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Preview: The green peacock

The green peacock

Updated: 2018-03-06T08:34:58.534-06:00


Tobacco Road Sports Cafe


If you live in or near Durham, you've probably heard of the Tobacco Road Sports Cafe.  I've never gone because I can't seem to tear myself away from my favorite haunt, Cuban Revolution that's like 200 feet away.

So anyways, one day we were on that side of town and decided to try it based on some recommendations from coworkers.  We got on Blackwell St. but couldn't find the place.  There was also some construction going on so we didn't see the restaurant right away.  Couple of minutes later, I saw a small sign pointing in the direction of the cafe.  We walk in and it's a light-filled airy and bright space.  We seated ourselves at the bar and ordered a couple of drinks.  I didn't particularly like their draft selections and the couple of things I wanted to try, they didn't have.  

So coming to the food, I was happy to see they had a few mains for vegetarians and quite a few appetizers as well.  I ordered the pimiento cheese and fried green tomato on wheat. It came out perfectly done and delicious!  It also came with a side of Mexican rice and black beans.  I actually thought I could've eaten the side by itself, it was SOOO good!!  That was some good eatin'!!!

Just in case you're wondering, pimiento cheese is a famous cheese spread in North Carolina.  And it is DELICIOUS!!!!!  It's usually cheddar cheese, red pimiento peppers, sometimes mayo (yuck!!) and spices.  

Los Comales y birreria


There's this little dive, hole-in-the-wall taqueria type place next to my school which I recently discovered on Yelp called Los Comales. It's off a busy road and if you're not paying attention, you can easily miss it.

I ordered 3 bean & lettuce tacos for $1.50 each and a guava agua fresca for $2. I asked the nice lady not to put rice in the tacos and just serve them on the side.

Damn, I wish this place was closer to home. They had a big 'fixins' bar so I added the rest on myself. I started off with radishes, salsa verde, pico de gallo & cilantro. Holy crap, it was so good! Total came to about $6. I will be going back often.

*EDIT-  I've gone a gazillion times since but changed my order to 2 tacos instead of 3 because I would get so sleepy in class!   Also tried the bean & cheese pupusas- also delicious with the fixins'.

Rasaya muthia - ultimate comfort food


This recipe is so comforting. It is at the same time soupy, starchy and spicy. It's basically a spicy broth with dumplings. I don't know if it's truly a Gujarati or Rajasthani dish because it seems to have elements of both.

I started off by making the dough for the dumplings. I just made dough like I normally do for theplas (a spicy flatbread).

It consists of about a cup of whole wheat flour, oil, salt, red chili powder, turmeric, carom seeds and chopped greens are optional. Mix all this using water and cover dough and let rest.

The second step, just string some valor beans or papdi which you can find in any Indian shop. If you can't find these, just use green beans.

Sauté about a cup's worth of beans for 5-7 minutes in some oil, then add turmeric, red chili powder, some grated ginger, salt and about 5-6 cups water and let it come to a boil and then simmer for about 10-15 minutes.

While the soup base is boiling, make the dumplings. Break off small pieces of the dough and slide them into the rasa (soup). Let simmer for about 10-15 minutes. Stir once in awhile until the dough is cooked through.

So warming and inviting. Grab a spoon!

Restaurant review Cholanad


I went to a new little Indian restaurant for lunch the other day. It's called Cholanad and it is fantastic! The sign said they opened at 11:30, but I got there a few minutes after that and the door was still locked. I stood around waiting for a couple of minutes until the bartender saw me and opened the door. The place is brightly lit and has a modern feel. The bar is nice and long with plenty of seating. As soon as I walked in the place, I felt it would make a nice lounge. Some of the seating was semi-private with high walled curved seating, as if you had been in a small capsule.

I ordered the vegetable kurma and butter naan. It arrived pretty quickly. The plating was nice with modern style dinnerware in pure white. The naan was deeelicious! It wasn't the usual soft naan. It was flaky and full of ghee on the outside and tender on the inside. The kurma was also superb. I'm a fan of the more spicy dishes, but this was flavored so wonderfully with a ton of ginger and garlic and I didn't miss the extra spicy flavors I usually crave. I also loved that they didn't cook the vegetables into a mush. They sliced them into matchsticks and left them slightly crunchy. It was a beautiful pairing. But after dropping close to $11 for this lunch, it will have to be a once in awhile outing. A-

Make chai, not war


Haha!!!! I so need to get this...

