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Archive for the ‘Restaurant Reviews’ Category

Yellow curry tofu with coconut baked rice, caramelized onions, fennel roasted turnips and cauliflower.

Smooth, creamy West African Peanut Soup, topped with red bell pepper flakes, sunflower seeds and a touch of maple syrup.

Sesame Kale over vermicelli rice noodles with sweet and sour carrots.

5-Spice peanut tempeh over 5-spice stir fried brown rice.

Fried seitan over Indonesian coconut rice noodles and lemongrass.

Pesto quinoa with heirloom tomatoes, Cambodian cucumber soup, Coconut curried chickpeas, Sesame rice noodles with tamarind-thyme sauce…

The above menu was only part of the magic that was Saturday night’s buffet at The Honey Underground, the newest gastronomical venture of Vegan Chef Wendy Landiak, proprietor of Balasia – Green World Cafe.  Remember, that adorable little cafe in the victorian house on Chestnut Street in Emmaus?  Well, it moved about 6 miles down the road.  Still under the umbrella of Balasia, The Honey Underground is a vegan supper club located in Hereford, PA and open select Friday and Saturday evenings – you can check Balasia’s website for the weekly schedule or The Honey Underground’s facebook page  for more detailed updates about the menu, the hours, and who will be there ;P  I had the unforgettable experience of dining there last night at the most recent buffet (there have been several since The Honey Underground’s opening) and all I can say is “wow.”  It was everything I remember about Balasia, only better.  The flavor pairings have somehow become even more creative, if that’s even possible.  Every element to every single dish (and you know I tried them all!) went perfectly with everything else.  I was so disappointed when I started to get that annoying “full” feeling a plate and a half into the meal.  But enough of me gushing, I’m going to let the pictures speak for themselves.

(Please excuse the highly mediocre phone quality of these pics)

papadams, asian slaw and sesame noodles

quinoa salad

salad + a frothy delicious drink

the hot bar station

cucumber salad

one delicious meal

The price for the buffet is $25, which for unlimited organic/local cuisine is pretty darn good.  There is also a dessert bar (unphotographed, sadly!) for an additional $5.  Iced teas and organic sodas are also available for an additional $2.

The Honey Underground is located at 1153 Gravel Pike in Hereford, PA.  You’ll miss it while driving by if you’re not careful, it’s in the very unassuming Hereford Fire Company building, with limited signage.  Call 484-330-6405 to make reservations, or if you have any questions about the food (the chef will accommodate most diets if you give her notice).

And, as listed on the website, if you can’t make it out to Hereford (though you really should try), you can find Balasia at the following farmers markets May through November:

Steelstacks Farmers Market
Southside Bethlehem
3pm – 7pm Tuesdays

Allentown Growers Market
at the PPL Plaza
11:30am – 1:30pm Wednesdays

Coopersburg at Bee Natural
21 North Main Street, Village Center
3:30pm – 7pm Thursdays

Macungie Farmers Market at Macungie Memorial Park
50 Poplar Street (along Walnut St side of the park)
4pm – 7pm Thursdays

There’s talk of these buffet nights becoming a monthly event… which might be the most exciting thing I’ve ever heard.  Disclaimer time: since I’ve been working with Wendy at some of the farmers markets she’s been doing this summer, this review might seem a little biased.  But I would never recommend a restaurant so highly if I didn’t really, truly, unconditionally love the food.  I’m just trying to spread the love :)

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Well I had planned on posting a big thing on the PA Energy Fest last weekend, and the Celtic Classic Fest this weekend, unfortunately last weekend I was too busy working the Balasia stand to really see anything worthy of mention, and today it is raining, so that’s the end of that plan. I did take a 30 second break at the Energy Fest to take a few random pictures:

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DSC00767Doesn’t this look like a good time?! It was fun, the food was awesome (in our stand anyway, I didn’t try anyone else’s food) and the biodegradable utensils were made out of corn. Which I thought was pretty cool.

I spent yesterday in NYC, getting my art fix and much-needed Ethiopian food fix.

DSC00790James Cohan Gallery

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DSC00780Jaume Plensa’s “In the Midst of Dreams” at Galerie Lelong

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DSC00842Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery

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grafthis isn’t art, it’s a cool iphone application that makes pictures look like polaroids. But I guess some would call this graffiti art. I’d call it an interesting backdrop.

ch-marketWe stopped in Chelsea Market on our way to dinner

fatwitchand I attempted to spoil my appetite with a caramel Fat Witch brownie. My appetite, however, refused to be spoiled (it was a really good brownie though)

meskAfter a loooong walk and one short cab ride, we finally made it to the restaurant.  Meskerem is located at 124 MacDougal St in Greenwich Village; it’s a cute little hole in the wall (or I guess in this case, ground) tucked down below eye-level. It seats maybe 30 people, and if you’re going as a party of two, be prepared to get intimately aquatinted with the people sitting next to you, as the tables literally sit mere inches from each other.

veg-comboWe both ordered the Vegetarian Combo.  The food was fantastic; I found the portions a bit small, but at the same time, our entrees came out to only about $14 each. The vegetables were cooked to a tender perfection (still with a bit of bite though), and the bean purees were spicy and comforting.  The yellow split peas remain my favorite dish, with the sauteed cabbage coming in at a close second. It all tasted very traditional, but I have yet to see a freaking mesob anywhere in any American Ethiopian restaurants. Anyway, Meskerem was a fantastic experience, delicious food, no wait at all, and cheap!

