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big night out, take two

31 May

Last night we headed out on the town to go to opening weekend of a new restaurant: Rosendale’s Modern Bistro. Although Rosendale’s opened a couple of years ago, Chef Richard Rosendale switched things up this past year, putting the formal, white-gloved service restaurant upstairs, and making the downstairs into the Modern Bistro. Getting back to basics with custom dining, the bistro is a more social experience, with moderately-priced dishes that are simple yet complex, and perfect for sharing. In light of the economy, Rosendale’s Modern Bistro is music to a foodie’s ear.

We’d made reservations in advance, and I’m glad we did – they were bustling! As we waited for our table to be ready, we were greeted by Vince, who offered to make us something special from the bar. More than a bartender, Vince wowed us with what he prepared – we had to track him down and make him give up the ingredients. My drink, on the left, included Creme de Cassis, orange Vodka, Triple Sec, a splash of cranberry juice and a squeeze of lemon. E’s drink, on the right, has (from what I remember!) Rye, Elderflower Liqueur and fresh lemon juice. I’m usually a lightweight, but these were so good that I had 2, along with a couple of sips of Malbec later in the evening.


Palates open and bellies growling, we were happy to see our appetizers and get dinner started! I didn’t want anything heavy or cloying, so I chose the Ham and Melon Skewers, composed of watermelon topped with prosciutto, which sat atop a reduced sherry vinegar syrup. Salty, cool and sweet, this was a perfect way to start off.


I normally don’t mention E’s meals too much, but I’ll make an exception. E chose the White Truffle Popcorn as his starter, and after I tried a piece, I was hooked. Tossed in butter, sea salt and truffle oil, it was reminiscent of the escargots in garlic sauce that I grew up with. Then again, I have a really strange palate, so maybe it’s just me.

We also had some really fresh bread, which was just how we like it; soft on the inside with a crisp crust, and sliced somewhat thin.


It was served with butter that was sprinkled with Himalayan sea salt and black pepper, which enhanced the butter’s creaminess and flavor.


When it came to mains, Chef Rosendale had me at “braise”. I ordered the Olive Braised Lamb Shank, which was described as “traditional braise, rosemary, natural sauce”. The lamb was perfectly tender, and the flavor was deep and complex. The meat fell off the bone, and was somehow tender and luscious at the same time, making it the perfect comfort food.


Since the menu was sharing-friendly, E and I split several sides. I normally hate sharing, but this weekend has been really fun – why limit yourself to one dish when you can try two?

The definite star of the meal were the French Beans with smoked honey, toasted almonds and tangerines. Absolutely magical, the beans were perfectly tender and the honey was smoky-sweet, with a slight bacon undertone. The almonds and tangerines rounded out the dish fabulously, adding just the right amount of crunch and acidity. Complex yet simple, this was a must-try.


I love ketchup, to the point that I was shipped two giant bottles of Canadian ketchup to tide me over last year. The sweet potato fries were so good that I didn’t even want the ketchup, as good as it was.


I loved that the Steamed Asparagus was subtle. Flavored with Hawaiian sea salt and lemon oil, they had a slight crisp left to them, and tasted just like they should. Simple works, and I wish more chefs would understand that the way Chef Rosendale does.


We were lucky enough to have the chef take a moment away from his busy kitchen and come to our table. It was especially great for E – in high school, he was at the Greenbrier in the middle of a culinary competition, and needed to crack a coconut and be able to use the shell, meat and water for various dishes, but had no idea how. In a world of hurt, E spent dinner preparing himself to crack the coconut using (sterilized) machinist tools his shop teacher had brought along. Thankfully, the then-sous-chef came over to his table, bringing over a chef’s knife and coconuts, and taught him how to do the cracking.

You may recognize Chef Rosendale from numerous specials shown on Food Network, and was the youngest member of Culinary Team USA and the captain of the team in 2008. He’s also a certified ice carver, the youngest chef to be on active status for the Certified Master Chef exam, and an all-around nice guy.

We had a hard time choosing a dessert to share, but finally decided on the Lemon Curd, which also had ginger ice cream, toasted meringue and crushed berries. Refreshing, tart, crunchy, sweet and soft, it was a great ending to a wonderful evening.


We were also brought out a teeny bit of creamy tapioca to try. Olivia (our server) was right – this was just like Grandma’s, only better.


Check out the tiny spoons, especially compared to a sugar cube!

