Sunday, December 28, 2008

Tastebooks For Everyone

photo: Tastebook

Now that Christmas has come and gone, I can tell you about what I got my family for the holidays. Cookbooks filled with family recipes!

I used Tastebook to compile my own family recipes online, and had them printed in an (almost) professional quality collection. You can also make a cookbook super-quick by searching over 100,000 recipes from some of Tastebook's partners -- like Epicurious and Bon Appétit -- or buy premade recipe collections (kinda lame, since it's so easy to make your own), or even share your personal recipes online. Tastebook has great videos on how it all works, but I'll run through some things and give opinions on the whole deal.

First, I'll say that using Tastebook is easy. If for any reason you should use Tastebook, it's because it's easy.

I started editing a butt-load of family recipes my Dad sent me a couple of years ago, in the hopes of one day presenting a printed cookbook to my family. Originally, I was going to use Lulu, an online publisher, but after painstakingly editing the recipes (my Dad makes some crazy-ass sentences), I tried to upload to Lulu, and got some error/incompatibility message. Being the computer tard I am, I said, "Oh, hell no. I ain't dealing with that shit."

Tastebook was launched after I started my recipe editing project, and I had bookmarked it as a possibility, so just jumped over there and shortly found myself cutting and pasting the recipes into Tastebook's templates. Lord love the template. So Easy.

There are sections in the template to put a title, story or lead-in, ingredient list, cooking directions, yields, prep time, total time, tags, notes, and even upload a picture. I didn't use all of these sections, but, I'll reiterate, usage is easy.

When you're ready to have the book printed (holds up to 100 recipes, but you can buy 100, 50, or 25 recipes, and receive credits for future recipes if you have less than the number you ordered printed), you pick a cover (can't upload a personal picture for this), title your masterpiece, and they ship it to you in about two weeks after you place the order.For the holidays, you get a cookbook neatly wrapped in matte paper with a sticker on the outside saying "Specially prepared for [ the name of the person who made the cookbook ] deliciously yours, Tastebook." That's sweet, but I'm giving these as gifts to other people, and it looks like it's a gift to me. This sticker can be carefully peeled off with little to no ripping of the wrapping, though, and there's a peel-and-press strip on the underside of the wrapping flap for you to secure the flap.
And here's the book out of the wrapper. I chose the cover photo from their stock photo options (they seem to constantly add more...and some go missing if they're out of stock), the name of the book (so original!), the font color, and the spine color. What you can't see from the picture is that the rectangular cover title and spine title are not actually part of the book, but stuck on. In person, the cover title is not that obviously stuck on, but the spine title is. A little cheap, but that's how they can produce tons of these things and make it "personalized."
This is the back of the book. I'm not fond of Tastebook's blabbering self-promotion and random photos on the back cover that have nothing to do with my cookbook . There's also a tiny plastered at the bottom of each recipe page, but I guess that's the price you pay for creating a cookbook so easily.
Your recipes are bundled together with a little letter explaining how you have to put the recipes in their respective tabbed chapters. You cannot upload a personal photo for the tabbed section dividers. Options are nice, and I thought I wanted this option, but it was nice to have their photos...because I just don't have any great pics of fish!
Here's where your uploaded personal photos can go -- on your recipe page. The recipe pages are glossy, and the printing is nice.
There's one of these measurement equivalent pages, too.

And that's it! My experience with Tastebook was easy and pleasurable, and the cookbooks look nice. I'm not fond of Tastebook's branding throughout the book, but if you've got a slew of recipes you've been meaning to compile in a book, but the task is too daunting, try Tastebook. It still took me a year to compile the book -- a recipe here, a recipe there, no recipes in the summer -- but it's done!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Dare Viva Puffs Raspberry

Dare Viva Puffs

My boss is very kind. Whenever she goes on a trip, for business or otherwise, she always brings something back for the lab to munch on. Most recently, she went to Ontairo, Canada, and brought us back some cookies. These Viva Puffs were one of the two kinds she shared.

Now, marshmallow fluff is not one of my favorite things. My mother likes it, but it really doesn't do anything for me. So, I didn't have very high expectations for these cookies. I guess that's probably why I liked them.

Raspberry Puff

These were pretty tasty! The marshmallow was soft and fluffy, as it should be. The raspberry filling, despite tasting slightly artificial, was delicate and not too sweet. The "chocolatey" coating was nothing special, but it got the job done.