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Though I think I’ve made it pretty clear my heart belongs to one indian buffet only, I’ve been finding myself eating at Nawab fairly often lately (fairly often = twice in the past 3 months). Since Spice India opened, I felt no need to ever return to Nawab, but, with a little coaxing from a friend of mine who cannot get enough of their particular Chicken Tikki Masala, I have returned, and haven’t regretted it.

Nawab

Now, I think Spice India scores some major, major advantages in the sheer size of their buffet, the variety, the authenticity, and the spice levels, as compared to Nawab. Plus the fact that their naan is made fresh to order. But I’m learning Nawab does have its advantages as well. They have consistency on their side, so for those who are fans of Nawab’s lunch buffet, you can always pretty much bank on the same exact dishes being there everyday. Which, by the way, normally consist of some kind of saag, channa masala, mattar paneer, curried cauliflower, chicken tikki masala, samosas, naan, and veggie pakoras. Their other big plus, I’m convinced, is their chicken tikki masala. Or in my case, the sauce (not interested in the chicken). My tikki masala-loving friend shared with me her Nawab routine, part of which consisted of her filling a condiment bowl with the chicken tikki masala sauce, and using it to dunk her naan. So I tried the sauce, and now I do it too! It really is spectacular. Totally Americanized tikki masala I’m sure, as it’s a bit sweet and tomato-soupy tasting, but dang is it good! I definitely find myself craving it all the time now, and I’m guaranteed to get it at Nawab. Now to be fair, Spice India has put out a tofu tikki masala dish before, which absolutely rocked my socks off (and it had tofu in it, come on!) but it’s not a staple of theirs. More like a fun surprise. Last Nawab plus: it’s cheaper.  If that matters to you.

Nawab is located at 13 E. 4th St in Bethlehem. And their superior, spicier rival Spice India is located at 2407 Mickley Ave in Whitehall, just off of Schadt Ave from MacArthur Rd.

Which do YOU prefer?

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I really don’t spend much time dining out in Allentown, but, inspired by Beyond Scrapple‘s recommendation, I tried Winston’s West Indian & American Restaurant the other night, and I’m so glad I did. Located at 619 7th St. (between Tilghman and Allen), Winston’s serves up standard Jamaican food like jerk chicken, oxtail, tripe and beans, cow foot, stewed red snapper, and fantastic curry sauces that can only be the result of a long, slow simmering process.
Winston'sWhy don’t I ever remember to take pictures of the outside of the restaurant before I go in? Clearly this was after dinner, and nighttime.

makeshift veggie entreeDespite all of the exotic meaty things on the menu, I stuck with my vegetarianism and ordered rice and beans with sauteed veggies, asking our behind-the-counter server if he could please pile whatever curry sauces he had available onto my rice. If there’s one thing in life that never ceases to excite me, it’s trying new curry. And let me tell you, that chicken curry was am-a-zing. The goat curry was delicious too, but wow, I couldn’t get enough of the chicken curry sauce (literally, I asked for extra). The cabbage was nicely cooked and yummy, but I would have loved to dump another gallon of curry sauce on top of it. I didn’t want to go overboard with my requests though. Our meals also came with a nice little pile of fried plantains, which were soft and fruity with just a little crispiness to the edges. Fantastic.

jerk chickenDenise was going to order vegetarian too, but after seeing their plaque on the wall for the Valley’s Best Chicken, she decided to try the jerk chicken. She assured me the chicken was “fall off the bone tender” and completely saturated with flavor, the spicy dry rub and tangy jerk sauce combining their delicious forces to make the entree flavorful and satisfying.

WinstonWinston himself, the genius behind this Jamaican gem on 7th Street. I asked him if he was the chef, to which he responded “Oh, sometimes.”  Humble, down to earth, and good grief can this man whip up a delicious curry sauce. Winston’s is a wonderful addition to the Lehigh Valley’s assortment of high-quality ethnic restaurants, and seriously, you can’t beat a $7 entree!

