Wednesday, February 25, 2015

A Trip to Kuchi Sushi

“What’s in a name that which we call a rose, by any other name would smell just as sweet” –Juliet from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. A name like “Kuchi Sushi” from an average American with no Japanese language/linguistic background it’s enough to make an eyebrow raise. Don’t feel alone. Even a Latino gentleman seated behind us had some joking wordplay that he exchanged with his table mates “Kuchi Sushi…what did you come here for hmm…?” “Well at least you know what you came here for…” *smhis you can’t take some people anywhere! He used a long “u” by the way, so phonetically speaking there was the rub/ punch-line.

Anyways, on to the review. We arrived well after 8 pm on a Saturday night on Valentine’s. There was a 35-45 minute wait. The worst was to be expected and honestly that was nowhere near as bad as what we expected. The whole sushi side of the restaurant is open, often the door was opening and closing or propped open easily making a chilly night in the 50s-40s uncomfortable. By the way, bring patience on a busy night as they still seat by pen and pad. Mix ups may occur as to sushi vs hibachi side. Don’t think of asking to be moved once seated, it will be an issue. They could benefit from creating a vestibule or sectioning off the waiting area. There is ample seating on the hibachi side. I counted about 10 hibachi tables. Honestly, I think that they should take out at least 2 possibly 3 of those to accommodate their sushi side. Or give guests the option to sit at the rear tables that does not have a hibachi grill attached. I would say that the sushi side of the restaurant has at least 4 tables possibly 5. There are two bars though. I usually am not so petty to get into seating however it was an issue during our visit.

Our waitress was attentive but new. However, she was soon traded off, we had made a couple of requests and she seemed unsure of herself. I guess they figured with things being so busy they couldn’t afford a mistake or oversight. The other seemed more seasoned. We started with the shrimp tempura. The tempura was very light, crunchy, fluffy and flaky. Very light on the salt, but you don’t miss it because of the natural flavor. The sweet potato and potato were a surprise. Though I preferred the lighter and less starchy vegetables like broccoli, squash and zucchini. There were only two extra large shrimp perfectly cooked, butterflied, and formed into perfect sticks.

It took us a while to decide because there are several rolls to choose from. And I mean several! Ultimately, we chose the Painted Lady Roll and the Sunshine Roll. It took a long time (well...seemingly so) as each roll was hand crafted. The sushi chefs look more like surgeons, they even wear plastic shield masks working quietly and meticulously with sharp knives and raw fish among other tools and ingredients. (I have been to quite a few sushi restaurants but seeing that was a first). Despite the wait you have to respect the craft, art, and how meticulous they are at what they do. With sushi presentation is a very important component as well. Likewise, the presentation, plating and taste are all A+/ 5*. Besides, as far as the wait is concerned that is what appetizers are for lol. So of course one of my tips is to know what you want  but be prepared to wait.
As for the rolls, both rolls were good. However the Painted Lady Roll was more cohesive and complimentary in overall taste, flavor, and texture. The Painted Lady Roll was made up of spicy lobster, mango, asparagus inside topped with spicy tuna, avocado with a spicy mango sauce. The spicy tuna is a standout and the spicy lobster is rich but subtle. The avocado is smooth and creamy, it counteracts the spice giving it balance so the spiciness does not overtake the whole roll. The mango has a subtle sweetness, it’s sweet but not overtly so. The asparagus helps give the roll a crisp fresh taste. The Sunshine Roll was made up of salmon tempura, avocado, topped with salmon (raw), tempura flakes and spicy sauce. It was good, fresh, looked great plated even had a decent flavor but was a bit of a clash for me. The components in the middle of the roll seemed to clash. It just was not as cohesive as the Painted Lady Roll. There was something missing and there was something that had to go and I think it was the salmon tempura. Papa Smurf didn’t care for it as much as the other roll, though we continued to share each. (In the title picture: The painted Lady Roll is in the front, the Sunshine Roll in the back).

As for location, the restaurant shares the same lot as Veteran’s movie theater, a bunch of other restaurants and a Cold Stone Creamery. So it’s a great venue for a typical dinner and a movie date night. Green Gator’s is right next door for those who still like to drink, party, cut a rug and lose a glass slipper, as for myself I am long retired from that lol.

