Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Smoking Apple

Where: The Smoking Apple, 70 N State Street, Lindon

Who Went: Chelsey & Owen

Number of Visits: 1

What We Ordered: Pulled Pork Sandwich with Green Salad, Macaroni & Cheese, and Mashed Potatoes, Baby Back Ribs with Steamed Vegetables, Coleslaw, and Baked Beans

What It Cost: $17.84

What We Thought:

I've been really hesitant to try this restaurant because lately I've felt like all barbecue restaurants are kind of the same. I know that sounds like a horrible and overgeneralizing statement, but they pretty much all have the same menu items (pulled pork, beef brisket, ribs, potatoes, macaroni & cheese, baked beans), and they are never really do much for me. But I kept hearing more and more good things about The Smoking Apple, so while we were heading back from Herriman one day, we decided to check it out.

The interior of the restaurant is kind of small, but they had some outdoor seating available which we totally took advantage of. I was kind of confused by the way you order - they have kind of a buffet line set up inside the restaurant where you can pick your main dish and three sides, then you pay up at the cash register, find a seat, and they bring you your food a few minutes later when it's all prepared on the plate. Their service was surprisingly fast for a Friday night, though it looked like we lucked out and got there before a big rush - lucky us!

I was impressed with the variety of side options they had - ranging from your classic baked beans & potatoes to some healthier options like salads or vegetables. We went for a variety, and were pleasantly surprised by most of them. The green salad had a great mix of fresh greens, a unique dressing, and cranberries mixed it - much more than your typical side salad. The macaroni and cheese was good, but not outstanding, and we loved the mashed potatoes with the skins still partially on - definitely the most delicious way to have mashed potatoes. Owen completely devoured his pulled pork sandwich. There was a ton of pork piled high between two soft buns, and the meat was robust, tender, and bursting with savory flavor. It tasted even better than it looks! He loved it so much that the only way I could taste any of the meat was when it dropped from the sandwich onto his plate and I had to sneak it while he wasn't looking. Delicious.

Oh man, just looking at those ribs gets my salivary glands going...these were some of the ribs I've ever had from a restaurant! They were smoky, seasoned, coated in a tantalizing rub, and smothered with heavenly apple-infused barbecue sauce. The meat was not dry at all, unlike most other restaurant ribs I've had, and even though there was plenty on here to totally fill me up, I wanted more! The steamed vegetables were boring (but healthy at least), and the coleslaw was average. The baked beans were quite tasty though - they had a nice mix of beans and much more complex flavor than others I've tried. No straight-from-the-can flavor here. All around, well prepared and seasoned, and completely satisfying.

What You Should Do: Definitely check out The Smoking Apple! It totally lived up to all the hype for me, and it's without a doubt our new favorite barbecue restaurant. Next time, I think I want to go for the cornbread as a side - I saw it on other people's plate and it looked absolutely huge and amazing. If you get a sandwich, I would order the coleslaw as one of your sides and put it in the sandwich on top of the meat - it adds a delicious crunch to such a rich and savory sandwich. Oh, and did I mention it's a great deal? A delicious and filling dinner for under $20? We'll certainly be coming here again!

Read other reviews here:
The Smoking Apple on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Green Panda Cafe

Where: Green Panda Cafe, 3220 N University Avenue, Provo

Who Went: Chelsey & Owen

Number of Visits: 1

What We Ordered: Peach Boba Smoothie & Passion Fruit Boba Smoothie

What It Cost: $8.08

What We Thought:

Okay, so we didn't get a full meal here, but I really wanted to share with you about this place! If you're from the PNW like me, you know that bubble tea is a HUGE deal over on the West Coast. For a while, bubble tea was as ubiquitous over there as frozen yogurt is here in Provo. I'm not the biggest tea person, so I would usually go for a bubble (or boba) smoothie instead, and I fell in love with the fun experience of drinking a delicious smoothie with fun little balls of tapioca that get slurped through a giant straw. When I drove by Green Panda and saw their giant sign outside advertising boba smoothies, I was so excited that a place nearby is selling one of my favorite treats! If you know of any other places nearby that sell boba smoothies, please let me know. But so far, this has been the only place that I've found that makes these tasty beverages, and they do a fantastic job.

Their smoothies are light and refreshing on a hot day (which we seem to have had plenty of lately), and are HUGE! Next time I definitely think that Owen and I will share one. They have an awesome range of flavors, including lychee, honeydew, green apple, mango, peach, passion fruit, strawberry, and more. I loved the peach flavor of my smoothie - it actually tasted like the real fruit, rather than a mix of artificial flavorings. And the bobas (chewy tapioca balls) are fantastic - great texture and they really give you quite a few in your drink. Some bubble tea places I've been to in Washington give you like five bobas in your smoothie, but Green Panda puts in just the right amount.

