Saturday, August 24, 2013

Umami. The Sushi Lounge.

We just finished our first week back to school! It was full of practicing procedures, team building activities, and read alouds. They still love a good picture book, no matter how old fourth graders think they are. I have enjoyed getting to know my new kiddos, and I really believe we are going to have a great year.

With all that being said, getting back into the routine of school is hard! During the summer, breakfast is around 9:00, lunch around 12:00 or 1:00, and then dinner around 7:00. Definitely can’t do that anymore!! I had started to get myself back into the routine of waking up early, buuutttt I forgot about training my stomach. We eat lunch at 11:00 this year (last year it was at 10:30!! That was technically a brunch), so I am starving by the end of the school day. Hence why I am hungry while I teach! I got the idea for my blog title from a student last year. One of my sweet, sweet girls wrote an acrostic poem for me. For the H in my last name, she put “hungry all the time”. I laughed and laughed when I read this. Wow! She is so right! I am one of those people that think about my next meal, as I am eating my current meal. I know. I know. I have a problem, and I try to work on it....when I remember to. :)

During the school year, it takes twice the amount of effort to cook a meal. We give so much of our energy to all 50+ kids while teaching, that the thought of putting together a meal is dreadful. The minute I sit down at home, I’m DONE. I have found a solution though! I immediately start dinner when I get home and THEN completely crash afterwards. I sort of turn into a zombie with a full belly, and I pass out in bed soon after.

Monday afternoon, I was already planning out what day we would go out to eat, so I could look forward to at least one relaxing evening with the hubby!  We both decided on Umami, in Conway, to satisfy our sushi craving.

This is not your traditional Japanese restaurant. As you walk in, you notice the more modern decor, larger dining room with black sleek tables, big half circled booths, and a nicely stocked bar area. They do have a hibachi grill area to the side, but the dining area had more customers. It is normally the opposite in most Japanese restaurants. As you notice in the restaurant name, this is a sushi lounge. The atmosphere is one of eating, drinking, and visiting with your friends. A great place to relax after, lets say, a long day of teaching....

Because we wanted to try something new, the waiter suggested we try the Hawaiian Fried Rice. Before I comment please study the picture below. It is huge!! Believe me, there is plenty to share with a friend or a big hungry man. Now, if there are three people, you need to have a thorough discussion on how hungry you are.

We went to Hawaii this summer for our honeymoon, and this fried rice helped us take a little trip down memory lane. The base of the dish is the fried rice. It is not too different than your traditional fried rice that you know and love, so you are eased just alil out of your comfort zone. I think this helps those who order the same thing every time you eat at a restaurant.  With that being said, Umami’s fried rice is like no other. I have always seen Rustin reach for the soy sauce as soon as our food hits the table. I think we ended up scooting it towards the end of the table because it was getting in our way. This is unheard of at our table! They already have their food perfectly seasoned so that you can start consuming ASAP and not have to worry about adding extra seasoning. To make this Hawaiian, there is perfectly grilled shrimp, chicken, smoked sausage, and warm sweet pineapple mixed in throughout the rice. It is so filling and satisfying that we really should have stopped there, but we originally came for our sushi craving. We HAD to get sushi! :) Well we didn’t HAVE to, but we really really really wanted to.

I got a Spicy Calamari Roll and Rustin got a King Kong Roll and a Spicy Calamari Roll. I’m an only child. I do not share. I especially do not share food, so he had to get his own calamari roll. When I said “sushi” earlier, I really meant rolls. We eat everything cooked! Nothing raw on our table! I only say sushi because it sounds more legit. 

The Spicy Calamari Roll has a nice kick of spice, but do not worry. The thin slices of cucumber and the rice inside of the roll help to offset the heat. The majority of the roll is the fried calamari. I have never seen this much meat inside a sushi roll. I took a picture of the roll upside down so you can see the actually meat underneath the sauce. They aren’t skimping you on flavor, and they definitely do not pack it full of rice.  The calamari is fried, but not with the heavy batter used in typical American food. It is light and airy, almost like the batter they use for funnel cakes. It is a big roll, and you look a little funny shoving the whole thing in your mouth. I wouldn’t laugh at you...others might. I actually cut it in half and ate it that way. Just like the fried rice, I didn’t use soy sauce for dipping my sushi roll in. Look at how healthy I ate by not using extra sodium! :)

This is the King Kong Roll that Rustin had. I really cannot comment on it because I despise raw cream cheese. Put it in any dip or casserole, and I will devour it, but I will not come close to the raw stuff. When I asked him to describe it for me, he said, “Fried to perfection”. Sorry ya’ll.....he is a man of few words while eating. This entire roll is fried and is Rustin’s favorite! He would not even touch “sushi” (I have to sound fancy) until his friend, Brandon, took him out, and he had a roll with cream cheese in it.

