Tag Archives: family friendly

A Lao Chef’s Table

Hi, foodies…

I want to make sure you get our recaps of our Chef’s Table when they happen…and …um…I might be a bit behind. But here’s a look at our event from May 6, with Lao Restaurant + Bar. It was an amazing evening of courses shared family style, as is the Lao tradition.  This story ran in YES! Weekly!  but of course I’m gonna lay it all out for you here too.

Fresh off YES! Weekly’s Triad’s Best, Lao Restaurant + Bar is basking in the glory of being named Best Restaurant in Guilford County. The Laotian restaurant opened with much anticipation and excitement last summer and they’ve feeling the love. What’s interesting is that for YEARS I’ve been saying a restaurant like Lao would kill it in Winston-Salem. Well, Greensboro beat WS to the punch and the city still remains the place to be for great Asian cuisine. 

Fifty guests of a recent sold out Chef’s Table at Lao prove that even further.  Here’s a little of how it went down (paraphrasing):

Me: I’d love to feature you at a Chef’s Table in the future.

Vonne: But I’m not a chef.

Me: It matters, not. This is about you, your restaurant and your delicious food.

Vonne: Let’s do it on Monday, May 6.

Me: Great!  (creates event, tickets go live, tickets sell quickly–all the while thinking “huh…they’re closed on Monday so that’s cool that she’s doing something special”)

Vonne the next morning (less than 12 hours later): Uh oh, I messed up. We’re closed on Mondays. Ooops. But maybe we can still do it, depending on ticket sales.

Me: Well, it’s sold out at 25 tickets so…now what?

Vonne: Add 25 more tickets!

And in the end the Lao Chef’s Table, with the additional 25 tickets, was sold in out 24 hours. So owner Vonne Keobouala closed her restaurant for all 53 of us as she and her team gave us an exclusive peek at some of her favorite Lao dishes. By the way, the restaurant is now open on Mondays.

Vonne Keobouala was born in Laos, which is in Southeast Asia between Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. At age seven and as a result of the Vietnam war, her family moved to California.

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photo by Wong Kim

She grew up surrounded by a community who enjoyed their culture’s food. But as time went on, they adapted to the American way of life and eating. Still, Vonne says it has always been important to her to share the culture and cuisine of Southeast Asia.  When her brother, Matt “Jit” Lothakoun, moved to North Carolina, she followed soon after and they opened Simply Thai in Elon, with a focus on Thai food and sushi.  Ten years have passed and they have since expanded to a location in Jamestown. But it was the food of Laos that Vonne says needed celebrating. “Here, there are Asian restaurants. We see Chinese and Thai, but not the food of Laos, not the food of my mother. But I think people are ready to accept our cuisine. Food brings people together and we want to introduce our culture through our food.”

What makes Lao food different is the vibrant colors and unique textures of the dishes. The freshest herbs and produce make for meal that’s pleasing to the palate while you enjoy working with your hands. And that’s mostly how the guests at Chef’s Table enjoyed their meal. Hands washed, enjoying a family-style meal of lettuce wraps and other hand-held items that were crispy, crunchy, spicy, sticky and just tantalizing in so many ways.

Guests were greeted upon arrival with platters of Shrimp Crisps. They looked like colorful pork skins with a similar crispy texture but they were made with shrimp. They were great for snacking and conversation.

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Appetizer
Vegetable Spring Rolls & Sakoo Sai Moo
Tapioca dumpling pouches filled with pork peanuts, caramelized palm sugar and fried garlic

You can’t go wrong by starting out with the quintessential spring roll and Lao’s is one of the best around.  The Sakoo Sai Moo were sticky little dumplings with a little chili kick and we wrapped them in beautiful lettuce leaves for a fresh yet sticky, sweet, salty, spicy bite.

First Course (photo by Wong Kim)
Nam Khao
Lettuce wraps, crispy rice, coconut flakes, peanuts, sour pork, with fresh cilantro, green onions

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More eating with our hands. These wraps were similar to what you might find in a great Chinese restaurant with lots of cilantro and onions. The crispy rice in this dish helps it stand out.

