Monday, February 28, 2011

Cheap, stylish, and tasty.

Mr. S. and I went to Burning Bush Grille in Prospect for our Friday date night.  We were initially impressed by the reasonable prices, the presence of bison (yum!) and the neat decor.  (They were showing the Cooking Channel instead of ESPN or some sports game...yay!)

I ordered the chicken and ground bison kebab, which also came with rice, a vegetable kebab and a small flat piece of lavash bread.  The tender grilled chicken had a very mild spice rub, while the bison was a little saltier.  The vegetables merely tasted grilled (which is great, don't get me wrong), and the rice was buttery (my only complaint, besides wishing there was more tzatziki sauce).  This was $11.32, and one of the most expensive items on the menu.
Mr. S. ordered the super gyro ($7.55) which he reported as "good, but not the best gyro I've ever had."  The bread was soft and delicious.  Again, the meat was very mildly seasoned, not to the point of being bland, but unmemorable.

So overall, we appreciated the prices (especially with a LivingSocial coupon), the care taken in presentation, and the quality of the food.  I think that we like things spicier than most people, so that may be the cause of  slight discontent.  We will return if we're ever in this part of town again.  

Upcoming food adventures on The Hungry Panda:
-Vietnamese coffee (I'm a procrastinator)
-pane siciliano (ditto)
-whole wheat rye from bread class (ditto)
-croissant challenge (We haven't done this yet, but I have some French butter in the secret ingredient...don't tell Mr. S.) 
-DENVER!  (I'm taking a vacation from my vacation, and I'm thrilled.) 

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Out of order, but who cares.

Today was our last bread baking class.  (Pictures from last week are on another SD card and will be the subject of another post.) A reporter and photographer from the Courier-Journal came to write a neighborhood feature story on us.  The former was a bit intrusive (seriously, don't talk to me when I'm weighing out ingredients) but the latter was very nice.  We had a conversation about lenses and his beautiful full-frame dSLR.  But anyway...we made whole wheat Irish soda bread in honor of St. Patty's Day.  I learned a few things from this:
1.) Whole wheat flour is not that bad (if it's King Arthur).
2.) I do not like currants.  They tasted too much like raisins, and became bitter after baking.
3.) Some dough is just meant to be soft and wet.  It's hard to resist the urge to add more flour.

 Whole wheat flour has a pretty yellow color and an interesting texture. 
 Mixing the wet ingredients
 Ball o' dough (very sticky and wet)
 Our free-form loaf, decked out with instant oats and currants
 Scoring (by the knife expert in the household)
 Our finished loaf---after we discovered that the currants tasted bitter, I picked them all off. 
All of the finished loaves looked fantastic!  The bread was chewy and tasted like what I imagine a whole wheat biscuit tastes like.  I liked this bread better than the sourdough rye from last week.  Since we didn't have any other lunch, we consumed half of the loaf almost instantly.  o_O
The bread from all four weeks is portrayed in this pretty basket.  I can't take any credit for this styling---the actual photographer arranged it by the window first.

And now, time for some bonus bread!  While we were waiting for the Irish soda bread to come out of the oven, Chef H. demonstrated a fig and aniseed scone twist from Global Baker (except that it wasn't a twist for the sake of time).
 Fig preserves--I was dubious about these, since I have hated Fig Newtons since childhood.  I am very happy to report that these taste far superior, esp. when mixed with Saigon cinnamon and aniseed.  :) 

This was delicious---buttery and sweet, but not overly so, and with a wonderful soft pillowy texture that reminded me of my mom's blueberry streusel.  This would be a great dessert or breakfast offering.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Taking chances feels good.

Recently, I read an article about a Cuban trailer floating around the city.  I've always been a germophobe and thus avoided street food, so it wasn't until I heard multiple accounts of the wonderful food that I made the 10 mile journey to investigate this further. 

First, I had to call the chef on his cell phone to see where he was that day.  He rotates between three dealerships: Oxmoor Ford, Mazda, and Toyota. 

