Saturday, January 31, 2009

Monday on No Reservations - Chicago! (Preview)

First off, I just wanted to say a big thank you to Ingrid at Room 214 for sending me an autographed picture of Anthony Bourdain. It is soooo cool! Even The Mister said, "That's cool!" This is only the second item I have in my posession that is signed by someone famous. The first item is an SF 49ers ballcap signed by Ronnie Lott. But I digress.

There's just something about Chicago that appeals to me. I've only been there once (or was it twice?) and have fond memories of the place. A close friend of mine was born and raised in the Windy City and I almost moved to Chicago (well, suburbs) at one point to go to college. So needless to say that I am looking forward to see where Tony takes us on Monday.

Like many people, Chicago makes me think of deep-dish pizza, hot dogs, seafood from the Calumet River and Mancow Muller, Chicago's own shock jock. Well, Tony is putting all this to the test and will even meet up with avant-garde chef Homaro Cantu, and dinning at the famous L20 (I would love to dine there if The Mister and I ever got out that way).

Tony will also be making an appearance at a backyard BBQ to enjoy homemade specialties like sausage, creamed corn and beans. Find out what Tony's conclusion is about 'the Second City.' We've been warned to watch on a full stomach because the food looks delicious! I mean, just watching this preview is making my hungry already!

Catch the new episode of No Reservations Monday, February 2nd at 10pm EST on the Travel Channel.

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Friday, January 30, 2009

Aloha (Super Bowl) Friday!

Just a quickie today. How many of you are throwing or going to a Super Bowl party this weekend? I bet lots. No Super Bowl party for us this year. Just us and the dogs.

Did you know that Super Bowl Sunday is the second largest food consumption day in the U.S.? Right after Thanksgiving.

Did you know about 50 million pounds of avocados are consumed on Super Bowl Sunday? According to EatingWell magazine, that is enough to cover an entire football field to a depth of nearly 12 feet. That's a lot of guac! I'll be first in line to dive into that and I'll bring my own bag of tortilla chips, thank you!

Speaking of chips, in 2006, almost 15,000 tons of chips and 4,000 tons of popcorn were consumed on that Sunday. I'm sure that number has gone up since.

Although that's a lot of guac and chips, pizza is still the most popular food for Super Bowl Sundays. Did you know Americans eat around 100 acres of pizza daily? That is about 350 slices of pizza consumed per second! Holy Pepperoni!

Did you know beer is loaded with the B-complex vitamins? Guess some will need that extra B-vitamin boost to fight off food coma for the second half. Uh...don't forget to drink responsibly.

About 6% of you who just had to have that last slice of pizza and that last bottle of beer will be calling in sick on Monday.

Whatever you are doing for Super Bowl Sunday, be safe, have fun, and always remember, eat well! Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009


I've been meaning to do a quick review of Sab-E-Lee Thai restaurant for some time, just hadn't had time until now. I apologize for the pictures because these were of take-out dishes, a couple of hours after the Mister picked them up. So they don't look as good as right out of the kitchen. But they were still just as delicious. I just never seem to have my camera with me whenever I ate at the restaurant. Kirk (mmm-yoso!!) has much better pictures that do the dishes more justice here, here, and here.

The Mister and I have pretty much stuck to our favorite dishes everytime we've been here. It's hard for me to choose which one of these are my favorites because I always want them all when we eat here. So in no particular order, this is what we typically order.

First, the Spicy Mint Leaves Noodles with Beef ($6.50). I believe this is their version of Thai Drunken Noodle (Pad Kee Mao). Thai Drunken Noodles are one of my favorite Thai noodle dishes and Sab-E-Lee's version is very very good. What I like most about this dish is that it is least greasiest version I've ever had AND that the noodles were cooked to perfection. No clumps, great wok hey, and great flavor. The beef is usually tender, maybe a little on the dry side but still good. Also it is not sweet like some other restaurants' I've had in the past.

