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We just downloaded the entire camera card for the first time in a while and it gave me a chance to scan all the pics in iPhoto. I found some random food stuff that I might as well share:

Salted pumpkin caramels I whipped up for Thanksgiving.

Bûche de Noël with cocoa and almond meringue “mushrooms” for Christmas dinner dessert. The cake was rolled up with a filling but i can’t quite recall what it was – buttercream with almonds maybe.

Bang Bang Shrimp from Bonefish Grill. My dad’s fave. Very tasty but a little greasy. We think they toss them is some mayonaissy sauce while they’re still hot.

Klein Farms had beef shanks at a really good price so I bought a bunch and made some osso buco. I then shredded it, blended in lots of Parmesan cheese and turned it into whole wheat raviolis. A couple hours of work and we had enough for a dozen meals-for-two.

I was watching Bacon Paradise on the Travel Chanel the other week and was inspired to make some bacon waffles a la Hash House a go go. Three strips of thick cooked bacon laid across the waffle iron after the batter is poured in. If I make them again, I won’t cook the bacon so crispy.

I planted heirloom Touchon carrots last year and left them in the ground over the winter. I dug them up at the beginning of March. They were never thinned out so they stayed kinda small, but it was quite a bounty of 2-4 inch carrots.

I packed a lot into my weekend (as usual), so come Sunday evening I was ready to just relax and have someone fetch me large quantities of food and alcohol. Thanks to the slight break in the heat wave, I blissfully anticipated sitting at one of Sette Luna’s sidewalk tables and sipping Nero d’Avola until closing time. Then we drove down to 3rd Street…

People everywhere! No place to park! Roads blocked! And cafés packed!

This was not good for my state of mind. I have a bad habit of setting up expectations and wigging out when things don’t go according to plan. Especially when it comes to food. I get grumpy when I’m hungry – most people do it seems. My wife worked as a hostess at a diner when she was in her teens and vividly recalls the contrasting moods between arriving and departing customers.

We swung around Ferry Street to see the crowd at Sette Luna and ended up parking in the circle near Valenca. We headed over to Ferry, past Pearly Bakers and saw signs for Heritage Day – that explained it! Then I felt bad about living in such a bubble. We get our info on Easton current events from the newsletter that accompanies the monthly utility bill. Not exactly “current.”

As expected, there was a long wait for a patio table but there was an indoor table for 2 ready immediately so we snagged it. Some Belgian beer, a little Italian wine and awesome food as usual. My wife had the pasta special – fettucini with their fantastic shrimp and fresh cherry tomatoes. And I had the pizza special – bianca with figs, goat cheese and shaved prosciutto. (I highly recommend you try sweet fruits/veggies on pizza – figs, squash, grapes. Caramelized apples and onions with gorgonzola is one of my faves.)

We heard some murmurings about fireworks and looked around to find that most of the packed dining room was suddenly empty. We quickly paid as we heard the first few explosions. To our good fortune, the corner of Ferry St. by the Post Office a few feet away was a perfect spot to watch the show. I’m guessing they launched from a barge in the river or along its banks. You can see how close we were from the huge wall of smoke.

We hadn’t gotten dessert at Sette Luna, but this ice cream truck looked a little (or a lot) too sketchy to risk the botulism. And I’m sure Marvel wouldn’t be thrilled with Spidey’s implied endorsement…as tastefully executed as it was.

It turned out to be a pretty good night. Maybe I don’t have to have everything go according to plan.

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.

Since it always seems so difficult to pick out birthday presents, going out to a nice meal has become our default gift. My wife chose Emeril’s Chop House at the Sands casino in Bethlehem to celebrate her birthday last weekend. They’ve removed the phone number from the website – instead directing you to OpenTable.com to book your reservation. While it’s always reassuring to make a reservation with an actual person, web reservation sites let you see what times are available. I originally tried to book a table for Saturday but nothing was available between 5 and 10pm. Yikes. Friday’s options were 6:45 and 9:15. We went with the 6:45. That Emeril’s was so booked up was a fair indication that the food would to be good. We’d heard from a friend who attended the restaurant’s opening that the food was so-so. We optimistically assumed they just hadn’t worked out all of the kinks. Then my mom chimed in that the food was “too salty” at the Emeril’s in Las Vegas, though my dad said otherwise. We were undeterred!

