Thursday, May 29, 2008

China Inn

I'm not usually a huge fan of Chinese food. ("I hear you can't get a sauce as thick or as sweet over there.") China Inn is the exception. Located in the strip mall by the 27th and Cornhusker Super Saver, you wouldn't think so to look at it, but the food is top-notch.

Their menu has the usual Chinese-American fare, plus some more authentic Chinese and Korean dishes. I know their Bul Go Gee is really good, but so is their peanut butter chicken. It's the best of both worlds. I hear their Kim Chee is quite good as well. (I'm too chicken to try it.)

Hot and sour soup

One of the best things about China Inn is their prices. They have a meal deal that includes soup, a crab rangoon, sweet and sour pork, and another dish of your choice for $5.50. Most of the dishes on their menu cost $5-6 and the portions are huge.

My dad claims that everyone from China in the UNL Chem Department eats here, which is a good endorsement as far as I'm concerned (although my judgement of what's "authentic" has been called into question as of late-- haha!).

For a cheap, casual, yet delicious meal, try China Inn.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


Has anyone ever tried these? What do they taste like?

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Suite 1 Pizza & Pub: The Experience

This post is basically to second Beer or Kid's review of Suite 1.

Is it possible to die of deliciousness? Seriously. It was that good. I got the Chicago Supreme and it had big patties of sausage on it. It's just as good, or better in some cases, as the pizza I've had in Chicago.

I think an owner or manager was our waiter. When he was listing the beers they had on tap, he named the local brews first. He said they try to rely on local stuff whenever they can and that the tomatoes for the pizza are grown locally. Awesome.

For reals. Run, don't walk.

Friday, May 23, 2008

A Corrective Emotional Experience

The best cure for the canned chicken blues? Pho Nguyenn with an ambidexterous lawyer and a mustacioed drummer. PHO SHO'!!

El Rancho

I'm still reeling a bit from the dinner I had at El Rancho last night. Something happened to me there that can only be described as.... disturbing.

Let's go back to the beginning. Four friends and I set out on a nice walk to El Rancho at 27th and O. The air was brisk-- the perfect evening for a stroll and some Mexican delights. When we arrived, our friendly waitress took our drink orders and gave us chips and salsa. One of us, who eats lunch at 10:30 in the morning and shall remain nameless, started inhaling them. Plus there was five of us, so we pretty much killed those chips. So guess what? Extra baskets are a dollar each. Wha?!?!?!?

We ordered our food. They have a nice selection at reasonable prices. I wasn't feeling very adventurous, so I ordered the chicken burrito dinner. My friends ordered the shrimp ceviche, another shrimp dish with tomatoes and peppers, the chicken enchilada with green sauce, and the chicken chimichanga. So guess what? EVERYONE'S dinner was fan-freakin-tastic (especially the shrimp ceviche) EXCEPT mine. The chicken enchilada? Fresh shredded chicken. The chicken chimichanga? Fresh shredded chicken.

My chicken burrito? [Edit: What looked, tasted and smelled like] Canned chicken.

CANNED CHICKEN! WTF?!!? How is it possible that a place that makes ceviche that good serves [Edit: what looked, tasted and smelled like] canned chicken? By the time I figured out why my chicken burrito tasted like tuna and dog food, it was time to go, so I didn't complain. But I should have.

I hope that this experience hasn't put me off El Rancho for good, because they really do have great food and great service, but the thought of that chicken burrito makes me want to throw up a little.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Leftover roundup

Since I cook for myself a lot, I constantly have little bits of this and that in the fridge that I get anxious about going bad. Right now my fridge contains tons of random food, so I made a frittata for dinner.

Sauteed baby bok choy and thai basil
Leftover Fettuccine Alfredo and blackened prime rib from Misty's
Cream cheese
Two beaten eggs

It was good, but I could only eat half of it. Now I'll have to figure out what to do with my leftover leftovers...

Monday, May 19, 2008

Lunch in Omaha: Victor's Falafel

I'm far from a falafel connoisseur, but Victor makes some pretty dang good falafel.

