Sunday, December 11, 2011

Restaurant Ramblings: Babystacks Cafe (Summerlin, Nevada)

We found a new family favorite breakfast spot in Las Vegas!  Well, technically it's not actually in Las Vegas.  It's in Summerlin which is a suburb in Vegas.  While checking out restaurant recommendations that were kid friendly, I came across Babystacks Cafe.  What caught my eye were the Hawaiian twists on breakfast.  Take for instance menu items such as "Rick's Adobo Friend Rice" and "Loco Moco" and "Kalua Eggs Benedict".  Sounds worth investigating.  

Babystacks is a little out of the way but maybe well worth it for breakfast or brunch.  Notice the sign says Babycakes.  They're in the middle of a company name change.

The menu is pretty extensive.  There's a nice selection of breakfast and lunch items.  They're known for the pancakes so that's what I ended up ordering.

I got the short stack (3 pancakes) Red Velvet Pancakes.  It's served with a dusting of chocolate, a dollop of whipped cream and a side of a cream cheese concoction that's delicious!!

Other pancakes our family tried were the  Chocolate chip pancakes (rated yummy by my niece) and the Strawberry pancakes (comes with a yummy strawberry puree).  The pancakes and Cora's Corned Beef Hash and Eggs were a hit.  The Loco Moco was described as "ehhh".  Apparently the hamburger patties needed more flavor.  The Huevos Rancheros was also just "ok".  Order the pancakes people!  There's about 12 different flavors on the menu!

If you're ever in Las Vegas and looking for a break from the normal breakfast/brunch places, check out Babystacks!

Babystacks Cafe
2400 N Buffalo Drive, Suite 145
Summerlin, NV 89128
ph: (702) 541-6708

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Restaurant Ramblings: Greenland Supermarket (Las Vegas, NV)

I've blogged about Greenland in Las Vegas before.  It's a Korean supermarket with a mostly Korean foodcourt.  This time I went with something I've already had before.  I had the Bibim Naengmyun.  

Dinner was delicious as always!

Greenland Supermarket 
6850 West Spring Mountain Road
Las Vegas, NV 89146
ph: (702) 459-7878

Friday, December 9, 2011

Decorating the Gingerbread Peeps

If you read the post prior to this, you'll know about my struggles with making homemade gingerbread men this year.  It was fun making them but way funner (is that even a word?) decorating them.  The entire family (minus the 18 month year old) got into it.  We each decorated some gingerbread peeps.

We used icing (white, red, green), mini M&Ms, sprinkles of all kinds and lots and lots of imagination.  What a fun family activity!!

Here's the cooled gingerbread peeps all ready to be decorated:
My 5 year old niece decorating some gingerbread peeps:
My Hawaiian hula gingerbread peep:

The finished gingerbread peeps:

What's Bakin?: Spicy Gingerbread Men

Last year I was planning on making gingerbread men with my eldest niece.  Like most plans, it never came to be.  This year, Aunty Holly went to Las Vegas prepared.  I found a recipe on the internet for gingerbread men made from scratch.  I've never made gingerbread men by scratch before.  I've always bought them.  My favorite gingerbread was ones from my grandmother.  When we were little, my grandmother worked at a bakery.  She would always come home with gingerbread men for my brother and I on special occasions.  She would have them write our names on them with icing.  Their gingerbread men were huge and like a soft cookie.  Yummy!

Anyway, this was my first time attempting this recipe.  It was called "Eileen's Spicy Gingerbread Men".  I was a little concerned about the "spicy" part.  However, after reading the reviews from others who tried the recipe, it sounded like kids enjoyed it and adults didn't find it too spicy.  My only problem with the recipe came after resting the dough in the refrigerator for an hour.  The dough was still very soft and sticky.  My initial try with the cut outs yielded mushed men.  They were mis-shapened and deformed.  My father and brother made fun of them.  I tried my best to re-shape them but they were so goofy looking that I scraped them.  I put the dough in the freezer for 20 minutes or so and rerolled them.  This worked really well.  The trick is to be fast cutting out the gingerbread or the dough gets soft again.  If it gets soft, refreeze and try again. 

These were my mushy men:

Once I finally got the hang of it, it was a breeze to cut out.  The cookies came out really good.  They weren't too spicy and even my 5 year old niece liked them.  They were crispy and crunchy.  We had fun decorating them as a family.  That post will follow.  If you have a tried and true gingerbread recipe, I would love to hear about it!  We have to get ready for next year!!