What You Should Do: Check them out! If you've never had a boba smoothie before, then you are in for a real fun and unique dessert experience. Some people think that they are too weird, but I love them!  Definitely a nice change of pace from getting frozen yogurt all the time... Green Panda does a great job with them. Though it may not look like much from the outside, Green Panda Cafe has an adorable panda-themed interior, friendly staff, and fabulous smoothies. We will definitely be heading back there to try the other food on their menu soon! 

Read other reviews here:
Green Panda Cafe on Urbanspoon

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Birthday Break

Hey Everyone!

Today is my birthday so I'm going to take a little break from the blogging world and enjoy some time with my family! Happy first week of summer :)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Caputo's Deli: Introduction to Fine Chocolate Course

Where: Caputo's Deli, 314 W 300 S, Salt Lake City

Who Went: Owen & Chelsey

Number of Visits: 3 (1 course)

What We Ordered: Introduction to Fine Chocolate Course

What It Cost: n/a

What We Thought:

Chocolate? At Caputo's Deli? Seeing as these are two of my favorite things, there was no way I could turn down an invitation from Matt Caputo and Janet Thaeler of Newspaper Girl to participate in an Introduction to Chocolate Class for Utah food bloggers! Earlier this year, I took a little visit to the Amano Chocolate factory with my sister's philosophy class, so I felt like I knew a little bit about fine chocolate before going into the evening, but I was excited to learn more! Plus - free chocolate? I'm all about that!!

The primary goal of this introductory class was to help us learn the difference between "grocery store" chocolate and fine chocolate. During the course, we were given this infographic, which outlined some of the primary differences in how they are prepared, what they taste like, and why it's so much more expensive to get the good stuff! Matt Caputo, the course instructor, has been awarded by Salt Lake Magazine as Utah's Best Food & Wine Educator, and his passion for chocolate tasting that has grown in the past few years was clearly evident as we discussed the history and nature of the chocolate industry across the globe today.

Also, how cute is the little girl in the back of that picture above? 

It was pretty crazy to hold and smell a cacao pod, and to try to envision how the chocolate bars at the grocery store could ever come from it! Who would ever think it would be a good idea to eat something from this? Cacao beans are naturally very VERY bitter, so it takes a lot of processing and modifications to get to the chocolate our taste buds are normally used to. But in order to get the real, best, most true chocolate flavor, you have to seek out the best cacao beans, the criollo variety, which are very rare and have incredible depth of flavor. Most cheaper chocolate companies just buy the most common beans, forastero, and then over-roast the beans to get rid of the bitter taste and substitute in loads of vanilla, sugar and cocoa butter to make it taste like "chocolate" again. In fact, Matt told us that in a blind taste test across the US, when people were asked to smell and distinguish between vanilla and cacao, more people thought that the vanilla was the real chocolate! "Grocery store" chocolate, as he referred to it, will smell like marshmallows, whereas fine chocolate will have a more fruity aroma.

But if you are anything like I was during that class, you're probably thinking, "Dude! Let's get to the chocolate." So seriously, let's talk about the kinds we tasted!

We started off with the Patric 75% Madagascar chocolate. When I smelled this chocolate, there definitely was no hint of marshmallow aroma. This bar was made of a mix of criollo and trinitario (mid-quality) beans, and was surprisingly fruity and acidic. The best way I can think to describe it was that it had a very bright taste, and was SO different than chocolate you get at Macey's!

Then we tasted the Pralus Indonesia chocolate. This bar was made from exactly the same mix of cacao beans, but since they were grown in Indonesia instead of Madagascar, they had a very different flavor. Rather than a fruity taste, it had a deep earthy flavor. This was definitely one of my favorite bars we tried because it was so unique.

Next up was the Domori Arriba bar. This bar contained just cacao and sugar - no vanilla, cocoa butter, or any preservatives. Amazing. It is one of the world's leading "fruit forward" chocolate companies, as Matt described, and had undertones of hazelnut and citrus fruits. One thing that really set this chocolate apart was that the chocolate particles themselves are the smallest processed size in the world, so it had a very silky, melty texture. And when you were done eating the piece of chocolate, it left your mouth with that feeling you get after eating an underripe banana - incredible! We bought one of these to take home with us!

