Date Night: Pieology

Published January 28, 2017 by microncat

This week’s Date Night, we went to the new pizza place beside Whole Foods in Greensboro, called “Pieology”.

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The place has been open for a few months, and we got there right at 6pm, so there wasn’t a huge crowd.  Here’s what it looks like inside:

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So when you go in, the process is a cross between Subway and Chipotle.  There are menus on the walls, of course, and they have a few “standard” pizzas that you can ask for, but I think most people do the “build your own” option.  For $8.95, you get an 11.5″ pizza on white or whole wheat thin crust (gluten free – $2 more), with WHATEVER YOUR HEART DESIRES on top.  For $9.95, you get to build the salad of your dreams.  And man, do they have toppings!  Parm, mozz, ricotta, gorgonzola and some weird vegan pseudo-cheese <gack> are the cheeses I remember; there may have been more.

As you can see, it is somewhat like Subway, where you point and tell ’em what you want. The balls of dough come out on trays, and each one is placed on one of those wooden paddles, called a “peel”.  The Peel is then placed in a giant automated squisher-thing ™ and the dough is mashed flat, then the peel and dough are stacked in a rack until needed.  At that point, they bring it over to the make line, and you have to decide between three different “oil bases” – butter, herb butter, and one more I forgot.  They brush that around the edge of the crust, then they apply whichever sauce you pick, in a circular pattern just like in the picture on the menu.  Which is weird, because it means you don’t get sauce across the whole pie.

When I first got out of high school, I worked for Domino’s Pizza for several years, and I did everything in the store, including making pizza.  Domino’s has a standard for how you lay ingredients on a crust, and it goes like this: sauce, cheese, flat veggies, then flat meats, then chunky meats and veg, then top cheese, if any.  The bottom layer of cheese is supposed to cover the entire circle of red sauce, with no “red edges”, and toppings are spread evenly across the pie.  The reasons for this are, visual appeal, and, more practically, so the pie gets cooked evenly.  (Back then, we used raw hamburger and raw breakfast sausage, so it was important to get it all cooked well.  Now it’s all precooked, but I digress.)  I don’t know about you, but I’m a fan of the whole crust having toppings, not just the middle.

I tell you all this as a cautionary tale, because I had to repeatedly tell the food handlers to spread the cheese and toppings out across the pie.  They were both literally piling all the toppings right in the middle – no toppings out near the edge of the crust – like they were trying to build a pyramid.  When I asked them to spread things evenly, they looked at me like I had three heads, but they did it.

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This is the, “OMG, You’ve got three heads!” look on my pizza maker.  And lookit; he’s wearing gloves!  We never wore gloves at Domino’s…but it was the ’80s.

When your pizza is done, it’s passed to the “oven guy” and slid into the oven, which looks like a new model of the Baker’s Pride ovens we used at Domino’s, before the conveyor belt ovens came out.  If theirs is like ours was, it’s 600 degrees in there, baby!  Then, you pay for your dinner and get a number to put on the table, get your drink, and have a seat to wait.  We didn’t wait long, either.  Here’s the result:

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BOOM!!!  Pepperoni, mushrooms, bacon, kalamata olives, Italian sausage, artichoke hearts and fresh basil.  Mmmmmm….  The pie is cut in eight slices, and they did a good job of keeping the sizes fairly even.  The crust could have been more crispy, but overall, I was pleased with mine, and Ginny liked hers, too.  Of course, I had enough pizza left over for two more meals, but they have takeout boxes right beside the drink machine, so it’s all good.  🙂

I had two issues with this place.  First, they do not have brewed tea.  They have that disgusting “Golden Peaks” crap that tastes like it came out of a can six weeks ago and got treated with chemicals.  That stuff is just unAmerican.  Seriously.  Second, they serve Coke products, and there’s no soda water option on the machine.

So that’s it!  It’s a really great idea, the custom pizza thing, and the price is phenomenal for what you get.  I think we’ll definitely go back.

