Vegas, baby, Vegas!

Sorry for being MIA lately. We got back from Vegas early Monday morning and ever since then I’ve been rushing around like mad trying to wrap things up for our trip to Korea. It doesn’t help that my monthly reports for work are due before before we leave so I had to spent about 6 hours yesterday on them. BUT, that’s not what this post is about.

This was the first time N and I had gone away together without E and it was so much fun. I’ll leave it to N to discuss in detail the concerts we went to but I will say that for me the highlight of the festival was seeing Belle and Sebastian play. Stuart Murdock was ADORABLE and the show was great.

Belle and Sebastian

The two other things I wanted to do besides going to the shows were to sleep in and eat some great food. I had mixed success with sleeping in (due to my pregnant bladder and some vague anxiety about E being okay/the upcoming Korea trip) but got the chance to take a few naps which was great. But the food, well, the food was delicious.

One of our goals for this trip was to go back to Lotus of Siam which has the reputation of being one of the best Thai restaurants in the country. They specialize in northern Thai cuisine and have an extensive menu. We had been before and really enjoyed it and this time was just as good.

Pregnant me ready to eat some Thai food!

Nam Sod Salad

Crispy duck with Chu-Chee sauce (by far my favorite thing–SO good.)

If you like Thai food I’d definitely recommend checking out this place the next time you’re in Vegas. It’s fairly well-known (When we were there Mac McCaughan from Superchunk was at the table next to us.) and pretty busy so you have to make a reservation at least a day before. The restaurant’s located in a dicey Asian strip mall but the food is fantastic and reasonably priced.

Weekend Fun

On Saturday we decided on the spur of the moment to check out the Salt Lake Farmers Market. It was noon by the time we got there but we had just enough time to let E watch a clown tie balloon animals and grab some lunch. When it was his turn E got a balloon lion but when presented with said lion he promptly decided he was afraid of it and refused to hold it. I think he was afraid it was going to pop. We grabbed some really tasty kebabs for lunch, pushed E on the swings for a while and then headed home. It was really fun but next time I’d like to go a bit earlier in the day. It was brutally hot and delicate flower E broke out in heat rash.

That night N and I went to check out a new Korean restaurant in the Fort Union Area called It’s Tofu. While the name seems a little unfortunate it’s a nice Korean place, especially for the uninitiated. It’s decorated nicely and along with the normal menu they give you an album of with pictures of every dish in it. So if you haven’t had Korean before but want to try it it’s a good place to go.

My tofu soup with side dishes and rice

I’m a sucker for homemade tofu so I decided to try their Soon Dubu soup. It was pretty good but a little less spicy than I expected. We also got a kimchi jun (pancake appetizer) which was really tasty.

It’s kind of far from our house so I don’t know how often we’ll go back but of all the Korean restaurants around here it’s the place where I’d take friends unfamiliar with Korean food.

After dinner we headed to Wise Guys comedy club to catch the set of a family friend, Jenna Jones. Jenna was really funny and Keith Stubbs the headliner was good too. I would have enjoyed it more if we hadn’t been sitting by some frat-boy type who insisted on loudly bagging on the comedians in an attempt to impress his date. Bleh. Such are the risks at a comedy club I guess.

Overall, it was a great weekend.

Burgers al fresco

One night when we were visiting Oregon we headed into historic scenic little Jacksonville for some tasty burgers. While we were waiting to order at Jasper(‘)s Cafe E threw a massive tantrum complete with some face-smacking but once we went outside to eat he calmed down. The burgers were great and it was nice to be able to eat and let the kids run around together outside.

My Jasperado burger: chorizo, green chili salsa, and pepperjack cheese with extra avocado.

Luckily Jasper’s doesn’t fry with peanut oil so E could enjoyed the french fries.

As you can see, the cousins enjoyed hamming it up together.

Oh carefree meals of vacation, I miss you already.

Burgers and Books

We had a nice weekend. On Saturday the three of us had lunch at the newish Smashburger in Orem for lunch and then stopped by the Provo Library’s Children’s Book Festival. This was our second time at Smashburger and it’s fast becoming one of my favorite burger places.

