Tag Archives: Food

Tacuba’s taco bar (Branford, CT)

 So I’m majorly in the mood for Mexican food for second dinner tonight. (Un)fortunately, it’s 12:30 in Princeton, NJ thereafter this hr there is no Mexican food to be found for sale anywhere. What I did find though was a partially completed post about a wonderful Mexican joint that I recently got to check out. While I was visiting my best marathon running buddy Dr. Annabelle we also had a most gluttonous fantastic dinner at Tacuba’s taco bar In Branford, CT. This little place is a nondescript hole in the wall with a menu full of wonderful.

The menu

So we went for dinner with big appetites and were welcomed by a beautiful selection of appetizers and entrée options. We totally wanted to try everything!

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Between the three of us  (Yes, I can count. Unfortunately the waiter who took the photo of all three of us was dderrrunnnkkeerrr than we were and the result more closely resembled a lesser known work by Degas than a good mediocre picture of us. Thank you Mike for stepping up to the plate and showing him how it’s done.) we ordered a shit load of the menu and there wasn’t so much as one complaint. We decided to start with an appetizer of guacamole and damn. Now the guac was good, damn good, but it also came with fresh, warm, sea salted chips and three different dipping sauces (hot, mild and pineapple). Taken together I couldn’t have asked for more!

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the guacamole

Next we shared the lobster arepa. WOW! There were big, tender lumps of lobster in a rich tomato cream sauce topped with avocado , sour cream, oaxaca cheese and served with a fresh grilled sweet corn cake. I have dreams about the lobster arepa. One word of warning is that it is damn rich, but this makes it a great dish for sharing. Three good eaters had a few bites during dinner, were satisfied and brought the rest home to enjoy later.

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the lobster arepa

Then, we each ordered a taco platos. I got two vegetarian tacos and one fish taco. Our waitress was seriously talking up the vegetarian taco, how it was the absolute best item on the menu. Now, this isn’t a complaint but of all things that this place serves, the vegetarian taco is nothing to write home about. I don’t know what the hell she had eaten, but it was not the same thing I was served. Like I said, don’t take this the wrong way, it was fine, it was more than fine (especially considering it’s just sheet of smashed corn and binder filled with some veggies) but the fish taco — O.M.G. Now this is something that I will write, call and smoke signal home about. The fish was fantastic, lightly breaded and fried lumps with avocado, lettuce, sour cream and a special sauce. It’s the fish taco that’s the best item on the menu! The taco plates were served with rice and beans that complemented perfectly.

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taco platos: ensenadas y vegetarianos con frijoles y arroz

Finally, our arms were twisted into splitting the tres leches cake for dessert. Served with ice cream and banana it was the perfect way to end the meal.

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tres leches cake

The staff 

 Aside from our waitress having a difficult time identifying the best item on the menu, the staff was great. Our waitress(es) were excellent. It seemed like more of a casual group effort by the wait-staff than normal and this made it a really nice dining environment.

The ambiance

Walking inside it was like entering a little restaurant somewhere far from Branford, CT. It was dark (in a good way) and quaint and cozy and friendly and chatty and bustling. We sat at a table with chairs on one side and a bench along the wall on the other, right across from the bar and kitchen window. It was fun to be in the middle of the action yet we still had enough space to enjoy good conversation and company. I’d imagine kids would love it…and the wiser generation should pack their strongest cheaters and double-check their batteries (well worth it though ;-).

$$

Pricing was what I expected more or less. Not exactly the dollar menu, but very reasonable for a small business serving niche food in a great environment. Excellent quality and appropriate portions all around. We each spent ~$50 on a dinner that included a butt-load of different fantastic dishes and cocktails.

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Bella’s Cafe (New Haven, CT)

My bestest marathon buddy Dr. Annebelle and I recently had an amazing 2 pm brunch at Bella’s Cafe in New Haven, CT. This little find is tucked away in the Westville community and is must if you’re visiting CT. (Seriously! It only takes 2 hrs to drive across the whole damn state! And New Haven is in the middle.) Almost as awesome as their food, is the support that they give to a number of local charities. 🙂 They also do catering, and man would I love to get this instead of pizza at lunch meetings once in a while! As if this isn’t enough, the icing on the cake is that they are local and family owned (…and operated? Sure, why not?)

