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Everything posted by babyluck

  1. fifi, I wish I'd noticed this thread earlier--I would have told you to stay far away from the Rival Smart Pots! I learned the hard way, too, but too late to return it. The most common complaint seems to be that the temps are too hot and that the lid doesn't fit properly. I can't remember where I read it, but one unhappy owner figured out that Rival used the same lid for several different models--it may fit perfectly on the one it was originally designed for, but not the Smart Pot. I found that foods tended to dry out because the lid does not make an airtight seal. I don't think a hole in the lid would be a benefit for a slow cooker--it would only prevent the dancing lid phenomenon. I am considering a Nesco...
  2. I disagree about the limes -- Goslings is very sweet, as is ginger beer. I was turned on to Dark'n'Stormies years ago in Bermuda where they are said to have originated and are served everywhere, always with the local Barrett's Ginger Beer. (Even in a bind, without ice or refrigeration a few summers back, I enjoyed what we dubbed Dark'n'Warmies). Barrett's is not essential, and I like Goya ginger beer best. But I have two secrets that make my Dark'n'Stormies memorable -- and quick to disappear. First, I add to the bottom of the glass either a sliver of ginger root or a few drops of ginger juice. Next, I shake in one or two drops of habanero sauce (it disappears into the flavor profile with the ginger nicely, and makes the lips tingle). I go heavy on the rum, top off with just a tad of ginger beer and a squeezed lime wedge. This way the soda's sugar doesn't outcompete the rum's inherant sweetness, and the spiciness keeps you sipping. I could see that, but I stick by what I said. Goya and other spicy ginger beers are more spicy than sweet. I recently switched from Myer's to Gosling's and I think I might like the Myer's version more. They are both sweet, but in contrast with Rose's, their toastiness comes out. I made these for New Year's at a friend's apartment and they were very well received. We used a brand (Jamaican, I think) from a local deli. Kind of cloudy and a little too sweet, but good. I'll make you a deal--you try it my way & I'll try it your way. OK? Another variation you could try: I got a simple recipe for Ginger Lime Concentrate on the internet long ago--basically, you just shred ginger into a strainer, squeeze some limes over it, and mash out the juice. You can keep it in the fridge--it will turn pink like pickled ginger--and add a splash to drinks. I use it all the time in the summer but I don't think I ever tried it in a Dark n' Stormy... P.S. There was an article in the NY Times recently about Spice Market--they have a "rum tamarind punch" that is just tamarind nectar & aged rum. Designed to be compatible with food. Sounds good! I don't think I've seen tamarind nectar, at least not in the supermarket, but I know Goya makes it.
  3. I didn't go to Rutger's (though my parents badly wanted me to), but I know a lot of people who did and they regale me with stories of the grease trucks. I remember being introduced to them while visiting the campus for forensics tournaments, Model UN field trips, chorale competitions, and other geexpeditions. It never failed that one of our chaperones would have gone to Rutger's and would bring us out during lunch with a sacred air: "Behold, the Grease Trucks of Legend..." The reason I piped in here is that I'm surprised no one has seen all the stories on Fox & UPN News--apparently the trucks have been a recent target of some prim types who have gotten them repeatedly shut down by the public health authorities. The word on the street is that most of them have reopened. Of course, it's possible that this has been a constant struggle since the genesis of the first Grease Truck and that our local news channels are just hitting a new journalistic low...
  4. TJ's to the rescue again--frozen Hass avocadoes in halves or slices. Just take a few out of the freezer when you start dinner and they will be ready to go in 30 minutes. One of my favorite new discoveries. They taste great and have a nice texture--barely distinguishable from fresh. Of course, not everyone has a Trader Joe's nearby either.
  5. When I read this, I first thought "bullshit, I've had vodka in an aluminum bottle before." Then I realized that it was this vodka, before the graphics were updated (probably by Absolut--was Danska recently acquired?). It was OK--tasted somewhere between Stoli (good) and Absolut (bad) to me. I wanted to like it because I enjoyed the packaging, but I never got it again.Curious about the "one-of-a-kind" aluminum bottle thing, I did find this, launched in the UK in '95. Now I wonder--are they saying that it is the only vodka in the world that is both packaged in aluminum and available nationwide in grapefruit flavor? Anyone ever see any other aluminum vodka bottles?
