Thursday, September 30, 2010

Whale Sized Portions At This Fish Joint - Mike Linnig's

You say there's good grub?...I'm there.

Honestly. I'm a sucker for a recommendation. I read restaurant reviews like most people read the daily news. I start thinking about our Friday night dinner plans the Saturday before. And entire vacations have been planned around an Anthony Bourdain show.

Some places turn out to be good, some bad, but all are an experience. Mike Linnig's restaurant here in Louisville certainly falls into the experience category...the good experience category to be more exact.

I read in my Garden and Gun magazine (yes, that's really the name...and yes, it's as awesome as it sounds) that Mike Linnig's is a Louisville institution and makes some damn fine fried catfish. Since Nick and I are always interested in getting to know our town a bit better...and since a girl's gotta eat...we decided to check it out.

First of all...location. Off the beaten path for me, Linnig's is located on the far west end of the city. It is, however, right on the river and boasts a super duper cute (pardon the super duper but it really is) courtyard with tons of outdoor seating and a Key-West-Inspired bar. If I didn't have to drive straight across the city to get there I'm sure I would spend many an evening enjoying a beer there.

Next... the "experience factor". The place was jam packed with people and it seemed to me to be the type of restaurant where you'd meet your friends or family. It was inexpensive and fun with casual, crowd-pleasing type fare. Add to the the fact that it's been around since the 20's and this is the type of hometown institution that can get passed down through the ages.

Now most important...the food. Certainly not a fine dining restaurant, the menu consisted mainly of fried seafood. But sometimes that's just what the doctor ordered. Often I find myself jonsin' for a big 'ol plate of fried fish and a tub of tarter sauce. To me it's warm weather comfort food.

I can't even imagine the team of people they must have working the fry station. They must have a small army back there. Practically everyone I saw eating (and like I said...there were TONS of people there) was enjoying fried food of some type.

Nick ordered the mixed seafood plate (fried...and seen here) and I ordered the fried catfish plate (because Garden and Gun told me to...and I always listen...seen at top of page). Since we had never been there before we had absolutely no way of knowing that we were about to be served enough food to feed that army they have working the fry station. The portions are almost ridiculous.

The food was actually really good. I mean, it was fried seafood so there isn't much more to say about it, but I certainly can't complain. The price was great...about $13 for the "plate" with included a fried food (shrimp, catfish, etc.), cole slaw, fries and hushpuppies (actually REALLY good hushpuppies). And like I said...the portions are enormous.

I really wish the waiter (who it must be said was swamped with orders, yet pleasant and attentive) would have asked if it were our first time there and informed us that we were ordering an aquarium's worth of seafood, but like I said, I really do think this place is a "regular's" type of joint so they probably don't have many first-timers. If we had known about the portion size we would have split a "plate" and probably would still have had some left over (honestly...we can put away some food but they serve A LOT of it). Not one to usually complain about taking a doggy bag home I have to say, when it comes to breaded and fried's not really something that works well as a leftover.

So if you're a Louisville resident and haven't given it try I recommend it. If you're an out-of-towner and looking for a fun experience I also recommend it. Give yourself some time to lounge in the courtyard, enjoy a few beers and perhaps even take a big 'ol group of friends to share the fun...and of course...share the grub.

When I head back...which I will certainly do...I plan on doing just that.

Mike Linnig's on Urbanspoon
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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

So Much Louisville...So Little Time!

Whew! What a whirlwind weekend. I had my folks in from Jersey for a long, albeit fun weekend and am just now getting the chance to sit down and recap.

My newest secret weapon in the war to find great things to do in Louisville, a loyal reader named Scott, has been helping keep me updated on what's happenin' around town. I was lax in my duties last weekend due to my guests (I blame my wonderful hostess skills) and didn't have time to give you a heads up about last weekends activities (not even my own neighborhood's Highland Fest!) so here are a few upcoming events I don't want you to miss::

1.) Oktoberfest

I know that Covington Kentucky hosts the mother of all Oktoberfests but driving an hour and a half there, drinking beers the size of your head, and driving an hour and a half back doesn't really jive with me. So I'm happy to see Louisville is hosting a few Oktoberfest activities of it's own. The hubby and I were in Munich in late September about three years ago so when this time of the year rolls around all I can think of is sausage and beer. We'll be attending this one next weekend:

2.) Pigskins and Ponies

This one is courtesy of Scott. It's a bit in the future but you'll probably have to act sooner rather than later on it. The neighboring Cardinals Stadium and Churchill Downs have put together a pretty nice package for the low, low price of $25. Unfortunately, the hubby and I won't be able to make it as we will be in Europe (oh shucks...what a shame), but if we were in town I would certainly be there:

This last one isn't quite an event, more of a great idea...and it has to do with pizza. Last Thursday, the Highlands hosted their "Slice of the Highlands" pizza competition. Papalino's won both the critics and people's choice.

