Mouthful of Sunshine

Satisfaction in every bite

Bacon and Bagels – Dunkin’ Donuts

February 9, 2013
Dunkin’ Donuts, Philadelphia PA
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Glazed Donut
Vanilla Frosted Donut
Old Fashioned Cake Donut 
Marble Frosted Donut
Bacon, Egg & Cheese Breakfast Sandwich
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The morning of the conference that we had been planning for the past half a year, we had to be there early. So, the club president bought everyone lots of donuts from Dunkin’ Donuts. At least we did not have to wake up early and starve.Image

The Glazed Donut was simple yet good. The doughnut was soft and moist, with the glaze very sugary and sweet. This will never be the best doughnut ever but it will always be one of those that you can depend on.Image

The Vanilla Frosted Donut was also very generic. The vanilla frosting was sweet and sugary. I loved the crunch the sprinkles provided. The yeast doughnut was airy and light.

The Old Fashioned Cake Donut was rather disappointing. I remember this doughnut from my childhood and Tim Hortons that it was a very dense cake-based doughnut with a lot of spices and cinnamon. The flavour was a little faint and the doughnut was on the dry side. Perhaps I should go back to Superstore or Tim Hortons.Image

I went out and bought myself the Marble Frosted Donut. The yeast-based doughnut was light and soft, very puffy. The frosting on top looked really cool but tasted very generic. It was simply white icing with a chocolate icing drizzle. Both were sweet and the chocolate icing provided a light cocoa flavour.Image

Finally, because it was National Bagel Day, I just had to get a bagel – on a breakfast sandwich. The Bacon, Egg & Cheese Breakfast Sandwich could have been served on anything but was pictured on a bagel, so that was what I got. Instead of plain, though, I got an Everything Bagel. I loved all the sesame and poppy seeds, garlic, onion, and oats. They added a nice crunch and aroma. The bacon was crispy, the egg omelet very yellow but airy, and the cheese generic and nicely melted. It was a good sandwich for fast food standards.

ImageFor reliable, cheap, and quick breakfast, Dunkin’ Donuts is definitely one of the best options around. However, I still wish they had Tim Hortons here, just because it feels so much more home-y. 

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Vanilla All Spiced Up – Starbucks

ImageFebruary 8, 2013
Starbucks, Philadelphia PA
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Vanilla Spice Latte
Turkey Rustico Panini
Cheesecake Brownie 
Petite Vanilla Bean Scone
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Unfortunately, Starbucks rewards expires sooner or later. Being so busy, I literally left it till the last day to redeem mine but it allowed me to go sit in a cafe for a while and de-stress and unwind. There is nothing more lovely sometimes than smelling coffee on your jacket for the rest of the evening. That aroma is just lovely.

If there was one thing I disliked about the Vanilla Spice Latte, it would be that there was no skinny option, or rather a sugar-free vanilla spice syrup. Besides that, I found it to be so much better than your regular vanilla latte. The spice really brought out the sweet, aromatic vanilla bean flavour since it provided contrast to that mild but definitely present spice. It was quite sweet but very flavourful.Image

The new Turkey Rustico Panini was actually really delicious. The wheat focaccia was toasted nicely and I loved the crunch of the sesame seeds on top. The turkey was sliced thin but had a generous portion. It tasted quite fresh. I loved the wilted baby kale with the sweet onion marmalade. They melted into the smoked Swiss cheese nicely. The Dijon mustard was a bit overpowering compared to the rest of the flavours. The mustard seeds were just a bit on the strong side.Image

Also new was the Cheesecake Brownie. It was literally half cheesecake, half fudge brownie, with some swirled fudge on top. I guess I was just expecting a thin layer of cream cheese topping but instead, I got sweet, creamy, and thick cheesecake. It was actually really good, especially with the fudge. The brownie on the bottom was very dense and the chocolate flavour was very strong. The whole thing was somewhat greasy and very dense, but still very good. I loved the chewiness.Image

The Petite Vanilla Bean Scone owed all its flavours to the vanilla bean glaze. It had that sweet aroma I was looking for. The scone itself was buttery, flaky, and crumbly but lacked much flavour overall.

