Sunday, July 31, 2011

#047 Best Thai Iced Tea

Last week, a group of us from work went to check out Chiang Mai, which was rated #047 Best Place to Get a Thai Iced Tea. I love thai food, so I was particularly excited for this adventure. It was also in a part of town I haven’t been to before, so it was fun to check out it (even though this was far from being considered a “nice” part of town). To get there, you take the freeway, take the Orchard St (Exit 52) Exit, and then follow that until you get to Emerald Street. It was right next to a shabby looking bowling alley and a shady looking establishment called “The Navajo Room.”



It was one of those Thai restaurants with plenty of decoration, which is always fun to see. The bathroom was quite interesting – there were paintings hanging on the wall, but they were slanted so the bottom was touching the wall and the top was hanging out a few inches, so it was an odd look. The bathrooms were also huge with one little toilet, and mine had two fake fruit trees…


Anyway, my main goal was to check out the thai iced tea, so of course I had to get one. My friend Sam and I used to always go to the Thai House in Pullman, WA, and she was the one who introduced me to thai iced tea. You will very rarely see me order a drink at a restaurant. I usually stick to water, so the fact that I order thai iced tea should attest to how delicious they are. Emeril Lagasse has a recipe on The Food Network.com. I haven’t tried it myself, but if you are interested, here is how it is made:






THAI ICED TEA


Ingredients


6 cups water


1 cup thai tea


¾ cup sugar


6 tablespoons cream


6 tablespoons condensed milk.






Directions


In a kettle, bring the water to a boil. Place the tea in a teapot or glass container. Pour the water over the tea and let steep until bright orange in color, 3 to 5 minutes. Strain into a clean container, such as a pitcher (or if in tea bags, remove the bags). Add sugar and stir to dissolve. Let cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.


Fill six tall glasses with crushed ice and add tea to ¾ full. Add 1 tablespoon cream and 1 tablespoon condensed milk to each glass.


Serve with iced-tea spoon so guests can swirl the mixture themselves.


I think it is the condensed milk that I really like about this tea. I am going to have to try condensed milk in my normal tea, and see how that tastes! Maybe that is the way to get the ultimate chai I am always searching for…


Anyway, we were at Chiang Mai, and I ordered a thai iced tea. It was very, very good. I am not sure how the other thai iced teas around town rate, but this could easily qualify as “the best.” I think it was $2.25, but you get a pretty big glass. My friends who got one were able to use some restraint, but mine was long gone before the food arrived.


To eat, I ordered chicken pad thai, with two “peppers” (their spicy scale is 1-5). I think it was $9.75. At thai restaurants, I was ponder trying something else because everything sounds so delicious, but I always end up with my standard favorite. Usually I also order crab wontons (crab and cream cheese deep fried in a wonton – YUM), but they are a good appetizer to split and I didn’t want to have to either share them with everyone or eat them by myself. The plum sauce they come with is usually fantastic, and I highly recommend ordering those if you ever get thai food.


Before our meals came, everyone at the table was served a big bowl of rice. I have never been to a thai restaurant where everyone gets rice before, so that was interesting. I ate a little bit with soy sauce, but saved my appetite.


My food arrived and it looked great. However, the noodles were a bit odd. I have eaten a lot of pad thai in my day, and the noodles are ALWAYS the flat type of noodles. The noodles I was served were more like spaghetti noodles, in that they were thin and round (but a little thinner than spaghetti). It was kind of weird, but didn’t taste bad.


My food in general was fine. It wasn’t the best thai food I have ever had, but it was also tasty. However, it was a bit spicy, which kind of irritated me. It is always hard to know what “spicy” means at each individual restaurant, but I would have thought two peppers was on the less spicy end of things. Don’t get me wrong – it wasn’t crazy or anything, but I prefer my pad thai pretty mild.


Here is where the weird thing happened. I want to preface this and say I have NO IDEA why it happened, but it did and it kind of sucked. About two bites after digging into my pad thai, I got super super sick feeling. My heart started racing, my stomach was upset, and I even started sweating a little. It was really odd (no, I don’t think it was from the spice level, because it really wasn’t that spicy). I couldn’t finish my meal and I had to push I away. Even looking at it made me feel really sick. The feeling lasted the entire meal and I honestly thought I might have to make a beeline and puke in the bathroom. This probably makes no sense, but I got my food to go in a little box.


Once I left the restaurant, I started to feel better, and by the time I made it home I was basically fine. Then, I stupidly decided to eat my leftovers because I was hungry! Thankfully I was totally fine, so I am not sure the root cause of the random illness.


As for the rest of my friends, the consensus was split.  One got teriyaki chicken, and said the chicken was really tough and it was overall not good at all.  The rest of my friends thought their food was good (curry and rice dishes) but there wasn't much raving. 

For those of you who like REALLY spicy, make sure you ask for it.  My friends wanted their food off the scale spicy, and they basically had to beg and it still wasn't "that spicy" according to them.  However, one friend was sweating so much he literally looked like he had gone swimming, so that was entertaining to watch.

When I eat thai food again, this won't be the place I go to.  I prefer Thai House on Overland.  I didn't get a thai iced tea last time, but those are pretty hard to screw up.  I went there for lunch with my boyfriend, and the layout was a lot more date-y.  There are more booths and less tables and the interior looks cooler.  We went at lunch and got an AWESOME deal...entree, appetizer, soup and salad for about $8 and it was all delicious.

