a pho-nomenal competition

I have a confession. I currently have 70 {yes, 70!} half-written blog post sitting in my draft folder. Yikes. One that I’ve been meaning to write since last July was where to find the best hole-in-the-wall ethnic food in Raleigh.

My buddy and I made plans to get take-out Pho {Vietnamese soup} the other night. As we were driving up Capital Blvd and deciding which Pho restaurant to go to, we decided to get a dish from each place and pit them against each other in a super-intense food competition. Yes, this is what I do with my time. Haha! I knew it was a blog post in the making.

The competitors {drum roll, please}:

Pho Cali: 3310 Capital Blvd 
Pho Far East: 4011 Capital Blvd

We carefully devised a system to rank the restaurants.

  • Atmosphere: Pho Cali was perfectly nice but very simple; Pho Far East felt much more cozy because of the decor and lights.
    • Winner: Pho Far East 
  • Popularity {extra points were awarded if the customers were Vietnamese because we all know that matters}: Pho Cali gained two customers while we were there, but Pho Far East had about eight people eating dinner there. It was a tie for percentage of Vietnamese diners. 
    • Winner: Pho Far East
  • Price: $8.99 for a big portion of pho at both places.
    • Tie
  • Quantity: The presentation made it slightly hard to judge, but I think the servings were comparable.
    • Tie
  • Hours: Pho Cali is open for an extra hour at the morning, but I am realistically going to drive up Capital for pho at 9am? Gonna call it a:
    •  Tie
  • Presentation: The overall presentation of Pho Far East’s was more elegant and appetizing.
    • Winner: Pho Far East
  • Service: The service at both places was fantastic. Everyone was friendly and welcoming and even let us practice our Vietnamese pronunciation. But the winner by a slight margin was Pho Cali.
    • Winner: Pho Cali
  • Location: Pho Cali is closer to downtown; Pho Far East is further up Capital {which is one of the worst streets in Raleigh}.
    • Winner: Pho Cali
  • Quality: Arguably the most important of the categories! Alone, each bowl of pho was delicious. But side-by-side, Pho Far East was the clear winner. The broth was much more flavorful, the meat looked more fresh, and they included sriracha, which is critical to the enjoyment of a bowl of Pho.
    • Winner: Pho Far East 
Pho Far East was a pretty clear winner in the pho-off {reviews on Yelp say the same thing}. I look forward to patronizing the restaurant again in the near future 🙂 

P.S. Cheesy joke time: what country has the best food? Viet-nom nom nom 🙂
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lunchbox meal: healthy chicken masala

Here is a slightly different {and gluten-free} version of this Indian-inspired lunchbox meal.

I made this super easy dish for lunch today by combining a seemingly random assortment of items.

1) Prepare mung beans {boil 1 1/2 cups of water, add 1/2 cup of beans, turn to low, simmer for 35-50 minutes or until the water is absorbed and beans are tender}

2) Prepare TJ’s Multigrain Pilaf according to package Unfortunately, rice pilaf is not gluten-free, so I’ve started using rice in this recipe instead. The rice gets a nice hint of flavor if you boil it in chicken broth and add a dash each of salt, pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder.

3) Pull several large pieces of chicken off a store-bought rotisserie chicken. At about $5-$7 each, these are a great deal and can last for several meals. Best of all, you can adapt them easily with different sauces!

4) Layer the mung beans, rice, and chicken with TJ’s Masala Simmer Sauce and enjoy!

This Day Last Year: Spicy Sweet Potato Fries and Life Updates {I mention reach out to a group-buying site, which actually wasn’t LivingSocial! I also mention reaching out to my network for help with job searching. For more on that, click here.}

korean pickled cucumbers

Via Flickr user chiotsrun

Korean Pickled Cucumbers

My recent obsession with Korean food and home pickling in Mason jars has led me to try homemade Korean pickled cucumbers, which have a similar flavor to kimchi.

Cut a cucumber (I used an English cucumber, seeds and skin intact) into long, thin strips. Place in a bowl with water and salt for several hours. Remove from water and place in a Mason jar with the following: several dashes of rice vinegar; a teaspoon or so of minced garlic; a touch of grated ginger; some chopped onion; a sprinkling of paprika {for color}; and a pinch of cayenne pepper (the amount depends on your preference for spiciness). Fill the jar to the top with water, shake, and refrigerate for at least several hours. Eat within 2-3 days.

P.S. Unsure about photo copyright laws? Err on the safe side and use Flickr’s Creative Commons photos. This copyright allows owners to determine which rights they want to maintain over their photos; most users using Creative Commons allow you to use their work as long as you attribute it to them. Simply go to Flickr.com, click Advanced Search, and select the checkbox for “Only search within Creative Commons-licensed content.” Thank you to Mital Patel and other members of The Raleigh Forum for teaching me this! The photo above was found on Flickr.