Overall, everything was fresh. Although they were very busy and made a seating mistake, they were polite and attentive. They gave apologies a few times for the wait and asked if we wanted or needed anything to make the wait less bothersome though we weren’t that bothered by it. We will definitely go again. probably on a day that is not as busy as Valentine’s. I would order the painted Lady Roll again and again. It was definitely our favorite of the two. I have to say this was one of my best experiences. To my Maryland readers if you are ever in the area, definitely check out Kuchi Sushi and Hibachi. If you are looking for a good local spot check out Sushi King in Columbia, MD. Sushi King was also one of my BEST sushi experiences "pre-food- blogging" days and the ratings are still really good to this day!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Get Her To (Eat) Greek…

I had been on a mission to find a “gyro place” here. The first place I tried, I struck out at, since it gave me some tummy issues. I won’t reveal the name of the culprit unless asked. Last week, well now a little over a week ago, I had the pleasure of trying out “The Hungry Greek” in Seven Oaks/ Wesley Chapel. Let me tell you, that I loved it so much I went twice in one week! I love a good gyro with pillow soft warm pita bread, fresh crisp lettuce, chopped onions, warm gyro (shaved lamb) meat, creamy rich tzatziki sauce, and feta. On my first visit I had “The Hungry Pita”. You have options as follows with this item, chicken, gyro, or falafel; the pita comes loaded with hummus, lettuce, plum tomatoes, feta, olives (had to be kalamata), and tzatziki. There motto is “Authentic Greek food. Made fresh.” Truthful advertising that reigned true for both visits.
They give large and generous portions. The pita came with  a generous amount of gyro meat (no skimping or stinginess here). The lettuce does not overpower nor is it over abundant but just enough. The hummus is subtle, it’s there but you won’t notice it much unless you are looking for its distinctive texture. It gets lost with the feta and creamy tzatziki sauce. However, all married together and the union of both textures and flavors is near perfect. The bite of the onion is just enough to compliment the flavor of the gyro meat. The crispy lettuce and tomato gives it the freshness. The tzatziki has the perfect balanced mix of cucumber, dill and Greek yogurt. The Greek yogurt and dill are the stars of the sauce show. The pita is large enough to split with someone or enough for one hungry pita eater.
On our second visit, we ordered a large Greek salad. It was “GINORMOUS” and more than enough for Papa Smurf and I to share with our dinner. On the second trip, the scene on Saturday was starkly different from the lull of midweek late afternoon. On Saturday night, the place was jam packed, and there was a wait. I highly recommend calling ahead on the weekend in order to beat the rush or lessen your wait time. Anyways, the large Greek salad by itself was enough for a family of 4 to each have a side portion. The salad comes with crisp lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, olives, beets, pepperoncinis, green peppers and potato salad topped with feta. Yes! I said potato salad lol. In the midst of the “veggie dump” you almost get lost in it and forget about the potato salad. But then it appears almost out of nowhere at the bottom of your scoops, a pleasant surprise. It’s a real filler! I added grilled chicken to our salad, which was very juicy and tender with a perfectly grilled taste. Not over salted or bland. I loved the creamy Greek dressing, Papa Smurf preferred the vinaigrette. My favorite standouts in the salad were the pepperoncinis and kalamata olives. I would say the salad is probably the best confirmation of their motto. Everything tasted so fresh! So I think I have found my gyro place now; and Papa Smurf loves a good salad so he plans to return for the salad. It’s a win-win for the Taylors!
You can check out The Hungry Greek Here:
~~Stay tuned for my next post on Kuchi Sushi~~

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Getting Organized And Making Better Use of Time...

