Friday, February 25, 2011

Here Chicken, Chicken, Chicken...

Ok, so on Monday, we FINALLY get to try out *dun, dun, DUN!*
The mister and I had been discussing our desire to try Gus's Fried Chicken for several months actually, but never found the time to stop in, despite passing the establishment quite frequently.  This week he suggested that we just abandon all diet responsibilites and restrictions and just go for it.  The restaurant has been reviewed often and is even ranked "Highly Recommended" by Frommer's (they have a travel website, magazine and a few books out there if you've never heard of them) so I think it to be a slight abomination for someone from Memphis to have never engorged themselves at this venue.

We went in and the place was packed.  We were unsure how long we would have to wait, but someone who'd placed a to-go order was kind enough to let us have the last table in the place.  We were seated and ordered the traditional sweet tea and I asked for a lemon.  They don't have lemons.  They have lemon juice packets.  I think my excitement about this was slightly skewed; I was one of those weird kids who would just open one of those packets and suck all of the lemon juice out, and would drink 5 or 6 of them in one sitting.  Nonetheless, I refrained and just put it into my tea.  Also adding to the jovial nature of the evening, people kept selecting Michael Jackson songs on the jukebox, and when Thriller came on, four young children at a table behind us began mimicking the dance sequences.  Hilarity at its finest, but I'm almost certain that posting that video would be a violation of something...
While waiting for the main course, we feasted on Fried Green Tomatoes, which I've had an appetite for ever since watching the movie of the same name.  I love these things.  And as a bonus, I was informed that my boyfriend's mother cooks them...score!
I ordered the 2 piece dark and had the baked beans and potato salad as my sides, with a slice of white bread completing the meal.  You know this is a made-from-scratch recipe because the potato skin has been left on and after having this, I don't know if I'll ever truly enjoy anyone else's potato salad.  When I finally had the gratification to taste the chicken, my first thought was "OMG..."  My immediately subsequent thought was "OMG, that's hot" and my nose started running and lips began tingling.  My date asks, "How is it?" to which I respond, "I think someone put hot sauce in the chicken."  As he continues chewing his dinner, he points to the top of the menu, which I managed to overlook and it clearly states, "Welcome to Gus's Spicy Fried Chicken" and no one had given me the heads-up.  To everyone I will unabashedly say, reading is fundamental.

After eating all that I could, I packed my to-go box and we managed to snag a Jamaican brownie to feast on at home.  And no, it's not the presumed Jamaican variety of ingredients.  Just walnuts, caramel and chocolate, but totally worth the calories. 

Lessons learned from this outing? 
1. Gus's is awesome.  I don't care what dieticians profess, you need fried chicken in your life. 
2. The kitchen crew know exactly what they're doing and they're also quite photogenic.  
3. There's never an inappropriate time or place to get down to the musical stylings of King of Pop.

Make sure you pay them a visit soon.  You can find them in Downtown Memphis at 310 S Front Street or at 215 South Center Street in Collierville, TN. 

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Cajun Celebrations

My wonderful honey decided that he wanted to take me and a few friends out of town to celebrate my birthday.  The original plan was to go to Missouri for the ski trip that I've longed for, but Mother Nature was being a sissy about the whole situation and it was due to be approximately 60 degrees this particular weekend and I'm unsure as to how that would have gone.  Not well was my informed assumption, so we scrambled for another location in close proximity to celebrate my introduction into the time/space continuum.

Options were debated...Nashville, St. Louis...and we settled on New Orleans.  As much as I loathe large crowds of people, especially during the little known event called Mardi Gras, I managed to suggest that we go anyway.  And lucky for us that the celebrations last more than a month...

Friday night, upon arrival, it was mutually agreed upon that we were hungry.  I don't know if it was the drive or the atmosphere, but we were ready to do some culinary damage.  Being birthday girl, I was bestowed the honor of selecting our eatery for the evening.  While we strolled down Bourbon Street, I saw a sign and thought, Hey this looks good!  Obviously already successful and recognized for its cuisine, I was sure that Red Fish Grill Restaurant was going to be a good choice.  And the hostess was really pretty too...kind of had a Dita Von Teese thing going for herself.