In all honesty, it has never taken me this long to write a review, let alone post it. Having worked in several restaurants and eaten in many others, I’m pretty critical. I kept waiting to find a flaw, but I couldn’t. Dinner at Rosendale’s Modern Bistro was, in all honesty, the best meal of the year, and one of the best of my life. The food was fantastic, and had a price point that allowed us to spoil ourselves, and try some of everything. The staff was amazing – after we were done, Olivia apologized for being so short-staffed. Apparently, there were only 3 servers that night handling a full restaurant, and we never even noticed. We must have had every single one of them at our table at one point or another, and not only were they friendly, attentive and fun to be around, but they genuinely seemed happy to be there, even with all the stresses of opening weekend. The blog actually came up in conversation, and Olivia even wrote down the URL and later invited me to a girls-only brunch the next time I was in town. So Olivia, if you’re reading, thanks for an amazing time, say hi to the rest of the crew for us, and give yourself a huge pat on the back for all of your hard work.

It takes a lot of hard work and dedication for a restaurant to survive, never mind thrive. I have a feeling that we’ll be seeing Rosendale’s for many years to come.

saturday

31 May

I’m not sure if it was that we left the blinds open or the feather pillows, but I couldn’t sleep worth a damn on Friday night, and woke up bright and early Saturday morning. With E still fast asleep and breakfast not being available for another 3 hours, I headed down to the hotel gym for an early morning swim. I was shocked at how small the pool was! At most, it was 15×10, with the deep end being 5 ft. I swam a few laps, but after 20 minutes I was totally bored, and without being able to tread or do pull-ups, I headed back up to our room.

Post-“workout” snack” – 1/2 each of a Bartlett pear and a gala apple, plus some Barney Butter. E wanted to eat the pear without cutting it, so I had to wait for him to finishing munching on his half before he’d cut up mine – silly boy!

I got a couple of packets of Barney Butter right before we headed out of town, so this was the perfect time to give it a try!

pros:
-very smooth consistency
-made in a completely peanut-free factory
-kosher
-low in sodium and sugar
-comes in both jars and single-serving packets
-roasted peanut flavor

cons:
-hard to find in brick-and-mortar stores
-unlike MaraNatha which contains only almonds, Barney Butter also contains evaporated cane juice, palm fruit oil and sea salt. While the additives are natural, I don’t know that they’re necessary.
-very similar consistency and mouth feel to peanut butter, which is evidenced by E, Mr. PB himself, liking Barney Butter when he’s never like any other nut butter before. Great if you love PB, not so much when you don’t.

I’d definitely buy the single-serve packets because they’re super-portable and great for traveling, but when it comes to jars, I’m sticking with my MaraNatha – sorry, Barney Butter!

Once we were finally ready, we headed out for breakfast at ZenCha. A little under a mile away from the hotel, we decided to walk it, and I’m glad we did. The Short North is one of our favorite neighborhoods, and it was really great to be able to stroll by on such a beautiful day. As we were walking, I couldn’t but think how less than 6 months ago, there were days when it was a struggle to walk half as far – we’ve come a long way!

Check out the greatest advertisement ever – given more time, we would’ve totally hit it up for kicks!

ZenCha is what tea heaven must be like – with 120 or so varieties from all over the world, and everything from Bubble Tea to French tea lattes, you just can’t go wrong! E picked a sampler of 3 – silver tip white tea, Earl Grey, and a Pu-erh which is an aged and fermented black tea. E loved them all, and got somewhere between 7 and 9 cups of tea out of the mix, which definitely jazzed him up.


I’m a simple gal, and had an iced Cinnamon Mint Chai. Creamy, refreshing and soothing, this was the perfect pick. I really loved that they added the ice cubes to the filter inside the pot, so not only was this constantly cool, but the tea wasn’t watered down a single bit.


With so many great dishes to choose from, we decided to share two, and thankfully we were on the same wavelength!


Our first pick was the Arabian Night, a delicately crisp yet fluffy cardamom-scented waffle. With dates baked right in and topped with sliced almonds, orange supremes, a little creme fraiche and served with an orange-cardamom syrup, these were some serious waffles! Not too sweet and definitely satisfying, these were spot-on.

Check out the cross-shot of waffle goodness!


For our second choice, we went savory with a Vegetable Okonomiyaki, a Japanese pancake/omelet hybrid filled with veggies like shitake mushrooms and crispy napa cabbage, and topped with Kewpie mayo and a mysterious sauce similar to a hoisin. This was our time to try okonomiyaki, and it will definitely not be our last! I can just imagine how great the chicken and seafood varieties are.

