Sunday, April 29, 2012

Mini Mango Parfaits with Cardamom Rose Whipped Cream Recipe


Homemade whipped cream adds an exotic touch to an Indian-inspired parfait in a shot glass.

Ingredients:
1 mango
8 oz. Greek yogurt
1/4 pint heavy whipping cream
1/6 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. rose food flavoring (available at Indian grocers; I used Viola Rose Food Flavour)
1/4 tsp. ground cardamom

You'll Also Need:
shot (or other) glasses, hand mixer or whisk (I used an OXO Egg Beater that I got as a gift from the I <3 FoodBuzz Festival), mixing bowl

Step-by-Step:
1. (If possible, place the mixing bowl and mixer in the fridge prior to starting. The cream will whip faster the cooler it is.) Dice the mango.

2. Pour the heavy whipping cream, the sugar, the rose food flavoring, and the cardamom into the mixing bowl.

3. Mix with a hand mixer (electric or manual) or a whisk until soft peaks form. It took me about 4 minutes.

4. Place a dollop of yogurt into a shot glass.

5. Add a layer of mango into the glass.

 6. Top with a layer of the flavored whipped cream.

 7. Continue layering until you reach the top of the glass.

Makes 6 mini parfaits.

The AHH Factor: One of our wedding gifts was a beautiful set of Mikasa shot glasses. They are especially gorgeous because each of the six has a unique design etched into it, thereby helping you tell your glass apart from the other drinkers' glasses.

The only problem is that when Nick and I do shots, we don't do them out of sophisticated glasses. We do them out of disposable cups -- which have the advantage of being unbreakable. In fact, we generally try to hide all breakable items when we have a party that could potentially involve shots of alcohol. Or "earthquake putty" them to the ground, in the case of a gorgeous vase we got as a housewarming gift, which, I am happy to say, is still intact after our housewarming party.

So I had to come up with a different use for the glasses. Inspired by "mini-desserts" I've ordered in restaurants, I decided they'd be perfect as mini-parfait glasses. Aren't they so pretty? This would be so cute for a brunch. Plus, the cardamom rose whipped cream is to die for. Now that's something I'd take a shot of from a fancy glass.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Kabab Bistro, Culver City, Restaurant Review

Located in a convenient spot, Kabab Bistro's rolled up naan-wiches are worth a visit if you live or work nearby.

 6 out of 10 Peppers = Medium

When I first moved to West LA about nine months ago, I was so ecstatic about all of the businesses less than two miles from my new home that I declared: "If it's not within walking distance, I don't need it." Of course, real life intervened and, a few days later, I grudgingly got in my car to drive to work. Still, I am forever amazed at how many shops are right outside my door. When I needed to get my brows threaded days before my wedding, I got on Yelp.com to find a highly rated shop, car keys in hand. Imagine my delight when one of the best rated shops was literally at the corner of my street!

So when my neighbor, Judy, asked me to recommend an Indian restaurant in our neighborhood, specifying that it must serve meat, I was actually thrown for a loop for a minute. Now, don't get me wrong, there are at least five Indian restaurants within walking distance of our building, but most of them are vegetarian. (One of the non-veg restaurants is, technically, Himalayan, and the other one, well, I'm not a huge fan of the food, though the service was great.)

Then I remembered that Nick and I had tried Kabab Bistro in Culver City soon after moving in, and that I hadn't reviewed it that day because I was simply too exhausted. I remembered it as being not bad. Nick had gotten the Chicken 65, which tasted OK but not as flavorful as Chicken 65 typically is. I don't actually remember what I ordered, but I know it was one of the entrees and that I thought it was average.

Judy had been there before but was open to trying a different dish. She indicated she was confused by the restaurant's niche, as it's not quite Indian or Pakistani but not quite American either. It seems to be trying to do a balancing dance in the middle, especially with its naan-wiches. We'd all noticed that the restaurant, which actually opened at right about the same time that Nick and I moved here, is empty of customers much of the time. I've been trying to ascertain why that is, and the only glimpse I've gotten from the restaurant itself is that catering orders sustain it.

THE SETTING

The restaurant is located on Main Street in downtown Culver City, which makes it convenient, not only for all of us L.A. residents within walking distance, but also for all of the people who work at the many nearby businesses. It's casual. There's no waiter service. You simply order at the counter, then an employee brings the food to you on disposable dishes on a tray. There's a small outdoor patio, which is great for people watching.

THE FOOD


This time Judy and I both opted to get the Chicken Tikka Boti Roll -- kind of like a rolled up naan-wich. And we both discovered: this is the way to go at Kabab Bistro. You get everything -- your meat, your veggies, and your carbs -- in one convenient roll. It's a great mix of flavors, even being just a tad too spicy for me (which probably means it's a great spice level for most folks, especially if you like Indian food). You can totally get two lunches out of this (and, indeed, I did). On that note, I think Kabab Bistro would actually be much more competitive during the weekday lunch rush if it would sell just half the sandwich as a lunch special and drop the price by 25%. The current lunch special price on it is $6.99. Not terrible, but not great when you consider that there's a Subway around the corner with $5 subs.

 The other big negative is the wait after ordering. There's a sign that informs customers that everything is "made to order," which is nice in theory but is incongruous with the restaurant's otherwise quick-service vibe. We waited at least 25 minutes for our food, so long in fact that, even though we were the only customers there, I seriously started to wonder if they forgot our order. Nick didn't have time to eat a full dinner because he was already late to pick up a friend at the airport, so he just got a samosa and a paratha. He almost left without getting his order.