Spicy Gingerbread Men
Adapted from: (Submitted by STEPH67)
Makes: About 18 gingerbread men

1/2 c. butter, softened to room temperature
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. molasses
1 egg yolk (large egg)
2 c. all-purpose flour, sifted
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg

Misc. supplies:
gingerbread man shaped cookie cutter
candies/sprinkles for decorating

1) In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth.  Stir in molasses and egg yolk.  

2) In a medium bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, ginger and nutmeg.  Add this dry mixture little by little to your wet ingredients and mix well, until smooth.  Cover the dough and chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.

3) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  On a lightly floured surface and with a lightly floured rolling pin, roll out the dough to 1/4 inch thickness.  **If dough is really soft and sticky, place in the freezer for about 15-30 minutes.  Remove from the freezer and try rolling it out again**

4) Cut into desired shapes with cookie cutters.  Place cookies 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets.  Bake for 8-10 minutes in the oven or until firm.  Remove from the oven, allow to cool for a few minutes then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.  Frost and decorate when they are cool.  

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Restaurant Ramblings: Monta Ramen (Las Vegas, NV)

While in Las Vegas, I was craving ramen.  Okay, who am I kidding?  I'm always craving ramen or any type of noodles for that matter.  I could eat it everyday if I could.  I wanted to see if Las Vegas had any good ramen joints that weren't overpriced.  I took to to help me locate something good.  I found good reviews for a place called Monta Ramen in Chinatown.  Not being from Las Vegas, I had no idea where it was.  It was a little out of the way from my brother's house but we decided to do a to go order so we could bring it back to the house.

I placed my order and was told that for to go orders, they don't cook the noodles.  You would have to do it yourself at home.  WHAT?  I understood though because have you ever had soggy ramen noodles?  EPIC FAIL!  I placed my order by phone, asked my brother to have some water boiling on the stove and went to pick up the order.  

Monta is located in a strip mall in Chinatown with a bunch of other restaurants.  It took a while (and my dad's pair of eyes) to spot the restaurant.  When you pull into the complex, it's in the row of businesses that is parallel to Spring Mountain Road and near the middle of that line of businesses.  Look for the line of people waiting for a seat.

The restaurant is small.  People were really waiting outside in a line for a seat.  There was a sign in sheet at the front.  I scooted to the front of the line as I was picking up my order.  The servers and cooks all speak Japanese.  The smells are heavenly inside!  My order was nicely packed up and labeled.  I had ordered a lot of food.  

There are basically 4 kinds of broth to choose from for your ramen.  They have tonkotsu (pork based broth), shoyu (soy sauce), tonkotsu-shoyu (combination of pork and soy sauce) & miso ramen (bean paste).  I like miso ramen so that's what I ordered.  Between all our family members, we got all of the broths so I got to taste everyone else's to see which one was the best.  My miso ramen broth was salty.  The shoyu and tonkatsu-shoyu were the best tasting to me.  Besides the basic ramen, you can add extras to your soup, like extra noodles, extra chashu pork, etc.  

They gave you the soup in a to go bowl.  The noodles were uncooked and in a separate box with your toppings.  There were 2 types of noodles.  The miso ramen and shoyu ramen used the normal ramen noodles.  The tonkotsu and tonkotsu-shoyu ramen had a thinner noodle.  All of the noodles took under 2 minutes to cook.  After cooking the noodles, drain them and place them in a bowl.  Pour the broth over the noodles and add your toppings.  All ramen come with 2 pieces of chashu (roasted pork belly), green onions, bamboo shoots and kikurage (mushrooms).    

I had the Miso Ramen with Takana Mustard Leaves.  The mustard leaves were very salty.  Next time I'd skip these.  The chashu was delicious and almost melted in your mouth.  Next time I would order extra chashu.  Most family members went with the extra noodles and it was a LOT of noodles.  We all enjoyed our ramen.  It was delicious!!        
We also ordered the kim chi fried rice to try and it was a winner!  It had a lot of meat in it and had a nice spicy kick from the kim chi.  We also ordered gyoza (potstickers) but I wasn't that impressed with these.

If you're ever in Las Vegas and craving a good bowl of soup, stop by Monta Ramen!

