The Ethiopian Food Experience (A Foodie Blog)

For a girl who grew up on Wonder bread, butter and American cheese sandwiches for most of her life eating Ethiopian food was quite the dining experience. I used to be hesitant (ok, stubborn and frightened) by eating new foods until I met my husband who introduced various ethnic food dishes to me with patience. I eat Indian food, Chinese, Japanese (no sushi though) Asian-fusion, Thai and now Ethiopian (Italian food is a given!)  Not only did I enjoy it, I kept up with my husband in terms of handling the various spices and I admit, I was proud. Food to me now is an adventure and I LOVE it.

We ate in a fairly new, small, Ethiopian restaurant  and it was delightful. I felt like I was critiquing for Gourmet Magazine, I was that excited. The decor was simple and understated but truly reflected the beauty and simplicity of Ethiopia. There were a few black and white photographs from Ethiopia on the warm, burnt orange walls. The tables were classic and made out of wood. The restaurant is like sunshine; our waitress was mostly silent though out our meal but the owner was absolutely lovely and talkative.

I was excited to try the Ethiopian, thin, spongy bread called Injera that everybody was talking about. I love eating with my fingers so diving in to tear off a piece of bread and grab and pinch food was not only delicious but fun too. Across the restaurant I saw two men eating with forks and I scoffed; I felt superior (though I still haven’t mastered the art of chopsticks yet.)I can definitely relate to eating with my fingers and getting messy. It’s a grown-up version of your toddler’s tray table.

We started with an avocado salad that was lovely and light, it had chopped onions and tomatoes mixed in (maybe some peppers too). I did miss a dash of salt but I decided to stay in the moment. Interestingly, we brought some home for leftovers and it seemed to have gotten spicier overnight, perhaps it needed time on the bread to absorb the spices. I admit, on the second day it was a little too spicy for me to handle eating.  It was served on the very thin, fermented bread that many say “you either like it or you don’t.” It has a unique taste alone but once you are sopping up delicious sauces with it, it is much more pleasurable. It acts like a sponge absorbing the heat and spice of the food.

We ordered a tasting platter (again served on their bread) and we were delighted with what we got. The platter contained very small portions of three types of meat and three vegetarian dishes. Honestly, sometimes we didn’t now what was what  but we didn’t care. There was a little chicken, a little lamb and I think a little beef though it was quite indescernible. It also came with three different vegetarian samples: puree of peas, lentil and cabbage. I loved the lingering smell on my fingers from the spicy food.

It’s the type of restaurant you want to introduce your friends to. It really is a sweet gem. You WANT this restaurant to succeed and I have no doubt that it will. I’m eager to go again and soon.

Bad Karma For Eating Out (A Foodie Blog)

Let’s just say that my husband and I should have stuck to our original plan to stay in tonight and eat scrambled eggs with toast. But no, I had to see a video of a new Ethiopian restaurant ten minutes away and want to go. I wanted to go as in now and immediately. Big mistake.  First of all we go there and having read that they were open seven days a week, they weren’t. It’s Monday and yes, they were closed. We moved next door to a tiny Jamaican Jerk Chicken place which did say, on their front window, “We Are Open 7 Days A Week.” Guess what? They weren’t. The door was open and so we walked in only for the owner to tell us they were closed!  “Oh, he said, just today, but we are open on Mondays.”  That said, we walked out again, even hungrier than before.

Starving now, and not having enough to eat during the day  I was not happy; my husband was not happy. We were hungry. We get cranky when we get hungry sometimes. It happens. Down the street is a very inexpensive Greek restaurant, ample supplies of food at the most inexpensive prices. We have been going there since it opened about five years ago. It is consistently good, cheap, portions are enormous and they serve the meals rapidly. My husband ordered the Lemon-Chicken soup (Avegolemono or something that sounds like that) with grape leaves stuffed with rice, sour cream sauce (Tzatziki which I thought was supposed to be made with yogurt, my bad) on the side. It says yogurt on the menu, they serve real sour cream. Can’t argue the taste.

