26 May, 2011

Do Over??

Upon occasion, I get a recommendation from someone I really trust, then I work myself up and I can't think of going ANYwhere to eat but THAT place; tonight was one those nights.  A great friend and colleague of my Mister who had given us a dynamite recommendation in Montgomery, AL before hit us up again with what sounded like a once in a lifetime experience, especially for Oklahoma City I decided we HAD to make this place a priority ahead of packing for Ottawa.  

You can get "authentic" Mexican on almost EVERY corner in Oklahoma City and the surrounding areas.  When we got here we looked around and assumed it could POSSIBLY be true, but I have had the same "authentic" Mexican in Duluth, MN where I am from.  One thing you can't find there...authentic Peruvian.  But you can in Oklahoma City!  Don't believe me??  I assure you I'm not making it up.  Tucked into a strip mall in NW Oklahoma City is a nice lookin' place called Inca Trail.

Just walking through the door I was excited.  It was clean, well lit and they had some sweet music playing.  We were the first customers of the evening.  I like it when that happens, I really have time to explore the place and talk to the peeps about their food.
View from our table

Booth Seating...my FAVorite!

Bar Area

The all important moment came...ordering.  I went with water and lemon...what came out was water and lime....I got over it.  I talked to the waitress for about 10 minutes about the menu, I asked her to recommend something that she could say was the "best of the best" that Inca had to offer.  She pointed out an appetizer and 2 entrees.  We ordered exactly what she recommended...the Palta Rellena for the starter and the Sudado de Pescado and Churrasco a lo Pobre for our entrees.  I only flog about what I eat, so we'll focus on the Rellena and the Churrasco.  My Mister went with the fish.  They brought out complimentary bowls of chicken soup.  They even brought one for the Sprout...we thought that was so cool, and our son thought so too.

I've had homemade chicken soup a million times in my life; it was easy to tell this was NOT out of a can.  The broth was fabulously earthy and fresh.  After finishing our cups, we couldn't wait for the rest of the meal!

While we were waiting I walked around to take in some of the art.  They feature an artists original work in the foyer and on the walls inside (to protect her original work, I did not photograph it) and all the pieces on display are available for purchase.  Here are some other pieces they had....




I was really feelin' like we had scored after the soup and I was imagining how fabulous our appetizer was going to be...but, sadly enough, it STAYED an imagination....

Palta Rellena

That is exactly what it looks like...a hollowed out avocado stuffed with a chicken mixture and drizzled with what TASTED like mayo and ketchup; also known as "fry sauce" in Utah.  I couldn't find a SINGLE piece of corn in the chicken mixture, but the carrots and peas were sure there.  They were frozen as a ROCK!  The avocado was not ripe yet, so it was BEYOND firm and completely flavorless.  The mayo was the only "flavor" to the mixture.  The chicken was shredded, like what you would find when you crack open a can of chicken from Sam's Club.  I wanted to cry.  I didn't want to come home and flog about this at all.  I certainly didn't want to tell our friend that I didn't like the food.  I told myself that perhaps this was a fluke.

I was wrong....
Churrasco a lo Pobre

 At first glance I calmed down quite a bit...I mean HOW can you go wrong with fried ANYthing and cooked meat??  Apparently...without much effort you can go WAY off track.  The eggs were undercooked...I'm talking "white slime" as soon as I forked into them.  It was warm, so I didn't freak...that's a sign I might live if I didn't send it back to the kitchen.  The meat....again...NO flavor.  The only thing I could taste about it was that it was in fact cooked.  Well...TOO well.  It was tough and I had to use my knife for EVERY single stitch of that strip.  The thing that saved it...kinda...was that tweency little cup of cilantro sauce you see up there next to the rice.  I spread out my rice into a bed...forked the eggs into it; making sure I incorporated the yolk well.  Then I poured the cilantro sauce all over that....then we were to a place that was bearable with taste.  Their cilantro sauce was FABULOUS.  Everything I expected to have when I went there frankly.  I couldn't fathom what happened with everything else.  The fried plantains were just "ok".  The frying did make the sweet pop more than normal, the Sprout loved them.  I didn't mess with the avocado or the tomato on the plate.

I POURED over the menu again when I came home...wondering if there was ANY way that this couldn't have been a better experience.  I came to the conclusion this waitress must not have thought I was serious when I told her I love complex flavors.  Wait staff hear that a LOT.  People walk into Thai restaurants ALL the time and tell the kitchen to make it "really hot" and then can't eat their meal because it is TOO hot.  I've NEVER had that problem but I really wanted understand how my friend who has REALLY great recommendations could be wrong about this place.  My answer was simple...he wasn't.  The waitress was.... 

I decided that if I had the opportunity to go back to Inca I would order the Ceviche de Pescado for my appetizer and the Seco de Carne for my entree.  That ceviche is fresh sea bass diced and marinated in lime juice, cilantro and red onions; served with sweet potato and two types of Peruvian corn (mote and cancha).  The carne is beef chunks cooked slowly in a cilantro and beer broth; served with salsa criolla, rice and beans.  I believe that would have made my taste buds sing...

Someone, do me a favor and go there and have those dishes...report back to me.  I'll live vicariously through you.  

