Tag Archives: vegetarian

Even More FonDOs: My Trip To The Melting Pot in Raleigh

Wednesday is kind of a hit or miss day, don’t you think? It’s either really awesome or really MEHHH. Today, methinks, might fall into the first category.

First of all, my new (to me) Cannon Rebel XT  camera body arrived this morning. Of course, since the lens hasn’t arrived yet, I can’t actually photograph anything. But still- lots of smiles.Smile

Second, Jessamyn Not Jasmine was the runner-up Best Blog in Yes! Weekly’s Best of The Triad awards! You may not be able to tell by my fairly serious facial expression, but I’m REALLY excited. Oh wait, this is the internet and not reality TV so you can’t actually see my face. AWK-ward. Anyway, if you scoped my name through Yes!Weekly and this is your first visit to my little piece of the internet- Hello! Be prepared for seemingly random very liberal hysterical rants and unplanned blogging sabbaticals. I also really like to talk about food.

Speaking of food…

Two weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend North Carolina Arts Day, which is a day/event where NC arts supporters converge in our state’s capital and lobby in support of government arts programming. Obviously, as an arts administrator, going to Arts Day was a pretty exciting event. It was really cool to see so many arts professionals take time off to make a statement in favor of arts funding. I met a lot of people (including lots of local politicos) and (since my hotel was across the street from my favorite grocery store) even snuck in a quick Trader Joes adventure. WIN-WIN.

 The night before Arts Day, however, I had an impromptu fancy dinner at The Melting Pot. I’ve discussed my love of fondue before, and the charm was definitely not lost on me. Not even kidding, the Melting Pot is (probably) my absolute favorite chain restaurant. However, eating there is NOT cheap and I’m only able to do it on special occasions (or during emergency eating escapades in the Carolina capital). Of course, since my camera was stolen right before my Raleigh adventure, I feared I wouldn’t be able to capture the magic of The Melting Pot in photographic form. But thanks to iPhones and friends, photographic memories were still made.

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In addition to their everyday fondue selections, The Melting Pot offers a rotating Big Night Out menu with fondue/salad offerings which fit into a specific theme. Currently, the Big Night Out theme is Latin America, and the cheese fondue special is a very fancy version of queso fundido. So…OBVIOUSLY we had to get it. This wasn’t the queso fundido you’d get at your local Mexican restaurant. I mean, I love melted queso fresco sprinkled with greasy chorizo just as much as the next cheese-aholic. But this fondue contained gruyere, fontina, AND gran queso. One of the best parts about The Melting Pot is that they make all the fondues table-side, and you’re able to see every element that goes into your meal. Our waitress was EXTREMELY knowledgeable, and she made sure that we knew about every aspect of our meal. As a restaurant patron, this is something that’s very important to me and I always appreciate when wait staff take the time to build relationships with their clientele. The queso fundido was served with the usual Melting Pot cheese dippers (an assortment of fresh veggies, bread, and apples) as well as a bowl of corn chips. Seriously, this singular fondue was enough to validate the cost of the entire meal.

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Next came the salad course. I just ordered the spinach and mushroom salad- nothing fancy. Actually, I wasn’t really a fan of this salad. It’s a certain kind of person that truly enjoys sweet flavors in a savory context and I AM NOT THAT PERSON. The dressing was a burgundy shallot vinaigrette- besides the fact that I kind of hate shallots, I thought the sweetness of the wine completely imbalanced the acidity of the vinegar, and the combination proved to be fairly unpalatable. I get the impression that this is a very popular salad at the Melting Pot, so I’m not going to completely denigrate it. It’s possible that my dislike of the dressing was based purely on my personal preferences. Basically, this is the Jessamyn version of reasonable doubt.

