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!

food

My Favorite Products from Trader Joe’s

Hi friends! I’m doing this post because I love my Trader Joe’s (TJ) finds, and I wanted to quickly share some of my favorites with you!

Here are my top ten TJ items!

TJ’s Mushroom Medley

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Sauteed by themselves or added to a meat or veggie medley: these enhance the flavor of any dish. Try them with beef or beefless tips, add some red wine and well-cooked onions, and you have something very similar to a beef bourguignon (not exactly the same, but you get my drift).

TJ’s Vegetable Panang Curry

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A delicious microwaveable meal with great flavor. Bonus points: it has plenty of veggies, so no need to add a side dish!

TJ’s Paneer Tikka Masala

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Another quick, microwaveable dish that is flavorful. I especially like that the paneer isn’t too chewy nor does it get overcooked easily.

TJ’s Roasted Seaweed Snacks (wasabi-flavored)

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I’ll eat the salted version, but the wasabi is my favorite. So much yum, and a great value at $1 a pack (the packs are generously sized!)

TJ’s Crab Cakes

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I’m a Mid-Atlantic girl, so I don’t play with my crab cakes; fortunately, neither does TJ’s. The crab cakes are meaty, with very little breader, and the price is excellent.

TJ’s Tempura Shrimp

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Much like the crab cakes, the price of the tempura shrimp is great and they taste delicious. I pop them in my toaster oven and within 30 minutes I have crispy bits of heaven.

TJ’s Pecan Pralines

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So yummy on baked sweet potatoes, and sinfully delicious on their own. I grab a few of these when I’m craving a healthier alternative to candy (at least they have protein, right?)

TJ’s Everything but the Bagel Sesame Seasoning Blend

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As a huge fan of the Everything bagel, I realize I can’t always have a bagel when I want it (nor do I always need so many calories). However, this is delightful on buttered slices of toast or any potato incarnation. Just sprinkle and enjoy!

TJ’s 21-Seasoning Salute

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Don’t know what to add to give your meats or veggies flavor? Just grab the 21 Seasoning Salute and you’re guaranteed a delicious outcome!

TJ’s Cookie Butter

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Eat it by the spoonful. No explanation needed: this already has a cult-like following, and for good reason. It’s shortbread cookies in spread form – so much yum.

 

What is your favorite TJ product? Let me know in the comments!

food

Easy Faux Beef Tips Recipe

It’s been a while since I did a recipe post. To be truthful with you all, my winter cuisine tends to be boring and predictable. I order a lot more food (mostly Indian, Ethiopian and Thai dishes) and, when I do prepare my food at home, it’s a simple situation (soups, sandwiches, and casseroles).

But today, I’m sharing one of my favorite recipes. I cook it at least once every couple of weeks during the cold months, but I almost never use precise measurements. That is, until today! I made this and took my time writing down the amounts of everything that I included. At the end, this is what the finished dish looks like:

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My easy faux beef (beef-less) tips

My father tried this and he couldn’t believe that it is vegan! Since I make enough of this to last a few days (or to share), my portions are generally large, But don’t worry: this recipe is for 4 people (cut in half for a smaller amount). Enjoy!

Easy Beef(less) Tips (serves 2)

  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1.5 tbsp oil (you can use butter substitute, olive oil or vegetable oil)
  • 1/2 bag Gardein Beefless Tips
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup carrots
  • 1 large potato, cubed into bite-size pieces
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp Sicilian bread dipping mix (more info after the instructions)

In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat for about 1 minute. Add onions and cook until translucent, stirring occasionally (this takes anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes). Make sure to stir to prevent the onions from sticking to the pot.

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Gardein’s Beefless Tips are great for this recipe

Next, add broth, water, carrots and potatoes to the pot. Stir until well combined. Reduce heat to low-to-medium heat. Cover and cook for 5 to 7 minutes. Add beefless tips and all seasonings. Stir well until seasoning is well distributed. Cover and allow to cook until all vegetables are soft, stirring occasionally (totaling 15 to 20 minutes). Serve hot.

I usually enjoy this with a glass of red wine (preferably a Malbec, my favorite).

As far as the bread dipping seasoning, I use one that I got from a discount store (I can’t remember which – probably the Dollar Tree – but I can’t guarantee that it is readily available everywhere). The closest thing I found is an organic Sicilian Bread Dipping Mix on Amazon. You can easily whip up your own version by using a standard Italian seasoning and adding a little salt and a few red pepper flakes.

