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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Talavera (Mexican restaurant) - Coral Gables, Florida

Talavera - Cocina Mexicana

Stopped by for an extremely late lunch at Talavera (the name refers to Talavera Mexican pottery), a Mexican restaurant in Coral Gables with bright orange walls, blue and white pottery, and wooden tables.....

Yeah, the place has all the elements of a typical Mexican joint. It even has an entire wall covered with blue and white murals. I never imagined that you could go all out Mexican (theme) and come out looking so tasteful and classy . You have to visit the place to believe it, not just for the d├ęcor, but also for the food.

The friendly wait-staff place a carafe of water (carbon filtered and UV filtered) for free with a note saying they don't believe in serving bottled water and stating a few statistics on how much waste plastic bottles generate.

They start you off with the usual chips and salsa, the difference being that the blue and white corn chips are baked. Emptied (guilt-free) three baskets before the food arrived.

We opted for a dish straight from the lunch menu, twelve bucks each, not too pricey for a Gables restaurant.

We had Vegetarian Huaraches.
Huaraches literally means sandals. A thick piece of corn dough (masa) about the shape and size of a sandal, fried and topped with grilled zucchini, guacamole, salsa, beans, and cheese.
Almost like a flattened Mofongo (Puerto Rican plantain based dish - also vegetarian friendly).

The portion was just right and the flavors perfect. The dish looked very good on the blue and white Talavera plates.

Link to Talavera, Coral Gables, FL

Talavera on Urbanspoon

Monday, February 15, 2010

Coffee Shops (shishas) & Sweet shops - Manama, Bahrain

Hookah/Shisha

The image in my mind of sheikhs smoking shishas (better known to us as hookahs) in street corners is real - Bahrain lives up to it. Streets are dotted with coffee shops serving shishas in innumerable flavors, coffee, tea and snacks. Strangely, smoking the shisha seems to be a private activity. You do see groups of men smoking it, but more often than not you see a lone man with his shisha and a pot of mint tea.

Definitely stop by Al Bindaira, perhaps the hippest coffee shop in Bahrain and grab a shisha and a pot of mint tea

Link to their Adliya location

Arabic coffee and Halwa

One of the many guide books we referred to led us to believe that these shisha shops serve Arabic coffee (a special way to brew coffee with cardamom and saffron). We walked in and out of at least a dozen coffee shops in search for Arabic coffee with no luck. The traditional Arabic coffee has now been replaced by the French and Italian versions; cafe au lait, cappuccino etc... You also find a lot of Turkish coffee in Bahrain.

After hunting around for almost ten days we finally found Arabic coffee at a sweet shop and it was an experience well worth the wait. The traditional way of drinking it is having a sip of the beverage and then biting into a date. The coffee itself does not contain any sugar. The sugar-filled date makes up for it.

The sweet shop however served us coffee with Halwa. We had sips of Arabic coffee and followed it up with spoons of Halwa.

Now, Halwas are a delicacy worth trying. The name of sweet shop you should look for is Showaiter - a family that has been in the sweet business for the past hundred and fifty years. Every store had three colors of halwa - green, red, and orange. They were dotted with several cashew nuts. Within these colors there are two varieties; oil based and ghee (butter) based, definitely opt for the butter. The Halwa with its jello like consistency invites you to eat more of it again and again...

Link to the ubiquitous Showaiter sweet shops

Baklava

You find Baklavas at several sweetshops all around Bahrain but nothing compares to the ones at Saadeddein pastry. They have about twenty varieties: different shapes and sizes of filo like pastries filled with almonds and pistachios. You can try one of each or more (if you know the store keeper) before buying a few to take back home. They stay fresh without refrigeration for about three weeks.

Link to their Manama location

Monday, February 1, 2010

Stiles Farmers Market - Pembroke Pines , Florida

stiles farmers market

I have been to the Stiles farmers market at Oakland Park, Lauderhill a few times before, but today I shopped at the one in Pembroke Pines. This one is a bit smaller but cleaner, brighter, newer, and nicer - I hope it stays this way.  I am thrilled that it is located just a few minutes from my house. I will no longer have to stock up my refrigerator from visits to Costco (where you can only buy a thousand items at a time) and pray that I cook them before they expire. Publix is not bad, but has fewer choices and is definitely much more expensive.
To the giddy me, the variety seemed limitless and the prices unbelievably low. This family owned store keeps the prices low by stocking up on locally grown produce; most of the products are from Miami, Homestead, West Palm etc..
I don't think the produce is completely organic but I take some heart in the fact that the vegetables and fruits are normally sized and colored and not obscenely huge and perfectly shaped.
Just to give you an idea of the variety of produce they carry; today I picked up some broccoli, celery, parsley, cilantro, ginger, sweet potatoes, red potatoes, grapes, both Bosc and Anjou pear, Red delicious apples, green onions, spinach, sundried tomatoes, roasted pickled red peppers, tomatoes, cauliflower, jalapeno peppers - enough vegetables/fruits to last me a week and it cost me just 23 dollars!
Here is a list of all the produce they carry:
http://www.stilesfarmersmarket.com/vegetables.html

Link the location of the Stiles Farmers Market at Pembroke Pines