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Archive for May, 2010

I’ve gone to Tom Yum Thai many times for lunch.  They have some great lunch specials which include soup and a spring roll with the entree for only $8, and the service is always fast.  Usually I get the masaman curry lunch special, but today we came for dinner and I wanted to try something new.

Masaman Curry with Chicken

For an appetizer I was torn between the spring rolls, chicken satay and Tom Kha soup.  I’ve had the soup and spring rolls before here and knew they were good, but I had never tried their chicken satay.  My husband threw me for a loop and went for the thai beef jerky.  It was strips of beef, very tough and hard to chew, but warm and flavorful.  It wasn’t bad, but knowing there are better appetizers I probably won’t get it again.

My husband ordered the masaman curry with chicken.  The portioned seemed only slightly bigger than the lunch serving.  The rice comes in a triangle at lunch too.  It’s cute, I love the way they make the food look.  I tried a piece.  It was good, as it always is.

Pad Thai with Tofu

I got the Pad Thai with tofu.  I’ve had pad thai at other places before, but not here.  It was decent.  Not the best, but still very good.  I miss the spiciness of the curries, and I think I’ll go for something hotter next time.

Of course we got the Thai ice tea here too, and as usual, it’s always good.  I need to try some of the desserts sometime.  Someone else nearby had ordered some dessert and it looked gorgeous.

Are they trying to kill that chicken with Christmas lights?

One thing I love about this restaurant is it’s got such a great personality.  The staff are so friendly, the atmosphere is classy, yet they’ve got assorted things both inside and out which make the place a little weird and wacky.  For example, the chickens outside.  Why are they there?  Why do they strangle them with Christmas lights?

I think I’ll continue coming here for lunch, but dinner is a bit expensive considering you don’t get the soup and spring roll with your entree.  It’s a really fantastic place for lunch though, one of my favorite spots around the Triangle.  And it’s very easy to get to as well, just off 40, near the 291 exit.
Tom Yum Thai on Urbanspoon

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It had been a while since I’ve been to Sweet Traditions.  When I walked in, I immediately noticed some of the display cases had been moved from where last I saw them, and they seemed to have less of a selection of the specialty items such as Napoleans, which I love.  A sign hanging up asked us to please excuse the mess, as the store was under new management.  I asked the lady behind the counter about that and she said that the baker was still the same, just the management was different.

I’ve never had the cakes here, though they certainly do look very nice.  I took a picture of one of the plain, undecorated ones, as I didn’t want to trouble the lady behind the counter to bring out one of the customized ones someone had ordered.  I imagine the cakes must taste pretty good though, as in the past I’ve had a mini chocolate cake from here that was incredibly delicious.

They also had some muffins on display this morning.  The muffins were absolutely huge!  I don’t know how much they were but I imagine you could feed yourself for an entire day off them.  The topping was some kind of cream cheese topping.  They looked beautiful, but again, this was not what I was after today.

What Sweet Traditions has that is better than any place else is the donuts.  Big, soft, fluffy sweet donuts.  They make long johns, bear claws, twists, donut holes, bismarks, cake donuts and just plain old ring donuts, all huge and fantastic.

I’ve never been disappointed with any donut I’ve had here.  I just wish they would expand on the varieties sometime.  My favorite has always been creme filled long johns with caramel icing, but often if they have long johns it’s just one variety.  Today it was raspberry filled with sugar coating.  We got this “dozen” donuts (which was really closer to 25 or so, counting all those donut holes) for only $9.  Pound for pound it’s a much better deal than buying from the bakery departments at Harris Teeter or Kroger, and the quality here is so much better.

Though I love this store, the place could use a few improvements.  First off, why on Earth are they closed on Sundays and Mondays?  Mondays I can understand, probably the least popular day for getting up early and grabbing donuts on the way to work, but why Sunday too?  You’d think they’d be missing out on one of their busiest days by skipping Sunday.

The pastries at this shop don’t live up to the high standard the donuts have set forth.  The pastries tend to be rather dense, not as light and fluffy as the donuts.  I would like to see them skip the turnovers and danishes, and instead expand the donut selection to include more varieties, toppings and fillings that are set out every day.  Besides, knowing Guglhupf owns the Triangle area for pastries, it’s probably not even worth trying to compete with them.  Just stick with the donuts and cakey-type things.