To get to these delicious sushi rolls, you have to look for it. This restaurant is behind Target on the Oak Street exit. You can see it when you are heading west on I-40.  

 Just go ahead and take that exit right after you see it!

Umami is a must go for your next “I do NOT feel like cooking” night....actually, it is a must go for your “I need to eat something amazing” night. 

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Sawbucks. Twice in One Day.

Sawbucks. You pass it on Highway 5 on the way to Greers Ferry Lake, and you have always wanted to stop in. 
So stop in. Your full belly can thank me later.

This is a restaurant that you can come as you are. The atmosphere is cozy and welcoming where you can kick back and relax and not have to worry about what fork to use. You only get one.
My first stop for Sawbucks was for breakfast. My friend, Tina from Flamingos and Butterflies, and I were going up to school to plan, and we thought that if we had a hardy breakfast first thing in the morning, we wouldn't have to stop for lunch. My husband and I already had dinner plans to go to Sawbucks, so that's how I ended up there for a second time. Don't judge will understand once you go there.

For breakfast I had biscuit and gravy. I can comfortably call myself a Biscuit and Gravy Specialist/Professional/Snob/Extremist/Obsesser. Anywhere and everywhere I go, I HAVE to get the biscuit and gravy. 
I even go out of my way to stay at Holiday Inn Expresses when I am out of town. They have the best hotel biscuit and gravy, but that is another post for another day.  

I have a problem.... yet I am okay with it.

The biscuits are what really made this dish. After I studied the height of those things, I crumbled the little patty of sausage over the gravy to add some more country goodness. My first bite I instantly noticed that the biscuits were light, fluffy, and perfectly golden brown. There was just the right amount of gravy on top ensuring that you never had a dry piece of biscuit. The gravy was smooth and milky with just enough flavor. I added a dusting of pepper because quite frankly, gravy can never have too much black pepper. Not the fancy cracked black pepper, but the good ole black dust from the shaker. Their biscuit and gravy passed my snobbish taste buds.


Anytime you go to Sawbucks for dinner, you have to get the BBQ Nachos for an appetizer. I have always thought that the BBQ Nacho concept was gross and that BBQ did not belong on nachos, but Sawbucks has changed me. It changed Rustin, my sorority sister Taylor, my dad, and many others. It will change you too. 

We sat down and looked through the menu, even though we get the same thing, and panicked for a second. They had gotten new menus and there was not an appetizer section. We just about got up and left, but our waitress eased our anxiety and told us they still had the nachos and that they will be adding an appetizer insert soon. Whew...that was close. 

We ordered the BBQ nachos and a Sawbucks Cheeseburger. The nachos are so filling we now split a cheeseburger to make sure no food goes to waste. 

There they are.....the BBQ nachos. The thing I crave the most and make me demand Sawbucks.  The base of this appetizer is the tortilla chips. You know, the kind that they serve at the ballpark with the cheese from a bag. They have the perfect amount of salt on them to balance out the sweetness from the BBQ sauce. (If you can't tell, I am a salty kind of girl. I prefer salt over any sweet dessert). The pork has been smoking on the grill outside the restaurant. You can see it from the road with smoke pouring out. The BBQ sauce is sweet, but if you want a little kick with your bite, just place a jalapeno on it. Rustin and I always fight for these. For nachos to be nachos there needs to be cheese. This cheese is more of a sauce than a dip. It is not the main player on the nachos. The pork and the sauce are the major stars making it so filling.

To be honest, the cheeseburger is like my stepdish. I do not put as much love and attention to it as I do the nachos. Don't get me wrong, the cheeseburger is good! We order it quite often. The beef patty is grilled on the flattop, so there is a perfect amount of crisp on the beef making the center moist and flavorful. The buttery bun is also grilled on the flattop to withstand the burger and ensuring that it will not fall apart and get soggy...I hate when that happens. 

Well, that concluded our meal. No room for dessert. No leftovers. Full belly.

So there you have it. Sawbucks. Twice in One Day. You will probably not see me go to another restaurant two times in one day, but I never say never.