Food and Flying: Should You Upgrade?

I’m flying out to Hawaii tomorrow for my honeymoon, and in honor of it I’ve decided to dedicate a post of the wonders and perils of airline food, and whether you should fly coach, business, or first.

So, let’s face it- airline food is bad. Well, in almost all cases. Most coach meals are despicable sandwiches or rubbery chicken dishes with the only savior being a packaged baked good. On some flights, however, I’ve had nice salads, beef in wine reduction, lime cheesecake, sundaes, and warm nuts.

I don’t think it’s worth it to upgrade on a domestic flight. Nibble at the provided meal, or just bring your own on the flight. Remember those around you, however, and choose a meal that’s not smelly or too crunchy/slurpy. It’s only 5 hours or so in a tiny space with crappy food. You’ll live.

The exception to this rule is on popular routes or ones that have children. I’ve never wanted to poke my eyes out more than flying to Orlando in coach. All of the screaming and moving children!

I definitely recommend upgrading to business or first class on international flights. It feels civilized. Linens, real silverware, multiple courses, a personal entertainment system, more legroom… ahh, bliss.

I have flown business class on all of my international flights except one: to Tokyo. It was nightmarish, and it is the primary reason I’m going first to Hawaii. The seats had absolutely no legroom and barely moved back. I was held up from entering the plane because of a random extra security search (yes, that teenage white girl is a real threat). A Japanese girl was sitting in my seat when I arrived, and I had to get a flight attendant to get her out of my seat. The girl was pretty belligerent, and she walked off to her proper seat with my pillow and blanket. There was no overhead space left for baggage, so my purse and carry-on were jammed by my feet. Dinner was a sandwich consisting of lunch meat, cheese, and gratuitous mayo plus a microscopic bag of chips. There was no personal entertainment system, just a small TV positioned at the front of each row. They were playing a Miley Cyrus movie and “How to Train Your Dragon.”

I will be flying first class during this trip, but I don’t think it’s necessary. On domestic flights, there aren’t many perks. I do like having a special security lane and primary boarding. Ever since they started charging for baggage, it’s been a madhouse back in coach to stuff your bags in the overhead bin.

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Red Ants on a Log

Ants on a log are a popular children’s snack traditionally consisting of celery, peanut butter, and raisins. I’m sure you had it when you were a kid. While many people cease to make ants on a log past elementary school, I continue to love it. It is so easy to make. Just buy celery and pull out the raisins and peanut butter from your pantry. It is also nutritious, packing in a veggie, a fruit, and a protein in one snack.

My version includes crunchy organic peanut butter and Craisins, red ants on a log. This makes it a little unhealthy as Ocean Spray Craisins have added sugar, and the fat content on the peanut butter is a little high. I like using crunchy peanut butter because it’s always good to have texture. The one I used is from Sprouts and must be refrigerated, which is a minor inconvenience.

And guess what? This was my dinner one night. Believe it or not, but ants on a log can very filling. They are also a fun and easy alternative to other dishes on Meatless Monday. It’s a great vegetarian snack that allows you to get the protein you need. You can have a lot of fun with it by trying out different peanut butters and dried fruit.

Do you ever make ants on a log?

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Restaurant Review: Tantalum Restaurant

Photo from yelp.com.

My mom, my brother’s girlfriend, and I decided to go to Tantalum at about 8:15 on a Friday night. When we first walked in, it was loud with live music playing. There was no one waiting in the lobby though. We spoke with the hostess, and she said there was a 45 minute wait. Okay. A little strange, but perhaps everyone was waiting for a free table by chilling at the bar. We tried to find a space, but it was completely packed. Instead of waiting it out, we used a phone to make an online reservation for a table in 15 minutes. We went shopping around the block and came back. They seated us immediately when we mentioned our reservation, though the hostess did appear irked.

We got a nice waterside table away from the music. It was loud, but you could still hear people talking. We ordered at about 8:50. Drinks came quickly. I had the Santoro’s Dream. It was delicious and strong. My mom had the special of the night, the Bali something. She said she couldn’t tell that there was any alcohol in it. Very weak.