Next we had the Dos Rios bar from Amano Chocolate company, which is found right here in Orem, Utah. Bet you didn't know that you had one of the world's leading artisan chocolate companies right in your neighborhood, did you? These guys are pretty passionate about their chocolate making, and it shows in every chocolate bar they produce. This Dos Rios bar had hints of bergamot (flavor in Earl Grey tea), clove and lavender, and was deliciously fruity. I've tried nearly every variety of Amano chocolate, and really have been fascinated by them all. You'll never get bored with the complex flavors in each bar, and they really are a unique treat. And not a bad price either! I would definitely recommend supporting this local chocolate company and their incredible chocolate-making ventures.

Finally, we ended the course with the "world's best chocolate bar," the Amedei Chuao chocolate bar. Surprisingly, this one actually wasn't my favorite, but I think it is because it had a less distinct and sharp flavor compared to the other bars. The notes in this smooth and rich bar were more subtle, and it's a chocolate made from the world's best beans that you would never get tired of.

At the end of the course, we were treated with their new "Black-Out" cake, which contained layers of chocolate cake, Dos Rios Amano chocolate, pudding, and chocolate frosting. Wow. The above picture is of a half-slice, and it was plenty rich and filling enough for both me and Owen, so definitely get this one to share! The cake was very dense and moist, and had such a unique fruity chocolate taste - this one is not for the faint of heart. So I would definitely say go for it :)

We also got a little quarter sample of their kouign amann, a heavenly caramelized pastry that was filled with an Amadei Chuao chocolate ganache. If I wasn't already super satiated by the chocolate cake, I likely would have eaten at least six of these. Kouign amann is one of the most incredible pastries I've ever partaken of, and they produce it beautifully.

What You Should Do: Take the Intro to Fine Chocolate class yourself and find out what it's all about! When I had originally visited Amano Chocolates and brought back some bars to share with Owen, he didn't really appreciate the unique flavors and thought I was crazy for being so into it. Now, he's the one pressuring me to buy tons of different fine chocolates! Though I'll still probably eat the pretzel M&Ms I have in my cupboard, it's fun to learn about the world of artisan chocolate. If you're interested in signing up for your own introductory course, you can check out their list of classes here on their website. Owen and I seriously want to try one of their fine cheese courses next! And a huge thank you to Janet Thaeler of The Newspaper Girl and the Utah Hive for organizing this event with Caputo's Deli - it was a great opportunity to meet other Utah food bloggers and partake of some truly incredible chocolate!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

El Mexsal Restaurant

Where: El Mexsal Restaurant, 325 S Freedom Blvd, Provo

Who Went: Chelsey

Number of Visits: 1

What I Ordered: Chicken Enchilada and Chile Relleno & Revueltas Pupusa

What It Cost: $8.08

What I Thought:

As strange as it may sound, this was the first real restaurant I went to for this site all by myself! Usually I coerce my husband into going with me, or try to call up a friend, but the other day when I found myself in south Provo at 1 p.m. with no concrete plans for lunch, I decided to go to this Mexican and Salvadorian restaurant I've been wanting to try for a long time. Though I of course prefer going to a restaurant with some company, I found out some interesting bonuses of eating out on your own. For example:

  • You can eat as slow or as fast as you want
  • You can double, triple, or quadruple dip in the salsa, and no one will give you weird looks
  • You don't have to share the chips and salsa
  • You can text or check your Facebook during the meal at your leisure
  • You don't have to worry about ordering the same food as someone else
  • You can have a super horribly lazy hairstyle and you don't have to be self-conscious about it
  • When you choke on your water because of that funny thing you just read on Twitter, no one will even notice! 

The one terrible thing though about eating solo is that when you find a delicious place, you have no one to share it with!

But luckily for me, I have all of you readers to share my experience with! And El Mexsal was definitely a delicious experience to share. I went with the chicken enchilada & chile relleno combo, which was cheaper since it was a lunch special. Like all ideal Mexican places, the combo plate came with rice and beans on the side, which were prepared perfectly. The rice actually had flavor and the beans were slow-cooked and smooth, just how I like them (plus with lots of cheese!). The chicken in the enchiladas was good quality, not overcooked, and spicy. I loved the chile relleno, infused with punchy spice and a tender exterior.

When they bring you your dish, it is accompanied by a huge jar of spicy relish and a large container of salsa - no complaints on skimpy salsa here. The salsa isn't too hot or too runny, and tasted great alongside the rice.

Finally, I tried out one of the pupusas - ever since Devynne and I had our first arepa (similar concept, but from other South American countries) at the Provo Farmers Market, I have been on the search for this delicious, convenient thick corn tortilla meal. Even though I was pretty stuffed from the enchilada combo meal, I thoroughly relished the few bites I was able to manage of this tasty pupusa, filled with melty and savory cheese, beans, and chicharrón (ground cooked pork meat). If El Mexsal was closer, I think I would be tempted to snap up a couple of these every day for lunch! They are cheap and filling, and so SO appetizing!

