Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Arrival in DC!

Well we made it! Quite a trip- with all the driving done in 3.5 days.
So Washington DC here we are- ready to eat! (among other things). Actually we have decided to live in Alexandria, Virginia. Just a short metro ride to downtown DC. We are completely loving Alexandria where we live close to Old Town and the wonderful King Street. As soon as we saw King Street we knew this was the place for us- it is lined with interesting looking eateries- tapas bars, Indian restaurants, Thai, fish and chips, Irish pubs- all within a few blocks walk from our place!
We are also happy to see that our fears about grocery shopping have been eased. We have Whole Foods, Trader Joes, Costco and 'Giant Foods' a short drive away. Most stores seem to stock our usual staples, with a few exceptions and the Whole Foods is an improvement on Hillcrest's.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Food cross country

Well there definitely is not a whole lot of options when it comes to vegetarians eating on the freeways of America. We have been following route 40 most of the way and Subway has been consistently our best bet. (A horrible never to be forgotten incident at Taco-Bell has scared Kym off roadside burritos for ever). One other reason initially for our choice of Subway was that we had been generously given a subway gift card- but after discovering that this card was not accepted in the majority of states this became less of an issue. (In fact this type of behavior on the part of subway would usually have led me to forgo eating there at all, but as I say, there was little option.)
Subway has been very varied. Gone is the fresh spinach, cucumbers and veggie patties of California, replaced instead by dodgy looking Subway pizzas in many of the Southern States we've passed through.
Other places we have visited have been Wendy's (jacket potatoe makes a nice change if a bit heavy on the carbs and low on, well, take your pick: vitamins, protein, minerals... The meat eater of the couple, I have enjoyed this small change from a sandwich to a burger. Variety can be everything at times!
One other surprise successful trip was actually to MacDonalds. Kym ordered the Southwestern Salad without the chicken and really enjoyed it! She even got the added benefit of some protein from the beans. And don't even let me get started about the fruit and yoghurt plate- I think she is in love. Maybe a return to reality and a wealth of culinary options will restore her to her senses. I must say though I was surprised at McDonalds myself- they really got hit by Supersize me, everything at least seems a lot healthier since the last time I ate there years ago- and no option of large fries anymore. The media is a powerful force!

Despite all this we are craving proper food- a thai curry sounds like the most wonderful thing ever right now!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Moving on....

It is with a great mix of sadness, anticipation, and excitement that I must move this blog to new pastures on the other side of the US. My wife has won a place at Georgetown Law school and we will be shortly heading over to Washington DC to spend three years over there. The blog will follow us, (inevitably under a new name!), and we will continue to explore and have culinary adventures on the East Coast!
We will definitely miss wonderful San Diego and all our favorite culinary hang outs- but we look forward to seeing what DC has to offer!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Electronic Cooking!

I was recently given a DS Lite for my birthday which was a fantastic gift! Not only do I get to have all sorts of tetris, animal crossings, and Mario fun with my friends around the world, but I also have a new way of cooking. (One that is a lot cheaper and a lot less likely to make one gain weight than the regular kind!). There are two great cooking programs on my DS: Cake Mania and Cooking Mama.

Cake Mania is basically a lot like purple place, if anyone has played that. The story is a young girl out of culinary school trying to make enough money to get her grandparents bakery up and running ( a worthy goal I think, I always appreciate the back-stories behind these little games!). In order to make the money you have to make cakes of different shapes, frost them with various colors and then add on different sprinkles and toppers. As time goes on you make double and even triple layer cakes. Along the way you need to please critics, brides, busy businessmen, and even vampires! It's a lot of fun, that bears something of a relation to real cooking in so far as time management and doing 20 things at once in a clear systematic order without forgetting anything. I have had a lot of fun with it!

Cooking Mama for me s a little less fun in the sense there is no clear aim/ and no back-story. However the game itself is much more varied. You are given a variety of recipes to follow and go through slicing grating, mixing, flipping, fanning and all sorts of other things with your stylus. You might even have to blow on the sauces, or the coals of the BBQ. At the end of each recipe you get a little medal based on how well you completed the recipe (bronze silver or gold). Success will also allow you to open up new recipes.
One aspect I found a little difficult s that most of the recipes are Chinese/ Japanese in origin (styles of cuisine I don't tend to cook with very often.) In some ways this was kind of fun- to learn new aspects of cooking in a roundabout way, unfamiliar ingredients and cooking methods. However it would have been fun to electronically cook some of the things I am more familiar with- Indian, Italian, Greek, American etc.