One "dozen" donuts

I think they could also pick up some more business if they moved to a more obvious location, and started serving coffee.  A lot of people probably drive right past and never see it, because it’s in the inner corner of a plaza that you can’t see well from Harrison.  And lots of people like to get quality coffees and espresso drinks with their breakfast pastries, and without a drive-up coffee place nearby it’d be nice to do an all-in-one sort of place.

Sweet Traditions Bakery on Urbanspoon

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Since I work in Raleigh now, I try to pick out lunch restaurants that are between Raleigh and Cary.  Korean Garden fits the bill as a very convenient restaurant on East Chatham St. just off of Hwy. 40.  I’ve been to a couple of other Korean restaurants in the Triangle area, Vit Goal and Chosun Ok, and was never really that impressed.  I was hoping Korean Garden would change my idea of Korean food in the Triangle.

The decor is typical for strip-mall type restaurants in the area.  Pretty cheap tables, and the chairs are kind of funny wheely office chairs.  There’s big tables for cooking up your own meat, and littler tables for just getting served food.  Since it was lunch and wasn’t looking to spend a lot of time there, we just got a little table and some lunch specials.

When we came in, the server just had us seat ourselves.  We picked a table towards the back where I could take pictures and not be too obvious.  The table was pushed up against the side wall so close though, I had to rotate the chair to get seated.  Despite this, the service was prompt and friendly, and we never felt like we were waiting for anything.

Some Kind of Soup

They offer a wide range of beers and wines, but I just got water and my husband had Coke.  We ordered steamed dumplings as an appetizer, and we each got a lunch bento box.  I got the boneless beef option, and my husband got the BBQ spare ribs.  The bento box comes with soup, and the soup was served first.

I have no idea what kind of soup it was.  It was extremely thick, with long strips of tofu and beef.  It seemed like a variation on egg drop soup.  It also included some water chestnuts for added texture.  It was pretty spicy, and very good.

Steamed Dumplings

After that came the steamed dumplings.  I have to say, these were the best dumplings I’ve ever had.  Not only that, but where most restaurants only give you 2-4, Korean Garden serves 6 pieces.  They were mildly spicy and came with some dipping sauce on the side.

Then came the bento boxes.  It may not look especially pretty, but everything was delicious.  First I ate the fried chicken leg in the top left corner.  It had the most amazing flavor, and I wish I knew what spices were used.  I ate some of my kim chee, but it was so spicy that even spreading it out throughout the meal I couldn’t finish it all.  The lettuce salad had an interesting dressing.  I couldn’t quite identify what it was, but I would guess miso and vinegar.  The rice was perfectly steamed.  And the beef was oh so tender!  Even the onions were fantastic.  It was served in a very mildly flavored sauce, with not too much spice.

Bento Box with Beef

My husband got the spare ribs and I was so jealous.  The only reason I didn’t order them was because most of the time they’re hard to eat, especially with chop sticks.  But the ones he got were so tender, they came right off the rib without any effort.  He said they were delicious.

This is a great place for lunch, and I look forward to a weekend when we can try one of those cook-where-you-eat tables.
Korean Garden on Urbanspoon

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The plan today was to go to La Farm bakery, but when we got there at noon we realized the breakfast menu ends at 11am.  Since we had promised the boy some pancakes or french toast, he would have been incredibly disappointed with just a croissant or sandwich.  So we checked out Urbanspoon’s handy iPhone app for other places in Cary that had breakfast, and Brigs came up 3 times in a row.  Since it was just a short drive from La Farm, we’d check it out.

I had been to The Crossing at Maynard and High House plenty of times before, because there’s a Kroger there.  I guess I never noticed the Brigs down at the end, or realized there was a restaurant right there.  The exterior isn’t very obvious so you could drive past it a hundred times and never see it there.

When we walked in, the interior reminded me of any generic family restaurant from the Midwest during the 80’s and 90’s.  I suppose some people might think it’s very out of date, but it’s good if you’re feeling nostalgic.  My son was impressed by the light fixtures and fans, because he’s into that sort of thing.  The seating was tables, not booths, but at least everything seemed fairly clean.  The coloring books they offer kids come with 4 crayons, and have quite a few pages worth of activities.  My 4-year-old was busy the whole time doing the mazes and coloring.

