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Sundae in the Park

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    Ventura County, CA

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  1. We've made potstickers several times in the past week, as well as another batch of basil eggplant. One night we had fresh spring rolls with marinated chicken, herbs, spinach, cucumber, carrots, vermicelli noodles (the really thin and clear, fun se kind), and hoisin-peanut butter sauce. Finally, I made a double batch of giant shells, one set stuffed with 4 cheese and another stuffed with ground turkey, spinach, and cheese.
  2. Chinese sticky rice is a big hit! They kids are even asking for it. Now, they usually leave behind most if not all the good filling ingredients (mushrooms, chicken, sausage, veg, etc.), but it's a start, and then my portion has double fillings... They are also obsessed with the Costco cod fillets. No matter how many you make, they will eat their share and then stare/whine at yours until you fork it over. Finally, right now they will eat whichever yogurt is NOT currently open. Not the whole milk with jam, not the maple Greek (both of which they ordinarily love, which is why we have them and they are open!!); they must have the individually wrapped Chobanis, which come in particularly magical flavors such as strawberry and blueberry. If I say they have to have one of the open options, they'll pass altogether. WTF??
  3. Real question - are these for carrying around and using at restaurants, or just at home? Do guys carry them around and, if so, where? Presumably a woman with a bag can carry them there, perhaps with a cleaning rod and/or holder so your bag doesn't get wet, but they don't seem super pocket-friendly. Maybe they are a reason to carry a man-purse? Paper straws have made it out to the 'burbs in Ventura County, as I've noticed their use a few times in the past month.
  4. They have beef XLBs!!!!! I actually don't favor the XLB here, as they have thicker skins and are blander than many other places, but we spotted these on the menu and ordered them for my folks, who avoid pork and shellfish. While the execution was only decent (I mean, DTF is right across the street), it's an odd ingredient that I haven't seen anywhere else and they turned out to be a special treat (because SOUP DUMPLINGS!!!). Lamb and pork pan-fried dumplings, as well as the beef rolls, were excellent per usual. Their cold cucumber plate is simple and not spicy at all, but just tangy and sweet enough to cut through the richness of all the snacks.
  5. Woohoo, Asian market trip week! We made another date-walnut cake and had bacon and hash browns for Mother's Day, but otherwise this week will be dedicated to using up all the goodies we grabbed at the market over the weekend. Monday night was pad se ew with a side of smashed, marinated cucumbers and last night we made sauteed king trumpet mushrooms, basil eggplant (finally made with enough Thai basil to taste right!!), and stir-fried green beans eaten on top of brown rice. Yesterday morning I seared some fresh rice noodle rolls, served them with a simple brown sauce (hoisin, oyster, sriracha, pepper, and sugar), and they were GOOD, nearly as tasty (though the texture was not quite as good as truly fresh) as decent dim sum. Tonight will be another stir-fried noodle dish with lots of baby bok choy.
  6. Leigh, you speak truth 😉 My kids had cake for dinner last night and there was still some (mangled) cake left on their plates when they were done.
  7. West Lake soup is an easy, brothy, high-protein soup made with mostly pantry ingredients with virtually zero carbs. I wanted to punch up my egg drop soup and have been playing with this and similar recipes to recreate several restaurant experiences. I like to add chopped shitake mushrooms (can use rehydrated dried mushrooms), sometimes silken tofu, and always a bit of sesame or chili-sesame oil. Ground beef works nearly as well as minced beef and is a lot easier if you're pressed for time/ingredients.
  8. Ha, excellent use of shoes! My most delicate jars always went in my steel-toed boots. Nothing would break in there!
  9. Monday night I made a big batch of bourbon chicken to be eaten with rice. Yesterday we made that limey eggplant/pepper/garlic/basil dish from America's Test Kitchen, sauteed green beans with egg, and roasted vegetables to add to the leftover chicken and rice (it's a great combination!), plus a batch of tuna mac for the kiddos.
  10. That is what I did when I lived in VA and traveled to CA for work! Flying cross-country with groceries is ridiculous and yet I did it, every time. I got really good at packaging bottles of sauces so they don't break in checked luggage...