Starbucks customer service is always so good. I think that is why reason people keep on going back. Whatever you need, they will get it for you. Oh, and did I mention free refills of regular brewed coffee for all registered card holders? 

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My Oh My, Morocco! – Marrakesh

February 2, 2013
Marrakesh, Philadelphia PA
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The Three-Salad Platter
The B’stella
Spicy Chicken with Cumin Sauce
Tajine of Lamb with Almonds and Honey
Marinated Berber Beef Shish Kebab
Couscous Grand Atlas Topped with Vegetables, Chick Peas and Raisins
Basket of Fresh Fruits
Moroccan Pastries
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ImageAfter hearing about the exotic experience at the popular Marrakesh, I was so excited to go there with our dance team. It was cold and snowing, but we stood outside the door for over thirty minutes since our party was huge and they needed time to clear out two rooms for us. The traditional Moroccan restaurant was quite obscured, and you had to knock on the door for them to let you in. Inside, it was very crowded and decorated in a Moroccan style. I loved the atmosphere, with everyone sitting down on couches around a stainless steel plate-like table. The server brought out rosewater for us to wash our hands. There were no eating utensils. The bread that was passed around in a huge basket was used as the vessel for eating all the food. For $25, $30 after tax and tips, we enjoyed a seven-course meal and were so stuffed. I loved the entire experience of the most traditional, family-style Moroccan food.

The first course was The Three-Salad Platter, which included zaalouk (cooked eggplants in tomato sauce), oasis carrots with cucumber, and cucumber and bell peppers in Mediterranean seasoning. The cucumber and peppers salad was refreshing and tasted similar to a Greek salad. The carrots were like that of a carrot salad in Mediterranean cuisine, with the carrots flavourful and slightly mushy. My favourite was by far the large chunks of mushy eggplant. Each piece was literally a quarter of a medium-sized eggplant, so tangy, so sweet, and absolutely delicious!Image

Up next was The B’stella, or rather a pastilla, which was a layered pie made from phyllo pastry, stuffed with chicken, eggs, assorted nuts, almonds, parsley, and onions and topped with confection sugar and cinnamon. Never have I tried chicken with eggs, cinnamon, sugar, and nuts, all in the same bite. I do not regret it, as it was amazing. It was freshly out of the oven and piping hot we had to wait a while before digging in, and digging in we did. The dough was flaky, thin, and crisp. The top was sweet and spiced with cinnamon but the center was savoury and bouncy from all the eggs. The chicken did not have much flavour but made the filling a bit more substantial. I did not taste much of the nuts but the overall flavour was multi-layered. Savoury and sweet, flaky and bouncy, it was a gorgeous pie.Image

For the third course, which was also the first main course, our table unanimously chose the Spicy Chicken in Cumin Sauce. According to their online menu, there are three versions of non-spicy chicken, but we were only offered the choice of spicy or non-spicy. The cumin sauce was incredibly red and hot. It was not like chili pepper hot but rather spices hot. However, when eaten with the chicken and bread, it was certainly more than bearable. The chicken was quite tough and dry on the inside and rather bland. Only the parts near the surface were juicy and tender, soaking up the flavour of the sauce. The skin was quite thick and fatty, relatively unappealing. If it were not for the sauce, this would not have been good.Image

Since we had so many people, we were able to get two different choices for our second main course. The first was the Tajine of Lamb with Almonds and Honey. Again, we were not offered the other preparation for the lamb with onions and chick peas. The lamb was delicious, though. It was moist, succulent, and cooked to tender perfection. The honey gave it a slightly sweet undertone. The almonds did not add much to the dish for me, but each large bite of lamb was absolutely phenomenal.Image

The most disappointing course of the evening was the Marinated Berber Beef Shish Kebab. The peppers and onions were nicely grilled with a char on them. The large cubes of beef, however, were extremely tough and very dry. They had some spices on the exterior but the inside was bland and sinewy. It was not just I could not chew through it, but I could barely bite into the meat, it was that tough.Image

The last main course – I know, there was so much food, but bear with me! – was Couscous Grand Atlas Topped with Vegetables, Chick Peas and Raisins. The couscous was nothing special. It also had shredded chicken that was slightly dry and bland. While I did not like the potatoes, I did like the soft sweet potato, chick peas, and plump, juicy raisins. The dish lacked moisture and did not shine compared to some of the other dishes.Image

