Tag Archives: cuisine

Food Porn, Glorious Food Porn: Tamarind Savoring India

It’s not easy reviewing a restaurant when you visit with a party of eight people, especially when it’s for a special occasion. So when our (newly engaged) friends Jackie and Bill invited a bunch of us out to Tamarind at Scott Towne Center (I can’t seem to avoid that place these days), I was prepared to accept that I wasn’t going to be able to write up the most nuanced review considering the circumstances.

Still, what lacks in detailed observation can still be made up for, in some ways, by flat out, unadulterated food porn. But before we get to that, a few words on Indian cuisine.

(Please note that I am not a culinary expert on Indian cuisine, and would never ever ever pretend to be one. I am sharing a very basic comparison. If there is anything obvious that I missed or got wrong, let me know in the comments.)

While the traditional eating customs of India can vary wildly by region, the cuisine is typically divided into North and South Indian cuisines. (Tamarind Savoring India specializes in South Indian cuisine.) While they share a lot in common, the difference really lies in the emphasis of the dishes. South Indian cuisine is spicier and uses more rice. It is also the more vegetarian-heavy. North Indian cuisine is milder, with an emphasis on dairy, breads, and lentils, as well as tomatoes as a staple ingredient in many sauces.

Like most ethnic cuisines, the distinctions of regional influence get fuzzy in an American translation, hence the reason that the majority of Indian restaurants offer a blend of North and South Indian dishes. The distills the wide array of Indian cuisine to an accessible few dozen entrees, sides, snacks, and desserts that a Western audience can fully embrace.

Then there are places like Tamarind that seek to really embrace their South Indian cuisine, meaning that while some items available here are frequently considered North Indian staples, they are prepared, spiced, and portioned to South Indian tradition. That means heavy gravies, heavy spice, and a lot of rice to go with them.

Okay, enough chatter. Onto the food!

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A Cooking Class Christmas

I don’t really know how I learned to cook, but I remember when I really started cooking for myself. It actually wasn’t that long ago: When I moved to college, I lived in a dorm straight through my sophomore year. I spent the summer between freshman and sophomore years in luxury, sharing a triple with one other roommate. I spent the first half of sophomore year in a cramped little dorm room, then switched to an open single that had 1) more space and 2) smoking privileges, plus a really nice little window nook and a former resident who had removed the bed frame and set up two mattresses on the floor, a tradition I continued in what would become known as “Comfy Island.”

I didn’t have constant access to kitchen facilities until the summer before Junior year, when I apartment-sat for my aunt while she was overseas. It was a revelation: Suddenly, I went from a mini fridge and microwave to a full fridge, oven/stove, microwave, dishwasher, the works. I made a steady wage, so I could afford my own groceries. I had started to realize that the long-held assumption that I disliked many many food items was actually false, and that in any grocery store, even a crappy one like the Mt. Washington Foodland, there were untold number of items that I had never tried that I might like to. And what’s more, I could make them for myself.

It had more dismal results than bad, of course. I was decent at making a fairly good pasta, but my first attempt at lasagna flubbed badly. (I still blame my mom: No-cook noodles make it easier my butt. Bad call, Mom!) Making pancakes quickly went from Bisquick to homemade. I could cook a piece of chicken without killing anyone, and I even managed to cook decent meals for the few vegetarians and vegans I knew. (As long as they didn’t mind repetition. The aforementioned pasta came in handy.)

I haven’t lived without a decent kitchen since. Those first few years of extensive cooking for myself have gotten me to the point where I am willing and ready to try just about any recipe that comes my way. And although there is still so much that I do not know about the culinary arts, I feel like I am really able to provide for myself and my loved ones. It’s a satisfaction that I have rarely known elsewhere.

I’m not really surprised when people tell me they don’t know how to cook. For many, the intuitive process they use to prepare a few regular meals does not count as real cooking. I disagree, but whatever. I am surprised, however, when someone tells me that they have no interest in cooking.

Really? No interest? I mean, it’s one thing to have comfort processed foods around for those days when you’re too tired/miserable/busy to bother with fussing around the kitchen. But to simply have no interest? Something so fundamental to our well-being, so essential to our survival, not to mention so abundant in delicious possibilities, and you have no interest whatsoever?

If you got a loved one who is kitchen-impaired, a gift certificate for a local cooking class is a great holiday gift. Not only does it teach them a valuable (and did I mention delicious?) skill, but it can also be the kind of fun activity friends, partners, and family do together. Spend a few hours learning how to prepare a traditional dim sum? How about an evening of pie baking? What about visiting a kitchen of one of the best restaurants in town to prepare a meal?

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