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Ok there is a reason my posting has been even more sporadic than usual: I’ve been in Africa for the past 2.5 weeks! My reason for going had nothing to do with food, but I figured while I was there I might as well document some of my fun African meals. We spent a week in Kenya first (the “we” being the Global Hope Network, the humanitarian group I volunteered with), and each night the wonderful local women would cook us dinner. It normally consisted of stewed goat, stewed carrots and potatoes, some kind of greens, sometimes a salad or bean dish, and this amaaazing flatbread called chapati, similar to naan, but in this case denser and chewier.

dinner in KenyaLocal, fresh bananas usually played a role in every one of my meals.  Now that I’m home again, eating bananas is such a let down as they aren’t half as flavorful as these wonderful African bananas were.

more dinner in Kenya
gambella-dinnerOur first night in the village of Gambella, the villagers made us dinner. Rice, potatoes and goat meat, eaten with our hands.

CarnivoreWe stopped at the famous restaurant Carnivore, an all-you-can-eat meat buffet in Nairobi. It was a fun experiment to see what I, a hungry vegetarian, would eat there. Luckily they had a whole separate vegetarian menu, as well as an extensive salad bar.

coconut veggiesI ordered coconut vegetables, but honestly the salad was better.  I loaded on every single one of the sauces and chutneys that were meant to be paired with the meat, which made for a crazy flavorful salad indeed.

Ethiopian foodFor our last night in Kenya, our local friends made us some traditional Ethiopian food, as Ethiopia was our next destination. Ethiopians pile stewed meat or veggies on top of a giant, sour crepe/pancake-like bread called injera, typically made from teff flour. They use their hands to tear off a piece of injera and scoop up the food (we did a lot of eating with our hands in Africa). It was so good – the sourness of the injera went great with the spiciness of the stew. I asked one of the women what spices they use, and she thought about it for a second then said “There’s too many to name!”

incense, popcorn and coffeeWe had dinner in an Ethiopian restaurant one night (as opposed to another night of nasty hotel food. bleh). Everything pictured above is traditional in Ethiopian cuisine: popcorn, coffee, and lots of incense burning. And that huge pan of bread off to the left was actually a birthday “cake” for our friend Dan.

injera, meat and cottage cheeseWe started with some flavored cottage cheeses, a big pile of meat, and some super spicy sauce with a random hard boiled egg in it.

aftermathA ton of meat ended up on our plate, which I picked around and around all night long. This meal was good, but it was just so meat-heavy that I felt like I barely ate anything by the end of the night!

Since I fell head over heels with Ethiopian food while in Africa, one of the first things I did when I got home was search yelp for best Ethiopian restaurant in NYC. I came across Zoma, located at 2084 Frederick Douglass Blvd in Harlem.

Fillo PastryWe ordered the Fillo Pastry appetizer, filled with spicy lentils. The cold chutney off to the side was a minty/cilantroy onion chutney I think. This appetizer didn’t blow me away, next time I wouldn’t bother with it. The REAL star of the meal was the Vegetarian Combination:

Veggie ComboFinally, vegetarian Ethiopian food! No picking necessary! This dish was seriously amazing. I chose the Gomen (sauteed collard greens), Misir Wett (red split lentils cooked with berbere, garlic, ginger, black cumin, plus a ton of other spices), Atakilt Wett (carrots, potatoes, cabbage and onions sautéed with garlic, ginger and tomatoes), and Shiro Wett (chickpeas, lentils and peas cooked with a “multitude of spices”). Everything was delicious, especially when I attempted to combine all four dishes into one bite. I had a chance to try the yellow split peas too, which were phenomenal. Next time I’d probably order those over the collard greens. My only qualm with the meal was the injera that was underneath our food tasted super old and stale. They gave us fresh injera on the side as well, but why bother putting practically inedible food on the plate to begin with?

yumWe also tried the honey wine – fruity and delicious! This meal was so freaking good. I’m craving it again right now. I guess I’ll be on a mission to find an Ethiopian spot a little closer though, as Harlem is a bit of a hike. I’ve been hearing about a restaurant in New Brunswick, but it looked really expensive. We’ll see, I might just need to make Harlem a regular stop off. For food this good, it would be worth the hassle.

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I tried the lunch buffet on Friday at Petra Mediterranean on 81 W. Broad St. in Bethlehem with Denise. Normally I leave buffets feeling so full I’m about to burst, but Petra’s mostly vegan buffet offerings left me full, but not to the point of discomfort (and I had 2 plates of food plus dessert!).  The service isn’t quite together yet, but hey, it’s a buffet so that hardly bothered us. Anything we needed they were quick to provide (like plates) and any dishes we were unsure of, they were more than happy to explain. 