 

Bengali Chicken and Vegetable Soup

Published January 27, 2017 by microncat

This week’s adventure in the Eating Well… cookbook is a REALLY great soup made with coconut milk and lots o’ spices.

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Large bowl with cauliflower by Deik Pierce.  Small blue bowl by an Oak Ridge potter whose name I can’t remember.  Gray/green bowl by Charlie Tefft.  Enamel bowl by me.

Just check out all the deliciousness!  The recipe calls for a jalapeno pepper sliced up in it; I forgot to buy one, so used a chipotle instead.  Also, fresh thyme instead of dried, and dried parsley instead of fresh, LOL.  I don’t buy fresh parsley, ‘cuz it tastes like grass.  Not shown:  diced chicken meat, one thigh and one breast, and one clove garlic, which was already in the pot before I took this pic.

So, the coconut milk, onions, garlic, chipotle, ginger, thyme, cinnamon and parsley flakes all went in the pot together and cooked down until it was a gorgeous creamy consistency, and the house smelled amazing.  Then everything else went in and cooked for close to an hour.

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Small shino bowl by yours truly!

And here’s the final result!  It was SOOOOOOO good!!!  And low carb!  Not low fat, though, because, coconut milk (the recipe calls for “light” coconut milk, but I’m not into the crap additives they have to put in, to replace the fat, so I don’t buy it.)  This one is a winner, winner, chicken (soup) dinner!

 

Eating in Egypt

Published January 20, 2017 by microncat

So, yesterday I got a post in my Facebook feed, telling about the upcoming NoshUp at Koshary in a couple of weeks.  I’ve been looking at the place as I’ve driven by there recently, and looking forward to checking it out, so I suggested it as our date night dinner.

Ginny and I got there about 5:15pm, and tonight is a Thursday.  There was one table of three guys seated, and no staff in sight.  After being there and ignored for a few minutes, we decided to take a seat.  The decor is pleasant, with what appear to be hooked rugs featuring the images of some Egyptian gods (see one of them above the men in the picture on the left.)  The ceiling is painted sky blue, with silver clouds.  It was quiet, with just the one other table at the time, and there was no muzak.

Service was fairly slow.  We were seated a few minutes before the one and only wait staff came out from the back.  He futzed around behind the register for a couple more minutes before he came to bring menus and take the drink order.  One downside to this waiter:  He had cologne you could smell from a mile away – so strong that even Ginny, who does not usually comment on such things, said something about it.  It wasn’t a horrible scent, but I stand by what I said last week, to wit:  your personal scent choices should be between you and your lover – nobody else needs to be able to smell it.

After perusing the menu, we decided to get two apps and a small entree.  We ordered the stuffed grape leaves with tzatziki sauce (although they don’t call it that; it’s the same thing), Baba Ghanouj with pita points, and the dish for which the place is named, Koshary, with a skewer each of lamb and beef.

The Baba Ghanouj was outstanding, with just a slight bitterness, and what I think was smoked paprika.  The pita points were, ahem, “on point” – soft, and hot.  This was my favorite thing on the table.

The stuffed grape leaves are the best I have ever eaten.  I’m not usually a fan, because they’re usually (a) sour, and (b) cold, and (c) dry.  These were none of the above.  They WERE, of course, a little tangy, because pickled grape leaves.  They were served warm, and they weren’t just white rice inside.  There was rice and some other ingredients I can’t identify, and they were absolutely delicious.

Disappointment arrived with the Koshary and kebabs.  In the picture above left, the top skewer is the lamb, and the bottom skewer is the beef filet.  The waiter didn’t indicate which was which, and I had to smell them to figure it out, because Ginny does not eat lamb.  The meat was grilled, but not seasoned AT ALL.  Not even a marinade.  I had a bite of the beef as well as my lamb, and frankly, I couldn’t tell the difference in taste between them.  The lamb was not of a tender cut, either.  As much as I love lamb, I only managed to eat (most of) one of the chunks, because of all the connective tissue involved.  Yech.

