Cantina Laredo, Chicago, IL

This afternoon, I went downtown for lunch with my mom at a restaurant called Cantina Laredo, a modern Mexican restaurant. It is actually a chain with many different locations around the US.

This location is 508 N. State Street in Chicago, IL:


The food was absolutely amazing. We started out with tortilla chips, salsa, and a table-side serving of guacamole.

 
The guacamole cart had all kinds of different ingredients including: cilantro, lime, red onion, tomatoes, and an assortment of peppers ranging from mild to spicy. The avocados were perfectly ripe and the guacamole just melted in your mouth.

Mom ordered the fish special of the day which was a Grilled Salmon topped with chimichurri and served over cilantro rice.


The salmon was perfectly cooked, seasoned well and very moist. Plus, the rice was extremely flavorful!

I had the Enchilada de Avocado, an avocado and artichoke enchilada served with a jicama and mango salad.


The enchilada was cheesy, rich, and absolutely what I wanted. I loved the avocado and artichoke mix and the jicama salad was a crisp & refreshing side.

I really enjoyed this lunch and the entire atmosphere of the restaurant. I highly recommend checking it out!

 
Love,

Mimi

 

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Calafia Café, Palo Alto, CA

This week, I went on a little vacation with my cousin Leslie to visit my sister Jenny in Palo Alto, California. Being the foodies that we are, we’ve tried all sorts of restaurants in the bay area from a stand selling clam chowder in a bread bowl to a fast-casual grilled cheese & soup place.

My favorite meal so far has been at Calafia Café right here in Palo Alto. This amazing vegan/vegetarian friendly restaurant is prepared by the former executive chef from Google Inc., Charlie Ayers. Touting the slogan, “Slow food served fast,” this gorgeous restaurant provides two incredible menus for vegheads as well as meat eaters and I am telling you, this place does not disappoint for either side.

We started our meal with the Papas Con Ajo. Described as crispy shoestring fries tossed with garlic, parsley, and Calafia spice blend served with Special Red Sauce #1 (Calafia’s homemade ketchup)

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They are heavily seasoned, smokey and bursting with flavor. The best part is definitely the crisp garlic tossed on top.

Next, we shared the Burrata & Potato Pizza. This pizza is topped with roasted zucchini, rosemary, garlic confit, nutty burrata cheese, roasted Yukon gold potatoes.

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The rosemary and burrata cheese was a perfect marriage of flavors. The crust was a good mix of crunchy and doughy.

Jenny’s favorite dish at this restaurant and one that she has trouble straying from is the Big Bowl of Beef Chow Mein.

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Definitely not vegetarian, this dish contains marinated hanger steak, shiitake mushrooms, green onions, cabbage, udon noodles, and veal stock.

Leslie had the Halibut Special. Halibut filet steamed in a white wine butter sauce topped with pesto and served over an assortment of clams and oysters.

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As the waiter described it, no starch included, just great seafood on a plate and he wasn’t kidding. Les absolutely loves seafood so the special of the evening was right up her alley.

As an additional side dish to her halibut, Leslie ordered the Grilled Asparagus Salad.

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Served with baby frisee, radishes, lemon olive oil vinaigrette. The flavors worked like magic next to her halibut. The lemon had just the right amount of citrus that the whole salad just tasted fresh.

And of course, I save the best for last. My entrée was Lexi’s French Lentil Bowl. Green French lentils, sautéed spinach, roasted yams, roasted crimini mushrooms, simmered in a yellow curry cream sauce with quinoa pilaf.

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Chosen per the waiter’s recommendation, this dish had a great blend of sweet and savory combining the yams and the crimini mushrooms atop the perfectly cooked lentils.

For dessert, we had the Strawberry Rhubarb Galette as well as the Chocolate Ginger Cake.

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Yes, they were as good as the look. Enough said.

Not only was the food delicious, Calafia had wonderful service and a great atmosphere. All ingredients are sourced locally and organically as often as possible. It’s times like these that I wished I lived in California. Cannot wait to go back to this fantastic restaurant.

Mimi

Shrimp & Tofu Fried Rice

When I was young, we used to have fried rice fridays. My ngin-ngin’s “cho-fan” is one of my favorite things to eat, however, once I became a vegetarian, I had to say good bye to her meaty, veggie-filled fried rice.

This summer, I decided to expand my palette and try being a pescatarian. My ngin-ngin is absolutely thrilled! While she can’t make everything like she used to for me, she is making a lot of shrimp dishes like shrimp eggrolls, shrimp egg-foo-young, and now shrimp cho-fan!

This week, we worked together and made some shrimp & tofu fried rice together! I’m glad that even though I’m not a meat eater anymore, we can still bond when we cook!

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Shrimp & Tofu Fried Rice

1 c. uncooked Shrimp, peeled and de-veined
1 small Carrot, diced
1 stalk of Celery, diced
1/2 of a Kohlrabi, diced
1-2 cloves of Garlic, minced
3-4 c. cooked White Rice
1/2 package of pre-pressed Tofu, marinated for a couple of hours
1 egg
Oil
Soy Sauce
2 tsp. Sugar
Couple of dashes of White Pepper

We did this part in advance: 

First, I diced my tofu and marinated it for a couple of hours/overnight.
Tofu Marinade: Soy sauce, 1 T. Corn starch, 1-2 T. Water, 1-2 tsp. Sugar

In a deep skillet or a wok on medium-high heat, I poured in some oil and the minced garlic for about 1-2 minutes then added my uncooked shrimp and cooked it for about 1-2 minutes until pink and placed in a separate bowl.

Then in the remaining oil, I threw in my diced carrots, celery and kohlrabi until they are tender and then added them to the shrimp.

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We did this the day of:

I added some oil to the wok on medium-high heat. I scrambled the egg and cooked it in the wok then placed it in a small bowl.

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Next, I cooked the marinated tofu in the remaining oil for about 3-4 minutes. Then I added in the pre-cooked vegetables and shrimp for a couple of minutes.

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Ngin-ngin threw in the cooked white rice plus about a tablespoon of soy sauce, a couple of dashes of white pepper, and 1-2 tsp. of sugar. And finally, I folded in the scrambled eggs.

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This was an absolutely fantastic dinner! While, it was not exactly the same as my ngin-ngin’s usual beef, pork, and shrimp filled fried rice (clearly, they don’t like meat at all), this was the perfect pescatarian replacement on a classic.

Love,

Mimi

Ps. I’ve also made a version with veggie crumbles on my personal food blog.
Click here to check it out