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As far as the entrée goes, each diner chooses a selection of dipping items and they share the actual fondue cooking liquid. My companions and I chose the court bouillon fondue (a no-nonsense veggie broth), and we each chose different entrée selections. Since I lead a functionally vegetarian lifestyle (save for the special occasions- you know, locally raised meats and barbeque festivals), I decided to get the Vegetarian selections. This particular plate includes Portobello mushrooms, asparagus, (REALLY FREAKING DELICIOUS) Thai-peanut marinated tofu, artichoke hearts, spinach-artichoke ravioli, and the Big Night Out Pasta (a fire-roasted corn salsa ravioli– stop drooling on your computer).

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It also included a bowl of semi-frozen edamame which, after they went for a swim in the court bouillon, were perfectly cooked and delicious. The Melting Pot also offers several delicious post-cooking dipping sauces for your entrée. My favorite, the gorgonzola cream cheese, is hanging out to the left of my edamame.

We also ordered the Dark and Dulce chocolate dessert fondue( a combination of dark chocolate and thick dulce de lece sprinkled with coarse sea salt) but I was too busy stuffing my face and soaking up the awesomeness of that flavor combination to remind Anna (my very patient photog companion) to take a photo. Have you ever met anyone who didn’t like chocolate and sea salt? PLUS DULCE DE LECE? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

Fondue is not just a delicious style of eating, but a study in food culture. It forces people to communicate while eating, and it can be reinvented in countless fashions. In my mind, that’s the essence of food- like music, it can bring any manner of people together in a positive way. The Melting Pot encapsulates this theory, and I will always recommend that my friends and family (that’s you, by the way) take the time to seek out one of these restaurants.

If you’re concerned about the price (a CONSTANT concern for yours truly), eating at the Melting Pot with a few friends can definitely help alleviate some of the financial pain. By splitting a cheese fondue between four people, you’re only paying about $8/each for a first course which could easily serve as a main course. Each salad is only $7. A Chocolate fondue for four is about $5-6/each. And if you decide not to get an entrée ( roughly $19-30), you can have a VERY filling cheese, salad, and chocolate fondue dinner for about $20. While it’s not the cheapest dinner for a student living on the verge of imminent bankruptcy, it’s definitely still a viable special dinner option.

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Eating as a Non-Vegetarian- Lime and Garlic Marinated Porkchops with Cilantro-Lime Quinoa

Ok, I admit it: I like meat.

I don’t eat it very much. In fact, I eat it pretty infrequently. I rarely purchase it.

But I like it. I like the way it tastes. And there are very few photos of piglets that will make me feel guilty about enjoying a slice of bacon.

However, what I can’t come to terms with is what happened to the meat before its arrival at my dinner table. It arrives after inhumane mammalian brutality, hundreds (if not thousands) of travel miles, and undocumented harm to food workers.

All because I wanted a slice of bacon.

Yeah…that’s not ok.

I’m reaching a point in my life where I can’t bear to purchase meat that’s been produced in ways I can’t stomach. I mean, my ancestors ate meat- but the meat they ate is not the meat I buy at my local grocery store.

As regular readers of this blog know, I can pontificate on this topic for pages and pages. But all I really need to say is that in order for me to eat meat, I need to be prepared to find meat that was harvested from animals who were raised humanely.

Yes, it will be expensive. But that’s the price of being an omnivore in the 21st century first world.

ANYWAY, since yesterday was the most beautiful day ever (seriously, anyone who wasn’t in the North Carolina triad yesterday missed out on a gorgeous Southern spring day), I decided to make my girlfriend a spring-y dinner of pork chops and quinoa.

So where does an ecologically conscious Winston-Salem resident go when they want fresh meat?

Whole Foods Market, of course.

Whole Foods has a remarkable devotion to the sale of sustainably produced food items AND (probably most importantly) to crafting and maintaining solid relationships with farmers and ranchers. Since the food chain from farmer to consumer grows with every congressional bill and ‘science innovation’, it is more important than ever for us to support companies who strive to cut out the millions of middle men who get in the way of Americans eating food which doesn’t go against the evolution of our bodies.