What You Should Do: Definitely check it out! I am hesitant to say this since I haven't been here with anyone else or visited multiple times, but I think El Mexsal may be my new favorite authentic Mexican restaurant here in the Provo area. They have great prices, fast service, lots of options, and a real hearty and flavorful menu. Certainly worth a visit!

Read other reviews here:
El Mexsal Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Rice King

Where: Rice King, 278 W Center Street, Provo

Who Went: Owen & Chelsey

Number of Visits: 1

What We Ordered: 2 Egg Rolls, Sesame Chicken, & Mongolian Beef

What It Cost: $18.93

What We Thought:

The other day when Owen & I were decided where to eat, we realized that we didn't have a favorite quick Chinese take-out place. How embarrassing! So I snapped up this coupon really quick and we headed down to Center Street.

Despite the lackluster restaurant interior and greasy odor in the air, the restaurant was surprisingly populated. We were comforted by this, and many people around us seem to frequent the restaurant regularly, which is typically a good sign. We placed our order and then entertained ourselves with the Chinese Year informative paper place mats.

Rice King definitely has quick service - they brought out our food less than five minutes after ordering, and we were impressed by the very large portion sizes. The egg rolls were decent - nice and crispy, normal-tasting insides, tangy dipping sauce. About what you would expect from an egg roll and a decent price.

My sesame chicken was sadly not as good as it looks - there was hardly any sauce on the chicken, which made the overall meal dry and just tasting like flavorless fried chicken. When paired with the rice served on the side, it was overwhelmingly anhydrous. What little sauce was dripped on the plate did not have a very distinctive sesame flavor, and I was just overall not that satisfied. On the upside, I was also not very hungry by the end of the meal - I only ate half the dish and was still plenty full.

Owen's Mongolian Beef was equally unimpressive. The portion once again was enormous, and the beef was surprisingly tender, but the dish was completely lacking any flavor punch. On the menu, it showed a "spicy" icon next to this option, but we couldn't detect any heat at all. Not necessarily bad, but certainly not great - at least it was cheap!

What You Should Do: If you're in a desperate mood for some cheap Chinese food, then Rice King may be the place for you, but I don't think we will go there again - the quest for the best Chinese take-out continues! They have exceptionally large portions, fairly cheap prices (especially the lunch specials), and lots of options, just not the best flavors we've ever experienced. Any recommendations for great Chinese take-out?

Read other reviews here:
Rice King Provo on Urbanspoon

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Firehouse Subs

Where: Firehouse Subs, 538 E University Parkway, Orem

Who Went: Chelsey & my friend, Chelsea (with an "a"- so different)

Number of Visits: 1

What We Ordered: Smokehouse Beef & Cheddar Brisket Sub Sample, Firehouse Meatball Sub Sample, Firehouse "Hero" Sub Sample, Lemon Cooler Cookie, and Cherry Limeade

What It Cost: n/a

What We Thought:

This past Tuesday, I had the unique opportunity to attend a charity event hosted by Firehouse Subs. Before coming here, I just thought that Firehouse Subs was a cute themed sandwich shop next to Yogurtland. I quickly learned that Firehouse Subs is so much more than that! Firehouse Subs was founded in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina with the goal of not only serving delicious hot sandwiches, but also supporting local fire departments.

The Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation has given over $3.9 million to safety services across the country since it's beginning in 2005, and on Tuesday donated 82 Bowring tools (worth more than $7,400) to the Orem Fire Department. These sturdy, yet lightweight tools perform many different functions that are useful for firefighters, and can free up those firefighters from loads of heavy equipment.

The video below from the Orem Fire Department shows some of it's many uses when it comes to saving lives - and gets a little playful towards the end :) 

I was honored to be invited to this event and to learn about the great community work done by Firehouse Subs. To get involved, you can go to one of their restaurants and elect to donate your change easily at the register, make a donation, or purchase one of their recycled five-gallon pickle buckets for $2, with all proceeds going towards the local community.

And now -- for the FOOD!

The first awesome thing of note at Firehouse Subs is their Coca-Cola Freestyle Soda Fountain. Now, I am not usually one to get soda, but this machine is incredibly awesome. It has a touch screen with a ton of different flavors and soda brands (over 120 the machine claims), and you can mix and match to your heart's desire! I opted for the cherry limeade, and added two fresh limes that they had next to the machine.

The cherry limeade was perfectly sweet, tart, and syrupy - delicious! They have a little guide next to the machine of how many limes you should add to each size of cherry limeade, but I think next time I would go for an extra!