Next, they served us a Basket of Fresh Fruits. This was actually quite refreshing and pleasant. Oranges, apples, strawberries, bananas, and large red grapes were a nice touch. However, I was disappointed we never got the hot mint tea that everyone was raving about online. I was rather looking forward to that.Image

Finally, just as we were about to leave, they served a plate of Moroccan Pastries, or rather the most delicious baklava. It arrived late because they ran out and had to make a new batch. These just came out of the oven and were warm and dripping with overly sweet syrup. I could eat the sweetest things, so it was no problem. More than one or two would have made anyone go on a sugar high, though. A bit more chopped nuts would have been nice to contrast the stickiness and the flaky phyllo dough. As over the top as these were, they were certainly addicting.Image

The belly dancer that came by was very entertaining, and being a dance team, we had a lot of fun with the three moves she taught us. It was a most enjoyable evening, being a BYO and all. I just wish the restaurant was better lit so we could see the food clearer. Apart from that and the tight squeeze around the table, it was a great night spent with fellow team members – a fine Moroccan experience!

Marrakesh on Urbanspoon

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Traditional University City Style – Hemo’s

January 14, 2013
Hemo’s, Philadelphia PA
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Sausage, Egg & Cheese
Beef Cheese Steak
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Having gone to Bui’s Lunch Truck for the first time yesterday, I decided to check out Steak Queen and compare the two. Unfortunately, Steak Queen was nowhere to be found. As it was late afternoon, many of the sandwich trucks had already closed for the day. Luckily, as I walked around the corner, I spotted that Hemo’s was still open.Image

Always in the mood for breakfast sandwiches, and I mean ALWAYS, I got the Sausage, Egg & Cheese, with Hemo’s Sauce. Two eggs, two sausage patties, and some melted cheese will always make a tasty combination. The eggs were nice and the sausage and cheese were both flavourful. I just did not like the hoagie roll. It was soft but the outside had no crisp and was too soft. I like a chewy, tougher texture on the exterior. Their Hemo’s Sauce is a homemade white sauce and with only a decent drizzle, I could not taste it too much on this sandwich.Image

The sauce was much more evident in the Beef Cheese Steak, which also came with onions. Again, the hoagie roll was too soggy, especially on the outside. At least it was still chewy, though. There was a slight lack of cheese, which allowed the Hemo’s Sauce to come out a little. It was light and creamy. There could have been more onions and they could have been cooked a little more. The steak was nicely sliced but quite tough and dry. Once you chewed a bit, they became juicier, but some parts were really just dry and it was certainly not the best steak on campus.Image

I might go back to try one of their grilled chicken cheese steaks, as the menu says that is what they are famous for. However, without the option for egg whites, I would probably skip the breakfast and regular cheesesteak hoagies.

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Steak at Dawn – McDonald’s

ImageJanuary 8, 2013
McDonald’s, Richmond BC
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Steak N’ Egg Bagel
Chocolate Raspberry Muffin
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So much time spent at the airport means too much airport food. Therefore, I needed a decent breakfast sandwich that morning – not from the airport – so Mom drove me to McDonald’s before I took off.Image

The Steak N’ Egg Bagel is a limited time offer and will soon be gone. I made sure to try it before I miss my chance as steak, onions, and sauce sounds delicious with eggs and a bagel. The bagel itself was chewy and dense. The folded eggs were decent but went well with the steak sauce. The sautéed onions were a bit greasy for me but otherwise good. The steak was tender and juicy enough for a fast food place like McDonald’s. I think this was definitely a good idea, especially for those preferring more meaty substance in their breakfast sandwich.Image

I never knew they offered the Chocolate Raspberry Muffin until I checked the nutrition information online. I assume that this was released along with the Chocolate Raspberry Pie. The muffin was moist and fresh. It was light in color but had a decent chocolate taste. The raspberries were embedded throughout but I found it lacked the berry tartness in general. It was just a really light muffin, not greasy or overly sweet.

