I Want My $12 Back

Okay, actually, just $10. You can keep the tip.

I have a serious love for egg rolls. The east coast kind. The kind in the actual egg roll wrapper with cabbage and pork with the delicious duck sauce on the side. I want it piping hot and practically burning my mouth.

In New Orleans, there is a perversion of sorts going on because many restaurants have both egg roll and spring roll on the menu but give you the same thing regardless of the order. They are not the same. But, as I’ve established it as a known risk when ordering an egg roll in the Crescent City, I am prepared for the letdown. (If you are looking for straight egg roll, Bamboo Restaurant on Downman Rd., conveniently located down the street from New Orleans East’s most popular strip club, will set you straight.)

Recently, I’d heard a buzz about a new food truck called Electric Eggroll. Everyone was excited about their take on an egg roll; but they also serve a unique selection of either steamed or fried dumplings. So, the other day when I was leaving the office, I saw the eccentric colored food truck at a usual spot for food trucks to park up for lunch downtown and decided I should definitely pull over.

Knowing that the way to go is *not* traditional, I ordered an egg roll with ginger and beets and an order of tofu steamed dumplings. I was pretty excited. I love beets. I love ginger. I definitely love steamed dumplings. (Just don’t give an an egg roll or dumplings with those tiny shrimp in them. That looks like fish food and makes me nauseated.)

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What a letdown. The dumplings were good but they added something to soy sauce and I wasn’t a huge fan. I sort of feel like $6 for three average vegetarian dumplings is  big excessive. But my biggest issue was the egg roll. UGh. That pink sauce was flavorless and a container of mayonnaise would have lent better to the beet egg roll. (That sounds gross, too.) Ugh at least if I’d had the option of grabbing a few packets of that sticky sweet orange deliciousness I could at least have enjoyed it a little bit.

When you order a traditional egg roll, the filling is hot too. The pork and the cabbage – hot. This was a cold, raw salad inside a crispy wrapper with a gross dipping sauce. Lame. I actually enjoyed the little salad of the filling that they put on the side more than the bit inside the wrapper.

What a let down. At least now I can save myself the calories. I don’t want a pizza egg roll. If i want pizza, I’ll go get fucking pizza. Thanks, but no thanks. And…can I get a refund?

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Good Karma?

I’m okay with the misery for now, it’s winter for fuck’s sake, but puhhhleeease if I try to do good things it would be super if there was some karmic retribution. I would love to rack up some future happiness.

Because yesterday kind of sucked. I woke up early, before my alarm, and lounged in bed debating a run or not. It looked miserable outside so I decided to stay peacefully in bed. As if anyone can peacefully BE in bed with a gazillion stressors running amuck their head. If it wasn’t for that, I might just have been sleeping away with the rest of the world. So, even though it was edging on 6:45 a.m. (a bit late for a run) I decided to put on my most festive running pants and hope no one in a hurry on the morning commute ran me over while I cruised though the fog.

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I know. I should get a better app for doing those combined photo things. Anyway I did a shortie run, just 3.5 miles, to leave time to get home to shower and make breakfast before heading to the office for the morning. Of course I was working on a writing assignment the night before until I was too tired so I still needed to finish editing a short essay for class that afternoon. I was early. I stood outside waiting for someone with a key to let me in. Then, I had nothing to do at work but for some reason made the conscious decision to leave my homework at, well, home. Yippee.

I was also famished. Super, super hungry mid morning and irritated that I was bored and had nothing to do with so much stuff that actually needed to be done. I probably checked my phone, Facebook and Instagram at least 100 times in the course of three hours. Pathetic? Yep.  Boring? Hell yes. But, a ray of sunshine, I make plans to meet my BFF at this awesome restaurant that occupies the downstairs spacious, beautiful room of a yoga studio in our neighborhood. I’m pretty stoked because I’ve been meaning to eat at Good Karma since the 4th of July yoga retreat where the guy that is behind the food at Good Karma was our personal chef for the weekend. Oh. My. God. So. Good.

Naturally I got caught up in some chat on my out of work, and I desperately needed gas. Minutes ticking by. And, since I left my school stuff at home, I needed to swing by my apartment. There was widespread whispers of tornadoes and rain storms so I thought I’d quick change into my fantastic all-weather boots before driving the mile or so to lunch. More minutes. Did I mention I was hungry? And tired? And fucking stressed?

Still, I was basically on-time; I mean it was 12:31 and we were supposed to meet at 12:30. And, I noticed my friend’s Civic was right in front of me! (Our cars are twinsies) Wohoo! Cue excitement quickly diminishing because I suck at driving and I know for a fact we are going to both be looking to park and now she will get the better spot first. Fuck.

But wait! She misses one! I am probably shaking from low blood sugar but I put on my signal to go park because I am an adult, damn it.

And then I backed into someone.

Okay rolled into him. Because I don’t think I looked in all of the directions (the key one being behind me). I must’ve missed a mirror?! It all happened quite fast considering how slow I was moving. I probably could have cried from just about anything at that moment but this was more than I was up for. Thankfully I was wearing sunglasses. He was super nice and there really wasn’t damage to his car or anything. He made a joke like “I guess we are going to the same place!”