I wanted to have something different so I ordered Lamb Souvlaki on pita bread. I eat sliced lamb about once a year and only in this form and never in front of my daughter, the vegetarian. I ate several bites and swooned, it was fresh, juicy, filled with lettuce and tomato…….and a dead bee. I swear, I picked this odd-looking thing out of the pita sandwich, thinking it was just part of a vegetable and looked straight into the dead bee’s head and body.

The owner saw what had happened, took the dead bee and asked if I wanted another sandwich. Honestly? I couldn’t face the thought of even looking at the same dish so I politely declined. I ate some of my husband’s salad and that was it for the night. Well, that is until I start snacking later….with my dog around 10:30 PM.

My husband looks over at me and says  “why do these things always happen to you?”  He did not say this with loving concern but a bemused, comical grin. “Just lucky I guess” I answered, heading for the doorway to LEAVE.  It’s true though, things like this happen to me all the time, a bug, hair in my food, egg-shell in eggs (this is all making me gag).

After the first unsuccessful trip to the restaurant we should have just gone home. The scrambled eggs would have been shell-less, the toast would have been crisp and I would have put butter and honey on it. This is what happens when I get an idea in my head and change plans. I should just listen to the signs when they first appeared, stopped, stay put and settled into our uncomfortable kitchen chairs. We would have been happy with either scrambled eggs or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for dinner. That would have been ideal. Will I learn? Probably not.

No Cheesecake Left Behind (A Foodie Blog)

Last night, on IM, my friend described the delicious sounding cheesecake she bought at a store and I have been obsessing and craving it ever since. I have to have it. No, I do not want any kind of cheesecake, just the one she described in detail. It was a cheesecake with a graham cracker crust, fresh fruit (sorry, I am drooling) and covered by an apricot glaze.  A sweet apricot glaze! Now, I need this cake. I must have it, I’m a foodie and proud of it. There’s just one problem, she ate it in another country and when she casually laughed and said “Gee, I should have saved you a piece” I did not take it lightly. Do not toy with my cheesecake and dessert emotions. Certainly you should have saved me a piece, in your mind if nothing else. Do not taunt me with tantalizing details of the sweet, syrupy, jam-like apricot glaze, or the lush richness of the cheese-cake itself. It’s not fair.

Do not underestimate me. Whereas I know that I cannot have that same cake, I am fully aware that there is a restaurant called “The Cheesecake Factory” that I will go to within a few days. Nothing can stop me. Why can’t people describe an amazing array of fresh vegetables, or a chopped salad with such enthusiasm? Generally, they don’t and I don’t blame them. I eat my vegetables because they are healthy and they taste alright but I would never describe them in detail or dream about having them the next day.

Sigh. It’s not right. Our home life and health are in total disarray so Sunday night is my time to look forward to. On Sunday night I always have to love (most times I have to downgrade it to like)  my dinner. It’s a 40 plus year tradition starting back to grade school. Sunday dinner was supposed to be fun, eaten at a cheap restaurant or getting take-out. Nothing was expensive but it was the excitement of every Sunday afternoon that was charming and in our family, growing up, extremely important.  When I was growing up, of course, we always disagreed but eventually we all would be happy in the end. Sunday night was the bridge to going back to all school years, then work, then life in general.  “I have to love my dinner” is a refrain well-known in my family.  It is the one time of the week, that special meal, as the saying goes “if Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.”It’s one for all and all for one (whatever the heck that means, I have no idea).

So, cheesecake friend, I will not go down without a fight. I will trudge ahead looking for that perfect cheesecake that is moist and dense and has fruit on top. As much as I am ready for the search, I know, deep in my heart, that I may not find that apricot glaze she mentioned in passing. That hurts.

The Brownie Smuggler (A Foodie Blog)

I knew that I would snack at 10:45pm. I wish I could say I tried to stop myself but that would be really lame. Sometimes, you just have to eat. This was one of those times. I started off my “snack”, okay, second meal with the leftover piece of barbecued chicken I didn’t finish for dinner. I can totally justify that, I had half the portion at dinner. What I can’t rationalize are the brown rice, sea salt crackers to go along with it.  Or the watermelon that followed. I am ashamed and I am not. Now I am nibbling on a brownie in my bedroom and no-one is supposed to know. No one DOES know except for my dog, Callie and now you. She sits up in perfect form, her warm brown eyes staring at me, begging to be fed. “I can’t” I say to her out loud, you are not allowed to have chocolate.” She lies down on the carpet as if she understood what I was saying; maybe she did. It isn’t even a really good brownie, it’s the type that you pack in your kids’ lunches, pre-made and wrapped individually. But still, I had to have it and I am not sure that I am done eating and I am okay with that.

