food · travel

Review: Al Forno Pizzeria

Have you ever had plans to be great – truly great – and life sat you down like, “Maybe next time you’ll be great, but today? Today you need to chill.” That’s precisely what happened to me when I planned to go out and enjoy some of the local eats in Philadelphia. I was too tired from my grueling morning commute and subsequent travel into the City of Brotherly Love.

So instead of going super-luxe, I did a low-key meal delivered to my hotel room. Unfortunately, the delivery options available for visitors staying near the Philadelphia International Airport are truly pathetic (unless you opt for Uber Eats, which was an absolute savior when I decided to use it). I was blown away by how few options were available for delivery to the airport area, especially since Philadelphia is such a large city. Anyway, I kept it simple and ordered Italian food.

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Funny, I don’t mention Italian food on this blog much, because I don’t eat much of it. I love authentic Italian food so most stateside Italian restaurants don’t pass muster.But I decided to take a chance on Al Forno Pizzeria, located in Darby, PA. I ordered the shrimp basket and the ravioli with lobster (I obviously ventured away from my vegetarian preferences), a couple of juices and a slice of strawberry cheesecake.

For starters, the food was good. Now, I wasn’t expecting blow-my-mind deliciousness, but I was pleasantly surprised at how well executed the lobster ravioli was. The dishes definitely didn’t disappoint, and I’m glad I tried this restaurant.

Fried shrimp with a big of ravioli sauce spilledon the outside (takeout isn’t always pretty)

The shrimp basket was your standard fried shrimp and French fries. Bonus points to the restaurant for providing a BIG container of cocktail sauce. The shrimp were tasty and reasonably priced considering the amount of food that I got ($8.50). I wish I could have gotten the fries fresh out of the fryer: even when lukewarm, they were really good. I can only imagine how outstanding they would have been if eaten while piping hot.

The biggest problem with takeout food? Presentation generally stinks LOL!

The lobster ravioli was savory, creamy and satisfying. The portion was huge and the fact that this entree came with a salad made it an excellent choice for the price ($11.95). I ate a bit of this on the first night and finished it the next day in lieu of a traditional breakfast.

The strawberry cheesecake was good: not unique but a solid dessert option. I would have gladly eaten two of them. The price was right for the size ($3). The juices were bottled (by EverMade) so there’s nothing to say about them, other than I enjoyed them like I always do.

My final impression of Al Forno’s Pizzeria is that it’s worth a try. The delivery was fast, the food was good, and the price was right. I was very pleased my meal and I would certainly try another meal from there when I return to the area.

food

My Secret Weapon for the Summer

After the languishing winter we’ve had, I’ll admit that I’ve been anxiously awaiting warmer days. For one thing, I’m a summer baby, and so I feel like I come alive during the summer months. Secondly, the foods that are abundant during the summer – fresh fruits and vegetables – are my favorites. I love eating salads and drinking freshly made smoothies.

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Summer’s almost here!

This brings me to the topic of today’s post. I have had a handy gadget since the fall, and I’ve used it several times, though I’ve never mentioned it on this blog. This gadget is such a game changer for me: it’ll allow me to easily create the fresh smoothies that I want, anywhere and at any time. This gadget is my portable, personal blender.

Sadly, the one that I purchased in the fall is no longer available, but I’m linking a suitable alternative below. Just click here or on the picture to take a look at it.


I got my personal blender in pink, as well. This device is ingenius: it has a charging port that allows you to recharge the battery using your standard phone charger. Once the blender is charged, you can make smoothies without having to be bound to an electrical outlet. It’s small and lightweight, not to mention very cute. These blenders are powerful enough to turn fruit into smooth, creamy deliciousness.

Do you have a personal blender that you’d like to recommend? Let me know in the comments below!

 

food · international

Review: Absolute Thai Restaurant

A few days ago, I went out for lunch because, well, I needed a break from the office LOL! I decided to try Absolute Thai restaurant (which is different from Absolute Noodle, which I’ve reviewed previously). I figured I would treat myself, since I hadn’t gone there in years and I remember that I enjoyed their food before.

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The restaurant is conveniently located right behind the Verizon Center, at the corner of 6th and G Streets NW. It’s a 3 minute walk from the Gallery Place/Chinatown Metro stop to the restaurant’s front door. Like many of the restaurant in this area, there isn’t a lot of interior space but the restaurant does a good job of maximizing what’s there.

The first issue was the time it took to be acknowledged by the staff. I waited at the door for at least 3 or more minutes while 3 waitstaff members were milling around and not looking toward the door. 3 minutes doesn’t seem like a lot, except standard restaurant procedure is to acknowledge guests within 30 seconds of arrival (that’s why most restaurants have a designated host/ess that spends the majority of the time at the door). The hostess was nowhere to be seen during the 12 o’clock hour (crazy, right?) I received no assurance that I would be helped momentarily, nor any other acknowledgement. I wasn’t acknowledged until two gentlemen arrived and, as they waited behind me, the staff must have assumed that we were all together, and then someone spoke to us.

