Review: Angelina’s Pizzeria, Las Vegas

I ordered pizza from Angelina’s Pizzeria while staying at The Signature in Las Vegas.  It was an OK experience.  The pizza is thin crusted and pretty generic.  One of my daughter’s loved it, the other one wasn’t happy with it.  I thought it was OK.  I also got a meatballs sub which was very generic as well.

Delivery was $4 and it took over an hour – but they delivered all the way up to the room.

I would probably try a different place next time, but this was one was adequate enough. Angelina’s has five restaurants in Las Vegas.

Angelina’s Pizzeria
5025 S Eastern Ave
Las Vegas, NV
(702) 597-9056
http://www.angelinaspizzalv.com/

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Review: India Oven / Indian Masala, Las Vegas, NV

We stopped by India Oven / Indian Masala for lunch on a Thursday night in late July, 2017 and enjoyed their lunch buffet.  It was pretty generic as far as Indian lunch buffets go, which is not a bad thing.

The restaurant is a fusion of two different Indian restaurants, Indian Oven and Indian Masala, and it does not seem to have decided upon a name so it’s using both.  Hey, it’s Vegas, why not?  It sits in a small strip mall but the inside is rather nice, it could even pass for elegant if it didn’t have a buffet.

The buffet included a small salad bar, made-to-order naan (choice between plain, butter or garlic), had a couple of appetizers (vegetable pakoras and samosas), soup/daal (if I remember correctly), rice and vegetable rice and four each vegetarian and meat entrees.  It most certainly did not have all the dishes they claim to offer in their website, not even close.   I tried the four meat dishes and was fairly pleased.  The chicken tikka masala had a very nice flavor, slightly spicy, but deep.  I enjoyed it.  The goat and chicken curry both seemed to have the same sauce, it was good but not a favorite.  The chicken tandoori was juicy and very flavorful.  My daughter was less happy with the paneer dish she had, but it wasn’t one she usually eats (there was no paneer tikka masala).

The buffet also includes drinks, and my daughters liked the lemonade and the mango lassi, which was more like a thin mango drink than a lassi.

Service was fairly good, though they initially tried to charge my husband for a buffet even though he had clearly not eaten anything (he was sick).  Dinner for the four of us (I was there with three tweens), came up to a little over $50 after tax.

Given the plethora of Indian restaurants in Vegas, I’d probably try a different one next time, but this is certainly good enough to visit again.

India Oven Restaurant
India Masala & Bar Grill

1040 E Flamingo Rd
Las Vegas, NV
http://www.indiamasalalasvegas.com
Open 11.30am to 3pm –  5pm to 10pm

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Review: Paradise Garden Buffet at The Flamingo, Las Vegas

Every year we get a Buffet of Buffets deal when we visit Vegas, and it’s become our costume to go to the Paradise Garden Buffet for a light lunch.  I like visiting the Flamingo Habitat, and the buffet overlooks it.  Really, the view is the best thing about this buffet.  The food is terrible.

The Flamingo is now offering a weekday brunch buffet, instead of separate breakfast and lunch buffets.  The offerings are mostly breakfast stuff, pancakes and eggs, sausages and breakfast meats (ham, turkey and sausages – no beef) but they do have made-to-order omelettes and pancakes as well as one cold-cut sandwich, which was rather good. They also have pizzas, which my youngest daughter absolutely loved, and not-bad fried chicken and pork loin.   They have made-to-order crepes, but they only offer sweet crepes and the quality of the ingredients left much to be desired. They cannot be compared to those at the Paris’ buffet.

The Flamingo no longer offers a chocolate fountain.  It was awful and my daughter doesn’t like chocolate, but she loved seeing it.  She wasn’t happy it was gone.

All in all, this is a buffet I would not pay to go to.

Paradise Garden Buffet
3555 Las Vegas Boulevard South
Las Vegas, NV
website
Weekday/Weekend Brunch 7 AM – 2 PM daily: $22/25, Children 4-9 yo: $11
F-Sa Dinner Buffet 5-10 PM: $30

Marga’s Restaurant Reviews

 This review is from our trip to Las Vegas in August 2014.

The Flamingo hotel is one of the cheapest of Caesar’s properties, and its buffet gets some of the worst reviews.  However, it has large windows with views of the flamingo habitat outside, and who doesn’t love flamingos? So armed with our buffet of buffet passes, we headed there – via taxi – a Friday around 3:30 PM in August 2014.

The restaurant was open (it now closes at 2 PM), but the server in charge of the section by the windows had not shown up and they didn’t want to seat us there.  After quite a lot of pleading and a request to speak with the manager, they made do and sat us in that section.  Given that we had come specifically for the flamingo experience, I really was not willing to accept anything else.   The first dining room – the closest to the entrance -, where we were seated, has the best view of the habitat as that’s where the flamingos hang out.

