Ramadan Celebrations

It is with immeasurable sadness and compassion regarding the continued attacks on Turkey, that we send prayers to all those suffering and choose to forge ahead with open hearts and minds. We desire to learn and share our personal experiences during the holy month of Ramadan which ends today, July 5, 2016.

Ramadan each year corresponds as closely as possible to the month Muhammad, the founder of Islam, received the Qu’ran from God. During this most sacred time of year, Muslims all over the world fast during daylight hours, observing with no food or liquids, from sunrise to sunset for the entire month. Ramadan is a time for reflection and prayer, allowing the devout to contemplate their relationship to God and focus on positive attributes of the human experience. It is not only an introspective time, but also quite festive, with Iftar (breaking of the daily fast), welcoming a spirit of celebration among family and friends.

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We were fortunate to partake in an Iftar celebration at Orkide in Gaziantep, Turkey. The restaurant and patisserie is committed to perfecting their craft, as evidenced through a vast array of awe-inspiring fresh pastries, sweets, baklava and colorful puddings.

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Led to beautifully set tables, we could barely control our excitement as we began the memorable experience of a traditional Iftar dinner. A wide variety of meze (appetizers and salads) are laid out and we joyfully united with the Muslim patrons prior to sunset, awaiting the evening prayer call which signals the beginning of the meal just as the sun dips below its horizon.

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The Turkish table, especially in Gaziantep, is renowned for its meze, and we were dazzled by small plates of herb based salads, the freshest vegetables, olives, cheese, pickled dishes, savory stuffed pastries called borek, nuts, dried and stewed fruits, a rich clotted cream called kaymak and some of the freshest breads we have ever tasted.  Orkide is at the top of their game in this arena offering soup, refreshing greens and a full table top of traditional starters to the delight of guests.

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Another uniquely Turkish dish we have fallen deeply in love with is the cig kofte (pictured above), a bulgur, herb and spice mix formed into distinct peaked portions that diners douse with fresh lemon juice and roll in lettuce leaves, before biting into each spicy, refreshing packet.

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The main course changes nightly, but is always hearty and followed by their delectable sweets assortment.

We are huge fans of Orkide for their extensive talents showcasing Turkish cuisine, along with an infinite willingness to open their arms to those of us hungry to learn about their abundant table of delicacies. Thank you to the Turkish people and Orkide for sharing with us the heart of Ramadan celebrations and the true nature and generosity of the religion that encourages the best qualities of mankind through love, hospitality and a spirituality that nourishes in every way.

Orkide Pastanesi – Four locations in Gaziantep, please visit the web site to find the location most easily accessible to you.

Chinese Dim Sum Parlor Pleasures

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We checked out the bustling, mega dim sum parlor known as Atlantic Seafood in Monterey Park and we’re amazed with the ease, grace, precision and tasty bites we found.  A long line out front on Sunday morning resulted in a 15 minute wait, so don’t be put off by the crowds, they are an indication of the quality and tasty food available inside.

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Dim Sum means “to touch the heart” and these little snacks have been a staple of Cantonese cuisine for thousands of years. Although the origins are unclear, dim sum was definitely a part of tea house culture provided to travelers along the Silk Road. Today, Atlantic Seafood brings the tradition to the San Gabriel Valley at the price of $2.58 per order on holidays and weekends from 9 AM to 3 PM.  There is also a per person charge of $1.18 for tea and sauces, a small price to pay for the spectacle and on demand plates provided.

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During our brief wait we enjoyed the fish tanks at the entrance that are illuminated in blue light and showcase the fresh seafood available from the menu.  When our number was called we followed a black suited employee to our table in the lively dining room.

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Warming carts, manned by servers wearing sneeze guards, are piled high with metal containers containing dumplings, stuffed buns, steamed dishes and Chinese specialties. Customers are offered a glimpse into the canisters to decided if they are desirable and then choose those they prefer. Seafood, chicken, vegetable and pork bites are presented in groups of three or four, so it’s always a great idea to enjoy dim sum with larger groups of people, allowing more variety to be sampled from the scores of dishes being pushed around the room.

