Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Buon Giorno Italia - Planning an Italy vacation

Yes I had a fantastic vacation in Italy with my Hubby-D in early November 2010. I guess you could call it our 2nd honeymoon :). During our wedding in Malaysia i 2007, we had so much to do and so little time we only took a short getaway to Phuket, Thailand. So, we always knew that we would do a "real honeymoon" either in Italy or Paris. My vote on Italy won this time as I have been to Paris before.

I am proud to say, I planned this whole vacation to the dot. And it was a perfect vacation. I started on a totally blank page with absolutely no idea where Italy was and what there was to see and do in Italy.

Then I narrowed it down to the basics for a first timer in Italy. Rome, Florence and Venice. A little ambitious for a 8 days vacation but hey, that's how the research started. Initially I did want to take the easy way out, just booked a tour with a travel agency and let them do all the work. We just need to follow and everything will be settled.

However, after speaking to them and looking into their various itineraries, a tour of Rome, Florence and Venice became a lot clearer to me. I first listed down the "must see" tourist spots. Then I started to form the dots. Places to go, nearby areas, where to stay, I began to have a clearer picture of what I needed to do. Thus I considered the idea of going on our own versus with a tour group. Infact it became a lot more exciting especially when I found better locations for hotels, and could figure out how to connect all the dots to the places we would like to go.

Yes, we can do it on our own and take our time to do and go where we want.

Planes tickets - booked, hotels - booked, train tickets - booked and also reservations to some museums - booked. We are set!!

Seriously I could not have done it without this person. Mr. Rick Steves. If you don't know him, you must get to know him inside out especially when you are planning a Europe vacation. Rick Steves is America's leading authority on European travel. He provided the backbone to our trip. Where to stay, what and where to eat, what to see, how to go and best audio guides to some of the museums. He really made our trip, literally!

Next, is another fantastic resource. I used it a lot to research hotels and it provided excellent recommendations. Also, the people on the forum are simply wonderful, if you have a query, there are so many people who willingly respond to help.

The good news is that Hubby-D bought us our first official DSLR camera. Woohoo!! Sony A330. It is not the super top of the line but a DSLR with 2 lenses for below US500.00, I am a happy camper. Looking forward to better photography especially on my food photos.

From the hundreds, ok more like thousands of photos taken on our Italy trip, it is an uphill task to showcase them all. I decided to make a video of photographs and once I started, I decided I should add captions so I can remember the details of each photo. I have 4 videos - 2 on Rome, 1 each for Florence and Venice. Unfortunately, it is about 8 minutes long each but if you have the time, do view it and let me take you down Italia lane.

Let's start with Rome and I will post Florence and Venice on my next postings. Buon Giorno!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Sang Har Mein (Fresh Water Prawns Noodles)

I can't believe that I have not blogged for more than 2 months. How time flies? What happened?

Well, sometimes a distraction comes along and I find myself...."distracted". Poor excuse but that's my weakness. A change of routine and I get distracted easily. In this case was a fantastic vacation in Italy. Don't misunderstand, I was not in Italy for 2 months. 10 days to be exact but I guess I needed a month to get ready and a month to recover. :)

In 2 months of not blogging, the quality of my cooking has also deteriorated. I find myself just cooking the same dishes with same ingredients. No passion to search for new recipes or trying new dishes. I myself was kinda getting sick of my own boring dishes.

So, I am back to the food blogging world and letting photos of food, recipes from others inspire me again. I decided to make this delicious noodles Sang Har Mein (Fresh Water Prawns Noodles). Since I only order this dish when I eat out in Malaysia, I had a fixed impression that it is a difficult dish to make at home. Before I came to Dallas, a friend gave me the simple ingredients on how to cook this dish. It sounded easy enough so I thought I would really try it out this time. True to her words, it was really simple to make and can be ready in less than 15 minutes.

