Lolita

On the cold and blustery night that was last Saturday, the bf and I spent an afternoon gathering sweaters from the clearance racks and and picking out new glasses with the very hip and helpful staff at Urban Eye. Feeling a tad hungry, and after a yummy pineapple margarita with a cinnamon-sugar rim at El Vez (sorry, I forgot the photo), swinging my feet at the bar, I looked across the street and saw the twinkling white christmas lights of Lolita. The bf had never been. It was not a hard sell.

blood orange margarita with mint
blood orange margarita with mint

Lolita is a BYOT restaurant (Bring Your Own Tequila). We brought a nice bottle of reposada and enjoyed a pitches of the blood orange margarita mix. I love blood oranges, but too often the flavor, when ordered out, is too sweet. Not at Lolita. The mix offers just a slight sweet edge, and fresh muddled mint.
chips with dos salsas
chips with dos salsas
We shared the fresh, homemade chips that and two salsas, one a cilantro-heavy, mild green salsa, the other a spicier, complex roasted poblano and tomato salsa. Luckily, our appetizer came quickly, or I would have eaten the whole basket!
fundido de queso
fundido de queso

I’m lactose intolerant, and have to say that I didn’t do so well with the ordering this night. Thankfully, I always carry a handful of Lactaid for cheese emergencies. We ordered the fundido de queso (with the chorizo on the side for the bf), and it arrived hot, beautiful, and crispy black on the sides – just the way I like my baked cheese! Warm petite corn tortillas, wrapped in a cotton cloth, were the perfect paired for our eager, cheese-scooping fingers.
enchiladas verdes
enchiladas verdes

I considered substituting portabello mushrooms or chile tofu in one of the entrees, an option that makes Lolita uniquely vegetarian friendly among Philadelphia BOYB’s, but on our waitress’s suggestion, I ordered the enchiladas verdes, substituting crisp fried tofu for the shrimp. Everything at Lolita is presented beautifully, and the sauce was a creamy, cilantro-heavy dream. Perhaps I’m just extra cheese sensitive now, or maybe it’s because I love mushrooms so much, but I would have preffered more shitakes in the enchiladas, and less Lancaster jack cheese. It was, truth be told, still entirely delicious, and though I could hardly make it through half of the entree, I could hardly wait to eat the rest the next day!

Like many small BYOBs in Philadelphia – we’re overly blessed to have so many wonderful ones – Lolita is small, and can be loud and crowded, especially on the weekends. We were lucky to score a tiny table in the front corner, and had a lovely romantic night anyway. Our waitress was just attentive enough without being overbearing, dishes were cleared promptly, and the food came out faster than we could finish our pitcher of margaritas! The prices we also reasonable, and it always helps the bill at the end of the night to BYOT!

Lolita on Urbanspoon

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lunchtime salads

I prepare lunch buffets for work at least once a week, and try to keep them delicious, healthy, vegetarian-friendly, and budget conscious. Since I’m often eating these lunches, too, I also don’t want to feel bored, either preparing them or eating them, especially when I have multiple lunches to prepare in one week. I’ve started making more exciting salads to keep me entertained, and happy with my lunch!

lunch salad with greens, dried cranberries, apples, goat cheese, toasted walnuts, and raspberry vinaigrette
lunch salad with greens, dried cranberries, apples, goat cheese, toasted walnuts, and raspberry vinaigrette

I made this salad with mixed field greens (purchased in bulk instead of in the clam shell casing), dried cranberries, apple sliced tossed with white balsamic vinegar, goat cheese, toasted walnut pieces and a Maple Grove Farms fat-free raspberry vinaigrette. Later in the week I made the same salad, but added pomengranate seeds, and used a cranberry goat cheese.

Dinner Party Club

One afternoon some friends and I were sitting around, talking about how much we liked to cook but how our busy work schedules and general roommate-living often prevented us from cooking anything other than one-pot specials. We formed a dinner party club with our houses, and every two weeks one of us takes a turn cooking the meal, while everyone else brings a bottle of wine. It’s often the highlight of the week to leave a long a day of work and know that you have a home-cooked meal and some relaxing times with your friends, over the dinner table, ahead of you. Of course, it’s fun to do the cooking, too. Last week, it was my turn.

carrot fennel soup from Gourmet Nov. '08
carrot fennel soup from Gourmet Nov. '08

We started with a roasted carrot and fennel soup from the Gourmet Nov. ’08 issue. Most of the recipes from my meal came from this magazine. While I usually cook out of vegetarian cookbooks, when I use recipes at all, the beautiful photos in this issue, and its Thanksgiving-style comfort food, sucked me in. The November issue actually has a full vegetarian menu, but I picked and choose recipes from the entire issue. We had an unusual cold snap in Philadelphia last week, and these foods seemed warm and comforting. I may have been a bit lax in stirring the vegetables while they roasted, as they got a little black and crispy on some of the sides, but the flavor of the soup wasn’t disturbed and the color a bit more “complex” than it would have been otherwise. The soup is is garnished with a fennel seed oil and fresh fennel fronds. I served the soup with a crusty loaf of olive oil rosemary bread from Metropolitan Bakery.

