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Archive for June, 2010

I’ve been to the P.F. Chang’s across from Southpoint a dozen times, mostly with coworkers for lunch.  It’s much easier to get in and out of P.F. Chang’s than some of the restaurants that are actually in the Streets at Southpoint because you don’t have as big of crowds to deal with.

Coconut Curry Vegetables

I’m sorry I didn’t get many nice pictures like I normally try to.  I got my usual favorite, the coconut curry vegetables, my husband got the honey chicken lunch bowl (it’s a smaller portion that comes with soup), and the other guy we were with got General Chang’s chicken.  We all liked our food, but I’ve never been disappointed by P.F. Chang’s.  I just wish they made the coconut curry vegetables in a frozen entree, but I suppose the veggies don’t hold up well after being frozen.  I’ve tried some of the appetizers here before.  The eggdrop soup is decent, not the best I’ve ever had, and the egg rolls are reliable.  I tried the mini desserts once and was kind of disappointed.  I like my desserts to be big portions, but then again we usually split the desserts as well.

My husband has been to Pei Wei, which is the cheaper, faster P.F. Chang’s alternative.  He said the food is just as good there, and cheaper.  I’ll have to check it out sometime soon.

P.F. Chang's China Bistro on Urbanspoon

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SpanishVines.com 2008 Tempranillo

My local Kroger had a few wines out for tasting the other day and this one caught my attention.  I brought home a bottle and I thought I’d try out my first wine review.  I’m still a wine nub yet, but I’ll try to be honest.

I chilled the wine in the fridge for a day, then let it air in the glass 30 minutes at room temperature before drinking.  The color is extremely dark, even for a red wine.  If this wine were a variety of coffee, it’d be an espresso.  It was rich, solid, and dark.  At first you taste something a bit sour and tingly like a light sparkling wine, but then you get hit by some really rich, deep flavors of black cherry, chocolate and coffee.  At first I thought it was just like a pinot noir but the after-flavors really hit you a lot harder.  Honestly I don’t know if I liked it.  I had a hard time trying to think of what it could possibly be matched with.  Certainly not cheese or fruit, not dessert, and far to deep to match most meals.  I suppose the kind of person who likes coffee and cigarettes for breakfast would like the SpanishVines.com Tempranillo for dinner.

I’d like to try some other Tempranillos if I can find them.  The idea that the bottle of wine has a “.com” at the end of the name puts me off a little.

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I went to Azitra for the first time last Saturday evening.  It’s an Indian restaurant in Brier Creek next to Fujisan.  The restaurant is at the end of a strip mall block, so the side is open for seating.  The seating area looked really nice, but unfortunately it’s been in the high 90’s all week so everyone wants to sit inside in the air conditioning. 

The interior was cool and dark, perfect for a hot evening.  The decor was very nice, my son loved the lighting.  We got a rounded booth which was great because the 3 of us could all sit together.

We started with some paneer pakora and assorted naan for appetizers.  The naan also came with some raita which I used once the entrees came out.  The paneer pakora was decent, but I think the sauce was the best part of this dish.  The naan was good too, but I think in the future we’ll just get the garlic naan.  The other 2 weren’t as good.  We also each got a mango lassi.  The mango lassis here are very yogurty in flavor, not very sweet, which I think is good when going with the meal.  I don’t like mango lassis that taste like fruit smoothies loaded up with sugar.

Chicken Tikka Masala

I ordered the chicken tikka masala.  I usually prefer paneer, but they didn’t offer that as a choice with masala sauce.  The chicken was good anyhow.  I had read other reviews indicating the dishes here were disappointingly bland, so I had ordered mine “spicy”.  Well, I wasn’t disappointed.  I drank all my lassi and needed all the raita to keep from burning up, it was great.  I also had more than enough leftovers for my next 2 meals.

My husband got the lamb vindaloo, his favorite dish, also “spicy”.  He was pretty impressed by how much it made him sweat.  He said it had a good flavor and the meat was good quality, but maybe next time he wouldn’t get it quite so spicy.

Lamb Vindaloo

Overall I thought the food here was pretty good.  The service was excellent, I don’t think our water glasses were even allowed to get halfway empty before they were filled back up again.  But since it was a bit pricier than other Indian restaurants in the area, I’m not sure if we’ll be coming back too much.  The cost was $17 for each of the entrees, $9 for the 3 mango lassis, $9 for the naan and $7 for the paneer pakora.  It does have the convenience factor of being right off 540 near RTP and the airport, but if you’ve ever tried getting in and out of Brier Creek during rush hour, you know it’s not so convenient all the time.

