Jul 082010
My third bite club event was at Havana Jax that features Cuban American food.  After reading their menu I was very excited to attend this event.  It was to be more of a mingling bar type atmosphere with two salsa dancing teachers on hand to teach us how to salsa!
Upon arrival we were given a sample mojito which was excellent.  It had fresh lime and mint and was not too sweet.
The bar area has lots of comfortable seating.
My Bite Club date Justine arrived so we had to get a picture.
A little out of focus…..after four more tries….
There we go!
The menu handed out was extensive and I was very excited about the Cuban Rolls Tornado served with chopped salad and olive oil vinaigrette.
Justine, me and Ashlee
Fried App #1
First out was bits of fried pork and yucca.  I wasn’t a huge fan of the pork.  The bite I got was very fatty.
Fried App #2
Fried plantains with a bean paste.
I could barely taste the plantain after the breading and frying.  
Fried App #3
The empanadas and croquettes.  After biting into mostly fried shell…yahoo!  A teaspoon of filling. I didn’t finish the croquettes.
Friends Justine, Courtney and Anthony
Bite Club veterans Lawrence and Lou
The desserts!  I said to the waitress, “I would like to try the Key Lime Pie and one of those cakes.”
“No” she said.  “You can only have one”.
“Oh.  I guess I’ll try the key lime pie.”
It tasted like key lime pie.
I did swipe a mango cake sample there in the back left of the photo which was excellent. Crumbly and buttery graham cracker crust and what tasted like a perfectly sweet, ripe mango.
As far as the Cuban Rolls Tornado served with chopped salad and olive oil vinaigrette as well as several other apps that were listed on the Bite Club menu, I can’t tell you.  They were never served.  And the salsa teachers were not there which was disappointing.
I went home and ate a fresh apple.
Thanks to the Bite Club for free food and wonderful company.
I can’t say I will go to Havana Jax for the food but it did look like a fun bar atmosphere.

Havana Jax Cafe - Cuba Libre on Urbanspoon

Jun 112010

Last Tuesday was my second Bite Club event at Mandaloun Mediterranean.  I have been to this restaurant before and it’s one of my favorites.  I was so excited to go back and try a few items I have never tried!

I arrived just at 5:45 and people were getting drinks at the bar.  The walls are painted with mountainous scenery, there are white columns and rich wood high tops that make for a charming and inviting atmosphere.

We were offered quite an extensive taste of the entire menu!

My friend Justine attended again.

Our foodie friends Kim and David also attended.

Justine brought her mom Madeline as her guest.

And finally, I also brought another foodie friend, Courtney!

To start, the owner came out and gave us background on the restaraunt and what we would be tasting.

And then the food began to come out.
Fresh pita with an oregano herb dipping oil. 

Mezze Sampler
First up was the Hummus: A puree of chickpeas mixed with sesame cream and lemon juice.
Theirs is so smooth and creamy and has a little dip in the middle with extra virgin olive oil.

Baba Ganoush: Puree of grilled eggplant mixed with sesame cream and lemon juice.
This was the first time I actually liked Baba Ganoush.  Normally it has this weird almost bitter aftertaste but this one was also very creamy and I loved the texture.  I even went back in for seconds!

Tabbouleh: Finely chopped parsley, tomato, onion, touch of white pepper, crushed wheat, olive oil and lemon dressing.
There were ooohs and aaahhs when this came out.  It was so fresh it had to have been made right then.

Fattoush: Lettuce, tomato, cucumber, radish, onion, mint, lemon pepper, crispy pita bread with olive oil, lemon and pomegranate dressing.
I think the Fattoush was the star of the show.  The pomegranate dressing is tangy with that bite of vinegar that tickles the back of your throat.  Is has sort of the sweet/tart cranberry-esque flavor.  There are a ton of fresh aromatic herbs on top and then when you bite into the crispy pita you will swear you died and went to heaven.  This is my most favorite dish there.  I’ve tried to recreate it but there’s just no substitution for theirs.

Sambousek – Meat Pie: Deep fried Lebanese pastry stuffed with minced beef and pine nuts.
I, personally, am not a huge fan of fried foods but the outside was crispy and flavorful and the inside was tender, meaty and crumbly.  If you like meat and fried foods I would go with this as an appetizer.

Sambousek Jebneh – Cheese Pie: Deep fried Lebanese pastry stuffed with feta cheese and mint.
When I bit into this one I was pleasantly surprised.  I had forgotten there was fresh mint inside!  I loved the combo of the aromatic mint and gooey salty feta.

Fatayer - Spinach Pie: Pastry stuffed with spinach, onion and pine nuts.
Out of the three pies this was my favorite as it was mainly veggie and it was baked!  The onions added a sweetness and the pine nuts a delicious crunch.  I would definitely order these again.
Main Course
Mini Kebabs: Chicken and Beef Kebabs served over rice.
The star of the main course, for me, was actually the rice! I did enjoy the grilled chicken, however the beef was a bit on the dry side.  We all discussed the rice trying to guess all the flavors, I thought I tasted a cinnamon, David said tumeric, saffron and cumin.  I believe everyone went back in for more on the rice.