My favorite part was the graham cracker bottom. It was chewy and soft, and I could have just eaten the cracker and been pleased. All in all, the cookies were enjoyable, but not something I'd look out for on my own. Plus, each cookie had 3 grams of fat, and they weren't very big or filling.


Dare Foods Website

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Outta Here!

Did I ever mention that I hate the winter, cold, and snow? Of course I have; I always start bitching this time of year. Well, I'm doing it up right this year, and blowin' this popsicle stand for warmer climes.

I kick things off with a three week romp around the the South to visit family and friends in Columbia, Aiken, Greenville, and Charleston, South Carolina (pretty much every city in that state you'd want to visit), and throw in a little Savannah, Georgia, and Asheville, North Carolina, for good measure.

Then I return briefly to repack my bags for two weeks in Belize. Told you I was doing it up right.

But what this all means for you is that I won't be posting at my normal clip. Since I'll be away for sooooo long, I've written a few (just a few) posts that will go up while I'm away (sorry, I don't blog on vacation), so don't think I'm checking out of the blogging game. I'll also try to get some coverage of my Southern eats up before I go to Belize.

And, I hate to do it, but I'm putting the comments on moderation (spammers and crazies have this sixth sense about when I walk away from the computer for more than 24 hours), so exercise extreme patience in getting your comments approved. But, please, do comment.

Happy Holidays, y'all!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Roasted Squash and Beet Salad

Perhaps it won't take you three attempts at roasting squash (like it did for me) to make this salad with roasted squash and beets, dried cranberries, pepitas, and goat cheese inspired by a very similar salad I ate from the grab-and-go case at Talula's Table in Kennett Square.

Roasting squash is not hard at all, I promise. I just had a serious space case, and effed up royally -- twice in a row! But you will need to devote some time to roasting squash and beets, and toasting squash seeds, so that's why I'd deem this salad a special occasion salad, and not a quick what's-in-my-crisper-I'm-hungry salad.

This is really lame, but I'm not including a dressing. The salad at Talula's Table came with apple cider vinaigrette, and I hated it (liked the salad, obviously). I attempted an apple cider vinaigrette from Ina Garten for my rendition, and I hated it, too. According to everyone else, Talula's and Ina can do no wrong, so obviously I'm crazy. Just use your favorite vinaigrette. Mine is just straight-up balsamic vinegar.

Roasted Squash and Beet Salad
serves 6

2-3 large beets, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch dice
1 small butternut squash, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch dice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup pepitas
1/2 cup dried cranberries
6 ounces goat cheese
mixed greens, enough for 6 (who measures?), washed and dried
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. The next three bullets can all take place in the oven at the same time, but have different baking times
  • In a baking dish, toss beets with 1 tablespoon olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Bake for 30-45 minutes, or until tender, flipping beets half way through. (You can bake beets whole, then peel and dice, too, if you wish, but it'll take about 1 hour)
  • In a seperate baking dish, toss squash with 1 tablespoon olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until tender (not squishy, though), flipping squash half way through.
  • If using the seeds from the inside of your squash instead of purchasing pepitas at the grocery, wash pulp from seeds, dry seeds, and place in an oiled baking dish, sprinkle with a pinch of salt, and bake for about 25 minutes, or until golden, checking and stirring after 10 minutes.
  • Time to plate! Arrange greens on either individual plates or on one large platter. Top with roasted beets, roasted squash, pepitas, dried cranberries, and goat cheese. And the dressing of your choice.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Meiji Kinoko no Yama Mild Bitter

Mild Bitter Kinoko no Yama

Meiji snacks almost never disappoint me. Kinoko no Yama and Takenoko no Sato are especially reliable, not to mention adorable. The original flavors are great, and the special flavors are typically fantastic.

Mild Bitter Kinoko no YamaFrom what I can remember, this is probably the second or third kind of Kinoko no Yama that I've tried. Kinoko means mushroom in Japanese, so the name of this snack translates to Mushroom Mountain. Pretty cute, huh?

Mild Bitter Kinoko no Yama

These are delicious and very addictive! The chocolate is great! It's not too sweet, with just enough bitterness, and it smells fantastic. With the cracker/cookie stick, the texture and flavor combination is perfect. My husband and I couldn't stop eating these!