I have to say, sitting in the airport, I was excited to eat McDonald’s for breakfast. Looking at other options there, the people were paying a lot for something that was at best as good as my meal from McDonald’s. Despite not being able to take liquids past security, I always keep in mind that food is allowed!

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Curious for Cuban Cuisine – Havana Central

ImageDecember 1, 2012
Havana Central, New York NY
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Selección de Aperitivos Clásicos
Mofongo con Ropa Vieja
Pernil Asado
Ropa Vieja
[Red Beans]
[Black Beans]
Calamares Fritos
Bizcocho de Chocolate con Ron
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After an exhausting first day of competition, the team went to Havana Central for dinner. The restaurant was huge and had such a great Cuban vibe to it. The bar was lively and the atmosphere casual and relaxing.Image
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12-12-01 - Selección de Aperitivos Clásicos(4) - Havana CentralOur table started off with the appetizer sample called Selección de Aperitivos Clásicos. The top tier included the tostones, maduros, and chorizo, or fried green and sweet plantain and chorizo sausage slices.
The plantains tasted slightly bland, with a little too much grease, even though they were perfectly crunchy. The chorizo was very flavourful. On the second tier were the Havana zesty corn, which was creamy but not very sweet, and the chicken empanada, which was nicely seasoned and quite delicious. On the bottom was chicharrones de pollo, or fried marinated chicken drumsticks and wings. They were flavourful from the marinade but could have been juicier.12-12-01 - Mofongo con Ropa Vieja - Havana Central

One friend ordered the Mofongo con Ropa Vieja. Mofongo is described on the menu as “a wildly popular Caribbean dish made with pork and garlic infused mashed plantains.” This one in particular came with braised beef, peppers, and onions and a fried plantain chip. I thought the plantain chip looked particularly artistic. The mofongo was not heavily seasoned and was not my favourite of the night. It was not creamy like mashed potatoes, nor sweet like mashed sweet potatoes. Rather, it was half mashed and not quite flavourful besides the hint of pork and garlic. The beef was great, though.12-12-01 - Pernil Asado - Havana Central

Another friend ordered Pernil Asado, or roast pork. The pork was good but slightly tough. There was a lot of it though. The rice was aromatic but I thought the dish lacked some sort of vegetable. The pickled onions that came with the pork were rather sour and not very pleasant. Compared to many of the other dishes, the roast pork was not worth the $15.95. The colour was also slightly too pink, looking slightly artificial and revolting.12-12-01 - Ropa Vieja - Havana Central

Now back to the beef in my dish, the Ropa Vieja. The marinated shredded skirt steak was incredibly juicy and full of the marinade flavour. The taste was fabulous but the steak was slightly tough. Not completely pulled into shreds, it was slightly difficult to eat. The onions and peppers got all mushy and became extremely flavourful as well. The yellow rice was also very flavourful compared to regular rice and was cooked to a perfect texture. It went really well with the beef. The plantain chips were again a little bland and soggy near the bottom but still added a nice crunch.

12-12-01 - Red Beans - Havana CentralThese dishes came with sides as well. I chose Red Beans, which were prepared with pork and quite flavourful. The mushy beans were not too watery or dry but just right. The diced onions also added a little zing and crunch to give the texture some contrast.12-12-01 - Black Beans - Havana Central

Yet another friend got the Black Beans with his Ropa Vieja. Like the server said, they were a lot less flavourful. The texture was pretty much the same as the Red Beans but it was just a small bowl of bland mush. The onions in this case were a little too overpowering.12-12-01 - Calamares Fritos - Havana Central

Someone also ordered Calamares Fritos or fried calamari. The calamari was lightly battered and fried. The thin layer of batter was crispy and not too greasy. The calamari inside was tender and juicy, slightly chewy like good calamari should be. The most amazing part of the dish was not the perfectly fried calamari. Rather, it was the sweet tomato salsa that was served with it. For me, the mixture of tomatoes, onions, and other spices was the star on the plate. It was not too watery but not thickened either and had a pleasantly light sweet flavour.

12-12-01 - Bizcocho de Chocolate con Ron - Havana CentralFinally, we ended our meal with the Bizcocho de Chocolate con Ron, or chocolate rum cake. It was so moist and light for a three-layered chocolate cake. It was pure decadence with a light rum aroma. The chocolate was not overwhelming, and neither was the rum. The flavours balanced out very nicely. The chocolate fudge was delicious and paired with the whipped cream, it was a fabulous end to a delicious meal.

