Archive for May, 2010

Mon’s Thai Bistro and Sushi Bar

Monday, May 31st, 2010

Just a stone’s throw from the hustle and bustle of Broadway, tucked away behind a secret garden, is Mon Thai. Despite its proximity to one of most hectic intersections in Alamo Heights, Mon Thai is quiet and relaxing. The service always friendly, steady and quick (A caveat to this is if you sit outside. In that case, service can be noticeably slower – sometimes even with the feeling that they have actually forgotten about you – which is perfectly fine if you have time, and not so much if you’re there on your lunch hour). Most importantly, the food is always delicious. Every time I eat at this small, intimate, gem of a place, it has the wonderful effect of transporting me to a happy place far from the daily stresses of life, and the excess of mundane, uninspired, in your face food with which we are constantly inundated. http://www.monsthai.com/

Each meal starts with a cup of soup which often comes to your table before you even order. Previously that soup was always the same, a broth of fish sauce and soy sauce with tofu. Lately, however, Mon Thai has been mixing it up – much to my delight. I always look forward to the surprise. A couple of weeks ago we were served a wonderful egg drop soup that literally melted in your mouth it was so silky. Also for starters, we often order the Vietnamese egg rolls with iceberg lettuce and hot pepper oil. These fried rolls (served piping hot and sliced in sections) are packed with vegetables along with a ton of flavor. Place a couple of sections in the ice cold lettuce leaf with a drizzle of the hot oil and you have yourself a perfect package of crunchy hot, crispy cold, spicy savory scrumptiousness.

Mon Thai serves a large number of curry dishes and sushi which is always incredibly fresh. Mon Thai also offers a variety of Chinese food dishes which my Mr. tends to lean. He especially likes the Kung Pao Chicken. I have tasted everything he’s ordered and thought each were very good. However, for my main dish, most of the time I order the pad Thai, which if you are a follower of this blog is no surprise, given my complete affinity for this simple, yet incredibly flavorful dish. In my opinion, Mon Thai’s ranks up there among the best in San Antonio.


On various occasions, I have also ordered the Poorman Noodles, which is very similar to pad Thai, but with extra vegetables. I particularly like the sweetness of the carrots along side the saltiness of the peanuts in this dish. The Sesame Noodles is another favorite. For me this dish in particular feels like comfort food Thai style, with its wide, stick to your ribs, noodles and toasted sesame seeds, lending a nutty, warm flavor. I just want curl up on a cozy couch with a bowl after a hard, exhausting day and let the day melt away with each bite.

I highly recommend Mon Thai. You should go and let Mon Thai take you away.

Mon's Thai Bistro on Urbanspoon

Beefy’s Backyard

Monday, May 10th, 2010
Little man and I have been to Beefy’s Backyard a couple of times; this time we brought Dad, some great friends and their kids, along with their neighbors (whom prior to this day I had never met) and their kids. I can tell you this for sure – food is tastier, beer is colder, atmosphere more fun, music more entertaining, when you are with great company and the kids are occupied. And herein lay the key to Beefy’s success – kids have a blast! The other elements need only be good, not great, for you to have a terrific evening out. Beefy’s outside covered patio is a superb place for you to kick back, relax, talk, laugh, enjoy the food, a bucket of beer on ice and decent music, all while the kids run themselves silly on the giant playset, basketball court and miniature fenced off soccer area (Beefy’s also has a video game room inside). Fair warning, if you do not have children, on a weekend night, this place may be nothing but annoying until about 10pm. We arrived on a Saturday evening at 5p and left about 8-8:30p and while the later it got, the older the kids got, there were still a ton of them. http://www.beefysburger.com/

The food at Beefy’s is good, solid burger joint fare. You will not find anything special or out of the ordinary here. The menu includes all the standards. I ordered the mushroom Swiss burger and it was tasty. However, despite being asked how we wanted our burgers cooked (medium, please), our burgers were squarely on the well side, over-cooked for my taste. They were still pretty juicy, although slightly under-seasoned. Thankfully, the sautéed mushrooms on my burger helped alleviate that for me. Others in our group had burgers with extra cheddar cheese; more cheese, more better (can you even taste the burger? -shrug- who cares!) One in our group ordered the veggie burger and was pleased with both its texture and its flavor, both of which can be a crap shoot at most restaurants. The fries were also good, the onion rings better.