Simple Ingredients :
2-4 large freshwater prawns, clean and deveined - sliced in half horizontally
2 pcs of dried/fried wantan noodles
2 stalks spring onions, cut into 1 inch lengths
2-3 tbsp oil
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp chopped garlic and 1 tbsp shallots
10-12 slices of young ginger
1 tbsp Shao Hsing Hua Tiau cooking wine
3 cups water or stock

Optional - 1 cup of chopped cabbage

Seasoning (sauce):
2 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp chicken granules (not required if using chicken stock)
A pinch of salt, sugar and pepper for taste

3 cups water or chicken stock

Thickening (combine):
1½ tbsp corn flour
2 tsp water

1 egg, beaten lightly

Simple steps :

1. If you get to buy the ready fried wantan noodles then skip the step below. If you have fresh wantan noodles, please follow these steps. Loosen the wantan noodles and place on a steaming tray. Steam noodles over boiling water for 2 minutes. Remove and let it cool. Loosen the noodles and deep-fry in batches in hot oil for 30 seconds until crispy and golden. Remove and put aside in a 2 separate serving plates.

2. Cut the freshwater prawns into halves. Sprinkle lightly with a little salt and pepper. Heat some 2-3 tbsp oil on pan. Place the prawns shell down onto the pan of oil and let it fry for 2 minutes. You can turn the prawn and let it cook the flesh side. Remove immediately once the prawns are cooked. Place the prawns on top of the noodles.

3. In the same oil, put in the chopped garlic and shallots. Fry till fragrant and add the ginger and continue to stir fry. By now your kitchen will be filled with the aromatic smell of garlic and ginger. Add the cooking wine and sesame oil. Then add the seasoning sauce. Then add water and let it come to a boil. Add the cabbage as desired.

4. Once the broth is boiling, lower the heat and add the cornstarch mix to thicken the sauce. Let it thicken for 1 minute and then turn off the heat. Pour the egg into broth and stir well. Add in the chopped scallions.

5. Pour the sauce over the noodles and serve immediately.

This portion above is enough enough to serve 2 persons. Yummy. Dig in!! :)

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Dinner in a Sandwich - Apple Sauce Pork Chop Sandwich

How I eat my bread? My usual is simply peanut butter and strawberry jam. And when I want to indulge it is with condensed milk on toasted bread. Ohhh..Yums! Hubby-D won't even try my condensed milk toast therefore for him, I would make ham and cheese sandwich. Occasionally, bacon to indulge. But that's my usual sandwich fare - very simple and easy.

So when I was given the Nature's Pride bread challenge for a chance to go to the Foodbuzz Blogger Festival, I kinda knew a peanut butter jelly sandwich or a ham and cheese sandwich would not really make the cut. However, I still wanted to make it really simple but yet elaborate enough for it to be remembered.

I bought the Nature's Pride 100% Whole Wheat bread and I was immediately struck by the wholesome delicious smell of bread. I decided to replicate a wholesome dinner I prepared for Hubby-D a few days ago which is pork chops with apple sauce reduction. Hubby-D liked it very much and for me it was simple to make and delicious in taste.

Thus my creation for the Nature's Pride challenge is a dinner in a sandwich.

Apple Sauce Pork Chop Sandwich.

Simple Ingredients :
1. Boneless pork chop - give a good beating to the pork to tenderize it.
2. Apples - sliced. I use red apples as they are sweeter
3. Some fresh lettuce and cherry tomaties
4. White wine or red wine - I used a apple white wine I had in my fridge
5. Salt & Pepper to taste

Simple Steps :

1. Season the pork chops with salt and pepper and some olive oil.

2. Heat the pan with some olive oil. Wait till the pan is really hot. Put in the pork chops. Leave it for abt 3-4 minutes on each side till cooked.

3. Remove the pork chops and put aside. In the same pan infused with the pork oil, put in the apples slices. Add in the white wine. Let the apple simmer in the white wine sauce for 5 - 10 minutes. Remember to turn the apple slices to make sure it gets a little golden brown. Add a bit of salt and pepper to taste.

- I wanted still a soft crunch on the apples so I did not simmer it for too long.

4. Assembly - Put the fresh lettuce on a piece of Nature's Pride 100% Whole Wheat bread. Then the piece of pork chop. Then add on the slices of apples and the sauce. Top it off with some sliced cherry tomatoes.