Vintage Indian utensils


When my sister was down visiting from Texas, we took a quick trip to a quaint little town in southern Virginia to visit my uncle and his family. It's a college town, but they are also famous for some of the state's best bed & breakfasts. I was poking around my aunts pantry and almost screamed in delight when I saw these. The first one is used to make gathiya, an Indian breakfast street food. It is made using besan (chickpea flour or gram flour). It is mixed with water, oil, baking soda, salt and Tellicherry peppercorns. The batter is then slid across by hand through the holes and dropped into hot oil. The result is slightly puffy savory delight. If I had to compare them to something, I would say they are like a savory Indian churro. Instead of serving them with hot chocolate, you would offer up some hot masala chai. The second utensil is a hand held grater that once belonged to my grandmother. My aunt told me I could take it if I wanted to. And I REALLY wanted to, but I left it with her, undeniably in good hands.

Pineapple & Habanero vodka


I hardly have time to breathe these days or so it feels. Working full time and then going to school is not fun. I don't know how people do it. That too, with kids and family! I have a new appreciation for all the single moms that raise their kids while going to school and work. It's just amazing how they are able to do that. So, as it is right now, I have hardly been cooking. Sometimes I want to, but then don't want to worry about the clean up. That's just how it's been of late. Anyways, look what I found at this Mexican place in Greensboro! The bartender said it is reserved for straight shots only. I would love to try this at home soon!

Pinterest = ultimate time pass


I'm going to talk about one of my favorite phrases used in India - time pass. Time pass in India means any activity you do to kill time. This could be watching movies, chatting on the phone, eating, etc. In the same vein, along comes glorious Pinterest to fill a visual and humorous void which had been lacking in recent internet browsing.


Bananas Foster pancakes


Happy New Year everyone! Seems like the older you get, the faster time flies. This past year has been a lot of fun, way too much drama, busy and busier, and not to mention, a lot of restaurant eating.

I really don't want to make any resolutions, but rather goals for the year. The first one is just to cook at home more. This past year it was difficult with both work and grad school, but I will try to plan ahead better.

So that brings me to my favorite meal of the day, breakfast! I made these Bananas Foster pancakes using the whole grain baking mix from Trader Joe's and adding a ripe banana to the batter. Then I melted about two good knobs of butter and added brown sugar and let it caramelize with some cream and after that just slice up a banana and let it come together for a couple of minutes. So easy and fast and delicious! Easy dish to impress with!

Linda's black bean burger & sweet potato tots


I just went to Linda's on Franklin St. for a pickup order. It was my first time there, so I wasn't sure how my burger would end up. I heard really great things about their amazing cheese fries though. So I brought it back to my desk and was so excited to see the pretzel roll bun! It is delicious y'all!!! This is by far, the best black bean burger I've ever had. It's not hard or glumpy like a lot of other places where the black beans are not fully cooked through. Oh, and those sweet potato tots! OMG. So so good!! They hit the spot with the jalapeno ranch sauce. I also heard they have live jazz on Thursday nights, so I might have to go check that out.

Magic Hat


Having lived in Burlington in my childhood is probably the reason for my unnatural affinity towards one of my favorite microbreweries. Enter, Magic Hat of Burlington, VT. Besides the delicious offerings, they are a humorous bunch over there. They always has the most awesome bottle top sayings.

I love Magic Hat #9 of course, but I really dig Circus Boy & Winter Howl. The summer variety, Wacko is really excellent too! It's a little hard to find anything other than #9 in these parts unfortunately!

I would LOVE to try their Hocus Pocus, Fat Angel & Night of the Living Dead. Has anyone tried those? If any of you work there, I would be willing to do a review!!

Gujarati ghugra


My aunt made these when I was over celebrating Diwaali. They are filled with sweetened semolina, raisins and cardamom.

10 minute gnocchi


I know I've posted a gnocchi dish before, but it's such a really really really quick dinner. I love gnocchi. Its so fast and delicious. It took a total of 10 minutes. This time I used a sweet potato gnocchi.

I set a pot of water to boil, meanwhile, chopped half an onion, some garlic, 2 tomatoes & a handful of basil.

Cook the gnocchi according to instructions. Mine took 3 minutes.

Add olive oil to a pan, add a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes and sauté the onion for 2 minutes, add the garlic and sauté for a minute. Add tomatoes, salt, black pepper, a pinch of sugar & let simmer until the gnocchi is done. Mix gnocchi & basil & handful of Parmesan (optional). Done!

Notes- next time I am going to use a simple brown butter & sage sauce. I think that would be superb.

Chinese style sauteed snap peas


Here is a very quick Chinese style sauteed snap peas.  I picked up a package of these from an Asian store and all I had to do was give them a quick rinse, string them and break up the larger pieces in half.

I first blanched them for 2 minutes in boiling water and then rinsed them in cold water to preserve the springy green color.