Monta Ramen
5030 Spring Mountain Road, Suite 6 (China Town)
Las Vegas, NV 89146
ph: (702) 367-4600

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

What's Bakin?: Smores Crumb Bars

Every time I go to visit my brother and his family I have to come prepared with a recipe that is not only delicious, but that a (now) 5 year old can help make.  This one looked good on paper.  I mean seriously, what's not to love?  Graham crackers, chocolate and marshmallows reminding you of good ole camping days.  Fun!

This time, the little one was distracted by old episodes of Wonder Woman my brother had found on the internet.  I remember watching these (staring Linda Carter) when my brother and I were little.  My sister-in-law said she'd never seen them before and made fun of us.  After watching one episode, she thought they were cool!  Not as cool as we thought way back in the day, but still cool.  It was cool enough to captivate my niece, even by today's tv show standards.  Sorry, I digress.

Luckily this recipe was very easy (with or without your helper).  It was delicious but sweet (as you can imagine).  I bought graham crackers and crushed my own.  You'll need 2 packets of crackers for 3 cups.  Each box of graham crackers comes with 3 packets.  Graham crackers crumbs are also available in super markets pre-crushed.  I'm sure glad I followed suggestions and decreased the amount of sugar in the crust.  It was sweet already.  I also omitted the sprinkling of the top with graham crumbs.  I kept them all at the bottom.  You can use milk chocolate chips in this recipe but I think it'll be way too sweet.  Semi-sweet chips were perfect but dark chocolate would be amazing!  You can also cut down on the amount of chocolate if it's too sweet.  

Smores Crumb Bars
Adapted from (submitted by Darlene Brenden)
Servings: one 9 x 13 pan

3 c. (2 pre-wrapped packets) graham cracker crumbs
3/4 c. butter, melted
1/6 c. sugar
3 c. miniature marshmallows
2 c. (12 oz. bag) semisweet chocolate chips

1) If you're crushing your own crackers, place graham crackers in a large Ziploc bag.  Use a rolling pin to crush the crackers into crumbs.

2) Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Line a 9x13 pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil and spray with non-stick spray or butter well. 

3) Combine the graham cracker crumbs, butter and sugar in a small bowl.  Mix well to incorporate.  Place the graham crumb mixture into the pre-greased pan and press in well.  

4) Sprinkle with the chocolate chips, then marshmallows.

5) Bake at 375 degrees F for 10 minutes or until the marshmallows are lightly browned.  Remove from the oven and immediately press the top of the marshmallows down firmly with a greased spatula.  Cool pan completely then cut into bars.  If you can't wait until they're cool, wait until they're warm and cut with a greased knife.  Bars maybe served warm or cold.  

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Happy 5th Birthday Arianna!

Another reason my dad and I met in Las Vegas was my eldest niece was turning 5 years old!  I don't think I've missed one birthday yet but I have missed all of her birthday parties.  This year, I would be there for both events.  She chose a Wonder Woman themed party.  It was hard to find Wonder Woman or Super Hero themed items but my brother and sister-in-law did a great job.

My sister-in-law made a pretty sign with her Cricuit machine.  We glued it together the night before in an assembly line workgroup.  It turned out really nice!
My brother is quite the cake maker these days.  He made my other niece, Aubrey's cake in May.  This time he made 2 cakes.  This small one was for Arianna's birthday at home.  The other was larger and for her birthday party.  Either way, it was a delicious white cake with a marshmallow fondant.  I'm usually not a fan of frosting or fondant.  I usually scrape it off.  This one however, was a winner!  I love what he did with the Wonder Woman theme.  Arianna was thrilled with the cake (and the fondant stars).  I think he should go into the cake making business! 

Arianna's birthday was on December 1st.  Happy Belated 5th Birthday Arianna!!

Happy Thanksgiving 2011

This year for Thanksgiving, we had a belated dinner.  Since I worked on Thanksgiving evening, I took the next week off.  I flew from Portland to Las Vegas and my dad flew from Kauai to Las Vegas.  We all met up at my brother's house for a yummy dinner.  My brother did all of the cooking.  I volunteered a vegetable and dip platter but when I turned around, my brother had already cut up all of the vegetables.  So essentially, I volunteered my appetite to the dinner.