They certainly aren't gourmet or anything, but they are a darn good snack. I'm glad I opened them when my husband was home, because otherwise, I would have eaten all of them in one sitting. I would absolutely buy these again, and would be more than willing to try other flavors!


Meiji Website (Japanese)

Nestle Caramel Aero

Caramel Aero

On a recent business trip to Ontario, my father had time to shop. He is a big fan of chocolate himself, and, knowing my hobby, he brought me a variety of candy bars to try. I live almost close enough to Canada to make it worth it to cross the border just to buy candy, but not quite, so we try to have other reasons.

I tried mint and regular Aero bars last time I was in Canada and thought they were a lot of fun. My husband and I never got to try caramel Aero, though, so I was glad to see it included in the stash from my dad. We were expecting it to be like the mint Aero - caramel-flavored bubbly inside. We were wrong.

Caramel Aero

There was actual caramel inside, and lots of it. It was good, but it was a little too much caramel for my taste. The chocolate coating was fine. My main beef is that this is hardly an Aero bar. My picture doesn't illustrate this at all, but there is a thin layer of the signature bubbly filling...and that's it. You can't even tell it's there, and the caramel is overpowering.

My husband is more of a caramel buff than I am, so even though he noticed the lack of Aero, he didn't mind. I would have liked to see a better balance, but that doesn't change the fact that this was still a tasty candy bar.


Nestle Website


O, hai! It's winter, so I'm virtually jobless until spring, so, if you haven't noticed, have more time to explore lunch-time eats in Wilmington.

Big dining news in Wilmington! The California-style burrito chain, Qdoba, recently opened in downtown. Now, before you jump down my throat for reviewing a chain restaurant, let the person who has never eaten at a chain restaurant cast the first biscotti. [long pause] That's what I thought.

Personally, I've been waiting a long time for Qdoba to open (it teased us for, like, ever), and from the looks of what I saw when I visited, a bunch of downtown workers have, too. Wilmington's downtown dining scene is getting better, but is still lacking some basics that most large and medium-sized cities take for granted.

As a big-time rice eater, I crave big-ass, rice and bean burritos, so welcome Qdoba to downtown. I've only visited Qdoba once, about four years ago, and my only memory of the experience was of a disappointingly bland burrito.

There's a basic rice and bean burrito, a 3-cheese burrito, and a grilled veggie burrito for me to choose from. I like mine basic (rice, beans, salsa, cheese, and guac), but, remembering the blandness, added the poblano pesto sauce (additional charge) to my burrito.Large, but not overwhelming.

Qdoba does not have a salsa bar for you to load up on salsa, onions, and cilantro to augment your burrito. They have bottles of hot sauce, but that's all.

The burritos are barely wrapped. Ideally, you want a generous, snug wrap of foil around that baby to hold everything in.

The poblano pesto is supposed to be made of roasted poblanos, cilantro, almonds, garlic, and pine nuts, but, really, tasted of nothing more than a green salsa, and had a watery consistency. It did add a little heat and garlic, though.

The burrito maker forgot the guac.

The cilantro lime rice served in the burritos sounds enticing, and, even though it's studded with tons of cilantro, didn't taste like much. Were my taste buds on vacation that day? And the every-grain-of-rice-separated instant rice at Qdoba is one of my pet peeves. There is something very unsatisfying about rice grains that are separated. Rice grains should stick together! (Or, at least, that's how I like them.)Just like my experience at Qdoba, I find most big-ass burrito chains soulless and unimpressive (non-chains, not necessarily), but just can't resist rice and beans in a steamed tortilla every once in a while.

Is there a big-ass burrito chain out there that kicks ass for you? Note the word "chain" in that question.

837 N. Market St., Wilmington, DE 19801

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Dumpling House

Update: no longer open.

I would have never seen Dumpling House, a Chinese restaurant in the Little Italy neighborhood of Wilmington that opened up earlier this summer, if it weren't for the passenger in my car who turned around and spied the red awning with the words Dumpling House on the front of a small building as I drove down a one way street perpendicular to the street Dumpling house sits on. Good drivers keep their eyes on the road, after all.

It's been a long while since Dumpling House came under my radar, and, since then, has gotten good reviews in Delaware's News Journal (I'd link, but print media just doesn't get it; you have to pay for the article) and their free rag, Spark (which does let you read an article online that's older than 7 days), so hopped on the bandwagon and got myself on over there.

