IKEA and PF Chang’s: a trip around the globe

Who doesn’t enjoy a trip to IKEA?  I know I do….I like meandering through the upstairs displays of different rooms featuring IKEA products that you can purchase and configure on your own.  You can get good ideas and good bargains as well.

Having broken many of our wine glasses over the last few years, I thought I’d take a trip to the store in White Marsh, MD to see if I could find replacements and to see what’s new at the store.  I convinced my mom to come along – not that it took much coaxing!

We spent the afternoon yesterday wandering through the maze that is IKEA and dreaming about all the things we could do in our houses if we had all the money in the world! It’s fun to do that every once in a while. Even if you’re totally satisfied with and grateful for the home you have, it’s still fun to dream…

To quote Nicholas Sparks, from The Notebook:
“And I learned what is obvious to a child. That life is simply a collection of little lives, each lived one day at a time. That each day should be spent finding beauty in flowers and poetry and talking to animals. That a day spent with dreaming and sunsets and refreshing breezes cannot be bettered.”

Anyway, after a few hours of dreaming and a shared banana, we were hungry!  So we decided to try P.F. Chang’s.  I’d been to one in Arizona, but it’s been a while and my mom has never been to one; so we took a chance.  And it paid off.

I remembered having a delicious Spicy Green Beans side dish during my last trip to P.F. Chang’s , so we ordered the Spicy Green Beans – which are stir fried with garlic in a spicy chili sauce – as a starter while we chose our entrees.  What was delivered (not by our waitress) to our table, however, was an order of the Crispy Green Beans appetizer – lightly battered and fried crisp, served with a mildly spicy dipping sauce.  It looked good, so we gave it a try.  It was so good we weren’t even going to mention it to our server; however when she came up to take our entree order she noticed that what was delivered was not what we ordered.  We assured her that we were fine with what we had received and placed our entree order.

We were enjoying our Crispy Green Beans when our waitress arrived with a complementary order of the Spicy Green Beans.  She said, “I’m sure I’ll have to wrap most of this to go, but I wanted you to have what you ordered.”  Now that, my friends, is good service!  Even though we were happy with what we received, she went out of her way to make sure we weren’t disappointed by the mix-up.  That is what makes you remember the service and want to return to a restaurant. Oh, and we were definitely glad she brought the Spicy Green Beans because they were even better than the Crispy ones!!!!!!

Although it was difficult to choose from the varied menu, my mom chose the Seared Ahi Tuna Wasabi Salad.  It was a wonderful choice.  The dressing had that typical wasabi explosion for your sinuses, but was not too spicy and the tuna was cooked (if you want to call it that since it was rare) to perfection!  The salad was simple, but delicious and the serving was quite generous.

I settled on the Crab Fried Rice.  Ever since our trip to the Lancaster County Farmers Market last week, I’ve had a hankering for crab.  Although not the most flavorful fried rice I’ve ever had, it was still very good.  It was not at all greasy, which most fried rices cannot claim.  Once I added a bit of soy sauce (which itself was very good – just the right amount of salty), it was quite satisfying – especially the large lumps of crab meat, the little bits of bacon and the al dente asparagus.  Again, the serving was very generous – enough for dinner for Jeff and I tonight!

We left with full bellies, four to-go containers and memories of a good dining experience. Oh, and some purchases from IKEA – including the wine glasses on my list.  I’m not sure there’s another way to leave Central PA and visit Sweden and China in the same day!!!!!

Marketing

I had a whirlwind of a day today, but it sure was fun!  I met my mom and dad at their house at 9:00 this morning and we didn’t stop moving until we got back to their house at 4:30 pm.  We covered a lot of ground, saw a lot of yummy food, and scoped out a new place to visit when we have more time.

Our day started in Hershey with my mom having a bone density scan…from there we began our adventure to the Lancaster County Farmers Market, which incidentally is not in Lancaster County – go figure.  It’s actually in Delaware County on the Main Line in Wayne, PA.  Normally it’s pretty easy to get there, but we were in technology hell today….the ATM machine at the Turnpike rest area at which we stopped was having a meltdown and both my GPS and my parent’s GPS were persnickety as well!!!  But after RECALCULATING several times and using common sense (uncommon, I know) we finally made it.

