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Archive for December, 2010

Tower Indian is located in Morrisville Square off of Morrisville-Carpenter Road.  I don’t think the place could get any drive-by customers because it’s not visible from the road, and it’s not a terribly well-visited strip mall.  Yet somehow the restaurant is always busy for lunch, and I think it’s because the food is just above and beyond most of the other Indian restaurants in the area.

The restaurant is completely vegetarian, so those looking for chicken or lamb dishes will be disappointed.  But I think the fact that it is vegetarian gives it a higher level of authenticity over other Indian places.  The lunch buffet has always been well-stocked with a huge variety of different dishes.

When  you first enter the restaurant, you’ll probably wonder what kind of cheap, crappy restaurant you just walked into with its white, undecorated walls and its white paper tablecloths.  A waiter may or may not seat you.  Just try to get a table away from the door in the winter time.  I don’t think I’ve ever been offered a menu, and I don’t know if ordering off the menu is possible.  I’ve always just walked up to the buffet and started filling my plate.  Drinks such as mango lassi are available, but good luck trying to get a waiter to take your order.

So the restaurant looks like crap, there’s no service to speak of.  So why do I love it so much?  The food ROCKS!  I’ll fill up my plate twice, as much food as I can carry, all different kinds of veggies and sauces and spices.  Each spoonful is like a double rainbow of flavor in my mouth.  I can’t identify what half the food is, but I’ve never been disappointed by anything I’ve tried.  One dish looked like the stuffing for stuffed peppers, and when I tried it, it tasted like candied shredded carrots.  I love happy surprises.

None of the buffet items are very spicy.  You’d think they could put at least one entree on the buffet that was super spicy and label it as such, but I guess they want to cater to the lowest common denominator.  I do see a lot of Indian families bringing their children here, and perhaps it’s for the kids that they keep the spiciness level down.  Regardless, what the food lacks in spice, it makes up for in unique and diverse flavor.  I would certainly not call any entree they serve “bland”.

They also bring out some stuffed dosai, but if you’re as enthusiastic about the buffet as I am, you’ll probably be done eating before you get your dosai.  Save some room though, it’s delicious too!  Perfectly crispy and warm.

There was one major disappointment when I went on Monday.  They didn’t have any of the warm Gulab jamun (donut holes) for dessert.  I hope that isn’t a new thing.  Next time I go they better have the donut holes back on the buffet.

When you’re done eating, don’t bother waiting for a check.  Just go up to the register and pay.  It’s one of the cheapest lunch buffets in the triangle at only $8.
Tower on Urbanspoon

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The Krispy Kreme Challenge

Here’s a link to the official site: http://krispykremechallenge.com/

On February 5th, 2011 there will be a 2 mile race in Raleigh to a Krispy Kreme. Participants will down a dozen donuts at the store, then race back 2 miles to the finish line. To win you must eat all 12 donuts and keep them down until the end of the race. You can also have the option as participating as a “Casual Runner”, not being obligated to finish the donuts or keep them all down.

It does sound like a pretty awesome event. That is, until the 2 mile run back. Frankly I don’t think I’d be able to keep the dozen donuts down on the way back. And with 7,500 estimated participants, it occurs to me this could end up like the pie story in Stand By Me. I’d be interested to hear how it all turns out though.

I’ve often thought about participating in these sorts of novelty races. Usually it’s the crowds and early morning hours that turn me off. I think I might be persuaded if they ever held a fried brie race, or one of those beer marathons where you down a glass after every mile.

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We went to Hibernian for lunch on the day before Christmas Eve.  We were there just after 1pm, so there weren’t many people.  Unfortunately there was just one lone server for the whole restaurant, and she seemed very exhausted.  It took about 10 minutes to get seated, but the waits to get drinks, appetizers and food really wasn’t that bad.

Silver Dollar Mushrooms

I got a Blue Moon beer to drink and we got the Silver Dollar Mushrooms to share.  The mushrooms were huge!  Each was 2 mushrooms with the stems cut out, stuffed with cream cheese and deep fried together.  They came with a horseradish cream.  I felt almost full by the second mushroom ball.

For entrees my husband got the Cuban and I got the Thursday special, Fish and Chips.  My son got the kid’s hot dog.  They ran out of the Ciabbata roll, so they served the Cuban on rye (though I believe it’s supposed to be a special Cuban bread anyhow…) All the entrees seem to come with fries, except the more traditional Irish dishes.

