Sunday, October 25, 2009

Goodbye Gourmet Magazine Bento

Wow looky there I just crossed 20k visitors thank you all for dropping by! Today's post I bring you a farewell to an institution of the food magazine world. Gourmet magazine recently announced their closure and it's a sad thing to see a publication that's 70 years old go to the wayside. There's many opinions, "They needed to change with the times", "food publications have lost to the tv networks and how they present food", and my favorite "just goes to show how no one cooks at home anymore". I digest food magazines and rip out the recipes of interest, I use these as points of view to teaching me to "make it my own", the loss of one more point of view is always sad. Gourmet actually gave me my holy grail of black forest cake recipes, something I've only found at a small bakery in Ft. Worth. Granted I was always annoyed that most of their recipes spanned multiple pages, but certainly it was no reason that I would not buy a copy when at the bookstore or on my way out for a business trip. I'll take exception to recent critics from well known chefs or food writers on how no one cooks at home these days, my friends and I cook and content providers like food network and publications like Saveur, Fine Cooking, and Everyday with Rachel Ray (just to name a few, and yes I like Rachel Ray) are print and web publications that I carefully watch and investigate to improve my cooking. My only regret on is that my hero Alton Brown hasn't built his own empire to provide me a magazine to help out the inner food geek. If consuming and creating food comes from experience then what better way than to include the wisdom and experiences of others. Ok enough soap box onto the show.

Entree Lamb Ragu served with Manchego Cheese Grits. Ragu/ragout however you want to spell it, I've learned means a hearty meat stew. The Gourmet Ragu came to me as a suggestion from April over at theHungryEngineer, in fact this suggestion and the closure of Gourmet is what inspired my bento this week. The lamb is braised for about four hours in bourbon and a host of aromatics. The use of Manchego cheese in the grits is brilliant, it's not the sharp tang of a cheddar rather a subtle salty flavor. I had to make a change to the original recipe in that the grits as made was more like a soup than a soft textured bowl of grits, so I added enough grits to match the texture I was after. I think a correct reheat of grits and a subsequent reheat of the ragu over the grits will produce what Gourmet Magazine intended.

Creamed Peas with Mint. This is a really simple recipe, the cream sauce is a simple infusion of cream and mint, I think if I were to do it again, I'd let the cream reduce a bit further so it has a better cling to the peas or use a bit cheese to thicken the sauce. A simple saute of celery, onion and frozen peas brings this dish together. This side has a simple fresh taste that really keeps the meal light and refreshing. The only improvement would be the introduction of bacon or some sort of fat to bring out some more flavors, but I feel I've been over using my homemade bacon and of course I decided to follow the Gourmet recipes as presented.

For dessert we have a Cardamom milk pudding. The pudding does indeed require the fridge time that the recipe recommends. My only change here would to move away from the arrowroot as thicker, it introduced a texture problem (despite straining), I would have opted for eggs instead of a starch. I suppose the calorie savings over eggs would probably have caused me to try it via the method suggested by the recipe but knowing how it turns out I prefer the smoother texture that I'd get from eggs. That said, the resulting pudding was very aromatic without being overwhelming.

I enjoyed making this bento although I'm still struggling with cooking for twelve. It's logistically a lot harder than cooking for six, a normal recipe is usually a serving of six. Cooking for twelve requires using all of my burners and waiting for dishes to finish before moving to the next stages or worse having multiple dutch ovens which is not something a home kitchen is equipped for (I bought another DO today). Even with meticulous planning and staged prep work I'm struggling to churn out lunch quickly I guess I'm still working out the kinks. Thanks for coming by!

Box Contents
  • Lamb Ragu over Manchego Cheese Grits
  • Creamed Peas with Mint
  • Cardamom Milk Pudding

Monday, October 19, 2009

Home Cured Bacon Madness

Wow, two posts in two days will wonders never cease? Well I've had this one queued up for sometime waiting for a week where I have a bento intermission. So as I have long promised here's a brief post on my adventures in bacon making. This is something I've been wanting to do since I first taste home cured bacon by Ryan from NoseToTailatHome, it's so different from the regular stuff you find in the grocery store. The only way for me to describe it is it's got a fresher flavor (even out of the freezer) and a more substantial meaty quality. If you come over you can try some. :)

The hardest part about making bacon was securing the sodium nitrite necessary for the salt cure. Pink salt is the necessary ingredient in the cure to insure you don't get an unfortunate case of botulism. Why is it pink? I'm very glad you asked, after a bit of research, I found that sodium nitrite is naturally pure white and actually toxic in high amounts. Since it's used in kitchen for the purposes of curing, and easily mistaken for salt or sugar it is actually purposefully colored pink in order to avoid bad accidents. Out of that giant bag, I only needed about 3 teaspoons for the 11 lbs of pork belly. So a little goes a long way, you might want to keep that in mind when ordering it online.

