Wednesday, July 18, 2012

My Big Fat Greek-Mexican Birthday

I promised a post this week and I'm going to deliver.  Sorry I don't have a recipe.  I'm still not feeling very creative.  This is going to be a restaurant post.  There is nothing like spreading the love when you have a good meal at a restaurant.  It's also good to warn the masses if a restaurant is bad.

So this week was my birthday.  I love celebrating the anniversary of my 29th birthday.  It's my 13th anniversary this year.  The late Douglas Adams would be so pleased.

So we started off the celebrations a day early.  Remember how I promised I would review a never-dined-at restaurant in my neighborhood?  Well, Sunday night we had dinner at the Greek Taverna, Nemea, which has been around for a year and I tried for the first time for the first family birthday dinner.

What might you expect a Greek restaurant to look like?  Maybe some whitewashed walls with paintings of blue water?  Perhaps some mosaic tile here and there?  When you go into Nemea, get rid of all of your preconceived notions about decor.  This place is distinctive even if it weren't Greek: exposed brick, massive chandeliers, and some very unusual paintings on the wall (sorry I didn't take any photos of those).

Greek wines were available by the glass.  The wine list was kind enough to point out what typical wines they compared to.  I had one called Santoriano, which was dry, with an almost perfumy quality to it.

Our server, Demetrios, brought a basket of warm pita and a dish of olives and warned us not to fill up on it.  There is no problem with me filling up on olives (laughs).  Once I looked at the menu I found way too many tempting appetizers.  It was hard to choose when you had all kinds of dips along with avgolemono, meatballs, sausages, fried zucchini, and green beans with tomatoes.  I went with a salad of arugula and grilled halloumi.  I have always wanted to try grilled halloumi since many of my favorite grecophile blogs talk so fondly of it.

 For my main course I stuck with a classic and went with souvlaki.  Meat was flavorful and rice was excellent.  It was well-flavored with spinach and lemon.

Kevin had grilled chicken with potatoes.  Mom had grilled shrimp.  Her boyfriend had salmon, but I didn't get a photo.

Then there was dessert.  I chose a phyllo-wrapped custard.  I think I was expecting something akin to a napoleon.  The custard here was much denser.  It was almost cake-like in texture.

All in all an excellent meal and I'm sorry we didn't try this place sooner.  I think we will remedy that in the future.  Nemea didn't transport me back to an open-air taverna on the Aegean, but it definitely gave me an idea of what dinner at Peter's house is like.

On to the next celebration.

Sunday night was for Mom.  Monday night was for Dad.  We stayed in the city and had dinner at Rosa Mexicano (the 1st Ave. location in case you were wondering).  Rosa Mexicano is not your typical taco-burrito-enchilada Mexican joint.  This isn't Chi Chi's.  This is some very sophisticated and distinctive food.  I've never had Mexican quite like it.

Dinner started in a very typical fashion despite the distinctiveness of the restaurant.  While I sipped a frozen pomegranate margarita, we enjoyed some tableside guacamole.

For the main course I was torn between the chorizo and steak skewers, the short ribs, and the lamb shank.  Dad had eaten there a few times before and had high praise for many dishes.  I ultimately went with the lamb shank.  They put on quite a show with it.  The shank was steamed in paper and the paper was opened right at the table.

This place is all about the show.  I think the lamb could have used a little less show and a little more spice in this instance.  I will say that the flavors were definitely different from what you expect in a typical lamb shank.  I just would have liked a bit more of those exotic chilis.  They did provide me with cilantro, onions, and a salsa verde to wrap in a tortilla with my lamb if I needed a bit more oomph.

The dessert!  Oh the desserts!  We thought we would split two among the four of us.  Then they staff brought me a cinnamon-laced chocolate mousse cake for my birthday.

On Dad's recommendation we had the churros with three dipping sauces (chocolate, caramel and raspberry).  They were so divinely crispy and well- oated in powdered sugar and cinnamon.

The other dessert we actually ordered was a banana chocolate chip cake soaked in cinnamon syrup, filled with peanut butter, and doused in chocolate sauce.  We were too stuffed to eat it by then, but I ate the banana ice cream on top before taking it home and having it as a birthday bonus the next night (and I shared with Kevin - I'm not heartless.)

