Thursday, August 11, 2011

spur of the moment trip

Last week A. and I took a trip to New Jersey and New York on a spur of the moment. He went to visit a childhood friend who is based in the UK and was in town for a business trip, and I went to see my brother and his family as well as my friend CD. When we arrived at my brother's house, my nephews' Monopoly game was already set on the coffee table, ready for us. I love my nephews. They are growing fast, and I'd like to think that they still enjoy spending time with their aunts and uncles, who are now relatively "oldies". :)

I love how kids never seem to tire of markers. Below is my niece, who turns two three this weekend (why do babies grow so fast???). I had so much fun with her.

She can draw a circle! And she has a tripod grasp!

(I know... I'm such a teacher.)

When I go to New Jersey, I usually like taking day trips to New York city -- not so much to see the touristy sights anymore, but to see friends and try out different restaurants. I wouldn't necessarily want to live there -- I like my peace and quiet at the end of the day... and I like lots of green. But it's always fun to visit and feel the unstoppable energy of the city.

The food... mmm. For dinner we went to the Upper East Side to Candle 79, an organic, all-vegan, farm-to-table restaurant.

My drink: Green Goddess. Juiced dark leafy greens and fruit. Yes I do like drinking my greens.

A round of complimentary amuse bouche, with assorted chopped fruit in a sweet, tangy, and spicy dressing. Great for waking up the palate.

Seitan chimichurri. It was very tender, and had great texture, plus the tartness and tang of the chimichurri sauce - it must have been marinated in it as well. The char on the seitan was quite interesting, and it strangely transported me to my childhood when we would eat Filipino-style barbecue during my meat-eating days. I don't usually eat faux meat or meat-like substitutes on a regular basis, favoring beans and legumes as my protein source (being weary of the processed soy that is usually in meat substitutes), but seitan is primarily from wheat gluten. And, when eating out I always try to choose things I don't make at home.

Vegetarian paella (!) with seitan and mushrooms. It was a toss-up between this and ravioli with cashew ricotta. But our Spanish restaurant here in Cleveland only serves paella with meat and/or seafood, and the server said the paella portion was "big". Um, I finished the entire thing. I would have loved it even better if it was served more authentically in a paellera, where some of the rice sticks to the bottom of the pan and becomes chewy and crusty. But the flavor was very good - I could taste the smoky paprika, and the mushrooms added a lot of body to the dish. I would have liked a little more saffron flavor, but otherwise it was delicious - and beautifully presented.

The next day - brunch/lunch at Taco Taco, recommended by my friend who was showing us her favorite "hole in the wall" places.

Taco Taco is not quite as small as a "hole in the wall" but they are big on flavor and freshness.

 Praises for Taco Taco from Bobby Flay!

Guacamole. I could eat avocado every day...

Grilled corn on the cob with cotija cheese, cilantro, chile salt, and lime. Finally - I have been looking for a restaurant that serves Mexican-style grilled corn! We aren't allowed to have a grill in our apartment, so this was such a treat. Yes, I am a messy corn eater.

Vegetarian soft tacos. I love how it focused on vegetables and not on cheese as the main ingredient the way some "vegetarian" substitutes do (uh, isn't there a reason it's called "vegetarian"??).

Here, the spinach was wilted just perfectly, and the leaves remained bright green. The mushrooms were earthy and flavorful, the cilantro was fresh. (Nothing kills a dish like cilantro that is past its prime.)

 And as if that wasn't enough...


When I lived in Cincinnati, I used to go to this frozen yogurt place called Yagoot, which was dangerously within walking distance from my home. I've been missing it, and our fro-yo place here (which shall remain unnamed) isn't quite the we stopped at Pinkberry for mango frozen yogurt. And I thought I was already full.

Mango frozen yogurt with fresh mango and waffle cone pieces. I like that they have a "mini" size. I could have eaten more, but after that Mexican lunch this was all I could fit in the remaining crevices of my stomach.

So, with full bellies we started the seven-hour drive home. Thankfully, being a Sunday, NYC traffic was bearable, and we were able to get out of the city without delays.

A couple of days ago I found out that my car wouldn't start. Everything was off (lights, radio, AC, etc) and nothing would switch back on. My battery was dead. Made me so very glad and thankful that we made it back home without any car trouble!

Interestingly, on our way back from New York, I saw a large building off I-80 (not sure if it was still in NJ or PA, but if I remember right it was pretty close to the border) with a sign that reads "Powerhouse Eatery". I wish I took a photo, but as we were driving on the highway I couldn't get my camera or my phone fast enough. Powerhouse Eatery. I think that sums up our quick weekend trip!

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Anne said...

that spur of the moment trip sounds so much fun! and the food ... mmm both restaurants sound really good! the mexican-grilled corn sounds good right about now (i think it's the cheese) ... and pinkberry! could you compare it to yagoot? i always wondered.

ahhh to visit NYC again ... i'll have to plan that at some point!

Mia said...

Anne, yes it was fun! But as always, too short. Yes you should try both restaurants! Though I think one of our friends was not too excited about Candle 79 (he eats meat). I really liked Pinkberry. I think it's close to Yagoot in terms of the flavor of the yogurt itself (the tartness). But Pinkberry has more flavors - I think they had 6, and last I tried it in Cincy, Yagoot had 3 flavors (?). I still go for either the original flavor or mango, regardless!

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