However, you shouldn't discount Chiang Mai too much.  My friend just called me and asked where it is, because he is bringing two other people back to eat there.  He must have enjoyed it!

Friday, July 29, 2011

#032 Best Chocolate Shop

This weekend, during my adventure to the library and my trek to the Co-op, I decided to check out Goody’s Old Fashioned Soda Fountain, rated #032 Best Chocolate Shop. Goody’s is located in the North End, which is basically Boise’s version of a trendy district. From what I have seen, the houses are absolutely gorgeous (along Harrison Street) and feature gargoyles, giant pillars, and the works. Many are from the beginning of the twentieth century. From what I have heard, the yards are tiny, the people are yuppie hippies, and there might be a drug problem (gotta love gossip).



To give you an idea of the general buzz about the North End, it is the place Boise-ians (Boise-ites?) in college tell you to get an apartment in. It is the place where aforementioned apartments cost more simply because they are in the North End. It is the place where, when a coworker mentions she just bought a house in the North End, people ask if she is obsessed with recycling and if she only shops at the Co-op as they make jokes about driving a diesel truck through her neighborhood whilst tossing garbage out the back.


Basically, the North End is charming, trendy, slightly hippie, and has a cute little district called “Hyde Park” that is essentially a little shopping mall/restaurant area. This is where Goody’s is located.


Goody’s doesn’t have a parking lot that I could find, but it is right on the edge of Hyde Park, so it is really easy to park along the streets in the neighborhoods surrounding it. It is also fairly close to the Boise Co-op, so it is nice to check out both if you are ever in the area (but I am not sure if it is in walking distance – I get very confused how far I have driven when I try to navigate the one-ways).


Goody’s has fantastic hours. I think most nights they are open until 10:30 pm! It also smells delicious, like fresh ice cream. I was surprised by how authentic it looks. When you walk in, it really looks like you have gone back in time to an old-fashioned ice cream parlor. One review even said they make their own sodas by mixing the syrup in themselves, so they are extra delicious. They are two big bars, and a few small round tables. The majority of customers were sitting outside, where they will deliver your ice cream and treats and where there are a bunch of tables to enjoy the nice weather.


Goody’s also has a bunch of stuffed animals and beanie babies on shelves around the store. I used to LOVE beanie babies, so this was a nostalgic display. In addition to drinks and ice cream, they also sell lots of candy. However, a lot of it was behind the counter in glass jars, which made it hard to peruse. Up on one shelf, they had a giant lollipop for sale for $48!


Some tasty things that stood out on the menu were the homemade ice cream bars – they had Ol’ Nutty Marion, as well as a Cookie Jar Bar. They also had a popcorn machine, with caramel corn available ($10 for a large box, $5 for a medium box and $2.50 for a small box).


Brownie sundaes sounded amazing, and for $6.50 you could get a brownie, your choice of ice cream, hot fudge, caramel, whipped cream, nuts and a cherry.


The ice cream flavors were:


• Vanilla bean


• Strawberry


• Oreo cookie


• Coffee bean


• Chocolate almond


• Chocolate


• Cake batter


• Butterfinger


• Vanilla Yogurt


• Cherry Yogurt


• Frozen pink lemonade


I prefer exotic ice cream flavors, which may have been where I went wrong. I ended up ordering a single scoop of Cake Batter ice cream on a cake cone, for $3. I thought the price was very reasonable and the serving size was perfect. However, the ice cream just didn’t thrill me. I am not sure of the root cause of the issue, and engaged in some discussion with my coworkers. First of all, I had very high expectations, as the reviews on Yelp were phenomenal. In fact, one guy said the ice cream wasn’t very good, and I had to wonder what was wrong with him before I had even visited Goody’s. Maybe this was a case of too high expectations? Second of all, I have read numerous studies that say when you expect something to be good, you envision it as good, as expectations shape your experience. This would refute my previous comment about high expectations. What do you guys think?


Anyway, when I mentioned I didn’t really like it to a Boise local, she said she LOVES their ice cream and I think the large crowd outside would attest to this. I just found the cake batter really bad. If I hadn’t known what I had ordered, I would have thought it was just an especially buttery vanilla ice cream. It didn’t taste at all like cake batter, and here is where we decided the problem lies. I may have just gone too new school at an old school place. Clearly Goody’s specialty isn’t fancy, new and modern. Maybe my ice cream was just out of their league, and I should have stuck to something like Oreo…a classic.


However, another disappointing issue was the cone. Normal franchise places like Baksin Robbins have AMAZING ice cream cones and they even make their own waffle cones. I guess I figured Goody’s would have delicious cones, but I have to vote otherwise. True, I didn’t get anything fancy like a waffle cone; I just got a cake cone. But, I have had better sugar cones straight out of the box.


If I make it to Goody’s again, I think I will have to try their frozen chocolate bananas for $3. They also had yummy sounding dark cherry chocolate dips for $10/lb and all sorts of jawbreakers ($.75 for a medium, $1.50 for an extra large). I used to love Jawbreakers from our version of a candy shop, Hallmarks. It is now out of business, but I loved to get jawbreakers from there and always ended up licking them until my tongue was raw.


One thing I purchased and did love at Goody’s was Jelly Belly jelly beans. The quality really does vary depending on where you buy them. Sometimes they can be super fresh, and other times they taste really stale. These ones were fantastic, and $8.50/lb. A lot of the reviews seemed to find the candy prices astronomically high, but all the candy was around $8.50/lb and I think that seems reasonable.