  6. I hate those commercials!!! I hope I never grow up if that's what it's like. I'm firmly on the Campbell's side. Chunky is not what I want in a canned soup. Never tried Campbell's Chunky & hopefully never will. The Progresso soups I've been forced to try are disgusting. All the chunks have the same bitter, chemical flavor and there is a sharp aftertaste that lingers for hours. Ugh. I admit to enjoying both Chicken Noodle and Chicken & Stars, but I rarely buy them. Chicken Noodle is just so strangely soothing. When I feel bad enough to have something like that, I want just that blandness--not nasty chunks of onion & celery. Bean with Bacon is one of my ultimate comfort foods. Grilled cheese & Campbell's Tomato Soup is an ongoing tradition--I serve it at least once every six weeks for Saturday lunch, Sunday supper, or a bare-cupboard weekday dinner. I make it with mostly water & just a 1/4 cup or so of milk--I swear they changed the formula at some point because it comes out so much lighter than it used to if you use all milk. I add cracked pepper & celery seeds, sometimes a dash of onion powder.
  7. Glad you enjoyed it--and yes, the bottle we got was Zhumir Limon. I just read through the whole thread again and there is a definite commonality in our stories--seems Ecuador just has that kind of effect on the right visitors. I can still go on & on telling people every detail of the trip--I feel like that little girl in the Disneyland commercial. The way I talk, people think I just got back. Also, after a day or two in the cloud forest I didn't need coffee or cigarettes anymore--I still drank the delicious coffee but I didn't have a cigarette until I had been back in NJ for a few days. Maybe I was just delirious from thirst. Stellabella, I definitely did took note of Bourdain's comment about Ecuadorean cooks and when I see one now, I feel the same way--they are both lucky and unlucky to be here when you think about what they left behind. My parents were also asked to take back a teenager or two with them--they would have done it, too, if they didn't already have a teenager from Puerto Rico staying in their extra room! Can't wait for that humitas recipe--didn't get to try it while I was there & it sounds delicious. Links to Café Cultura and El Monte--both highly recommended.
  8. Mr. Babyluck found my Ecuador journal yesterday while going through some old papers. Reading through the meals makes my mouth water--it's now 3 years later and I can still recall how each dish tasted. That's how refreshing and exciting the cuisine was there. Now that I stop to think about it, I believe that that trip triggered the transition from just loving to cook to a true passion for flavor and fresh ingredients. Here we go: Friday, 30-MAR-01 Quito--staying at Café Cultura, a beautiful, friendly, artsy hotel (if a little pricey for Ecuador). Breakfast (Café Cultura): eggs & bacon, homemade bread w/ butter & blackberry jam, blackberry juice. Lunch (Café Cultura): My mom & Mr. Babyluck had tuna quiche w/ tomatoes & cheese, I had zucchini crèpes w/ tomato sauce (with those characteristic Ecuadorian seasonings), and my dad had sea bass on plantain leaf w/ rice & raisins. I had a hard time getting used to the flavor of the red sauce, but it was still a good meal. Dinner (Chifa): Not the name of the restaurant, but rather what Chinese restaurants are called there. It was our first day and already we felt like we'd be going broke if we kept eating in the hotel. I didn't write down what we had--it was good, but not memorable. The more interesting points were the two armed guards outside the gated entrance and the absence of other tourists--I guess no one but my family would go to Ecuador and get Chinese! 31-MAR Breakfast (Café Cultura): muesli, pancakes w/ bananas & cream, omelettes. I amazed myself--I generally dislike breakfast and usually eat just a granola bar or bread & butter or cheese. And here I am, gobbling up these 3-course breakfasts. They were just so wholesome & fresh tasting--I daydream about those pancakes regularly. This was our Otavalo trip day--we arranged a car through the hotel and the driver Angel stopped at a roadside shop in Cayambe, where we enjoyed a midmorning snack of bizcochos and really fresh locally made cheese. Lunch (Hacienda Pinsaqui): We all started with an amazing potato soup w/ avocado. Still trying to figure out that recipe. My mom & I weren't that hungry, so we just had ceviche (shrimp for me & tuna for her)--delicious. Mr. Babyluck had a chicken sandwich & fries & my dad had a ham & cheese sandwich & fries. Guess they were feeling a little homesick. The place was beautiful but made me extremely uncomfortable, looking around at all the other white tourists and getting waited on hand & foot as if it were still the colonial days. Dinner (Pizza): Mr. Babyluck & I went out on our own and had Ecuadorian pizza. Again, I had trouble getting past the strange-tasting red sauce. Guess I am overly conditioned to expect NJ pizzeria pizza. Afterwards, we went to a liquor store to buy a bottle to bring with us to the cloud forest. A bum came in & insisted on sharing his beer with us--he got plastic cups from the cashier and poured us each a cup. We drank them to be polite but when he kept refilling them, we made an excuse & got out of there. Then we tried to find a place to buy cigarettes and ended up