Monday, August 03, 2009

Lunches with Lucy: Tomato Vegetable Soup, Chicken Souvlaki Pita, Banh Mi, and Pasta Salad – June 1 to 5, 2009

I don’t remember much about these lunches, so I’ll just type my notes out.

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Tomato Veggie Soup and Veggie Panini from Café Deluxe – June 1, 2009

On June 1st, I had just started with The Diet. For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, I’ll write a separate post about the rules of The Diet. There’s a quick explanation here.

Anyway, needless to say, eating lunch downtown can be hard on anyone with a diet to stick to.

I started by eating more soup because soup is a great way to eat more vegetables in a non-boring way. I noticed that many soups are really salty, which is bad for The Diet.

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This soup, however, was almost perfect. It was salty and tangy without being too salty or tangy. The large chunks of vegetables were definitely filling. I totally inhaled this soup because it reminded me of my mum’s tomato vegetable soup.

I also ate a grilled vegetable and feta panini, but I didn’t take any pictures. This is one of my favourite sandwiches. It contains grilled zucchini and eggplant, red peppers, red onions, tomatoes, and feta cheese. If you’re lucky, your sandwich may be overflowing with feta because the amount you receive is wholly dependent on who made your sandwich.

The grilled veggies were mushy to the point of being creamy—not good. The sandwich was packed with herbs and seasonings (oregano and something else I can’t place), but it needed a smidge more salt. It did match well with the soup, which was a tad salty. The feta wasn’t evenly distributed throughout the panini, so some bites didn’t have cheese at all. Those bites were sad mouthfuls. In the end, I liked it, and I even wrote, “Mouth is happily stinky!”

This cost $7.86 with tax.

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Pita Extreme (As I Like to Call It) – June 3, 2009

For some strange reason, I keep calling Extreme Pita “Pita Extreme.” Maybe working around Francophones has finally rubbed off on me, but I do end up sounding a little stupid when “Pita Extreme” slips out.

Anyway, convinced that soup will help me stick within The Diet, I had it again from Extreme Pita.

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I got a small cup of Italian wedding soup. The pasta was mushy, but that was to be expected. After all, it had been sitting in a vat all morning. The meatballs were flavourful and yummy, but the texture was too bouncy and ended up feeling overprocessed. The spinach didn’t taste like anything. It did make me feel like I was eating a little healthier, though. The soup itself wasn’t too salty, which surprised me. I inhaled this little cup of soup, too. When I looked at the Extreme Pita website, I found out that the soup is from Campbell’s. This explains its general deliciousness because I LOOOOOOOOOOOOVE Campbell’s canned soups! That sounds gross, but I don’t care.

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As a little aside, Extreme Pita has a neat way of packaging their wraps. The paper is perforated halfway down, and you’re supposed to peel off the top half to access the pita, instead of taking it out of the wrapper and making a huge mess of things. The instructions are even printed on the napkins! I still managed to make a mess, but that was entirely caused by my slobbish manners rather than a lack of insructions.

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I ordered the most delicious-sounding thing on the menu: the chicken souvlaki wrap. I only found out later that day that it also happened to be the wrap that had the most calories. Oops!

The pita itself was half whole wheat and half white, which I thought was neat. It certainly didn’t affect the flavour much. The wrap was lukewarm by the time I ate it because the chicken heated up the toppings. That made it rather meh. I would have liked more feta to perk it up, but I always want more cheese.

The chicken got lost in all of the vegetables, and I barely tasted it at all. The generic black olives were boring. It’s supposed to be a Greek pita, so shouldn’t they use good, Greek olives? The tomatoes were flavourless gobs, and they probably should have been chopped instead of sliced. I had a lot of problems trying to bite through them without pulling the entire slice out of the wrap. I think part of the blandness of the wrap could be partially attributed to the dressing they used. It felt a little oily, which could have easily muted the other flavours in the pita.

I noticed afterwards that it wasn’t overly stinky. It’s a good thing for most people working in an office environment, but I was having problems with eating a lot bland food. I need some element of stinky or spicy or tangy in order to enjoy food within The Diet.