Paneer Pakora and Assorted Naan With Raita

Azitra on Urbanspoon

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I went to LoneRider Breweing Company today with some of my old coworkers. The place is in a warehouse-type area near the airport.  The parking lot is gravel, and there’s a small glass door that says “LoneRider Brewing”, otherwise you wouldn’t be able to find the place.  The door actually just leads to the bathrooms, the actual drinking/bar/tasting area is to the side behind one of the large sliding door loading docks.  The one really bad thing about this place is there’s no air conditioning.  It’s been in the high 90’s for days, and the large fans they had set up here didn’t help at all.

LoneRider serves 4 different kinds of beers, and each is $3 per glass.  The PeaceMaker was recommended to me as being a “bitey” beer, very “hoppy”.  Even though it was called a pale ale, it was too dark for my tastes.  It had something of a burnt caramel taste.  I usually like the light, Belgian, girly, fruity beers like lambics.

Next I tried the Shotgun Betty.  This was more of my kind of beer.  It’s a Hefeweizen, very light in color, and oddly opaque.  It looked almost like banana juice.  It did have a banana flavor as well.  I wonder if perhaps it was added?  It doesn’t seem like a natural flavor for beer to have.

One of my coworkers got the DeadEye Jack.  It was very dark.  He said it tasted like coffee.  He didn’t like it much.

I’ll probably stick to my girly beers in the future but I think it’s good to have local breweries out there.  Also at $3 a glass it’s a pretty decent place to spend some time and socialize.  The address is 8816 Gulf Ct. Suite 100 in Raleigh.  Off of 70 you’ll take Westgate Rd. east, Gulf Ct. will be the second left, and the place is on the right side of the road.

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We went to Klara’s for Father’s Day, my husband’s choice.  I ordered my beloved fried brie, got some cabbage and kielbasa soup, and tried the potato dumplings with ham and bacon inside.  I ate so much and I still had leftovers for the next day.  Great food though, those dumplings were just amazing.  I couldn’t believe someone would think to to put bacon in a dumpling.  My husband got the pork schnitzel, and as usual the potato salad was great too.  I love the potato salad here, it’s like nothing I’ve had elsewhere.   I just wanted to make another post about this restaurant to show off the beautiful food.

Fried Brie with Cranberries

Pork Schnitzel with Potato Salad

Stuffed Potato Dumplings

The Insides - Bacon and Ham!

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We went to IHOP in Apex on Friday night.  It was my son’s pick, he’s 4 and it’s his favorite restaurant.  It’s one of the few restaurants where he’ll order off the menu and actually eat the food he gets.  It’s located just off 64 in the Beaver Creek Commons, across from Target.

I’ve been to IHOPs across the US before, and they’re all pretty standard.  This was actually my favorite restaurant when I was a kid too.  I loved getting pancakes for dinner.  I still like the place well enough, and every once in a while it’s nice to have breakfast food without having to make it yourself.

Create Your Own Face Pancake

My son always gets the Create Your Own Face pancake.  It comes with 2 strawberries for eyes, some whipped cream for a nose, and banana slices for a mouth.  It also has some “Go-Gurt” yogurt, for which to add hair and other things with.  My son doesn’t actually decorate the pancake with the yogurt, he eats it last.  He’s got his own ritual with this thing, first he eats the nose, then the eyes, then the mouth.  Then he has me cut it all up and add syrup.  Then he eats the pancake, as much as he can.  This evening he didn’t eat much of it, but he had cake earlier.  Then he eats the yogurt last, sucking it up like a freezy pop.

Club Sandwich

My husband got the club sandwich with fries.  Typical club sandwich with turkey, bacon, lettuce and tomato, and some decent fries.  Not much to say about this one.

I got the new “New York Cheesecake Pancakes” of the “regular” variety, that comes with 2 pancakes with cheesecake stuff in between then, plus 2 eggs, hashbrowns, and a choice of bacon or sausage.  I chose the scrambled eggs and bacon.  I had previously liked IHOP’s stuffed french toast, which has the same kind of cream cheese type filling in it, so I figured I would like this as well.