The menu

So we went for brunch (yes, 2 pm is brunch time) but the entire menu looked amazing. Of course we started with mimosas and (white wine) sangria. The mimosa was good and I will have dreams about the sangria. Now this brunch was after completing our weekend long run of +16 miles and we were both pretty effing hangry.  I really could have ordered half the menu (and consumed it myself) but (thankfully…in retrospect…) was  restricted to a human sized lunch portion.

Dr. Anne and I got to dishes to split and I think we made particularly good choices with the… 

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Crunchy Breakfast Burrito

and the…

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Fried Polenta

The CBR was awesome! It was a fresh flour tortilla stuffed with beans, onions, peppers and a mystery ingredient that I’m not going to disclose but semisuccessfully picked around. The burrito was then lightly fried and topped with two over easy eggs and salsa!! The spice combinations were great, there was just enough kick and the eggs on top were perfect (rather than being scrambled into a homogeneous mush and packed inside the burrito…shamelessly diluting all of the inside goodness in the process…)

While the CBR was awesome, the FP was fanfreakingfenomenal! It will costar with the sangria in my dreams. So this little treasure was two dense, yet moist and creamy, and lightly fried patties of polenta (not mushy or dry or tasteless in any way as polenta is so often reduced…) over an excellent arrabbiata sauce. The seasoning was herby (but not too much…yes that’s a word…on my blog it is anyway…), savory and had a nice kick. Broccoli rabe (with just the right level of bitterness) topped the polenta and all was topped with two perfectly poached eggs. I don’t even really like poached eggs but my mouth is watering as I write this! Get the polenta!

The staff

Our waitress was a bit odd (I know, I’m one to talk…) but she was good.  Since it was 2 pm and there were all of 4 tables in the restaurant, everything was super fast and correct (the first time).

The ambiance

Bella’s is a chic little restaurant and bar open only for breakfast, lunch and brunch. The dining room is open and light and super pleasant. I think they might even have some tables out on a patio, but given that it was 700 F outside and 200% humidity (at least) I paid no attention to these options.

$$

If you’re looking for a dollar menu this might not be the best fit for you. But, if you’re looking for great food at a very reasonable price, then you’ll be totally satisfied. Both the quantity and quality of all the grub we got was outstanding. ~$25 for a great bunch (adult beverage for optimal post-16-mile-run-on-a-hot-day hydration included) at a chic little family owned joint that supports local charities…sign me up!!

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Week 8

Mon 9/2 – rest

After getting in something that loosely resembled a week of marathon training, this was very welcome. Happy Labor Day!! 😀

Tues 9/3 – 5 mi / ~47.5 min

Here we find another run snuck in between time points by the skin of my teeth. I’ve been going back and forth about how I feel about this and I think it works for me. As long as I have what I’m doing in the lab under control, it’s nice to get out and get some fresh. Squeezing my stumpy swollen sweaty arms and hands back into the glove box’s vinyl sleeves and latex gloves is also super hot. Upon returning from my run today there was a very nerdy exciting present waiting for me —

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Epindorf tube openers!!

Per the aforementioned glove box, I now spend most of my days flailing about like a trapped platapus…trying to open and close tubes and pipet precious small volumes of liquid in vinyl sleeves and latex gloves that are approximately 298754 sizes too big. Dr. JBdP to the rescue! Upon realizing and (kind of) coming to terms with my fate (not really, but never mind…) I went blubbering to my wonderful former groupmate at MN, Dr. JBdP. Upon hearing my sob story he packed up my three favorite epindorf tub openers and sent them off to NJ for me! These little treasures will facilitate the opening of approximately 9582 gazillion epi tubes by Platypus Trot over the next 3 years. Thank you!!

Wed 9/4 – rest

Thurs 9/5 – 10 mi / ~95 min

I was able to escape the platypus costume for a day and tackle a continuous (no timepoint breaks!! 🙂 10 mi run at the end of the day! Overall I things felt good. I fueled with 1.5 bags of gummy bears and 4 oz water. I was thirsty by the end (What? Hydrating with coffee isn’t the best MO?!?!) but not too bad. Cooler temps, 70ish, and dusk (read:dusk to night) we’re very helpful in this matter.