In short it was a wonderful birthday and I am grateful to have such a wonderful family who spoils me so well!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Updates (I suppose it's also just a placeholder)

Hello, TERP Muffins.  I haven't abandoned you yet.  It's amazing how much your life can get turned upside down in a few short weeks.

I'm working at my new job.  It's slow going.  They don't have all of their procedures in place for my position (since it's newly created) and I don't have much to do yet except for sit back, observe, and learn.  I can't even waste time on the internet during slow periods because most sites are blocked.  I like the company and I like the people.  I also like new commute.  It's a short train ride to NYC, then I walk two blocks to the office.

Plenty of good eating in my neighborhood.  I have a few standbys for lunch.  I like Boi Sandwich quite a bit.  I can get all of their sandwich toppings on a salad instead of the banh mi bread if I want to save calories.  I am in love with Food World .  How does this place differ from your typical NYC deli/salad bar restaurant?  Well, it has something called the Mongolian grill.  You take a big bowl and bring it to a salad bar and fill it with the many many provided meats and veggies.  There are so many vegetable options plus two kinds of rice and three kinds of noodles.  There is a bevy of seafood choices as well as chicken, beef, and sausage.  Next you take your bowl to the sauce bar where you pick your sauce (or just some fresh garlic, ginger, or jalapeno peppers) and then give it to the chefs to cook.  I love making up my lunch this way and I take tons of veggies, and everything is steamed, so I know I'm eating healthfully.  Another favorite is Dee Daa Thai, a simple takeout Thai place.  I do, however, have to wean myself off my addiction to Coco Tea.  I LOVE BUBBLE TEA.  Unfortunately, the stuff is full of sugar and the tapioca carries an additional 300 calories.

I'll be doing some more exploring as the weeks go by.  I have my eye on a Dominican takeout right now.

Cooking is becoming a bit harder these days.  It used to be that when I needed supplies, I would just drive down the road to Shop Rite or Whole Paycheck on my lunch hour and be ready to cook as soon as I came home.  Now the shopping logistics have changed.  I don't have a Shop Rite in my town, and the closest one isn't nearly as good as the one in my old work neighborhood.  The variety is just not the same.  They do have an adjoining liquor store that has very reasonable prices (including stocking my favorite Chianti for under $20).  The closest store to me is the A&P and it's AWFUL.  To give you an idea of how bad it is, I will point out that the only pork they carry is Smithfield and ninety percent of their chicken is Perdue or Tyson.  I try to visit the farmer's markets as much as possible.  The time it takes me to shop takes a bite out of my creative time though.

With my brain so full of work and my new schedule, I haven't really had much chance to think of new recipes either.  I cook many of the same standards.  At least I have my blog as a reference for the classic TERP recipes.

It's summer and I'm much less busy.  No dance class.  No singing class.  No rehearsals for anything.  I do'nt know how I'm going to manage cooking and shopping in the fall.

I'm thinking of blowing my severance on an iPad so I can blog from the train.  TERP might not get as much action for a while until my kitchen adjusts to the schedule, but at least I can maintain Shipwrecked & Comatose a bit better.

Well, I can promise you a new post next week because my birthday is coming up.  I have two dinners planned and will have two new restaurants to review.  One is local, and one is in the city.  Can't wait to share it all with you.

Speaking of local restaurants, I know I haven't reviewed some of the new ones that have come in.  I've been quite lazy about trying one.  The one I'm going to on Sunday night has been in the neighborhood over a year.  They put yet another pan-Asian place on the strip, but after we tried it, we felt it was so much more of the same that it wasn't worth reviewing.  In the mean time, a pan-Asian place we initially rejected because of bad service has improved in service tremendously.  (If the servers had been as sweet as the one who served us there last weekend, we would have been back a hundred times.)  There is a Middle Eastern place I have yet to review and even an Italian place a bit off the strip that I'm curious about.  I hope this blog will eventually feature them all.

Sadly, as I have shared many "New Kids in Town" with you, I'm afraid that not all of them have survived.

The Barnacle has gone out of business.  Too bad.  I love barbecue and had such high hopes.  I was sure the place would improve and be outstanding once the kitchen and the owner worked out the kinks.  It didn't.

I feel terrible that Hector's and Super Pan have gone out of business.  Those are the kind of true Mom-and-Pop places with authentic food that you really want to survive.

Sadly, Molly Spillane's, the scourge of my street, lives on.

That's all for now.  I'll have lots more restaurant talk in my next post.  Promise.