Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Everything but the Kitchen Sink

Some people don't enjoy leftovers, but I find myself looking forward to the second night of a fantastic meal, or combining ingredients into a completely different creation. Last night I found myself with the remnants of a delicious grilled feast, though it didn't seem like enough for two full meals. I ended chopping everything and making a big salad, and for some reason it felt like more food than before. Marinated and grilled pork tenderloin, a few leaves of romaine lettuce, an ear of grilled corn, some chickpeas, half a cucumber, and a little tomato made for an interesting and delectable dinner.

Ginger dressing tied it all together, and a refreshing cocktail, the Sweet Sweet Rosie, was an appropriate accompaniment. It's made with a third of a glass of sparkling dessert wine, a few ounces of sparkling water, an ounce of orange juice, a splash of grenadine, a squeeze of lemon and a shot of rum on top. For a slightly different version, the Sweet Rosie, use a dry sparkling wine instead of the dessert version.

I dare anyone to complain about eating the same food two days in a row, or for trying new combinations with random edible items. In fact, I'm counting down the minutes to lunch, which consists of my wonderful lemongrass chicken leftovers.

A New Beginning?

I'll admit I've been stuck in a Thai food rut for several months. Mom's Siam is the closest eatery to my apartment, and their takeout orders are ready and hot after 5 minutes. Anytime I'm walking to or from Carytown, the tantalizing aromas of fish sauce and hot oil evoke a craving for Pad See Ew (a wide noodle dish with chicken and broccoli) or Pad Prik King (creamy red curry with green beans and chicken). This wouldn't be nearly as pathetic except that there are four Thai restaurants in Carytown, two of which I've never even tried. Last weekend I decided it was time to branch out, so Davy and I made the difficult ten minute walk to Ginger.

Small yet tasteful and attractive, the restaurant has a lovely patio for outdoor dining, which was of course unavailable on a Friday night around 7:30. The interior is full with tables, although I didn't feel crowded, and that's a tricky balance. I only noticed two female servers, but they were quick and efficient in meeting customers' needs. Our crab rangoons, crispy dumplings filled with tasty crab meat, were a light and pleasant start to the meal. I ordered lemongrass chicken, which had a subtle tanginess that didn't overwhelm the tender chicken or fresh vegetables. Ginger's Pad Thai is served with lime and peanuts on the side, which is a thoughtful approach for those who like fewer or more nuts. The dish was excellent and not at all greasy, and both meals left plenty for another dinner.

Thursday, July 19, 2007


This will be brief, but my dinner at Can Can last night was absolutely exquisite. It started with their $3 fondue (perfect for two people to share) and soft slices of dark flat bread to dip in it. All of the breads there are fantastic, and the server brings a generous basket to the table after everyone has ordered.

My meal was Roasted Red Snapper. The fish was prepared without much seasoning, so I was able to really appreciate its mild freshness and flavor. Drizzled around the plate was paprika coulis, a smooth red-orange sauce that paired with all of the other components very well. Tomato confit (slow-clooked tomatoes that were delicious and tender) and swiss chard made a tasty bed for the snapper. When my meal first arrived I was afraid Can Can had mistakenly substituted my chickpea polenta. I thought the golden brown square on my plate was tofu, but when I broke off a piece, it was yellow and luscious on the inside. Slightly spicy and buttery, the polenta turned out to be my favorite part of the dish.

Can Can hasn't really changed its dessert menu since it opened, but I still haven't gotten my hands on the chocolate mousse. I'm dying to try it, so hopefully next time I won't be too full for dessert.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Boulevard is not that Bad

Brunch yesterday was one of the most refreshing meals I've had in a long time. I ventured to the northern section of Boulevard to try another new restaurant with "kitchen" in the title. Kitchen 64 used to be Zippy's, which I never noticed nor visited, but the building is now cheerful and welcoming. My friend and I sat on the beautiful patio, which looked brand new, with comfortable wrought iron furniture, pale green pillows and large umbrellas. Somehow the brick wall surrounding the patio blocked out breezes and sounds from the busy, adjacent Boulevard.

The entire meal can be described in one word: pleasant. Our server was warm and efficient in the number of times she came to the table. A mimosa cost $4.50 (or $11 for a pitcher!) but it came in the same size glasses as our water and proved to be quite tasty. I consider it a good sign when I have a hard time choosing one thing from a menu. Kitchen 64 has an extensive, diverse brunch menu, and I doubt I would have been disappointed with any of the options. Greek Nachos, Mini Burgers over French Fries, an Asian chicken salad, and all of the breakfast items were abandoned for the Avocado Melt and Cold Plate.

Each sandwich and salad comes with sweet potato fries, french fries, or pasta salad. Luckily we were both enthusiastic about the sweet potato fries, and they certainly didn't let us down. Thin but not too crisp, the fries were lightly salted and not at all greasy. The lovely sweet potato flavor was not overpowered by oil, and the fries could go well with several of the menu items.