The best way to sum up Goody’s was a little girl I saw in line with her grandparents. Her hands were clasped and she looked up at her Grandma, “Granma, can I pwwweeease have some ice cream?” It is an adorable little nostalgic shop, but I could think of five places to go and get better ice cream. Pick your poison, I guess!





Wednesday, July 27, 2011

#057 Best Place to Get Local Wine

Today I had to make a library run to drop off my previous book on CD, pick out a new one, and decide on a book for interesting reading material for the weekend.  I have the worst time choosing a book (I usually take recommendations from a magazine).  I researched all the books that had peaked my interesed prior to heading to the library, and none were available (I have decided Nampa is the least literary of the surrounding cities, as they had many of the books I desired).  I also decided I have great taste in books, as many had multiple holds on them.

Anyway, I grabbed the girliest looking book on CD and ended up picking Confessions of a Shopaholic, which I have heard of before.  The library makes it difficult to pick based on covers, as many audio books are placed in crappy library covers, but I managed to make do.  I then beelined for the new book section and spent quite a bit of time here.  I feel like every book is an opportunity to learn something, so if I choose one book, that means I don't get to learn about the contents of another book.  I ended up getting a book based on "the psychology of spirits and the meaning of the afterlife" or something along those lines.  Less religion and more evolution of the mind, from what I skimmed out of it.  I love books on the brain, psychology, thinking, etc.  I also waffled between getting a book on UFO's, a business book, a book on big foot, or a book on war.  It was a very tough few minutes but in the end I just got the spirit one.

This library is pretty awesome though -- they have a self-checkout station.  It always takes me awhile, but I think it is really handy.

From there, I was already downtown so I headed to the Boise Co-op.  I have already been here before, as not only was it rated #057 Best Place to Get Local Wine, it was also rated #012 Best Place to Sample Wine.  While driving there, I noticed there is a whole additional wine STORE that is across the parking lot and associated with the co-op.  They have a lot of wine in the normal place, so I can't imagine how much more is packed in that store.  It was closed though, so I stuck with what I knew and went in the normal co-op. 

Once I got to the store, I knew I wanted to get the same wine I got last time, but a different flavor.  That would make it more fun to taste and compare the two, rather than comparing two random brands.  I had a momentary freakout because I could not remember which flavor I already had.  Thankfully, I was able to pull up my blog on my phone, look at my last post, and figure out which wine flavor I had gotten! I was so excited.

I ended up getting the Merlot, so now I have Crow Canyon Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.  I should have gotten a local wine, but I wanted to start cheap...plus California is on the same coast at least.  Does that count??

I also got one additional item, but apparently my Dad is sneaky and I didn't know he reads my blog occasionally...I think it is only so he can figure out his birthday presents, like he did last time I went to the Co-op! Therefore, I can't let you know the other thing I picked up, but you will like it Dad!
 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Fancy walnuts

Last night I made myself a cabbage and chicken salad and discovered that one head of cabbage makes QUITE A BIT when sliced up.  I have always loved purple cabbage, so that wasn't necessarily a bad thing, just a surprising thing.  I think my mom can attest to my cabbage love -- I vaguely remember asking for my own head of purple cabbage to snack on when I was little.

Anyway, my massive amount of cabbage meant quite a bit of salad, and I should be set eating that for the next few days.  Along with that, I decided to toast up some walnuts because a) I have an abundance of walnuts and b) I wanted something besides cabbage and chicken salad to eat tomorrow (even though it is fantastic).  I bought a bunch of walnuts over a short period of time because I read that it was good to eat at least a few a day.  I quickly forgot to make this a habit, and that is how I ended up with my stock.

I saw a recipe in Cosmo (August 2011) for jazzing up any sort of nut, and used it for inspiration.  This recipe said to coat your favorite nuts in olive oil, add "pinches" of paprika, cumin, garlic powder, and salt, and toast on a baking sheet for 20 minutes at 350 degrees, stirring every 5 minutes.

I adjusted it a bit, on purpose and on accident.  The accident was I keep thinking I have paprika (who doesn't have paprika) and I don't have any and keep forgetting!  Therefore, these nuts were paprika-less.  The on-purpose was a lack of salt, as I am trying to consume less salt.  It isn't the best for you, and I put a lot of fish oil in my aforementioned salad, which has a LOT of salt. 

I also didn't use any sort of "pinches."  I would say I DUMPED the spices on.  I put some, I put more, and then I added a little more.  Adjust for what you prefer, but I think a pinch would not be enough in most circumstances.  Also, if you are doing salt and garlic powder, it might be more efficient to use garlic salt?

As you toast the nuts, they get a better flavor and the spices develop.  However, I think this temperature was too high and for too long (at least for walnuts).  I would try toasting at 225 degrees for twenty minutes.  My walnuts are a little too brown, but they should still make a great snack for the next few days.

Do you have any favorite ways to use up leftover nuts? 

Monday, July 25, 2011

#017 Best Cheap Trip Around the World

This weekend I went to check out Eyes of the World Imports, which is rated as the "Best Cheap Trip Around the World."

This place is located in the Linen District, which I think is quickly becoming one of my favorite parts of town. The area is also the home to Big City Coffee, the Linen Building, Donnie Mac's, and The Modern Hotel and Bar. I especially love it because it is easy to get to (right off of Front street) and there is always plenty of free parking. Eyes of the World is located almost directly across from Donnie Mac's -- in fact, you can see it from the restaurant if you are sitting outside on one of their trailer trash couches!