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Gilded artwork in the restaurant

I ordered the Thai tea lemonade (basically, a Thai version of the Arnold Palmer or, if you’re from DC, a half-and-half),  tom yum goong soup and the “Jungle” entree, a mix of bamboo, eggplant, peppers, basil and green beans. I asked to reduce the heat of the entree from the standard “hot” level to “medium”.

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My yummy Thai tea lemonade

My tea lemonade arrived quickly. It was a little sweeter than I expected, but very good. Kudos to the restaurant for adding a moderate amount of ice – I really feel like I got a lot for the cost. The beverage was ample and tasty.

I then got my soup. It looked a little creamier than I anticipated, so I tasted it. I order tom yum but the server delivered tom kha (a coconut based soup). I actually like tom kha but I’m unable to eat a full-sized bowl because the coconut milk is a bit too rich for me. It took a moment, but the server returned and when I pointed out the error, she was pleasant and immediately returned it to the kitchen. My new soup arrived several minutes later, and it didn’t disappoint.

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The Jungle entree: this is where things started going downhill

Next was my entree which, I’ll admit, is when I realized that I may have to give my first negative restaurant review (I know, I’m shocked that I have to do it, too). The dish was far too spicy to be “medium”. I’ve eaten Thai food regularly for about 15 years, and I’ve eaten at a variety of Thai restaurants – including this one in the past! – so I have a good handle on spice levels. This dish had not been adjusted to medium-spicy level. When I pointed this out to the server, she didn’t seem to comprehend what I was saying, though she repeated my order back to me at the beginning of the meal. I could only take a few bites before I told her that I would take the entree back to my office and rinse off the spice, which is what I did. It was still a little hotter than my normal but at least the heat was tolerable after the rinsing.

Overall, the experience was just okay. The food was good and fresh, and the order arrived in a reasonable amount of time. But the time it took just to have a staff member acknowledge that I was there, and having two big food mistakes in one meal was a bit more than I’m willing to overlook. I don’t think I’ll be returning to Absolute Thai any time soon. After all, there are several other Thai restaurants in the area – and an overall plethora of them in DC – that will get my order correct on the first go round.

food

Recipe: Easy Naan Pizza

Sometimes, when I work from home, I have lunch delivered to me. One of my favorite cuisines to eat is Indian food (but based on my Anokha review, that shouldn’t surprise you!). At the end of my meal, I always find that I have a lot of naan (Indian flatbread) left over.

I adore naan, but I usually can’t eat rice, naan and pappadam (lentil wafers) in one setting: it’s too many carbs and I feel physically uncomfortable after overindulging. Trust me, I’ve done this enough to know the routine. I have to limit it to one carb serving per meal: 1 pappadam and half the rice serving; half the rice and half a piece of naan, or the full serving of rice.

That being said, I hate waste, so I wanted to find a new way to enjoy my naan.

Enter naan pizza.

As it turns out, naan makes an excellent pizza crust. It’s buttery, perfectly suited for pairing with sauces, and reheats beautifully. I sprinkle the leftover naan with a little water (so that it doesn’t dry out during the reheating process) then I make my pizza: I add sauce, cheese and toppings.

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Plain piece of naan bread, cut in half. This is perfectly sized for making two slice of pizza.

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Usually I spread one tablespoon of pizza sauce on half of a piece of naan.

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I then add about 1/4 cup of mozzarella cheese (I LOVE cheese!) and a little bit of parmesan mixed in.

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Next, I add the toppings (in this case, mushrooms). I always sprinkle some extra herbs for additional flavor (my Sicilian Bread Dipping blend). Yum!

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I toast the pizza in my toaster oven for 6-8 minutes at 375 degrees, until the cheese is melted in the center. I make sure that the oven was preheated.

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Here is the finished product, with some sprout salad on the side. So tasty!

 

Have any of you ever used naan to make pizzas? Let me know in the comments below!

food · international

Review: Rebecca Ethiopian Cuisine

You already know how I feel about Ethiopian food. While I haven’t recently tried my hand at making more Ethiopian dishes at home, I still find myself frequently craving the savory, flavorful East African dishes. And if I’m craving it, I’m going to have it, whether I make it from scratch or buy it from the pros.

A couple of weeks ago, I caved into my cravings and purchased a vegetarian combo from Rebecca Ethiopian Cuisine, a food truck that serves several locations in Washington, DC.