So, tomorrow I will try to be better, making healthier food choices but I will not beat myself up about tonight. Tonight, after a stressful day, this made me feel better, comforted me. I know it’s not a healthy living style but either is denying yourself everything. If anyone at Weight Watchers reads this, please don’t write me, I’m not interested.

I watched the show “Huge” for the first time today on Hulu. I think it’s a great show and will do for overweight people what Glee did to EVERY kind of person. It’s called validation. Finally. People come in different shapes and as my daughter showed me on an episode of “One Tree Hill” a woman (not a model) walked the runway with a tee-shirt that said “zero is not a size.” Hallelujah.

Sometimes I get ravenous and all my common sense, my willpower goes swirling down the drain like a tornado. I am the eye of the storm, and I can’t be stopped; no, I will not allow myself to stop until it’s over. Hopefully it will be months before this little extravaganza comes around again. If it does, I will deal with it, eat it and then the next day go back to being…better.

This is why I cannot watch the Food Network at night. I see the food, I want the food and then I hurl myself down the stairs for something to eat. A peanut butter and jelly sandwich with a glass of milk always does the trick (with baked potato chips on the side).  Tonight while I was watching “Huge”, I saw a plate of fries and a double chocolate milkshake and it made me hungry. Perhaps I should switch and watch game shows or old movies. It would keep me grounded. Literally.

I am dreaming now of a cheeseburger and sharing a plate of fries with my husband at a local little pub. They have killer (sorry vegetarians and vegans) burgers, inexpensive and made of incredible quality, moist, pink and thick. I am salivating just thinking about it.

Lesson to learn? Do what you have to do, don’t beat yourself up afterwards and start fresh the next day. It isn’t an easy process, for those of us with food or weight issues but it works.

“Man vs Food” (An Extreme Foodie Blog) Repost

Man v. Food (season 1)

Image via Wikipedia

If you have never watched the show “Man vs. Food” don’t be surprised, and don’t be upset. I just stumbled upon it on the Travel Channel. I have to admit the first few minutes I was absolutely appalled. The premise is that this dude  (and he is a dude) named Adam Richman goes all over the country doing food challenges. No, not challenges to cook, challenges to EAT. A lot. After the first fifteen minutes of being totally grossed out, I was unable to take my eyes away from the show I thought I hated. As I wrote my fellow foodie friend Paula,  it’s enough to make you want to be a minimalist calorie counter.

The first thing that I saw was a spicy sushi challenge, escalating in heat and spice from one to ten, that seemed doable and innocent enough. It was just the amount of spice he could handle (I would still be on one). He was awarded a Master. Okay, I thought, not bad.  Then came the: next challenge: and I kid you not, he had to eat (ok, he didn’t HAVE to),  the 4 – 5 lb grilled cheese sandwich consisting of: 3 thick slices of bread, fried, 14 kinds of cheese., hand cut french fries, coleslaw and pickles. In one sitting.  In case you were worried, there was no time limit, however he was trying to eat all of this under twenty minutes because then it would have been free! ( I could be mixing this up with the 12 burger patty challenge, sorry!) He looked like he was about to gag and I kind of wish he had thrown up but he didn’t. It wouldn’t be good for ratings or for the show. Darn.

There is always a crowd  that cheers him on to overeat, (I mean reach his goal) “Go Adam, Go Adam, Come on Adam, do it,” they chant.  It’s like one big frat party with food instead of kegs. The man is both a walking heart attack about to happen and stroke victim to be. Serious appetite he says? I say he should be the poster child for potential obesity and clogged arteries in America.  It’s a sickening show yet I  admit, I kept watching. It’s like the car crash mentality where you don’t want to see what happened but between your fingers, you are definitely looking.

