Pub grubbing

Here in the land of the free and home of the brave, eating in a pub usually entails greasy potato skins, goopy chicken wings, baskets of tater tots, or the odd pretzel dog (Rusty Knot, I’m looking at you).  But across the Atlantic, over in England, I love that eating in a pub can be so much more civilized.

What I eat at bars in the States would make my mother burst into tears (especially if she knew how much I’d drank to arrive at the point of eating in a bar) but what I’ve eaten at pubs in London would make her beam with pride at my ability to recognize a balanced meal and vegetables that haven’t been deep fried.

savory pie at the Tea Clipper

Lunch at The Tea Clipper would make my mother proud

Take the lunch I had at  The Tea Clipper in Knightsbridge, for example. Pretty standard pub, with sticky tables, semi-surly bartender and lots of beer to be had, yet lunch was a perfectly respectable, and quite tasty, savory pie of the day with a generous serving of steamed carrots and greenbeans and a not-too buttery mound of mashed potatoes. Underneath the flaky, golden pastry crust of the pie, was a hearty beef stew of sorts, filled with chunks of juicy, soft meat and mushrooms, all perfect for wolfing down with forkfuls of mashed potatoes.

I am not, even for a second, hating on the greasy, fatty, guilt-inducing pub grub of American bars. I’m just saying that it’s nice to be able to have the option to have a more responsible, sensible, yet still delicious meal in a bar… even if it’s just serving as a foundation for lots of drinking and debauchery later on.

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Sister, sister

DNA is about where the similarities end between my sister and me.  She’s loud and sassy. I’m quiet and sarcastic. She says I dress like Mr. Rogers. I say she dresses like a hoochie. She drives fast with the music up and the windows down. I prefer to walk.

We speak differently, live in different states, have different hobbies, listen to different music, date different types of guys, and don’t even look alike, if you ask me. (Further supporting my theory that I am, in fact, adopted.)

And now, because life’s dealt her a particularly bad hand, we don’t even eat the same. Because of a serious health problem she’s developed in recent years, my sister— brace yourself cause it’s ugly —is on a sugar-free, fat-free, wheat-free, gluten-free, vegan diet.

I kid you not, folks. My heart breaks a thousand times for her. No sugar, fat, wheat or dairy. That leaves what, air??

This presented major food problems for my visit to Miami. We’d be going to eat but where the heck could we both go?

“Don’t worry,” she said drearily. ” I can usually find white rice and grilled chicken on any menu.”

Uhm. No. Not happening. Not on my watch.

I turned to my vegan and vegetarian friends in Miami, and found just the place: Metro Organic Bistro.

With the beau and our mother also with us, we set out for the design district eatery that boasted lots of fresh, organic, healthy and vegetarian friendly options.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a tad bit skeptical. I can’t help it. It’s the sugar-crazed, fat-loving carnivore in me. But Metro Organic Bistro, I’m happy to say, completely floored me. If this is what being super healthy was like, sign. Me. UP.

Dinner went like this:

Entree 1: my mom’s

My mom ordered the braised chicken (free range and natural, thank you very much) with truffled polenta and organic green beans. The polenta wasn’t as creamy as I like it, but the truffle flavor made it buttery and smooth.

Entree 2: my sister’s (not vegan)

My sister ordered the tuna Nicoise, though not a vegan option (hey, she’s new to the game). Fat, juicy hunks of yellowfish tuna came on a bed of organic greens, potatoes, tomatoes, green beans, boiled eggs, onions, Nicoise olives and anchovies. She doesn’t like anchovies but I do, so guess where those little guys wound up?

Entree 3: Mine

I went for the Mahi-Mahi, a tender, juicy, lemony, grilled (and wild caught) steak topped with shaved fennel and watercress, topped with a zesty cilantro drizzle. Everything was organic, but more than that, everything was vibrant, colorful and crazy delicious.

Entree 4: the non-De Angelis at the table

Last but not least was Flaneur’s. He opted for one of the specials not listed on the menu: a plump and wonderfully juicy and smooth piece of salmon, so perfect it seemed to just melt on your tongue. Underneath it was a mound of red quinoa and broccoli florets, to lend it an earthy, veggie goodness.