stopping a woman who was dragging her cigarette cart home for the night. She didn't have change, so we ended up buying 2 packs of local cigarettes for $1 if I remember correctly. Back to the food! 1-APR: My birthday Breakfast (Café Cultura): Assortment of bread, fruit, & jams. Then we got back in the van with Angel & headed out to the cloud forest. We were met by a Jeep and driven to the river, where we were pulled across on a sort of wooden-and-rope pulley. On the other side was El Monte, a little world without gasoline or electrical power. Fresh water from a spring-fed cistern higher on the mountain flowed out of faucets, powered by gravity. The most delicious water I've ever tasted. There was even a bicycle-powered blender for making daiquiris but to our sorrow and everyone else's, it was in the shop for repairs. Our accomodations were simple cabanas with hammocks and a picnic table downstairs in the open air and a bedroom, sleeping loft & bathroom upstairs. The bathroom had a Swiss spa aesthetic and the window opened up to the fast-flowing, icy, clean river. A half-coconut shell was kindly supplied so one could stand up and bathe with a view of the river & the sunlight-dappled foliage while hearing tree frogs and birds, almost drowned out by the din of the water. But I digress. Back to the food. Lunch (all meals from here on out were at El Monte & were communal): a salad of fresh tuna, rice & red cabbage, bean soup w/ potatoes, lemon/mandarin orange juice, pineapple pie, plantains. The most satisfying lunch imaginable for the travel-weary. The salad especially made an impression. Dinner: fried fish & battered plantains, salad, potato soup, and a chocolate birthday cake they'd thrown together for me! I was touched. It was another delicious meal. 2-APR Breakfast: muesli w/ orange juice, pineapple & melon, bread & bagels (!) w/ fresh butter & fresher guava jam, omelettes. Lunch: burrito w/ sautéed vegetables & potatoes. Unfortunately, this is where I left off. I guess I lied when I said I wrote down everything I ate. You see, just a few hours after arriving, after our wonderful lunch of tuna salad & bean soup, my father (who was a wildlife photographer at the time) took his camera out on a hike without a rain cover even though he had been told that it rains every single day at 2-3 in the afternoon. He got caught up on the mountain in the rain and slipped while trying to protect his camera. He didn't know it at the time, but in his fall, he dislodged one of the PVC pipes feeding the lodge with fresh water, so over the course of the next 24 hours, the cistern emptied itself into the soil. We were all in various stages of mild gastric discomfort already, and Tom (the owner) did his best to see that we got clean water but there wasn't much to go around, so I for one got pretty dehydrated & lost interest in food. When my dad's slip-up came out, everyone took it really good-naturedly but they ribbed him about it for a while. Actually, I was really pissed but if you knew my dad you wouldn't be able to hold a grudge against him either. Even if he robbed you of 3 days of gastronomic pleasure.
  9. Grab a bottle of Victory Storm King Stout, and then tell me what you think. Hear, hear.
  10. babyluck

    Roasted Cauliflower

    Mmmmmmmmmm. My mom will never believe that I actually bought & prepared cauliflower willingly and enjoyed eating it! I did one head, following the directions (sliced 1/4" or thinner, tossed w/ kosher salt & pepper) and split it between two cookie sheets. That presented a problem because I can only fit one on a rack in my tiny apartment oven, but I figured it would be better to keep watching & switching them than to have them steam. It took exactly 40 minutes--any longer and some pieces would have been too dark. Most of the pieces were white with lovely caramelized edges, but the best pieces were the small ones cut 1/8" thick with a little stalk & a little floret that browned all the way through but not too much to become bitter. They were unbelievably sweet & richly flavored. Yes, the two of us finished off the whole head with no problem--too bad, no leftovers to dip in tahini sauce or put over pasta (I'm making spaghetti w/ pesto/potatoes/green beans tonight--would have been good, I think.) Next time, I will try it at a lower temp for longer if I have the time--maybe turn it up at the end. I thought it was great as is but would have liked more of the soft, golden brown pieces.
  11. I'm so confused! Are the other "Whites" just ripoffs of Manna or are they somehow connected? White Diamond, for one, has a completely different method of cooking the burgers (they smash the meat to oblivion) but everything else seems pretty similar. Another question: are they diners? There is a lot of talk on the web about "what is a diner?" but it all seems to be useless. Here's one basic criteria of mine: at a diner, you order sitting down but pay standing up. Therefore, White Diamond is not a diner.
  12. I had this happen to me but I am positive that it was one because I took a good look. I bit down onto it while enjoying a delicious fruit tart at a favorite NYC café. You are a better person than me. I would have demanded to know from whence it came. Come to think of it, how would a tooth get in someone's food? Don't adults stop losing their teeth at some point? I wonder about that to this day.