I was excited to check this place out, because normally quirky stores are excellent places to get gifts for people. However, the store fell flat in my mind. Right when I walked in, I noticed a sign that asked guests to check in backpacks and large bags, which is completely understandable. However, they asked for my purse. It wasn't even one of those giant bags that have become so popular. I would say my purse was of medium size, and I think I was slightly uncomfortable my entire time in the store because my purse was sitting behind their counter.

I think the best way to describe this store is stereotypical. I was expecting treasures and exciting things from random parts of the world. Instead, it was your standard hippie fare, overpriced sunburst mirrors, lots of incense, and Tibetan prayer flags. The website boasts about all their hemp products- hemp lipgloss, hemp clothing, hemp clothing.  The clothes were the usual earthy, tie-dyed type designs with no real structure and "one size fits all." That kind of stuff can be awesome, but not when it is $20-$40 dollars! I liked reading some of the stories about the items around the shop, but most of the cool jewelry and items are locked up in glass cases, so it is hard to get much of a glimpse at them anyway.

I think I might be spoiled here, because I grew up in the Seattle Area, and we had the Ye Old Curiousity Shop, which is the most amazing "treasures of the world" type store you could expect to find. They have mummies, magical pianos, two headed animals, you name it.

However, Eyes of the World did have some interesting home d├ęcor items, like sunburst mirrors, tea sets, and salt lamps, but they were too expensive for me to be intrigued. You can get similar items at World Imports or Urban Outfitters, and for a much better price. For instance, the tea sets were cute put some were over $50 dollars! I did like this little blue dishes they had that were 30%, but even at that price a full set would have been spendy to assemble (about $2/tiny little plate). If you eat a lot of sushi at home and have a use for cute little saucers, then I would totally spring on that. I couldn't really justify it.

To sum it up, this place reminded me of those turtles with the bobbing heads you can get in Mexico (if you have ever gotten one, you will know what I mean). I even thought about those bugs that come in a little container and you pop it open and it looks like their legs are moving. When you first go to Mexico, these seem like the perfect souvenir and you buy a bunch for your friends. Then, as you get older and travel more and start paying attention, you realize any crappy gift shop sells those dang turtles and bugs in a container. They aren't anything special and they certainly aren't a good representation of Mexico. Hopefully that makes sense -- Eyes of the World is one of those stores where you walk in thinking its unique and end up finding out its just the same old "trendy" items masqueraded as worldly.

There are a few things of note -- this may be a good place to get incense, as they had a lot of selection. I also found myself wishing I had bought a satchel of lavender they had near the front entrance...I might meander back if I am enjoying a coffee at Big City or some custard at Donnie Mac's, for that lavender and for not much else.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

#016 Tastiest Way to Fight Breast Cancer

Big City Coffee is rated #016 Tastiest Way to Fight Breat Cancer, as they donate many profits to breast cancer.  The funniest part is their signature blend is called "Big Titty" and it is apparently not only a do-good cup of coffee, but also a tasty cup o' joe. They also have decaf Double D, and both blends feature a bra on the front.

Interestingly this coffee shop also has a relaxed and casual dining room. Not only can you get drinks, but you can also get a variety of food.  I will attest to the importance of yummy coffee shop food, as there were many times I ended up having to interrupt a study break for a food run. They serve their complete menu all day, and are open 6 am - 6 pm Monday-Saturday, 6 am - 4 pm Sundays. 

Down to the details, this place accepts credit cards, which is also helpful for me as I very rarely carry cash.  There was a $3 credit minimum, so your only problem is if you somehow only wanted one pastry and nothing to drink. 

Big City Cofffee obviously doesn't take reservations (what coffee shop does??) and there isn't a ton of seating, so it is more a grab and go place, or a "hope you can find a spot" place.  However, Boise has tons of parks and plenty of places to go, so even if you weren't able to find suitable seating, I am sure you would be fine.  They also have outdoor seating, which is always nice for a quick stop before the sun roasts you.  When I went this Sunday at noon, there was plenty of seating.  However, it isn't intimate, romatic seating.  You might be at a table sitting right next to another family, but it is Boise and that kind of thing is charming.

One yelper says, "the pumpkin spiced chai muffin is phenomenal," and another raves "the veggie sandwich is so good and fresh."  It is known for its cool atmosphere and easy-to-get-to location at the center of the Linen District.  I love that it has a free parking lot for customers, as it can be difficult (and typically costs money) to park near some of the other local coffee shops (Thomas Hammer and The Flying M).

I didn't even bother to look much at the menu, because I knew the selection of sandwiches would make me sad! I had decided to limit myself to a muffin because I was planning to take whatever I got with me to the movies, and a sandwich seemd a little extreme.  I am going to have to go back sometime for a sandwich -- they were all in the $5-$8 range, from what I could see.

Once you get up near the counter, you can see all the pastries in the display case, and HOLY COW they are HUGE! I don't really know how to explain how big they are.  I got a muffin, which is smaller than a scone, and it took up my entire hand. The scones wouldn't even fit on some normal sized plates, from the looks of them!



You can kinda see the tiny bit of muffin shaped bottom in the picture above.

