Sunday, June 24, 2012

Rock 'n Roll-y Guacamole

Neil and I love avocados.  We like them simply sprinkled with salt, tucked into a salad, on a burger, on a sandwich, on a taco and we really love guacamole.  I don't know if you've noticed, but in recent months, avocados have been ridiculously expensive.  So much so that we haven't bought any in ages.  Then this week rolled around:  Aldi has avocados for $.69 apiece.  Yahoo, hallelujah, zoiks, shazaam!

They needed to ripen up a bit, so we waited patiently for a few days.  This morning, we realized today is the day.  We split one for breakfast with just a salt shaker and a spoon.  As I have been patiently waiting, I planned the meal.  Tonight we're having chicken fajitas with homemade guacamole.  I have to tell you guys.  This is the best guacamole I have ever made.  It was epic.  In fact, I was so pleased with the end result I decided to share with you exactly how I made it.  

First, I made pico de gallo.  This makes enough to put into the guac and more to have with chips, on a taco salad, whatever.  I used these little skinny peppers that we've had stashed away in our freezer.  I don't know what kind they are.  A friend of Neil's grew them last year.  Neil (atomic taste bud man) didn't think they were very hot, so he popped them in the freezer for a rainy day.  What was I thinking listening to Jolly King Jalapeno?  These little suckers were damn hot!  And perfect for my pico.  Experiment with peppers that you prefer or you can always bank on a jalapeno.

Pico de Gallo (makes 2 cups)
  • 2 cups diced, fresh tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup diced onion (white or Vidalia if you like it a little more tame)
  • 2 Tbs chopped cilantro
  • 1 1/2 Tbs minced jalapeno (remove seeds, unless you like the heat)
  • 2 tsp fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 tsp salt
Mix all this yumminess together & refrigerate to allow the flavors to marry.

Chop into small dice
Add these to the party
Homemade Pico de Gallo

  • 3 medium Hass avocados
  • 1 Tbs fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 cup pico de gallo
  • 1 1/2 tsp chopped garlic
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 3/4 tsp salt
Pit the avocados.  Score the pulp with a knife (makes little cubes) then scoop out with a spoon.  Place in a mixing bowl.  Add lime juice and stir to evenly coat the avocados.

Fruit of the gods
The guac that made Neil glad he married me
 Stir in the pico, garlic, olive oil, and salt.  Gently mix and mash the avocado pieces.  You want to create some creaminess, but leave chunks of avocado.  Don't overmash. 

Before dinner, we couldn't help but try it out with some chips. Neil looked at me with the most sincerest expression of love on his face.  I think it almost made him cry.  (Just kidding. That's my ego going wild!) The guacamole was fantastic in our chicken fajitas with the yummy caramelized onions and bell peppers. I gotta reiterate: this is by far the best guac I've ever made and will be my new go-to for guacamole.  If you think making the pico is too much trouble, let me assure you it's not.  It took me about 10 minutes to put it all together.  Well worth it to have fresh, spicy pico to flavor the guacamole.  Don't skip that step; you'll thank yourself! 

Friday, June 22, 2012

Spice Junction

I love Indian food.  As I've told you before though, I have very few friends who appreciate it as much as I do.  Today, I had the office to myself.  No one around at all.  Got tons of work done and when lunchtime rolled around, I remembered that Spice Junction was near my office.  I've been dying to go because every review that I've read has been off the hook.  So, me, myself and I headed on over.

Like most Indian restaurants in our area, they serve a buffet with a wide variety.  I don't mind this because even though I've been eating Indian food for years and years, I know that I've only scratched the surface of all the wonderful dishes that exist.  Just as I'd read on Urbanspoon, the owner was behind the line and offered to help me or answer any questions.  She then went out onto the floor and talked to some of her customers.  That's the way a restaurant owner insures a loyal following.  That, and having kick ass food.

Spice Junction delivers!  Today, I sampled channa masala, butter chicken, vegetable and chicken samosas, veggie fritters, spinach and corn curry, sweet lime pickle and a cauliflower dish (I can't remember the name.) Butter chicken is one of my all-time favorites and I really liked Spice Junction's version.  The chicken was wonderfully tender and the sauce was spicy, but not so much that it would hurt people.  Neil and I like it spicier, but that's something that can be adjusted.  The spinach and corn curry was interesting too.  I've never run across that dish before.  I loved the veggie fritters and of the two samosas, I preferred the chicken one.  The chickpea dish (channa) was packed with flavor and with chickpeas! The best part of it all?  After I sat down, a nice man brought a basket of naan to me, fresh and hot out of the oven.  And, this was beautifully bubbled and tasty naan...just perfect!