So, in tradition of trying as much as we could, we started off with an appetizer that the four of us wanted to share.  After browsing the menu, we decided to go with BBQ oysters.  Touted as a Red Fish signature dish, the oysters are flash fried and tossed into a Crystal BBQ sauce and served with a house-made blue cheese dressing.  Now before I tell you what I thought of this dish, you must understand that I'm not a big fan of oysters.  Before this experience, I'd tasted oysters once upon the insistence of my love's appetite for them and his desire to broaden my experiences.  I ate that oyster but I did not enjoy it.  I'd heard that oysters are a natural aphrodisiac and, admittedly that may have further influenced my choice, but
amorous is far from what I felt after consuming my first raw oyster.  I also do not particularly enjoy blue cheese on any occasion.  There are a lot of things that I won't eat if I know what they are, and I know why the cheese is blue.

Now that I've digressed, back to the BBQ oysters.  Phenomenal.  Honestly, just wonderful.  I was pleasantly taken aback at the surprising spiciness of the Crystal sauce.  The blue cheese dressing was a perfect pairing to balance the sauce and it was just good enough that we were all going for seconds and thirds.  One of the members in our party got so creative as to make mini BBQ oyster poboys with the complimentary loaf they serve, after professing that he doesn't like bread.  I must say that his impromptu meal could have been added to the menu with little detraction from what was already available.
Paneed Pork Loin

Hickory Grilled Redfish
Next of course, were the main entrees and we ordered a variety of dishes.  I had the Paneed Pork Loin, he had the Hickory Grilled Redfish and our friends both had the Herbsaint Flamed Catfish. 

The Paneed Pork Loin is described as being served with a roasted sweet potato topped with toasted almonds, scallions and bourbon butter served with a Creole mustard reduction and an apple pink peppercorn chutney.  It was absolutely  incredible as to how good this was.  I'd always learned in food prep courses that you have to give a dish color to increase it palatable appeal.  The vibrant purples and oranges made the dish visually stunning and served to make me hungrier.  My only regret was that I'd filled up on the BBQ oysters and was unable to finish my meal.  I tried with everything in me though to get as much of it into myself as possible.  I believe the waitress attempted twice, in vain, to get it away from me, but I wasn't having it, nor was I letting her have my plate.

Herbsaint Flamed Catfish
I did manage to sample my companions' meals and they were just as scrumptous.  The Hickory Grilled Redfish came served on the half-shell, with tasso & wild mushroom Pontalba potatoes, topped with sautéed Louisiana jumbo lump crabmeat & a lemon butter sauce.  The picture above does the dish little justice, but what I lacked in photography skills is attested to by the taste and the speed in which it disappeared from the plate.

The Herbsaint Flamed Catfish comes served with crispy tasso ham, sautéed spinach, yellow split peas, and tobacco onion rings.  My friend pointed out her opinion on the deliciousness of the spinach and I had to agree.  Not too far removed from a vegetarian diet, I'd tried spinach served in every way imaginable and this side still sufficed to induce salivation.

To end the evening on a good note, I was presented with the option of a free item from the dessert menu in celebration of my birthday.  Torn between so many delectable choices, I picked a warm coffee liqueur.  No posting pictures of that one, I just look like a frequent imbiber.

When you visit the website you'll see the descriptions of the menu items and find that the head chef, Chef Brian Katz proudly serves the freshest seasonal ingredients as continued support of local farmers and fishermen from the New Orleans area.  Super bonus: you can actually get recipes for some of the dishes served at the restaurant if you are unable to make it to The Big Easy for the festivities...I'm certain that they'll be around whenever you are able to venture down, and they are one to put on the must-dine list. 