II’ve also heard Big’z ranks high on the list for many in San Antonio for great family fun, along with more creative, gourmet burgers (…and higher prices) but we haven’t had the chance to get that way. It is on my list of must tries. For a fantastic, family friendly place, Beefy’s is one of the best. We will definitely keep going back. Added bonus, little man fell asleep within 15 minutes of getting home and mamma and daddy had the rest of the night to ourselves. Now that’s good stuff!

Beefy's Backyard on Urbanspoon

Recipe: Herb-Marinated Pork Tenderloins

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

Ina Garten, aka the Barefoot Contessa, is another Food Network star who I happen to just adore. She seems so friendly and accessible, open and encouraging. And her recipes, while looking sophisticated and tasting exceptional, are, for the most part, exceptionally straight-forward and relatively simple to make. Having operated a highly successful catering business for years, she understands that good tasting and visually appealing food does not have to be complicated. In fact, it shouldn’t be. By focusing on the ingredients and applying solid skill, not some overwrought technique, she lets the food and flavor shine. This recipe is a shining example.

I made it as an entrée with the Grilled Artichokes with Tarragon Drizzle and a side of roasted rosemary red potatoes (all with herbs fresh from my garden). The combination was fantastic. An herb lover’s delight! We actually grilled ours to the desired temperature and let it rest as instructed. TOO EASY, TOO GOOD!


Kindly borrowed from The Food Network
2009, Ina Garten (Barefoot Contessa)
Printable Version:
http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/herb-marinated-pork-tenderloins-recipe/index.html

Prep Time: 10 min
Inactive Prep Time: 3 hr 10 min
Cook Time: 15 min
Level: Easy
Serves: 6 servings

Ingredients

1 lemon, zest grated
3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (4 to 6 lemons)
Good olive oil
2 tablespoons minced garlic (6 cloves)
1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Kosher salt
3 pork tenderloins (about 1 pound each)
Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Combine the lemon zest, lemon juice, 1/2 cup olive oil, garlic, rosemary, thyme, mustard, and 2 teaspoons salt in a sturdy 1-gallon re-sealable plastic bag. Add the pork tenderloins and turn to coat with the marinade. Squeeze out the air and seal the bag. Marinate the pork in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours but preferably overnight.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Remove the tenderloins from the marinade and discard the marinade but leave the herbs that cling to the meat. Sprinkle the tenderloins generously with salt and pepper. Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large oven-proof sauté pan over medium-high heat. Sear the pork tenderloins on all sides until golden brown.

Place the sauté pan in the oven and roast the tenderloins for 10 to 15 minutes or until the meat registers 137 degrees F at the thickest part. Transfer the tenderloins to a platter and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Allow to rest for 10 minutes. Carve in 1/2-inch-thick diagonal slices. The thickest part of the tenderloin will be quite pink (it’s just fine!) and the thinnest part will be well done. Season with salt and pepper and serve warm (or at room temperature) with the juices that collect in the platter.

Recipe: Artichokes with Tarragon Drizzle

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

I received this recipe an embarrassing long time ago from a great friend who has the same love of artichokes I have. I finally made it last week. What a mistake! I should have made it long ago. It is soooo good! The dressing is really the key. In fact, I have some left over and have been using it on salad. YUM!!! Do not do what I did and wait to make this recipe – trust me it is that good!