Second Course
Chicken Laab
Chopped roasted chicken seasoned with spicy lime sauce and fresh herbs

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This popular Laotian larb was fantastic as well.  Served with a bowl of sticky rice, which acted as your vessel from hand to mouth. You made a bowl in your hand with the rice and placed the chicken mixture inside. If you like playing with your food, this dish is for you. “Laotians use sticky rice like bread,” Vonne told us.

Third Course
Lao Sausage & Beef Seen Lod
Jeow Dipping Sauce
Sticky rice

The sausage and beef may also play nicely as an appetizer. Like a Lao charcuterie board, the spicy sausage was so full of flavor and the Beef is considered to be like jerky.  The dish was served with more sticky rice and a delicious dipping sauce.

Fourth Course
Aom
Chicken Herbal stew with fresh dill, green long beans and Lao eggplant

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The description says it all. The stew was hot and herbaceous and filled with chunky chicken and veggies. Great for a cold day.

Dessert
Nom Vaan Lorm
Mixed flavored jellies, cantaloupe and corn, served in sweetened coconut milk

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Now this little dessert might read odd. Flavored jellies? Corn? But it was fantastic to me. It tasted like a coconut infused cereal milk. You know how Sugar Smacks taste? That’s what it reminded me of…but with the freshest of real fruit  mixed in.

To say that the Chef’s Table guests were stuffed and blown away is putting it mildly. And Vonne says she loves seeing the faces of happy customers enjoying the cuisine of family’s heritage.  “Seeing people come in, meeting them and knowing they are so happy to be here and enjoy the food and then they continue to support us…that’s the biggest reward.”

I just love her.

Lao Restaurant + Bar is located at 219-A South Elm Street, Greensboro.

Click here for my podcast with Vonne on the Triad Podcast Network

 

Chai Pani in Asheville is a “Can’t Miss”

Chai Pani should be on your not-to-be-missed list when traveling to/by/through Asheville. It will be so worth it.

If you’re a regular reader, you know my kidlets love Indian food. So when an opportunity to be in the Asheville area presented itself, we planned dinner accordingly and made our way to Meherwan Irani’s much celebrated Indian street food restaurant. Think all the fun staples—chaat, bhel puri, pakoras…all shareable and fun. There are a few larger plates too, like the butter chicken. My kids were a bit disappointed not to see Chicken Tikka Masala on the menu but the Butter Chicken was a hit (it’s a close enough compromise). Chicken Tikka is a feature on the menu at times.

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Chai Pani is super cute and a bit retro inside. I’d say it’s on the small side but you don’t feel crammed at all.  We were there on a Monday and halfway through our meal, it was already filled up inside.  It’s been two months since our visit and now that the homeschool year is pretty much wrapped up, I finally have time to share some of the delights we enjoyed. Annnnnd that being said, I simply have no idea what the featured dish was that night as it changes often and my brain has no recollection other than I know it was wonderful. It may have been a vadouvan with a protein like lamb or goat, savory, aromatic, with a bit of a kick.

Green Mango Chaat

Green Mango Chaat

This wonderful chaat, considered a street food snack, was deliciously sweet and salty, cool and crisp and no wonder it’s the perfect snack because it has everything you want in something munchy.

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Aldo Tikki Chaat

Now heading to the more savory side, we really loved these crispy Indian potato fritters  “served on spiced garbanzo bean stew topped with tamarind & green chutneys, sweetened yogurt, and crunchy chickpea noodles (sev).” This was a warm, spicy appetizer that had all those aromatics and flavor you love in a classic Indian dish.

Kale Fritters

Kale Pakoras

Indian style savory kale fritters made with curried chickpea batter. Served with green chutney & sweet yogurt.  So unexpected, Chai Pani sent out these kale fritters that were A-MAZE-ING. Get them get them get them!  My mouth waters thinking about them. They’re like kale chips taken up 1000 notches. Super crunchy perfection.

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Butter Chicken Thali

I mean you just cannot go wrong with Butter Chicken. Marinated and seared Joyce Farms chicken in an aromatic tomato cream sauce with butter and jaggery. It’s described on the menu as a North Indian favorite and one of Chai Pani’s signature dishes. You might need two. We didn’t because of all of the above, lol.