Based on reading the forums at, I ordered the Cuban sandwich and, as a side, the rice with chorizo.  My second choice would've been the sweet potato fries though.

There is a short wait since your food is prepared in front of you.  I enjoyed watching him work, and I think this box weighed at least 3 pounds.  At $7.42, this easily fed two people.  Mr. S. had a nice dinner that night. 
The sandwich contained ham, marinated shredded pork, tomatoes, onions, and pickles, with a creamy yogurt sauce and optional cayenne pepper.  (The pepper adds just a hint of spiciness without being overwhelming, so don't be scared to ask for it.)  I decided not to get the cheese.  This was extremely flavorful and a bit wet, which made for messy eating, although the bread was not soggy.  I happily devoured this in the front seat of my car since it was raining outside and I abandoned my idea of eating it in the nearby mall.  This is the best Cuban sandwich I have ever had, far surpassing Havana Rumba's, because the latter's pork is simply boiled and has almost no flavor.

The chorizo rice was a little salty and greasy, but also packed with flavor and a generous amount of meat.

The menu also features breakfast omelets, Mexican torta sandwiches, Cuban ribs, quesadillas, and an interesting selection of several Cuban desserts.  It appears to be a one-man show.  This chef has worked at a number of restaurants and told me that business has been slow this winter because people don't know he's certified by the health inspection board.

Bottom line: if I lived closer, I'd come more often to El Rumbon.  Call 502-210-9087 if you are looking for a fantastic, cheap lunch option (and if you're not a vegetarian).  They're only open on weekdays from 9 am- 3 pm.  :)

El Rumbon (food truck) on Urbanspoon

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Bread baking, a shameless product plug, and pastry eating

Today, I learned how to make French baguettes from my friend, Chef H., at a local church.  They have a nice commercial kitchen that we've borrowed before for a Stone Soup dinner.  Mr. S. and I got our hands dirty and learned that baguettes are not as intimidating as we'd previously thought.

 He'd pre-made the pate fermentee for us.  :)  Here it is, with some AP flour.
After mixing and proofing
 Proofing again, after shaping
 The loaf on the right was ours, and the one on the left was cut into an epi (or wheat sheath).  Very pretty!
 Some of the finished loaves (all very rustic looking--plus they smelled great).
 The epi loaf
Our loaf---hooray!  This tasted good.  The crust was a little thicker and chewier than I anticipated, though.
I found a great apron on Facebook that was created by a friend of a friend (who'd been tagged as its model).  A few Facebook messages later, I purchased the last one, and I couldn't be happier with it.  It kept me flourless, is truly one-size-fits-all, and has 2 handy pockets in the front.  He and his business partner may be selling more of these soon, so look out.  =)  Thanks to Patrick and Jessica!
 "What Would Julia Child Do?" 
After baking bread and eating lunch (fast food...don't ask) we went thrifting and came across a Cuban bakery.
They have only four items here despite billing itself as a bakery: guava, coconut, and guava/cream cheese pastries (top to bottom, and fresh today!) and pan cubano (in the background of the last pic).  We bought a coconut pastry, guava/cream cheese pastry, and a loaf of bread.  The coconut pastry was flaky and sweet---perfect, really.  The guava/cream cheese pastry was slightly burnt and we decided that we don't like the taste of guava much.  :\  The bread is extremely light (in weight and taste) and is fairly nondescript; I don't think we'll be getting it again.  Certainly unique though. 
Coming up someday on The Hungry Panda...:
-Marshmallow making (wish me luck)
-Croissant throwdown (Mr. S. & Alton Brown vs. me and Peter Reinhart)
-Playing with my brand new $2.99 Vietnamese coffee press
-Valentine's Day desserts!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Back by popular* demand

*By popular, I mean that this is a Mr. S. requested post.  :) 

You, dear reader (yes all three of you) may remember me raving about Lee's Sandwiches in OKC.  I discovered them through Groupon and impulsively bought two coupons just because...well, because they were cheap.  Luckily for us, we fell in love.  :)

My husband has a phone that takes pictures (as he loves to remind me on the rare occasion that I forget my camera).  So sadly, I cannot take credit for these.

