Chinatown Birthday

Friend Kate (and occasional "Voice of Meat" on this very blog) celebrated her birthday this weekend with a group dinner at Phoenix in Chinatown. Not only is Chinatown a short 10-minute bus ride down Cermak for me, but I feel strongly that, at least within my group of friends, C-town is majorly underutilized. I was happy to join the birthday girl and friends on this outing.

The birthday girl and her stylish man, Desi, sparking like a new pair of diamond earrings.

We had a private room with this awesome "Lazy Susan", which to me, looked like a giant hamburger bun. Lazy Susan is such a weird name for this device but we all agreed, we each need one of these on our tables at home.

Everyone ordered Mai Tai's, which were extremely tart but a hit. I stuck with Tsing Tao, my fav Chinese beer.

Carmen's hair looked awesome.

Dumplings. Delicious. I didn't get a pic of the crab rangoon but it was a favorite for most at the table.

More mai tais.

The crew, lazy susan'ing. We ordered family style - Kung Pao Chicken, Broccoli and Beef, Sweet and Sour Pork, Crispy Tofu with Spicy Salt, Veggie Fried Rice, & Veggie Lo Mein. (check out Chris in this shot, super excited for the eats)

The Crispy Tofu with Spicy Salt was interesting - the exterior was crunchy but the tofu itself was extremely soft. I loved it. Others, not so much.

Post-Phoenix we headed to Joy Yee's Noodles for some bubble tea.

This was my first bubble tea shake with tapioca pearls and I have to say, I am now a fan. Their jelly-like texture and mild flavor were oddly addictive. This was banana-coconut with green tapioca.

Micah is probably the #1 fan of my blog so here he is for all my readers to see. This is what success looks like.

Leaving Chinatown, we saw this amazing piece of cartwork (artwork that appears on the exterior of the car). I wish they had added "I'm just hanging out" below Garfield.

Later that night, we celebrated Earth Hour at Kate's apartment by lighting candles and turning off all the lights from 8:30 - 9:30. It was romantic.

The city, as seen on my trek home from the Ashland Pink Line Station. A nice view and perfect end to a great night. Happy birthday Kate!

Phoenix Restaurant
2131 S Archer Avenue
Chicago, IL 60616

Joy Yee's Noodles
2159 S. China Place
Chicago IL, 60616


In Pictures: Mexico

This was my brother's one souvenir purchase. His Mexican wrestling name is La Pinata. I know.

Chicago's own La Pasadita in Cozumel! Who knew!

The bloody finger really helps illustrate the point.

My new friend, Roger the Rooster, Coconuts bar's mascot.

Jackson loved the grasshopper made out of palm leaves.

Um, my dad. Yeah. Super cool.

Fresh shrimp ceviche, super limey.

The fresh catch, soon to be served to awaiting patrons. Note the t-shirt worn by the fisherman.

Can't beat that cloud-free sky.

Fresh flash-fried red snapper.

Kayla and Kevin's double birthday celebration.

Habanero salsa - SUPER hot and made with vinegar. It left your lips tingling long after a bite.

The lovely Veronica cooked us all dinner one evening...

...and here are the results. Amazingly good.

I wish Campbell's sold this in the US - zucchini flower soup!


Mariachis doing "El Rey" in honor of Peen's dad.

First stop after getting off the plane...

I was envious of the colors in Cozumel, houses, murals, walls - it's very bright.

Cheap Eats: Curry Fava Bean Soup with Tomatoes

On my weekly trip to El Guero, my local Mexican grocery store, among almost an entire aisle of dried beans, I saw a small bag of what looked like yellow lima beans. The label said "Habas" and a few cups set me back $1.08. While I wasn't sure what exactly these were, I couldn't beat the price and I've yet to meet a bean I didn't like. They went into my cart.

Back home, a quick google search told me these were fava beans. Score! I'd eaten fresh fava beans on a trip to Portugal once, but never prepared them dry and wanted to stretch these for meals during the week, so I decided on a hearty spring soup. Really, this colorful dish walks the fine line between winter and spring, just like our crazy weather this weekend.

