of ground up  (omega-3’s), a heaping tablespoon of our homemade yogurt, lots of soy milk, and some Cranberry juice. I also add in SPINACH! or BEETS! She doesn’t even notice, it is so awesome. Anyway, I blend it all up and say “Bon appetit” to Future Foodie.  It’s great.  But I’m sure, just like the weather, she will soon stop drinking even these.

Tagged , , , ,

Recipe: Homemade Yogurt

J’s family takes its Labne or Lebanese yogurt as I like to call it, very seriously.  It’s a staple in their diet and his entire family makes their own batches of yogurt.  They all use the same yogurt culture that has been passed from family member to family member.  The culture originated with J’s grandmother, Alice, who while alive, was a fabulous cook.  The family still talks about her food.  Each Sunday evening, she would have the entire family over, anywhere between 15 – 30 people at her house and she would cook enough food to feed ALL of them.  Amazing. Takes my breath away just thinking about it.  J still makes the yogurt and he eats it every morning (with granola) for breakfast.  We wanted to share the recipe.


Half a gallon of whole organic milk

Half a cup of yogurt with live cultures

A cheesecloth


In a pot, heat the milk over low heat until it reaches 180 degrees.  Make sure to check it often so that it doesn’t burn.

Take the pot off the heat and let the temperature go down to approximately 130 degrees. An aside, J’s grandmother would use her “10 second” rule of putting her finger in the milk until she could hold her finger in there for 10 seconds.  We don’t really use this pseudo masochistic way of testing the milk and use a thermometer instead.

Once the milk has reached 130 degrees, you temper the yogurt by adding one tablespoon at a time of the hot milk to the yogurt (only about a half a cup of milk is needed to do this).  This prevents the culture from being shocked (by the heat, not indecency) when it’s added to the milk.  You stir it each time you add a tablespoon.  Once you’ve added about a half cup of milk in, pour the yogurt/milk mixture into the pot of warm milk.

Wrap the pot in a blanket or towel and place in a warm area in the kitchen (but not a hot oven!).  Let the mixture sit for 6 to 8 hours.  You can see it’s done when the top of the mixture has solidified.

Place the clean cheesecloth over the mixture, make sure not to push on the top, just rest it there.  Place in the refrigerator.  For the first three days, ring out the cheesecloth, rinse it under cold water and place it back on top of the yogurt.  Repeat this process twice a day for the first three days.  After the three days, keep the cheesecloth on the yogurt, but only ring and rinse once a day.  In addition, the yogurt is ready to eat after the first three days but the more water you pull out, the thicker the yogurt will get.

As you get towards the end of your batch of yogurt, save some for the next batch, so that you can keep regenerating that same culture.

If you’re going to add any additional flavors, make sure not to contaminate your clean batch of yogurt.

Enjoy the tangy taste of this home made yogurt.  Smear it on Arabic break, make tzatziki, plop into a smoothie, go crazy with it.

Tagged , , , , ,

Awful Arby’s

Don’t be grossed out but we got Arby’s on Sunday during a momentary lapse in reason.  We were on our way home from LI and had foolishly stopped at Woodbury Outlets thinking that it would be a nice break in the drive.  BAD MOVE.  The place was PACKED to the gills with tourists lugging huge rolling suitcases filled to capacity with shopping bags.  Everywhere we looked, there was either a crush of cars or people, it was kind of draining and overwhelming.  But the good news is that J got a pair of Kenneth Cole loafers and Timberland snow boots for under $100!

Anyway, we were starving on our way out of the outlets and I saw an Arby’s and thought, hey that might be good.  I was dead wrong.  We got two roast beef with cheese sandwiches.  As you can see from the picture above, I’m not sure any portion of those sandwiches were actually grown from anything found in nature.  The cheese was a step below cheese whiz and the meat, UGH, the meat.  It had like this weird brown gray color and these weird holes in it.  I took one bite and immediately regretted it.  Gah, it was gross.  J being J, ate his whole sandwich. I ate my chicken tenders that I also ordered, which actually were good and at least made up for that sorry excuse Arby’s calls a sandwich.


Recipe: Vegetable Lo Mein

My favorite thing about my husband is that he takes our family recipes and makes them taste even better. He just has this knack.  One of the dishes he really makes well is vegetable Lo Mein.  It’s the opposite of what you get at Chinese restaurants, all the vegetables are crisp, the noodles are al dente, and the dish isn’t dripping with oil.  It’s pretty healthy too. You can add any veggies and proteins you want to the dish, it’s very versatile.