I've had all-veggie paninis that have been too vegetable heavy or skimpy, but the Avocado Melt ($6.95) was nearly perfect. The avocado was sized so that it was prominent but not dominant in the sandwich, and the provolone cheese complemented the other ingredients (cucumber and I can't remember what else) but wasn't oozing everywhere. Most importantly, the bread was grilled and had some crunch, but it still had some give when I bit into it. It drives me crazy trying to eat sandwich bread that crumbles into pieces because it's so hard.

As far as cold plates go, Kitchen 64's is the best I've seen. There's a choice of tuna or chicken salad, and pasta salad, cole slaw, fresh fruit and Greek yogurt with honey are all included. It sounds like a lot of food, and it is, but it makes the dish worth $9.95. Both the pasta salad and cole slaw were lightly dressed; the pasta salad was made with feta cheese and multi-colored spiral noodles. I thoroughly enjoyed mixing red and green grapes, cantaloupe, and pineapple with Greek yogurt and honey. Perhaps the most remarkable component of the plate was the chicken salad, which had small pieces sun-dried tomatoes, cucumber and green pepper in it - an interesting variation on a dish that is usually standard and not always desirable.

Dining at Kitchen 64 is difficult only because all of the food that comes out isn't yours. I watched several hearty and attractive meals go by, and saw many expectant and pleased diners when the plates arrived at their respective tables. The interior of the restaurant looks equally as casual and aesthetically pleasing as the patio. A large, funky bar and a refrigerator with revolving shelves add character to the laid-back atmosphere, and I noticed that the crowd ranged from young to old. Everyone seemed content at Kitchen 64, whether they were eating or talking or waiting tables. I can't ask for much else, and I can't wait to go back.

A Lovable Rat

I saw Ratatouille last Friday, and was impressed by just about all of it: realistic and amazing animation, enticing restaurant food, a happy ending and interesting themes. The best part was that I was able to forget about Remy, the protagonist, being a rat. His family and friends were creepy and a little gross, but Remy was separate from them in the best possible way. Walking on two legs, savoring his food, and not eating from the trash were certainly some of the qualities that allowed me to relate to and care about the leading character.

Imagination always plays a large role in children's movies, but the food in Ratatouille didn't necessitate any creative thought. A few months before the film came out, I read an article about the animators' great effort not to make the cuisine look too lifelike. In my opinion, there was just enough cartoonishness in the kitchen to mesh with the people, who were the least convicing aspect in terms of realism. However, I still left the theater feeling a little hungry.
When Remy encounters a fresh loaf of bread, it is appealingly crusty, with textured crevices and a crunchy exterior. The famous soup bubbles happily on the stove, and watching the characters inhale its aromas made my mouth water.

Without giving anything away (there were a few twists, surprisingly), I have to point out my favorite moment in the film. Anton Ego, upon taking his first bite of ratatouille, is immediately transported to his childhood. The filmmakers quickly and elegantly capture the powerful influence food has through our lives in about five seconds, but that scene will be stuck in my head indefinitely. Not too shabby for a kid flick about a rodent.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Recent Openings/New Losses

Anyone who's glanced at this blog probably knows how much I miss Limani, or how much of an insult Duro was to Limani's legacy. Weezie's Kitchen, the most recent incarnation of the restaurant, opened recently in the ill-fated Carytown location. Compared to Duro, it has much more potential, though it's not the most interesting eatery in town.

I went to Weezie's Kitchen expecting a dineresque experience, with low prices and casual fare. While the welcome was warm, and the waitress was friendly and competent, little about the atmosphere or cuisine said "comfort food." I recognized the elegant bar, white walls and decorative red highlights of red from Duro, which were only different from Limani because they weren't cobalt blue.

The menu included a page of appetizers and dishes with an insert listing alcoholic beverages and entrees for the day. The items on the menu were fairly inconsistent - chicken tenders, salad options, meatloaf and grilled fish aren't not usually grouped together under the comfort food category. After we ordered, the server brought us four warm pieces of white, homestyle bread with packaged butter.

For an appetizer, we tried the chicken tenders, which were light, crispy, and clearly homemade. I chose crabcakes for my main course, and picked two side dishes from ten to twelve options. My roasted red potatoes and green beans were decent but not spectacular, and the crabcakes were tasty but on the mushy side.
Some of the entrees had designated side dishes, while others allowed for choices - interesting and a little confusing. Nothing at Weezie's Kitchen made me feel strongly about going back, but if I liked meatloaf I might be happy about the Carytown addition.

Another disappointing new venue just took over my favorite Fan coffee shop. Crossroads, whose first location is on the Southside, opened a second shop in the old World Cup. Serving Rostov's coffee and Bev's ice cream (minus the rich hot fudge on their sundaes), Crossroads doesn't offer much in the way of originality. Their breakfast, lunch and vegetarian options are pretty standard, and their scones look weak compared to the robust triangles of sweet pastry World Cup sold. I had a bagel with packaged peanut butter, which was barely toasted and seemed to be as mediocre as the old bagels, and a Naked Juice, which you can get almost anywhere.

I don't see Weezie's Kitchen in my future, but I will most likely end up at Crossroads again, just to be sure it doesn't live up to its predecessor.