The next dish is the Thai Sausage Fried Rice ($6.50). At first glance, the dish might look a little bland (that's what we thought) but it's really a wonderful dish. I can eat a whole plate of this in one sitting, I think. The Thai Sausage is a great compliment to all the flavors in the dish. And I love that they use Chinese broccoli in the dish (Mom would be so proud I'm eating my broccoli). We actually ordered just the Thai Sausage (Northern Style) once but didn't like it as a stand alone as much as a compliment.

I know I've said this before but Phad Thai isn't my go-to noodle dish but I've order it everytime I've been to Sab-E-Lee so far. The one below is with Shrimp although we've had it with beef as well. Both are very good. Again, Sab-E-Lee creates a noodle dish that is neither clumpy or overly oily. There's just a bit of sweet flavor and I really like the fact that they put the crushed peanuts on the side.

Another dish that we have to have is the Nahm Tok ($6.95). Typically I order Thai Beef Salad elsewhere and if you look at the menu, description of the two dishes look almost identical. Thanks to Kirk's explanation, you'll see that there is a difference. I love the tanginess of this dish. And the beef have always been tender.

So those are the 4 dishes we've been ordering. But on this day, The Mister decided to add a new dish, Pepper Garlic with Beef ($6.95). Well, neither one of use really cared for this one. The beef was tough and dry, almost jerky like. The sauce wasn't as garlicky as I had expected and not that peppery. I think if the meat was tender, I would have liked it a little more but I still think we'll pass on this one in the future. I knew we should have gone with my first choice, the Spicy Raw Beef (Koy Nua), but The Mister really wanted to try it. And now we know.

Other dishes that I would like to try (soon) are Duck Noodle, Pad See Ewe and Rahd Nah. Oh, and of course Spicy Raw Beef (Koy Nua).

We don't live nearby but have found "reasons" to be in the neighborhood just so we can stop. So if you're in Linda Vista or just driving by, this is definitely worth the detour.

2405 Ulric Street (corner of Ulric and Linda Vista Rd.)
San Diego, CA 92111
Phone: (858) 650-6868
Hours: 10:30 a.m. - 9:30 p.m. Tuesday - Sunday
Closed Mondays

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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Gong Xi Fa Cai!

Happy Chinese New Year!

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Friday, January 23, 2009

Monday on No Reservations - Azores (Preview)

Okay, all you Bourdainiers (I made that up), here's the sneak preview of the upcoming episode of No Reservations.

Tony will be visiting Azores, a cluster of Portuguese islands. I don't know much about Azores and only a smidgen familiarity with Portuguese cuisine so I think I'm really going to enjoy this episode.

Why Azores? Tony has worked in kitchens alongside many generations of Azorean Portuguese immigrants and decided it was time to find out more about their motherland and explore the culture that molded so much of New England's heritage. He'll be island hopping, dining on potatoes, pork, sausage, cabbage, shellfish, Portuguese soup and washing it all down with Gin and Tonics. Sounds pretty good, if you ask me! Sights include Furnas on Sao Miguel and one of the most remote locations in the world on Sao Jorge. Tony is also going to show us the beautiful wine making region of Pico.

I have to say that I'm really enjoy this new season of No Reservations.

The No Reservations Azores episode airs Monday, January 26 at 10pm EST on the Travel Channel.

Postscript: I forgot to mention that the influence of Portuguese cuisine is evident in many other places. Hawaiian regional cuisine for instance: Portuguese sausage, malasada's (ooooo, malasadas!), bean soup, sweet bread, and that's just to name a few. Dang, now I'm hungry.

Aloha Friday and have a terrific weekend!

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Kitchen Remodel Thoughts

It's 2009, which means it's finally time to think seriously about a kitchen remodel. The Mister and I decided last year that we would make a go/no-go decision in early 2009 whether to tackle a remodel this year. Last night, the go decision was made (call it our contribution to help stimulate the economy). It means I have to start doing the actual leg work, talking to companies, and getting the "budget" thing figured out (money, isn't that always the top issue?). No more window shopping for the sake of looking. Now it's for the sake of buying!