I tried two wines.  One was a Lebanese red, Le Prieure, Ksara, and one was a inexpensive Domestic Red, Five Rivers Cabernet.  I took a photo of the Cab as it was excellent and so inexpensive.
I must say I’m terrible at describing wine so Courtney….if you read this you must tell us what you thought!
And finally…the desserts.  Both of them made me close my eyes and slowly savor.  I ate each and every bite.
Baklava: Traditional Lebanese Pastry filled with nuts, pistachios and almonds.
This small round tube was so light and crispy with sweet/salty nuts crushed nuts.

Nammoura: Sweet coconut baked with semolina.
I loved the texture of the semolina and coconut. (Which is weird as I typically hear people say they like the flavor of coconut but not the texture.) Semolina is a form of wheat, I have also heard it called groats.  It was baked into the bar form you see below with coconut and saturated with a thick sweet liquid.  Each bite had texture and sweetness with the consistency of a thin honey.  

Mandaloun on Urbanspoon

Jun 032010
Enough desserts, back to my regularly scheduled programming.  

I am sure you remember the last Bite Club event Justine and I went to right?  It was at a place called the Grape and we got to try a variety of dishes, wines and dessert for free! 

Well guess what…Justine and I (and our new friend Lou) ended up in the Folio! (See photo #7; Me, Justine and Lou).  Ok so it was a tiny picture towards the back but we’ll take what we can get.
In other delicious news I created a gorgeous organic egg white and grilled veggie salad…..
….WITH balsamic vinaigrette.
Egg White and Grilled Vegetable Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette
Serves 1
*2 WW Pts
2 cups arugula, spinach mixed
1/3 cup grilled corn kernels
1/3 cup chopped grilled vegetables
2 hard boiled egg whites
Fresh cracked pepper and kosher salt, to taste
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp coarse ground mustard
1 tsp minced garlic
1 packet stevia or 1 tsp sweetener of choice
Fresh cracked pepper and kosher salt, to taste
1. Layer the arugula, corn, veggies, egg whites, salt and pepper in a medium bowl.
2. Whisk the dressing ingredients in a small bowl. 
3. Pour dressing over salad. 
May 122010

I arrived a little early for the Bite Club event at The Grape, Wine Bar and Bistro as I was so excited!  It was put on by a local magazine called The Folio Weekly and hosted by Ashlee from A Year in The Kitchen.

Every day they have various events at The Grape.
There are fun tables out front to relax in the sun.
I promptly headed to the bar to order a glass.
After a glance at the wine list and a few suggestions/taste from the bartender I ordered the La Roche.
A French Chardonnay that had a bit of residual sugar so it wasn’t too dry and had a nice fruity crisp taste.  It was refreshing in the warm weather.
6:00 rolled around and the event was starting.
To Start:
Seasonal Cheese Selection 
New Zealand Lamb Nachos
Mini Crab Cakes with Jicama Slaw (paired with a wine)
Raspberry Mousse in a Chocolate Teacup (paired with a wine)
Ashlee, the hostess with the mostess greeted each Bite Club member as they arrived.

I’m so happy to have met another fellow foodie/blogger in the area!
Bite club members finding their seats and waiting for things to start.
My guest was my BFF and fellow foodie, Justine.
The food started to come out.
First, the bread. 
It was a bit dry and rather unimpressive.  I would have preferred an artisan whole grain baguette with some personality.
Next the Hors d’oeuvres
The seasonal cheese.  This was the star of the show for me…the Blueberry Stilton.  WOW.  I could have had it for dessert.  It was creamy with chunks of blueberry; a perfect balance of sweet and mild.  I should have added this to my Bucket List a long time ago so I could cross it off.  Great choice Grape!

Ashley and her hubby JJ pause for a portrait.
The First Wine
Next came out our first wine tasting.
Spy Valley, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc 2009.  Cool, citrusy grapefruit taste.  Divine. (Could I be turning into a white wine drinker?)
The Jicama Slaw with a light vinaigrette.  I went back in for seconds.
The Lamb Nachos with Hummus and Goat Cheese. 
Original idea and great presentation but the hummus baked onto the nacho chip was a bit dry.  I would prefer to see fresh, creamy hummus on the crispy nacho chip with the warm lamb and a bit more goat cheese layered on top. 
We had to really hunt for the goat cheese and the taste was lost under the red sauce.
Next were the crab cakes.  They were ok; a bit bready and a bit fishy. 
I probably wouldn’t get them again.
The Chicken Quesadilla ordered on the side by some fellow dining mates.  Inside was warm melted cheese and fresh pesto with an exceptionally crispy exterior.  I would definitely order this next time.  I love the pesto inside.
The dessert was a light raspberry crème in a dark chocolate cup over chocolate mousse.  This isn’t something I would normally order as I eat so much fruit I tend to shy away from it when splurging on dessert but this was to die for.  Some thought the chocolate mousse inside was too much chocolate but I loved it.  (Granted I’m a chocoholic) It didn’t seem too overpowering when paired with the fluffy, light raspberry. 
Here is Ashlee double fisting it with the dessert cups. (Don’t blame her…you go Ash!)
Final Wine Tasting
This was the lovely, fizzy wine that came out with dessert.  It was slightly sweet without being too heavy and overpowering.  Can someone tell me what this deliciousness was?  By now I was a few drinks in and forgot to get the name.
Overall we had an amazing experience meeting new friends and trying new things.
Thanks to Ashlee, The Bite Club, The Grape and The Folio Weekly for putting on a wonderful event.  I look forward to trying out for the next one!