One thing I’ve found with training is that I hit the wall at three (progressively late) points during my training runs. Initially it’s at about 8 miles, then it’s more like 12 or 13 and then finally at around 18ish. I’ve been cautiously optimistic that I’m beyond the 8 mile wall and after today I can honestly say that I think I’m on to the ~half-marathon wall. 🙂 I guess we’ll see what happens this weekend!

Another important observation I’ve made is that the hobby of marathon running in combination with the insanity lovely job of being a postdoc results in the most flattering, classy and lab appropriate outfits possible…

Fri 9/6 – rest

Today is super exciting as I am driving up to CT for a weekend visit with my bestest marathon buddy Dr. Annebelle! This whole crazy running business began when we lived together in CT 3 years ago (my god! three years ago?!?!) so reminiscent weekend visit, here I come!

Sat 9/7 – 16.4 mi / who knows

As expected, we had an awesome long run (in matching outfits…although this should really just go without saying) along the CT coast.

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We ran along the boardwalk and through some neighborhoods along the cost. It started off sunny and warm and just got warmer, but the breeze off of the water was great and this pasty skin enjoyed the rays (most of them anyway). I had 16 oz water overall, 1 bags of gummy bears and some honey chews from a friend of Dr. Anne that were crazy sweet yet still super yummy. Fueling went well. The lungs felt great and legs felt good until ~mile 13 or so. Here the knees and *gasp* left shin began to ache and *gasp* left calf began to cramp a bit. Overall the last 3 miles or so were quite a bit tougher than the first 13. I found my wall. :-/ Stretching and some deep tissue messaging will hopefully be enough to get through recovery and tomorrow’s run before resting on Monday.

I know I should have play-by-play pictures to share but I am too sweaty and too clumsy and too lazy to bring my shiny new phone with me on any runs, much less a +16 mile run. On the bright side, I am capable of taking photos while on imperative running-related shopping trips. 🙂

So you’ll surely notice Dr. Anne’s swirl Procompression socks in the professional photograph of the two of us above. This is one (very important) component of the uniform that our Dr. trotting group will be sporting at the Philly Marathon in November. Now while these are a very important component of our uniform, pants and a top will also be convenient accessories to have for the run. As far as we can tell, the plan is going to be for all of our team members to get whatever black (ruffled) skirt or shorts or capris suit them best and then wear the matching socks, top and arm warmers. Today’s mission: the tops.

This mission was actually a much tougher challenge than either of us professional shoppers had anticipated. We don’t have particularly stringent demands or anything, we just want something that’s <$15, comfy, cute, has a unique design/pattern and will look good with the socks. Nope, we aren’t picky at all…

Miraculously we did find some tops, but only two of the four that we need. It’s a real pity because they are wicked comfy and super cute (our shirts…oh come on! 2 shirts, 2 of us…coincidence? I think not!!…not us silly…)

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Exhibit A

Another pitty…a much more serious pitty…was the pair of shorts that this top was being sold with. You’re thinking that they look ok in Exhibit A eh? Well….

Exhibit B

Exhibit B

Horrific. Seriously Nike! W.T.F?!?!

On the bright side we scored matching shirts for Sunday’s run for $12 each and are now hot on the trail of something similar for our Philly Marathon team uniforms.

On another bright side (maybe even the brightest side) we had an amazing 2 pm brunch at Bella’s Cafe in New Haven. The entire menu looked amazing but we made particularly good choices with the…

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Crunchy Breakfast Burrito

and the…

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Fried Polenta

If you’re interested in all of the details, check out my Bella’s Cafe restaurant review.

While we’re on the topic of food, we also had a most gluttonous wonderful dinner at Tacuba’s taco bar.

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Between the three of us (Yes, I can count. Unfortunately the waiter who took the photo of all three of us was dderrrunnnkkeerrr than we were and the result more closely resembled a lesser known work by Degas than a good mediocre picture of us. Thank you Mike for stepping up to the plate and showing him how it’s done.) we ordered a shit load of the menu and there wasn’t so much as one complaint. The

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guacamole

and

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lobster arepa

and

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tacos ensenadas y vegetarianos con frijoles y arroz

and

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tres leches

were amazing. Again, if you’re interested in all of the details, check out my Tacuba’s restaurant review.

