Tasty Tuesday – Pals Indian Cuisine

It’s Spring Break, but we are not taking a break from Tasty Tuesday! I had a Living Social voucher that was burning a hole in my pocket.

Actually nothing was burning holes in my pocket, it was really just an email I had to print. Burning holes, printing emails; same thing.  They all lead to one place:

Pals Indian Cuisine

We started with what was basically a bread course.  My kids loved the naan, and did not love the papadams.  Do you know why I love my kids? I make them eat things that cause this kind of reaction ALL THE TIME – and they still keep trying.  That particular face was a result of a samosa.

Maybelle liked the Samosas, once they were dunked in the brown sauce she insisted ‘tastes like applesauce’.

The waiter suggested they try the chicken nuggets. It almost made me cry.  Instead, we ordered the Tandoori chicken.  It came to us on a sizzling platter.  The kids dug in – it was love at first bite.

But the spices sneak up on you. A.P. was reaching for water after just a few minutes.

And then cooled things down with some Mango ice cream.  Maybelle didn’t like it so he got the whole thing.

They both insisted we come back some time for the buffet.

Are you eating anywhere interesting this week?

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Don’t Go Broke Over Spring Break!

Are you sticking around Grand Rapids for Spring Break? I can rock a staycation like nobody’s business.  I have lots of information coming in the next few days, so sit back, relax, and please enjoy your flight. Wait; you’re not going anywhere.  You’re staying RIGHT HERE.  Where it is AWESOME. And there are VERY FEW NATURAL DISASTERS.  Or BEDBUGS.

I have added some Spring Break events to my new Calendar, which is totally growing on me.

I’ll have posts coming shortly with ways to play, learn, and eat (is there anything else?) for less.

Let’s start with food, because I like food.

  • Pietros Backdoor Pizzeria has Build Your Own Pizza Night (we did that a long time ago!) from Sunday through Wednesday.  It’s fun, and a great deal at $1.99.
  • If you are downtown and want an inexpensive but fantastic lunch that totally accommodates kids, check out Art & Bev on GRCC’s campus.  Environmental bonus points for eating there because they recycle everything.

You could also pretend you are on a road trip and eat at chain restaurants three times a day, for the full vacation experience.  Some of them have Kids eat free deals; call ahead to the specific location for details.

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Tasty Tuesday – Little Africa

Little Africa on UrbanspoonOur Tasty Tuesday adventure took us to Little Africa this week. It wasn’t the first time we had been there, but it was so long ago my kids had forgotten all about it. We took Mr. Binder this time, under completely sneaky pretenses. I told him we were using a Restaurant.com coupon and going out to eat. Yay!

Here is what I did not tell him: 1) It was African food which meant that there was 2) no beer and also, by the way 3) no meat. I am totally not above lying to expand my family’s horizons.

HUGE props to this I’ll-have-a-burger-and-a-pint man.  He won the Best Sport award when he dove into the family platter and tried lentils prepared 3 different ways.  He and Maybelle shared a love for the green lentil dish, on the grounds that it “sort of tastes like tacos”.  A.P. didn’t like the injera bread this time, and since that is the main vehicle for getting the food into your mouth (There are no utensils – only bread and finger bowls), he was out of luck.  Still, there was a carrot salad that he chowed on.

Remember the Ginger Tea we had at Chez Olga? We tried a pot at Little Africa too.  I hope this doesn’t make us the weirdest family ever (actually, I don’t care) but we loved this tea.  All four of us were completely smitten with it.

I started thinking about mixed tapes.  You whippersnappers who have only had MP3 playlists will laugh at me like I’m singing the praises of Eight Tracks, but there was something magic about mixed tapes.  One little connection to another song, like both bands having the same influences, and you had your transition to the next song. The teas were different, but with similar influences.  Which makes sense, really.  Haiti has a pretty heavy African history.  If they had been songs instead of pots of tea, I would have put them right next to each other on my mixed tape.

We were surprisingly stuffed after this meal.  Maybe the bread is really filling – or maybe it was the tea.  There was one dish we ate every last drop of, and it was made from chick pea flour.  It tasted a little like falafel; which made me think of how close Africa is to the Middle East, which brought me, figuratively, to my next song.  Be on the lookout for a Middle Eastern Tasty Tuesday soon :)
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Tasty Tuesday – Share Your Breakfast

We’re mixing it up a little this week for Tasty Tuesday! Instead of lunch or dinner at one of the amazing ethnic restaurants around town, we stopped at a bakery for Pazcki, which is Polish for “delicious, over-filled donut you eat on Fat Tuesday”.

