Sunday, May 31, 2009

Foreign Exchange and the Return of the Lunch Box

Remember this? It's plastic. There's a thermos inside with a little cup that comes off the top. It's decked out in Little Mermaid or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles artwork, depending on your preference. The lunch box. It had so much right.

Foreign Exchange in Anderson serves up something called a "lunch box" during that special time of day. It's $9.99 of goodness with a variety of options, but no substitutions, please. Choices include several combinations of sushi or spring rolls, salad or miso soup, and a noodle or rice dish.

My lunch box:

  • California Roll (with imitation crab meat, argh!)
  • Sashimi (chef's choice)
  • Salad with ginger dressing
  • Red Curry with Chicken, spicy level 5
This was nothing like the sandwich-in-ziploc lunchbox meals of my youth. Not even close. Spicy level five turned out to be right at the top of my spicy tolerance scale - burning, but still a good heat. The sushi was forgettable, sashimi was decent, and the salad was pretty tasty. Comparing it to the house salads at Kyoto and Wild Ginger, I'd put this one on top.

The curry was the scene-stealer in the cast. Aside from a few rogue pieces of chicken, it was mostly loaded with peppers and other veggies. Very spicy, very tasty. Then again, I rarely meet a curry that I don't like.

I can't give you a full review of Foreign Exchange. It has an extensive menu for non-lunch hours, with wordy and often perplexing descriptions, and the portion of the ceiling painted to look like the sky is tacky. I like a little bit of tacky here and there, and I definitely liked my lunch box.

Foreign Exchange on Urbanspoon

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Urban Spoon Slot Machine: Gamble for your Dinner

Here's a form of gambling I can support - the Urban Spoon slot machine. Those with iPhones (or envied friends with iPhones) may already be acquainted with this app. It's also available for those of us who are less cool at the Urban Spoon website, and now it's a nifty little widget! This is as advanced as my HTML skills get, folks:

Cincinnati restaurants on Urbanspoon

I get a kick out of this thing even when I'm not deciding where to go eat. Is that a sign that I need help? Probably. Oh well, I can quit when I want.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

What I Ate at Taste in Pictures

I spent an hour or so at the Taste of Cincinnati on Monday with adorkandhispork, who helped me overcome my fear of the bus system. I won't waste any more time telling, I'll just start showing:

First priority was the Summer Ale, then the Mythos gyro. Both excellent.

Shanghai Mama's spring roll with mango - suprisingly good. Light, crisp, and sweet.

Curry from Arloi Dee. I passed on the wimpy-looking lettuce wraps. Curry was alright.

Feeling I was reaching my limit, I went for the big knockout - Bella Luna bread pudding. It took me down hard in a custardy, buttery coma for the rest of the afternoon.

Now that we're loaded up on beer and bread pudding, who's ready for a trip down the Fun Slide?

I wasn't. I spent some serious time on my couch in recovery after my afternoon of gluttony.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

How I Ate in Chicago

It was obvious that we weren’t waiting for a city bus. We had luggage. We had scones in little brown bags. We looked unhurried. The conductor, who I’d wished would be wearing a little blue suit and cap, approached our cluster. He informed us that the bus would be late. Some rare, unforeseen calamity had occurred on I-71 and the bus was behind schedule.

I bolted for the nearest Starbucks and downed a muffin on the street corner while groups of travelers made chit-chat with each other. A man with huge, hulking shoulder bag informed anyone within earshot that he had a bicycle in his bag and would be biking to his destination when we reached Chicago.

The golden, morning sunshine evaporated into clouds when we crossed the Indiana border. Secretly, I blamed Indiana and not shifting weather fronts.

A few people left when we stopped in Indianapolis. More got on. I surrendered the second seat in my row to a guy who nearly fell asleep in my lap once we were underway. I gave up on the WiFi connection, which seemed strong enough for Facebook but too sketchy to try and do any work.

Imagine a girl running through the streets of downtown Chicago with a sleeping bag and rolling suitcase. Looks kind of funny, right? Now imagine it’s pouring rain and she has no umbrella or coat. That’s downright ridiculous. When the bus arrived at Union Station and my luggage was unceremoniously dumped on the sidewalk, I was that girl in the rain.

