What’s For Dinner? – Basil, Bacon and Caramelized Onion Stuffed Mushrooms


StuffedMushroom_Take7

UPC’s Basil, Bacon and Caramelized Onion Stuffed Mushrooms

Inspiration can come from a lot of different places, for a lot of different things. I love it when inspiration strikes me, and I am most definitely the kind of guy who will pull over to the side of the road to take a picture or write something down. I’m not so much of a sing-in-the-shower person, but you shouldn’t be the least bit surprised if I were to break into song while standing on the subway platform, or walking down a crowded street. Why? I was inspired. Interestingly, most often when inspiration strikes me, I’ve completely forgotten what inspired me by the time the inspired action begins. It’s one of the reasons why I believe in inspiration so thoroughly. Fortunately, for those really life-changing events, the ones that have a lasting impact on my life, I usually remember the inspiration for those. For instance: I remember what inspired me and my wife to go Paleo. In fact, I can trace that particular decision through an interesting path of choices, all made possible by one single moment of inspiration (and not a terribly pleasant one, I might add) almost a year before we did finally make the decision. And, depending on how you look at it, that particular moment, that inspiration, may in fact be responsible for my blogging as well. Sometimes it’s amazing to consider the implications that one action may have such lasting impressions! If I could, I’d go Paleo AGAIN – though I’m certainly not willing to give it up first…

My inspiration, as small as it may seem, for today’s meal was a box of mushrooms. Some mushrooms just say to me “I want to be chopped up in little bits and eaten in a salad.” Some of them say “I want to be sliced thin and made into a soup.” And these mushrooms that you see here, they were jumping up and down, screaming to be made into stuffed mushrooms as loud as they could! Honestly, I don’t understand how everyone else in the grocery store wasn’t annoyed by all the ruckus.
On a slightly more serious note: I saw these mushrooms and was instantly and immediately inspired to make stuffed mushrooms with them. Unlike bursting in to song, stuffed mushrooms take some preparation, consideration, and planning. I knew that they wanted to be made in to stuffed mushrooms, but I still had to figure out what to stuff them with! Not to worry; it came to me. Or, rather, my wife and I spent an agonizing 30 minutes spit-balling ideas back and forth until one stuck. Like inspiration, I knew it once we had it. So, here it is!

UPC’s Basil, Bacon and Caramelized  Onion Stuffed Mushrooms; What you’ll need:

  • Large Mushrooms (I used 20 oz) – any large cup-mushroom (white button, crimini, etc.); or cake the stuffing on top of a cap-mushroom (portobello, shiitake, etc)
  • Mushroom Stems, diced
  • 1 lb Bacon, cooked and crumbled (Top-Quality only! 🙂 )
  • 1 large Red Onion, diced and caramelized (also called “Spanish Onion”)
  • 1 medium Rutabaga, finely chopped.
  • 2 cloves Garlic, diced
  • 5-6 sprigs Fresh Basil, diced (including the stems – they add to the texture)
  • Several Fresh Basil Leaves, diced (keep separate from above)
  • Spices: Savory, Anise, Marjoram, Turmeric

Serves: 4-8
Cook and Prep Time: 60 minutes

2GarlicOnionBaconStuffedMushrooms-Bacon1. Cook and crumble the bacon. Drain the pan of most of the bacon grease (to be used in some other culinary creation!).

2. Add the onions and rutabaga to the remainder of the bacon grease and begin cooking on medium heat. Stir regularly (every 1-2 minutes).

1GarlicOnionBaconStuffedMushrooms-Mushrooms

Remove the stem, cut out the lip, and scrape out the gills.

3. Remove the stems of the mushrooms, cut out the lip of the cup, then scrape the gills off the inside of the cup (or cap, if you’re using caps) of the mushroom with a spoon. This makes more room for the stuffing.
Note: Don’t know what the gills are? Check here.

4. After about 10 minutes of cook time, add the garlic and mushroom stems to the onions and rutabaga and continue to cook and stir for another 5 minutes, or until the onions are thoroughly caramelized.