Hysterically enough the show is sponsored by Cheerios, ” a smart way to lower cholesterol”  and Zantac, an ad for antacid. Could this get funnier? (or sicker?) Now, Adam is attempting to eat something called a” Polish boy” and just watching it gave me an acid stomach and I reached for Tums. I couldn’t keep up with all the minute details but basically it was a boiled and then fried jumbo hot dog (on location in Cleveland), with french fries, spicy sauce, pork shoulder, more sauce, all on top of one another. Wait,  I think i am forgetting something….right, there’s coleslaw too.  “Do it for Cleveland baby, do it for Cleveland” people roared. “One more bite, one more bite” the audience chants and than applauds wildly when he has achieved his, um, goal, success (?)  Once again, Adam is declared a champion. Go Adam!

Now Adam has 12 burgers one on top of another. He’s got himself a show where he travels around the country to challenge other people’s eating records. Really? He calls it ” the worlds greatest pig out spots”. My first question: Why? It’s gluttony, it is over the top, it’s somewhat entertaining in a sick way and it’s appalling.What kind of  (mixed) message are we sending to the country? They say “victory is sweet”, but after watching this show, moderation is better.

I hope First Lady Michele Obama doesn’t see this show, actually, I kind of hope she does. Hello, Madam President? Please watch this show once (and once is enough) and tell us what you think. I’m dying to know. Finally, the show ended and it wasn’t a moment too soon. I found myself feeling greasy after watching all those fat food frames. I was annoyed with myself for watching the entire episode and again, I was a little happy to have seen it. What is wrong with me?

When the show was over, I needed a snack, a refreshing snack, “clean food”.  I decided on a small, clear glass bowl of cold mandarin oranges in light syrup; it’s all I could eat and it tasted like heaven.

OH, A Feel-Good Happy Day!!!

It’s been a long, long time since I have felt this good. It’s been many long months in fact (if not years), but today I had an absolutely wonderful day. Maybe it’s because of karma, what goes around comes around, something I’ve always believed in but I tend to need reminding. I woke up early, looked at the bright yellow sun on the cloudless brilliant blue sky and knew where I had to go. It was the right day to go to the cemetery, to visit my dad, who passed away 9 years ago. I always go, each year, around Father’s Day out of love and respect but I don’t usually plan when I go; I go when I feel I should. Today was that day.

I bought a plant with tiny red flowers, like heart-shaped kisses, in a pot, wrapped in shiny green aluminum foil and brought it with me to the cemetery. I talked to my dad, out loud, I cried, I asked questions and I implored, all the while cleaning the headstone from old dirty grass and respositioning and cleaning the stones that lay faithfully on his headstone. ” I need your help, Dad, I’ve been so sick (and also, just remember Dan hasn’t worked since September.) Honestly, I just want to feel better and I know you would want that too. Mom’s worried about me too, please help me, please help her.” I asked directly for his help and for a day, today, he showered me with love. Asked and answered, with a great big smile.

Right after the cemetery I drove to my mom’s apartment, a minute away, unannounced and knocked on her door. We ended up spending much of the day together and I felt so pampered. It’s nice, once in a while to be a daughter, to feel like a daughter and not just a mother. My mom took me out to lunch at The Club where I had a beet, mango, fennel salad with goat cheese and pistachios. Heavenly. My mom had a grilled chicken salad sandwich that came on a croissant but I nixed the croissant since she is diabetic and I watch out for her too. We laughed a lot and marveled at the serenity and the gift of the weather, warm, sunny, with a breeze and not too hot; a perfect day.

We went to her condo pool and I sat in the sun, in my mother’s cute black and white bathing suit that she gave me as a present and I felt so pampered, so loved, so taken care of.  Thank you. I swam in the pool, I sat and talked to the lounging ladies and when I was ready, I left to go home.

I left to go home to my daughter. My daughter and I had date night where we went to her favorite restaurant, just the two of us. We drank sugary sweet strawberry smoothies and ate brick oven pizza, fresh and hot straight out of the oven. The pizza had chunky tomato pieces and thick mozzarella slices and  fresh basil on every slice. Now I am home, reliving the day with happiness, with gratitude.