Kindly borrowed from Better Homes and Gardens
Printable Version: http://www.bhg.com/recipe/salads/artichokes-with-tarragon-drizzle/

Ingredients

4 to 5 large whole artichokes or 12 to 15 baby artichokes
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup white wine vinegar
1/3 cup thinly sliced green onions
2 Tbsp. Dijon-style mustard
2 Tbsp. snipped fresh tarragon or 2 tsp. dried tarragon, crushed
Sea salt or salt
Black pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil
2 Lemons, each cut into 8 to 10 wedges

Directions

1. Wash large artichokes; trim stems, if desired, and remove loose outer leaves. Snip off the sharp leaf tips. If using baby artichokes, remove outer leaves to reach pale green or yellow leaves on bottom half. Cut darker green portion of leaves off top half of artichoke; discard. Cut off stem and trim any remaining green from base of baby artichokes.

2. In a Dutch oven bring a large amount of lightly salted water to boiling; add artichokes. Return to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 20 to 30 minutes for large artichokes or 10 minutes for baby artichokes or until a leaf pulls out easily.
3. Place artichokes in a large bowl of ice water to cool completely. Drain artichokes upside down on paper towels. Cut artichokes in half from top through stem; use a spoon to scoop out the fibrous cores, leaving the hearts and leaves intact.

4. For Tarragon Drizzle, in a screw-top jar combine the 2/3 cup oil, vinegar, green onions, mustard, and tarragon. Cover and shake well. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

5. Brush artichoke halves with additional olive oil. For a charcoal grill, place artichokes, cut sides down, on the rack of an uncovered grill directly over medium coals. Grill for 7 minutes; turn artichokes and grill for 5 to 7 minutes. (For a gas grill, preheat grill. Reduce heat to medium. Place artichokes on grill rack over heat. Cover and grill as above.)

6. On a serving platter place grilled artichokes cut sides up. Shake Tarragon Drizzle; pour some over artichokes; pass remaining with platter. Serve with lemon wedges. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Tips

1. Simmer the artichokes for the low end amount of time. I ended up simmering them for somewhere in between and I believe they were a little overcooked. Actually, I think I may try steaming them before grilling them next time.

2. If you are a busy mom like I am, or just plain busy, this is better as a weekend dish when you can take your time – the recipe takes about an hour, start to finish, to prepare properly.

3. Enjoy!!!

Hsiu Yu Chinese

Monday, May 3rd, 2010

The one thing I’ve learned about myself in this blogging experience is that if I don’t have much to write about a restaurant I’ve tried, the longer it takes for me to write it. Seems counter-intuitive. I mean if you don’t much to say, it shouldn’t take very long to say it, right? But the more jazzed I am about a restaurant, the more I have to say, the more I want to write about it and spread the word. Same goes if I really don’t like a restaurant – I may procrastinate since it is uncomfortable to write something bad about a business which may be owned by a family who makes their living through the success of that restaurant, but rarely am I at a loss for words. So what happens when a restaurant is only average. Not great, but not horrible either. Words, I have found, are definitely harder to come by.

Having said all that, it has now been almost two weeks since I’ve been to Hsiu Yu. Initially, I thought that the food was pretty good (I even tweeted as much), but after reflection and inevitable comparison, I’ve decided that Hsiu Yu is really only average. The food is alright, but ultimately forgettable, blending in with dozens of its competitors. To me, there were just no distinguishing features, from the food, to the service, to the atmosphere, setting this restaurant apart (with the exception that you have to buy a fortune cookie if you want one!).

If someone I was with really wanted to go to Hsiu Yu – I wouldn’t say no; the food there is okay, not terrible. But given a choice, I would go maybe a mile away, just outside Loop 410, to Formosa Garden – the food there is, in my opinion, better, although soup is not served with the lunch specials there either. Or, more likely, I’d go two or three miles south on Broadway to Mon Thai where the food is much better, includes Chinese options along side their signature Thai dishes and the atmosphere infinitely more interesting and intimate. Other Chinese restaurants I believe do it better are Wah Kee, on Blanco just outside Loop 1604, (although I would not give it higher marks on atmosphere) and the Taipei/Mencius family of restaurants (great food, great atmosphere, but pricier).

Hsiu Yu Chinese on Urbanspoon