Sunday, May 27, 2007

Tahoe Trip!

For Memorial Day weekend, Justyn, Angel and I decided on a last minute trip up to South Lake Tahoe. It was about a 4 hour drive and we left to go pick up Angel at around 9:00am. We stopped off in Vacaville to rest a bit where I bought a Le Creuset mini casserole pot to hold my nicer salts. We also stopped off in Placerville as well. This was the first long trip where I actually drove. We arrived at our hotel, Ambassador Motor Lodge around 4:00pm. The weather was absolutely perfect, a cool 70 something degrees. Apparently, I thought that we were only staying there overnight. However, Angel booked the room for two nights so we had longer than I expected. The first thing we did was hit up the casinos to gamble a bit. (Angel and I also took a dip in the pool, but I don't remember if we did that before or after gambling) After a while, we got hungry so we went to Harrah's buffet which is known for being pretty good. I don't like buffets, but this one exceeded my expectations. After that we did some more gambling and then went back to the hotel which was within walking distance and crashed.
On the road...

What the fuck is she eating? (It's supposed to be chocolate... but it sure doesn't look that way)

The next day we shopped around the villa a bit trying to find a good lunch spot. The night before at the tables, the dealer told us to try a place called Fire and Ice which was a Mongolian restaurant. Justyn didn't feel like eating anymore aZn food because we had so much during the work week. So, across the street from the villa shopping center we spotted a small, hole in the wall BBQ joint called Womack's. Sweet! It was just exactly what Justyn was craving. I was hungover from the night before so I wasn't feeling it. Boy was I wrong. This place had a really good review which they proudly posted on their window. We arrived 10 minutes before they were going to open so we sat around and chatted for a while. Eventually the waitress brought our menus and took our drink orders. The window advertised their Hot Spiced Wine and I needed some of that to get over my hangover. We already decided what we would order before we got our menus since they had that posted up as well. I got the baby back ribs with potato salad, Justyn ordered the BBQ pork sammich with potato salad and Angel had the hot links with fries.

Wow! This was good BBQ, very worthy of the good review from the local newspaper. I shared my ribs with each of them and in turn they gave me a taste of their entrees. Man, just thinking about it makes me drool. The ribs were incredibly tender and well seasoned. The wine was what I needed, sweet but not overly so. The hot link was spicy, but overcooked as Angel ordered it. Justyn's sammich had soft bread and the pork was soft and juicy. I wish we had a Womack's out here. It would definitely be my favorite BBQ spots to hit.

After lunch we went back to the hotel to rest a bit before hitting the tables again. This evening would be the night where I would not remember much. We played Pai Gow for a while before everyone lost all of their monies. After Pai Gow, we played some $10 Black Jack. We met a group of older guys which were a blast to hang out with. I showed them my cards and they helped me win money. It was great! Now here's where things get blurry once again. I had drank a lot at the tables so after we left, we needed to grab some food. The casino we went to was called Mont Bleu and they had a sign that pointed to an Unbuffet. What's that? It's a buffet. Dammit, the last thing I wanted was more buffet food, but whatever. I was drunk and I didn't care anymore. It wasn't bad, but I wouldn't go back.

Apparently after dinner, I was too drunk to be awake any longer. Justyn and Angel took me back to the room so I could pass out. Along the way, we ran into a couple in which the chick was really really drunk. We started doing Borat quotes and then she ran away with her boyfriend quickly behind her. Eventually we got back to the hotel and I went to bed. They told me that I said "You guys aren't going to leave me are you?". They both said "nooooo..", but did anyway. I was gone after that. They stayed up until 2:00am.

The morning after was not a pleasant one. My head hurt, my stomach was churning so I chugged two bottles of water with some Advil and a beer. I still wasn't feeling good and wouldn't until right now as I'm typing this. We packed up, watched an episode of Monk and were on our way home. Justyn wanted to try Mel's in Placerville for lunch so we stopped after about an hour of driving. I was passed out most of the way and my hangover wasn't getting any better.