I won't say not to try Inca Trail.  Perhaps this is a hit and miss situation.  My Mister thought his entree was "okay" but felt it pertinent to go beyond that and say "I would rather eat here again than an "authentic Mexican" place".  That is saying a whole lot... 

Inca Trail Peruvian Restaurant on Urbanspoon

24 May, 2011

Table for 13??

Today was my Mister's office farewell luncheon.  He chose to have everyone gather at one of OUR family favorite places to gorge; Taste of Thai.  We found this gem in 2009, shortly before I had our Sprout.  When I am pregnant I canNOT get enough spice in my food, there is just NO such thing.  I was visiting Indian, Thai & Chinese eateries quite often at this point.  I was SO excited to try what they had.  Honestly, I hadn't had a good Thai experience in YEARS.  I was eager to rectify that situation.  Taste of Thai met the challenge rose to the occasion then and met my expectations today when we all got together to celebrate my Mister's new job in Ottawa, Ontario.

The Specials board..always legible & always current for the hour & day

 We were very pleased when we walked in to see that they were going to be able to accommodate the large party we had.  Having been there before I was already well acquainted with the fact that they had plenty of high chairs available for children and whether you're a party of 2 or 13...there was plenty of room for you to dine. 


 Always a beautiful posy in water on each table...LOVE it!

We LOVE the variety their menu has to offer and find something new and exciting no matter what day of the week we drop in.  I decided to hit up the lunch specials menu.  On Tuesdays that means Massaman Curry Beef, Crab Rangoon, rice and your choice of main dish from the entree menu (in a smaller amount of course....).  I chose the Cashew.  When you make this choice there is STILL yet another decision to make...Chicken, Beef, Tofu or Shrimp for a protein choice with that entree.  I went with Chicken. 

Oft times, I'll order an appetizer here such as their FABULOUS spring rolls or just grab the combination plate and have a tad of everything.  But having chosen the lunch special, it already came with crab rangoon and soup...perfect!  This is normal; soup or a house salad with homemade dressing on top always accompanies the lunch specials.  Their portions are always sized JUST right; not too much, not too little.  A gal watching her waistline can appreciate that greatly!  I ordered up my water with lemon and waited for the first delight of the event...the Hot & Sour soup.

Don't let this picture fool you...that was a very large cup (we have these at home, it fits about 3 cups of soup or chili in it), so what you see there is at least a 1.5 cups of soup.  It was a perfect balance of heat and there was just enough "sour" to make me pucker a bit after each spoonful.  The veggies were tender crisp and FULL of flavor.  DeLISH!

My combo arrived before I'd finished my soup, that was fine with me...I had to get the Sprout home for his nap by 12:30.  We had gotten there shortly before Noon and the woman running the front was just on FIRE!  The orders were flyin' out to the table as fast as they were being sent to the kitchen.  I was pretty impressed; more so than normal...I mean...we had a table of 13 with us.  The rest of the restaurant was filling up all around us.  I commend her and her wait staff for their prompt AND courteous service.  

Back L-R: Massaman Curry Beef, Crab Rangoon, Rice
Front Center: Cashew Chicken

Before my order went back I got the usual synopsis of the Thai heat scale for their place.  They have a sliding scale of 1-3.  I went 3.  I always choose the hottest unless they can honestly tell me it may in fact kill me.  I was pleased with my choice.  The spice level here is always spot on and never overpowers the rest of the dish.  The carrots still crunched JUST a bit in my mouth, the onions really bring a sweet flavor into the dish and the cashew just adds SUCH a richness and rounds the flavor out into a nice CREAMY plate with a bit of a kick on the back end.  PERFECT!  I always use my rice for the entree only.  I really prefer to savor the curries and soups on their own.  Their Massaman Curry Beef is wonderful!  The meat was tender and, having roominated in the broth for a bit, it was spectacularly flavorful, as was the potatoes.  The peanuts also had the same affect on this curry as the cashew did on the entree; adding a second dimension of creaminess to the already rich, sweet coconut milk base.  I am in LOVE with this restaurant!!

If you've never tried Thai, if you love Thai....or you've had a horrible experience with Thai, I encourage you to add Taste of Thai to your "to eat" list when you're in Midwest City, OK.  I PROMISE you won't regret it and you will find it to be a place you frequent above all others for Thai.  I'll miss this place when we're in Ottawa...but don't YOU miss it if you have the chance! 

Taste of Thai on Urbanspoon

21 May, 2011

"Long Time, No See..."

I am in LOVE with this Indian place in Norman, OK.  Taste of India.  In the 3 years that my husband and I have been stationed here in Oklahoma City, I believe we've dined there at least once a month, when he's not deployed.