Curried Fava Bean and Tomato Soup with Arugula "pesto"

One large white onion
2 cups dried fava beans "habas"
2 Tbsp tomato paste
One large can diced tomatoes
2-3 cups stock
2 cloves garlic
One cup corn
One cup petite peas
Curry powder, salt & pepper, red pepper flakes, horseradish powder
Crumbled cheese for garnish

for the Arugula "pesto"
2 cups Arugula
2 tbsp Mayo
Olive oil

arugula garnish

1) Soak the fava beans in a bowl of warm water for 1-2 hours. You can skip this step but the beans will take longer to cook.
2) Bring stock to a boil, add the Favas!
3) Dice onion and saute until translucent, add peas, corn and garlic. Cook until tender.
4) When beans begin to soften, add the onion mixture to the pot, along with extra stock, diced tomatoes and the tomato paste. Let simmer for 20 minutes, until the flavors meld.
5) Add spices, simmer 5-10 minutes longer
6) For garnish - combine arugula and ingredients in food processor and pulse into desired consistency is reached.
7) Ladle into bowls and let spring begin!


Dinner Last Night: Taco Lettuce Wraps

After a successful trip to the vet for my main man Rufus, I celebrated by whipping up a batch of these soy meat lettuce wraps. Oh so easy and healthy, it made me miss my mom's "taco night" dinners. And for the meat eaters out there, these can easily be adapted to satisfy even you with real ground beef!

Soy Meat Lettuce Wraps
One package Lightlife Soymeat Crumbles (I've tried many versions of fake "ground beef" in my time and this is my fav)
One small onion
One small tomato
One package taco seasoning (old school style)
Cumin, salt and red pepper

1) Saute the onion until translucent, add the chopped tomato and cook until just tender
2) Crumble the soy "crumbles" into the pan, cook until warmed through
3) Add the seasonings
4) Scoop into beautiful butter lettuce cups, add chopped black olives, salsa, cheese and of course, sour cream


Legendarny Smaks - Kale Chips & Spicy Garbanzos

LA Blogger Smitty is back again with this mouth watering healthy (yay!) treat. Take it Smitts...
And now for some delicious snack foods that would have sent your 6-year-old self running for the hills in search of the nearest bag of Cool Ranch Doritos -- kale chips and spicy roasted garbanzo beans!

It is an amazing fact of life that olive oil, lemon juice, and salt (plus some spices, if you get the urge), will make just about anything delicious. Especially when roasting things. The sooner we embrace this, the better.

First example: Kale!

All you need for your kale chips is:

One bunch kale (very easy to find at your grocery or farmers market this time of year)
Olive oil
Sea Salt
A couple of lemons (fresh off the tree in your front yard if you have one, and if you don't...move to California! then you will)

1) Remove the stems from your kale leaves, and toss them in a large bowl with a couple of tablespoons olive oil and the zest of 1 lemon to coat.

2) Place the leaves in a single layer of a roasting pan and sprinkle with sea salt. Roast at 250 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until leaves are crispy.

3) Remove from roasting pan and transfer to paper towels to soak up the excess oil. Serve as a snack or as an appetizer at a dinner party -- the salty, lemony crisps will be gobbled up faster than you can say "greens are good for you!"

Next up: Garbanzo beans!

This recipe is a modified version of the Fried Garbanzo Beans they serve at The York, a great bar on the east side of LA. At the York, however, they fry their garbanzos (yes, in a fryer like french fries), and while those are delicious, I prefer my slightly healthier roasted kind.

For this one you'll need:
Large can garbanzo beans
Olive Oil
Sea Salt
Cayenne pepper (I like to supplement with chili powder and cumin too)
Juice of 2 lemons

1) Drain and rinse the garbanzos, then toss them in a bowl with 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt, cayenne, and some chili powder and a bit of cumin if you like. (I don't measure the spices, but I'd say about a 1/2 tsp each salt, cayenne and cumin, and I use a bit more of the chili powder just for color).

2) Transfer to roasting pan, and roast at 350 for about 45 min or until the garbanzos look nice and toasty like below.

3) Transfer garbanzos to a bowl and mix with the lemon juice and a bit more salt and cayenne. Eat them as-is for a snack, or add them to salad. Enjoy!