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Joe and I took advantage of the recent sweltering weather to not cook and instead check out two places that were new to us. The first took us a bit out of our way, but it was worth it. The second is just a few minutes away. And because I managed to take no photos, you get a picture of some violets instead!

Violets

  • Basil Thai is located north of Syracuse in Phoenix. Never been to Phoenix? Well, here’s a good reason if you need one! If you like Erawan on Erie Blvd., I have no doubt that you will enjoy Basil Thai. It’s an unassuming place, set in a strip mall plaza. The restaurant seating area is small, but the decor is tidy and the staff is friendly. The effusive owner came out personally after we ate to ask how our meal was. We started with a spring roll each. Joe had the Kao Pad Basil, a Thai style fried rice dish with sweet basil leaves with chicken. I also went with chicken in my Pad Kie Mao, which is a dish featuring stir fried large Thai noodles with oyster sauce, tomatoes, broccoli and sweet basil leaves. This is one of my favorite dishes at Erawan, so I wanted to compare and contrast.All of the ingredients tasted fresh and we were quite happy with our dinners. I ordered mine hot, which, according to their scale was about middle of the road. At Erawan, I usually ask for the hottest option, but I wanted to play it safe. I think I could go a step or two up next time, but there was still enough heat to warm my mouth nicely. Again, if you like Erawan, you will enjoy Basil Thai - and its open on Sundays (a day that Joe and I seem to be craving Thai on quite often)(or, at least, it appears to be open on Sundays? The menu I got says yes, the website says no - call ahead!). Some of the folks on syracuse.com’s dining forum have good things to say as well. I recommend making the short drive to Phoenix to support this restaurant!
  • The second place of note is Ponchito’s Taqueria at 3800 New Court Ave. in Lyncourt. Two reviews have appeared previously at Walkable Eastwood (includes a picture of the menu) and Dave’s List (scroll down to Mexican). Hearing about cheap and good food always interests me! Joe and I went there a few nights ago and we will definitely be back. We shared two of the super burritos, one chicken and one carnitas. The chicken was tasty, but the pork was fantastic. I know that I’ll be hard-pressed to try anything but the pork on my next visit. The staff, a bunch of friendly guys, made sure that everything was correct (choice of beans - pinto or black, topping - guacamole or sour cream, salsa, jalapenos, etc.) and our order was up quickly. Tasty, inexpensive burritos accompanied by pineapple soda ended up being the perfect hot summer evening meal. The fact that they are open until 11pm weekdays and 3am on Friday and Saturday means that this would be a perfect place for students, bands, and anyone else feeling a little peckish at an hour where the choices are slim to grab some late-night eats.

Neither of these places are fancy dining, but they are winners: pleasant staff and food that hits the spot. Check them out!

Originally published at Couteau Bonswan. You can comment here or there.

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Time to catch up on some food-related happenings over the past week or so. Last Friday, I went down to Philadelphia with some friends to meet up with some Philly-based friends for a little Cornellian preservation student reunion. A weekend is clearly not enough time to explore all of Philadelphia’s food offerings, especially when you are there mostly to see your pals, but we ate well nonetheless. Unfortunately, I don’t have great (or any) photos of everything (these are all cameraphone snaps), because I was trying to travel light, but here is a quick rundown:

On Friday night, we had a late dinner at La Viola, making sure to snag a few bottles of wine to bring before the shop closed. I had the farfalle with pesto and shrimp, which hit the spot nicely after the drive down. The four of us shared a piece of chocolate mousse cake to finish the evening.

Breakfast at Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia The next morning, we hit the Down Home Diner at Reading Terminal Market (right near our hotel) after seeing the line at the Dutch Eating Place. I had the oatmeal with two strips of bacon on the side, which was a good, filling way to start the day, along with some fresh-squeezed orange juice. You can see the french toast, pancakes, and granola that were enjoyed by Sam, Liz, and Jayme as well in the photo.