Other than the view, there is absolutely nothing to recommend this buffet.  First of all, it’s fairly small consisting mostly of American fare.  Nothing looked particularly appetizing to me, so all I got was some prime rib and a cilantro chicken wing.  The beef was surprisingly good for a buffet – better than the one served at the Paris and Planet Hollywood – in that it wasn’t dry.  The chicken was also tasty.  So if you do go for the flamingos, these two items are safe to eat.

One of my daughters did enjoy the sushi and the cold shrimp and the other one did fairly well with the pasta, but they are kids.  My dad, found both the roast turkey with gravy and the fried chicken very dry.

Desserts were a little better.  Skip the chocolate fountain if it’s working. It may look cool but the chocolate syrup tastes like cocoa powder.  The cupcakes weren’t a big hit, but the little pudding cups were good.  Some of the pastries were also OK.  My youngest daughter liked the cotton candy.

All in all, we wouldn’t go back for the food, but the view made it worth it – at least as part of the buffet of buffet deal. I would not pay for it otherwise.

 

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Flavors at Harrah’s, Las Vegas – Breakfast buffet review

We visit Las Vegas every year, tagging along with my husband who goes to a conference, and we start our visit by getting a Buffet of Buffets pass and hitting several of the buffets that are included.  Flavors has never been a favorite, but this year Spice Island at the Planet Hollywood was mostly closed and the Rio’s buffet didn’t seem to be worth traveling to.  We hit Harrah’s buffet for dinner, and it was worse than I remembered.

I started with the New York steak, though the roast was so grayish that I wasn’t particularly sure that’s what I was getting when I asked for a slice.  It was flavorful enough, but it lack juiciness.  I had a slice of roasted pork which was as pedestrian, a very generic piece of beef with snap peas, and not much else.  My daughter was very disappointed with the pizza. My husband ate mostly shrimp.  The bread pudding wasn’t bad for dessert, but the ice cream was so low quality that even my daughters (who are not exactly picky in this department) rejected it.  Instead try the canoli, which was actually quite tasty.

My favorite part of this buffet is that you can actually get your own drinks so you don’t have to wait for them to be refilled.  That’s sad.

Again, this is not a buffet I’d pay for or bother going to again.  Others seem to feel the same way.  We got there around 6:15 PM on a Friday night and we didn’t have to wait in line to get in.

Flavors The Buffet
Harrah’s Las Vegas
475 Las Vegas Boulevard South
Las Vegas, NV
Website
Weekday Breakfast $21/12, Weekend Breakfast $23/12, Weekday Lunch $23/16, Weekend Brunch $28/16, Weekday Dinner $28/16, Weekend dinner $30/16. Groupon deal often available. Children price = 10 & under, Total Rewards members save $1.  Available with the Buffet of Buffets pass.

Marga’s Restaurant Reviews

This review is from July 2012.

This is probably the first breakfast buffet I’ve had aside from those that are complimentary at some hotels, and I was very happy with it. It offers plenty of choices – your standard American fare, some Mexican and Chinese stuff (though the latter seemed like left overs from the night before) and plenty of sweets.   That’s what I went for, and I was quiet happy.

The mini lemon cheesecakes, raspberry pudding cups, cheese blitz and apple crepes were all excellent  – you’d be happy if you got them at a 5-star restaurant.  Also nice were the bread pudding with vanilla sauce, the cinnamon roll and the brownie.  Less successful was the custard (not sweet enough), the croissants (a bit dry) and the bacon (good flavor but dried out).  The sausages, on the other hand, were great.  Skip the heavy, cakey doughnuts and the chewy bagels, though there is lox if you want them.  The pancakes and French toast could have been better, I wouldn’t bother with them.  The biscuits were good, but look for the ones in the warm tray.

Don’t skip the fruit, while the strawberries were tasteless, the watermelon, cantaloupe and honeydew melon were perfectly ripe and sweet – they were a hit with my husband and kids.  The pineapple was the canned type, but my youngest enjoyed it.

There is also a carving station (ham, I think) and make-to-order omelets, which we didn’t try.  You can order ice cream as well – I wasn’t too fond of the strawberry one.

As for drinks, the coffee was fine, the hot cocoa standard, I felt the chocolate milk was weak but my daughter liked it.

The minus part of the buffet is that we got it as part of the “Buffet of buffets” deal, but we were so full after eating it that we couldn’t take advantage of the lunch buffet that was included in the price.