Having sampled quite a number of dishes, I can say that Havana Central generally offers high quality Cuban food. Not very experienced with the particular cuisine itself, I have had Spanish and other similar types of food. Most of what I ate tasted fabulous and flavourful. The price may be on the slightly higher side but considering the location and atmosphere, it is definitely not outrageous. Very accommodating, it is no wonder our team decided to come back here.

Havana Central on Urbanspoon

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New Twists and Curls – Burger King

ImageNovember 30, 2012
Burger King, Philadelphia PA
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Wisconsin White Cheddar Whopper Jr. 
Angry Whopper Jr. 
Seasoned Sweet Potato Curly Fries
Gingerbread Cookie Shake
Gingerbread Cookie Sundae
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I thought I should get an early dinner and since I was already in Center City and having only had a light salad for lunch, a visit to Burger King was in order. They have so many new, limited-time items so it was quite a nice stop before heading back to campus.Image

The Wisconsin White Cheddar Whopper Jr. was not extraordinary. The beef patty was okay, decently juicy. The vegetables were quite generic – tomatoes, lettuce, pickles, and onions – as was the sesame seed bun. The bacon was actually crispy and quite good. However, I found the white cheddar to be a little bland. It needed more of a kick. Image

The Angry Whopper Jr. was fabulous as far as fast food burgers go. Again, the bacon and beef patty were both great, one crispy and one juicy. The melted Habanero cheese was also decent enough. The vegetables and sesame seed bun were like any other burger. What made this burger so much better was the strong, fiery spicy kick from the jalapenos and the spicy angry sauce. The sauce was so bold, spicy, sweet, and savoury, like a BBQ sauce on fire. The fried spicy onion petals were also something I had never had and quite enjoyed their crunch.Image

The Seasoned Sweet Potato Curly Fries was just an upgrade from what they offered earlier this year (straight-cut sweet potato fries). They were well seasoned with maple seasoning, adding savoury to the sweet. Crispy on the outside and smooth on the inside, they were fun and tasty.Image

I asked for a sundae but they gave me the Gingerbread Cookie Shake instead. It was so sweet but nothing is ever too sweet for me. The gingerbread flavour was quite strong. Mixed with a rich, creamy ice cream base, it was too much, even for a small size. However, a few sips were great. Image

I did get my Gingerbread Cookie Sundae in the end. I loved the gingerbread syrup, which tasted quite like chocolate to me. The gingerbread flavour was there, though. THe vanilla soft serve was quite generic but the cookie crumble on top added a nice texture and ginger spice flavour to the dessert.Image

Burger King is now churning out new menu items faster than most fast food chains, certainly with some interesting options. Not all may be brilliant, but some are certainly unique enough. 

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Matzoh and Greens – Marathon

November 30, 2012
Marathon, Philadelphia PA
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Sally’s Chicken Matzoh Ball Soup
Grilled Vegetable and Grains
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I had a Google Offer voucher about to expire and seized the opportunity to take my international mentor out for lunch in Center City. It was really crowded when we got there and I had to wait around five minutes for a table in the huge restaurant. Marathon was clearly a popular choice for a casual but classy lunch.

The offer came with a free soup so we shared a bowl of Sally’s Chicken Matzoh Ball Soup. The soup base with carrots and celery was good. The chicken was in smaller pieces but despite being in the soup was dry and tough. It also did not have much flavour. The matzoh ball was decent, fluffy and soft. I have never had a matzoh ball so I cannot compare, but I did like the springy texture.Image

My Grilled Vegetable and Grains was quite decent. The couscous was okay and I was not a big fan of the lemon vinaigrette I got served on the side. There was a decent portion of field grains but I would have loved to have more of the grilled vegetables. The portobello mushroom, zucchini, asparagus, and red onion were all great but I especially loved the oven dried tomatoes. They were so tart and flavourful, slightly wilted yet juicy and refreshing, offering a very bold taste.

