Saturday, January 29, 2011

Mr. Jacks - American? Greek? Italian?

The first time i saw this really made me curious, what kind of food they are serving.  If you just read the restaurant's name...I would say, this would be one of the American food joints in Utrecht until you see the next line...Grieks-Italiaans Restaurant.  Who wouldn't be curious with this mixture of cuisines in one place?

Aside from the name, they also advertised that they served a whole pizza for 5 euro!  Pretty good deal if you wanted to fill your tummies.  We skip on pizza that night, as we saw the pizzas on the other table and judged that these are not the pizza that we really take seriously but we're still up to the curiosity of the fusion this place offers.

Ok, we didn't see fusion but they just have extensive menu of Italian and Greek dishes.

Let's start of with HT hubbie went Greek that night:

Stifado Nemeas -  Stew has become our favorite dish, i guess, it works well if you live in a cold country like the Netherlands.  This dish was made of calf meat stewed in white wine and tomatoes cooked in the oven.  Stew and oven gave us high expectations until we had our first bite.  It was not bland but not that delicious either.  It was mediocre.  The meat weren't tender enough to love this stew.  Taste wise, this reminded me of our beef stew version in the Philippines called beef kaldereta.  Fat potato strips came along with it which I ate like I haven't eaten french fries for years! 

Btw, the chef happily served this dish to us and cheerfully mentioned..."Finally, some diners who ordered something else other than pizza" (love how Dutch people can be very direct with their feelings and thinking). 

Anyway, guess who went Italian that night? :D

Umbria was enticing on how it was described in the menu.  Bacon, ham, spinach, pesto, mushrooms, cream, basil cooked in white's like everything in so I can't go wrong with that.  I was already looking at the quattro formaggi pasta or the gorgonzola pasta, but going vegetarian is really quite difficult for HT wife thus, I had this plate.  But i was a bit disappointed.  Despite of the numerous ingredients, this one didn't had its oomph factor.  The pasta was not al dente and quite overcooked which i think didn't go well with a spinach cream sauce as the combination made it tiresome to continuously eat it after a few spoonfuls.  The serving was pretty huge, though.

Sorry, for the dark pictures, so far, almost all restaurants here in the Netherlands always have this dark, seemingly-romantic ambiance(that includes our home).  Gezellig-ness  is very important to Dutch people.  Having "a more than cozy ambiance" draw the locals to go inside and have the so-called "gezellig dining experience".

Where can you get a whole pizza for 5 euro with this type of ambiance just like paradise? (only here) :D

And just as versatile as their menu, in one corner, it's unavoidable not to see, a net with lobsters, fishes and crabs hanging in the middle of a grape vine area. (why not?:D)

Overall, I would say, this restaurant is average.  Service was good and the food was not brilliant but ok.  I guess you can't expect much as the prices are lower than most of the restaurants around the centrum.

I would come back here, but just to try one of those 5 euro pizza, which the locals are raving about.

Price Summary (in euro)
Stifado Nemeas 15.50
Umbria 9.50
house wine and beers = less than 3

Mr. Jack's Restaurant
Voorstraat 61,

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

One Fine Brunch @ HT Couple's Huis!

One of the things I enjoyed most with my time here in the Netherlands, is going to the supermarket! (next to eating of course).  And I just feel at home as I have mastered all the Dutch words (almost) that pertains to food in every row and section of this place.

I always list down what I'm gonna buy in the grocery (control freak :D).  But, i still end up taking home with me twice or thrice of what i have written.  When I'm surrounded with patch-your-own-food (making your own meal), there's always something that might go well with this and that.

One weekend, HT couple woke up at almost noon (ok, that's almost every weekend) and decided to have brunch at home.  We thought of warm dishes yet simple to start our day right.  We decided to make our own tapas version.

And these were what we have picked out.

Smoked Mackerel - we seldom cook fish as HT hubbie doesn't like fishy smell all over the house.  So usually, we would get smoked, ready-to-eat vis (fish) in the supermarket.  We liked how tasty smoked fish are and those that we get here, the meat are still soft, almost raw in texture.  Tommie, our pussycat, went gaga when we placed this plate on the table.  And HT couple went gaga too!

Gambas in knoflook and citroen sap (garlic and lemon) - We bought these peeled and marinated yet uncooked shrimps.  It's funny that you can choose whether cooked or uncooked ones in the shop ( i guess if you don't trust the seafood freshness then you go for the orange clothed prawns).  I was happy to see these huge and fat prawns (as i seldom see them here).  It was as juicy as how i like it to be and it was delicious!  I used my bread to wipe off every traces of oil from these gambas.

Pain D'Ardenne - cured cold cuts that are thinly sliced that came from Ardenne, which extends from Belgium, Luxembourg to France (thus the French name).  I've mentioned in my previous post how HT hubbie loves eating dried sausages, chorizo and this is one of his all-time favorites.  And I can't blame him, as this slices of dried meat gave full and satisfying flavor despite of its thinnest.  I enjoyed munching it like chips. 