In all Big Easy tradition, Laissez le bon temps roulez!  and Happy Birthday to me!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Eating Our Hearts Out

Valentine's Day 2011 was interesting before it happened.  We'd spent the previous week trying to remember what we'd done for each other the year before, getting as far as remembering the heart-shaped balloon I'd purchased for him that wouldn't die.  Seriously, nearing the end of March it was still floating strong and I was left with no other option than to put it out of its misery.  The Friday prior to 2/14, he remembered that we'd gone to an Italian restaurant where I'd contributed my comments to the graffiti on the walls.  Once we recalled that, and adding in the factor that we were to visit another Italian establishment for this year's dinner, I found myself quite pleased at a tradition that we decided to keep going as a couple.  But the interesting part was that we made plans to meet up with a friend on that evening, completely forgetting that we had dinner reservations, and had to make the decision that we would actually go out and reschedule with our friend.  How can someone forget that??  I don't think (or at least I won't admit it) that it had anything to do with getting older and more forgetful.  I'm taking the stance that when you're with someone with whom every day is special, dinner might get pushed aside for another adventure.

So this year's eatery...Pa Pa Pia's downtown location!  Nestled among other restaurants, this establishment at 83 Union Avenue never caught my attention, but by beloved had tried for over a year to get me to this establishment.  When we walked in, the establishment was dimly lit and the mood ripe for love...  We were served by a man named Paul and he was very friendly and accommodating.  The booth seating is large enough for a family or group of 6, so we ended up just sitting next to each other...the better to communicate with my dear...  
Zonin Baccarosa

Being that this was our first visit to the restaurant, Paul was more than happy to make recommendations to us, from the wine to appetizers and to the main course.  The wine list was extensive and reminded me that even though we've participated in a wine tasting course and have been a part of smaller tastings, we still have a ways to go before
branding ourselves sommeliers of any sort.  We were recommended the Zonin Baccarosa, a sparkling rose that was just fantastic.  Every time the manager saw our glasses getting low on libations, he was right there to provide a refill.  It was difficult for me to pace myself and save some for dinner, but I somehow managed to make it through all of the courses.

Bruschetta, Toasted Ravioli, Mozzarella Parmesan
To begin our meal, we started with the appetizers...I'm a fan of just about any dish that uses bread, therefore, bruschetta did not have to try very hard to find a special place in my heart, and consequently my tummy.  Fortunately for my appetite (unfortunately for my waistline), they offered a sampler plate comprised of Bruschetta, Mozzarella Parmesan and toasted ravioli with beef and sausage and served with a generous helping of marinara sauce..  You may look at that picture and think carbs, fried, fried...I tasted mmm, mmm, MMM!  There was so much on the sampler plate that I was beyond full when our meal arrived.  We had plenty of time between courses, time to enjoy the ambiance of the evening and time for food to settle in preparation for the main event.  Goodness knows I needed it...

Chicken Saltimbocca
For our main entrees, I chose chicken and he chose fish.  To be precise, I ordered the Chicken Saltimbocca which consisted of thinly sliced chicken that was topped with mushrooms, fresh prosciutto (ham) and Marsala sauce, accompanied by Spaghetti Bolognese and garlic bread.  Chicken, mushrooms, spaghetti and bread...what more could a protein and carb feign ask for?
Salmon Sherry Picatta
The Mr. dined on Salmon Sherry Picatta...fresh Atlantic Salmon sauteed in an artichoke-lemon caper sauce and served atop herbed angel hair pasta.  We can attest to the freshness of the salmon for the due fact that he ordered the last piece available in the restaurant that evening.  The couple that sat behind us wanted to sample that dish as well, but we didn't volunteer that we were the fish-napping culprits.

My dish was pretty darn good, if I do say so.  The Mr. loves mushrooms and chicken, and was happy to taste my dinner for himself, rather than take my word for it.  But it was Valentine's Day and I presume that I'm supposed to share on special occasions.  In similar regards, I felt it my duty to make sure that his dish was up to par, so he cut off a piece of fish for me and in loving fashion, placed it ever so gently into my mouth.  I bit down and immediately grimaced.  I did not like it at all and did not understand why it was of this particular consistency.  As I forcibly continued chewing and ingested my portion, it dawns on us...that was a big chunk of artichoke that I'd just eaten *whew*  Downside: I don't like whole artichokes.  Upside: I took another bite, this time definitely of the salmon, and was not at all displeased.  The salmon was flaky, as it should be, and had the correct portion of seasonings as not to overpower the dish.  If you do find that you would like more flavor, there is freshly grated Parmesan cheese available (freshly = block of Parmesan cheese and hand grater arrive at your table) and fresh ground black pepper at your disposal.