Um yes. (Great…)

Thankfully that “place” was a mostly vegan restaurant at a beautiful yoga studio in Mid City and that almost required that this guy be a nice human. He also was going to back up so I could park there buuut I most certainly didn’t have the nerve. I said (awkwardly) no thinks I’m going to drive straight.

After a few more tears inside my vehicle I drove around once more, found a spot exactly across from my friend and we walked in together. UGH I suck at life so hard.

On the plus side, the food was amazing. I ordered a warm tofu wrap and my friend had their house made veggie burger. Incredible. The kitchen was backed up so it took awhile and they surprised us by bringing out some lentil soup on the house. Great for me because did I mention that I was hungry? Then, the guy that was at the yoga retreat brought our food out (yay/swoon) and apologized for the wait. I almost melted because we hung out some at the retreat and his incredibly calm personality was very soothing to my insanely high frequency one. If it doesn’t work like a succubus, I’d love to feed off of his calm energy some more.

Gimmie Dat Bean

No, I’m not talking about the bean hidden in the King Cake. I’m decidedly not getting the baby either for that matter because (blasphemy) I don’t spend from Twelfth Night through Mardi Gras eating massive amounts of pastry. Why? Because I don’t eat that shit the rest of the year, with the exception of caving on occasion to the ever-present junk food of the Christmas holiday, so you better believe I’m not trying to fatten myself up for another month. I’d way rather eat Chinese food. (Exception being eating King Cake at a parade-watching party because you can eat whatever you want once the parades start and you walk everywhere.)

As a matter of fact, I’m doing a cleanse and I’m slowly trucking through the same ten-day moderate cleanse that I did right before 4th of July over the summer. I think I’m going to try to make it a biannual thing and (weather permitting) cleanse and then hit up the Swan River Yoga retreat again too.

I went with some friends to check out the WWII Museum over the weekend and it was incredibly informative and a heartbreaking mixture of awe at both the act of creation and devastation. Before heading to the final showing of Beyond All Boundaries , we headed over to the attached American Sector restaurant for a snack. No drinks for me and I had to look at the bartender straight in the face and ask if there was anything vegan on the menu. Then, realizing that I can’t eat most things that vegans eat (bread, nuts, salad dressing), I figured I might as well own up to my cleanse and ordered a $9 bowl of lettuce adorned with 2-4 halves of cherry tomatoes and a few shaved radishes. Yippee!! Oh yeah and I did put a little bit of black pepper and a splash of vinegar and a tiiiny bit of olive oil, because…lettuce. I also packed my own nuts… and on the streetcar I enjoyed my packed lunch of BEANS! And sliced cucumbers.

My excitement over beans is that on Day 5 (and for the remainder of the ten) I can add beans to my diet. Hallelujah! I might have been a tad irritable on days 1 & 2 that only allowed for fruits and vegetables but now I’m flying high and it is because of this amazing bean dish I’ve been making.

Here’s the gist: You can’t eat regular hummus so I modified a warm chickpea puree to fit my dietary restrictions.

Step one: Coarsely chop three cloves of garlic.

Step two: Cook garlic in a dollop of coconut oil.

Step three: Add a can of mostly strained chickpeas

Step four: Combine the garbanzo beans, with a little bit of the liquid from the can, with the sautéed garlic.

Step five: Cook, for kind of awhile. You really can’t overcook it? I walked away to get dressed the first time. The point is that it needs to be nice and hot.

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Step 5: Add a little bit of cayenne pepper, fresh black pepper, red pepper flakes and a shake of garlic powder.

Step 6: Puree! If it is too thick add a little bit of olive oil.

Serve with slices of bell pepper, carrots and cucumber. Or, just eat it with a spoon because that, my friends, is delicious.

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Wine (Whine?) About It

Did Facebook Matt trademark that yet? I hope not. Congratulations on the win!

I finally figured out why I can never find great wine when I’m back home. Imagine going to the DMV to buy wine. That is what it is like in Pennsylvania, because the state runs the alcohol distribution. So, just like if you got in the wrong line at the DMV, if you needed a 6-pack and went to the case store, you are shit out of luck and need to go somewhere else. Womp womp. Also, no one that works there actually gives a fuck, because they are low-pay government workers. (But hey! They get like EVERY holiday and Sunday off… soo….) Except for the guys that work at the Yardley beer distributor, they are always really nice when I used to run in for a case of Yuengling.

Truthfully, I always knew about the separation of wine/liquor, 6-pack beer and case/keg beer, but for some reason I never put together the ridiculously commercialized crappy selection of wine until this year. Thanks, mom, for turning on the light.

