spectating participant

February 7, 2006

taste buds

Filed under: dining, food — suzanne henderson @ 9:09 am

I think Alex is starting to evolve her palette. She has been ordering off adult menus for a while now, no big deal there; however, she is now ordering new things every time we go out. Last night I asked her where she wanted to go out and eat — Olive Garden. Now, this doesn’t fit in with my preferred places anymore but she argued that it had been “forever” since we’ve been there and talked me into going. Now, I was a little disappointed in the selection because she has never had an interest in ordering off the adult menu and I find their child selections a little dull. But, with a quick glance at the menu something jumped right out at her — pork tenderloin. Eek, she would be picking something several dollars more than my dish, but I was happy to see the excitement and daringness in trying new things.

I took a while for the food to show up, longer than it should have I would soon notice. Alex ends up with a large plate full of roasted potatoes and a slab or pork tenderloin. She was pretty excited about it because she is really into pork these days (good thing cause we’re having pork chops for dinner). But I noticed that she only took one bite and didn’t seem interested in having another. Thinking it was because they’d failed to give her a knife capable of cutting, I asked and received a knife better suited for a meat entree. I then tried a bite and ick! it was quite terrible. In fact, I think it takes considerable work to make pork *that* dry and chewy. The reduction sauce was unflavorful and detracted from the leathery meat. I totally understood why she didn’t want it. Now, the waitress who was shocked that she would order such a dish seemed to take the assumption that it was just finicky child that didn’t like it. She thought it was also “just too much” for Alex to eat to which I responded that the problem was that the meat was overly dry and didn’t taste good. But, I suppose that since it was a child’s order, it didn’t matter. Now, the dish that I always order was also pretty bad. I don’t know if it is because I’ve gotten used to eating at good restaurants or that they were having a really crappy night in the kitchen. However, it certainly crosses that place of the maybe-possible dining list.

December 12, 2005

sweet, so, sweet

Filed under: dining, cooking, family, life — suzanne henderson @ 4:01 pm

The island in the kitchen was buried under ingredients, utensils, and rows and rows of cookies on Sunday. Iwas time for some holiday baking and it was a lot of fun and very productive. Collectively we made 3 batches of spice nuts, two batches of no bake cookie (chris’ recipe calls them raggedy robins.. odd), 8 dozen peanut butter blossom, 1 batch of sugar cookie dough, 1 batch of gingerbread dough, and 8 dozen chocolate truffle cookies. It was quite an adventure.

Chris spent most the tie working on the sugar cookie dough which was being far more stubborn than I would have tolerated. We did get a few cookies cut out, but I think we’ll have to give it another try later. We bought a million cookie cutters and I want to get some use out of them; but honestly, I just want to decorate the cookies–I don’t even like eating sugar cookies. The peanut butter blossoms are my favorite, but bagged up over 2/3 of them to help fill stockings for the staff members at Alex’s school. The spice nuts were very easy and so I just made two more batches to have a simple thing to bag up for the stockings. Kay, a new balt-wash member, came over and made her chocolate truffle cookies which were quite chocolatey.

By the end of the day, after a few too many tastes of everything, I was dying for something real for dinner. Megan and Chris were suggesting pizza but that sounded far too sweet to me. We ended up getting steaks at a local place that just opened last month. I felt bad about heading out to eat, but Chris pointed out that we’d both been slaving away in the kitchen all day and it was perfectly reasonable. The food was great, as always, but the atmosphere made it to where I’ll never go back again.

I’ve been spoiled with Montgomery County not allowing smoking in restaurants. When we arrived, we requested a seat as far away from smoking as possible and didn’t get one. Then before the appetizer showed up, my lungs were starting to hurt from the drifting smoke. We asked the waiter if we could move (luckily it wasn’t busy) and got a little further away. In fact, we got through the majority of the meal before the smoke managed to creep over to the new location. I like the food and alex loves the place, but I am not going to eat somewhere that allows smoking, especially not a place that doesn’t even divide the two areas, sigh. It was still nice to be eating something that wasn’t sweet and that I didn’t have to clean up after.

October 29, 2005

CalorieLab Calorie Counter News » McDonald’s to add nutrition data to packaging

Filed under: dining, food — suzanne henderson @ 8:51 am

CalorieLab Calorie Counter News » Archives » McDonald’s to add nutrition data to packaging

I have to praise McDonald’s additional step toward consumer education. In the fast food places that I have visited, they seem to be the only one consistently offering nutritional data to their customers. I have seen it printed are large posters, viewable while waiting in line, and accessible pamphlets of information that customers can take home. I have also noticed that they are listing the nutritional facts on the back of their dine-in tray placemats. Having these things readily available versus available only on demand is a check-plus in my book.

