Friday, February 12, 2010

Field Trip: My Favorite Hometown Restaurant

When I was a teacher, I used to love taking my classes on field trips. I taught fun classes and we took fun field trips. Sure, chaperoning a field trip carries a good deal of responsibility and yes, I had to ride on the school bus (not one of my favorite pastimes)to many of our destinations, but to take my class out into the world and experience what we'd been learning in the classroom was always a very cool feeling. And I've gotta be honest, a field trip offered a nice change of scenery from my dry-erase, disenfectant-scented, window-less classroom featuring a white board and filing cabinets. While contemplating a return to teaching recently, my thoughts turned to field trips. I realized that I'm due to take all of you on another virtual field trip. My last field trip post was back in June! Man, I really need to get out with my camera more!

Since I'm in my hometown visiting, today's field trip is to my favorite local restuarant. I realize that most of my readers may never set foot in Winona Lake, Indiana. And many more will never even have reason to pass through. But if any of you do find yourself in the quaint Village at Winona or even if you happen to be within 2 hours driving distance...then go to Cerulean Restaurant and Sushi Lounge. You will not be disappointed. Before today, I'd never lunched at Cerulean. I've only gone for dinner. And usually when I have dinner at Cerulean, I'm there for the sushi, sushi, AND more sushi. My dad and I order roll after roll like we're storing up to hibernate or something. The dinner menu is wonderful and I have ordered off of it...but just once. I've tasted a bite here and there of the entrees my mom orders (she's not big on sushi). I am always impressed by the thoughtfulness that goes into the creation of their menu choices. The flavors range from surprising and vibrant to subtle and comforting. I honestly have not tasted a "bad" bite. What I'm trying to say is, I have nothing against their "regular" menu, It's just that if I'm at a decent sushi bar, I want sushi! Heck, if I'm at Pizza Hut I want sushi too...obviously not happening, but it doesn't mean that I wouldn't rather have a nice spider roll in front of me instead of a Stuffed Crust Meatlover's Pizza. (Some of you can totally relate and some of you are shaking your heads in disbelief at that statement) The bottom line: I ALWAYS want sushi.

Last night, I was hinting about my sushi craving to my mom. Lucky for me, she picked up on my hint and suggested that we head to Cerulean for lunch today. She said, "The lunch is awesome. They serve it in these boxes and you get to choose 3 sides and..." Wait, I thought. Boxes? She had me puzzled for a minute. Then I asked, "Do you mean Bento boxes?" She wasn't sure.

Yep. They were Bento boxes. Yay!

Bento boxes are really just Japanese lunch boxes. "Although bento are readily available in many places throughout Japan, including convenience stores, bento shops, train stations, and department stores, it is still common for Japanese homemakers to spend time and energy for their spouse, child, or themselves producing a carefully prepared lunch box." -Wikipedia. I like bento boxes for all of those little compartments. You can make a mini smorgasboard without all of your flavors running together. Here's an example of an everyday bento box that provides a handy alternative to brown bagging:

Of course, in a restaurant setting, the bento looks like this:

photo credit to Blue Lotus

I was faced with an ordering dilemma. I wanted sushi, but I wanted one of those bento boxes too. One option was to order sushi in my bento box, but the lunch menu options all looked so good that I just had to try something new. You can click HERE to check out their lunch menu.

Finally, I resolved to order just one maki roll. I went with the alligator roll.

That's crab, smoked eel, avocado, cream cheese, scallions. I exercised some control and only ate 4 pieces. I was saving room for my bento box.

Just as I resolved to not stuff the rest of the alligator roll into my mouth, the soup arrived. Cauliflower soup. For $3 we had the option to substitute soup for one of our 3 bento sides.

Cauliflower,toasted almonds, cherries, caraway, fresh leeks. Mmm. I ate the whole bowl.

Our waitress was kind enough to put the kids' order in first. So, the kid entrees showed up next. Holy cow! Check out this kid's grilled cheese sandwich on crusty, buttery bread. YUM!

Kid #1 was a happy camper!

Kid #2 wanted noodles.

Admittedly, I was a little nervous about setting this big bowl o' noodles in front of a 2 year old. It was nearly as big as she is!

She did fine. Slurped em' right up. Very ladylike.

With the kids busy with their plates, our bentos arrived. I went with the Beef Sukiyaki for my entree and the Mung Bean Sprouts and Asian Noodles for the remaining 2 sides. All of this for $11! The portions were very generous. We each ended up taking home a box full of leftovers.

Here's a closer look at the Beef Sukiyaki. The menu description: sautéed beef tenderloin, noodles, sake-soy broth.

The mung bean sprouts. Bambo shoot, scallion,
toasted peanut, cilantro-lime dresing.

And the Asian Noodles. Nappa, carrot, scallion,
peanut, sesame-soy sauce

Of course my mom let me sample from her bento too. She ordered the Pork Tenderloin, Butternut Squash Soup (not pictured) Broccolini Salad, and Sweet Orange and Almond Mix.

Here's that Pork Tenderloin. Cassia apple chutney, five spice, scallions, ginger, garlic.

and the Broccolini Salad. Cranberry, toasted almond, shallot, cured pork, creamy vinaigrette.

Sweet Orange and Almond Mix. Mandarin orange, fresh mint , almond, honey balsamic dressing. (I'm pretty sure there's cinnamon here too. I definitely tasted cinnamon.)

I really wanted to try dessert too. Particularly the Espreso Chocolate Cake with raspberry-almond mascarpone and vanilla-mint gelato. That has to be wicked good. Too bad we were all stuffed! Instead, we left happy and full with our 4 boxes of leftovers. It's probably a good thing that I don't live here anymore. I might suspend the meal plan indefinitely and develop a dangerous addiction to Cerulean's bento box lunch!

Thanks for coming along on my field trip! Tomorrow it's back to Northeastern Ohio and reality where mom isn't there to take me out to lunch and my floors need to be mopped. : (

Hope you're all having a good weekend!


Mary | Deep South Dish said...

Oh my goodness does all that look good! I'm the same way with sushi - and we have several restaurants here but the Cajun won't touch it. :( Probably a good thing cuz I'd want it all the time! Thanks for sharing your field trip.

Katy said...

My mother made sushi and I loved it (she made it with ham). I cannot bring myself to eat sushi with any kind of fish, though. Don't you love those bento boxes. I bought my mother a black enameled one and she uses it to hold jewelry, grins, though she told her that her father used to take his lunches in his.

Your children are PRECIOUS! It is such a delight to see them experience and enjoy new foods and cuisine. Well done, Mom!

Wishing you much love to fill your heart and then some this Valentine's Day.

Kristine said...

LOVE Cerulean and glad you enjoyed your lunch there! They are very kid-friendly (They even have kid's cups) and the food is amazing! I have never had a bad bite there!
The residents of Winona Lake are lucky to have such a wonderful restaurant that we frequent often!

Inspired by eRecipeCards said...

What a great post. I love these looking over your shoulder posts. Too cute on teh kid photos

Kim said...

Your girls are adorable:D What's more is that they appear to be having a wonderful time themselves.

Everything looks delicious. I especially love the bento boxes. Thanks for taking us along with you!

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