5. Turn off the heat, add the spices and diced basil and mix thoroughly.

5GarlicOnionBaconStuffedMushrooms-Stuffing-LastStir

Stir in the spices and basil with the caramelized onions and rutabaga.

6. Pre-heat the oven to 350.

7. Spoon some stuffing in to each mushroom, making sure that they’re filled to the top, but not over filled. The mushrooms will shrink while baking.

6GarlicOnionBaconStuffedMushrooms-PreBake

Don’t over-fill the mushrooms; they shrink while baking.

8. Grease the bottom of each mushroom thoroughly (yes, you can use the bacon grease 🙂 ) and place the mushrooms in a baking pan with enough space between them so that they’re not touching.

9. Put the pan in the oven once it’s up to temperature; set the timer for 15 minutes.

10. When the timer dings, sprinkle the remaining diced basil on top of the mushrooms, and serve and enjoy!

Optional: If you’re a cheese person: you can add cheese to the recipe at the end, while you’re adding the basil and spices to the stuffing.

StuffedMushroom_Take6

Questions:

  • What kinds of inspiration strikes you?
  • Do you ever have inspiration that you can act on immediately? Do you?
  • Do you ever have food inspiration?
  • How would you use this stuffed mushroom recipe?
  • How might you change it to suit your needs?
  • Are there other stuffed mushroom recipes that you like?
  • Would you serve this as a meal, or an appetizer?
  • What would you serve this with?

What’s For Lunch? Smoked Salmon Bento Box


SalmonBentoBox

UPC’s Smoked Salmon Bento Box

Ok, I’ll admit it… I’m an addict! I’m an unmitigated food addict. It’s always been my “drug of choice,” so to speak, and that hasn’t changed one iota over the years. And I love it!!

“I’m UPC, and I’m an addict.”

“Welcome UPC.”

All jokes (mostly) aside, these Bento-Box lunches have been leaving me seriously looking forward to my lunch every day! It’s not like I don’t normally enjoy my food. Of course I do, it’s made by my favorite chef! No, this is another situation entirely. I thoroughly enjoy the idea of being in a position to easily, painlessly carry a full meal, and a full-looking meal, all the way to work with me to eat at my leisure. It’s truly a delight.

Smoked Salmon Bento-Box; What you’ll need:

  • Smoked Salmon:
  • 12 oz Smoked Salmon
  • 2 oz “Glaze” (Apple Cider Vinegar (or any flavor), Olive Oil, Black Peppercorns, Whole Mustard Seeds; mixed together and soaked for a day)
  • Salad Eggs
  • Salad:
  • Favorite Mixed Greens
  • 1 cup Celery, sliced
  • 1/2 cup Green Onions, chopped
  • 1/2 cup Fresh Basil, chopped
  • 1 large Avocado, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons Olive Oil

Serves: 2
Cook and prep time: 30 minutes

1. Prepare the Salad Eggs. I used ham, basil, and carrots for this Salad Eggs dish.

2. In a pan, sear the smoked salmon on high heat for about 1 minute per side.

3. After turning off the heat, paint the salmon with the glaze, leaving the salmon in the pan so that the glaze can thicken in the heat. Let the salmon sit in the glaze for 2-3 minutes per side.

4. Slice the salmon and put it in the Bento Box.

5. Mix the salad ingredients and add them to the Bento Box.

6. Add the Salad Eggs to the Bento Box. And bring it to work to enjoy!

Questions:

  • What kinds of lunch foods get you excited?
  • Do you ever eat seafood for lunch?
  • Do you prefer smoked salmon, or another preparation method?
  • Do you prefer a different salmon preparation for a different meal? Have you ever thought about it?