I decided to go with the pumpkin chai muffin, based on the recommendations of other yelpers and my own personal affinity for chai.  It was delicious, and more a pumpkin chai BRICK than a muffin shape.  My favorite was the frosting.  It was also very filling...I ate half of it about three hours ago and I am still satsified and full.  It was more pumpkin-y than chai-y, but some people say chai tastes like pumpkin, so I guess it is hard to tell where one flavor stops and the other begins.  I got my pastry from the discounted bin, and it was $1.50.  I assumed it was discounted for being a day old, but didn't bother to ask.  Either way, it was delicious and a wonderful price.

I also got a 16 ounce iced chai and it was much better than my chai at the Flying M.  It tasted like I expect chais to taste.  The only thing of note was that this was a fairly sweet chai...I am still looking for the *ultimate* chai and I think I will only find one when I get a hot chai made with loose leaf tea...might not happen until winter, if it ever happens.  My chai here was $3.75.  While they didn't have chai loose leaf tea, I was excited that all the tea they did have was loose leaf, which is so much better than the standard Stash tea sold at most places.

Other things of note:
They have a bunch of daily quiches that sound amazing.  Today's features were bacon and brie, feta artichoke basil and sundried tomato, sausage feta and swiss, ham and swiss, and bacon with mushroom.  I would have totally gone for the feta, artichoke, basil and sundried tomato. 

It looked like the majority of scones/muffins/brownies/cookies were about $2.50 (but keep in mind they are GIANT).

Italian sodas were listed at $2.95.  One speciality item that stood out (if I liked coffee I would have gotten it) was the Scandinavian.  This is a creamy white chocolate mocha with real whipped cream for $2.75.  If you stay and dine in, coffee is two dollars for as much as you want.  If you are getting black coffee to go, it is 12 ounces for $1.50, 16 ounces for $1.75, and 20 ounces for $1.89.

When it came down to my very important service standard, the baristas passed with flying colors.  As a matter of fact, one woman took my order while I was in line and my chai was ready before I had even paid for it!

After my fantastic experience at Big City Coffee, I went back to my car and worked my magic.  I had brought along a travel mug and my roomier, flat bottomed purse, with the plan to bring my newly acquired goodies along with me to my matinee movie.  I dumped my drink into the travel mug, and got it so it was resting inside my bag just fine.  The muffin fit in as well, and I was ready to go see Friends With Benefits.

There was only one tiny hiccup in my plan -- I got CARDED to see a rated R movie! I thought that was pretty funny.  I also finally got a Regal card, which was long overdue.  Last time I asked about it, they told me to do it online, but this lady hooked me up with one and all it took was my name and phone number.  My snacks were perfect for the movie -- much better than an overpriced pop and some candy.

Thankfully at this movie no one validated the movie-personal-space rules, and I could put my feet up on the seats.  I LOVED FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS!  It was better than most romantic comedies I have ever seen.  Neither character annoyed me -- Mila and Justin were both fantastic.  At some points, I was almost about to cry even.  Go out and see it.  i know the story line seems played out, but they somehow managed to make it feel fresh and new. 

Saturday, July 23, 2011

#033 Best BBQ Joint

It has been quite the week, and I am happy to say I finally have some time to post!

Wednesday a bunch of us from work went to "Ladies Night" at the Horse Racing Track (ladies don't have to pay the $2 cover charge).  Sadly, ladies do not get drink discounts, and I spent a bit on some margaritas.  I also made a $2 bet, lost, and swore I would never bet again.  Those who know me know I am not much of a gambler (with my own money at least).  It was a great way to spend the night though.



We went to a Mexican restaurant afterward, and they had a live band playing, which was really fun.  I had camarones ala crema (shrimp in a cheese sauce) which was great but there were fewer and smaller shrimp than I have gotten at other Mexican restaurants.

Thursday, I got to see the final Harry Potter.  I am so-so on Harry. Loved the first few books, got too busy to read the last few books, and catch the movies when I can.  However, I thought it was necessary to see this one, as it is such the end of an era.  For those of you who want to "catch up" before you go, let's be honest.  You aren't going to watch the other movies and you will end up not going to this one! JUST GO! Even if you don't remember anything about the previous ones like me, it is still a great all-around movie and it still makes sense. 

This one wasn't ridiculously long (130 minutes) and if I was watching it myself, I am fairly confident I could have cried at the end.  I found myself mesmerized that one woman somehow came out with such an intricate story from within her mind.  Seriously amazing.

Friday, we went to the Snake River Stampede in Nampa (a big rodeo).  It was $13 to get in, and beers were $4.  I also got glazed almonds for $4 that were delicious!  The rodeo was really fun and I loved the center it was held in (Idaho Center). You could see everything really well.  They did something I hadn't seen at a rodeo before -- the horses and riders were decorated in lights and they turned off the overhead lights while they ran around, like a light show.  It looked futuristic and awesome.

Today we did some errands.  I got gas (my discount was 20 cents off!) and we went to Walmart and Costco.  At Walmart, I loaded up on vegetables - limes, radishes, cilantro, parsley; corn tortillas to last me months, diced chiles in a can, and rice vinegar, all for $7.

I got to then go to Costco and set up my new Costco account (thanks mom!).  I also got to use my new Costco gift card (thanks Auntie Linda!), so it was very exciting.  I stocked up on chicken tenderloins, which last me at least two months.  I also splurged on chicken and apple sausages, which is out of character for me, but sounded tasty.  I got a white wine for cooking vegetables in, grapes for snacking and asparagus for roasting :)  I also restocked my garbanzo beans and green beans as the cans last me for quite some time and I love them both.

After that, we went to Goodwood BBQ.  I'll get back to that at the end, as it was one of my "to see" places.