My brother cooked quite the feast.  A lot of it brought back memories of Thanksgiving back home when my mom was still here.  He made her delicious hot potato salad and our family favorite, pumpkin squares.  My brother and I still cherish these recipes of some of our favorite "mom recipes".  My brother and I were talking and I think the last Thanksgiving he, my dad and I were all together was when I was in high school.  It's been a long long long time since we last sat down as a family.  Of course, since our last Thanksgiving many many many many years ago, we've lost a few family members but gained a few more too!  It made this Thanksgiving extra special.  So from our family to yours, Happy Thanksgiving!!  

Here's the delicious turkey.  Yummy!!

I tried to get a photo of the spread but I guess my camera only focused on the stuffing.  Haha!  Sorry!

What's Cookin?: Cranberry Sauce

Happy Very Belated Thanksgiving everyone!  I meant to post this before I left town but unfortunately, it didn't happen.  This year I worked on Thanksgiving evening.  We did a potluck at work.  For our holiday feast, I brought cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie.  I've never made cranberry sauce before from fresh cranberries so I was a little apprehensive.  When we were little, we loved that cranberry jello from the can.

This was a super quick and easy recipe.  It needs to sit in the refrigerator for about 8 hours to meld the flavors.  It turned out yummy!!

Cranberry Sauce
Adapted from: (submitted by MARJK)
Makes: 16 servings

4 cups (or 12 oz.) fresh cranberries
3/4 c. orange juice
3/4 c. water
4 whole cloves
4 whole allspice berries
2 cinnamon sticks
1 to 1 & 1/2 c. white sugar
zest from 1 orange

1) Place fresh cranberries, orange juice and water in a medium saucepan over medium heat.

2) Wrap cloves allspice berries and cinnamon sticks in a spice bag or cheesecloth.  Place the spices in the saucepan.

3) Cook the sauce until the cranberries begin to burst, about 10 minutes.

4) Stir in sugar (start with 1 c. and add more as needed) and reduce heat to low.  Continue to cook for another 5 minutes or until the sugar has dissolved.  Remove the sauce from heat and allow the sauce to cool.  Discard the spice bag.  Stir in orange zest.  Chill in the refrigerator for 8 hours or overnight.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Restaurant Ramblings: Hapa Grill (Beaverton, Oregon)

Once in a while, I get the craving for island food (from Hawaii).  Most times I don't want to travel too far to get a taste of it.  Hapa Grill is located in a strip mall in the Murray Hill area of Beaverton, and luckily it's in the area I live in.  They have a nice mix of the flavors of Hawaii on their menu, from Japanese, Hawaiian, Korean, to Chinese. 

On this particular day, I was so undecided.  I wanted one of everything.  I finally settled on Korean food with bulgogi with brown rice.  I love how the lady made little musubi with the brown rice.  With you lunch, you get to choose 2 sides.  I went with the kim chi and yakisoba noodles.  The yakisoba noodles weren't that good.  Next time I'll pass.  I really enjoyed the rest of the lunch though.

Hapa Grill
14625 SW Teal Blvd
Beaverton, Oregon 97007
ph: (503) 590-7800

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Fall In Sicily Cooking Class

This week I took a Sicilian cooking class.  It was so much fun!  The class was called "Fall in Sicily".  It was a hands on cooking class, meaning that we did all the recipes on our own (or rather working in pairs and/or groups).  I was having so much fun getting my hands dirty that I forgot to snap pics.

Here's the menu:

- Roasted Tomato Bruschetta on Toasted Focaccia Bread
- Fennel and Orange Salad (mustard seeds, red onions, fresh oregano, frisee and radicchio)
- Pan Seared Swordfish (with a roasted tomato sauce, capers and lemon)
- Handmade Pappardelle (with a roasted red pepper, roasted eggplant, herb and olive sauce)
- Sicilian Potato Gratin (anchovies, fresh herbs, mozzarella and parmesan cheese)
- Handmade Cannoli (with assorted fillings)

We were served the Roasted Tomato Bruschetta on arrival with champagne.  It was a delicious snack before we got working.  We split up into groups and divided out the menu.  I was in a group that worked on making the handmade pappardelle (FUN!) and the roasted eggplant sauce for the pasta.  I also helped make the Sicilian Potato Gratin.  We were also encouraged to wander and see what the others were doing.  It was a fun and hugely successful evening.