For lunch I had a Melburger with cheese, fries and a New Castle. Justyn ordered a reuben sammich and Angel got a French dip. Everything was really good. I might even give the burger a title of Favorite Hamburger of All Time. This burger was just what the doctor ordered. I thorougly enjoyed it all despite its size.

Alright, so now I'm too tired to revise and rewrite this blog. I'm going to watch Pimp My Ride and enjoy the rest of the evening. Happy Birthday Angel, and thanks for putting this trip together. I had an awesome time!

Girl's Night Cooking

Last Saturday I planned on a cooking night with some ladies from BARF. The interest was always there, but I never got around to making it happen until now. I scheduled every chick for a time slot in the kitchen so there wouldn't be too crowded. It worked out pretty well since Linda, Charlotte and myself were cooking. We had some flakes and others weren't going to arrive until later.

Linda wanted make Butternut Squash & Chesnut Risotto and Charlotte had prepped some parsnips that needed to be thawed and roasted in the oven. I brought all my groceries to make hookedonheat's Chili Lime Shrimp and Coconut Chicken Curry (the recipe is for fish, but you can make it with chicken too). Jusytn also made his delicious sherry cake too!

Now I've never cooked with butternut squash before, but the recipe seemed simple enough. You just need to dice the squash and saute it with some onion before adding the aborio rice, chesnuts, herbs and chicken stock. Unfortunately, the butternut squash was HUGE. I've never seen one this big. And phallic. You'll see what I mean when you look at the pictures.

I was the first one to cook my two dishes so after a shot of tequila (which I normally don't drink) I prepped my ingrediants and showed Linda some tips to save time in the kitchen. I used a grocery bag to dump garbage into instead of having to walk to the garbage can. I know that seems like I'm lazy, but it actually makes things so much easier. I also used foil to put my prepped ingrediants instead of dirtying up a bunch of bowls. Thanks to Rachel Ray for those tips. After I was finished cooking my dishes I helped Linda cut up the squash for her dish. I walked her step by step from cutting the squash to heating up the stock and making the risotto come together. When it was done, I helped Linda adjust the seasoning and tried it out. Perfect! I was really happy with it.

Charlotte didn't realize how long it would take to thaw the parsnips so we had to use the microwave to defrost. Into the oven they went. When they came out pipping hot, I couldn't resist but try one. The parsnips were crispy on the outside and tender with a hint of sweetness. I can't stand carrots, but parsnips are going to be a new favorite in my recipes. Yum!

The other girls arrived and Linda left with them to pick up more groceries. Melissa made a beautiful salad and Roxy cut up some sausages to serve with crackers. At first I was appalled and gave them tons of crap for cutting them into wedges instead of circles. I made them get out of my kitchen and show them how to cut them correctly. I became The Jaded Nazi foodie. I might have been a little harsh, but it was all in good fun. The dishes we made earlier were in the oven staying warm until we were finally able to eat.

Dinner was good, I was a little disappointed in my chicken curry since it's normally thicker. Overall, I had a good time. I might even do this kind of thing on a regular basis. Cooking with friends is fun!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Review: Barn Thai

Yep, yet another lunch post. But don't worry, this will be the last one for the week. I'm going up to Tahoe with Justyn and Angel for some gambling and craziness! I'll post about that later though.

I picked Justyn up at work and we were off to find lunch. This time, no research was done and we actually had no idea where we were going to go. At first I suggested Rene Rose Island for some Philipino food, but Justyn said it was too greasy. Instead he suggested that we try that Thai place in that shopping center. Which one do you ask? Barn Thai. It's located in a strip mall with a bunch of different restaurants of different ethnicities. They've got Mexican, Japanese, Cuban, pizza, and Philipino (different than Rene Rose Island).