Both games have been incredibly fun- I hear they now have Cooking Mama for the Wii- it sounds really fun- maybe someone will invite me to play sometime!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Mama's Bakery & Lebanese Deli

We've lived on Alabama street for over a year now in San Diego. Whenever we mention this fact to anyone we are immediately asked if we have tried out Mama's Bakery & Lebanese Deli. Maybe it's because we never travel up that far north on our street, or maybe because generally when we eat out we tend to go somewhere more comfy to sit down, have a drink and be "out" whatever the reason it is only very recently that we have managed to end up eating the place.
As you drive down Alabama street, this place really does not too inviting and if it wasn't for the rave reviews I might have passed it by. Once you pull up and walk inside however you see a clean airy space full of wholesome people tucking into equally wholesome food.
The rave reviews were, as they often are, spot on. I was immediately impressed with the breadth of the menu- so many new (to me) and interesting options to choose between. We chose a couple of different wraps and a veggie combo type platter. The home made pitta/ flatbread that is used for the wraps is absolutely fantastic, fluffy and warm and quite unlike any other pitta I have had in San Diego. Sauces used to complement the wraps were also top notch, and the chicken in my wrap was so just fantastically tender- done to far greater perfection than many of the fancy eateries in town. We were also enamored with the veggie platter- I often end up being extremely disappointed with falafel at the fast food Mediterranean places, it tends to be dry, or greasy, whit very little remnant of it's chickpea past. This was quite different though- lemony, very moist and extremely moorish! The hummus was wonderful and the tabouli so chock full of parsley it was delicious.
What a wonderful place- and just down the street. If only the seating area was a little more comfortable I think we'd be here at least once a week!

Sunday, August 05, 2007

The trip

Well unfortunately a lack of internet access made it really hard for me to write about my culinary exploits along my trip around California- here is a quick run down of some of the high- and low- lights culinaririly speaking.

ESPN sports lounge- pretty awful. After the Uvas bar this was where we ate on our second night in Disney. It was everything the opposite of Uvas- awful service, dreadful atmosphere and not particuarly good food. IT was also incredibly cold, despite being indoors and made our huge 24 oz beers much less enjoyable as we were all close to shivering.

Yosemite- Well the first stress in Yosemite is the bears, in an attempt to cut down on campsite visits all food must be kept in bear lockers. This includes everything right down to bottled water and lip balm- creating some what of a stress for self catering. However this was not a problem as Curry Village, where we camped, served some of the best pizza I have had in a while, absolute huge with great crusts and generous toppings. We also tried their buffet- very varied and great value. We had planned also on a trip to the Ahwahnee hotel which looks absolutely stunning, but with 10 people in our party prices looked a bit steep. We stuck with cocktails and were not disappointed.
As a side note Yosemite was just amazing, so well visited and yet so incredibly pristine, I was stunned in so many ways- and yes we did get to see 2 bear cubs.

Next stop was Santa Cruz, where we stayed in cabins along the River. This was where we spent my birthday and I had a fab Italian meal at Cafe Mare with- wait for it- real Italian waiters whose English was terrible (very authentic). Between us we had squash stuffed pancakes, endive and gorgonzola salad, wonderful fresh minestrone, and gemelli del fattore ( a great succulent chicken brest with baby spinach pine nuts and a creamy sauce). Being my birthday the waiters brought out a great tiramisu with a candle while others shared hazlenut ice cream and other delicacies. (We then spent the evening in line for Harry Potter and the next several days reading it in the under shade of redwoods and on the sandy beaches of Big Sur.

After passing through Monterey (seeing sea otters and sea lions along the way) we stopped at another camp ground in Big Sur. Here we had my personal culinary highlight of the trip at 'The Village Pub'. We entered the pub looking for food and were handed a small scrawny menu of fairly typical food- burgers, fish and chips and the like. We then asked what beers were available- and thunk! a huge 8 page menu fell on the table detailing a huge variety of beers from around the world, ranging from $3 to $18 per bottle. The bartender/ server was a fantastic character who had the exact glass for every beer he sold, and played along to the seventies music on the guitar round his neck whenever there was a lull at the bar. The food it turned out was also very good, with big fat trips drenched in malt vinegar pleasing the English contingent of my party. The beer and indeed whole pub was so great that we returned the following night. This is not an experienced to be missed if traveling through Big Sur,

Las stop- Santa Barbara. Here we visited a few different places. First stop was the Natural cafe which had hearty and healthy food, both vegetarian and non for great prices (especiallywith this being right on the State street main strip. We also visited Pascucci an Italian restaurant that was fairly good value although had nothing on Santa Barbara's Cafe Mare. Final stop was the Cajun Kitchen, highly recommended for breakfast, but not in my opinion as good as our San Diego staples.

All in all a fantastic trip, makes me realize just how wonderful and varied California is and makes me want to jump right back in the car and complete exploring.