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Archive for October, 2008

Thai in the Lehigh Valley

I’ll cut to the chase, White Orchids is, unequivocally, the best Thai food in the Lehigh Valley, but more on that later. I’ve lived in the area for 10 years and during that time I was constantly on the search for quality Thai food. My first Thai in the valley was Thai Kitchen, I’ve probably been there 6 or 7 times over the years, and all the times except 1 was disappointing. The curries are always watery and inconsistent (and loaded with bamboo shoots and nothing else), the pad Thai is sickly sweet, and while the place is clean, it’s in a sketchy area in Bethlehem. If you fight past the homeless people, you can get an acceptable meal, but certainly nothing great. Kow Thai in Allentown was my next Thai find. Unfortunately the location is incredibly inconvenient, and the restaurant is only take-out, and they have (had) weird hours. There have been rumors that Kow closed recently, but I haven’t confirmed. Regardless, Kow Thai’s curry dishes were bland and beyond inconsistent, sometimes they were inedible. The creatively named “The Cafe” in Bethlehem has a very limited selection of items, and the environment is a confusing mix of romantic, antique, and neon lights. My next Thai adventure was the Bay Leaf in Allentown, and the food is pretty good, but the place is odd. The environment is artificially fancy… it feels like a casual restaurant that had their waiters dress up and told them that they need to act as pretentious as possible and change all unused silverware between courses. The food selection is strange, because its an eclectic mix of american, international cuisine, and a little bit of Thai– but the food is decent.

Recently, I have tried a few Thai places in Easton, Phenom & Touch of Thai. Carolyn & I visited Phenom soon after it opened a little over a year ago and our first meal there was excellent. I had a curry and it was flavorful and spicy and excellent, so I decided that it was worth the 1/2 hour drive and that I would return often. Unfortunately, the food was never that good again- every time we returned our food was served in watery bland sauces, and the restaurant got less and less busy. The environment is the strangest of all the thai restaurants I’ve listed, essentially, it’s a cement floor warehouse filled with what looks like surplus diner booths and sponge-painted walls. It’s a really strange environment, and it feels cold and cheap. Touch of Thai on the other hand feels like you’ve walked into someone’s home. And the first time I visited with a large group of friends, we did. The main dining room was full, so they put us in a side room with a desk and a computer (they were on ebay) and family knick-knacks and a large family-style dining table. The servers were attentive, and the food was good- not the usual Thai fare, but everything was excellent. One of the people we ate with actually ordered a second dinner order because he liked it so much. If they had a greater variety of food, they might be tied with White Orchids, but if you catch a special Touch of Thai is a great place.

Now on to the winner: White Orchids. White Orchids is located in the Promenade Shops, across from Barnes & Noble in the “food area”. The environment is great, you don’t feel out of place in jeans and a t-shirt, but it’s still the kind of place you can dress up and bring a bottle of wine. The wait staff is attentive and friendly, and the manager is always milling around making sure everything is okay. The food is amazing, but I’ll wait to tell you about it, because in the next few days we will be posting an exciting “group post” about our best WO experiences.

-Josh

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Last Friday Jaime and I both had the day off and the weather was really
beautiful so we decided to go and check out Easton. Even though it’s only
15 – 20 minute drive from Bethlehem we never have the chance to make it
over there too much.

Our first stop and one that I was really looking forward to was the
Quadrant Book Mart and Coffee House. As you walk in you will see the
cafe to your left. They have a huge window that looks outside where you
can see trees and flowers. I ordered a chocolate danish and Jaime had
a croissant with butter. I also grabbed a small cup of coffee which was
called the “navigator”, described as sweet and smooth. I did enjoy the
coffee, I think if they had dosed a little more grounds for the brew it
would have been the perfect cup.

I also thought the cafe’s baked goods looked like they had been sitting there
a while as well. But overall we had a nice experience in the cafe and the lady
behind the counter was very friendly.

We made our way upstairs to a maze of books which I knew they weren’t really
organized and people were not kidding. We stumbled upon a lot of very old
yearbooks. They were really fun to look at and since I use vintage photos in
my art I would have bought a couple of them but they were priced a little above
what I was willing to spend. Once we reached the top of the stairs we had fun
exploring and looking around. I thought the place looked like it was really let
go. The ceilings above us were cracked with paint coming off, Jaime stepped
on a floor board that came up and almost hit her. I found that you could literally
see all the way to the first floor on certain parts where you walked.

I love used book stores and this one was fun but at the same time I thought if they
fixed the upstairs and just cleaned it up a bit it could be a great space. I just don’t
like finding floor boards with holes and spider webs all over the shelves.

We walked around a bit and finally wondered into Connexions Gallery.
We ended up hanging out there for a half an hour looking around at the art
and speaking with the owner Jenny. She was so friendly and told us about
all the great things happening in Easton. I spoke with her about the art
scene and what she has going on at the gallery. One of my favorite area
artists is having an artist talk on November 2nd. His name is Danny Moyer
and does collage work. The gallery also has different musicians and poetry
in their beautiful garden out back.


After we left we walked by Ocean. Jaime’s teacher from NCC was the
architect for this restaurant and we just had a peak inside and saw
how beautiful it was. I have not had their food just yet but really want to
check it out.

Setta Luna sits right next door and that is another place on my list.
The menu looked really interesting and above your average Italian restaurant.
They also have a Sunday / Jazz brunch from 4-9 which sounds like a lot of fun.

We were getting hungry and happened to come across Mex-Tex Trio on
3rd street. As we were peaking in the window a guy that worked said it
tasted amazing, the owner was from Mexico and used fresh ingredients.
We thought why not? As you walk inside the place feels warm with nice
dark wood tables and art on the walls. The person who talked us into
eating there ended up being our friendly waiter.