The restaurant is tucked into the corner of that shopping center at the corner of Dreher Rd. and Hwy. 1 in West Columbia (the one with the BiLo).  I recently heard somewhere that some of the most surprising restaurants tend to be in these unassuming strip malls.  Maybe Guy Fieri said it on "Triple D." It's certainly true of this place.  I left there happy with my meal and that indescribable warmness and satiety that you get inside when you eat Indian food.  Maybe it's the spices?  I don't know.  It doesn't matter really.  I just love it.  

**Sorry I didn't take any photos today.  I was so ready to dive in that it just slipped my mind!  You'll have to see it for yourself!**
Spice Junction on Urbanspoon

Thursday, June 21, 2012


Have you guys heard about this place?  It's the newest offering to Columbia from Miyo's Queen Michelle.  I just learned about it today from my mom.  As I was choking down a "juice" I bought from a raw food joint, at first the idea going to a "fresh" restaurant wasn't sitting well with me.  Don't misunderstand me.  I like healthy. I like fresh.  I like weird.  I like flavor.  But I don't like a bowl full of raw vegetables dried, pureed, dehydrated and otherwise manipulated into masquerading as chili or spaghetti or steak.

But, that all said, I accompanied my mom and dad to M Fresh for lunch.  So glad I did.  So glad my preconceived notions subsided (I think that juice was messing with me!).  The restaurant is right around the corner from M Cafe, one of my faves.  I mean, don't even get me going on the soy salad dressing and the sizzling flank steak.  M Fresh is small, and totally hip in true Miyo's style.  We chose to sit outside so we had a great vantage point for people-watching.  Thankfully, today's weather was un-June-like and very pleasant to be outside.

The newest in the Miyo's family of restaurants
 So, on with it!  M Fresh offers teas, juices, smoothies, salads, wraps and sandwiches Monday thru Friday.  Too bad they aren't there on Sundays (you know, they are surrounded by churches.  Everybody knows people are starving after church.) My dad ordered the "fantastic flounder" sandwich with tree ear mushroom salad. 

Okay, tree ears are weird.  Even if it's your favorite food, you have to admit that!
Dad was intrigued to see what gingered flounder and avocado would taste like together.  He reported that it was good and he was really enjoying it.  The salad took a little adjustment.  Tree ears look just like those bizarre, wet, floppy, translucent fungi that pop out of wood after a lot of rain.  My dad is a big mushroom fan, but the appearance of these took him a bit aback.  However, once he forked up a bite, he was very happy with the flavor.  

Now, mom opted for the Thai beef wrap.  I tasted hers and it was really awesome.  That may be what I order next time. 

That just looks pretty, doesn't it?
This is a huge wrap of wonderfully flavored steak with tons of spinach and other veggies all snuggled up in their tortilla sleeping bag.  Mom ordered the Asian slaw as her side.  (It's not listed on the menu as an available side, but you can get it.)

I chose the Sweet & Sour shrimp salad.  It was a beautiful salad and I polished off the whole thing!  It was described a sweet & sour glazed shrimp over salad with poached broccoli, cashews, pineapple, cucumber, tomato and pea pods.  

My big ol' shrimp salad
It was indeed all that, but these shrimp weren't glazed with anything.  They were boiled or poached shrimp.  That's fine, they tasted great, but there wasn't anything sweet or sour about them.  I ordered it with the soy-balsamic dressing, which is like the heavenly nectar of Miyo's and M Cafe that EVERYONE in Columbia wishes this lady would bottle and sell to us mere mortals.  The end verdict?  Great salad.  I was very happy with my choice.

Let's back up for a moment.  When we arrived, our friendly waitress very promptly took our drink orders and presented the menus.  As she went for our drinks, another pleasant young lady brought an appetizer plate to our table.  Gratis.  Very nice touch, M Fresh!  It consisted of cold green beans marinated in a bit of roasted garlic and brown sugar.  

Marinated green beans and delightful slaw as amuse-bouche
Also, a serving of the Asian slaw, which is a little spicy, studded with walnuts and simply fantastic.  Bringing a little plate like this to your customers while they wait is A HUGE, FANTASTIC DETAIL that restaurants as a whole should note.  However, one disappointment. 

