Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Phenomenal Woman & Local Food

Happy International Women's Day,
my lovely international women friends!
Wishing each and all of you lots of happiness and joy this day and always!
Being a woman is awesome! I think each and every woman is phenomenal, 
and we all are here to discover that phenomenal woman within ourselves!

I wore this outfit to see The Glass Menagerie last weekend at Lakewood Playhouse (last chance to see it this coming weekend, only three shows left, on March 9, 10 and 11). I added these genuine vintage glass earrings to my retro outfit - one of my recent thrift finds. One or two "gems" are missing, but who cares if they still sparkle so vivaciously! They obviously had a busy life since the1950s. Can you imagine all the things they witnessed in their long life? Social events, romantic dates, movies (in drive-in theaters, I'm sure)! I wonder whether they've ever seen a live play, like The Glass Menagerie, or it was a premiere for them? When I was trying these beauties on, a sweet lady who also was looking at jewelry (she visually reminded me of Ann, so it was a little bit like shopping with my dear blogging friend) exclaimed, "They are so pretty! They go with your hair! Buy them!" And of course, as you see, I did. 

I ordered this dress via eShakti a couple of months ago, and I am utterly smitten by this lovely design - a pelerine-like top, a fabric belt, and of course polka dots. 

In case you want to go out to celebrate the Women's Day properly, I thought I'd share a few of my favorite spots locally. We love going out, and we almost never go to chain restaurants (there are a few exceptions). I am a serious foodie and love discovering little gems off the beaten path. So fasten your seat belt for an exciting foodie ride! Are you ready?

1. Maza Grill
Halal Steak House and Pakistani Cuisine
Kent/Renton, WA

I think that Pir Chishti, the owner, is one of the best chefs around here. My picture doesn't do their dishes justice - their food is beautiful as well as flavorful and very homey. We haven't tried steak, but the variety of dishes that we have tried here are all top notch. If you love kebobs, we recommend Punjabi Boti Chicken Tikka. Justin who is very particular about his chicken, just loves this dish, it's done to perfection! (He calls it "chicken on a sword" because of the presentation). I'm sorry that I forgot the name of my lamb dish (photo below) and I couldn't find it on the menu. It is a slowly cooked lamb shank in fragrant creamy sauce, very rich and spicy and very warming, perfect for cold weather days! I also loved their Almond Chicken - it's a popular dish though, so make sure to arrive earlier, once it's gone, it's gone!

Braised Lamb Shank (it has an exotic name too, which I forgot)

About the style of cooking from Maza Grill website: "The menu at Maza grill is authentically Pakistani, and harks back to the Mughal style of cooking. The Mughal Kings ruled India before the British. It is Muslim cooking that all though influenced by the spices of the sub-continent has much in common with the food of Persia and Arabia. Spices can be fragrant such as saffron, cilantro, mint, cardamom, clove, cinnamon, or strong like garlic, ginger or hot such as chili. The colourful list is endless, the complexity of different combinations of spices lends itself to the startling individuality of each dish."

Home-made ice-cream

I was honored to be a tester of Maza's home made ice-cream which their chef created with caramel, cheese cake, berry sauce and a bunch of other great ingredients. I can attest that it's one of the finest ice-creams I've ever had. Their Mango Lassi is wonderful too! It's a family style restaurant, the owners are very friendly and attentive. Portions are abundant, and prices are fair. I highly recommend this place!

2. Ban Som Tum
Isaan Thai
Federal Way, WA

Our favorite Thai restaurant ever! I just can't have enough of it - I need my weekly fix. Very friendly, clean, stylish atmosphere, with full bar, but also great for families with kids. Food is amazing - fresh, healthy and very flavorful! Just like Maza Grill, one of the best chefs around! I've tried many dishes, and everything is fantastic. Some of our family's favorites: Coconut Prawn (to die for!) and Phad Thai, we can eat it every single time. I also recommend their special Lamb Curry with Fingerling baby potatoes (I believe you will find it on the dinner menu) and Pumpkin Curry Salmon (on the lunch menu) - both are fantastic. But it's an extensive menu, so browse away! Keep in mind that the parking lot is small and fills up quickly on weekend evenings.