They start you out with a pretty good helping of fresh salsa that had
a smokey hint to it. He then offered us guacamole dip which was
amazing. I ordered a tamale, veggie taco and a enchilada trio. Jaime had a
veggie burrito and tamale. Our food was really delicious but since we ordered
the vegetarian option we thought it would have been nice if they had used
more peppers or veggies. But I would go back to Tex-Mex and over all we
had a good dining experience with an extremely friendly waiter.

Our day in Easton was eventful and fun. I was sad that I didn’t have the
time to eat at all the great new restaurants we saw. But there is always next time
and we promise to bring our camera so we can take pictures.

-Mundania

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As it turns out, the Bethlehem Raw Love Cafe project is no more, but to all you raw enthusiasts or plain old adventurous eaters out there, fear not, as Gary Warren (previously involved with the opening of the Raw Love Cafe) has announced last week:

“the same enthusiasm and effort that was going into starting the RAW LOVE CAFE in downtown Bethlehem is now at The Wildflower Cafe at 316 S. New Street, 1/2 block from the Fahey Bridge in Southside Bethlehem. Working with Michelle, the proprietor of the Wildflower, we have found a valuable compatriot in a compassionate environment. She shares our passion for wholesome, affordable food, and she and her place have always represented a hub for community spirit. In short, it is a good match.”

Gary will also be working with Wendy Landiak of Balasia on October 27th for a 3 course Raw Night, featuring raw food, drinks, and a community table setting (private seating also available). Call Balasia for reservations: 484-330-6405.

I, for one, will not be missing this.

-Carolyn

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I have really been craving Vegan Treats lately, so we stopped by the Bethlehem bakery today for a much needed sugar fix.  If you’ve never been to Vegan Treats, drop everything immediately and go.  You don’t need to be a vegan to appreciate their decadent cakes, rich creamy cheesecakes, or gooey delicious sticky buns.  In fact, I have yet to meet a dairy lover who was able to detect the lack of eggs or cream in a Vegan Treats dessert. I mean just look at these things, who could resist?

(pardon the glare)

I could be mistaken, but I believe the cake to the left up there is a S’more cheesecake.  And I am pretty excited about that.  The cheesecakes do tend to be a little too rich for me sometimes, but if richness is your thing, then go to town on that sucker!

And my personal favorite: the Death by Chocolate cake.  I can still feel the blood rushing through my head 2 hours after eating half of this bad boy.  OK… I certainly couldn’t handle these treats all the time, but as a once in a while indulgence, they are soooooo good.

 

-Carolyn

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I have been going to this place for a couple years now. I have always
enjoyed myself and have recommended it to people. We decided to go
a week ago on a Saturday night. I totally get that there will be a wait
and I was ready for that.

They sat us right away which at first seemed great. I couldn’t believe that
we were seated so fast. It was a table way, way in the corner. We looked
at it as privacy away from the other families and kids. The waitress brought
us over our drinks and thats when we started to notice we had a few friends
with us at our table. Gnats! They started to swarm around our drinks and
there were a few of them.

Before we could really say anything our food was in front of us. On a busy
Saturday night we didn’t have too many options. I tried to kill a few of them
which grossed me out but I didn’t know what else to do at this point.

We ate our food quickly and at the end of our meal a nice lady came around
and asked us how everything was. I tried explaining to her that there were
bugs flying around our table the whole time. I don’t think she really understood.
As we were leaving and after we had already given them over $30.00 for sushi
with a side of bugs I found the manager. He totally understood what I was
saying and said sorry but offered us nothing. Not so much as a coupon or a
little something off our meal.

Usually when things like this happen in restaurant they try to make it up to you
especially after I told him I had been coming there for a couple years now. I was
very polite when speaking to him and was not rude in addressing the problem.
We have decided to not go back there for a while. The last couple times we have
visited we thought it was just OK.

It’s a shame because they are located on the same street as we are.

-Mundania

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Deciding where to have dinner on a Saturday night can be a hard decision
sometimes. But the decision was pretty easy this time around since we were
both in the mood for Mexican food.

Casa Toro is located right on 309 before the Coopersburg diner in a shopping
plaza where King’s grocery store is. The sign from the road only says “Mexican Grill”
and it sits right in the middle of the “L” shaped plaza. It has glowing bar signs
and dark tinted windows that make you think you are arriving at a local dive bar.
The inside decor is a totally different story. The walls are painted with warm, bright
colors and adorned with beautiful artwork.

We arrived at Casa Toro around 5:30pm and were seated at a booth right away.
The waitress took our drink order and brought us over chips with fresh salsa to
pick at. My date and I both noticed they had changed up the menu a bit. Among
their vegetarian options they had added a new vegetarian type of platter. The
exact name of the dish slips my mind but we both decided to get it.

It included a cheese enchilada, a layered hard shell taco stuffed with beans,
topped with lettuce, tomatoes and a soft veggie taco with peppers. They also were
nice enough to bring us little bowls of their green and red sauce since we couldn’t
decide. I recommend getting both sauces for a little variety.

The whole plate was prepared so beautifully but everything seemed to disappear
pretty quickly. We ended up taking some leftovers home. The dish came to about
$12.00 and I treated myself to a Blue Moon which was $4.00. I think all together
the bill was around $27.00.

If you ever just want to give this place a try and not commit to dinner, they have
an excellent lunch menu with price ranges of $5.00 and up. They offer a lot of the
same dishes on their dinner menu and you get the same portions.

Casa Toro keeps us coming back time and time again. I’m so glad my g/f
introduced me to this hidden gem in the Valley. I’m totally hooked!

-Mundania

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