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Sunday, August 19, 2012

NAMI CUISINE


Update 11/4/2014 - drove by and noted CLOSED on their marquee.  Apparently out of business.

Last month I noticed the old "Uchi Cuisine" had a new sign indicating a new name "Nami Cuisine".  I noted it on my old review and determined to drop in when I had the opportunity to see if it was as good as I experienced the first couple of times we visited.

The teen was on the island to get a pre-college start hair cut with Sharla at Venus Nails and Spa...and I was needing to stop in and see Joni and Griff at Paragraphs on Padre Blvd to pick up a new book I'd ordered.  Since all of this was going on near lunch time, the teen asked if we could go to Nami Cuisine.  I looked askance, knowing he was not a fan of sushi or most anything involving rice.  He LOVES noodle bowls but I didn't particularly recall any of those on the menu (but I really hadn't looked so I couldn't say for sure).  I told him I would love to go there but I didn't want him to order up a bunch of food he would then eat one bite of and declare he didn't like it.  That happened in the past a lot...much less as he has matured...but still, not wanting to drag home a bunch of leftovers.  He promised he'd eat what he ordered...so, after all of our errands were complete, we stopped in.  This time, the sign said "same owner" so it was with less trepidation that I entered.  It was Saturday at noon and we were only one of two tables occupied so I was a bit leery.  However, our waitress greeted the teen by name and that lightened my mood.  Somehow, I always think if we are "known" we are likely to get better quality service...and hopefully good food!

I ordered iced tea and the teen ordered his usual hot tea.  After confirming that green tea was okay, he received a nice sized pot of lightly aromatic green tea.  My iced tea tasted fresh and delicious.  I was hot from running errands and can't imagine ordering hot tea...but he really loves it and drinks it like I drink coffee.  He's usually an Earl Grey fan (loose leaf preferably) so I wasn't sure he would like the green tea.  He did drink about 4 cups of it though, so I guess it was all good.

He was happy for me to point out a Japanese Udon Noodle bowl which our waitress (Kim, I think) described as filled with various vegetables and Udon noodles, with a couple of fried shrimp on the side.  That was okay with Ian so he ordered that.

I ordered from the lunch menu.  I requested the General Tsao's chicken with fried rice and the choice of crab soup (either miso or crab soup were the menu choices).  The waitress informed me they didn't have crab today, but had miso or chicken soup.  I asked for the chicken soup.  Unfortunately, it never came.  When our meal was served, my order was so huge (and I had been hot) so I never mentioned the oversight.
The rice was more than any person could eat, but the
General Tsao's Chicken was still a nice portion size...
and a small crispy egg roll was a nice addition to the
plate.  I would have liked to have seen the soup even though
it would have just been more food I couldn't eat...and I'm
used to some sort of sauce being served with an egg roll.
Small complaints...but I always contend excellence is
in the detail!

We both enjoyed our meals.  The teen is not much of a veggie person but polished off half of the huge bowl of broth and the vegetables that he liked as well as a big portion of the thick Udon noodles.  I couldn't eat half of the huge pile of food on my plate so we both ended up with to-go containers.  The General Tsao's was, as usual, fairly spicy.  Normally I love a spicy dish...but only two days ago I was sick and I think my esophagus was still a bit raw.  I ended up with spasms trying to eat at the restaurant and when I ate the leftovers for dinner last night.  Even the normal nightly Ranitidine didn't do the trick.  Whew!  The problem was me, not the food though.  It was very tasty and quite generous...either dish would have been sufficient for two people!
This bowl of Japanese Udon Noodle Soup could have easily
fed 2 to 3 people!  The bowl was huge and full of goodness.  The teen
really enjoyed the 3 big pieces of tempura shrimp on the side.

The lunch menu items were in the $9 range.  The teen's soup was $13 (from the dinner menu) and $2.50 for my iced tea... $2.95 for the hot tea.  A total of $29.71 with tax, before tip.  More than I like to pay for lunch, but with a second meal for both of us, I believe it's reasonable.

Since this is really one of two choices within 20 miles for oriental food, I still say it's an excellent choice.  I haven't eaten at Kohnami (the other choice) because my sister had a bad experience, quality-wise, there...and others have reported both good and bad.  I'll need to try to go there eventually so I can KNOW first-hand.

