Sunday, April 27, 2008

Not Gourmet... but Okay

When a restaurant names itself Gourmet, it's really setting itself up for doubt. I mean, it's like calling yourself Super Intelligent Hottie. No one is going to buy it. Case in point: Szechuan Gourmet. (ha, right).

I ordered from Szechuan Gourmet awhile back. No surprise, I got pan fried pork dumplings as an appetizer and as my main, Ten Ingredients Rice Angel Hai Mei Fun. The food overall was okay. I ordered delivery, so by the time it arrived, everything was luke warm and the dumplings, which appeared to have been pan fried were soggy. They weren't bad though, flavor-wise. The skin was thin, the way I like it. The pork was kind of plain, but not bad and not incredibly greasy.

The Ten Ingredients Mei Fun was pretty good. I feel like there were only 7 ingredients (scallion, pork, chicken, egg, carrots, noodes, sauce -- does that count?), but it was pretty decent overall and there was a huge portion.

A coworker ordered the Szechuan Pork Dumpling with Chili -- these were actually quite good; more like Wontons but more flavorful than the ones I had. The only issue was there was a TON of garlic. Not good for the workplace.

Overall, okay. I may have been more impressed if the place were just called Szechuan House.

Still Recovering...But Man Was It Good!

Last weekend, my family came into town. As with every visit, the weekend of gluttony began with a stop at Joe's Shanghai. If you've never heard of it, Joe's -- located on a tiny street in Chinatown -- is famous for it's soup dumplings. And deservedly so, these babies are freaking fantastic. People literally line up down the block to wait for a table and when you sit down, before they even bring you water, they ask how many orders of soup dumplings you want. But before I detail them further, let me back up.

When we arrived at Joe's, we were told there was a 20-30 minute wait, so we decided we'd be efficient about it and choose what we wanted to eat while we waited. By this time, we were all pretty hungry, so it's easy to see why we ended up ordering so much. ..

First, came the order of pan-fried pork/chive dumplings. These were greasy, semi-thick skinned. I wouldn't say they were great, but they were pretty good and I was hungry. Flavor-wise, there were a lot of scallions in them and the skin was a bit thicker than what I normally like, but they were nicely browned.

Next came the scallion pancake. I wasn't able to snap a photo until 3/4 of it was gone. It was pretty good -- satisfyingly greasy. Nice crisp texture.

Next came the "Turnip Cake." This was not what we were expecting at all. Turnip cake in my mind is typically a pan-fried slice of a "cake" that has been made of ground turnip, rice flour, sometimes Chinese sausage. This was really weird. It was flaky on the outside and filled with thinly cut strips of turnip. Not bad, but a little bland and not at all what any of us really wanted.

Next came the vegetables. I actually don't know what kind of vegetable this was, I think it's called Chinese Water Vegetable? It was actually really good. Very garlicky, nicely seasoned.

And at last, the soup dumplings -- these actually arrived somewhere between the first two items in order, but in ranking they far exceeded anything else on the table. My mom ordered 4 orders. Each came with 8 soup dumplings. And by the way, there were only 5 adults eating.

There are 2 kinds of soup dumplings at Joe's: pork and pork with crab. They are both amazing and decadent. The pork and crab, however, is definitely a few levels richer than the pork... I'm not sure why or how. The way to eat these is to take the tongs and lightly pinch on the top part of the dumpling -- where all the pinched dough is. Pull up gently and place in your soup spoon. Next, while balancing the dumpling in your spoon, pierce a small hole in the skin with your teeth and let the spoon capture the soup. Literally there is soup inside these things and if you lose it, you lose half the experience. You then slurp the whole thing up and enjoy.

These things are an unforgettable experience for someone who loves dumplings -- maybe even for someone who doesn't. But when you go, just order the soup dumplings and maybe some vegetables. That'll be enough, trust me.

Side Note:
After this was a dish of pan fried noodles and seafood. I didn't get a photo because I was already feeling a little nauseous at this point from over-eating!

