Cafe’ Restaurant Reviews – Houston, New York, Seattle USA

Chanterelle Mushroom and Truffles Brick Oven Pizza at "Serious Pie", Seattle, WA USA

Hi Susitna Cafe’ Friends!  Today we’re discussing eating out…we sure do enjoy a good meal here at the Cafe’, but sometimes we enjoy eating out too.  Don’t you?

It’s sooo exciting when we experience a delicious restaurant meal, but it’s oh so disappointing when we eat a poorly executed meal.  So, we think it’s important to share our eating out experiences with you so that we can all leverage upon one another’s knowledge.

The Susitna Cafe’ Chronicles has recently partnered with Urban Spoon, and we’re now documenting our restaurant reviews on the Urban Spoon website.  Susitna Cafe’ restaurant reviews may be found by clicking on the “Visit Us on Urbanspoon” photo logo on the main Susitna Cafe’ Chronicles webpage…see for yourself our reviews on restaurants in Houston, Texas…New York, New York…and, Seattle, Washington USA.

We’re updating our restaurant reviews frequently, so be sure to visit our UrbanSpoon Susitna Cafe’ restaurant reviews page often to get the latest information.

By the way, have you had a good or bad restaurant experience you’d like to share with our Susitna Cafe’ friends?  If so, feel free to provide comments here on our “Cafe’ Restaurant Reviews” post.  Cheers!

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Filed under September 2010

Cafe Menu Gallery – Summer

Hi!  Just a quick note to all of you Susitna Cafe’ Friends…we’ve updated the Cafe’ Menu Gallery again.   Just click on the “Cafe’ Menu Gallery” tab and take a peak for yourself!

There’s a delicious summer borscht…some flavorful Mediterranean tofu burgers and a tasty Indian saag paneer dish.  Go ahead and browse the updated menu for now, and I’ll be back to take your order :o

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Filed under August 2010

Eclectic Houston – “To Touch Your Heart”

你好 (nee-how) and welcome to the Susitna Cafe’!  “Eclectic Houston” is our monthly chronicle about the unique and international aspects of Houston, TX USA.  Today we’re discussing oh sooo delicious dim-sum…

The culinary art of dim sum began in China hundreds of years ago.  Some believe that it started along the Silk Road at tea houses where travelers often stopped to relax and eat…

Silk Road and Related Trade Routes, Courtesy of Stanford Program on International and Cross-Cultural Education

These loud and lively tea houses became very popular.  Since the 10th century, this popularity has resulted in over 2000 different types of dim sum having been created.  Now there are typically over 100 different kinds of dim sum served in large restaurants around the world.

Dim sum translated from Cantonese means “To Touch Your Heart”.  Well, it’s no wonder that something that touches your heart (and is sooo tasty) is so popular around the world.

My own introduction to dim-sum began in Seattle, WA USA in Seattle’s China town when I was very young.  I was mesmerized by all the noise, talking and people eating tasty dumplings.  Thereafter, “R” and I have been on a lifelong mission to find the tastiest dim sum.  Our mission has taken us to China and most recently, Hong Kong, where dim sum is a way of life.

However now, lucky for us, we no longer need to travel far and wide to experience oh sooo delicious dim-sum.  We can make our own or visit our friends at Cafe Chino in Houston, TX USA.

We owe a special thanks to the Houston Chowhounds and Cafe Chino, since it is with them that we learned to master dim sum.  Our cooking class was oh sooo special!

We were fortunate to have had skillful chefs who served as our instructors…Chefs May Chan…

and Eddie Chan…

But that’s not all…the master Chefs’ sons, Randall and Bryan, and Cafe Chino staff were all participants too…

So with 2 award winning chefs and their skillful staff, we just got all equipped and donned our chef hats!

All the Houchies started cooking since there was no time to waste…besides, all of us Houchies wanted a taste!

So, shiitake mushrooms and fresh vegetables we did fry…

Followed by Cantonese eggroll rolling and sealing…Oh Me, Oh My!

After rolling and sealing that we all did try, all of a sudden there were lots of egg rolls to fry!

But wait!  That’s not all for us Houchie chefs to do…onward we went to make pork potstickers too…

We Houchies are an enthusiastic bunch and we wanted more to do…so we thought, why not make some Har-Gau dumplings…say at least one or two?