 The little corn cake presses
 You're greeted with this as you come in.  The glowing panels have dozens of sandwich choices.  It was overwhelming for us at first (in a very good way). 
 They have an automated, recorded calling system that says the order numbers in both English and Vietnamese.
 Mr. S.'s turkey/roast beef on fresh croissant (very delicious).  (Hey, where's the picture of my sandwich?)
 Fresh little corn cake
These are filled with cream and are quite tasty!

The search continues.

I'm usually a "grab a 99 cent cake mix at the store" kind of girl.  Why not?  It's easy and convenient.  I can count the number of times I've baked a cake from scratch on one hand. My first attempt was a chocolate cake for my mom's birthday several years ago (yummy).  Much later, I decided to make red velvet cake balls entirely from scratch after working with a Duncan Hines mix made me look like I'd just partaken in a bloodbath.  The result was okay, although it did not taste noticeably different than a mix.

Anyway, today was the third time, and I decided to try a yellow cake recipe.


-I used 4 whole eggs instead of 8 egg yolks (no plans for meringue on the horizon...)
-I made cupcakes, so I baked them for ~19 minutes.  That was overkill, as you will see.

 Toasted.  I tried one immediately after pulling them out (I never, ever follow the "Let [baked good] sit for one hour before eating" silliness) and was irritated.  Eggy.  Very, very eggy AND greasy.  My cute Valentine's Day cupcake liners were completely soaked with butter.  This may be my own fault for substituting whole eggs, but multiple people did that too and reviewed it as tasting awesome.  :\  Mr. S. told me that it tasted "spongy, like an angel food cake." 
While I was waiting for the cupcakes to finish baking, I'd whipped up a batch of buttercream frosting.  To not let it go to waste, I decided to practice both my (limited) piping skills and my new marshmallow fondant rose skill, picked up at The Twisted Sifter cake decorating class last week.  :)

Now to find someone to eat these.........

Thursday, February 3, 2011

I need another cupcake like I need a hole in my head.

 Chocolate- It smells good. (This is for my landlady.  I really can't eat more than one of these at a time.  Keeping both my health and my figure can be trying.)
 Maker's Mark bourbon chocolate- I really like the red "wax."  :D This one's for Mr. S., so I will report back later on how it tastes.  But it smells like bourbon, so it is promising already!
Edit: The frosting subtly tasted like bourbon and was an excellent complement to the chocolate.
 Vietnamese coffee- The coffee cake was delectable, and the frosting even more so.  Both tasted strongly of coffee, and it wasn't bitter like the tiramisu.  Definitely a favorite.
Dollop of condensed milk in the middle (you know, in homage of true Vietnamese coffee)  :)
I satisfied a Boston cream pie craving with this cupcake earlier this week.  It was lovely.  I especially enjoyed the custard in the middle and the rich chocolate ganache.

Switching gears-- I visited The Briar Knob Bread and Stuff yesterday and had a huge piece of whole wheat sourdough cinnamon cranberry bread with the owner.  Despite being 10 days old, the bread was flavorful (although slightly dry, which is to be expected).  It had a generous amount of cranberries and I enjoyed it immensely (esp. as I hate raisins).  The only fault I found was that it did not taste like sourdough.  At all.

So today, I decided to try one of their products.
Snowmen are cute.  Don't hate.
A sizeable loaf, for $4.50.
Hardly any air pockets, as you can see.  This bread disappointed me.  It tasted exactly like my white bread, except sweeter.  It had absolutely no sourdough taste (I was expecting this) despite being labeled as sourdough bread.  :(  At least it doesn't have preservatives, has an excellent shelf life, and supports the community. 
Edit:  I discovered this past weekend that I enjoy this bread toasted.  I also bought some eggs from a person at work, so I had a completely local breakfast on Saturday!