Friday, February 23, 2007
As I say we had been meaning to visit the place for a while, although slightly put off by a friend's tale of $8 an wages for those chefs straight out of culinary school. Seemed a little cheap. anyway despite the poorly paid chefs the restaurant turned out to be just wonderful. The decor very attractive, warm a great Persian feel without pretentiousness. Just what one would like from a neighborhood restaurant. Everything looked great and interesting from the multicolored water glasses to the oriental pillows scattered about the place. The staff were very helpful, although a little too enthusiastic in trying to persuade us to order more than we cared for.
We started with a little cone of shoe-string fries- Part potato and part sweet potato. These had been billed by our server as the best fries ever and they certainly did not disappoint. Perhaps not the best ever, but certainly top notch. For the main course i tucked into a plate of chicken massala which was great, although a little tricky to eat, and with meat that was slightly overcooked. My wife was delighted with her choice of a balsamic onion tart and bowl of squash soup- her only disappointment being the absence of the crispy leeks promised on the menu. Still it was a great pairing of foods, a nice chance to try a couple of things .
All in all, great restaurant. Can't wait to try a few more items soon.
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
Pancake Day Today! At least that is what the British call Mardis Gras, and it sure seems a lot more relaxing than going out to face the masses celebrating in Hillcrest tonight.
Not being a big fan of sweet food, I prefer savory pancakes. I like stuffing the pancakes with cheese and vegetables, and came up with this recipe.
Pancakes: 2 eggs (beaten)
7 fl oz milk
3 fl oz water
2 oz butter
A pinch of salt
Filling: 1 Tbsp olive oil
1 small onion (chopped roughly)
2 garlic cloves (finely chopped)
3 leeks (sliced 1cm thick)
1 red bell pepper (chopped roughly)
8 oz button mushrooms (quartered)
½ eggplant (cubed into ½ inch cubes)
1 oz butter
1 tbsp white flour
1 pint milk
5 oz grated cheddar cheese
Dash of cayenne
1, Combine pancake ingredients in a food processor, blend until smooth, set aside.
2, Heat the olive oil in a wok or small pan. Add the onion garlic and cook for 5 mins. Add the pepper and leeks, and cook for a further 5 minutes. Add the button mushrooms and eggplant and cook until all vegetables are soft.
3, In a small saucepan melt the butter. Add the flour and quickly blend together. Add a very small amount of milk, and whisk together, when fully combined add more milk, keep adding milk in this way until it is all combined. Keep whisking the sauce until it becomes thick. Then remove from the heat and stir in the cheese. Now stir in the vegetables. Cook this mixture on a low heat. Add a dash of cayenne pepper.
4, Meanwhile make the pancakes in a large frying pan make the pancakes. Grease the pan well, get it very hot and make tin pancakes. Once these are made spoon a ladleful of the vegetable mixture onto half of each pancake. Fold the pancake over to cover the side, and serve.
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Unfortunately the rotating menu promised by the Vagabond owner on our first visit never materialized, and my wife was reluctant to go back and eat the same cous cous dish over again (the only vegetarian option on the menu. Thus we haven't been back for some time. Valentines day seemed a great opportunity however, there was no pricey set menu and we manged to get an (albeit very late) reservation for the 14th.
Our reservation was for 9.15pm, and we headed over there in a taxi, excited about our rare week night dinner out. We were a little surprised on arrival that there was quite a wait (never seems the point to me of a reservation. Still we were happy to spend some time in the bar. Seeing Caipirinhas amongst the drink specials we decided to order a couple of Caipriroskas, a romantic testament to the drinks we used to share in Brazil together when we first met. Upon ordering these drinks however, the bar tender laughed at us and said in a patronizing and mocking voice 'don't you mean caipirihna. Politely we explained that no, we meant caipiroska, the same drink, just made with vodka, but I was a little peeved. It wasn't the fact that the bar tender was unfamiliar with the drink that bothered me, it was the fact that he assumed we were ignorant fools- and the incident was particularly strange coming for an establishment that prides itself on its international flavor, and has a very' global' staff.
After a lengthy wait we were taken to our table. The menu had changed very little, but there was a least now a vegetable curry for my wife to pick other than the cous cous. ose an asian sampler to start followed by the Thai curry for my wife and some Coq au Vin for myself. After a lengthy look through the wine list my wife settled on a Tempranillo, which both looked good and was of geographical significance to us- well you know- it's Valentines Day!