I met up with my new bud, Mike Mathews, a political blogger at Down With Absolutes and radio host on Delaware Talk Radio, who also enjoys good food and a little critique. (I eat a MANNA pie and win his contest, he gives me David Byrne tickets, I give him homemade cookies, we do lunch -- that 's the backstory. Moral of the story: eat pie; it's good for you.)With three booths, a two-top, and a five-seat bar downstairs, and a handful of tables on the second floor, the inside of Dumpling House is small, but certainly not a tight squeeze (they could fit more tables, if they wanted), and we had no problem getting a table downstairs at lunch during the week. Go ahead and make a reservation for Friday and Saturday night dining, if you want to be certain of a seat, though. And bring a bottle of wine, as the Dumpling House is BYOB with a corkage fee.

The appetizers at Dumpling House are quite affordable ( $1.95 - $6.95), and soups ($7.95) are reasonable, but the entrees are a little on the steep side ($12.95 - $20.95), and there is no lunch menu with discounted prices.

The menu at Dumpling House is thoughtfully printed with green ink to signify vegetarian dishes, and blue ink to signify non-vegetarian dishes. I knew I was pushing my luck when I asked our server if the dumpling soup (printed in blue ink) had a vegetarian broth, but she went back to the kitchen to check, and, no, it's not; it's made with chicken broth.
Gotta go with dumplings at a place called Dumpling House, right? Orders of steamed or pan-seared; house, chicken, beef, or vegetarian; 4, 8, 12, or 13+ dumplings are available. We decided to split an order of eight pan-seared dumplings -- four vegetarian and four house dumplings -- that come with a soy sauce-based dipping sauce and chili sauce ($10.95).

This is where I admit that I'm no Chinese food expert. I rarely eat Chinese-American because I find the flavors bland compared to my more loved Thai and Vietnamese cuisine. Mike eats more Chinese than I do, and declared the dumpling wrappers thinner and not as doughy as one usually finds, and this is a good thing. I find the hint of warm, star anise in the mushroom, tofu, onion, celery and cabbage stuffed veggie dumplings pleasing, and Mike concurs that his house dumplings stuffed with pork, shrimp, and veggies also has a pleasant hint of star anise. Crispy edges make the both of us happy. I went ahead and splurged on the spicy eggplant entree ($16.95), and was fully expecting the garlic and black bean sauce eggplant entree (quite good) one gets at every Chinese restaurant. So, I was surprised to see a vibrant dish of large hunks of fried eggplant, enoki mushrooms, green and yellow bell pepper, and strips of daikon (not sure, but it was pale and crunchy like daikon) in a light, but very flavorful garlic sauce made spicy with large slices of jalapenos, basil, and the tiniest little stems of some herb that tasted like cilantro (again, not sure). Well, you could have bowled me over! This eggplant dish was unexpected, and quite possibly the tastiest Chinese dish I've ever eaten. But I still wish it came at a cheaper price for lunch.Mike ordered the stir fried noodles with shrimp, mushrooms, and veggies ($14.95). He liked his dish, but thought it a bit oily. I was so impressed with my entree that I tried to get him to admit that his noodle dish was at least a notch better than what he gets at most Chinese joints, but he said the dish was very similar to the lo mein dishes he can get any where. He's one tough customer, but I'll take his word.

Dumpling House definitely deserves multiple revisits to see what other great Chinese dishes they're pushing out, but I'm not sure I can order anything other than the spicy eggplant; I've already found a favorite.

Dumpling House
1828 W. 11th St., Wilmington, DE 19805

Tues.-Sun., 11:30 am-2:30 pm, 5:30 pm-9:30 pm


Monday, December 15, 2008

It's Here!

Forget the mulled wines, hot toddies, and champagne you'll be inundated with these coming weeks. Remember back in the summer when I told you about the smashingly delicious Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka being crafted down in South Carolina, and how it's distribution would be expanding?

It's in Delaware and New Jersey!!! (Pennsylvania, you still suck.) Firefly is being distributed by Southern Wine and Spirits in Delaware, and Fedway in New Jersey.

I called and put in an order at my local wine and liquor shop, Kreston in Wilmington, before the distributor even had the product in their warehouse, and...there's a case sitting in Kreston on 202 right now (minus the two bottles I just snagged). The stuff goes down like, well, sweet tea, so we've torn through the bottles we picked up in SC this summer.