The owner is always working the front and always has a kind smile and witty conversation.  No matter how long ago...or recent (which always makes us laugh) our last trip was he always says "Long time, no see..." when we walk in.  Last night when he said that, I chuckled a bit at the familiarity of it, but then nearly cried when I realized it was the LAST time we'd be dining there.  Having to tell him we were getting stationed in Ottawa was what I imagine it must be like to break up with someone (I've never done that, so I am not certain...).  I didn't cry but I felt like I had a lot of explaining to do when the look on his face turned solemn.  Indeed...we've shared many of our celebratory moments at this particular place.  The very first time we ate out in Oklahoma (this is a big deal to us...), when we OFFICIALLY found out that I was expecting our first child, and every time my husband comes back from a deployment we find ourselves crossing the threshold to this place for our first meal as a reunited couple.  It undoubtedly feels like home when we're eating there.

Tonight he had traditional Indian folk singing with drums playing in the background.  I prefer that much more to the other possibility sometimes heard...Bollywood dance music videos.  Not quite as peaceful to dine to for me, but it keeps the Sprout well distracted.  The atmosphere always feels like one of peace and family.  They are set up for large groups and also for small intimate dining experiences.  With a lunch buffet daily from 11am - 2:30pm there isn't a BAD time to eat at this place!  The food quality is excellent from open until close, which I feel explains why Taste of India always has a fair amount of people in it when we show up.

Table for Four

Lunch Buffet 11am-2:30 pm daily

We never take long to figure out what we want to eat.  Their menu is short, sweet and customary for Indian culture.  I always go for the lamb and my Mister always goes for Chicken.  The rest of the details we fill in as we go.  I purposely show up FAMISHED every time.  It is well worth the agony of waiting and the savor of filling my tummy up to the brim!

The Sprout has been with us everywhere we've been since I began this adventure of flogging, tonight was the first time he pointed and made his "More please?" sound for what we were eating....even though he hadn't tried any yet.  Our son is in LOVE with Indian food!  He began his love affair with our dinner appetizer...the Assortment Platter.

Vegetable Samosa, Alu Tikki, Chicken Pakora, Vegetable Pakora, Keema Samosa

Delightful Dipping Sauces & Condiments

The Sprout was REALLY sure he wanted some of the vegetable pakora RIGHT away.  My Mister & I could see this coming so as soon as everything came to the table we started forking it apart.  The food always comes out of the kitchen piping hot...just the way I love it!  I am particularly fond of their vegetable samosa.  I really fell in love with Indian food eating here.  The sauces all compliment everything so wonderfully.  To eat this food is an experience that is hard to verbalize.  For me, that is incredible to admit, but true.  Each bite of these fabulous starters tickled my senses and left me smiling.  It is amazing to me that this is a piece of my personality & tastes that I can see already coming out in my son; amazing and spectacular.  The Sprout spent the appetizer course double fisting pieces of vegetable pakora into his little gob...even though his mouth was already full.  What a character!

For my entree I ordered the Lamb Shahi Korma.  If you've heard me say it once, it will feel like the billionth time but...I ADORE korma.  I make it at home, I order it in...I order it to go...I don't care how I get it, but once in my mind I MUST have it.  Here, they put clove in their rice to give it a little extra "out of this world" factor.  Their gravy is always dead on with flavor and the perfect consistency.  The fat and acid balance is phenomenal.  The lamb is always succulent and tender, but never gamey.  I love that I can taste EVERY element when I am devouring this food.  The almond flavor...the raisins devilshly pop in my mouth one after another bringing a sweet tang and the saffron that comes in at the end with the korma spices to really push me over the edge of...well...rapture.

Lamb Shahi Korma

Clove Rice

Our meal wouldn't be complete without a basket of bread.  So moist and soft....it is never forgotten when placing the order.  Sometime we go garlic, but most times we keep it real with plain.  The order went in...Naan and Onion Kulcha...and it came out lookin' like this...

Naan on top, Onion Kulcha below.
My favorite thing to do with this Indian delight is rip off a hunk and dip it in my entree gravy.  It is the first thing I do every time.  It sets the tone for my mind and my belly....reminding me that I am about to partake of some seriously rich, aromatically beautiful food; food that NEVER disappoints.

I would MORE than recommend this establishment...I'd drag you there myself and eat with you.  Even if I had to come down from Ottawa to take you, I would.  To relive the food, the kindness & the experience of watching someone try Indian for the first time; it would be worth the trip.  I would HAVE to see the look on your face when you take your first morsel.  Remember that scene from "When Harry Met Sally"??  I know you do....I could guarantee you that you'd be repeating Sally's portrayal after ONE bite.  My heartfelt compliments and deepest love, as always, go to the chef (the unspoken of master in the kitchen you NEVER see...he's too busy creating masterpieces for your plate).  Owned and run by family...treated like it when you walk in the door, don't miss the Taste of India when you are in Oklahoma.  You'll be sorry you did...and so will I.  

     Taste of India on UrbanspoonTaste of India Norman, OK
P.S.  Today I was recognized by a website called "The SITS Girls".  They are a community of women dedicated to building a support network; one blog at a time.  It is a place where women bloggers can find a platform to get the advice they seek, share their personal stories & learn more about blogging.  I am honored to count myself and many of my personal friends amongst this group of fine women.  If you've never heard of them or been to their site, click on their badge on the top left of my page.  It has brought so much breadth, knowledge and support to my ambition of being a flogger.  I feel so confident knowing I have the support of this network of ladies behind me.  Go join SITS for yourself today!  They're waiting for YOU....