New York Cheesecake Pancakes "Regular"

The strawberries and strawberry sauce were awesome.  There’s extra strawberry sauce at the table for adding to this.  The filling was as I expected, very cream cheesy in flavor, rich and delicious.  The hashbrowns were good too.  I don’t generally eat bacon strips on their own, I prefer them with food, so this isn’t my ideal serving style for the bacon.  The scrambled eggs weren’t that good and I didn’t finish them.  I think if your meal has 2 plates you’ve probably ordered too much.  In the future, I’m going to probably just order the 4 pancakes with cream cheese in between instead of the “regular” sampling, it was just way too much food.

Cheesecake Pancake Insides

I lifted up the side of the pancake so you can see inside it.  The cheesecake filling is kind of like frosting, they just tube some on and put the next pancake on top of it.  It’s good though, a very rich flavor that’s very much like real cheesecake.

The service on this particular night was pretty slow.  It took us an hour to get in and out, which is unusually slow for an IHOP.  I’ll give this place another chance though, I think they were having a busy night with a birthday party going on in the back.
IHOP on Urbanspoon

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2nd City Bacon Cheeseburger

I went to 2nd City Grill last Monday with a couple of my co-workers.  It’s right down the street from where I work so it’s very easy to get there and back within my lunch hour.

The restaurant is cafeteria style.  When we got there at about 1pm there was a line, so I imagine at noon it might be quite a wait.  They serve breakfast from 7am-10am, and traditional American food after that.  They have pizza, burgers, sandwiches, salads and hot dogs.  I ordered the 2nd City bacon cheeseburger.  It was a good burger, good fries, and at about $7 the price was reasonable.

Turkey Kaiser Special

One of my coworkers got the turkey kaiser special with a side salad.  The other one got a Greek salad with no olives.  They both said the food was good.  They had both been to the 2nd City Grill many times before though.   All the food here looked decent, and most everything is priced at about $7.

Greek Salad (no olives)

When I go out to eat I usually try for more exotic things like Thai, sushi or Indian, that would be difficult for me to make at home.  Generally if I want a sandwich or hot dog I’ll make it myself.  But the food was decent and sometimes you just have to go out to spend time with other people, not just to try new foods.  Overall it was a good place though, good food at a good price.
2nd City Grill on Urbanspoon

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My kind of Mai Tai

After being dissatisfied with the Mai Tai I was served this weekend, I was thinking of ways I could improve upon the recipe.  It’s quite a departure from the original Mai Tai as I used orange juice instead of blue curacao, no lime, and strawberry/banana instead of pineapple, but I think it makes for a very good mixed drink all the same.  You don’t have to use my particular brands but I feel these are the best of their kind.

Magie’s Mai Tai

  • 1 oz. light rum (Bacardi)
  • 1 oz. dark rum (Captain Morgan’s Private Stock)
  • 1 oz. amaretto (Disaronno)
  • 2 oz. orange juice
  • 3 oz. strawberry banana juice blend (I used Target brand, I believe there is also V-8 brand.  Contains several other juices too but the strawberry banana flavor shines through)

Mix and pour into a glass filled with ice.

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Chef’s Palette just opened this month in Cary.  The location is quite a bit further south than most of the Triangle area restaurants I review, but I’m always excited to be able to get to see a restaurant still in its developmental stages.  From the looks of it, this place could turn into one of the better spots in the area for fine dining.

Appetizer and Entree Menu

The decor here is really original.  The lighting is a bit dark, but I suppose they’re just going for that look.  They solve the problem of trying to read the menus in the dark by having electrically lit menus.  Too bad that didn’t carry through to the drink menu.  There are paintings that cover the walls, which always give you something to look at.  The windows are covered to help get rid of the strip mall atmosphere, and the interior is all custom done for the restaurant.  All the dishes and glasses are also uniquely shaped for the particular dish.

For drinks, I ordered a Strawberry Mai Tai, my husband got a Coke, and my son got an orange juice.  The Mai Tai was good but seemed to have very little strawberry flavor.  Usually when I make strawberry mixed drinks, I cover strawberry slices with sugar and use the juice it makes after sitting a few hours.  But I don’t think they used strawberry juice in this, I think they just put strawberry chunks in the drink.

Sweet Potato Fries

For the appetizer I was torn between the Chibby’s Calamari, “Big Kahuna” Tuna, or Intense Sweet Potato Ribbon Fries.  I decided on the sweet potato fries based on the quatro frommage dipping sauce that came with.  There were 2 other sauces, the Caribbean spiced honey mustard and the remoulade, but I didn’t like them as much.  Honestly I was a bit disappointed with the sweet potato fries.  I’ve had them at other restaurants and they’ve tasted better than this.  I think I would try the calamari or tuna next time, and probably not get these again.