The menu was typical of any traditional American diner.  They serve breakfast foods all day, with a good selection of Eggs Benedicts, waffles, pancakes, french toast, omelets, ect.  They also offer a nice selection of sandwiches, salads and burgers.  I got the combo french toast with scrambled eggs and “home fries”, which are basically potato cubes with some seasoned salt and a few onions in there.  My husband got the bacon brie burger, which sounded awesome to me, but we try to not order the same thing.  My son got the kid’s french toast which came with bacon, but I ate his bacon since he didn’t want it.  We also got a pot of coffee which was great, I love having all the coffee I want with my lunch.  The sugar even came in an old fashion style glass sugar pourers.  The kid’s juice comes in really cool cup that looks like a rocket.  My son was very impressed.

The burger looked as awesome as it sounded.  My husband said it was great.  I’m sorry I didn’t get pictures of any of the food, but we were all so hungry we dug in as soon as the food came out.  Maybe someday I’ll try making my own bacon brie burger, with my fried eggy bun.  Our french toast was very good, and it came out with a lot of whipped butter on top.  I’ve always though the butter was more important than even syrup for french toast and pancakes, so I was happy to find enough supplied.  My sides of scrambled eggs and home fries weren’t nearly as good, but that’s ok.  I’ll try some other sides next time.

The prices here were slightly more than at IHOP.  The two adult entrees were $7.99, the coffee was $1.29, and the kid’s meal was $4.99.  But this location is a lot closer to us than IHOP, and the quality of food is much better.  I’m glad we found this place, I think we’ll be coming here for our brunches from now on.

Brigs on Urbanspoon

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Pineapple Under the Sea

  • 1.5 oz light rum
  • 1.5 oz amaretto
  • 5 oz pineapple juice

Serve in a tall glass over ice.  It’s a very weird, complex and flavorful drink.

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Tea time all day long

My tea order finally came in from Amazon.  I ordered the Sweet Ginger Peach, White Pear, and Honeybush Caramel (decaf) teas.  One of my favorites, the White Tangerine, was not available at the time.  I still can’t figure out why the tea would be so much more expensive directly from the Revolution Tea site than at Amazon, when it’s still being sold by Revolution, but I’m not going to argue with a good deal.  At less than 25 cents a tea bag it’s not that much more expensive than regular grocery store teas.

As for the teas themselves, the Sweet Ginger Peach is wonderful.  I could drink this any time of day, all day long.  It’s good without any sugar, too.  It’s got a very light, naturally sweet flavor, and it goes great with just about any type of food as well.

The White Pear isn’t quite as good as the peach, but still drinkable.  I’m not sure if I’ll get it again.  Celestial Seasonings makes a white pear tea that’s just as good, but cheaper.

I was pretty disappointed with the Honeybush Caramel.  I don’t know, maybe it will grow on me, but the first time I tried it I was turned off by its dark, bitter flavor.  I’ll try it a few more times, maybe mix in some brown sugar, but I don’t think I’ll be buying this one again.

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After my husband played Metal Gear Solid 3 he asked “How does it taste?” about just about everything for a few months afterward.  So yep, this is all about PF Chang’s frozen dinners and “How does it taste?”

Well, let’s start with the basics.  All these dinners are pretty pricey.  I’ve gotten them from Kroger and Harris Teeter and they were $9.99 at both grocery stores.  I’ve read online that they come as cheap as $7.50 but that’s still a bit steep.  I can get the Trader Joe’s “Trader Ming’s” orange chicken for about $5 a bag, and I make 4 servings out of the Trader Joe’s, because the sauce packets are separate you can make up only a half-bag if you want.  The PF Chang’s bags have the sauce in cubes all mixed in with the veggies and meat so it would be very hard to separate it out.

The dinners are pretty easy to make, and fairly quick.  Most of them have the base instructions of just throw in a pan (I use a wok) at medium-high heat for 12 minutes, cover and stir occasionally.  They don’t come with any rice, so sometimes I start up some steamed rice before starting the entree.  They’re supposed to be 2 servings but with rice it could easily be split up into 3 or 4.