 

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Le Village Buffet at the Paris Hotel – Las Vegas, NV – Review

We have been going to Le Village Buffet at the Paris Hotel in Las Vegas annually for several years.  My kids love going there and insist that it be part of our annual trip (my husband goes for a conference, I go for the pool, the kids just come along). In these years, I’ve noticed a substantial decline.  We visit it with a Buffet of Buffets pass, which means we pay about $20+tax per person for the meal.  For that, it’s not a bad deal. But at the $32 full price, it’s not in the least justifiable.

We visited Le Village Buffet both for a weekday dinner and breakfast last week.  I noticed the dinner buffet to be poorer and less French than in previous years.  Gone was the tri-tip from the Savoy section, for example, replaced by roasted cauliflower!  You could still get chicken or sausage, but no beef.    The prime rib had been replaced by roast beef – it had a nice flavor and it was a large piece, but it wasn’t special.  There was no roasted lamb or pork belly.  There was duck a l’orange, but it was a failure.  Once again the meat was too dry and the flavor lacking to justify the dish.  I was sorry I tried it. If they are going to kill a duck, they should honor it by cooking it properly.  Mashed potatoes and mushrooms were good, but pedestrian.

A mushroom crepe, cooked with cheese and sprinkled with some sort of truffle sort, OTOH, was delicious.  I did have to wait for half an hour to get it – the Paris was apparently too cheap to have two crepemakers working on tandem -, but at least I enjoyed it.  I also enjoyed the leftovers of my daughter’s caprese crepe (but note that the mozarella they use is not fresh, despite their claims).  She liked the truffled mac & cheese.

Desserts, as usual, did not awe, but some were OK. Mostly not worth the calories, however.

Breakfast for me the next morning was a strawberry ricotta crepe.  The wait wasn’t as long, but again they could have used a second crepe-maker.  The crepe was delicious – but not worth the $22 price, even if we add the average coffee and non-fresh orange juice that I also consumed.   But the crepe was too filling to want to eat anything else.  My daughter had the cookie dough crepe which she felt was really good but too sweet.  The more traditional banana/nutella crepe was also good.

The choices for crepes (same for dinner and breakfast) have also gone down.  They used to have mixed berries and sliced hazelnuts available in the past, but they do no longer.

Note that Le Village Buffet is the only buffet in Vegas that accepts Open Table reservations. Make them and save yourself the line.

Le Village Buffet at the Paris Hotel & Casino
3665 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV
(702) 946-700
http://www.parislasvegas.com/restaurants/le-village-buffet.html

Weekday Breakfast $22/13, Weekend Breakfast $24/15, Weekday Lunch $25/15, Weekend Brunch $31/20, Weekday Dinner $31/18, Weekend Dinner $31/20. Groupon deal often available. Available with Buffet of Buffets pass.

Marga’s Restaurant Reviews

Marga’s Las Vegas

The following review is from 2014

For years, Le Village Buffet at the Paris Hotel and Casino was my favorite buffet in Vegas.   I appreciated the combination of French classics and regional dishes, and looked forward to tasting dishes that I don’t encounter that often otherwise. My daughters love the atmosphere – the buffet is decorated so that you feel you are eating al fresco in a French village square.  However, my last visits to the buffet – for dinner and breakfast in August 2014 – were really disappointing, and I don’t look forward to going back.

DINNER

We went to dinner at 8 PM, later than in previous occasions, but not what I would consider particularly late for Las Vegas. The place was hopping and there were enough people in line that I was happy we had made a reservation through Open Table and were sat immediately (however, we were put in the non-decorated room near the bathroom, nor a particularly nice dining location).  The food, however, left much to be desired.  They were out of several dishes and the quality and taste were inferior to previous occasions.

This time I started with the cavatappi with truffle sauce, which I had raved about the previous year.  It was almost as good.   The duck a l’orange was overcooked and a little tough, but not too greasy and the orange sauce was good.  Scalloped potatoes were as good as I remembered – as was the tri-tip.

Other dishes were a failure.  Both the prime rib and the stuffed lamb were dry, the former was also chewy.  The mac & cheese had peas instead of bacon, and even my 9-year old didn’t like it.  The sole was cooked Florentine style this time, and also seemed dry.  They were out of quiche. The pork belly, which had been served in a cute individual plate last year, now had the texture and flavor of pork shoulder, but still managed to feel dry in my mouth.  I usually like my dishes salty, but I felt most of the meat was oversalted.

For dessert I had a made-to-order crepe with mixed berries (they were out of strawberries) and bananas inside, and caramel sauce, powdered sugar, whipped cream and candied hazelnuts outside.  It was outstanding, delicious, perfect.  I would much recommend.

The creme brulee was also quite good, and there was a square cheesecake with berry fruit inside which was also delicious.  Other cheesecakes weren’t, but I didn’t  try too many of the desserts.

Service was good, but all in all, I didn’t think it was a particularly noteworthy meal.

