Thursday, March 31, 2016

* Eating 52 Countries In 52 Weeks - Week 29 - AUSTRALIA

Sunday night and I'm craving fish and chips. We look up several British restaurants from out 52 countries list but they are all closed early on Sundays. Our last resort is an Australian restaurant in Costa Mesa. We pull into the parking lot and see that Pie-Not is an Aussie Style Bakery so no fish & chips here. BUT the way the store is laid out is so inviting, we just get pulled in and find ourselves peering into the glass case where savory pies of all kinds are on display. All of a sudden we are really into Australian food. Within minutes and with some help from the pretty lady behind the counter, we pick four different pies and two soft drinks and are seated at a table outside enjoying the warm November evening.

According to the lady that helped us pick pies, Dog's Eye is the most popular Australian pie in the store. It is a meat pie filled with premium angus ground beef with finely diced onions and tomato sauce in a shortcrust pastry shell with a puff pastry lid. And it came right out of the oven to our table!

Next is Drunken Cow! This also is a meat pie filled with red wine and roasted garlic braised premium chunky sirloin steak and pearl onions in a shortcrust pastry shell with a puff pastry lid. We are starting to love this unexpected turn in our adventure not only because of the creative names of the pies but because how incredibly delicious they are.

Drover is next in line for the pie try-outs. This pie gets its name from the word Aussies use in place of "shepherd" and borrows its filling from the Dog's Eye with added petite peas & diced carrots in a shortcrust pastry shell with a garlic mashed potato topper. This one is a true winner all-in-one pie with unequal parts of meats, carbs, and vegetables.

Last but not least was a vegan pasty aptly called Ghandi. Admittedly, a pasty is not a pie but a close relative since this also was pastry wrapped around a filling of sweet indian spiced chickpeas, potatoes, cauliflower, carrots, and butternut squash.

Of course all those pies and pasty needed to be washed down with some very Australian beverages of Ginger Beer and Lime Lemon & Bitters of Bundaberg brand.

We picked up The Lamington as our dessert to-go since we were too full to continue eating. The Lamington is a very traditional and unique Aussie dessert that is simply a vanilla butter sponge cake rolled in chocolate and desiccated coconut. 

It's perfectly ok to use your hands when eating Aussie pies just don't burn your fingers since these pies are super freshly made and are hot. 

Bon Appetite, Mate!

* Eating 52 Countries In 52 Weeks - Week 28 - RUSSIA

Moscow Deli of Orange County is essentially a Russian grocery store with two tables that serve as the dining area. Two feet into the store you find yourself surrounded with nesting dolls, samovars, freezers full of Russian dumplings and ice cream, and cards in Cyrillic to a background of conversations in Russian. The deli food is displayed in windows on the countertop and it is not hard to tell that the owners make all of the food fresh that day.

We browsed the food windows along with the very short menu and started ordering our food with great help from the pretty lady on the other side of the counter. For beverages, she pointed at the fridges on the other side of the store where we picked up two glass bottles of soda. The light colored one was a non-alcoholic Mojito - lemony and minty. The bright green was called Tarhun which had a stronger taste due to the tarragon it was made of.

First the Pirozhki and Zrazy appetizers arrived. Both were filled with chicken

Then came the soups! It makes sense Russians have a lot of soups considering the climate. The Borscht soup is a bright red colored cabbage soup.

Spicy meat soup Solyanka had enough heat to linger but not so much to burn your taste buds to oblivion. We added pieces of the toasted Russian bread served with the soups into the soups and spooned them down like we were in the middle of a winter storm.

The Riga sandwich looked funny with the tails of sardines (sprat) sticking out. Like many other Russian sandwiches and salads, this one was savory with a thick layer of mayonnaise. Honestly I do not usually favor fish sandwiches but this one was very flavorful and did not leave a fishy aftertaste.

Moscovskiy sandwich is one of the most colorful sandwiches I've ever experienced. It looked beautiful. The layers of meat and cheese were interspersed with chopped lettuce, carrots and Russian sauce.

Even though we wanted to try one of the homemade desserts on display, our stomachs stopped us. So we picked up a bag of Russian Prianik cookies to have with tea later in the day.

As we got up to pay for our food, a flood of customers came in. It felt good to see that this small deli got a lot of business to keep them around for our future visits.