At this "Taste of Safety" event, we were treated with a couple of different sandwich samples from their hot specialty subs menu, in addition to some of their delicious fresh-baked cookies.

They all looked so delicious - it was hard to choose! I've never seen an oatmeal raisin cookie look so appetizing, and the chocolate chip had huge chunks of tasty-looking chocolate. But I went with the one that looked like a white chocolate macadamia nut cookie.

To my surprise, it was a lemon-flavored cookie! I was later informed that it is their Lemon Cooler cookie, which has a soft and zesty lemon dough with rich white chocolate chips. Amazing. Being the lemon fanatic that I am, I devoured this cookie and had to exercise great control to stop me from eating the whole cookie display!

We tried the Firehouse "Hero" Sub, which contains premium roast beef, smoked turkey breast, Virginia honey ham, and melted provolone. An excellent mesh of meat that was savory and satisfying. Keep in mind that all of these photos are samples of a whole sub - this little bit was only one-fifth of the whole sandwich! These sandwiches are huge and filling, served hot and toasty!

Up next was the meatball sub. Of all of the sandwiches, this one was probably my least favorite, but I think it is just because I'm not the hugest fan of meatballs. Like the others, it was served perfectly warm and crunchy, and the amount of substance within the sandwich was just right - full enough to feel like it's worth it, but not too much that you make a huge mess everywhere!

Finally, the beef brisket and cheddar sandwich. This sub was hands-down our absolute favorite. The soft and tender beef was so flavorful - the perfect hint of smokiness and saltiness. There was a heavenly mix of sauces and cheddar cheese melted onto the indulgent beef, all snug between two pieces of crackly white French bread. So unhealthy, but so SO SO good!

What You Should Do: A great cause and great sandwiches? Count me in! Skip the line and boringness of Subway, and grab yourself a similarly-priced but infinitely fresher and tastier sub here at Firehouse Subs. I would definitely recommend Firehouse Subs - even though I'm not a huge sandwich lover, they proved to have delicious combinations, great prices, and support the local community.
Certainly worth the trip.

Read other reviews here:
Firehouse Subs (Orem) on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Delipan Bakery

Where: Delipan Bakery, 355 S Freedom Blvd, Provo

Who Went: Chelsey

Number of Visits: 1

What I Ordered: Concha with sprinkles, Cono, Napoleones, Dulce de Leche Empañada, Galleta

What It Cost: $4.33

What I Thought: 

What is the deal with French bakeries always getting all the press? Guilty as everyone else, I decided to branch out and try this highly rated Mexican bakery as a little treat for myself after getting my immunizations updated. Everyone deserves pastries after getting shots, in my opinion.

The first thing of note about this bakery is HOW CHEAP IT IS! Compared to Les Madeleines or Eliane's, this place is a miracle. They have tons of selection, and practically everything is under $2. I decided to get a whole range of items because they were pretty much the same price as just getting one pastry anywhere else I've been.

The Napoleon was Owen's favorite of the bunch - thick chocolate frosting on top, layers of pastry, dulce de leche, and cream inside, with a nutty exterior. The one thing to watch out for with this bakery was that for us, it was really hit-and-miss. Some pastries we really enjoyed, like the Napoleon, and others were pretty unappetizing. So if you get one you don't like right away, don't fear - there are some good ones out there too!

This cono was my personal favorite - it probably would have been Owen's favorite too except I managed to eat it all before getting home to share with him! It was a buttery pastry cone filled with creamy custard - yum! It was like eating a giant and more solid cream puff...delicious.

I knew before even buying it that this cookie was probably going to be no good, but I couldn't resist the bright pink color and Mickey Mouse sprinkles - I love Disney! I was right, the cookie itself was very hard and basically tasted like food coloring, but it still put a smile on my face :) I wouldn't recommend buying it, unless you are getting it as a gift or something for a little (or big...) child who happens to love Disney as much as I do.

This was the Dulce de Leche empañada - the pastry once again was very buttery and I really enjoyed the dulce de leche filling. It got pretty stale by the second day, so I would recommend eating it quickly after purchasing!

This concha with sprinkles was basically like an oversized and kind of stale doughnut - I wouldn't recommend it. But once again, the colorful sprinkles persuaded me to get it!

What You Should Do: If you're in the mood for a sweet and buttery pastry but don't want to break the bank, give them a try! Try to go for things that look like the needed to be made fresh and recently - i.e. cream or fruit filled, and you'll probably be more likely to get something great. And if not, hey, you only spent 75 cents, so it's worth the gamble if you ask me!

Read other reviews here: 
Delipan Bakery on Urbanspoon


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