As far as meat sales go, Whole Foods adheres to the stringent guidelines of the Animal Welfare Rating Standards, which are produced by the Global Animal Partnership. Basically, they have a 5 step standards list which details the requirements for a livestock animal’s living conditions. It looks like this:

Step 1: No crowding
Step 2: Enriched environment
Step 4: Pasture centered
Step 5: Animal centered: No physical alterations
Step 5+: Animal Centered: Entire life on same farm

As you probably noticed, there’s no step 3 for cattle. There are separate charts for poultry and pigs. And at Whole Foods, all the meat options are labeled with the number which corresponds to this chart. It’s another way of letting you know where your food came from.

Since I was making pork chops, here are the five steps I looked at:

Step 1: No crates, stalls or cages
Step 2: Enriched environment
Step 3: Enhanced outdoor access
Step 4: Pasture centered
Step 5: Animal centered: No physical alterations
Step 5+: Animal Centered: Entire life on same farm

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I ended up buying some very pretty chops from a local farm with a 4 rating. There were other options, but the fact that the meat came from a nearby farm means that the journey from farm to table was very short, and it insures the freshest ingredients possible.

It does not, however, insure the cheapest price.

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But here’s the thing- I can’t pretend to not know what I know about factory farming. And if I want to eat meat in spite of that knowledge, I need to be prepared to pay the price.

Plus, the flavor of this finished dinner was more than worth the money. I’m not a huge fan of lime and/or cilantro, but both of those flavors keep popping up in my recipes recently. I’m blaming it on Chipotle– I mean, who doesn’t love their cilantro-lime rice? But instead of making rice, I decided to try out the same flavor combo with quinoa. I’d say it was a success- Kate basically licked her plate clean.

(Ok, so she didn’t lick it clean. But she probably wanted to lick it clean.)

Both of these recipes are unbelievably simple, and can be whipped up very quickly. They can be served together, or paired with other dishes. For example, substituting cilanto-lime quinoa in a homemade Chipotle burrito bowl is a healthier option than eating mounds of fluffy white rice.

(I mean, don’t get me wrong- I LOVE fluffy white rice. But quinoa is just as delicious, and packs an unbeatable nutritional punch.)

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Lime and Garlic Marinated Pork Chops

(Adapted from Gina’s Skinny Recipes)

Yield: 2-4 servings (depending upon size of pork chops)

Ingredients:

4 (6 oz) lean boneless pork chops ( for the record, I made this recipe using 2 super thick bone-in chops, and the proportions still worked perfectly)

4 cloves garlic, crushed

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp chili powder

1 tsp paprika

1/2 lime, juice of

lime zest

salt and fresh pepper

1. Trim off extra pork fat.

Basically, go from here:

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To Here:

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2. In a large bowl season pork with garlic, cumin, chili powder, paprika, salt and pepper. Squeeze lime juice and some zest from the lime and let it marinade at least 20 minutes.

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I always recommend long marinade times, but if you need to make this in a hurry, 20 minutes should get the job done. I had to whip up this meal pretty quickly, and I think 20 minutes was long enough to get a good flavor infusion.


3. Line broiler pan with foil for easy clean up. Place pork chops on the broiler pan and broil about 4-6 minutes on each side or until nicely browned.

While that’s cooking…

Cilantro-Lime Quinoa

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients:

1 cup dry quinoa

1 1/4 cup Water

1 lime, juice of

1 tsp olive oil

1 tsp salt

1. Follow my instructions for fool-proof quinoa.

2. While quinoa is cooking, combine chopped cilantro, lime juice, and remaining oil in a medium bowl and toss until completely mixed. When quinoa is finished cooking, add it to cilantro-lime mixture and toss until coated.

Bam, dinner is served.

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Yes, your eyes are not deceiving you: Kate and I also ate French fries with our dinner. But those French fries are extra special, and will be reviewed in a separate post. However, just for the record, they were absolutely delicious. Smile

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