November 1, 2006

A Good Year

Last Friday was the big 365-day anniversary for me and Mr. Tall. Pretty exciting, I know. We didn’t really want to do anything grand so we just decided to make a date to Monsoon. Mr. Tall got the idea for Indian food because he had never had Indian food before until last weekend when, on his company field trip, they took everyone to an Indian buffet. And he really enjoyed the food. The first time I had Indian food was actually in Bangkok. During my summer internship a few years ago, a friend of mine’s family manages a hotel in downtown Bangkok. The hotel is noted for its fine royal Indian cuisine (it’s called the Rembrandt Hotel if any of you ever make a trip to Bangkok). From then on, I fell in love with Indian food. I had been hesitant about trying Indian food anywhere else for fear of being disappointed. Until Jess, Mai and I went to Monsoon. We were at a great advantage during that visit because Mai and Jess’s close friend, Michelle, was the head waitress at the time and she pretty much hooked us up big time.

We definitely overindulged on the garlic naan along with the chutney sampler of sweet mango, mint, and raita. We asked Michelle to order for us since she knew the food best. I’m not quite sure what we got, but I believe we had the Murgh Makhani (butter chicken) and a lamb dish.

We ended the meal with mango mousse with strawberry rose sorbet. But the best part was that our dessert spoons were cooled in a small dish of ice and rose water. I hadn’t eaten that much since my girlfriends and I hit up the buffet in Vegas.

After being greeted with a bouquet of colorful daisies (my favorite flower) and even a card, oh my, Mr. Tall and I headed out to Monsoon. I had requested on the online reservation to be seated next to the curtain of waterfall in the middle of the restaurant, and they willingly complied with our request. Mr. Tall and I started with, what else but an order of garlic naan served with a small ramekin of garlic and cilantro chutney. He also got the India Special Reserve Beer and I got my absolute favorite, iced Chai tea. What makes the iced Chai at Monsoon so special is that it is nothing like what you would get at Starbucks or Peet’s. It is real Chai brewed with fresh spices—you can truly taste the blend of cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, and of course, the mild heat of the ginger.

For our entrée, we shared the Lamb Vindaloo, which was cooked with a little vinegar with chunks of baby potatoes in a tomato-based curry, and Murgh Tikka Tandoori Chicken, which was marinated in yogurt, ginger, Garam masala, fresh lemon and cilantro. We order the tandoori chicken with a tomato-based sauce that really highlighted the mild and tender chicken. Even though my first visit to Monsoon was very memorable, this visit exceeded my expectations. The Lamb Vindaloo is by far the best dish I had enjoyed there. You can tell the lamb was carefully prepared because the spices really hid the gaminess of the meat, and the curry complemented the tender chunks of meat perfectly. The entrées were served in mini brass pots along with a side of basmati rice. At the end of the meal, I just wanted to pour the rest of the curry on my rice and eat it just like that—it was so good! I am officially declaring Monsoon one of my favorite restaurants in San Diego. I will definitely have to check out other Indian joints soon to see how they measure up.

One tip that I’d like to share with diners out there, check out I was introduced to it last year when I was making reservations for Top of the Cove during the San Diego Restaurant Week. There are many restaurants in San Diego, which you can reserve for your party through OpenTable. It’s easy to do and you can collect points through your reservations.

You know it’s officially fall when all the bakeries and cafes begin to make pumpkin or maple products. Mr. Tall, for one, is a huge fan of pumpkin. If it’s got pumpkin in it, he’ll eat it. Pumpkin pie, pumpkin muffin, pumpkin bagel … and if it’s got maple in it, he’ll eat it, too. Maple sausage, maple syrup …
The Maple Pumpkin Cheesecake is probably one of the best recipes that combines his love for these two ingredients coupled with the fact that he really enjoys cheesecakes. So, naturally, I made him a Maple Pumpkin Cheesecake for his birthday. The recipe called for real maple syrup, and I highly recommend investing in a bottle of the Canadian maple syrup goodness. Just a couple dollars more and you get the real maple taste without all the heavy, artificial sweetness.

It was my second attempt at the Maple Pumpkin Cheesecake. I was bummed out because my first "test" round turned out to be better than my second, which saddened me since it was for Mr. Tall’s birthday. It’s pretty bad news when a cheesecake is undercooked. Unlike cakes, in which you can poke a knife and see when it’s done; being an amateur cheesecake baker, I cannot accurately gage when it is done. I am determined to make another attempt at cheesecake—successfully! The cheesecake still tasted good, but quite soft in the center. But, Mr. Tall being the clever man that he is, decided to freeze the cheesecake, and who would have thought ... frozen cheesecake is pretty damn tasty!

For dinner, from one of my favorites on the Food Network, Tyler Florence (I pretty much love him), I got a recipe for his Ultimate Fried Chicken. The chicken turned out slightly more brown than what we would have liked due to the pot that we had used to fry the chicken. We also cooked up mashed potatoes and green beans to go with the fried chicken. The potato ricer came in handy once again, and our mashed potato was even better than the last time. Because I am a bit of a perfectionist, I was quite disappointed with the way the chicken looked and the way the cheesecake was undercooked. But, Mr. Tall, being a good sport and appreciative boyfriend that he is, still enjoyed the meal. The fried chicken, overall, had a subtle spice level to it, and soaking it in salt water prior to cooking it helped to maintain that juiciness in the meat. Mr. Tall and I intend to fry up some chicken again, and I am positive that it will be better the next time. This weekend was nearly perfect. I say nearly because, well, it wasn’t as flawless as I had anticipated. But, all in all, I am content because, as Mr. Tall reminded me, it’s the thought that counts.

Little Miss

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