Recipe: Prasoryzo (Rice with Leeks)

Back from an unintentional blogging hiatus with a new recipe!


So easy, a time-pressed recent college graduate can do it. In a skillet, saute onions and leeks with olive oil and a touch of butter. Pop Minute Rice (I used the chicken kind) into the microwave. When leeks and onions are tender, combine with heated rice. Add a dash of lemon juice, a generous sprinkling of dill, some salt and pepper, and a handful of sun-dried tomatoes.

This is fantastic as a side dish, but I bet it would be good with shredded chicken as a main entree. Serve it with other Greek-inspired dishes!

 

keepin’ it accountable

Yesterday I ate lunch at Sitti with a coworker from The Raleigh Forum and one of our Raleigh friends. The food was delicious (albeit more than I normally pay for lunch) and we had fantastic service. I tweeted the restaurant as we were crossing the street and by the time we had sat down, the manager came over and mentioned that he saw my tweet and recognized my face. He then brought us some extra little treats (Feta Cheese Dip and an interesting marinated hard cheese thing, which I couldn’t find on the menu!). I will definitely go back as soon as possible. Follow them on Twitter to help them reach their goal of 1000 followers!

Anyway, my lunchmates and I got to talking about some of our personal flaws and bad habits and ended up deciding to give each other week-long self-improvement challenges. $10 is on the line, and we’re adhering to the Honor System.

Me: Write up 3 things every day that I’m grateful for (Though I love and appreciate my life, I have a tendency to take things for granted sometimes). I also have to ride my bike to work at least 2 times during the week (it currently sits in the bike rack at my apartment. I want to ride it more often for health and environmental reasons, not to mention as a way to save money on gas!)

Friend #1: He’s the reason we started this challenge. He mentioned in passing that he doesn’t wear his seat belt, which prompted shocked looks and a barrage of questions from me and Friend #2. For the whole week, he has to wear his seat belt every time that he’s in a moving car.

Friend #2: He finds himself eating out most days of the week, so his challenge is to bring his lunch to work all week. I offered to help by setting up a menu plan and sending him recipes! We also decided to have a mini-pot luck one day next week!

Wish me luck!

homemade bibimbap

Pinned Image

Source: unknown

“Bibim-what?” You may be asking. My friend Lindsay introduced me to bibimbap, a Korean dish that means “mixed with rice,” at Mandu in DC. Another friend and I ended up finding Rice Bar, which, in the words of one Yelp reviewer, is like “Chipotle or Subway, except with bibimbap.” For a decent price (a base price of $6.49 but it quickly adds up), you get a Design Your Own Bibimbap Bowl. I went to town- wild rice, seaweed, kimchi, the works…

Since bibimbap is apparently a very easily adaptable dish, I decided to try it at home- just like my other rice and quinoa bowls. And it’s naturally gluten-free and easily vegetarian or vegan too!

Below is what I put in my bowl but use these sites for inspiration: Serious Eats. I Really Like Food. Globetrotter Diaries. For a whole array of amazing pictures, visit TasteSpotting.

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Source: unknown

My ingredients:

  • Bite-sized kale pieces, sauteed with olive oil and a dash of sesame oil
  • Pre-cooked sliced steak, drizzled with soy sauce and Annie Chun’s Korean Barbecue Sauce
  • Thinly sliced cucumber marinated in rice vinegar with a dash of dried red pepper
  • Bean sprouts leftover from my Vietnamese excursion to Pho Cali over the weekend
  • Minute Rice (I know, I know, definitely not the same as sticky rice!)
  • Kimchi
  • A drizzling of sesame oil, soy sauce, and Sriracha (the closest I could get to the hot pepper paste normally used, called gochujang)
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This was an easily packable lunch for work: I combined the cucumber, kale, bean sprouts, and kimchee in one Tupperware; the steak in another small one; and the dressing in a third. At 12pm (I’m always famished by then!), I heated the Minute Rice and combined it with the other ingredients. The heat from the rice heated everything else! I realized after I finished that I had forgotten an egg though 😦

This meal is probably easier for me than most people because my fridge is fully stocked with a bunch of Asian sauces and oils- I have peanut oil, Korean barbecue sauce, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, sesame seeds, etc. For the recipes I make, they’re all good investments! The other problem is that MSG is hiding in one of them, so I got an odd headache-y feeling after eating the bibimbap today.

fall festivities

After a splendid last week and a marvelous weekend, I’m ready to take on Monday!