Do you have any beefless tip recipes to share? Please share them in the comments below!

food · relaxation

A Brief Guide to Hot Tea

As National Hot Tea Month draws to a close, I’m a little sad. I’ve shared all of my hot tea pics with you all on Instagram, I’ve made a post about tea on this blog, and now I need to find some new content for February! However, given the big trip I’m taking in a couple of weeks (more about that coming soon!), I’m sure that I’ll have plenty of writing fodder.

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My tea and coffee-inspired painting that I did when I went to a Creativity Workshop at Blue Bee Cider a couple of weeks ago

 To close out the month, I want to share some of my tea drinking tips with you all. These are just a few of my observations, but I’d love for you all to weigh in with any tea tips that you may have!

 –          Have a dedicated tea cup. There’s something so soothing about the ceremony of using a dedicated tea cup (or, in my case, a tea mug) to drink your beverage. If you associate tea drinking with relaxation, then the very sight of your tea cup will put you at ease. Since I drink lots of tea, I have three cups that I use. I enjoy each of them.

–          Know that there is a tea for everyone. Even if you aren’t a fan of black tea, there are so many varieties, with so many flavors, that it’s pretty impossible to conclude that there is NO tea that you enjoy. Keep trying, and don’t be afraid to reach out to tea professionals to learn more about the available tea options.

–          Carefully follow the instructions on your tea packaging. This is especially crucial for expensive teas. If the instructions say to steep for 3 – 5 minutes, don’t cut that time short (you’ll end up with a weak tea) nor exceed it (you’ll have an overpowering and likely bitter beverage at the end). Certain teas are best enjoyed when using very hot water, as opposed to boiling water. So pay attention to the instructions and follow them!

–          Feel free to dress up your teas. Honey, lemon, cream, sugar: add whatever you like. However, NEVER mix cream and lemon – the combination will curdle in your cup (yuck!)

–          Listen to your body and only drink teas that make you feel good. I used to like a tea that was designed as a detox (more about that in the next tip). However, it’d leave me feeling faint when I drank it. I had to cut it out, even though I enjoyed it. Likewise, some of my favorite teas can only be enjoyed before 12 PM, because I’m very caffeine-sensitive and drinking caffeinated tea at a later hour will keep me awake all night. Listening to my body and adjusting accordingly was a wise move for me, and I advise that you all do it, too.

–          Drop any notion that a tea will help you lose fat or “detox” your body. I know celebrities are constantly selling tea and other beverages designed to help people shed weight quickly. Don’t fall for the hype. You may temporarily lose water weight or even speed up your metabolism a bit, but the best way to lose weight or detox is a healthy diet full of high quality, well-prepared foods and exercise that both safely increases your heart rate and effectively strengthens the muscles.

–          Visit a tea room. This is on my to-do list for the year. Every friend of mine that has done it highly recommends it. The owners of these tea rooms are genteel, knowledgeable and friendly. They are a great resource for learning about tea and how to pair tea with foods. A visit to a tea room is also a great reason to get dressed up and spend time with friends!

That’s it for me, beloveds! I look forward to chatting with you all soon!

food · international

Lunch at Absolute Noodle

As you all know, I love to get out during my lunch break and try new restaurants and international cuisine. Since I work in DC, the possibilities are endless, and I spend quite a bit of time trying to figure out where to go because, hey, a girl’s gotta eat well. Last week was no different, as I ventured out on the coldest day of the week to get some nibbles (that’s what happens when you forget to pack your lunch).

I wanted to get dim sum, but the restaurant was closed. So I went to my easy standby, Absolute Noodle on 5th Street NW. This tiny restaurant is easy to miss, since it’s small and unassuming. However, the location – roughly 3 blocks from Capital One Arena (formerly the Verizon Center) – makes it a perfect spot to grab a meal before a basketball game, or to fuel up before hitting the city for a night on the town.

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(courtesy of PopVille)

The menu is small but covers some great options: it’s a fusion of Chinese, Japanese, and Thai appetizers and entrees. I ordered one of my favorite options – yaki ramen – and an appetizer I’ve never tried before, crab and cheese croquettes.

 

I’ll start with the croquettes. These were perfectly fried: crisp without having too much breading. Kudos to the restaurant for using panko breading instead of using a wonton. Overall, these tasted alright, but I wasn’t in love with the texture, nor the fact that I tasted all cheese and very little seafood essence. I’m a born-and-bred Virginian, so my standards for seafood are pretty high. After all, crabs are a regular summer indulgence. So I was disappointed to see that no only did these have no discernable crab meat in them, but it’s likely that the “crab meat” used to flavor this was imitation crab meat (I could be wrong, but I doubt it).