Additional Note: Joe's Shanghai in Chinatown and in Flushing are the ones to go to. The Midtown location is not nearly as good and pricier.

The Other Japanese Place

A few weeks back, I posted about "That Japanese place by the other Japanese place by the Library." Well, this post is about the "other Japanese place," Cafe Zaiya.

Cafe Zaiya is a small take-out spot that offers sushi, bento boxes, mayo-laden sandwiches, salads with interesting dressings like Thai Peanut and tons of delicious-looking Japanese pastries, most notably Beard Papa cream puffs (YUM) and the mochi donut (more about that in another post). It is CONSTANTLY packed during lunch hours. And it's no wonder. It's super-cheap and pretty decent. I usually have the Salmon Teriyaki Bento, which comes with an assortment of interesting sides like hijiki, eggplant, sometimes potato salad, sometimes small pieces of fried chicken (which are fatty and not so good). However, the other day when I stopped in, I decided to go for the Mahpo Tofu... and I'm glad I did. Mahpo Tofu (also spelled Mapo Doufu) is made up of soft tofu and ground pork in a fermented black bean chili sauce. The tofu is really soft, so if you're not into that, I'd avoid it, but the flavor is good. The Mahpo at Cafe Zaiya is served in a bowl over rice with a couple of pickled daikon radishes on the side. It's a bit lighter in flavor than the Mahpo I've had in restaurants or even the one my mom makes. It's topped with a few scallions and has a slight gingery taste with a nice sesame oil flavor underneath. For under $5, it's an insanely good deal. Definitely recommended!

Note, if you're interested in making it yourself, here are a few Mahpo Tofu recipes:
Epicurious: Ma-Po Tofu
Cooking Light: Ma Po Tofu
All Recipes: Ma Po Tofu

I can't vouch for any of them, but they look pretty good!

Monday, April 07, 2008

Banh Mi, Oh My

Many years ago as a kid growing up in Texas, my parents introduced me to Banh Mi. I remember loving these Vietnamese sandwiches that were an interesting combination of Chinese roasted pork, some other kind of unidentifiable meat, mayo, cilantro and pickled vegetables on a baguette. Sounds odd, but tastes amazing. From Texas we moved to Maryland where there were no Banh Mi. Or at least, my parents didn't know of any and therefore neither did I. From there Banh Mi became a distant, dormant memory.

A few years back I was working in Soho and a coworker re-introduced me to my beloved Banh Mi! She raved about how good these sandwiches were for months before I ventured to try one. Why? I don't know exactly. I had forgotten all about my childhood introduction to them and her vague description didn't sound all that exciting. I finally caved and went with her to Viet-Nam Banh Mi So 1 and ordered the "#1: House Special." That was it. I was sold.

This brings me to today and this very important review of the Banh Mi at Hanco's on Bergen Street near Smith Street in Boerum Hill. (I was actually headed toward rival, Nicky's on Atlantic but it's closed on Mondays!) I ordered the "Classic: ground pork, vietnamese ham, pate, mayo, butter, cucumber, pickled carrots and daikon radish and cilantro on a toasted french baguette." I've had it a number of times and it's consistently good. It's not my absolute favorite Banh Mi in the city, but it's good for a neighborhood spot. Lots of pickled carrots, a small amount of daikon... Pate is not really pate, but flavor is good. Ground pork is seasoned just right (though visually is not so appealing). Baguette strikes me as being more like a hoagie, but its fresh. Overall, a solid choice especially at just $4.25.

Brebirousse: A New Love Affair

After a long hiatus, I am finally back to posting. To celebrate this momentous occasion, I want to share some thoughts on my new favorite cheese: Brebirousse D'Argental. Due to my poor photography skills, this hunk of cheese may not look like much. But, I swear. It is phenomenal. I think I could eat a whole block of it at one sitting. (Take a look at how huge a block is). It is THAT good. This sheep's milk cheese has a brie-like texture with a slight mushroomy, mild flavor. It's extremely creamy, somewhat sticky and the edible orange rind adds a really nice bite-y texture. Mmmm it's amazing. If you're in Park Slope, they sell it at Bierkraft. Go now!