Trust me, this is delicious. It is so simple to make this hearty wholesome meal. The soft crunchy apple goes so well with the pork chop and everything comes together beautifully. All done in 15 minutes. Hope you all like it!!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Malaysian Curry Laksa in a pack

There are so many variations of Laksa in Malaysia. There is Assam laksa, Johor Laksa, Sarawak laksa, Curry laksa etc. Every state or every hawker stalls probably has a different twist to this Spicy Noodle Soup delicacy in Malaysia.

Curry laksa (in many places referred to simply as “laksa”) is a coconut-based creamy curry soup filled with many condiments and added with yellow noodles or vermicelli.

For me, I love Curry Laksa. It must be the one that is infused with curry flavours. It is almost like creamy curry chicken broth but diluted as soup base. And then topped with curry chicken or steamed chicken breast, hard boiled eggs and dried tofu. Oh yeah, the dried tofu is just decorative piece for me ( I don't like tofu!!) cos I know you must have dried tofu in curry laksa. The tofu will usually be passed on to my dearest family and friends who is seated beside me and they will gladly take it before giving me that "you are so missing out" look.

I am a simple eater, easily satisfied with my noodles in curry broth with chicken and egg. If the curry laksa broth is good, I can literally to slurp down every drop of it.

I made sure I brought my stocks of instant curry laksa packets from Malaysia. I think this brand Tean's Gorumet is still the best and probably closest to a good laksa but definitely nothing near authentic cooked laksa. Beggars can't be choosers. For instant quick fix, an instant pack is a saviour! Time to dress up my Curry Laksa!

Simple Ingredients :
1. 1 packet of Tean's Gourmet Malaysian Traditional Curry Laksa
2. 1 pound of chicken breast
3. 12-16 pcs of dried tofu (Tauhu Pok)
4. 12 strands of long beans
5. 4 hard boiled eggs
7. 1 can of 150ml coconut milk
8. 60gm of Bean sprouts
9. 600gm of yellow noodles or vermicelli.
10. Cockles (Optional - for those who like cockles, please do add. I don't take cockles)

Simple Steps :
1. Firstly, boil your eggs in hot boiling water for 5 - 7 minutes and turn off the gas and let the eggs sit for at least 10 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, start another pot of 1500ml of boiling water. If you are not too particular about the texture of the chicken, I usually will put in the whole chicken breast in the hot water and boil for 10 minutes till cooked. I will then remove from water and let it sit for 10 minutes before I slice to thin pieces. 2 reason why I do this - 1) It is faster (though the chicken may end up tough if boiled for too long) 2) I use the water that boiled the chicken as broth for my laksa soup. If you want to control the tenderness of the chicken meat, slowly poached it and don't let the hot water be boiling it.

3. Next, Mix 1 packet of Tean's Gourmet Curry Laksa Paste in boiling chicken broth water.

4. Add in 150ml thick coconut milk. Bring to a quick boil and switch to low fire. Add in the fried tofu.

5. Blanch 600g fresh yellow noodles or vermicelli and 60g bean sprouts in another pot of water.

6. Divide into 4 bowls. Place noodles and bean sprouts and green beans in the bowl,then add the sliced chicken breast and hard boiled eggs on top. Pour the hot steaming curry laksa into bowl with the fried tofu.

7. If you like spice, you can add more chilli sambal and also lime juice for the slight kick.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Happy Mid Autumn Festival Celebration!

Growing up, I have never been much of a person into celebrating the different festivals. Raised in a multi-racial society in Malaysia, there is more than fair share of festivals let alone the Chinese festivals that my family celebrate. In these occasions, I would do the necessary like come home early for family dinners, and eat whatever get served which are usually loads of goodies.

Now that I am here in USA, I kinda miss all these festivals that I have taken for granted since it was always there. This week is the Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as the Moon Cake Festival or Zhongqiu Festival (traditional Chinese: 中秋節)

The Mid-Autumn Festival is held on the 15th day of the eighth month in the Chinese calendar, which is in September or early October. Traditionally on this day, Chinese family members and friends will gather to admire the bright mid-autumn harvest moon, and eat moon cakes and pomelos under the moon together.