With good cups of coffee and small, lovely chit chats while enjoying every bite and every moment of our brunch @ home, this was really a good start of the day...and hoping, that weekend would never last.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Love @ Taj Mahal

Almost all of us know that Taj Mahal is a symbol of love based on its history. The word "Mahal" in Filipino means love (what a coincidence, isn't it?).  In Utrecht, Taj Mahal, is a place situated along the same street as The Dom, where HT couple fell in love with.

What brought our feet to this restaurant was when we had a nice sumptuous homemade indian lunch last Christmas.  HT hubbie and I were thinking of just to wait for 2 months, and we can eat all the indian food we can when we're back in Asia.  Luckily, we don't have to wait for 2 months when mijn schoonzus (sister-in-law) came to Utrecht and we all decided to go Indian that night.  (I tried making reservation using Dutch and was so proud that I was able to manage until before we hang up...the guy said "Thank you" to me in English...Ai yoh...there goes my bad accent pretending to be a local *LOL*).

The menu was very extensive and it really made me confused what to order until I settle down for one of their curry specialiteiten.  I was planning to order the chicken tikka masala but seeing raisins, almonds and cashew nuts in the curry made me think, it was westernized.  When the ober (waiter) heard my order, he crinkled his forehead and told me "hmm, you might want to settle on one of the medium or hot curries in the menu".  At that point, i felt like he looked at me as if i was a huge chili pepper, all red with a green stem on my head.  Nevertheless, i'm glad i followed his lead.

I got myself one of the medium ones...
Chikken Tikka Bhuna - since I was given for a short period to choose on the medium curries selection, I chose this which is close to chicken tikka masala...but I'm not sure what Bhuna means.  But I ask the ober if there's a spicy kick in this dish and he assured me so I went for it.  And, I was not disappointed.  I can smell the herbs, tomatoes and capsicum that they have used.  The curry went well with the basmati rice and the naan that were part of our orders.  But i guess, the medium curries here are considered mild for my thick tongue (from too much eating :D)

The naan here was a bit thicker and quite burnt on the under side from what I'm used to, but still smackingly good!  Sorry no pictures of the basmati rice (long grains)  and the free papad with 3 types of chutneys.

Sorry for the bad shot...Chicken Passanda was my sister-in-law's choice for the night.  This was categorized as mild and this was one of the westernized dish that i was telling earlier.  It is still made of masala curry but cooked with wine.  I'm not sure if indians really use wine in cooking.  Hence, it was on the sweet side with almonds, raisins and cashews cooked with it.  I like how tasteful the dish excluding its sweetness.

Lamb Rogan Josh - cooked Kashmir style.  I was intrigued by the name Rogan Josh and I have to visit my best friend wikipedia again.  Rogan Josh can mean cooked in oil in intense heat or a meat dish that is red in color.  Rogan meaning color and Josh meaning passion, hot or red.  I would love to hear it from somebody who really knows what Rogan Josh is and what's the history behind it (coz it sounded like a hunk bollywood turned hollywood actor).  This dish looked like how it was described, oily and red.  It also had its spicy kick and the lamb meat was very tasty.  The three of us agreed, that this was the best for the night.  I can't resist but to grab a few more spoonfuls of basmati rice to eat a portion of this even if i felt like i'm gonna explode.

We decided to skip dessert and ended the night with just the nice main courses we had and the gezelligheid (coziness).

I might not be an expert in terms of Indian food, but I would recommend this place for its ambiance, service and good food!

And I wouldn't mind having this at home.

Price Summary (in euro)
*from mild to medium
Chicken Passanda - 16.75
Chicken Tikka Bhuna - 14.50
Lamb Rogan Josh - 14.25
*all curries include a bowl of salad with your choice of either naan or basmati rice.

Taj Mahal
Zadelstraat 32
3511 LV Utrecht
Tel: +31302314530

*P.S. Searching about Rogan Josh, I read that Kashmir style, are usually cooked with raisins.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Utrecnt, The Netherlands: Bagels and Beans

Thanks again to the Americans who introduced this bread to a Filipino like me. I was a regular bagel-eater in that mermaid cafe that has been built in every corner of Manila and Singapore and slowly penetrating Netherlands.  I don't know how a bagel should be, whether it should be soft that it gets stuck on your teeth or whether it should be hard to give a few scratches on your gums..I just love bagels either way.

A friend mentioned this cafe (in NL, cafe is a better word than coffee shop as the latter doesn't only perks you up but also makes you float up high *wink*), that has sprouted around NL which sells this holy bread I love.  And there are no mermaids nor star in the logo...but just the straight forward..
a cup of coffee and a piece of bagel

And you still get the european service of getting your drinks first.
in colorful cups with saucers

The cappuccino was alright, it's not too milky which how it's supposed to be, but i can get the same in normal pubs and bars around (except the cute cups, of course).