Orange Chicken

This one turned out pretty good, and fairly close to the restaurant’s orange chicken.  It’s hard not to compare this one to Trader Joe’s since we do eat that one quite often.  It certainly doesn’t have the crispiness that  Trader Joe’s has, but it’s still good.  The PF Chang’s might be nice every now and then especially because it’s got some veggies in there that Trader Joe’s doesn’t have in theirs, but I think we’ll stick with Trader Joe’s most of the time.  I think the carrots and water chestnuts turned out well, but I’m not hot on edamame.  At 450 calories per serving (not including any rice you might add) it’s also one of the heavier entrees they offer.

Orange Chicken

Beef with Broccoli

This one wasn’t quite as good as the orange chicken.  The broccoli came out soft and overcooked, probably because of being frozen.  I don’t think broccoli reheats very well after freezing.  The meat also seemed extremely fatty.  I had a bit of bone fragment in mine as well.  Again the meal was extremely filling, especially when you add the rice.  I don’t think I’ll buy this one again, since I make a pretty good beef and broccoli anyway.

General Chang’s Chicken

My favorite so far.  You probably don’t need steamed rice with this one, since it’s 410 calories per serving with just the meat/veggies/sauce, and completely filling anyway.  This is P.F. Chang’s version of General Tso’s chicken.   The sauce in it was spicy for a frozen Chinese dinner.  I think the sauce was the best part of it.  There was broccoli in it, again not as crisp and fresh as I would like, and red peppers, which my husband hates (but I love).  But the sauce and the chicken were just great.  I would get this one again, though not often, because it still is quite expensive for a frozen meal.

General Chang's Chicken

Sweet and Sour Chicken

My husband’s favorite.  Again at 410 calories per serving, I thought it would be filling already, so I didn’t make any steamed rice with it.  But my husband said he would have preferred some rice with this one, to help soak up all the sauce.  I ate all the bell pepper bits in the bag, since he doesn’t like them.  Again it doesn’t have the crispiness that chicken made separate from the sauce would have, but it’s still good.  It’s my second best behind the General Chang’s chicken.  I made it again 2 weeks later, this time with rice, and I still like it.

Sweet and Sour Chicken (rice not included)

Shanghai Style Beef

I liked this one a lot better than the beef with broccoli.  I’m sure they probably use the same kind of beef in both, but at least this one didn’t have any bone pieces in it.  Still pretty fatty though.  The sauce in this one is great though, almost as good as the General’s chicken.  It comes with some string beans, red peppers and onions.  The string beans may have gotten overcooked (I do always follow the directions) because they weren’t very crisp at all.  They kind of squeaked when I ate them.  I always like red peppers but the texture is never the same after they’re frozen.  And I think the onions in this were better than in others, though they should be the same.  It’s really the sauce that makes this one great though.  This one is one of the leaner ones at only 320 calories per serving, and I think we’ll be getting this one again in the future.

Shanghai Style Beef (rice not included)

Ginger Chicken and Broccoli

The ginger chicken and broccoli cooks up similar to the rest, covered on medium high for 10 minutes and then uncovered for 3 minutes.  I had never tried this one in the restaurant so I can’t compare how the frozen tastes to it.  But I didn’t like this one much.  The sauce isn’t spicy at all.  The broccoli, as with the rest, always gets pretty mushy and bland.  The chicken is pretty much the same as the rest, but without a good sauce it’s really not worth it.  This one is a bit lighter than some, at 320 calories per serving.  But since we had a guest over I split it up between 3, and added some rice.  As usual I ate the red peppers from my husband’s dish.

Ginger Chicken and Broccoli (rice not included)

Shrimp Lo Mein

I should start out by saying I’m not much of a shrimp person.  I’ll eat it, but it’s not something I would seek out the way I do with some ribs, or a good steak.  But I figured for OCD sake I should probably review all the varieties.  The noodles in this one cook up surprisingly well.  Most frozen noodles never reheat quite right, but these aren’t bad at all.  The veggies featured in this one were bok choy, celery, carrots and mushrooms.  I think it could have used less celery, and more bok choy and mushrooms.  The shrimp wasn’t really cooked the way I like it.  I like my shrimp very well cooked, usually hibachi style so that it’s almost a little burnty on the outside, or breaded and fried.  These ones just got boiled up which made them soft and chewy.  I thought the sauce was a bit bland, especially compared to some of the better sauces like in the General Chang’s chicken.  This one had 360 calories per serving, and I didn’t serve it with rice because it already had noodles in it.  This one had a crazy amount of salt in it, I guess to make up for the blandness.  We won’t be getting this one again.