Next we made Sui-Mai,

with a knife trick I’ll never forget…

Smile, you’re on Susitna Cafe’s website!  Are we hungry yet?

After Sui-Mai dumplings, there was something even better yet!  Cafe’ Chino scallion pancakes!  Will we ever forget?

But before we share the recipe, Chef May cooked her special way…

While us Houchies were ready to eat…”Oh! Can we, can we Chef May?”

It was all so wonderful and delicious…

We all had a great day!

Cafe Chino on Urbanspoon

Cafe Chino Scallion Pancakes

Ingredients

2 cups flour

1 cup hot water

1/2 cup green onion (scallions), sliced

1/2 cup canola oil

Salt and pepper, to taste

Sift flour into a large bowl.  While stirring, add hot water until a dough ball is formed.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and allow the dough to relax for 30 minutes.

To begin making the pancakes, dust your pastry board or work surface with flour.  Roll out dough into a thin rectangle.

Brush the rectangle with canola oil.  Next, sprinkle the rectangle with scallions and season with salt and pepper.

Roll up one end of the rectangle (lengthwise) and fold to the middle of the rectangle.

Now roll up the opposite end of the rectangle (lengthwise) to the middle of the rectangle.  Brush the top of the folded rectangle with oil.

Now roll up the rectangle again lengthwise and fold into a coiled ball.

Turn the spiral side face up and flatten with a rolling pin or your hand.

Pan fry the pancake in hot oil for about 2 minutes on each side, or until golden brown.

Cut into quarters and serve with hoisin sauce on the side.

Cook’s Note:  You may wish to substitute olive oil for the canola oil in this recipe.

Foodie Note:  Do try Cafe Chino’s “Chilean Sea Bass with Asian Pesto”…You’ll really like it!  Oh, and don’t forget Cafe Chino’s special Thanksgiving Dim Sum Brunch on Sunday, November 21, 2010, 11-3 pm.

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Filed under August 2010

Eclectic Houston – Extremadura, Spain

Hola! and welcome to the Susitna Cafe’!  We’re discussing “Eclectic Houston”, our monthly chronicle about the unique and international aspects of Houston, TX USA.

Our Susitna Cafe’ neighbors in Houston come from all around the world… France, Hong Kong, Cuba, Spain, India, Mexico, Armenia, and Texas A&M (Ha-Ha!).  Isn’t that wonderful?  Whenever our neighbors warmly welcome us into their home, we learn about the native food and cultural traditions that they brought with them to Houston.  We are sooo fortunate!

Recently, our neighbor Rita and Fernando invited us to a party at their lovely home to celebrate Rita’s birthday.  Oooohhhh, they are such nice people and they always have a wonderful international smorgasbord.  You know, I really like international smorgasbords and birthday parties!

Fernando’s family originates from the Extremadura Region of Spain, an area bordering Portugal in Europe.  Rita’s mother’s family is from Ecuador.  So, we were delighted to participate in their eclectic Spanish smorgasbord and birthday celebration.

Happy Birthday Rita!

Oh look, there's Fernando (to the right)!

Extremadura, by the way, means “to go to extremes”.  This is a Spanish region that is blistering hot in the summer and cold in the winter.  The Extremadura landscape consists of lush forests, sweeping plains and ancient hilltop villages.  It is an area off the beaten tourist path and a region of Spain where the villages seem frozen in time.

Photo Courtesy of Spanish-Living.Com

Extremadura is well known for its outstanding gastronomy.  Highly prized Iberian pork, for example, originates from Extremadura where the free range pigs feast on acorns which give their meat a unique and highly prized flavor.

Extremadura’s delicious food is based on seasonal availability.  It is simple and down to earth thus reflecting its peasant origins.  Rita and Fernando’s feast included an Extremadura gazpacho amongst other delightful simple and down to earth Spanish dishes…

various canapes and vegetables…Albondigas Al Zafaron (pork and veal meatballs with saffron)…Potatas Alinadas (Andalusian potato salad), and even a Lithuanian beet soup (borcht)…There was a beautiful Empanada Gallega (Galician cod pie) with a patisserie enscription of Rita’s initials too!  Oh my, someone pinch me now! :o

In addition to the delightful  Spanish smorgasbord, we enjoyed some refreshing sangrias poured by Joseph, Rita and Fernando’s son…

Of course, all the guests had a wonderful time eating fresh seasonal food and sipping sangria…

Oh look, and there's Rita's sister (to the right)!

