Sunday, February 23, 2014

Eat Here, It's Delicious

Shunyites suddenly have something to talk about – and a place to go to, to do so.

Exciting things are happening in Shunyi – new restaurant openings!  Yes, this is so very thrilling because how boring is it to go to, and order from, the same restaurants over and over again?  Nowadays you can find everything in downtown Beijing; from fancy eateries with an eye on a Michelin star to everyday hangouts to some great family friendly places with dishes from around the world.  But suddenly it is happening out here; so quickly in fact that we haven’t even had time to try them all!

One place we have been to, and back again because we liked it so much, is  Eatalicious, a small, cleanly decorated bistro in the Pinnacle Plaza area, just opposite Baskin Robbins. Maybe 15 tables are strewn around the area that also features a glass case filled with desserts and baked goods and a glass-enclosed open kitchen. We love the ability to see our food being prepared; not only to make sure that it, and the chefs, are clean but also to see what and how they are creating.  It is not a big kitchen but seems very organized; on one of the occasion we visited, there were no less than 4 chefs in there at the same time!

Eatalicious serves Italian fare made with high quality products, the menu has something for everybody and not always the obvious Italian standards.  It’s Italian with a twist and we love it!

On a family visit for a late Sunday lunch, we tried the pizzas - it was one of those Sundays… It has a super thin crust, Italian style, the right amount of slightly sweet tomato sauce and a good amount of melted mozzarella.  The kids announced that this was now their favorite pizza place after having devoured the Margherita (tiny leaves of fresh basil carefully picked off with an eeowww sound) and the Prosciutto was really good as well; nice big slices of salty and sweet prosciutto crudo di Parma and leaves of peppery rucola on top of cheesy goodness.  The wine list is not very big but sufficient – again, there is something for everyone. There are also a few choices of wine served by the glass, all reasonably priced. The soft drinks, however, are way over priced and we will save our soda fix for another time.

At another visit we tried the sea bass ravioli, which turned out to be surprisingly delicious.  Ravioli is always difficult; many times they come out dry and tasteless but these fluffy clouds could easily be eaten on their own, without the sauce. The pasta came with a large handful of clams, steamed to perfection with a hint of of basil – simply delish and not fishy at all. We also tried the Roberto curry chicken but were sadly disappointed. The curry tasted generic and besides chicken and curry sauce there was nothing. A few vegetables thrown in would have been nice.

Spectacular Sea Bass Ravioli

We have been working our way through the menu (what else is there to do here anyway?) and have also tried the Sea Burger; a dense patty filled with sea bass, cuttlefish and shrimp – glued together by potatoes.  The bun was a bit too large for our liking and the coleslaw could have been omitted completely but the dish was something we will definitely have again. The same goes for the grilled chicken salad; a yummy blend of chicken, roman lettuce, parma ham, parmesan cheese, roasted tomatoes and yummy balsamic onions, a good serving of salad enough for two if eaten as a side dish.

Fresh Grilled Chicken Salad - love the balsamic onions!

On one occasion also tried the baked stuffed paccheri pasta (like penne on steroids) with Bolognese sauce and porcini mushrooms.  A very manly dish, which was indeed appreciated by the man who ordered it.  The female dish (if there are such) was the pumpkin-gorgonzola soup, which we thought had a good flavor but was a bit thin for our taste. That is a culinary cultural opinion though; while Americans usually like their pumpkin soups quite thick and a little bit on the sweet side, soups in Italy are generally lighter in the texture.

Baked Stuffed Pacceri Pasta

There are many happy faces around us today as we are sitting in the restaurant trying the white pizza with mozzarella, roasted potato, fresh sausages and rosemary. We decided that the best spot to have a working lunch while writing a review is to be on location. We began our long working lunch by sharing the soft boiled egg on toast with sautéed spinach, grilled bacon, parmesan cheese, roasted tomatoes and basil pesto. The dish was comfort on a plate. Rashes of bacon broiled to perfection, a nice slice of garlic scented bread covered with sautéed spinach and a perfectly soft boiled egg with a yolk that oozed out when pierced. Like eggs benedict without the hollandaise, only better. We will come back for this one for sure – the perfect Sunday brunch dish, a great cure for an….aummm….tired head…

Comfort food on a plate - Soft Boiled Eggs on Toast

The potato pizza arrived (the service at Eatalicious is good, fast and friendly, efficient and professional) and while it was exactly as advertised, it will not be our favorite but again – a matter of taste.

Rosemary Pizza

To sum it all up – we are (as you can tell) very excited about this new eatery on the Shunyi scene, an alternative to the tried and tested places that we frequent over and over again. We wish for success and hope that the restaurant will continue to offer the same good service and quality products as it becomes more popular. And, of course, that there will always be a table for us when we need some comfort food in the shape of eggs on toast or just want to sip a glass of wine and share a pizza.

Note:  Eatalicious delivers!  Call 131 4674 8656 or 131 4674 8756 for delivery.  Visit their website at www.lofteatalicious for more information and the main telephone number is 8046 1565.  They also have a location in Wangjing :).

Monday, February 10, 2014

Aphrodisiacs – It’s Time to Spice it Up!

Valentines Day is coming up and the STARA team is ready.  Nothing quite says romance more than a fabulous meal made with lots of love and, of course, aphrodisiacs.  We have thoroughly researched the scientifics of the subject and what works best – if you know what we mean…

Scientifically the following foods are aphrodisiacs due to their nutritional content and how the body reacts to these vitamins, enzymes, minerals et al.  While this is all very interesting (and good to know), the lesser-known facts are much more fun.

According to a very reliable source, the top ten (in alphabetical order) aphrodisiacs are:

Asparagus – obviously due to it’s shape. In 19th century France bridegrooms were served a three-course asparagus dinner to, aumm, improve their performance…

Almonds – poets and scribes in the old days wrote that they arouse passion in females. Well, we will have some on our granola any day!

Avocado – aha! This is fun! The Aztecs called the avocado tree the testicle tree and the Catholic priests in Spain actually forbade the fruit because of its obscenely sexual appearance!

Banana – well, the shape again of course. Very rich in potassium which is great for stamina but contains other minerals great for the male libido.

Basil – the aroma is said to have an aphrodisiac effect! No wonder the Italians love it so much!

Chocolate – mmmmm, we knew there was something good about it! There are so many natural multisyllable chemicals in pure chocolate that we get tired just reading the words so we reach for the goodies  (the chocolate, just to be clear!). The most important is PEA (phenylethylamine), aka the love chemical, which releases dopamine in the pleasure centers of the brain and peaks during orgasm. Now the chocolate scented massage oils suddenly makes sense! Still, I’d rather have some Valrhona…

Figs – one of the oldest-recorded fruits. Remember how Adam and Eve covered up with fig leaves? They were supposedly Cleopatra’s favorite fruit and the ancient Greeks considered them sacred because of their association with love and fertility. An open fig is also supposed to look like the female sex organs.

Garlic – hmmm, you thought garlic was off putting, didn’t you? Well, it is stinky but it is also strong which is exactly what happens to guys who eat it.  It’s also full of a chemical called allicin, which increases blood flow – you know where…

Honey – oh honey, honey, honey – sweet, sticky honey is a source of boron which helps the body use estrogen, the female sex hormone.  It also enhances testosterone, the hormone responsible for sex drive and orgasm for men and women both.


Oysters – considered the ultimate aphrodisiac. Scientifically, they have a high zinc content which helps produce sperm and increase the libido but the appearance helps too, as does the slightly salty taste. That they are best served with a glass of chilled champagne doesn’t hurt either.

So there you go. There are of course many more - a whole bunch of spices such as ginger, cardamom, aniseed, fennel, licorice, nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla and a horde of vegetables and fruits as well!  Easy products to use and to find; it seems like the main idea is to use what nature has to offer!

The STARA team will host six lucky women for a Valentine’s class this coming Wednesday. Our goal was to use all products on the top ten list of aphrodisiacs, and we have succeeded. Together we will create a menu destined to tantalize the taste buds as well as evoke that carnal urge…