  13. A Sabrett's hot dog cooked over a campfire in a toasted bun with a can of Coke. For dessert, a pint of Guinness & 2 cigarettes (Export A Full Flavor).
  14. High five! I like it... I thought at first why not "Crazy Mo'Pho Noodle Shop" but it's growing on me--it's kooky. I would go in. As long as CRAZY isn't scrawled in faux graffiti...
  15. That's why I like Mo'Pho--it's a pun on an abbreviated form of a naughty word that is already a semi-polite euphemism for the real thing. It has a real meaning--more pho--that is in line with the positioning of the restaurant. I wouldn't be surprised if those humorless, prim types took it at face value, at least until their kids clue them in. My parents are cool but I think it would even take them a while to get it. "Pho King" has the same kind of dual meaning but it has 2 strikes against it: the pun is harsher because in pronouncing it you actually say "fuck" and sophisticated types like us may take it for a naive mistake. Also a good point about the tourist-trap thing, but honestly I think that only holds true for people like us who are looking for authenticity. Most people aren't--look at Westfield, where Fujiyama Mama is packed every night and the vastly superior Hon Bang Sushi can't fill its 5 parking spots. If I had the choice between Mo'Pho and a blandly titled hole-in-the-wall and didn't know anything about either, I would choose the latter. But I'm always going against the tide. That being said, all this totally depends on the neighborhood and how many 20- and 30-somethings they can pull in. If it's all stodgy families and old people like some towns around here, forget it.
  16. I like Mo'Pho--I think it could catch on.
  17. A surefire method for flavorful, easy potato soup: Basic ingredients: 1 Tb butter 1 lg yellow onion, chopped 4-5 potatoes, peeled, cubed water 1-2 c milk s&p Sautée onion very slowly in butter for 10 minutes or so until golden. Add potatoes (at least 3 should be russet--I throw in one Gold if I have it) and stir for a few minutes until they just start to color. Add water to cover and simmer for 30 minutes or until the potatoes are tender and have thickened the soup. Add milk. Season to taste with salt & pepper. You can add dried dill with the potatoes or fresh toward the end. It's hard to get flavor, especially out of something bland like a potato, without caramelizing the ingredients before simmering. I'm not surprised it was flavorless. This way, you use just one Tb of butter & don't need all the cream & garnishes. You can always toss in a few tablespoons of cream if you want it more luxurious--a little goes a long way.
  18. babyluck

    coke or pepsi?

    Coke from a glass bottle in Europe, poured into a glass with a lemon wedge. What gets me is that in casual restaurants in the US, a wedge of lemon indicates DIET. I love Coke with lemon but rarely get it because it causes such confusion. If a diet Coke-drinking friend doesn't use their lemon and I put it in my glass, mine will invariably be refilled with diet and theirs with regular. An honest mistake. The problem is the system: lemon is a fruit, not an ID tag. There must be a better way.
  19. I had this happen to me but I am positive that it was one because I took a good look. I bit down onto it while enjoying a delicious fruit tart at a favorite NYC café. I always tell this story to people to illustrate what a passive diner I am. I discreetly bent my head down to get something out of my bag and removed the object from my mouth, took a look--"yup, that's a tooth all right"--wrapped it in a napkin and discarded it in the bathroom. I didn't even tell the person I was eating with. I didn't say anything because I didn't want to make a fuss--to be honest it hardly bothered me at all and I knew it would get blown out of proportion. My companion, who was a friend visiting the college I was at, would get freaked out, and the staff would either be oversolicitous or disbelieving, and I didn't want to feel weird going back there. To this day, I never divulge the name of the place it happened because I like it so much and don't want to see dentophobia shut it down, only to have it turn into another Starbucks. They make damn good coffee... P.S. Also during college, I got broken glass in a beer but we couldn't collect on it since none of us were legal.