  11. !!!!! I ❤️ Ranch 99, though I've only shopped CA locations, and I'm excited for you guys that they made it to the DC metro area!! I like it especially because of their Chinese/Taiwanese background so, despite being somewhat pan-Asian, they carry all the brands/types of items I grew up eating.
  12. We made pizzas again over the weekend, this time with homemade dough, which is always noticeably less salty than the store-bought dough. Other oven use included roasted squash and date-walnut muffins. I made a batch of vegetable stock and used some to make a fairly light chicken corn chowder, which is both springy and warming, so perfect for our "May grey" weather.
  13. Here's an article today from Slate about judging a restaurant from the outside. Since it's about food I clicked (bait: accepted!) and it was...fine. The usual tips (curated menu, attention to provenance, matching the restaurant decor/location to mission/theme, long lines, people of the same presented ethnicity eating there, etc.) , which more food-centric folks would already be well familiar with, resonated, albeit weakly because <shrug> we already know all this! But there was also a judgy section that bugged me - not about restaurants, but diners: These initial quick judgments usually take a few seconds, at which point we walk over to the posted menu and study it like the Dead Sea Scrolls. Here’s what you don’t want to see: everything. This isn’t a food court, and while figuring out what you want to do in life is often a long journey for people, restaurants should have this decided far before the menu is printed. “When it’s too cross-cultural, when it’s too all over the place, that’s an issue. There’s a restaurant I’m thinking of right now that has fettucine Alfredo with your choice of shrimp, chicken, or salmon. You’re like, ‘OK, that’s not a good sign,’ ” says Stowell. “That’s the way people used to eat in the ’80s: They would offer everything for everybody, and let them combine it how they want. But we’ve gone away from that and more toward, ‘We’re going to guide you to what’s good.’ If you’re everything for everybody you’re usually nothing for nobody.” Emphasis mine, on the lines I thought were unnecessarily reductive. I know a lot of these people!! They simply don't care about food as much as me, and derive much more of their dining utility from getting things just their way on a (perhaps a rare) night out. Which is fine, and it doesn't necessarily (but can, and that is also fine!) mean that they don't want high-quality food, or ambiance, or overall experience! And besides, who, exactly, is the audience for an article about how to pick a restaurant? People who care a lot about picking a restaurant will already know these very general guidelines or have their own, much more relevant metrics, so those that could most benefit from learning about these ideas to improve their dining experience are likely the very people being (gently, I concede) mocked as being decades out of touch. Anyway, I probably just wanted to pontificate this morning, but this section of the article really rubbed me the wrong way. Since I've gotten older, and moved to a more conservative area, and become a parent, etc., I've met and dined with many more types of people (than my City-dwelling, free-wheeling, proto-hipster, semi-rabid insistent days on authenticity and excellence), with lots more (and valid) dining preferences. I'm much more viscerally aware that more/most of America (especially away from the coasts) is occupied by people who, while more aware of food culture than in the pre-Food Network and Insta days, simply don't give food as much head space as me and are happiest when they can get exactly what they want, when they want. Holding their preferences in contempt is pointless and mean, and these days more than ever, I think, every kindness counts. (I'm aware that I am more sensitive to this perhaps perceived issue because I lost a friend back in the day after a meal at a wonderful DC restaurant during which I was, mostly unwittingly, a total a** about her food choices and naiveté, and I really wish I could go back and smack 20something me for being a jerk.)
  14. Ooooh, this brings back memories. When I lived within walking distance this was once of my favorite places to pop in and grab a treat, especially on the weekends when they pulled out the grill cart (pure genius for getting people to follow their noses!). Are they still doing periodic open houses? Those were the best and included tours of the workspace and lots of samples.
  15. The kids both really like brothy soups. The Little especially likes to drink up "Chinese style," holding up the bowl to his face and slurping away. Other than dropping the bowl, this method of eating is typically less messy than his usual excited spoon-waving shenanigans. Both, however, will magically leave behind pretty much all the solids except for noodles (even if they like the solids in other forms) and also refuse to eat the soup entirely if it too thick/pureed. All this is to say that the Little had a version of egg drop soup last night which was successful mostly because I didn't make it with many egg ribbons/shreds (as is my preference), instead incorporating the egg more fully into the broth kind of like Greek lemon soup, and the Big opted for chicken and rice (which we were also having) because there were no noodles available.
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