Next I had to secure the pork belly, for that I thank thehungryengineer for the tip off that I could go to the local farmers market and special order a belly from Richardson Farms. That giant bag holds 11 pounds of pork belly goodness. That's a whole lotta bacon going on and I was ready to roll.

With that much pork, I decided to try bacon three ways: plain bacon, maple bacon, and pancetta (italian bacon). The cure for the Pancetta was the most fragrant (pictured above). It's actually surprisingly simple to cure your own bacon, you just put the whole thing in a bag, seal it off and flip it every couple of days to redistribute the salt and resulting liquid that comes from the curing process. I actually opted for a vacuum sealing my bags hoping for better coverage, it seemed to work out pretty good.

Seven days later voila you have bacon, I actually had to let mine cure for nine days, for reasons beyond my control but the additional time didn't seem to hurt anything. The pancetta required an additional seven days of air dried curing and I opted out of tying it up as is done traditionally. All three slabs of bacon are very tasty, I've been using the stuff in my bentos and the bacon imparts such awesome great flavor. Of course it's bacon, how could it actually be bad . It all freezes quite nicely, and is actually a bit easier to slice into uniform thin slices while frozen, so no good excuse for me to purchase a slicer.

This was a fun little experiment, it has embolden me to try my hand at other cured items like salami or ham. That said, I think my next project will be to work on my cheese making skills. Until then thanks for dropping by, look for a bento post next week.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Me and my hero

Ok no food post this week, I was away from the kitchen but my plan is to do a few non-bento posts while I am away. This first one is my media event book signing with Alton Brown. Mr. Brown is a huge part of how and why I cook. Cooking was in my genes growing up in a restaurant, but Alton was my reason for looking into the curiosity of cooking. Why? how? when? where? these were the fundamental questions of looking into various ethnic cuisines and my earlier food experimentation, heck even dissecting my father's cooking. Alton brought out this thirst for knowledge which really makes up a part of why and how I cook today (even a good part of this blog). My high point was that I was able to utter the phrase I didn't manage 7 years ago, "Um just wanted to say, Alton Brown you are my hero!" He looked stunned and gracious, and although he probably hears it everyday he seemed to have taken it with genuine gratitude.

I've been to a few of his book signings here's a picture of his first signing from yesteryear and today, a "then and now" if you will (yes great, now you know what I look like, hopefully you still come back). Alton was kind enough to say "I looked familiar" when I mentioned this wasn't the first of his books he's signed for me. Whether that was a kind nod to an exuberant fan or I was that remember-able, I thank his kind words. As always, he was a witty host and just someone that looks like a ton of fun to hang out with, maybe one day I'll get to hang out and learn from him more. He's the inner food nerd/geek in all of us and I'm super excited to read thru his current book as it has the same kind of flavor and accessibility as his shows.

A special shout out, I met Hester from Austin Empty Bowl Project. It's a wonderful charity that puts on an event to sell locally created pottery bowls of soup (from local chefs) to benefit the local food bank I'm a big fan of the project and I'm very happy that Alton Brown signed a bowl for them as it's a great cause and I'm hoping to get a chance to participate this year.

Finally a picture with all of us foodbloggers that managed to participate in the event. (thanks Jenny of @MisoHungry for the suggested group photo.) Again, I didn't really realize until I reviewed this photo how few male food bloggers there were (bah, another picture of me, how hard is to stay anonymous?, but I'm lucky to be in such good looking company). And thank you to Sean of @hungryengineer for taking my photo that you see in the "after" of the before and after. His camera-fu is much greater than my own.

