There are two Chinese restaurants in Grinnell, IA: Chuong Garden and China Sea. I’m surprised that there are enough Chinese people in this town (pop. 9,369) to sustain two Chinese restaurants, but it illustrates an interesting dichotomy that I tended to overlook in New York: every somewhat classy restaurant needs a sketchtastic counterpart. China Sea, with its all-you-can-fit-into-a-plastic-container buffet and mystery meatstuffs, is the goatee-adorned evil twin of Chuong Garden. I like the Garden a lot because they have those holographic displays of pandas and waterfalls, and one of those percolating fountains that emits dry ice-smoke near the register. If I didn’t like their food so much, I’d totally steal the fountain and install it in my room. It’d really improve the ambience, I think.
Lunch at Chuong Garden is a steal: for about 5 or 6 dollars, you can get an entree, fried rice, soup and either a deep-fried crab rangoon or an eggroll. For vegans and omnivores alike, the crispy fried tofu (pictured above) is absolutely amazing. It doesn’t come as a lunch special, but get that shit anyway and share it with the whole table. Bite-sized blocks of tofu are covered in rice flour, spices and green onions and lightly fried, served with a hoisin/chili sauce mixture on the side.
There are lots of other options if you’re looking for variety; above is my favorite, sweet and sour shrimp. What can I say? I’m mad about seafood, just mad! Also handy is the maple syrup-container full of sweet and sour sauce at every table, just in case you can’t get enough of the stuff. The soup isn’t the best I’ve ever had, but it’s decent enough on a cold day. One of their greatest dishes is the sesame shrimp, which I’m pretty sure is still off-menu. It only comes in dinner-sized portions, but it’s definitely something to look out for.
Chuong Garden (915 Broad Street Grinnell, IA 50112)
This will be part 1 of a series of posts about pizza in the town where I go to college. In this one I am mad, but satiated.
Out of the 6 or so places where one can get pizza in Grinnell, none of them will let you order by the slice! What’s the dealio here, people? If you’re craving pizza at 9pm and you only have $3 on your person, there’s not much you can do; your only option is to go to the Spencer Grill, which is on the first floor of the space station-esque student center. The pizzas there are tiny, around 8 or 9 inches in diameter, and the wait is pretty long because they bake them on those conveyor belt-type ovens that you’d expect to see in a hilariously inept supervillain’s torture chamber.
I was craving vegetable pizza, but they ran out! The bastards! So my awkward acquaintance-but-not-really, who was working behind the counter, threw a bunch of green peppers and onions on top. “This is going to be the most incredible pizza you’ve ever had,” he boasted. Was it? It wasn’t too greasy, wasn’t too skimpy on the cheese. The crust was chewy but brief. I think I’m a fan. The biggest drawbacks for me are the wait and the fact that it’s so small and poofy that you can’t really fold the slices. Say what you will about college dining services, but they definitely got something sorta-good going here.
I’m in love! Have some cupcakes!
Here’s some news for those of you who go to Grinnell College in Grinnell, IA: I’ll be baking vegan cupcakes for Bob’s Underground once a week, and each will go for about $0.50. The money will go toward a new guitar
for meeee! This week was just a pilot, so I only baked 24 cupcakes. If people actually buy them, I’ll make a whole lot more next time. Though I usually don’t bake vegan pastries and cakes that often, I’m going to be approaching this as a challenge: I got the feeling that people were getting kind of sick of my standby chocolate chip cookies.
Ingredients (makes 12, can be doubled, tripled like crazy)
- 1 C soy milk
- 4 chai tea bags
- 1/4 C canola oil
- 1 banana (maybe fewer?)
- 3/4 C sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 1/3 C AP flour
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- go nuts with pumpkin pie spice!
- pinch of white or black pepper
Preheat oven to 350F and line muffin pan with cupcake liners. Heat soy milk in a small saucepan until it boils, and then take it off the heat and steep the tea bags in it for about 10 minutes. Combine everything in a mixing bowl and distribute it evenly into the muffin tin. Bake for about 20 minutes (I only needed 18 in my oven) or until a chopstick/toothpick/fork comes out clean. Finally, top them with a dusting of powdered sugar! GEEENIUS!