Snow peas

Mushrooms (mostly Baby Bellas and a handful of shitakes)

5 Eggs

Chinese Noodles

2 Scallions

1 garlic clove

Sesame Oil

Rice wine

Soy Sauce


Julienne carrots and snow peas.  Chop scallions and garlic.  Slice the mushrooms.

Cook noodles (use a good handful) like you would pasta, until the noodles are al dente. Make sure to rinse noodles with water when they are done so that you remove the starchiness.

Scramble eggs in a pan or wok. Add a dash of salt and white pepper.  Cook and place in separate bowl.

Change to high heat.  Add some vegetable oil to the pan and cook the mushrooms until they start emitting some liquid (about 5 minutes). Add some soy sauce, cook for another 1 minute and a half.  Set aside in a separate bowl.

Add a little bit more oil to the pan, add carrots, and cook for 5 minutes.  Add snow peas, scallions, and garlic. Stir all ingredients frequently so that garlic doesn’t burn. Add noodles, mushrooms, and eggs. Mix everything together. Add a generous amount of soy sauce, but add in small batches so you don’t overtake the dish with soy sauce.  Add a 1/2 tablespoon of sesame oil.  Add 1 tablespoon of rice wine.  Keep mixing and add soy sauce until you achieve a flavor/saltiness level that you want.

Serve. Add Sriracha for additional tastiness.


Tagged , , , , ,

Peter Luger Steakhouse, the biggest disappointment of my year

My little brother turned 21 on Saturday (yay!) and as a birthday present, our family took him out to Peter Luger’s for a steak (which has been a family tradition for a while now).

The evening didn’t start off too well.  We all ordered drinks at the bar, my brother was excited he was able to legally drink in front of other adults.  I ordered a dirty martini, and I kid you not, it tasted like I was drinking vodka with a cup of salt in it.  It was undrinkable. Now I’m no dirty martini expert but I’ve had one or twenty in my past and none of them were even close to as salty as this drink was.  I was being a weenie and didn’t feel like saying anything, so I made my mom do it.  She asked the bartender very, very nicely if he could make me another drink as the martini was way too salty.  Well, that just set him off. He started to literally have an adult tantrum in front of us, slamming glasses, throwing the drink out, exclaiming very loudly that he’s “made thousands of these with no complaints ever” and “it’s made with olive juice, didn’t we know that? That’s what makes it dirty” and apparently undrinkably salty.” My mom, bless her heart, was being so nice about it, while I literally wanted to take his big, ugly face and knock him down, but I kept all my seething inside.  He then says that we ordered it wrong, and that we should should have said to make it only a little dirty. So he finally he sets down his drink in front of me and I take a sip, still very salty but at least I could suck that stupid $12 drink down.

We finally sat down and the waiter was very nice. We ordered a steak for four, which was very pricey at $173 plus a $30 steak for one. We also ordered an appetizer of huge beefsteak tomatoes and french fries and creamed spinach for sides.

The tomatoes came out. They were predictably huge, but completely tasteless.  They looked like they were genetically modified and grown in a hothouse. You’re supposed to spoon the famous Peter Luger Steakhouse on it, which we did, which was okay tasting but still. It was $10 for some slices of bleh tomato.

The steak came out a little while later. It was huge and delicious looking.  Peter Luger is famous for its dry aged steak which is supposed to make it very tender. However, all six of us who ate that steak unaminously agreed that the steak didn’t taste like it had been dry aged for even an hour, and there was absolutely nothing special about it to warrant that huge price tag.  We probably could have had the same steak at Outback for a fraction of the price.  It was seriously disappointing.  As I said, it’s been a family tradition to go out to Peter Luger’s for a usually melt in your mouth tender steak.  We grew up going there. But this steak was nothing to write home about, instead it almost made me angry because the taste just did not match what we thought we were paying for.

The creamed spinach and french fries were the highlights of the evening.  The spinach was very flavorful with a strong spinach flavor and no overpowering creaminess to it.  The french fries were big, crispy, and hot.  But still, those are items you can get anywhere.  We also got crappy, not crispy onion rings.  Just another disappointing thing to add to the list.