More posts to come, hang in there I have a neat bento coming up.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Octoberfest Bento

It's cold, it's October, time for some more hearty food and where better to find such food than to celebrate with a German themed Oktoberfest Bento. It was tempting to go with standard well known Oktoberfest/German foods. I was ready to break out the meat grinder and sausage stuffer for some bratwurst when I stopped myself and thought, what else do Germans eat? Thinking back to my business trip this summer, the menus I saw in Frankfurt were chock full of great tasting foods. So I began researching German foods and came up with an nice list of stuff and found some good stuff from various "Omas" (grandmothers) and made some modifications for my own tastes voila we have lunch

Let's start with the main entree Kummel Klopse. I'm a sucker for meatballs, really, if there's a list of things I can make and meatballs is on that list, then I'm going for the meatballs. I'm fascinated that every society/culture has some form of meatball, they are all different in very significant ways but all share the fact that they are indeed a ball of meat. A yummy delicious ball of meat at that. Here we have a Kummel Klopse (Chicken and pork meatball with a Riesling sour cream sauce, I think Kummel Klopse is caraway meatball). I opted to blend a chicken meatball recipe with two other recipes as I liked the idea of making the meat ball a bit more healthy. I used the simmering liquid of the four batches of meatballs (after draining the fat) to form the basis of the sauce, my decision to go low sour cream fat did not detract from the dish since there were so many flavors going on with the base simmering liquid that fat was not necessary. I gave the suggestion that my eaters could combine this meatball dish with:

Homemade spaetzle sauteed with pancetta and parsley. Yes my bacon strikes again and I do promise to post on the bacon making. I have a brief intermission coming up and I've been saving it for just that type of rainy day post. Back to the spaetzle, I went thru a couple of trial batters before settling on the seasonings, I think my ramping up the nutmeg really helped. I also wanted to give the option to eat the spaetzle by itself, so flavoring it with a quick saute along side the pancetta gave it enough to standalone. This was my first venture into spaetzle making and I'm very surprised how easy it was to make. I think I'll do a batch with the gluten free flour to see how different it will be.

Next we have Gurken Salat, a cucumber salad in sweet dill dressing. Basically this produces a quick sweet pickle after a couple of hours marinating in the fridge. Very simple and light tasting to help offset some of the heavy set items in the box. Not really much else than what the picture tells you. I used dried and fresh from the garden dill, it's interesting the taste of the two types of dill together. I think the dried dill really imparts a lot of flavor, but the fresh dill gives a better texture.

On the side we have Bierocks which is a pastry stuffed with cabbage and beef. I believe this originated in Germany but has evolved in it's time in the United States with a popular showing the the midwest. The Bierocks themselves were pretty size able (about the size of a small hamburger) and probably could have served as a main dish by itself, so no one should walk away hungry from this bento. I'll confess that I had to take a bento shortcut by using some ready made biscuit dough to wrap everything up. Cooking for twelve is an ambitious project and I'll need to get use to the idea that I can't do everything from scratch or I'll end up killing myself trying to get the food out. I'm actually quite pleased with the use of biscuit dough as a shortcut definitely something I'll remember for the future.

Finally for dessert, I found a Kase Kuchen recipe handed down by someone's Oma. I'm sorry I didn't get a shot of it (in my haste I forgot to take a picture). I found it interesting in that it was basically a cheesecake, but instead of using cream cheese it went light with a cottage cheese. The dessert turned out to be a far lighter version of a classic cheese cake that was not as creamy in texture. I decided to give it a strawberry glaze to add some more flavor as I found it was a little plain by itself.

Fun box to build, I've already gotten a compliment from a new bento-er that although her favorite is still her Oma's spaetzle, was definitely good. :) Ok well that's all for now. Intermission next week but look for a post.

Box Contents
  • Kummel Klopse
  • Spaetzle with Pancetta and Parsley
  • Gurken Salat
  • Bierocks Pastry
  • Kase Kuchen

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Foodblogger Event: Fortune Chinese Seafood Restaurant

Whew, lots of events this week and plenty of pictures to be had. Tonight's event, I was invited to Fortune Chinese seafood restaurant, it's been open for four months now and is ensconced in the Chinatown Center in north Austin. They've taken over a previous restaurant and redesigned and hired a new executive chef hailing from Los Angeles. The menu looks very authentic and I for sure will be returning to order just about one of everything on the menu (perhaps with camera covertly in tow :) ). The restaurant is huge, boasting 9000 square feet of banquet space and a fairly good sized bar to the side. They pride themselves on serving dim sum seven days a week (one cart on the week day, but full on Friday thru Sunday) and specialize on Chinese seafood straight from the tank.

The tasting event was hosted by the owners Sara (pictured) and Pat Lee. The husband and wife team were quick to make everyone feel at home and seemed like proud parents of their new restaurant. Bacardi helped host their event to showcase their Dragonfruit flavored rum (see ice sculpture). They were there showcasing some of the mix drinks, very tasty, I liked the tonic/soda/rum with a squeeze of lime it was nice light and refreshing. Sara and Pat were very generous and gracious hosts we had plenty to sample and from the looks of the menu we had only touched the tip of the iceberg.