After a soaked, streetside reunion with my college roommate and a dash through town, we headed out for dinner at a Thai place called Jitlada, just around the corner from Jon's apartment.

Pad Thai sounded appealing. “They serve it with sugar on the side.” Jon had warned me. Sure enough, there was a little white pile of crystalline sugar hanging out next to the noodles. Being of the sweet-tooth-persuasion, this factor elevated the dish from merely good to how-fast-can-I-shovel-this-in-my-mouth good.

For dessert, our server brought each of us a chilled bowl with two lychees inside. I’ve decided to demand two cold lychee fruits after every meal, anywhere. I don’t want a chocolate mint, I’ll just take two lychees, please.

We did the thing that reunited college friends do when they get together – we drank all night. In a buzzing neighborhood with the rain finally gone, this is an excellent way to spend the evening. I recommend it.

…And breakfast arrives sooner than you’d like. We took a walk through Wrigleyville with a Cubs game in full swing, dodged red-faced fans and traffic, turned a few corners and came to the Pick Me Up Café. And that’s exactly what it did for us.

Black coffee. A mess of sautéed potatoes, peppers, tofu, and a good drenching with ketchup. It wasn’t elegant, but it was delicious. I expended all those calories doing these things:

  • Walking through the Lincoln Park Zoo (free!)
  • Shopping at H&M (not free)
  • Watching the fountain at Millenium Park (free!)

That kind of productivity will wipe a person out. Homemade nachos and puppy chow (Remember that stuff? Make some. Now.) rounded out my last night in Chicago.

And there I was, back on the street with my suitcase and sleeping bag, waiting again for a late bus. It arrived, stacked two layers high, which gave me a thrill. I raced for a seat on the top, imagining it would feel like flying once we got up to cruising speed on the highway. Turns out, it’s a lot like being on the bottom floor.

We did have time for a stop at McDonald’s, and as we pulled into the bus parking lot, I felt like a seven-year-old on a family car trip. I ate my filet o fish sandwich on the bus, stretching my legs over the empty seat next to me.

The Filet o Fish isn’t good. It barely qualifies as a sandwich, but there’s something about McDonald’s on a road trip that feels right. The light outside completely faded, we were back on the road and just an hour away from home.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Terry's Turf Club as a Religious Experience

I suggested, no I told my roommate, that we would be going to Terry’s Turf Club. She hadn’t been there yet! The horror! We picked a day. I put a colorful reminder note on the refrigerator.

It would be crowded, we knew this. There was no getting around it. Terry’s on a Thursday night around 8? Good luck. We were ready to wait. The line ahead of us was long, but the weather was mild so we stood on the porch with our beer.

When you step into Terry’s Turf Club, you put your faith in Terry. You have faith that you will get a table, that there will eventually be a burger order with your name on it. Faith, beer and a bowl of peanuts sustained us.

Roomie ordered a burger with blue cheese and portabello mushrooms. I went with the swiss, red wine sauce and grilled onions again. The burgers arrived in their paper-plate glory.

The first stage of the Terry burger is bliss. It’s euphoria. It’s I-can’t-believe-I’m-eating-this-burger. Patience and faith have been rewarded, and it is awesome. The second stage is quiet enjoyment, because bliss never lasts, and the third stage is burnout. There’s only so much delicious burger a single person can handle.

Well into the third stage, we were paying our bill and we noticed the room had turned its attention to the TV behind us. Turning to get a view, we saw Terry and the Turf Club on the local news. We clapped and cheered.

In case you missed the news coverage, Julie broke the news to us yesterday that Terry’s has been proclaimed the best burger in Ohio by the Food Network.

Like bearded guys with myrrh and frankincense, we traveled from afar to find the neon glow of Terry’s Turf Club. Okay, maybe not afar, but we took a 15 minute trip down Columbia Pike. We had faith in Terry’s, we waited a long time, and when our burgers arrived, our reward was great.

Terry's Turf Club on Urbanspoon