Shimmy on down to Kreston and pick some up. And if your neighborhood liquor store isn't hip to Firefly yet, put in a request.

Friday, December 12, 2008


How many of you have ever eaten at IKEA? Sure, I've eaten the $1 frozen yogurt countless times (so good, even in the winter), and even get the $1 cinnamon bun (not the best, but a girl's gotta carb load sometimes) from the exit bistro in front of the registers, but have you ever actually sat down in their restaurant to have a meal?Me neither. I've never even taken a peak at what's beyond the large sign advertising IKEA's meal deals before I head down the stairs from the showroom. The most I've done is scan the large sign to see that nothing looks too appetizing or veggie-friendly. I also thought that what they advertised on that large board (pictured above) was all that they offered, which is to say, not much. Boy, was I wrong. Come with me as I walk behind that sign and into IKEA's restaurant.First of all, the restaurant area is huge, and is more like a cafeteria than a restaurant. You line up, grab a tray and silver ware, and push your tray along the ledge in front of desserts (just like cafeterias, they tempt you with dessert first), salads, and sandwiches behind glass doors that you can lift up, reach in, and grab what pleases you.Then you move to the hot line (just like cafeterias) where a person behind the counter serves you up a scoop on this or that (mac and cheese, steamed veggies, Swedish meatballs, chicken tenders, glazed salmon, rice, pasta, etc.), and can even pan sear your meat to order.

Then, if you wish, you can move to the salad bar to make your own salad of fresh veggies, fruits, and other typical salad bar toppings. Grab a bag of chips, a cookie, or a cup of yogurt, and a glass for your beverage, and pay.

Seriously, I had no idea that I could make a salad at IKEA, or eat yogurt, or get a side of rice with steamed veggies. I thought my options were limited to what was on that large board before I headed down the stairs. Guess that's what I get for not actually looking!I was also surprised to see so many people eating at IKEA (the place is huge, and I sat away from everyone, so that's why it looks empty in the pic above). Mostly families with small children, and the elderly meeting up with friends were partaking of IKEA's restaurant when I was there, and I can see why -- cheap, fast eats in a kid-friendly environment for the families, and cheap eats in a cafeteria-style environment for the elderly (old folks just love cafeterias).

If you sit at the large window overlooking the parking lot, it's quite relaxing watching the people scurry to and from their cars, plus there's the surreal, massive ocean liner docked across the way to daydream about (only at the South Philly IKEA).So what did I eat? I forwent the roasted pepper, basil, and mozzarella panini and the prepared salads in the glass case, and grabbed a dessert -- Swedish apple cake with vanilla sauce. I grabbed this specifically because I've been eying the boxes of vanilla sauce they sell in the food shop by the exit, thinking the sauce would be great drizzled on bread pudding. The vanilla sauce was good, but a little thinner than I imagined it would be.

The apple cake was perfectly fine, and would have been better if it were warm instead of cold from sitting in a cooler. If you like their desserts, just run down to the food market; most are boxed, sitting in the freezer. Yeah, my Swedish apple cake was once frozen, but not bad at all.

From the hot line, I ordered the vegetable pytti panna (don't ask; must be Swedish -- bork, bork, bork) with a dollop of basil sauce. The basil sauce tasted more like honey mustard, but, stirred into the veggie medley, added some flavor to the bland and healthy tasting dish. If the cubed potatoes had been browned and crisped, this dish of mixed veggies and potatoes would make for a great hash brown-type breakfast.

I suspect the vegetable pytti panna was also frozen at some point, not that there is anything wrong with that in this cafeteria-caliber setting (frozen veggies are ofter fresher than non-frozen). I also suspect that there is only minimal cooking in IKEA's restaurant -- mostly heating of frozen foods and prepping. Kind of like a cafeteria!

So, for $6.72, I got a tasty dessert and a bland, but decent entree. I'm certainly not suggesting you run to IKEA to eat, but if you're in need of some nourishment so you can make your way through the maze that is IKEA without passing out, they do have more than Swedish meatballs. Although, almost everyone was ordering the Swedish meatballs!

Now I know. And now you know.

2206 S. Columbus Blvd, Philadelphia, PA 19148
Mon-Sat, 9:30 am-8:30 pm; Sun, 9:30 am-6:30 pm

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Did I Say That?