The first wave consisted of a series of basic dim sum dishes, this was good as it gave me a good basis to compare. The trio on the left was pork and shrimp Shao Mai, Char Siu Bao, Ha Gau (shrimp dumplings) next to that we have a clasic fried shrimp ball, and a closer shot of the Shao Mai (sometimes spelled shui mai). Quick commentary, I really enjoyed the Shao Mai the best, most places the wrapper is over cooked and falling apart and the insides are ground up too finely. The texture on this Shao Mai had healthy large (identifiable) chunks of shrimp and pork and had a very fresh substantial and clean taste. The Char Siu Bao had a light fluffy bread rather than the more dense-need-to-drink-tea-to-wash-it-down texture and the light sweetness of the bbq pork was pretty darn good. The Shrimp Dumplings were also well executed, perhaps the freshness of delivery helped, sometimes at bad dim sum the rice wrapper for the dumpling is too hard or worse over cooked and falling apart. The fried shrimp balls had a nice light crispy (not oily) taste and really good flavor. I got a copy of their usual dim sum menu and am eager to try some of the um... more traditional items.

Next up we had the salt and pepper fried calamari and walnut shrimp. My compatriots really liked the calamari, and I agree it was cooked well and the batter was tasty, but invariably with the salt and peppered fried items in most restaurants, you'll have one piece that's flavored well, another under and finally one over seasoned. The calamari itself was well cooked. Walnut Shrimp, ah, the influences of western culture into Cantonese cuisine. It's sinfully delicious, and more than likely served with rice to offset it's devilish richness on the regular menu. The candied walnuts were of course very good, and the lightly fried shrimp and mayo based sauce were also very good. I can only have a couple of pieces before feeling guilty that it's horribly bad for me. I'm not sure of the origins of this dish, but I know I have not seen anything like it until recently, even my last trip to Taiwan it managed to creep into the banquet menu.

Brief intermission, a picture of the gang of foodbloggers that managed to cluster around each other and perform their usual food paparazzi duties. It's always fun to see everyone again and I always look forward to these events to get a chance to reconnect and say hi. I picked the best shot I got, we'll call this an "action shot".

Ok we dive into the Americanized side of dishes. I say that, in that I'm either unfamiliar with the items (which I have pretty good experience with) or know for a fact Chinese cuisine does not include them naturally (cream cheese?) We'll start with bbq pork croissant, sweet and sour chicken, and the ubiquitous crab rangoon. Don't get me wrong, fusion and picking up new ingrediants into traditional cuisine is right up my alley, so I don't look down at these dishes it's simply easy to group these three photos based on their newness to the cuisine. First the bbq pork croissant, very flaky, I do wish there was more pork but the pastry was very light. Sweet and sour chicken, not like your normal red/orange sauced Chinese buffet, but you know me and sweets not my favorite but only by personal choice. I do like how they delivered the sauce without the traditional red food coloring, it did have a good note of vinegar that had me wondering if I had the dish pegged wrong. Crab Rangoon, this was rather unusual in that regular crab rangoon I've tasted (even at my family's restaurant) had a more crumbly "mealy" texture, the cream cheese filling was actually creamy which is an interesting and nice departure from the norm, kinda neat as it's not quite your run of the mill-just-as-expected-crab-rangoon.

Next, I think they brought out a jellyfish salad just for our blogger table (I didn't see a plate anywhere else in the bar). Jellyfish salad is a delicate subject for me, there's many ways to prepare this dish and of course I'm very opinionated due to the fact my father trained me on how to create his dish. When eating a jellyfish salad I look for very specific things that tell me that thought time and precision went into it's preparation. Taste, Texture, and seasoning (back to taste I suppose) are three things I look for. Taste: if there's a hint of the fish briny then it was not prepped correctly. Texture: the right amount of crunch is what I was taught to value which means the critical blanch/shock was done without too much blanch. Seasoning means that it doesn't taste like wet rubberbands alone (that's the jellyfish's job), the sauce that complements the jellyfish texture is meaningful and bold. That said, they did a great job under my standards and the only thing I longed for was a bit more bold on seasoning, in this case, I'm use to more garlic and a bit more vinegar, I loved the heat from the chili oil (not something I am use to), so definitely learned something I can try to add to the family recipe.