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Vadouvan

While the Butter Chicken was mainly for the kiddos, this spicy dish was for Mr. foodie and myself. I will say that the rice at Chai Pani is perfection, but basmati done right usually is as traditionally it’s made in a large amount of water and drained off so that you get beautiful individual grains of rice. See them?

The dishes were just the perfect balance of savory and a touch of sweet with the appropriate tangy requirements from yogurt, citrus. You just can’t get any better.

The kitchen actually sent out a couple of desserts for us to try. My daughter really enjoyed the “mango ice cream sandwich” on a wafer cookie and I absolutely loved gulab jamun, which is deep fried dumplings made of milk, flour, butter and cream, soaked in cardamom & rose syrup. There’s just something about the texture of those little dumplings in the syrup. And they’re just the prettiest little things. If you’re a fan of Indian rice pudding, it’s also an option.

The Chai Pani restaurant group has locations in Atlanta and Decatur, GA and you may have also heard of Buxton Hall Barbecue, also in Asheville. Another can’t miss eatery if visiting the area. For cocktails, you’d love Asheville’s MG Road and now Irani, who must not be busy enough, has launched his own spice company, Spicewalla.

So if you’re traveling in Western NC and you see fit to make some time in Asheville. I just cannot recommend Chai Pani enough. Service is wonderful. Drinks are great. Food is incredible.  And even if you think you don’t like Indian food, Chai Pani may convert you with their fun, shareable plates.

Chai Pani
22 Battery Park Ave (58.67 mi)
Asheville, North Carolina 28801

 

 

 

Review: Full Kee Chinese Restaurant

Hi, Foodies! This post has been updated to let you know we had a few tickets open up for our Chef’s Table at Full Kee, which was rescheduled to April 29 at 7:00.  Get tickets here. 

Honestly, the reason the event got moved up is that Full Kee may be going through an onwership change…they wanted to honor the commitment to our dinner. This could be a swan song for Full Kee, which will make me very sad. The link for tickets explains it all.

You probably know by now (if you’ve been opening your email and clicking on the blog) that I’m am HERE for Full Kee Chinese Restaurant, a local eatery that calls itself “gourmet Chinese.”  We went back for a taste because I wanted to “research” it for a possible future Chef’s Table. And it did not disappoint. So here’s the review when I brought Sister Foodie with me on our foodie exploration.

You can read the full article for YES! Weekly here.

Full Kee has been located at 3793 Samet Drive since 2005.  It was owned and operated by George Yu, who had a very popular restaurant in Washington D.C. before he and his family moved to the Triad. What started as a takeout restaurant, Full Kee expanded into a cozy restaurant with beautiful Chinese art, dim lighting, and a full bar.  In May of last year, George retired and moved to Florida.  Sue Chen had been a partner with George in the early days but had since moved on. Now there was a very brief period of time between George selling and Sue buying the space that the restaurant was not itself.  For one, the restaurant was operated by someone else. Full Kee’s Chef, Carlos Lopez, who had worked under George’s tutelage for nearly a decade, had left to pursue another opportunity while that owner was in charge. The restaurant experienced some not so great reviews for a few weeks. Sue ultimately purchased the restaurant in November and the space its in and brought Carlos back. And now Full Kee has risen to its former glory. Some say it’s better than ever. Update: Carlos has moved on and Sue has a new chef in the kitchen, but all the recipes are the same. 

Back before my food writing days, Full Kee became a favorite. You can read that initial view here. I found it so interesting that there was actually a Chinese restaurant that claimed to be “gourmet”.  It just wasn’t the norm. Chinese was and is almost entirely takeout and often quite low-key (no pun intended). Full Kee invites your casually dressed self into an ambiance that feels like fine dining, but is very comfortable and inviting. The dim lighting is soft and elegant. And what was more thrilling, amazing, astonishing, is that my children ate their food. At a restaurant. It was then and there that my children discovered they love Asian food, specifically dumplings, stir fry rice and “sweet chicken” (as my son calls it). To this day, General chicken is is favorite food (besides brownies). They’re actually going to the Chef’s Table. They will not be denied. 