Now, I have to say, of all the pizza I've had in the Highlands to date, Papalino's WAS the best quality in terms of getting even close to NY Style pizza (although that being said, please note, it's nothing like NY style pizza...just closer than anything I've had yet...remember, I was born and raised less than an hour from NY so I'm a tough sell). The crust was pretty good and the topping were of excellent quality. But I have to mention one thing...the wait. The hubby and I went there one Saturday evening and although it looked busy, we never in our wildest dreams thought we'd have to wait over an hour for our pie. Once it arrived we couldn't deny it's yummy-ness, but the wait left a bad taste in our mouth.

So aside from this little mini-review of Papalino's, I've decided to continue my search for the best pizza Louisville has to offer before I post reviews of places I've been so far. But I'm going to break it down into categories. I'm thinking "Best Bang For Your Buck", "Best Thin Crust", "Best Quality Ingredients". I'm going to have to throw "Best NY Style" out the window until I find something that more closely resembles what I used to have when I lived there.

First stop on "Best Bang For Your Buck" will be Wick's Pizza in the Highlands. Scott mentioned that it's a great place for fill-you-up-cheesy-goodness (not verbatim obviously) and when I popped in there for a beer during the Highlands Festival (cheap, cheap beer by the way...always a good sign!) I noticed they have all you can eat pizza and draft special for the low, low price of $10 every Wednesday! $10!!!! You will certainly see me there one Wednesday in October.

So get out there and enjoy your city Louisville! I know I have!
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Monday, September 20, 2010

Welcome To The Jungle

One of the best perks about making this move to Louisville is being closer to some very good friends of ours that live near Dayton Ohio. Now, of course we would love to take the drive up there for the shear joy of spending time with them...HOWEVER...if we just happen to pass THE most wonderful food market I've ever seen, aka, Jungle Jim's, on the way...well, that's just icing on the cake.

Jungle Jim's International Food Market looks like a zoo from the outside, and looks like my version of heaven on the inside. It's located just north of Cincinnati and although it's a bit of a drive from Louisville, I honestly believe it's worth the drive at least a few times a year to stock up on things you really can't find anywhere else.

When we left Philly we also left behind a plethora of ethnic food options. We used to stock up on our Chinese groceries in an underground market...literally (it was in a pretty funky looking basement but there wasn't anything they didn't have). We would head over to the Italian Market for some amazing cured meats and cheese. Philly even had a Little Vietnam.

Jungle Jim's takes the idea of International Grocery Shopping to a whole new level.......

Nick and I were trying to recreate a meal we had in Munich's Englischer Garten so we picked up some kartoffelknoedel mix (potato dumplings), some good German mustard, some amazing looking wursts and just for fun, some pork belly (schweinebauch) stuffed with pork, beef, veal and diced pickles...of course!.

Now we're getting warmed up!

Let's head to China! Some of our favorite things to buy in our old underground market were fish balls. A pretty typical Chinese street food, but try to find them in your local takeout place and you might be disappointed. Have no fear...they have them here! Throw in a few packets of prawn flavored noodles (the hubby's favorite) and some dried mushrooms and you've got yourself the makings of a noodle bowl.

What's for breakfast you ask? Well, for the past few months it hasn't been scrapple since we've been unable to find it anywhere. Fortunately that's no longer the case! Nick will be eating high on the hog this weekend because we not only picked up a few bricks of scrapple, we also grabbed a package of Irish White Pudding. We've never had it before but like we always say, "You never know unless you try"!

And no trip would be complete without grabbing a few hunks of foie gras on the way out. Oh, what's that? Wild Boar medallions? Ok, throw 'em in the cart as well.

Now, this was just the tip of our shopping cart shaped iceberg. There is so much more to be discovered. The produce section is pretty amazing and Nick literally had to pry me away from the cheese department.