Cuban

When the entrees came out, again I was amazed by how huge they were.  I had never seen fried fish so wide.  It’s like they were giant fish bricks.  My husband managed to eat his whole sandwich and fries, but was so full he didn’t eat any dinner later on.  I only managed to eat one of my fish bricks and the coleslaw, and I was still so stuffed.  My son ate about half of his hot dog.  We had a lot of leftovers.  The next day my husband and I split the other fish brick and the rest of the fries and had a decent sized lunch for the both of us.

Kid's Hot Dog

I really liked the atmosphere of the restaurant.  They had some really interesting architectural features in the interior, especially in the different kinds of booths.  The service was very friendly, and I tipped the poor waitress well because I felt so bad for her being the only one working.  The food was good for pub food, better than Tyler’s I thought.  I just wish they had the beer selection that Tyler’s does.  Next time I come I think I’ll try some of the more Irish fare.

Thursday Fish Special


Hibernian Restaurant & Irish Pub on Urbanspoon
 

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I used to go to Saffron for lunch a lot back when I worked in RTP.  The buffet was nicely stocked and always had a good variety of hot dishes, some meat, some vegetarian, and always that mango mousse for dessert.  It was usually extremely busy though, so it was always difficult getting a table for a group, and paying at the end of your meal meant waiting in line at the cash register.

I don’t get to Saffron often enough anymore, but I did get a chance to go there last weekend for dinner.  Since it was my birthday, we decided to try something unique and order the Chef’s special dinner for 2.  It included naan and spicy chicken sausage (Reshmi Kebab?) for appetizers, some raita, and the entrees were lamb rogan josh, saag paneer, dal bukhara, channa masala, and chicken tikka masala.  They also included rice, and the their mango mousse for dessert.  We also ordered mango lassi for drinks.

I was just amazed by the amount of food that was brought out.  All the entree dishes just filled up the table.  And the smell was wonderful!  First I tried a bit of everything.  the lamb rogan josh was good and spicy, but I left most of it for my husband.  He’s always loved this dish.  The saag paneer was lacking in spice, but was still good and flavorful.  I love the texture of their paneer.  The dal bukhara had a nice smokey flavor to it, and was excellent for dipping the naan.  The channa masala could have used some more spice, it was a bit bland.  The chicken tikka masala also could have used a bit more spice, but it had a really good flavor regardless.

The chef’s special for 2 is $55, but we both ate dinner until we were full, then I ate the rest of the saag paneer for lunch the next day, and then we both ate big meals of the other 4 entrees for dinner the next day.  So when you consider you’re really getting about 5 meals out of that $55, it’s not so bad.

I think the service is much better when you’re dining in the evening.  Perhaps the lunch crowd is just too much for them to deal with well.  I really like the food here though.  You just need to remember which spice level is appropriate for you and try to order it that way each time.  As typical for the area, the lunch buffet is pretty mild, so if you really want to sweat you’re going to have to order off the menu.


Saffron Indian on Urbanspoon

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Thai Lanna is tucked away in the Greenwood Commons off Hwy 55.  We visited the restaurant on a snowy night, so most of the evening we were the only ones in the place.  As a result, the food came quickly and the service was attentive.  I can’t comment on whether this will always be the case, since it was my only time at the restaurant.  The server did do one odd thing though, when I asked for ice water, she brought out a glass full of ice (no water).  I asked her to please fill it up with water for me, and she did.

Spring Rolls

For appetizers we got the Tom yum kai soup and the spring rolls.  The spring rolls were good, with a bit of spice to them.  I think I made a mistake ordering the Tom yum kai soup.  It had been a while since my last visit to a Thai restaurant, so I couldn’t remember which one was the one I liked so much.  Tom yum kai was good, very spicy, but it wasn’t what I was looking for.  I believe I meant to order the Tom ka kai, and I think I would have been a lot happier with my meal had I ordered that.  It’s no fault of the restaurant though, I’ll just have to be more careful in the future.

Tom yum kai

For the entree I ordered the Kaeng Kari Curry with tofu.  It was decent enough, but not the best curry I’ve ever had.  There was more than enough food there for 2 meals though, so I had some good leftovers for the next day.

My husband got the Kaeng Matsaman with chicken.  He was disappointed they used peanuts instead of cashews.  The sauce on his was really good though, much better than mine.  I had them box up his leftover sauce just so I could use it with my meal the next day.