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We were fortunate enough to step back into Full Kee after the ownership change to see what’s new and enjoyed our visit with Sue while we sampled some plates.

Egg Drop Soup: If you’re an egg drop soup fan, you’ll love this light broth with the ribbon of yolks. It doesn’t have that off-putting corn starch-like consistency. My sister, who was dining with me the evening we visited, it’s the best egg drop soup she’s ever had and that she ever feels a cold coming on, she knows where she’s headed.

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Lettuce Wraps: A perennial favorite with romaine lettuce and finely minced chicken with  vegetables. They are always a crowed pleaser for the table. The chicken was mild and seasoned wonderfully and the cool, crisp lettuce acts in contrast to the tiny hint of heat.

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Dumplings: Carlos makes all the dumpling wrappers from scratch. The result is a delicate dumpling exterior, tender on top, crispy on the bottom, while it lets the filling shine through. It comes with the typical sweet and savory dipping sauce. It is the perfect appetizer. 

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Spring Rolls: You just can’t not get some spring rolls when you eat Asian food amirite? They were super hot, super crispy, came with two dipping sauces and fab.

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General Tao Chicken: According to Sue, it is one of the restaurant’s most popular dishes (as it is in just about any Chinese restaurant). Full Kee’s General chicken, with its secret ingredient in the sauce, is light and crispy and not full of breading like you might find with ordinary takeout. “We wanted it ti be a bigger piece of chicken, but not heavy with flour and not cooked too long. It’s crispy outside and tender inside,” Sue told me.  It’s wonderful. And what often comes off as an afterthought, the broccoli is al dente and actually flavorful. Sue says, “It used to be just very plain, but I asked Carlos to add more seasoning.” The result is broccoli with a hint of garlic and it’s perfectly cooked.

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Walnut Shrimp: These firm, juicy jumbo shrimp are lightly crisped in the same manner as the General Tao’s, but the sauce is a bit more robust and amber in color with crunchy walnuts in the mixture.  I highly recommend this dish as well as the Philomela Shrimp, which has a creamier sauce. Or you can get the Full Kee Shrimp, which is a combo of the two. Both come with the same tasty garlic.

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Mongolian Beef: Customers will notice a change to this dish as the protein portion has been increased and the onions have decreased. It’s very savory and peppery and hearty.

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In addition to improving on some of their popular dishes, Sue says she’s lowered the prices while increasing portion sizes. The menu includes a wide variety of traditional Chinese noodle and rice dishes, including Stir-Fry Rice, Stir Fry Sea Bass, Boneless Duck and Curry. Sue has also recruited a wine connoisseur to help patrons with the perfect wine selection.  We agree with Sue that everyone in your dining party should order something different from one another.  “We want everyone to be able to try a little bit of everything.  It’s the best way to enjoy Chinese.”

Full Kee has retained its loyal following of customers, some of whom have a place at the table every Friday night. Andrew Priddy, who lives outside Winston-Salem, says they’ve been loyal since 2010. “We travel a lot. And this by far is our favorite restaurant. Great food, great service. They’re like family. We just love it.”

Sue say that after the slow-go of it, Sue says she loves getting feedback from her customers. “My customers make me feel like we have potential. Every time I see a great review or hear one, it’s just so encouraging and gives me a lot of hope.”

Full Kee will be the featured restaurant with A Chef’s Table on Wednesday, June 19th. Tickets can be reserved at https://chefstablefullkee.eventbrite.com

Recipe: Most Requested Sweet & Spicy Meatloaf

Hello, friends!