Handsome Bogart

Oh, and let’s not forget about dessert…Maria, Rita and Fernando’s daughter, made some delightful carrot cake cupcakes with cream cheese frosting…

Lucky for all of us, Rita and Fernando have generously shared their family recipe for Xela’s Extremadura Gazpacho with the Susitna Cafe’!  This recipe originated with Fernando’s mother, Xela, and it is absolutely wonderful…it’s refreshing and delicious!  Thank you Rita, Fernando and Xela from your Susitna Cafe’ friends!

Xela’s Extremadura Gazpacho

6-8 Servings


Ingredients

4 pounds fresh ripened tomatoes, skins removed and cut into chunks

1 cucumber, cut into chunks

2 red or orange bell peppers, cut into chunks

4-5 garlic cloves, peeled

2 cups extra virgin olive oil

3-4 Tablespoons sherry vinegar

2-3 Tablespoons salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

Garnishes

1 bell pepper (any color), diced

2 tomatoes, skins removed and chopped

1/2 medium onion, diced (I use red onion)

1/2 cucumber, diced

2 boiled eggs, chopped

croutons, 1/3 stale baguette cut into small cubes, sprinkled with olive oil and salt and baked until golden on cookie sheet

To begin, prepare your vegetables and tomatoes.  Dip the tomatoes into a boiling pot of water for a few minutes.  Allow to cool to touch, then peel and remove the skins.

Next, in a food processor or blender, add a combination of tomatoes, cucumber, peppers and garlic with a portion of the olive oil.

Process/blend the vegetables and olive oil until you have a speckled puree.

Pour the speckled puree into a large bowl or non-aluminum pot.  Continue to process/blend the vegetables and olive oil in batches pouring into the large bowl or pot when done.  Add the sherry vinegar, cumin and salt to the bowl or pot and stir well to incorporate the ingredients and flavors.

Refrigerate for several hours or overnight if possible to meld all the flavors.  Serve with a platter of garnishes so that your family and guests  can add their own to taste.

Cook’s Notes:  I reduce the amount of extra virgin olive oil when I make this recipe simply because I prefer a little less oil.  Do consider using a colorful confetti mixture of the chopped bell peppers as a nice touch to the garnish platter.  If, by chance, your gazpacho is too thick just add some cold water or ice until you have a desired consistency.

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Filed under August 2010

Tip Toe and Peep

Howdy Susitna Cafe’ friends!  Glad you made a stop at the Cafe’ today!  Seems like we’re always talking about something interesting here…today we’re discussing bird peeping.

What?  Haven’t heard about bird peeping?  Well, you know…it’s like when you look at birds and tip toe around them so as not to scare them away…here at the Cafe’ we call it bird peeping.  “R” and I enjoy the outdoors and nature, and although we’re not regular bird peepers per se, we did do some bird peeping recently.

Actually it all started during our fishing trip in Fulton and Rockport, Texas USA.  We took our camper, fishing gear and Golden Retriever, Gus, to catch “The Big One”.  We fished at night on some piers.  However, some dolphin friends paid us a visit with their babies while we were fishing…i think they chased the fish away because after that we didn’t get anymore nibbles…at least i hope that’s why we only caught a few teeny tiny flounder…i really hope that it doesn’t have anything to do with my BIG Alaskan fishing skills…gee, do you think that i’m getting rusty or something?  Oh, i hope not…

Well, I’m just not going to think about that anymore.  Now, where were we?  Oh yes, bird peeping.  Anyways…the dolphins scared the fish away and that’s that.  Sooo, since the fish weren’t biting, we decided to partake in other activities.  So we did.

We went to Charlotte Plummer’s Seafare Restaurant in Rockport for lunch.  Charlotte Plummer’s Restaurant has big picture windows that overlook the Fulton Harbour activity…

We ordered grilled seafood atop mixed green salad and some fried onion rings.  Quite honestly, the grilled seafood was OK and nothing to write home about, but the fried onion rings sure were TASTY.  In addition, the view was really nice.