So if the economy has cut your vacation budget in half and an intercontinental trip is out of your budget, just scrape up enough dough for gas money and groceries and head up to Cincinnati. Welcome to the jungle.
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Friday, September 17, 2010

If you don't already have plans for this which I mean, if you aren't going to the Bourbon Festival...

If you don't already have plans for this which I mean, if you aren't going to the Bourbon Festival...try this::::

A few weekends ago the hubby and I (and the dog of course) rented a pontoon boat on Patoka Lake in Hoosier National Forest, just over the river in Indiana. For around $80 (including gas!) we puttered around the lake all day. We fished, we drank, we swam, I drank more because Nick was driving, I swam more because I was drinking so much. You get the picture. It was an amazing time.

It's just about an hour drive(much closer than the oh-so-famous Lake Cumberland) and the lake is lovely.

So pack up the cooler and give it a shot. There might not be many more warm weekends in our future so take advantage of them while they're here!

Patoka Lake:,+IN&sll=37.0625,-95.677068&sspn=34.671324,79.013672&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=Patoka+Lake&z=13

We rented our boat from here (dog friendly!):
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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

This Just In From My Field Correspondent - "Mutton BBQ is Yummy"

This just in from my field correspondent...aka, the hubby...

"had a mutton bbq sandwich for lunch...looked like a pork bbq sandwich but had the gamy flavor of mutton...yummy!".

He was reporting from Ole Hickory Pit on Shepherdsville Rd.

I'll have more to report when he takes me back there for dinner (hint hint Nick).
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Monday, September 13, 2010

732 Social - Code for Delicious in Louisville

Friday night on East Market Street......

The only time since moving to Louisville that we've have trouble finding a parking spot. Well, not really trouble, we just have to park one block away. Woe is me.

UrbanSpoon says this neighborhood is called NULU or East Market. I'm going with NULU because it's just so darn cute.

That's where we found ourselves last Friday. Or more specifically at 732 Social. Quirky name. Modern interior. Delicious food.

I called ahead on Friday for a reservation and I was glad I did. They have three seatings...I think they were 6pm, 8pm and 10pm, but call to confirm. We chose 8pm.

When we arrived the place was packed. We were seated next to the window and beside the bar. It certainly wasn't the best seat in the house as the bar was packed but I've been more cramped in a restaurant, and honestly, as long as the food is good I'd sit on someone's lap.

The interior was modern and hip. I hate using the term hip but it really did make me feel as though I was sitting in an up-and-coming restaurant in a much larger city. It had clean lines and a simplistic design. It was a bit loud (ok, really loud), but that never seems to bother me much. A quiet restaurant can be much more unsettling than one that's hoppin'.

Our server was hurried yet pleasant as we placed our cocktail orders. If a place offers specialized cocktails I'm hard pressed to pass them by without a try. 732 Social calls them pre-prohibition cocktails and I'm very familiar with the idea having drank my fair share of them while in Philly. They tend to be more like "tonics" or "elixirs" and less like mixed drinks. We passed on the ones with egg-whites. It's not that I don't like them...I've just had more than a few too many in the past...and decided on Negroni and the Honky Tonk. Both were prepared excellently and the Negroni actually came in a rocks glass with a HUGE ball of ice in it. Now, I'm not normally a sucker for cutesy presentation but I fell for this one. Honestly, pretty pun intended.

We decided to opt out of the appetizers (a few good cocktails took their place) and opted instead for a cheese course for dessert.

For our entrees the hubby chose the duck. And I chose the scallops.

Nick's duck was lovely. It featured a trio...breast, liver and leg. He hoped it would feature a whole leg, perhaps confit, and was slightly disappointed that it only featured some shredded leg meat, but was very happy with the breast, liver and especially the lentils they sat on. It was a rich and satisfying dish. Some may be a tad disappointed by the size, however I find more and more that I hate waddling out of a restaurant and much prefer leaving perfectly satisfied. I'll take a perfectly portioned and delicious meal any day over a "generous portion" of crap.

Oh...and the price...$20! That's almost $10 less than I would have expected to pay (don't get any ideas though 732 Social...I like you just the way you are).

I ordered the scallops and let me say...WOW. This dish was amazing. The perfectly (and I mean it) cooked scallops sat on a bed of roasted, no, more like caramelized cauliflower, with split peas as well as a creamy pea puree. I'm not sure if they slightly smoked the scallops as they cooked them or if all of that lovely smokey-ness came from the cauliflower but it was a hit. The only thing I would change were the raw split-peas. They were a tad on the tooth-breaky side but still, I gobbled them right up. I would go back and order that very same dish over and over again.

