The dark side has free wifi.
Early Monday afternoon my house was met with a most unfortunate technological malfunction: DEAD INTERNET. Nothin'. No connection. To the Internet, to the rest of the world, to the mass of ones and zeroes that gives my life meaning; surely you have a similar attachment to this world wide web...thingy. Or not. Probably best if you don't.
While I wasn't planning to eat out for dinner, certainly not a place based about heavenly wheat-based goods (as I was—at the time—still planning to stay away from heavenly bread), my brother informed my mum and me that they had free wi-fi. Well...screw my diet. As we couldn't think of a more convenient location that would allow us to go on the Internet for nothing, we piled into my brother's car and whizzed to Paramus Park, one of the most oft-visited malls of my youth that at some point over the past few years underwent a major renovation that thankfully included Panera Bread, a reliable sandwich chain birthed from the formerly named St. Louis Bread Co based in...well, I think you can figure that out.
Panera Bread is one of those "fast casual" type places where you can get an inexpensive, fresh, good quality meal in a pleasing environment of warm colors like happy sunshine yellow, happy sunshine red, and happy sunshine orange. To me, it's like the Starbucks equivalent for sandwiches, except less of a rip off and...with better food. Actually, it's not like Starbucks, but maybe you know what I'm getting at. A closer comparison would be to Cosi, a major sandwich chain found in NYC (but nowhere near as pervasive as Subway, which will sneak up on you even in the most unlikely places. Once I was walking somewhere around my dorm late at night on a street I can't even name, and there was a Subway...just a few blocks away from another Subway, which in turn was probably a few blocks from another Subway. Admittedly, I've only eaten at Subway once many years ago, so maybe I'm missing out on something highly delicious, or maybe my senses don't respond to whatever "come hither" signal Subway uses to lure customers into the belly of one of its bagillion-person sandwich-making army). While I am a fan of Cosi's chewy flatbread, I prefer Panera Bread, which unfortunately has no locations in NYC. (The closest one is in Hoboken.) What is the meaning of this monstrosity? [shrugs] (I haven't felt compelled to eat at Cosi in years. The last time I went there was a few years ago and it wasn't my decision. It was an odd experience where I ended up eating with Even, David, and a few Filter representatives, and by "eating" I mean quietly sipping on sub-par hot chocolate and chomping on some free, fresh out of the oven flatbread while trying not to look too stupid. Which probably didn't work considering I was eating bread and hot chocolate for lunch.)
For whatever reason, I didn't expect the $7 combo of a half salad and half sandwich to be such a large portion. I ordered the portobello & mozzarella panini ("Garlic roasted portobello mushrooms, caramelized onions, fresh mozzarella and chopped basil, grilled hot on our Rosemary & Onion focaccia") not realizing until I got it that I ordered the same thing about a year ago. The sandwich is better than average, but not something I would've thought about getting twice...if I had remembered that I ordered it once before. For one thing, I couldn't find any of this so called "chopped basil" as listed in the description. Maybe it's in there in microscopically chopped form. But if you can't taste it, what's the point of putting it in? [shrugs] I felt like the sandwich could've used more...taste. Overall, the soft melted mozzerella smooshed with mushrooms and onions on warm, crispified focaccia was stomach pleasing.
For my salad, I ordered the California Mission Chicken Salad ("All-natural citrus-herb chicken, field greens, romaine, roasted tomatoes, roasted red peppers, sunflower seeds & our Mission fig balsamic vinaigrette"). I actually didn't want any chicken, but the rest of the ingredients sounded pleasing. In the future, I would personally ask for a chicken-less chicken salad; the meat is juicy, but it just doesn't do anything for me. And despite that preference, in my true gluttonous form, I ate most of it. I found the balsamic vinaigrette a smidge too mouth-burny (could've used less dressing overall), but liked the sweet fig flavor. The toasted sunflower seeds were a big plus by giving the greens some crunch. Some pep. Some excitement for the otherwise unexciting existence of field greens and romaine, no matter how pretty and healthy they may be.
On top of all this food, which was making me feel quite full after only getting through half of it, the order included a chunk of fresh-out-of-the-oven baguette about the size of my forearm if it were chopped in half and didn't have a hand attached to it. (So I guess the size of the baguette chunk resembles the remains of a neat dismembering by a homocidal maniac.) After a few weeks of bread celibacy my first bite into unadorned bread was met with a strong crunch through a thin, golden crust smooshing into a soft, off-white belly of chewy wheat-mass touched by the delicate hands of the Gluten God (inside joke for those in the know: SOLAR HANDS!!!). It's not the best baguette I've ever had, but it's ranks waaay up there and overtakes any cake or confection on the scale of "desirability to Robyn's belly".
(Update (7/19): I thought I should clarify that this baguette isn't like one you'd find in France. I'm calling it a baguette because...well, I guess I could just call it "French bread" like Panera, but it's kind of baguette-ish. Here's a cross-section photo I took last year:
It's not uber-light and airy with ginormous holes. It's not stomach-killing heavy or jaw achingly chewy. It's just...it's what it is. Tasty.)
