Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Lunch in the Garden

You know those places that you forget about and then, when you go there again you always say to yourself "I've gotta remember this place and come here more often." One of those places for me is the Garden Bistro in the Vista.  My good friend Ellen loves this restaurant and is a regular. I recently met her there for lunch and had that "why don't I come here?" moment.  

For those of you who do not know the Garden Bistro, it's a cute little place that's decorated like a patio.  You're inside but you feel like you're outside.  It's tucked away behind the Art Bar so you kind of have to know what you're looking for.  The cool thing is that it's in the Vista, but its got an enormous parking lot right outside its door.  Parking is quite the rarity in this part of town.  It's a locally owned restaurant with daily specials and a really good regular menu.  Lots of fresh sandwiches, salads and soups.

When we went the other day, Ellen got one of the specials which was a turkey reuben.  It looked just awesome and I may have to get that next time. I chose a salad and soup combo: BLT salad (I'm a sucker for bacon) and French onion soup. I loved them both!  It was a perfect size for lunch and the taste was fantastic.  

If you read restaurant reviews on sites like Urbanspoon you know that Garden Bistro gets rave reviews all the time.  Comments tend to focus on freshness, variety, flavor and that it's a good local joint.  The atmosphere is comfortable, fun and creative.  They have a loyal following of regulars and deservedly so.  Sadly, the owner of the restaurant recently passed away from kidney disease at a much too early age.  I did not know him, but Ellen did and she (and many others) are greatly saddened by his passing.  I hope that Columbia's continued patronage will help keep his memory alive and will help his family continue on. Garden Bistro definitely is a keeper in Columbia's dining scene.

Garden Bistro on Urbanspoon

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Quickie Greek-ish Dinner

This has been one insanely busy weekend and I didn't even do any work (well, not my normal work.)  Here's a list of what we crammed into Friday night through Sunday evening: Circus, playground, pizza with friends, Carolina Ballet performance, church, USC basketball.  It was a lot of stuff.

Viv and I left the Lady Gamecocks as they were 41-41 with Texas A&M.  As a side note, I haven't watched women's basketball in a long time.  They are aggressive as hell and they spend more time on the floor than I remember any team...not just the Gamecocks but the other team too.  It just seemed like they were constantly tripping over feet, just flat out running into each other, whatever you wanna call it...all I know was somebody was on the floor pretty much every play.

By the time we got home, it was time to get back to reality: baths, picking out school clothes, reading and of course, dinner.  I was so tired I just "thought on my feet" and whipped up and dinner that much to my delight (and apparently to my daughter and husband as well), I came up this dish: We'll call it "Elvin's Greek Chicken Pasta." Okay?

Here's what I did:
I took about 6 chicken tenderloins and sprinkled with Cavender's All Purpose Greek Seasoning.  This is something my family has always had in our cabinets.  If you've never used it, find it and be thankful.

So, next I heated up a griddle, melted some butter and added my chicken.  I used a grill press to put pressure on the chicken to quickly create the sear and that beautiful grilled color.  Plus, this cooks the chicken quicker.  I stored them under foil as I continued with other step.  All this time, I had whole wheat penne on the stove.  

Here's the thing about whole wheat pasta.  Most people think it sucks.  Know why?  If you don't cook it right, it does suck.  Wheat pasta must be seasoned with salt while it cooks and it has to cook longer than white pasta.  Simple.  Salting the water liberally will truly add some flavor to the pasta and will take away that wheaty bready cardboardish flavor. And, it must be cooked longer to make it soft and pliable; it's simply different than "regular" pasta.

Then, I used about 1/2 a package of frozen chopped spinach, thawed it and drained it.  I cut up some black olives, then cut the chicken up into bite sized pieces. (Full disclosure: Neil actually handled the chicken for me.  Fantastic job, honey!)  While he was busy with that, I started the sauce.  I like to make roux. Actually I don't really know how to make a sauce or gravy without doing so.) I used about 3 Tbs of butter, 2 Tbs flour..got that cooking, stirring until it got "blonde" and "nutty" smelling then I added about 2 cups of warm milk (having the milk warm or hot is important so you don't end up with clumps) whisking vigorously.  As it began to thicken, I added a little Parmesan and Feta.  That's the sauce.  Easy, huh?

So, after draining my pasta, I put it back in the pot, mixed in the black olives, spinach, chicken (now in bite sized pieces) then mixed it all up with the sauce.  It was ridiculously easy to whip up in a hurry and I got big thumbs up from the 6 year old and the 45 year old!  So, if you need quick entrees in your repertoire, you might want to include this one.

Pictures never give it justice

My six year old loved it and my husband had three helpings.  Go ahead, try it, I dare ya!

Monday, February 4, 2013

It was a Super Bowl!

Of chili, that is. White chicken chili, to be exact.  

We rendez-vous'd with friends last night for the gameAs you well know, the Super Bowl has evolved into a major food event for us Americans.  Some people enjoy creating the giant spread for a house full of people, others prefer ordering a stack of pizzas, and some just do the potluck kind of thing.  That's what we did.  Neil and I brought guacamole & pico de gallo.  

Euge came armed with fresh veggies. MaryBeth (our gracious hostess) treated the kids to little smokies in blankets and a mixed bean dip and mini crabcakes for us adults.  

Then, there was the chili.  Brian provided one of the best batches of white chicken chili I've had in a long time.  It was spicy, flavorful, packed with white beans and the chicken was shredded but remained tender.  It was just plain good! Come to think of it, he made some awesome red chili last year at another get together at MaryBeth's. Hmm, I think we know what his specialty dish is. Neil was inspired and is working on his own version tonight.  Maybe we have a chili cook-off in our future?

Incidentally, Brian writes a blog too. He's extremely witty and a talented writer. You may want to click over and check him out. http://www.theunkemptmind.blogspot.com


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...