I don’t have a lot of rasberry donut filling hanging around the house, so we went on the way to school.  I thought it would  be a fun treat; and it was.  For the kids.  They arrived at school covered with powdered sugar.  Had it not been my day to work in their classrooms, I wouldn’t have cared but since I actually walked in with them I was a little embarrassed.

There is nothing like food to get people’s attention though.  It gave me a great chance to talk about the meaning of Lent, and how we observe it in our family and church.  Maybelle was mostly concerned that this no meat on Friday business would not interfere with any St. Patrick’s Day plans that involved eating corned beef.

There is, of course, more to Lent than what we can or can’t eat.  It’s more than giving up; it’s also giving.  One fantastic way we can give is by uploading, describing, or texting a picture of what we ate this morning to Share Your Breakfast. For any one of these actions taken now through July 31, Kelloggs will donate to Action For Healthy Kids (there is a chapter here in West Michigan!) to support a school breakfast program that will bring about 1,000,000 more school breakfasts during the 2011-2012 school year.

Upload pictures to or descriptions of your breakfast to ShareYourBreakfast.com or text your photo with the word “Share” to 21534. You can do this every day!

Special thanks to Action for Healthy Kids for providing me with information for this post!

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Tasty Tuesday – Chez Olga

Remember this weekend? Flowers were blooming, birds were singing.  It was spring.  For a brief, fleeting moment…

And today we had a snow day.

During our 36 hours of passable roadways and wearing only the inner layers of our three piece parkas, we decided to visit Chez OlgaWe’d been there before, and I literally ate so much trying to taste everything I was almost sick.  Think Homer Simpson, “So full.  So good. So much pain. Can’t.. stop…eating.

Realizing that I can visit any time I want, my strategy was a bit different this time.  Although I really wanted to get the Goat Stew again (Don’t judge.  I bet you’d like it if you tried it.), I decided to try a plantain sandwich.  Except the plantain was the ‘bread’, not the middle.  The middle some kind of salted beef.  It was delicious.

One thing I could not resist having again was the coleslaw.  It’s spicy and fresh. Really spicy.

And one more thing I couldn’t resist having again was the Haitian tea.  The key ingredient is ginger.  My taste buds are jumping up and down as I write this.  Settle down, guys.  We’ll go back.

A.P. is a huge fan of shrimp, so he ordered the shrimp and noodles.  The food is cooked with the amount of heat you want; and he didn’t want any heat at all.  Just the shrimp, and lots of it.  He didn’t love his dish though, because the shrimp had sauce on it, and he just wanted “Shrimp.  And noodles.”  Fortunately, Maybelle got a chicken and broccoli noodle soup she couldn’t finish because the bowl was HUGE so between that and eating half of my plantain sandwich, everyone was pretty darn happy.

Midway through the meal, A.P. started chatting up a couple at the table next to us.  They were clearly on a date.  Without kids.  I tried to reign him back in, but they were very nice, and we all started chatting.  It was so not the normal restaurant experience, but there is just a really friendly atmosphere at Chez Olga that is kind of contagious.  They were visiting from out of town, and like the good little Grand Rapids ambassador I’ve raised him to be, he insisted they visit Yesterdog before they left town.  We steered them towards Brewery Vivant instead, and bid them babay (which is pretty much ‘see ya’ in Creole).

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The Chez Olga llc on Urbanspoon


Tasty Tuesday – Wei Wei Palace

Wei Wei PalaceTo kick off the Tasty Tuesday series, I’m going to re-post a visit we had to the Wei Wei Palace.  It’s original title was, “You Did WHAT In The Palace?” and was published August 28, 2007 I hope you enjoy it. I miss those days!!

Back then, I didn’t take pictures for my blog (!) so you can also take a peek at My Hotel Life’s experiences there too; (with grown ups, of course). You can also check out Urban Spoon for more reviews.


I was first introduced to the Wei Wei Palace by my father, who said he had read that it was the best Dim Sum restaurant in West Michigan. However, we weren’t sure of the pronunciation, and called it the “Wee Wee Palace” until we stood corrected (and just a smidge embarassed).

Right now, you might be saying, “my kids won’t eat that kind of food.” Or, you may be saying, “Woman? What on earth are you talking about?”

OK let me start with a brief introduction to Dim Sum.  It is a ‘light meal’.  More like an appetizer or snack than an actual meal. It is Chinese, and the food usually comes in little metal or bamboo steamer baskets.  Some of it is fried or boiled, and comes on a plate.  If you have been to San Chez, you kind of get the idea. If it is busy, they will bring a cart around and you choose what you want, but if it is slow you place your order with a waiter and they bring it from the kitchen.