I left PA when I was 19 and prior to that, I only accompanied some friends to the super hood corner store in Trenton, NJ ONCE and I bought a case of Corona and nearly vomited because it was a) dark out b) probably dangerous c) I was maybe 16 or 17 (and if you asked me then, of course I looked 21, but if you ask me now, ABSOFUCKINGLUTELY you do not look 21.) That’s why the boys buy the beer. We are no good at it. Anyway, it was a success and we drove back over the bridge and presumably got drunk and made bad decisions.

When I was older, one time I DID vomit in the store because it was 4th of July and everything in PA was closed so I hopped in the back seat of a hot car and a few of us drove from Philly to get supplies. I was with this boy I was seeing and another couple and (yay me) got sick from the disgusting smell of alcohol permeating the entire massive store thanks to my excessive consumption the night before, the raging heat and stop and go traffic in the car. I mostly made it to their back room bathroom. Gross.

I digress, per usual. Anyway as my mom and I were selecting wine for New Year’s Eve, I had my usual grumbling about the poor selection and how in New Orleans you can spend $15 and get something super delicious and at the store I go to they help you pick AND they keep track of things you bought in the past (blah blah blah… you get the idea. I’m sure my mom really enjoyed my tirade). Then, when we were leaving, I had a masterful idea that I would open up a boutique wine store there! Huzzah!! Problem solved. With the slight issue that I don’t know enough about wine so I’d need to find a sommelier to marry. (Insert funny/sort of mean-spirited joke about my sisters awful ex boyfriend and imagine me making the sound of slurping wine around my mouth.)

But then in comes mom with the dream crushing yet enlightening tidbit about how, previous issues notwithstanding, I can’t open a wine store anyway because it is run by the state, and they make a shit ton of money off of it, and be happy they’ve caved and allowed a few people to sell on Sunday. God’s day. (Unless you are Jewish.) AMEN.

Egg-cellent

On a recent trip home, my slightly battered self-esteem was given a nice little boost as I spent time with my parents friends. I love coming home and spent a season here not too long ago working in New York, and many of them remember my cooking skills as being superb. It was quite the topic of conversation at both New Year’s Eve and another dinner at this amazing Greek restaurant a few days later. (Thanks, guys!)

The main point of reference was a pretty substantial dinner party for about 8 people during the end of my NYC project in which I made one recipe from a blog online and another of my own creation. I learned a lot by this dinner party (one time I made a huge plate of short ribs to be served family-style to a bunch of very, very old men and realized later that a) Omg there was so much prune/prune juice in it and they might poop themselves in the middle of the night and b) these guys can’t lift the serving platter to pass it around…awkward) so I was pretty set up for success. I planned the menu, made a grocery list and cleared the kitchen to execute the meal from prep to plating on the large counter in the kitchen and serving our guests seated in the dining room.

The first course was roasted acorn squash with sauteed kale, poached egg topped with small cubes of pecorino romano. Sounded great when I was researching with the tiny caveat that while I love poached eggs, I’d never made them for myself or two people, let alone a party of eight. Hmmm.

So, I went to my favorite blog, Smitten Kitchen, for help. The blog advocated for a splash of vinegar and a whirlpool method. Simple enough? Sure, why not. I gave it a whirl (tee hee) and both my mom and I had poached eggs for breakfast. Success!! Except how do I get 8 of them at the same time while managing the main course and plating the squash and kale while still hot? HMmmm. Fortunately, Smitten Kitchen came to the rescue again with something snarky like “If you happen to be crazy enough to be reading a blog post about how to poach an egg and intend to make several for a party…” (yes, do go on…) And explained that you could cook them just under and place them on a paper towel to and then reheat them briefly just before serving. Woohoo! I’m game.

The entree was my own creation, a swordfish stew, which involved seared cubes of swordfish, a spicy tomato sauce and then spicy toasted chickpeas as a topping served over quinoa. Of course one of the diners was vegetarian so before I added the fish, I separated some of the sauce to do a potato rendition (because I’m cool like that).

Everything seemed pretty good to go. But then one of the neighbors asked if it was okay if their son comes. Cue the scene in Clueless when Cher gives a speech in Mr. Hall’s class about the Hatians (read: Hate-ians) and an RSVP sit down dinner… yadda yadda yaddda… “but it’s like ‘the more the merrier!'” and I figured out a slight adjustment for portions and onward and upward!

But seriously, everyone stay the fuck out of my kitchen because I’m in focus mode and there can be absolutely zero questions asked in my direction. Just assume that yes, if my wine is looking empty, I would LOVE some more. (You’re the best, mom!)

As the beginning of the post might suggest, this all went magically. Woohoo! Okay, one egg was a little over but that one went to me because in reality, I’d eaten my share of eggs that day practicing anyway.

Also, apparently I made quite the impression on the across the street neighbor’s son because he apparently mentioned that he was quite taken by me. Too bad I’m ten year’s his senior and live in another state. It would be nice to have a boy crush on me and like it when I cook dinner.

The other couple offered to bring a traditional dessert from (ahh I am the worst I can’t remember what country they are from but I’m going to guess India) and that was great because it took me off the hook for the finale. But amid requests for a repeat, we will have to host again soon.

No pressure for next time or anything…