Thursday, January 3, 2013

Review: Tarek's Cafe

Chaos.  Delicious smelling chaos is how I describe the Friday lunch rush at Tarek's.   The soups of the day are Corn Chowder, Split Yellow Pea and a Salmon Chowder.  I ask for a sample of the corn chowder over the din of the crowd without hesitation, always eager to taste someone else's version of my favorite soup.

The decor is unique; I don't know how to describe it.  You can probably find pictures online for yourself.  If possible, grab a seat at an empty table while you wait, the joint can fill quick when the local working population go on their lunch break.

I order a soup and club wrap combo because it is one of the specials and I'm watching my pennies these days.  Also, I know better than to order something complicated during the Friday rush.  Anything complicated or modified is liable to get confused as the order is passed along between 2 to 4 different employees along-side 6 other orders.

Tarek's Cafe on UrbanspoonThe wraps appear to be pre-made that morning (because they're so popular) and pretty standard club material.  Nothing is stale, it's all fresh but unfortunately the contents are just stuffed in the pita so each bite may or may not contain some of each component.  But the soup... The soup is good.  To me the soup is the reason for the trip in, a lot of different notes to pick out.  I like playing that game while I'm eating but it's tough because the flavours are really well blended.

Service is friendly.  We had a great experience here one slow Saturday afternoon where they put a custom dish together for my picky son, but the Friday lunch rush is a different experience.  If you are new to the menu and there is a line-up out the door of impatiently hungry people you could feel rushed and a little confused by it all.  I would suggest a different day and time for first timers but my first meal here was on a Friday at noon so who am I to comment?

I'll be back again soon for lunch.


Quick Indonesian Peanut Chicken

Sharwood's Indonesian Peanut Satay (4lbs)
The other night I made a large batch of a dish using chicken and the bottled Sharwood's Indonesian Satay sauce.  This product from the UK makes for a quick and tasty dish, much like the Butter Chicken dish I make.  As always, I served with Basmati rice.

The sauce has a very strong flavour so I use 33% more chicken than called for but other than that, this meal is embarrassingly simple.  I like it because as a dish it's quick to make, freezes great and the ingredient list doesn't have anything I cannot pronounce.

  • 4 lbs boneless skinless chicken thigh
  • 3 jars Sharwood's Indonesian Satay 
Trim the bulk of the excess fat off the chicken (save for stock) and cut the thighs into bite-sized pieces.  Heat  a dash of light tasting olive in your wok or large saucepan and add the chicken.  Heat the chicken completely through and reduce heat to a medium-low.  Add your 3 jars of sauce and continue heating.  The dish is essentially complete at this point, but remember to stir frequently to keep the sauce from burning while heating up the sauce.  I bring it just to a simmer which only takes 5 or 10 minutes. Serve with Basmati rice.

The Sharwood's sauce can go on sale, but generally this dish costs $55 in product and results in at least 10 healthy servings for the four of us.  That's $5.50 per meal per person, still far cheaper than eating out and it's fast and tasty.


Monday, October 22, 2012

Pronounceable Ingredients

I don't recall where I first heard about the idea of eating pronounceable ingredients but it's an idea that makes sense to me.  A number of colleagues around me in the office are experimenting with the Paleolithic Diet theory and while I don't agree with it as a complete diet, I very much agree with removing chemicals and maximizing micronutrients in the food I make and serve to my family.  I'm not saying that additives like Sodium Benzoate, Sodium Nitrate or Butylated Hydroxyanisole are health hazards; I'm not an expert.

However I do know that our bodies were able to grow and evolve for hundreds of thousands of years without needing those chemicals to do so.   The fact is that we did consume animal protein and fats, wild fruits and berries.  As a species we thrived just fine without monosodium glutamate.  If I can cook decent (and tasty) meals without these ingredients, then why not?  I understand their place in our diets and I appreciate the convenience they can provide us.  As a culture we have busy lifestyles and food stabilizers make grocery store shelves cost effective.  But at the same time, thanks to Nova Scotia Power, I have a freezer that is almost always on and I can take advantage of that infrastructure to prepare meals in advance.  Meals that are high in nutrients and hopefully low in chemicals I have to think about to pronounce.  Not every meal is completely organic and unprocessed, but as my skills increase I am trying to iterate closer and closer to that goal.

And besides, having a full freezer saves us money in power and on the grocery bills.  How cool is that?