What was the price you ask for such an exquisite dish??? $20!!!

Now for the cheese course (which, by the way, is my idea of a perfect dessert...I'll take a stinky blue cheese over chocolate cake any day of the week)...

The waitress was very knowledgeable and helped us choose the Cypress Grove/California "Humbolt Fog". It was a "blue" goat cheese. It had a vegetable ash line running through it and a very mild taste with a creamy texture.

We also chose the Castello, Denmark Blue. It was a cow's milk cheese with rich and strong blue cheese characteristics. Nick and I tend to prefer a good strong blue and a mild, creamy chevre in our cheese course and these two hit the spot.

The were priced at 2 for $10 and were accompanied by raw honey (SOOO good), black walnuts (SOOO good) and some sort of tart cubed fruit. She may have said beet marinated apples, but whatever it was, it hit the spot. The duo of cheese with the trio of sides was truly fantastic, and about the best possible way to top of a great meal for $10.

So let's recap shall we?

Unique and intriguing cocktails? Check
Skillfully prepared entrees at reasonable prices? Check
Good cheese and charcuterie platters starting at $10? Check

What's not to love??? Well, judging from the crowd at 732 Social that evening, Louisville agrees with me, or, at least is dying for this type of restaurant. The food is above average and the restaurant in general offers a departure from the every-day at a reasonable price.

I'm still a newbie here in Louisville but if this is what I can look forward to I'll be a very happy girl.

732 Social on Urbanspoon
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Friday, September 10, 2010

"Corn! We don't need no stinkin' corn!" - Bernheim Kentucky Straight Wheat Whiskey

By now I'm very familiar with the rules and regulations that govern the bourbon world (I know. It seem silly to think that a concoction that makes you WANT to break rules must actually follow rules of it's own, but that's the way it is). That being said, it still surprises me how many different variations of bourbon can be made from what is essentially a distilled and aged corn liquor. Some taste peaty and remind me of Irish Whiskey. Some are sweet and smooth. Some are smokey, tasting of the charred barrel they lived in for so long.

The other day the hubby brought home what I thought was yet another bottle of bourbon to add to our at-home-collection. Boy was I wrong. This smooth, sweet liquor was clearly different. And now I know it's because it wasn't bourbon at all. It's Kentucky Straight Whiskey made from winter wheat, and it's delicious.

The name is Bernheim. The whiskey is delicious.

The other night at dinner I asked Nick to critique it for me and he simply said, "Honestly, I can't find a damn thing wrong with it. Is that critique enough?".

The reason for it's taste is the wheat, which is also the reason why it can't be called bourbon. If it's not at least 51% corn based, it must be called something else, and Kentucky Straight Wheat Whiskey sounds good to me!

Now if you taste it you may find it vaguely reminiscent of the ever popular Maker's Mark. That's because Maker's Mark uses 51% corn and then instead of adding rye as so many other distillers do, they add a small amount of wheat to complete the mash. The wheat adds that sweet, smooth taste that makes Maker's Mark such an easy-to-drink, and popular bourbon.

Bernheim took this idea one step further and simply decided to use wheat as their primary grain. And as much as a bourbon lover as I am...I have to say...I absolutely love this whiskey.

Bernheim Kentucky Straight Wheat Whiskey
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Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Mayan Cafe' - More spice would be more than's badly needed

One of the greatest meals of my life was in Mexico. It was at an eco-park called Xcaret. And it was a buffet...yes...a buffet. I couldn't see behind the scenes but from what I tasted I imagined a dozen or so old ladies cooking the way they have for years.

This eco-park seemed to be like 6 Flags for locals, except for the fact that it didn't have one ride, or for that matter, even one attraction. It was an oasis of sorts. You could swim through an underground river, visit sea turtles in a hatchery, swim in one of the most beautiful beaches I've ever seen and eat some truly authentic Mexican food. It was so rich and so flavorful that the adjective delicious doesn't even begin to describe it.

Another very memorable and downright amazing "Mexican" meal was at a restaurant in Philly called Xochitl. They featured a special "indigenous" night and served things like grasshoppers, calf brains and frogs legs. It was flavorful, daring and nothing short of amazing.