All the entrees have fancy names.  The lamb and duck isn’t called “Lamb and Duck”, it’s called “Earth and Sky”.  My husband ordered the Renaissance Ribeye with a Caesar salad.  He said the salad was the best he’s ever had, much better than the one at Outback or the ones I make at home.   He ordered the steak medium-well, which tasted over-done to me (I like mine medium-rare), but he said it was perfect, and so much better than the one he had at Firebirds a week ago.

Renaissance Ribeye

They have a kid’s menu here, but my son didn’t seem interested in the traditional chicken strips or macaroni and cheese.  He only wanted the applesauce that would have been served as a side dish, and we were able to order it separately for him.

It took me a long time to decide on what to order.  I wanted the Earth and Sky, but I have a problem with Saga bleu cheese.  I just don’t like Saga brand at all.  I’ve tried it, I don’t like it.  If it was some kind of brie, or even Humboldt Fog, I would have been all over that.  The Jack of Hearts Filet Mignon had the same problem, again with the Saga bleu cheese.  So finally I decided on the Impasto Pecan Encrusted Pork Marsala.

Impasto Pecan Encrusted Pork Marsala

The pork was huge.  I just wasn’t expecting that much meat.  It was good, and it was incredibly tender.  I loved the marsala sauce, it was delicious.  It was served with 4 fried portabella mushroom ravioli propped up in garlic mashed potatoes.  My husband got the same garlic mashed potatoes with his steak, and he liked them as much as I did.  There was also some asparagus on top, mostly for looks I guess.  There was a lot of food there, and I couldn’t finish it all.  I hope the pork reheats okay because that’s what I’m having for lunch tomorrow.  My only problem with the entree was the temperature.  It seemed to lose its heat quickly, and I like my food piping hot.  I think they would have better luck if they had heated plates prior to placing the food on them.  Having a plate warmer wouldn’t be too much to set up, and it does a lot to preserve the quality of the dish after it’s served.

I had to see the dessert menu.  I had glanced at it online before we went to the restaurant and everything sounded great.  I wanted to get something we all would like, so I ordered the Southern Fried Magnolia.  It’s a warm almond pound cake with amaretto glaze, cherry sauce and whipped cream.  The pound cake was unbelievably moist and flavorful, it was wonderful.  My son ate most of the whipped cream, and my husband didn’t like the cherry sauce so I ate most of it.  I thought it was great.  I love the combination of cherry and almond.

Southern Fried Magnolia

The restaurant could use a few improvements.  Better lighting, hot plates, a better strawberry Mai Tai, but these should be easy things that will come in time.  I wish they were open on Sundays as well.  Seems a shame, missing out on a good day of business like that.  For being open less than a month, the restaurant is surprisingly organized and seems to be doing well already.  The prices are about the same as Firebirds, $26 for the ribeye and $17 for the pork marsala.  I think it was good for the price, and we’ll be coming here again in the future.
Chef's Palette on Urbanspoon

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My husband’s favorite kind of cookie is peanut butter chocolate chip.  Over time I’ve developed this recipe that makes for soft, delicious cookies with a subtle peanut butter flavor.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 12 oz. bag semi-sweet chocolate chips

In a large mixing bowl, mix softened butter (you can microwave it for a bit, but don’t get it all melty), peanut butter and both kinds of sugar with a mixer on medium speed about 2 minutes or so.  You want the sugar to get completely dissolved and for the mixture to get whipped up a bit.  Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well.  Then add the vanilla and mix again.

In a separate bowl, mix the flour, baking soda and salt together.  You want to make sure that baking soda is evenly distributed throughout the flour before adding it to the liquids.  Add the dry mixture into your large mixing bowl, blending on low for a very short time.  Don’t over beat or you’ll end up with tough cookies.  Then add the chocolate chips and mix by hand until the chocolate chips are evenly distributed throughout the dough.

Preheat the oven to 370 degrees (I’m picky, I try to get to the nearest 5 degrees instead of the nearest 25 degrees like most people.)  Roll small balls of cookie dough between your palms to make about 1-inch diameter cookie balls.  I like to make many small cookies rather than larger cookies, they tend to cook better this way.  Place on an ungreased cookie sheet, and bake for 10 minutes.  It’s very important that you don’t over-bake if you want soft cookies.  The moment you see even a hint of brownness, take them out of the oven.  The recipe should make approximately 50 small cookies.

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