The waiter came back and seemed kind of sullen with our choice of wine- he certainly seemed to get a bitchy and patronizing tone to his voice. As he brought it out it was only at the last minute that my wife realized that he had understood our choice to be, not our chosen order, but the cheapest wine in the house. I guess this is where his tone came from?
the correct wine in hand we tucked into our sampler- it wasn't good. The lettuce wraps were very fresh, but the peanut sauce just tasted awful, and the spring rolls were rather banal. Unfortunately our main course proved to be none better- the curry was really nothing special- particularly when faced with Vagabond's price tag. We would have done better at Amarin. the Coq au Vin was just disgusting salty, and I can incredibly close to sending it back. this was quite something coming from a guy who always puts far beyond the regular amount of salt in his cooking. In fact I don't remember ever complaining of salt this badly since I mistook salt for sugar in a cooking class years ago.
The food was poor, the the evening could still have been a success if it had not been for our waiter, he was just exceptionally rude and sullen at every turn, in addition to being highly inefficient. It really ruined the meal for us, having someone look daggers every time a course was served.
Everything about Vagabond on this trip seemed pretentious and yet unfulfilling. It seemed like they had got ahead of themselves. Where on our first visit it was all smiles and friendly chats, now it was brush offs and brisk words.
Friday, February 09, 2007
The bar is nice, with a decor almost exactly the same as the Lei Lounge in University Heights (they must have had the same designer) yet a much more chilled out feel. Tiki torches were in abundance as were space heaters which came very welcome on the quite chilly February evenings we have been experiencing. More surprising to me yet was the price- flights of wine (the equivalent of two glasses) ranged from $10 to $25, with many flights at the lower end of this spectrum. A shock in an area which usually aims to fleece tourists for all they can get. My wife and I both chose a different flight and although not all the wines were great there were a couple of really fantastic ones. Most of all this was just a pleasant place to be- the service was just wonderful (perhaps partly as there were very few customers) and the furniture very comfortable- a stark difference from the crowded Wine Steals whose hard seats do not invite prolonged stays.
So- we are excited as wine Cabana settles in I can only imagine that things will improve, I only hope it doesn't get too popular. Now I know where the bar is its poor signage is something of a blessing!
Monday, February 05, 2007
Anyhow the superbowl, being with friends we decided we had to relax our controls a little, without going the whole way down the cheese smothered nachos and sickeningly greasy burgers route.
We ended up making our own burgers, pairing them with some great whole wheat buns, pickles, lettuce tomatoes- the full works. On the side we got some of those wonderful Trader Joes chips which are made from Soy and supplemented with flax seed (what could be better than healthy chips). The best part however was the bean dip we concocted- purely accidental so let me see if I can recollect what we did.....
The night before we soaked some black beans, and them cooked them in the pressure cooker the next day. We sauted an onion and then added the prepared beans. To these whole beans we added half a tin of Trader Joes refried (fat free) black beans - I guess to improve the texture. Then as fat free is no fun at all for the superbowl we added some strong cheddar cheese- finely grated and melted into the beans. At this point we also mixed in cumin, ground black pepper and a generous amount of salt. Then came in a surprise ingredient my wife read somewhere of a half a tin of chopped tomatoes- I was skeptical but it actually worked! Finally we threw in 3 chopped fresh green chillies and 4 cloves chopped garlic.
The result was sublime- definitely the best part of our superbowl party and a recipe we will be (attempting) to recreate- I am sure I missed out something here!
Sunday, February 04, 2007
2 Large Cucumbers
1 Small Avocado
1 Small Egg (beaten)
Salt and Pepper
1oz Soft Cheese
1, Cut each cucumber into 3 lengths. Cut a V-wedge out of each length and remove cucumber seeds.
2, Chop the removed wedges roughly
3, Steam the cucumber lengths for 12-15 minutes.
4, Save 6 thin slices of avocado, and chop the remaining flesh roughly.
5, Heat the butter in a small pan, add the chopped cucumber and shallot and cook for 5 minutes.
6, Remove from the heat and add the avocado, egg and seasoning. The egg should become lightly scrambled.
7, Spoon the mixture into the cucumber lengths, scatter with cheese. Serve with the avocado slices.