Pumpkin Curry Salmon

From the Ban Som Tum website: 
"Prayat’s passion for cooking began very early in the Isaan region of Thailand. His mother recognized her son's talent and encouraged his interest, teaching him the secret of great Isaan-Thai cuisine:
Today, Prayat and his assistants make every effort to keep his menu fresh and exciting. He found his sous chef, Kamonchanok, who is also from Isaan and previously an Isaan chef herself and the two dream up unique combinations with seasonal ingredients that change daily. Everything is prepared by hand. This is a labor intensive process; but in the Ban Som Tum kitchen, quality is never compromised."

Lamb Curry with Fingerling Potatoes (forgot the authentic name).
You can choose white or brown rice with your dishes

3. Pomodoro
Italian Restaurant & Bar
Proctor, Tacoma, WA

It's a popular place, busy on weekend nights, so make a reservation. The atmosphere is lovely, with a feel of a cozy old English pub (oddly enough). We've only been there a handful of times, so I am not as familiar with their menu yet. Last time, we tried their Crab and Artichoke Dip - and it was amazing! I also loved Lambrusco, inexpensive Italian red wine, it was perfect with my dinner.

From the Pomodoro website:
"The secret to our success is simple; 
we are  committed to providing our guests with quality food, 
excellent service and reasonable prices. 
Markeen Tower
owner of Pomodoro"

Crab and Artichoke Dip

4. Ma Boulangerie
Federal Way, WA

This is my favorite bakery in the South Sound. There are many good bakeries around, but sometimes it is hard to find European style pastries and cakes which I grew up with, and Ma Boulangerie is the place to go without driving to Seattle. They also offer breads and sandwiches, but I will focus on desserts for now. Last time, I tried their Apple Caramel (if I remember it right) cake. I am not a huge fan of apples, but this one looked and sounded really good. I was a bit worried that it would be too "apply" - but it wasn't! As with other cakes, I find that their recipes have a perfect balance, not too sweet, not too anything, not hitting you over the head with huge flavors - everything done in an elegant, sophisticated way, is flavorful, fresh, with perfect texture, moisture, etc. I'm really pleased and impressed. I have lived in the USA for 16 years now, and it's been a real challenge to find something like this.

Latte and Apple Caramel (?) Cake

From Ma Boulangerie website:
"We specialize in baking varieties of breads including; whole wheat, multi grain, dark rye, honey wheat, and a line of gluten free options. Also, we bake daily croissants of many types. One of our most popular croissants are the 9 grain, and the Pain Au Chocolate, which is filled with chocolate. The over 30 different kinds of cakes and pastries will leave you wanting to try more and more."

We bought macarons and chocolate cake for Anna's birthday earlier in the year. And we all fell in love with the Chocolate Mousse Cake that had a few layers, wasn't overly sweet or bitter and had a wonderful hazelnut flavor. I'm not an expert on macarons by any means, but theirs are very pretty and light.

Chocolate Mousse Cake


Phew. Writing food reviews is quite an exercise! I Consider it my gift to you, phenomena women! I wasn't paid or asked by any of these restaurants to write a review - I simply share my own favorites with you and hope it will be helpful. Maybe we'll meet in one of these places some day!

Dress - eShakti
Coat - via Simply Be (last winter)
Jewelry and purse - vintage via antique malls and Goodwill
Shoes - Dansko via Nordstrom Rack (last year)
Glasses - Christian Siriano for Lane Bryant (last year)

Linking up with Tina's Pink Friday

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  1. Oh Anna is 15! Time flys.Many greetings :)
    I love this dress Natalia you look gorgeous. ❤️ And this wonderful food, I am hungry :)
    I wish you an amazing womens day, enjoy.
    Huge hug and much love Tina

    1. And happy Women's Day to you, Tina! Do you celebrate it in Germany?
      It's rainy today and will probably be a quiet day at home, though I'm never sure, we are a spontaneous bunch. :)

  2. First of all, Happy Women's Day! I wish you a lovely and relaxing 8th of March. I baked some cakes yesterday and I prepared a nice lunch today, decorated the table and celebrated in a simple way, took the chance to either text or call my relatives.