In Malaysia, we will also carry brightly lit lanterns around the neighbourhood which I think is primarily targetted to keep kids entertained.

This year, my first celebration in USA, I am glad to have our friend Mr and Mrs Ming who gave us a box of mooncake - lotus paste with double egg yolks!! It is made in USA but it taste pretty much the same with the ones back home. Hooray!!

Yesterday night, I cooked a nice Chinese dinner (translates to "a little bit more elaborate" than usual fare) for hubby and myself just so to indicate I am doing my part to celebrate the event.

And then we enjoyed the mooncake with a cup of Chinese tea. It does bring back memories of home far-away.

Have a great celebration to those who are celebrating!!

I did a search for details of the origins of this festival and this one from wikipedia is the closest story to what I grew up knowing.

Overthrow of Mongol rule
According to a widespread folk tale (not necessarily supported by historical records), the Mid-Autumn Festival commemorates an uprising in China against the Mongol rulers of the Yuan Dynasty (1280–1368) in the 14th century. As group gatherings were banned, it was impossible to make plans for a rebellion. Noting that the Mongols did not eat mooncakes, Liu Bowen (劉伯溫) of Zhejiang Province, advisor to the Chinese rebel leader Zhu Yuanzhang, came up with the idea of timing the rebellion to coincide with the Mid-Autumn Festival. He sought permission to distribute thousands of moon cakes to the Chinese residents in the city to bless the longevity of the Mongol emperor. Inside each cake, however, was inserted a piece of paper with the message: "Kill the Mongols on the 15th day of the 8th month" (traditional Chinese: 八月十五殺韃子; simplified Chinese: 八月十五杀鞑子). On the night of the Moon Festival, the rebels successfully attacked and overthrew the government. What followed was the establishment of the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644), under Zhu. Henceforth, the Mid-Autumn Festival was celebrated with moon cakes on a national level.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Chilled Tofu with Fried Shallots

I have a confession. I don't like Tofu. Never liked them since young and still try to avoid them now if not for the occasional I take a few bites cos I am eating with others reason.

I know it weird that a Chinese girl don't like tofu. Tofu is like staple for all Chinese, Japanese and Koreans. For me, I think I don't like it due to the strong soy bean taste which is probably what others like it for. I guess it is that reason as I am ok with egg tofu which is made with egg and thus do not have the soy taste.

My Hubby-D loves tofu so occasionally I still make sure I buy tofu and make crank up some tofu dishes. Luckily, he is easy to please. Since he like tofu so much, he says don't do too much too it, it taste great simple. Tofu with fried shallots is a really simple recipe and I do agree with him that it taste pretty good. For me, I take more of fried shallots and less of the tofu and yeah it's yummy. Best of all it is so simple to make.

Simple Ingredients:
1. 1 pack of soft tofu (Square packet easily available at all Chinese grocery stores)
2. 2 TBSP of oyster sauce
3. 3-5 pieces of shallots - sliced thinly
4. Oil for frying

Simple Steps :
1. Remove tofu from pack gently. Since it is soft tofu, the texture is very delicate. Drain away the water that is inside the container. If you like, which I do, I will run some tap water into container to rinse the tofu before taking in out.

2. In a pan with oil, fry the shallots till golden brown. Make sure you remove the shallots just as it is turning golden brown. If you don't it can easily get burnt and turn dark brown.

3. Place the tofu in your serving plate. Place 2 TBSP of oyster sauce on top of tofu and then the fried shallots. for even better taste, drizzle some of the shallot's oil on it. Ready to be served.

This dish is served cold. Do not require to heat up. However, if you like it hot, you can microwave it for 1 minute. Do bear in mind, when you do, the water retained in tofu will ooze out creating a little broth. This is a really simple and nutritional dish and for this Chinese girl that don't like tofu, I do take a few bites for the yummy shallots and delicious oyster sauce and the bits of tofu that sticks to the spoon.

