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Set the DVR for this new series. For anyone annoyed with American eating habits or fed up with the lack of affordable healthy foods, this should be fun to watch.

Jamie Oliver is here to start a revolution. The impassioned chef, TV personality and best-selling author is determined to take on the high statistics of obesity, heart disease and diabetes in this country, where our nation’s children are the first generation not expected to live as long as their parents. Jamie is inviting viewers to take a stand and change the way America eats, in our home kitchens, schools and workplaces, with the thought-provoking new series, “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution,” debuting FRIDAY, MARCH 26 (9:00-10:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network.

Needled by local naysayers, challenged by ingrained unhealthy habits and government bureaucracy, and welcomed by some of the most surprising youngsters, families and local leaders, Jamie shows how, in just a few short months, he tried to transform Huntington as a template for the entire country. The stakes? Simply the health of our country’s citizens and the legacy for its children.

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So we had plans to go to Sette Luna with some friends last Saturday, but the plans fell through. My mom had mentioned coming up to visit so we invited her to dinner – restaurant TBD. I like to expose her to new experiences and figured Phoenicia might be fun. Even with my apprehension about the belly dancing, I was really looking forward to the food again. The belly dancing actually didn’t unnerve me quite as much this time. Maybe it was that this visit was less of a date because of my mom’s presence. Maybe it was that the crowd was much more festive and participatory with the dancer. Or maybe it was that the dancer was considerably more talented and physically umm… impressive than the previous performer. Either way, i was definitely more comfortable with that part of the Phoenicia experience.

Halfway through our appetizers, our waiter quickly jammed the dreaded mixed green salads onto our table. I could tell he was scrambling to keep up with all of his tables, but it was just plain awkward. Oddly, the early salad service turned out to be to our benefit. The potent balsamic dressing was way more enjoyable when eaten in conjunction with the apps and pitas.

I went with chicken kabobs and my mom had the lamb kabobs. My wife went with the stuffed haddock. Based on the two visits, we’re thinkin’ the kabobs are the way to go. Though there is a 20 appetizer assortment (for 2-4 people) that i think would make a fun meal.

New-ish, really. Phoenicia introduced Middle Eastern food to downtown Easton back in December. It seemed odd that we hadn’t noticed them, though we generally don’t visit the 100 block of Northampton St. since we stopped going to Phenom in favor of Touch of Thai. We’re pretty sure that their location, two doors down from The Eastonian, had previously been home to Mr. Bread. We noticed an ad for Phoenicia in a recent issue of Lehigh Valley Marketplace magazine and were immediately psyched to check it out. And a Friday or Saturday visit would give us a chance to enjoy some bellydancing. Though that’s never as fun as it should be. More on that later.

They’re currently applying for a liquor license so we did the BYOB thing – my first Granache. The sweetness luckily turned out to be a nice match to the spice of the food. The starter was a great trio of yogurt, herbs in oil, and a spicy/sweet bean dip with a basket of fresh pitas for dipping. We were off to a great start.

My wife had the Shrimp Basha for her app. Perfectly cooked jumbo shrimp which, at a glance, appeared to be battered and fried. The coating was actually a flavorful tahini sauce. We loved these. I ordered the Hommus Shawarma – a big plate of hommus covered with marinated strips of beef. The menu described the beef as “shredded” but it was definitely sliced before it was cooked. It was a bit chewy but i liked the flavor and the textural combination with the hommus worked for me. We were pretty full after these dishes but excited about our entrées.

Here’s where we hit a wall. The waiter brought out two mixed green salads drenched in balsamic vinegar. We weren’t expecting them since we hadn’t seen salads mentioned in the menu, but we’re not ones to waste food so we dug in. In principle, it might seem like a decent palate cleanser to counteract the oiliness of the appetizers. One bite told us we’d made a mistake. The intensity of the vinegar annihilated the lingering goodness of our apps. We’ll be alerting the waitstaff to skip the salads on our next visit.

We weren’t very hungry by the time our entrées arrived, though they looked great. The kabobs were huge and the lamb was tasty. I ordered the falafel. I’d been curious to try it for a while. Disappointing. From what i’ve been told, it should have been crispy on the outside, soft and moist inside. These were really firm and dry – like they’d been fried, refrigerated, and re-fried.

After wrapping our leftovers, our waiter seemed to ignore us for a good ten minutes. I think he thought we weren’t interested in dessert because we didn’t finish our entrées. He was somewhat correct but we wanted to hear what they offered regardless. He had only a few options available due to the previous days’ blizzard conditions. (They must have had limited access to their kitchen or something.) The most enticing choice was a filo/sweet cheese/honey combination. We were so glad we chose it to end the meal on an up note.

About the bellydancing. It just doesn’t work if the dancer tries to interact with the diners. Most of her activity was out of my sight line, but my wife gave me steady updates about how she was trying to get men to stand up and dance with her. That’s when the sense of dread set in. Even with half a bottle of wine in me, I was not comfortable with a quasi-sexual interaction in front of my wife and a roomful of strangers. Call me crazy. I kept shoving food in my mouth when she came by the table, hoping that she’d make the smart decision not the pester a patron neck deep in hommus. And people were sticking dollars in her waistband! There are just too many pressures!

We’ll definitely head back to Phoenicia armed with a good deal of knowledge about what works and what doesn’t. I’m excited to have another ethnic option downtown – I just hope they can tighten things up a bit to compete with Easton’s A-list spots and stick around for a long time.

Just got back from the Philly flower show. We hit the Reading Terminal Market before and after for a bite to eat. For breakfast, we found the longest line in the joint at Profi’s Crêperie. I had turkey bacon, egg, cheddar cheese and spinach. My wife and her sis split a buckwheat crêpe with strawberries and honey.

We spent the next few hours at the flower show. Some really impressive installations and beautiful specimens. Plus tons of vendors. Being the last day of the show, we found a lot of sales. I picked up some dwarf plants with bonsai potential – including a South African Fig with tiny pea-sized fruits.

Back at the Terminal for dinner, we got in another long line – this time at Dinic’s for their wicked roast pork. I got mine with roasted peppers, broccoli rabe, and provolone. That’s a big, tasty sandwich.

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  • bakery-style butter cookies + the new book is here!
    Today my second cookbook, five years in the making, Smitten Kitchen Every Day: Triumphant & Unfussy New Favorites, at last leaves my noisy, messy kitchen and, perhaps, makes its way into yours. I am, as ever, a nervous wreck. I hope you love it. I hope you find a new favorite recipe (or 5) in it. I hope you make the granola biscotti and have them on hand […]

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