I've been planning my dream kitchen for...well, ever since we bought our first house, so over a decade ago. There's a hip-high pile of magazines, fliers, binders and white papers on my office floor at home that I've collected over the years. Dream in the making. And now, that dream feels almost within reach. The Mister has been extremely supportive (as he should be) in my OC-ness the past couple of years (OC = lots of prelim planning and wishing = endless yaking about this and that + countless home improvement shows).

I'm filled with excitement mixed with equal part anxiety. Kitchen remodels (or any home remodel) is the poster child of "the devil is in the details." There are so many decisions to make, so many options to choose from, and so many things could go wrong. Maybe it's because I've watched one too many home improvement shows but I would like to think my project will be more of "God in the details." I couldn't count the hours I've spent on research but I do feel somewhat confident in the layout I want, how it needs to function, and what appliances I want. That's "somewhat" confident.

Boy, just talking about it gives me indigestion (I'm sure my lunch has nothing to do with it). I'm also debating whether to start a new blog to document this progress or not. We'll see. If it's interesting and people want to follow it, then maybe I'll put the time into a new blog. We'll see.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Strawberry Cream Cake

I typically only post recipes that I like but I'm going to make an exception this time because there was part of this recipe that I really liked and a part that I didn't like, at all. I've been craving a fruity dessert, maybe a fruit tart or something. Then I thought about the Asian cakes that my Mom used to buy for me when I was little. One of my favorite was a strawberry cream cake. Whipped cream filling and icing with lots of fresh strawberries. I've also had pineapple and other fruit ones but there's just something about strawberries and cream

I came across a recipe on Cook's Illustrated online called (wait for it) Strawberry Cream Cake! Huh, whatta y'know? After reading through it, I knew I had to try it. This was the result.

I think the cake is very pretty and simplistic. But what you can't tell from the picture was that the cake sucked. I mean, I didn't like it at all, hated it so much that I ended up discarding the cake and just eating the strawberry and cream.

I was very disappointed with the cake's texture, heavy, dense, and bland. Now I know adding whipped egg white to a cake batter produces a lighter, almost spongy like texture. It was spongy, but firm and not quite the light fluffy cake I was expecting. Maybe I overmixed the batter or didn't do something quite right in the folding. But beyond the texture, which I didn't think complemented the strawberry and cream at all, the cake was just blah on flavor.

The cream, on the other hand, was a winner! I don't recall having whipped cream with cream cheese combine but it was delicious. The cream cheese was subtle that creates a distinctive taste, heavier than stiffed whipped cream. It complimented the strawberries (which were quite good for this time of the year). I'm not sure how many people have tried it this way but I highly recommend it if you like strawberries and whipped cream.

Whipped Cream-Cream Cheese:
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar (3 1/2 ounces)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon table salt
2 cups heavy cream

In a standing mixer bowl with the whisk attachment, combine cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, and salt. Whisk everything at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, scraping down bowl with rubber spatula as needed. How long will depend on your mixer. It took mine about 3 minutes with a couple of scrapings. Reduce the speed to low and add heavy cream in a slow and steady stream. After adding all the cream and when the mixture is almost fully combined, increase the speed to medium-high and beat until mixture holds stiff peaks, scraping bowl as needed. This took about 4 minutes for my mixer. You should have about 4 1/2 cups of the final cream mixture.
The cream mixer is pretty thick and holds well to spreading. I'm actually thinking about trying the cream as a frosting on cupcakes and maybe adding some sliced fruit on top. It might be good with the cake recipe from the vanilla-vanilla cupcakes since that cake is pretty light and fluffy. Or if I'm being really lazy, have it with some Sara Lee frozen pound cake (love that pound cake!). Mmm, think I'll go scoop some leftover strawberries and cream for an afternoon snack now!

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Monday, January 19, 2009

Tony Bourdain - No Reservations in DC (Preview)

The Mister and I have followed Anthony Bourdain on No Reservations for several years now (it's a standing record on the dvr). Some episodes were very entertaining while a few were um, kind of like watching a reality show of blunders and bloopers and where-no-to-go's. Still interesting but not sure if that's what Bourdain and the producers had in mind. Okay, maybe that's what the producers had in mind but sometimes it seems like Bourdain asks himself if this was really worth it to be famous.

