Tuesday, September 29, 2009

McDonald's?!?!?!

Yes, I said it. McDonald's. Now that's a pretty bad word for some foodies, but I have to admit that there is a place in my diet for McDonald's--every once in a while! BUT, that's only when that's what I really want and I will really enjoy it, not when I have to eat it due to time, and certainly not because it's "cheap". (Because it's not!!!) Oh, and I don't look at the calorie counts when I'm eating at McDonald's. Let's ge real people...if I'm eating fast food I better not be worried about calories. So the last time I ate at McDonald's was a couple weeks ago, and I made the mistake of ordering the new Angus Third Pounder. Even after I wiped off the pound of mayo they had put on there, it was still pretty bad. It makes me mad when I waste a meal at a fast food restaurant by eating something I don't enjoy. Which also applies to a meal I had at a local Chinese restaurant, Beijing, while my sister-in-law was visiting last month. We ordered in because I didn't feel like cooking after a long day at work (yes, it happens even to me), and it was horribly disappointing. It's not even worth going into all the stuff that was bad about the meal, but here's the website just so you know where NOT to order from...http://www.blogger.com/www.beijingdanbury.com. I should have known...plus I'm terribly spoiled after going to some amazing, authentic Chinese restaurants with our friends Steve and Candace. There's little that beats well-prepared, authentic Chinese food. Which makes me think about my favorite Chinese cookbook that I ran across at a book store in Columbus, OH, titled "Helen Chen's Chinese Home Cooking". She's the daughter of Joyce Chen, and she shares family secrets with step by step instructions and some delicious but easy recipes. It's my go-to book anytime I cook Chinese. Check it out on Amazon.com.

So back to fast food, there's a whole lot of controversy surrounding it these days, and for good reason. K and I saw the documentary "Food, Inc." with my sister and brother-in-law, and I highly recommend it for everyone who eats food. (Yeah, that's you.) "You'll never look at dinner the same way." Sadly, the techniques required to meet the demands of huge restaurant chains like McDonald's and food producers like Tyson are wreaking havoc on our nation's farmers as well as the sources of our food...i.e., chicken and cows. I am a strong believer that all consumers, but cooks and chefs especially, should really understand where our food comes from and how it gets to our plate. Sometimes it ain't pretty, which this documentary points out. Watch the movie and let me know what you think!
Okay, gotta go make dinner. Until tomorrow, have a great three meals!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Discoveries

I love discovering new restaurants, especially when and where you least expect it. K and I decided to have drinks yesterday in West Hartford. Tons of great restaurants, but I was actually thinking to myself "same old same old...where do I want to go?" There are plenty of great places for drinks but "drinks" to me obviously means "drinks and apps" so I wanted a place that had a great app menu or small plates. This is my favorite type of meal...my mom used to call it "snacky dinner". Haha. So I parked in the parking lot off Farmington and LaSalle (which is surprisingly affordable) and discovered there's a Barcelona Restaurant and Wine Bar back there! (There are 6 locations...check them out at http://www.barcelonawinebar.com/) You can't see it from the street and there are no signs. I was thrilled...I love Spanish food (wait...I love all food...), probably because of good memories I have from a trip to Spain in high school.

So we walked into Barcelona around 4pm and they have a great "in-between" menu until they start serving dinner at 5pm. Perfect! (Although I know it's great for the staff to close between lunch and dinner, I love restaurants that are so accomodating.) On this beautiful day we took a seat outside (where else? Plus Sweetie was there and she loves being outside.)

We ordered albondigas (Spanish meatballs), manchego (famous sheep's cheese from La Mancha), and some bread, plus a beer for K and a Mojito for me. They have a great wine list, but I hadn't had a cocktail in so long I had to go for it. The meatballs were great...nice blend of herbs and beef in an uncomplicated tomato sauce and I really enjoyed the manchego which was served with membrillo (a sweet paste made from quince). Our server told us the bread was just out of the oven...it certainly was warm but I was not impressed. It had no independent flavor and the crust was too dense. In fact the whole thing was too dense...not impressed with the bread. And my mojito was great, other than that the limes were clearly a bit past their prime and they were brown. I'm sure it didn't affect the taste at all but the aesthetics were damaged...not to mention it was served in a tiny water glass. For $9 I expected to be a little more impressed with the cocktail. Something tells me the bartender was being a bit lazy.

For K's sweet tooth, I suggested the churros y chocolate. (He doesn't like flan!) We really enjoyed that...very traditional and great presentation. The churros were stacked in a square silver cup with an espresso cup holding the chocolate. I decided to take advantage of the great wine list so I ordered a glass of Juvé y Camps, Pinot Noir Rosé cava (Spanish sparkling wine) from Penedès, Spain. It was quite enjoyable. The rest of the wine list included, of course, a bunch of Spanish wines, as well as a few selections from the States and France, as well as some choices from Argentina, Uruguay, and even Australia. One of the things I really like was that there's a little tutorial in the front of the menu to teach you about the wine regions of Spain. I'm always ready for a wine lesson!

So all in all we spent over $50 (not including tip) but the service was really great and friendly. Our server was Anna, and she had some help from one of her coworkers but we didn't get his name. By the time we left around 5:15pm, the place was really filling up so I could tell it's quite popular despite its hidden location. Next time you're in West Hartford trying to decide between the many places to eat, definitely stop by Barcelona behind Mimi Maternity and The Toy Chest. You won't regret it!

Until tomorrow...have a great three meals!