BREAKFAST

Breakfast the following morning was also disappointing – or would have been if I had paid full price for it.  None of the pastries looked appetizing, they weren’t French and they were served cold.  My daughter likened them to pastries from Costco.  We didn’t actually try them, however, so perhaps they tasted better than they looked.  My daughter had a muffin and enjoyed them.

My husband said the slab bacon was pretty good.  They have a wide assortment of savory dishes, but I prefer sweet fare in the morning. I had one of their #1 crepes, with banana and nutella, and it was very good.  However,  there is a creperie right outside selling crepes for $11, which is a better deal than the breakfast buffet.

The coffee was OK, the orange juice was low-quality bottled stuff.

We’ll be staying at the Paris again this year, so I may still give the restaurant a try if I get a good daily deal.  Regular price for Total Rewards members vary from $23 to $34 depending on meal and day.

August 2013 review

I will admit that what keeps us returning to Le Village is, more than anything, the setting.  The buffet is made to look as if you are eating in the middle of a French village, under the  late afternoon sky.  Sure, it’s a little bit Disneyesque, but charming nonetheless and a huge favorite of my oldest daughter, Mika, now age 11.

We wouldn’t go back to Le Village if the food wasn’t good, however, and indeed the food here is at least a notch or two above that of other buffets.  Not everything is a winner, of course, but there are enough wonderful dishes to keep any French food lover happy.

The buffet is divided in stations which purport to present dishes from different regions of France.  In addition to these, there is a large salad, soup and seafood station as well as a dessert station.  The food at the regional stations is not always true to the provinces it represents, but they at least try to make the effort.

During both of our most recent stays, we enjoyed the grilled meats in the Savoie station.  They are nicely seasoned and cooked, just make sure to forgo the sauces.  Don’t miss the cheeses at this station either.

Next to it, the Brittany station specializes in crepes.  They have both savory and sweet offerings. I haven’t tried the savory yet, but make sure you leave room for a sweet crepe at the end of your meal. They are very, very good. I particularly enjoy the hazelnuts on top.

The Normandy station specializes in seafood, and if you must have sushi while at Le Village here is where you’d find it.  I had the stuffed sole instead, which was very good. I hadn’t enjoyed the quiche when I had it in 2012, but by 2013 it had become more flavorful.

No Vegas buffet can survive without the obligatory carved-to-order roasts and other American traditional foods, and Le Village has decided to place this in the Burgundy station.  The prime rib was very good, so I guess I can’t really complain.  The mac & cheese was lacking back in 2012, but by 2013 it was made with brie and bacon and could satisfy both kids and grownups alike.

Food in Alsace also got better.  In addition to the traditional bakeoff, this year there was an amazing pork belly, fork tender and extremely flavorful. Don’t miss it and get some scalloped potatoes and caramelized onions while you’re at it.

I’ve always left the Provence station for last, but perhaps next time I should change that.  The cavatappi pasta in truffle sauce I had this year was, easily, the best dish I had in Vegas.  It would not be out of place at a 5-star restaurant and I think next time I’ll begin by having half a plate of it.  Alas, I remember this same dish lacking the year before so hopefully my good experience wasn’t a fluke.

Dessert wise, if you must try something other than a crepe (and you probably must), Le Village does a particular good job with its chocolate pastries and its creme brulee. The kids like the frozen custard, very much like soft ice cream.

When we were there, Le Village also offered an “all you can drink wine, champagne or mimosas” for $14.  According to their website, they’ve now changed this to all-you-can-drink Blue Moon or Miller Lite beer, house red and white wine or bloody marys for $12.  The house wines are undrinkable, however, so unless you really like Blue Moon (which I haven’t tried), you may want to stick with water or soda.

Service was competent both times we went, however it was much friendlier the second time. She got a much better tip.

The one issue I have with Le Village buffet is that it’s rather expensive.  It’s between $30 and $33 for dinner ($3 off if you have a Total Rewards card)  for adults and $18 to $20 for children, but Le Village defines as an “adult”anyone over the age of 8.  I hope that they don’t apply the same standards to their labor practices.    In any case, I wouldn’t pay full price to go to Le Village, but keep your eye on groupon for special deals (we got dinner and unlimited drinks for 2 for $45).  Le Village also participates in the Buffet of Buffets deal.

July 2012 Review

My husband and I love French food and had been happy enough with our last experience at the Paris Buffet (back at the turn of the millennium), that we decided to give it a try again for dinner when we visited Las Vegas last month (July 2012).  This despite the fact that the buffet now gets mixed reviews.  In all, I have to say we were pretty happy and it was easily the best of the four other buffets we ate in Vegas using our Buffet of Buffets pass (Planet Hollywood, the Rio, Harrah’s and Main Street Station).

