Posted by: nekojita | February 19, 2008

Mediterranean Delite

So this is my first post for a Bay Area restaurant–this despite the fact that I have been to quite a few since I have been back here. In all fairness though, this is the first one about which I have had both the time and inclination to write… Given the unassuming exterior and location of Mediterranean Delite, I feel that this wonderful restaurant needs all the publicity it can get, even if it is only among my friends.

Mediterranean Delite occupies a tight spot on El Camino Real in Southern San Carlos, in that no-man’s-land between Trader Joe’s and Downtown Redwood City. You can easily miss it, unless you are looking for it, so go by the giant sign for Baskin Robbins Ice Cream next door (do NOT take this as an endorsement for 31 Flavors, however). Once you hop out of your car–there is no way that you are going to walk here; remember what I said about no-mans-land?–wonderful and tantalizing aromas will assault your nose. Stroll inside and be prepared to experience more of the same–y’know, in terms of tastes, sights and really considerate service.

We ordered three of the plates–because I think that it’s easier to actually get a sense of the taste of the food in plates, as opposed to wraps. I had to get the 1/2 chicken plate, because the first thing that I saw as I walked in the door was a rotisserie oven-ful of spinning, glistening, reddish-golden birds. It was from this apparatus, I suspected, that a large portion of the delicious aromas were emitting. You can get a 1/4 chicken plate instead of a 1/2 chicken–but since there is only $1 difference in price, it seems a shame to chose the lesser option ($7.95 vs. $6.95). This is especially true since it lived up to all of my high expectations–moist, flavorful meat with a crispy savory skin. It was served with very good, buttery basmati rice and a lovely Greek salad. I highly recommend it, especially if you have discovered (as we have) that your oven is defective and there will be no home-roasted birds in your near future.

Dad had the lamb shawerma plate, which is typical for him ($7.95). It was very good; served with a lovely parsely-rich tabbouleh and super-smooth hummus. I still prefer the shawerma at Mediterranean Wraps in Palo Alto, but this was very good as well and probably healthier since it had many more vegetable accouterments.  Okaa-chan had the Vegetarian Combo plate which allowed her to try all manner of tasty things: dolma, babaghanouj, tabbouleh, Greek salad, and (my favorite) falafel ($7.25). The falalfel was amazing–despite being made of chickpeas, the little fried balls were actually fluffy (!) in texture. Add that to a crispy exterior and you’ve got culinary gold!

Even with this excellent technique, the best things about Mediterranean Delite, though, are their sauces. Besides the wonderful babaghanouj (smoky and chunky) and hummus (rich and smooth), we got a quartet of delicious condiments brought to our table: a curry-based salad dressing, tahini sauce,  a harissa-like hot sauce and “green” sauce (based around tahini, green chilis and parsley?). All four were delicious and added the just the right accent to the food brought to us.

As far as beverages, get the Guava-Mango drink ($2.95). It’s fresh and sweet and good for you! Or get the traditional Yogurt drink, which is also good for you but available in more locations (hence my relative lack of enthusiasm).

For reasons about which I can only speculate, Mediterranean Delite is quite vague about the country of origin of the owners/workers (unlike the similarly named Mediterranean Wraps of Palo Alto, which is quite openly and proudly Jordanian). The walls are decorated with murals depicting the pyramids, a walled village in the hills and a tent in the desert. We speculated from the menu that they might be Lebanese, or Egyptian (because of the papyrus scroll decorations) but it’s difficult to tell since they have the traditional range of Middle Eastern dishes.

*Note: They have a family meal plan for ~$14 which includes a whole chicken, pita bread and two sides. This seems like an idea thing to take out for home when you feel neither like cooking nor going out to eat.

Here is where it is, if you want to check it out:

Mediterranean Delite

1620A El Camino Real
San Carlos, CA 94070
Phone: (650) 654-9172

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Posted by: nekojita | February 4, 2008

Requests!

This may shock some people, but I actually have had some requests for my versions of certain recipes (admittedly all of these requests have been made by people in some way related to me). I have so far been dreadful at getting back to you–I’m sorry! But now that I am procrastinating doing real work (preparing for a job interview, planning out teaching agendas), I figured that I would put my pen to paper (figuratively of course) and set down some of these simple, nearly fool-proof recipes.

Without much further ado, here are Creamed Spinach, Macaroni and Cheese, and Pasta with Cherry Tomato-Tuna Sauce. The last is actually extremely wholesome and good for you; the former two are unabashedly not. Both draw upon the same basic technique of the white sauce or
bechamel
, which combines just about everything that’s bad for you.