We decided to take our time coming back, and checked out a few of the little shops lining the street. We also took a side trip to one of our favorite spots, North Market, where E convinced me to try some Morbier, a super-stinky cheese he’s been wanting for years. Surprisingly delicious, the Morbier turned out to be much milder than it smells, with a nice nuttiness. I shared in, and ate about 1 1/2 oz. of the cheese with a little more than half of a wholemeal roll.

We headed back to the convention for a few hours, and picked up a small lunch since we weren’t eating dinner for a while. I had another packet of salmon and avocado sushi.

I also had a few of these teeny hash browns, were were really fresh and crisp. Yum!


Later on, I’ll be posting our experience at dinner, and don’t forget to vote for me here. Also, Eating Bird Food is having a sparkling giveaway which you need to check it out, so head on over!

Boot Camp, Burns and Gardein

27 Apr

Good morning!

It’s nice to be able to write a post at the beginning of the day. Normally, I’d be at the gym right now, but I’ve been waking up pretty stiff (and very sore!) lately, so I decided to give myself a break, and take a day off. Because I wasn’t rushing off, I got to enjoy a delicious and relaxed breakfast, and take my time eating and enjoying it. I couldn’t decide if I wanted something sweet or savory, so I decided to have both.
My plate included:

  • 1 1/4 cups nonfat plain yogurt with a teaspoon of pure Quebec maple syrup (thanks, Steph!) and 2 tablespoons of Glucerna Crunchy Flakes ‘n Strawberries
  • 2 thin slices of roast turkey breast
  • half of a peanut butter-chocolate chip bran-style muffin
  • 1 piece of whole wheat toast spread with a tablespoon of roasted red pepper hummus

Oh, and a great cup of Celestial Seasonings’ Lemon Zinger; it’s so delicious and good for you that I really should drink a cup more often!
I love that Lemon Zinger is caffeine-free and all-natural. Plus, the hibiscus and rosehips give it a really pretty cranberry color. It’s doing a great job perking me up this morning!

Breakfasts count came in at 381 calories, 63g of carbs, 3g of fat and 24g of protein. As a whole, it’s a little more than I usually eat, but the stats are still really good, so I’m satisfied.

This weekend was actually really fun. Saturday, E and I started off to the gym bright and early for boot camp, which was broken up in three parts: sliding, spinning and toning. I’d never tried sliding before, but I knew from past experience that for me, spinning = hyperventilating, so I decided to do sliding for both periods, totaling an hour. I’m glad I ended up taking it as long as I did, because it took me almost 20 minutes to be able to slide back and forth without freaking out about falling! I had a blast sliding, but man, is it hard – it definitely works up a sweat, and really gets the job done. For me, the best part of boot camp is meeting up with the other participants and getting to hang out, chat and compare notes. The exercise is a bonus, granted, but it’s an added one.

After boot camp, E and I decided to work in our ‘garden’, and work on getting the yard into shape for planting. After 2 hours or so, I developed quite a tan (and I use the term loosely), and decided that it was probably time for me to get out of the sun. Being the industrious, hard-working wife that I am, I then took a nap.
May I just say that it was the best nap I’ve had in a long time?
Just saying.

The next morning, while I let E sleep in, I locked myself out of the house, and spent an hour banging on the door and ringing the doorbell until E woke up. That pushed breakfast back just a touch…okay, by 3 hours. Thankfully, I made E Very Berry Pancakes, and he forgave me. Don’t worry, this stack was for both of us!

The mix included:
– frozen mixed blueberries, raspberries and blackberries
Bob’s Red Mill Low-Carb Baking Mix
– egg substitute
– sugar-free apple butter
– nonfat milk
– vanilla extract

Once the pancakes were cooked, I sprinkled a little pure Quebec maple syrup on top, and we dove in. We each had 3 pancakes, and the stats (including syrup) came in at 359 calories, 51g of carbs, 4g of fat and a whopping 13g of fiber and 38g of protein. This is the second time we’ve used the low-carb baking mix, and it’s really great. The pancakes were less dense and fluffier than last week’s banana-maple chip version, but both were amazing! I haven’t tried much of Bob’s Red Mill products, but I’ve loved every one that I have tried.

Because breakfast was so filling (and late), lunch never happened, so I moved on to dinner. It was awesome, and took 10 minutes to prepare, start from finish. It was also really, really good, and E noted that he could eat it once a week for sure, which is a glowing endorsement.

