Eating Uptown Series… Part Seven — Got Tapas ? @ Malabar

Got Tapas ?? 

This is what you see on the back of the staff’s T-shirts as they seat you down in this cozy restaurant off of the Tryon street in uptown Charlotte.

Ever since I have started working uptown, I have noticed the red awning on a small restaurant space in the building opposite to me. I remember Coco Osteria being there.. I loved that restaurant. Cozy and delicious food.. The same place my husband planned a surprise 25th birthday party for me.  🙂 Ahh.. good times .

So I was really disappointed when I saw the restaurant change names and cuisine. BUT I was intrigued to try this new place out. I needed a partner in crime… Who else would suit the bill than my dearest hubster 😉

My lunch date 🙂 

So this place specializes in Tapas style meals (Appetizers, small plates) but also has full on entrees depending on your appetite. Krish and I being the foodies that we are decided to “share” some small plates… The decor is very minimal. Nothing crazy.. No eye piercing wall colors, no heavy drapes or crystal chandeliers, but warm and cozy. I bet it looks great in the evening with the soft lights and the shadows from the red awning outside.

Have I said “cozy” enough already ?

So we look at the menu and unfortunately don’t understand the names or how they are pronounced. They are in Spanish. BUT the descriptions are in English.. Yeah!!

So me being me, try to say as much as I can in Spanish, which is a whole lot of nothing actually. But our server humored my attempt and corrected me often.. I love such cultural exchanges. He was very well versed with the menu and took his time to explain the dishes in detail (with correct pronunciations).

Dates filled with cheese wrapped in Serrano ham
The salted ham complimented the sweet dates stuffed with the salty cheese.
Not for the faint of the heart. This is like a flavor roller coaster on your tongue. 

The inside of the dates
Vaca Frita
Crispy marinated beef with red onions..
Slow cooked, fork tender beef with pickled red onions.
Crispy beef with pickled red onions!
Try FC’s own pickled red onion recipe
Bread to go with the clams below..
Would have loved it if it was tad bit thicker to help soak up the juices more.
Almejas a la Mancha (sautéed clams, chorizo, and saffron)

Clams and chorizo in a tomato and saffron broth
A little heavy on the salt. Sausage seemed a little over done and
I couldn’t taste the saffron really.
The bread that came with it was not thick enough to soak up the broth
BUT it was a tasty dish none the less. Clams were cooked to perfection.

Generous serving *****

Happy as a “clam”.. 🙂

Slow cooked oh so tender pork! Creamy Avocado crowned the sandwich.
Spanish style pulled pork sandwich. 
Served with yucca fries.

Torta! Krish’s favorite.. Slow cooked pork.. with spices..
and fresh avocado. I loved the pork and the thick bread really  held up  to the juices of the meat. The avocado didn’t work for me in that. (I have been eating a southern style BBQ pulled pork sandwich for a while I guess and couldn’t appreciate the delicate Avocado flavor). Krish liked it on the other hand.

Waiting patiently for dessert !
Yes we had dessert for lunch 😉

Tres Leches.. OR HEAVEN !
We were so confused as to what to get for dessert BUT our server came to our rescue..
He just flat told us.. Get the Tres Leches and boy, am I so glad we did.. Dessert HEAVEN!

Krish polishing it off.. Actually I did too 😉
OK so conclusion! Spanish folks might eat small plates but man, they eat well!! I would like to goto Spain now !! Soon , I hope sometime soon 🙂

Saffron infused honey

Saffron infused pure honey

1/2 cup of pure honey (I buy mine from Earth fare or the local farmer’s stand)
1/2 Tsp of good quality saffron
1/2 Tsp of sugar

Using the back of a spoon or a mortar and pestle, crush/grind the sugar and the saffron till you can smell the fragrance from the spice. Heat the honey in a shallow pan or in a microwaveable bowl for 10-12 seconds or so till it liquefies. Add the saffron and sugar mixture in the honey and mix well. Keep on the kitchen counter for about 2 hrs. 

Use as below!

Instant dessert!
Greek yogurt, saffron infused pure honey, toasted almonds,
dried cranberries, toasted coconut flakes and you are all set!
Top it off with some granola and breakfast is ready!!

Who says you can’t have dessert for breakfast ?? 😉

Whole oats, dried cranberries, toasted almonds,
coconut flakes and saffron infused pure honey !

Simple Pork Tacos! Perfect for a rainy, and stormy night!

Photo: Street style pork tacos! Slow cooked with jalapenos, chipotle peppers, roasted cumin, and garlic! Served with pineapple and blackbean salsa.. Spicy tacos with sweet salsa.. Whole wheat tortillas too. Yumm!