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Photo as snapped by Art P. and posted on Yelp

For starters, the staff are super-friendly, and the food is prepared quickly. While you wait, you can nibble on a free lentil sambusa (at least, every time *I’ve* gone, I’ve gotten a free sambusa: your mileage may vary). I got back to my office and proceeded to chow down. Here’s a photo of my lunch:

Clockwise from top left: tomato fitfit, salad, atkilt wat (cabbage, potatoes and carrots), gomen (collard greens), kik alicha (yellow split peas) shiro wat (powdered chickpea stew), and my favorite, misr wat (red lentils) in the center

The food was great! Everything cooked perfectly and incredibly flavorful. I’m especially fond of their vegetarian combo offering because they have more sides than most of the combos I’ve had at other Ethiopian trucks. Usually, you get 4 or 5 sides when ordering from Ethiopian food trucks; with Rebecca, you get 7 (SEVEN!) sides. The price is very competitive, too: you can get all of this food for $10 before tax.

There is only one drawback when it comes to this truck: I can never predict when they will be close to my job! They don’t have a Twitter account, so whenever I see them, I know I’ve just gotten lucky. If you happen to spot them while you’re out and about in DC, just know that you’ve gotten lucky, too! And then, after you revel in your amazing luck, go ahead and order some food – you won’t regret it!

food · international

Review: Carnivore Restaurant

While in Nairobi, I made the pilgrimage to Carnivore restaurant. This meat lovers haven is similar to the Brazilian churrascaria, with endless rounds of barbecued meats. While I’ve never eaten at a churrascaria, I couldn’t leave Nairobi without trying the local fare.

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Yes, I ordinarily adhere to a vegetarian/pescatarian diet. I was a bit nervous about eating meat after going so long without it. However, the meat served at Carnivore is all local animals that have not been fed the toxic ingredients often provided to animals sold commercial in the US.

I tried the following meats, which were barbecued and sliced at my table:

  • Ostrich
  • Crocodile
  • Lamb
  • Chicken
  • Pork
  • Beef
  • Turkey

My camera was dying while I was out, so I didn’t get as many pictures as I wanted. In any case, here are a few photos from my Carnivore adventure:

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Grill as seen when first entering the restaurant.

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Place setting and fresh maize (corn) as an appetizer. Maize isn’t as sweet as what’s usually offered in American restaurants. I prefer this more savory varietal.

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Soup prior to enjoying our meal. I meant to ask what kind of soup this was, but I forgot to inquire before the entrees were served.

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Lamb and beef. I haven’t had either meat in many years: it was tender and savory, just like I remember LOL

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One of my favorite desserts, the blondie. It was delicious!

I enjoyed my Carnivore experience immensely! While I wouldn’t make it a habit (I don’t know if my body could handle so much meat on a frequent basis), I’m glad that I tried it during my Nairobi visit.

Have any of you visited Carnivore? Let me know all about your experience in the comments below!

food · international

Review: Anokha Indian Restaurant

Last week, I returned to a restaurant that I’ve visited but never reviewed. Anokha is a small but charming restaurant located in the Short Pump area of Richmond, Virginia. The restaurant specializes in Indian cuisine with an upscale twist.

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As an ethnic (international) food fanatic, I find myself constantly on the hunt for new restaurants to get my “fix”. While I tried Anokha one day during my lunch break, I was eager to try it again to make sure that it was as good as I recall.

I’m pleased to say that my memory didn’t fail me: Anokha’s food is outstanding and worth the visit.

I tried the Shrimp Koliwada as my appetizer, the Crabmeat Curry as my entree, and the regular and peshwari naan. Here are the photos of my Indian feast!

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Shrimp Koliwada (I was starving, I had to eat one before I took the pic!)

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Crabmeat Curry (you can even see my cousin’s hand in this photo: for once, I wasn’t dining alone! And she ordered the crabmeat curry, too)

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Naan (regular and peshwari: the peshwari naan has the reddish hues)

The restaurants describes the shrimp koliwada as, “Jumbo Shrimp in a Konkan Style Spiced Batter”. The end result was crisp in the best possible way, and the chutney was a nice, spicy garnish for the dish. The fresh slaw was a delicious flavor counterpoint for the tasty fried shrimp.

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Closer pic of the crabmeat curry

The crabmeat curry was everything a good curry should be: hearty, creamy, spicy, but full of fresh ingredients and flavors. The portion was so generous: I had enough for lunch on the next day. The restaurant really impressed me with the crabmeat in this dish: they used real lump crabmeat, and lots of it. This was well worth the price.

The naan was freshly toasted and buttery. The only drawback was that the peshwari naan didn’t have as much coconut and dried fruit as I expected. However, I like the more sparse fruit/coconut: it makes it a more suitable as a dipping bread for the main entree (I usually save my peshwari naan for dessert).

Anokha is located at 4015 Lauderdale Dr, on the opposite side of the street from Short Pump Mall. This gem is a hidden treasure: part of me wants to see them grow exponentially, and the selfish part of me wants to keep it all to myself!