From there, we went to the Boise Music Festival.  It was all day from 9am - 9pm.  Some of the bands you have heard of playing were Sugar Ray, MC Hammer, and Joan Jett and the Blackhearts.  The entire event is free and at this huge, gorgeous park.  It was really fun to go and check it out, but it was REALLY hot at 5 pm still, and I was a bit miserable in the sun.  There were also SO MANY PEOPLE.  It was a fantastic place to people watch, but a bit intense.  My favorite was while we were sitting in the shade.


And now, back to #033 Best BBQ Joint, Goodwood BBQ.  The website says they use "closed-pit style" BBQ and all their food is made from scratch.  I am not sure the difference n BBQ styles, but I can attest to the fact that their food is absolutely delicious!

I LOVE the way this place was decorated.  First of all, you walk in and it smells incredible.  The menus are a really cool material (like bendy, latex-y) and the place has a classy BBQ atmosphere.  You could take a date here or take your family here, and either way you would feel comfortable.  The kitchen is enclosed in glass, so you can see the meat cooking.

We also had excellent service.  The kind of waitress who doesn't hover, but always seems to fill your water up in time and get you what you need.

The menu was extensive and it surprised me. I thought there would only be a few choices for BBQ, but there was also an array of delicious sounding salads, sandwiches, and appetizers.  My friends both got house salads for an additional $2.59 with their entrees and I started by talking shit (how annoying how expensive salads are, etc.) but the house salad was really impressive.  It had bacon, eggs, croutons, etc. and came with cornbread and honey butter!

I got the lunchtime platter of pulled pork with coleslaw and baked beans.  The coleslaw was great - very fresh with minimal mayonaise type dressing, so it actually seemed fairly healthy.  The beans were good but had a definite smoked flavor I am not used to in beans.  My pork was awesome.  Very well cooked and I smothered it with the house sweet BBQ sauce (they also have a spicy one -- didn't think it was that spicy though).

There are paper towel rolls at the tables, but we didn't end up needing them.

All my food only cost $9.50, and my friends couldn't even eat all theirs because they were so full.  This place is awesome, classy, and affordable.  It might have helped our price that we were ordering off the lunch menu, but I can't imagine dinner is much more expensive.




Tomorrow I think I am going to go see Friends With Benefits, so I am looking forward to that!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Stir-fried beef with black bean sauce

Today at work I had a 7:30 am meeting, which of course meant little time to prepare any sort of lunch. However, I have been fortunate lately to have stockpiled lots of proteins (rare for me) including chicken, ground turkey and LOTS OF TUNA FISH.  Currently I have twelve cans...

So in my mad rush to make something decent for lunch this morning, I remember a Cosmo article that mentioned tuna [get your head out of the gutter].  I popped a can open, put it in a tupperware, and added a generous amount of plain Greek yogurt (my breakfast of choice mixed with lots of honey, cinnamon, and flax seed).  I also had dill left in the fridge, so I threw in about five sprigs (and ripped the dill-y part off at lunch to sprinkle in).  I had read that a squirt of lemon is also good, and had just bought a lemon at the store.  I couldn't find it anywhere in the morning, so had to go without (and just found it on the floor tonight).

Anyway, it was a simple recipe with no measuring, and it was totally delicious! I have also read that any place you would use mayo, you can replace with Greek yogurt for a healthier alternative.  Furthermore, when I told my mom about my discovery, she said she has heard of using cottage cheese with tuna.  Have any of you tried these unique combinations?

After a hastily (but delicious) thrown together lunch, I decided I wanted something more substantial for lunch tomorrow, so I went to the grocery store after work.  I don't USUALLY eat meat much, but lately I have been trying to because of my aforementioned stockpile and because it really is a good "bang for your buck," meaning I can eat it at lunch and stay full.  If I had it my way, I would eat a little bit every three hours, but the work zone isn't the most conducive to that.  Even with how I eat now, I find the lunch hour slightly boring because my smaller-but-more-frequent portions disappear in a few minutes, leaving me with tons of time.  I get teased because I usually start to do my chores (pay bills, write thank yous, etc.), but I think it is multitasking at it's finest. Anyway, I am confident I could go vegetarian no problem (vegan would be another story) but there are so many tasty recipes involving meat.

I also wanted another opportunity to use my Chinese black bean sauce.

Therefore, I found myself at the grocery store and in the meat aisle.  Amazingly, a perfect looking piece of beef was on sale for buy one get one half off, so I got too big slabs (~.75 pounds each) for $4.50.  I also picked up a yellow onion.

I then looked in my trusty Forever Young cookbook, and found the recipe for stir-fried beef with black bean sauce, which was perfect because I had a huge bag of spinach in my fridge.

To start, I cut up one of the pieces of beef into slices.  The book says 12 ounces of boneless grass feed beef sirloin.  Then I cut up about half the yellow onion (book says 3 tablespoons but I winged it).
I have sunflower oil I bought forever ago, that says good for high heat cooking, so I used that (and love it).  The book says basically DON'T use extra-virgin olive oil (bad for high heat).  I put in three tablespoons and turned it to high until it was barely smoking.
I think have finally mastered the art of stir-frying.  Last time I made one, the oil was flying up and burning me (I was using a fork).  This time I used a spatula and was MUCH more successful.  Anyway, I added the onions and cooked for 30 seconds (they browned up fast).  I then added a teaspoon of choppd garlic and cooked another thirty seconds.  Then I added all the beef and cooked for three minutes -- this was MORE THAN enough time.  I think you would be fine to cook for two minutes if you genuinely have your stove on high.
A big piece of meat really doesn't go that far, so if you have a big family, I would double the recipe.