The soup was $1.49 and the wrap (small) was $5.49. It wasn’t bad for a lunch under $10, but I could have gotten better food for the same price elsewhere. Also, the cashier didn’t attempt to upsell me to a combo which also includes another snack item or drink. Normally, this doesn’t bother me, but when I realized later that afternoon that I could have gotten more value for my money, I was annoyed.

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Vie Bella and Homemade Banh Mi – June 4, 2009

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I ordered a large cup of minestrone soup from Vie Bella, fully intent on eating within The Diet. It was chock full of vegetables: onions, celery, carrots, zucchini, green beans, corn, potato, wax beans, and peas. It was like eating a garden! It also had pasta which was mush. At the bottom of the cup, I found bits of ham. They were probably deli meat rinds. I normally don’t mind this, but if I were vegetarian, I would be pretty upset by this.

The soup itself was neither salty enough nor flavourful enough. It came off rather blah. It tasted healthier than the Italian wedding soup from Extreme Pita, but the Italian wedding soup tasted a lot better. The crackers made the soup awesome.

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I bought the pasta salad from Vie Bella on a whim. I knew I had a sandwich waiting for me, but I was really craving the pasta salad. When I brought it back to my desk, I didn’t intend on eating it. The soup wasn’t interesting to eat, so I had a few bites of the pasta salad. Before I knew it, the pasta salad was gone! Another oopsie. Apparently the pasta salad was good that day, except for the overdone fusili, but the cheese and olives made up for it. I was almost full at this point.

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The night before, we grilled some marinated chicken thighs for dinner. I used the leftovers to assemble an interpretation of a banh mi sandwich. I baked one of those half-baked, frozen baguettes from Costco, spread it with pepper pâté, cut up the chicken, and tossed in coleslaw and cilantro. I was surprised that it never occurred to me to make banh mi at home.

It didn’t taste quite the same as buying one from Toronto or Montréal, but it was still pretty damn good. Unfortunately, the large cup of soup and pasta salad completely filled me, so I only had a few bites. I left the sandwich in the fridge to eat for lunch the next day.

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To wash it all down, I bought a bottle of green tea ginger ale from Canada Dry. I really love this stuff! I love ginger ale to begin with, so adding a hit of green tea made it super DUPER awesome! I think I have this at least once a week because it’s so good. I like to add water to it after I’ve already finished half the bottle, to water down the carbonation. It’s such a pleasant, mellow soft drink.

In total, I spent $7.50 on my lunch. The pop was about $2.00 and the small container of pasta salad cost $2.85 before tax. These pricey items are definitely a treat thing because I can’t justify spending that much on such small items all the time.

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Café Deluxe’s Blannnnnnnnnnnnnnnd Soup – June 5, 2009

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I still had the banh mi leftover from the day before, so I just grabbed a cup of soup. This time, I went to Café Deluxe for chicken noodle. The noodles were HUGE and were totally mush. The kind of mush that disintegrates in your mouth when it touches your tongue. The kind of mush that induces involuntary gagging.

The broth was flavourless and very greasy. It was also very hot, which definitely surprised me. I was upset because I burnt my tongue to shit for expensive, flavourless hot noodle water (Friends reference anyone?).

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I found tons of pre-ground black pepper swimming at the bottom of the bowl. This perplexed me. How could there be this much pepper, and yet STILL have no flavour whatsoever? I was not happy with this and wouldn’t order it again.

The soup cost $3.94. Ouch.

On a much happier note, I loved the banh mi, but no surprise there.

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Café Deluxe
77 Metcalfe Street
(Albert and Metcalfe, facing the bus shelters)
Ottawa, ON
(613) 231-2226

Extreme Pita
108 Bank Street
(Bank and Albert)
Ottawa, ON
(613) 680-7483

Vie Bella
87 Sparks Street
(Between Metcalfe and Elgin)
Ottawa, ON
(613) 230-0666

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