We didn't get to lunch until 12:00pm so the place was bustling. There wasn't a line to get in and we were promptly seated but almost all the tables had customers chatting and scarfing down their lunches. As expected, Justyn ordered off of their lunch menu which comes with some sort of curry, rice, eggroll and rice. Just as I expected him to order a yellow curry extra spicy, I ordered noodles. I almost got their pad see ew, but instead got pad thai as that is the safer bet. Suprisingly, my noodles came with soup and an eggroll as well. I also told the waitress that I didn't want any carrots or bean sprouts (so what?).

Justyn made sure that the waitress got his order correctly. He said over and over "Extra extra hot please". I told the waitress that he means "extra extra spicy". He also mentioned that he could take the heat. The waitress didn't bat an eye. She punched our order into some hand held device and left to get our soups. At first sip, the soup was extremely flavorful. A bit sweet, a bit sour with a tiny bit of spice. I took a couple more sips since it was so good, but after about 5 sips, the soup turned out to be not so good. Normally these vegetable soups are clear with a hint of yellow/green. This soup was cloudy and upon tasting it, it seemed like they added a lot of sugar. I expect the natural sugars from the vegetables to flavor the soup, but no such luck this time. We left our unfinished soups to the side until the waiter took them away.

About 1o-15 minutes later, our entrees arrived. I gave Justyn my one shrimp from the pad thai (I don't really like them). They got both of our orders correct to the "T". My pad thai only had a couple slivers of carrot (they probably almost forgot no carrot). Justyn's curry turned out to be very spicy just the way he likes it. I took a small bite of beef which was very tender, indicating that the curry had been simmered for a long time. It was so spicy that I almost couldn't swallow it. I manned up and immediately followed it with some water to cool down my tongue. I asked Justyn if it was good enough for him and he said he couldn't tell yet. 5 bites into lunch, he said "Oh yeah, it's spicy enough." Cool!

We chatted about the season finale of Lost and other mundane things while we chowed down. Lunch was pretty good and this restaurant far exceeded my expectations. In fact, every place in this little strip mall is decent and perfect for the business lunch crowd. Price wise, it's not bad at all either. With tax and tip the bill came out to $18.20 for two people. Give this place a try, I can at least tell you that I wasn't disappointed.

Barn Thai
921 E Duane Ave.
Sunnyvale, CA 94085
Phone: (408) 732-3319

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Review: Shanghai Restaurant

For lunch yesterday, Justyn found a new restaurant for us to try called Shanghai Restaurant. He said the reviews on were really good. It's located in a very small strip mall next to a meat market (haha yeah, I thought that was funny too). The outside of the restaurant is a little on the ghetto side. OK wait, it was really ghetto. On the inside, it was nicer. We sat at a booth and ordered some drinks. There's a $15 minimum charge for credit cards, so I got a Diet Coke. Even with both of our entrees and tea, it still didn't exceed the $15 minimum charge and we didn't have any cash with us. So, Justyn ordered some eggrolls for an appetizer. For lunch, I got black bean beef chow fun (different from regular beef chow fun, it's got that fermented soy bean stuff in it) and Justyn got some extra spicy beef lunch special. Both of our lunches came with complimentary hot and sour soup (alright) with (nasty soy based soggy) salad.
The eggrolls arrived freshly fried at the table along with our lunches. For some reason, Justyn's beef was wrapped in foil (haha). I asked him if the description on the menu said that it would be wrapped up like that but he just shrugged. Upon unwrapping the foil, a plethora (my new favorite word) of spice and steam rose up. It smelled really good and tasted good too. I stole a bite so I could sample it as well. It was spicy to me, but apparently not spicy enough for him. My noodles were really good. Justyn likes regular beef chow fun, so he wrinkled his nose after trying some. The eggrolls were nice and fresh, but I expected it to be stuffed with meat, not just cabbage and carrots. They were alright. Justyn liked them though.

Overall, it was a nice lunch. The lunch rush was just beginning as we were finishing. I like this place, and would go again... but there's just so much other stuff out there to try! If you work in the Sunnyvale area, I'd recommend it. It's definitely cheaper than I originally expected and you get a lot food too.

Shanghai Restaurant
253 E Maude Ave.
Sunnyvale, CA 94085