It’s grey outside today.. Not “50 shades of grey” grey but rainy, stormy and thunder grey.. I LOVE this weather.. This weather calls for comfort food.. soups, stews, warm cozy food.. I know I associate everything with food.. 🙂 This recipe is so easy, it is bound to become your favorite!

All you need is a slow cooker and some basic ingredients and you are all set..

I used:

Pork tenderloin- about 2-3 pounds
2 Jalapenos sliced
A couple of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
3-4 Medium sized Tomatoes chopped
1 Large onion chopped
Juice of 1 Lemon
2-3 garlic cloves smashed
1/2 Tbsp of dry roasted and ground cumin powder (KEY INGREDIENT)
Salt, pepper and red chili flakes (if you dare)
Enough water to cover the meat.

Slow cook for 6-7 hrs. And pull the meat apart with a fork.

For taco assembly, you will need

Tortillas of your choice
Pineapple and bean salsa
Lime wedge
Queso fresco (optional)

Eating Uptown Series… Part Six – 5Church

So I had the pleasure of eating lunch with my sister this week.. She’s a busy body! Always studying.. or taking exams.. so I was definitely thrilled to catch up with her after what seemed like “FOREVER” that we had seen each other… A little bit about my sister (If you don’t see it from the picture below).. She’s the pretty one.. the smart one, the cute one, the SKINNY one.. and the most love-able one too ! AND she’s the middle child so you know what they say about them people ? 😉 I am kiddin.. We love her “Inspite” of all that.. (She will KILL me).. It’s good sibling fun.. But on a serious note, you need makeup advice or a fabulous babysitter, you should totally talk to her.. 🙂

Totally looking cute!

We decided to check out 5Church as I work right around the block and didn’t want to walk too much.. You know me and my big girl heels issues 😉

The restaurant is pretty spacious and the decor is very eclectic. Black and white colors mostly with metal accents. Very cool space. Very hip 🙂 The hostess was very friendly and showed us to our seats promptly. As we were seated we were greeted by our server who was very pleasant too. (Good start!)

Cool captions and poetry on the ceiling

You know I love unique dinner/drink ware…
Beet sliders.. Fresh goat cheese and avocado!
Crispy and creamy.. Did not need any other sauces or mayo..
Bunch of napkins though 😉
Beet sliders.. So crispy! Thick slices of beets, breaded and fried!
 I am sooo making this!
These came with a side of fresh cucumber pickles.. Crisp and tangy.. 

Loved the hint of rosemary and the creamy Gorgonzola
on this fresh mozzarella flat bread
The flat bread was crisp at the first bit and a tad chewy after.. Loved it. 

Garlic and red chili flakes crowned these green beauties..

ok.. So there’s a pasta salad and there is THIS pasta salad..
Loaded with soft feta, olives, cherry tomatoes, chickpeas!
This thing was  DA BOMB!! Big serving too..
A little heavy on the salt I guess due to the feta and the olives..
Also maybe because the pasta is boiled in salted water.. (Thanks Tina!)

Left over flat bread and pasta salad for my mama!

Amazingly enough we ate all vegetarian.. I was very pleased to find that there were so many choices! I was tempted to get the lamb burger or maybe the fried chicken sandwich or MAYBE just MAYBE the truffle beets ?? So many choices.. .. Hmm Next time! 🙂

Big mouth B’fast sandwich !!

Hash of tomatoes, onions, pancetta, spinach topped with some eggs.
Crumbled soft goat cheese and fresh avocado!
 Nestled between your favorite toasted sourdough bread!!
You don’t need butter/hot sauce but may need napkins! Happy Friday!!

Eating Uptown Series… Part Five- Fro Yo

Melissa (My partner in crime) and I had a little hankering for something sweet today after lunch.. We thought maybe a cookie.. Decided against it and opted to get some frozen yogurt instead. Went to a place called Frozen Isle.

Tasting .. Peach Mango..
Tart and sweet

Red velvet… Sooooo good.. heavy.. and creamy..
almost felt guilty tasting it.. “almost”
and yes, that’s my lip gloss around the cup.. I am a girly girl:)

Melissa.. ready with her bowl of sweet goodness

She cracks me up.. 🙂 Heading towards the topping bar.. 

Mine all mine!! Mad scientist at play here..
Peach-Mango tart and pistachio.. with of course fruits..
to make it healthy ?!

Organic flax seed.. The only thing I found organic.. sigh.. oh well.. 

am ready to enjoy my afternoon treat!

Taking in the sights and sounds of the city.. 
Don’t forget your frequent member card.
 Thanks to my cube neighbor who had one.
Get it punched with every purchase.. get a treat in the end.  🙂

They have a lot of different and cool flavors and a bunch of toppings to go with them.. I might try the peanut butter and the white chocolate mousse next time.. What’s your favorite combo ?

Hail the Salmon!

