Thursday, April 30, 2015

Soup for Breakfast

Everyone knows breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Americans traditionally eat eggs or cereal to start the morning. I like both. Bout have you ever tried soup for breakfast? Yes, soup. I know you're probably thinking "are you crazy?" But you'd be surprised how good it feels in the morning to have a hearty, warm bowl of soup.

In fact, in many countries around the world it's tradition to start the day with soup, especially Asian countries such as China, Korea and Vietnam.

Breakfast of homemade miso soup, green tea and Mandarin oranges 
My first venture with soup for breakfast was miso soup. It seemed like an easy soup to make since there were just a few ingredients.

I found miso broth at Whole Foods. Then I added the following to the miso broth - sliced garlic, spinach, ginger, garlic salt, and mushrooms.  Once the broth and vegetables simmered a bit so that the flavors had a chance to meld together, I added cubed silky tofu and a package of rice noodles (purchased at our local supermarket in the Asian aisle). It was that easy.

Miso soup is also easy to experiment with.  For example, try substituting kale instead of spinach or other greens. Or use a combination of greens and different vegetables. Or add more ginger or garlic for a stronger taste. 

In fact, I substituted vegetable potstickers for the rice noodles. It gave the soup a whole different taste. Make your own dumplings or do what I did and buy them already made. The brand I like best is from Whole Foods but you can find potstickers in most all food stores in the frozen aisle. 

In case you still think I'm crazy about having soup for breakfast here's a few articles about the health benefits of miso soup here and here.

Also, check out what people all the around the world eat for breakfast here

If you have an interesting healthy breakfast idea, let us know. 

- Charles 

Sunday, April 26, 2015

"The Counter" at Whole Foods in Columbia, Maryland

Whole Foods in Columbia, Maryland recently debuted their new menu at "The Counter", the in-store diner-like area, open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Charles and I were invited to a private taste testing party for bloggers to try some of the new menu items. We were allowed to bring two guests. We choose two of our favorite Centennial High School teachers, Mrs. Bagley (Independent Research) and Madame Doff (French).

Charles and I with our teachers

You might look at The Counter pictures and say "wait, hasn't that spot always been there?" Yes, it has but now it features new menu items to enjoy.

Chickpea Fries with Truffle Salt
Here's some of the items we tasted -

At quick glance, the Chickpea Fries looked like regular steak-cut fries. The taste, however, is completely different. It's much more bland.It doesn't really tastes like chickpeas. It's hard to really compare the flavor to some other dish, it is just so unique. On the bright side, these fries are healthier than normal fries, and you won't notice the difference if you dunk them in ketchup.
Sweet & Spicy Brussel Sprouts 

Although the Brussels Sprouts were billed as"sweet and spicy", but they were more sweet than spicy. I'm not necessarily a huge fan of brussels sprouts, but this dish changed my perspective entirely. The brussels fluctuated from being initially crispy to a soft state, which made an interesting quasi crunchy texture.

The Stack

"The Stack" (wheat-less pancakes served with apple butter and maple syrup) was surprisingly good. I wasn't too sure how wheat-less pancakes  would taste but I was pleasantly surprised. The pancakes were delicate and fluffy. I've actually never tried pancakes with apple butter before, and after tasting this, it certainly won't be my last time.
The Counter Fave

The Counter Fave consisted of braised kale, caramelized kielbasa, fried egg, and aged cheddar on a whole wheat english muffin. Although this sandwich has many similarities to The Biscuit (see below), the kielbasa sausage is what gives this dish a true distinctively sharp taste. Madame Doff ate kielbasa as a child and thought the potent sausage was a great choice for a breakfast sandwich. If you don't like kale, don't worry. It didn't stand out in the sandwich, it just complemented the other ingredients.

The Biscuit 
The Biscuit breakfast sandwich consists of fried egg, sautéed spinach, chipotle remoulade, and American cheese on a biscuit. I'm a huge fan of sautéed spinach, so this ingredient made the dish all the better. However, the biscuit was just a bit too flaky for my liking. I enjoyed the Counter Fave the best, but The Biscuit came in a close second.

The Scramble 
The Scramble includes southwest tofu and aged cheddar scramble. The tofu tastes like egg whites, which I very much enjoy. If they had a choice, both of my teachers would prefer regular eggs instead of tofu. However, I think the dish is a nice change up from the traditional eggs for breakfast, definitely worth a try.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        One world to describe the Currylaska soup -  inferno. This is the spiciest soup I have ever tried in my life, and I don't mean spicy in a good way. I mean it can send you to the hospital spicy. I couldn't even take two sips without running to get an entire glass of water. My teachers had the same reaction, waaaaay too spicy. But, hey, if you like VERY spicy foods (can't emphasize this enough) THIS is your dish.

Chicken & Biscuit
fried chicken thighs, buttermilk biscuit with sausage gravy 

The Chicken & Biscuit photo doesn't do it justice. The aesthetic of this dish can be quite deterring. However, you'll be in a state of serendipity when you indulge in this dish. It satisfied all my taste buds - crispy, buttery, sweet, salty and flakey. If you like fried chicken, I'd give this one a try.

Avocado Tacos:
deep fried avocado, cabbage slaw and chipotle remoulade

I've dubbed these tacos "The Bomb" because they explode vegetarian goodness in your mouth - the combo of the avocado, crunchy on the outside & velvety ripeness inside, with sweet slaw and tangy chipotle sauce. Perfection!!!!

Tuscan Kale Salad
The salad is comprised of shredded kale, cranberries, sunflower seeds and citrus vinaigrette. In all honesty, I can't eat kale by itself. The vinaigrette proved that all you need is the right dressing to make a dish taste amazing. The dressing made each kale leaf radiate with zest. In additions, the raw onions' firm texture acted as a foil to the pliable kale. Whole Foods knows how to make a salad. 

The Columbia Burger
1/2 lb short rib blend, brioche roll, caramelized onion, mushroom and
special sauce

Doesn't this picture look beguiling? Just look at the beauty of this burger. It tastes exactly as it looks - big, juicy, sautéed golden onions, gooey warm cheese on buttery brioche. Incredible!!! It deserves to be called The COLUMBIA Burger. Hail to the CB!!
                                               My brother Charles (left), one of the amazing WF chefs, and me                                                  
Cacio e Pepe
Spaghetti, Pecorino Cheese, Butter and Cracked Black Pepper 

The Cacio e Pepe Italian pasta dish is something we make at home often. Although we don't call the dish anything special, just pasta with butter and cheese, it's a feel good meal. Cheesy sharp pecorino melted with sweet butter over warm pasta. This is comfort food at its best and WF does a pretty good job (and it's not even an Italian restaurant).                                                                                              


The Counter is a great place to chill whether you are eating alone on a counter stool watching your food being prepared or with friends at the very long wooden communal table. It's open for breakfast through dinner - serving breakfast all day long (how cool is that!)

We've been back since we attended the taste tasting party. If we see us hanging out at the counter, come say hi.

Thank you Whole Foods for inviting us "Dudes" and our high school teachers to this special party. It was a great night and we loved trying all the new menu offerings at The Counter.

 - Thomas

Gift bags for the taste test participants

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Union Oysters House - Boston

Recently, I traveled to Boston to participate in the Harvard Model Congress conference with my school delegation. During the duration of the conference, my roommates and I found some great places to eat in Boston. One of them was Union Oyster House, the oldest restaurant in the United States. Known for its seafood, this famous restaurant has been operating since 1826. In fact, the Union Oyster House building itself has been deemed a national historic landmark by the National Park Service.

At the front of the restaurant, there is a large glass tank filled with humongous Lobsters. 

The restaurant interior was magnificent - an incredible bar and seating area with several large screen TV's and Boston & sports paraphernalia all nicely decorated in an antique fashion.

Dinning with a few members of my high school Harvard Model Congress delegation (right to left): Brian, Muhammad, Amy, Suqi, Drew, me, and Ben.

Everybody got a fresh piece of Cornbread on

For an appetizer, I ordered a small cup of Boston Clam Chowder.
The sweet flavor of the cream joined with the
salty clam broth made for one killer soup. I enjoyed how
the oyster crackers were mixed into the soup for extra texture.

For my main course, I had a fried fish filet sandwich served with fries and a pickle. The sandwich: crisp lettuce, savory tomato, and fried fish inside a soft bun. The fish itself was outrageously good: tender and lightly battered but crisp to the bite - didn't even need tarter sauce. I don't think you can go wrong with any type of fish at this restaurant.

We drank so much water
that the waitress brought us this
cool looking pitcher. 

My friend Muhammad ordered the Ye Olde Seafood Platter.  This platter was a seafood smorgasbord - fried fish, clams, oysters, scallops, shrimp and calamari served with french fries 
and cole slaw.  This probably wasn't the healthiest dish but OH BOY was it delicious - a delicate batter that hugged the seafood but was light and airy at the same time. This entree was so big that my friend had to take half of it back to the hotel.

 My friend Drew ordered the Lobster Salad Roll.  Drew said that it was full of unbelievable fresh, large chunks of lobster meat that was complimented by, but not overpowered by, the other ingredients of  melted butter, mayonnaise, diced celery, scallions and a sprinkle of parsley. 

Well done Union Oysters House! 
Wooden Sculpture of a Fish

- Charles
Union Oyster House on Urbanspoon

Walking through Quincy Market en route to
Union Oyster House 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Tonic Restuarant

My friend Matt and I took a day trip to Washington D.C. to visit my friend Parth who attends George Washington University(GWU).

For lunch, Parth recommended that we eat at Tonic Restaurant at Quigley's Pharmacy. Located on the campus of GWU, Tonic Restasurant at Quigley's Pharmacy is a go-to place for GW students to watch sporting events and socialize. In fact, it is the official tater tot sponsor of GW athletics and the GWU Men's Basketball Team.
The bar area included a number of High-Def large screen TVs. 

Mac and Cheese
Parth ordered the Mac and Cheese: Elbow macaroni in a creamy bechamel sauce with pulled pork  and fried onions. The thick, creamy, macaroni joined with the crisp fried onions and tender pulled pork on the bottom made for a heavenly combined flavor. The restaurant gave a very generous portion size for $13 dollars. For the lunch menu, this entree is the best bang for your buck. 
Pan-Seared Salmon
The "Pan-Seared Salmon" caught my eye. This entree was an absolute delight: rich fresh salmon with beurre blanc sauce under tender sautéed spinach and buttery saffron rice. The moist
and tender salmon was cooked to perfection and topped with a savory white cream sauce. Altogether, the salmon with the soft rice, and delectable spinach made for one knockout dish. In this case, this entree wasn't exactly large but quality definitely triumphed quantity. 

Baja Veggie Burger 

Matt ordered the Baja Veggie Burger: veggie patty, grilled avocado, pico de gallo, pepper jack cheese, whole wheat kraiser.  The pico de gallo joined with the fresh avocado and velvety cheese made for a mild flavor. However, the burger itself was incredibly wholesome. The texture of the Baja was superb: crisp lettuce, savoury pico de gallo on a tender burger with a slice of cheese all encompassed in a soft bun. With regards to presentation, the burger would've looked better in a smaller dish. 

Overall, my friends and I had a quality dining experience. I'd recommend this to anyone looking for a great American restaurant in the D.C. area. 

We later went on to explore the American History Museum that day.
Star Spangled Banner Artwork 
Me posing as President

- Charles

Tonic at Quigley's Bar and Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Yama Asian Fusion - Ellicott City, MD

Yama Asian Fusion is an new restaurant located in the new Forest Green shopping center on Route 40 across from the Double T Diner.

My mom Lisa and I tried it for lunch recently. 

Check out the ceiling design

It's clear that Yama put considerable thought into the decor that has a modern and futuristic feel reflected in the wall and ceiling art, furniture and lighting. I'd rank the restaurant as one of the coolest designs I've seen.

Bar area

99% of the time, I  order only water at a restaurant. However, when I saw a Virgin Pina Colada on the menu, I made an exception. The mix was thick and sweet with a strong coconut taste but easy to suck through the straw. The only problem I had was the "brain freeze" I got because I couldn't get enough of it and drank it too fast.

The menu has a combination of Chinese, Thai and Japanese dishes to choose from.

My mother ordered sushi - the Sexy Lady Roll,
shrimp tempura, cucumber, avocado, smoked salmon wrapped in soy paper topped with colorful tobiko sauce.

She LOVED the combination of sweet sauce, crunchy cucumber and tempura with the salty, smoked salmon. Like me, my mom loves salmon. Although she really enjoyed this dish, she said the salmon taste was very pronounced. So it may not be good for someone who doesn't love salmon.
I choose the lunch option "any two rolls" and selected the AAC and California Rolls.
It was my first time trying the ACC Roll - a vegetarian roll of asparagus, cucumber and avocado. Both rolls were packed with very fresh ingredients and tender to the bite.

We received complimentary candy after the meal

Between the miso soup (came with the lunch special), sushi rolls and Virgin Pina Colada, I walked out of Yama Asian Sushi stuffed and satisfied. 

My mom was pretty happy too after finding a new favorite sushi roll, Sexy Lady.  

Yama Asian Sushi was a big hit. We are planning on returning with my dad and brother Charles. 
Check out the outdoor seating area in the summer

- Thomas