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This year for my mom’s birthday, she actually didn’t pick sushi! It was a mom’s birthday miracle! Not that I would have minded, but I was excited to mix it up for once. She got to pick, and this time she decided on Buddakan. Can you believe that I’ve never been? So we were all excited to check it out. I was quite surprised at how large the restaurant was inside. When all you get to see from the outside is a big door, you can’t really see what’s happening on the other side. There are a lot of tables here, and several levels. image_2 - CopyWe tried the spicy rock shrimp bao buns. These were like the pork ones, but without the oink, and included pickled slaw and jalapenos. These were nice and spicy and zesty with a sour and sweet crunch. Let’s face it, I love anything with crunchy slaw on it. For those of you non-pork eaters, this is a great way to enjoy a bao experience.image_5 - CopyThese are the General Tso’s Dumplings, which were filled with chicken and a hot & sour broth. M really liked these, and ate most of them, but I only thought they were ok. If I want dumplings, I’ll stick to dim sum garden!image_6 - CopyI’m a sucker for Mao Po Tofu, so I got that as my main entree.  Oh this was really great guys, one of the best mao po tofu dishes I’ve ever had. I have no idea if this is genuine or authentic or whatever, all I know is that I thoroughly enjoyed everything about the way Buddakan made their’s. I would come back here just for this dish in a heartbeat.image_7 - CopyThe birthday lady got the miso black cod served with bok choy, shiitake mushrooms, and a unagi sauce.  I tend to think that ordering miso cod in an asian restaurant is always a safe bet, and this one was no different. It was also a good sized portion, not too small, not too big, perfect for my mom.
image_8 - CopyM is a sucker for seared tuna. If it’s on a menu, any menu, he’s bound to order it. And of course he did here. This is the wasabi tuna tataki with ginger somen noodles. First of all, look how beautiful the tuna is. It was like looking at stained glass or something. Second of all, M said this is the best tuna he has ever eaten. EVER. IN HIS LIFE. He’s not one for such hyperbole, so for him to say such a thing, he meant it.
image_9 - CopyEven though we were all beyond stuffed, we had to get some dessert, specifically the dip sum doughnuts, which were five spice doughnuts with blackberry jam, chocolate sauce, gingered cream cheese dipping sauces. Oh my word. And the best part was that they’re served in a typical chinese takeout container, so it was super easy to take home, which we definitely did! All in all, this was a delicious and fun meal. I’ve been to a number of Stephen Starr restaurants and had positive experiences at all of them, so far. I’d have to say Buddakan is now my favorite! 
Buddakan on Urbanspoon

Alla Spina

Alla Spina is a casual beer and food spot brought to you by Mark Vetri on N. Broad st. They really like their pigs here, judging by all the pig art in the place! Oh, and there’s also lots of pig parts on the menu. It’s also right around the corner from Route 6, Stephen Starr’s seafood joint. They’re trying to create a bit of a restaurant scene up on that section of Broad, so here’s wishing them some luck. There’s outdoor dining, weather permitting, and it’s nice and open and not at all stuffy. It really is a nice and casual place. 
Can you get more casual than pretzels? These are housemade pretzel bites with spicy beer cheese. See the cute little pig they get served in? I liked these quite a bit… warm and doughy!

You’re not in canada, but they serve their own version of poutine here. It’s served with a guinea hen leg bolognese and mozzarella curd. I wasn’t too crazy about the bolognese part. But the fries were good. 
Maple glazed fried chicken and fries! There was so much, E took plenty of it home as leftovers. There are those tasty fries again.
I had the fancy grilled cheese, with taleggio and roasted red peppers, served with green tomato conserva and homemade potato chips. Yum! That green tomato conserva stuff is amazing! I want to put it on everything now. And the roasted red peppers inside the grilled cheese was a nice touch.
While we were eating, we saw all the tables getting soft serve vanilla ice cream. It confused us a little bit. Then we found out that it was actually fiordelatte soft serve, not just plain vanilla ice cream, not like the thing you would get at McDonald’s. The flavor itself is more of a sweet cream. We got a bowl of it along with the famed donut bread pudding. The bread pudding was delicious, but I could have certainly gone without the raisins in it. The fiordelatte was also creamy and dreamy. This was a fun spot. Service was good and the food came out quickly. Although it’s a bit further away from the action of the city, but it’s kind of like a retreat from all the hustle and bustle.
Alla Spina on Urbanspoon

Peru Food Roundup

I took a rather kick-ass vacation to Peru awhile back. They have wonderful food. I absolutely loved pretty much everything I ate. So here are some very few highlights. I guess you could say these are a version of corn nuts. Except these corn kernels are ginormous. They’re a salty and crunchy snack.
The ceviche is pretty much the best around. I should think so, since Peru invented it. We were taught by a Peruvian to only get ceviche for lunch, only when you’re in a coastal town, and only at a cevicheria. If not, you risk the the seafood not being its absolute freshest. We had absolutely no issues with that here. Here’s the giant corn again, which is a very common accompaniment. I quickly learned to love the giant corn.
The rice with seafood. Holy crap this was amazing. If I could learn to make one thing that I ate in my 2 weeks in Peru, it would be this.
Not only is the corn big, they also have purple corn.
This purple corn is used to make chicha morada. It looks like red wine, but it’s a completely non-alcoholic drink made from boiling purple corn and adding some spices. It’s an unfamiliar taste, but something we all learned to love. I’m going to attempt to make this some day, as soon as I get my hands on some giant purple corn!
They love their meats, and you’ll find plenty of it at anticucheras. Beef and chicken are popular, but you need to try the beef hearts. Even I liked it. We also tried alpaca steak. It’s delicious, but you need to eat it only when it’s rare. It’s exotic but delicious. Speaking of exotic, no one tried the cuy (guinea pig). It seemed too bony!
We couldn’t get enough picarones – pumpkin and sweet potato donuts served with a sweet and sticky syrup. You have to eat them fresh! They are crispity on the outside and doughy and amazing. These beat any kind of american donuts.
Fresh fruit is everywhere, so you can pretty much get any kind of freshly squeezed juice you can think of. Fresh limeades and lemonades are particularly refreshing.
You can also pretty much get any kind of smoothie that you want. You’ll find an amazing array of fruits. Some stuff will be completely foreign to you.
Sometimes, you have to take risks and buy soup from a little old lady on the side of the street. Sure, you’re not quite sure if your stomach will agree, but it has to be done. Even if you’re just about to start a 4-day inca trail hike where there’s no indoor plumbing. Adventure is fun.
And when you’re hanging out in Lima’s famous JFK park (famous because there are hundreds of adorable cats there), you’ll try a random sweet treat from one of the mystery carts. You have no idea what this is, but it’s crunchy and covered with a sweet and orangey syrup. It’s all sticky and gooey but you love it. We ate a lot of homemade foods while we were on the Inca Trail and on our rafting trip. Everything was made with love and absolutely delicious. Lomo saltado was probably a particular standout. It’s like a peruvian stir fry. In general, we were all fans of Peruvian cuisine. I think it would appeal to just about anyone. In fact, I wish there was a genuine Peruvian restaurant near me. I would go all the time. 

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