Monday, May 30, 2011

Mega-Recipe Marathon, Part II -- The long-awaited conclusion

Finally, finally, I will finish up the recipe review marathon. And, because it has been such a ridiculously long time coming, I've added a fourth recipe. So...let the reviewing begin!

One weeknight dinner (long, long ago) we had grilled herb chicken with roma tomato sauce. I had high hopes for this dish, and truth be told, the sauce was pretty good. But it wasn't knock-your-socks-off amazing, just good tomato sauce. And the chicken was just too big and bland. I think, if you're going to cook chicken breasts whole, they really need to be marinated in something. Otherwise, chop them up, slice them, do something to break up the big bland breast monotony! Also...I do not have a grill and it's impossible to use the grill pan on a cooktop, so the chicken got pan-fried instead. But I honestly don't think the grill could have saved it from blah.

Another night, we had Thai hot and sour soup with shrimp. And this was fantastically yummy. I omitted the kaffir lime leaves, which are hard to find, subbed bean sprouts for the mushrooms (they're expensive and P's not a huge fan), and added cellophane noodles to the broth along with the shrimp. I'm also terrified of habaneros, so we just added sriracha tableside, like you do with pho. I know I served this with some sort of veg, but I can't remember since I've been so remiss in the posting (sorry). Make this dish was easy, delicious, and very waistline friendly, even with the noodles.

For the first Hoar-Daly Mother's Day bbq at P's mom's house, I made a healthy veg side dish of roasted fennel with dill and lemon. I doubled the recipe, but wish I had made more. It was really delicious and the fennel cooked down so much it ended up not making a whole lot--maybe half of a casserole dish? Also, you absolutely don't need to add any more salt or oil in step is plenty oily and salty already. The dish was a huge hit, even among non-fennel lovers (P said, "how did you make it not taste like fennel?!"). It was almost more of a really subtle roasted onion dish. Either way, mmmmm!

Finally, last week I made fingerling potato-leek hash with swiss chard and eggs. This dish was pre-approved by Pat, and we thought it would be a great, healthy, meatless dinner. While it was both healthy and meatless, it was not great. In fact, it was entirely without character at all. The only mod I made was using small red potatoes instead of fingerling, only because they weren't available at the Teet. But honestly, this dish really needed something exciting...maybe a sharp cheddar in place of the really subtle Gruyere, or a dash of vinegar or something. As is: blah, blah, blah. CL fail.

Also, apologies for the lack of pics. I promise to be better from here on out!

Root 246 (Solvang, CA)

This place is soooo over-rated. You guys know how much I LOVE to eat, and this was the first time in I can't remember how long that I looked over the menu and was excited by nothing. And that made me sad.

What also made me sad was to learn that either a) chef is watching his blood pressure, or b) they ran out of salt, because this was the most under-seasoned food I've ever tasted. I'm pretty sensitive to salty food, but this stuff had me searching for a salt shaker. I seriously pinched the fleur de sel off the table butter to add to my asparagus soup (which was also, besides being bland, lacking any complexity). Ditto for the Caesar salad with poached egg (which additionally was a weird, slightly cold temperature) and for P's salmon with ham hock (I know! Who can make under-salted hock?!).

The two highs of our dinner were the amazing blue corn bread muffins and a delectable chocolate cake dessert. But they alone could not save this review. Especially since our request for more muffins was summarily forgotten by our server...(x-posted to

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


What a lucky day for you, you guys. Today is MEGA RECIPE MARATHON day! Meaning I will offer much-abbreviated reviews of *6 recipes!* Of course, this is really just an excuse for me to catch up on the many, many recipes I have yet to review without spending all night doing it, but let's pretend I'm doing this for you.

Arctic Char with Orange-Caper Relish. I made it with salmon, because they're basically the same thing. This was refreshing and different, but not amazing. Definitely make sure you supreme the orange, because otherwise the eating of this dish could get pretty messy. Served with an arugula salad dressed as recommended by the menu, but with Greek yogurt in place of mayo. 7/10

Artichoke and Goat Cheese Strata. I made this with skim milk instead of low-fat, wheat bread instead of white, and added ~6 pieces of proscuitto, cut into squarish pieces. The proscuitto made a huge difference...I think the strata would have been a bit bland without it. This was fantastically delicious, but, sadly, not super-satisfying. I had leftovers for lunch and was hungry not long after. Great dish to bring to a potluck brunch though! 8.5/10

Marinated Lamb Chops. I had high hopes for this dish, not least of which was because the chops were freaking expensive! Even with overnight marinating, the lamb was not super flavorful (although it was juicy). Also, it took so long to cook I ended up having to nuke it in the end. But that's probably because I suck at cooking meat. Made with sugar snap peas and sliced red onion dressed with lemon juice and olive oil. Don't bother with this dish: 3/10, max. Sad face!

Okay...I'm actually feeling even lazier than I thought. Let's take a break and revisit the other 3 recipes tomorrow. It's not like you were going to cook all six tonight anyway!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Ping Pong Dim Dum

Ping Pong was pretty much exactly what I expected. It delivered, pretty decently, on being a great, trendy place for a girls' night out.

The service was slow, though gracious, the drink list was long and strong, and the food was solid (though, as anticipated, very Americanized).

To start, we shared a bottle of prosecco (celebrating P and my engagement!), and I ordered the Ping Pong cocktail (yum! but dangerous). We split a bunch of dishes among the six of us, which worked out perfectly--since each dish had 3 pieces we just cut everything in half. Standouts, though nothing blew us away, were the squid (actually, cuttlefish, but the most tender cuttlefish I've ever had it), the char siu buns, which were really stewy and satisfying, pork shumei, and the many sauces that accompanied each dish (one tasted like hoisin and five spice). Sticky rice was eh. The only BIG FAIL was the "Chinese broccoli," which was clearly not Chinese, but standard run-of-the-mill broccoli florets, and undercooked at that.

Also fun--big round tables were great for a group, and there's a shelf under the bench seating for purses and coats.

Good for a group! Probably mediocre for anything else. (x-posted to