Shrimp Lo Mein

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I went to Ginza with a large group last Friday for lunch.  They have a nice back room for large group that accommodates about 20 people or so.  Ginza serves sushi and other Asian foods, but their main specialty is hibachi.

I’ve been to quite a few other hibachi places in my life.  I know there’s not really much “Japanese” about what Americans call hibachi, but some places try harder than others to retain some sort of Asian roots.  Ginza is more on the American side, serving things like iceberg lettuce salads, simple broth soup, and very mildly flavored sauces.

I ordered steak hibachi, and for lunch it’s at a reasonable price of about $10.  Most hibachi places will charge $20 or more for dinner.  I was given a choice between soup or salad, but since I guess they got confused with the large party, everyone got both the soup and salad.  The service was pretty slow there, slow to order, slow to get the soup and salad, and slow to start the hibachi.  Normally this wouldn’t be a bad thing, as it gives more time for conversation, but I only had an hour for lunch and I went way over that.

When the grilling starts, the chefs put on a bit of a show.  Lots of fire, lots of fancy knife play and flinging and whacking of spatulas.  I’m just glad our chef didn’t toss any food at us, like the other table’s did.  I’ve been to hibachi places where the meat and veggies were cooked all at once, and served with steamed rice.  This place made all the veggies first.  Then they made some kind of fried rice that was pretty plain.  Then the meat was served last.  The veggies and meat were great, I just wish they could have been served together.  I didn’t make use of the sauces, I prefer to be able to really taste the food.

I’m not sure if I’d want to come back again.  I know the boy likes to watch the chefs, and it keeps him occupied during the meal.  But dinner is so pricey, and I really like Ichibar better for authentic Japanese food.  But the restaurant was very nice, and the staff seemed very friendly, so I wouldn’t mind going back if friends or coworkers were going.  Seems like a good place to socialize.
Ginza on Urbanspoon

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I went to Edwards Mill Bar & Grill for lunch today with the recruiters who landed me my job.  It seemed like a very business-friendly place to eat, as the service was quick, the entrees were all pretty standard American fare, and the place seemed very conversation-friendly.

The place didn’t seem to have a drink menu.  I just ordered a water, and both the guys I was with ordered Arnold Palmers.  This must be a southern thing, but apparently it’s lemonade and ice tea.  They were both disappointed after drinking it and realizing it was made with unsweet tea.  The waitress did get them new ones made with sweet tea, but if you go there this is something to probably ask about when ordering.

I wanted to try The Mill’s famous ribs, but seeing as though it was kind of a business lunch, I wanted to stay pretty clean and not spend too much time working on eating my food.  I ordered the grilled salmon with a cup of cheeseburger soup and coleslaw.

The salmon was pretty good, though a bit bland.  It was served with only a slice of lemon, no sauce or anything else.  It was easy to eat and talk at the same time because I didn’t have to cut it at all, the whole thing flaked apart pretty easily.  The coleslaw was decent, a bit like KFC’s coleslaw in texture, but the sauce was less salty and sweet than KFC’s (and that’s a good thing in my opinion).  The cheeseburger soup was a pretty good too.  They also served some hot rolls with the meal.

Normally I like more exotic foods, but I think restaurants like Edwards Mill Bar & Grill are good for meals out with people who don’t necessarily share your taste in food.  It’s the kind of place everyone can agree on.  The prices are decent and the location is ideal for a lot of people who work around Raleigh, so I imagine I’ll be joining people for lunch here in the future.
Edwards Mill Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

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Teas are a few of my favorite things

I drink a lot of tea at work because it keeps me warm, and it’s a very relaxing thing to do. I usually drink either some caffeinated “Constant Comment”, english breakfast, or raspberry tea in the morning, peppermint tea if I want a non-caffeinated boost, blueberry tea when I’m hungry for something sweet, and some “Tension Tamer” or camomile tea in the afternoon or when I get stressed. I just found out that P.F. Chang’s uses Revolution Tea, and I’ve always loved the tea there. From the Revolution Tea site it’s $5.99 per 16-serving box, but Amazon has 6 16-serving boxes for $21.05. Amazon always has better deals on the K-cups as well.

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