I would definitely recommend Marathon to those looking for an upscale casual lunch in Center City. The service was decent and the atmosphere a little loud but friendly and uplifting.

Marathon Grill on Urbanspoon

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Mmmm Caramel – McDonald’s

ImageNovember 11, 2012
McDonald’s, Philadelphia PA
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Hot Caramel Sundae
Hot ‘n Spicy McChicken
Angus Bacon & Cheese Snack Wrap
Premium Grilled Chicken CBO Sandwich
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To celebrate National Sundae Day – on a Sunday I might add – I decided something simple and so made my way to McDonald’s. It had been a long time since I had one of their sundaes. I remember these from my young childhood years. These desserts have certainly been around, unchanged, for a long time.

The Hot Caramel Sundae was sweet and delicious. The vanilla soft serve is always really good, as good as you can expect for the price anyways. The caramel sauce was even sweeter and very sticky, making the dessert a gooey, very sweet, and tasty one. It was definitely nice to have eaten it again.Image

The Hot ‘n Spicy McChicken was only $1, the newest addition to the Dollar Menu. Seriously, fast food can be so cheap sometimes. It was actually decent. Just like a regular McChicken, it had a soft, toasted, and slightly sweetened bun, along with mayonnaise and lettuce. The difference was the fried chicken breast fillet, which had a lot of spiciness in the crispy batter. Too bad it was not super crunchy when I got it, but it had a decent kick.Image

The Angus Bacon & Cheese Snack Wrap was decent in the warm tortilla. The beef was juicy enough for fast food. The bacon was actually crispy and the cheese was gooey. I am not a huge fan of the simple ketchup and mustard but along with the onions, it was a classic.Image

I had recently received a few promotional vouchers from McDonald’s via their Twitter so I redeemed one for a CBO Premium Grilled Chicken Sandwich. I loved the white cheddar cheese that was extremely gooey and tasty. The artisan bun was decent and soft and the chicken was mediocre. I had no complaints, as it was somewhat tender. The bacon was okay but while the onions were sweet, they were very oily. It was literally dripping with oil, which is not quite acceptable for grilled onions. Overall, though, the chicken burger was decent enough.Image

New menu items always intrigue me. They make a classic McDonald’s meal so much more interesting. Oh, how I miss the great atmosphere at the McDonald’s restaurants back home. 

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Prickly in Maryland – Cactus Taverna

ImageOctober 19, 2012
Cactus Taverna, Salisbury MD
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[Chips and Salsa]

Mariscos Saltados
Fried Ice Cream
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When horse shows are far from school, we stay overnight at a hotel. After over two hours in the car, four of us were ready for some comfort food. In such a small suburban town, we were lucky to find a decent Mexican restaurant.

Complimentary Chips and Salsa are always great. In this case, however, Cactus Taverna gave us semi-warm chips, not ones fresh out of the fryer. They were crunchy but not exactly warm, and seem more like toasted tortilla chips from the grocery store. The salsa was quite watery and very salty. There were also lots of scallions inside, which gave it a strong kick. There was not enough acidity from the tomatoes and aroma from the cilantro.Image

My Mariscos Saltados was excellent, though. The large prawns and scallops were extremely tender. There were so many of them, too – a lot more than I expected for around $16. They were nicely sautéed in a tasty, savory sauce with large chunks of tomatoes, bell peppers, onions, and fries. The menu said potatoes, but I guess they ran out or something, because there were crinkle cut fries, those frozen ones from grocery stores that comes in a bag. I left those alone as they were soggy and not my favorite to begin with. I did enjoy all the vegetables and seafood, though. The refried beans were not very mushy but the rice was decent enough.

ImageFinally, our coach ordered Fried Ice Cream for everyone to share. It was good, creamy, and dense ice cream, rich with vanilla flavor. The batter was not very thick and slightly soggy after being drenched in caramel and chocolate sauce. The mix of sweet flavors, though, was addicting and absolutely delicious.

The restaurant was quite cute, actually, and the servers were all extremely friendly – one of the benefits of a small town. It was quite large and the menu was extensive. Its Mexican/Spanish food is actually quite popular, more so apparently than its pastas and other Mediterranean dishes. For such a place, it is definitely a great place for a ladies’ night out.

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