Needless to say, I love food from the Mayan region...a lot. So when Nick suggested dinner at a place called the Mayan Cafe I was jazzed.

The website boasted fresh, local ingredients, which would be true to Mayan cuisine (not to mention something I love to see on menus). Looking good so far! We had to wait a week for a weekend reservation...must be good! The interior was quaint and inviting...reminded me of Mexico! Then came the Chile Relleno... cue sound effects:::: waa, waaa, waaaa

I could see right off the bat that the chef was using the freshest ingredients. The chile was filled with fresh corn, eggplant and squash. But there was one major didn't taste good! There was no breading on the chile and barely there cheese. The lack of breading resulted in a slimy, mushy texture. Ok, he still could save it if he stuffed it with cheese and seasoned the vegetables liberally. Yikes. It seems he didn't do either of those things. A true let down and unfortunately, a preview of what was to come.

Onto the next dish......

The hubby ordered the roast pork, Cochinita Pibil. It was roasted pork served in a achiote sauce with lima beans and a corn cake. Of all our dishes this one was probably the most flavorful, however, that's really not saying much.

The pork was alright, but certainly on the dry side. Perhaps he was trying to keep things healthy(which would fall right in line with the non-fried Relleno and lack of cheese) so he skimped on the pork fat during roasting. But why would anyone do that? Just serve a different cut of pork if you're not going to do it justice. The corn cake served as a nice bed for the pork and the lima beans were fine, but then again, how can you ruin lima beans. The hubby wasn't angry about his meal (he was almost angry about the relleno), but he mentioned that he had certainly eaten much better roast pork in his day.

I ordered the "mole of the day". I adore mole sauce. It can be made a million different ways, but one thing should always remain the and complex flavors. This mole, a "white mole", tasted of black pepper, and that's about all. It was bland, un-complex and runny.

The mole WAS, however, served on a lovely piece of local beef filet from a farm I've also purchased delicious meat from. It was cooked to perfection (honestly...really well cooked) and the portion was generous. I suppose I can see why he used so much black pepper in the white mole, as pepper and filet pair wonderfully, but I can't for the life of me see why he called it a mole. Perhaps next time he should just say "peppercorn sauce" and throw the whole idea of "Mayan" cooking out the window.

The most unusual thing about dinner was my side eggplant flan. Yup. You heard it here first folks...eggplant flan. I'm a very adventurous eater. I typically don't have problems with textures that most would find off-putting. That being said, even I thought this eggplant flan was a crazy invention. Not quite a custard, not quite a puree. It had the consistency of runny, then broken scrambled eggs. It had the flavor of eggplant, which was fine, but it pretty much only had the flavor of eggplant. If I had to guess I would say he got a good deal on some fresh eggplant and tried a dish he never tried before. Because honestly, had he tried this dish before, I would be shocked that he decided to serve it at his restaurant.

So to recap...I hate being harsh, but I refuse to be dishonest. I almost always end my reviews with "will I or won't I return?". This time I can honestly say I won't return(and that is rare). One weird dish or daring presentation can be chalked up to an adventurous chef. One technical mistake can be overlooked. Unfortunately, slimy peppers, broken eggplant flan and confusing dishes can't. The meat was cooked wonderfully and the ingredients were fresh, but it seems those two things aren't enough to carry the entire meal.

Mayan Cafe on Urbanspoon
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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

End of Summer Produce Extravaganza - What to do with all that squash...and more

Ahhhh the end of summer is upon us, although you might not think so considering mother nature's gift of unrelenting heat here in Louisville (quick side note...if you thought this summer in Louisville was hot, hot,'re not wrong

The beginning of September means a few returning to school...108 more shopping days 'till Christmas...Nick and my wedding anniversary...and of course, end of summer produce.

By the first week in September I'm just about sick of squash, peaches and green beans. Don't get me started on tomatoes or cucumbers. I've about overdosed on them all by now.

But how can you resist eating them when produce markets are practically giving them away? If you're a cheapskate like me, the answer is, you can't.

So once a week I clean out the fridge of all my surplus produce and get creative. This week two overripe peaches, some corn and the ever present squash were my muse.

Peach BBQ sauce:::

Why didn't I think of this before???!!! You peel a few overripe peaches, throw them into a Cuisinart/blender, give 'em a whirl and mix the puree with your favorite store bought BBQ sauce (mine is Sweet Baby Ray's...ahhhh Baby Ray...he must have been a good man).