Saturday, April 05, 2008

A Lobster Burger Does Not Equal A Lobster Roll

I know this Maine Lobster Burger from Bryant Park Grill looks pretty good. The alfalfa sprouts, remoulade sauce and haystack fries look freaking amazing.

But I'll tell you what. A lobster burger really pales in comparison to a lobster roll (and a crabcake for that matter). Lobster is so delicate in flavor that any kind of breading just clouds the taste. I'm sure that this one was actually pretty well executed, too. There were chunks of lobster, not a ton of breading and it was pretty well seasoned. The brioche roll was nice and fluffy and fresh. However, even so, it was only okay. It left something to be desired... like more lobster. Next time I'll hold out for the lobster roll.

Really Good Cappuccino

I like coffee that is medium-bodied. Not too bitter and not too strong. I tend to like Guatemalan and Brazilian roasts the best. And I always prefer an espresso-based coffee over a regular drip. The best I think comes from a stove-top espresso maker. Next, a French press. Of course, the kind from one of those $7,000 machines from Italy isn't too shabby either.

I'm not sure where the beans are from or how much the machine at La Colombe costs, but they make a pretty mean cappuccino.

Here's a pic from a recent cup. The flavor was nice and robust without the slightest trace of bitterness. The froth was firm enough to be spoon-worthy. The barista masterfully made a heart with the foam -- it looked a lot better before I put sugar on top. Delish!

Oh Yay-ah for Olea!

I almost lost my camera at Olea the other night! Thank god the waitress ran after me, otherwise I wouldn't have been able to post about this delicious Mediterranean meal. Olea is a cute, open space on Lafayette Avenue and Adelphi with high ceilings, big windows, and a tavern-like appeal. I'd been here once before for tapas, and found the food to be simple, well-seasoned and fresh. The wine list was also pretty great. After that experience, I couldn't wait to return for a full meal.

We started with Boquerones Marinated White Anchovies served with chopped toasted almonds and celery leaves. These were so good that they were all gone before I realized I forgot to take a picture! I've never had almonds with anchovies -- they added great texture to the fish which was pickled and marinated in a delicious mix of oil and vinegar.

For my main course, I had a special; Pan-Seared Scallops served with a barley-like grain sauteed with roasted red peppers, spinach, and portobello mushrooms. The scallops were amazing! I never really order scallops because I fear there will only be three on the plate and I will leave starving but I decided to go for it and I'm glad I did. These were perfectly seared with a nice crisp exterior and a great buttery flavor inside. The grain mixture was a nice complement; it was much lighter in flavor. The only thing was it was a bit oily in taste. Surprisingly, the dish was kind of filling.

My husband ordered the Roasted Mediterranean Brazino with fingerling potatoes and balsamic glazed cipollini onions. The dipping sauce was a lemony-garlic combo with what we think was parsley. While there were a lot of bones to navigate around, the fish was really well prepared and the sauce was to die for. I didn't try the onions or potatoes, so can't comment on those (but he said both were great).

We shared the Roasted Brussell Sprouts as a side. All I can say is yum.

All in all, a great meal. Really glad this place is only a five-minute walk from our apartment!

Restaurant Week: Chez Oskar

Last week was Restaurant Week in Brooklyn. Participating restaurants were offering 3-course Prix Fixe meals for just 23 bucks! With so many choices, it was hard to decide where to go but we settled on Chez Oskar; a neighborhood institution that's had solid reviews and is always full of patrons. I'd say it was a 'nice' experience overall. I wasn't wowed by all 3 courses, but I'd go back again.

The weakest course was my starter. This was a Restaurant Week special so I am not sure what it's called (not on the regular menu). It consisted of blanched leeks with a dijon dressing and a very light cheeze - I think ricotta? It was pretty flavorless.