Roast pork with provolone and broccoli rabe from Steaks on South in Philadelphia After lots of walking and talking, we visited Steaks on South for late lunch sandwiches. Sam got the usual cheesesteak, Jayme (a vegetarian) was able to get an eggplant parm, and I went with the roast pork with provolone and broccoli rabe. Liz, who lives in Philly, opted for the less-filling salad elsewhere. I am anti-Cheese Whiz, so I was quite happy with my choice. The only change I would make is to chop up the rabe just a tad more, as I wrestled with it a little in opposition to the soft cheese and tender meat. Overall, though, a yummy lunch.

Later that evening, we met up with more friends who live in town and traveled to the South Philadelphia Tap Room. I’m not a beer drinker, but everyone else was happy with the brews available and the food was quite tasty as we sat outside and caught up on life. We started with the calamari appetizer and then I ordered the Cuban sandwich (yes, I ate two roast pork sandwiches in one day! I didn’t even realize that until I was halfway through.), which came with black beans and rice. The sandwich was impressive, with good crusty bread and flavorful meat. The beans and rice were pleasantly spicy as well. My friend Alec also ordered this dish and was equally satisfied.

The night came to an end with some Raisinets and green tea back in the hotel room after returning from Greg and Erin’s relaxing back porch. Woo!

French toast with maduros and berries at Mixto in Philadelphia Our last morning in Philly began with breakfast at Mixto. We sat inside, right next to the open windows, so there was a nice morning breeze even though the day was going to be quite hot. I had the french toast, which was topped with maple syrup, mixed berries and orange slices and a side of maduros (sweet fried plantains). I’m pretty picky about french toast, as nothing compares to the times I make it at home with a loaf of homemade challah bread. This was quite good though, with thick, custardy toast, and my plate was left completely empty.
Breakfast at Mixto in Philadelphia

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The slop

Yesterday was quite hot back in Syracuse and we had two surprise guests for dinner in the form of Ben and Marcus. Luckily the dinner that I had planned was easily expanded. I broiled some chicken breasts that had been tossed with a little bit of tamari sauce and those were sliced up into bite-size pieces and tossed with some cooked (of course) quinoa, cucumbers, daikon radish, celery, and coriander and then blopped with a little Italian dressing (you could be more upscale and make your own dressing, of course, but at this point I was hot and hungry and it tasted good). The chicken and quinoa cooled while being tossed together, so this was served at about room temperature, but I think it would work chilled as well. And as you can see, hot weather slop dinners, accompanied by olives and beer, make men happy:

Dudes and dinner

Originally published at Couteau Bonswan. You can comment here or there.

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I went down to the opening day of Syracuse’s Downtown Farmer’s Market today. I’m sure the numbers of farmers will increase as more and more crops are ready, but as you can see from my photos there are already a few goodies to be had and the number of people milling around bodes well for interest in the market this year!


Created with Paul’s flickrSLiDR.

Today's Special Cafe in the State Tower Building I milled around a bit downtown, stopping to say hi to a friend in Armory Square and picking up some things at the library. I realized I was in need of some lunch, so I stopped and had a sandwich at Today’s Special in the State Tower Building (109 S. Warren St.). I had “The Rockefeller Center” panini sandwich (Oven roasted turkey, bacon, havarti cheese, roasted red peppers with basil mayo on rosemary focaccia) and it was super-tasty. Moist, crispy, with Boar’s Head meat that isn’t flabby and tasteless. Joe has gotten his lunch here a few times as well and had been saying the sandwiches were good. I’m kind of picky about sandwiches, but the panini and I get along well because crispy grilled bread always wins over mooshy bread on sandwiches. The only thing I would change to the sandwich I got would be to add some fresh basil leaves.

Just another day in Syracuse…

Tower of Syracuse Savings Bank Building

Originally published at Couteau Bonswan. You can comment here or there.

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