Three things make the Paris buffet special.  One is the Disneyiske setting, in an open-air plaza, under a fake sky, surrounded by cute French-looking houses.  My kids loved it, but so did I.  A second is the fact that the food actually tries to be regional French, it doesn’t always succeed, but it’s a valiant effort.  Finally, it’s the fact that the menu is limited enough to at least give you a chance to try everything you want to try (not everything there is, of course).  I tried a lot of stuff.

The food stands are divided by French region, though there is a station dedicated to soup, salads and seafood and another to desserts.  I tried the French Onion soup here and was underwhelmed.  The onions had not been caramelized enough and the broth was too weak.

The first region I visited was Provence.  Here I tasted some beef braised in a dark sauce.  My husban liked it quiet a bit, but I felt the dish needed some sweetness, some wine in the sauce or caramelization on the beef.  The saffron rice tasted like plain buttered rice, it was good but there were no hints of saffron.  A dish of pasta in a cream sauce was quite satisfying, though I think it would have been helped by some grated cheese on top.  A stewed chicken gave a hint of having been cooked in wine, but otherwise lacked seasoning.

My next region was Alsace, a region in the border with Germany that has gone back and forth between the two countries.  I’ve both eaten and cooked Alsatian food before and I’m quite fond of it.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t too fond of the chocroute garni, the meat was a tad too sweet and too spicy for me, while the pickled cabbage was too vinegary for my taste.  The rest of the offerings were better, but not Alsatian.  The cassoulet was nicely done and the meat was flavorful,the caramelized pearl onions were delicious, though a little underdone, and the scalloped potatoes were  wonderful.

My venture into Savoie (a region I don’t know at all) was even more successful.  Here I tried the grilled pita bread, lamb, tri-tip and chicken – apparently they like to grill in Savoie.  They were all great, in particular the lamb and the tri-tip.  Don’t bother with the chateubriand sauce, however, it wasn’t that good and would have ruined the meats.

This station also includes a sample of cheeses.  The smoked gouda (or a cheese that tastes as such) was particularly delicious.

Normandy offered a stuffed sole which I loved.  It had a beautiful crust and a delicious flavor, once you added a squeeze of lemon juice.  Mike wasn’t as fond of it, and I can’t really understand why.  The ham and cheese quiche was less successful, it tasted very much of Parmessan.  There is also a small sushi section, but I didn’t try that at all.

Finally, I was surprised that there was neither beef bourguignon nor coq au vin in the Burgundy section but I then realized that this was actually the American station.   Here you can find rotisserie chicken (I didn’t try it), prime rib (very good), roasted pork with apples (so salty as to make it inedible), roasted and mashed potatoes (good enough) and mac & cheese (lacked flavor).

For dessert, I first headed to the Breton section where you could try apple crisp and bread pudding (homey, but nothing to write home about) as well as made-to-order crepes.  The crepes were the standard French variety, rather than Breton buckwheat galettes, but they were delicious.  I had mine with strawberries and bananas covered with fudge and hazelnuts.  The one problem is that the strawberries were already macerated and too sweet, so make sure you add some element to compensate for that.  Still, it was sooo good.

We also visited the dessert station and here I tried several things.  There was a chocolate mousse pastry on a hazelnut crust which was delicious and a lemon cookie sandwich that was out of this world.  The other desserts impressed less.  The cheesecake was less inspired that at other buffets and the creme brulet lacked umf.  I liked the peanut butter cookie, but the sugar cookie was nothing special.  The kids loved the soft custard (aka ice cream).

I had the unlimited mimosas/champagne/wine deal for dinner ($14, I think), and it’s a good deal if you’re planning to drink alcohol and are not too picky about quality.  I enjoyed the mimosas and the champagne.  The wine tasted like $2 chuck and I would definitely not have it again.

Probably the worst part of the evening was our waitress.  She was efficient but seemed to be having a crappy night and there was never a hint of smile on her face.  I’m sorry, but dining is an experience and unhappy waitresses bring it down a notch.

All in all this is a good buffet  and I’d definitely do it again.

 

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Delights Delicatessen @ the MGM Signature, Las Vegas

Update

I’ve been a fan of Delights in previous trips, but we skipped it this time. The menu has been greatly reduced and the prices have gone up. A simple coffee is now $4, a 12-oz fountain soda filled of ice is $5, and a tiny bottle of Fiji water or Pellegrino is $6!

Food is more reasonable, but those prices are just unconscionable.

This blog post was written in 2015

Food in Las Vegas is expensive, and nowhere more so than at the hotels where captive audiences allow restaurants to charge outrageous prices without even flinching.  Even the restaurants at the hotel food courts are expensive, with a low-quality fast food meal reaching around $10.  In this context, the Delights Deli at the Signature suites is really a delight.  It has high-quality, delicious food at very reasonable prices.