I have so many recipes for quick and easy Salmon, it’s not even funny! It’s maybe because we eat it once a week in our house.. It’s the easiest thing you can make.. Dinner/lunch/breakfast !! Yeah, I am not kidding with you all when I say, I love Salmon and I have a ton of recipes for this fabulous fish… You can always substitute the recipe for any other fish but I love salmon in this just because it’s meaty enough to absorb the exploding flavor and won’t flake all over the place. Great for presentation too 😉 You know me.. I eat with my eyes first 🙂 Enjoy!

“The” marinade
Umm Salmon “bathing” in the marinade
Boiling the red rice in an open stockpot for about 10-12 minutes.
Drain to remove extra water.
Salmon in a “foil boat” ready for baking
For about a pound , pound and a half of organic Salmon cut into 6-8 Oz. filets
1/2″ ginger root peeled and grated
1 Tbsp OO
1 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp Orange juice
1 Tbsp Soy sauce
1 Tsp red chili flakes, optional (to add some heat)
Salt and black pepper to taste
Mix all the above. Marinate the salmon in this mixture for 20 min in the fridge.
Bake in a preheated oven uncovered at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes for every inch of thickness.  When using a foil wrap, bake at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Broil the last 2-3 minutes to get a char on top of the fish. 
Something sweet, something spicy! Please feel free to “up” the quantities of the marinade as per personal preference. 

Onam: The festival of plenty

Onam: The festival of plenty. Marking the harvest season in the state of Kerala, India, Onam brings about festivities centered ofcourse around food and family. It is not so much of a religious holiday but rather a holiday to share and be thankful for what you have already. The mythology behind this festival is rather cool and I encourage all to read via the wiki link I provided above.

Big pot out means big things are happening !

 Some ask my association with this festival as I am from the northern part of India and whereas this festival is predominantly celebrated by the natives of the state Kerala, India (Southern coastal state). I was introduced to Onam while growing up in India. We traveled a lot due to my father being an ex-military officer. Also growing up, my mom made all these culinary delicacies from all over the world and ofcourse you know me… If it’s food related, I am there 🙂 and to top it all, I married a man who was born and raised in Kerala.. so .. yeah, Onam is on my list of festivals now 🙂 (Do check out my love for Christmas and Thanksgiving too).

Looking all festive!

The hosts for the Onasadhya

My dear friend and I

Onam comes with a list of food favorites. The delicacies that are served on this day are traditionally served on a fresh banana leaf and is called Onasadhya. and Yes, you eat with your fingers.. The same way you would eat a burger or pizza.. but spoons are allowed if need be.

Serving food is the biggest honor at a traditional Onasadhya
Food anyone ?
A lil joking around.
Our friend here who is serving is actually from Nepal
and got into the Onam spirit. 🙂 

More food ?

Traditional eating is on the floor on
 fresh banana leaves. I improvised 🙂

Since I have never eaten a traditional Onasadhya, my version of this exquisite buffet has been a laborious process of mom’s teachings, MIL and SIL’s recipes, trial, error, taste and then taste some more. And through this process, I have had an awesome support group of family and friends who have always found  time and energy to humor me. So, this Onam, I thank them all. In the making and sharing of this wonderful holiday, if I may have inadvertently offended any people, I do apologize for that in advance and as always, I welcome feedback. 

Ah.. the feast!
Beautiful ladies.. 

My mom.. as usual.. cooking 🙂
Wonder who got her genes ? 😉
Luca and Suman.. High fives! good times.. 🙂
Honored to be the hosts

Support your local Farmer’s market!

I absolutely adore farmer’s markets around town! We have a few in town but they are not that accessible so I jump at a chance to visit a local market whenever I can.. Today it was at my lunch hour… I was running around like a roadrunner.. Beep beep.. Lol.. But just seeing the fresh produce, homemade jams, cured meats, fresh breads AND beautiful flowers makes my heart get all warm.. I know I’m crazy that way!

But look at the beautiful pics I took during my visit. ! I just want to eat the pictures.. hmm.. yeah I’m crazy!

Whoa!! Mother load of green veggies!!
Indian bitter melons… My mom makes the BEST !!
Milled cornmeal.. Cornbread anyone ?
Jams and Jellies galore!
Great Harvest Bread Co.. Love their bread!! 
Karen from GHB Co.. Love her spirit!

Ah.. Food heaven ? Maybe.. 
I am so happy to have found my treasures!! 
Oh wait ! I need some more ..

and MORE!!

Indian Snake gourd… Love gourds.. snakes, not so much.. 
Yep, I am all set!! Next stop– My Kitchen!

Here are more details as per the Charlotte Observer.

This is where I went today.

Charlotte Regional Farmers Market, 1801 Yorkmont Road. 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday (closes at 5 p.m. October-March; open Sunday afternoons May-August). Details: