Sunday, December 26, 2010

Tis the season for really big eats

In Bulgaria, Christmas Eve is called "Бъдни вечер." I would say that this night is even more important to us than Christmas itself. We have a special menu and several other traditions we observe through the night. The menu consists of an odd number of vegan dishes, and there must be at least 7 types of foods present on the table. In the course of the dinner, you're supposed to try at least one bite/sip from everything that is placed on the table. The count this year was 15 food items :) I told you this is "really big eats"...

So let's start with what we had. One of the most important things is the home-made bread with a coin baked inside. At the beginning of dinner, everyone receives a piece of bread. The traditions states that whomever gets the coin will have great luck for the next year. This year the luck went to my father.

Two other traditional dishes are the bean soup and the pickled cabbage leaves stuffed with rice.

On the dessert side, we always make baklava and something called "tikvenik" (тиквеник). It has shredded pumpkin sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar, rolled inside leaves of fillo dough and baked.

As you might notice, several of the food items might be familiar to you from Greek or Turkish cuisine. Bulgarian cuisine is very tightly intertwined with other cuisines from the Mediterranean, encompassing countries from Morocco to Lebanon. I think what sets us apart is the heavy use of potatoes. Hmm, somehow potatoes are not featured at this traditional dinner.


Rounding up the food items are little things like fruit (oranges, bananas, apples, mango), nuts (walnuts and almonds), and drinks (wine, whiskey for my father, soda). Believe me, even if you take only a couple of bites of everything, you are so stuffed at the end of the dinner, you go to the couch and fall asleep ;)

Friday, December 24, 2010

Tis the season to eat, part 2

Last night I met up with Ems, an old friend of mine. Just like me, she likes trying new things, so we go to a different place every time we meet. This time we went to Cheeseburgers in Paradise at Perimeter Center. I guess we were craving some tropical vibe in addition to burgers :P

My Guacamole burger
As I said, I hadn't seen Ems in a while, so we had a lot to catch up on. Somehow we did manage to order food and eat it, but neither of us was paying attention to what we ate. I had the Guacamole burger just because I love everything with avocado in it. Ems got the Mushroom and Swiss burger. They both came on onion ciabatta rolls, which seemed like they had been lying around the kitchen for several days before they were used for our burgers... Ems and I ended up moving the rolls to the side and eating just the meat. The meat at least seemed fresh and juicy, but there was nothing about it that made it stand out. The seasoning was a little on the bland side, ans that means a lot coming from me. (I eat very little salt.)
Ems's Mushroom and Swiss burger
The best part of the meal was probably the french fries, but there's noting wrong with that, right? They were soft, not crispy, but still had good texture and were seasoned really well. Oh, they the menu said that they're "endless." Thankfully, our waitress didn't ask us if we wanted more :P

This wasn't my favorite burger ever, but the company made this a great dinner :)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Tis the season to eat, part 1

The fall in general is a great time for food lovers, including me. There are so many tasty staples: chili, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, apples, etc... However, Christmas is approaching, and that marks the end of endless gorging on food :P Well, I'm marking the end of the food season with several special meals over the next few days.

The first of these was my dinner tonight. A couple of weeks ago I heard about 5 Seasons Brewery. And yes, my first thought was, "but it's a brewery, how good can the food be"? The answer is, "really good." The best part is that it's not simply good, it's also novel, and interesting, and creative. How many places serve things like lime avocado mashed potatoes, rabbit enchiladas AND antelope burger?!? In case it doesn't sound amazing yet, all the ingredients are organic.

But let me start from the beginning. My friend Cashew (nickname) and I went there for a "quick" dinner before seeing a movie. This is a brewery after all, so we started off with some of their house-brewed beers:
I had the Venus Belgian Wit, which is possibly the lightest and best wheat beer I've had. Unfortunately, I can't remember what Cashew's beer was called, but I do remember that I was really good :)

For appetizer, we got the seared rabbit pieces and crispy liver. I'm not a fan of how liver tastes, and this dish didn't change my opinion. On the bright side, the rabbit meat itself was really tender and flavorful.

Finally, for the main course, I continues with the rabbit theme and got rabbit enchiladas. I was expecting a dish covered with cheese, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that the enchiladas were the star of this dish, not the cheese. The tortillas were also nice and crispy, something you can't get in a cheese-soaked dish. Cashew wanted the ropa vieja with lime avocado mashed potatoes, but they were out of it. I guess everyone else wanted to try those potatoes... I know I do and I'm definitely going back specifically for them. Anyway, she had to "settle" for an antelope burger. I sure hope that it wasn't made from some endangered species because it was so good, it might lead the species to extinction. Interestingly, antelope meat tastes very lean and very heavy/flavorful at the same time... Oh, I forgot to mention that the burger came with a side of sweet potato fries. The good things at thins place seem to be never-ending.
We had to rush to make it to our movie on time after the dinner, but it was worth it. I really liked this place, and I'll try to go there again.

P.S. I apologize for the poor picture quality. They seemed fine on the preview screen on the camera in the dark restaurant, but they are too dark to be viewed on the screen. The flash on the camera will have to become my friend, I guess.

Monday, December 20, 2010

First post

I'm finally giving in to the blogging craze... One of my favorite things to do is try new foods and new restaurants. Call me boring, but I think that simply going out to eat is a fun experience :P So I'd like to keep those good memories by writing them down. Plus, it will help me remember what I've already ordered when I go somewhere or what I've made at home :)

By the way, I'm definitely not a food snob. I can eat anything. I've even had food that's been so old that it tasted "funny." What I'm trying to say is that you can't trust me on where to find the best food. The point is that I'm willing to try everything, and the possibility of finding something I love is what makes this exciting and fun.