I’ve eaten there several times during both my stays at the Signature.  I’ve had their sandwiches, pizza and pastas (all around $12). They come in generous portions, and they pack them well to bring to your room.  I had the cajun chicken alfredo last time, which was tasty but a bit spicy.  The pizza is traditional, Italian-sytle thin pizza. Pretty good and well priced.  They also have breakfast dishes.

They are open daily 7 am to 9 pm, and you can browse at their menu online.  However, you can only order in person.  Beware that wait to get your meal prepared can take long, even at non-peak times.  There is a nice, casual dining room if you want to eat-in.

Delights Delicatessen
at the Signature suites
145 East Harmon Avenue
Las Vegas, NV
https://www.signaturemgmgrand.com/en/restaurants/delights-delicatessen.html

Marga’s Las Vegas

Marga’s Restaurant Reviews

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I cook Bissau-Guinean, Guinean, Guyanese, Grenadan, Ghizhou, Guadeloupean, Equatorial Guinean and Gujarati food – and this is what I think

Seventeen years into my International Food Project, it’s become pretty clear that I’ll be lucky if I get to the middle of the alphabet before I die.  The real problem is that I get enthusiastic for a while, do a lot of cooking, and then just get tired of it and go back to eating frozen food for months on end.  Now that my children are vegetarians-that-don’t-eat-vegetables, finding recipes that even a couple of us will like is very hard.  And if I can’t cook for my kids-that-won’t-eat-anything, it seems selfish to cook for just Mike and I.

Still, after a few months of frozen food I’m hungry for some good homecook food so I’m going back to this project.  And this means getting to date with my writing.  I cooked all these cuisines in late 2016 and early 2017.  I thought I was done with “G” cuisines, but I discovered a few new ones: Gascon, Greenlandish, Gibraltarian and Guernsey.  I also found other cuisines that come earlier in the alphabet.  That, of course, is one reason why I’ll never finish this.

Meanwhile, here are the cuisines I did finish!:

Bissau-Guinean – My journey into this Portuguese inspired West African cuisine could have gone better.

Equatorial Guinea – Try as I might, I could not avoid making yet another dish of chicken with peanut sauce.

Guinean – I made just one dish from this neighboring country, fortunately it was good!

Ghizhou – Another tough country to tackle, but I found one good recipe

Grenadan – I tried, I failed, I moved on

Guadeloupean – Don’t miss the chicken colombo!

Gujarati – I found the most delicious beef kebab dish in this mostly vegetarian cuisine

Guyanese – I loved exploring this cuisine that owes so much to India

 

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Saleh Smokehouse – Review

The Everett & Jones restaurant in Hayward has become more and more erratic in their opening hours, so we are looking for a new BBQ joint to call our own.  Last week we gave Saleh Smokehouse a try.  It gets a B+, in my book.

We ordered a plate of links, another of beef, and another of beef and ribs.  Alas, instead of ribs the last plate had links and we didn’t realize it until we came home.  We’re going to have to go back and try the ribs.

I was personally happy with both the beef and the links.  The beef was tender, juicy enough and not overly fatty.  The links were coarse, gritty and homemade.  My husband wasn’t as happy with the links, however, finding them too dry and inferior to E&J’s.  He also didn’t think the BBQ sauce was as great, but I actually thought it was pretty similar to E&J’s.  He was reasonably happy with the baked beans and potato salad.

Saleh Smokehouse is located inside a mini-market in East Oakland.   In addition to barbecue they sell fried chicken and fish & chips, which we didn’t try.  We did pick up a couple of slices of homemade cakes.  I thought the German chocolate cake one was fine, but it needed more coconut flavor in the frosting.  On the plus side, it wasn’t overwhelmingly sweet.

I anticipate we’ll be back

Saleh Smokehouse
679 98th Ave
Oakland, CA
(510) 553-9191
M-Sa 8 AM – 9 PM, Su 8 AM – 7 PM

Marga’s Restaurant Reviews

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Christmas Eve 2015 Menu – Better Late than Never

For memory’s sake alone, I want to record here – over a year late – my menu for Christmas Eve 2015. My bathroom sink broke in December 2014, so that year we went out to dinner, but in 2015 my parents and siblings came to visit us. It was bittersweet as my sister Gabriela had passed away the previous spring. I made a very simple meal, with all repeated favorites.

This is what I served:

First Course: Bread & chips vinegars, oils & dips

Second Course: Mixed Green Salad with Blue Cheese Vinaigrette and Iceberg Lettuce with Thousand Islands

The mixed green salad is one of my favorites and my youngest daughter asked me to serve it against in 2016.  The lettuce with Thousand Island salad was for my oldest daughter who is very picky.

Third Course: Mushroom Soup

Another old favorite, from the Les Halles cookbook.