I think the restaurant has a really nice atmosphere, very beautiful decor.  I think next time I’ll make sure to order the Tom ka kai, and switch to the Matsaman curry instead, and I’ll be happier with my experience here.

Kaeng Matsaman Curry with chicken

Kaeng Kari Curry with tofu

Thai Lanna on Urbanspoon

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I Found Glass in my Schuhmann Lebkuchen

Every year around Christmas I stop by Southern Season and buy all kinds of European Christmas treats that aren’t available the rest of the year- stollen, lebkuchen, advent calendars and seasonal shortbreads.  I decided to try a new brand of lebkuchen this year, the Schuhmann normal iced variety and the chocolate covered lebkuchen.

The next day before work, I opened up the iced lebkuchen package, and since it wasn’t a resealable package, separated them into ziplock baggies and took one to work.  After lunch I started eating my lebkuchen round, and bit down on something very hard.  At first I thought it must be a nut or something, but I had eaten over half of it already with no nuts in it.  I picked through my mouth and found a tiny piece of glass.  I spit out the rest of the lebkuchen, and searching through I found another piece of glass.

I really didn’t know what to do at that point.  Had I eaten any of the glass?  Did I chip a tooth?  My teeth didn’t hurt at all, and I figured I probably would have noticed if I had swallowed a shard of glass.  I phoned home to my mother who was staying with us, and told her not to eat any of the lebkuchen rounds I had left on the kitchen table.  I’m just grateful that my son didn’t get around to eating one that day.

I attempted to find contact information for this Schuhmann company in Germany.  There obviously wasn’t an 800 number to call on the package, and unfortunately because the package had already been thrown away (I only had the chocolate lebkuchen package left), I couldn’t even tell them which batch it was that was tainted.  So I decided to bring my lebkuchen back to Southern Season for a refund, with the hopes that they could contact the company and figure out where to go from there.

So last weekend I brought back all the Schuhmann Lebkuchen (I didn’t really trust the chocolate ones at this point) and returned them all for the exact amount I had paid for them.  Southern Season was very apologetic and I don’t blame them for it at all.  I just really hope they’re able to contact the company about the issue.  Someone could have really been hurt badly, and I just consider myself lucky that I am unharmed.

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I’ve driven by La Farm countless times, and the only reason I hadn’t stopped before is because they stop serving their breakfast menu at 11am.  I usually eat breakfast immediately after I wake up, but I like to get breakfasts at lunch again too.  But after 11am it seems to be mostly sandwiches, and I’m not much of a sandwich person.

I stopped by at about 9am, and the place wasn’t nearly as packed as I’ve sometimes seen it.  The restaurant is very casual- you order your food, pay for it, grab a seat, and wait for it to be ready.  Because it was just my son and I, we got a small 2-person table near the kitchen so we could watch all the busy people back there.

My son and I both ordered the creme brulee french toast, and I asked if they had a ham and cheese croissant that I could take home to my husband.  They said yes, they did have a ham and cheese croissant, and I ordered that in a box.  I also ordered a cappuccino.  The cappuccino was served up almost immediately, with a cute little heart in the milk froth.

Creme Brulee French Toast

While I waited for my food, I checked out some of the baked goods they have on display.  They had some adorable bread snowmen, samples of various breads and a pumpkin bread pudding, cookies, tarts, cinnamon rolls, croissants and macaroons.  Usually when I order morning pastries, I go for some more of the sweet, fruity items they have at Guglhupf, like cheese danishes, elephant ears and apple turnovers. La Farm does have a mighty tempting Pain Au Chocolat though, I might get that next time.

Our food was ready very quickly, and it was really hot!  You could tell it was fresh made.  The french toast was served with little cups of what tasted like real maple syrup, some whipped cream (no Reddi-whip, it’s the real deal) and some strawberries.  I was a bit disappointed that I didn’t get a tub of butter with it, but I know I’m a lot more gluttonous than I need to be.

Croissant Breakfast Sandwich

The french toast was really awesome.  I don’t even know what kind of bread it was, or how they get it to taste so much like creme brulee (lots of egg yolks, probably) but it was better than I could ever make at home.  It was really fantastic.  My son loved his too, but the poor kid couldn’t even eat 2 slices before getting full.  At least he got leftovers for the next two meals.