I ate the whole damn thing. [hangs head in shame]
Some kind of organ in my digestive system felt ready to burst after forcing every morsel of chewy bread down my gullet. Eating out these past few days have made me dislike the event of eating out more so than I recall before that whole "dieting" thing. My brain is perfectly aware of the fact that one doesn't have to eat everything, but my stomach didn't get the memo. In my opinion, my sandwich/salad platter could've been shared between two people, perhaps leaving a little room for an enticing "after" of a brownie, cake, muffin, scone, etc. Despite that Panera makes so many of these sweet Robyn-approved foodstuffs, I've rarely tried any since by the end of the meal I'm too stuffed from the sandwich. Sure, I could get something to go, but...neh, I'm not usually in the mood.
So! I have no idea how good Panera's pastries are, but I'll try to find out sometime this summer. IT'S A PROMISE.
Because I know you like photos, you may oogle at my brother's and mum's orders. Yum yum.
When I got home, I ended up eating some of my brother's chocolate ice cream. God damn him; I NEVER buy cartons of ice cream! Instances of ice cream ingestion are relegated to restaurants and the rare visit to an ice cream shop. When the melted creamy spoonful of H�agen-Dazs' sinfully delicious spawn hit my mouth, I was back on the dairy track. Not that I eat much dairy anyway...but yup. Dairy and wheat are back in my system.
For those who are wondering, I'm still asthmatic. I cut down my Albuterol dosage from two puffs a day to one (50% reduction, har har!) before going to sleep so my mind can drift off into sleepy land without the incessant squeeky heeeeezzzffshheee noise reverberating in my skull. It's progress, but it still hasn't reached the peak of awsomeness. I shouldn't be off my diet, yet...I am. Oops.
I lost 8 pounds since June 5th, which I suppose that's a good thing (and miraculously puts me at about the same weight as I was a year ago before I decided to eat everything in sight for the good of this blog). However, I can't maintain the weight loss unless I stick to the healthy fruit-veg-nut based diet or sweat a few buckets. Luckily perhaps, the "sweat a few buckets" method is unintentionally underway after yesterday's sweltering hot...swelter...ness. While taking the train back home from work, I happened to choose the car that, if it had a name, would've been "One Of The Neglected Levels of Hell". I say "neglected" because I'm not sure why Satan would choose to stick this level in a lowly NJ Transit train unless he just forgot about it. (Then again, it is NJ; that's all it takes to anger evil demons.) My lack of comprehension made me unaware of my oven-like surroundings, which only became clear to me when I saw unhappy, nearly-melting commuters passing through my car and coming back with defeated looks after finding that the environmental conditions of other car was also on par with that of a trailer on the surface of the sun. The apex of uncomfortable-ness became apparent to me when a bead of sweat rolled down my leg. Need. Towel.
So...yeah, what am I talking about?
On Saturday I went to Taste of Thai in Ridgewood with my mum and brother for my first "real" meal out in...a while. I wasn't planning to get an appetizer, but my mum and brother (aka, the slim ones in my family) had a different idea. Bert ordered ka-nom-jeeb (dumplings with ground pork, shrimp, and mixed vegetables) and my mum went for spring rolls (mixed green, glass noodles and mushrooms). I opted out of the dumplings and tried one of the small, crispy, deep-fried spring rolls. Pretty standard, but above average and not bad. Since I'm not a huge fan of duck, I don't have much to say about my mum's pineapple duck platter (she enjoyed it). Bert's masaman curry (masaman curry paste with sweet coconut milk sauce, tamarind, with bell peppers, onions, peanuts, potatoes, avocado, and beef) was my favorite out of all the dishes. It tasted like...sweety curry. [blink] If you don't know what curry tastes like, I can't help you.
Although I usually go for curry, I went for pad thai (sauteed Thai rice noodles with shrimp, bean curd, bean sprouts, scallion, dried shrimp, ground peanut and eggs) in this case (last time I had it must've been over a year ago) since I didn't want to get something similar to my brother. Out of the whole noodle family, rice noodles are one of my favorites. And everything else that goes in pad thai...is awesome. But overall, I can't say I ever crave pad thai (hence why I don't usually order it; no duh). Don't get me wrong; it's damn tasty, just not as appealing to me as spicy curry sauce-laden something-or-other with rice. The initially reasonable looking sized dome-shaped pile of pad thai on my plate was deceiving, as the amount of noodles was actually somewhat gargantuan and mixed with adequate amounts of non-noodly material. As you've already guessed, I ate most of it. But I shouldn't have! Argh! It's a very satisfying amount of food.
And then my mum wanted dessert. WHAT IS THIS? So I ended up getting dessert too. [shakes head] I know she didn't put me at gunpoint, but...but...dessert! Best part of the meal?