Of the complaints against McDonald’s decision, this one really bothers me:

Both Jacobson and Banzhaf complained that customers would not see the nutritional information until after ordering their food, preventing comparison of items. In addition, customers who order multiple items need to add up the values themselves.

The information, prior to ordering, is there (in the majority of the places I’ve visited) and accessible if customers want to know the nutritional content of the meal they are considering. Printing the facts on food labels is more for education for those who don’t really care or who may not be considering the nutritional values. If their food starts showing up with this data on it, many will read it and possibly start reconsidering some of their choices if they are a chronic diner. It is easier to ignore something that is not seen and (hopefully) harder to choke down one’s 3rd double cheeseburger in a week if they are very aware of how it affects their daily nutritional intake.

And the argument about multiple items, come on! No, we do not need to become such a hand holding society that we assume people can’t add. Yes, some may view that simple adding the information to food labels as just an act, but I still see it as a step in the direction of education for responsible consumerism. Do I think we need to print them out a nutritional receipt with their purchase as well, no. Self-reliance and responsibility is still on the individual. The presence of the facts on their food should be enough of an external motivator for dietary change (if they need it or care).

All this being said, there is nothing wrong with eating at McDonald’s and ordering a sandwich high in saturated fat and calories. It is all about taking in account your daily nutritional intake and maintaining the proper balance throughout the day. I have been considering all the information about choosing healthier fast-food options and I considered doing that yesterday when my family went to McDonald’s (something that happens a couple times a year). And then it finally dawned on me that I’d had very little to eat that day, my nutritional intake was extremely low in all categories, and getting my favorite BigMac was not going to hurt me. I understand that for people who eat fast food daily, making healthier choices is a positive step to improved health. But for those of us who are actually on the right track nutritionally, enjoy your favorite items when you go out.

October 14, 2005

creature comforts cuizine

Filed under: dining, food — suzanne henderson @ 10:38 am

I’ve been fading away on the [food] scale lately. It seems that nothing sounds good to my mind or stomach. In trying to come up with somewhere to go eat at, my mind draws a blank and thinks of the massive redundancy of our frequently visited restaurants and the varietal staleness of the menu items. Wednesday, I couldn’t think of anything to eat and we eventually ended up at [BJ Pumpernickles] which always offers a broad selection of foods. Alex was in a finicky mood and took longer than usual to select from the generic kids menu. I took twice as long as she did and finally resolved to order chocolate pie instead of bothering with anything real for dinner. I’d been eyeing the matzo ball soup and when Chris slyly mentioned this to our oh-so-accommodating-waiter, a cup appeared on the table for me to try. It was good but not what I wanted. Chris had a Greek wrap that was closed to my undefined craving, but still lacking. The pie was great, but also left me feeling a little disappointed in the entire subject of food and eating. And then, last night rolls around, and again I cannot come up with anything that I feel is worth shoving down my throat. Chris offers up all sorts of options, friendly trying to make a reasonable accommodation to my new found selective pallet, but nothing holds out. Finally, being defeated by my lack of direction, he opts for ordering pizza. Just as he is about to click the order button, I notice a menu we’d collected from our visit to [Roots] grocery store several months ago….

Ah-ha, something perked up inside and I eagerly read over the menu options. [Great Sage] (Spencerville, Maryland) was the name of the small eatery next door and the menu was filled with all sorts of vegetable goodness. A vegetarian establishment, they looked like they put real effort in the items they offered and they all sounded good. Suddenly, I was starving and couldn’t get out the door fast enough to try some of the items. And what a treat it was. We started with an appetizer of roasted vegetables with goat cheese and a drizzle of balsamic and a spiced pumpkin chai latte and a pumpkin smoothie. That was really the best; I could have eaten two of them, except I was quickly filling up before my main course was even close to being done. I got a vegan Shepard’s pie and while I hate for vegetarian food to be a meatless replica of something else, I still found it quite appealing. There were a few things about it that could have been better, but still wonderful overall. Chris got an Indian cakes dish with lentils and all sorts of curry goodness. Alex ended up with the mac and cheese from the kids menu which didn’t go over well. I think it was the whole wheat pasta and the use of real cheese that really did her in. Neon orange mac and cheese is rally the only kind she likes. Oh, I was so happy over the food. Of course, that was hampered a little by the $60+ bill that came with it. Ouch, wasn’t expecting that. But then we did get specialty drinks that are always overpriced and essentially two appetizers (Chris also got a side salad). So, all in all, it was still what my palette needed.

I went to be thinking of all the wonderful things I can start cooking again and looking forward to the shopping trip today and the dinner that will result from it. Sometimes, I guess you just need a little extra kick to get the tastes going again. And now that it is fall, this is a perfect time to settle into those wonderfully rich dishes that you just want to snuggle into a warm sweater and devour.