Dessert 1

And because no meal, healthy or otherwise, is every complete without dessert, we got two to share amongst the four of us, though I’m pretty sure the boy and I did most of the damage. First was the chocolate bouchon a la mode, a warm chocolate lava-cake paired with a creamy scoop of vanilla ice cream and topped with some of the fattest blackberries I’ve ever seen. When the gooey, warm chocolate inside poured out, it was like dying and going to healthy food heaven.

Dessert 2

Our other dessert was another special not on the menu: a fig tart with mascarpone and more juicy blackberries. The tart was sweet and nutty, with a taste reminiscent of roasted chestnuts, and fat little chunks of figs throughout. Being the fig-fiend that I am, this was perfect.

In the end, there was no pork belly or lard, nothing deep fried or oozing with cheese, but everything was delicious, clean and healthy. And that’s something my sister and I, different as we are, both agreed on.

No animals were hurt in the eating of this meal

Of the million-and-one places to eat in San Francisco the one I’ve frequented the most in the month and a half that I’ve been here is—wait for it… waaait for it—a vegan restaurant. Yup, that’s right. Me. Vegan. No cheese. No bacon. Absolutely no trace of pork belly. None of it.

I should probably clarify, though, that the main reason I’ve been there more than any other restaurant is because it’s just around the corner and a 15-second walk from where I live, and they take credit cards (which always wins major brownie points from me.)

Loving Hut is a national chain of vegan restaurants, and while they all have a decidedly asian slant, each one has a different menu to reflect the culture and ingredients of the city it’s in. The one I go to is in Chinatown so most of the  menu, with the exception of the somewhat awkwardly named “western” page (featuring the likes of spaghetti and vegan hot dogs), is Chinese, with other asian countries represented as well (shout out to Vietnamese pho).

This particular Loving Hut has a lunch special I always see advertised, but since I’m never around during lunch time, I never get it. (I’m usually there on weeknights when I don’t have anything to eat at home and am feeling lazy.) On Thursday, though, I had the day off so I decided to take advantage.

Eggplant and tofu, mushrooms and green beans, and white rice

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Mama knows best

Earlier this week, when I opened the cupboard and found nothing but dust bunnies, and knew that the only thing in my fridge was a bottle of mustard and a root beer ice pop in the freezer, all I wanted was a plate of good food that tasted like home. Not a big going-out-to-eat ordeal with a hostess to walk us to our table, a long menu to sort through, and servers to listen to. I just wanted a good, simple home-cooked meal… from someone else’s kitchen. And because we recently sold our kitchen table (in preparation for moving), I also wanted to eat it at someone else’s table.

And for that, we went to Mama’s Food Shop. It certainly didn’t taste like anything my mama ever made (i.e. because it was actually de-friggin’-licious) but the slamming screen door, ceiling fan circulating warm air and the homey dishes our food was served on made it feel like I was over at someone’s home. Somewhere far away from the city, in the south maybe.

Mama’s is simple. You can have basics like chicken (roasted or fried), meatloaf, tilapia and pork shoulder. With that you get sides: collard greens, mashed potatos, corn bread, mac n’ cheese and potato salad to name a few. There’s no waitress. but it’s definitely not fast food either. You just order up at the front and take your plate to your table. It’s no frills and it’s great.

Fried chicken and macaroni and cheese

There were lots of veggie side options but I went in with the ol’ go-big-or-go-home mentality and got the  fried chicken and macaroni and cheese. I’m not a huge fried chicken fan in that I rarely order it and don’t even really crave it often but this fried chicken was incredible! I’m not only going to crave this from now on, I’m going to dream of it when I sleep and fantasize about eating buckets and buckets of it when I’m awake. (If my eyes are glazed over and I’m drooling, now you know what I’m thinking about.) The chicken meat (I went with white over dark) was tender and juicy, but what made this fried chicken phenomenal was hands down the thick, crunchy, batttered, seasoned-with-herbs-and spices fried skin. Not rubbery or fatty, just perfectly crisp with little bits of rosemary like I’ve never seen on fried chicken before. This was NOT the colonel’s recipe, that’s for sure. Continue reading