I slathered this on some pork chops and Nick threw them on the grill. I can't even begin to tell you how delicious this sauce was. Set some aside for will be dipping.

Crisper Drawer Succotash:::

Much like my peach bbq sauce, this succotash was a child of necessity. Also like the sauce, there's really no "recipe" for it. It's just an idea...something to get you thinking about different ways to eat your veggies and to get you out of your end of summer "if I eat another ear of corn on the cob I'll explode" rut.

Towards the end of the week I always find I have one lonely ear of corn, a few halved pieces of zucchini and yellow squash, and some cherry tomatoes that have seen better days hanging around my kitchen.

Perhaps you don't think these things make the best bedfellows, but let me tell you, they do. Just throw some onions in a pan with oil, then start adding veggies. Begin with the corn as it takes the longest to cook (cut it off the cob first of course), then add some garlic, some small cubes of zucchini and squash and finally some cherry tomatoes. Toss it all around until cooked to your liking, add some s&p (I like fresh marjoram too but perhaps that's just because I grow it in my garden and have A LOT of it lying around).

This is such a great side dish. It started as an answer to my plethora of produce and became a beloved veggie dish.

For dessert...a use for those strawberries that have seen better days...
Strawberry Marscapone Tarts:::

Ok. This one does require some measurements but only for the crust. And don't worry...this isn't my crust recipe...I stole it, so you can be sure it's good (me no bakey). Oh, and if you're not big on baking either you can always just skip to the bottom of the page for my cheat sheet.

To make the tart crust:::

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons cornmeal
  • 3/4 cup pine nuts(I use walnuts sometimes and it's great) plus 3/4 cup, toasted (about 8 ounces in total)
  • 1/4 cup sugar, plus 3/4 cup
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly


Blend the flour, cornmeal, 3/4 cup pine nuts, 1/4 cup sugar, and salt in a food processor until finely ground. Add the butter and pulse, just until the dough forms. Press the dough over the bottom and about 2 inches up the sides of an 11-inch-diameter tart pan with a removable bottom. Refrigerate until the dough is firm, about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Line the tart dough with aluminum foil and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake the tart shell in the lower third of the oven until just set, about 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil and pie weights. Bake the shell until golden, about 10 minutes longer. Cool completely.

For the filling::::

Marscapone cheese
Powdered sugar
Vanilla extract
Touch of milk

Take some marscapone cheese (which you can find just about everywhere these days) and add powdered sugar until it's as sweet as you like. Then add some vanilla extract until it's got the depth of flavor you like. Then add some milk until it's the consistency you like. Seriously...there's no right or wrong. You just want it to be sweet and creamy, with a consistency of cheese cake filling.

Then just fill the tarts with the marscapone mixture and top with sliced strawberries. My husband ate a good 2 or 3 mini tarts himself the other night.

If the whole baking part is too much to handle you can always buy a pre-made shell OR just put the filling and berries on a store bought sugar cookie. Honestly...I would eat the filling and berries right out of a bowl.

So there you have it. Some inspiration from some very uninspiring sources...old produce. Next time you think of throwing those old veggies away think twice...waste not want not...these recipes are yummy.
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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Suffering from a meat deficiency? Palermo Viejo has a cure

September is here and we're still getting settled in our new home, our new city and our new life. You would think I'd have my mind on something other than a fall vacation...but you'd be wrong.

Nick and I have a vacation system (as I've probably mentioned before). Since we love to travel so much (and there's SO much to see in this great world of ours) we split our vacation time into two, one week vacations and about 4 or 5 (or maybe more if I'm lucky!) long weekends. He picks one destination for us (always warm, always sunny, always relaxing and always around March or April), and I pick one destination (always action packed, always to a new part of the world and always around our wedding anniversary in September or October).

This system works wonderfully. We get to see so many different places each year, and quite honestly, everyone gets what they want. I know, I know...genius right!

This year I feared we may have to skip our "my choice" fall vacation since just a few weeks ago we uprooted and moved 12 hours away.

But have no fear...the hubby is here! He swooped in and insisted we take our fall vacation regardless of our recent move. He said it was because he didn't want me intruding on "his" vacation idea come spring (and trust me...I can intrude something fierce)...but I think it's just because he loves traveling as much as I do...and secretly loves the places I choose.