Приятного аппетита!

* Eating 52 Countries In 52 Weeks - Week 27 - AFGHANISTAN

When we saw the banner for a little boy's aqiqah at the entrance of Chili Chutney Afghan Restaurant, we hesitated to enter thinking it was closed for a private event. There was a buffet for the event that was going on so we were seated at one of the low tables to the side and were handed menus to choose from.

With the low seats and richly colored velvet fabrics and paintings surrounding us, we were distracted from the food. We ordered Sheer Chai and continued to take in the cultural event that was going on around us. Sheer Chai is an authentic Afghan tea with milk and cardamom but because of the different ratios it is slightly different than the Indian tea.

The soft flat bread they brought to the table disappeared pretty quickly thanks to the colorful and spicy chutneys that were already at the table.

Sambosas filled with savory potatoes and spices were ordered for comparison with others we tried from other countries and those disappeared quickly as well proving their deliciousness.

Rick also ordered Mantu since it seemed very similar the Turkish dish mantı and wanted to see if they were indeed similar. The meat dumplings were much richer than the Turkish version because of the meat sauce they were served in and sour cream replace the yogurt making it even richer.

Quabili Palau was simply beautiful in the way it looked as much as it tasted. This colorful dish is made with basmati rice cooked with lamb shank and spices and garnished with carrots and raisins.

Beef Chapli Kabob came cradled in a large piece of flat bread and a side of creamed spinach that helped tone down the spices blended in the shish kabob.

We did what anyone who cannot choose from the dessert menu would do and ordered all of it: Bakhlava, Sheer Birinj, and Sheer Yakh!

We shared bites from all and sent the rest for boxing to continue the feast later. Meanwhile the celebration was winding down and the little baby boy was getting sleepy from being handed from relative to relative. We felt happy for the family for their newest arrival and happy for us having to witness something so unique.

(bil-hanā' wa ash-shifā') بالهناء والشفاء / بالهنا والشفا
may you have your meal with gladness and health

* Eating 52 Countries In 52 Weeks - Week 26 - THAILAND

We got stuck in Thailand! 

Not literally of course but since we visited the Thai Bite Restaurant, we could not write the post describing our experience. Perhaps it is because we love Thai food so much and eat it on a regular basis, it felt like trying to write an exciting post about something so common to our lives. Finally, with great help from Rick, I'm typing the finishing words to this post so that we can post about all the other countries we continued eating while agonizing about this particular post.

For the appetizer we selected the Thai Bite sampler.  This included Thai spring rolls, which are thinner than and Chinese egg roll and deep fried until crispy.  a small crispy fried roll filled with cabbage and bean sprouts.  Poh Pia Tod - Golden fried spring rolls stuffed with seasoned ground chicken, cellophane noodles (woon-sen), and vegetables served with Thai sweet sauce. The Thai chips were Golden fried wonton sheets stuffed with seasoned ground chicken, served with Thai sweet sauce. Thai Dim Sum - Golden fried dumplings of minced chicken and onions served with a savory ginger sauce. Spicy Balls - A cluster of ground chicken, ground pork, cellophane noodles, corns and diced onions blended with Chef's special chili paste then fried to perfection. Plah Goong - Grilled shrimps marinated in Chef's special roasted chili dressing. Served on top of fresh lettuce. These were served with a hot and sour dipping sauce and one that was based on soy and fish sauce.  

Tom Kah Goong - A delightful coconut soup (Tom) with chicken or shrimp, cabbage, mushrooms, carrots, fresh cilantro and a touch of aromatic galangal root (kah) - came in its traditional serving bowl with fire in the middle.  Today we choose to include shrimp (goong).  

Pad See-Iew (Ayse's favorite Thai dish) is stir-fried fresh wide rice noodles with your choice of chicken, beef, pork or shrimp with black bean sauce, white pepper, broccoli, carrots, and eggs.

Pa Nang - Chicken served in a Thai red curry paste and coconut milk sauce, enhanced with fresh peppers and distinctive Thai basil leaves - came with a side of rice.

All this wonderful food was accompanied by our favorite Thai Iced Tea – Iced black tea with sweetened condensed milk.  

kŏr hâi jà-rern aa-hăan!