They have a great menu. The first time I ate there I had a Baja burger (pepper jack, jalapeños, guacamole, lettuce, tomato, and chipotle mayo) which was really good. I’m not sure how they do it, but the patty was the most flavorful and juicy I’ve had in a long time. The toppings went well together and the whole thing was awesome.

But I’m trying to eat better now so this time around I grabbed the Baja salad which has basically the same flavor profile. It was tasty enough that I didn’t feel deprived for not getting a burger.

Eh, it wasn’t the healthiest salad ever (with all the bacon and cheddar and whatnot) but it was really tasty!

Somewhere underneath all those haystack onions is the rest of N’s Beehive Burger (Honey BBQ sauce, bacon, and cheddar cheese). I stole a bite and it was good but a little heavy on the fried toppings for my taste.

While the restaurant is more stylish than the average burger joint, it’s pretty kid-friendly. When I asked the cashier how much a kid-size drink would be for E she just gave us one on the house which I thought was nice. And since they fry in olive oil and not peanut oil like some other burger places E is free to enjoy the fries.

After we ate we headed down to the Provo library which is located in a gorgeous historical building. I had heard that they were having a children’s book festival and thought E might have fun. It turned out to be super crowded and the lines for balloon animals and the free books were too long for E’s patience. But he enjoyed seeing characters like Curious George and a Wild Thing in costume and giving them high-fives. The other highlight for E was when he found a bunch of stickers stuck to the floor and spent five minutes prying them up and carefully placing them on his shirt. You know, simple pleasures.

Our friend (and one of N’s old college roommates) Brandon Sanderson is a fantasy author and was there signing books but the line of fans was so long we didn’t get a chance to say hi. It feels kind of weird intruding on him when he’s in author-schmoozing-with-fans-mode anyway. But if you like fantasy you should check out his books. And if you have any precocious book-loving kids in your life they’d probably like his Alcatraz series.

Best…soul food…EVER!

Bleh…I came down with a nasty cold on Friday afternoon and consequently spent all my free time this weekend slurping chicken noodle soup, downing diet Sprite and cold medicine, and napping. But instead of boring you with the details of my convalescence (I know, too late!) I wanted to share some photos from another restaurant we went to on our trip to Seattle.

While we were in town Ken and Mindy took us to another one of there favorite restaurants, The Kingfish Cafe. It’s known for having the best soul food in Seattle and is a local favorite. Pre-recession, people were known to queue up outside before they even opened up. Mindy said that they once saw a fistfight break out in line over someone cutting!

We started out with some fried green tomatoes and hush puppies.

N ordered the gumbo. He thought it had an excellent blend of flavors.

Ken and Mindy couldn’t praise the yam fries and collard greens enough so I ordered a steak which conveniently came with both. The steak was decent but they were right about the fries and greens: both were AMAZING. The fries were crispy and cinnamony and the greens weren’t bitter at all, only bright and tender. I’ve had collard greens a few times before, but this was the first time that I’ve really enjoyed them on their own. They were SO good. Between them and the fries, the steak was almost an afterthought for me.

…and then the four of us shared this giant strawberry shortcake!

It’s hard to see the scale of it from this picture, but it was actually the size of an adult’s head. It was delicious: creamy and sweet and caramelly (besides the caramel sauce the whipped cream was also caramel-flavored). And all those rich notes were perfectly balanced by the tartness of the berries. Even though we were already stuffed with our entrees the entire shortcake was successfully polished off.

What passes for spontanaity, post-baby

Last night N and I were planning to go see Sonic Youth at the free outdoor concert series that Salt Lake City puts on every summer. But after a long day at the office for him and a long day of wrangling a somewhat cranky E (he’s teething) for me we just couldn’t get excited about driving downtown and standing around in a hot sweaty crowd to listen to a band whom we probably wouldn’t even be able to actually see on the stage (because of the aforementioned hot sweaty crowd). Yep, we’re getting old.

We had already arranged for a babysitter and didn’t want to cancel on her. So we put E to bed and went to dinner at Pizzeria 712, a restaurant that both of us had heard of but never tried. It was really good.

I’ve never been to a restaurant like it in the Orem/Provo area: it’s upscale but casual in the same way Tilth was. Like Tilth, Pizzeria 712 is also devoted to sustainability and sourcing their ingredients from organic/local sources. (I don’t think they take it as far as Tilth does, but then again that would be pretty difficult.)

