Japan: Land of the Rising Izakaya

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So after having a fiancee in my life, I thought the best way to enjoy it was to head to Japan.  Well maybe not Japan, but a nice restaurant in Chinatown (not Japantown), Daikaya.

Daikaya is a two story restaurant with two types of menus.  Downstairs is the Ramen Shop and upstairs is Izakaya.  It wouldn’t have mattered which one we WANTED to go to since this wasn’t exactly our decision.  For this shop we were eating for free, thanks to my fantastic side job: mystery shopping.

If you don’t know about mystery shopping please do learn.  This has been a great second ‘job’ for me over the past 15 years.  Bridget and I were able to enjoy Japan and get fully reimbursed.

One of my favorite import beers is Japanese, Sapporo, so this was obviously ordered right away.  Daikaya is served “tapas” style, lots of options in small plates.  We ordered a variety of dishes including a few things I’ve never had before. Served first was the fried quail on top of pickled onions. Among the best things we tried was the grilled octopus. I was nervous with the first bite but couldn’t stop eating it after.

Looking at the menu we saw they had fried garlic.  They had me at fried but added garlic to put the cherry on top.  It was delicious and just melts in your mouth.  Then to top off this great meal we got a dish of pork and Brussels sprouts.

Also ordered was a cod roe spaghetti, not something that was my favorite as it was quite fishy.  The fishy taste wasn’t surprising, it’s just that fishy is not my favorite flavor.  This might of been the only dish I didn’t really like but Bridget helped finish it off.

All dishes were enjoyed but were not quite enough to fill us up so we had to add a dessert.

I may of forgotten to mention that this dinner was to celebrate Bridget’s birthday, even if a day early.  The server came out from the back with a bowl with a flaming candle on top.  We were so excited, Bridget blew out the candle and we demolished the dish but forgot to get a picture.  The dessert was a Japanese style chocolate ice cream with crushed banana chips on top.  What a great way to end the night and feel stuffed on Japanese food.

-Matt

India: Coming Home to a Surprise (His Version)

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I’ll start this post out with a few context points.  We’d been wanting to try Rasika for months and just never did.  Finally for Bridget’s birthday I made reservations. Unfortunately we could not do it ON her birthday due to my crazy schedule at work, but close enough.  Little did Bridget know that I had an amazing surprise for her after dinner, an engagement ring!

If you know me, you know I can’t keep secrets.  One of my favorite things to do is apparently ruin surprises.  So the past few months keeping this GIANT secret was the hardest thing ever! As for the actual Indian cuisine, it couldn’t have been better.  Either I was too anxious to get home or the server wanted us out fast, our meal was done in minutes it felt like.  Which again, the surprise at home was more exciting than the actual meal.

I was informed by the Kolskys that we HAD to order the Palak Chaat for an appetizer.  While it was quite good and enjoyed, the high expectations were not really met.  The crispy spinach and yogurt that was mixed with the dates was good but not “the best thing ever” as we were told. For entrees the server warned us how spicy some dishes were and said they were “American spicy.”  To this we both thought it couldn’t be that bad.

I ordered the Lamb Rajasthani (in the bottom of the picture.)  The lamb dish was sure-enough, spicy but just “American spicy.”  Bridget’s on the other hand was definitely spicy, no matter what adjective you put ahead of it.  She ordered the Chicken Parsi, which was enjoyed and again enjoyed the next day for lunch.  And of course we enjoyed a side of Garlic Naan.

I’d also like to explain during this whole meal, Melissa Williams, was setting up a perfect pre-organized engagement scene.  She texted me during the meal and a few fun photos.  Sadly Bridget wasn’t able to come home to this: 10801669_10205170473558757_5571896662509316309_n

For dessert, which I happily ordered to stall, we got the Gulab Jamun.  Dessert was well worth the order and in fact eaten so fast we forgot to take a picture.  The dish was served with a cold cardamom flavored ice cream, which was different.  The key to the dish was the saffron pistachio flavored rabdi.  If you have never had rabdi, it is basically a egg-less ice cream but more thick.   We couldn’t stop eating it and wanted to lick the plate at the end.

As for what we went home to?  Well I learned one thing, telling Bridget that there may be a surprise party waiting for her at the apartment.  She was basically fretting it the whole way home.

When walking up the back stairs on the patio, it didn’t help that Melissa left the blinds open and turned on most of the lights in the living room.  Also, no dogs were there to maul us for coming home so late, this caught Bridget off guard as well.

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After seeing what was on the counter, I don’t know if she really knew what was going on.  Maybe it was just a birthday present but of course I knew.  I asked Bridget to be my “lobster” (because they mate forever) and spend the rest of her life with me.  I asked her to merry me and (some people maybe are still surprised) she said YES!  A beautiful way to end the night and celebrate a wonderful person’s birthday.