Fourth Course: Flamishe

This leek tart has become an obligatory course at all my Holiday dinners.

Fifth Course: Lime Sorbet in shell

I can’t recall if I made or bought the sorbet, but I halvened the limes in two and scooped out the flesh, then I froze them, filled them with lime sorbet, and put them back in the freezer.  It was a beautiful presentation.

Sixth CoursePrime Rib with Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes and Green Beans Almondine plus Brown Rice with Coconut Curry

To make the green beans, just steam them, salt them, toss them with butter and roasted sliced almonds.  I made the coconut curry for my vegetarian daughters. I no longer recall what recipe I used, but I don’t recall her being crazy about it.

Seventh Course: Cheese Plate

I’m sure it was great, but I don’t recall what I served.

Eight Course: Chocolate Peppermint Cake with Maple Nut Ice Cream

The chocolate cake is one that my grandmother used to make and I wanted to surprise my father with it.  Unfortunately, he couldn’t remember it.  My grandmother also used to make maple ice cream and serve it with chopped nuts.  She had tiny bottles of maple essence she had brought from her trip to the US before I was born (I imagine, I have no idea how else she could have gotten them) and would make this special ice cream once in a big while.  This recipe uses maple syrup, however.

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Christmas Eve 2016 Dinner Menu (with Recipes)

xmastableThis year, my father and my friends Lola and Iggy came over for Christmas Eve dinner.  It was a simpler affair than in other years, with only eight courses.  I decided early on that I wanted to make a cheesecake for dessert – a favorite of my friend Lola.  Alas, that means displacing the cheese course to the start of the meal.  No matter, the meal flowed perfectly and everything was great.

I was able to make most of the dishes in advance, which made for a much less stressful Christmas Eve.  This is what we had:

First course: Cheeses

I served a manchego, le Pommier Camembert and Délice de Bourgogne with sliced baguette, crackers, green apple slices, grapes, caramelized walnuts and orange marmalade.   The cheeses were from La Fromagerie in San Francisco.  Most of us preferred the délice, though my dad liked the camembert the most.  Still, these weren’t the best cheeses we’ve had.

Second course: Amuse Bouche of Polenta with Mushroom Ragout

I spent a lot of time looking for recipes of amuse bouches that I could serve in a spoon, but wasn’t satisfied with any. Finally, I decided to wing it and placed a tiny bit of store-bought polenta on each spoon and topped it with a quick, recipe-less mushroom ragout. Wow, was it delicious.  Everyone wanted more!

Third course: Mixed Green Salad with Blue Cheese Vinaigrette

This is an old favorite and was requested by my youngest daughter – who had forgotten it had blue cheese in it and didn’t like it.  This time I used Point Reyes blue instead of a milder Gorgonzola, so perhaps that was the problem.  Most of us were happy with it.

Fourth course: Coconut Butternut Squash Soup

My oldest daughter requested I make this soup.  I wanted to try a new recipe, as none of the ones I tried before were that great, and I was intrigued by using one with coconut milk.  This one proved to be a huge hit. It was absolutely delicious.  I had meant to add some pumpkin seeds for color/texture (instead of the red onions and kale the original recipe called for) but I forgot.  Nobody missed them.  Do serve this with sour cream.  It needs the added acidity to be truly great. And great it is.  I made this in advance and then added some water to reheat it.

Fifth Course: Flamishe 

This leek tart is another old favorite requested by my oldest daughter.  It’s one of the simplest things you could ever made but also the most delicious. Once again, I made individual tarts to make it more elegant and served the cream in a creamer, so everyone could pour themselves some.  I made the filling in advance but prepared the leek tarts the day I served them.

Six Course: Lemon Sorbet

Store bought Haagen-Dazs, I’m afraid.

Seventh Course: Five Spice Short Ribs, Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes and Roasted Asparagus

We finally get to the main dish! My vegetarian daughters forewent the ribs, but the rest of us were very happy with them.  I made them in advance, of course.  The buttermilk mashed potatoes are my usually recipe, which I multiplied a few times.  The asparagus were simply roasted with olive oil and salt.

Eighth Course: Dulce de Leche Cheesecake

Being an Argentinian, dulce de leche cheesecake might seem like an obvious idea.  And yet it did not occur to me to make it until I finally decided that my choice of peanut butter cheesecake did not fit with the menu above.  It’s a good thing I listened to those voices, as this was probably the most delicious dessert I’ve made in a long time.  I used San Ignacio Dulce de Leche, which is a great brand, but I’m sure any other would do.  Don’t miss the glace, as the cheesecake is not nearly as good without it.

I served an expensive California sparkling wine with the first part of the meal and Clos Pegase Atlas Peak 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, which we’d bought at the winery, with the main dish.  They were both delicious.