Our food didn’t arrive until 9:45. Yes, almost a full hour without food being severed. During this time, we barely saw our waitress. She came once to clear our glasses and ask if we wanted more drinks. We said no, and she didn’t come back. We hailed her down a little later to ask about the food, and she said it’d be a little longer. By then, we had been waiting over a half hour. There was no apology, no explanation. I honestly didn’t know if we were ever going to see food. The waitress came back several minutes later with steamed edamame and plunked it on the table. “In case you’re getting too hungry,” or something like that. It was nice to get something to eat, but by then it had been almost an hour and our food came out less than a minute later.

There were mixed reviews of the food. I enjoyed the short rib sliders with caramelized onions and a cheese fondue. Sure, it was greasy and rich, but it was flavorful and delectable bar food. My mom had a caprese-like salad that was just average. It didn’t taste seasoned. I think even Buca di Beppo makes better salads. Someone also ordered pad thai and said she had much better, cheaper pad thai. This one had no flavor, no zing. It was just Americanized noodles.

I might be willing to try this place again because it is so close to my house, and I personally enjoyed my food and drinks. The staff, however, was pretty pretentious, and the service was far from great. I don’t think I’ve ever waited that long for food.

GRADE: D

6272 Pacific Coast Hwy
Long Beach, CA 90803

(562) 431-1414

http://www.tantalumrestaurant.com

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Restaurant Review: CUCINA enoteca

The interior of CUCINA enoteca. Photo from yelp.com.

I was excited to try out Cucina Enoteca. There aren’t many good places to eat in Orange County that aren’t a chain restaurant. This place has a gorgeous patio area with Anthropologie-esque furniture and décor. The inside was also very pretty, with a wine shop and nice bar. We came here for a Sunday brunch and got a partially shaded place on the patio with comfy chairs. There was no wait to be seated.

I had the caprese salad, and the fiancé had the lasagna. The caprese was delicious and perfectly seasoned. A lot of places under-season or over-season, but not here. I liked the addition of what appeared to be scallions; it added a little zing. The burrata was amazing (when is it not?). My fiancé seemed to enjoy his rustic-looking lasagna, and it was a big enough portion that he took some home as leftovers. We also had some fried squash blossoms to start. They were great (liked the pesto), though a small portion, which tends to be the case frequently with squash blossoms.

We also dabbled in some non-alcoholic drinks. I had a lavender lemonade, and it was good. Tasted like what a homemade lemonade should. Even better was my fiancé’s cherry soda. The ingredients for it on the menu seemed intriguing: balsamic and sweet cream? But it was great. Sweet and tangy, but not too sharp. I will definitely get that next time.

Overall, we’ll definitely go back. I love the menu and can’t wait to try more things.

GRADE: A

31 Fortune Dr
Ste 306
Irvine, CA 92618

(949) 861-2222

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Restaurant Review: Michael’s On Naples

The first floor dining room. Photo from yelp.com.

I came to Michael’s for my birthday in June. I have been to the pizzeria next door and thought it was just okay, so I was hoping Michael’s would be better. We were seated on the first floor, and it was mostly empty on the Sunday night we came. We had a friendly waiter, though we waited a while for our entrees.

To start off there was a swordfish amuse bouche that I didn’t try (not into swordfish). For an appetizer I had artichoke and burrata. It consisted of three artichoke hearts and a dollop of burrata sitting in a broth/cool salty liquid. I love me some burrata, but I did think the dish was a little salty even though I enjoyed it.

The entrée for me was steak with some type of rosemary herb gnocchi. I was given a large portion of steak, and it was properly cooked. It was a good as it could be for that cut of steak- it wasn’t filet mignon. The ratio of steak to gnocchi, however, was bizarre. For such a huge chunk of meat, there were only three or four small thumbnail-sized gnocchi. What’s up with that?

Dessert was their almond cake. It was the best restaurant dessert I’ve had in a long time. Sweet but not too sweet, moist, alomond-y… mmmm. Also had a scoop of peach sorbet.

As for what others ate, there were good reviews of the large charcuterie plate and pizzas.

Overall, it was a good experience. Not sure if I’ll be back because of the price and how I don’t go to these types of places often.

GRADE: B+

5620 E 2nd St
Long Beach, CA 90803

(562) 439-7080

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