So why 2 posts about Bourdain in a week? Apparently I have been selected to receive weekly "exclusive information and videos for the upcoming episode" from someone at Travel Channel. I know there are a lot of Bourdain fans out there and I thought those might be interested in seeing some of the previews.

Tonight's episode (Monday at 10 pm ET) Tony heads out to explore the city of contrasts – democrat vs. republican, affluent vs. poor, visible vs. invisible. His visit to Washington D.C. doesn't stop at the U-Street Corridor, the International Spy Museum, nor the D.C. Central Kitchen – he also makes his way to hotspots in the outlying areas of Arlington and Falls Church.

According to Ingrid at Travel Channel, the DC episode is unique for a number of reasons; he finds pleasure dining at the home of the world's greatest chili dogs (Tony agrees), where President-elect Obama just visited, digs deep into the spectrum that is D.C., home to dozens of different cultures and languages, and meets a number of interesting famous and non-famous people along the way. Of all the episodes, I think some of the best ones are the ones at home, well, and those of Asian (love those ones).

Other than the show, I have enjoyed Bourdain's blog but I don't know how many people actually read the show's crew blog. I find these pretty informative as well as entertaining since I get sense of what it's like working on show like No Reservations. But then again, I'm also someone who will spend countless of hours taking pictures of my food, baking my own bread and straining cooked pumpkin pie filling.

Okay, enough of my idiosyncrasies. Here's Bourdain's (hehe).

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Sunday, January 18, 2009

Pumpkin Pie (Recipe Review)

I know it's a little late to be posting this since holidays have long past. But with all the craziness of the holidays, I haven't had time to do this post. But this was definitely one that I had wanted to blog about.

I've never been a huge fan of pumpkin pie. So why would I definitely want to blog about it? Granted that I've always had the premade frozen crust with the filling made from the gloppy, orange mass from a can. They were decent, especially with a mound of whipped cream on them but it wasn't a necessity for me at Thanksgiving, unlike the Mister.

I've been so uninspired by pumpkin pies of the past that I've relegated making of these pies to my MIL. But with my heightened enthusiasm this past Thanksgiving, I decided to try Cook's Illustrated "best" pumpkin pie. What hooked me was their dissatisfaction of the run-of-the-mill pies (exactly how I felt) and how they used candied yams from a can to make the best pie ever. Sounded very promising.

Due to copyright issues, I'm only going to review the recipe. If you're still intrigued to try it after reading this, send me an email and I'll share it with you. Let me warn you though, this recipe requires the cooked mixture to be strained through a fine-mesh strainer and it was a major pain in the ass. But this pie knocked my socks, I mean slippas off! No kidding. It was so good I didn't need any whipped cream on it. The pie crust was fantastic, once I figure out that the amount of water/vodka had to be adjusted (not mentioned in the recipe) to get the perfect consistency and to churn out a perfect crust. Yes, I would put myself through straining hell again to have this pie.

What made the difference was that the recipe uses 1 15-oz drained candied yams in conjunction with 1 15-oz can pumpkin puree. And the mixture was precooked before baking. Lots of steps. Oh, and did I mention it was a pain in the ass to make? I did? Hmmm....

The biggest problem with the recipe was straining the cooked mixture which did not want to go through the fine-mesh strainer without a considerable amount of force from me and my spatula. I even tried to puree it in a food processor, hoping it would help. Alas, it did not. After 20 minutes of working the mixture and my forearm burning from the workout, finally done. I don't recommend skipping this part because straining is a key component of this recipe. It is what provides the silky and smooth characteristics that makes this pie so wonderful. Otherwise, it would be, well, like any other run-of-the-mill pies. Can't forgo the straining, painful as it is.

