Indian Buffets

4 02 2009

Dear, I haven’t been around much, have I?  I’ve reached the Food Doldrums.  My excitement about fall food has worn off and I’m growing tired of thinking of new ways to fix potatoes and cauliflower.  Budget dictates that I’m not eating out as much as I’d like, either, but when I do, it tends to be lunch.  On the weeks that Steve is on the East Coast, we like to go out for lunch on occasion.  While I’m generally not a buffet fan, I find that Indian food lends itself better than most to this presentation.  And I do love little bits of several things (hello, Isabellas!), so that’s often our choice.  The closest stop is Clay Oven, on Rt. 40.  It’s really hit or miss, however.  My favorite is Nilgiris, over next to the Common Market on Rt. 85.  They have fantastic pakoras and have a few more veggie dishes than Clay Oven usually has.   Also, Bollywood on the TV!  It’s the only place that the TV doesn’t make me angry.  Recently, we wanted Indian on a Monday (Nilgiris is closed on Mon) and we realized we hadn’t been to Bombay Grill in a coon’s age.  We lived in an apt. in that building back when it was The Alpenhof and then–for about 3 hours–Circo.  When we bought a house on 3rd St, we went to Bombay Grill a LOT.  Wee Julianna used to just eat rice and fennel seeds, and have a mango lassi.  She was never one for the spicy foods (It’s too ‘PICY! she’d yelp about something with a touch of salt).  But once we moved to Braddock (and had a less picky and larger crowd to feed), we stopped going.  So  we popped in for lunch on a bitter, bitter cold day.  And, sadly, meh.  Partly, it was that the dishes were not my faves–eggplant, a bland dal, vegetable biryani–and partly, well, they just weren’t that great.  Not bad, but not worth walking in the arctic chill from the parking garage.  Not as good as Nilgiris.  The Kheer for dessert was super good, though.  I’ll grant them that.  

When we lived in Germany, we ate a lot of Indian food (lord knows I wasn’t eating the German food) and the most popular dessert was Firni.  It’s similar to kheer, but firmer.  I’ve made it myself to mixed results, but it’s pretty labor intensive.  I never see it here, though.  Anyone know why?  Maybe it’s from some region that isn’t well represented in America?

So.  Nilgiris remains champion for the buffet.  Am I missing any?  Some hidden gem I don’t know about?  let me know…


ETA:  Hail Google, I have answered my own question.  Firni is primarily a Pakistani dish.  Must be a difference in who settles where.


I think my waistband is getting snug….

17 09 2008

Oh, Fair Week, how I love you.  And how you make me eat.  So, what does a vegetarian eat at a fair in a decidedly rural county?  Let me tell you!

Yesterday, I had pierogies for lunch–You get these buttery wonders at Crabby Patty’s, it’s a small trailer as you head up the food corridor near the Chicken building.  Just past the Root Beer, but on the other side, if I recall correctly….They didn’t have halushki, which broke my heart, but promised to have it by Tuesday. I also had my first Lime Fizz of the season.  I love those guys. For dinner (you don’t eat all your meals at the far?  hmpf.  who knew?), I had a mushroom Gyro at the big Gyro stand just past Crabby Patty’s.  And for the very important sweets portion of my day, I had some funnel cake (from the stand near the front gate.  Who’s is best?  Weigh in!) and a bit of cotton candy (I shared both of those with kids and husband).

Today, I had to go get my beloved halushki (it’s a cabbage and noodle and butter thing.  It is yum) from Crabby Patty.  New discovery this year: Hobby Horse concessions, over near the Milking exhibit, has fried pickles.  Oh yum yum.  I’ve made them before, but I dipped dill chips into a beer batter.  These were spears in a corn dog-type batter.  A bit of salt on top and they were top notch.  This stand also has the deep fried oreos, snickers, and strawberries (topped with whipped cream!), so, you know, I’ll be back.  I have not yet had my apple dumpling with ice cream, but I’m getting to it.

I also popped into the Democrats’ tent.  I was seeing so many McCain stickers I felt the need to slap some Obama on my chest.  They had none.  WTF, people?  They did have some yummy cake, though, so my loyalty is assured.  But seriously, get some stickers.  And not just the Jennifer stickers, okay?