    I didn't call anyone over, because I didn't feel like planning anything in advance. I went for a little walk/coffee date in the morning, had a nice lunch and I plan to relax in the evening.

    Too bad we live so far away from one another, I'd love to invite you over for tea.

    I enjoyed reading these reviews. I've never been to a Pakistani restaurant, but I'm somewhat familiar with Middle Eastern cuisine, at least in theory. On the other hand, we have a few traditional dishes that are prepared in the whole Balkan area but also in the Middle East. It is possible they originated there, I'm not sure. Sometimes it is hard to determine where exactly some dish originated from as food inventions and specialties always travelled around, good news spreads fast:) one could say.

    Greta to hear you found a place that has European kind of bakery, I imagine those places are not that common in USA. I on the other hand, am not familiar with American baking style so I'd love to try that.

    Your reviews were very interesting to read...and that cake with Anna's name reminded me she is already 15! Time flies, doesn't it. Sometimes it seems to me that I was 15 yesterday and here I am already in my thirties, soon to be 33 (in April).:)

    You're right, writing food & restaurant reviews is not easy. No wonder that there are people who are paid to do just that, it's not as easy as it looks. I have tons of 'drafts' with restaurant reviews and I never seem to be able to find the time to finish writing those restaurant reviews. I'm afraid that by the time I finish writing them, they won't be relevant anymore. I shared a few of restaurant in the past, and I want to do it again, but as you said- it's quite an exercise.

    1. Happy 8th of March, Ivana! In Russia, they traditionally celebrate is also as a beginning of Spring (which begins on March 1st, officially). Mama said that it was warmer for two days and snow melted from their window sills... It was also a big deal in Russia, and we celebrated our friendships, sisterhood, and of course our mothers. Men were obliged to bring home flowers. :)))) Here, I organized girls parties on a few occasions, invited my acquaintances. I would love to come for tea to your home, what a nice invitation! We'd chat about everything - art, writers and writing, cooking etc.

      Pakistani cuisine is a cross between Mediterranean and Indian I would say, it has both the freshness of the first, and the richness of the second. And you are right - recipes travel and change over time, and we often think of our national dishes as if they were always ours, but they have other roots. :)


    2. Yes, I know it's a big deal in Russia. Here it is also celebrated and I believe it was celebrated in the past, perhaps even more. I have so many lovely memories linked with the 8th of March. My brother and me would always pick flowers for my mother on this day.

      Girl parties sound great! Here female coworkers or friends often go out for a lunch or a date. I'm sure we would enjoyed a nice chat!

      Flowers are always nice, so it is good that there is a day men are obliged to get them:)....Today we went for an espresso and the waiter brought me a rose with the espresso. The owners of restaurants/cafes/stores often hand out flowers to women. Men buy flowers here too. There was definitely a positive vibe on the streets today, a stark contrast with the news- in the news it was all about the negative and how it is terrible to be a woman. I don't agree with that at all. I think it is wonderful to be a woman.

      I don't like this negative approach to 8th of is like the media is telling us that we should feel bad for being women. I'm all for improving the lives of women, but victimizing one's self is never good in the long run. I think us ladies should celebrate each other, learn to appreciate ourselves and other women more.... be grateful to each other, be grateful for each other.

      Believe our lives will be horrible because we are women and teaching that to little girls...that makes no sense to me, yet that seems to be the message of the media today. I honestly don't think anyone has it easy. Things are often difficult for both men and women because life is hard and not always fair. Men struggle too and they are much less likely to seek help when they have health or mental problems. I think we should be able to celebrate women without blaming men for everything every step of the way. Women ought to be celebrated, because we cab be pretty amazing!