Take the beef and onions out of the pan, leaving the oil, and add six cups spinach.  I just dumped a huge bag in.

Cook this for about one minute.  I think this part is important just to decrease the space the spinach is taking up...it basically wilts itself once you add the meat.

Now, add the meat back in.  Here are the sauce ingredients:
2 tablespoons Chinese Black Bean sauce
1/4 cup cooking sherry
2 tablespoons low-sodium beef broth (I used chicken).

Add the sauce and stir to coat, cooking everything for one more minute. As you can see, the spinach shrinks drastically.
To serve, garnish with sesame seeds.

And there you have it! A super easy meal that only involves chopping half an onion and slicing meat, and a total of seven minutes cooking time.  Easy peasy.

*The only sad part is now my black bean sauce is almost gone already!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Wedding

I am tired and have been skyping all night, so here are some photos from the BEAUTIFUL wedding I went to two weekends ago :)







The wedding cake was actually a bunch of delicious cupcakes.  There were chocolate, vanilla, and lots of different toppings (even edible flowers).

And to add a little spice to this post, I also really want this shirt.

I don't know why I like it so much...it is hard to tell, but it is sweater material, which makes me like it even more.  I used to buy tank tops all the time and haven't gotten one in awhile...I also LOVE stripes and the color yellow. BUT it is $36...thoughts?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

#012 Best Place to Sample Wine

Today was one of those Sundays I dream of.  It was absolutely perfect.

I understand we may have different visions of an ideal Sunday, so let me elaborate.  I woke up naturally at 9 am (waking up without an alarm can be risky business for me -- like an 11 am wakeup) and got to work on cleaning up the apartment.  I love living by myself and it is so much easier to clean a smaller space.  I did laundry, dishes, and even made my bed.

I then put lunch into the oven.  I normally make fairly complicated things, but I had plans for baked goods tonight so I stuck with a simple lunch.  I used a casserole dish and put in rice, chicken, cream of mushroom soup, two soup cans of water, and a packet of onion soup mix, and let it cook for 1.5 hours (half uncovered, half covered).  It turned out good, but a bit salty.  I am not sure if it exists, but if it does, I would totally use low sodium cream of mushroom instead.  The rice also stuck to the pan on the bottom, so it might be a good idea to use some sort of cooking spray on the casserole pan.

After that, my day consisted of lots of yoga, lots of reading, and lots of TLC.  I was mesmerized by Extreme Couponing, Surprise Homecoming, Say Yes to The Dress (Bridesmaids - a whole new ballgame)and Hoarders. OMG I don't know how you can even turn off the TV.  Extreme Couponing is utterly mindblowing.  Those people can get it so the store literally GIVES THEM MONEY to buy items.  They all look like they have grocery stores inside their homes. I guess when something costs negative dollars, of course you are going to buy as much as you can. Surprise Homecoming can have me crying in literally five seconds.

So in the time I have been writing this post, Strange Addictions just came on.  Has anyone else seen this?? The current girl eats DRYWALL at least six times a day, another lady is addicted to smelling gasoline, and another eats dryer sheets.  I have no idea how that happens.

Now I am sitting here with my face covered in warm honey (try it, seriously), my nails covered in lace and my toes in "skulls and glossbones (OPI)," baked goods in the oven, and ready to get down to the point of this post: The Boise Co-op.

I didn't discover Co-ops until Moscow and not until my JUNIOR year! My boyfriend is actually the one who first took me there, and when we are in Moscow we go at least every few weeks.  Our favorite is the sandwiches and soup.

Anyway, I was eager to check out this co-op, and Living Social called it #012 Best Place to Sample Wine: The Boise Co-op.

First of all, I think this place is a bit tricky to find in downtown boise.  The side of it says something MARKETPLACE and I didn't think it was the same building.  I had to drive around the block a few times.  For those of you trying to find it, it is the building with marketplace written on it, and it is on the same block as a cafe and wine store.

When I finally found it, there was plenty of free parking, which is always nice.  Outside were plants for sale (with the majority of herbs selling for $4) and planters.  Inside was amazing! This co-op is HUGE! There are so many cheeese, meats, breads and other wonderful things.  In fact, I think co-ops are great places to get presents for people, as you can pick up plenty of unique, decadent and local things. There is also a coffee shop and bakery, as well as deli to get sandwiches that I am sure are just as tasty as the Moscow ones.

If you are curious, co-ops do not require you to pay a membership fee.  Of course, there are plenty of member benefits, but I still haven't joined the Moscow or Boise co-op.  For the Boise one, I think members are the only ones who get sales prices, and they also get coupons and special events.  Membership is $50 for life, as well as a $15 adminstrative fee.  The cool thing is you can sign up, and rather than paying all at once, have 5% added to your bill each time you shop until you pay it off. They also have great hours, as they are open until 9pm Monday-Saturday and until 8pm Sundays.

One very important thing for me in each place I visit is customer service.  I would like to note that everyone here was very friendly and I would rate them top notch.