What’s For Dinner? Baked Vegetable-Mustard-Marinade Chicken


BakedVegetableMarinadeChicken

UPC’s Vegetable Mustard Marinade Chicken

I’ve had a hectic couple of days! On Sunday I wrote what I had hoped would be a rousing response to a comment I received on a “4 Steps to Successfully Eating Out” post I wrote many months ago. I called my response “Am I Really Allergic To Wheat?” It’s no surprise that the nay-sayers came out in droves to give me their opinion on the matter. I received comments from the three main camps that you might expect. They all fell in to one of these:

  1. “It’s not a real allergy until a doctor has diagnosed it.”
  2. “My allergy is more important than yours.”
  3. “It’s not an allergy if you don’t get Anaphylactic Shock from it.”

It’s difficult to be trying to have an open and honest discussion about this sort of topic. This is a challenging topic to have among people with generally like minds! But throw in the fact that I’m opening my discussion up to the public, and all sorts of other opinions will start to show their faces too. While I want people to participate, I find it difficult and challenging to facilitate a beneficial discussion when it so quickly devolves into the dirty kind of arguments where the only “Out” is when someone gets hurt, insulted, or gives up because there’s no intellectual middle-ground. That’s not a good discussion for anyone.
So keep your eyes peeled at the end of this post. I’ll be bringing the above up in my Questions section, since it’s important to me what you all think.

Vegetable Mustard Marinaded Chicken; What you’ll need:

  • 1lb Whole Chicken Legs, skin on (this recipe will work with any cut; but it’s best on dark meat)
  • 1 cup Carrots, chopped
  • 1/2 cup Lemongrass, sliced
  • 1/2 cup Chives, chopped (will work just as well with green onions, scallions or leeks)
  • 1-inch Ginger, sliced
  • ChickenMarinadeVeggies1

    Just vegetables, before liquid is added

    2 tablespoons Whole-Seed Yellow Mustard (optional: Make your own with white vinegar, water, mustard seed, turmeric, sea salt, and ground mustard seed)

  • 4 tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar (optional: white or apple cider vinegar will work, but will change the flavor dramatically – consider your flavor carefully)
  • 1/2 cup Olive Oil
  • 1 cup Water

ChickenMarinadeVeggies2Serves: 4
Prep Time: 1 day
Cook time: 40 minutes

1. First put the chicken in a marinade container, then combine all remaining ingredients.

2. Close the container and seal it, then shake the container thoroughly, making sure that all ingredients have mixed.

ChickenMarinadeVeggies3

After shaking thoroughly

3. Store the chicken in the refrigerator for at least a day. Shake vigorously at least twice during that time.

ChickenMarinadeVeggies_After

The oil thickens in the fridge – this is a good thing, it locks the flavor in!

4. 60 minutes before meal time, pre-heat the oven on to 375, and take the chicken out of the fridge.

5. Using coconut oil or a nut oil (I used walnut oil) grease an oven-safe pan, and put the chicken on the pan.

6. Bake uncovered for 40-45 minutes (depends on how crispy you like the skin). Now serve and enjoy!

Questions:

  • Do you enjoy it when I do a “Weekend Food Commentary” on a hard-to-discuss topic like I did this past weekend?
  • Would you like to see these more frequently? Keeping in mind that it’s been months since I did the last one.
  • Are there any particular hard-to-discuss topics that you’d like me to review and discuss?
  • Chicken Questions:
  • What kinds of chicken recipes do you like the most? Baked/fried/soup/etc?
  • I’m playing around with some “Crusted Chicken” recipes, at the moment – any suggestions?
  • I’ve got some ideas for some chicken meals, and chicken appetizers… Any chance we could do a chicken dessert? I know – that might be pushing it a bit… 🙂

What’s For Dinner? Slow-Cooked Smoked Babyback Ribs


SlowCookedSmokedBabybackRibs

UPC’s Slow-Cooked Smoked Babyback Ribs

I’ve been slowly but surely refining my basic process for cooking up a “Smoked” meat dish, in the comfort of your own home using a slow-cooker or crock pot. I consider these ribs to be the final proof of the process for that. So the good news (other than that I had a delicious dinner, and loved every minute of it) is that I can finally document my “Slow-Cooker Smoked” process and start to build some recipes around it. Keep your eyes peeled for this in the future as I intend to be sharing many of these recipes with you!