mushroom farro (barley) pie
mushroom farro (barley) pie

This mushroom and farro pie is made with pre-packed puff pastry (homemade puff pastry takes hours, and isn’t really possible on a Tuesday night, post-work). It’s filled with pearl barley (substituted for the farro) ricotta, cremini mushrooms (though I substituted baby bellas) and green onions). I was worried that it wouldn’t be large enough to feed 8 people, but I was very wrong. While the the pie doesn’t seem dense, it’s very filling. You can see the steam rising from the pie.
novmeber dinner party club meal
novmeber dinner party club meal
To accompany the slice of mushroom pie, I made a baked squash with cream and parmesan from the Gourmet recipe, and along with mashed potatoes with garlic oil and the roasted garlic vegetarian gravy from Gourmet (which was, btw, so crazy delicious and wonderful smelling I almost drank it all on Sunday night, when I made it). For color, and in the interest of daily vegetables, I also make a kale with with garlic. We took a long break before dessert.
baked apples
baked apples

We ended dinner with apples, baked in cider with cinnamon, fresh whipped cream with rum and sugar, and candied walnuts. It was hard to find room in the stomach, but we were victorious, and warm, and full.

Falafel Balls and Pomegranate

I do a lot of cooking and catering as part of my full-time job. Yesterday I prepared a reception for a Lebanese novelist, and wanted to make the spread colorful and welcoming. For sweets, I put together a dessert tray of baklava, kolache (nut rolls) grapes, figs and dates.

Middle Eastern Dessert Platter
Middle Eastern Dessert Platter

I love fava beans, and Ful Madamas, so I made a salad using my own recipe, which is primarily fava beans, a healthy handful of chopped parsley,  4 minced garlic cloves, the fresh juice of one lemon, and boiled eggs to garnish.

Ful Madamas
Ful Madamas

Though I usually lean towards elaborate platters instead

of individual hors d’oeuvres for an event like this, I wanted to play a bit in the kitchen and so made up this hors de’oevor using falafel balls, slices of pickled turnip (which I love), a drizzle of tahini sauce, and fresh parsley.

falafel hors e'oevors

Alongside some of my usual tricks (crudite tray, fresh pitas, hummos) I added a platter of stuffed grapes leaves, fried eggplant in tomatoe sauce, and stuffed cabbage leaves.

Stuffed Grape Leaves Platter
Stuffed Grape Leaves Platter

of Iovine’s and Juice

I made the boyfriend some fresh juice out from my Juiceman Jr. the other day, and he got excited. The next day he came home with two giant bags of produce from Iovine’s Produce at Reading Terminal Market. Iovine’s is a treasure trove of fresh, affordable produce. We got:

4 oranges, a bunch of bananas, a bag of kale, 4 long peppers, a bag of mushrooms, a head of celery, a box of raspberries, 2 lemons, 2 limes, 1 ginger root, a bag of green beans, two apples, a pineapple, and a bag or carrots for $14. 50. It was a haul.

Iovine's Produce
Iovine

Then we got to the juicing. I have a little Juiceman Jr. which, while it does the job, takes out all of the fiber, seems to waste a lot of vegetable, and is hard to clean. You can see all the kale and carrot fibers in the lid.

Juiceman JR.
Juiceman JR.

While the boyfriend likes his juices fruitbased – apple, orange and carrot with a bit of kale and maybe a stalk of celery, I like them full of veggies. My current favorite is a pineapple, kale, cucumber, celery with bit of carrot, a bit of orange, a hunk of ginger and a wedge of lemon. It’s almost tart-tangy, and makes me feel all energized.

Hungry at Root

beet, blue cheese and endive at Root

I’ve been eating and cooking vegetarian for 16 years and thinking for a few about starting an eating/ cooking blog.  The purchase of a brand new camera, small enough to carry around with me to capture all possible food moments, has been the inspiration I needed to get going!

I’m usually a researcher and review reader, but popped into my local Ritz Camera store and walked out with the first camera the suited my slim, yet zoomy needs. No reviews read. All in the excitement of taking pictures that very night at a Yelp Elite event at the new restaurant Root in Philadelphia. Sadly, I was more than a bit disappointed by their decidedly few vegetarian options.  The hors d’overs on the right, a mix of seasonal beets, topped with blue cheese, nested in a bitter endive leaf, was acceptable, mostly because I was already so hungry! Later in the evening they also provided mini cheese rangoon dabbed with sriracha, a warm apple cake and brownies so soft and melty on the inside, they oozed like liquid fudge – all vegetarian but certainly not vegan!

I love to eat out and go to new restaurants, but I get frustrated when there are so few vegi-friendly options, especially at an establishment that claims to be intersted in local and sustainable food! I left a comment for them on Yelp.com, and hopefully in the future they will cater to a more to those who avoid meat!