My main goal was to get a new wine to try, and hopefully bring it next time I see my boyfriend. I have read a lot of studies and also been in marketing classes, and I know that a lot of time, price correlates to PERCEIVED higher quality but not necessarily much better in reality.  In fact, when people are told something costs more, studies have shown they enjoy it more.  Therefore, I really don't care much about price because I know it doesn't matter that much (yes, I do know there are SOME differences).  I ended up getting this wine for $5.49. Why yes, I did pick the cheapest wine! haha.  But  I think the fun is in trying something new. 
I also got fresh eggs and nice chocolate for my surprise currently baking in the oven.  I think co-op eggs are actually signicantly better - you can even just look at them.  They look bigger, the yolks are yellower, and I don't mind splurging on these.
Here are a few pictures of the aisles to give you an idea of all the selection here.



I have been looking for straight-up cocoa powder (it is actually really healthy when you get a high cocoa content) and haven't been able to find it for months.  They had tons to choose from here! I ended up not getting any, but will come back when I get back on my Forever Young kick (this book advocates 1 egg mixed with coconut oil and cocoa powder as the perfect healthy breakfast...inquire for details).

I also found a good present for my Dad.  He loves pickles and this looked interesting.  It has pineapples, peppers and pickles...should be interesting to try at least.


I also found my FAVORITE salad dressing, Brianna's.  However, the one on the left is the one I got on a different trip. Don't ever get it. I have never tried it before this time, but I think the poppyseed one literally tastes like it is rancid.  However, I can't throw it away haha.  I think I am expecting it to change.  Has anyone had the poppyseed one? I can't believe it is so bad, as the other ones are delish.  The one on the right I had to stop myself from drinking and the Blush one is amazing. I was devastated when I got home and realized I forgot salad greens.

My one complaint is the bags.
No handles makes it very hard to carry! However, I think that is a ploy to encourage everyone to bring their own bags...it works.

I would recommend everyone check out the co-op.  Trust me, it isn't just for hippies.  You can find things you don't even know EXISTED.  I think it is fun to just go in and pick something you have never had or never heard of, and give it a try.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

#013 Best Place To See a Bird Bigger than You

Today I finally made it out to #013 Best Place to See a Bird Bigger Than You: World Center for Birds of Prey. 

This place was amazing! I had a great time checking it out.   To give you some history, The World Center for Birds of Prey was established in 1984 in Boise, Idaho.  They are currently the Peregrine Fund's World Headquarters, but the fund was originally established (in 1970) at Cornell University and Fort Collins Colorado.  Their main goal is to breed birds of prey for release into the wild. 

This is also a wonderful place to donate your money.  In fact, they were even featured in Reader's Digest as one of the best "get your bang for your buck" type places, as 94% of donations go directly to support their mission. 

To get to Birds of Prey, you basically get yourself on Cole Road and follow until you wouldn't believe it was Cole Road anymore (about 5 miles from the Costco area of town).  The road gets smaller and smaller, and eventually you get to the turn off for Birds of Prey.  I found it was marked really well.  From there, you go on a beautiful drive to much higher elevation, along Flying Hawk Lane, and you finally reach the center.

It cost me $7 for admission and I believe there are family prices, senior discounts, and AARP card-carrier discounts.  You can also buy a year long membership (individual was $35) which I think lets you go as much as you want.

Once you enter, you get into the main courtyard.  It was beautiful, and in addition to the bird exhibits, there are also many different wild birds flying around above you.


I was starting to regret not wearing shorts, as it was a very hot day, but the majority of the information was inside.

One of their fairly new exhibits was the Condor Cliffs, which was amazing.  It was obviously hard to get the birds to show up on camera, so I took pictures of the information to give you an idea of what was there to see.  The condors were HUGE -- they looked like giant black bears sleeping up on a perch.  I even got to see one of them fly.


Outside were also about four different bird exhibits.



I think the Bateleur Eagle was my favorite.  I love that the face and feet colors adjust in response to mood changes. This bird also had an egg that it spent a very long time attending to, and eventually sat on.  In addition, there was some gross meat in there for it to eat, surrounded by flies.  Not the cutest part :)

From there, you can go into the Interpretive Center, which has all sorts of information and displays.  It talks about how the place was started and the people involved, as well as different information about the birds and how things affect them. It is great for children, as there are lots of interactive exhibits (like animal pelts, feathers, examples of eggs, etc.).

Outside of this center are four more bird exhibits.  My favorite here was the owl -- he has these super cute giant eyebrows sticking out.  There was also a turkey vulture and a giant bird that said it sometimes eats MONKEYS.  That is freaking huge.

I timed it so I was able to go to the live bird exhibit, and this was in a room that was decorated to look like the forest.


The volunteer was very knowledgable.  As someone that likes to see customer service with a smile (who doesn't??) I found myself incredibly impressed with the volunteers.  The two I met were friendly, very knowledgable, and had both been there since 2002 and both worked over 800 hours!

The bird we got to see was a peregrine falcon and it was shrieking for most of the time, which made it very entertaining. She said that falcons are the fastest animal in the world and have been clocked at over 240 mph when swooping down for their prey.  Apparently this was discovered by having falconers sky dive with their birds, which I think is pretty interesting.  She said the next bird presentation would be a different bird, so I think they use different onces at each presentation (there are about five per day). This was about 40 minutes.

After that, I went on the falconry tour.  This took us across the parking lot to a center set up for falconry in particular.  It was very interesting and I hadn't realized falconry was still something that was actively practied.  This tour was about thirty minutes and twice per day 11:30 and 2:30).



I believe the center is open seven days a week, which makes it very easy to schedule time to attend. It was the perfect way to spend a Saturday afternoon and I loved to see all the birds.