As far as this recipe is concerned, you could do this using the “Smoked” process which I will document separately, or you could do these in a more “traditional” slow-cooker process. In fact, this recipe will work well for a grilled meal as well. All you would do is change this recipe slightly to do the final cooking on the grill rather than in a slow-cooker. Also, since a grill is quite a bit hotter than a slow-cooker, the cook time for grilling these will be somewhere in the neighborhood of between 20 and 40 minutes, depending on the temperature you use. A higher cook-time will give you a faster turn around. It will also sear the outside of the ribs more, which may be preferable. A lower temperature and longer cook time will encourage the use of sauces and other flavors to change the flavor of the ribs.

Slow-Cooked Smoked Babyback Ribs; What you’ll need:

  • 1 large rack Babyback Ribs
  • 1/2 cup Olive Oil
  • 1/2 cup Balsamic Vinegar (you can use a flavored one too, if you have one)
  • 1 cup water (filtered, please!)
  • Spices: Turmeric, Sage, Sea Salt

Serves: 2 (depending on the size of the rib rack; and how good it is!)
Cook and Prep time: 1.5 days.

1. In a pan or on a griddle, thoroughly brown the ribs on both sides. Do this using high heat – you want the outside to be browned, but you don’t want to cook the meat on the inside much, if any.

BabybackRibs_Browning

See the red showing on the edge of the ribs? Brown the outside quickly, but don’t cook the slab of ribs.

2. Put the ribs, spices, and oil and vinegar in a marinating container and put it away for a day.

3. About 6-8 hours before meal time, dump the ribs and marinade all in to a slow cooker or crock pot and turn it on to low.

4. Serve and enjoy!!

BabybackRibs_Spiced

For Grilling:
Instead of slow-cooking for 6-8 hours, slow cook for 1 hour. Then finish cooking on the grill on high heat for 20-40 minutes, brushing the marinade onto the ribs to keep them moist.

To do the “Smoked Slow-Cooked” Version:

  1. BabybackRibs_SmokingPlatformSave the bones from your last ribs in the freezer (or you can buy some bones from your local butcher – most have some for sale; If you buy, I’d cook these up at least once for some Bone Broth first!).
  2. Follow the slow-cooker instructions steps 1 and 2 above.
  3. Before above step 3: Thaw and arrange the bones across the bottom of the slow-cooker so that the meat will be lifted up above the marinade liquid.
  4. Return to the slow-cooker step 3 instructions, though this time drizzle the marinade over the top of the meat several times during the 8-hours of cook time.

This is a fascinating idea that I’ve been playing around with since this post, many months ago. What happens is the marinade will heat up, evaporating the liquids, and will effectively steam the meat slab suspended above it. If that were all that happened, this would be somewhat different than it ends up being. At the same time, the oils in the marinade allow the slow-cooker to over-cook the bones that were left in the bottom of the pan, letting them caramelize and smoke the meat above it. The intentional overcooking of the bones making the smoke, along with the flavors in the marinade, combine to create the same effect as using a smoker, while allowing you to do the whole thing relatively safely in your own kitchen.
As a note on this: I did recently find a crack in my crock pot, and it’s entirely possible that it was doing this that ruined it. Even using the Low heat setting will result in a lot of heat being funneled in to the slow-cooker, and since there’s not a lot of liquid in there to absorb the heat (that’s kind of our intention) it will end up causing the pot itself to heat up quite a lot. Of course, the benefit to this is that the bones on the bottom, since they’re touching the pot, will heat up a lot and smoke the meat. And it’s delicious! On the other hand, I suggest paying extra attention to the crock pot; keep it away from walls and potentially flammable stuff on the counter, and only do this when you’re home to monitor it regularly.