Our service was excellent and the food was good.  I'll be back...but probably not until the weather gets cold and I can deal with the heat!

Bon Appetit, Y'all!!!

SPI FLIP FLOP FOODIE RATING:
(With a scale of 0 to 5)

3 – Pretty Yummy - I feel my flip flops wanting to head back from time to time!
Uchi Cuisine on UrbanspoonStumbleUpon

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Gabriella's - a Family Favorite


The teen chose Gabriella's for his birthday dinner and Mom and Dad were very glad!  We realized we had not eaten there since last Fall!  The last couple of times we went, it was soooo crowded, we just couldn't handle the wait.  Shocking to us all when we realized how really long it had been!

I have heard, during the Spring, that the family owning Gabriella's has, or is, phasing out of day-to-day operations (or maybe sold?).  I don't really know since it was hearsay.  I do know the menu was the same, the quality of the food was the same, and the service, while slow in the beginning, picked up to a level not usually experienced (Gabriella's is known for being slow because they make everything upon ordering).  We've never minded because the quality was so worth it.  After a few missteps in the first 15 or so minutes... attempting to seat us in a booth that was so tight my chest would have been sitting on the table, getting a table finally, waiting while others seated after us were served their drinks...after all of that...the rest of the visit worked like a well-oiled machine.  Once our waiter, Hector, arrived...smooth sailing!

Ian asked to start with Calamari with their spicy Marinara Sauce.  I swear it is the best on the island.  What pushes it into the #1 position is the awesome sauce and the perfect breading.  Yummmm.

Next up was the family serving of salad with a small antipasto plate of cheese, pepperocini, and olives. 

Then delicious crisp garlic bread to dip into their SUPERB balsamic and toasted garlic and herb dipping sauce.  Holy smokes I could drink it ... it is that good. 

As soon as we were finished, out came our main dishes.  Perfect timing.  Drink refills, extra bread...ready to dig in. (I get euphoric when I have good service)

My husband ordered a Classic Calzone.  Served on a pizza platter (it is so huge) with a ginormous pile of french fries.  There was so much food he ended up opening the calzone and eating all of the good stuff out of the middle and left about half of the crust.  I tried the calzone crust and dag nab it, it was better than mine.  It was really delicious.

Ian had the ravioli platter with marinara sauce.  Choices were Marinara, Alfredo, or toasted ravioli.  He likes the marinara with a bunch of cheese on top.  He ate every bite (and he didn't wait for the photo before he dug in).  Possibly for the first time ever he said he was too full for more bread and didn't want dessert.  Wow!

I had the Carbonara (the photo didn't turn out - darn cell phone) with bacon and chicken and a opulent asiago sauce...OMG - to die for.  I am the only one who needed a to-go box.  I filled up on Calamari and salad and couldn't even eat half of my main dish - and there was enough for two or three people really.  I enjoyed having it for lunch the next day though!

Except for the missteps to start...it was a wonderful birthday dinner for the boy.  We got stuck on the bridge ... endlessly it seemed... on the way home, but the sun was starting to set and it was beautiful...lots of boats fishing.  I just didn't give a hoot...could have sat looking out at the Laguna Madre for 30 more minutes if needed!

Thanks Gabriella's, for another incredible evening!

Bon Appetit, Y'all!!!

Gabriella's Italian Grill and Pizzeria on UrbanspoonStumbleUpon

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Whole Wheat Spice Bundt Cake

The teen requested a spice cake for his birthday cake (which is almost the default cake for him - but sometimes he surprises me).  His birthday was earlier this week but since his Dad wasn't home, we opted to wait for him so we could celebrate together.  We went to a movie and shopped on his birthday and he said he had a good day...but it was a bit strange not to have a cake or presents that day.  He's 19 now, so I guess it was more my issue than his.  He wanted to wait.