At the end, we were seated and served dinner in courses with wine.  Delicious!  We started with the Fennel and Orange Salad.  I'll admit, I didn't think I was going to remotely enjoy this salad.  I don't like black licorice and have never had fennel because I've been told it tastes like licorice.  Not true at all!   The fennel was shaved very very thin (on a mandolin) and was delicious!  I'm shocked!  Of course, I picked out all the red onions but I really enjoyed this salad.  The toasted mustard seeds added a nice touch and the orange sherry vinaigrette tied all the ingredients together nicely.

Next came the Handmade Pappardelle Pasta with the roasted eggplant sauce.  The sauce was garlicky but delicious!  I loved the roasted eggplant and red peppers in the sauce.  I've never made handmade pasta before but have always wanted to try.  I think I've been too intimidated to give it a whirl.  Making the pasta with a group of people made it fun and enjoyable.  It was a lot of work but the texture of the noodles was worth it!  Delicious!!  I am sooo buying myself a pasta maker.

The next course was the Pan Seared Swordfish with a Roasted Tomato Sauce that was bedded on the Sicilian Potato Gratin that I helped make.  For me, this was one of my favorite courses.  The fish was cooked perfectly and the roasted tomato sauce was delicious!!  I wasn't sure I'd be that excited about the potato gratin.  It had anchovies in it.  But it was a creamy, salty wonder!  The anchovies added a nice saltiness without an overpowering fishiness.  It was a show stopper!  I was getting full so I didn't finish all of this course.  I was saving room for dessert!

Cannoli....delicious cannoli!  I watched a few people make the cannoli shells.  They handmade dough and rolled it out.  They cut it into circles and rolled them around cannoli tubes then deep fried them.  Fun!!  We were served 3 cannoli with a different filling in each (chocolate, orange and a honey spiced filling).  They were all spectacular but my favorite was the chocolate!!

After dinner I was stuffed!  I had a great time!  The class was wonderful and we had a fabulous group!  The exciting part was that we were given all the recipes to take home!!  I'll have to try to recreate these flavors soon!


Saturday, November 12, 2011

What's Cookin?: Creamy Hummus

My absolute favorite store-bought hummus is Trader Joe's Mediterranean Hummus.  It's extra creamy, tangy and has olive oil, pine nuts and dried parsley floated on top of the hummus.  If you haven't tried it, you should!!  I've turned a few friends onto this brand and they (and I) never buy anything else!  It really is that good!!

I've tried a few hummus recipes to recreate this taste at home but haven't been very successful.  Most recipes fall flat.  Although this recipe is pretty close (and pretty dang tasty!), it's just not quite there.  If you can figure out what it's missing, I'm all ears!  I like my hummus garlicky and tangy.  If you're unsure, try using only 2 cloves of garlic and the juice of 2 lemons to start.  You can always adjusts flavors later.  If you add more garlic (after throwing in all the other ingredients), you'll have to hand mince them finely before adding them to the blender.

Some tips I've picked up to make the hummus fluffy and creamy is to use a blender.  People have noted that they don't get quite the same results with a food processor.  The other thing is to mix your ingredients first, then add the garbanzo beans to make the dip creamy.

I've always used canned garbanzo beans for my hummus (just because I never plan ahead to make it).  I always have a craving for it at a moments notice.  A Lebanese friend of mine says her mom swears hummus (or any other garbanzo recipe) tastes a hundred times better if you start with dried beans.  Soak them overnight first.  Next time I'll try dried gabanzo beans!

I usually serve hummus with flatbread or pitas, pita chips, or with sliced vegetables.  I also love it as a spread in turkey sandwiches.  Be creative!

Creamy Hummus
Yield: 4 cups

3 cloves garlic
6 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp. tahini
1 1/2 tsp. salt
2-3 lemons juiced
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
2 cans (3 cups) garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained
1/2 c. hot water
zest of 1 large lemon

1) Place the garlic cloves in a blender and pulse a few times to chop.  Add the extra virgin olive oil, tahini, salt, lemon juice and cumin to the blender and blend for 3-4 minutes or until it makes a smooth paste.

2) Add the garbanzo beans a little at a time (about 1/2 c. at a time).  Run blender and add some of the hot water as needed to thin out the mixture.  Continue to blend about 1/2 c. of garbanzo beans at a time until you are done.  I found the 1/2 c. hot water was perfect but you may need more.  You may also need to stop the blender to mix the hummus up.  **Note: The hummus may seem on the thin (runny) side.  It will stiffen up a lot in the refrigerator.**  

3) Taste your hummus and adjust seasonings as needed.  I found I needed a pinch more salt and the juice of about 2 1/2 large lemons.