The entree made up for it! It was a roasted cornish hen over creamy polenta. The flavor was great. The polenta was especially good -- it tasted buttery with a slight hint of cheese.

The Flourless Chocolate Cake was perhaps the highlight. It was more like a mousse -- light in texture and rich in chocolatey flavor. The one criticism is that once you finished the ice cream on the side, it became a little heavy.

So, ratings wise, I would give the meal a B-. That said, I think I just didn't order the right things. My cousin ordered the Lamb Shank, which was pretty amazing served with caramelized onion and potato fennel gratin and my husband ordered the Grilled Salmon served with artichokes, snow peas and oyster mushrooms, which was also good, but not especially memorable.

Lunch for Breakfast

I heard something -- once again -- on TV the other day about how important it is to have breakfast. I try to eat breakfast regularly, but I'm really not much of a breakfast foods person. I could take or leave an omelette; oatmeal is only "eh." French toast and sausage are good but I'd rather have them later in the day. That's why I am really loving Pret a Manger's Organic Egg and Tomato on a baguette! So much so that I had it no less than 3 times last week. What's funny is that the baguette version of this sandwich is only served for breakfast and not even for lunch. They have egg salad for lunch, but it's on sliced sandwich bread, rather than a baguette. I don't get it. Anyhow, the breakfast version is delish -- it's nicely seasoned with a ton of pepper and not too much mayo. Yum!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Good Food in Bags, Part 3

My husband is allergic to wheat and gluten (it's called Celiac, or as our good friend has dubbed it, "The Wheatness"), so I end up trying a lot of gluten-free versions of foods traditionally made with wheat -- breads, pastas, pretzels, etc. Sometimes these pre-packaged items don't really resemble their gluten-full counterparts at all. In the last few years, however, they've gotten way better and some are surprisingly tasty! This installment of Good Food in Bags is about one of those really good gluten-free foods: La Tortilla Factory Sonoma Teff Wraps.

What is teff? It's a grain from North Africa that has a nutty flavor. If you've ever been to an Ethiopian restaurant, you've probably had it before in a spongy-bread form.

These delicious wraps are nothing like the bread in Ethiopian restaurants, except in color. They are a little darker but texturally they are like very pliable flour wraps. They have a slightly spongier consistency than flour wraps when you bite into them and are smoother in texture. We always heat ours up on the stove to make them even more pliable. Taste-wise, they are not really that different from flour wraps just slightly nuttier and less doughy overall. I actually like them more than flour wraps. They're really great and very versatile. In fact, I could kind of go for a wrap now...

Kettle Corn from Scratch

I think it was last spring when the obsession with Kettle Corn began. It started with the purchase of a bag of Popcorn Indiana (I blogged about it last week -- check it out). This bag was quickly consumed and followed by bi-weekly purchases of it. One night, it was too late to go buy it, so we decided to make it. OMG it is so EASY to make Kettle Corn! The results are "equally as good" says my husband and "delicious but different," say I. Here's the recipe if you are ever in a pinch and it is too late or you are too lazy to go out and buy it.

  • 1/2 cup of uncooked popcorn kernels
  • 1/2 cup of sugar (I like Turbinado best)
  • 1/2 cup of oil (I like olive oil)
  • Salt
Pour oil into a large pot. Turn burner to medium heat. Add in popcorn kernels and sugar. Cover and shake vigorously for a few seconds, then put pot back on the burner. Popcorn will begin to pop. Continue shaking every 5-7 seconds to coat popcorn with oil and melted sugar. When popping has slowed down (2 to 3 seconds between pops), turn off burner. Remove from heat immediately and pour into large bowl. Add salt to taste.

That Japanese Place by the Other Japanese Place by the Library...

Despite having passed this storefront dozens of times, I've never known what this great Japanese to-go spot was called until just the other day. I've always just called it the "other Japanese place," that is next to Cafe Zaiya (both of which are half a block from the NY Public Library, Bryant Park). Zaiya is always so much more packed than this place so I've always assumed that it wasn't as good. Wrong assumption! Chiyoda is great -- and could arguably be better! There are some very nice, different options. And the fact that there's actually space to walk around inside makes it even more appealing!