A few weeks back I was inspired to host “Family Meal” at my home and this week we finally got around to opening the door to do just that. Family Meal is simply a time to gather around the table for food and fellowship. Nothing fancy, keep it approachable. We invited our neighbors over and several of these lovely people were able to join us and bring along sides to go with  what I made…what I consider the ultimate old-school family dish, “Meatloaf.” And my meatloaf is delicious and even my kids, who don’t eat anything much, absolutely love it. This meatloaf is adapted from writer and cook, Mary Beth Albright. There are a number of variations of this recipe all over the internet, but this is my pretty-close-to-hers, slightly modified version. It’s called sweet and spicy, but it’s not spicy hot just spicy spice. It has buttermilk and panko and I swear the secret is that mixture plus the fact that I use a meatloaf mix with beef, veal and pork.  Easily found at most grocers. I get requests for it a lot, so I’m making it officially official by locking it in. Right here.  PS…don’t let the somewhat lengthy list turn you off. It’s a snap to whip up except for the extra step of sweating the onions and garlic and you won’t mind that because it smell so darn good!  Also the photo shown is of my attempt to cook it in cast iron and it turned out amazing but it’s great on a lined cookie sheet and easier to clean up. 

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eh..kinda looks like a brain 😀

Sweet & Spicy Glazed Meatloaf
(adapted from Mary Beth Albright) | Serves 6

GLAZE:

  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1 cup  BBQ sauce (I like Sweet Baby Ray’s but anything rich and smoky will do)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • splash of red wine vinegar (optional)

Heat these ingredients through completely, careful not to scorch.  You’ll use some to glaze the meatloaf at the beginning and you’ll have plenty on hand for the meal and leftovers.

  • 2 lbs meatloaf mix (beef, veal, pork or 1 lb beef, 1 lb ground pork if you can’t find the mix)
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/3 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3/4 cup onion, finely diced
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/3 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1/2-3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese 
  • 1-2 tbsp oil or fat of choice (bacon grease is good!)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper

Instruction:

Mix the buttermilk and the breadcrumbs together and let it thicken for about 5 minutes. The panko will soak up the buttermilk.  Meanwhile, heat oil in a skillet, saute onions and garlic for about 5 minutes until very soft but not brown. Add tomato paste and herbs and heat through.  Set aside to cool.

Add buttermilk mixture and tomato paste mixture to the meatloaf mix in a large bowl. Mix with hands to incorporate the ingredients.  Add salt and pepper and parmesan. 

Turn the mix onto a lined sheet pan and shape into a loaf.  Spread the glaze on top and sides of your loaf.

Bake at 425 degrees for 50 minutes or until done.  Rest for 5 minutes.

***Variations…you can use sour cream instead of buttermilk and regular breadcrumbs or almond meal. The texture may change ever so slightly.  Fresh herbs are key and I’ve only used freshly grated parm so I’m not sure what happens with the stuff in the can. I’ve probably used it before but I rarely use it anymore. 

Do you have a meatloaf recipe that you and your family love?

“People who love to eat are always the best people.”
–Julia Child

Join us for triadfoodies Chef’s Table at Taaza Bistro this Wednesday!

Good golly it’s been a while since I posted. I will try to change that.

With homeschooling (OMG) and writing each week for YES! Weekly and the general responsibilities of life, I find it hard to stop and make myself post something. But I def wanted to let you know that we have a few more seats available at our monthly Chef’s Table coming up Wednesday in Greensboro at Taaza Fresh Indian Bistro.

What is Chef’s Table? It’s basically our way of getting you into a restaurant and in front of a chef for a VERY affordable price for a taste of what’s on the menu. It’s a way of letting the chef surprise us and it’s SUPER fun. We started in May 2016 and we’ve gone strong since then, some with sell-out crowds. There’s limited seating available and as I write this we have 5 seats remaining.

Here’s how it works. You click this link and it sends you to the Eventbrite site and there you purchase your tickets. You’ll enjoy a multi-course global meal… but I never know what’s going to be served. We’re all surprised. No menu…just delicious surprises…all from the creative noggin of the chef/culinary team or maybe something they are wanting to highlight from the menu. And sometimes it requires you to think out of the box, get out of your comfort zone. Most of the dishes are served family style, so if you don’t like chevre or kale or venison, then you can nibble and let the rest of your comrades enjoy.

About Taaza Fresh Indian Bistro….you can read the review I wrote about them in YES! Weekly.img_0485 It was amazing and the BEST Indian food I’ve ever had with excellent service.

I think you’ll love it. Join us by clicking the ticket link above!

I also have some exciting news to share but you’ll have to wait until the next post.

See ya later foodies!