Questions:

  • Do you like smoked/cured meat?
  • Have you ever smoked your own meat?
  • Will you be trying the slow-cooker smoked meat steps/process that I’ve outlined above?
  • What kinds of meat would you be most interested in smoking?
  • Do you have a smoker? How often do you use it?
  • What kinds of sides would you serve with this meal?
  • What kind of dessert would you serve with this meal?

About Paleo: Am I Really Allergic To Wheat?


One of the things that I love the most about blogging, and the blogging community, is that I am often in a position where you will challenge my position in one way or another. I really enjoy this, mostly because it helps me to remember to evaluate my position from time to time. It’s an amazing part of being surrounded (digitally surrounded) by smart, articulate people with their own strident opinions on the subjects that I choose to write about. Without the opportunity that you readers afford me, by challenging my ideas and asking me (as is your right, since I’ve gone and made my opinions public) to carefully consider and elaborate on my position, is perhaps one of the things that I am the most excited about when I share an idea in my posts. I need your thoughts, comments, and challenges, so that I can test my stance against other intelligent people.

Here is one such challenge, and one of the best that I’ve received to date:

As a newbie to paleo and a person who loves eating at restaurants I was excited to read your posts. I’m however very disappointed. As a person with an actual life threatening allergy (eggs) I can’t believe you would encourage people to lie about such things. Most restaurants will take your request for no soy etc with the seriousness that a preference deserves. Kitchens know that people with “allergies” often lie about it and as such take requests for “allergy” exclusions less serious. They might not sanitize a surface, or coortiz the same grill when they shouldn’t be. Your preference is not an allergy, and you make it hazardous for people like me to eat.

– Suzanne

So, the operative question here is this: Am I allergic to soy and wheat? Clearly anyone who has been Paleo for anything longer than a few months will state something along the lines of “Well, my body sure thinks so!” And my body is no exception to that. The few times that I’ve had the misfortune of eating something which is contaminated with soy or wheat (or any grain for that matter) I’ve had rather severe digestive distress. Anaphalaxes? Not so much, thankfully…
Suzanne’s comment comes from a position of fear, and she (and others like her) have a right to a thoughtful and rational response. I’m intending for this post to give Suzanne, and all of us Paleo people a complete response to when people question their statement that they’re allergic to wheat and soy.
See, here’s the thing. With 67% of America overweight, and half of them are obese, most of us Ancestral Health people have come to the general belief that there’s something seriously wrong with the general dietary proscriptions. The rate of leisure activity has not changed significantly over the past 30+ years, so while moving more will help us to control our weight, the answer to the severe overweight crisis is clearly not jogging. Us Ancestral Health people (yes, Paleo is Ancestral Health) have concluded, and most of us have significant personal “Success Stories” to support this conclusion, that the problem is dietary. So, let’s take a shot at figuring out whether I am personally allergic to wheat and soy.

First, let’s take a look at the definition of an allergy. The Wiki page on Allergy starts out with several lines of description. The first of which is this:

An allergy is a hypersensitivity disorder of the immune system.

Ok, got it. But what kinds of symptoms might I expect to see from that?

Symptoms of food allergy include abdominal painbloating, vomiting, diarrheaitchy skin, and swelling of the skin during hives.

And the wiki doesn’t stop there. The actual definition of an allergy, it would seem, is quite indicative of exactly the sort of digestive distress that I experience (and all of the Paleo people I know) every time I am unfortunate enough to ingest wheat or soy. Fortunately for me, and all of you Paleo people, the wiki actually directs specific attention to this in particular.

A wide variety of foods can cause allergic reactions, but 90% of allergic responses to foods are caused by cow’s milksoyeggswheatpeanuttree nutsfish and shellfish.

Hmm. Alright. A lot of Paleo people don’t necessarily know that they’re allergic. Is there a definitive way to test that, just to be sure it’s actually an allergy?

Elimination/Challenge tests: This testing method is used most often with foods or medicines. A patient with a suspected allergen is instructed to modify his/her diet to totally avoid that allergen for determined time. If the patient experiences significant improvement, he/she may then be “challenged” by reintroducing the allergen to see if symptoms can be reproduced.