Sun 9/8 – 8 mi / who cares

On Sunday morning we tackled our old favorite New Haven 8 mile loop. I think I can speak for the both of us in that we were pleasantly surprised about how we didn’t feel like total death! I was worried about the ramifications of Saturday’s long run and then Saturday’s eating adventures, but all went well. It was pretty warm (80ish) by the time we were done and, per usual, I was convinced that I was 2 ul away from becoming a human raisin. (Note: I miraculously evaded the transformation yet again.) The legs (shins included) and lungs fared well. But I mean really, how could they not when they look this good…

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For lunch we grabbed sandwiches at our favorite neighborhood market (and marketeer), Nika’s, and headed home. Nika’s is a great New Haven neighborhood staple. There is no where else that I would have preferred to so thoroughly embarrass myself, but that’s another story, for another day…

With so much attention paid to running attire over the weekend, the tootsies and hands were starting to feel pretty neglected. Rightfully so, they are the ones doing all the works after all. Well, the feet are. Hands, WTH have you done? Anywho, neglected no more 🙂 …

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Total mileage = 39.4 mi

A very good week. Got the miles in and enjoyed doing it. There really is nothing else to say (there actually may be less than nothing to say about those core exercises that keep creeping back into the tail end of these week recaps, but never mind…).

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Congrats Dr. Maroof!!

Last Friday my partner in crime defended his PhD 🙂

Congratulations Dr. JP!

A number of immediate perks of doing this include –

a) Dressing up in fancy clothes and talking for an hour (or however long you damn well please) about what you’ve invested the last 6 years of your life on, to an audience that is obligated to pay attention and act like they sincerely give a shit…

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b) Eating this for dinner…

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c) Spending the evening with your friends on a swanky rooftop…

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d) Having the biggest concern of your Saturday morning be whether your eggs benedict should come with salmon or crab cakes…

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Now PhD defenses always make you feel pretty special, but you know you’re really cool when have these three attendees in your audience…

Tolstoy

Tolstoy!

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The one-and-only DFR (pictured) AND Wolfie!! (The Wolf = not pictured; rather, snoozing away in the kind-of-pictured green stroller.)

The one little catch of this  situation is that after the lovely post-defense weekend it’s balls to the wall in order to —

  1. Finish paper and thesis revisions,
  2. Pass off everything to the next generation,
  3. Pack up and ship or sell everything that has been accumulated at Club 321 over the last 4 years by the end of the month and
  4. Ship off to Berkeley, CA with a few suit cases of clothes and a Penny cat.

Not that any of this is so horrible or anything…kind of like how drinking out of a fire hose can’t be that bad… Having survived the last 6 years however, I’m sure everyone will be fine.

So, CONGRATULATIONS DR. JP and best of luck with that fire hose over the next 3 days.

Has anyone shipped a shit-load of books (or stuff in general) across the country recently? Any great insight on what the cheapest options are?

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Food news

So I was hard at work today again (of course) and came across some wonderful food and running related info on Runners World that I can’t help but share…

First of all…

Eat This Now: Blueberries
In season June through August.
By Yishane Lee;
July 18, 2013

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Good for You
Nothing beats a bowl of fresh blueberries for flavor and juicy sweetness. These tiny fruits are nutritional powerhouses, delivering one of nature’s highest counts of antioxidants with just 84 calories per cup. U.S. Department of Agriculture researchers have found the berries’ antioxidants may improve cholesterol, boost cardiovascular health, and build strong bones.

Get the Best
Blueberries should be plump and firm, with a uniform blue color and powdery bloom (wild blueberries from Maine and Canada are smaller than their cultivated cousins and have a tangier taste). Avoid soft, squishy, or wrinkled berries; stained or leaking containers can indicate the fruit is old. Store blueberries for up to 10 days in the fridge. Do not wash them until ready to use.

Kitchen Simple
Appleman cooks blueberries into a sauce to intensify their flavor: In a pot, combine a handful or two of berries with a little honey. Stir over low to medium heat until they break down and become thick and syrupy, about five minutes. Finish with a squeeze of lemon juice and chill. Drizzle the sauce over yogurt or ice cream.

Sold! I love it when my favorite websites endorse my ~$30/month addictions…

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And then…

25 Great Snacks for Runners
Sport nutritionists recommend the best between-meal noshes.
July 31, 2013

Do you need a midnight, mid-afternoon, or mid-run snack to get through the day?

We know we do. Let’s face it: three square meals are no match for a runner’s appetite. The good news is that eating small meals throughout the day not only silences your grumbling stomach, but can also aid in weight loss. From soybeans to gummy bears, we’ve got 25 runner-friendly foods that can be eaten (in snack size) whenever hunger comes knocking.

From Eat Like a Genius: Nutrition for Runners, one of more than a dozen free training guides available from Runner’s World.

Now 25 is a big number for Dr. Trot so I have no intention of going through each and every item on this list. But, don’t worry, all is not lost. Here are a few of my favorites…

1. Bananas
Why they’re good: Bananas are chock full of good carbohydrates. They are a good source of vitamin B6 and are vital for managing protein metabolism. (Runners need more protein during and after workouts.)

When they’re good: Before, during, or after exercise. They’re great blended into a fruit smoothie. Or simply whip frozen banana chunks with milk in a blender for an awesome recovery shake.

Calories: 105 per medium-sized banana.

2. Carrots
Why they’re good: Carrots are low-calorie but filling, so they’re excellent if you’re watching your weight. They contain carotene and vitamin A, which promote eye health and strong immune function.

When they’re good: Eat them at night when you want something to munch but don’t want extra calories. Or eat them before dinner if you’re famished. This way, you won’t overindulge once you sit down for your meal.

Calories: 30 to 40 per medium-sized carrot.

NO! DON’T DO IT!! CARROTS ARE DISGUSTING!!!

11. Fruit Popsicles
Why they’re good: This refreshing low-calorie treat is loaded with vitamin C, which fortifies your immune system and helps boost iron absorption.

When they’re good: They’re great any time, but they’re best immediately after a tough, hot run.

Calories: 75 per 3-ounce frozen fruit/juice bar.

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17. Rice Cakes English Muffins with Peanut Butter
Why they’re good: Rice cakes are low in calories, most of which come from energizing carbohydrates. Peanut butter is an excellent source of protein and heart-healthy polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat. It also contains vitamin E, which helps with muscle recovery.

When they’re good: A perfect stick-to-your-ribs snack for mid-morning or mid-afternoon.

Calories: 225 per one rice cake with 2 tablespoons of peanut butter.

Please note, the title of #17 has been amended for my Dr. Trot’s sanity. Bastardizing the amazing substance that peanut butter is by pairing it with a rice cake is beyond my comprehension.

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22. Gummy Bears
These fun, tasty, fat-free snacks are easily digested and provide a quick hit of carbohydrates. Many runners swear by Gummy Bears when they need a quick pick-me-up on long runs or during marathons. And try a few on those afternoons when your energy sags.

Calories: 130 per 1.4-ounce packet.

Nutrition Tip: After exercise, even if you have no appetite, get something in your stomach.

Amen!

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24. Microwave Popcorn
Unbuttered or slightly buttered popcorn is low in calories (mostly from carbohydrates), yet filling. It’s perfect when you crave a salty food but don’t want many calories.

Calories: 80 to 100 calories per 2 cups (popped).

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And with that, I think I’m going to go for a run find myself something to eat!

Any other personal favorites out there that didn’t make the list?

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Teal tables, Pinto and Big Gay Ice Cream (edited to include a visible table pic)

Per usual, the big plan was to go for a nice, relaxed Sunday run. Get up early and get it out of the way. Well, “early” turned into 9:30 and 94F w/a heat index of 101F. W.H.A.T?? Just to further quantify that temperature for you, 95-100 F and 80% humidity appears to be at or above the upper limit of what a particular 2001 Volkwagen Beetle’s indicator components can handle. Stay tuned for complaints on Wednesday. (In related news, while NJ drivers don’t find the need to indicate their turns, the sure do seem to expect other people to indicate theirs!!)

So, instead of going for anything even remotely resembling a run, I took on the important (and much over due) task of finding some bedroom furniture. As luck would have it, I was as skilled at finding wicked cute table + mad sale as I was at ditching my run like a bad habit. Oh happy day!

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As if this little teal treasure isn’t enough to make one’s day, I had Sunday night plans for dinner with friends in The City! (Note: in case you are not from NY, NJ or CT, “The City” apparently obviously refers to NYC.) This was going to be my first trip in since living with Dr. Annabelle in CT. Man! Time flies!

Any-who, against my better judgement Dr. Sami, Alex and I drove in to meet our friend Miss M, at Pinto on Christopher St and 7th Ave South. Per Miss M’s suggestion, we prayed to St. Theresa for an available parking space “near” the restaurant (Definition: near < back across the Hudson).

My. God. Now I feel as if I’m about to tell you that we saw a ghost, but we totally did! Not only did we find an available parking spot, but we we could a free available parking spot, within 4 blocks of Pinto! Incredible!

Pinto turned out to be an adorable little (think <30 seats) Thai restaurant and bar. The staff was efficient yet we never felt rushed and courteous and attentive but not smothering. My first excellent decision of the night was a glass of white wine and the stuffed tofu appetizer…

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My second great decision of he night was the pumpkin curry…

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I was a little hesitant considering the heat and humidity of the day, but it was perfect. There was just the right amount of spice, the peanut sauce was rich in flavor but light, the tofu was light and fluffy, the pumpkin and squash were burst of flavor and the cucumber were cool refreshing complements to the rest. It was perfect.

Rumor has it that the green curry and lamb massaman were damn good too. In the end though, the crab fried rice in young coconut just had to go and steal show…

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What is it about eating out of something besides a bowl or plate that makes food so much more fun tasty?

As my top quality photographs demonstrate, the one thing that could be improved was the lighting. Again, the ambiance was great, but it was just a bit dark for my taste.

On the way back to the car we just had to end the night with a stop off at The Big Gay Ice Cream Shop.

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A ice cream cup with rainbow sprinkles seemed like the only right way to go…

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All in all, it was a fabulous way to end the weekend. Although, it sure did make me miss city life. It made me soooooooo miss city life…

Anyone out there with a favorite restaurant or ice cream shop in their favorite city?

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Baldpate Mountain and Cafe 44

Dr. Trot went on adventure today!

As the ass crack of dawn…while it was still only 85F…a few new-found “friends”, guilted into this role by Jamie via Patrick I presume (thank you Jamie and Patrick :-),  escaped from the death grips of Princeton and drove ~20 miles to Baldpate Mountain for hiking! The thickly wooded “mountain” was really nice. There were over 12 miles of marked (and, importantly, largely shaded) natural trails for hiking and horseback riding.

Baldpate mountain

Baldpate mountain

There were a few creeks, ponds and old ruins to check out along the trails. I totally wish I would’ve brought a camera to snap a few pictures. 😦 We came upon an abandoned farm at the end of the white trail with collapsing remains of the house, 4 or 5 farm buildings + well/milk storage thing next to a little pond. Cool 🙂 We hiked around 5 miles (this might be way off as I am stupid and forgot my GPS watch in the car :-/) in a little over 2 hours. I’d definitely like to come back to either re-hike the same trails as today or check out some of those that we didn’t get to.

I’m not sure if we were supposed to pay, but we didn’t. 

Driving home hunger set in and because Princeton has awesome face-feeding opportunities, we decided to check out Cafe 44YUMMY!! I’m not sure if it was because I was knocking on the door of hangry by the time my food arrived (by our own doing…we arrived ~2 pm after trucking through the woods for over 2 hours…the service was plenty fast) but it was delicious! I had a fresh mozzarella and veggie sausage omelette (I should have added some veggies) with potatoes, toast and coffee. Again, there are sadly no pictures. Shame on me. I guess that just means I am obligated to a make a second trip. 🙂

Hope everyone has had a nice Saturday!

Does anyone have favorite hiking trials in their area or more importantly in my area?

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