Monthly Archives: February 2012

Portland Food Trucks

Earlier this month, I went to Portland, Oregon to visit my sister and her husband!  Portland is a pretty cool little big city (it kind of reminds me of a more hipster Pittsburgh) and is known for its rose gardens, the Trail Blazers, and most importantly, its food trucks!  Portland has over 400 food carts in bunches around the city, and I was pretty excited to try a few.

My brother-in-law and I explored the cluster at SW 10th and Alder Ave. which had over 20 food carts in a small 2 block area.  There were tons of ethnic options here – Chinese, Thai, Indian, Korean, Mexican, you name it.  Everything is around the $5-10 range for a lunch, and I’m somewhat glad they don’t have something like this where I’ll be working in Chicago… I would be too lazy to ever make my own lunch if I had this as my backup plan!

My bro-in-law was craving Indian, so he got a lunch meal at New Taste of India.  This consisted of basmati rice, naan, tandoori chicken, chicken curry, and turnip masala for $6.

I got a pulled pork sandwich from A Little Bit of Smoke for $6.  You can choose what kind of sauce you want – vinegar, red, or mustard.  I got red, which the worker there described as “vinegar-based with a little cayenne pepper, but not enough to burn your mouth off.”

But the food cart highlight of the trip was definitely when I went to Nong’s Khao Man Gai a few days later.  Nong’s Khao Man Gai definitely follows the rule of doing one thing and doing it really well, since its only dish is the chicken and rice.  For $6.50, you can get poached chicken with jasmine rice that’s cooked with ginger, garlic, shallots, and chicken broth.  What really makes it is the Khao Man Gai sauce that comes on the side – “fermented soybeans, ginger, garlic, Thai chilies, vinegar, house made syrup, and soy sauce.”  The whole meal sounds really simple, and it is!  It also comes with a light kale soup.

I will definitely have to check out some more food carts when I visit Portland again!  I’ve heard good things about The Whole Bowl, Koi Fusion, Tabor, and Solar Waffle Works, and many more.  I also wanted to try Savor Soup House, but on the days I went they never had soups I wanted to try according to their twitter!

Bang Bang Shrimp

A couple weeks ago, my parents and I went to Bonefish Grill for dinner.  We went on a Wednesday, which they call “Bang Wednesdays” since their Bang Bang Shrimp appetizer is only $5.  The place was packed and I saw several people eating the Bang Bang Shrimp as their meal!  So I was pretty excited when I found this recipe on Pinterest a couple days after our visit.

On their menu, Bang Bang Shrimp is described as “crispy, tossed in a crispy, spicy sauce.”  It was pretty easy to make and tasted just like the original!

– 1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
– vegetable oil for frying

For the sauce:
– 1/2 cup mayonnaise
– 3 tsp Sriracha sauce
– 1 tsp granulated sugar
– 1 tsp rice vinegar

For the egg mixture:
– 1 egg
– 1 cup milk

For the breading mixture:
– 1/2 cup flour
– 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
– 1 tsp salt
– 1/2 tsp pepper
– 1/4 tsp onion powder
– 1/4 tsp garlic powder
– 1/4 tsp dried basil

1.  Combine the breading mixture ingredients together, set aside.
2.  Combine the egg and milk together, set aside.
3.  Bread the shrimp: coat each shrimp with the breading mixture, dip the breaded shrimp into the egg and milk, then coat it with the breading mixture again.
4.  Refrigerate the shrimp for at least 20 minutes, which will help the breading stick onto the shrimp when frying.
5.  Heat enough vegetable oil needed to fry, and when it is hot enough fry the shrimp for 2 or 3 minutes until golden brown.  Drain on paper towels.
6.  Mix all the ingredients for the sauce together, set aside.
7.  Cover the shrimp in the desired amount of sauce and mix to coat.


Olive Garden’s New 3-Course Meal

Olive Garden has been in the news lately, and not for good reasons.  The company has posted disappointing sales figures for the past year, and is trying to win back customers who are pinching more pennies than ever before.

I’ve always liked Olive Garden a lot for its unlimited soup and the chicken marsala, but the prices have been inching up significantly over the years.  Right now the chicken marsala is $15.25.  $15.25 for chicken + potatoes + some bell peppers??  No thanks!

Olive Garden started this new promotion on January 23rd: the “3-Course Italian Dinner.”  The first course is the usual unlimited soup or salad, the second course is your pick between 5 new entrees, and the third course is dessert.  I went to Olive Garden tonight with my parents to check it out!

The first course is no different from before, where you can pick either unlimited soup or unlimited salad.  I have actually never been a fan of Olive Garden’s salad, so I always get the soup – today I had one bowl of chicken & gnocchi soup, and one bowl of zuppa toscana (spicy sausage and potatoes).  The chicken & gnocchi soup was extremely thick (the waitress later admitted it was the last bowl of the batch) while the zuppa toscana had this weird color that made it a little unappetizing.  It looked like there was a ton of oil in it.  However, I’ll give them a pass since these soups have been delicious on previous visits.

For the second course, my dad and I ordered the Asiago and Roasted Garlic Tortelloni with Grilled Sausage, described as “tortelloni filled with asiago cheese and roasted garlic tossed in a basil marinara sauce with fresh basil and tomatoes, topped with grilled Italian sausage.”

tortelloni with grilled sausage

Honestly, this wasn’t that great.  There was barely any Asiago cheese, and so much tomato.  My dad also thought the tomatoes tasted a little bit sour.  This really just tasted like something I could make at home with the tortellini you buy frozen at the store with some normal pasta sauce on top of it.

My mom got the Five Cheese Marinara Penne with Shrimp, which is “sauteed shrimp in a five cheese marinara sauce served over penne and topped with mozzarella and seasoned breadcrumbs.”

penne with shrimp

This was actually pretty good as the sauce was tasty but not too powerful, and you also had little pieces of shrimp.  I think my dad and I picked wrong, since some reviews online say that the Smoked Mozzarella Chicken is very good.

amaretto tiramisu, dark chocolate cake, strawberry cream cake

Dessert came on this cute display with three little cups, and I do mean little.  But it’s a good size for after you’ve stuffed yourself with soup, breadsticks, and an entree.  I got the Amaretto Tiramisu, which I enjoyed, but I wish there was more crust at the bottom.  It was a good flavor to end with, and it wasn’t too sweet.  My dad’s dark chocolate cake was pretty sweet and syrupy though, but still good.  My mom’s strawberry cream cake was good, I liked the white chocolate shavings on top but I didn’t really like the strawberry part.  But I like just fresh strawberries, not strawberries with a sweet sauce on top like this.

Overall, I’d say this is a promotion worth checking out, but I probably won’t be going back for it.  I still love Olive Garden though, but I think the lunchtime unlimited soup, salad, and breadsticks is definitely the best bang for your buck.  They still have that, right?!