Finally dessert: two desserts were presented, a pineapple custard bun, and the traditional Dan Ta (egg custard). I really liked the custard bun, very light and crusty (I didn't taste pineapple, maybe I heard it wrong still, very delicious). The egg custard is a bit of a departure from the usual dim sum offering, smaller, the custard was right on, not too sweet, custard in constancy, but the crust was not the usual pastry dough type. I like the pastry dough even if it is worse for me :).

Again, I'd really like to thank Fortune for inviting me to the event. I plan on coming back and tasting their regular menu and I'm certain that will require at least five visits with an army of friends. I wish the best of luck on the restaurant (for selfish reasons, as I have a whole menu to go thru ;) ), they seem like a wonderful couple that care about the comfort of their guests. Seriously, I saw their main menu and the website does not do it justice, I'm eager to try the abalone and peking duck as well as a huge selection of my childhood favorites.

Special thanks from Sean (sp?) of @hungryengineer helping me figure out my new photo gear, and of course @cookingforengineers for his tips as well. Next post will be a bento I promise. Until then thanks for dropping by.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Fall with Old Friends Bento

Yeah I know I'm really shoehorning in a theme this week. Another fall themed bento, this time I found a way to cook for my old audience. One of them lives very close by so I can drop my boxes off on the way to work. That's right folks, I'm officially up to 12 total eaters, my next few bentos will prove educational on scaling recipes. For today, I only needed to cook for three, my work just moved offices downtown so there was no way to know where or how I would be bringing food to the office, we'll see if I'm able to standup to the logistics of cooking for two destinations and 12 hungry eaters.

I decided on a set of fallish themed dishes. This time I had to clear out some things in the fridge and take the time to research what I was going to produce. So I had plenty of time to put together a plan and really think about cohesive themes. But the most important part was to use up some of the stuff I had stocked up. Which brings us to the main entree: Spiced Crab Cakes. I had some unopened tubs of crab from the ravioli's I did earlier and I am fairly amazed how long pasteurized cooked crab will hold in the fridge (months). Fairly simple deal on these amazing little treats, combined in some breadcrumbs and fresh basil from the garden spices and egg. I usually shape my crab cakes by hand, but saw a tip recently to use a simple measuring cup (1/3 cup to be precise) to help shape the perfect crabcake. A simple pan fry on the pan and we have our crab cakes. I was originally going to add a spicy aioli but upon tasting, there was enough going on that it really wasn't necessary and may have detracted from the flavors I built in the cakes.

Next, had to find a use for some of the frozen goat cheese in my freezer. I decide to put together a really simple mushroom bruschetta. The goat cheese could help form a barrier to keep the toasted bread from getting soggy and work double duty to help the mushrooms stick to the bread. The garlic and herbs in the goat cheese were the perfect perky taste to complement the earthy woodsy mushrooms.

Time to bring some green into the picture. There's been a nice broccoli slaw that I clipped into my notebook to keep in my "future bento" file, and I had just enough mayo and shallots lying around that this would probably do the trick. This inspiration came from one of my many blogs I watch, thank you Smitten Kitchen for the original inspiration. I'm not sure how this would play with my eaters. The slaw itself has a pretty strong raw broccoli taste and smell. I could probably have done with a little stronger vinegar component to punctuate the dressing.

I had two large cartons of chicken broth sitting around which screams soup, perfect timing since there has been a nice chill from a hazy stormy weekend. I whipped up a simple Potato Leek soup. The potato lent a creamy texture which negated any need for cream and I skimped on the butter to make this a pretty healthy dish. A quick hit on the immersion blender and I was good to go.

Finally, I decided to make some snickerdoodles. I was out of regular all purpose flour, so I kicked in the Gluten free AP mix I've been using. Surprisingly this made some pretty good cookies. I could tell it was gluten free flour, but it really just only changed the texture a bit and made it crunchier. I go both ways on cookies, crunchy or chewy depends on the mood. In this case it made for a perfect coffee dipping cookie that the folks here at work happily snapped up when I brought in the extras.

I'm very glad I've found a way to cook for my old audience. They seemed to really enjoy lunch, and of course I enjoy cooking for them. More blogging events coming soon, heavy posting week this week so stay tuned.

Box Contents
  • Spicy Crab Cakes
  • Mushroom and Goat Cheese Bruschetta
  • Broccoli Slaw
  • Potato Leek Soup
  • Gluten Free Snickerdoodles

Monday, October 5, 2009

Foodblogger Event: Zoes Kitchen

I was invited to checkout a new restaurant: Zoes Kitchen. It's tucked away in the arboretum area, it's got a nice hip vibe. The only way to describe it is "family friendly food with a Mediterranean influence" it's fast foodish in that you order at the counter but the setting is an enjoyable open space where you can share a glass of wine with your food. It's a nice in-between where dinner/lunch doesn't have to be a big production.