4) Pour the hummus into a container and chill for a few hours or overnight to allow the flavors to mix.  Before serving, drizzle with your favorites.  Trader Joe's hummus is drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, dried parsley flakes, pine nuts and dehydrated red bell peppers.  Other options are crushed red pepper flakes, fresh parsley or a dusting of smoked paprika.  YUM!!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Frommer's Top Destinations for 2012

Bay of Fundy, Nova Scotia from

Frommer's has come out with their Top Travel Destinations for 2012.  Those mentioned this year are:
- Bay of Fundy, Nova Scotia
- Beirut, Lebanon
- Chongqing, China
- Curacao
- Fukuoka, Japan
- Ghana
- Girona, Spain
- Greenwich, London, England
- Kansas City, Missouri
- Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico

This year, sites were also chosen for specific reasons:
- Top Adventure Destination: Moab, Utah
- Top Beach Destination: Hanalei Beach, Kauai, Hawaii
- Top City Break Destination: Chicago, Illinois
- Top Cruise Destination: Tromso, Norway
- Top Endangered Destination: Aysen Region, Chile
- Top Family Destination: Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina & Tennessee
- Top Food & Drink Destination: Lima, Peru
- Top Destination to Get Lost: Whitsunday Islands, Australia
- Top Value Destination: Albanian Riviera, Albania
- Reader's Favorite: Turkey

I love reading Frommer's list each year.  It inspires me to add more cities and countries to my bucket list.  This year I was excited to see some of my own bucket list top destinations on their list.  Some of my "to-do's" are Turkey, China, Lebanon, Spain, Chile, Peru and Australia.  It was very nice to see some places that I've already been on the list also (Japan, London, Yucatan Peninsula).

I was also extra excited to see Kauai voted as the top beach destination.  Although I would have voted for another Kauai beach, it's just exciting to see our little island make the list!  Hooray!

My bucket list is really long but I'm chipping away at it, one vacation and one country at a time.  What about you?  What's on your bucket list for places to see and visit??  

Sunday, October 30, 2011

What's Cookin?: Potato, Leek and Kale Soup

As the weather cools down, I start to crave soup.  This soup is a slight modification of Emeril's recipe.  It makes a nice creamy and hearty soup.  You could easily make a vegetarian version by omitting the bacon and using vegetable stock instead.  I added kale to make it a little more nutritious and to take advantage of the season's offerings.  It's a delicious soup on a cold fall day!

Potato, Leek and Kale Soup
Adapted from: (Emeril Lagasse, 2003)
Serves 6

1 large or 2 small leeks (about 1 pound), use only tender light green & white parts, sliced
2 bay leaves
20 black peppercorns
4 sprigs fresh thyme
3 strips bacon, chopped
2 Tbsp. butter
1/2 c. dry white wine
4 c. homemade chicken stock (or high quality store bought version)
3-4 medium russet potatoes (about 1 pound), peeled and diced
1 1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. black pepper
1/2 c. heavy cream (or heavy whipping cream)
1/2 bunch Lacinato kale, remove center ribs and roughly chopped

1) Trim off the top dark green portion and bottom roots of the leek.  Halve the leek lengthwise and rinse well under cold running water to remove any dirt or sand.  Slice the leeks thinly crosswise and set aside.

2) Make a bouquet garni by bundling the bay leaves, peppercorns and thyme in a piece of cheesecloth and set aside.

3) In a large soup pot over medium heat, cook the bacon for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until the back is soft and has rendered most of its fat.  Add the butter and leeks to the pot and cook until the leeks are wilted, about 5 minutes.

4) Add the wine to the pot and bring it to a boil.  Add the bouquet garni, chicken stock, potatoes, slat and pepper.  Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.  Stir occasionally.

5) Remove the bouquet garni and discard.  Work in batches to puree the soup in a food processor or blender (do not fill to the top).  If you have an immersion blender, puree the soup directly in the pot.  You can either puree the entire pot or only 1/2 of the soup to keep some texture.  I prefer the texture in the soup.

6) Add chopped kale to the soup and cook for an additional 10-15 minutes or until  the kale is wilted.  Add the whipping cream and stir well.  Adjust seasonings if needed.  Serve soup hot with crusty bread or rolls.