Oh, Rick Nichols! You're a charming fellow, but you make everyone at a party nervous when you scribble on your notepad. Thanks for the lovely article.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Mushroom Dip

Chances are, you're going to a potluck, party, or holiday event in the coming weeks, and you've got to bring something edible to share. Most likely, something in the appetizer category. I've got your problem solved. You should bring this mushroom dip.

The inspiration for this dip comes from a very similar dish brought by Urban Vegan to a Philly Food Blogger Potluck waaaay back in January that turned out to be our favorite contribution of the night. Yeah, a dip. Crazy! (We just had our fifth potluck last weekend, and I'd like to give a big thanks to all the new bloggers that came out...and Rick Nichols!)
This almost paté-like dip gets it's richness from toasted pecans, mushrooms, and port, and will put any hummus to shame. I took it to a party a couple of months ago, and got recipe requests, so here it is.

What did I change from Urban Vegan's recipe? I added onions and rosemary, and subbed port for sherry.
Mushroom Dip

1 cup pecans, toasted
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound mushrooms (crimini, or baby bella), sliced
1 small onion, chopped
2-4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup Port (can substitute Sherry or red wine)
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped
  • Pulse toasted pecans in food processor until finely chopped, almost flour-like.
  • Saute onions in olive oil until translucent. Add mushrooms, garlic, rosemary, and salt and pepper to taste (don't be shy with the salt), and saute until mushrooms start to soften.
  • Add Port to mushrooms, and reduce until most of the liquid has cooked off.
  • To the pecans in the food processor, add cooked mushrooms and onions (saving any cooking liquid), and process until smooth. Adjust seasoning and add some cooking liquid or extra olive oil if dip is too thick, and mix again.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Kinder Überraschung (Surprise)

Kinder Überraschung

A friend of mine at work just got back from a European vacation. I was able to set aside my insane jealousy for a moment when she brought chocolate to share. Basically, this is a chocolate egg with a toy inside! Kinder eggs are especially neat to Americans because we can't be trusted with them here, choking hazard, you know. Somehow, I managed not to choke on this one.

The egg has some weight to it, obviously from the toy inside. It's also very satisfying to shake, but while I was shaking mine, it started to melt. Not good for photographs, so I put it down in my desk until I would have a chance to review properly.

The Egg

The egg came home with me and after dinner, my husband and I decided to crack it. Well, it actually just fell apart when I unwrapped it, but it broke in half pretty evenly. I suspect the yellow plastic egg (with toy inside) is what I was supposed to choke on.

Cracked Egg

As the pictures show, the egg had a milk chocolate outer layer and a white chocolate inner layer. I wish it had just been milk chocolate, because the white chocolate layer made it too sweet. I wasn't in love with the chocolate, but since the chocolate is only part of the deal here, I'll let it slide. It's definitely for kids, but at least it tasted better than Palmer. It's nice when companies give kids a little credit.

The Toy

I wasn't crazy about the toy, though. It was definitely fun to wonder which toy I would get. Too bad I got this one. All in all, though, it was a fun experience that Americans don't often get to enjoy. The chocolate was a B-, but the experience was an A!


Magic Kinder Website

Lapp's Kitchen

Update: No longer open.

Lapp's Kitchen, a restaurant and catering joint serving breakfast, salads, sandwiches, and sides, was previously located in Riverfront Market along the Christiana River in downtown Wilmington, but has recently moved up the road to the corner of 9th and King St. to fill the spot left vacant by Corner Market's shuttering almost a year ago.

I glossed over Lapp's Kitchen when I reviewed veggie offerings in Riverfront Market, but thought I'd give them a closer look now that they have new digs.

Day 1
There are no vegetarian sandwiches or wraps on Lapp's lunch menu -- not even the ubiquitous hummus wrap (not that I'd want to eat that, anyway). The only salad on the menu I can eat is the Market salad, and all the protein add-ons are meat. And that pretty much sums up Lapp's menu, in my eyes. They do have daily specials, and on this day, only the eggplant Parmesan sub is an option, and I'm just not feeling it.
I slink over to the deli case and eye the premade sandwiches to find an egg salad sandwich. Nope. Don't trust egg salad that I don't make. I eye the various salads and sides sitting in platters in the deli case to see if I can make a meal, and decide on a small serving of Harvest Ravioli with cheese and spinach-filled raviolis, green beans, asparagus, sun dried tomatoes, pine nuts, and goat cheese in a balsamic dressing; and a small side of roasted asparagus.

