Italian gem in a strip mall – Il Pastaio

I have been to Il Pastaio quite a few times and every time I went in a grumpy and annoyed mood mostly after work and I left a very happy person. That is how magical this little place is to me.

The location of Il Pastaio is by no means, a prime one — a pretty bad spot quite frankly. How can you expect to sell when you are out of peoples’ sight most of the time and stand right next to a giant grocery store, some laundromat, some fro-yo place, etc. all by a big gas station and absolutely nowhere near downtown Boulder?

But, on a Wednesday night, they will be booked up to 8:30pm and I had to make a reservation right before they close. Even when I remember to make a reservation for 7pm in advance, we still end up waiting for our seats for a good 20 min. That is how busy they are, which is incredible given their location.

They do not feature anything “fancy”, no buzz words like “farm to table”, “organic”, “non-GMO”. For how much they charge, my guess is it is probably not going to be packed with expensive, full-on organic ingredients. But, a good chef knows how to make most mundane ingredients just fabulously delicious and Il Pastaio has some great Italian cooking going. Plus, they make all the pastas in the house, making it taste all the better! I like organic food, don’t get me wrong. But in general, I just like food, GOOD FOOD, food that is made with care and love, no matter it is organic or not. I would take a well-prepared dish made without organic ingredients any day over any plain organic salad that speaks no character of the chef whatsoever. Saying that, I would eat at Il Pastaio whenever I can. 🙂

The most recent trip I had was like before, a fantastic one! For appetizer, we had their calamari salad. Not your usual fried calamari smothered in the batter. Very refresh and light.

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Husband had their gnocchi, which he really liked but deeply regretted that he did not order what I had. And I had their special of the night, a seafood stew, with a gracious portion of scallops, shrimps, calamari, mussels and some white fish meats. It was SOOOOOOOOOOOO good, oh my gosh, talking about some orgasmic, onolicious flavor!!! I remember last time I had their “Tilapia Mare Chiaro”, which totally blew me away! The guy knows how to cook seafood man!

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We had their tiramisu for dessert and enjoyed it tremendously as well. Their flan is also quite stellar from my past memory.

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During the meal, the owner/chef came over to greet us and we shared a little conversation about cooking and Italian food. The owner/chef grew up in Pisa and is deeply in love with the cuisine as anyone can tell. We had a blast that night. 🙂 Cannot wait to go back again or just go buy some of their house-made pasta products!

Thanks for checking in!

Breakfasts made easy!

Every morning, it is a battle between snoozing 10 more minutes and getting up preparing some breakfast. I would like a hot bowl of wontons or a few links of perfectly cooked breakfast sausages, although the bed is calling and I just do not want to wake up yet…. But, if you have a few long-term fridge residents or categorical items you constantly buy, breakfasts can be done in a couple minutes and still be delicious!

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First of all, you need some carbohydrates, and I always have some bread to make toasts with. Throw a few slices into a toaster while brushing my teeth or something and spread some almond butter or hazelnut butter or any kind of nut butter that screams delicious to you.

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Second of all, you need some seasonal additions. I constantly buy fruits that are in season, especially various kinds of berries, grapes, melons, cherries, etc.

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Next, you need some protein. Either a quick scrambled egg or a few slices of high quality salami (or pancetta, prosciutto) all can do the trick.

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Last but not least, you need a drink. A shot of home made espresso, a glass of fresh juice, or a cup of soy milk, whatever works.

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And here we go, a delicious plate of breakfast food that will go a long way. 🙂

A quick fix for Vietnamese Pho

When you have the pho broth made (cooking from scratch requires tens of hours), then you are set, it is down to simply getting fresh ingredients to stuff the bowl. But what if you only have got beef broth? If you have some common Asian spices available at home, you can kind of whip up a close imitation of pho beef soup on your own! (Of course, you can always get pre-packaged pho broth in grocery store, but I was too lazy to make a specific trip for that, lol)

Soup Ingredients: (My bowls do not have much depth to hold much liquid, hence the smaller amount of liquid, scale up the amount if you need to)
16 oz of beef broth
1 cup of water
1 half stick of cinnamon, broken into medium-sized pieces (big enough to pick out)
4-5 star anise
A pinch of coriander
A pinch of fennel seeds
1/2 onion, chopped to help spread the flavor faster
A teaspoon of fish sauce
A pinch of sugar
Salt and pepper

Mix everything and bring to boil. Leave the pot of broth on very low heat to keep warm. This is a very fast-food way to get similar flavor of Pho, by no means this can compete with a bowl of well-prepared broth. But on a busy Thursday night after work, this is good enough, at least to me. 🙂

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Pho ingredients: (yielding 2-3 bowls)
1 lbs of banh pho rice noodles (Here’s a link to: Pho 101)
A few ultra-thin slices of raw round, sirloin or tri-tip steak (I did not have any handy, so I cheated as I used a few thin slices of roasted beef instead)
1/4 of an onion, thinly sliced
A handful of cilantro leaves, chopped or not
A handful of basil leaves, chopped or not
A handful of bean sprouts
A few lime wedges

Sauce:
Hoisin sauce
Sriracha sauce

In addition, I added some chunks of soy bean cakes and a half hard-boiled egg just to make it a slightly more substantial amount of food. If you have dried noodles to begin with, soak them in cold water for about 15-20 min. In a large pot of boiling water, throw in the noodles and cook for 1 min and quickly drain the water and run the noodles under icy cold water. Distribute the noodles into bowls and add all the above prepared ingredients and pour a couple hot ladles of soup broth on the top, or add the beef slices, pour the broth then garnish with all other ingredients. Add hoisin sauce or sriracha sauce depending on your preference.

Enjoy!

Native Foods Cafe spotted in Boulder

Okay, I know it is extremely suspicious that I even would walk into a restaurant at my own free will that offers only meatless options, let alone a freaking VEGAN restaurant! But, I thought to myself, what the heck, in my life I happily ate snakes, insects, turtles, frogs, camels and the list went on, it would not make sense that I’d fear vegetable-only entrees even more than all the above food choices.

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This chain was founded in 1994 in Palm Springs, CA and allegedly a vegan fast food franchise. And all the meat-substitute is either tempeh or seitan — cooking for years, having never heard of these items tells you much about my diet. I ordered a Portebello and “Sausage” Burger with salad. The salad was very fresh and light. And burger was surprisingly pretty decent thanks to a big amount of seasoning. As I prefer real meats much better, the burger was not standing a very good chance for me to claim converted or anything — but I do like how they season things very well so that the vegetables do not taste bland at all — always something to learn and some message to take home with, haha. And the plateful of food did not fill me up either.

It was not an orgasmic dining experience, but I would admit that my forever hatred towards vegan food was very much mitigated after the visit. I would say in the summer heat, it is a good place to check out for some light and fresh meal.