You order several different things and share rather than an ‘entree’. The first time we went with Grandpa Binder, several months ago, we didn’t know this.  We ordered so much food our table was overflowing, and we kept asking for the cart to come back by. We were truly tourists in our own town, but not the good way. We were just being American pigs. Oh well, we left a good tip (or my Dad did, anyway).

A.P., Maybelle and I went again for Tasty Tuesday. This time, being seasoned Dim Summers, we ordered just a few things. The waiter looked at me a little puzzled. I asked him if I ordered too much food, and he said no, but they were all desserts. I switched it up a bit, sat back, and waited for our first little basket of goodies to arrive.

Meanwhile, my children were fully entertained by the fish tank. This is not the tropical, colorful, serene fish tank to watch while you are waiting for your meal. This is more the “we’re about to be your meal” type of tank, but my kids loved it anyway.

There is a big picture on the wall, which A.P. impressed me to no end by identifying  as the Great Wall of China.  So I did choose the right preschool after all! I thought. My proud parental beaming ended when he explained that he knew that from watching Little Einsteins.

They also entertained themselves by playing with the chopsticks, which Mommy is not going to tell you again, those are NOT DRUMSTICKS I calmly explained that some other cultures used different utensils.

The first round arrived just in time. We got ‘sesame balls’ which are these round (duh) doughy things with almond paste inside and sesame on the outside. A.P. loved these, I think because he associated them with Sesame Street (note to self; lay off the TV). Are these not dessert? Well, whatever, they were really good.

Pretty soon some awesome spring rolls showed up, along with several different dips and sauces.  We like our dips in the Binder household, so while I’m sure we did the Cantonese culinary equivalent of putting ketchup on a filet mignon, we tried them all.

We had several other dumplings, the highlight of which was a fried meat dumpling which Maybelle found ‘too sticky’ but A.P. really liked.  They both ate a tofu dish, but I think it was because I told them it was eggs.

Then the dessert came; I thought. It was a sweet lotus paste donut type roll that was incredibly good.  I guess it wasn’t dessert though, because then some steamed rice packets arrived.  We were all way too full to eat, so we took those home, along with a few other leftovers, for later.

One great thing about Wei Wei is that in the same shopping center is an Asian grocery store.  They have rows and rows of noodles, and you want tea? They got your tea right here. Aisles of it.

I let the kids each choose one thing to buy, and unfortunately, A.P. had his heart set on a gumball from the machine outside the store. Maybelle chose a cute little package with a friendly-looking cartoon bear on it and I was extremely disappointed when it had chocolate in it. When I was young and my parents traveled, they brought us back candy from Asia in cute little packages with bears on it and looked like candy; but it was dried seaweed or something awful like that. I wanted to laugh at provide the same cultural experiences for my children that my parents provided for me.

So by all means, you should visit the Wei Wei Palace. Oh, and by the Wei, it is pronounced Way Way Palace for those of you not already in the know…

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Budget Boosters – Interesting Eats For Less!

I’m excited to announce that I am bringing Tasty Tuesday back! It was a series I did a few years ago, when

I took my then preschool and toddler aged children to eat at ethnic restaurants all over Grand Rapids!

I thought I was pretty awesome for a while there, because my kids would eat anything.

Then, they developed taste buds.

And while they’re still relatively good ‘tryers’; they are far too comfortable with the Chicken Tenders Kids Dinner option when we go out.  Obviously we can’t go out to lunch like in the good ole’ days before school took over all the fun we had chowing down all over town, so it will have to be out to dinner on one of the two nights during the week my husband has class.

Why can’t my husband come with us, you ask? Because going out to eat is expensive, but going out to eat with him is twice as expensive. That’s right – having him with us DOUBLES our bill.  He has to get an appetizer, and then a beer, and the most expensive not-on-special entree. As much as I love him; I’m kicking my husband to the curb for the majority of this project.


There is always Restaurant.com! If you use the code LOVE when you checkout you’ll get 80$ off!

I looked through the restaurants that make good “Tasty Tuesday” candidates and and found a nice little list of deals!  Also, I put the certificate amounts.  Most of the $25 certificates would only cost you TWO DOLLARS RIGHT NOW!

  • Little Africa $25 off of a $35 purchase (we ate there a few months ago using using a Restaurant.com coupon!)

Did I miss any? Should I skip something? Where should Tasty Tuesday take us next? Follow our adventurous eating! Subscribe to my RSS feed, get Big Binder by email, follow me on twitter, or become fan on Facebook.