UPDATE : I initially named this dish Cold Tofu but when my Hubby-D saw my posting, he corrected me and said it should be Chilled Tofu. Ok Hubby-D!! You are the tofu-man! :)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Dessert : Sesame Rice Ball

Sometimes, I get amazed by what I set out to do. Seriously I never thought I would make ever make this but I did and it worked. :)

I made this a few months back while I was still in Malaysia. I can still hear my mom sighing and mumbling to herself about the fact that I was going to mess up the kitchen again. You see, my mom is not adventurous in the kitchen, She likes everything simple and routine so whenever I go on my "experimental ventures", she will definitely say "Mah Fun (Cantonese)" or simply "Troublesome". And this has multiple meanings a.k.a... "You are troublesome", "Cooking this dish is troublesome", "Messing up the kitchen is troublesome"... etc.

However, when I make up my mind, I am unstoppable, I will find the recipe, check out more recipes to determine what is the right mix for what I want to make. But the real inspiration to make this dessert is really because I am a big pack of sesame seeds left and I needed a recipe to use them.

Hence this yummy Chinese recipe of Sesame Rice Ball, often served as dessert after a 10-course Chinese dinner. If you have not eaten this before, I encourage you to try it as it is really delicious.

Simple ingredients :

1. 2 cups of Glutinous Rice Flour (available in most Asian grocery stores)
2. 1 cup of red bean paste (may not need all)
3. 1/2 cup of brown sugar
4. 1 cup of boiling hot water
5. 1/2 cup of white sesame seeds
6. Oil for frying

Simple Steps :

1. First, dissolve the brown sugar in 1 cup of the boiling water.

2. Place the rice flour in a large bowl. Make a "well" in the middle of the bowl and add the dissolved sugar and water mixture. Stir until you have a sticky, caramel-colored dough. If the dough is too dry, add a bit more of boiling water.

3. Pinch off a piece of dough and roll it into a round shape (roughly the size of a ping-pong ball).

4. Make a deep indentation in the middle of dough. Place 1 tsp of red bean paste on the dough. Tip - you can roll up the red bean paste into round shape balls (much smaller than ping-pong size).
Pinch the sides of dough to seal up the red bean paste in the middle of dough. It is important to make sure the red bean paste is completely covered. Continue with the remainder of the dough.

5. Dip a ball into the small bowl of water (this will help the sesame seeds stick to the ball). Roll the ball over the sesame seeds. Repeat the process with the remainder of the balls.

6. Heat up wok of oil, deep-fry the sesame seed balls, a few at a time.

7. Once the sesame seeds turn light brown (about 2 minutes), use the back of a spatula or a large ladle to gently press the balls against the side of the wok or saucepan. You can also use long wooden chopsticks to apply pressure on each of the balls. This is help the balls expand and fluff up to 2-3 times its original size.

8. Drain the deep-fried sesame seed balls on paper towels. Serve immediately while it is slightly warm.

When you bite into these rice balls, you will find a crunchy texture on the outside enveloped by a fluffy and slightly chewy dough and then a smooth and sweet filling of red bean paste. Simply delicious!!

As for mom, she was rather delighted by the success of how the sesame rice balls turned out but she still mumbled under her breath.....Too "mah fun" (troublesome) to make these BUT I know she meant it as "Delicious"!! :)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Marmite Chicken

Who grew up eating Marmite? Who is still eating Marmite even though you are all grown up? Raise your hands! Me!! :)

I remember when I was young, there was almost like a competition between Marmite and Bovril in my house. I only ate Marmite and my brother was the Bovril fan and my parents would only buy either one at any one point of time.

I kept faithful to my Marmite all these years and recently I found out that my brother has converted to be more of a Marmite fan than me. He denies that he was ever liked Bovril when he was young but I know better :)

For those who has not been introduced to Marmite, it is essentially a food spread made from yeast extract, apparently a by-product of beer brewing according to wikipedia. It is a sticky, dark brown paste with a distinctive, powerful flavour, which is extremely salty and savoury comparable to soy sauce. Yums! You either love it or hate it!!