It makes me sad to write this post because I really used to love Peter Luger’s and would rave about it to anyone who would listen.  Now I will do the opposite and say that it does not live up to its hype.  All we got was an overpriced meal and rude service.  Needless to say, we will never go there again.

Tagged , , , ,

Luso, my favorite Long Island restaurant

On Saturday, my family and I made our second trip in two weeks to Luso in Smithtown on Long Island. Side note, we decided to make our car our permanent residence.  It’s pretty cozy in there with the three of us and all of our luggage. We have food, a portable dvd player, music, and the company of each other, what more could we ask for?

So Luso is a Portuguese chartcuterie.   They bbq meat over wood briquettes and their signature dish is the bbq chicken.  This is the only reason to go to the restaurant.  Seriously, it’s cha-bang – out of of this world!  I’ve been there three times now, and have ventured to other areas on the menu and have been underwhelmed (my friend got fish and didn’t like how much butter they used, the sangria is overly sweet, and the kale/sausage soup is okay but J’s is better).  Whenever we go, we order the chicken for two for $18.95.  Sounds a little steep huh? But it’s really like the deal of the century, since along with that delicious grilled chicken, you also get as much salad as you want and tons of side dishes.  The salad is very good and very simple, just a mix of iceberg lettuce, sliced tomatoes, and white onions dressed with oil and vinegar.  It’s very European and with a little salt and pepper, it’s kind of addictive.

My sister literally ordered four plates of that salad; she was going a little nuts for the salad.  Then the chicken came out. They use a special marinade when grilling the chicken and the meat has so much flavor.  The skin is so crispy and good. It’s probably one of the best grilled chickens I have ever had (besides the grilled chicken we had out in Portugal).

The real kicker is when you put (or pour like J does) the Portuguese hot sauce, Piri-Piri sauce, on the chicken. We discovered the amazing Piri Piri sauce on a trip to Portugal a few years ago and have never forgotten it.  We even tried to recreate it but to no avail. The Portuguese use a special hot pepper that we couldn’t locate here.  Anyway, it gives a nick kick to the chicken and we literally clean the restaurant out of their Piri Piri whenever we eat there.

When you order the chicken, you also get a few very generously portioned sides:  rice, steamed vegetables, french fries, and home made potato chips. I mean, it’s a food fest all for less than $10 per person, AMAZING!

We all devoured the chicken and the rest of the food and let satiated and happy.  Service is efficient and the restaurant itself has a great outdoor back patio with huge outside heat lamps, and the inside is simple and cozy.  There’s always a ton of Portuguese people there which to me is a great sign.  If you’re ever on Long Island, check out Luso and get the chicken.  You won’t be disappointed.

Tagged , , ,

Maureen’s Kitchen: A Long Island Institution

So I’m one of those annoying morning people and more so now that Future Foodie wakes up at 6:30 AM on the dot every day.  This past Saturday, we were visiting family on Long Island.  It was 7 AM, my sister and I were up with Future Foodie and I decided that it would be just awesome if the whole family got up and went to breakfast at Maureen’s Kitchen in Smithtown.  So one by one, I woke my grumpy ass, the opposite of morning people up and told them we were having a family breakfast TOGETHER.  There was cajoling, demanding, and straight up yelling but I was absolutely determined we would get to Maureen’s Kitchen together and early.  That place fills up very, very quickly and I hate waiting for food, especially with a toddler.  So we collectively arrived at 8 AM and were promptly seated.

It’s super cute inside, there’s a big cow theme. Seriously, cows EVERYWHERE.  My parents took my sister and I took to Maureen’s kitchen when it was literally this tiny shack around 20 years ago and it’s been there ever since and has morphed into a bigger and nicer restaurant over the years.  The big thing at Maureen’s are specialty pancakes. I wasn’t feeling any of them so I got something I had never seen before, croissant french toast.  I mean yum, right?  Yum they were too!  Lightly dusted with powdered sugar, they were heavenly. They were not overpoweringly sweet, soft but not mushy.  I seriously ate my entire plate of food (sausages included), and a side order of the best corned beef hash I have ever eaten.  I was so happy. 

My mom got some awesome banana walnut pancakes.  They were delicious with walnuts baked right into the fluffy pancakes.  She took half of them home since she couldn’t match my voracious appetite and I finished them off the next morning.  I love leftovers!

Tagged , , ,