I asked for small (what would fit in a small plastic container at deli counters), but the serving of two ravioli's I got was pretty skimpy; I left feeling hungry. The raviolis were nothing to speak of, but the green beans, asparagus, sun dried tomatoes, and goat cheese tossed with balsamic were actually pretty tasty. Sun dried tomatoes are great powerhouses of flavor, and I just don't see them that often anymore. Are Sun dried tomatoes passé? If so, bring them back. The asparagus were perfectly fine, lightly oiled and seasoned, roasted spears.
Just Desserts Cafe briefly partnered up with Lapp's to offer baked goods on the premises, and a Just Desserts Cafe rep was offering up cookie samples, so, duh, I took one. Very pleasant, crispy, sugar cookie with hint of almond. Just Desserts Cafe's web site, now says they are no longer partnered with Lapp's. Pity.

Day 2
There's nothing vegetarian on the specials board. I'm not feeling a salad. I've already sampled a bit from the deli case. I leave and eat some where else.

Day 3
There's still nothing vegetarian on the specials board. I'm not doing the deli case again. I rarely crave salads when eating out, but had just baked over 100 cookies (and tested a few), so a salad actually sounds attractive.
I order the only salad I can eat -- the Market salad -- which comes with assorted veggies, and, this day, came with beets, cucumber pickles, roasted peppers, and carrot raisin salad. It was interesting that the veggie toppings are piled along the rim of the plate, and not on top of the salad, but I guess this is great if you're picky and like to distribute your topping as you please.

I'm pretty sure this salad is meant to be ordered with a protein topping (additional charge), since the veggies were on the skimpy side, but there is no veggie protein option. Honestly, I would just like more veggies. The homemade bread and butter pickles, roasted red peppers, beets, and carrot raisin salad were great, but were gone before I had finished a third of the mixed greens. The salad greens were the freshest greens I've seen in a salad in a long time -- not even one little speck of rotten brownness.

As I was eating my salad, I was thinking about the pleasant demeanor of the man who took my order. In doing research for Lapp's after my first visit, I recognized that it was the owner who took my order on my third visit, and, with just the minimal interaction it takes to order a salad, I thought his business persona very pleasant, which is rare with such impersonal, brief transactions. And, as I was thinking this, the owner popped from behind the counter to ask me if everything was to my liking, and if I'd like a water (I often skip drinks when eating, because I just forget to drink them).I ordered a soft oatmeal cookie (not from Just Desserts Cafe) that was only OK -- minimally spiced, and very few raisins.

So, that was Lapp's. Lapp's serves decent lunch time eats (haven't tried the breakfast, yet) for downtown workers, but is not a dining destination for anyone outside of downtown. They could stand to offer a couple of vegetarian sandwiches or specials, if they want to attract a few more customers. Heck, I walked out on day two, and I was committed to trying them out.

Update: Chuck, the owner of Lapp's, just left a comment on this post and sent me an email informing me that they are in the process of re-tooling their menu to include a veggie wrap, and will be making an effort to have more vegetarian daily specials. They've also re-worked the oatmeal cookie recipe. Yay!

Lapp's Kitchen
901 N. King St., Wilmington, DE, 19801

Friday, December 5, 2008


We decided to get Indian food delivered on Thanksgiving Eve last week, what with all the cooking that would take place the next day.

Hmm. Where should we order from? There aren't a lot of Indian restaurants in South Philly, and the closest one to us is passable, but not a favorite. Philly's beloved Tiffin doesn't deliver to Pennsport, and the place we just called in Center City doesn't deliver to Pennsport, either. Is it possible that Ekta, the Indian take-out restaurant opened this summer by Tiffin's ex-head chef in the same Fishtown neighborhood as Tiffin, delivers to Pennsport?


We didn't balk at the estimated one hour and thirty minute delivery time since it was the eve of a major holiday, but we were very happy when our doorbell rang thirty minutes after we placed our order over the phone.

We ordered the navratan curry and baigan bharta (already had naan in the freezer), but delivery also packed complimentary raita and pickles to accompany the main dishes, and fragrant, cardamon-spiced kheer for dessert. I love free dessert!No one can help but compare Ekta to Tiffin, and I guess I can't help it, either. Firstly, Ekta's menu is similar to Tiffin's, but Ekta has cheaper prices.