Our hosts for the evening, first we have Kevin Miles and Jennifer Mims from the corporate offices. Next we have Abraham Houma with his brother Hasoum (not pictured) are the local corporate partners that manage and oversee the Austin restaurant. Just a bit of background both brothers worked within the Zoes portfolio restaurants before joining Zoes and moving up to partnering and opening the Austin location. Zoes does franchise but many of it's restaurants are corporately owned. Everyone was eager to speak to Zoes young company culture and it's clear that they had a lot of passion for food and a clear desire to preserve the origins of Zoes. Zoes Kitchen started with Zoe Cassimu's humble restaurant that was known for their Chicken Salad sandwich. It was home cooking out of a small spot from a passionate woman that cooked everything by hand and delivered it with love. Her son took these recipes and helped expand it to folks outside of Alabama.

The aim for Zoes is to deliver an accessible Mediterranean inspired meal that you can chose to eat on the light side or go with a heavier meal with kabobs. The idea is you can bring your family there, or order their takeout for four and have an easy meal for the family after a long day of work. They still hold a lot of the original recipes such as the chocolate cake, and the chicken salad sandwich for which Zoes Kitchen is famous for. Although not touted, Zoes uses recycled plastics and apparently built their Austin location with the environment in mind.

Ok I'll warn you I took a ton of photos the folks at Zoes Kitchen went out of their way to open the restaurant (prior to the big opening event tomorrow) to us so we could actually taste, take pictures, and ask questions about their food. Although I didn't get to try everything (there's too much really), I will only show you foods I did taste.

We'll start out with their pita pizza. I got to try two of their pizzas above you'll see their Veggie Pita pizza, I got to try their regular chicken pita pizza but missed the photo op. I loved both pizzas, they used a healthy dose of fresh basil and delicious feta. It actually reminded me of traditional italian pizza, thin crispy crust, light sauce and simple toppings. I really loved it, I didn't get filled up on a bunch of pizza dough and felt light.

Next up we have a series of Rollups. Spinach, Steak and Chicken rollups. It's basically a simple wrap that's been press grilled. I actually liked the spinach rollup, a lot of places tend to drop in a ton of cream cheese or cream to get the spinach to bind, this was not the case here, you got to actually taste spinach. The Steak rollup was served with a lemon yogurt sauce, it was a bit creamy and tasted like a very light aioli.

I'm really surprised at the amount of vegetarian friendly items on this menu, I suppose this makes them a nice fit in Austin. I had a taste of the Veggie stack, it had grilled portobello, mozzarella, feta and zucchini. A very tasty and substantial sandwich, the feta spread lent a nice bit of salty lift to the vegetables. Everything is freshly made and it really came out with the sandwich, everything had a just off the grill taste, the vegetables had a good snap no hold over sogginess here.

I enjoyed the hummus. Most other hummus I've encoutered around town really use too much tahini for my taste and they tend to blend it until it's a peanut butter like consistency. Now that might be how it is done traditionally, but that's not for me. Zoes version is a bit closer to my own, more lemon, less tahini, and less processing so you can have the texture of garbanzo beans. You've got my vote for best hummus!

I asked for a sample of their marinated slaw and Braised white beans. Ok those beans are heavenly, I hesitate to ask what makes it so tasty for fear of feeling guilty. The slaw was quite a departure from a regular slaw it features a bit of feta and a light vinaigrette. I think the flavors were there, my personal taste would be a bit more tang. Fortunately, they have as part of their regular table condiments a house vinaigrette with Zoes seasonings, red wine and olive oil.

Finally, I'm not big on desert, you guys all know that. I will admit that the cake was very moist and tasty, everyone else really enjoyed this dessert. The staff tells me that this is the original recipe from Zoe that has been preserved and made by hand from scratch (like everything else).

I will say that the Zoes folks are an enthusiastic bunch. Even the corporate folks (Kevin being the Executive VP of Operations) were out there greeting folks, cleaning tables and serving food. It's a great sign that even though a humble kitchen has gone corporate they've not lost their touch of the reason for being: showing hospitality and serving food with passion and caring.

Thank you so much to Zoes Kitchen for inviting me to sample their offerings. I look forward to the grand opening tomorrow (I'll post pictures). I'll definitely be coming back on the way home to grab a quick dinner.

Ok I promise I have a bento post ready to roll, look for the post in the next couple of days.