We had:
– spinach and mushroom salad with cucumber ranch dressing
– whole wheat couscous cooked up with a little red enchilada sauce, – sweet corn niblets and green chile
It’s All Good Santa Fe style black bean and corn stuffed chick’n

I’m a flexitarian who loves her meat, and the faux meats usually don’t do it for me at all. But this? This was amazing! It was juicy, flavourful and tender without any weird aftertaste or smell. It looks small, but at 5 oz., it’s a perfect portion. I’d definitely eat this chick’n again. I was so shocked by my sudden love of chick’n that I decided to do a little research. I discovered that It’s All Good is a Gardein brand, which is a Canadian company specializing in vegetarian products made with a “garden-grown protein”. According to the packaging:

Really, protein from the garden? You bet!
Gardein is a savory blend of nutritious vegetable and grain ingredients (soy, wheat, peas, beets and carrots) prepared and slow-cooked to have the authentic taste, texture and nutrition of premium lean meat.

The nutritional information is also impressive; one 5 oz. serving has only 160 calories, 5g of fat, 9g of carbohydrates (3 of which are fiber), 19g of protein and 35% of iron’s RDA. Take that, chicken! In all seriousness, I think this a great product not only for those who lead a meat-free lifestyle, but for everyone. It’s a great alternative source of protein, free of cholesterol and saturated fat and tastes great. Plus, it’s easy to prepare, either in a microwave, boiling it in a bag, over the stove top or baking it. I chose the microwave method, and it came out perfectly. For those of you in the Tri-State area, we got ours at Drug Emporium/Healthy Life Market out by the mall.
I have the Glade Sense&Spray giveaway going on until midnight tonight – there’s 5 coupons to be had, and only 2 entries so far, so if you enter now, you’re pretty close to being guaranteed a winner!

Friday Finds: Glade Sense & Spray

24 Apr


As a BzzAgent, I get the opportunity to review new products at no cost, which could possibly be the most fun thing ever (at least to me!). Not only do I get to hear and learn about new products, but I also get to try them out for myself, and see if they actually live up to the hype. Plus, I get to share that knowledge with you!

The first product I received was the Sense & Spray, a new automatic air freshener from Glade. I am an absolute air freshener junkie, so this was a perfect product to get my feet wet with. After using the Sense & Spray, I learned very quickly that this is no ordinary air freshener. After all, the Sense & Spray is motion activated, putting it in the category of “why didn’t anyone think of this before???” It works in two ways, releasing scent when:

  • motion is detected from 5 feet away
  • someone presses the button on the front of the unit

Translation? No wasted sprays!

I was definitely skeptical about this working; I figured it would go off every time someone walked by, or it wouldn’t go off at all. To test the unit, I put it on top of the toilet in our 1st floor bathroom, which gets the most use. I soon realized that while it sometimes takes a couple of seconds to release the scent, it has a lock feature, which times out the unit from spraying automatically for 30 minutes. I also liked that the unit was fairly attractive, didn’t take up too much space and was easy to assemble and operate. Having used it for 30 days and having the canister still half full, I can also say that the Sense & Spray lives up to its claim of being long-lasting.

I received the Clean Linen scent, and while it didn’t completely win me over, it’s a pleasant enough fragrance to keep around. Refills are also available in Apple Cinnamon, Country Garden and Powder Fresh, which gives you the option of finding the perfect scent for you, and at only $3.49, aren’t a fortune to replace, which is always a bonus.

Would I purchase the Sense & Spray for myself? Probably – I find it a convenient product, and I like that it gives you options. Plus, when you purchase the starter kit, you get everything you need in one package: the unit, 2 AA batteries and a refill canister (either in Clean Linen or Apple Cinnamon). It’s a little pricey at $8.99, but it makes up for it in quality and convenience.

To give you the opportunity to try out the Glade Sense & Spray for yourself, I have 5 coupons for $4 off a starter kit to give away, and they’re good until August 31st, 2009 (US only). The giveaway closes on Monday, April 27th at 11:59 PM EST, and there are three ways to enter:

  1. Leave a comment with your e-mail address and favourite scent
  2. Post about this giveaway on your blog, and leave a comment with the link
  3. Subscribe through a reader or by e-mail, and leave a comment letting me know. If you’re already a subscriber, leave a comment and you’ll be entered as well.

Digging the Daregal

23 Apr

A few weeks ago, I got an e-mail from Matt.
Matt, as it turns out, works for Daregal, a company that specializes in fresh frozen herbs.
Matt wanted to know if I’d like to try out these oxymoronic herbs, and tell y’all about them.
And be completely honest about the whole thing.
I bet you could tell how quickly I said yes, huh?