The expected return for Mr. Flip Flop was the 10th...on Friday I got a text saying "Lucy, I'm Home!" and I threw on my flip flops and flew down the stairs nearly barreling us both down a flight of stairs when I pounced on him!  I'd talked to him earlier that day and he let me believe he was on his way to work when, in actuality, he was on the 350 mile drive home.  He doesn't manage to surprise me often, but when he does, it's a biggie!  Ian was so happy he gave him a big hug and smile (which is not the norm for him either)!  All-in-all, an excellent turn of events.  EXCEPT, I hadn't planned a cake, wrapped the gifts, nor spiffed up the house as I am wont to do when Papi comes home.  I always like things to look "nice".  I doubt he even notices.  So, since I could do nothing about the cleaning portion of the deficit, I focused on birthday preparations this morning when I got up.  We were going out to dinner, on the island I imagined, and we'd have cake and gifts when we get back.

I decided to go with a recipe that I've made before as mini bundts, but in a full-size bundt pan.  I made one boo boo and used baking powder instead of baking soda, so it was even more dense than expected.  I was freaking out a bit because it wasn't rising as much as I anticipated, but it all came out okay in the end.  This is a very dense cake anyway... it uses 100% whole wheat flour...but the white whole wheat, which is slightly lighter.  I also didn't have regular yogurt, so I used 1/2 fat free yogurt and 1/2 ricotta cheese.  I hate being risky when baking a birthday cake...but I knew if it just absolutely flopped, I had a chance to go to the store and start over.

So, here's the recipe... my husband loved it - ate several pieces.  Ian and I both would have preferred a less dense cake.  The flavor was excellent though!  I particularly liked adding some cinnamon to the vanilla bean glaze I used - perfect for the cake.  If you like a super dense cake - this is a good one.  I would, however, likely use baking soda next time, and not a fat-free yogurt!

WW SPICE BUNDT CAKE

Ingredients:

1 cup granulated vanilla sugar
1 cup turbinado sugar
1 cup room temperature butter
1/2 cup fat free vanilla yogurt (I used Dannon) - room temp
1/2 cup Ricotta Cheese - room temperature
3 large eggs - room temperature
1/2 Tablespoon Vanilla Bean Paste
2 1/2 cups White Whole Wheat Flour (I use King Arthur)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda (not powder like I used)

Method:

Prepare a bundt pan with Baker's Joy or grease/flour preparation.  Make sure to get all the crevices and go all the way to the edge of the pan and the cone in the middle.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In bowl of a stand mixer, cream both sugars and the butter until fluffy (I let it go about 3 minutes).

Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.  Add the vanilla bean paste and beat until incorporated.

In a bowl or large mixing cup, whisk together the dry ingredients.

In a small bowl, whisk together the yogurt and ricotta cheese until smooth.

Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients to the mixer bowl with the mixer running on low.
Add 1/2 of the yogurt/ricotta mixture
Add 2nd 3rd of the dry ingredients followed by the remaining yogurt/ricotta mixture.
Add the final 3rd of the dry ingredients.

Scrape the bowl and beat on medium high for 60-90 seconds until smooth and fluffy batter.

Use a large spoon to place the batter evenly around the bundt pan.  Smooth it with the back of the spoon.

Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 50-60 minutes.  Use a cake tester for doneness.  The cake was not ready at 50 minutes but 5 minutes later it had cracked (which was fine - it's the bottom) and became perfectly done with a cake tester.

Remove from oven to a cooling rack for about 15 minutes.  Turn onto a cake plate and allow to cool completely before frosting or glazing.

Ian elected a glaze since it was a bundt cake.

I made a Vanilla Bean and Cinnamon Glaze... very tasty with this cake!

VANILLA BEAN CINNAMON GLAZE

Ingredients:

1 cup sifted confectioner's sugar
1 tablespoon melted butter
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 to 4 tablespoons of heavy whipping cream

Method:

In the small bowl of a food processor, with the small blade, pulse the sugar, butter, vanilla bean paste and cinnamon to mix.  Begin by adding 2 tablespoon of heavy cream to the mixture and pulse.  Carefully scrape the bowl, avoiding cutting your spatula on the blade, to ensure all of the sugar is off the sides and bottom.  Pulse again and add more cream to get it to the proper consistence you desire.  I wanted a thick enough glaze that it would drip down the side but not so loose that it would pool under the cake.  I wanted it on top of the cake!
The thickish glaze worked beautifully!
Admittedly, not my favorite cake - but it is definitely something I'd make again with a few tweaks (which actually go back to my original recipe!)

Bon Appetit, Y'all!StumbleUpon