Although it’s not a big market, there are some very nice stands to capture your attention and tempt your taste buds.  My first stop was at Sugartown Smoked Specialties. The smoked trout spread looked delicious, but I was there for advice and information.  On Sunday I’ll be experimenting with smoking clams (which I have never done) and wanted an expert opinion.  The gentleman at Sugartown pointed me in the right direction. THANKS!

The next stand we stopped at was Semaan’s Homemade Specialties to ogle the olives, which is completely strange since I don’t like the way they taste.  I like olive oil and I love the look of olives – they LOOK like something I would love.  And I’ve certainly given them a fair shake…..I try them at least once a year to make sure my taste for them hasn’t changed, but so far….nothing.  But I still think they’re beautiful – particularly these that were marinating with all kinds of herbs and spices!

From there I gawked at the fresh seafood and pre-made foods at Mainline Marketplace. Of everything we saw all day, I rated the jumbo lump crab meat at this stand the most beautiful!!!  I could imagine using this amazing lump crab meat in Jeff’s crab cake recipe OR it would make a fabulous addition to a creamy crab soup OR it would make a delicious lemony cold crab salad…….the possibilities are endless.  I did not buy any because we didn’t have a cooler AND because what you don’t see in this photo is the price behind the garnish – $29.99/lb. A little too rich for my blood today!!!!

The salmon also looked amazing, but again no cooler….. I recently found a recipe for a honey spiced salmon sandwich in which this salmon would be great.  Next time, when the cooler is in the trunk, I’ll be buying some seafood….maybe I can start keeping my spare change in a jar so I can get some crab!!!!

The Ultimate Bake Shop had some gorgeous desserts and baked goods.  Although expensive, the biscotti that looked terrific – packed with delicious ingredients.  The cakes were all beautifully decorated and the descriptions of them sounded tempting.  I do wonder when I see such pristine looking desserts, if they will taste as good as they look.  Perhaps next time I will be “in the market” for desserts and I’ll let you know if the desserts live up to their looks!

We saw some fine-looking produce – in fact, I took pictures of some beets, carrots and cauliflower that I am happy to share.  And I couldn’t resist buying some fresh figs. Just this morning I saw an idea for a flavorful, but health-conscious dessert – fresh figs dipped in dark chocolate.  So how fitting that I be tempted by fresh figs at the market.

After buying the figs, we wandered around a little more, pointing out a few goodies here and there, including some pretty tea towels at The Cottage at The Market and some tasty looking Asian food at Foo To Go.  In fact, the food looked so good at Foo that my mom bought a container of curried rice and one of cold sesame noodles.

After one final trip around the Lancaster County Farmers Market to make sure there wasn’t anything else we needed/wanted, we hopped back into the car and headed to Ardmore.  Our plan was to make stops at the Ardmore Farmers Market at Suburban Square and Trader Joe’s; however we were running short on time so we had to make a decision – farmers market or Trader Joe’s.  Although they are right next to one another, our schedule only allowed for one.

We chose the farmers market, and I am so glad we did. First thing in the door we were greeted by the sight of the most beautiful coral/orange roses at Inspired Blooms.  After taking a few photos, my mom called me over to Ardmore Seafood to look at some of the most amazing colossal shrimp – they were so large I swear I thought to be safe I should address them as “Mr. Shrimp.”  From there we spied the small eggplant for which my mom was on the lookout all day.

And then……Di Bruno Bros. in search of Montgomery’s Farmhouse Cheddar from England.  SUCCESS!  The cost of a pound of this cheese makes the price of the crab meat look like lunch money; but every bite is worth it!  It is described as “a sublime balance between sharp and fruity” and the description couldn’t be more accurate.  I’ve also heard it billed as “quite possibly the best cheddar in the world” and again, I can’t argue. A bit of the Montgomery’s Farmhouse Cheddar and some Clandestin made it into my shopping bag.  The Clandestin is an aged sheep’s milk and cow’s milk cheese from Canada.  It is a soft cheese, like a Brie and is absolutely delicious.  And in addition to the cheeses,  I also had some lively conversation with the “cheese guy.” He was talking with another customer about Grana Padano cheese, which he referred to as “the son of Parmigiano Reggiano.” I asked him why you’d want the “son of” when you have access to the real deal – it was a serious question, I was truly not being a smartalec.    He replied with something to the effect of “Grana Padano is still Ivy League, but it’s Brown, not Harvard” (which may have offended his other customer) and he and I were off to the races on good cheeses vs. lesser cheeses.  I enjoyed the conversation almost as much as the cheese.  I am looking forward to a nice glass of wine, a crusty piece of bread and some bits of the cheeses I purchased today.