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Imitation seafood products are accurately described by Anne Barone (in her book, Chic and Slim Encore) as, “what [she] would imagine ocean perch would taste like if it had been poached in a marinade of children’s cough syrup”. No, my croquettes didn’t taste quite like cough-syrup-infused perch. But it also didn’t taste remotely like any crab that I’ve eaten. So while this wasn’t gross, I wouldn’t try it again. The dipping sauce was good, though.

I can recommend the spring rolls here – very tasty and always cooked perfectly. Next time, I’ll stick to what I know!

For my entree, I almost always get the yaki ramen. However, I have a little “quirk”: I only get the yaki ramen when I do a takeout order (as I did on this occasion). You see, the yaki ramen is one of the non-soup (broth-free) noodle options. And I don’t like dry ramen, so I take this dish back to my office and add boiling hot water to it, let it sit for a moment (so that the flavor infuses into the water), then eat. The resulting broth is very flavorful (this restaurant doesn’t skimp on the seasoning) and I always end up having to eat the ramen in two sittings.

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Half of my order of yaki ramen with tofu, after I added some hot water to make a broth.

The ramen was delicious, as always. I love that it’s vegetarian and customizable.

So that’s my review of Absolute Noodle. It’s worth a visit, especially if you find yourself in Northwest DC, in the Chinatown/Capital One Arena area. Let me know what you think of it!

food

Review: Busboys and Poets’ Shrimp Cake

One of my favorite lunch spots in Washington, DC is Busboys and Poets, a bookstore/restaurant mashup that attracts foodies and literati alike. It may sound like a strangle combination, but it works. The restaurant’s name is a creative take on Langston Hughes’ background as a busboy that left poetry on patrons’ tables.

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Statue outside of the Busboys and Poets, 5th and K location

During lunch a couple of weeks ago, I decided to try a dish I hadn’t tasted before. The shrimp cake intrigued me, as I love traditional shrimp and grits. FYI, I’m taking a break from my vegetarian diet until the new year, so I’m getting my share of seafood NOW.

The Busboys and Poets website describes the dish as,

shrimp grit cake, asparagus, corn, tomatoes, Cajun cream sauce

For the record, all of the menu descriptions are short, to the point, and fail to capture the deliciousness of the dishes offered. Here’s a photo of the meal I enjoyed:

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Now here’s what you really need to know: This. Was. AMAZING! For the readers that know the trickiness involved with cooking grits (trying to make them not too watery yet not too dry), you’d appreciate the fact that the grit cake was firm yet had just enough moisture to keep it from being too dry. The cajun sauce was flavorful but not too spicy, and it was a perfect complement for the lightly seasoned grit cake. The shrimp not only surrounded the cake but little bit of crustacean were actually cooked into it, as well.

This dish is an appetizer, but you could easily add a side and make it a meal. It’s satisfying and delicious.

I’ll be reviewing more Busboys and Poets meals in the months to come because, truthfully, I look for any excuse to eat there. If you can, you should definitely stop and have a meal there. The restaurant has six locations, all within the Northern VA/DC/Maryland area. Stop by and treat yourself!

food · relaxation

Grown-Up Hot Chocolate

After having a long and draining work week, I was ready to kick off my weekend and enjoy the holiday. To celebrate, I made one of my favorite treats, a cup of hot chocolate.

But, I don’t make any old hot chocolate. I dress mine up considerably, so that it’s the kind of sumptuous treat that I savor slowly as I forget whatever stresses me. It’s perfect for unwinding at the end of a demanding week (like I mentioned) or for cuddling by the fireplace on a snowy evening. It’s an exquisite way to end your day, no matter the occasion.

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Here’s the recipe. Enjoy!

Bronzed Butterfly’s Grown-Up Hot Chocolate

  • 1 pack Swiss Miss regular hot chocolate with marshmallows
  • 1/4 (3 mini bars) Hershey Chocolate Bar (my preferred one is the Special Dark, but the milk chocolate works fine, too)
  • 1/4 teaspoon butter flavored extract
  • 2 Rolo candies
  • 6-8 oz hot water (almost boiling)
  • (optional) 1 oz rum or vodka (I used Smirnoff vanilla vodka in mine)

Combine  hot chocolate powder, butter extract, and 1 crumbled mini Hershey’s bar in a cup. Add 1/3 hot water and stir until all solid ingredients are mixed. Add Rolo candies and the remaining crumbled mini Hershey’s bars and add 1/3 more hot water, and stir until all ingredients are melted. Add remaining hot water and stir again. If adding optional ingredient, stir in last.