When I decided to relocate, my life was in an awkward pause of sorts. I had two contracts end abruptly and I was still reeling from the loss of my oldest sister and best friend just that past July. I think too much happened almost all at once though it ran a course of a 5 month span. Fast forward to the Spring of 2014, and I was working toward relocating full force. Finding a place to live was our main objective and trying to land a job was also on my list. Papa Smurf would continue the same job (at a different location) once we relocated and were settled. After we successfully relocated, there was another issue to combat. We purged ALOT before we moved. We only took whatever we could fit between our Pontiac Grand Prix and my older sister Ericka’s economy sized rental; which was not much. I went through a major adjustment period. Aside from getting used to a new place, a new state, our first year with a school aged child, a new school, new school system, at the peak of the challenge was having to do without the things that we left behind. And when you really need something it’s the worst to try to track it down versus realizing you left it. In the midst of it all, I felt so disorganized at times last year. Despite the repeated moments that I was reassured with others, I didn’t even care to hear that I made a major life change that was an accomplishment in and of itself. The disorganization during the adjustment period took much of the joy that came with that accomplishment away at times. Though I can be spontaneous, most of the credit to that goes to my husband as I am a creature of habit. Everything and I do mean everything that I need must be present, accounted for and above all have its place. What can I say it’s the Virgo in me!
Anyways, getting to the point, it’s a no brainer that 2015 was dubbed the year of “Get It Together” and get organized. Moreover, I declared that the adjustment period was over so it was time. By now a lot of people have probably fallen off track with their New Year’s resolutions. I think one of the reasons that NYE resolutions often fall off and lose momentum around this time of year if not sooner is because they often require a more calculated approach. Nine times out of ten, the approach in and of itself does not mesh well with a person’s current lifestyle. What exactly am I saying? Well you have to take baby steps first. You must make room in your present life for what you are trying to do if you really want to succeed at maintaining and achieving your resolution(s). 
For myself, this was going to involve getting in tune with our present adjustment period routine, what had to go, and what I had to get back to doing. 
Soulful and Abundant Sundays
Somewhere during the adjustment period Papa Smurf landed two jobs and decided to keep both. During this time life got super hectic. People had no idea (aside from the ones who visited) just how busy things got during the course of the week especially when we were getting Juliana ready and registered for school, doctor’s appointments, other appointments, interviews, adjusting to her weekly scheduled once school started and squeezing all of that in where it could fit in toggling one vehicle and Papa Smurf’s work hours. In the midst of the madness the big dinners that we would make from time to time especially during the week kind of fell to the waste side. The best part of making a big dinner is the leftovers!
So I knew I needed to get back to that somehow. And so I did, once Papa Smurf’s schedule leveled out when one job took precedence over the other. I started freezing smaller servings of the large batches of meals that I would make, from baked macaroni and cheese, greens, and lasagna. I would use freezer ziplock bags, sandwich sized for lunch portions and quart sized bags for dinner portions. During the week this makes it easier during the week for short cuts and already prepared sides to add to meats for meals. Also it will keep you from going out to lunch when you can’t really afford a daily out to lunch habit or need to cut back
Back to the Basics
Somehow we slipped into letting Julie buy lunch daily. However, baby girl started running a serious tab. The cafĂ© counselor said it was probably the snacks and al a carte stuff. Whatever it was, it felt like we were dealing with a $20 a week habit. After frequent slips home that her account had to be replenished yet again we were rushing around to hit the ATM for cash too often for my liking. I don’t know if she had an accomplice (which was my sister’s theory) or what but I set a spending limit for her that would be in place. I also decided that it would only be in place for a last resort as that would be the only time she would buy lunch from there on out! Back to the basics, her Minnie Mouse lunch bag was coming back! A weekly trip to Sam’s (bulk/ wholesale store) to purchase her lunch stuff for the week and possibly longer. Going back to packing her lunch the night before would become a must do as well! And even if I may not always get to it the night before, having things on hand to put together quickly made life easier and mornings go more smoothly.
Blast From The Past
During the later years of my college career long days as a full time student, especially around midterms, finals, and meetings for group projects made my time limited. I lived off campus. Marinating and freezing meats for dinner, frozen vegetables and fresh bagged salads were a way of life. I couldn’t afford a daily carryout habit, nor did I want to. Freezer ziplocks, using seasonings and marinades to marinate them in advance were also common practice. Usually after a weekend grocery trip, I would season everything up, and then place them in the freezer until I needed or wanted them. In the morning, I would take out dinner to defrost. By the time I got home and was too tired or had too much work to do in the oven it would go. No fuss. The end of my college years was a busy time. Likewise, family life gets busy and though I am a cook some nights I’m not really up to toe job. Other times, the day can get ahead of me. So, I had to go back into my old ways yet again. 
Set A Grocery Budget….
Stop Shopping Around Cravings /By The Day
Instead…Make An All Inclusive List. 
One thing that really had thrown me off as far as cooking dinner for the family was that we also slipped into shopping by the day for dinner, so often that it was becoming habit. What can I say? I love fresh ingredients. However, that wasn’t an excuse, it was becoming an inconvenience as hours fluctuated and dinner would run later and later because of it. Either that or we would end up getting pizza or the like more often than I wanted to. Late dinners ruined the bed time routine which made for long nights and rough mornings. Besides, I could still buy fresh and just freeze what I wasn’t using right away or before the “best by” date if I had purchased too much. By now you see a trend that freezing is very much a key time and life-saving practice for me. Setting a budget really forces me to pinpoint what I need versus what I don’t. It is a great way to attack the whole needs vs wants battle. There isn’t too much room for slipping one too many snacks in the cart which can take away from pantry and refrigerated staples that I may need. Which is why though it may seem archaic, a list is helpful in keeping me on track too. There is nothing worse when it comes to grocery shopping than getting home and realizing you don’t really have any real food because you shopped around your cravings and snacks you wanted; or realizing that you forgot that one thing again. Though I like the grocery, I don’t always have the time and frequent trips can become costly. I have learned to use the "regular" grocery for sale items. I usually have the sale paper marked all up before I go, and even tag items that I have a coupon for with extra notes (i.e.: how much off for how many items). Having a list and the sale paper already marked up makes me feel more organized and focused for the trip. Like I said before lol there is nothing worst when it comes to grocery shopping than a wasted trip. Anyways, I use the bulk/ wholesale shopping for all else, favorites, and things that the kids go through fast or that we consume at a faster rate. Having one less thing to go out for, and one less trip to make, keeps me organized and makes optimal use of our time. 
Well those are just a few actions I have taken to try to stay on track especially when it comes to meal planning. What are some things that you do to stay on track and organized for meal planning? Or for goals like eating out less for dinner or lunch during the week?