With the friendly and knowledgeable staff and inviting atmosphere, this family business is a perfect place to dine with your family, or just on special occasion for two.  Thanks to Pa Pa Pia's for a Valentine's Day dinner to remember!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Cerebral Palsy: Calories For A Cause

Sunday was a pretty good day.  The night before was spent celebrating randomness with friends and the following morning involved a pretty good Sunday School and church service.  Shortly after after being dismissed from church, we went to the 21 Chefs Fundraiser which benefited the United Cerebral Palsy of the Mid-South Association.  The United Cerebral Palsy  Association hosts this annual fundraiser with tickets selling for $50 each and the opportunity to participate in a silent auction for a plethora of great deals, including trips, flight lessons, autographed sports memorabilia and family portrait sessions.  The highlighted chefs this year were John Bragg, Chris Sherfield, Bobby Maupin and the U of M's own Edward Nowakowski.  There were a variety of appetizer, entree and dessert dishes served and it was just an all-around incredible time...there was even beer, wine and rum tasting!  We were able to enjoy the evening with one of our favorite married couples and were happy to be a part of this event.

Of course, I was all about anything involving pasta and some sort of dessert.  The first dessert dishes that we tasted were banana pudding and caramel cake provided by Oliver's Catering.  We knew immediately that this was going to be an evening paid for on the Wii and/or treadmill, but for that delectable dish to be just the beginning of our tasting, I was more than willing to don gym shoes.  Next, we sampled the Raspberry Bavarian treat prepared by Chef Bragg from Circa.  I've never been a fan of mousse-based dishes, but this was really good...  Composed of a whipped raspberry mousse atop a vanilla sponge cake and finished with a single blueberry and pink and white chocolate sliver, it was truly unlike anything I've ever tasted before.  Chef Bragg demonstrated how to make this dish for an occasion of your choosing, but unfortunately for my future party guests, I was too busy stuffing my face with the vast variety of goodies to really pay attention.  If you'd like to try this and many other dishes for yourself, Circa just hosted its grand re-opening at its new location on January 27th...please visit the Circa website for directions, menu options and more information.

We next waited in line for a serving of Italian cuisine offered by Heavenly's by Don.  Anyone who knows me, knows that I'm a fan of anything Italian.  Offer me garlic bread with salad and I'll follow you home like a lost kitten.  The fare presented here was Italian Raviolini, which was ravioli shells filled with ricotta cheese and topped with beef and a sweet pasta sauce, and Italian Penne Pasta which was served with beef and the sweet pasta sauce.  The other members of my group were not big fans of the sweet sauce, but as I enjoyed my portion, my hips involuntarily did the happy dance.  I'm not sure if anyone who saw me realized what was going on, but by the time my brain conveyed to my subconscious what my body was doing, I was in full swing.  Any meal that gets me doing the utterly ridiculous happy dance in public gets bonus points in my book.  Heavenly's by Don is located at 4219 Riverdale Rd, Memphis, TN 38141.

Continuing on with dessert, and with no regards to eating in the proper order, we then sampled Strawberry Sorbet and Ice Cream Pizza from Maggie Moos.  I was the only person in the group that missed the Ice Cream Pizza, but it looked delicious and I have no regrets about only having the sorbet.  The calories that I missed were more than made up for with the three ensuing slices of cake that I inhaled from Memphis Works Cafe...Strawberry Cake with real strawberries, Lemon Cake and Chocolate Cake with Pecans...dear gracious, it was all I could do to get it all down, but I'm a trooper and I ate it all!  In retrospect, maybe I shouldn't brag about that...                                                                         
After that round of treats, we partook in spaghetti and mustard-based potato salad, which I don't usually enjoy, but this was actually pretty tasty.  To be honest, I was still busy stuffing myself with cake, so I didn't make it to the table myself, but that dish was also provided byMemphis Works Cafe.  Memphis Works is a group under the tutelage of the UCP Association that "...offers training for adults with and without disabilities. We coordinate the support, supervision and training that will allow students to sustain meaningful employment..."