Located at 40th and Farnam

Victor's, like every good Middle Eastern restaurant in my experience, is small and no-fuss. They have some interesting items on the menu, including fava bean dip and eggplant casserole. The prices are on the high side compared to say, Ali Baba's in Lincoln.

I ordered a basic falafel sandwich and my dad got a gyro. The falafel was really perfect-- it had a nice crispy crust and the inside was substantial, yet very fresh tasting. It had some herbs in there-- dill and parsley? My dad said his gyro was good, but fairly standard. He wished he had gotten the falafel.

I couldn't resist picking up a few cookies from their bakery display. They look better than they taste, but they were okay. I'd rather have, say, a Pepperidge Farm Milano.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

JIffy Burger!

The dudes who made hamburgers at PO Pears served them on East Campus on Friday. It doesn't get much better than kickin' it with your friends and a Jiffy Burger on a beautiful day.

The Jiffy Burger has jack, bacon, and peanut butter on it. It came with baked beans and a vegetable bisque.

The lovely Marlenia (a former student and dairy store employee) recommended Scarlet and Cream ice cream for dessert. It was SO GOOD: extra creamy sweet cream with ribbons of strawberry throughout. I managed not to get any on my shirt this time.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Vina Market/Pho Nguyenn

Vina Market on 612 N 27TH St is a really fun place to shop. I met some friends for lunch at Pho Nguyenn the other day and popped into the grocery store for some goodies.

There are all sorts of interesting items to look at

A bounty of fresh groceries for less than $10: Mint, Thai basil, lemongrass, green tea, spring roll wrappers, and baby bok choy

If it's too hot for soup, bun is a good thing to order at Pho Nguyenn. Different combinations of meats, veggies, and egg rolls go on top a big pile of lettuce and rice noodles.

Of course you can't go wrong with the Pho (beef and noodle soup in the most succulent broth ever created)

They have bubble tea there too! (I tried jackfruit this time-- it was really good.)

Vina Market and Pho Nguyenn are both great places to get the most fresh, flavorful, and well-priced foods in Lincoln.

Note: Edited on 5/19/08 to correct name of the grocery store. Oriental Market is up the street next to Thai House-- it's a great place to shop as well.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Waste Less: Ghetto Martha Stewart Project

Martha Stewart has a list of 25 Eco-Chic Ideas for Your Home. One of the projects directs us to "Insert chopsticks or wooden dowels into an unused toothbrush holder" to create a drying rack for used Zip-Locks.

I made one with a piece of tin foil over a measuring cup:

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Waste Less: Paper Bag Baskets

I saw this project on Craftster years ago that I'd been meaning to make. I've been so bored lately that I finally got around to making some and used them to organize my pantry cupboard.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Sunday Dinner: Mothers' Day

We made all my mom's favorite foods for Mother's Day dinner. She has great taste:

1. Salmon from Open Harvest

My sister marinated these mammoth salmon fillets in lemon and olive oil, then my bro-in-law grilled them to perfection

2. Asparagus

I tossed some thick asparagus with some olive oil, salt, and pepper and threw them on the grill as well. They came out a little charred and overdone, but they were still pretty good.

3. Caprese Salad

Organic tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, and fresh basil with salt, fresh-ground pepper, and a little bit of balsamic vinegar drizzled on top

4. Neal's corn and rice salad, guac, Le Quartier bread

The pasta salad was leftover from the day before

This is a great salad that my friend Neal makes all the time. Make 2 cups of basmati rice, then mix with a bag and a half of cooked corn, a cup of chopped roasted pecans, and a bunch of chopped-up green onions (we substituted chives and green garlic). The dressing is a basic red wine vinaigrette (1/4 cup vinegar, a couple tablespoons of Dijon mustard and 3/4 cup olive oil).

The guacamole was one of the best I've ever made, due to the awesome avocados they had on sale at Open Harvest. I crushed up 3 of them into a chunky consistency with with some lemon juice, cumin, garlic, and the mango-habenero hot sauce my mom bought at the farmer's market like 3 years ago.

Here's a shopping tip-- don't buy bread at Open Harvest on Sundays. They get rid of the day-old bread every other day of the week, but since Le Quartier doesn't make bread on Sundays, they just sell Saturday's bread for the same price.