After Di Bruno Bros. there was time enough for a very quick spin around the rest of the market – only enough to see what other vendors are there so that when we return we know what we want to see.  Just before getting into the car, I got myself a Kale Shake.  I know, it doesn’t sound great; but I truly believe veggie juices get a bad wrap.  Besides, it wasn’t all veggie juice – it also had lots of whole fruits whizzed up in it.  The kale shake did not disappoint.  It was the color of the inside of a kiwi fruit and tasted like freshness in a cup.

Back in the car, we wound our way through the Main Line back to the Turnpike and headed for home.  We each had a little something to nibble on since we didn’t get a chance to eat lunch.  My dad had a piece of pizza from Pallante’s Pasta Company, my mom had her selections from Foo To Go and I had my kale shake and a little treat my mom surprised me with – an arancini (the literal translation is little orange, the food translation is a risotto and mozzerella ball with onion and flecks of basil – in other words, mmm mmm mmm) from Di Bruno Bros.

All in all, we had a successful trip.  We made a few purchases, sampled a few really good foods and found a future destination for a day of foodie fun!!!

Time in the Kitchen

I love vacation!  I know, I am not alone in this, but I may be alone in one of the reasons why.  I love all the time in the kitchen.  Particularly when there is a crowd for which I can cook.

This week has given me the opportunity to make cinnamon rolls and peach pie – things I rarely make at home.

 

I just love the mixing and kneading – the smell of yeast and of buttery crust baking.  And there is a strange satisfaction when the dough rises – even though that is what is supposed to happen, it is a bit surprising each time the chemistry works.  I passed the waiting time by working on our group puzzle (1,000 pieces – a work in progress), enjoying some music in the cool evening breeze and reading a good Karen Kingsbury book.  That’s part of the joy of cooking for me too, the in-between time – like the pause in music or the negative space in art.

Yesterday was crabbing day.  Although I am not patient enough to wait for hours for the crabs, it was fun to take part in the beginning of the festivities.  It is interesting that you don’t need sophisticated equipment and surprising to me that crabs like chicken necks.  Having made many roasted chickens in my time, I’ve discarded a lot of chicken necks – now I wish I had saved them for this trip, in the freezer of course!  It is true what Tom Petty says; the wa-ai-ai-ting IS the hardest part!  Waiting for the slack in the line to tighten and then the anticipation of whether or not there is a crab on the end of the line is maddening.  But when you finally get one in the net the celebration is glorious.  Not glorious enough for me to stick it out – I went to the beach for several hours while the Felty’s toughed it out with the crabs.  They brought home 8 and cooked and meticulously cleaned them.  We will be adding the sweet meat to our crab cakes this evening……I am drooling just thinking about it. Crabbing brought me to the conclusion that if I had to catch my own food I would be extremely thin – maybe I am on to the next diet craze!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s also a well choreographed ballet going on in the kitchen with 6 adults, 3 kids and 2 dogs.  It’s not a big space, but somehow it is working well for us.  We’ve learned to dance around each other while we are cooking or cleaning up or pouring drinks or getting snacks.  The only misstep in the dance is Kissy, an adorable, lovable, extremely food-motivated golden retriever.  She is always underfoot when there is a possibility of food.  I believe her prayers go something like this, “God, please let them drop something.  Please, please, please, please let them drop something.  Please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please let them drop something.  Amen!”

Vacation defined – an extended period of recreation, esp. one spent away from home.  Vacation defined by Jan – an extended period of recreation, esp. one spent in the kitchen!