For starters, the Boiled Tofu. Despite the incredibly bland name, this is a deliciously tasty and healthy salad of firm tofu, hijiki, edamame, carrots and some other unidentifiable vegetable -- maybe seaweed? It's seasoned with sesame oil and I assume soy sauce. The hijiki and edamame lend some sweetness to it.

They have "Triangles" here too (just like Zaiya)! The above Triangle, or "Onigiri" is filled with salted salmon -- cooked, not raw). Sticky rice is shaped into a triangle and the whole thing comes wrapped in dry seaweed. Pretty good and you feel really healthy eating it.

Here's what it looks like with the packaging on (more triangular...).

Another Triangle: this is called Hijiki Onigiri. I was intrigued when I first saw this special-looking Triangle. They always look like the salmon one above with the plastic wrapping; but really it's basically sticky rice shaped like a triangle. I let the shape fool me into thinking there might be something hidden inside like the Salmon Onigiri. But alas, no. It wasn't bad though, just kind of plain.

Grand Finale: Shrimp Dumplings! Japanese shrimp dumplings are pretty much like Chinese siu mai, but not as good in my opinion. Overall, I have to say that I prefer any kind of Chinese dumpling to a Japanese dumpling (whether it's shrimp or 'gyoza.'). However, as a lover of all dumplings, if I see them, I get them. These were refrigerated, so they were pretty cold. They were tasty, larger than normal -- a plus, but kind of mushy. The shrimp on top added some nice texture and flavor, though.

So, overall Chiyoda is a solid choice. I've learned the whole 'don't judge a book by it's cover' lesson here... oh, and I think the reason why it seems less crowded is because there's a sit-down restaurant in the back (that looks packed).

Friday, March 28, 2008

Kif... Perfect Bliss or Cannabis? Either way, I'll take it!

Last Sunday around 2pm, we were wandering around for a little bite to eat in the neighborhood and ended up at Kif, a new organic French Morrocan restaurant on Dekalb, near Adelphi. We had stumbled into this place once at night for a drink and while it looked promising, the whole place smelled like fried food, so we quickly left. But this time, it smelled like delicious Morrocan spices. I am so glad we decided to give it a try because what we found was near "perfect bliss. " (Incidentally, upon trying to think of a name for this post, I found out that Kif means cannabis in Morroco, ha -- or in Arabic, perfect bliss.) We had a small, light snack but everything was very well executed.

I had the warm goat cheese salad with beets and oranges. This almost looked too pretty to eat. The goat cheese round was lightly crusted and warm. Inside it was herby and peppery - yum! -- It was almost like Boursin, but tasted fresher and lighter. I was a little concerned that it was way too much goat cheese and would be very heavy, but it really wasn't too bad. While I didn't finish the whole thing, I almost could have because all the other elements, particularly the orange really lightened it up.

My husband had the Chickpea and Lentil Soup, which was also surprisingly light! If you saw my post about eating lentil soup for 4 days, this was nothing like the soup we made. This was more brothy; the chickpeas and lentils were mostly whole. The fresh lemon added a nice zing. So good! It was also served with homemade pita, you can't really see in the above but it's just behind the lemon. There were these little pieces of the fluffiest pita I've ever had that went really well with the salad and the soup.

We ended our snack attack with the Fruit Salad with Yogurt and Mint. I couldn't taste the mint and the description didn't say the yogurt was strawberry-flavored, but that's what it seemed to be. This dish was also really great, all-around! The fruit was all very fresh and ripe. The yogurt was pretty thin and therefore also very light and refreshing.

Overall, a really pleasant experience. The restaurant is really charming; the decor is all-out Morrocan with lots of reflective glass and brass -- in fact the whole bar appears to be brass. It's kind of dark inside unless you get a front-window seat because the space is a few steps below street level. There appears to be a garden in the back though, which looks like it has a lot of potential! Can't wait to go back!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Good Food in Bags, Part 2

OMG. I am SO bummed because we have run out of Mediterranean-Flavored Terra Chips. I'm sure everyone is familiar with these exotic root vegetable chips but this flavor is particularly good. It's garlicy and tangy and soooo good.