Charlotte Plummer Seafare on Urbanspoon

While we were enjoying those TASTY onion rings, we looked out over the pier and noticed some beautiful birds. I got sooo excited, I ran out of the restaurant (with Big TASTY onion rings in hand) and started taking some photos and before we knew it both “R” and I were bird peeping.

Boy, bird peeping is some serious business.  You actually have to do alot of tiptoeing and pretending like you’re peeping at something else other than the bird(s) of interest.  Tiptoeing and peeping prevents the bird(s) from getting annoyed and flying away.  Actually, after a few toe cramps, we got good at it!

However, i’m sure that the customers looking out of the bay windows at Charlotte Plummer’s were sort of wondering what we were doing tiptoeing and all…

After our toes got cramped and sore, we decided to take a break and get some coffee at the Daily Grind.  The flavored iced coffees were sooo good and refreshing…we just got all energetic again!  So, we drove back to Fulton Harbour and bird peeped some more.

Daily Grind on Urbanspoon

Eventually, the sun started to set and our toes got sore again.  But before returning home to our camper, I took one more bird peeping photo…

"Gulf of Mexico - Waiting...Wondering..."

Do you like it?  Hope so!  While taking the photo, I thought the birds looked like they were waiting and wondering as they looked out over the Gulf of Mexico waters and oil rigs.  Since I took the photo about 4 weeks after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and prior to Hurricane Alex’s arrival, I named the photo “Gulf of Mexico – Waiting…Wondering…”.

Oh, did I tell you?  My bird peeping photo will be on display with other talented geo-artists’ work at the Geo Sapiens II exhibit at The Two Wall Gallery on Vashon Island, Washington USA from Sept. 4 – 30, 2010.  Do stop by and see it if you’re in the Seattle/Vashon Island area.  Oh, and don’t forget the Susitna Cafe’ Chronicles’ bird peeping tips while you’re viewing the exhibit at the Two Wall Gallery!  Cheers!

Susitna Cafe’ Hot Crab Dip

Gulf Coast blue crab meat is sooo delicious…we make crabcakes and hot crab dip at the Cafe’ whenever we get fresh crab meat.  We find that the claw meat is sweeter than the lump crab meat, however use either for this rich and decadent dip…

Ingredients

1 Tablespoon olive oil

2 Tablespoons butter

1 shallot, minced

1 cup rainbow peppers, chopped (use yellow, orange and red)

8 ounces Neufchatel cream cheese

1 cup sour cream (I use organic Wallaby European style)

1/2 cup mayonnaise (I use SmartBalance Omega Plus)

1 cup cheddar cheese, grated (I use a mixture of Vermont white, yellow sharp and mild cheeses)

1/2 cup romano cheese, grated

1 pound crabmeat (juice and all)

2 Tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice

1/3 cup green onions, chopped

2 teaspoons Gulf Coast seasoning (I use “Slap Ya Mama” white pepper blend, but Tony Chachere’s seasoning will do too)

2 teaspoons Hungarian hot paprika

Heat olive oil and butter in medium sized saucepan over medium heat.  Saute’ shallots and rainbow peppers in hot oil/butter til tender.  Add cream cheese.

Stir until melted.  Add sour cream, mayonnaise and the remaining cheese.  Stir on low heat until the grated cheese is completely melted and the dip is smooth and creamy.

Add crabmeat (juice and all), lemon juice, green onions, and seasonings.  Stir until combined.

Pour into a buttered oven safe baking dish.  Bake at 300 degress for 20 minutes.  Serve warm with crackers or poured over toast points..

Cook’s Note:  Try substituting small sweet Gulf Coast shrimp for the crab meat…another rich and decadent dip for you, your family and your guests!

Traveler’s Notes:  These are some great suggestions from our Susitna Cafe’ friends…

Rockport Restaurant(s) to Try:

The Boiling Pot

Panjos Pizza Pasta and Burgers

Things to See/Do:

Visit the many downtown Rockport art galleries and The Rockport Center for the Arts


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Filed under August 2010

Travel Destinations…

Tasty Fusspots Grocer - London (Kensington), United Kingdom

Hi!  We’re glad you’ve stopped by the Susitna Cafe’ today!  We’re sooo excited to tell you about something new we’ve added to the Susitna Cafe’ Chronicles!