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So the buffet consisted of grilled veggies (eggplant, zucchini, red peppers, and cauliflower) with tahini sauce, hummus, baba ghannooj, grape leaves (I was pretty sure I hated grape leaves but I gave them one more try on Friday; nope, still hate them), salad, falafel (crispy, flavorful and delicious), muhamara (a yummy walnut/pomegranate/roasted red pepper dip), sauteed spinach (or some kind of leafy green), pea and carrot stew, pita and rice. Funny thing about the pea/carrot stew: I was pretty sure that one of the servers said something about the buffet being all vegetarian (but I probably heard him wrong), so I happily went to town on every item on the table.  When I got to the pea/carrot stew, I thought to myself “oooh wonderful, this looks like Indian food!” and ladled away. When I sat down and tried it, it was delicious. There was some sort of savory, nutty flavor going on that I could hardly describe, it was almost unlike anything I’d ever tasted before. When I asked them what that flavor could possibly be, they kind of shrugged and said “maybe it’s the meat?” (at first I thought they were saying “mead” which was a little confusing).  So when I realized they were saying meat I got all wide-eyed and said “aah I’m a vegetarian!” and I will say they looked genuinely concerned, which was nice. It really wasn’t a big deal though, I guess all the hunks of meat sank to the bottom of the pot, because none of them ended up on my plate. I did think it was pretty hilarious how I’d completely forgotten what meat tastes like, though. But I know many vegetarians who wouldn’t find it so funny, so hopefully Petra will get around to labeling their buffet dishes.

For dessert they had fruit and little bowls of a pudding-like substance, the details of which I can’t remember at all. It contained pistachios and whipped egg whites, I believe. But beware: the pudding comes with an extremely fragrant rose water syrup, which you are encouraged to dump into your bowl. So my friend and I did just that, but found the syrup way too sweet and too fragrant. It was kind of like drinking perfume. The pudding was definitely much tastier plain. 

Our lunch at Petra was pretty phenomenal, and I definitely plan on returning. One thing that was missing though were the spinach pies. It’s just not a full-blown Middle Eastern meal without them! The same thing goes for Baklava, which I did see over in the dessert display case, but I didn’t want to push myself over the edge into “uncomfortably full” territory. Standard full was fine by me.

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I’ve previously been to Candle Cafe‘s sister restaurant, Candle 79, and was impressed with their fancy food and delicate flavors. Not the most exciting food in the world, but it was very good. So I was really looking forward to Candle Cafe, as I’ve heard the food is better (and cheaper!) than Candle 79. Candle Cafe is located at 1307 3rd Avenue between 74th & 75th St. in Manhattan.

Crystal Roll
I ordered the Crystal Roll appetizer. Veggies, rice noodles, avocado, and barbeque grilled seitan wrapped up in yummy rice paper, served with a spicy peanut dipping sauce. I know I’m a bit spring roll obsessed, and certainly am no stranger to peanut sauce, so it’s not like this dish ventured into any kind of foreign territory for me. But it was good. The peanut sauce was a tad watered down (see those bubbles up there in the picture, those don’t belong there), but still good.

Mezze Plate
The Mezze Plate was a bit more of a crowd pleaser (in our 2 person crowd). It consisted of hummus, tabouli, and lemon date chutney. The hummus was good, the tabouli was a nice filler (though a little bland), and the lemon date chutney was delicious. All three components smeared atop a piece of the fresh pita bread made for a very flavorful bite indeed! The pita was perfect; kind of dense and chewy which I love when it comes to flatbread.

Tuscan Lasagna
John ordered the Tuscan Lasagna, which he deemed excellent. Fresh and satisfying. Lasagna is not my cup of tea at all, so I can’t really add anything constructive.

Chili-Lime Tofu
Truthfully, I was not impressed with my entree. I ordered the Chili-Lime Grilled Tofu, which comes with quinoa pilaf, black bean sauce, half of a plain avocado, and mango salsa, all on a pile of steamed swiss chard. The only thing on the entire plate with any flavor was the mango salsa, of which, unfortunately, there was far too little. Overall the dish was just bland, which was surprising because the waitress described it as one of the more flavorful entrees on the menu.

I had high expectations for the Candle Cafe, and I have to say I left a bit unsatisfied. For the prices and the location (come on, UES) I was expecting a lot more. If I ever do go back, I’ll be sure to order something that has gotten rave reviews all over the internet, like the BBQ Tempeh and Sweet Potato sandwich perhaps. I guess I’ll need to get over my opposition of ordering sandwiches at an expensive restaurant first.

Since ho-hum reviews tend to bum me out, I will sign off with some fun gallery pictures (this is what I do to work up an appetite):

Anton Kern Gallery

Gladstone Gallery

Casey Kaplan Gallery

The INFINITY Room!

Mike Weiss Gallery

Mike Weiss Gallery

More fun gallery pics here!  Ok that’s not true – they will be there eventually, but I haven’t gotten around to that blog just yet.  Because right now, I’m off to the Allentown Grower’s Market to support local farmers!

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