After queuing for a while, we drove through the single highway lane Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel and emerged in Whittier, Alaska. It was lunch time and hunger was starting to overtake us so made a pit stop at Swiftwater Seafood Cafe. It is a tiny place but the fish and chips was delicious and they had cold Alaskan Brewing Company beers ready and waiting. It was a gorgeous day and we enjoyed our lunch on the patio, watching a couple of cruise ships leave the small port before petting a reindeer and waiting in the queue for the next crossing through the tunnel.
I stumbled on Joe Tea one evening in New York City while shopping for dinner. I am an iced tea fan and Joe has a lemon flavor so I bought a bottle and took it back to the hotel to enjoy with my meal. The lemon flavor was subtle but noticeable and it lacked that lemonade sweetness that a lot of other bottled teas have when they claim lemon flavoring.
My usual bottled iced tea of choice is Sweet Leaf but after trying Joe, I am a convert. Now if they’d only ship to Texas so I could get it while at home!
The past two weeks have been Houston Restaurant Week and Jessica and I have gone out with friends to a couple of different places. Last night was the most interesting of all, we visited Feast, a nose-to-tail restaurant done in a classic European style. For those uninitiated in the nose-to-tail movement, it is a practice of using as much of the animal as possible for dishes, rather than using the most desirable cuts and throwing the rest out.
We were uninitiated last night but went in with an open mind and a hungry stomach. We were not disappointed.
My first course was black pudding, also known as blood pudding, with a fried egg, peas, and mint. The texture I was expecting was pudding like, but instead I was met with very tender meat. Mixed with the peas and fried egg, the flavors definitely jumped up a notch. Jessica had a chickpea and feta soup, which had somewhat of a funny flavor and was a little heavy on the tongue. It was not bad, just something that we were unaccustomed to eating.
For the main course I ordered the crispy braised pork belly while Jess had the fish and scallop pie with brussels sprouts. I have ventured into the world of pork belly before and had an expectation of an all around tender meat, but I should have paid more attention to the “crispy” in the name. The fatty part of the belly had been fried to a crisp while the interior of the meat was tender, juicy, and downright delicious. The sides were mashed potatoes and cabbage and both were the perfect compliment to the pork. The potatoes had been topped with a crispy potato cake reminiscent in flavor of tater tots. Jessica really enjoyed her pie and loved the brussels sprouts, a food she has never really tried until now.
Finally came dessert, with Jessica ordering spotted dick, a type of pudding and custard and me having the sticky toffee pudding. Jessica’s dish was amazing, the texture was light and airy and the custard gave it just enough sweetness. My sticky toffee pudding was very heavy but delicious.
For our first time trying nose-to-tail it was not a bad experience. I am still a little leery of some of the dishes but I’m sure with time I will give in and try them. If you have a chance to try Feast, be sure and give it a shot. Even if it is not your favorite place, it’s a different take on food.
With the economy heading nose first for the pavement there has been an increase in stories about people feeding their families on the cheap. One story last week discussed a family of five living on $100 worth of groceries a month. The family bought a lot of canned goods, frozen vegetables, and stocked up on meats when they were cheap. On the surface there is nothing wrong with this, but when health and sustenance are taken into account, the family’s plan does not sound so great.
A Google search for multiple terms did not bring up the exact story but something that did pop up was an eHow article titled “How to Spend $100 on Groceries and Eat Well For a Month“. It is basically a shopping list for an entire month and though it contains dried fruit, a majority of the items are heavily processed and/or salt heavy. By no means am I a doctor but the list looks like a terrible diet, there is barely any fiber, there is a ton of starch, and most of the starches are bleached white flower.
The family on television had a similar list and apparently shopping for so little money is becoming a trend. This leads me to my question, is sacrificing diet for cheap food a good idea? Are there not better things to knock-off of one’s budget to allow for more spending on food, a vital piece of life? I am not suggesting that everyone should be shopping at Whole Foods or upscale stores, I just think that what we feed our bodies should be more healthy than a loaf of white bread everyday.
The way that Jessica and I budget is that we figure around $80-$100 per week for food. We usually sit down one night and go through cookbooks and make a menu for the next week, the whole process takes 30-minutes. Jess writes down all of the ingredients and then compares that to what we have in the pantry and the fridge and marks things off that we already have. We then go to the grocery store together and buy as much as we can for as little as we can. Lately we have been looking at shopping at an extra store to get things that we know will be cheaper at one place, especially with meat products.
One glaring observation I have made from shopping with Jessica is that vegetables are cheap, as long as they are in season. The amount of green leafy vegetables that can be had at a low price is amazing and it does not end with them, there are tons of options ranging from avocados to leeks. Fruit is a little trickier but grapes and apples are usually available year-round and at a decent price.
The trick with all of this is to actually eat the food that is bought. Dinner is made every night and the leftovers are taken to work the next day by both of us. Some dinners last two or more lunches (soups and sandwiches). Doing the math, I figured that our daily cost for eating a meal is around $2 each. Now I am sure the families that eat on $100/month are down in the pennies per meal, but does that really matter when the meals are not necessarily healthy?
What do you think? How much do you spend a month on groceries?
We live down the street from a very large farmers’ market and there is a fruit stand nearby that sells mangoes. Outside of this mango stand is a large, white sign that gives the current price for half-a-dozen mangoes. Last month the price was $4 for six mangoes, over the past few weeks the price has risen to $5, and as of yesterday, the price is now $6 for six mangoes. Jessica and I have this a mass media name of, “Mango Inflation 2008”, but we could have gone with something more along the lines of “The Great Mango Inflation of 2008”, which is a little more classic and a throwback to the 1960′s and 70′s.