Herbs, for me, are like water and air. I can’t function without them, and am beyond annoyed when I run out. I also try to keep as much salt out of our food as possible, so herbs are the be all and end all around here. I use a lot of dried herbs, which are great in the long run – shelf-stable, convenient, and easy to use. Sometimes, though, a girl just needs some freshness in her life. Fresh herbs around here are really expensive and can be hard to find. They also seem to go bad in our fridge rather quickly, putting a damper on our wallets.

Enter Daregal and their ingeniousness (and generosity!).
Not only did I receive 6 varieties to sample, but they were the full-sized containers! Shipped with dry ice, I received Dill, Oregano, Italian Parsley, Cilantro, Basil and Original Blend (a combination of basil, oregano, rosemary and thyme).


As you can see, in my enthusiasm, I swiftly opened every single container upon arrival as quickly as my hands would move. I’ve been using these babies in everything lately, and I’ve got to tell you, I’m beyond satisfied. Not only do the herbs keep beautifully in the freezer for up to 36 months, but they’re super-convenient! Pre-chopped, it’s so simple to just throw them in any dish, and they defrost instantaneously. Also, because they’re lightly misted in vegetable oil before packaging, there’s no clumping inside the container – just shake and use. I’ve also tasted them on their own, and not only do they look like fresh herbs, they taste like them, too – amazing!

I’ve sprinkled dill on brown rice, cilantro on nachos, and on roasted vegetables for a quiche. My absolute favourite combination so far was today’s post-workout snack – nonfat Greek yogurt, honey, sliced strawberries and basil. This just screamed summer, and was incredible; the basil brought everything together without being overpowering. I could seriously eat this every single day. So cheery and yummy! Plus, how beautiful and fresh does that look?

Now for the downside.

For now, the only stores where Daregal herbs are sold are A&P, D’Agostino, Giant Food, Kings, King Kullen, Stop and Shop, Waldbaum’s and Shaw’s, none of which are in our area. You can also buy them online at Daregal, but with shipping it becomes a little pricey. Well worth it, but pricey.
Also, I’d love to see mint and chive added to their product line, because I’d be on it like peanut butter on toast!

When it comes down to it, I would totally buy these herbs. They’re delicious, convenient and ‘shelf’-stable, and the quality is exceptional. Seeing as my biggest issue is that it’s a PITA for me to get another batch, I don’t know that I’ve ever been this satisfied with anything before. They would make a great gift, and they’re worth trying – I’d be shocked if you weren’t completely satisfied.

Right now, Daregal is hosting Gourmet Sweepstakes 2009, where they’re giving away an 8-pack of fresh frozen herbs every week (I’ve totally entered). Plus, Daregal does offer some great deals:

  • buy any 4, get any 1 free
  • buy any 6, get any 2 free
  • buy an 8, get any 3 free
  • buy any 12, get 4 free


Since I’ve gotten a few e-mails on my lack of food posts lately, I’ll leave you with one of our favorite dinners of this week, Spaghetti Sauce Sandwiches. Served on Ezekial with a little 2% shredded cheddar on top, these were totally satisfying, quick to make and great as leftovers. It would also be really good on top of pasta or over some rice or a baked potato.

I used Morningstar Farms Griller Crumbles instead of ground turkey or beef, and it was a great substitution – they looked and tasted like the real thing, and was better for you, too. What more can you ask for?

Spaghetti Sauce
makes 4 servings

  • 2 cups Morningstar Farms Griller Crumbles
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 16 oz. no salt added tomato sauce
  • 1 cup tap water
  • 1 tsp. dried Italian Seasoning blend
  • 1 Tbsp. each of Daregal basil, oregano and Italian parsley
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 bay leaf
  1. Heat skillet over medium-high heat, and spray with nonstick cooking spray or olive oil.
  2. Add onion and saute until translucent, about 5-6 minutes.
  3. Stir in garlic powder and Italian seasoning blend, and saute for another minute.
  4. Add in the crumbles, and stir until defrosted and they begin to brown.
  5. Pour in the tomato sauce and the water. Add in the balsamic vinegar and the bay leaf, stir and simmer for 15-20 minutes.
  6. Add in the basil, oregano and Italian parsley, and cook for another 10 minutes.
  7. Serve!
nutritional information per serving:
106.9 calories, 1.9g fat, 1.5g polyunsaturated fat, 0.4g monounsaturated fat, 0mg cholesterol, 260.8mg sodium, 111.1mg potassium, 13.4g carbohydrates, 3.7g fiber, 4g sugar, 9.6g protein
12% Vitamin A, 59.7% Vitamin B-12, 23.2% Vitamin B6, 9.5% Vitamin C, 15.6% Iron