5. Green tea and ginger sorbet

After two big meals that day, nobody wanted dessert. That is, until they saw this sorbet. It was so easy to make. Just boil 3 cups of water, then put 6 green tea bags, 3/4 cup plus 2 TBS of sugar, and a chunked-up knob of ginger and turn off the heat. Let it steep 5 minutes, then take out the tea bags and put it in the fridge to cool down. After a couple hours, strain out the ginger and put in the ice cream maker. I let the ice cream maker go for about a half an hour, but I think I'll turn it off a little earlier next time-- the end result was a bit too fluffy. I let it freeze in the freezer for a couple hours after I took it out of the ice cream maker.

The end result was FANTASTIC. The taste of ginger was nice, but not overpowering and the the whole thing was just really refreshing after a big meal. If you pour a little champagne as a sauce over the top, it's even better.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Suite 1 Pizza & Pub

Has anyone heard anything about this place? According to their Facebook group, the kitchen will open on Friday and a band is performing on Saturday.

I do like Chicago style pizza...

N Zone

I headed down to the N Zone (728 "Q" in the Haymarket) on Saturday night for some greasy bar food with my friends Katie and Amos.

It was like 6:30 and the place was DEAD. I haven't been in a while, but I think this place fills up later with people looking to get drunk.

As you can see, their shooter selection is excellent. I recommend the "Cooter Cork."

As far as I'm concerned, there are only two things to order at the N Zone: pizza and wings, although they have the usual selection of bar food on their menu. We started with an appetizer of wings (6 each), then had personal pizzas for our entrees, though Amos had to be different and order a Philly cheese steak.

The wings come in four levels of hotness, which were basically mild, medium, hot, and really really hot. They had cute names like "blazin" and so forth, but I don't remember them. I asked the waitress for guidance, but she had stomach issues and doesn't eat wings. She said she saw a really big guy sweating while eating the the hot, so I ordered the medium. Turns out that big guy was a wuss, cuz the medium wasn't hot enough. They were also a little skimpy, but we each got two more wings than we ordered. They tasted pretty good, but the wingettes looked a little funny.

Are these creepy genentically-engineered wings, or are they just cut weird?

The pizza is actually pretty good too. It had a nice crust and good quality cheese. The only thing I don't like about it is the sprinkling of dried oregano on the top-- it does not look or taste appealing.

Amos' cheese steak came with a bag of Ruffles for some reason.

I think I spent like $12, including tip, for my meal. If you're in the mood for wings, go to the Watering Hole. BUT, if you're in the mood for wings AND pizza (or other bar food), go to the N Zone. It's pretty good.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Wilderness Ridge Mother's Day Brunch

Yeah. I was pretty uncreative this Mother's Day. My mom made some pretty big sacrifices for me this year (extensive caregiving during an illness), and what do I do in return on her big day? I make reservations for the brunch buffet at Wilderness Ridge.

So when is a brunch buffet with fairly limited offerings worth $21.99? Well, having very high-quality offerings helps: salmon, well-cooked asparagus, huge shrimp, and a nice assortment of baked goods, for example. Plus, Mom wanted to go there and frankly, I'd eat at Applebee's to make her happy. Oh yeah, and Dad ended up paying. Hee hee.

The cocktail and horseradish was the least horseradishy I've ever had. Weak sauce Wilderness Ridge.

This was my first trip to Wilderness Ridge. I found the decor a little ostentatious, to tell the truth. Here's an artsy-fartsy picture of the chandelier above our table:

Hopefully the tool belt full of gardening tools and the kick-ass dinner my sister and I cooked (will post pics soon) made her Mother's Day dreams come true. She's the greatest mom ever and deserves more than I could ever give her.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Stauffer's Cafe and Pie Shop

My usual breakfast joint is Tina's Cafe at 6th and South, but Stauffer's was on the way to an appointment this morning, so my parents and I decided to check . (I believe the hot beef sandwich is really good there.) Unfortunately, I was not as pleased with their breakfast.