We began to round out the evening with a sampling of a Seafood Martini (I didn't eat it.  Although it looked appetizing, I have a bias against pretty much anything that is uncooked, but the Mr. seemed to enjoy it thoroughly).  The entree was described as a ceviche consisting of Panama Bay scallops and shrimp marinated in citrus juice, diced peppers, olives and spices, with avocado and toasted tortillas served in a martini glass.  This was served by The Medallion Restaurant at the University of Memphis Holiday Inn.  I found my way to the booth next to the Seafood Martinis...with the Twice Dipped Chocolate Strawberries!  Chef Edward Nowakowski from The Medallion Restaurant provided this dish, gave a demonstration on how to prepare it...and provided a recipe for everyone to take home... White, Milk or Dark, you can never go wrong with chocolate!  So whenever we host another shindig, there's a pretty good chance that the guests will be in for an oh-so-sweet treat!  That eagle sculpture next to Chef Nowakowski was pretty amazing, and more so because it is made completely of salt.  I suppose in his spare time, he enjoys sculpting things that might be otherwise impossible for normal members of society to master and, upon inquisition, I was informed that I could find myself in some serious trouble if I yielded to the temptation to test the content of the sculpture by licking or otherwise touching the artwork.  After considering the pros and cons, I stuck to devouring my strawberries.  Not to be thirsty after eating all of those samples, there were beer tastings, wine tastings and rum tastings.  I can honestly say that I learned a lot in the few minutes of beer tasting and received some valuable information: the Memphis Brewfest is coming up soon! 

Easily, my favorite tasting was the Rum Chatta.  We consider ourselves to be avid liqueur tasters, as in we're not afraid to try something new, but this was something of which I'd previously not been aware.  Victor L. Robilio, Inc. brought this rum that was described as having a hazelnut and chocolate undertone and tasted a bit like Bailey's.  I was of the personal opinion that it tasted absolutely incredible and was even more intrigued when told that someone knew someone who put it in their coffee in the morning.  Morals aside, I couldn't agree with them more that it was just that smooth as to be used for a creamer in coffee.  My conscious won't let me do that Monday through Friday, but I have seriously pondered the concept...I suppose a special weekend breakfast among friends could be arranged just to test that particular smoothness theory. 

So who was my favorite?  All of the food was delicious.  Of the eateries that I didn't describe, there were supplemental dishes from Oliver's Catering, Erling Jensen's and Memphis Pizza Cafe.  It's not that they were unworthy of the blog, please don't jump to that conclusion...I just wasn't fast enough to get my hands on the grub.  My mistake was that I thought I would have time and opportunity to go back for round two...and I suppose I was more distracted by the sweets that I wanted to let on. 

Alas, my personal favorites of the evening were the BBQ Bacon Wrapped Shrimp and Medium-Well Prime Rib (there was also rare-to-medium well, but you know, uncooked...) offered by Billings Bald Butcher Restaurant in Covington, TN.   This was the first thing that I sampled when we entered the ballroom.  From the way that my eyes closed and my mouth salivated on the first bite, I should have filled my plate up right then and there.  To be fair to the other guests, I had a small sample and figured that I would just come back for more once I'd made my rounds.  I went back.  There was no more BBQ Bacon Wrapped Shrimp.  I was sad.  Apparently the puppy dog face in no way makes more shrimp magically appear, but I tried.  On the plus side, I've found one of the items to be served at my wedding, whenever that may be, but I've got a head start!  Chef Chris Sherfield prepared this dish for the guests, but over the sound of chewing in my brain, all that I can share is "wrap the bacon around the shrimp and cook for 25 min, remove, season and bake for another 5 min."  I firmly believe that there is more information needed to make that work, so with either sweet regret or sincere gratitude, I will leave it to the pros.  But in the interim, road trip anyone?