I like Marmite as it is a vegetable extract vs Bovril has beef extracts thus I never caught on to Bovril. Marmite is usually eaten as a savoury spread on bread, toast, crackers and biscuits. But I only eat Bovril 3 ways 1)On rice or porridge, 2)Dilute in water as soup and 3)Just lick it off the spoon.

Alrite, I am a big girl now so I need to find more ways to use my favourite "little girl's" spread. Hence, my recipe for the day - Marmite Chicken.

Simple Ingredients
1. 3/4 pound of chicken breast or thigh - cut in big cube sizes

Marinade -
1 TBSP Oyster sauce
1 tsp light soy sauce
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 egg
3 TBSP cornflour

Sauce -
2 TBSP of Marmite
1 TBSP honey
1 TBSP light soy sauce
100ml water
1 TBSP maltose (optional - you can add this for richer dark colour)

Oil for deep frying

Simple Steps :

1. Marinade the chicken for minimum 1 hour.

2. Heat oil for deep frying. Put in chicken one by one and make sure they don't stick to each other. Once deep brown, remove and drain oil.

3. Heat saucepan. Add all the sauce ingredients into pan. Make sure it is mixed well. In medium heat, let the sauce thicken. Add in the fried chicken and coat well for 1 minute. Add in some chopped scallion if desired. Dish out and serve.

Simple right? I hope you like the recipe. Marmite really adds a tangy, salty, sweet and savoury taste to the chicken. Every bite is juicy and yummy. Enjoy!

Monday, August 30, 2010

A Hearty Meal in a Goodie Bag - Carrabba's Italian Grill

From my previous post, you will know that I had a fantastic time at my 1st food blogger's event at Carrabba's Italian Grill. It was a afternoon well spent with new foodie friends served with superb food and amazing hospitality from all the staff at Carrabba's. Do check out my previous post on the enjoyable time I spent there.

I am not saying this because Carrabba's fed me well, but I sincerely think that this is a restaurant worth checking out if you want some good, fresh Italian food.

After feeding us a ton of food, we were given each a goodie bag filled with food for us to create the Carrabba's experience at home. Needless to say, I was extremely excited to peek at what's inside when I got home.

Oh my! Oh my! It was totally impressive. Firstly there was a thank you card written personally by Carrabba's proprieter Josh Goldschmidt whom we met and so graciously served us for lunch. I think these little details make me feel very at home with Carrabba's. Inside the goodie bag there was a packed full meal with appetizers - bread and salad, entrée - pasta and even a little dessert. Looks like dinner is set!

With such an impressive spread, I decided to re-create a homely Italian dinner and enjoy the food delights with Hubby-D.

First let's start with Carrabba's Bread. It was delicious, hard crust on the outside but soft bread in the inside. All I had to do was warm it 5 mins in the oven. Carrabba's even provided the bread dip - Carrabba's own Olive oil and a mix of Carrabba's special herb mix. The herb mix was yummylicious and I think I would have to ask for the recipe the next time I visit them.

Next on the menu - Fresh salad with croutons and mediterrean dressing on the side. I decided to pick out the croutons and bake for 5 mins too so that it has a nice crunch and it did!! Can you see how fresh the salad is even after 6 hours!!

And then came the entrée - Penne Franco which is the dish made during the cooking demo in Carrabba's. It is penne pasta mixed with pesto, fresh mushrooms, sundried tomatoes, artichoke hearts and black olives with ricotta cheese, topped with absolutely delicious grilled chicken. Oh my!! Delicious!!

By the way, this is only half serving of the entree. Hubby-D and I are still full from lunch and thus we shared an entree.

And if that was not enough, they even packed a little dessert for us. So sweet! I am not sure what it is but it was a chocolate delight filled with chocolate cake, Chocolate mousse and walnuts. Super yummy!

Carrabba's have a Large Party Carry Out Menu perfect for family dinners, office gatherings or any special occasions. Check them out at their resturants and visit their website for more info.

All in all, Hubby-D and I were totally impressed with Carrabba's food and hospitality. We had a lovely Italian food experience both at their restaurant and at home.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

My 1st Food Bloggers Event @ Carabba's Italian Grill

When I got invited to The Tastemaker Event - Carrabba's Italian Grill, I was ecstatic! My first food blogger's event!! This validates that I am indeed a food blogger and now I am enjoying the perks of being one. :) Woohoo!! LOL!