I think hot, freshly fried bananas are one of those things that doesn't reach its true potential unless paired with a scoop or two of uber creamy vanilla ice cream. ICE CREAM! NEEDED! STAT! These fried bananas wrapped in a thin crispy shell of some sort were okay except for the awkward excess shell at the tip of the banana package. It's covered in raspberry goo (which in my opinion didn't really go with the banana; perhaps caramel would be better?), not something you want to pick up with your fingers, but you can't help but do since your dessert spoon wasn't engineered to pick up awkward excess fried shell bits. It was alright until the doomful excess fried shell bit.
My mum only ate 1/4th of her coconut pumpkin custard due to its failure to meet her expectations. She thought she would be digging into a light, cool custard, when instead she received a somewhat hearty, steamed dessert. Shredded pumpkin (possibly kabocha?) is mixed with coconut custard for a very filling (and very hot), just-sweet-enough, homemade dessert. While I liked it, I found it a bit too heavy, causing the sensors in my stomach to give me all kinds of signals to STOP STUFFING MYSELF (actually, those sensors went into alert mode while I was still eating the pad thai). I wouldn't crave the custard, but it was worth trying and unlike any other custard I've ever had. Two people could easily share the small cup.
Overall, Taste of Thai isn't mindblowing, but it's pretty good. Service is attentive and friendly and the restaurant had a good amount of customers while we were there. I'm not sure if I'd go back anytime soon, but ye know...there are so many other places I have to try first. What a dilemma.
addresses, oh my
If anyone is wonder what I ate on the raw food diet, in one entry from January 28, 2004 I listed my daily consumption as "5 oranges, 5 apples, 2 pears". There was probably more than that....hell, how did I eat 5 oranges and 5 apples? I found another entry from February 28, 2004 where I wrote a more detailed account of my diet for the day:
2 oz almonds, 2 oranges, 1 grapefruit, 3 sheets of nori and 2 oz of baby greens (the bag had 4 oz, so I think i ate half) and some olive oil, 3 oz of cashews (which I know aren't really raw...but damn, those are good! I shouldn't buy them), 6 dates, too many figs, unfortunately. A few oz? I'm addicted to those as well.
Hm...okay. I'm surprised I didn't eat more fresh fruit. Maybe I ran out.
ALEX KAPRANOS WRITES A FOOD COLUMN? How did I not know this? (And if you don't know who Alex Kapranos is, pretend you do now. ...Holy shizz, he has asthma! That sucks. For him.) I already thought he was pretty cool (because Franz Ferdinand is one of the funnest bands I've ever seen live), but this food column bestows him with more cool points. His food writing endeavour isn't that random though; he used to be a sous-chef. If you don't want to wade through all the columns he's written, here are some that I found more interesting:
Heavenly hamburgers (gives props to In N Out)
Eating habits (describes his bandmates' eating habits)
Donut delights (recommends the Peter Pan Donut and Pastry Shop in Brooklyn)
Sweet goodbyes (food in Japan)
Oyster blues (drummer Paul has a disappointing oyster eating experience)
Actually, all the columns are interesting. Yes'm.
Anyone wonder what happened in the aftermath of Jamie's School Dinners? "The truth about school dinners: what happened when Jamie went home" details the effects Jamie's program has had on public schools and what reforms are being made. It's worth reading if you watched the documentary. (Thanks bowb!)
This Saturday, July 22nd, a fundarising event called Bread and Butter is being held "to help send the Evans family to Terra Madre 2006, a Slow Food International event." It's taking place at M'Finda Kalunga Garden (Rivington St. between Chrystie and Forsyth Streets) from 2PM-6PM:
Dave and Sue Evans are third generation dairy farmers from upstate New York whose certified organic farm has become the gold standard for regional dairy, and an inspiration to their community.
We are partnering with local restaurants The Tasting Room, Brown Cafe, Il Laboratorio del Gelato, and Little Giant to transform the Evans creamline milk, yogurt, organic cheese, creme fraiche, and sweet cream butter into a delicious tasting menu. Come taste an array of amazing treats crafted from Evans Farmhouse Creamery products at one of the Lower East Side's most beautiful community gardens!
Saxelby Cheesemongers nominated the Evans family as New York delegates to Terra Madre; and our Bread and Butter garden party will raise funds to cover their travel costs to Italy.
Advance tickets will be sold for $20, with additional tickets available for purchase on the day of the event. In addition to raising funds for the Evans family, a portion of the proceeds will be donated to the M'Finda Kalunga garden as a gesture of thanks for their generous donation of the space.
I'm probably not going to go (other plans!...involving food!), but it sounds nice.
No one will care about this besides me, but Applegate Farm Ice Cream has opened a new location in Franklin Lakes that's about 5 minutes away from my house. Freakin' sweet! Obviously, I must check this place out, even though you will never go there (because you have no reason to be in Franklin Lakes unless you live here). I first heard about Applegate Farm from the excellent Off the Broiler and for whatever reason I just remembered, "Hey, wasn't there an ice cream place opening near me?" (Okay, the reason is probably because it is hot to the point that inanimante objects without sweat glands are sweating.) The prospect of locally made ice cream defies my normally horrible memory. Hopefully I'll check it out soon.