I know deep down inside I am hoping that tomorrow will be the same and that I will feel really good again and energetic. I would be lying if I didn’t hope for that. But, if I don’t feel that way, at least I will  know it is possible. That’s more than I had months ago, that’s more than I had even yesterday and I appreciate it, I truly do.

Dedicated to my mom, who wants me to be happy and healthy as much, or even more, than I do.

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The Lex (A Foodie Blog) *My 100th BLog!!!*

What better way to celebrate my 100th blog than to talk about one of my favorite topics: food. Glorious,  delicious, dance in my mouth food. I confess, I love food. Not just any food but good food, preferably in a restaurant with no dishes to wash after the meal. Due to the economy we go out rarely but this was a special day. A worthy celebration; this was Mother’s Day!  To moms everywhere,  I applaud you, we know how important we are, every day.

Just thinking back at the Mother’s Day dinner at The Lex makes me drool excessively.   We hadn’t been to this particular restaurant in years, often commenting that the food was always good but it was always the same. No specials, nothing new, ever. Much to our incredible delight (and I’m talking about my audible squeals of excitement) the menu had been expanded.  The quality of the food, was always very good. I honestly can’t say that I’ve ever had a bad meal there. Consistency is one of their virtues. Waiter/Waitress service, not so much, but we were here to linger and enjoy.

As soon as we sat down they brought us a bread basket with a sour dough/Italian type bread, bread sticks and crackers topped with poppy, and sesame seeds, and a dish of olive oil for dunking. How can you NOT be happy right away and yes, they do refill graciously  (ask my teenagers). My daughter and I shared a  delicate chopped arugula salad to start. It was simple, fresh and very light. It was served with slivered almonds, goat cheese and I want to say small pieces of hearts of palm. The crunchy and the smooth all wrapped up in one perfect bite.   They even divided the salad into two plates which is really, a very nice touch. The dressing was lovely, (olive oil? a hint of lemon perhaps?light balsamic vinegar?) I’m not sure but  a perfect partner to the salad. The salad did not drown in the salad dressing nor did we have to pick up individual leaves to see if there was dressing on it. It may seem like a small thing but perfectly dressed salads are not that easy to come by. It was a first course that seemed to cleanse my palate and make me hungrier for the main dish. Luckily, we were not in a rush.

I ordered lobster ravioli in a light cream sauce with peas and mushrooms, delicately intertwined and the combination of the flavors made me crazy happy and I swooned. My daughter, who is a vegetarian, ordered butternut squash ravioli that was served with a sweet, apple cinnamon sauce. Sound crazy? Maybe. It was out of this world. Tender, sweet, the consistency of the ravioli played so nicely with the thin apple cinnamon sauce. The staff also went out of their way to make this dish for her because it was not on the menu that night. Nice.

My husband and son shared the Thai lettuce wraps with chicken for an appetizer and the small tidbit I got was flavorful, and spicy.  My husband ordered lamb for his main dish (could have done without seeing the lamb leg) which he said was excellent but looked like something Fred Flinstone would have eaten happily.  It came with roasted asparagus and mashed potatoes.  Our son ordered a nicely done steak that he devoured, it came with a baked potato and broccoli which, of course, he didn’t eat but i did. Teenagers.

For dessert,  our son had the apple-cinnamon crisp, the thick crumbly topping sweet and the texture perfect, hard but moist.  A perfect balance.  Our daughter ordered the brownie sundae which looked more like an elaborate cake than any ordinary brownie. Judging by the scrapes of her fork on her plate, she approved heartily.  She ate it so quickly there was not a piece available for me to taste.  I wouldn’t ordinarily order dessert but (ok, stop roaring with laughter now)  what could I do? It was Mother’s Day and I didn’t want to appear anti-social. I also couldn’t  resist a piece of red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting served with vanilla ice cream. The texture and the smooth flavors melted into my mouth; the cold vanilla ice cream, the rich, moist, smoothness of the red velvet cake. I don’t really know why they call it red velvet and I don’t really care, it was exquisite; that’s all that matters.

I wish Mother’s Day  would come around more than once a year. I desperately want to go back to the Lex for dinner. Thanks to my family and The Lex for a lovely Mother’s Day. Next year, same time, same place, great love.