Thanks to the green crazy juice and the 400 gallons of water I'd consumed this morning, I went inside to seek out the powder room.  As I passed through the dining room, I noticed this huge specials board on the wall.  I saw delicious words like "shrimp over arugula" and "pork tenderloin."  We'd already ordered and none of this had come up.  That's right, our waitress had forgotten to tell us there were specials.  Not that any of us were disappointed with our meals, but it's always important to at least know of the existence of specials and then to have them as an option.  I did learn later that our waitress has only been working in this restaurant for about 2 weeks, and the restaurant itself is relatively new. So, I'm going to let this slide.  My salad was awesome and I'll happily return to M Fresh. 

M Fresh on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Traveling: food nirvana or food wasteland?

Cosmo Kramer
I love to travel.  Well, to be exact, I love being somewhere else. The actual traveling, the getting-there, I could do without.  On planes, I can never sleep and I always get what Kramer refers to as "the Jimmy Legs" because my legs are too short to reach the floor comfortably. In a car, I'm a little better as long as I'm the driver.  On a bus? Well, I haven't actually been on a bus for an extended period since I was a kid riding up to Spartanburg on Trailways.  Until now.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Lunch at the Flight Deck

Lunch. It happens every day.  So do the lunch conversations.  

"I'm hungry, want to go get something to eat?"
 "Sure, where do you want to go?"
"I don't know, what are you in the mood for?"
"Oh, I can eat anything.  You decide."

This can go on for up to 20 minutes.  Someone has to step up and make the decision.  For everyone.  Make the decision and herd them out the door.  This is how lunch gets done.

This is my mom.  We work together, so we have lunch together almost every day

Yesterday, I had the Vivver with me at the office when the lunch conversation came up.  In some ways, it's easier when you have a child involved because then the mom or dad usually becomes that decision maker since you have to choose a place that's kid-friendly and has a decent kids' menu.  As we began to discuss where, what, who, how to have lunch, I thought of the Flight Deck in Lexington.  It's a locally owned, family place with one of those menus that has something for everyone, including children.  The decision was made.  Bam!  Just like that.

The little one ordered the kids' spaghetti with a side of green beans.  I didn't photograph her plate because as soon as it arrived, she dug into it and within seconds, it was no longer photogenic.  She's a big fan of spaghetti and really liked Flight Deck's offering.  I had to pick a couple of large pieces of tomato out of the sauce for her, but other than that, it was a hit.  Half for lunch, the other half for dinner.  She wasn't crazy about the green beans because she found them to be spicy.  I tasted them; I don't know what she's talking about.

Mom ordered the "Poor Boy" sandwich.  Don't confuse this with a "Po' Boy."  Flight Deck's sandwich is a lot like the French dip at Momo's.  It's a sub roll filled with tender pot roast, melted cheese and served with a side of jus.  

Poor Boy and Collards

I didn't get a taste of it because mom was diggin' every bite.  And, I was quite busy with my big salad.  As a side, she chose the collard greens.  It's funny:  we never had collards when I was growing up.  Usually, foods that didn't appear on our table were ones that my mom didn't like.  Therefore, she wouldn't serve it to the rest of us if she didn't care for it.  I assumed this was the case with collards, but here we all are years later, and we all eat them.  Curious.

The Primo Salad

I ordered the Flight Deck "Primo" salad.  It's described as a Greek salad mixed with a Chef's salad.  What it is is fantastic!  What you can't see in my photo is the ham, turkey and super-crispy bacon.  What you can see if lots of heavenly feta, pepperoncini, and Greek olives.  Nice touch:  the olives were pitted!  Served with a classic Greek dressing with tasty herbs.  I ordered the small, which is still a big ol' salad.  I ate almost the whole thing.  And, I'm not ashamed to admit it.

What I like the most about the Flight Deck is the people.  When you walk in the door, you're greeted right away and by someone friendly.  During the course of your meal, someone other than your server will come by and check on you.  The wait staff is also friendly, laid back and helpful.  And, they deal with kids very well!  This is huge.  Nothing will get a mama's dander up faster than some jerk acting like they can't be bothered by her child.  I'm gonna be tipping on the cost of her meal too, ya know.  This isn't a problem here.  And, it's a locally owned business and y'all know how I feel about that!  The Flight Deck isn't where you'd go on a fancy date, but when you want a tasty, satisfying, casual meal, and you happen to be in Lexington (which is a crowded sea of chain restaurants), head over to the Flight Deck. There truly is something for everyone on the menu, the atmosphere is friendly and relaxed and you'll be supporting a local restaurant and local people.

Flight Deck Restaurant on Urbanspoon


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...