I was really surprised when we got home and opened up the ham and cheese croissant.  I guess the cashier and I misunderstood each other, I was expecting a croissant with ham and cheese baked in, but this was a croissant sliced up as a sandwich, with a layer of ham, egg and cheese inside.  It also came with a few pieces of fruit.  I didn’t get to try any, it was for my husband.  He said it wasn’t great, but I think he was just disappointed it wasn’t what he was expecting either.  He’s gotten the ham and cheese croissants so much at Guglhupf that anything else just wasn’t going to be as good.

I really wish La Farm served the french toast throughout the day.  I’d stop by at lunch on the weekends more often.  I think next time I stop by, I’ll pick up some of the pastries to bring home.  There’s a lot of cool stuff to try there, and I’m sure I’m going to love those chocolate croissants.  The french toast was $7.95 each and the croissant sandwich was $6.95, but for the quality I think it’s a reasonable price.  There’s no real waiter service at La Farm, but I think the staff is probably the friendliest I’ve ever seen.

La Farm Bakery on Urbanspoon

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ãn in Cary

My husband  and I finally got a chance to try this restaurant the night before Thanksgiving’s Day.  We had made reservations, but it probably wasn’t necessary for this night because I don’t think there were more than 6 tables filled.

The restaurant has a very grand presence.   The huge entrance is covered so if it’s raining you can keep your clothes  pretty.  The interior is just as gorgeous as the interior.  The decor is well done, and the beautiful floating sculpture at the ceiling was the icing on the cake.  We had dressed up nicely, seeing as though we don’t get many nights out without the boy, and I think we would have felt under dressed otherwise.

Lamb & Pad Thai

I was surprised when I looked over the menu for 2 reasons.  I didn’t know much about the cuisine before I arrived, and I thought the items offered were quite diverse.  I was also surprised how cheap many of the entrees were, compared to some of the reviews I had read previously.  I had gotten the impression all the dishes would be $40+ and I’d be spending an arm and a leg, but there were some very tasty sounding entrees for less than $20.

So many items sounded interesting, but I finally decided on the Lamb & Pad Thai.  I like Pad Thai and order it often at Thai restaurants, but I usually order it tofu only.  I’ve never seen it offered with lamb before.  My husband ordered the Kakuni Pork Shank, which sounded really good as well.

Kakuni Pork Shank

They brought out 2 free appetizers while we waited for our entrees, some salted edamame and some warm flat bread.  The edamame was difficult to eat neatly.  One of the little soybeans went flying when I tried to extract it from the pod.  I would have preferred them to be out of the pod to begin with so I could eat them nicely.  The flat bread was plain but still good, and came with a pot of whipped salted butter.

Lemon White Chocolate Terrine

Our entrees arrived within a fairly quick amount of time, considering how much must have been involved with the preparation.  My Pad Thai didn’t smell exactly like pad thai normally does.  It wasn’t a very authentic dish, but it still had a really good taste to it.  The lamb was very tasty too, but didn’t seem to match the Pad Thai at all.  That was, until I started using the chutney.  Once I mixed the chutney in, the whole dish was really brought together.  It also brought in a fantastic spicy, fruity flavor to the whole thing, getting much spicier than Pad Thai usually gets.  I was really impressed with my meal.

My husband’s Kakuni pork shank wasn’t nearly as good.  I tried it, and it was good.  Certainly not a terrible disappointment if ordered at any other restaurant.  But compared to the hype of this restaurant, and how awesome my entree was, he was a bit let down.  He said next time he’d probably go for the Polynesian chicken or Filet Mignon.

Dulce de Leche Creme Caramel

The desserts were a bit pricey at $8 each, but since it’s so rare for us to get out for a romantic dinner, we decided to each get one.  I got the Lemon White Chocolate Terrine, and my husband got the Dulce de Leche Creme Caramel.  My dessert was super rich and delicious, and very pretty as well.  But on this one my husband won, his dessert was like heaven on a spoon.  It had a rich, deep, coffee and caramel flavor and had the most silky texture imaginable.

They also brought out small macaroons with some fruit, I guess instead of fortune cookies.  It was a nice little treat to get free at the end of the meal.

Macaroons

With two entrees at $24 and $19, and two desserts at $8 each, we ended up spending a lot less than I was thinking when we made the reservation.  The atmosphere is really perfect for a romantic evening out and I think if we get a chance for a night like this again, we’ll definitely be coming back for the Filet Mignon and Polynesian chicken.
An on Urbanspoon

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