Here's a shot from a few days ago before SOMEONE finished the bag (not me). The chips were a little crushed but a quick rundown. Sigh, if only we had some left I would eat them right now.

My Favorite Neighborhood Juice Joint

I used to struggle with how pricey fresh-squeezed juice was until my husband brought up the fact that a typical well-drink, pint, or glass of wine is way pricier and that juice is so much better for you (well, except for maybe the red wine). I'm glad he brought this up, otherwise we would have never discovered Urban Spring, an adorable organic juice and snack bar in Fort Greene with the freshest and most satisfying smoothies and juices. Here are our favorites:

Beet, carrot, spinach or Beet, carrot, ginger juice. The dark red color is really beautiful and tastes great.

My fave! The acai-almond comes with pure acai, sprouted almonds, coconut oil, banana, agave nectar, and soymilk. It's super-filling. I've even skipped meals because of it (ok, only once).

By the way, they also serve a bunch of different healthy vegetarian and vegan options that all sound yummy.

I Also Heart Duck Confit

Duck confit is #2 on my list of favorite foods. If you've never had duck confit, you have been missing out. What is it? It's duck, typically the leg that has been kept overnight for a couple of days then cooked slowly in it's own rendered fat. When done right, it is phenomenal -- succulent, extremely flavorful, decadent and absolutely delicious. The above is a shot of the duck confit served at Casimir, a lovely boisterous French bistro in the East Village. It comes with a side of garlic roasted potatoes and a frisee and bacon salad. It's a little hit or miss at Casimir -- most of the times it's a hit, but I have to say it was a little dry when I had it last night.

The baguette however was spot-on and so was the Cotes du Rhone...

And the garlic spinach was excellent. Perfectly wilted and seasoned. I forgot to take a picture of the La Pompadour salad, which was perhaps the highlight of the whole meal. It's baby arugula, toasted walnuts, goat cheese and roasted beets in a vinaigrette. Mmm...

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Good Food in Bags (part 1)

If you have never had Popcorn Indiana's Kettle Corn, I say "Get thee to a grocery or convenience store, now!" Not being much of a junk food eater or a dessert person, this sort of thing typically does not appeal to me, but the delicate balance of sweet and salty is just perfect! This stuff is so addictive you will eat all 12 oz. at one sitting! The good news though, is that it's still popcorn and eating the whole bag really isn't that bad for you. Yay!

Yum. The darker pieces are the sugar-coated ones, the lighter are lightly salted. Mmmm... This stuff, by the way also comes in unusual flavors like Summer BBQ and Smoked Cheddar and even Chili Con Queso. They sound totally bizarre but are equally as good! But note, they are not nearly as healthy as the original.

Four days of lentil soup

I've been eating the same lentil soup for 4 days! We made this soup on Sunday and accidentally made the whole batch; not realizing that it serves 8-10! I don't know if it's because I've been sick, but strangely I've had it every day since and have not gotten tired of it. It's a great, complex and flavorful soup from Ina Gartner that is full of carrots, onions, leeks, and French green lentils. A splash of red wine gives it added bite. In the above pic I shaved a little Manchego over it, but it really isn't necessary. The above is a vegetarian version but the first two days we replaced the kielbasa that is called for in the recipe with Al Fresco Roasted Garlic Chicken Sausage, but rather than adding them to the pot we just pan-fried them and cut them up over the soup, which made them a lot juicier and more flavorful. Delicious!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Food for Thought

This "Food Fight" video is both amazing from an animation point of view and for what it depicts... a historical representation through food of the wars that America has been involved in since WWII. It's kind of depressing, yet really fascinating at the same time. It also made me kind of want a burger...

A Little This, A Little That...