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Open trays also circle laden with fried dishes, desserts and items that don’t fit inside the metal warming boxes.

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We definitely have our favorites and also love to try new things which is why dim sum brunches make us exceptionally joyful.  We started with a scallop and shrimp dumpling in a rice paper wrapper that is delicately steamed to keep the juicy flavors at their peak.

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Dim sum parlors are often judged by the quality of their hair gow, the translucently thin skinned, shrimp stuffed dumplings. Atlantic’s sweet shrimp were a testament to the quality of the seafood and skill of the kitchen staff.

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Shumai, are open dumplings of shrimp, pork and vegetables, and these succulent beauties are two bite wonders.

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Spicy chili oil is available on request, while little cups of hot mustard and Sriracha sauce are laid on the table to dip the dim sum if desired. Hot tea can be requested in a number of brews including jasmine, oolong, and crysthanamum.

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We sampled a seafood stuffed, fried tofu dish that combines wonderful textures and tastes.

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And the sugared pastry encased “chicken pot pie” is a inspired mix of sweet and savory.

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Shrimp egg rolls come with their own special dipping sauce.

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While the stuffed, fried eggplant are crisp on the outside and warm, meaty goodness inside that floats in a savory sauce.

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We fell in love with the coconut filled pasty dessert and will definitely be looking forward to lots more of these in our future.

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For a traditional, hectic Hong Kong style dim sum experience with high quality little plates, Atlantic Seafood is the spot to get your southern Chinese fix.

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Atlantic Seafood & Dim Sum Restaurant, 500 North Atlantic Boulevard, Suite 200, Monterey Park, CA 91754                                               Phone – 626-872-0388          web site – atlanticsf.weebly.com

 

 

 

Tandoori Catfish in Diamond Bar

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The peacock is the national bird of India, representing happiness, joy, vivaciousness, dancing and love. Peacock Gardens in Diamond Bar has chosen this symbol for their gathering space, that is not only a haven for Indian dinning, but also a place to celebrate life’s special moments with banquets that can be crafted to accommodate all occasions and persuasions.

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The dinning areas are adorned with colorful representations of the majestic bird, a calming influence in the attractive rooms.

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As in many other Indian establishments, a lunch buffet is available weekdays for $8.95 and a Sunday Champagne brunch is $12.95.

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The menu offers a selection of traditional and unique offerings that we dug into with great abandon.

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We began with the tandoori catfish, a snow white, soft fleshed sea creature marinated in a blend of spices, garlic and herbs that stain the tender fish a bright yellow.  A tandoor oven is then employed to char the thick filets into an inspired pleasure that is served on a bed of tomato and grilled onions.

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The Peacock Specials are dishes strongly recommended by the management, advice we like to follow.

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We fell hard for the chill paneer, a firm and meaty in-house made cheese that is battered and deep fried before being coated in a thick Asian inspired sweet and spicy sauce along with onion and bell pepper. Bitting into these flat cubes reminds us of a sturdy yet creamy, full bodied mozzarella, that is a wonderful  partner for the robust topping.

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The light and chewy naan in both plain and garlic plays well with the intensely fresh and exciting flavors.

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We found makki ki roti on the bread menu, a new taste for us. It is an unleavened Indian corn bread. Hot from the kitchen this thick, dense pancake is similar to the homemade corn tortillas we encountered in Baja.  It is gluten free for those with wheat or related grain issues. Even for those who don’t, it’s an exciting addition to the Indian table.

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A salted lassi is a drinkable tart yogurt that refreshes with a touch of salt and a buttermilk flavor.

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For those visiting or living in Diamond Bar, Peacock Garden provides delightfully fresh tandoori fish and noteworthy specials for your dining pleasure.

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Peacock Gardens Cuisine of India & Banquet Hall, 23347 Golden Springs Drive, Diamond Bar, CA 91765
Phone – 909-860-2606            web site – peacockdiamondbar.com