Hubby-D and I were really looking forward to see what the whole event entails but more so meeting new friends who share the same passion for food. The event turned out fantastic, the food was great and the people we met were all fun, engaging and talented. It was a great way to spend our Saturday afternoon.

We were greeted warmly by Josh Goldschmidt (the proprietor of this venue) when we arrived and immediately introduced ourselves to the other food bloggers who were there while we waited for more to arrive. First stop, a cooking demo by one of their chefs in the open kitchen. He showed us how they make their pesto & one of their signature pasta dishes Penne Franco . It was nice to know that Carrabba's made everything from scratch and serve fresh even their pasta. They have strict standard whereby pasta only had a shelf life of 2 hours and it will be discarded if not served.

Penne Franco was a dish made with their signature pesto, fresh mushrooms, sundried tomatoes, artichoke hearts and black olives with ricotta cheese. The dish looked absolutely delicious and I think some of us were ready to dig in. But Josh told us that we are going to be able to try this at home as they will be preparing goodie bags for us to take home. Goodie Bags??? We have not even started eating yet! This is turning out to be a great day :)

We were then seated to the table with our fellow bloggers and the conversations flowed. It was great to get to know each other and naturally the conversations revolved around food and more.

It was really a nice touch from Carrabba's to have our names printed indivually on the menus. I was extremely pleased and reminded myself that I have to bring it back as a momento.

The staff were extremely friendly and ready to serve and take our orders. And then the food came.

To start our meal, there were nice warm breads on the table served with bowls of extra virgin olive oil with an house special herb mix.

For Appetizers, we were served Bruschetta Con Pesto - Grilled bread topped with fresh pesto, diced Roma tomatoes, ricotta salata cheese and basil. The crispy bread with pesto was a little warm and it was the perfect blend with the fresh vegetables on top. Yummy!!

Next we offered choices of soups and salads selection. Hubby-D choose Minestrone Soup and I choose Caesar Salad so we get to sample each other's food. The Salad was extremely fresh and there was a great texture to the soup. It was indeed a hearty meal. Do I even have space for entrée ?

For entrée I selected Tag Pic Pac with Shrimp - Fresh anglehair pasta tossed with crushed tomatoes, garlic, basil and extra virgin olive oil, toppped with grilled shrimp. I must say the shrimp was so fresh and juicy and perfectly grilled. Hubby-D had the Pasta Carrabba which is Fettuccine Alfredo tossed with sauteed mushrooms, peas and grilled chicken. I must say it was really well done too as I found myself leaning over and taking more and more bites.

Hmmm, I didn't mention drinks did I? I nicely saved it for last but not the least mention. Initially we choose red wine and when the drinks came, some of my other fellow bloggers were gushing about how delicious the BlackBerry Sangria they ordered. Note to self - "Quickly finish my red wine and order the Sangria." Around the table, everyone commented how it was the best sangria they tasted. Alrite, midway through the meal, I could not wait any longer, I ordered the Sangria and it was fantastic. This is a must order if you ever visit Carrabba's. Absolutely delicious. Infact, I forgot to take a photo. So a near empty glass is all I have.

Needless to say, we could not finish our entrée as it was just too much food. The servers immediately packed it for us to bring home.

We had a wonderful time at the Carrabba's Food Blogger event. Besides the great food, the new friends we met were great. Best of all, Josh and his staff made us feel really welcomed, and I would recommend you to visit Carrabba's in your next Italian food outing.

Thank you Josh! We all had a great time!

Carraba's Italian Grill
3400 N. Central Expy, Plano, TX 75074
Phone 972-516-9900

And that's not all, before we left, each of us were given a big goodie bag filled with food for us to create a great Italian meal at home. It was fantastic and I will be sharing with you exactly what was in the goodie bag in my next post.

Till then, say hello to my new foodie friends :

The Manly Housewife

Just Food Snobs

Dinner and Conversation

Cookie Loves Eating

Sweet N Spicy Comforts
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