Tasty Tuesday Round Up

The Grand Rapids Press had a Guide to Ethnic restaurants a little while back.  I was curious how many we had been to, and I thought you might enjoy reading about our experiences.  While the article inexplicably left out the ten gazillion really good Mexican restaurants in town, it was a good little kick in the pants to set some ethnic dining goals for this summer. 

For the first time in a really long time, we’ll be in town for Festival.  Those of you not in Grand Rapids might not understand why an Art Festival has a bunch of ethnic food stands.  Actually, those of us in Grand Rapids don’t really understand either, but we know what we need to know – and that is to shut our fool mouths and not question deliciousness.   It’s like if Epcot had a ‘foods on a stick from around the world’ exhibit.  Awesome.

Now that the kids are a little older I will be able to not only force them to eat funky foods, I can finally use my Anthropology major for something and educate them about the cultures the foods come from. If you are feeling mildly sorry for my kids – you are not alone.  I’m one stop shopping for all of your Dorky Mom needs. 

Here’s the list:

Do your kids like to try foods from other cultures? How do they react? I’m so curious – do tell!

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Be Not Afraid – of Funky Foods

There are only two areas in my life that I have good taste – and I’m OK with that.  One is music, and the other is food.  I see both as cross cultural; that is, not only you can enjoy music and food from another culture, you can actually learn something about that culture by the experience of enjoying it.  They are bridges.  They bring people together and that warms the heart of this Anthropology major.

Early on in my blog, I took my kids all over town in a “Tasty Tuesday” series.  It’s so important to me that they learn not to be afraid other tastes.  We have so many food choices.  Not just ‘good’ and ‘bad’; but year-round availability made possible by incredible logistics and shelf stabilizers.  Traditional food can’t make use of this technology though; and since different food is grown in different seasons in different areas of the world; food is as varied as cultures.

I don’t know if this is true, but it occurred to me that if my children learned early on not to be afraid of someone’s food, that’s one step closer to not being afraid of that person.  If they learn to have a well-rounded palate and the fortitude to try a new, freaky looking food, not only might they actually like it, they will see the world as a more interesting, accessible place where they are both comfortable, and respectful.

I really want, as Michael Pollan says, to “eat real food, not too much, mostly plants”.  So simple; but so difficult.  Food technology affords so many choices.  But the technology and subsidy policies that make cheap and readily available food-like substances will not sustain a human body.  I have been trying with all my might to nourish my children, and to teach them to be unafraid of real food whether it is familiar to their culture or not.

There is no end to the information available about what to eat.  It’s overwhelming and for some people, consuming.  I thought this article Is Food a New Religion and was just sad.  I see food as a connector.  This article made me really see that some people see food as a divider – the same way some supposedly religious people can be the most hurtful, judgemental people you’ll ever meet.

Eating ‘real food, not too much and mostly plants’ is not only a way to experience other cultures though, it is also a way to care for the one thing we all share – the Earth.  Not only do we share it with each other, we share it with future generations and owe it to them not to destroy all of the resources they need to produce food for themselves. The coal mine accident this week has been a gruesome reminder of what the ‘cost’ of cheap food can really be.  It takes a lot of fossil fuels to produce, transport, and package food the way most of us (myself included) eat most of our food today.  Eating real food can connect us, with other people and with our great great grandchildren. Teach your children well.

This post was submitted for “The Food & Faith Challenge” on The Local Cook.

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Art & Bev

We fired up Tasty Tuesday again today.  Remember Tasty Tuesday? Long ago, I used to drag my kids out to lunch once a week.  That was before I had two kids in two different schools most days; and before A.P. ate a ‘real person’s’ lunch instead of split one with his baby sister who barely ate anything.  Here is an example of one of our adventures.

It’s been a long time since we have been able to make it to Art and Bev, but we went today.  It’s on the campus of GRCC and there is nothing not to love.  It is inexpensive, yummy, and overstaffed (in a good way) by really nice people.  I am a meanie for teasing you all; because it is only open for another week or two before closing all summer. 

If this joint was a singer, it would be wearing sweatpants.  It’s casual. But, it would sing everything from nursery rhymes to opera – the range of food you can get is huge. I got some kind of spinach and artichoke pizza thing that was delicious – for $4.00.  Maybelle went with the ham and turkey sandwich on a pretzel bun which was also $4.00.  In an uncharacteristically boring food choice move, A.P. went with the hot dog and fries.  That was $3.25. 

The trash situation was a little confusing, but awesome.  The yellow trash can is for food and paper products; and the red can is for plastic stuff.  Why? Because they compost! The paper products are made from materials that will break down, so there is very little waste.  There is still plenty of spring break left if you want to head down there.  It’s only open from 10-1, so plan accordingly.

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