Drain them in a colander, add a tablespoon of olive oil, add some chopped garlic, ginger, crushed red chili flakes and a slug of tamari or soy sauce and a few drops of toasted sesame oil.  Before you get ready to serve, add a splash of rice wine vinegar.   Serve this hot with rice or noodles as soon as it is prepared.  It doesn't really do well re-warmed.

El Camino Real


We went to grab a quick lunch at El Camino Real.  It was in this little strip shopping center so I wasn't really expecting anything grand or formal.  When I tell you the food was superb, it was just that!  I ordered the Chile Poblano and a Pina Colada.  I normally don't drink rum, but hey, they had a $2.99 special on them so I had to give it a go!

french toast pudla


You all know how much I love pudla and how much I love breakfast.  One, because it's delicious and healthy, but secondly, it's low in carbs!   I love the idea of French Toast, so I thought why not use pudla batter in its place?  So much for the carbs lol.

The end result was so good!  I used a 7 Grain bread and dipped it in the pudla batter and then pan fried it on medium-low for about 4 minutes on each side.  The bread stayed quite crispy.  It was so comforting and filling.   I'll be making this all the time now!

Basic pudla batter used here:
  • 1 cup besan (AKA gram flour/chickpea flour found at any Indian store)
  • Add 3 spoons of plain yogurt and enough water to make a pancake batter consistency
  • Add salt, pepper, 1/2 tspn of turmeric and chili powder
  • Optional - Add a teaspoon of ajwain (carom seeds)
  • Optional - Add in a diced tomato, onion, serrano and 1-2 cloves of garlic

Asian Market shopping trip


I recently discovered a new Asian market nearby and found some interesting things.   Remember this old scool brand??!![...]

Lavender Pear Martini


Look at the before and after shots of this lavender-pear martini.  Initially it is just a sandy pear color until the tea bag of lavender soaks in and delicately releases the psychedelic purple hue.

strawberries in a champagne mustard viniagrette


My darling cousin, Jima, has recently started blogging at sugaRush.  I think she is mainly going to be focusing on salads and smoothies.... Yummmmmm! I am really looking forward to all her recipes!  Please do visit her.

In honor of her blog, I made this strawberry salad the other day for lunch.   No recipe, just tear up some mache and romaine in a bowl, add some nuts and crumbled feta if you like and some light dressing and you are ready to devour.

The dressing I used to top this luscious lunch is your basic viniagrette.  Just mix everything in a bottle and shake to eumulsify:
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1-2 tbspns champagne vinegar
  • 1 tbspn dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • whatever herbs you have on hand (mint and oregano are lovely)
  • salt & black pepper

Quick sprouted bean stirfry


I was at my local market browsing through the salad area and found a small package of sprouted beans - adzuki, lentil and peas.  Wow, when did they start selling these?  All that protein in a ready made pack.   I brought them home and the poor things sat and sat in the veggie bin for over a week.  Finally one night, thinking they may not survive any longer, I decided to give them a go. 

I wanted to keep the nutrients intact as much as possible, so I decided to give them a quick stirfry.  This is what I did, it took about 15 minutes to get it on the table.  I would serve this as is, or for a more filling meal, serve it as the star course with some crusty naan, yogurt or rice.

  • Heat up some olive oil in a saute pan on medium
  • Do a tarka of mustard seeds, cumin seeds and asafeotida, let sizzle and pop
  • Throw in some curry leaves and the package of sprouts... You can also add a tomato if you want at this point
  • Add salt and spices:  turmeric powder, black pepper, cumin powder, coriander powder and some red chili powder
  • Add a cup of water and stir and let cook on medium for 10 minutes
  • Garnish with chopped coriander and a squeeze of lime

The results were absolutely superb!  This came out just amazing.  It was light and nutty, but at the same time kept me filled for a long time.  I will be looking for these all the time now!

10 minute pulao


Seems lately that I'm always in a rush.  Got a million things on my mind and anxious to hurry and do them all, lest I forget one.  I'm so forgetful!   So what's the easiest and most delectable thing to make in a few minutes that requires no attention or fumbling with a ton of chopping or ingredients?  

For me, this almost always involves my wondrous pressure cooker and rice. 