Underneath the kebabs in the picture is the Koshary, and thank GOD we just ordered the small portion, because it was NOT good.  This is a mixture of lentils, rice, chickpeas, and for some weird reason, elbow macaroni, covered with what appeared to be crushed tomatoes straight from a can, and topped with crispy fried onion ribbons – basically, a big bowl o’ carbs.  I could not detect any salt at all, and the tomatoes were very acidic.  As you can see from the picture on the right, it looked like a dog’s breakfast.  (Maggie would not have objected, I promise you!)

I would go back for the apps, but would definitely get some other entree.  As always, your mileage may vary, so try it out, if only for the apps.

 

Dinner in Germany

Published January 12, 2017 by microncat

Since my foray into Vietnam didn’t go as planned, I decided to go to Germany, instead.  I know, what a leap, right?  Did you know there’s a German restaurant in Greensboro?  I didn’t know until about 8 months ago, when I met one of the owners of Old Europe German Restaurant, which is located beside Hamrick’s on Bridford Parkway.

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Normally, I wouldn’t say I’m into German food.  I have been to exactly ONE German place that had food fit to eat, and it was up in Philly, where a lot of Germans settled when they came from the Motherland, so they know how to cook German.  I had turtle soup.  It was amazing.  Every other German restaurant I have ever been in absolutely sucked, and the ONLY reason I went to this one is that it is owned by my friend Jann.

The menu is two pages, and the first page is all about the beer and wine. (Who’s surprised?  LOL)  The second page has all the food.  It’s not a huge menu, but it IS interesting.  I was pleasantly surprised to see quite a few things I’d like to try.  I ordered the Jaegerschnitzel (there’s supposed to be an umlaut over the A there), which consists of a pork steak with mushrooms and brown gravy, which they refer to as a “demi”.  This was served with spaetzle, which are small dumplings (and which is not pronounced like it’s spelled,) red cabbage, and carrots.  It also included my choice of house salad or the soup of the day, which was white bean.

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First came bread and a slab o’ butter.  The bread tasted really good – it is apparently a type of rye bread – but it was cold <insert sad face here>.  On the upside, cold bread was my only complaint!

 

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Next came the white bean soup.  It smells and tastes much like Brunswick stew, but without the meat.  Yum!

 

 

 

 

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The only thing I didn’t like on this plate was the carrots, and that’s only because I do NOT like cooked carrots.  If you do, then you’ll be fine. 🙂  The red cabbage had a very light, kraut-like flavor, but not super sour like one would think sauerkraut would be.  It was also warm.  (The only food not served at appropriate temperature was the aforementioned cold bread.)

On the left in the above photo, those little lumps are the spaetzle.  They are little balls of dough about the size of the first section of your pinky finger, and it appears that they have been boiled first, and then maybe sauteed, (although I don’t know the first damn thing about cooking German, so I may be way off base on that.)  They don’t have much flavor of their own, but are really good with the gravy (demi) over the pork.

Here are a few shots of the interior, including the bar, seating area, and one of many different nutcrackers that are used to decorate many of the horizontal surfaces.  These are really cute – some female ones in what appear to be traditional German costumes, and some male ones, and each carrying something in its hand.  If you go, you will also see some nice cuckoo clocks, which remind me of my Grandma’s house – she and Granddaddy went to Germany when I was little, and she still has the cuckoo clock they bought on that trip.  That sucker makes some kind of noise every 15 minutes, CUCKOOS on the hour, and has little dancing people, and will wake you up in the middle of the night, and….but I digress.  Here’s the pix:

I would definitely try this place again – many of the dishes on the menu sound quite good!

 

Restaurant Ruination!

Published January 12, 2017 by microncat

So Thursday night is “date night” at our house.  Basically, that means it’s the night we almost always go out for dinner.  Tonight, since I was over on that side of town, we decided on our favorite Vietnamese place, Pho Hien Vuong.

Pho Hien Vuong has been in the same place, and we’ve been eating there, for over 20 years.  They’re in this little sideways shopping strip on Spring Garden near Market St.  The strip has three spaces, and over the years, they’ve expanded to fill the whole building.  The food has always been excellent, with great service.  It’s not a fancy place, but the food is the point.

Today when I went in the door, I was almost knocked over by the smell.  Usually when you go in a restaurant, if you smell anything at all, it’s the food.  This was not food.  Nor was it the incense from the altar by the register.  This was a chemically produced cross between some really bad floral scent and and the outside edge of hell.

As I trailed the waitress to the table, I asked her what the smell was.  She said, “Oh, it’s the food.”  I said, “No, it’s like floral cleaning stuff.”  She indicated that they had installed automatic air “freshener” squirters in the dining room.  There was one right beside the booth where she was trying to seat me; there was one at the door where I came in.  (These two spots are less than 50 feet apart, by the way.)  I asked to NOT sit there, and she took me to a booth on the other side of the restaurant, just past the altar with its incense.  The incense is nice, but not when paired with industrial strength poop-smell-cover.

These automatic air “freshener” sprayers are NORMALLY found in public restrooms.  They are designed with a timer, and they periodically squirt a burst of scent designed to cover up other, less pleasant, smells.  Unfortunately, the scent that’s being used at Pho Hien Vuong is apparently designed to knock out an entire battalion of port-a-potties, and they’re using a L O T of it.  A LOT.  The scent is so pungent, I could taste it.  I lasted less than five minutes before I had to go outside to escape, so, no Vietnamese for me tonight!

Here’s the thing about air “fresheners”.  They don’t freshen ANYTHING.  People who, like me, get migraines, people who have asthma, or chemical sensitivity, or other respiratory issues, can quite literally be put down for the count by breathing these artificial chemical pollutants spritzed into the air (not to mention that (1) the sense of smell is closely tied to the sense of taste, and thus the taste of the food would be altered, and (2) the spritzing is happening directly over somebody’s food.)

And while I’m at it, lemme just say that I include perfumes, colognes, hand lotions, body sprays, personal care products, and scented detergents in the ‘artificial chemical pollutant’ category.  If I’m not close enough to kiss you, but I can smell your chosen scent, YOU’RE WEARING TOO DAMN MUCH!!!  That stuff should be between you and your lover – nobody else needs to know you have it on.

So now my favorite Vietnamese place is ruined.  Finding a new one could be fun!

 

 

Chicken and Mushroom Saute

Published January 11, 2017 by microncat

Well, Ginny’s second pick from the “Eating Well After Weight Loss Surgery” cookbook was ‘Chicken and Mushroom Saute’.  Winner, winner, chicken dinner!  This is very similar to a recipe I have for Tarragon Chicken, but since there’s no cream, it has waaaaay less fat.

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Ceramic bowl by Charlie Tefft; Enamel dishes by Lisa P. Skeen.

Here we have all the ingredients (except for the chicken):  2cups sliced mushrooms*, 1T minced shallot**, 1T chopped fresh tarragon, 1/2c plain yogurt***, 3/4c chicken stock, salt and pepper to taste, and 1/2c white wine (Chardonnay).

So, the first thing to do is, cut 1 pound of chicken into chunks.  Spray the pan with Olive Oil cooking spray.  (I would say AKA: PAM, but I don’t buy PAM…)  When the pan is hot, put the chicken in and saute until “golden brown”, whatever that means to you.  (“Gold” and “brown” are two different colors, IMO.)

 

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Golden brown = done, but not cooked to death

Remove the chicken to a plate and set that aside.  Next, spray more olive oil and toss in the mushrooms and scallions.  Here’s where I added a little salt and pepper, to help sweat the water out of the veg.  When they have started to wilt down, add the wine.  Stir a bit to deglaze the pan, then add the chicken stock.  It’ll look like this:

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Yes, those are Zucchini in there with the mushrooms.  I didn’t have a full two cups of ‘shrooms available, and I had half a zucchini left over from the stir fry over the weekend, so I threw that in.

Raise the temperature under the pan and reduce by at least half before adding in the yogurt, tarragon, and salt/pepper to taste.  The yogurt is supposed to thicken the sauce, but it never worked for me, so guess what?  I cheated, again, and ended up whisking in a pinch of cornstarch.

Et voila!  Chicken Mushroom Saute.  Flavor was good, and we both liked it well enough to make again later.

 

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* I didn’t have the full 2 cups of mushrooms, so I subbed in half a zucchini, and that worked well.  Added color, too.

** I don’t buy shallots.  I know all the fancy chef folks would disagree, but to me, a cooked member of the onion family is a cooked member of the onion family, and there are only a couple exceptions to that.  I used green onions.

*** Only had 1/4c of yogurt, so I rounded it out with sour cream.

If I made this again, I would dial back the wine and stock by 1/4c each, just so I didn’t have to reduce so much.

Singapore Shrimp Dumplings

Published January 7, 2017 by microncat

So I gave the “Eating Well…” book to Ginny so she could pick the next thing to make, and she chose, ‘Singapore Shrimp Dumplings’.  The ingredients are pretty simple – shrimp, spinach, chili-garlic sauce, sherry, sesame oil, soy sauce, ginger and scallions, all wrapped in cabbage leaves.

First, ya gotta steam some cabbage leaves until they’re really soft, and then cut out the spine part, because it’s too thick to fold around a filling.

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I think I steamed this first batch about 15 minutes.  When I cut out the spines, I made a new discovery:  Maggie likes cooked cabbage!

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This is Maggie at the Beach.  She hadn’t had any cabbage at this point…

While the cabbage was steaming, I cheated, again.  I was SUPPOSED to chop a pound of shrimp to paste in the food processor, and then add the rest of the stuff.  Instead, I put it all in there:  1/2 cup scallions, 2t grated ginger, 1t sesame oil, a 10oz package of chopped spinach (squeezed dry), 2t chili-garlic paste, 2 packets of Splenda**, 2t dry sherry***, and 2t light soy sauce.  (**I used a pinch of sugar instead.  ***I used 2t of Chardonnay.)

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So, I cut the spines out of the cabbage leaves, and this is where Maggie comes in.  She came begging while I was doing this, so I offered her a steamed cabbage spine, thinking she would sniff and walk away.  Noooo!  She took the cabbage spine to her rug, chomped it down, and came back for more.  And more.  And more.  She ate all the cabbage spines.  If she doesn’t end up with horrific gas, I’m gonna have to get cabbage and steam it for her treats, LOL.

Ok, so I started wrapping dumplings.  Here’s the first one.

It took a few minutes, but I finished the first batch of leaves that I had steamed and here’s the steamer basket full of dumplings, ready to go.

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They were steamed for 15 minutes in the bottom tray of the steamer.  I put more leaves in the top tray, to be ready for the next run.  Here they are!

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There is a dipping sauce that goes with the recipe, consisting of 3/4c soy sauce, 1/4c rice vinegar, 1t sesame oil, 1 packet brown sugar substitute*, and 2t red pepper flakes.  This wasn’t bad, but the vinegar should have been lime juice instead.

OK, the verdict:  I wouldn’t make this again.  There is, once again, no salt in the recipe, and the filling is just wayyyy too bland.  Bleh.  I decided to try frying some dumplings, to see if that made a difference, but it didn’t.  The only thing that did make a difference was, I added a little sprinkle of salt to the filling before closing up the wrapper on a couple of them, and that made them much better.

Warning:  If you try this at home, be aware that this recipe makes a metric butt-ton of filling.  The suggested portion for WLS folks is 2 dumplings, and you’ll be eating dumplings for a week if you make this recipe as written.

 

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