So this makes it quite clear. When you’re going on a strict Paleo diet, you’re beginning the “Elimination” phase of the above diagnostic test. Then, when someone contaminates your food (or you just decide to eat some cake at some point…) and you have an adverse reaction, that confirms the diagnosis. To paraphrase the Wiki on Allergies, you have an allergy when: You have an issue, it gets better with elimination, and you can then reproduce those adverse symptomatic affects with reintroduction.
There’s little doubt in my mind at this point that the sorts of symptoms that I experience as a result of ingesting contaminated food definitely do qualify as an allergy. So in response to Suzanne’s statement, I’m clearly really allergic to soy and wheat. This isn’t one of those “little white lies” that people often tell in order to keep their life easier. This isn’t just a dietary preference. This is a full-blown allergy.

But I think I want to take this one step further. The follow up question, now, could be this: Isn’t it reasonable to assume that EVERYONE who follows an Ancestral Health diet is ALSO allergic to wheat and soy? I’d like to go one step further, even, than that. I’d like to be the one who toes the line, and states that EVERY single human is allergic to wheat and soy. But I can’t. Not today. There are some very smart people with very impressive labs who are working on that very question. And they’ll come out with an answer in the next several years. Of that I am confident. So, while I’m not going to be the guy who toes the line and states, definitively, that we’re all allergic to soy, I am perfectly comfortable to redirect us to some of the experts on the matter.

What do the experts think?

http://paleodietlifestyle.com/11-ways-gluten-and-wheat-can-damage-your-health/
T
he Paleo Diet Lifestyle is an impressively well-kept repository for many of the Ancestral Health seeds of wisdom over the years. In the above article, they state that wheat causes gut inflammation in at least 80% of the population. Goodness… That’s a LOT more than just the people who are in the Ancestral Health community! But to circle back a bit: it’s fair to say that if you’ve come to Paleo, you’re very likely one of those above 80%.

http://www.eat-real-food-paleodietitian.com/Paleo-diet-reasons-to-avoid-grains.html
What a Paleo Dietitian has to say on the subject: Gluten is very hard to digest, can cause damage to your intestines, and can lead to GI issues, autoimmune diseases, skin problems, mental health issues, among other symptoms of a food allergy. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that if these were potential side effects of a drug that a doctor prescribed me, I would simply not take it. Autoimmune disease and mental health issues? No thank you!!

In Summary:

I want to first re-state that I really appreciate Suzanne’s comment. She has done me, and all of you who read this a favor. She’s challenged me in a way that helped me to consider my position, take a look at the research out there, and reaffirm my stance on the matter. Dietary science is not a “set thing” yet – it’s constantly changing! Loren Cordain, the godfather of Ancestral Health himself, has changed his position on fats over the past several years, and subsequently updated and reprinted his book. I will be the first one to admit that, while I keep current on the information out there, it’s never a bad thing to take a step back and reconsider everything.

Also, as a result of my research to respond to Suzanne, I have discovered that it’s perfectly appropriate for you all to state that you’re allergic to wheat and soy. In fact, if you’re coming to Paleo with health issues that you hope cleaning up your diet of wheat (and all grains) and soy will cure, you’re most likely in that 80% group who is allergic to them. Please, do us all a favor and start to help the restaurants around you recognize that they need to be prepared for that. Tell your waiters: “I’m allergic to wheat and soy.” But even more important than that, if they ignore you and contaminate your food, GIVE THEM HELL!!
Suzanne’s point was a valid one, albeit misdirected. We’re too willing to simply not go back to a restaurant who served us bad food. But that’s just not going to help the rest of the Ancestral Health community anymore. You’re all going to need to stand up for your rights. The restaurant who contaminated your food, against your wishes, has effectively assaulted you. They’ve caused you damage, and they’ve done it directly, and possibly intentionally. If this were to cause you to go into anaphylactic shock, it would be considered poisoning. You owe it to me, Suzanne, and all of the other Paleo people out there to tell them so. Tell them angrily, and loudly. Make sure that they know that they’ve caused you harm, and that it’s simply not OK. Put it on the internet so that I can see it in their reviews. Write a post about it on your blog. And then don’t go back.