  20. OK, so it didn't quite go as planned but... Thursday--dragged coworkers out in the sleet to Mackey's Pub--had a Guinness & a steak & Guinness pie. Yummy comfort food in a slightly-better-than-Bennigan's atmosphere. Friday--breakfast--Raisin Bran & cranberry juice at the Café Promenade in the Mayflower--cost about $14. Lunch during setup--pouring outside & the food court was mobbed--went across the street to the Renaissance food court a.k.a. "The Dungeon"--had the special "heartburn chicken." Awful. For dinner I took the gals to the Marrakesh. I know, but with a group of girls from 20-29 it seemed the obvious choice. They freaked when the cab arrived on that desolate warehouse block but they all had the time of their lives. We even got to sit in the mysterious back room. Awesome. Saturday--breakfast meeting at the Mayflower--mini croissants, pineapple, fantastic raspberries. Lunch--convention center food court, cheeseburger, fries, Coke. Not freakin bad for a convention center. Dinner--a few bites at the corporate function. Risotto-in-martini-glass surprisingly delicious. Stayed up way too late. Sunday--breakfast--2 slices of honeydew & 2 blackberries in the hospitality suite at 7:30 AM. Lunch didn't happen until 4 PM by which time I was an empty shell of a thing muttering "Luna Grill, Luna Grill..." like a madwoman. I dragged my sorry ass the 3 or so blocks there from the hotel in the damn cold wind and walked into the most perfect place imaginable--Heather, thank you, thank you. It was just what I needed to get the corporate sludge off. Not a diner in the NJ sense of the word, but absolute heaven. I had grilled cheese w/ bacon, crab soup, & a Coke, laughed at and with my dancing waitress, and sang along quietly to Karma Chameleon. Dinner was a ludicrous experience with my whole staff at Café Promenade. Worst service ever but the food was edible. I had veal. Monday--didn't have to get up until 10:30 but we were evacuated from the hotel at 7:30. False alarm. Had a cherry danish from the lobby "Starbucks" and more fruit at a different suite at the Grand Hyatt for brunch. Dinner consisted of a few chunks of dried-out cheese from the free buffet in the Mayflower bar & an order of shrimp cocktail. Tuesday--breakfast--banana from "Starbucks"--lunch was another cheeseburger from the food court before breaking down--dinner was Terra Chips & ginger ale on the Acela. Home sweet home. OK, so before you get too mad at me, I am planning a mini-vacation in DC at the end of March. A friend I ran into down there has a documentary in a film festival. I hope I will have more luck dragging Mr. Babyluck to the wonderful places I missed out on this time. Thanks again...
  21. Thanks again, everybody--I'll report when I get back!
  22. OK--now I'm overwhelmed again. Why can't people just stop opening such awesome restaurants in DC? It's really vexing. Seriously, I will take all of your suggestions into account and sincerely thank you all for your helpful comments. One last question--we are getting into Union Station at 8 tonight and I wanted to go across the street to the Dubliner for my steak & Guinness. Are they used to dealing with luggage or would it be a major pain in the ass to find a place to put our suitcases? I'm a worrywart, I know.
  23. Damn. I definitely need to do more bar research over the next two days. I had only one measly pub on my list. Be sure to wave if you see us. Absolutely. I guess it's only fair that since I know your name, I can show my face. These should help. Picture me without the blinking Santa headband & you've pretty much got it: the two faces of babyluck.
  24. Here are my tier 1 choices that I will try to hit. I have the rest of your suggestions in backup. I also read through the whole Zaytinya thread and jotted down all the recommendations. I was completely overwhelmed until I entered everything into Excel & mapped them in MapPoint. Now I feel better. Restaurants: Bistro du Coin, El Chalan, Jaleo, Johnny's Half Shell, Luna Grill, Malaysia Kopitiam, Trio’s, Zaytinya Bars: Brickskeller, Childe Harold, Dubliner, Firefly Here are the suggestions I'm putting in the agenda for our staff. It was compiled by someone from a different division in Europe and I gave it to our guys as is. I'd rather pick and choose who gets the good stuff and who I wouldn't mind bumping into! Angelo & Maxie’s, John Harvard’s, La Casona, Tosca, Ruby Restaurant, Andale Restaurant, Bistro D’Or, Capital Grille, Legal Sea Foods, Ten Penh, Signatures Restaurant, Georgia Brown’s, Matchbox Restaurant Tomorrow night I'm hoping to convince my train buddies to go over to the Dubliner before cabbing to the hotel for my Guinness/steak. Friday night one of my buddy's sisters will be in town so we are all going out. Jaleo/Zaytinya would be perfect but I'm worried about the crowds & it would probably be better to stick around the hotel & go barhopping. I'm thinking El Chalan and then Firefly and see where that leads us. Saturday we have a party. Sunday will be Jaleo or Zaytinya. By Monday we will be exhausted & my colleagues will probably get room service, so I will go to Malaysia Kopitiam or Ethiopian. Does Malaysia Kopitiam serve alcohol?
  25. Hey, I get to help you for once! I was just compiling my list and looked up Café Atlantico and realized I've eaten there. I went there with a friend on my last trip when Jaleo was too crowded. I thought it was good but not great and I think it is priced a little high for what it is.
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