Overall, I (and I shall take the liberty to speak for everyone) sincerely enjoyed this fundraiser.  All of the organizers and volunteers went above and beyond to accommodate each of the guests and the head of the UCP even made rounds and interacted with us.  This was our first year attending this particular function, and I have all confidence that we will attend and support again next year.  Please visit the UCP website to find more information about volunteering and community activities they are's truly for a great cause.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Chicago...Home Sweet Makes Me Want to Visit Often...

So, this weekend was a busy one, but that is not unusual for the Spontaneous'...  This Saturday consisted of shopping for pageant/prom dresses for my niece, meeting up with friends, a house party and a birthday party...all the while trying to squeeze in various homework assignments that were coming due.  On the way to the house party, Mr. Spontaneous decides that he's hungry and that we should probably get something to eat before we hit the town.  Driving down Stage Road, we perused the many options that were available to us, but nothing really stood out.  In the immediate vicinity of Stage Road and Summer Avenue, Mrs. Spontaneous yells out "Hey!  There's that place you were telling me about!"  Mr. Spontaneous found a safe place to bust a u-turn and we pull up to 6773 Stage Road.

It's Jimmy's Hot Dogs!  My significant other had previously informed me about this establishment, but we had no idea where it was located.  He hails from Chicago and I suspect that it was a personal mission to find this restaurant and eat everything that his tummy could handle.  Jimmy was on deck, still serving with joy and excitement, and I was summarily informed that the gorgeous lady waiting on us was not, in fact, Ms. Helen Waite.  

Jimmy's was founded by a true native Chicagoan, and believe me, if you claim to be from Chicago, they will test you on that theory.  I wasn't brave enough to even tell them that I'd visited the city often...I like what I like and I had no idea what all the food codes were to ordering a hot dog.  I personally love ketchup on my hot dogs, but apparently that's a Southern thing and in Chicago, es ist verboten!

Upon entering the restaurant, there were so many options for what we could have in the form of our hot dog and we weren't sure where to start.  I personally wanted to try a hot dog, but because time was of the essence (as in we didn't have all night for me to make a decision), we collectively decided that we would just have a 12" beef pizza and be on our full and merry way.  The caveat to the pizza selection is that when ordering a deep dish pizza, it has to be ordered no less that one hour prior to the close of business because it takes approximately that long for it to cook.  We ordered a regular pizza and only had to wait 25 minutes.  Normally I think I would be in a tiff over having to wait that long for my meal, but it was entirely worth the wait, and I would have contenly waited longer if necessary.  In the interim, we had time to reminisce over the food in which we'd partaken in Chicago, why there is "no ketchup allowed" on the hot dogs and what it means to have wet versus dry meat...I'm from the South and was sincerely confused...wet, by the way, means that your meat is served with its juices on the sandwich.  There were so many clever signs, historically significant news stories from the Windy City and even a Ms. Pac Man arcade game!

Beef Pizza Before

Other patrons entered who were making their maiden visit to the eatery as were we, and it was awesome to see the look on their faces when trying to figure out the proper and precise way to order their dogs; I grabbed a take-home menu so that the next time we dine there, I could be prepared and well-versed in the ways of the Jimmy's Hot Dog.  They offer a variety of specialty hot dogs to satiate any want and I'm going to jump in with both feet and try the "Southside Coney" with chili, cheese, mustard and onions.  The variety of toppings include, but are not limited to, cream cheese, sport peppers, taco sauce, relish, Giardinaire peppers and bacon  bits.   I would venture out and say this place could be a pregnant woman's Shangri-La.
What Beef Pizza??
  In addition to hot dogs and pizza, they offer burgers, sandwiches, gyros, fries and cheesecake... mmmm...

Jimmy's has a Facebook page, so "Like" it for more information and to be added to their VIP list.  I promised Jimmy that we would be back and we intend to keep that promise and to bring others with us when we return.  It was a fine dinner experience, no complaints at all.  Mr. Spontaneous has repeatedly and unsuccessfully tried to convince me to relocate to Chicago and I considered it for the food alone, but now that we've found this place, I'm staying in the South!   Certainly our winter thus far is as close as I would choose to living any further north than I already reside. 