We now have a reference page called “Destinations”.  We’ve organized all of our posts by country, and if the post is written about a location within the U. S., we’ve organized the post by state.  Sooo, this means that if you enjoy food AND TRAVEL, you can now select a “Destinations” location, then select a topic of interest for that location and learn about it.

If you’re thinking about planning a trip, you can get ideas for your trip from the “Destinations” page!  Or, if you’re an armchair traveler, you can read and actively take part in a “Destinations” page trip right in the comfort of your own home!

Waiting for Patachous to Open - Paris (Montmarte), France

We’re excited to share this information with you because we enjoy both food AND TRAVEL, and we often find that the best travel information comes right from our Susitna Cafe’ friends.  In fact, why not leave some comments about your travel experiences on the “Destinations” page and share your knowledge with others at the Cafe’?  Cheers!

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Filed under July 2010

Explore Copenhagen!

Goddag Susitna Cafe’ friends!  Guess what?  I was contacted by our friend George over at  One Travel (offering Cheap Tickets), and he asked me to be a guest blogger!  Ahhh shucks, wasn’t that nice of him?

I had sooo much fun guest blogging about Copenhagen, Denmark.  I’m excited to share our trip details with you.  Hey, how about if you visit my article “Explore Copenhagen” at the One Travel Blog ?  When you’re done, come back and visit us at the Cafe’ so that we can get started baking some dee-li-ciousss Danish bread!

Oh, and by the way, we had a wonderful trip!  Copenhagen is sooo scenic, and there’s so much to do when you stay in a central location like The Stroget.

There is so much tasty food in Copenhagen too!  One of our many foodie finds in Copenhagen is Danish bread mix.  We found this bread mix in all the “Dollar Stores” on The Stroget.  Can you believe it?

It’s sooo wonderfully tasty…real grainy and wholesome!  I found a similar Danish bread mix at Ikea, the Finax brand.  Hooray!  So, if you have an Ikea store nearby, you can bake this bread too.  If not, let me know and I’ll help you find some online.

Now let’s bake some Danish bread Susitna Cafe’ friends!  There are so many variations that can be made with this great bread mix.  Of course, the mix is just fine as is, however today let’s bake Danish fruit bread.  This recipe makes a hefty 2 loaves and is really wonderful served at breakfast toasted with butter, jam or peanut butter!

Susitna Cafe’ Danish Fruitbread

Ingredients

1 package Finax Lingonberry Bread bread mix

2 cups mixed dried fruit (golden raisins and dried cherries or cranberries are good)

extra unbleached organic white flour (about 1/4 cup) for dusting

Let’s Make Bread

Set aside approximately 2 ounces of the bread mix for dusting.  Pour the remaining bread mix into a large bowl.  Add the two (2) yeast packets and stir to combine.  Add the dried fruit to the mix in the bowl.

Add 20 ounces of water at 105 degrees Fahrenheit into the bowl.  Stir to combine.  Dust your breadboard or countertop with the 2 ounces of bread mix that you had set aside previously.  Work the dough for 10 minutes.  Add a little of the unbleached organic white flour if your dough is sticky.

Leave the dough to rise on your breadboard or countertop under a soft kitchen towel or pastry cloth for approximately 30 minutes.

Knead the dough and shape it into two (2) loaves.  Place the loaves on a baking tray and allow to rise for approximately 30 minutes under a soft kitchen towel or pastry cloth.

Brush the loaves lightly with water.  Next, cut slits on top of the loaves with a knife.  Now bake the loaves on the bottom rack of your oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 35 to 40 minutes or until the bread sounds hollow when tapped.

Allow bread to cool some before slicing.  Smile and pat yourself on the back for your masterful Danish breadmaking skills :o

Cook’s Note:  Try some variations such as adding some chopped pecans or walnuts to the bread mix alone or in combination with dried fruit…sooo dee-li-ciousss!  Note that this bread, without dried fruit and/or nuts, is also tasty as crostini…very yummy with Susitna Cafe’ Smoked Salmon Logs.

Traveler’s Note:  Traveling to Copenhagen?  Be sure to visit One Travel for travel deals and read “Explore-Copenhagen” for fun ideas on places to stay and visit.

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Filed under July 2010