So the plan was Peru. Ahhhhh Peru. What an adventure! Lima, Machu Picchu...what fun! I love South American cuisine. So rustic. So flavorful. Sooooo, yummy!

Unfortunately it looks like most South American destinations, Machu Picchu especially, would involve A LOT of flying for a 6 day vacation. So in the end we decided on The Netherlands (more on this to come...but the good news is the flight is booked and we're well on our way to eating herring while wearing wooden shoes).

So what to do when you have to postpone your trip to South America (ok...don't cry for me Argentina...I mean...we're still going on a bitchin' trip)?? You get as close to the destination as way of my stomach.

We walked to dinner at Palermo Viejo last Friday night. They specialize in Argentinian cuisine...which is to say...on meat.

The decor at Palermo Viejo was quaint. Simple yet inviting. We sat down without a reservation (luckily we ate early that evening because the place filled to capacity by the time our meal was finished) and perused the menu. Lately we've been pairing beer with our dinners instead of wine. I have a feeling it has something to do with the temperature outside (freakin' hot) and we'll go back to wine in the fall, but until then, I have to say, beer is the new wine for us.

We chose South American beers...both Brazilian...a Xingu and a Palma Louca, and skipped the appetizers once we spotted the house specialty, La Parrillada(pronounced lah-par-ee-shah-dah). P.S. I love it when they put the pronunciations on the menu. Nothing worse than ordering the luh-parilla-da. And trust me, I would have.

La Parrillada was a mixed grill (very true to Argentina) that consisted of house-made chorizo, short ribs, flank steak and sweetbreads. Yes. That's a lot of meat. No started needed (but a defibrillator might come in handy). They serve it with an oh so good chimichurri and a traditional salad of lettuce, tomato and hearts of palm, which added some much needed refreshment after the mountain of meat. At $18 a person this meal was a steal.

They brought it to the table on a cute little portable grill and we dug in.

I have to say, the reason I ordered La Parrillada was the sweetbreads. I love 'em and was happy to see them on the menu. I've had them MANY times, cooked MANY different ways, but these were by far the most rustic I've encountered. They were, quite simply, grilled. They were cooked well, tender inside and smokey outside. I have to say, however, that if someone's first experience with sweetbreads was this one, they may not come back for seconds.

I enjoyed them. Honestly. They gave us extra for some reason (like 5 portions) and I ate almost all of them. But even the hubby, who will eat just about any organ off of any animal said they were pretty hardcore. Typically they're swimming in butter or deep fried. Chefs tend to celebrate their texture but play down their taste(which is that of the thymus gland). But I think this time they had a plan, albeit a simple one. Serve the meat...whatever the it is. Grill it, maybe season it with salt, and present it. I respected that and would order the sweetbread again.

Nick thought that the chorizo stole the show, and in fact, he made me throw our leftover chorizo in an omelet the next morning (super duper good by the way). The chorizo WAS delicious. Just greasy enough to keep it moist, but not so greasy that it leaves an oil slick on your plate. Seasoned just right and delicious. Sometimes I wish restaurants would sell their homemade sausages to-go so you can take some home for later. I would have bought a few from Palermo Viejo for sure.

Now for the sad part. The beef was overcooked for my liking, but a few dunks in the delicious chimichurri helped. It was flavorful enough and of good quality, but cooked medium well. I'm not sure if this was intentional or not. Perhaps it's true to Argentinian meat cooking methods, but I wished it was more on the medium rare side. We weren't asked how we wanted our beef cooked so that might have been the culprit as well(you know...when I'm reviewing a place I try to let them make things "as the chef would", but sometimes I leave wishing I had spoken up).

Ok, so long story not so short, would I go back? Yes. I think I would go back and try some of the other menu items. I was intrigued by many things I saw listed and would like to taste them (they had one dish that sounded like a breaded piece of meat topped with cheese and vegetables then bad could that be!?). The prices were fair and the wait staff was fine. I have a hard time forgiving over-done beef but like I said, we didn't specifically order it a certain way so I can't really complain too much (just a little though...I mean come on).

So if you're looking for an international dining experience that mixes familiar tastes with some more exotic ones (I urge everyone to try sweetbreads at least once in their lives) I would give this place a try. Perhaps request your meat done to your liking or order one of the fish dishes that looked yummy. And please, if you do visit let me know how your Argentinian culinary trip went. No matter how the meal turns out, exploring the world through food is certainly one of my favorite ways to travel.

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