The other thing is that when baking, the filling looked to be undercooked, maybe too soft. You can see in the picture above where I kept testing the top of the pie. But I did pull out the pie according to the recipe and after cooling, the filling firmed up, although still very soft and unlike other conventional pies. But that was the beauty of this pie. The silky texture that melted in your mouth along with the buttery flavor of the perfect flaky tender crust. The precooking brought out all the flavors of the yams and pumpkin and fills your senses with aromatic nutmeg and whatnots. It was beyond words for me and the family. Indeed my toes were wiggling with every bite.

My MIL said (several times) it was the best pumpkin pie she's ever had but she would never (emphasizing the never) go through the trouble to make this pie. I don't blame her and perhaps she would think I'm crazy to ever make this pie again. But then she doesn't spend her free time blogging about food either. No, we're 2 different creatures and in some deep not-so obscure subdural way, it gives me comfort knowing the Mister didn't marry a girl just like Mom.

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Friday, January 16, 2009

Garlic Korean Fried Chicken Wings

Before I ever tried Chicken Alice's Korean Fried Chicken (KFC) wings (original recipe here, mmm-yoso's version here, and my version here), I made a batch of "garlic" KFC. We love garlic and this recipe really sounded good. Love garlic or not, I was a bit hesitant because garlic burns quickly and deep frying a whole lot of minced garlic could be...a bitter catastrophe. But being a wing-aholic, and encouragement from the Mister, I gave it a shot.

The results were a bit mixed at first. As you might see in the picture, the little darker spots were the pieces of garlic and some of them did seem a little overcooked, giving a taste that was slightly bitter and sweet. On first bite, I wasn't quite sure how to react but there was a subtlety to the fried garlic and by the second bite, I was hooked. The Mister said they were really good, different and addictive. There definitely was a garlic aftertaste, not bad and again sweet. And certainly no fear of vampires visiting me in bed that night.

And sitting here now, thinking about the taste of these little delectable wings makes me want to whip up a batch for this weekend. Perhaps for tomorrow's Sabres game. Not quite Buffalo wings but wings, nonetheless.

5 lb chicken wings
1/2 onion, grated or minced finely
2 Tablespoons salt
2 Tablespoons ground pepper
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/4-1/3 cup minced garlic cloves (as much as you can take!)
1/2 teaspoon ginger powder or 1 teaspoons fresh grated ginger
1 egg yolk
In a large mixing bowl, add all the ingredients except chicken wings. Mix thoroughly, the batter should be thick and paste-like. If you're willing, taste the batter to adjust for taste (too sweet, too salty, not enough, etc.).

Add wings to the batter and mix well. Let marinade in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours. The longer the better. You can also let it marinate overnight.
Take the wings out 1 hour prior to frying.
Preheat oil to 350 degrees F. I used my Dutch oven to provide the depth needed for deep frying (a Lodge cast iron skillet won't cut it here). Use a candy/deep fry thermometer to monitor oil temperature. You don't want your oil to get too hot on this one. Depending on the type of oil you use, type of frying vessel, how large the wings are, it will take anywhere from 6-10 minutes for the wings to cook.
Don't crowd your pot. Cook in batches. You might also need to adjust the temperature to make sure the wings cook all the way through without burning the outside. I've learned that I need to have the actual cooking temperature (once the food has been added) to be around 325 degrees F when I'm using the Dutch oven.
Think I might just whip up a batch this weekend. Aloha Friday everyone. Have a fantastic weekend. Now go and eat well.

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Monday, January 12, 2009

Anthony Bourdain in Buffalo, NY

Since the Mister is from the Buffalo area (ergo being a Sabres fan), I was really excited to find out that Anthony Bourdain recently visited Buffalo for No Reservations. Awesome! Can't wait to see the episode.

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Thursday, January 8, 2009

Linguine with Lobster in Creamy Lobster Broth

For New Year's Eve dinner last week, I boiled some live Maine lobsters from 99 Ranch Market. It was a simple but very delicious dinner. I clarified some butter to go along with the tender and sweet lobsters. The Mister cooked some corn and we heated up the leftover baked orzo from Christmas dinner. Indeed we were eating well that night.