The atmosphere there was lovely and refined but not stuffy. We sat out on the patio and enjoyed the evening breeze. We started with braised short ribs served on top of polenta with horseradish cream and then shared a pizza topped with speck and soppressata (both are cured meats), shaved garlic, and mozzarella. The crust was hand-tossed and thin and crispy. It was obvious that the flavors had been chosen carefully and they all worked well together. We finished with a vanilla panna cotta served with a cherry sauce. It was SO good: creamy and sweet and cool and perfectly balanced by the tartness of the cherries. Considering the high quality of the food the prices were very decent. Our three course meal (without any alcohol) came to $35 plus tip.

I really had a great time: the food was delicious and N was a perfect date. After knowing each other for ten years he still makes me laugh like no one else does. And to top the evening off I ran into a friend I used to work with and haven’t seen in a year (Hi, T!) and we had the chance to chat and catch up. It was a serendipitous and charming evening.

Pizzeria 712 is located on the bottom floor of now-defunct Midtown Village development and while the pizzeria itself is warm and inviting, it is a little strange to look out at the huge unfinished building across the parking lot. I hope their location doesn’t hurt them: they’re now my favorite restaurant in Utah County and I want them to be around for a long time.

Dinner and Ice Cream AND Cupcakes

My brother and sister-in-law Ken and Mindy are fairly serious foodies and took us around to some great places when we were in Seattle. Our first night there we ate dinner at Tilth. They specialize in organic New American cuisine served small plates style and were named one of the NY Times’ best new restaurants of last year.

Even though the restaurant is housed in a renovated cottage and we sat outside on the patio, Tilth is probably the fanciest restaurant I’ve been to. When N and I go out to eat we tend to frequent ethnic dives or if it’s a special occasions we’ll go to a schmancey steak house (I adore a good steak). But this was my first experience with fine cuisine served small plates style and it was great.

We had the Chilled Walla Walla Onion Soup, Sweet Corn-Yogurt Flan, St. Jude Albacore Tuna, Mini Duck Burgers, and the special which was Artichoke Ravioli. The food was delicious and delicate and gorgeous. (I had my camera with me but was sadly too shy to get it out for pictures.) My favorite dishes were the Onion Soup (the house-smoked salmon in it was great) and the Artichoke Ravioli.

After dinner we walked down the block to Molly Moon’s Ice Cream where we split scoops of salted caramel and balsamic strawberry ice cream (both delicious). As we ate our ice cream we continued our impromptu dessert stroll and walked further down the street to Trophy Cupcakes.

I had first heard about Trophy Cupcakes on Not Martha and had filed it away as a fun place to try if I was in town. Ken and Mindy had been there before and liked it so we made it the third and last stop on our grand gastronomic walking tour of the Seattle’s Wallingford neighborhood. (On the way there we discussed how the walking part of the evening conveniently and completely balanced out the ice cream and cupcake part of the evening.)

There were so many delicious-looking flavors that choosing was hard, but they were $3.50 a piece (and we had just had dinner AND ice cream) so we picked out a Pineapple Upside Down cupcake and a Snickerdoodle cupcake and cut them into fourths so we could each taste both. They were both fantastic. The flavors of both the cake and the frosting were rich and creamy and surprising like their namesakes. There were pineapple slices at the bottom of the Upside Down cupcake and the top of the Snickerdoodle cupcake even had the same texture as a Snickerdoodle cookie. I have no idea how they pulled that off but it was great.

I didn’t try the Red Velvet flavor but I thought they looked adorable.

The next day Mindy and I stopped by the University Village mall to do a little shopping and uh, what do you know?–Trophy Cupcakes’ only other store is located there! I’m not one to ignore a sign from fate so we went and brought back a few more cupcakes to share with the guys: Strawberry Cheesecake, Coconut, Triple Chocolate, and Vanilla Chocolate. It took us a few days to eat them all so the the chocolate flavors were kind of stale when we got to them. But the Strawberry Cheesecake and the Coconut flavors were fantastic. I would recommend those and the Pineapple Upside Down and Snickerdoodle flavors if you ever go.

And if you’re ever in Seattle, you should really go.