I am not a big fan of one-pot meals. Don't get me wrong, if someone were to offer me a bowl of lasagna or mac 'n cheese or some kind of curry stew, (or dumplings of course) I'd eat it and probably love it. But, my favorite way to eat is what I call, "a little this, a little that" -- it's pretty self-explanatory but the idea is that you get to take a couple bites of one thing, then move on to the next. You don't get sick of what you're eating because each bite is like the first all over again. Each bite does not have to be dramatically different from the next, but it should be distinct enough to feel like a new experience. Potlucks, really amazing salad bars, dim sum and tapas fit perfectly into the ALTALT way of eating. More on the others later, the focus here is tapas.

Below is a recent pictorial recording of an awesome tapas meal at Boqueria in Chelsea.

Started with Red Sangria. I typically prefer a nice glass of medium-bodied, smooth, dry red but this was a nice change of pace. Went down a little too easily!

One of the first dishes to arrive: Patatas Bravas (Crispy potatoes, "salsa brava" roasted garlic al i oli). Perfectly crisp potatoes with a light garlic aioli. The "Salsa Brava" was underneath. It added a bit of spice to the dish.

These came next: Datiles con Beicon (Dates stuffed with almonds and Valdeon, wrapped in bacon). We couldn't stop raving about this perfect combination. I didn't realize until just now that they were filled with Valdeon as well as the almond. No wonder they were SO good. My only criticism is that the bacon could have been a little crispier.

The selection of Croquetas Cremosas: Setas, Bacalao y Cochinillo (Creamy Croquettes: Mushroom, Salt Cod, Suckling Pig) and Croquetas de Jamon (Croquette with Spanish Ham) rolled out next (actually I skipped the Tortilla that came in betwen -- the photo didn't come out that well and it was salty and not really a favorite at the table). These were only okay, in my opinion. The mushroom was the best, then the Cochinillo and the Jamon. The salt cod was very fishy and a little too salty. They tasted more baked than fried.

Gambas... oops, I failed to record the name of this gem. When this dish was brought out, the shrimp were somewhat translucent and the platter was sizzling. We assumed they were supposed to cook from the residual heat of the platter but as the dish cooled the shrimp didn't appear to have fully cooked, so we had to have them reheated. When the shrimp were brought back out they were fantastic. They rivaled the dates as a favorite at the table. The sauce was AMAZING -- really garlicky with hot peppers and shrimp stock; particularly good for bread-dipping.

The Coles de Bruseles (Pan-roasted brussel sprouts, chorizo) were also delicious and perfectly-cooked.

A very unique combo: the Bocata de ... not sure what this was called as it was a special, featured pickled anchovies, roasted red peppers, goat cheese and an olive tapenade, I think. I personally loved these but one person from our party was not a fan. Anchovies are such a love 'em or leave 'em kind of thing. We actually also got a really good sardine dish that came breaded on a bed of white beans. Yum, but not stand-out.

This was a special -- I can't recall what it was called, but the "square" was suckling pig with a very crispy skin. The meat was really tender, almost like a pulled pork. This was served with artichoke hearts and wild mushrooms -- both deliciously tender and buttery.

By the way, at this point I was wishing I had worn elastic waistband pants! I was SO full, but everything was really good so I couldn't stop... and up next was dessert.

Our waiter told us that Churros con Chocolate (Traditional fried dough, thick hot chocolate) were a favorite, so we ordered these. They were good, but nothing compared to the grand finale below.

The creme de la creme: Torriya y Helado (Carmelized "Spanish toast," goat's milk ice cream). Wow. I am not really a dessert person but this was freaking fantastic. It was essentially French toast, but probably the best French toast I've ever had. The exterior had a crispy caramelized sugar coating and the interior was incredibly fluffy. Even the way it smelled -- all cinnamon-y and vanilla-y was amazing. And the goat cheese ice cream was the perfect accompaniment, though I barely noticed it next to the toast.

At the end of the meal, I felt so incredibly full. Perhaps I should rename this post, A Lot of This, A Lot of That...