  • Lunch with two girls from Compass Partners. It was really interesting to be sitting in a snazzy conference room with two other girls my age discussing collaboration for our businesses and organizations. I love seeing other young individuals so involved!
  • Several meetings with individuals reserving The Raleigh Forum for events (including one woman who saw our flyer, walked over, and signed a contract!)
  • The Mayoral forum, where I gained a better sense of each candidate’s platform. We also met them in person after the event, which solidified my opinions
  • Welcoming new members to The Raleigh Forum
  • A hectic and awesome Friday- the kind where you almost wish it wasn’t the weekend because you have so much to do!
  • Friday@5 happy hour at Flying Saucer
  • A fashion show at Spy Raleigh
  • Volunteering at the Autism Society of NC’s annual walk/run, followed by bagels and mimosas at The Raleigh Forum. I met a lot of cool people!
  • Mid-day napping!
  • A random Saturday with a friend, which included going to the park with the dogs to watch a volleyball tournament (may or may not have packed a few beers), Chinese food, and lots of time outside
  • My first time at Mirage (can’t wait to go back and use my LivingSocial deal!)
  • SPCA event at Seaboard Station- dogs everywhere!
  • Draft house for dinner and drinks
  • A long phone call with one of my best friends
  • Butternut squash chili, gluten-free pumpkin pancakes, and several varieties of homemade gluten-free granola bars
My week was intense, which I find much more enthralling then a slow, monotonous week. And the weekend was a perfect balance of activity and relaxation- the kind where you feel chill but not guilty for being lazy.
The week to come:
  • Tennis with a new partner
  • Hopefully tennis with my usual partner- are you reading this, Harry?
  • Shabbat dinner at my place
  • Visit from an out-of-town friend, which will include a football game, a trip to the state fair, and LOTS of Taboo!
  • Lunch at Manta, the new downtown Indian restaurant
  • Welcoming visitors to The Raleigh Forum!
  • Signing those Raleigh Forum contracts 🙂

another gluten-free week

This week was a delectable assortment of gluten-free meals. Yet another week of taking a proactive approach to my health!

Proving that gluten-free eating can be full of flavor 🙂

I think one of my biggest challenges eating limited gluten will be modifying ethnic foods, because gluten is often such an intrinsic part of the recipes. For example, we are taking a coworking field trip to Mantra, Raleigh’s new Indian restaurant, on Tuesday. How am I supposed to have Indian food without naan?! Something to ponder…

doin’ alright

I haven’t blogged for a few days and I miss it!

Updates:

  • Catch up on schoolwork- chugging along
  • Finish my American India Fellowship application– due tomorrow, putting on the final touches in a few minutes!
  • Work on another application (top secret!)- making great progress; have had great feedback from the few people I’ve told
  • Meet with students in aforementioned top secret program- all incredible and inspiring; encouraging feedback from them too
  • Be interviewed by a Hatchet writer about GW Bites– met a great reporter! She was SO sweet and we had fun bonding over food
  • Figure out GMAT dates– in progress

I had a FANTASTIC weekend- as I mentioned earlier, I don’t go out as much as I used to. The bar scene just wasn’t fun for me anymore and I got tired of wasting my time. But on Friday I went out with an AMAZING group of girls. Most of us knew each other, but some of the girls didn’t…but everyone meshed SO well. It wasn’t Hangover-style epic, but it was just a really really fun time, made complete by amazing music (from N’Sync to Guns N Roses!). Last night I went to a friend’s birthday in a dorm, which was also super fun.

Highlights of the weekend:

  • Grabbing a drink with 2 friends- chatting about jobs & reminiscing about Now That’s What I Call Music (Aaron’s Party- Come Get It!)
  • Being called off the street and given a free round of drinks by the owner of a new bar downtown
  • Meeting fun people
  • Dancing to Party in the USA…Tik Tok…Bye Bye Bye…
  • Eating Malaysian food near U St with friends (amazing- we got pancakes, eggplant curry, and wide noodles with delicious sauce)
  • Being ABSURDLY productive on Friday (emailed my trusted advisors/professors/partners/colleagues to get their insight on my career search- I am SO thankful for all of the amazing people in my network)
  • Participating in the Pitch George competition (alas, I did not win, but I got great feedback on my business idea. Congrats to Tricia Reville for her second consecutive win!)
  • Visiting a new babysitting family (I got to their house a few minutes early, so I took a walk through their beautiful and quiet neighborhood. It was so peaceful. I even snapped a few fall pictures on my phone!)
  • Reading my newest novel- Michael Crichton’s Rising Sun

The next week will be intense but it’s capped off on Saturday with my first ever trip to ATLANTIC CITY  with the girls!

What’s in store:

  • Watching a football game with a friend at a local sports bar tonight
  • Intense GW Social Enterprise Forum planning meeting
  • Finishing both applications
  • Coffee with a new friend
  • Delivering GW Bites meal- lentil soup, ziti with roasted zucchini, and banana-chocolate chip muffins
  • Babysitting for my new family
  • Attending the Hunger Banquet at GW
  • Road tripping to Atlantic City in a mini-van with a group of 6 amazing girls! SOO fun

P.S. The blog title is in reference to one of my favorite Collective Efforts song, appropriately titled “Doin’ Alright.” This video is weird but the song is awesome.

Update: Just saw down to do my econ homework…and realized I already did it! Best feeling ever!