 I ate a piece of Nick's paratha. It had a great soft, buttery texture.

The other cool thing about Kabab Bistro is that, in the refrigerated drink case, it sells a strong ginger soda that I absolutely love. Of course, there's also a place that's even a shorter walk from my home that serves this soda too.

Kabab Bistro, 3835 Main Street, Culver City 90232. (310) 559-5222.


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Sunday, April 8, 2012

New Delhi Palace, Pasadena, Restaurant Review

A solid choice for Indian food, New Delhi Palace offers a range of well-prepared dishes. The Tandoori Chicken is a must-try.

8 out of 10 Peppers = Spicy

Nick and his brother Bobby keep New Delhi Palace on hand as one of their solid dinner standbys, when they're not in the mood to try something new and just want to enjoy Indian food, knowing that the items will be delicious. Bobby describes the restaurant as "top tier." Nick says it's a "solid 8."

THE SETTING

Located in a small two-story restaurant complex just outside the South Lake District of Pasadena (with free parking in a shared lot on Mentor), New Delhi Palace is on the second floor and marked with unassuming exterior signage. It has an unusually tall door, which on the inside is decorated with a Hindu goddess statuette. During daylight hours, light streams in through the large windows that overlook Colorado Boulevard.

The owner is frequently present. On this occasion, he gestured to our empty naan basket and asked if we wanted more.

THE FOOD


The meal begins with complimentary Papadum and Chutneys.

The Tandoori Chicken is a-ma-zing. It is succulent, with a precise balance of flavors that dances in your mouth. It may be the best tandoori chicken I've ever had. Usually I'm good at sharing food with others (especially since I always expect people to share their food with me :) ), but with this chicken I kept tearing off more and more pieces from the center plate, trying to be subtle because I was embarrassed to be eating so much.

Normally, we order several dishes and share them family style, but this time we tried something different: the Thalis. It's essentially your own individually portioned metal plate that resembles a meal you might have at a home in India. Here, the dinner thalis are $14 for vegetarian and $18 for non-veg. The non-veg plates include the tandoori chicken served on a separate platter (above, which, since I got the veg thali wasn't actually part of my meal, but Nick said I should try his anyway and then I promptly got hooked), and all the thalis include naan served on a separate platter. Shown here is the Lamb Curry option (one of two options for the non-veg thali), which Nick ordered.

Here is the naan basket, which was tasty and which we quickly gobbled up.

Bobby got the non-veg thali with Chicken Curry, the other meat option. If you're new to Indian food and you don't have the option of a buffet, I'd recommend ordering a thali, especially if you're by yourself and so can't do family style dining, when available. Like a buffet, the thali lets you try several different menu items for one set price (and hopefully means you'll enjoy at least one of the items on your plate).

My veg thali included rice, which wasn't seasoned but whose grains were nicely separated, lending it to a pleasing texture.

The lentils were my favorite item. I didn't pour them over the rice cause I knew I wouldn't eat all my rice and I didn't want any delicious lentils to to go waste. However, since I didn't pour them over rice, the watery texture made them difficult to eat with my fork.

I usually love eggplant but this preparation was too mushy. Plus, the onions in it were mushy too, which made the eggplant and the onions indistinguishable from each other. I'd ordered my thali "mild," and the eggplant had more of a kick than I expected.

Nick loved the Saag Paneer. After he finished his, he kept digging his fork into mine. Personally, I thought it needed more cream.

I enjoyed the Raita. It was refreshing. I find I'm liking raita more these days.

The other plus about the thali is this one included a dessert. The rice pudding was delicious.

I'll join Nick and Bobby and add New Delhi Palace to my list of standby Indian restaurants. If you're in Pasadena or the surrounding areas, I recommend you make lunch or dinner plans here soon.

New Delhi Palace, 950 E Colorado Blvd, Pasadena 91106. (626) 405-0666.

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Sunday, April 1, 2012

Wedding Guest Book Craft

For Nick's and my wedding, our guests traveled from all over the world to attend. He's from Alaska, I'm from Georgia (where the wedding was), we both live in California, and we've both been good about keeping in touch with far-flung friends over the years. It was a party of international proportions.

I wanted to incorporate some travel-themed touches into our event. One idea I had was to have our guests sign postcards instead of a traditional bound guest book. In addition to the cute travel aspects of the postcards, they were practical: there was never a line for the book, where I feel there's too much pressure on guests to hurry up and think of something to say on the spot while another guest is anxiously tapping their high heels behind them in line.

With the postcards, we had our greeters pass them out at the beginning of the ceremony, then collect them at the end. And if you've ever been to an Indian wedding, you know that means you have like two hours (at least) to think of something to write!

I got the maps from AAA (if you're a member you get maps for free). I purposely picked maps of states that had significance to us. I think the two I wound up actually using were California and Alaska.

I got the postcards from various sources over the Internet (eBay and Amazon included), plus for the year before the wedding I'd purchase five or 10 each from airport gift shops around the country during business and personal trips.

I used scrapbook tape from JoAnne's Fabrics to adhere the postcards to the maps. I put it all in the largest frame I could find at Aaron Brothers. I had to cut some of the postcards to fit as many as could possibly fit into the frame, making sure I didn't chop off any handwritten messages. (I fit about half of them. The other half I placed in a photo album.)

I love coming home to this map wedding craft greeting us in the entryway.

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