    3. I think in life, it's all about focus. I can focus on those events when it wasn't so wonderful to be a woman, or in general it wasn't so wonderful "to be" - yes, we all have such moments and periods. But I choose to focus on what works and what I want to be growing and become more amazing. It is a choice, an every day choice. I have days when I choose to loose my focus - but I know that that's exactly what I'm doing, I am choosing to be negative. News predominantly choose to be negative - it's their conscious choice because it's believed to be sold faster and more expensive. That's all it is - the choice. I do not watch or read news. It is MY conscious choice. I focus on what makes sense to me! On what uplifts me and helps me grow. Not always,not every day I succeed. But I am getting better and better with practice. <3

  3. now i have to smuggle myself on a plane to visit all this food temples - and - while already there - YOU!!!
    super cute outfit - especially that dress is a sweet dream. the genius yoke design makes a tiny waist!!
    i often wonder what my vintage pieces have experienced in their long life........especially if they have damages or very worn out parts.....
    happy womens day - dear friend! xxxxx

    1. Happy Women's Day, my dear Beate! Get into a cute vintage suitcase to be shipped over here immediately!!! :) I celebrate today thinking of all the wonderful women that I met in my life, real life or via Internet, imagining a circle of friends who love and support each other. You are my Internet family, and you definitely belong to this lovely supportive circle!

      I am glad you appreciated the dress design, it reminds me of the 1930s which I adore. The earrings are I am pretty sure from the 1950s, and yes, so curious what life they had before they met me.

  4. Happy Birthday to Anna!
    That dress is lovely, Beate's so right, it really does show off your waist.
    You're so lucky having so many individual restaurants - here it's either Chinese, North Indian (too meat-based for me) or chains.
    Happy Women's Day to you and Anna! xxx

    1. Thank you, my dear! Happy Women's Day to you!
      Anna turned 15 on January 15th. :) Time really flies. It seems just yesterday they put her, a newborn, on my chest, and she looked right into my eyes - the moment which I will never ever forget... and now she is taller than me!

      Many restaurants here offer vegetarian dishes! I am a huge eggplant fan, and when I see it on the menu, I order it - usually in either Chinese or Italian places, though it's not very common. We also have vegetarian and even vegan restaurants. You'd love it here!

  5. First of all, congratulations to Anna, and to you, her amazing Mum, of course! Little girls grow up fast, but I guess that she'll always be your little girl! It thrills me to have a double living near you, and of course I too would have urged you to buy those beautiful earrings. Your dress is very sweet, and I'm especially taken by the pelerine-like yoke (now it's you who's teaching me a new word, as I didn't know pelerine!). The food looks utterly delicious. We have a wonderful little bakery here, selling the most delectable "pain au chocolat"! xxx

    1. See, it's like I had your approval in the store! :)
      I remember this word from Russian, and I looked it up - sure enough, there is one in English too, though here it's often called "cape", but I think pelerine sounds so much prettier. :)
      Anna has such an independent character that even as a little girl, she was already a strong personality, and she always is so eager to grow up...but there are moments when I want her to be "my little girl", and I am sure one day she will want to feel it too. :)

    2. "pelerine" - with spoken "e" at the end is used in german too - or was - before all fashion related words came in "denglish"....

    3. Пелерина in Russian, with an "a" at the end. :) Yes, fashion terms shifted in the last decade or so from French to English. Russians use so many "Englishisms" in the modern language - we are really witnessing a huge language shift these days, and it is curious (if a little maddening) to monitor, as a linguist. I even started a little dictionary where I write down these new words or new meanings of the words that I notice in modern Russian. <3

  6. Ślicznie u Ciebie jak zawsze:)))sukienka bardzo mi się podoba:))na stole same smakołyki:)))Pozdrawiam serdecznie:)))

  7. I am rather late but Happy International Womens Day to you dear Natalia. Your dress looks wonderful on you , such a good style.
    I enjoyed your tour around your favourite places to eat - they do all look very good.Congratulations to Anna on her 15th birthday, my the time has flown.

    1. Thank you, dearest Jill! Time does go fast, I remember being 15 myself, hehe! <3