This amazing and easy pulao will feed 2 hungry people with some leftover for lunch the next day...
In your pressure cooker, heat some oil and:
  • throw in a couple of cloves, whole black pepper and a cinnamon stick (this step is optional) 
  • do a tarka (seasoning) by adding half a teaspoon of mustard and cumin seeds and a pinch of asafeotida... let the seeds pop and sizzle
  • add 1 1/2 cups rice and saute for a few minutes on low-medium.  Add half a teaspoon of garam masala and saute again for 2 minutes
  • add an optional diced potato and a handful of thawed peas and if you're like me - a huge chopped green chilli
  • add salt and 2.5 cups of water and secure the pressure cooker lid
  • let cook on medium for 2 whistles or 10 minutes

Mez in Charlotte


I went to Charlotte last weekend and for some reason thought that the city wasn't really going to have anything going on, but I was wrong!   Downtown is so much fun and pedestrian friendly.  Lots of places to eat and shop.  I even saw a Dean & Deluca, so I was happy!  To start off with some drinks and appetizers, we first went to this lounge-restaurant called Mez.  This place was very nice and hip.  There was a nice mix of mostly a younger crowd and 30-somethings.  Their drink menu was spectacular, I had the French Pear which was made from Absolut Pear and St.Germaine and even had a poached pear on the bottom.  It was a lovely, light libation served perfectly in a well chilled martini glass.  From the small plates menu, I ordered the gnocchi & creamy tomato sauce.  It was excellent and the portion was very generous.  So much so that I could only finish half of it.  They had really unique chandeliers... like little lights just dangling from wooden strings and the wall art right behind it looked like tiny sparkles popping out from tree branches.  The chandelier looks upside down doesn't it?

restaurant review of The Irregardless Cafe


I was driving all over downtown Raleigh one Saturday looking for something to eat and turned on a little street and passed this cottage-turned-into-a-restaurant, The Irregardless Cafe.  When you enter, you will be welcomed with warm honey wood floors and a quiet, gallery like atmosphere.  The huge paintings on the wall are by famous local artist, Kyle Highsmith.  His paintings are vibrant and tropical, many featuring boats and wooden docks and reminiscent of lazy beach days.  I got there pretty late when the kitchen was about to close so they could only offer the small plates menu.  I immediately noticed that the prices are on the higher end.  That however, that could be justified in that they use organic produce and hormone and antibiotic free meats, as well as purchasing many of their products locally, and from organic markets when possible.  I was completely bowled over when I saw an ENTIRE page of vegetarian and vegan items.  They were innovative yet seemed unpretentious and satisfying.  Because I had to order from the small plates menu, I got the bruschetta.  I wanted it to love it.  I wanted it to burst with flavor from the sweet tomatoes and peppers, but it was awful.  Horrible is more of an accurate term.  The mozzarella was bland and the whole dish was under seasoned and lacking in any real flavor.  The bread was soggy.  The basil had turned black.  I wanted my money back. Luckily for the jazz band playing and couples dancing, it turned into a really fun night.  Watching the couples dance was the most enjoyable part of the entire dinner.  I especially am endeared to places where I see older people and younger people enjoying themselves and the food.  The music was playing softly and a couple even did the tango... just like you see in the movies!  [...]

Music Voyager


Television has come a long way, but not in any good sense IMHO.  All those reality shows just dumbifying our younger population and targeting them with more nonsense advertising.  To think there is a generation of Snookies right behind us!  Good laaaaaaaawd, help us all.   Although I should come out and just be honest - at that age, I would've died for an opportunity to be famous for just partying. Thank goodness for PBS, Nat Geo and ID (Investigation Discovery). 

I love love love PBS programming and I just found this new show called Music Voyager.  The host, Jacob Edgar travels all the world in search of new sounds.  I caught two episodes, first, where he went to Rajasthan and the second, where he went to Old Delhi and spoke to the trio band East India Company.  Sitting in front of an absolutely gorgeous red wall on the dirt street singing their rustic version of the famous song, 'Dum Mast Qalander' was INCREDIBLE.  The show is beautifully shot and very easy to watch with a laid back host ready to try anything.  In an odd way, he reminds me a little of Under the Sun host, Nathan Leroy whom I just love.  Oooooh, that accent!!! 

Top of the Hill and He's Not Here


We were just walking along Franklin Street looking for a place to grab something to eat in time to watch the Patriots game when I was directed to this little spot... too too funny, don't you think?   There were some benches outside in what seemed to be some sort of an ice-house but it was too cold to sit outside.  The name of the place just made me LOL!So instead, we grabbed a drink and ate at this impressive little rooftop bar called Top of the Hill.  Their lunch menus are so adorable; they're little black & white, sephia-tinted postcards and their dinner menus are like landscape photos.  I was surpised to find the prices were very reasonable given the upscale ambience.  I ordered a lager on tap and a 'Courtney's Cheese Pizza' which was basically a white pizza topped with a basil-cashew pesto and Monterey Jack cheese.  My companion ordered the 'Thumbs & Toes' which were chicken tenders covered in a Thai chile sauce.  The pizza was a little disappointing with a flimsy, soggy crust that tasted like it was made hours earlier, but the view was incredible, so surprisingly, I wasn't bothered a bit by lunch.  Here are a few snaps during game time.   [...]