But a rare occurrence happened. We had leftover lobster (gasp!). After some rough calculations (a guesstimate is more like it), we had at least 2 lbs of lobster left. That kind of thing just don't happen with me around. Ever see Daryl Hannah's lobster dinner scene in Splash? Okay, I don't use my teeth to break lobster shell but, well, let's just say I love lobster.

Anyway, since leftover lobster was such a foreign concept to me, I struggled a bit as to what to do with it. Yes, the simple thing would have been for me to just eat it (duh!) but I wanted to make something with it that both the Mister and I could have for dinner. Lobster ravioli? Yes, I love lobster ravioli but I just didn't want to work that hard to *make* pasta, but it did sound good. Pasta also sounded good and since I had saved some of the carcass for stock, I thought maybe a lobster linguine dish would be a good choice.

So off to the Internet to search for some recipes. I didn't find anything that wow'ed me but did get a couple of ideas as to what I wanted to make. I settled on making a creation of my own. I know, it was risky but the results were fantastic (at least to me and the Mister). I thought adding a bit of heavy cream (not too much) would smooth out the lobster stock, add some richness without the heaviness of a cream sauce. Worked perfectly. So here it is. Linguine with Lobster in Creamy Lobster Broth. Note that this is more of a broth rather than a sauce, not thick. This recipe will serve 2 (maybe 3 if with other sides).


Lobster shells (I had shells from 2 lobsters; can also use shrimp or crab shells)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 small carrot, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 cup white wine
6 cups water
2 cloves garlic
1 bay leaf

1 lb cooked lobster meat
2 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper (you can substitute with other types of ground chili pepper or omit)
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 lb cooked linguine
Fresh chives, chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat (I used an 8-quart saucepan). Cook onion, carrot and celery until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the lobster shells and cook for a few minutes. Raise the heat to high, add the wine and cook until reduced by half. Add the water, garlic and bay leaf and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Strain stock and discard the stuff in the strainer. You'll have more stock than what the linguine dish will need but you can freeze extra stock for later use.

Bring 2 cups of stock to a boil in a medium saucepan and reduce to half, about 20 minutes. Whisk in the heavy cream and ground chipotle pepper. Add the chives and season with salt and pepper to taste.

To assemble the dish, divide cooked linguine into 2 bowls. Add lobster meat on top of the linguine. Ladle the cream broth on top, covering lobster and pasta. Sprinkle with fresh chives.

Hope everyone's first full week in 2009 is off to a good start. Now go and eat well.

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Monday, January 5, 2009

Monday Babblings

This is the first official post for 2009. Whew, where did 2008 go? This is also my first day back to work after 2.5 weeks off. Whew, where did the days go? Well, I know where the days went. It went into playing Guitar Hero World Tour, watching hockey and revamping my closet.

In a half-assed attempt to ease back into work slowly (bwahaha), I was scanning through UT online and noticed in the Entertainment section mentioned the upcoming Chinese New Year. Chinese New Year is in January this year. So this has me thinking about what the heck to make for CNY? I usually choose between hot pot or shui jiaozi (Chinese water dumplings) but since we've had hot pot on several occasions in the past couple of months, maybe it's time for jiaozi. I had a fleeting thought of trying a new filling, like sea cucumber or something. Kirk's MIL (mmm-yoso) had made it last year and I love sea cucumbers. But it was fleeting since the Mister does not like sea cucumber. I think might end up taking the easy way out and just get some Chinese roast duck and some dim sum to go from Jasmine.

In celebration of my MIL's birthday (Happy Birthday, J), we took her to lunch on Saturday to Jake's in Del Mar (her pick). It was a nice lunch and the in-laws had their first Hula Pie. Needless to say, it never stood a chance against the Eating Machines. (No pictures of the food, sorry. Didn't want to spoil the birthday celebration. Besides, trying to snap a picture before they descended on their plates would be akin to trying to take a picture of a bullet being fired from a gun.)

That's about all my brain can mustard up on this Monday morning. I'll have a couple of dishes to post on later in the week (especially the lobster linguine!). I hope everyone has recooped from New Year's celebrations. Have a wonderful week. Now go and eat well.

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