We forgot the camera but snagged some inferior pics on my wife’s phone. I’ll post them if I can clean them up in Photoshop.

They started us with some toasts covered with a mouthwatering mushroom paté. I ordered a half-bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon and my wife had their sangria – a delicious mix with a subtle taste of cloves. It took a while for the waiter to return to take our food order, but that was our only criticism of the night. We started with salads – the iceberg wedge slathered in Pennsylvania blue cheese for me and the grilled peach and chevre salad for my wife. Both were great – fresh and flavorful. And mine was so filling that I got a bit nervous knowing I had a 22oz ribeye on the way! My wife had the shrimp arrabbiata for her entrée.

Their steaks are accompanied by 3 sauces including bearnaise, Worcestershire, and horseradish. They were good but the steak was seasoned and cooked so well that I used the sauces only sparingly. Side dishes must be ordered separately, but I wanted to save room for dessert.

I was excited to see Penn State Creamery ice cream on the menu and was definitely going to get the Bittersweet Mint if it was one of the selections. It wasn’t (though they did have Peachy Paterno) so we shared the coconut cream pie. Yummm.

We had a great night and highly recommend it. The decor is great, the waitstaff was professional and the food was top notch. It was one of the pricier meals we’ve had in a while (though my steak and wine threw off the curve) but i can confidently say that we got our money’s worth.

Far and away the best food value on Kaua’i was the stuff we got from roadside carts and stands. We had a couple nice dinners at higher end restaurants but they really weren’t that memorable. Really we had the most fun during the day, hitting beaches, sightseeing and building up our appetites. Our on-the-road meals simply became enmeshed with the rest of the amazing experiences we accumulated, and trying every roadside stand we came across became another “must do” before being exiled to the mainland.

In Hanalei Bay on the North Shore you’ll find Pat’s Taqueria. Their tacos and burritos are good enough to make the pages of Food & Wine and Time magazines.

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Along the South Shore, we stumbled upon this tent on our last day. Burritos to the left and sausages to the right. I’d just eaten a big plate of tacos but i still grabbed a spinach and garlic dog with mango salsa.

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The parking lot near Tunnels Beach gets a lot of traffic so it’s a good spot to set up a stand. Grabbed an organic banana bread with macadamia nuts from this friendly woman. The round gentleman behind us was selling coconuts (with straws inserted for drinking) out of the back of his pickup truck.

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We didn’t get all of our food out of strangers’ cars though. Tropical Taco in Hanalei was a favorite (and we aways knew where it was parked). We hit it right after a 7-hour hike on the Na Pali coast. Glorious.

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And one of the few bright spots on the South Shore were the shrimp tacos at the Shrimp Station. Seriously, the South Shore is a desert. Spicy shrimp weren’t exactly at the top of my wishlist in that climate, but they were damn tasty.

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It’s been a while since we’ve been to Sette Luna down on Ferry Street – maybe 2 months? The problem with having favorite restaurants is that you can get bored with the menu really quickly. Their daily menu hasn’t yet changed, but we can always count on Sette Luna for some decent seasonal specials. Some massive shrimp and pasta for my wife, while i enjoyed another great pizza with figs, goat cheese, and prosciutto (added after it was taken out of the oven).

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Their pizza crust is seasoned perfectly, with just the right amount of chewy and crunchy, and is thin enough to let you appreciate the delicate combination of flavors. And even after i devoured the entire thing, i still had room (barely) for dessert. My wife was just going to have coffee, but i convinced her to go for the chocolate mousse. She was glad she did.

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I opted for the special: a blend of ricotta, whipped cream, orange zest and mint (it had a technical name but i couldn’t really comprehend the pronunciation) set in a pool of chilled rhubarb soup. Damn, this picture looks disgusting, but i’m a sucker for anything rhubarb. It was OK – some nice flavors but the textures weren’t that pleasing. Bolete’s goat cheesecake with strawberry-rhubarb consumée was much more successful.

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  • hummus heaped with tomatoes and cucumbers
    Like clockwork every summer, I decide that the only thing I want to eat, maybe forever because when it’s warm out I completely forget winter is coming (I’m sorry, I had to), are variations on tomato-cucumber salad. We did a world tour of these last year and it might take me another decade of Smitten Kitchen-ing but I will get to them all. Left to our own dev […]

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