Stauffer's is totally the place that your grandma wants to be: the harsh florescent lighting, the country kitchen-y decor, the pie case, the median age of the waitresses being about 53... it's a grandmother's paradise. I'm not being critical here-- I like grandma places because they remind me of my grandma and she was a kick-ass cook.

The menu was mostly various combimations of eggs, ham, bacon, potatoes, muffins, and toast. The prices ranged from $5-$8 or so. I ordered the special: ham and scrambled eggs with hashbrowns and toast for $5.50. Dad ordered a vegetarian skillet.

I'll start with a positive; the ham was very good and had a nice smoky flavor. The rest of the meal was underwhelming: watery orange juice, soggy toast, bland hash browns, and bad coffee. To be fair, Stauffer's isn't really known for their breakfast. They're known for lunch, but are even more famous for their pie. I got a piece of sour cream apple to go, and I tell you it was effin delicious.

So what did I learn this day? It worth it to go a little bit out of your way for a good breakfast-- save Stauffer's for lunch or dessert.

Edited to correct spelling-- thanks Gary.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

DIY Rachel Ray Recipe

I've noticed that a lot of new recipes are just hybrids of old recipes. Rachel Ray is the queen of this. Look at what a search for buffalo chicken reveals on her website. You know that you're at least as smart (and not nearly as annoying) as Rachel Ray. Why don't you try making your own recipe. I'll make it simple for you. Simply choose one or more sets of flavors from list number one, then a platform from list number two, then figure out the recipe. The only rule is that you can't use a traditional combo (cheese steak hoagies, garden salad, etc...). Extra points if it can be made in under 30 minutes.

I plan on trying out a few new combos and I'll post them here. If you come up with a recipe, please share it in comments or through a link to your blog.

List one--
Cheesy/3+ cheese/cream cheese
Salmon and dill
Baked potato topping (bacon, sour cream, cheese...)
Chili cheese
Chicken and ranch
Club (bacon, turkey, tomato...)
Shrimp/seafood cocktail
Cheese steak
Florentine (spinach, ricotta...)
Buffalo chicken
Thai peanut

List 2--
Nori rolls
Egg/spring/summer rolls
Hot dog
Baked Potato
Pot pie

Friday, May 9, 2008

Ice cream maker

I tried out my new ice cream maker this week, using a recipe that's being passed around the food blogs-- an insanely easy Nutella ice cream.

All you need is 1.5 cups of Nutella and 1.5 cups plus one tablespoon of unsweetened evaporated milk.

The directions that came with the ice cream maker said that it should run for 20-30 minutes. I had to run it for 45 just to get a soft-serve consistency. After it had spent a day in the freezer, it was a normal to hard.

It's good, but rich and VERY sweet. A friend who tried it said it tasted more like a brownie than ice cream. Two baby-sized scoops is more than enough to satisfy my sweet tooth.

Speaking of ice cream, I'll throw in this little story as a bonus. I was eating lunch at the Union the other day with some friends. I asked them if they knew of any ice cream places nearby where I could get the taste of Sbarro out of my mouth. They told me that a branch of the UNL Dairy Store opened up right next to the coffee house in the Union. Hearing that news was the greatest thing that had happened to me all day. So we went to get ice cream and I ordered the "Whopper Topper" in a sugar cone. As I licked my cone and waited for my friends, I thought about how happy I was to enjoy a delicious ice cream cone on a beautiful spring day with my good friends. Just as all seemed right with the world, I took what was, perhaps, an overzealous bite, and exposed a weakness in the structure of the cone. The entire scoop went rolling down the front of my shirt before I caught it with my bare hands. All the stressed-out students studying for their finals in the area got a good chuckle and I had an excuse to go to Stella and buy a new top. (Sorry, no picture!)

Thursday, May 8, 2008

The Isles

Located at 6232 Havelock Ave, The Isles has the best pizza in Lincoln.

Havelock rocks

As you can see, the atmosphere is pretty casual

The Leaning Tower of Pizza (or "Leaner") is the greatest of them all. With it's substantial, yet crispy crust, it's sausage and pepperoni, it's onions and tiny little chopped-up pepperonccinis... mmmmmmmm