Restaurant Rambling: The Breakfast Club (London, England)

I stopped for breakfast at a neat joint called The Breakfast Club.  Who wouldn't want to try it out just for the great name?  That was one of my favorite movies in the 80's.  It's a small restaurant with limited seating.  I got there early to fuel up for another busy day of sightseeing.  
There are several locations around London and I visited the Soho branch.  The restaurant is hard to miss.  It's bright bright yellow!  What to get?  They have an espresso machine and it had been a while since I've had a nice latte.  However, they also had some amazing fresh pressed juices.  Decisions decisions.....
Being purely practical (I felt I would need the caffeine), I ordered a delicious Caramel Latte.  Yummy!  

I had an even more difficult time deciding on what to get for breakfast.  I ended up getting the Chorizo Hash.  I was told that was an excellent choice by my waitress.  I wasn't disappointed.  It was very filling and the chorizo was nice and crunchy on the outside but moist in the inside.  
After my breakfast, I noticed the place had really filled up.  There was a line waiting outside the door.  The Breakfast Club as a delicious stop for a filling breakfast and it seems it's quite popular with the locals!

The Breakfast Club
33 D'Arblay Street
Area: Soho

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Restaurant Rambling: North Sea Fish (London, England)

One food Britain is known for is fish and chips.  Who can go to London and not have the iconic fish and chips?  After researching for the best restaurant for this, I found the North Sea Fish was not very far from my hotel.  I walked over to try the real deal.  
North Sea Fish has a take away shop and a sit down restaurant next door.  The restaurant offers more selection, however, I knew exactly what I wanted.  It is much cheaper to get your fish and chips to go at the take away shop.
You maybe thinking, 4.80 GBP for one piece of fish?  Believe me, it's ginormous and more than filling!!!  I couldn't decide what to get but for the authentic experience, I decided on the cod.  When in London.....

Like I said, the cod was huge.  It was a large fillet of fish that was deep fried crispy and delicious!!  I'm drooling just thinking about it!  The french fries were also good.  They weren't greasy but I personally would have preferred them a little more crunchy.  Nevertheless, the meal was excellent and very affordable.      

I had planned to return for another go at the fish and chips but ran out of time.  BOO!!  Oh well, I guess this calls for a return trip to London!

North Sea Fish
7-8 Leigh Street
Area: Bloomsbury

Travels: St. Paul's Cathedral (London, England)

 I strolled through the St. Paul's Churchyard.  It was a lovely spring day in London.

I love this photo of a wooden park bench etched with "City of London" and the beautiful spring flowers in the background.

The current St. Paul's Cathedral was built between 1675 and 1710 and designed by Sir Christopher Wren.  It is the 5th cathedral to be built on this site.  Admission is 9.50 GBP for adults.

St. Paul's Cathedral has the largest swinging bell in Europe, Great Paul, which strikes daily at 1pm.  The hour bell, Great Tom, strikes the hour and marks the death of royalty and senior churchmen.

A water fountain with a statue of Queen Anne sits in front of the cathedral. 
The design of the cathedral is a work of art.  If you climb the 259 steps to the Whispering Gallery you will be treated to an acoustic marvel.  Whisper against the wall and you will be heard at the clear other side of the gallery.  Climb 530 steps to the Stone Gallery for amazing views of London.  Even further up is the Inner Golden Gallery, at the top of the inner dome.  
This is a view of the Millennium Bridge and Tate Modern from the top of St. Paul's.

St. Paul's Cathedral
St. Paul's Churchyard

Restaurant Rambling: Pret A Manger (London, England)

London is an expensive city.  Restaurants charge top dollar.  For an inexpensive lunch or dinner, have a meal at Pret A Manger.  They're a chain in London that serves up ready made sandwiches and salads.
After a long hard day of sight-seeing, I decided to pick up a quick bite to eat.  Luckily, there was a Pret A Manger right across the street from my hotel.  I had the Pole & Line Caught Tuna and Rocket Bloomer (tuna salad with cucumbers and arugula).  The sandwiches are good and are a nice break from your average Subway sandwiches in the states.  P.S. Their cheddar and onion chips rock!!  If you take your meal to go, it's also cheaper.  But if you want, you can eat there and relax.    

Pret A Manger
Multiple Locations
296 Pentonville Road
Kings Cross, London, ENGLAND