Creamed Spinach

  • 16 oz. fresh spinach (2 bags of the pre-washed stuff)
  • 2 TBS. butter, plus 1 tsp.
  • 1/4 cup shallots, peeled and minced
  • 2 TBS. flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1/2 lb. gruyère cheese, grated (you may use another Swiss if you like, but it won’t taste as rich)

1. Steam or boil the spinach until it is limp, but not grey or overly slimy. Drain and press out as much water as possible with your hands. Chop fairly finely and then set aside.

2. Melt 2 TBS. butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallots and sauté for about 3 minutes (until they bits are translucent). Add the nutmeg, salt, pepper and flour and stir until the mixture is foamy and lump-free (about 1-2 minutes depending on you stove).  Whisk in the milk in a steady stream. Stir occasionally until the liquid thickens to the consistency of melted ice cream.  Remove from heat. Now add one half of the grated cheese and stir until it melts and thickens the sauce. Lastly, add the chopped spinach and mix thoroughly.

3. Butter a 2 quart baking dish with the remaining 1 tsp. of butter. Pour in the creamed spinach. Sprinkle the top with the remaining gruyère. Bake in a pre-heated 400 degree oven for about 1/2 hour, until the top is brown and a little bubbly.

Serves 6-8 people.

Macaroni and Cheese

  • 1/2 lb. curly pasta such as macaroni, cellentani or fusilli
  • 3 TBS. butter, plus 1 TBS.
  • 2 TBS. flour
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp.  dry mustard (optional)
  • 1 1/2 cup milk
  • 6 oz. sharp cheddar, grated
  • 6 oz. jack cheese, grated (fontina is also good, but usually more expensive)
  • 1 slice day-old bread

1. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add about 1 TBS salt and the pasta. Cook about 1 minute less than the package instructions. Drain and set aside.

2. Meanwhile, cut the bread into small cubes or food-process it into coarse crumbs. Melt 1 TBS butter in a small skillet. Add the bread bits and sauté until the bread absorbs the butter and becomes a little crisp, but not brown. Set aside.

3.  Next, melt 3 TBS butter in a saucepan over medium low heat. Stir in the flour and cook until the mixture is foamy. Add the cayenne and mustard (if using). Whisk in the milk slowly. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid thickens to the consistency of runny custard (slightly thicker than melted ice cream).  Remove from the heat and about 3/4 of the cheeses. Now add the cooked pasta and mix to coat it well.

4. Pour the pasta into a buttered 8″x8″ baking pan (the kind you use for brownies). Sprinkle with the remaining cheese and the bread crumbs. Bake on the top rack of a 450 degree oven for 10-15 minutes, until the crumbs are golden and the sauce is bubbly.

Serves 4

Pasta with Cherry Tomato-Tuna Sauce

  • 1/2 lb. curly pasta such as fusilli, cellentani or radiatori
  • ~2 cups small tomatoes (grape, cherry, sweet 100, etc.)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 large stem of basil with leaves
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, smashed but left whole (use your judgement depending on the size of the cloves and on how much you like garlic)
  • 2 TBS. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 can of tuna packed in olive oil, drained
  • salt and pepper to taste

1. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add salt (~ 1 TBS) and pasta. Cook according to the directions on the box. Drain.

2. Meanwhile, make the sauce.  Slice the cherry tomatoes in half (I know this is tedious but it will help the juices come out). Toss the halves with 1/4 tsp salt and set aside in a bowl. Remove the basil leaves from the stem and set aside. In a large cold skillet, place 1 TBS olive oil, the basil stem and the garlic cloves. Bring the skillet up to medium heat.  Stir the garlic occasionally to ensure that it cooks on all sides. Add the pepper flakes and sauté for ~30 seconds. Add the tomato halves and their juices, quickly stir to coat with the oil, and them cover. Stir occasionally until the tomatoes have given up their juices and collapsed a bit. Remove the cover and flake in the tuna. Break up the tuna a bit with the spoon in order to make a full-bodied sauce. Slice the reserved basil leaves.

3. Add the cooked pasta and stir to coat it in the sauce. Drizzle with the remaining 1 TBS olive oil and the reserved basil leaves. Give it one final toss and serve.

Serves 2-3

Posted by: nekojita | January 28, 2008

Columbus Fish Market and Katzinger’s Deli

I’m putting these restaurants together for two reasons:

1) These are the last two restaurants at which B and I have eaten–i. e. yesterday’s dinner and today’s lunch.

2) They are both perfectly fine restaurants that charge too much for what they deliver.

Yesterday, we went to the Columbus Fish Market, since it was the Cameron Mitchell restaurant about which we had heard the best things. Besides, neither one of us had had oysters in way too long.

Indeed, the oysters were good, and probably the most worthy of raves.  We ordered the large sampler platter, which had two oysters of each variety offered, for a total of 8 oysters ($14.95).  They were served on ice with two sauces (cocktail and mignonette) and a lemon. Perplexingly, there were no spoons for the sauces, so we had to ask for some (were we breaking oyster etiquette here?). Our favorites were the New York (sweet and fat) and west coast (bracingly briny) oysters.