The Recipes

Mixed Green Salad with Blue Cheese Vinaigrette

Polenta with Mushroom Ragout

Ingredients:

  • 1 small package of tubed ready-made polenta
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 8 oz mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/4 cup whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup madeira or marsala wine
  • sea salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Slice about half the tube of polenta. Bake or saute it until heated through.  Place in serving plates.

Heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat in a medium saute pan.  Once the butter is melted add the shallot and cook until soft, stirring as necessary.  Add the mushrooms and continue cooking until they are soft and all the liquid evaporates.  Add the whipping cream and madeira and cook, stirring, until it reduces to a thick glace.  Sprinkle with salt and paper to taste.

Place the mushroom ragout on top of the polenta and serve.

Coconut Butternut Squash Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 large butternut squash
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 green apple, peeled, cored and sliced
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 tsp grated ginger
  • 2 tsp curry powder
  • pinch of ground nutmeg
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Sour cream

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375°.  Line a baking sheet with aluminum oil.  Cut the butternut quash in half (or quarters, if easier).  Place cut side up on the baking sheet and cover with aluminum foil.  Cook until the flesh is soft, 30 to 50 minutes.  Cool until you can handle it, then peel or scoop out the flesh onto a plate or bowl and set aside.

Heat oil in a soup pot over medium-low heat.  Add the onion and cook until golden, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes.  Add the squash, apple, broth, ginger, curry powder and nutmeg.  Bring to a boil, then reduce temperature to low, cover and simmer until the apples are soft, about 10 minutes.

Remove pot from the heat and, using an immersion blender, puree until smooth.  Alternatively, transfer solids to a food processor or blender in batches and process until pureed, then transfer back to the soup pot and mix well.

Add the coconut milk, stir and cook on low for about ten minutes.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve with sour cream.

Based on a recipe from the New York Times.

Flamishe (Leek Tart)

Five Spice Short Ribs

Ingredients:

  • 5-6 lbs English cut short ribs
  • kosher or sea salt and pepper
  • flour for dusting
  • 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. Chinese five-spice powder
  • 1 bottle dry red wine
  • 1 carrot, rinsed and cut into thirds
  • 1 parsnip, rinsed and cut into thirds
  • 1 onion, cut in wedges
  • 5 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1/4 cup cilantro stems
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 cups beef broth

Directions:

Sprinkle salt and pepper on short ribs. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.  Dust in flour.

Preheat oven to 350F.  Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large Dutch oven.  Working in batches, add short ribs and brown on all sides, removing to a plate as they brown.  Pour out all but 1 tablespoon of oil from the Dutch oven and set on medium heat.  Add tomato paste and give-spice powder and cook, stirring, for one minute.  Add wine and deglace pan.  Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer, and cook until the liquid is almost completely reduced, about 10 minutes.

Add the short ribs, carrot, parsnip, garlic, cilantro stems and bay leaves.  Cover with the broth.  Bring the braise to a boil over high heat.  Then cover and transfer to the oven.  Cook for 2 hours. Remove from oven, let cool, and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, preheat oven to 350F.  Remove pot from the refrigerator and remove and discard the congealed fat.  Return pot to the oven and cook, uncovered, for 40 to 60 minutes, until the meat is falling off the bone.  Gently remove the short ribs from the cooking liquid and keep warm.  Strain cooking liquid into a large bowl and discard the solids.  Return strained liquid to the cooking pot, set on the stove over medium-high heat and simmer until the liquid is reduced by half.  Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.  Return the short ribs to the liquid, and cook until the ribs are warmed through.

Based on a recipe at Epicurious.com

 

Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes

Dulce de Leche Cheesecake

Ingredients:

For the Crust

  • 50 vanilla wafers
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

For the Cheesecake

  • 2 lbs cream cheese
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 4 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup dulce de leche
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch salt

For the Glace

  • 2/3 cup dulce de leche
  • 2 Tbsp whipping cream or milk

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350F.  Butter a springform mold. Line inside with parchment paper and butter again.

Using a food processor, crumble the vanilla wafers into a coarse powder.  Stir in the melted butter, sugar and vanilla cream. Press against the bottom of the pan and about 1/3 up the sides.  Bake in the oven for about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, using an electric mixer cream together the cream cheese and the sugar.  Mix in the eggs, one at the time.  Mix in the dulce de leche, the vanila extract and the pinch of salt.  Pour onto prepared crust.

Bake in the oven until it sets, about 50 minutes.  Remove, let cool and unmold.

Prepare the glace by heating together the dulce de leche and whipping cream and whisking to combine.  Once the cheesecake is cool, spread dulce de leche sauce on the top and sides.  Note: if it cracks, you can fill the cracks with dulce de leche as well.

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