Reblog: Running 52.4 Miles for Research


Running 52.4 Miles for Research.

No recipe today… Instead, I would like to invite you to drop by runningforbostonmass.com at the link below and take a look at what Emily is up to. I am a huge fan of charities, volunteering, and supporting other people in their endeavors, and Emily is putting time and effort in to helping a lot of people. Take a look, give her some blog-luv. If you can spare some change, make sure to donate a few bucks to help her reach her charity goal!

And she’s running in vibrams, so how could I not pitch in here and help out!?

liverinthemoment

Grabbed this straight from her site at the below link

via Running 52.4 Miles for Research.

Restaurant Review: Saigon Cafe, Jersey City, NJ


wpid-20130920_122006.jpg

http://www.saigoncafejc.com/

Eating out is always an interesting scenario. I know, intellectually, that I can eat a salad almost anywhere. Obviously, there are places that I choose to shy away from intentionally… But for the most part, finding a decent place to eat out, at this point in my diet, is more about whether or not the restaurant is going to serve me anything other than a salad that I’ll want. That’s the big question. There are some issues, that I’ve discussed in previous posts, that need to be carefully considered before eating out. Just keep these in mind when you’re eating out:

  1. All cooking surfaces are almost certainly greased with a soy oil or soy derivative oil.
  2. All dressings, sauces, and other flavorings (except spices, so far) almost certainly have soy and wheat in them.
  3. The meat is almost certainly CAFO meat-factory meat.

So, keeping in mind that I really enjoy cooking, and the fruits of those labors, it turns out to be fairly irregular that I eat out. Mostly, I make all of my own food, and I eat only things that came out of my kitchen. It’s the simple and delicious solution. And when I do go out, I keep notes.

Saigon Cafe, Grove Street, Jersey City, NJ

My first impression of the Saigon Cafe restaurant was a pleasant surprise. This looked like it would count as one of those “Local Hole-In-The-Wall” places, where you encounter some really top quality food. I was hoping that their menu would be packed to the brim with seriously traditional Vietnamese food. We were seated in a small dining area, with about 10 tables. The waiter was ancient, and my guess is that he was the proprietor of the place. I like that about a place. I usually assume that the food is more likely to be lovingly crafted when the proprietor is the person seating me at the tables. It’s a pride thing for them, not just a paycheck.

The menu was a little challenging for me, but that was not surprising. Keeping in mind that soy and rice are deeply ingrained in the various Asian cultures, I didn’t expect the menu to be teeming with meals that were soy free. But I did expect that I would be able to mix-n-match my way to a well conceived soy-free meal.

The waiter came over to take our order. He spoke passably good English, and had no trouble guiding my through my options as soon as I told him that I’m allergic to soy. He stood over my shoulder, pointing at menu items as I flipped the page. “You can eat that one, or that one.” He would say. And “No, no, not that one.” When I tried to order the slow-cooked beef short ribs. Short ribs are very Vietnamese, and I really enjoy the way they cook them. Except for the soy sauce part.

With the proprietor’s help, I settled on a meal in no time. I love seafood, and they were serving something they called Claypot Seafood Curry. I like curry, seafood, and the “Claypot” meals were supposedly slow-cooked stews – and I love things that are slow-cooked!

Claypot Seafood Curry

It was full of flavor! There was clearly some sweetener in the dish, as well as some coconut milk or cream. But the over-all flavor was strong, yet well balanced. The curry was a yellow-curry, as you can see in the picture, and was delightful. The seafood all seemed quite fresh, and was slow-cooked to perfection.

All told, my experience in Saigon Cafe was quite satisfactory! I definitely recommend it for anyone in the Grove Street area of Jersey City, NJ.