I probably also need a root beer float.  and a gym membership…

A wee testimonial to set the stage

30 06 2008

I’ve been a vegetarian since early 1990, when I moved to Germany and had to start cooking for myself (and Steve) regularly.  I just got skeeved and decided–there in the land o’ meat–that it was time to go veg.  At first, I gained a lot of weight b/c I moved to a cheese and butter based diet.  Which, yum.  I got sorted out, balanced the diet a bit, and moved on.  I started learning to cook different ethnic cuisines and started to really enjoy cooking.  Then, years later and back in the States, I started having kids and cooking turned to chore again.  I did still enjoy it when I had time to get the right ingredients, do the prep, etc, but more and more I’d had to turn to quick pasta dishes.  And slowly, without my noticing, I’d become a vegetarian who really didn’t eat many vegetables.  A carbitarian, really.  Cereal at breakfast, cheese sandwich at lunch, pasta and cheese at dinner, cookies and crackers and chips in between…I expanded.  At a check-up at the doctor’s office, I found I weighed the same as I had just before giving birth…and there was no baby a brewin’.  And my hips started to hurt.

A friend of mine had started to eat according to the plan in a book called Eat to Live the year before.  She lost pounds and gained a healthy glow.  I got the book, read part of it, and put it away.  It called for 6 weeks of no dairy, no eggs, very little grain, very little soy…just vegetables and fruit, mostly.  And no snacking. Seemed utterly impossible.  But I felt awful.  I had to nap everyday, not just “Oh, I could sleep” but “If I do not nap, I will not be safe to drive.”  I woke up thinking of when I was going to get that nap in.  And my hips were killing me.  I’d gotten an arthritis dx, but I had only recently turned 40–how could that be okay?  I finally decided to just do it.  It’s only six weeks.  I committed to three and dove in.  I joined a yahoo support group and told myself that I’d really try to be strict, but if I wanted an egg, I’d have one.  I gave up dairy, I gave up gluten, I gave up added fat and added sugar.  The first week was hard–the carb monkey is one of those mean monkeys that hang on really tight and whack you in the head.  The second week was better, because I was starting to FEEL better.  The third week was hard again, and I started feeling deprived of bread and butter–staple of life, right?  But, I was feeling so much better–my hip pain wasn’t as constant and I didn’t nap–that I committed to three more weeks.

At the end of the six weeks, the carb monkey had gone back to the jungle.  And four months later, I am two sizes smaller and much, much healthier.  When I eat out, I don’t worry too much about the ingredients–I had a lovely salad with Maytag bleu cheese the other night–but I find I just don’t WANT the really heavy cheesy dishes.  At home, I still cook with some cheese, but only once a week or so rather than every night and usually very little.  The kids love Mexican-style food, so I’ll give them more cheese than I put on mine, but I’ve cut theirs back, too.  The biggest contributor to my success at eating well has been my green smoothies.  Every morning, I make a smoothie of fruit and a green (baby spinach, kale, chard)–sounds unreasonably disgusting, I know, but the fruit really masks the taste of the green.  I even started a green smoothie blog to keep track of my favorite (and failed) combinations.  The smoothie fills me up in the morning and sets the stage for a day of healthy choices.  I find I actually want salad for lunch–I’m sure for some that’s a no-brainer. Vegetarians eat salad.  It’s what you give them when they show up at your BBQ.  But I was never a salad eater.  Now I am.  With gusto.  And I don’t graze all day.  Smoothie for breakfast, salad for lunch, a pile of carrots or fruit around 3 or 4, a sensible and delicious dinner, and then a little bowl of nuts with a glass of wine or a beer at night.  And the best thing is, I don’t feel deprived.  If I want a cookie, I have a cookie.  But I don’t feel like I need to eat the whole box.

So, when I’m writing about food, that’s where I’m coming from.  I love to eat and take pleasure from it, but I’m learning to eat in moderation.  After reading Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food,  I’m paying more attention to where the food comes from, what’s been done to it, and how it fits into the larger planetary picture.  You can’t be a greenie-beanie eviro warrior and eat at McDonalds twice a week.  You just can’t.  And you can’t be healthy on a grain-based diet.  So.  I’m not a vegan, but I don’t eat much dairy.  I’m not a raw foodie, but I like to eat as much raw as I can.  I’m not fat-free, but I try to keep the intake low.  I like exotic food, but I’m also feeding three kids who are not particularly adventuresome in palatte.  I hope you find something you like and come back often.


29 06 2008

I like to eat, but the whole dead critter thing doesn’t really tickle my tastebuds.  I have 3 vegetarian kids and an omnivorous husband, all of whom also like to eat.  We also like to check out the restaurants around town, ‘though not as much as we did when the children were smaller, less hungry, and fewer in number.  So in addition to highly opinionated reviews, I hope to throw in other food tips for shopping or cooking.  Hope to see you around.  Eat up!