Overall, both curries were very similar in flavor and consistency to Tiffin's. Ekta's curries were spicier than Tiffin's, and that is a plus in my book. Ekta also throws a little more -- just a little more-- vegetables in their curries, so as not to be just a bowl of sauce. I'm a huge proponent of sauce, but I do want some veggies in my veggie curry, so Ekta's about even with Tiffin there.

The only disappointment of the night was the baigan bharta, a smoked eggplant curry in a tomato sauce, that was overly salty. The dish was not inedible, but salty enough that we avoided the bagain bharta, and, instead, devoured the navratan curry with creamy cashew and onion sauce. Since the navratan wasn't overly salty, there's hope that the cook is not salt-insensitive, but just made a mistake that night.

With delivery to Pennsport, cheaper prices, and spicier curries, Ekta has Tiffin beat -- even with an overly salty curry. The delivery is the key, though.

250 E. Girard Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19125


Mon.-Fri., 11 am- 9:45 pm; Sat., noon-9:45 pm; Sun., noon-9 pm

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Nestle KitKat White

KitKat White

Recently, my parents went to the Chicago area because my grandpa lives there, and those Chicago area trips usually include a visit to Mitsuwa, a big Japanese grocery store. I asked them to pick up some groceries for me, and they brought me, among other things, KitKat White.

We have white chocolate KitKats in the US, but I believe they are only in mini KitKat variety packs (along with darks and regulars) and are no longer available in full size. I actually really like those mini white chocolate KitKats, but maybe it's because they are small.

KitKat White

This one was not small. The Japanese version tasted creamier than its American counterpart, but, as is expected with white chocolate KitKats, it was very sweet. It wasn't as bad as some others have been, but it was the kind of sweet that burns your throat. But in this case, there was none of the bizarre flavor payoff that makes it kind of worth it!

To be fair, it wasn't supposed to be a bizarre flavor, but I just can't help feeling like something is missing. I realize I'm being biased and that there should be basic KitKat flavors, but I just wish this one didn't have that painful sweetness. I found the box to be very elegant, though, it's definitely got that going for it.


KitKat Website (Japanese)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Moravian Molasses Cookies

Pies are so last week! With Christmas around the corner, it's time to bake cookies. I thought I'd break out a cookie recipe I usually bake at Christmas, but have, for no good reason, retired for the past few years.

Coming from the culinary traditions of members of the Moravian church in Pennsylvania that settled in the Winston-Salem area of North Carolina in 1753, these spicy Moravian molasses cookies are a traditional Christmas cookie. You may be familiar with them if you've ever received a gift basket with a tube of these delicately thin cookies made by the Salem Baking Company.

Moravian molasses cookies are basically an ultra-thin and crispy, ramped up ginger bread cookie. And they're too good to be retired.Baking notes:
  • Unable to find a scallop-edged cookie cutter to replicate the classic Moravian molasses cookie shape, I've been using a tee-tiny tart pan for many years now. Make any shape you wish, though.
  • The thinner you roll the cookie dough (try for at least 1/8-inch), the crisper the cookie will be. The longer you bake the cookies (but don't burn them), the crisper the cookie will be. You're aiming for thin and crispy. About half of mine end up crispy on the edges, and a tad chewy in the middle. I'm not perfect. And the chewy cookies are just as tasty.
  • It is possible to roll the dough thinner by rolling smaller portions of the dough between plastic wrap, but it is nearly impossible to transfer the cookie to the baking sheet without ripping the dough. Try it if you're fabulous.
Moravian Molasses Cookies
makes about 40 cookies

1 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup molasses
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Sift together flour, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, cardamom, and baking soda in a bowl.
  • In a large bowl, add molasses, vegetable shortening, brown sugar, and vanilla, and mix with an electric mixer until incorporated.
  • Gradually add flour mixture to molasses mixture, then knead until thoroughly incorporated.
  • Wrap dough in platic wrap and refrigerate for at least three hours, or overnight.
  • Remove dough from refigerator, unwrap, and roll out as thin as possible (at least 1/8-inch thickness) on a floured surface, picking up dough and adding more flour to surface to prevent sticking when needed.
  • Cut cookies and place 1-inch apart on a greased baking sheet (a spatula is really going to help you lift the cookies and transfer them to the baking sheet).
  • Bake in a preheated 300 degree oven for 6-8 minutes, one sheet at a time.