We will always be “Two Lost Souls, Swimming in a Fishbowl, Year After Year.”

-Matt

India: Birthday Dinner & a Surprise (Her Version)

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I’ve wanted to try Rasika for some time now so when Matt suggested it for my birthday dinner I was super excited. It wasn’t actually my birthday, but since Matt had to work on Tuesday, Sunday seemed like a good day to celebrate.

We went to brunch earlier in the day to celebrate with friends at Barrel near Eastern Market (which is delicious by the way – I recommend checking it out for brunch or just the whiskey) so we were both ready to eat again by the time we got to the restaurant.

After sitting down and checking out the menu, we knew a few items we wanted to order right away. To start we tried the palak chaat, crispy pieces of spinach with a yogurt sauce. I ordered chicken Parsi for dinner and Matt ordered lamb Rajasthani.

At this point you might be wondering why my recollection of our meal at Rasika is so, well, vague. That leads me to the surprise of the night…

In the taxi on the way home Matt casually mentioned that he knows I don’t like surprises so he had to tell me something. I starred at him until he spoke again. “Well,” he says, “your friends wanted to through you a surprise party so act surprised when we get home.” “Whaaat??” I squeeked out. “But it’s Sunday; We have work tomorrow; And I saw them all this morning!” “Just act surprised,” he said.

We walked up to the apartment, I immediately noticed lights turned on, the blinds cracked open, and when the keys jingled the dogs didn’t come running to the door. “Don’t freak out,” Matt told me. He opened the door and well…

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I said yes 🙂

-Bridget

Iceland: A Yogurt Treat

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It’s no secret that Matt doesn’t like fish (except if it begins with a Ph) so our options for Icelandic cuisine were limited. We learned about a food that is unique to Iceland called Skyr, a creamy and think skimmed milk cheese.

We tried two flavors: plain and strawberry.

The plain flavor is traditionally eaten topped with berries. So that’s what we did.

It was interesting, the plain Skyr had the texture of Greek yogurt and the taste of sour cream. I’m not sure I would eat it again. Matt didn’t even finish his. Don’t worry, I finished it for him.

Later in the week I tried the strawberry flavored Skyr. It was much better! It filled in for my normal breakfast of Greek yogurt. Matt didn’t get to try any though so the verdict is still out on whether or not he would visit Iceland. Whoops.

-Bridget

Sweden: Børk! Børk! Børk!

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After enjoying a fantastic Honduran meal earlier in the day and driving around Maryland on a serious mission to find a piece of furniture to hold my records, we thought there was no better way to enjoy the rest of the day:  IKEA!  How else would you celebrate Sweden?  Obviously walking around looking for furniture that will fall apart in a few weeks, if not while you are building it.  Then end the trip with a satisfying meal of Swedish meatballs, sadly no more Horchata.

Now I know what you are thinking, IKEA meatballs and food is “fake” Swedish food.  Believe it or not, most of the food that IKEA has is authentic Swedish food, maybe not a restaurant or from scratch but it’ll do.  We crisscrossed through the store and finally ended up in the food area.  We picked our selection of entree, sides, and dessert to take back to the house for a fun Swedish dinner.

Now I am no Swedish chef,  but we were able to put together a fantastic meal with the frozen items from IKEA.  Now obviously the main dish was the meatballs (KÖTTBULLAR.)   We made a large amount off egg noodles to put the meatballs on top of with a heavy dousing of the delicious, creamy gravy (GRÄDDSÅS.)  Mind you, making this gravy was an adventure in itself as the instructions are not in American measurements.  As much as I like math (not at all), I don’t like mixing math with cooking.

Usually they serve this dish with a berry preserve called lingonberry.  We decided to add a little something different and got a jar of pickled gherkins (GURKA INLAGD.)  We needed something to soak up that creamy gravy on our plate as well. so we added the saffron buns (LUSSEBULLE).  They turned out to be dry and didn’t go well with the dish.   Also, the fact these buns had raisins in them didn’t make Bridget too happy.

We enjoyed the main Swedish meal and it was easy to cook.  Who doesn’t like IKEA meatballs, especially after wandering around the store for hours?  The best way to top it off had to be with a Swedish dessert.  Of course we got the IKEA favorite of cinnamon rolls (KANELSNÄCKA).  Oh wait, no we didn’t.  Bridget decided to go with this oat pastry (SÖTSAK KAKAOBOLL) becuase it had coconut sprinkles on it.  Turns out they taste like coffee and I was highly disappointed. Bridget, of course, loved them.

Swedish was a fun walk around a the cruel joke that is IKEA.  But ended with a fun gravy covered meatball and noodle dish.  I would happily go back to Sweden but come back with a KANELSNÄCKA and maybe some Swedish Fish.

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Børk! Børk! Børk!

-Matt