For the entrees, B had the mixed fry, which was fine–nicely executed with crispy batter and moist tender flesh. The accompanying coleslaw was deemed too small and bland to make an adequate side dish. It was ok, but not stunning to a boy from a seaside Pacific town.

I got the Maryland Crab Cake and Garlic Grilled Shrimp, and I’m so sad. They were fine texture-wise, but so lacking in flavor that I resorted to using Tabasco sauce (my least favorite of the hot sauces) to liven things up. Maybe a different, spicier sauce could replace the equally bland tartar sauce that came with it…

We didn’t feel gipped,  because after all, we had the $25 certificate from CM restaurants. Nevertheless, we don’t feel any compulsion whatsoever to go back.

We had a similar reaction to Katzinger’s Deli this afternoon. Not that we had a gift certificate there–I think that it’s always the first of the GC Columbus Original vouchers to sell out. However, we had assumed froma purely logical standpoint that the sandwiches at Katzingers should be out of this world–after all, why else would people pay $12 for a sandwich?

Alas, the reuben was just a reuben. No angels descended from heaven as I savored my first bite. No heartbreaking string music accompanied the last scrap of crust.  Columbus is a competitive town for reubens, and this wasn’t really the best reuben we’ve had here. It was good, but not $12 good. As B said, for that price it should have included sides and a drink.

Still, for those of you who are still interested in hype-heavy joints of Columbus, here’s the info:

Columbus Fish Market

1245 Olentangy River Road

Columbus, OH 43212

(614) 291-3474

Katzinger’s Deli

475 S. Third St.

Columbus, OH 43215

(614) 228-3354

Posted by: nekojita | January 27, 2008

Back in Columbus for the Weekend

Sake glass

I couldn’t resist buying these pretty sake glasses. Look at how the pattern catches the winter afternoon light!

I am back in Columbus for the weekend to see B. In spite of the freezing temperature, it’s nice to be back here. I feel like so much has changed in my life (starting a new job, living elsewhere) that it’s surprising that not much has changed here–except the Jeni’s ice cream flavors. I got to try the Goat Cheese with Cognac Fig Sauce today. Mmmm… delicious!

Tonight, B and I will be going to the Columbus Fish Market, one of the most highly regarded of Cameron Mitchell’s ventures. There’s a bit of a story as to why we are going–beyond the oysters, which we have heard are fabulous. Back in October, when my parents came to visit,  we went to the Cap City Diner in Gahanna. From what I had read and heard of the Cap City Diner, we were expecting a fun, casual experience with tasty food. Unfortunately, what we got was the most apathetic serving person ever. She let our food sit on the counter between the kitchen and dining area for 15 minutes while she talked to some other customers (they seemed to be friends?) with her back turned towards the kitchen. So when we got our food, it was in no condition to be fairly judged for its merit, being room-temperature and all.

Anyhow, since there was a comment card included with the bill, I decided that we might as well express our true feelings about the service. So I wrote down our opinion, and even put down our name and address, since I was more than willing to stand by my statement. I didn’t think more about it after that, but a month later, we got a letter from Cameron Mitchell restaurants. It apologized for the service and stated that it was not representative of Cameron Mitchell restaurants. The best part, though, was that it included a $25 gift card to use at any of the Cameron Mitchell places, to prove its case. We’ll see how it goes, but it seems that sometimes it does pay to be the squeaky wheel.

I’ll report back later with the results…

Posted by: nekojita | January 13, 2008

Offering to Our Lady of Leftovers

Borscht!

Sometimes, you just look in the refrigerator and think, “Gosh, I sure have a lot of stuff in here.” Left unspoken is the fact that you don’t actually want to eat any of it, and may not even remember having made certain items. The shameful crutch of procrastination only causes the air of mystery (or whatever) emanating from the fridge to grow and overshadow the pleasure of mealtime.

But as they say, I must break the cycle. Making new dishes from old ones creates the illusion that you are eating something new.

So this soup is a sort of penitential exercise. It used some left-over roasted beets, the end of a black forest ham, the remaining 3/4 of a carton of chicken broth and various sad-but-still-vital vegetables from the fridge. Voila! A borscht was born.* I tried to use only things that we had on hand (I did break down and buy sour cream and dill–it’s just not borscht otherwise).

Born of a specific and probably not to be repeated confluence of ingredients,  it’s sort of against the spirit of the dish to give a recipe. In any case, the great beauty of soup if that it is very flexible. So I’m just posting a picture and will leave it to inspire others to look in the fridge and rescue their food from murky oblivion.

*Note: I do not know Russian, and so have no idea what “voila” would be in that language, or Ukrainian, or any other borscht-producing culture’s language. If you know, please tell me!

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