My bagel for the day - Cinnamon and raisins (a staple for HT wife) which had enough sweetness and gave that lovely aroma of cinnamon.  I don't usually eat this bread with cream cheese but with butter.  I love how the butter melts and sizzles on the bread.  However, I can't resist the wide selection of B&B's cream cheeses (check out the menu in their website).  And I think the best companion for my order of bagel was...

Honey and Walnuts!  And look how chunky it is! 

goat cheese with bacon and pine nuts - HT hubbie is not fond of bagel.  He thinks there are better breads out there so this won't be at his top choices.  But he doesn't want to disappoint HT wife who has been longing for just lounging in a cafe while having tête-à-tête :D.  And B&B didn't disappoint him as this cafe serves bagels how a European would love it.  HT hubbie got an 'everything-on-it' bagel (with all types of seeds they smack on the top of the bread) and he even scooped from my honey and walnuts cream cheese which he said was a good add-on to his bagel plate.

Now, did the bagel got stuck on my teeth or wounded my gums?  Neither, i love how it was crunchy and toasted from the outside but soft in the inside. :)

 It was good to hang out again in a cafe, without taking note of the time, just sipping our coffee while enjoying our bagel delights!

Price Summary (in euro)
Bagels with cream cheese = 3.35
Goat cheese with bacon and pine nuts = 5.60
Freshly squeezed orange juice (s) = 2.30
Cappuccino = 2.30

*i put those stars just to cover the faces of the diners :D
Bagels and Beans (44 outlets around NL and growing)
Biltstraat 60
3572 BD Utrecht
(they're also open on Sundays)

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Welcome 2011!

Tick tock tick tock, said the clock when the midnight of 2011 struck.  The first day of a fresh new year.  Chinese usually wears red to repel bad spirits, bad vibes and bad luck.  Filipinos would wear polka dots to embrace abundance for the whole year round.  And most people, would have their so-called "New Year's Resolutions" which to some are considered overrated.

What is HT couple's NY resolution? :)  We made it realistic this year.  And what made it special, we accomplished that on the 1st day of 2011! 

Our resolution is to cook this dish!  Hurray!

Being far away from the promised land of Cereal Prawns made us do this!  6 months of fasting from this crustacean made us weak, helpless and famish.  (ok, i'm exaggerating a bit).  We bought 1 kg prawns from the asian market (toko here in NL), a bag of curry leaves and pre-packed cereal mixes(though i was able to get only the healthy soya version) .  Sautéed in butter with few chili slices (but more is better so the sweetness of the cereals won't be too overwhelming) and ta-dah, it went well!  New Year's resolution...check!  ...We're done.

And as a bonus, i also learned how to make this...Filipino (spanish-inspired) dish.
Embutido or Filipino meatloaf , is packed with ingredients which made me thought it was difficult to do.  I remember in SG, i would even order a few pieces from a Filipino caterer as I love it but don't know how to make it myself. 

We used ground beef and ground pork, raisins, raw eggs, white bread crumbs, grated cheese, diced bell pepper, soy sauce/salt/pepper/fish sauce to taste.  I added powdered chicken bouillon to make it more lip smacking good.  This dish is flexible, add anything you like, it would still be good.  A friend suggested a fantastic add -on: chestnuts!  It would be part of my next embutido!

 Hard boiled eggs and chorizo pieces were the center of attraction in this dish as we roll it tightly in aluminum foil.

I've wrapped it candy can wrap it anyway you fancy and hop it goes to the steamer for 1 hour.  We don't have a steamer so we setup a rack in our oven and underneath we placed an oven dish filled with water.  We brought the water to boil and then placed the wrapped embutido on the rack and baked for an hour at 125C.

Once done, chill the meat loaf for an hour or more so it won't get crumbly when slicing it...
Warm it up in the oven, in the steamer or even slightly fry it, served with rice or with bread or eat it just  like cold cuts....yum!  And for freshly steamed embutido, you can keep it in the freezer for rainy days.

Once good vibe is around continues to hug you...I had this great dessert on the first day of the new year made by a friend.  (so far all her desserts i've tasted, were exquisite!)

Panna Cotta in red wine reduction sauce with blueberries topped with crushed nuts and meringue cinnamon ice cream sandwich on the side.  (I just invented a very long name of a dessert).  Sweet lovers will get crazy with this.

Fulfillment was the best word to describe our first encounter of 2011.  And sharing good food with friends, what can be better than this?

Share your Jan 1, 2011 experiences or better yet, your NY resolutions (we'll keep it as a secret if you wish *wink*)

Doei! (bye in Dutch)