So please, roll through Bartlett and stop in to see the crew at Jimmy's Hot Dogs.  They've won lots of awards for their cuisine, and justly so.  But if for whatever reason you are of the misfortune to want to complain about anything, I send you with warnings that all complaints can go to Helen Waite.

Monday, February 7, 2011

China Dolls

This past weekend, I got together with a few of my friends with whom I journeyed to China some time ago.  We traveled to 6 different cities in the country over a period of 16 days, spent time bonding with students at a university in Wuhan province, sampled a variety of foods from various regions and cultures and mastered the art of the chopsticks.  I, at the time being one of the older participants, affectionately became known as Momma Hen.  Not that I'm much of a chicken about things, but I'm definitely a nurturer, sometimes to the point of annoyance. 

So some of the members of the extended family got together for another reunion dinner and ended up at Pei Wei.  Located at 2257 N Germantown Pkwy, Suite 110 in Cordova, TN, Pei Wei is the "to-go" subsidary of the P.F. Chang franchise.  The menu is not nearly as extensive as its parent company, but the food is just as awesome. 

I was craving a salad, the Asian Chopped Chicken Salad to be exact (I love vinagrettes and they put a mouth-watering sesame ginger vinagrette on this particular dish) but I observed that there was a limited-time only menu item available.  Despite knowing the next time I was able to dine in Pei Wei that I may not be able to choose this fare, I had to make a life decision and I decided to try the new offering, only after convincing myself that the salad would always be there for me in my time of need...

The dish that they had on the menu was the Korean BBQ and it was listed as one of their spicy entrees.  As much as I enjoy spicy dishes, the reality of the situation is that they make me cry and wreak havoc upon my sinuses.  Logic would make one avoid such delectables, but they also say that curiosity killed the cat.  I obviously survived, but not without a generous portion of water and a side of embarassment.  

The Korean BBQ offers you a choice of chicken, beef, shrimp or vegetables/tofu (I chose beef) and is served in spicy Gogi BBQ sauce that is served with carrots, onions, scallions, Korean pepper and topped with a salad that is composed of thinly sliced green apples, sliced red bell peppers, mizuna (Japanese greens) and bean sprouts.  The picture on the menu, which influenced my decision, boasted sauteed sesame seeds.  I didn't receive any of those in my order and was a little sad.  A member of our party ordered this same dish with chicken and received the sesame seeds.  Albeit very good and provisional of a different texture, the absence of my sesame seeds in no way detracted from the incredible flavor and contrasting palates of this dish.  I supplemented my meal with brown rice...FYI, if you have reservations about the spiciness of this dish, don't eat the scallions.  I don't know if it was the amount served with my meal, but that's where the kick factor is.  After eating 2 whole pieces for flavor and sheer good measure, I pushed them aside to find the rest of the meat and let the restaurant have those back.

While I sincerely coveted the salad for the sake of satiating my craving for vinagrette, I thoroughly enjoyed this dish.  As far as the staff is concerned, they were incredibly friendly, efficient and accomodating, considering the fact that they were considerably busier that night than they usually are...anytime you can find good service under pressure is a plus in my book, and that's one of the many things that keep me coming back to this restaurant.  If you've never eaten here and are not used to eating anything other than American cuisine, it's a nice place to start venturing out. 

And as far as my China Dolls are concerned, "wa ai ne!" and I can't wait until we get together again.  That's "I love you" in Chinese.  Please forgive me for any misspellings just this once...

To find a restaurant near you, just visit and happy eating and remember to grab a handful of fortunes cookies!  They don't have those in China by the way.  Whodathunkit?

Friday, February 4, 2011

Gittin' er done!

Ok, so in the midst of my work, school and other varying crises, I'm finally building up some momentum and getting back to eating some good food!  I guess I've been slacking a bit, you know with that whole trying to successfully finish Graduate School thing...but I just wanted to let you know that there are more blogs coming very, very soon... 

So get your appetites ready and I hope that you enjoy it!